Thursday, April 22, 2010

Like a fast

In the last couple of weeks in our women’s bible study, the mamas were talking about how to look to the Lord to be sustained in our season of not getting much help, of not getting a lot of time with our husbands, and even experiencing the feeling of being trapped by our children.

I spent a number of days just weighted down, carrying the burden of the women, and thinking on my own walk with this trial of feeling like life is more than I can handle, and learning to understand who God is in that. I presented my request to the Lord: Father how can we rely on you for strength?

I was trying to pinpoint the circumstance. It seems like it comes down to physical and emotional exhaustion. Because the first couple hours of my morning I feel organized and my kids are trucking along, we might have an activity at a certain time and I’m enjoying them. Then comes 11:00 or 12:00 am. Similar to 5:00 pm, I start to notice my kids getting weary of our house, their toys, of my instruction, of everything. And then I follow suite. I’m drained. I’m ready for nap time. I feel wiped. Multiply this times an ungodly high number when your baby is a newborn. When your body is physically tapped, even if you’ve had your iron and protein to back you, a very fleshy side of me starts to emerge. This is the moment I think of when I consider the discussion with my sisters in Christ. It’s a moment where I sense the end of myself, I sense some desperation, I begin to see my children differently than I do at 8:00am, and my own identity in the Lord becomes blurry. Like we were warned at the women’s retreat, I can begin to take on other identities, usually revolving around my emotional state. If I am saying to myself, “I feel crazy,” then I let myself act crazy. If it’s “I am so angry” then I am very tempted to act angry and feel justified. If it’s “I am done” then I might easily let appropriate and biblical instruction or discipline begin to slide. This is the state that as a mom we look to the Word and to the Lord and say, “What is there for us in this, Lord?”

So I’m writing and praying and reading and the Lord just gave me a parallel that really helped me. This physical exhaustion reminded me of fasting. When we just abstain from eating in a fast, we feel crazed pretty quickly. Or we can do what Scripture puts in hand with fasting: PRAYER AND SCRIPTURE. Fasting exposes a basic need, a weakness in us. And Deut declares that man’s food does not come by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Yes. This is how it feels. We feel differing degrees of physical and emotional exhaustion, as if experiencing an appointed season of fasting. The Lord has given us the blessing and the hard work of this season. Just like when we fast, the Holy Spirit prompts us to do so. And in this season it feels like an unsolicited, unchosen, practical fast. I am denyed free time, time alone, maybe even food, sleep, quiet, and energy. Just like in a fast: food. More than ever I feel exposed. This can lead to malnourished and crazy pretty quickly. Or, like a fast, I am in a season of leaning heavily onto the Lord. I do not live by bread alone. I do not live by free time, by moments alone, by sleep, etc. I live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. I must have him as my bread or I will perish.

Our group is studying Romans and when we got to chapter four, we studied how “against all hope” Abraham believed God about what was promised him without weakening in his faith, without wavering, but instead was fully convinced that God would do what he said he would do. In fact the description of God in that chapter, just a couple of verses earlier was “God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” God promises us things that require faith because they seem daunting and impossible, just like Sarah’s dead womb being able to bring new life.

I felt challenged reading this to not just be glad for Abraham and Sarah that God is a God who gives life to the dead and brings into existence things that do not exist. I was challenged by the Holy Spirit to think about it in my life, in a much smaller way. Some days my patience is literally non-existant. Some days I have no endurance. Some days as soon as my eyes open I already wish it was 7pm. Some days I feel a total lacking of love. I see more and more the more I am SPENT that I am not so great. When I am put through a wringer, deprived of free time and quiet and energy and even time to eat a meal, I become something devastatingly ugly. And I write that, oddly, with a relieved smile on my face. Because there’s no convincing once you get there. You just let yourself be laid low and let God begin to fill you with his grace. You let him begin, AGAIN AND AGAIN, as much as is necessary to cause to come into existence things in your heart that just do not exist. This is the God that he is. By nature. And by choice towards us, because he has demonstrated his love toward us.

In realizing lately a need, a must have, for the promises of God to be in my pocket lately, I came across a verse for this season of mothering that I might just take Deut 6 literally about. I am kind of considering figuring out a way to tie it to my forehead . Because what feels impossible is strength. Endurance. Patience. And the power of God. All of the lies that we battle in our season at home somehow involve these divine gifts. Yet Scripture is clear that God desires to give us these things, that as 2 Peter 1 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”

So the verse I came across and parked on was Colossians 1:11 and instead of quoting it exactly, which you can look up for yourself, I took the promise and threw my faith upon it, reading it the way the Holy Spirit says to me:

The Lord will strengthen me with all power according to his glorious might so that I might have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father.

Now. John Piper said in his recent sermon at Mars Hill that we need to take the promises that relate to our issue at hand and after we read them we need to ask ourselves, Do I believe him?

So do I believe that God can strengthen me with all power according to his glorious might so that I might have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father? I want to! I have the desire in me to and I feel compelled to trust him. Let’s say I don’t. Let’s say that sounds too outlandish, too impossible for me. Lately as I have been studying God’s promises and then have been battling doubt about them simultaneously, I have realized that if they are not true, then there is nothing else for me. If God’s promises for me are not true, then hear this, there are no other promises for me and not much of anything to cast my hope on. So I will keep my hope, not even by choice, I will tell you. There is nothing short of an intense compelling in my Spirit towards faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the promises he holds in his hands. I find myself compelled towards faith, which itself is a gift from God (Eph 1), that Jesus is all my hope, all my might, all my endurance, all my patience, all my joy. He is my bread in this ordained “fast” from other things which were only a false sense of sustenance anyway. Lord help me believe.

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.” John 6:35, 56-7

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writing Clip #3

Shauna Niequest:

"Before I started collecting pennies, I used to throw them away, along with gum wrappers and used Kleenex. No one accepts them anymore, really...All of a sudden, the loss of these pennies seemed tragic to me. So I started collecting them, in a pale blue bowl that my cousin Georgia gave me for Christmas. I sort them out of the more substantial silver coins in my pocket and set them in their new place, the smooth blue bowl. I don’t know what I will do with them, but thee is something satisfying about watching their numbers grow, a little army of copper coins. It soothes me to think that if there is a place for them, then there is a place for everything. It seems immeasurably mature of me to do this, like having dish towels and stamps and spare light bulbs all in their respective places. It feels to me that if these worthless little coins have a place, then they have a meaning. And then if I have a place, then I have meaning.

In a world where less and less actually exists, where you can spend money without actually having any in your hand, and you can hat in a room without atually chatting or being in that room, these smooth copper pennies are rare, curious things. They are the real thing.

So now I’m amassing pennies like you wouldn’t believe. Maybe someday I will melt them all down and make a trophy. Maybe I will grout them into my bathroom tile. Maybe I will shellac them in tidy rows onto my kitchen cabinets or make jewelry with them. I don’t know yet. But when I walk by the blue bowl in the kitchen, I find myself absently running my fingers through the coins, sure for the moment that there are things that are real and understandable, and therefore good, things I can hold on to when my hands feel empty."

I just like that someone can make me fascinated about pennies. Cool clip.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Celebrate: to observe with festivity or rejoicing; to extol or praise; to make widely known.

Our son, Salem, had his very first birthday a couple of weeks ago. We threw a party and just had family over, which still made for a packed out living room and kitchen. Jason and I talked, and agreed, that we wanted this to feel like a celebration of life, a time set aside to just enjoy our son and watch others enjoy him and then to invite others to speak with us, out-loud, what we love about him and why we’re thankful for him. So after lunch we sat around in the living room together and, beginning with me and Jason, we took a few really sweet minutes to just talk about Salem. To celebrate his little life. Jason talked about getting to have a son and what a gift that was and how surprised he was by his great love for him. I talked a lot about just that wild combination of boy, in the ways he kicked hard from birth and is so strong and brave, to that sweet gentle snuggly mommy’s boy he is. We talked about everything from him wearing cool hats to how he’s going to be close enough in age to the girls to be a protector for them one day. It was simple. I loved even the most simple of observations about him. It was sweet because we were celebrating life. Rejoicing together in a single being who has life and beauty and purpose and value and is loved in our eyes.

At the beginning of this week, my husband let my curious two year old hold his ring. I actually would have probably done the same thing, since she had a broken leg and doesn’t like to leave the family room without her boot on her cast. Well, as you might imagine, somehow that ring got lost. Jason must have asked her thirty kazillion times where she put it. She always simply replied that she had it on the couch. I was afraid a couple of times this week that Jason was about to take a knife to the pillows to cut every square inch of those cushions apart, like in the movies when they’re searching someone’s house for drugs. At one point this week our entire family room was IN our kitchen, with only a handful of pillow feathers left on the floor. Literally that was it. We turned the place inside and out. Jason would call multiple times a day and I knew about three seconds in that he wasn’t saying hi; he was being casual, hoping I would have some good news. Kanah got her cast off on Thursday and Jason got it in his head that she had put the ring down her cast. I was with her through her tears as they cut the cast off of her leg. The technician and I had a good laugh about the ring situation and we tore that cast apart…no ring. I texted him the bad news. Our girls are kind of OCD about wearing socks when they go to sleep. Around bedtime Jason was looking around upstairs for a pair of socks on his way to their room and saw a craft basket on the banister and there was a sock in it. So he grabbed the sock, noticing right away that it had some weight to it and immediately wondered the obvious and reached down and found his ring! He called my name and the girls and I came running into the hallway and he had his arms up over his head excitedly saying he had found the ring! The image of Jason’s joy is unforgettable. And looking down at the girls I witnessed a priceless celebration in their eyes. All week long they took on daddy’s concern. Where was the ring…where was the ring. And now they raised their arms with total excitement and jubilation crying out, “He found the ring!” and enormous smiles and laughter and shouts of celebration rang out from their little mouths, with all rejoicing over what had been found. It was actually one of the sweetest things I had ever seen! I could not separate the degree of excitement between the one who was grieving the loss and now celebrating the joy in finding it from the ones who were just witnesses of the loss and now witnesses of the finding. Their joy and excitement seemed interchangeably the same and equal. My girls literally took on their daddy’s joy and shared it with him, even though there was nothing in it for them.

Just today I began studying Romans 12. Verse 15 says simply, “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” It seems obvious, in fact almost confusing as to why it is worded as a command. But when I saw my girls yesterday show me what that looked like fleshed out, I realized that I do not do that. When I see it I am amazed and I understand why God would want us to take on joy for one another like that, but I see what it looks like to give oneself over to a reckless abandonment for another person in this way, and I must realize that I need to ask God to help me go there.

I think outside of what my girls were displaying last night I would have responded to Jason’s elation with a simple, “Cool, babe” and gone on with laundry. And yet what I saw in my girls was so loving, so gracious to Jason. When someone celebrates with you, you feel loved by them. They are rejoicing in what is such a gift to you. And it blesses you to share in that joy.

Tonight I was putting the girls to bed, which I never do, but Jason happened to be out. With the light off, I sang two songs with each of the girls and then prayed with them. Kanah has been singing with me for about two months and she now knows many song lyrics and it’s just the sweetest thing. I can still remember the first time she sang with me. I was putting her down for a nap and had her on my shoulder and in the dark we shared “Jesus Loves me” together and I just held her so tight and my heart exploded with the joy of living that moment with her. And Grace has been singing but for some reason she has liked me to sing a line and then she will say/sing it and on and on. But tonight she sang “Jesus Loves Me” with me and she was really remembering the lyrics and letting herself follow me and when we got to the end, I just lavished excitement on her and, actually remembering writing the rest of this blog last night, I just allowed myself to burst into celebration with her there in the dark. I just kissed her face all over and pressed my nose against hers saying, “Grace!!! You sang with mommy!!!” and kissed her and laughed with her and I could just see her very faintly but she was grinning so wildly and so proudly. It has to have been one of my favorite moments with her in her three years of life.

I so long to be this kind of a person. To look for ways to celebrate life, like we did at Salem’s birthday, like the girls did with their daddy, like I did last night, and to look for moments of celebration as they come and to see it as a way to demonstrate love.

Lord I am not good at this. I sense that immediately as I write. I have high expectations in life and even ones that I long for, once they come to pass, I create new hopes and goals in my mind. I am not good at stopping to rejoice, stopping to celebrate, stopping to be thankful, though lately you are teaching me to stop and try to do so. It is a discipline for me that hopefully eventually will be natural for me. In the snapshot in my mind, my daughters rejoice in complete freedom over what was not theirs, because that is not what mattered. What mattered was their love for their daddy. So, Lord, increase my love and let my freedom to rejoice look as glorious as those sweet, wildly rejoicing smiles on their faces last night. I cannot think of anything more beautiful than to “make widely known” my celebration over the people you have put in my life and I hope you will put that beauty on me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday Writing Clip #2

From Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. (I told you I read slow).

"For me, writing is about control. Or, more accurately, a loss of control. Maybe you are a writer, and you disagree because writing for you feels more like walking on the beach or getting a massage. Well, maybe you and I should never meet for coffee. Writing for me feels like getting naked in public. It feels like falling to the bottom of a well and finding lots of creepy crawly things down there with you. It feels like opening up a box of snakes. It feels kooky and scary and out of control. It makes me upset sometimes, because it makes me honest. When I sit down to write, for a while I read magazines and send emails and wander around, and then when I finally get up the guts to crack through the ice of my mind, I find myself in an odd universe of feelings I didn’t know I felt, and memories I didn’t know I carried. After I’ve been writing for a while, I get sort of sensitive and strange, like a theater kid in high school.

One of the true hazards in writing is that you yearn to write deeply honest things that rise up from lessons learned the hard way…and then you have to learn those lessons the hard way. I had written a chapter on jealousy, and after I looked at it for a while, it seemed sort of flat and cartoony. I prayed for a new way to write that chapter, an incisive and honest way to talk about being jealous. And not a week later, wouldn’t you know it, at dinner with some friends, I found out something about a mutual friend that annihilated me with jealousy. It was a thousand straws that broke a thousand camel’s backs, and I was tumbling around and around with these vicious, terrible jealous feelings, like I was in the spin cycle with a box of rocks. That’s the last time I pray for a good chapter on anything, except being gorgeous or winning the lottery or something. You pray for wonderful, honest gritty, tender stories to write, but then you have to live through them."

If you're not a writer, maybe posting writing on writing is like an annoying English class rerun but I am kind of obsessed with writing about writing ;). I think it's fascinating and I love this clip from Shauna. I took one writing class a few years ago and maybe the only thing I took away from it, besides never to write about lesbianism ever ever ever again, was that you have to write true things. You don't just write out of thin air. You look at life, especially your life if you are willing, and write what is stark, cold, , vivid, lovely, indecent, and explicitly TRUE. And like she said, sometimes wanting those chapters to come alive means that it must come out of your own actions and heart...and it can be wildly uncomfortable. But it's the best kind of writing.

Like it?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Guest Barista

I'm humbled to get to be the guest writer today for Internet Cafe Devotions. It's part of a piece you may recognize. Check it out here if you like!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I love Jesus. I’ve known him a long time. I really want people to talk about him. I really want people to not be ashamed about him. But as much as I want that in my deepest parts, even I am a little scared of what our church is doing on Sunday mornings. Scared in a this is how church is supposed to be and I stand in fearful awe of it kind of a way.

We’ve been starting each service with asking people to stand from their seats to share evidences of God’s grace, in front of the entire congregation. God’s graces are moments we have seen God to be real and we see him working in our lives. The point is to give really specific praises to the Lord, showing, demonstrating, professing that we are gathering to worship a real God who is really present and at work in our lives.

We did it a little differently a few Sundays ago. Our worship leader, Pastor Tim, was leading us into a song and in between choruses he said he was going to back off and let us fill in by shouting out praises to God. The song’s words were declaring that God was great. So he said, God is great so let’s declare his greatness, let’s declare praises to what he has done.

It struck me really heavily that we are so willing to sing songs on Sundays, we are so willing to let the words flow off our tongue about what a great God he is, and that we will remember him and that we believe, and on and on. But how willing am I to sit and meditate on how good He has been…specifically to me? Am I meditating on that? Am I sitting on that question of Pastor Tim’s, day to day? How has the Lord been good…to me? How have I seen evidence of his grace? How can all 1000 of us be so willing to sing in chorus that He is good to us and not be just as willing to sing out individually that He is good to me?

Is it all about fear of man? Or is it also about just not even knowing and recording in my heart and meditating on his goodness? Maybe one. Maybe both. Might change week to week.

A little while back a friend of mine was talking to me about how she struggles on and off with believing that everything she believes with God is really real. She doubts. The Lord instantly brought to mind a gift to give her. I had found the most perfect little pocket sized journal for my mother in law a few weeks earlier, but it had come in a four pack. I just went ahead and bought it, knowing the Lord would have me to give away the other ones for some purpose. I put them aside at home and waited. So when I was talking to my friend and she was confessing her struggles with doubt, I thought of that little book and wanted to give it to her. I felt impressed on my heart to encourage her to jot down the date and just a sentence or two every time she saw/felt/witnessed evidence that God was real in her life. So many times I think the Lord increases our faith by showing up in x and speaking to us in the midst of x and filling our hearts in x situation but later, just like the Israelites in the Old Testament, we forget him. But what if we didn’t forget? What if we could at least look back at something…to recall him? To increase our faith?

I have another friend who’s in a rough spot with just walking through sadness. She’s a sweet sister in Christ, is compelled towards Christ, and here she is in just a difficult spot of being squeezed straight through the middle of a heart breaking trial. And in our trials we start to look around and go, Really? You’re real? In this? We’ve all been there to one degree or another. And all I could do in my heart was just scroll back over her life and so many evidences of his love for her and the reality of the Lord in her life and heart just poured over me, though specifically they may have been more difficult to list. But my hope was that in the midst of her struggle, her faith would increase…by looking back. By believing in the evidence of what has already happened, even if God felt silent, and even…cruel, now.

Evidence. Evidence might be a true moment of worship. You’re singing and you’re overcome with faith. It might be an actual answer to prayer. You get a check in the mail that covers the exact amount of your rent. It might be through a word from a sister or brother in Christ, in the moment of your weakness and need. It might be coming across a Scripture verse that speaks to you as if it were your counselor. It might be the Holy Spirit whispering truth to you in a moment of confusion to bring you peace. It might be a sense of strength when you felt you could not do it. Or a recollection of a bible verse when you needed encouragement for yourself or a friend. Or a meal bought by a friend when you were out of cash or out of energy. Or the Lord awakening you at 6am when you didn’t think you’d be able to open your eyes until 10.

And I think it’s important to watch for evidence in our spouses and friends and family members in Christ too. What a joy to watch the Lord work in the lives of believers around us and then, in their moments of weakness and wandering and even just faithlessness and hopelessness we can point to very specific evidences of the Lord for them that we ourselves have witnessed. Isn’t that powerful? I can allow the Holy Spirit to use me, my memory, my witness, to increase another’s faith in the God of their heart. That’s pretty incredible.

There’s evidence. Daily. All around. Do we see him? Sense him? See his truth and answers and presence clearly?

I started an Evidences of Grace journal. Yes, it’s one of the four little mini books I bought. After I gave one to my mother in law and then my friend, the third one just kept stalking me until I realized it was for me :). I have a terribly, embarrassingly horrific memory. It’s actually something I am hoping the Lord can heal in me, truly. But regardless of a healing in this life, I know that I can record the evidences of God in written form so that I can remember him. Remember his goodness. And then! Cast my faith upon that goodness, that evident sweet goodness, on days that I’m really honestly struggling with belief in the God who I know, I know, I know has pursued me and loved me and caught me up in His Spirit.

He is real. He is good. And I have evidence. Do you?