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.

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. 

Bittersweet

For the first time in almost 15 months, I went all day without nursing.

I think Eliana’s just about done with it. And while it’s nice to have a small break, since Little Sis is due exactly 4 months from today (WHAT?!?!), I can’t help but feel a little bit sad.

I mean, I knew this was coming. It’s fairly common for babies to quit nursing when their mommas get pregnant, and she’s just been less and less interested the more interested she becomes in the world around her. But this has been a journey. Despite a bit of a rough start, things were fairly smooth after the first couple of weeks. I quickly became one of those mommas who loves nursing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Eliana’s newborn days lately. I remember crying a lot that first week or two.  I was an overwhelmed, fearful, overjoyed new momma. That crazy cocktail of new momma hormones definitely had something to do with it, but I’m also an emotional person by nature (duh) and I was convinced my two week old was just growing up too fast. 

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And the Lord saw that momma.

And he spoke to her, maybe in a way he’s never spoken to her before. Because the change, my friends, seemed instant. The way that peace washed up over her heart and her life and still washes up over her every. single. day? He didn’t scold her for her fear. He didn’t chastise her.

He invited her.

He invited her to make the choice between a life with grasping hands and squinted eyes– always straining to see the future instead of looking at what’s right in front of her, always snatching at moments as they pass instead of feeling the way they gently move through her hands the way sand does– and a life with open eyes and open hands, ready to be filled and emptied, filled and emptied.

He invited her to be filled and emptied. Over and over again.

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Willingly.

But  how can she be sure that once she’s emptied, she’ll ever be filled again? How can the fullness be enjoyed if it’s only meant to be given away?

Is this not the beauty of the Gospel, sweet friends?

“It’s what God had been doing from the beginning, of course.  Taking the nothing and making it everything. Taking the emptiness and filling it up. Taking the darkness and making it light.”

When he met that momma that day, there on that brown couch while she held her newborn baby with tears running down her face, he gave her a gift. A gift of trust. Trust that grasping and squinting don’t make things slow down or become more memorable. Trust that this abundant life is in the seasons, the time coming and going. That “hurry up and get here” doesn’t make for an abundant life, but neither does “wait, wait slow down.” She didn’t want to be one of those mommas always lamenting that her first baby was growing up too fast. Because she isn’t. She’s enjoying and living each day that the Lord graciously gives her, and shouldn’t her sweet momma do the same?

To this momma who had been told the lie that she would have to be perpetually sad that her children were growing and growing and growing, Jesus spoke the truth that growing and growing and growing is a gift to be cherished by giving and giving and giving.

Maybe to you it seems like I’ve overspiritualized something that’s just a part of everyday life, but I think my point is that everyday life is deeply spiritual, if we pay attention.  And I think that this is why I don’t have to be depressed about my sweet baby not nursing anymore.  That even as I lose a part of our relationship, I can celebrate. Because she’s growing and growing and growing.

And I get to find new ways to give and give and give.

New ways to trust.

That empty hands will be filled again.

That abundant life doesn’t mean clenching up, it means opening up.

That I can say “yes” to all that Jesus has for me without squinting first to try and figure out what it is.

That He is good.

And then, last fall, I found myself saying “YES! YES!” as I read a post by Ann Voskamp who says it so beautifully:

You can have it all” — isn’t the whole truth.

No matter where you are— it’s never all easyA crop is made by all the seasons and the only way to have it all — is not at the same time… but letting one season bring its yield into the next.

This is how to have no fear —

each season makes a full year

The only way to have it all…  is to have Jesus – and like Him — to give it all away. 

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Leak.

“Everything looks good except one little thing.”

Not exactly the words I was hoping to hear from my midwife at my follow up appointment. She went on to explain that our sweet baby is growing right on track, has a strong heartbeat and looks wonderful. My placenta, on the other hand, has a leak.

I’m not really sure what this means, but she suggests that it’s common for it to resolve on its own and is usually not a cause for concern. She doesn’t seem worried about it at all. They’re referring me to a specialist so that they can look more closely at the placenta, but that won’t be for a few weeks. My attempts at questions are met with reassurance that nothing is wrong, and there’s nothing I can do in the meantime.

My favorite! I love it when there’s nothing I can do, when things are out of my control, when I don’t understand. When all I can do is pray for my placenta.

I get that this is prime weather for the Lord to continue to tend the peace he’s growing in my heart, but I don’t really like it. I am struck by the idea that maybe this new information shouldn’t really change anything. My hope can’t be founded on bringing a healthy baby home from the hospital. My peace can’t come from the evidence that my body has sustained a healthy pregnancy in the past. I can’t even find solace in the fact that “at least I have one sweet baby.” Because none of that is guaranteed. None of it is stable. All of it shudders under the weight of the assurance that I need.

The things I have to trust and lean on are these: that the Lord is faithful to act according to his will and for his glory, that he loves and cares for my children much better than I ever will, and that his eyes see and his hands reach places that mine cannot. So, by grace, I choose to hope and to trust in him. I choose the garden of peace rather than the brush pile of worry.

But I’m still asking you to pray for my placenta.

Ten Weeks of Tuesdays: Hope Not Wasted.

It was inevitable, really. If you’ve been anywhere near me, or even if you’re my friend on Facebook (which most of you are), you’ve  gotten an earful about Derek Webb since I went to his concert last weekend.  Sorry about that. Except not really. His was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a while.  But that’s what I expect from D-dubs.  So, obviously, I’ve had his stuff on repeat for the last week-ish.

“It’s hard to keep from giving up

It’s easier to just close up your heart.” 

Last week, I wrote this post about not running away.  I was a little dissatisfied with myself, because one of my biggest struggles these last few months has been what now?  How do I go back to being a part of Christian culture without buying into the stuff that just. isn’t. true? How can I integrate what I’ve learned into my life?  It’s hard.  It seems a lot easier to just try to go back to the way things were or to walk away entirely.

It’s hard to trust in anyone

It’s easier to just fold up your arms. 

Preach, Derek.  I think this has been my response of choice.  You know what I’m talking about?  I’ll be here, but I won’t like it. I’ll participate, but I won’t really.  I’ll show up, but I won’t volunteer any details about myself. I’ll protest with my indifference. I’ll withhold myself from you and you won’t even know what you’re missing. It’s hard to open yourself up again, especially if it was Christians that hurt you the most. I get it. I really do.

It’s hard to keep on showing up

It’s easier to run away from home.

I love extreme reactions. You don’t have to know me very well to know this.  I love things. I hate things. And I decide pretty quickly which it’s going to be.  When I was right in the midst of getting my world shaken up, I tried to have discussions with other Christians, and about 1% of them turned out well.  The rest ended up being complete disasters. (Lindsey, what was that you were saying about extreme reactions?)  People didn’t know what to DO with me, so it was just easier to run away.

Even now, chances are, I’m going to be the one with the unpopular opinion, and for whatever reason, we really, really don’t like it when other Christians disagree with us.

Is the church broken? Yes. Do Christians make hhhhuuugggeee deals out of things that don’t matter? Yes. Are there things about church that annoy me? Yes.

Is this body of believers, this broken place filled with broken people my home? Yes. Yes. Yes.

I belong there.

And it’s my pride that wants to close my heart, fold my arms, and run away.  It’s my pride that wants to tell my own story rather than God’s story. It’s my pride that tells me that “going it alone” and perpetual dissatisfaction is the only way to honor the growth that God has brought in my life.  It’s my pride that says that the church is beyond the kind of restoration and insight that God, in his grace, gave to me through suffering and crisis.  It’s my pride that forgets that all of this– the last 3 years of struggling and crying and learning and growing– is grace.  I didn’t arrive here (where exactly?) because I’m super smart.  It is what God has done.  It’s all grace.

And like Derek said at his show, you can’t tell both stories.  You can’t tell the story of your own indifference, hopelessness, and pride while telling the story of God’s redemption and ultimate shalom.  You have to choose one. You have to choose what story you’re going to tell with your life. You have to choose what story you’re going to tell yourself. Especially on the days when it’s easier to close your heart, fold your arms, and run away.  Telling this story is harder, I know that.  I’m feeling it every. single day.  But it’s true.

Everything is going to change 

And nothing’s going to stay the way it is

One day you’ll wake and the curse will break

And even you won’t be the same

Your hope is not wasted on the day

When everything will change.*

*Everything Will Change, Derek Webb

P.S. Check back tomorrow for my first giveaway! 

Ten Weeks of Tuesdays: Instrument of Peace

I have to start by saying that I found out today that I’m a part of the launch team for a Jenny & Tyler covers EP that’s coming out in November. I’m super excited because a) I LOVE J&T (but you knew that already) and b) because 100% of the money they make on this album goes straight to fight human trafficking and c) because it means that I got early access to the album.  So, check back for more info on the album in the next few weeks.

Anyway, Ellie and I were dancing around to a certain U2 song included on the album and she kept grabbing my face and kissing me.  It was awesome.  Not only because baby kisses are the greatest, but also because I usually have to beg, beg, beg for them….and that really has nothing to do with the short post that follows. I just couldn’t help myself.

I repeatedly notice this tendency in myself to run away from things that make me feel uncomfortable. Just human nature, I guess, but when I don’t like a situation, I usually just leave… That’s not entirely true. I usually mock on my way out.

I don’t think college helped this tendency at all.  Every semester, things changed. I loved that. I loved that if I hated something, an escape was just a few months away. At all times. During the last few months that we were at Trinity, I started to ache for consistency. The temporary-ness of life was wearing on me. I had gotten to the point where every 3-4 months, I was experiencing significant life changes, and it was exhausting.  I dreamed of the day when I would know, with reasonable certainty, where we’d be living, working, etc. for longer than a few moths.

And now we’re getting there.  And it’s terrifying. It feels like suffocation.

And I realized why. It’s because I’m not going to be able to push the eject button. I’m not going to be able to just run away from a situation if I don’t like it. I’m going to have to stick it out. pray it out. live it out.

And if I can be honest, my attitude is going to have to change. A lot. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit while I was listening to this song on the way home from church the other day.

“All that we do without love
It means nothing
Grant us the courage to give
As You’re calling

Make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is darkness let me shine light and
May Your love cause us to open up
Cause us to open up our hearts
May Your light cause us to shine so bright
That we bring hope into the dark”*

The first half of the chorus of that song is from the Prayer of St. Francis.  His prayer continues:

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Oh, friends. I don’t think this is something I can do in my own strength. I don’t think this is something that can come from a heart of pride.  Friends, I think only a broken person can live like this.  Only a broken person living in the strength of the one who was broken first.

*Open Up, The Brilliance

Broken and Grateful

This post is the first in a ten week series called Ten Weeks of Tuesdays If you’re participating, share a link to your post in the comments. 

I recently bought one of those mirror things you mount in your backseat so that you can see your sweet baby’s face in your rearview mirror while you’re driving.  And today, I was driving and thinking. And obviously listening to music.  At a stoplight, my eyes wandered to that rearview mirror and misted over.

“I can’t help but reflect on what it was I almost lost
What it was I wanted, what I got instead
Leaves me broken and grateful”*

I almost feel like I don’t even need to add any more to this post.  Anyone who has read more than one of my blog posts probably knows what happened to me after I finished college. What happened to my dreams and my plans for myself. And I bet some of you are ready to shut off your computer and say, “just get over it.”

But I tried to.

I can’t.

And I don’t want to.

I don’t ever want to forget how I made what was supposed to be service and obedience and mission an idol to my pride.

I don’t want to forget how it hurt to have that deep love for and devotion to something other than Jesus ripped from my heart.

I don’t want to forget how dark it was when my eyes were focused on my pride, and how bright Jesus was when he finally, finally revealed himself.

I always want to remember how, right there, in the middle of my pride and confusion and sadness. Right while I was struggling and crying and praying, Jesus finally answered. When the time was ripe. Just how he wanted to.

I want to remember that it wasn’t in line with my plan.

It didn’t make financial sense, success-oriented life sense, human sense. But it was just what Jesus wanted.

I don’t ever want to forget the joy of living in the good of God’s great gifts. How he heals, protects, provides, and strengthens, even when we have no. idea. where we are going.

I don’t ever want to forget how he turned my wailing into dancing.

I don’t ever want to forget the way that He taught me. So gently, so patiently, so faithfully. That he is good and he is holy and he is enough.

I’m not talking about living in the past. I’m talking about living in the fullness of the faithfulness of God. Every time I look at my daughter, I’m reminded of God’s grace, his faithful discipline, and his great love.  I don’t ever want to slip into thinking that this is commonplace, that I somehow deserved this.

We talk a lot about how God can heal our brokenness. But there are at least a few places in the Bible where things were broken for good. Jesus’ body, for one example.

I don’t want to be afraid of living broken.

“I want to be broken, peaceful, faithful, grateful, grateful”*

*what I thought I wanted, Sara Groves