if i’m not blogging you should pray for my husband

We did this weird thing about a month ago. We got rid of our internet.

We were bluffing at first. I had read about how you just say, “No, I really don’t want one million channels thank you, and no I won’t pay that much just for your slowest internet, and we’ll cancel if you really charge us how much?!?

And they said oh, okay. And all of the sudden, we didn’t have the internet.

Now, of course anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that we still have limited access to the internet via our smartphones, which is nice and probably necessary.

Anyway, the no internet thing means that blogging has to be a little bit more intentional (and that we have to check Arrested Development DVDs out from the library). And with a baby who has decided she hates sleeping again and a house that just will not stay clean for. the. love. I haven’t really been writing at all, privately or publicly, and I am like a starving person.

I don’t like living like a starving person. That sentence in my little bio, about not missing the fullness of my life because of the business of my life? It’s not a cutesy phrase that I found on Pinterest or something that I thought sounded nice. It’s the real, serious, honest and true truth.

We were recently talking with our care group about what it means to be at peace, living in God’s rest, even while our lives are busy. For me, writing is one way I abide in Jesus and in the truth. It helps me make my home in all the goodness and peace and quiet no matter what the practical details of my life actually look like. Writing helps me to see my circumstances rightly as a means of beholding the Lord of all creation and glorifying him.

My last month or so has been spent trying to make a home in my circumstances. Kind of like staring at smudges on a windowpane rather than looking through the window to see what’s on the other side. Writing helps me to look, it puts me in a place where I can really see. And, for me, a life without writing is sad. And exhausting. And hard. I’m just really, really not good at it.

And that’s why, friends, I’m still here. I’m going to keep pressing on and continue to follow through this year. Because I have to. Because just as I learn with my successes: from organizing a 9 week blog series, to getting some kind of food on the table for dinner, to simply making sure my kids don’t eat all manner of the ground up food that carpets our floor; I also learn by my failing: from completely neglecting to abide in Christ, to losing my patience with my children, to being a really difficult person to live with.

As I look back on the last month, and I think of all of it together, the failures and the triumphs, I find that I’m really learning (slowly, so slowly) the same thing in all of it: that Jesus is sufficient, supreme, King. The only home for my heart and the only hope for my family.
Back in the dark days, we changed churches. It was a difficult decision, but it had kind of been a long time coming. One of our first Sundays at the new church, after months of feeling alienated from God, broken, and tired, we sang this song. When the chorus began, I wept. This song still brings me to tears on the regular.

Hallelujah, all I have is Christ.

Hallelujah, Jesus is my life.

At that time, our lives felt so empty. And now our lives feel so full. And the truth is still the same:

All we have is Christ.

Jesus is our life.

Hallelujah.

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too much, not enough

“Alarm. Alarm. It is 7:25 am.” Oh is THAT what my phone’s voice sounds like? Apparently Eliana has somehow permanently changed my phone so that it talks to me now. Like I might be sitting in my Bible study and it might say something like, “YOU have a TEXT MESsage from…” I roll out of bed and pad down the hall to the bathroom. And I feel…tired? sad? upset? I can’t put my finger on it, so I try to push it out of my mind. That’s when the words start swirling around in my head. Ones that were spoken to me weeks ago, but are just as fresh as if they were spoken yesterday. Words my heart knows well. They aren’t pretty words. They’re ugly. And they don’t paint a pretty picture. On good days, I know that the picture they paint looks nothing like me. But on days like today…

I squint at my reflection in the mirror. My lips are chapped. There’s that pimple on my chin. My bangs are too long. I need a haircut. It’s true, I think. I am a mess. Not just my personality, but the way I look, too. I bend down and shove my hair dryer back into a dark corner of the cabinet and shut the door a little harder than usual, wishing that I could shove those thoughts in there, too.  I hastily start raking a comb and straightener through my bedhead.

For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with being too much and not enough all at the same time. Too tall. Too loud. Too intimidating. Too enthusiastic. Too intense. Too emotional. Not relaxed enough. Not outgoing enough. Not happy enough. Not flexible enough. Not intelligent enough. Not spiritual enough. Not organized enough.

I don’t know where this stuff came from. Probably a combo of my own pride and perfectionism and the horrible belief I caught as a teenager that if I do the best, God will love me best.  I’m not really thinking about that now, though. It’s repeating in my head like a chant. too much. not enough. too much, not enough. 

My two year old comes into the bathroom, “Hi Momma. You seen my letters?” I nod, motioning to the box where her foam bath letters are and muster up a smile. At least she has no idea what a mess her momma is, I think.

I fumble my way through the rest of the morning routine. Stuffing breakfast into my mouth while I try to feed Phoebe, absentmindedly handing pieces to the little girl who said, “Momma, you share that scone with me?” We finally make it to the car, and Ellie starts singing along to T-Swift. Normally, I’m in love (who isn’t), but I just can’t with her today. I rifle through pile of CD’s, one eye on the road, and a neon green disc falls into my lap. I swap “1989” for “Not a F Up?” and tearfully beg the protesting toddler to “give momma some grace today, please.”

“Not a F Up?” is, perhaps surprisingly, a collection of songs, most of them about Jesus, designed by my best friend to remind me that I am not, in fact, an F-up, even on my worst days. We made these CDs for one another right after college, when we kind of thought swearing made us cooler Christians, and we were just generally angry about… most things, really. It’s got a bunch of songs by Caedmon’s Call and other bands that you tell people you like so that they know you’re a Christian, but like a cool Christian. So, basically, what I’m saying is we rebelled by writing “F” (literally, because we wouldn’t actually write the whole word) on burned CD’s full of songs about Jesus in an effort to sort out all the feelings we were having. Oh, man I am awesome. Clearly.

I laugh and make a mental note to ask her if I’m remembering things right when I hear the familiar opening guitar strums of one of my favorite tracks on the CD and turn it up.

“And maybe all that I’ve to do
Was done a long time ago.”

Ugh. I honestly can’t cry right now. It’s just not conducive to driving.

“Because there was life before my life,
Was provision before my need,
Was redemption before my sin.
For the sake of the world, I thank the Lord
That the truth’s not contingent on me.”*

Despite my best efforts, a tear slips down my face. And those words that have been swirling in my head? For a moment, they’re quiet. And my heart is quiet. Where condemnation has been spoken, peace is spoken.

And it’s not because I quit thinking about those ugly words long enough that I forget. It’s not because I got distracted by a good episode of TV or because I am now paying attention to keeping my girls from peril. It’s not because I thought up enough nice things about myself to even out the scale.

It’s because of Jesus. It’s because the Truth spoken over my life isn’t “you’ll show them.” Or “once you’ve been walking with the Lord long enough, you’ll figure it out.” The Truth is Jesus. Here before me. Strong before my weakness. Redeeming me before my sin. It’s because when I am weak, then I am strong.

I sigh and look out the window as the song continues. The peace in my heart is refreshing. But it’s not permanent. Later on in the day, I will raise my voice with my daughter. not patient enough. I will forget to start making dinner until 6pm. not organized enough. Tomorrow, I will find that I’m holding a grudge against someone while trying forgive. not spiritual enough.  I will be frantic about my to-do list. not flexible enough. 

I don’t know how long those words are going to swirl around in my head. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last time I’ll hear them. But for now I take a deep breath and anchor my heart in the Truth, whispering this Psalm to the chapped-lipped, tired momma who looks back at me from the mirror.

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared…

Hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.” 

*I hope someone enjoys the vintage Derek Webb in this awesome 90’s video as much as I did. YouTube is the greatest.

First Sunday of Lent

It’s past 11:30. The tears are fresh on my pillow, and I’ve just slipped into that dreamy place between waking and sleeping when I hear her. It’s quiet at first, so that I fall in and out of that light dozing a few times, unsure of what’s going on, but then I am sure I hear her.

“Moooooooommmmaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh.”

I’m standing next to her bed before she can call my name again and I’ve gathered her in my arms.

“Snuh-gguhl.”

It’s kind of a routine.  She hasn’t been sleeping through the night for a few weeks now. At first, I didn’t mind it, but the last day or so, my attitude has moved from gracious to annoyed. Sometime, I stopped being enamored by the way her golden hair curls against her neck, the way her head rests, slightly upturned, next to mine, and the way her chubby toddler hands find my face in the dark; sometime it all began to blur into constant kicking and thrashing and loud mouth breathing. I noticed it tonight, and at first I couldn’t figure out what had happened- when everything had shifted.

But I think now I know why. I think it’s because this week I’ve been living frantic. I spent the week trying to get the house ready for Eliana’s second birthday party, and I’ve been babysitting again, and Phoebe really doesn’t like to be put down. And it’s been a week like so many weeks during high school and college where I shove food into my mouth while standing and find myself going from one appointment to the next with little down time and I can’t remember which meals I ate and which ones I just thought about eating.

And even though this week marked the beginning of a new season of the church year, I barely noticed as we slipped into Lent. And even though I desperately longed to feel the ashes smeared and hear those words whispered “dust you are and to dust you shall return,” the pressing of time felt so near suffocating to me that I didn’t go anywhere.

Dust I am and to dust I shall return.

I have long confused busyness with importance, overcommitment with faithfulness, stillness with laziness. Having two children under the age of two has forced me to live slow. To take my time to stop and listen and rest. To give myself grace when the laundry piles and the cabinet doors grow sticky, and the bathroom mirror boasts those toothpaste pockmarks. I have simultaneously gloried in the simplicity and felt guilty for it. Exulted in the freedom to focus on my children, to soak in every single moment and complained about being bored. Laughed at sweet silly toddler phrases and cried about not being important.

These first few days of Lent have looked a lot more like striving and a lot less like trusting. A lot more frantic and a lot less peaceful. A lot more harried and a lot less hopeful. So far, Lent is doing exactly what it is supposed to do- reminding me that sin is so much more than just the things I do wrong– it’s the very basic ways my heart doesn’t work properly. How deep, how fundamental my sin, how desperately I need a Savior.

Dust I am and to dust I shall return.

act your age

Well someone might as well have whirled right around and punched me in the stomach the way the air rushed right out of me and that sickish feeling started churning around right there in the very core of me.

It isn’t a nice feeling.

The last time I had that feeling it was looks across tables and harsh words whispered in ears so the teacher wouldn’t hear what those girls really thought about me. It was the mean looks and the harsh whispers and the “you can’t sit with us,” just like Regina George would say. I was 10 or 11. I write that now and I’m thinking I was that young? And the hurt felt so big.

It didn’t feel any smaller at 25.

But at 25, you have to do something. Because when you’re 25, you’re big and you’re grown, and you are supposed to act your age.

 

When, in the name of the healer they hurt you.

When the place that should bring wholeness brings brokenness.

When gentleness is replaced by recklessness.

 

Even then, especially then, you have to act your age.

 

And the next morning, when I woke up with that sickish feeling still churning and I sat in that rocking chair with my baby girl in my arms and my big girl sprawled on the floor reading books, And I wondered how on earth am I going to act my age? And I started singing because it makes baby girl smile and big girl giggle. And then the words coming out of my mouth wrap right around me like the sweet Savior’s warm arms.

 

“Jesus Christ

Shine into our night

Drive our dark away

Till your glory fills our eyes.

Jesus Christ

Shine into our night

Bind us to your cross

Where we find life.”

 

This is what it means to act our age, to grow up in our faith. That when that sickish stomach feeling is churning and those words are echoing, begging us to feel that hurt all over again, to cling to it and remember how someone did us wrong, we choose to look at Jesus. Because we know that the very same way Jesus’ love covers our own ugly sin, it covers those sins that get done to us. And when we think about and we wonder how we will ever address that situation or how we will live in peace, we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice is just as sufficient for those sins done to us as it is for those sins we do. And that his grace fills us, even when hurt tries to empty us. And that in our very dying to that ugly desire to make them feel that very same hurt they made us feel, that very same breath-emptying, heart shredding, stomach churning ache, we join Jesus right up on that cross, and he breathes that air right back into us, draws that heart right back together, and calms that stomach churning the way he calmed the salty sea all those long years ago.

And it turns out that act your age doesn’t mean that we pretend nothing bad ever happened. It doesn’t mean we ignore injustice or we go around justifying meanness. It means that we choose to say yes to everything that Jesus did. That we choose to believe that the wounds of our sweet Lord are just as much for the things done to us as for the things we do to others. We say yes to everything he promises he will do, even when the story doesn’t look like it could possibly end well. It means we say yes to letting that gospel light be the thing that fills up our senses when we want to gaze at the masterpiece of our own self-pity. It means that we say no to a grievance story and yes to a nourishing story.

Act your age means that we believe that Jesus knew what he was doing when he showed us that running to death is really running to life. 

On Waiting…Part 2

I don’t want to say I wasn’t honest yesterday, because I was.

It’s maybe more accurate to say I didn’t paint the full picture. This is probably true for two reasons:

1. I panicked when I looked at the clock and realized that nap time was only going to last for another hour and if I wanted to sleep, I better start sleeping RIGHT AWAY.

2. The rest of the picture isn’t really pretty.

The rest of the picture is me in my PJs (which are actually my husband’s clothes, because so few of mine fit) on the couch at 5:45 am next to a growing mound of tissues because I’ve been awake for two hours and I can’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep.

It’s spending those two hours alternating between praying for friends, worrying about a possible induction, analyzing every gas bubble and baby kick, and praying both for patient endurance and that I would go into labor RIGHT NOW, PLEASE. (also, reading dumb stuff on the internet.)

It’s sharp words spoken to a gentle and patient husband.

It’s the overwhelming feeling that there’s no way I can possibly wake up pregnant one. more. time.

It’s the struggle I feel to make the most of my last few days as a momma of just one baby outside my belly, and the fact that I am literally so tired, I can’t make it through the day without at least one and usually two naps.

I am so bad at waiting.

I don’t like it.

And yet, even though I’m failing…miserably, even though I am not as disciplined as I would like to be or as patient as I feel like I should be, the Lord is working. And it doesn’t require my pretending as though I’m somewhere I’m not.

I feel like this applies to so many areas of life because we live in a fallen world as citizens of a kingdom that is already here but not yet here. And we’re always waiting. Waiting for the day when death dies, suffering stops, peace prevails.  When people don’t wage wars, speak harsh words, rip families apart. The day when all the bad things finally, finally come untrue. When the night ends and we don’t need artificial light because everything is illuminated by the Shining One.

We’re all waiting.

My prayer as the early morning turns to the regular morning, and my toddler gets ready to wake up and say, “Chase, Momma, CHASE!” and I have to figure out how I’m going to do that when I am 40 pounds heavier and 3 hours of sleep lighter is that the Lord meets me in my waiting. That he meets you in your waiting. Whatever it is for: children, jobs, homes, reconciliation, answers, healing, peace.

May this waiting birth in all of us a hunger for heaven, for the day when we see His face, are known plainly as his children, and live in the light of his unhindered brilliance. (Rev. 22: 4-5) Let us anchor our hope to Jesus and to his kingdom as we wait, when the picture is pretty and when it isn’t.

the best future and abundant life

The moment we saw our sweet baby’s profile on the ultrasound, we just couldn’t wait any longer.  We’d kind of been telling people along the way anyway.  The last several weeks had been a mess of joy and worry, anxiety and exultation.  I had surprised my dearest friend over (virgin) cocktails, given a Father’s Day card to a new grandpa, blurted it out at a family gathering, and my smile had spoken the truth for me when we met some soon-to-be parents at church.  If there was one thing David and I were learning, it was that we were horrible at keeping secrets. Especially secrets that seem too good to be true.  Every time I told someone, though, my joy was tinged by a little bit of fear, a little bit of worry. A rule follower for as long as I can remember, a sneaky, tiny voice whispered in the back of my mind. You’re not supposed to tell people yet. You’ll regret this. You should wait as long as possible.

Because if there’s one thing the devil would like, it’s for us to sit quietly in a closet and hide our joy away where no one else can see what awesome things God is doing in our lives. If there’s one thing that will make us just like the rest of everyone else, it’s that we are afraid to share our joy because it might not last forever. If he could have his wish, we’d be spending what should be exultant days of thanksgiving and celebration with our community crying behind our locked office doors wondering if this baby “counts” yet.  We’d be fighting to learn to trust alone because we’re isolated in our joy so that we’ll be insulated in our sorrow.

I’m not just talking about having babies, people.

I’m talking about everything in our lives that we don’t tell because we’re afraid. Afraid that our joy might cause someone else sorrow, afraid that letting other people in might make life a little bit messier. We do this with joys and with sorrows.  When we have the chance to come to our communities with blessing and brokenness, why do we choose to keep to ourselves?  Why do we choose to hide from the people in our lives when we could share with them?  Do we really love neatness more than we love togetherness?  Would we really rather carry our heads high than carry one another’s hearts?

The tail end of a verse in Romans has stuck with me since I read it over 2 years ago, riding a Metra train home from a job interview. Paul is talking about food sacrificed to idols, warning his readers about sin, and he says “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” That means if my decisions about what I share and what I keep close come from my fear that things won’t turn out how I want, from the desire to have a tidy life, from the anxiety that other Christians will accuse me of “over-sharing,” I’m sinning.  In a sermon about this passage, John Piper says,

“Faith rests in God to shape the best future for us.”

Maybe your decision to keep your pregnancy, illness, job situation, marital discord, new ambition, exciting news comes from a belief that as God shapes the best future for you, he asks you to be quiet.  That’s between you and the Lord, and I’m not suggesting that this is always the way it has to be.  What I am suggesting is that we are missing out on so much of what Jesus intended for us to experience as Christians because our fear that God isn’t really shaping the best future for us–or for the people we care about– cripples us into silence.

But trusting…

Trusting that God is at work now and will be at work tomorrow and next week and six months from now, inviting people into our lives to rejoice with us in each gift he gives on the day that he gives it,  to mourn with us each sorrow we bear on the days he asks us to bear them, choosing the messy life, the I-can’t-promise-this-will-be-a-happy-story life– I think this might be the kind of life Jesus intended for us when he talked about the “abundant life.”

I think he might have been thinking of a sister who starts a blog so that she doesn’t miss a millimeter of spiritual growth, so that she can give glory to God in the midst of cancer, so she can learn how to suffer, so she can teach people how to suffer.  Of people who honestly answer the question “How are you?” instead of offering platitudes.  I think he might have had in mind parents who carry their sweet baby girl to her delivery day and immediately release her into the arms of Jesus, then give him glory by praising him for his care of their little girl, by telling people how he cares for them, heals them.  I think he rejoices every time someone is honest about their doubts, every time another one of his children chooses to enter into the suffering and celebration of another wholeheartedly. I think he might smile when a husband and wife are so eager to share his goodness with their community that they announce their pregnancy 3 weeks in, not because they’re careless, but because they’re careful, because they have chosen to celebrate and mourn in community.

These people change our lives because they believe that God is shaping the best future, even though they cannot yet see it, and because they believe that he has given us community for blessing and for burden.  They rejoice where we can see, they suffer where we can see, and their lives invite us to join them in  a life that’s not afraid of what might come tomorrow.  A life where joys aren’t tainted by fears of future sorrows, but where hope grows from the soil of God’s promise that he is doing what is best for us. Today. Now. In the blessing and the burden.