Archives For seasons

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A month ago today was to be my wedding day.

I was never the girl pouring over scrapbooks of wedding ideals or scrawling my crush’s names in margins on notebooks, I am far too pragmatic for such things. I wore a ring and I planned a wedding.

But today I am not wearing a ring and passed through March 16 with one long sigh and then sleep.

I suppose sometime the shame will lift, the feeling of failure will abate, the questions I ask of God and myself will be quelled. But for today they hang heavy, shrouding all of me. I am strangely okay with the hiddenness of today—though I long for the joy that comes in the morning.

He must increase, I must decrease.

. . .

Sayable has always been a place of vulnerability and transparency. If you know me in flesh, you know I am no over-sharer—quite the opposite, I must be mined for information. But here, on Sayable, I have no shame, or haven’t. The whole point of Sayable is to say; yet the past months have been a time of shame, fear, questions, and quiet, and this has bled into all my writing, especially here.

Some say, “No need to go public,” and some argue, “No one needs to know anyway!” But this past week I read yet another account of a man fallen from ministry and think to myself, “If we cared less about what people thought, and more about ministering through our weaknesses, I wonder if we’d ever get so high we had a place to fall from?”

The thing about ministering through weakness is you have to go straight through it, diving, like the poet Adrienne Rich said, into the wreck. But diving through and into is painful and revealing and I’m afraid I may still fall in the meantime.

There is no great theology to be found in the todaying of my life. It is the punctualness of my inner clock, waking to the same shame and sadness, the fear that because God is enough, all I ever get will be God—and will He be enough? Really enough? I know He will be, but if I don’t ask the question, I won’t remember the answer four-hundred times a day, and I need to remember the answer.

What is diving if not one long fall? Knowing I am caught and held, amidst the wreckage, among the damage, to find the treasure.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
Adrienne Rich

Crouching at Your Door

February 15, 2014

A few weeks ago I alluded that I’ve been dealing with latent sin and spiritual laziness, but what I really meant is there’s something I can’t shake and it’s as ambiguous as the words above: I don’t know what I’ve been struggling with. I’ve just been struggling.

I’ve been struggling to master my thoughts. Struggling to press in to accountability. Struggling to not grow lazy in the light of grace. Struggling to hear God, trust Him, and obey Him. I’ve even been struggling to want any of that. It sometimes just feels like so much work to do something that Christ already said was finished.

There are two schools of thought in most of christendom. One is that we ought to war and win over our sin, “Sin is crouching at your door and you must master it.” And the other is that sin has been beaten at the foot of the cross, so we walk in full victory. Both are true theologically, but both leave us grabbling with what it means to master besetting sin or to walk completely free of it.

I don’t know what “mastering” sin feels like, nor do I know what it feels like to be so free of the curse that I am unaware of its damaging effects of my heart, soul, and mind. The truth is that I walk with a constant, and growing, awareness of my sin and need for Christ, and I also walk with a constant, and growing, confidence in the finished work of the cross.

But when the nagging monkey on my back won’t keep quiet about what has been mastered and what is covered by the cross, what do I do?

My propensity is to circle the wagons, draw closer boundaries, shut out anything or anyone who might draw my eyes off of Christ. I’m so desperately afraid that He’ll lose sight of me I make it so He’s the only thing I can see. But this isn’t life abundant and therein is the catch for me. If the boundary lines truly have fallen for me in pleasant places, why am I putting myself in a Christian straight-jacket?

A friend asked me the other day, “Do you think it ever grows easier for us to keep from sin?” And the truth is I have no reason to believe it does. I think we grow more disciplined, more circumspect, and more tender to the voice of the Holy Spirit. But no, I don’t think there is a time when sin is not crouching at my door, waiting to devour me.

The enemy hates me and this is good for me to remember in weeks and months like these. He hates me. And he hates you. His sole desire is to devour you and thwart the goodness of God in your life. And I would venture to say if your heart is set on Christ’s, jealous for the righteousness and holiness of God, and in tune with the voice of the Holy Spirit, the enemy is that much more intent on your destruction.

So, friend, if your heart is burdened with your sin and prone to see it more monstrously than God’s grace, take heart in this: He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. He takes sin-laden souls, breathes the spirit and new life into them, and never leaves or forsakes. If your faith is weakened by the sight of your sin, repent and then cease looking at your sin or what leads you to sin, but turn your eyes to the Cross and Christ.

Sin is crouching at our door, clinging to our backs, and waiting to devour us, but Christ breathed words, “It is finished,” and in this faith we walk on.

Four years ago, on February 11th, 2010, I lifted my head from the snot soaked carpet, turned David Bazan off my iTunes, and reread a blog-post written by a guy who pastored a church a few hours from me. I was in the middle of not the driest season of my life, or the valley, or whatever metaphor the church folk like to give to people who have swallowed another gospel. I was weak, acquainted with sorrows.

Each of us has felt the aching weakness and realization that what we are believing (about God, salvation, suffering, the cross, blessing) is a crude misappropriation of the real thing. God help you if you don’t sometimes question what you think you believe. We need that kind of desperation just as much as we need the comfort of security. Those months of weakness led to years of weakness—a weakness I hope I never recover from.

The blog author had uprooted his family from the bible belt where he’d been on staff at a few churches and moved to central Vermont to work the ground of a small local church. Faithfully God worked in him as he worked that land. He penned a book called Gospel Wakefulness and that book led to more nights of snot soaked carpet in my house. This guy left the land of church-growth-opportunity, embraced his weakness, and woke up to the gospel. For the past four years Jared Wilson has discipled me from afar in what I think, ironically, may be the most undernourished area of Christianity: weakness.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The churches dotting the countryside of the northeast are sometimes only 20 or 30 faithful people. People who day in, day out, deliver crockpots and shovel driveways, sing robustly from an overhead projector or a hymnal. It’s not that they’re legalistic fundamentalists, they’re not. They just don’t have the trappings of most modern churches. They don’t use Twitter and barely use Facebook. The concept of a celebrity Christianity is as foreign to them as a pastor who wears skinny jeans on their single Sunday morning service.

Belief, though, in the northeast is not rare, as the pundits will have you believe from their polls and surveys. I think belief may actually be strongest in the northeast, so deeply rooted in history and the birthplace of many of America’s richest belief systems. The ground is not hard up there. A deep sense of belief is the soil tilled for hundreds of years. Trust me when I say the ground there is ripe, the best kind of ground for the gospel to take root in. I am biased, I know, but the northeast has had her years of soil rest—it is time for planting.

It will take humble, humble men and women to do that work. Northeasterners see through genteel platitudes permeating the Church these days and will raise you an honest reply. The northeast will not revive on mega-churches, but small steeple dotted hills full of saints led by men and women who aren’t seeking a platform, but offering a haven. We know what it is to need shelter and if the northeastern church is to thrive it will be because it is filled with leaders who are unafraid to be weak, to need a crockpot or a shoveled driveway.

To his parishioners, Jared is simply their pastor, but Jared is pastoring thousands of rural pastors all over the world. He is modeling the long, slow work of church work. It is inglorious, it is messy, and it takes a long, long time with very little financial gain.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Are you a weak Christian? Not riddled with false or partial gospels, but weak. Acquainted with sorrow? Have you suffered? Are you more impressed by hard work than by a quick rise to fame? Are you willing to farm, to get your hands dirty in rich, rich soil, to dig below the historical layers of the upper east coast? Are you okay with not being okay and are you okay with that knowledge, day after day after day?

Are you swallowed up by the grandeur of God, so much so that your success matters little to you? Do you know how to count the days and the sheep who come home, one by one by one by one? Do you know how to rest in the winter and toil in the summer; to truly work and truly sabbath?

If you do, if you are a weak Christian, than I beg you to consider rural church ministry. I think all churches need weak Christians, but I think you’ll be especially suited to the rural church—the long obedience in the same direction, as Eugene Peterson says. You cannot go in there planning changes, ways in which you will revolutionize the “simple people.” You really just have to farm.

But if you will farm alongside those people, you will see a harvest. Trust me, we plan for the seasons up there, and we’ve planned for this one for a long time.

Jared is offering a Pastoral Residency for his church in Middleton Springs Vermont. If he can’t grab your attention with the amazing photos (yes, it really does look like that up there), then maybe this blog post will convince you of the need. I hope you’ll check out this residency

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*I say “we” because you can take the girl out of the northeast, but you can’t take the northeast out of the girl. As for why I’m not up there? I don’t know. It’s my near constant prayer, though.

Make Myself at Home

February 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

For reasons better left to your imagination, I have never felt at home in this house. Moving away from my last house was wrought with too many lasts to count. Every meal felt like mourning and I cried, hard, when I went back alone one last time to close every cabinet door and sweep every corner. So much living happened in that house, so much loving.

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We moved into this house in the dead of summer, sweat pooling down our backs, and a piano to make space for. No one thinks they have that much stuff, but when every worldly possession (and a few of your old roommates ‘to store’) is jengaed inside a UHaul, you realize how tied to earth you are. Books, tablecloths, chairs, and that piano. I stopped counting boxes.

All our living stacked in a UHaul and hauled thirty-five minutes north.

I spent a day at my old workplace this week, driving on familiar roads to get there, greeted by hugs and exclamations when I walked in the door. Thirty-five minutes north doesn’t feel far until you haven’t driven it in two months.

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I have never settled into this place. There are many reasons for it and I have no regrets, but the fact remains that when I wake up, I wake up to strange walls and strange sounds. I am homesick for something that doesn’t exist anymore. My three roommates are building new homes with their husbands. Three years is the longest I’ve lived with anyone and they three are the deepest I’ve loved anyone yet.

Six months later may seem a pregnant amount of time for me to just be mourning it now, to just be settling into this home now, but I have my reasons, I do. And those reasons aren’t really important to most of you.

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This morning I made breakfast and coffee, washed a few dishes, lit candles while we ate. These are the exact motions of our every days, and I hope someday soon they will be the motions of one who loves her home. For now, though, they are the work of love—the tilling, the sowing, the planting that comes before the reaping.

All it really takes to love a home is to live in it, to work in it, and to do it well. All of love is work. It is piling every energy, resource, and belonging into one place, counting it with joy, and unpacking it, box by box until the work of love is natural and full.

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Counting Down

January 6, 2014 — 3 Comments

It is midmorning and I spread the logs apart, the time for morning fires over, the day’s work ahead. The embers still crack and spark and I stare at their orange and grey glare for a few minutes more.

There has been a dormant joy in my heart these last months. Depression is never such a stranger to me that I don’t recognize her creeping around the eaves and windows of my heart. We are old enemies, she and I, and old friends too.

She is different this time around. She knows where my faith lies and my certainty rests, and it isn’t in my hope or future, but His glory. I count all my hope and future as loss in the surpassing joy of knowing Him. But I have to count it and the counting never ceases.

If all I count are the blessings and joys, will I hold to tightly to the losses when they come? I ask it rhetorically but I ask it earnestly. I know idolatry, we have been friends too. If I do the math, it must only be that I decrease and He increases. In this life only one of us gets to live. It is in heaven, in final glory, that we are both alive.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” said the man who would be a martyr. I look around me and grasp at things, hopes, dreams, losses, always keeping, never giving.

God, help me lose.

Help me spread wide the logs, chance the death of flame, let the embers burn themselves out, and help me do the work of the day. Help me count as loss all things—even good things. Turn my wins upside down and my face to you. Let my counting not be accumulating but subtracting til there is nothing left but You.

My word for 2013 was rest and it wasn’t until yesterday that I saw the humor in it. I came into 2013 sleep deprived and exhausted. By the time I finished the year long theological training program in May (in which I needed to rise by 4:30am to make it to class on time), I wanted to swear off middle of the nights for the rest of time.

This year sleep has been my elusive friend and favorite companion. In other years I’d have said I was depressed, but this year was different. I honestly was tired. I was soul tired, heart tired, mind tired. I wanted emotional rest, yes, but really, I just wanted to rest.

There were so many times this year when I resented the sleep I craved. “What is wrong with me,” I’d ask myself. I’ve never been a snooze-button pusher and I would press it three, four, five times every morning. I’d keep myself up later than I needed, simply because the thought of more than seven hours of sleep sounded lazy, unnecessary, and entitled.

I know there are some of you who may roll your eyes at the luxury of being able to press the snooze button at all; your alarm clocks cry themselves awake intermittently through the night and early into the morning. It’s okay, there are other things you get that I don’t that are much nicer, so we’re even-steven.

As I reviewed my year, asking myself a dozen questions I ask every January 1st, I realized I’ve been given exactly what I asked for, rest, but I hadn’t seen it for what it was. God gives his beloved rest and sometimes that’s just plain shut eye. Sometimes what we seek is a haven, a quietness, a trust, and strength, thinking that will bring us rest, and rightfully so:

In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

But sometimes we just need to trust the times and sunlight and darkness, and just go to sleep.

I’m grateful I slept through 2013. It wasn’t the rest I thought I wanted, or craved, but at the end of the year it was the rest I needed. I can trust that because God never sleeps, never slumbers, always keeps watch over His children.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
Psalm 121

My word for 2014 is work. Let’s see how this one turns out ;)

The Long Way Home

December 15, 2013 — 2 Comments

I drive home tonight with the snow coming full at me, like swimming in the solar system. You know it if you’ve driven in it, coming down fast, coming down full, laying thick. It’s so beautiful it takes my breath away, I get dizzy at its beauty. But the road is ahead and it slinks long and dark and the snow lays thicker and my tires take me home to the stone house over the bridge on the hill by the river.

I grew up driving on these roads.

Not really. I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania. That’s where first steps and lost teeth and history tests and high school graduation happened. But it was on these roads that I grew up, that I came into my adulthood, that I lost faith in everyone and God, Him too. And it is these roads that I find myself back on, so at home, so full of faith in God and still not in everyone, or anyone.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A friend and I drove on these roads for so many hours today. Heated seats in a snow ready Suburu made the drive more than bearable, almost enjoyable. We talked about the kingdom and the gospel and faith and planting churches and love and life and hard conversations and good ones. He dropped me off at my car in Potsdam tonight and hugged me tight and I nearly cried and I’m nearly crying now.

This place is so known to me and I am so known here. I know its cracks and crevices, its hills and valleys, real and metaphorical. I know its roads and turns and I anticipate them by rote. The anatomy of here is home and my anatomy is home here.

I am not homesick for here anymore than I am homesick right now for my very own bed or home in Texas, or anymore than I am homesick for heaven, really. Heaven is just the place where we are surrounded by those who love most—and it is not us that they love most, but this is why it is the safest place of all. That kind of love transcends this horizontal home.

But I leave my friend and weep on the way home, diving headfirst into the Milky Way of snow, gulping up the north country air that smells of woodsmoke and cold and snow—which is a scent I cannot describe even if I try. I weep because coming here reminds me to set my sights on something better than the flurries in front of me, but on the long road before me.

It is a long way home and we are all so far away still.

Maranatha.

Snow and Sweet Tea

November 16, 2013

Our house gets a sliver of sunlight in the morning, when it has risen above the neighbor’s roof and not yet above our roof. Sometimes I stand in that spot for a few minutes before the day gets ahead of me and I’m scrambling for a moment anywhere.

In the north houses splay their windows in full sun, rows and rows of them on the south side, east side, west side. Where there is sunlight we let it stream in. In Texas it is not the same, and for as good a reason—though not the same reason.

I miss the streams of sunlight though.

It is halfway through fall and at home the leaves have all dropped from the trees and they stand like a row of wet cowlicks on end, black and stark. Here the leaves in my front yard have just changed colors and the hedges are their ever green.

I am going home for several weeks in December. I haven’t seen snow in over three years. Not real snow, the kind that piles and sticks and keeps you homebound. I know my northern friends will curse me for this, but I hope they’ll give me grace for my wishings since it is still before Christmas and everyone likes snow before Christmas.

After Christmas the snow, no matter how new it is, takes on a dingy look. Shoveling the walk, deicing the car, even sledding and snowball fights—all of them are a bit less fun.

Four winters ago I walked down the street of my small town one night at midnight. The snow was falling quietly, laying a clean path before me and erasing the footprints behind me, the street-lamps had taken on their snowy glow (you northerners know the glow I speak of). I burrowed my mittened hands in my coat and turned my face upward toward the snow, let it fall against my face, disappearing as soon as it touched my warm skin.

We have no way of knowing, sometimes, that we experience something and it will be our last for a very long time. I think we would bottle it up if we could, capture and keep it, like the treasures I keep in an old cigar box on the shelf in my bedroom. I think we might be more selfish with things like sunlight and snow and seasons. I know I would be.

I confess I am not a nostalgic type. Not in the sense that I keep things and pieces, but I keep memories. The feel of snow on my face and sun on my socked toes. I keep those memories, but I feel them slipping and it makes me sad, a bit. The same way, I suppose, a Texan would miss their wide open sky or BBQ or sweet tea.

Sweetest Frame

November 14, 2013 — 1 Comment

There are sweet idols in my life. Tempered steel overlaid with silver. Carved wood overlaid with gold (Isaiah 30:22). These are the things that bid for my time, my affections, my joy, and even my mourning. They care not what kind of attention I give to them, only that my whole attention is given.

This past week we finished 11 weeks of studying 1, 2, & 3 John. We gathered one last evening in the sanctuary and a friend led us singing through The Solid Rock. My favorite line from the hymn comes in the first verse: I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.

It is my favorite line, but most times I cannot bring myself to sing it. It simply isn’t true, and most of the time I doubt even my desire for it to be true.

The sweet frames in my life seem not so sordid as they really are when held against the surpassing beauty of Christ alone—and yet, oh how they make such palatable feasts.

Once someone told me my faith seemed like a crutch, a way to deal with a broken family, untimely death of my brother, and a move away from all familiar things. I carried those words with me for a decade, asking myself if this faith was less paramount and more crutch, something to buffer me while all around me the world gave sway.

It wasn’t until the past few years I began to see, though, that if my faith was a crutch (and I believe it is), it was because without it I could not walk or stand at all. The sweet idols walk beside me but crumble when the slightest weight is laid on them—these cannot carry me through to the beloved face of Christ. Only He can do that and He promises He does—and will.

I can trust the sweetest frame, but that frame will falter without fail. But to wholly trust in Jesus name? It may be a crutch for a limping me, but it leads to the ultimate Healer and I limp gladly, trusting in the Sweetest Name.

I suppose I don’t know very much about being married, or even being engaged, or being in a relationship, but I know a pretty good amount about being single. And I’m knowing it from a different angle than ever before. The past few weeks I’ve been thinking about a few things I’m so grateful I did in my singleness that prepared me for the season I’m in now.

I’m grateful I never lived alone. Since 2000 I have had 34 roommates. That’s not because I’m a bad roommate either, I promise! It was just life circumstances, the nature of moving often, having roommates who married, graduated, or moved on. I’m grateful for every woman with whom I’ve lived. Each of them came from vastly different lifestyles, the daughter of missionaries, the daughter of hippies, the daughter of a broken family, the nearly-perfect family. Girls who struggled with mental illness, spiritual brokenness, had strong faith or weak faith. I do not have a single regret from living with each of these women. The person I am today is in part due to each of them.

Singles, live with roommates. I understand you want to have your things just as you want them, have your own space, and more, but there has been no better preparation for the season of dying to self I’m in now than living with so many different people.

I’m grateful I wasn’t friends with only singles. In this season I find myself running often to my married friends (Shout out to Meredith, Jeannie, Maggie, and Nancy!) for advice, counsel, accountability, and more. If I had isolated myself to only being friends with those in a similar season of singleness, I would not have a cache of married men and women to seek help from. Being in a relationship is a joyful thing, but it is also a hard thing. There are things in this season I never expected to struggle with. Having someone who’s been there take my face in their hands and say, “Hey, this is normal,” is so good.

Singles, seek out married friends. Do not isolate yourself or relegate your friendships to other singles. Do not seek out only friendship of those in the same exact season as you. This is hard and will take sacrifice on your part, but I promise you: someday they will be the ones sacrificing for you.

I’m grateful I learned to embrace this gift for this day. Years ago I read a quote by Elisabeth Elliot,

“This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived-not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is for today we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”

I never forgot those words. I longed for years to really see each day as a gift and I can honestly say that in the months and years leading up to the most recent season, I did see my singleness as a gift. As I prepared to move into my present house this past summer, I was excited because I saw it as an opportunity to have some girls live with me in a discipleship context. There’s a natural discipleship that comes from living with one another, but I had intentions to do it even more deeply as I moved into this season—even for the rest of my life. I couldn’t wait. Why? Because I was learning more deeply what it means to ask myself, “What’s in my hand?” The most obvious answer was my singleness and I wanted to use it as fully as possible. I do not regret a second of that redeemed time. Did I do it perfectly? No. But I did (and do!) treasure my singleness.

Singles, what is in your hand? This is your gift for today and it is only for today. God still owns tomorrow. Embrace that.

 

Just some notes rolling around in my head. Hope they’re helpful to someone tonight.

The Love of Laundry

October 1, 2013

I used to dream of canning peaches and hanging laundry on lines, letting it billow in the northern breeze. I was set on a life of simplicity, kneading bread dough by hand, peeling apples at a wooden table marked and scarred by time and use. Reading storybooks aloud to calico-clad babies and lighting candles every night on the dinner table. This was the life of which I dreamed and felt within my grasp. It never materialized and I felt the ache of that deep in my gut years over and over. Sand slips more easily through fingers than through an hourglass and it is so very hard to hold time for long.

I signed leases and moved houses and states and tables. I forgot those dreams or buried them beneath convenience and the fear of missing out on real life while I waited for dream life to happen.

I spent years placing my hand over the ache of want, stilling my heart of its desires, trying to live well in today. Aren’t we such foolish creatures? To think we can capture a vapor and own it for any measure of time?

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No bridal showers would bring me the things that made a home so I dove deep into thrift stores and bargain bins, my home made of second-hands and hand-me-downs. It feels lived in but I wonder how well I have lived in it? Someone else marred my table-top, someone else chipped my favorite bowl, someone else created my art.

But this is the life I love. This reusable life. It reminds me life is a vapor and time is short and things are falling apart and I am too.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Richard Wilbur wrote,

The soul shrinks

From all that is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,
“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

I have never forgotten that poem or the autumn day in college when I first read it. Love Calls Us to the Things of This World and it means we must love the vapor too because it is the stuff of life—the laundry, the rising steam, the clear dances done only in the sight of heaven. We love the marred table and the calico clothes and the lit candles because these are not the meaning of life, but they help us remember the work, the dirt, the mess, the grit of life.

Convenience is not our friend, my brother and my sister, ease is not our aim.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A threshold waits in front of me, a coming home of sorts. Marriage and life with a man so wholly different than me and so wholly loving to me, it makes me wonder how you start fresh with so many years behind you. So many scars and mars, chips and cracks—how do you make new with so much old?

I don’t have an answer to that friends, but I know love does call me to the things of this world. It is an angst I wrestle with daily in these months. How to be distracted, my attentions divided by good things? Without love I am a clanging symbol, a noisy gong. And love is work. All of love is work. Beautiful work, like canned peaches and billowing laundry, rising steam, lit candles, but still work.

Let there be nothing on earth but the work of love, even if some days it looks only like laundry.

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I woke a few mornings ago and felt the familiar void. It is no stranger to me and I know it acutely. I feel the angst of it in my belly, the fear of it in my heart, and the curse of it every moment.

A friend sent me a link to an old sermon in which the pastor preached a strong and stalwart message about women being saved through childbearing (II Timothy 2:15), and I turned it off five minutes before its conclusion. “Why did you send it to me?” I asked my friend because we have been having ongoing conversations about these subjects and my soul balks at the customary consolation prizes of womanhood. For one who grew up hearing a woman’s highest calling was to be a wife and a mother, yet finds herself as single as the day she came squalling into the world, a future swaddled in babies sounds bleak.

This is my call? To bear what I cannot bear? To hold up a bargain as impossible as Sarah’s to her husband. As impossible as God’s to Abraham? This womb is dead, or feels dead. Oh, I have plenty of years until it is pronounced medically dead, but the hope has died. It has died seventy times over and dies each day a little more.

It is 2013 and most of my good-church-girl friends married a decade ago. They are all declaring the babes in their wombs, “The last!” and I barely hope for a first. To them two or three is enough, the curse lasts far beyond pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16) and they have seen enough of life to know promises about babies on schedules or Sunday-School attendance stars will not guarantee the safe arrival of their little ones to spiritual-adulthood. So it appears neither of us are saved through childbearing after all. We both limp with one hand held to God our helper and one hand anchored to earth our friend. Where is our salvation?

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In an early morning class last week we read Romans 4 and I wept tears in the second row. I felt them coming on again in this coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon. A thorough study of Romans is not for the faint of heart, and not for those who feel they have somehow escaped the curse by either perfect children or singleness.

The end of Romans 4 is about Abraham’s body, his circumcision of flesh, and calling into existence things that do not exist: his seed. God, who is the only author of life and the only bider of time, has made a promise that even with hope against hope still seems impossible. A father of many nations? A boy from these loins? From the barrenness of Sarah’s womb? If pain in childbirth was the curse on all daughters of Eve, it would seem Sarah’s only curse was she would never feel the twisting beautiful pain of birthing anything.

Anything but hope.

My friend was also in class that morning and I sent a text to him: “This is it!” I wrote. “Maybe this is part of how we are saved through childbearing!”

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Even if we never birth a child, we birth hope. We are built to birth hope. It lies restless in our womb, expectant in our hearts, and unlimited in its gestation. We are crafted to see the future, to look at what is not and believe God will still do what He said He would do. We are made to birth hope into impossibilities. I think about my sisters, those whose deepest desires are to take broken places and make them whole; who have been hurt, neglected, broken, and cast away, and who still come back strong and desperate to see wholeness birthed in dark places.

I can’t stop thinking about it all week. And I think about it when I wake early a few mornings ago, feeling the familiar ache of the barrenness accompanying singleness.

Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Faith in the hope against hope God was who He said He was and would do what He said He would do. Sarah, our barren sister, laughed at the promise and so Laughter was given to her for the rest of her days, a reminder that sometimes the only pain in childbirth we experience is 80 years without childbirth. A reminder that God is a God who saves and He saves by bringing life from dead things, hope from hopelessness.

Penned sometime this past spring. 

Silent Sanctification

August 1, 2013

still

I’ve written here for 13 years, about doubts, fears, concerns, questions, deaths, divorces, heartbreak, joy, moving, lessons, and learnings. In many ways this place is the very public working out of my salvation. Were you to peruse the archives you would find much poor theology and even more straight up narcissism. This page was my heart splayed out for anyone to read and I bled myself dry for it.

Last night I said to one of my closest friends that sometimes silence is the best sanctification, and I gave her a numbered list of all the things happening in my life right now that I can’t talk about publicly. At least not this publicly.

There’s so much of the blogosphere that lauds transparency and authenticity, but even that is rife with trophy stories and humble brags and I am strangled by the fear that I will join their ranks if I so much as whisper the numbers aloud. The truth is that even good things bring with them deep breaths and open palms. I do not know how this or that will turn out and I can’t even guess. And I don’t want to give you the opportunity to guess. Because I am selfish? Perhaps. Because I am fearful? For sure. But also because some things are best worked out in quiet, gentle, and still ways. Sometimes our rest is found there, in the stillness, in the mind’s sleep.

Sometimes writing in this place has been the best sanctification for me. But today silence might be my best sanctification.

In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

Speak What is True

July 26, 2013

quiet

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
Exodus 14:14

I cut my teeth on charisma, talk of tongues of fire and hands of healing. They said whatever I touched would be brought healing and it would be so natural I wouldn’t feel the power coming out from me. I have never forgotten those words.

It has been months now since I felt the power out from under me. Not that it ever came from me, no, but I have felt it like a rug pulled out from under me. My pastor preached a sermon a year ago about getting under the faucet of what the Holy Spirit is doing and I am standing in its stream, drinking and sputtering from the wealth of water and I am dry as a bone.

Powerless.

I ask not for your sympathy, though I covet your prayers. I do not even say this because it has been a very long, long, long time since I have written here and been fully honest. Nor because it must be said—everything true need not be spoken.

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Someone tweeted or retweeted this morning: Everyone tells at least four lies a day; one of which is usually, “I’m fine.”

I don’t know the scientific truth of that statement but I know how many times I said something akin to “I’m fine” today and it was more than four.

It is so common these days to always say what is true about self, to be honest, to be healed through telling your story, to be fully here, fully you. But I know myself to be the grandest teller of lies I believe. And if I lie even half as often to you as I lie to myself, then what does my story accomplish at all?

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Driving for a conference kept me in my car much this week and I listened to sermons and songs and tried not to use coarse language at street signs, my GPS, and other drivers. David Crowder sung a small refrain repeatedly: Here’s my life, Lord, speak what is true.

Tonight I’m overwhelmed with how much our culture, even our church culture, encourages us to speak what feels true. But—at the end of the day—He is the only one with the words of eternal life (John 6:68). He is the only one telling a story worth living. His story is the one that brings the power and healing and the hope. Tomorrow or next week or next month, I hope I will believe it more deeply. Until then,

Here’s my heart, Lord. You speak what is true.