Thursday, July 29, 2021

whatever happens next...

 May be an image of 2 people, people standing, beach and ocean

They play in the clear pure waters of Lake Michigan, every one of them laughing

and I’m totally ok, even though it’s the last day of vacation before she goes to college .


I’m ok, until he says quietly,

“Too bad all good things come to an end, huh?” 

And that cliche,

those words puncture the water balloons behind my eyes ,

my tears stream quietly

and I don’t even try to stop them. 


Sitting in sadness, not running this time, 

no more running and running and pretending until I am flattened. 

I put down my salad and I lean on him

as the boat bounces and the anchor holds.


So yeah, I’m sad, universe, on this perfect Lake Michigan day,

in the sunshine of 80 degrees and a gentle wind and the soft sand on the clear bottom and everything I could ever want,

leaning on a husband who read my thoughts

as we watch our oldest wrestle loudly with her siblings one more time before she launches, 


before she leaves.


I left some tears behind in Lake Michigan this time. 

Is it strange that I see God’s gentle care even in this,

in the timing of the moment, 

and the finding of the sunglasses?


My dad wore sunglasses when they dropped me off at college,

to help him fake the smile that said, “You got this!” and “Have fun, but not too much!”


Sunglasses,

a nice pair, washed up in the waves, discovered by my son while we walked,

(It was known that I would need them);

they hid my face while they played in the water 

and I closed my streaming eyes

and listened to the sound of crashing waves,

seagulls and laughter,

and days passing away. 


Whatever happens next…

It will be change. 

It will be new and different and partly sad

There will be a hole.


How could it be good? 

Could it really be good?


Whatever happens next, let it be good for her.

Let her world keep opening wider,

as You Lord widen her heart and mind

and take the word HOME and stretch it out even farther

MIchigan- Indiana- Kentucky- now Wisconsin

Stretch, stretch her Lord

but oh, don’t let this world break her. 


Whatever happens next,

Lord Jesus by your grace,

let it be good.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Grace Frees Me






Grace frees me to be the child that I am and to ask my Father for help. (John Kleinig)

What is grace?
Grace: unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor of God.
Grace, given through Jesus Christ, to sinners, even me.

Grace frees me.
Grace frees us.
 Grace frees us to be honest.
I have found that I waste entirely too much energy trying to hide my weaknesses, trying to make myself seem better or holier or stronger than I actually am.
Being honest, brutally honest, is terrifying, and I think it is so terrifying that it would be impossible…but, God:

But God, being rich in mercy, 
because of the great love with which he loved us, 
even when we were dead in our trespasses, 
made us alive together with Christ— 
by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4-5)

That acceptance I want?  That security I want?
That approval from God? I already have it in Christ.

I am fully known and fully loved. I do not have to hide any more. I do not have to downplay my weaknesses and exaggerate my strengths. I do not have to waste energy contorting my body and my spirit to make myself perfect, or to appear perfect.

And neither do you, dear Christian.






“Our justification does not depend on our piety and our spiritual performance but on Christ and His performance. We can therefore face up to our recurring failure to live as His holy people and people of prayer. In fact, our failure Is meant to teach us to ask for what we lack and receive everything from Christ.”(Grace Upon Grace, Kleinig, p. 39)

----
When Jesus says, "Let the little children come," may we hear and know that we are included in that invitation! The little people inside us, the scared children that we try to hide under adult costumes, they are welcome! In God's presence, we are free to be small, dirty, whiney, messy. He welcomes us as we are and takes us on his lap and teaches us to simply BE in his presence, small, and so very loved. 

Praise be to God,
who loves and welcomes children,
who loves and welcomes us.
Amen.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Sing, pray against the dying of the light

 May be an image of sky, tree, twilight and nature


Wearing a tiara with pink fluff, she stands by balloons, smiling. It’s her 95th birthday, and she bought cake for the whole congregation. Her whole demeanor is one of joy and gratitude. 

Later in Sunday school, pastor-daddy says “I’m not sure I’ll be that giggly when I'm 95!” and I quip, “Hun, you’re not that giggly NOW!”

How can this be? 95 years in this broken place and she shines with joy!
She has buried friends, seen dreams crushed, lived upheavals and yet still she laughs, she smiles at the future!

Another dear saint, this one “only” 93, tells me she’s decided it’s time to move into a home. I offer her words meant to acknowledge the grief that must go with this big move, but she just smiles and pats my hand. “The Lord carried me through the war. He will go with me in this.”

This is the work of God, surely. To take those who have every reason to be crushed by this world and hold them up, make them smile and sing even in the face of tragedy. 

This is no small miracle. 
-----------
Earlier this week, I read this poem and I was captivated by the rhythm of it:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
-- Dylan Thomas

The passion of these words resonates: but rage… rage is not the right word, not for the faithful saint at close of day. Rage is for those who do not know their maker, who fight the horrible wrongness of death alone and are crushed by it. Rage is removed for the Christian, melted into trust, because of Jesus who absorbs it on the cross. The resurrection cancels rage and rewrites our natural song into something like this….

Do not go grumbling into that good night,
Old age can shine and say at close of day:
Pray, laugh against the dying of the light.

So Christians at their end know dark is bright,
Because the Word says “it is finished,” they
Do not go hopeless into that good night.

Women, with decades by, alive by His might 
Their frail deeds in His hands like piles of clay
Pray, smile against the dying of the light.

And you, dear sisters, there on the lofty height,
Guide, bless us now with faithful songs, we pray
Do not go hopeless into that good night.
Sing, laugh against the dying of the light.

-----
photo by Eldon Cook, Ohio River 2020

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Whatever: a call to war

These words are a call to war:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil 4:8)


Those words never sounded like a battle cry to me until I had kids. 

They sound like words for the beach: breath deeply, think lovely thoughts, relax. In
hale blessings, exhale gratitude. Repeat.


Now I see these words as a call to violence. 


Are we not at war? Here, in the trenches, living in the wreckage of this world with fellow sinners, are we not engaged in a relentless battle against the darkness?


Darkness covers us all like smog, suffocates like a mask, tears at us inside like a disease, ravages our loved ones, our families, our nation. 


The battle is personal and close: it is in our very thoughts. 

On what will we mediate? 

Will we let our minds follow their natural bent, and ruminate on the darkness?

Or will we receive the armor that is given

the Word like a sword and a shield

the Spirit’s power like muscles we don’t have

strong enough FIGHT, gloves off;

to punch Despair in his stupid face

and give Depression a wedgie

and gather all our Enemies

into timeout, for eternity.


While we simply hold fast

Stand firm

and SEE.


Whatever. is. true.


Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:10-17)

Take heart, friends.
God will finish this thing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Healthy Conversations & a living document

On Monday, a child walked into the kitchen, saw the food in the picture below, scowled, and said angrily, "What can I even EAT mom? There's nothing in this house."

How's it going over here, with our family health challenge?  About like that. :)

We are still detoxing, so that's fun. I am allowing extra screen time and friend time to help us through. Best of all, we are having great conversations. 

My favorite part of homeschooling has been learning how to appreciate the power of good questions, and to foster meaningful conversations. I no longer see something like "health" or any other topic as a subject to tackle, teach, and file away. Rather, it's a piece of life that we will spend time together exploring, considering, and looking for truth, goodness, and beauty in this area so we can see how it applies to life. We will not FINISH this task this summer (or in our lifetimes!) and that's ok! That is not the goal.

So instead of having a curriculum or a book to work through this summer, my goal is to lead conversation regularly about health-related topics, using whatever I find that interests me or the others as a springboard. 

I have found a few things, and I know some of you are curious, so I created a living document to share with you all. Feel free to use these springboards in your own way, and let me know if you find any good ones of your own!

Health Conversations (a living document)


Friday, May 14, 2021

I am not my Van. (On caring for the body)


Moby, our old van

I get in the van, turn the key, and expect it to GO.


It should go. Vans should work. That’s what they are for, and I expect them to do that.

Now, sometimes my van breaks. And when it does, I am highly irritated and inconvenienced. So what do I do? Do I learn how it works so that I can figure out what is wrong with it and fix it?
No. I tell my husband. He fixes it.

Sometimes, he tries to explain to me what was wrong with it, and I try to listen, sort of, but my mind just hears a bunch of uninteresting words:

I don’t care to know how the van works. I just want it to work. And when it doesn't work, I will ask my husband to fix it, or pay for a mechanic if all else fails (and it rarely does.)

I don’t care how it works, I just want it to work. 
I’m told it needs regular maintenance too, but I don’t really know when or what, because my husband does that.  And the van goes.

I act the same way with my body.
My body should GO. I have important places to be today, and I need my body to get me there. I will fuel it with whatever fuel sounds good to me, and I will expect it to just keep going. 

I don’t want to be bothered to learn how it works, to care for it, to bow to some silly maintenance schedule.

And then, my body starts to complain. Personally, my complaints have come in the form of weight gain, mood swings,  bad skin, and irritability. My body hints, then complains, then screams at me to change my ways. But I really don’t want to stop moving and take the time to listen.

But my body is not like my van. I can’t just use and abuse it and then ask someone else to fix it.
(Well, I can, actually, but that's probably not the best choice.)
It might be worth taking the time to learn about it. 
My van is replaceable, but my body is not.

This is hard and humbling because I should know this stuff already. I should have learned these healthy things and made these healthy changes years and years ago. How can I take time out of my life to do this, now?

How can I not?
My body is not replaceable.

And I think about what I’m doing: expecting my body to run smoothly while at the same time giving it little or no attention. What would it be like if I did that with my house? What if I approached homemaking this way- winging it, getting things done as quickly I can with as little attention as possible, refusing to bow to any kind of maintenance schedule or routine?

FlyLady cartoonIt would all fall apart. Fast. 
Three kids ago, this is exactly what was happening, which is why I finally started to listen to flylady and it changed my life, saved my sanity, and helped me to make a home for my family.

And my body is an even more complicated system then my household.

It is fearfully and wonderfully made, in fact.

When I was drowning in the tasks of running a house, I thought about housework all the time, did it all the time, and yet still felt completely out of control and overwhelmed.  Now, what if, instead of learning a system, I simply tried to think about housework less, and hoped that solved the problem?

It's crazy, right?
But this is what I do to my body when it complains.
I think about food too much, whether it’s what I want to eat, what I am eating, what I shouldn't eat, or what I can’t eat. This is true of me when I am being lazy and when I am on a health kick. 

I think about food too much.
I think this is one of my body’s complaints, actually. The cravings, the restlessness, and the constantly being unsatisfied: these things are going on for a reason. And I haven’t wanted to take the time to figure out why. 

I’d like to think about food less often, but I can’t do that without addressing my body’s complaints. I can’t just force myself to be less hungry. I have to take the time to learn how a body works. That means learning about the proper fuel, the emotional and spiritual issues, and a maintenance schedule for soul and body that will keep my whole self working properly.

2021 update
I have certainly not "arrived" in this area, but I have learned some things, and I am dusting off some of these old blog posts to help me as I jump into revisiting these topics with my children.

Caring for a body is complicated. Maintenance of SELF is complicated-- but so important!
Join me in this conversation: What kind of maintenance does a human need to flourish? What IS health? 

originally published 1/2013

Thursday, May 6, 2021

 I have deleted my oldest from all my next-year spreadsheets. I no longer need to track her hours.  The silliest things hit me with sadness these days. I don’t even like tracking school hours.


We are on the brink of graduation, of major change in the family dynamic, of shifting and rearranging in a beautiful/heartbreaking way (for all of us.) Soon, on the nights when daddy’s gone, not one of them will be clambering to sleep in my bed. For now, I still say yes when the littler ones ask. 


We need a better name for how it feels to let go of your grown child

Because it’s not letting (I have no choice)

My white knuckled grasp is simply overpowered

By the passing of time and the work of God

In the maturing of my love and her life


It’s a little like giving birth: beautiful, painful.


This milestone adds such urgency to all of my thoughts and plans and goals for ALL of the kids. Carpe diem! Time is running out! Gather all the rosebuds, quick! Till the garden, pour the water out by the bucket, and weed, weed, weed, weed! 


But also, sit by the side of the garden and see them now, don’t rush their growth, Let it be slow and individual and in their own time, linger, wonder, give thanks, and don’t miss a single beautiful moment….


But I can’t do both, and I can’t do it all, and time is running out.


I see these teenagers, figuring it out, learning to be okay in their own selves.  They can’t do this with me hovering; they can’t BE themselves; they need room for trying things on the sloughing them off again, they need to answer the questions THEY are asking and in their own ways.  My oldest son tells me he likes pickles, and I congratulate him, seeing just one more way he’s learning to be HIM and not his mom or his dad. (He shrugs and looks out the window. Moms are weird.)


it’s like a song plays in this home

but it keeps getting interrupted

it’s choppy and moody-- 

we are just practicing

with pop songs played too fast, 

and hymns of joy,

with mom hollering from the kitchen

“one more verse of that song, son, I wasn’t done yet.”

notes of grief pour out unexpectedly

and then, chopsticks

cut short by dogs barking

and I just don’t see how it is going to come to a satisfying ending…

all this noise


perhaps I will hear it my whole life long

and it will only get quieter

staying unresolved

and I’ll still be in the kitchen,

pleading,


“Just one more verse? I wasn’t done yet.”




Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Expectant child-rearing

"I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;

            In pain shall you bring forth children."
Genesis 3:16

            The curse of labor is only the beginning of the curse, I fear.  Not just labor, but the whole of motherhood surely would have been much more joyful had there been no fall and no sin.
            Imagine the joy of raising children in a truly safe world; never having to worry about car seats or riding bikes in the road or wearing helmets.  Imagine not having to carry around bandages and emergency phone numbers; not having to learn CPR; not needing health insurance.
            Imagine the joy of raising children without selfish hearts!  Imagine raising a young man whose desire to serve others grew right along with his muscles.  Imagine seeing the beauty of an innocent daughter, as she changed from a sweet little girl to a pretty young lady, and being able to simply delight in her as she blooms; free of the shadow of worry, not wondering whether she will misuse her beauty, or whether some boy would trample it underfoot and break her heart.
            Imagine really, fully loving a child, with a love that never got confused with a selfish desire to possess.  Imagine a delight in every achievement, a joy in the work of God displayed in the uniqueness of your own dear child--- and imagine your heart so large as to feel that mix of joy and praise in the accomplishments of all children.
            Imagine a willing and joyful letting-go at the proper time, and a perfect harmony between the good of the child and the happiness of the mother.  Imagine simply enjoying each grace-filled moment as it came, and then cheerfully releasing it only to accept the blessing of the next season of life. 
            Imagine all of this done without fear.  Imagine not dreading the change of seasons, not fearing the chill of death itself.

            Of course, this is not real life.  The cold shadow of sin us threatens us inside and out.
            In pain do we bring forth children, and in pain do we bring them up. 
            Epidurals do not help with the rest.

            Yet, God did not leave us to this.  He came forth into our pain, He grew up in pain, and He suffered and died in pain. 
            His resurrection announced the coming end of our pain.
            So like a woman in labor, the entire creation groans.  We cry out, the earth cries out, and we wonder together if we have been forsaken.  Yet, soon we will find ourselves relieved.  We will experience for ourselves that which we cannot now imagine.

            Praise God, fellow mothers in pain: The promise is for us and our children.

Originally published Oct 2011


Sunday, May 2, 2021

the branch complains


 I prayed for peace, God, and emotional self control, 

and found myself in a hurricane of conflict and anxiety.

I could do so much more for you if things were calm, Lord!
I would serve so cheerfully if the thorns were gone, 

don’t you want that, God?


Really, little branch, tiny twig, you have an opinion about this?
You, grafted into the vine by grace and by His strength (not yours),

Sticking out there in the wind,

one tiny part of the massive living church that God in His eternal wisdom has been growing as long as he has been sustaining the planet and life itself by His almighty power,

You. 

You are going to look up into the Master’s face and tell Him what YOU need;

What you need to do or to have in this season of your life?
You’re going to show him your spreadsheet, are you now?

Your plan that makes sense? With the color coded columns?


His mysterious pruning shears clamp down right where it’s already sore, and the twig gasps, complains, can’t understand. 


The twig does not choose the fruit it bears. 

or prune itself.

The twig receives from the hand of God

brilliant sunshine and putrid fertilizer.


Abide, says the Lord

the Master Gardener.

Abide in me. 


It is law and invitation; this calling to abide. 

Apart from me you can do nothing.

Trust me when it hurts. 

Abide.


----

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:1-11)


Inspired by Pastor Cook’s sermon from today: Listen here for more challenging thoughts on this topic!

Sermon starts at 42min.



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