if you wouldn’t call yourself an activist…

Friend, I understand. I know what it’s like to see that news story, turn your head away from that television, cover your ears when someone starts to talk about that tragedy. I understand. I have been there.

I understand worrying about sleeping at night, about how hearing about horrors might be fodder for your active imagination, about how you have to fight to keep your perspective.  I understand not wanting to engage with brokenness. I am embarrassed, but I understand.

I understand the cold sweat when you decide you’re going to do it anyway, I understand the shaky breath and the terror that grips your heart when you realize that it will mean work and rethinking and resorting what you believe about God and life and politics. How it will mean more chipping away at the parts of us that don’t look like Jesus. I understand the way that wave of panic will sweep over you as you read, the way you will become overwhelmed.  I understand that it’s embarrassing and hard to admit that sometimes you shy away from things you know will cause growth because growing just seems too hard.

I also understand that most of the time you aren’t shying away from it because your heart is callused, but because you are desperately trying to learn how to think critically without having a critical spirit. I understand how bad theology, fear mongering, and random legalism can make true Christian activism seem about as overwhelming as the crisis.  I understand. Sister, I hear you. Brother, I see you.  I understand.  I see that every time you choose to read one of those stories it’s a sacrifice.  But I’m also learning to understand something else. Jesus is showing me that choosing not to read these stories– closing our eyes and shutting our ears and pretending like it doesn’t exist– is a luxury we gave up the day we joined Him on that cross.  A luxury he eschewed the day he refused to turn his face away from our sin,  took it on, and gave his life for us.

I understand the desire for a wise spirit. A discerning spirit. I know that longing for a spirit that loves truth. I understand the feeling that in order to keep from developing a critical spirit, it’s probably better if we just stay out of it. But I also understand that those feelings are a lie.

And I just want you to know, that somewhere in the midst of seeing broken children being picked over like they’re scraps from yesterday’s garbage, in the midst of seeing thousands of children displaced from their homes, while I hear about women who are making homes in shipping containers, Jesus keeps finding me. And he gently reminds me that even though these are big things, there are small obediences.  And that his kingdom is coming to a broken world.

I get it. I understand. Sometimes these words are the only ones big enough to hold the ache.

Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy.

Sometimes, I sit there with a heavy heart searching a little red book I started reading in college. Sometimes activism looks a lot like Gethsemane.

For the just and proper use of your creation, Lord have Mercy

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick and all who suffer, for refugees, prisoners, and all who are in danger; that they may be protected we pray to you O Lord.

Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, and illumine this night with your celestial brightness; that by night as by day your people may glorify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy.

Sometimes activism is swiping at tears, while ransacking our house for baby supplies and driving to the local crisis pregnancy center. Sometimes it’s opening your home and your heart to children who have no place to go. Sometimes it is signing a petition that says THERE IS ROOM HERE. Sometimes it’s giving money and sometimes it’s giving your winter coat and sometimes it’s buying a Burger King gift card for that couple who is just trying to feed their children. Sometimes it is making signs and posting selfies, and sometimes it is just choosing to open our eyes and refusing the luxury that Jesus refused first.

Sometimes Christian Activism is big and sometimes it is very small.  Every time, it’s Holy Spirit whispers in listening ears.

Dear friend, Jesus showed us a better way than worrying and hoarding and fearing. He showed us a better way than denying hearts and closed eyes and clenched hands. Jesus showed us that the way to an abundant life was to give our lives away.

 

I understand. I know that there is still so much I do not know, so much I will never understand. I recognize that I could never do enough research to be an expert on any of the social, political, or economical intricacies of the crises facing our broken world.   But I do know one thing:

Jesus loves people. He loves women. He loves children. He loves men. He is on the side of the broken, the oppressed, the ones bought and sold. He brings peace where there is violence and justice where there is oppression. He is on the side of life and life abundant. In some tiny way, as we stand with our garbage bags full of belongings, as we weep for the dead and the dying, as we beg our president to make room, as we look for ways to open our homes and our lives to the broken, I think we are learning to stand with him.

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.

chart and compass come from thee…

I take the stairs up to our apartment two at a time, trying to shake the cold off and keep from annoying our downstairs neighbors at the same time. I shut the door behind me and the first few notes of that song come greet me like an old friend.

“Jesus, Savior Pilot me…” 

Words I first heard during college, in a little church I fondly remember. How the carpet and the chairs were deep red, reminiscent of the eucharist; how familiar words of blessing would be passed every Sunday morning: The peace of Christ be with you… And also with you; how it was in that place that I learned how to look for and to listen to Jesus in the rhythms of my life.

How very different my life is now than it was when I excitedly made the pilgrimage every Sunday to a place where knowing Jesus wasn’t just something we talked about, but something we practiced. My husband is sitting on the couch with my daughter and they are listening to those same words, that same song.  Her sister is, for now, asleep in her bed. I sink onto the mustardy velour of our vintage couch and my head finds his shoulder. And it might as well be made of kleenex for all the times his shirt has caught my tears. This time is no different. They’re pooling, puddling right there on his shoulder and I’m starting to resemble a raccoon.

“As a mother stills her child

You can hush the oceans wild

Boisterous waves obey thy will

When you say to them, ‘Be still.’

Wondrous Sovereign of the seas, 

Jesus, Savior Pilot me.”

Those old and comforting words, much older than my experience with them. Still the same as ever they were. An imperfect but helpful picture of the way our Jesus is. These words carry with them memories of frenzied prayers and anxious nights and the peace that comes from trusting. Tonight, their meaning expands for me.  For tonight I have rocked and cuddled, nursed and carried a child in an effort to still her. Patiently, tenderly, holding her close to me so that she knows she is safe, inviting her to give up the struggle and rest. Her eyes open, search, find my face and close again immediately, a serene smile briefly graces her sweet face. She knows me. She knows the safety and comfort of my love, my arms. And I am so imperfect, so frequently impatient and distracted. And yet, he is so constant.

He doesn’t struggle to calm the storms, and his arms aren’t too short to save. He doesn’t mean for me to attempt to navigate hard and ugly and exhausting circumstances on my own. He offers, he expects, to direct me, to carry me, to pilot me. He invites me to surrender. To give up the struggle and lean into the comfort, the peace found in submission.

Oh how very different my life is now. How very much the same my Jesus is. How much older I feel. How much more deeply I feel my need for him.

“Chart and compass come from thee,

Wondrous Sovereign of the Seas,

May I hear you say to me…

Jesus, Savior Pilot me.”

 

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. 

A Lake is not a Leak.

This is a little embarrassing.

While was chatting with the midwife at my appointment today, David brought up my “leak.”

“Lake.” she corrected.

Oh. Lake? To be fair, with her lovely French accent, it kind of sounds like the same word.

Now I understand why all my Google research was so very unsuccessful. A placental leak is not a thing. I’m not entirely stupid. I kind of wondered if I had misheard when Google kept asking me if I meant placental lake.

I David was able to ask some more questions and our Midwife was very helpful. From what I’ve read, placental lakes, while abnormal, aren’t actually connected with any pregnancy complications and it usually isn’t even mentioned unless there are several of them. Assuming I didn’t misunderstand everything, I only have one tiny one.  She went on to explain that an OB might not even send me for the second ultrasound, but that Midwives have to be a bit more careful. My upcoming ultrasound is just to rule out any other deviations from “normal” as a precaution. Basically, the impression that I now get is that its primary purpose is to cover my Midwives’ you-know-whats.

Oh. Ok.

Even though I feel a little silly for completely misunderstanding a word…and for telling people that I have something that doesn’t even exist, I also feel really grateful.

If I’m completely honest, I have spent a lot more time concerned this pregnancy than I did in my pregnancy with Eliana. I think it’s something about looking at my sweet baby and knowing that there’s another sweet baby growing inside of me. Somehow, it’s not as abstract as it was the first time. I so desperately want to meet her. I so desperately want to get to know her, to have her personality revealed to me day by day, to watch her play with her older sister.  These last few weeks have had me leaning so heavily on Jesus. Asking him to remind me that he is the one who loves and cares for my sweet children perfectly. He is the one to whom they belong. He is the one writing the story of their lives.

I am only their mother.

I love them. So intensely, so deeply, but they don’t really belong to me. They belong to Jesus. I mentioned in my first post about this that it seemed like a great opportunity for Jesus to tend the garden of peace in my heart, and my friends, he has been so faithful.  Each one of you who took a moment to pray, each of you who took an extra moment to let me know that you were praying, thank you for helping him.

I was hesitant to write the first post back in April because I thought maybe everything will be just fine and then this will just be silly. But remember how I talked about thinking and no more lies before? I don’t want to pretend that I don’t worry about things that are silly. Because I do. I don’t want to only write stories that are finished and have good endings and resolution. Because a lot of times, there’s at least one story in my life that doesn’t. But Jesus meets me there. He meets you there. In the worry or the anger or the suffering, in the unfinished stories and the ones that end sad. He stands there with us.  I don’t know what new information, if any, we’ll learn at our ultrasound in two weeks, but I am also not living in fear of it.  The Lord is still teaching me to trust, in his goodness, his wisdom, and his faithfulness. Not that things will always be good, but that He. will. always. be. good. 

I still treasure your prayers as the Lord teaches me to trust him with my life, my plans, and my family.

On Moving, Part 2.

I unpacked that box of tea a few weeks ago.

I cried a little bit.

I remembered the girl who packed it up. I feel like I hardly know her anymore and I feel like I’m still just like her, all at the same time.

The girl who dreamed of feeling “settled” and thought that trusting would just be easier if things were consistent. The girl whose heart was so sure that if that box of tea expired in some forgotten corner of a storage facility, her hope would expire right along with it. The girl who chose to trust because God was gracious to give her the courage to trust.

I think about her a lot.

I think about her when I watch my baby girl growing up and my mind starts to race with all the ways I could mess up.

I think about her when I consider the complete lack of control I have over either of my children’s lives, born or unborn.

I think about her when bills stack up on the counter, when it gets late and I’m home alone, when I remember just how much it cost me to get a degree I don’t use.

But it’s different now. In my heart, there is a stillness and a quiet that the Lord started growing the day I packed that box of tea and breathed that prayer for the millionth time. Today, I believe. 

The way the Lord has tended the garden of my heart– there is no word for it but grace. The way he has grown up that seed of faith into peace through gentle, tender care and attention, not giving me everything that I want, but patiently giving me the things that he wants.  It is beautiful. And I am grateful.

And as I sit here and think about heading to the doctor’s office tomorrow to catch a glimpse of our second sweet baby, I remember these truths. And there are so many unknowns and there is so much that I can’t control.  And worry and fear want to rise in my heart, but they can’t. Not like how they used to.  The Lord has been gently, graciously tending a garden of peace where there used to be a brush pile of worry.

And I write all of this because I remember how that girl sat on the couch and cried because she just knew she wouldn’t be able to muster up the strength to hope and trust and believe for that long. And she never had to. Because the amazing, wonderful, beautiful thing about the Lord is that, while the one thing he asks us to do is to trust, He never ever asks us to do it alone. That tea expired, but my hope and my heart are thriving.

Friends, the Lord has been faithful, not only to provide us with jobs and a place to live, but to continue to grow the garden of peace in our hearts.  To call us into uncomfortable places and fortify our hearts with his faithfulness as he meets us in our need, not always (not even often) in the way that we prefer or imagine, but in a way that will make much of him. And the delight in that place? One of the best gifts I have ever received. There is no word for it but grace.

Wondering, Wandering, and Why I Sometimes Don’t Sing in Church.

I feel like I should be sorry, but I’m not really.

I know it might look like I’m angry or ambivalent or something, but I’m really really not.

Please don’t take my quiet consideration as judgement or condemnation, a bad attitude, or a warning sign.

It’s just that several months ago now, I made myself a promise. A promise that has changed my life, the way I think about other people and the way I think about my faith.

I promised I would start thinking and stop lying.

And that’s why, on Sunday? When we sang that sassy song about how changed we are because we’re Christians, I didn’t sing most of the words.

I’m a sassy girl. I love sass.

It just doesn’t feel right in my worship songs. I don’t like sass when it comes to the blood of Jesus. And I think it’s because it hits too close to home for me. Please don’t hear me saying this song is bad. All I’m saying is that I can’t sing it right now.

See, I know how it goes with me.  For me, that sass quickly turns into pride, into me thinking that I somehow earned or deserved my salvation and my righteousness.  Into me thinking of the world as us and them, not people covered by the blood of Jesus, but people separated by our behaviors and our beliefs.  It turns into a teenage girl who filled journals with arrogant words because she didn’t know what it meant to be grateful for the Gospel.  It turns into a woman who thinks she deserves something from God.

And that’s why, church. When we sing that song, I’m not going to sing along.  It’s because I know my own heart, I know that it’s prone to wander.

It’s because when I see the words “I won’t go back again/That’s just not who I am” on the screen, my heart breaks a little and  a tear falls down my cheek because I know that the opposite is true.

I will go back again.

That’s exactly who I am.

And Jesus knows it, too. Better than I do. And his grace extends to me anyway. His righteousness covers me anyway.

So please give me grace. Because I’m still learning how to live this way. I still feel like I’m playing “Real or Not Real” with everything I know about Jesus and the Bible and what it means to really follow Christ.  And if I’m going to be faithful to the work that God is doing, that means thinking and no more lies.

It means I don’t have to pretend that God’s grace extended to me when I “was” a sinner, but that I now keep my end of the bargain, so I’m basically ok. Because I don’t.  And I’m not.

And it means that I don’t have to pretend that my sinful heart always wants what God wants, that I don’t have the assurance I will never doubt or make mistakes or choose the wrong thing.

I am finding that to truly live in the good of the Gospel, I have to first accept the fact that I’m sinful, through and through. There’s no good in me, and there’s no use pretending like there is.

But in Jesus? All the treasure, all the good, all the freedom.

Let me be confident in Jesus, and his powerful hands to hold me, not in my ability to follow him.