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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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. 

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.

On Moving.

How do you prepare your heart for a move? When echoes bounce off bare walls and brown boxes take the place of table and chairs, when the packing tape roll runs thin and the long-settled dust gets caught up in the air like dandelion seeds on a summer afternoon.

How do you secure your heart against the rising doubts while you secure the four corners of each brown box? How do you roll off a length of tape and gently smooth your hand over it, not knowing where or when you will remove it?

What are you supposed to feel when you tuck that box of chamomile, 3 months from expiring, between the grinder and the coffee canister and breathe a prayer that it doesn’t go to waste? Not for the tea’s sake, but for yours.

How do you walk out those glass doors that once opened, now slowly closing on people and a place that you love? How do you remain faithful when your place is so changeable? How do you anticipate when your way is so darkened? How do you hope when disappointment has marked your heart the way you marked each brown box?

What do you do when the to do list seems so long and the laundry has piled, when every day the phone doesn’t ring is another day waiting? What do you believe when you can’t believe that everything will always be alright? How do you hope when you cannot see your way? How do you get excited when you know that you might be on the verge of the hardest thing you have ever done?

When the move is exciting, we can hope in the destination. When the destination is unknown, where do we hope? And how do we hope? When the searing memories from the last time still burn deep? When we know that he is always faithful, but sometimes life is still very painful?

I sit down and lean my head back slow. And the peace washes over me like the slow morning waves would. Be still. And know. And there in the quiet, those familiar words come join the questions swirling in my head. Not loudly but quiet. It is a whisper I hear as I sit.

Lord, you have always marked 
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe. 
 
Lord, you have always spoken
when the time was ripe;
and though you be silent now, 
today I believe. 
 

And I breathe in and I breathe out. I close my eyes on boxes and tape and dust bunnies playing there on the floor. And I hope, not in the destination or in a promise of future happiness. Not in an occupation or in a new place to unload our belongings, paint walls, and hang curtains. I hope in the one who has always marked and has always spoken. And my mouth forms the words that my heart is still learning, “today I believe.”