heartbeat {the sound that’s found by letting go}

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Most days, the last thing I hear before I lay down the day all empty and relax my weakened grip and let my heart rate slow is the sound of his heartbeat.

It’s the sound that’s found by letting go.

We sleep close; we always have.  And most days, I fit my cheek into a groove all its own against Kevin’s chest and he breathes prayer and I listen to that familiar sound–ba bom ba bom ba bom–and match my breathing to his own.  My breath becomes the prayer he whispers.  And sometimes, I think how empty the world would feel without that sound filling, and then I give thanks that today I got to hear it.  Something about the sound of his heartbeat, those drifting prayers, brings me home from all my venturing and risking and out-pouring.

Some moments empty and others fill—ba bom ba bom ba bom—but Life is bound up in the sum of both.

In the afternoons after school, Zoe flies through the front door like that bird once trapped on our screened porch, flinging its body against so many foreign angular edges, suddenly confronted with spatial boundaries.  It’s as though being home comes as a surprise, before she’s burned all the energy that kept her in motion, all the giddy conversations, the social courage to risk herself.  But she finds me, whereever I happen to be, and presses her forehead against my lips.  And sometimes she bends, carefully placing her ear just below my breastbone as she did so often when she was small, to listen to the sound of my heart.  Ba bom ba bom ba bom.  And then my wild bird stills.  She sighs against me.  She’s home.  All the energy gone will be given again.

It’s an awful feeling to perceive the boundaries of human weakness; to forget however briefly the limitlessness of the One who truly fills; to feel trapped by notions of inevitable entropy.  Sometimes, it’s easy to swallow the weary lie that we’ll never soar again.  It’s tragic to believe that death is all there is.  Trust is the risk that moves us to stillness; to find Him whereever He is; to lay a hollow cheek against the groove of His chest. Trust allows us to rest, bending, pressing an ear below the breastbone of God to hear the sound of His heart, that beat that historically thrums of Resurrection.

They say a child listens to that sound—the sound of her mother’s heart—in the womb. That, and the sound of mother-voice, mother-hunger, and so many random, extraneous, cotton-wrapped sounds all traveling through skin and tissue and fluid.  But these sounds—heart  lungs, stomach (emptied filled emptied filled emptied filled), these sounds anchor Life.  I wonder if it’s His heart, His voice, we hear at the moment of our creation. These are not simply the opportune sounds of science but the forebears of a soul-rooting truth:

Whatever empties He will fill again, so quickly that it never really ever stands empty.  

True Life is bound up in both—the flowing in, the pumping out; receiving and giving; exhale and in; hunger and satisfaction; going out and coming home.  The Truth that the Spirit of God fills, that He satisfies, that He gives, beckons: Be still. Know.  He always, always gives new life. He will always be more than enough.

Empty in the thickness of the afternoon, I curl on my bed and try to rest, pressing a pillow against my chest, just over the place where my own heart beats.  Thoughts, barren and sharp and skeletal, race through my mind, all shadows of the same restless lie that Life leaks until there’s nothing left.  I can’t let go.  I can’t.  But I must.

Be still. Know.

8.28 blog post

So I do the most powerful, most desperate thing I know to do:  I pray.  I melt into the bed, seeking, listening, yearning for a meaningful sound.  And there, in the silence, I find Him: Ba bom, ba bom, ba bom.  I AM.  Life is bound up in the emptying so that He can refill, the knowledge only of Him.  And the thing I’ve come to understand is that I can’t hear that sound unless I bend toward Him, unless I lay down the day and relax my weakened grip and let my breath slow into a prayer.  I’ve learned that this world is not a safe place for a soul, that I need to listen to that sound, the truth of His ever-Present activity, to survive it.  And so, there in the quiet, there in the Sabbath rest, the moment fills until I can rise again, ready.

right side up

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I walk in from my sweaty work, the pruning shears heavy in one gloved hand, the bottoms of my bare feet stinging with the heat of the sidewalk, the brick steps. Finally, I couldn’t watch the ruined blooms weigh the branches any longer, nor let them continue leaching away the sweet goodness the tiny, emergent buds need.  So I slipped outside, scanning the blue sky, the trace of scrolling cloud, pausing just a moment to watch two lemon-yellow butterflies flutter over the wildflowers by the fence.  God goes ahead of us, finding a place for us to rest, and I recognize these wild, fleeting, petal-tending moments as some of mine.

Inside, I find them, tall and taller, spinning their willowly height into and away from each other, dish towels dangling from their hands.  As teenagers, they live content, companionably quiet.  Where once their tiny round bodies writhed, taut with silent, explosive frustration, now they can speak but often find no need for words with each other.  They lift dishes from the dishwasher, carefully swabbing off every drop of water that remains.  I watch quietly–just a moment, a careful treasured pause—from the doorway.  Sometimes he, sometimes she sits a bowl, a plate on the counter for careful inspection or draws a fork up closer to the eye.  They possess a startling acuity I envy, and I have taught them: the dishes should be dry.  I could stand this way for such a long time, watching the way their paths sweep across and around each other.  For two such structure-loving souls, they hardly ever move in parallel.  But then, their lives are woven, not adjacent.

When they work together, they hardly make a sound except the ones natural to the task—the clink of utensils against each other, the thunk of ceramic placed.  Only when I join them do they begin to narrate the activity—“Step 1: we put away the clean dishes,” as though they recognize in me a need they simply don’t share or see in me some shadow of a time when I pulled words from their mouths with anguished effort.  But I am only thinking how beautiful to move so easily together, to require so little affirmation from each other except the being.   To watch them move together—the momentary, patient beat that passes while one reaches in front of the other, the stretch of his hand to touch her ear and the way she stops to let him–is to know how well they love each other, to know they understand cohesively, without complaint or extravagant expectation.

Sometimes I am startled we have arrived here, that without me they have begun to order things as I taught them.  All the teaching we do, the striving, and still we moms gasp to discover they’ve learned.

“What a wonderful job you two are doing,” I say, still rooted in the doorway.

“Yes, it is,” Riley says easily, her voice lifting as she grins at me, sliding the bottom dishwasher basket in and away as Adam reaches for the one on top.

“Thanks for doing this.  It’s a big help.”  And it is.  Their easy initiative feels like a gift.

“Oh, you’re welcome,” Riley says, still smiling, waiting while Adam leans in front of her to pour out water that has pooled in the curve of a mug.  “It was on the schedule,” she says, gesturing toward the white board on the wall.  Every morning she brings me a piece of paper and a pen so that I can draw solid lines around the day.  First _______________, then ______________________ now comprises a full list, the day charted from groggy beginning to nestled end.  She takes my paper copy and transcribes it on the board, guarding my words, looking for any missing elements, committing the outline to memory.  It isn’t that the schedule can’t be changed, but that it exists, that they know there’s a guide to navigate what would otherwise feel like overwhelming, engulfing chaos.  Of course.  It’s on the schedule.  Now it’s my turn to smile, to chuckle.

I could write absolutely anything on that schedule—sing Happy Birthday six times and spin in a circle; eat a piece of cheese; clean the toilet; put your socks away; gather ten pieces of yarn—and they would do it without question or complaint or expectation of reward.  It is, after all, the way one of Adam’s teachers helped us transition him years ago from a severely limited diet to the nourishment he needed.  Food by food appeared on his daily schedule until he learned to overcome his fear of unusual textures.  It occurs to me though, as Riley gestures toward the board, that the schedule is only effective because they admit that they need it and because they know I love them.  They trust me to lead them.  They know somehow as naturally as they breathe that I would never mock them nor intentionally ask of them anything that would bring them harm.  And so, that schedule frees them from anxiety and paralyzing worry.

8.21.15 blog post

I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The Spirit lets the passage rest right in the center of my soul, precious-wrapped in this doorway view of my children and the way they live, content just to follow the direction I’ve given, carefully transcribing and memorizing the words I’ve written, trusting my love, my fuller view of our day.  And oh, they teach me.  Because sometimes I neglect the Words I have, or writhe to choose a way other than the path lamp-lit for my feet.  Sometimes it’s why this or not this or but just not that because.  There are parts of His Word I want to ignore, commands I’d like to set aside as eloquent suggestions.  But if I had written it for them, these beautiful, treasured souls would neither question nor complain.  They could not imagine ignoring a single part of my direction, but only yearn daily for me to give them more.

But you turn things upside downHe breathes, gesturing for me to see.

And so, I stand in the doorway and gather up the gift, that by grace He’s given me these precious two to set things right-side up.

plenty

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Thank you, Lord, that we have plenty of food to eat.

It’s a simple thing he says holding my hand, breathing deeply before God, just as I sit down with a sigh, just as I’ve gotten it all wrong and lost my grateful perspective.

Five minutes and it’s time to take Zoe to school.  It took exactly 47 for my attitude to sour, for me to let complaint trickle in—a slow, ruinous drip.  It’s nothing I’ve said out loud; it takes a while, after all, before decaying thoughts begin to stink.

47 minutes ago I walk in fresh from prayer, fresh from running, fresh from a crisp breeze that smells of cinnamon and feels like Fall.  I had spent 3 miles gathering gifts—that sky, always that wild, free sky; the silken sculpt of rose petals jeweled with dew; birds twittering, plump, bobbing in bushes; the curl of steam over an anticipated mug of coffee; a kind neighbor, all wrapped in stillness, lifting a hand at me from her porch; even the sweat dripping from my fingertips, runneling down the length of my back, reminding me that I can run, I can breathe.  3 miles of gifts—more, more than these, so many I lose track.

But I walk in and time presses.  I go out to the overflow fridge (yes, missing the gift that we even have one of those) to grab a carton of eggs, and the timer goes off on the toasting bagels.  Adam has a compulsion about timers and since he routinely sets them for fun—random times that usually have something to do with a math equation or a set of numbers he collects from a page: a phone number, an account number, a chapter and verse—he hasn’t yet fully embraced the fact that the rest of us set them for a purpose.  In my absence, he cancels the timer and goes on, leaving me to discover—minutes, minutes, minutes ticking away later—that the bagels have burned.  I fling the metal pan on a hot mat, and suddenly the room smells of char, bitter-black.  A pop of grease from the bacon stings as it lands on my wrist, and I put down the fork to turn the eggs sizzling in a neighboring skillet.  One sigh, and then another, multiplying.  A watermelon sits on a cutting board behind me, and from time to time, I cross the room to set out something else I need to do the slicing–a knife, a trash bag for the rinds.  By the time the fat blade splits that skin—grass green with ground-touched yellow that reminds me of morning sun—by the time the slicing makes that thick, sweet sound and juice dribbles pink on wood, I’m thinking I wish I didn’t have to juggle breakfast alone.  Kevin hasn’t finished his workout, and if he had, he’d need to get ready to leave for work (and yes, I’ve missed the gift that he has work and can, that I get to work from home).

Zoe wanders into the kitchen still groggy with sleep, hair rumpled, pillow-lines marking her cheeks, and I think, she should be getting up earlier.  I flick a gaze at the clock, calculating the time until the new batch of bagels is done, the time from then until we’ll have to leave.  I hope I can eat breakfast.  I hope she doesn’t ask me to fix her hair.  I wish we could take our time.  And in 47 minutes the gift I choose to give my family—a hot breakfast, the chance to gather up a bit more rest or exercise or readiness before the start of the day, my own fingers braiding smooth love over my daughter’s heads—takes on the black-bitter taste of selfishness and resentment, the missing lightness of gifts gathered; blessings fully touched; grace abundantly, indulgently slathered.  My brother said something long ago that stays with me, that I don’t have enough has always been the enemy’s great, slithering lie; the untruth that roots bitterness.

And then, thank you, Lord, that we have plenty of food to eat.

I feel Kevin’s hand, strong and whole and mine, drawing me still.  Breathe.  Taste, and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.  And suddenly I remember something a sister of mine recently shared about the poverty she tasted, knew, growing up in Africa.  Does anybody know this stress? She asks it bold, honest.

Coming from school, and there is no food in the house, no hope that you are going to eat food that day. Mother is sick, and there is no money to take her to the hospital. Dad is jobless; therefore he cannot provide for his family.

No, no I don’t.  My sister, she makes me repent of my selfish shadows.  In earnest, I echo Kevin’s prayer, as he goes on to ask for eyes to see and ears to hear, for our attitudes appropriately God-shaped, God-centered.  And I’m reminded that looking beyond clears up the view close at hand.  Suddenly I’m left asking to spread grace-gifts beyond our walls, to share the so much, to give.  Shattered yet again by extravagant, merciful grace, I am left only with thanksgiving and an emptied hand, shaking to be generous with love.

8.14 blog post

And so, a simple, honest prayer of gratitude offered over us washes through me like a tide, taking with it all the whispered sludge for which I had so quickly cast aside so many gifts.  But God isn’t only in the earthquake or storm; He’s also in the gentle, heartfelt whisper.

Thank you, Lord, that we have plenty to eat.

*~*

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3).

shield

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Stinging words curl through the grapevine like searing smoke, and I gasp, suffocating.  I am distracted by a black storm, by the flicking tongue of a squint-eyed snake bent on spreading its own dark poison.  The deception threatens the fixing of my eyes.  Except. Except that God is my Father.  And He hasn’t left me here defenseless.  I am your shield, He whispers, so close I can feel Him next to me, despite the thick smoke—the bruised cloud—obscuring my clear view.  Look.at.me, He says, and I feel His mighty hands against my cheeks, His forehead transcendentally pressed.

I do that too, use my own body as a shield.

8.7 blog just smoke

I look up from where I’m prayer-bent and watch Adam whirl wordlessly around his sister, floating like an orbiting satellite while she reads her Bible, while she counts gifts, while she works intently on first things.  Every few moments, he taps a few fingers against his calculators–three of varying size, 1 green, 2 white, spread out in a neat, mathematical row on the countertop.  He hums something I don’t quite recognize.  He hardly looks in Riley’s direction, but I know that when she gets up to go upstairs—maybe, to make her bed—he’ll follow without the loss of a single step.  Right now, in the ease of a home-wrapped afternoon, his careful focus on whatever is lovely comes easily.

I watch the two of them, brother and sister content just to be near each other, and I smile.  That’s a gift I’ll treasure up, the sight of them breathing without fear, the sight of them comfortable, understood–at least–by each other.  This is a far cry from those blue-lit white-tiled mornings when we file bulky into the hospital lab for routine bloodwork and they snap a rubber strip in a fat knot above Adam’s elbow, and he shrieks at the thickness of the needle and Riley cries, because I just-I just don’t like it when Adam gets upset.  Zoe always asks to go first, because listening to Adam scream will only make her more afraid.  Raw fear spreads, like our selfish negativity.  I tell my son not to look at the needle, not to watch the blood pooling in the vial.  I tell him to look at me, to hear me, but he shrieks like they’re stealing his soul and he can’t seem to tear his eyes away from the horror of it.  And he always seems so surprised by the offense, even though we do this at least once a year, even though this too works into a greater good.

So I use my body like a shield and lay my hands flat on the sides of my son’s face, firm-talking, but soft, so he has to listen.  I press my forehead against his and I make a cave for just the two of us with my hands, and I say, Adam.  Adam, Look.at.me.  Look.at.me, son.  You’re going to be okay.  It’s going to be okay.  And he thrashes just a little in my grip because he can feel the phlebotomists touching his arm and he wants to see what he doesn’t want to see.  And then, in a breath, the feel of my hands and the sound of my voice overwhelm the violation against him.  He sags into me, holding my eyes with his own, and he whispers, It’s time to go home.

Whereever life rips, I feel that keenly too, that longing for home-wrapped comfort, for contentedly just loving and understanding each other.  At home, it’s enough just to be together.  And so I tell my Father again and again and just now, folding myself into Him.

Look.at.me, He gently reminds, making a cave for just the two of us with His hands.  But I thrash a little beneath His touch, wanting to see what I don’t want to see.

But—I argue, in prayer—I can imagine the biting tones, the bitter looks.  I know what they said.  And it hurts.  That they would say—that they would think—something about me so opposite from the truth of what I actually feel.  I press a hand into my chest so hard my knuckles blanch, as though He needs the emphasis.

He can see right through me.  He knows.  He knows I want to defend myself, to make a name for myself.  He knows how I idolize affirmation. He knows how hard it is for me to accept dislike for its own sake.  He knows my fingers tremble with the temptation to take the horrid thing up, to do something.  He knows that despite what I know about Christ-following, I’m still surprised by the slice of sin, the way we cut into each other. Today, someone’s words hurt me.  Yesterday or the day before, my own words hurt someone else.

Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice

They hated me without reason.

His words are firm-spoken, but soft, so I have to listen.  Look.at.me, daughter, He says.  You’re going to be okay.

And then the feel of His hands and the sound of His voice overwhelm the violation.

I believe in His promises.

And because I know this pain too is part of sharing in Him–evidence enough to rejoice; Because I know He loves me and I know He knows me, I let go, sagging into Him.

You are my shield. And that’s enough.

8.7 blog shield

she lengthens {words that build}

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“…this not making a name for yourself-that’s really hard,” Zoe says, lightly biting her bottom lip, tapping the page with an extended finger.  Her hair falls loosely over her ears in sun-lit sections.  She rests her chin on one tender knee, peering down at the Book in her lap.  Her chair spins, but she interrupts its drift to carefully lift a coffee mug to her lips.

And so daughter becomes sister, too.  I watch her and gather up the gifts–the glimpse of both the girl she is and the woman she becomes, the turn of God’s sculpting hand, the glimmer of Spirit. She lengthens.

“Yes, it is.”  The thin paper rattles beneath my fingers.  “And what’s the trouble with it?”

Her blue eyes capture me, and I smile.  Even when Zoe was a baby, those eyes gave whole speeches and swallowed up the world.  I can tell that something rests there, held in her soul, something she’s waited to say.  “Well, we’re supposed to care about God’s name, and not our own so much.  And I’m not going to build any towers up to Heaven so that everyone will think I’m amazing, but I will sometimes say things I shouldn’t–or listen when I shouldn’t.  She spins, and all I see is the high back of her chair.  “…But that’s really not any different.”

I close my eyes, just briefly, feeling the weight of the mug in my hand–the warmth, the steam on my chin, allowing Zoe’s thoughts to sink.  Words ripped, garbled, fractured, jagged—yes, these are the natural consequence of Babel, and also maybe its historic shadow.  In my mind, I can see the ancient people wounded, uncomprehending, unable to collaborate and connect.  But so often I have read and missed this, that our broken communication is born of the same dead seed: the reckless, pridefully disobedient desire to make a name for ourselves.

And so, we live scattered.

“It’s hard.  Sometimes I say things—especially when I feel hurt or frustrated—before I even think about what I’m doing.”

I look up, meeting her eyes, and still, I see a wealth of words she waits to say to me.  Suddenly I realize that this is not just a personal confession.  She’s witnessed something in me, a shadow.  If I were able to reach right into her, I could grasp it with my fingers.

“I know.  I do the same thing,” I confess, giving her permission to notice my weakness, to say what’s on her mind.  I smile, acknowledging the truth.  “I’ve always wanted other people to think the best of me.  Sometimes that means I say things I shouldn’t or don’t say things I should—maybe to protect myself, but especially to influence other people’s opinions of me.”

She nods, thoughtfully, watching me carefully as she sips her coffee, and then she casually drops a few details into the space between us, enough to sketch lines for me around a specific observation.  She absorbs so much of me.  As my daughter, she inherits my best and also my worst.  She has watched me build my towers, has listened to me make my boasts, has heard the ruin of my words, and all because of a historic sin: I want to make a name for myself.  Self-righteousness is living so that others think the best of me, but true righteousness is living so that others think the best of Him.  It’s a repentance I embrace, a transformation He’s still working in me.

“You’re right.  I want so much to honor God with what I say, but sometimes I get it all wrong.”

Confession frees souls—mine and hers.  She stops still, holding my gaze steadily, offering aloud the specific ways she also struggles with words, the way she wants to be, the growing she desperately desires.  And so, she honors God living and with us, laying her own pride on the altar.  She exchanges her own name for His.  She lengthens.  Because the real building words are words that confess not how great we are but how much we need Him.  And with these mama-hands, I gather up yet another gift, the evidence of something blooming—life-fruit only tended and gleaned by the work of God’s Spirit.

“I want you to help me with this,” I say, reaching to touch her on the knee.  “I give you permission—when you hear me say things I shouldn’t say or when you know I’m participating in a conversation that dishonors God–I give you permission to tell me, to ask me if I’ve thought it through.”

“I want you to do that for me too,” she says slowly, thoughtfully nodding.  “I think we can do better at this together than we do separately.”

And I know she’s right.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.  She makes me wonder what could be if we sisters all agreed to be accountable to each other in our conversations.

“What if we come up with a signal—maybe this—” I offer, making an easy gesture with my hand, “and whenever we need to remind each other of our desire to put God first–not make a name for ourselves—we do that, in any situation?”

Zoe grins, suddenly giddy.  “Yes!  Let’s do that.”  Her eyes gleam, empty now of every heavy, hidden thing.  She spins wildly in her chair, and I gather myself to find supper and finish the day.  But as I move to get up, she suddenly stops, pressing both feet into the floor, capturing me once again with her eyes.

“Mom?”  She reaches for me, and I gather her in my arms, speaking into her shoulder.

“Yeah?”

“This has been good.  Really, really good.”

7.31 blog

counting

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In the morning, the rain comes, and I do what I have determined to do more and more these days:  I stop to see, to gather up the feeling of the breeze lifting my hair away from my cheeks.  I spy a plump cardinal hiding just inside the gardenias bobbing gently by the steps, an elegant and stately bit of love-red sheltered from the glittering, wet casacade.  The rain falls gently, almost without sound—-a washing of soul-nourishing peace.

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three are in agreeement.   Word gathers, like raindrops in my palm.

A spider web in my window—cottony, ugly thing I should have swept away with my broom long ago—becomes a celestial road, glinting.  It is an offering, a gift, an extravagant trade for all of the impossible, broken, heavy things I have only just whispered skyward, my breath coming hard, the sweat dripping from my fingers.  I ventured out between the storms to run, shedding myself in the valley between bruised and swollen clouds, in that tender space where every color deepens and all creation holds its breath in anticipation.  So now I stand hearing, simply receiving Grace-gathered, Grace sweetly dripping from my arms.  Prayer is, after all, a conversation.  I will not cease to be moved by the way God redeems my perspective, the way–right in front of me, just there—He refashions what I would have disminished, discarded, making it something unimaginably beautiful.  It’s as though He turns my head gently with His hands, urging me to look again.

And that’s when something echoes—gathered words from a book–another gift:

‘We’re all blessed and we’re all blighted… Every day each one of us does our sums.  The question is, what do we count?'(~Louise Penny)

This.  Another whisper, barely spoken.  I count this-the gathering of beauty, the truth that God cares in detail, that He always works powerfully for good, that He is the repurposing artist from which all creativity has come.  God still sees beauty in all the blenching things–the ones moving me to shrink into Him for shelter.  He always sees potential where I see disrepair.  I’m grateful that in His fingers, mud becomes a healing salve, that He uses even the mud to restore my sight.

So in the morning the rain comes, and I turn my mother bones toward the door, ready now to see my children—not with these weary, crumbling, limited eyes but by the grace that glimpses God-glory rising.  They represent some of His best work—and right before me, just there—He shows me His limitless power, His vast and extravangant creativity.  I walk into the huddle of them, the treasure of His gentle questions still glistening light on my skin:

How will you see today?  What will you count?

7.24 blog

I love everyone

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I love everyone.

Riley rainbow-writes the words on her hand in letters that look faded against her skin, some big, some small, some crooked where the pens slip into the valleys between her fingers.  It’s a God thing to write love into surfaces, into souls, into the tissue of our hands, but for her the art expresses who she is, not something she’s trying to remember to be.  I stumble into the kitchen at daybreak, half-blind, and this is how I find her, pressing one hand flat against the counter top, spreading the fingers wide.  Her blonde hair shines, dangling like gold-spun ribbons over her work.  She pauses just to tuck the errant strands behind her ears.

She is, by nature, impartially loving.  And by everyone, she means everyone, even the people she doesn’t know yet.  And she says it that way–I don’t know them yet–as though she’s clear on the fact that maybe someday she will, and certainly she wants to. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I already know enough people.  But that’s not God speaking through me.  The truth is that everyone is loved by God and therefore worth our attention, our time, our knowing.  The truth is, that should change how I see everyone.

Intently, she colors in her self-styled tattoo, this expression of her soul robed in God-promise, the covenant reminder God chose for love that preserves life.  I can see that she’s eating breakfast too, chewing so slowly no one would know except for the breakfast sandwich on the plate, the rough outline of a bite.  It will take her an hour to eat the one sandwich, if she can finish it at all.  As the school year winds to a close, her anxiety coils, an ugly enemy she fights to overcome.

I love everyone.

She’ll focus now, on that. She’s as innocent as a dove, but not as shrewd as a snake.  So the shrewd is something I am teaching her, though of all teachings, I despise that one most.  Until the snake enticed us to think that knowing evil was better than never knowing it at all, we had no need for shrewd.  But in this world, people who love everyone suffer more than anyone.  That is, after all, the way of the cross.  I’m afraid for her because she’s that way. And yet, God wants me to be more like my daughter—not so shrewd as to have lost my innocence.  He wants me to focus intensely on loving others, even when I’m sick-to-my-stomach afraid.

“Trouble eating today?” I ask, setting the bacon pan on the burner, twisting the knob in my fingers.

“Mmmhmm,” she says, picking up her purple pen to smooth out the lines on the “l.”  She looks up at me, careful to acknowledge my question.  “Yea, I guess so,” she says quietly, but her eyes say, Please, don’t focus there.  And that’s when I realize that for her, this is more than just an art project.

I’ve seen this before, the way the kids write memos on their own skin, but usually it’s something like science test or a phone number or some other scattered detail.  This is different.  In the face of her fear, she chooses to create art about something real, something that matters, right on her own skin.  She chooses to redirect her own attention.  Chuckle if you want to, but for her, this is no joke.  She’s afraid to eat, afraid of the noise, afraid of the day, but she chooses to focus on loving others—on loving everyone.  She chooses to focus on beauty that lasts.  Love never fails.

I love everyone.

She looks away from my scrutiny and back to her markers, scanning the rainbow line for options.  Orange.  A bright ‘o’, stretching wide like the reach of her arms, the eternal circle of an embrace.  She is singularly focused, working her own attention away from fear.  She is intentional about the choice to look out into the lives of others.

It’s a simple gesture, but one that cuts right through my morning stumble.  I gather up the intensity of her effort, her vibrant creativity, her strategy, and count it the first gift of the day.

1. Perfect love casts out fear.  

This activity is not just the reflection of a state of being but an intentional, active choice to reach beyond, and watching her, I understand.  The choice must be felt skin-deep because that’s where her anxiety has taken up it’s position for attack, simmering right in those fair trembling hands, right below the surface of her skin.

She teaches me, simply, courageously, how to take captive my thoughts and make them obedient.

Deut6.8

real joy

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So, I’ve been hurting over something we do to each other.  I say we because I’m guilty too, we because we’re in this together, we because it takes all of us to change our culture.

minizing others

In my life, the repetitive strategy of the enemy often looks like this, just with different supporting details:

Flashback nearly twelve years, and he says this: Please, don’t have the baby in the car.

That’s what he says, because he knows me, because he can see the way I grip the car door with my hand, the way my knuckles whiten with the pressure.  His voice is grave.  He’s seen into the heart of me; he knows the sheen of hurt in my eyes.  But this baby coming is my smile, she’s the light cracking through the storm clouds now flooding the road.  The wipers smack fast, sloshing rivers away, and he strains to see.  Waves of body-splitting pain sear through my abdomen and back.  It hurts so much I can’t even breathe, much less speak, but joy wraps me up, just the same.  I’m in labor, that’s a fact, and labor hurts tremendously.  It feels like being torn apart from the inside, or at least how we barely imagine such an atrocity would feel.  Still, I can’t stop smiling.  I know God is using this pain to accomplish something glorious.  Today, I will see Him bring forth new life.  So, that’s what I say out loud, that last part.  The rest of it hardly feels worth the words.

And Kevin smiles at me, from across the seat, and for a moment we both break free of the urgency.  “I know,” he says quietly.  “Isn’t it great?”

Tell me, how can we know scripture and discount a believing woman for her smile?

See, I honestly want to do this thing the way God has told me.  I want to share the facts about my life without complaining.  I want to give thanks in all circumstances.  I want to say what is mutually beneficial for all, the things that build, and all while being completely open about my own struggles.  I want to be transparent about my weakness while being completely clear about the tremendous awe I feel everyday over what God has accomplished.  I want to tell the truth about the hope that I have and be ready to give a reason for it.  I want to be joyful always.  I want to do everything with love.  I want to live by faith.  I want to offer others as much grace and mercy and compassion and forgiveness as God has continually offered me.  I want to fix my eyes on what is unseen, because what is seen is only temporary.  I want to live for a greater glory.  This thing is 1000% real for me, more real than any present detail.  But ever since I became a warrior for joy and a truly yielded Christian, one thing has continually discouraged me:  Together, we fail to respect that it’s hard to live this way.  It’s hard to follow Christ.  These are not the elements of “fluffy” thinking.

It has been my experience that as God succeeds in bearing this fruit in me, other people—often other Christians—minimize the difficult facts about my life.  They interrupt my testimony with the assertion that obviously I haven’t suffered as much difficulty as they, as though we were meant to wear hardship as some sort of badge.  If I want to wear His righteousness instead, if I want to point to His victory, well, then I don’t really know difficulty.  And listen, more and more I’m okay with minimizing me.  But please, let’s not minimize what He’s accomplished in me—in you.  I’m honestly in awe of His power to transform this soul, and it’s dishonoring to make less of what He’s done.

Flashback 12 years, and Kevin counts the minutes between contractions and times the space at just three.  She’s our third child—only in this moment we don’t even know she’s a she, though I suspect, and we both know we don’t have a lot of time to spare.  I have an appointment scheduled today anyway, so I call ahead to tell them I am in labor.  I tell them the fact, right out loud, but the receptionist doesn’t believe me. She immediately discounts both my experience and the pain I feel.  Yes, well, just come on in and we’ll check you out at your appointment, she says. I sound so pleasant, grateful, happy, that she assumes I am overreacting a bit about the labor.

Tell me, how can we understand the truth about our future and discount a believing soul who still knows how to laugh?

I stand at the reception desk in the doctor’s office, holding on to the counter with one hand, because I know that if I let go, I will fall down.

Sign in please, the receptionist says, glancing only briefly away from her computer screen to acknowledge me.  Her monitor-lit cheeks move up and down, up and down.  She’s chewing gum while she works, and the smell of spearmint turns my already vulnerable tummy.

Okay, but–well, I called ahead?  I’m in labor?  I can almost feel the light in my face when I say it—the joy—the exhiliration that overwhelms the agony sweeping over me as I reach up to cling to the molding at the edge of the reception window.  Another one of those, and I’ll not be able to stand at all.

The nurse looks at me momentarily, scanning my face.  She offers me a slight smile, setting aside my testimony.  They’ll be with you shortly.  Just have a seat.

Tell me, how can we believe ourselves observant enough to understand at a glance the suffering of another soul?

Kevin loops his arm around me.  Just hold on to me now, ok? Slowly, we find our way to two chairs against the wall, though patience for us comes in shorter supply with every gripping pain.  I run my hand hard against the rough tweed beneath my thigh.  The minutes gather with the ripping strength of each contraction, until at last, just before Kevin makes his way again to the desk to insist, a nurse opens an adjacent door and calls my name.  She watches me carefully, taking her time with preliminary questions, until Kevin says, Listen, she’s in labor, and finally she looks beyond her suppositions and sees—the way my words catch in my throat, the way I dig my fingers into Kevin’s palm.

Let me just get the doctor, she says.

And when the doctor comes, she discovers that I am just moments away from delivery. I’m not even certain they’ll be able to get me upstairs before it happens.  The doctor peels off her exam gloves and searches my face.  You’re about to have this baby, she says, incredulously. Why are you still smiling?

See, there’s something all mixed up about the way we measure each other’s difficulty by the pain we wear on our faces and the things we say out loud.  Tell me, why is it that unless I live in defeat the ones who should understand my joy most of all minimize the reality of my journey? This is a horrible problem for a People who have been called to joy; who have been commanded to gratitude; who have been told: Rejoice.

Because I’m about to hold my baby in my arms, I say, and I know I’m beaming.  It’s as though I can feel the light shooting out of my eyes, my smile, my fingertips. Because he–or she–is coming.  And I want to say, but don’t because a contraction catches my breath and I have to dig my fingers into Kevin’s arm, that every time the pain threatens to knock me to my knees, I feel this verse roll through me:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I have, since the contractions began, worked to focus on the joy coming beyond the pain.  The choice to fight for joy is not a choice that erases present suffering.  It’s a choice to do the hard work of reframing current events into their true and larger context.  But there’s no time for explaining this.  The doctor leads me to a wheelchair sitting empty in the hallway, and pushes me herself until she’s seen me safely to the labor and delivery floor.  She needs to be in a room as soon as possible, the doctor says, turning on her heel to go back to her patients.  But the receptionist looks at me and immediately discounts even the doctor’s urgency about the situation.  She asks me for my name, my social security number, by insurance card, slowly typing data—click, click, click—to avoid breaking her long, carefully sculpted fingernails.  I grip the arm of the wheelchair, and Kevin shoots forward.  “Excuse me, he says, urgently, “she is going to have this baby in the hallway if you don’t hurry.”  And his tone clearly flusters the receptionist, who believes us rude and impatient.  She pushes back from her desk, muttering something about how she “will have to get this information as soon as possible.”

I know I’m young, but in my forty-something years I’ve learned that there are no charmed lives.  Every life is difficult.   Every person suffers through waves of pain.  And If despite the heavy we all carry daily, despite the difficulty we all suffer right here, right now for which we see no immediate solution, we can live real joy in the midst of heartache, that’s something we should respect and celebrate in each other.  God has given us a magnificent, overcoming gift:  an inheritance that never spoils or fades, a hope that remains securely held.  We can smile over that great joy when we have no other reason to smile.  We can laugh at the days to come, but only because absolutely no difficulty could ever tarnish what God has done for us.  We can live abundant life even so because we know He comes.  Very soon, we will get to see Him.

This particular day, I marvel that despite the clear facts, no one seems to believe that I’m about to have a baby.  Even the attending doctor expects to whisk in and whisk on out for a while.  He snaps his exam gloves in place, takes one look at the state of things, and flies into a fluster, calling for nurses and the bassinet.  And within a few, painful, body-ripping moments, I hold my baby girl against my own skin.  And I cry, for the fulfillment of real joy.

Here’s the truth, and I think it’s one we’d do well to honor in each other:  Real joy is hard fought, sliced and carved deep.  It’s a heartwrenching, tear-drenched fight.  It isn’t that a joy-filled, resplendent person has not breathed their way through pain, but that God has done what He promised to do and birthed something better in them.  Something lasting and brand new and unvanquishable fills up their open spaces.  So don’t be fooled by the enemy into spewing along with him that a person who still knows how to smile, who remembers how to laugh, hasn’t hurt as much as one who wears life like grave chains.  This surrendering isn’t a flower-decked devotional thought.

It’s war.  

Every day.  

So let’s not minimize what God has accomplished.

*~*

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves… For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all (Romans 8:18-24).

for the birds

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I confess that when she comes to get me, I do not want to get up.

I just picked up my book—Dorothea Frank’s Plantation, and I have precious few moments to mind-leap on down to the Lowcountry and shut out the world.  Every time this author punctuates a sentence with the word yanh, I smell the marshes and hear the coastal voices, their smooth inflections running thick as the humidity through my bones.  The warm breeze tickles the underside of my porch-propped legs.  Dressing seemed to take forever.  I kept staring at my face in the mirror and wanting to cry.  I didn’t look sick, I–Mid-sentence, I hear her call, even as she runs beckoning across the light-glittered street.

Mom, Mom, MOM!!  Come see.

Confession: I don’t want to see.  And I left my shoes inside.  I shift my gaze to the sun-baked road, wondering how quickly I can hot-foot it over there to see and get back to a little not seeing.  Oh Lord, thank you for the grace of children.

Zoe’s hair flies behind in her in brassy ribbons.  Her skin looks warm even from a few yards away, as though it has swallowed up the sunshine in giant, soul-nourishing gulps.  She hurries toward me, reaching for my reluctance, casting glances behind her as she runs.  Across the street, I see her friend, bent over looking, pressing her hands flat against her knees.

Mom!  It’s baby birds.  Oh Mom, you have to see.  Their nest fell—oh, they’re so…so…so adorable!

She lets go of the words and they fly away on the breeze, soaring up and away, still free. I hold the last sentence I read in my hands.  I don’t look sick, I—I what? Ms. Frank’s character can’t bear to look, and I don’t want to see, but I put my book down on the weathered wood table beside me.  I throw a glance at Kevin, but he’s still reading, likely willing his tired limbs invisible to imploring children.

Come on, she says, and her blue eyes shine.

I ignore the sharp heat of the pavement, remembering something my dad used to say when we scampered across black-hot summer sand and our breathing came up jagged: It’s good for you.  It’ll toughen up your feet.  I don’t know if it ever really toughened up my feet, but all that oooh oooh ooh oooh running did teach me that I can survive, even when the ground feels like fire, even when I’m helpless-dumped right out of my comfort zone.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.

Zoe talks while we walk, looking over her shoulder at me, and I take in her long legs.  The last few years have brought grace.  A certain insightfulness has lately crept into her expressions.

When we reach the grass across the street, my daughter points, her finger lancing the air, drawing my eyes toward the mulch at the base of a Crepe Myrtle tree heavy with blooms.  There, she says.  Two gawky baby birds, not even barely fledged, huddle helpless.  They’re hungry.  That much I know without knowing much at all, because their beaks gape open silently, yearning up, wide gulfs hard-outlined.  Their open mouths look impossibly prominent, a bottomless emptiness.  At first, it’s everything I can see of them.  Taking it in, I sigh.  I feel like those birds sometimes, like one big yearning cavern over a whole mess of needy-vulnerable.  The birds’ eyes aren’t even open yet.  They can’t see, maybe don’t even know to want to.  They’re just hungry.

Aren’t they so sweet, Zoe says, giving the last word tender weight.

I look again, because all I see so far of the baby birds are those gaping holes, those gimme gimme mouths.  I see desperate need, and nothing sweet about it.  But that’s how it is.  Don’t you ever feel like the neediness of this heat-soaked place is just too much to bear?  When we feel weak and needy ourselves, everyone else’s hunger looks absolutely bottomless.  I don’t even know what to do for myself.  How am I supposed to know what to do for you? But maybe that’s a problem of perspective.  These baby birds are not strong enough to feed each other, not able enough to find food, not even old enough to see.  Neither one of them can really do a single thing to change the situation for the other.  So they just huddle together.  They combine their warmth against trembling because it’s all they know to do.  Something about the shape of those hungry baby birds, tucked side by side on the mulch, touches me.  It occurs to me that at least they have each other, even if they have little to offer apart from nearness.  And I wonder if maybe sometimes, when hungry together is the limit of our strength, could it be enough just to huddle close?

I’ll go get them some food, Zoe’s friend says.  She sees hungry too, clearly.  We have some bird seed, she calls, already going, and Zoe calls after her.  Wait.  I don’t think they can–but her friend has already disappeared inside.  The effort is beautiful, even so.  Trying, even imperfectly, is worth our appreciation.  The breeze gently lifts the wisps of feathers just beginning to grow on the birds’ baby bodies.  Mostly, they’re still naked.  Their skin looks gray, like a storm, except in places where bone protrudes and flesh stretches.  They’re hardly beautiful yet.  But whatever they are, they’re that together.

My neighbor’s daughter—our friend—drops a bag of seed on the ground beside the tree and bends again toward the birds to look more closely.  I notice the nest, empty on the ground beside where it must have tumbled, light in the wind, after the fall tossed the babies out.  Sometimes it happens that way.  In just one gust, we’re trembling vulnerable in the middle of a helpless we could not have imagined.

I am telling the girls not to touch the babies when my friend, our neighbor, joins us beside the tree.  No, don’t touch them, she agrees, because both of us have read—maybe even a long, long time ago—that if you touch baby birds their mothers will abandon them.  They can smell that you have tainted their young with your fingers.  Moments later, we discover this to be an untruth when my friend’s sister arrives, unfolds from the car, and corrects our misconceptions. We are false prophets, blind guides.  No, her sister says, bending down to retrieve the nest, scooping one of the birds up in her hand, birds don’t have a good sense of smell.  But if you leave them laying in the mulch, they’ll die.  This truth only leaves me gathering up another, carefully, settling it safe: There are so many things we just don’t know.  Ours is always a problem of perspective.  In our story, we are all the babies—not the life-redeeming, hands-lifting, back-home settling Savior, not the life-changing Wind, and not the life-giving mama bird.  You and me, we should lean into each other—not on our own understanding.  We should let that be enough.

Carefully, my friend’s sister lifts the nest and places it back in the tree where it was, following the evidence of sticks and matted leaves. Now hopefully, she says, pressing her words into the tree with her movements, the mama bird will come feed her babies.

And all I can do is smile as the breeze lifts my hair.  Oh, she will.  I know she will.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?

help me

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Help.  I write the word in plum today, and in the curve of the e, the marker squeaks against the whiteboard.  Help really isn’t the right word.  It’s as inadequate as the word serve for describing what we do for God.  Learn would be the better verb if this schedule were truly about accuracy, but from my son’s perspective, help will do.  I’m training a soul first, a body second, and attitude supercedes activity.

Morning chores
BREAKFAST
Help Mom clean the kitchen

I smile, thinking back to brassy pictures of me as a child, standing on a stool at the sink with dish towel in hand, little-girl sleeves rolled up to the elbows.  Back then, I had the theory that my parents asked me to help so that they would have less work to do. Because of my forced labor, their lives were easier.  They got to relax (—ummm, when?).  I often lived as a selfish, resentful servant:  Why can’t they just do their own work? I sulked, especially when I had to go back and do again some task I had only half-heartedly completed the first time.  I clinched the bathroom brush in my Comet-smelling fingers and scrubbed out angst. Why don’t I get to do what I want to do?—scrub, scrub, scrub– Don’t they care (pause here for a dramatic sob) that I need some free time?  I’d let the brush thud against the pasty surface for punctuation.  And how many times, now, have I given thanks that my parents did the hard thing and taught me—not just the skills but so many other soul-deep things with them—against my will?  Of course, a child never appreciates the free time she actually does have whilst she is in the throws of unwanted helping.  Talk about perspective and attitude: While I was helping, mine often reeked of I don’t want to.  I’m so thankful that they persisted right through my bad attitudes and ungratefulness, that they didn’t just placate my immaturity and give me what I thought I wanted.

But let’s be honest: In truth, this problem isn’t unique to childhood.  Sometimes I am still a selfish, resentful servant.  And I still very often get all mixed up on the facts.  Sometimes I still lose my sense of gratitude, and sometimes my attitude still stinks.  And yet, God’s mercy and grace-filled persistance with me never fails.  He does the hard thing.  Always.

Of course, it took being a parent myself to realize that from the parental perspective Help Mom really means everything takes longer and Mom feels bone-tired at the end of the day from all the repetitive teaching, because it really means Mom will teach you how and Mom will insist that you don’t just do but do well, and God will teach Mom–again–that attitude supercedes activity, that grace forgives imperfection, that building and loving and touching a child means more than just about clearly everything on a “to do” list.  Mom trains a child and God trains a Mom.

Help Mom with the laundry.

The words sound so mundane, but they make me smile wide as the marker squeaks through the sweeping curves of the letters.  Confession:  my purposes aren’t all functionality.  When Adam “helps” me around the house, I get to spend precious time with him.  His participation in my work makes me happy.  I write those ordinary words, and I hear the way Adam giggles when we sort the laundry, when I roll in some speech lessons and ask him to identify each piece before we toss it in the appropriate hamper.  Sometimes he adds in a description I haven’t even requested, like “oohgggg, purple shiiRT,” and his words soar up and explode in a chirp of laughter.  He’s giddy over my notice and congratulations—delighted with his own accomplishment–and meanwhile, I realize that I’m standing in front of a basket of dirty clothes thinking thoughts far flung from stale drudgery. I love being with my son

So maybe God’s purposes are similar in asking us to join Him in His work: one part growing, stretching, sculpting the vessel and another just the joy of spending time with us held securely and purposefully in His hands.  Listen soul, it’s true that He delights in us.  I don’t know about you, but I’m always getting that confused, losing track of the most joyful priorities.  Like my son, I suppose I still have quite a lot to learn.

This week, Adam has learned to dry the dishes carefully when he unloads the dishwasher and to rinse the dirty ones well when he loads them.  I have watched him discover value in his own strength for observing the finest gradient of detail while slowly sweeping the towel across the shiny surfaces of coffee mugs, gathering water droplets from thin spaces where porcelain handles join cups in hairline seams.  Visual acuity is not a light ability, and that’s a truth familiar to me, but beautifully new to my son. When we vacuum the living room together, Adam lays flat on the floor, carefully guiding the unclamped hose underneath the sofa.  His upper torso disappears beneath as he chases every crumb, scrutinizing the carpet from an inch above.  I watch the vacuum cleaner jerk and skid behind him as he drags his long body behind a fluff of down driven out of dark-hiding by his movements.  This effort he makes naturally, drawn by the blend of his own compulsions and personal strengths.  So, after a few moments delighting, I have to remind him to stand and move the machine itself back and forth in motions that cover the larger area more quickly.  He excels at the details but loses track of the bigger picture.  Soul first, then body.  As we uncover strengths, we also find new ways to grow.

“Adam, have you done your morning chores yet?” I ask, standing back from the white board to consider the order of the day.  It’s my job to take the largest view, to think of all of the details Adam might not appreciate, to make sure he’s ready to do the right things at the right time.  At this point, he’s not ready for that responsibility, and if I gave him control of the schedule, he would write in activities that feed obsessions and steal his words, isolating him further from the rest of us.  Sometimes, when I resist the sovereignty of God, it’s because I fail to trust that His control–His careful providence, leadership, training, and guidance–His larger view—actually protects me from falling into immature patterns of activity that would only feed my weaknesses and insecurity and make me vulnerable to choices that would alienate me from Him.

Adam looks up from Riley’s notebook of stories.  For the last half hour, he has been reading what she has written and sauntering into the kitchen to mention certain details, just a word or two with no context for interpretation.  Still, it’s clear that the time we’ve spent working together has brought us closer and made this initiation more natural for him.  He’s trying to talk to me, and that matters.  This week, Adam has learned to say, “Now it’s time to sweep the floor,” instead of just “broom,” and after four days, he’s very nearly able to distinguish a fitted sheet from a flat.  Very soon, Adam will not only be able to change his sheets without any help from me, he will also be able to ask someone else for what he needs or explain what he intends to do, and that matters.   That matters more than nearly everything else on my “to do” list.

Snowing,” Adam says, looking up, tapping Riley’s story with his finger.  “Snowing.”

“Snowing?  It’s snowing in Riley’s story?”

“Yes.  Cooking hamburgers.”

“Someone’s cooking hamburgers?”

“Yes.”

“While it’s snowing?”  In Riley’s stories, such a thing is entirely within the realm of possibility.

“Yes.”

“Who?  Who’s cooking hamburgers?”

“Outside.”

“That’s where.  Adam, who?  Who is cooking hamburgers?”

He looks back at the paper, tapping insistently with his finger.  “Snowing.  Hamburgers.” He’s trying.  If not for our week, our working together, he would not be talking to me at all.  He would be staring at a video screen with his headphones on, lost to me.  Oh Mamas, Mom trains the child and God trains the Mom.  We can’t give up, and we can’t let anyone tell us that the foundation-building, the rooting we’re doing—that spending time–is something mundane.  We’re trying—dead tapping the Page with our fingers, and that matters.

“Adam, have you done your morning chores?”

He walks over to me, where I stand with the marker in my hand, and looks at the whiteboard.  I’ve made it all the way to LUNCH, but not past.

“Schedule,” he says, even as he turns to begin his chores.  From the stairwell, I hear him say, “yet,” and I want to sweep him up in my arms for the effort.  But you haven’t finished my schedule yet, that’s what he means to say, and I understand, and I think, He’s still talking to me.  And he doesn’t understand why right now, but he’s still obeying right away.  And I realize that I don’t have to understand why right now to obey right away either, that I can start obeying while I’m still telling my God I don’t get His timing.  I can join Him in His work and I can let Him set the course and choose the time, and I can learn to trust while I obey and while I talk to Him and while He teaches me.

I turn back to the whiteboard for Adam, determined to finish while my son blind-begins, and I realize God’s determined to finish too, that He knows the finish while we’re just blind-beginning to obey, while our awkward faith is just a seed.  And I think maybe the schedule He’s writing for me looks something like this:

Wake up!
Spend Time with Me
Help me Build and Love and Touch the Souls I came to Save

And I think maybe I should get busy.

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