Hearts Toward Haiti

The day of the election, while our country moved on in its history, I stood at one end of my dining room table, Micah at the other, and we took another step in ours. We looked into each other’s eyes and while we used different words, we spoke in unison. For the first time in a long time, I was vulnerable and open. He was resolute and firm. In the quiet spaces, hearts had shifted. Clay was being quietly, firmly molded and pressed, given over to the thought that maybe, just maybe, there may be more. ~ This seems a dramatic scene, but I assure you, it is this vivid in my mind. And sometimes I feel like I live in a novel. ~

We had prayed for a large family. God granted what we asked— not in a way we could have dreamed or imagined but in a way that has and continues to direct our faces toward His love and grace. Micah and I have had the honor to love our five. They remind us every day that life is precious and in it, God writes beautiful stories that sing His love. They teach us more and more about His Fatherly affection, the forgiveness offered by the Son, and the nearness of the Spirit. We have had the opportunity to love more little ones beyond the five we see, even for such a short time. I am so thankful I got to know of them. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to love them with a motherly love. I am thankful to have the hope of meeting them again, when we all are whole. Until then, I find myself in the thick of it. There are dance parties, struggles, schoolwork, housework, conflicts, resolutions, tears, smiles, running, resting, failure, success, quiet, loud, and all that happens between. It seemed we had encountered a likely bookend to this season. Yet, there was always another thought. What if God would bring children once orphaned in different ways into this home? Our home?

Over the last few years, Micah and I have talked about adopting again.

((I am going to give you just a minute to gasp, or laugh, or whatever emotion that last sentence might evoke))

Until the last several months, we might mention it and laugh too, often with an eye roll. There always seems to be a little crazy in calling. I can’t say I know what exactly has changed but something most certainly has. As the country was watching election results either reeling or rejoicing, he and I spent the majority of the evening reorienting our thoughts around what was happening much closer home. We were and are all in.

Adoption. Yes. International. Yes. Where would we be both geographically and circumstantially approved? Most importantly, where might a child or children live as orphans who we might call by our name? In just a few days, reckoning information, thoughts, feelings, desires, it was clear to us. The answer was Haiti.

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As of right now, our home study has been approved. The piles of paperwork have aligned (with the help of an awesome social worker).

Since last November, God has given us hearts for Haiti; for its beauty, for its struggle. Micah had the privilege of visiting for a few days with an old Seminary friend of his. Many of the people there have great needs, as do we, but markedly and variably different. They also have great resilience. I try to follow the landscape of need, and am aware that there exists, sometimes in whole countries, a kind of desperation I do not know living here.

I am thankful that in the last few years, Haiti has come under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. It seeks to make children the priority and serve their best interests, limiting corruption and the exploitation of children. It addresses trafficking— which is utterly evil. It affirms children given for adoption are true orphans.

We are praying for a child or two siblings— opening our hearts for who might be on the other end of this. Part of our preparation has been learning as much as we can about the Haitian culture. We’d love to learn the language. It is our desire to honor their heritage and learn from them.

One thing I want to make clear, we are neither saving children or being saved by them. They will be a precious gift to us, as we hope we are to them. If there would be a child or children who would benefit leaving the home they have always known to come and live with us, we are available. We want to be their forever family. I know the people who live with me and they (as do I) have a lot of love to give, as we have been so loved first.

I am still struck by the gravity of what adoption means. It would be desirable for children to be raised by one or both birth parents and I am grateful to groups who help hold families together by helping provide the means for steady income. These orphan prevention programs are such a blessing to many families, particularly in countries where extreme poverty and the effects of major natural disasters are constants. Regardless of those efforts, and as I know well, there will still remain orphans because we live in the land of broken things. In recent past or even as I type, a mother and/or father are feeling the weight of caring for a child or children they cannot. The resources provided them aren’t enough. Or, death separates. Whatever the circumstances, hearts are breaking. Lives have been or are being torn apart. This is where the need for adoption begins. The weight is necessary. It cannot be glossed over. It cannot be denied. We look to honor it and corporately remember the One who brings family together and promises to redeem broken things, us included.

So— this is an invitation. We ask your prayers; for Micah and me, for our children, and for “Haiti babies” (as our triplets call them) who will, God willing, also be called by our name and come to be with us.

It Is Well

When law and life press in, I find the words I have sung so boldly meet the question, “Is this still true?” The gift of faith through grace affirms, yes. The theologian in me asks, “How can this be?” The Spirit leads again to Gospel, to the old road, to the Good News. It is the thing I quickly forget when flesh and heart fail. It is the most fleeting thought when I am sinking in sin or circumstance.

Day by day, new mercy by new mercy, the Lord continues to teach me. By word, sacrament, sermon, suffering, and in holy community, my Father continues to gently remind that He is the One singing to me, in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

When peace like a river, attendeth your way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever your lot, I continue to say
It is well, it is well with your soul. 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded your helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for your soul.

Your sin, oh, the bliss, of this glorious thought
Your sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and you bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o your soul

It is well
With your soul
It is well, it is well
With your soul. 

It is well, it is well
With my soul.

Original lyrics:  Horatio Spafford

Prayer ~ For Those Suffering Miscarriage

I have made a practice of grieving. Moving toward, not away from, grief has been healing for me. It is the place where the brave acknowledgement of what is broken (death) intersects with a place to begin to hope (resurrection) in the power of the Gospel.

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In the middle of suffering, I tend to employ some defensiveness to varying degrees. When I lost little ones, I pressed into the pain as best as I was able at the time. I have lost eight through the years. The number on the whole is a source of gravity and weighty remembering. Here recently, I have tried to think of each particular child, begun to give each one a name, and work through their losses individually.

I also feel for those who continue to experience this most intimate loss, many times grieving or feeling alone. Whatever the circumstance, mothers (and fathers) know the void miscarriage brings. Knowing one is a mother or father without a living child or children to hold can be excruciating and isolating. For those whose arms are full, being aware of both our living children and the ones gone before when asked “How many?” can be a source of mental and emotional conflict. It is difficult to speak about. Difficult to think about. Difficult to process.

One of the most helpful gifts to the church in the Anglican tradition is the liturgy. The focus on gospel is verbal, literal, and woven into each and every Sabbath service. The union of the saints and continuation of the work of the Word both spoken and heard connects generation to generation of faith for centuries. Having appreciated the prayer book particularly when I don’t know what to pray has been a blessing to me. Knowing the verses have been repeated by so many multitudes of voices, experiencing both the agonies and joys of this life, is an encouragement. Knowing the writer’s, Thomas Cramner, commitment to the scriptures is profoundly meaningful as well.

The following prayer was born from these thoughts and influenced by the impact Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer has had on my soul. For some, it may not be helpful. For others, I wondered if having words to utter when the pain is fresh or even faint may be helpful in both the acknowledgment of hurt and leaning into hope. I also pray it proves that you (nor I) are alone in what we may feel is such intimate, private pain. The God described in Psalm 139 is for us all, both born and unborn, in the work of Jesus, and is near to us by His Spirit.

~

Heavenly Father, we come to you acknowledging the life of baby ___________. Our lives are forever changed as a result of knowing this child, even for a short time. We thank you for such a gift. We also feel the pain of death. Even as our hearts grieve, hold us in your never-failing love and in the hope of heaven where death will be no more and eternal life, secured by the person and work of Christ Jesus, awaits us. Thank you for accepting our praise and ministering to us as we lament. As you are close to the broken-hearted and save those who are crushed in spirit, draw near to us, Holy Spirit. Continue to hear our petitions of peace, soothe our pain, increase our faith, and provide mercy in times of need.

~

 

Christmastime in the Hope of Immanuel: Part Two

If you have not read part one, you may do so here.

The miracle of Immanuel always leaves room for deep reflection. From the time of nativity until the moment Jesus ascended into heaven, He fulfilled a mission. He was the promised one. He was the awaited one. His mission was to address mankind’s biggest problem. He lived a perfect life imputed to those who, from centuries past and for centuries to come, find life in His name. He suffered on behalf of sinners the fate all those bound in flesh and blood are bound, enduring the wrath of God. He descended to the depths and on the third day, emerged victorious over death and the grave, giving us a glimpse of what is to come.

The incarnation is pivotal to it. The sinless became sin for the sinful so we might be saved. There is no greater love than this. There is no greater Love than His. If this was all that could be said of the work of Christ Jesus, it would be enough.

Yet beyond taking care of my biggest problem, Jesus, both God and man, had a ministry – to love and serve in human form. He is not only the Perfect Priest offering a sacrifice once for all, but an intercessing one. This is most distinct from both past and contemporary religious leaders. I am painting with a large brush stroke here, but from what I know of those worshiped or followed in other religions, they either lead with authority or in compassion. Some offer “saving” (most often, save yourself) and others “loving” as the way to higher living. The triune God of the Bible offers both saving and serving.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb. 4

After Jesus came in flesh, He continued His mission and at the same time, met humanity in service. In the gospels, I am in awe of His response when met by sinners, poor and needy. He did not pass them by. In some accounts, it is said that He indiscriminately healed everyone He encountered (see Matthew 4 & 8, Luke 4 & 6). He wept with those who wept. He rejoiced with those who rejoiced. He felt hunger. He enjoyed fellowship. He entered in to all kinds of human suffering and frailty— casting out demons, healing, and providing for physical needs— to both fulfill the prophecies and moved with compassion. He did not only see needs, he felt them in His skin, and He did not leave those who came to Him as they once were.

He loved His neighbors like no other— both for His people as substitute and as a servant.

This gives me hope today as I think about the flesh and blood babe in the manger. The ones most aware of our neediness ~those abandoned, betrayed, exhausted, childless, sick, lonely, rejected, widowed, orphaned, suffering in every other kind of way~ our Savior also sympathizes with us because He walked among us. When it seems like no one sees us and no one understands, Immanuel does.

This Christmas, I want to sit with you vomit-covered or (hopefully) not, as a person in need of everything God has done and still promises. I wish to marvel at these things, sit with their weight in my chest, and wonder at the curious, compassionate nature of His ways.

God, in the person and work of Christ Jesus, has demolished our biggest problem and proves that He cares deeply about all our smaller ones. Our cries for help, when confronted with our biggest problem, sin, and all the myriad of others, suffering, reach the heavens into the ears of our Great High Priest. The God who has and will intervene. The One who came to save will come again to redeem. In the meantime, I pray for an increased awareness that I do not have a Savior who is unaware or indifferent toward joys and pains of life even now. He is Immanuel— God with us.

Lord I believe, help my unbelief.

 

Christmastime, in the Hope of Immanuel: Part One

Wrapped in the close and distant memory and not leaving much to be desired highlighting the expanse of human experience,  I feel the most deep, complex nostalgia in this holiday. I have read several written pieces that speak to the profound implications of the incarnation and its anticipation in advent. The ones I have enjoyed the most resonate the deepest, not necessarily because of their articulation of fact (which is always appreciated), but because they understand our ~my~ need. This has been the busiest year and I have felt my limitations more over the past several months than in years past. Who knew the pre-teen years could be so volatile;)! When someone, somewhere hints that I am not alone as I sit here, feeling so much mix of deep joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, remembering Christmases past trying to feel something of the present, as the holy season is whirling by, I take a breath.

In another attempt to thwart the holiday bustle, my husband and I took the kids to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It was quite the trip. I honestly felt like I was escaping the less desirable parts of the holiday— the ridiculous traffic, long to do lists, short tempers (including my own), the pressures, and all that is between— as we headed out. But the craziness went with me! I was overwhelmed as we hauled the luggage to the van, hurried as we traveled down the highway, anxious as we tossed our belongings in our hotel room and searched for a quick dinner, and exhausted as we landed in a clump in our seats before the concert. Literally covered in vomit, as one of my sweet gals had a bit of first-concert-jitters that spilled right out of her soon after our arrival, I listened, viscerally aware of human plight. (I just want to take this opportunity to apologize to those who sat around me with sensitive olfactory senses. So sorry people.) I don’t know about you, but this year for me has been so full. Not only was I spent physically, mentally, and emotionally from the trip down, but I am spent physically, mentally, and emotionally, from the year. I feel my humanity more and more as years progress and I wasn’t sure that anyone around me understood.

From the sound of the first guitar strum, I was enamored again at the thematic sounds of the season. I have always loved music and once again, found it to be a balm. The experience was fantastic. The artistry, benevolent and beautiful.

The triplets fell asleep right as the Behold the Lamb portion began. This was why we made the trip, as the music tells the story of the birth of Jesus through Old Testament history and the prophets. It is well-loved in our house. It is always ironic to me that even though I work so hard to make something work out, as the point of what we have planned to do arrises, someone misses it somehow! With my big kids self-sufficient, their rest was actually a mercy to me in a way. Four year olds move some part of their bodies constantly and their stillness allowed me to also be still. All the pieces well crafted with unique yet cohesive melodies. There is a song right toward the end where several vocalists echo lines from previous songs. It always seems appropriate to hear echoes of the past in present, like this Theme song. It is a lovely, chaotic, melodious sound, mixing past with present. The lyrics were so moving, I felt a collective sigh rising up, as the cries of the phrases, “pass over us”, “deliver us” and “glory to Jesus, ancient and strong,  come to your people, carry us home”  moved from my overwhelmed heart to my lips.

In my experience, echoes of the past live simultaneously in the present. I remember joyful gatherings with families intact, the ones that follow with dear ones missing, first Christmases with Micah as newlyweds, those waiting and aching for children, first celebrations with my big boys, miscarriages, realizing I have far more than I deserve, feeling anxiety over not enough, three babies in-womb, relationships gained, relationships lost, seasons of sickness and isolation, times of wellness and celebration— the list goes on. My life story reprise plays on and on. Regardless of experiential joys or pain, there lives beneath the surface a cry for intervention. A stubborn neediness. Who knows this song better than I? Who knows all the parts that make up the whole? When I cry for deliverance, Who knows the references of experiences past? Who is outside the bounds of my limited understanding creating the even larger theme? The Creator and Center of remembrance and the One who has intervened, the God who came to be us—Immanuel.

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The God of Judges and Kings

There is nothing new under the sun. For as long as humanity has walked the earth, we, collectively and individually, have had an unsatisfied longing. For those who have the privilege, we raise up and elect officials to make the way better. For most of the Old Testament years, the leaders for whom Israel so adamantly plead ended up being evil. Some were God-fearing. “He did what was evil” and “He did what was right” in the sight of the Lord are many times the summations of entire legacies of the judges and kings of Israel.

Beyond the reaches of law and policy, culture and society, with various effect throughout centuries, the Bible affirms that regardless of the circumstances, God has been for His people. He has remained faithful to His promises. Even while the Psalmist laments in his current circumstances facing death, famine, and sometimes silence, God was always working. Psalm 136 is a beautiful song with the lyric, “His steadfast love endures forever” because for the author, it did, and it does.

It is so fitting that the hope of the nativity is right around the corner. God is with us. He doesn’t usually work in the ways we think He should. At the appointed time when again people wanted a dictator or king, He sent a baby to a stable. When the proud were perpetuating religion for the sake of god made in the image of man, He was living life on the behalf of His beloved image bearers for the sake of their righteousness. When folks wanted someone to overthrow the government, He used its constructs to satisfy the wrath of God and the penalty of death to guarantee salvation for those who believe. And when some bent to prove His demise with a sealed and guarded tomb, He defeated death so we may have the hope of heaven. It is in the quiet of history that the most profound works of the Maker and Savior of men produce lasting effects. Forgiveness of sins reaches all the way into today, as souls are stilled and sealed in the quiet spaces.

We want leaders— people who will stand beyond the fray, tell us the truth, and bring safety and fulfillment to our generation, and for good reason. Sometimes, we try to fill the space with ourselves, thinking that if we only had the influence, voice, and resources, we could do what should be done for the sake of our cultures and our communities. There are times heaven breaks through and we enjoy gracious gifts. Sometimes, we feel the weight of the world and come up far short. Through it all, the longing remains.

One thing is sure:  the One upon whom all authority, justice, and mercy has come to make our future sure and will come again to judge equitably. Until then, our hearts will cry out for the land of truth, rest, and peace. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Lord, help me to hold loosely to the things of this world and keep my eyes focused on the world to come, loving my neighbors along the way. For the days of *pointing* peace, I praise you. For the days of want, I petition you. For all the days in between, give me an awareness of Your presence.

Oops!

For those who receive my blogs via email, I just realized that a blog draft was sent out by mistake. Sometimes, I write incomplete thoughts as I work through things myself and leave them in a drafts folder. Those thoughts were mistakenly published! I was able to delete them from the blog, but those “subscribed” may have received them in your inbox. I apologize for the mistake. I may finish my thoughts at a later time, and I might not! We shall see. Until then, those on the inside know my some of my secret thoughts (ha!). I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Braving the Truth

This is a new season, engaging in parenting big kids-almost teens. I am taking a risk here and I know it. Recently, a new dad asked my best parenting advice and before piping up, I realized that what I believe to be true now is quite different than what I may have shared back when I was in the thick of the newborn-toddler phase for the first time. The big things still hold true, but there is wisdom in the experience of it all.

While risky, I do know and am aware that life is a process. Hopefully, you don’t mind being in the middle of it all with me, thinking through this with sober confidence.

There is a phrase that I say to my bigger boys almost every single day. It isn’t just for them. It always meets me too as a most clear example of  ~point at someone with one finger, there are three pointing back at me~  admonitions. I say it when something has happened that condemns, when fear of being found out looms, the evidence is against us, and one might run and hide or try to cover something up in some way.

Parenting these more complex thinkers takes a different skill. So often what we begin addressing moves several times as emotions and the threat of wrongdoing rises. In the middle of the usually circular, consequence evading, confrontational conversation I sometimes have the wherewithal to say something like, “Let’s be brave and head toward the truth as closely as we dare and see what finds us there.”

The farther from the truth we go, the more difficult the conversation becomes. There is more room for something false. I know what kids are thinking— they believe the truth gets them in trouble. And often it does. They fear being rejected. They fear being embarrassed. Though deeper within is a core fear that the truth will make them un-lovable. I know this is true, as it is the same way I feel when confronted with my own failures.

So much of life is defensive. So much of it is convoluted. We get mixed up in what I should have done and what I actually did. It is the latter part that scares us.

I am not speaking of parenting strategies here— I am talking about an environment for parenting where, while a parent and child have different roles, they are equal in sharing a need for safety, love, and something outside rules, discipline, and behaviors. I am talking about the environment where strategies operate.

When truth about me or about them is at hand, regardless of how bad it may be, the hope is that something (or SomeOne) else waits for us there.

There are clear consequences of living life evading the truth— and relationally, they are a prison. In short, they damage my relationship with my children. They damage their relationship with me. We hope for reconciliation. But what governs the environment? Where is the hope?

If there is a time when this is relentlessly tested, I am sure these more hands-off parenting years feel like it so far. *Spoiler Waring* The truth about them~the truth about me is the place where the Gospel moves in and completely undermines the worst that could be. When all that that is done and left undone threatens to undo us, grace reaches in and pulls us out. Even if natural consequences are difficult to swallow, mercy meets us.

John 8 says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I started this blog months ago. A couple of week ago, it dawned on me how to finish it (and it has taken longer to actually sit down and type!). Micah and I are attending a class with our church family. The title of the introductory talk was, “Who is Jesus?” You may listen in here. The answer is found in scripture and answered by Jesus Himself.  Many of the points made were directly from the gospels.

It prompted my own further study. In John 8 alone, Jesus has this to say about Himself:

He is the light of the world (vs. 11), from above, not of this world (vs. 23), sent by the Father (vs. 26-27), spoke to the world what He heard from the Father (vs. 26), He does what is pleasing to the Father (vs. 29), He speaks of what He had seen with His Father (vs. 38), He came from and was sent by God (vs. 42), He tells the truth (vs. 45), He honors His Father (vs. 49), He does not seek His own glory (vs. 50), the Father glorifies Him (vs. 54), He knows the Father and keeps His word (vs. 55), and before Abraham was, “I am” (vs. 58).

This is only one chapter! The main idea here, as well as in His ministry on the whole, is Jesus was sent by God and is God. For those looking for the Messiah, this was pertinent information. The call given then and now is to believe. For us today, believing He is the Christ —who He said He was and is— is the truth that sets us free.

In John 14:6, Jesus says He is the way, truth, and life.

We move close to the truth of who we are in the hope of the Person He is. He, who is the Truth, comes close to us first, as the Helper bears witness about Him (John 15:26).

What does that mean for me? And for my kids? If Jesus is who He says He is, we are who He says we are. I will spend my lifetime learning all of what that means! One place to start, especially when the truth about us makes us feel unlovable, is John 17, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

There is no hard truth about us that will move the Father to crush us. There is no truth that will undo who He is and what He has done. There is no sin we will encounter left un-exchanged for the righteousness of Jesus. Because He has already crushed His Son for our sake, the supreme weight of the consequence has been paid. The environment for faith and repentance is love— the love of God demonstrated by the Son, made known by the power of the Holy Spirit. Day by day, conversation by conversation, parent/child alike, I pray this makes its way deeper into all our hearts and sustains us in hope.

“Let’s be brave and head toward the truth as closely was we dare and see that the Truth is there.”

Lord I believe, help my unbelief.

Lasts

It happens quietly. The days turn to weeks, weeks to months, months to years. I usually speak mid-season evaluating the feelings therein, then the season has passed. The firsts are usually celebrated. Sometimes the lasts, but not usually. I don’t always sense the lasts until they are a memory

I recently found myself in the midst of a post-last conversation. I was talking with a friend about something new-momish— and her response signaled that I am no longer a part of that division of motherhood. Apparently, I have moved past that already. Have I? I think she is right! I felt a little sad. The season ended without my knowledge and especially not my permission! Had I known, I would have done something to extend the time into a more indelible memory. My mom, another gal well versed in lasts, says there is a book that voices this sentiment. Even this morning, I read of a different mom, feeling the weight of lasts voiced the same thought in a beautiful way. I am not the first.

I am sure that on the last days, I did not know them from others. The significance was lost in the excitement of what would come, the business of what is current, or in the stillness of the work behind me. The fact they were comes later when something causes me to remember when. Then, it hits me. Sometimes the realization is sweet— and sometimes, it stings.

The last gaze out my childhood window.

The last figure eight on my bike in the backyard.

The last time we were together, sharing dreams and making plans.

The last drive away.

The last time I was called by my unmarried name.

The last time we went to a restaurant together as a family of two.

The last hiccups, felt some inexplicable place in my belly.

The last grasp of my finger with that tiny hand.

The last time he slipped into our bed in the middle of the night.

The last time she called me “Ma-ma”.

The last time he rested his head on my shoulder, arms and legs draped at my sides.

The last walk out of that room.

The last conversation this side of eternity.

I am sure, the lasts shape me. There are some moments I feel ~somewhat~ satisfied when something has ended. But I almost always I wished I would have done {blank}, and I am left feeling unresolved.  Usually, sadness is a signal. But I can’t go back. I cannot relive parts of history. There are chapters that are closed.

Mixed into the sadness is joy. The new movie, Inside Out, is brilliant in painting a picture of our maturing natures and the complexities of how experiences shape us. Micah and I took the kids to see this one, but it was really for the adults.

The theme was profound. Most of life is a mix. I don’t have many (maybe any?) memories that are purely joyful. Even the most joyful are lacking in something, especially within the expanse of all of life. It may sound depressing, but ironically, the more I am okay with this realization, the more joy seems accessible at any given moment. When the pressure is off to have any part of this life experience ultimate, the joys taste a little sweeter.

The Bible speaks of many lasts. Our lives are full of them. There will be finality for us all. More lasts are approaching. I think it is one way God has set eternity in our hearts. Augustine calls it restlessness. Others speak of it as well.

Someone calls Himself the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega, Lord of Eternity, the Beginning and End, Who Was, and Is, and Is to Come. Regardless of the direct implications of His name, all things unresolved will find completion in Him that will be perfectly satisfying. As life brings me moments to reflect on my allotted portion of lasts, I ask for continued faith to believe that what (or rather Whois to come will be even better than my best joys and repent of searching out ways to hold on to hope here. Like John in Revelation, one day I will worship in light of Unending Love. And for the sadness, in His presence, all that is sad will come untrue. And all the joys, will be made fully and wholly complete.

This is not the end. These are not really the lasts. Lord I believe, help my unbelief.

Thank God.

Renovation or Resurrection?

I love ~before and after~ projects. Through the years, I have been given pieces of furniture from family members I absolutely love, except for the finish. I will never forget the appearance of my grandmother’s beverage cabinet when it first entered my home, dark-kelly green flecked with black spots. Bleh. A robin’s egg blue against the copper top decorated with new hardware turned it into something lovely. It is so much fun to see the beauty in something emerge from under the surface in materials, lines, and shapes with a coat or two of paint.

I also love remodeling programs on TV that take a much older house and make it entirely up to date. The foundation remains but the aesthetics change dramatically and the “they don’t make ’em like they use to”‘s are all over the place.

Once I bought a small table for five dollars. I was so excited! It was kind of terrible looking but solid wood nonetheless and a perfect candidate for a shabby chic makeover. I remember putting a paint brush to it, a deep shade of turquoise, and the pressure caused the legs to disassemble and most of the supporting wood to crumble. There was no amount of paint or hardware that could put that thing together again.

I think my life has been a series of projects in renovation. I know I feel all the time that I should be better. It is subtly (sometimes blatantly) suggested within every “encouraging” statement, on plaques on the walls, even in the Bible… yet, like my table, my results aren’t always successful. Sometimes the project crumbles. Sometimes the finish I try and give myself isn’t long-lasting. Of one thing I am growing increasingly sure, I cannot be the contractor of my own project. I would always keep it low-maintenance, appealing, and without real elbow grease. I would also operate under the presupposition that what is underneath is okay and I only just need an aesthetic change. It is easier that way and absolutely not as painful. It might require work, sure. But nothing too difficult.

The problem isn’t that I, as a human being, made in the image of God, born under the fall, then saved by the grace and mercy of God, need a renovation.

I need resurrection.

Death to life language is all over the Bible. What does that look like? What does it feel like? I would argue that while Jesus’ pronouncement of “It is finished” has begun the work in me, dying to live is the continuation of it. And if it is lasting, it hurts.

There are so many times in life when I realize my lot is different than the one I expected. I don’t even necessarily consider it until I find myself trying to give something a desperate renovation. Instead, what I am learning, is that my thoughts and even my desires may need to be entirely dismantled. Then it hits me, I am dying to *some* of the things I thought would be true. I know… I know… death… that seems terrible. Who likes to talk about death anyway? I don’t wake up each morning proclaiming, “Let’s see how I can die today!” (Side note:  If I do , I am pretty sure isn’t really happening). We all know when it happens, it hurts.

Bind up these broken bones ~ Mercy bend and bring me back to life ~                                                     But not before you show me how to die (Show Me, Audrey Assad)

There is a process to this, mysterious and omnipotently prescribed by the Author and Perfector of faith. No amount of paint or nails will patch me up. The problem isn’t with the finish— it is what is within, what is underneath. I might try and clean it up, but it needs to be made entirely new. It (whatever it may be at different times) needs to be laid in the grave.

After so many years of sensitivity toward what should be, what is underneath begins to show through. If I am brave for a second and move as close to the truth as my inward eye can bear, I might look at the reality of what it is or of who I really am. The process brings pain and, yes, I grieve. Sometimes, a situation is different that I would like. The same happens when coming face to face with hard realities. Relinquishing control is hard.

This sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Yet it is the prescription for this life, moving from what is already and what is not yet as Ephesians describes. I have died with Christ, been raised with Him, and am seated with Him at the right hand of God. But clearly, my flesh still resides here. I look forward in hope to the completion of “It is finished” in both my body and soul in entirely new circumstances. Paul writes that until then, he does what he doesn’t want to do, and doesn’t do what he wants to do (Romans 7).

John Newton puts it this way in regard to this tension, “The knowledge of our acceptance with God, and of our everlasting security in Christ, has in itself the same tendency upon earth as it will have in heaven, and would, in proportion to the degree of evidence and clearness, produce the same effects of continual love, joy, peace, gratitude, and praise, if there was nothing to counteract it. But (I am) not all spirit.” Until my spirit matches that of my flesh fully, there is struggle. There is suffering. There is death at work in my body in all that is attached to it. In a letter to a friend, Newton writes about the mixture of pain and joy in this life and our experience in the hands of the Sanctifier:

…though we change, the Saviour changes not. All our concerns are in his hands, and therefore safe. His path is in the deep waters, his thoughts and methods of conduct are as high above ours, as the heavens are high above the earth; and he often takes a course for accomplishing his purposes directly contrary to what our narrow views would prescribe. He wounds in order to heal, kills that he may make alive, casts down when he designs to raise, brings a death upon our feelings, wishes, and prospects, when he is about to give us the desire of our hearts. These things he does to prove us; but he himself knows, and has determined beforehand, what he will do. The proof indeed usually turns out to our shame. Impatience and unbelief show their heads, and prompt us to suppose this and the other thing, yea, perhaps, all things are against us; to question whether he be with us and for us, or not. But it issues likewise the praise of his goodness, when we find that, maugre all our unkind complaints and suspicions, he is still working wonderfully for us, causing light to shine out of darkness, and doing us good in defiance of ourselves. ~The Works of John Newton, Vol. 1, Banner of Truth

This is my experience. Can you relate? As curious the sufferings of those being swept toward God our Father in the current of salvation, we are all in the process of being remade. And most of the time, if real dying is happening, it feels terrible. Maybe if I remember how hard it is and how terrible it feels , I will have more love for those feeling it too.


Yet for those resurrected with Christ, it is not death to die.

Resurrection happens after we die. Not before, not instead of, but after. Sometimes it is abrupt. Beauty arrises from ashes— not from nice-looking parts and pieces but instead burned up, unrecognizable, inharmonious heaps of soot. The result is not better looking and hopefully functional— but true beauty. Sometimes— most often, it happens slowly. Regardless, it is the prerequisite to life in His name. It is the way of the cross.

I keep trying to convince myself that I’m not really that bad. I keep trying to manipulate and gain control. But in the depths of me, I know. My brain needs rewiring. My thoughts need a complete overhaul. My motivations need more than en example to follow. And I cannot do it for myself. I do not need a renovation. I need resurrection.

Maybe if I have some idea that this is what it is going to be like and I can hold on long enough, something beautiful can be born. Even a small glimpse of resurrection whispers exponential possibilities. If you know the story of my family, it is a good example. The remembering and the reality now bring hope. Here, the glimpses aren’t perfect or without hardship, but they give encouragements that what He designs is far better than I could dream. The promise is that even if I don’t see it here, it is coming.

The only person in human history with the innate power to go from death to life is Jesus. No other religious leader can claim it. Our suffering Savior looked quite different after He conquered death on the cross. He was unrecognizable to Mary Magdelene then later his disciples on the road to Emmaus after His body broke. This is the hope of resurrection. Our lives, hidden with Christ in God, will be made new.

As much as I hate it and as painful as it is, dying is the prescription for receiving life. I need it in my life. I need it in my relationships. I need it in my body. May God give mercy as I feel it and as it follows me. In the midst, He promises to never leave or forsake, remember my frame, and not allow me to be consumed. When a glimpse of resurrection shines above the fray, may it give lasting hope and focus my eyes again on the One in whom it is secured.

Lord I believe, help my unbelief.