Sunday, December 23, 2012

Maranatha



When I was younger, I had a secret prayer that went something like this:

“Jesus, I am excited about Your return, I really am…but…if You don’t mind…please don’t come back until after I get married…”

If you are a woman and you are reading this, don’t even pretend like you didn’t have that same desire. We were young. And sheltered. And na├»ve. And in love.

And then my wish came true, and my prayer morphed just a little into, “…and if You don’t mind, I’d really like to have a baby as well…and then You are more than welcome to come back…”

And Jesus tarried once again and I got my desire, a sweet baby girl, soon to be followed by her beautiful baby sister.

And then my prayer changed again. Because I suddenly realized something my younger self did not.

Last week 26 souls in Newtown, Connecticut were violently cut off in a schoolhouse, of all places. When I heard the news, my heart crumbled. And my very first, instinctive reaction was to whisper, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

The fact that I had been missing in my younger, wistful days is that this world is no longer fitting for me or for you or for anyone. Because this world is ruled by a prince who has not come that we have life, but who has come to steal, kill, and destroy. A thief. Satan. This is his realm. And the irony for me is that the very reasons I prayed for Jesus to tarry, are the same reasons I now wish for Him to make haste and come back.

I have been given two precious souls to care for, to teach, to shepherd, to love. And along with the indescribable joy comes also a deeper awareness of the potential for evil in our world. 

Children and teachers are gunned down in the school…women and children are sold into the sex slave trade…untold numbers of babies are murdered before they are even given a chance to live…

Creation groans under the weight of the curse it was not meant to bear.

Rape…genocide…holocausts…abuse…

This is not our home.

Over two thousand years ago, on a not-so-silent night, to a frightened girl, in a bloody mess, the King of Kings entered the creation that He had set into motion and sustained since its birth. He humbled Himself to be born as a helpless, vulnerable baby in the hostile territory of His mortal enemy. He left the majesty of His heaven and clothed Himself with weak, lowly flesh. He identified with every broken soul so that He might eventually break the chains that weighed us down and kept us in Satan’s dominion. He would grow up and die so that we might live. It was a broken world when He came, but He delivered light and life and hope. He crushed Satan on the head when He came, when He lived, when He died, and when He rose again. One.blow.after.another.

And it’s not over yet.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come and deliver the final blow that will end the evil that never belonged in Your beautiful creation.

Come. Come and end the suffering that should not be so. For the same reason that You wept at Lazarus’ tomb – for the fact that death was not supposed to exist, and the suffering it causes was not Your plan – come and make it stop.

Come. Come and show Yourself as the victorious Warrior, the King to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Come and avenge the innocent souls that are slaughtered. Come and take away our fear of the future. Come and bring us home. Until then, we will live in hope and delight in the blessings that You give, and we will bear witness to the good news of great joy that You brought at Your first advent. But as I see the evil mounting up around me, and realize the depth of creation’s groaning, and as I prepare my girls to live in the strength of Your might, my prayer these days more closely resembles that of the early Christians, who greeted one another with “Maranatha – Come, oh Lord.”

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes. I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Note to Self



On the mornings when you wake up and feel like you haven’t slept at all…or, wait, maybe that’s not just a feeling, but a reality…and the last thing you want to do is head downstairs to start that infernal pot of oat bran…and when instead of a sweet sleepy morning smile you are greeted with a whine…and when all of your attempts to snap little hearts out of grumpiness and into gladness are met with an epic FAIL…on those mornings…His grace is sufficient for you.

On the days when you feel like you can’t catch your breath…and when your sweet, precious girl asks “Why?” for the two hundred millionth time, and you just start humming loudly so you don’t have to answer…again…and when naptime is a joke and consequently, the emotional breakdowns start at 4:00 in the afternoon and you are wondering how you are going to make it until bedtime…and when you start to lose your patience, or are caught off-guard by the words and the tone coming out of your mouth, and you realize that you are no better than your two year old…on those days…His strength is perfected in your weakness.

On the nights when the going-to-bed routine stretches out for two hours and your screaming children take turns waking one another with their outrageous drama…and then you come downstairs and see your counters full of dirty dishes and scraps of vegetable peels and okay, maybe a few unidentified substances…and your floor is full of halfway-packed moving boxes and you can’t even walk through the room without tripping…and then after five minutes of relative peace the baby starts crying again, and you head upstairs and just hover in front of the door, praying that she would please stop crying and go to sleep so that you can just sit on the couch and stare at the wall and listen to the silence…and in the moment when you say, “I can’t do this anymore” and  you have lost all perspective…especially in that moment…draw near to the throne of grace with confidence and find grace to help in time of need.

And in the sweetest moments…the unprompted hugs and declarations of “I love you Mommy”…when you spin around the room with your girls or pause on the couch for a good book together…when you share an inside joke or have a little helper in the kitchen…and when you go to pick up your girls from anywhere and are greeted with the biggest, brightest smiles when they see you…and in those blessed moments when you are able to have deeper conversations than you thought possible, and you witness the Holy Spirit’s powerful work in the heart of a preschooler, and when you have eyes to see the slow awakening of faith and the soil of your child’s heart becoming softer and more fertile…in those moments…rejoice because His grace is still sufficient…rest in that grace because His power is still made perfect in your weakness…fall on your knees in gratitude before the throne of grace…because it was never about you at all…

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hear O Israel


Lately I have been in panic mode.

Maybe having the second little made me realize that this is actually happening. I am a mother. I have two little souls under my care who are totally dependent on me. I am a grown-up.

Really??? When did that happen???

Oh my. And so I have become a blog hopper. An online sermon enthusiast. An article searcher. A parenting book critic. Yes, even a Pinterest junkie. All in the name of figuring out what in the world I am doing, finding ideas on how to do it better, and hoping to goodness that I am not screwing up my kids forever.

And truthfully, at the end of the day I feel like I am drowning in a sea of helpful and not-so-helpful advice, techniques, and ideas. The ideal of perfect motherhood is out of my reach. My two year old is still throwing tantrums. My six month old is still not sleeping through the night. I must be the worst mother in the world.

But one recent, blessed day, for just a moment…I stopped. I stopped worrying about whether I should be more strict with our schedule, whether time-out or spanking or loss of possession is the best approach in which situation, whether I should feel guilty when Dora the Explorer allows me 25 minutes of tranquility. I stopped thinking about what everyone else is saying about what it means to be a godly parent, and I thought, what does God say about it?

And here is what He said.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

The thing is, I have read this before, probably a gazillion times. Or at least 384 times, no joking. I could paraphrase it for you without even looking:

“Teach your children to love the Lord with all of their heart/soul/strength. Talk about the Lord all the time, throughout every day. The end.”

But wait.

As I read this passage in the middle of my one quiet moment, I realized that the “Love the Lord your God” part was not directed toward the children.

It was directed toward me.

(YOU) love the Lord your God with all YOUR heart and with all YOUR soul and with all YOUR strength. These commandments that I give to you today are to be on YOUR hearts.

I know this. I do. I absolutely know that the one goal in my Christian walk is to love the Lord with everything that I am and have.  I know this is the greatest commandment. But I had never seen it as it applied to my parenting before.

I have been so caught up in technique. How to discipline. How to teach. How to train. But it hit me that really, that is not where my focus needs to be.

My number one objective is not to figure out the most effective way to teach my children to love the Lord. No, my number one aim is to love the Lord my God.

And if I can accomplish that one goal, the rest will fall into place.

If I love the Lord my God with all of my heart, then I will begin to bear the fruits of the Spirit in my relationship with my children. I will be more patient, more loving, more kind. And maybe my children will be impressed by the mighty transforming work of the Spirit in my life.

If I love the Lord my God with all of my soul, then I will stop seeking fulfillment in my husband’s affection, my children’s performance, my community’s acknowledgement, and instead find my soul’s satisfaction in the Living Water. And maybe my children will be impressed by the great sufficiency of our Creator and Sustainer to give us our identity, our purpose, our peace.

If I love the Lord my God with all of my strength, then no sacrifice will be too great as I serve my children. And maybe my children will be impressed by the humility of Christ to reach down to us in our great need and lay His life down in a much more perfect way than I ever could for my children.

If I am loving the Lord and meditating on His commandments, then I will be able to impress those great commandments (which are summed up in the one commandment of love) on my children as we walk by the way, and as we sit and rise and lie down.

And at the end of the day, if I am loving the Lord my God with all that I am, the checklist that I started the day with may not be completed. The laundry may or may not be done. The table may or may not have been cleaned. But I can guarantee that I will have done more things that will matter in eternity, and my children will be more impressed with the greatness of God than with the “greatness” of a mother who appears to have it all together.

Will I still read the blogs and listen to the sermons? Of course. In a multitude of counselors there is great wisdom, and I certainly need as much wisdom as I can get. Will I still have to grapple with how to apply loving, gospel-centered discipline that will meet each of my kids individually where they are? Of course. But how freeing it is to know that when all is said and done, it all comes down to the same thing…the greatest commandment…the deepest joy. To love the Lord my God.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What I Don't Want to Forget


This is Jay.


Two Fridays ago Jay was working on the roof of a warehouse at his dad’s peanut factory. He fell through a skylight and suffered irreversible brain trauma. He died the next day.

But that’s really not what I want to remember about Jay.

Here is what I want to remember.

Sophomore year in college. I was hanging out at the BSU as usual when Jay, who I knew but not really, gave an open invitation to anyone who was interested. “Hey, I’m running tonight. Anyone want to go with me?” In an atypical move that belied my constant fear of failure at trying ANYTHING new, I said, “I’ll go!” Jay looked like he didn’t really believe me. “Really??” “Well, I’ll go two miles with you. You can finish after that.”

And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

What I don’t want to forget about Jay is how we ran five miles together than night and it felt like only two. Or how he convinced me with his typical “Jay-logic” that since I ran five miles, I could definitely run 26.  I don’t want to forget those days and nights of marathon training, and how we always got Sonic milkshakes after our long weekend runs. I especially don’t want to forget the time I had to pee during a long run so we stopped at a stranger’s house between Americus and Plains and asked if I could use the restroom. I want to remember how Jay made me laugh constantly and simultaneously made me think about deep issues. How he stuck with me for the whole 26 miles that January even though I knew he could have finished that marathon in half the time. How neither of us could move after we ran but he had to drive the entire way back from Disney World in sheer exhaustion because I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. You know, he straight up gave me that very same car less than 2 years later when he found out I was moving to New Orleans by myself in the old Eagle Summit with the duct-taped windows. And he took his life in his hands when he taught me to work a manual transmission. That’s what I don’t want to forget about Jay.

I don’t want to forget how he introduced me to baby back ribs, to the music of Sean McConnell and the game of spades, to tree-riding and camping with friends, to Elf and “Lime and the Coconut.” How he took me to see “Lord of the Dance” just because he knew it would make me smile. How he taught me to take life a little slower and enjoy the company. How he taught me to give joyfully and generously with no regrets.

And in the midst of grief over losing him way too soon, there is something else I don’t want to forget, something I don’t want his sweet girlfriend and precious family and friends to forget: hope.

Hope makes a difference. It makes a difference in life and in death. Hope is not wishful thinking but a confident expectation of good, rooted and grounded in the unfailing promises of God.

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Our grief is different because of hope. Oh, we grieve. We grieve hard. How could we not? But here is the picture that the Lord has been painting in my mind over these last weeks.

Imagine this: Two ships are out on the sea when a sudden storm blows in. The wind and the waves quickly become furious and the two ships are rocked and thrown and blown about. One ship has an anchor that had already been let down; one does not. On board, the emotions are the same – fear of the wind and waves, a feeling of being out of control, even panic. But the difference is, the people on the anchored ship are not really in danger of being thrown too far off course, and if they can remember the truth that they have that anchor, then they will realize that they need not give in to despair. This will not change the effects of the storm around them, and many of their emotions will be the same as the ship that is truly out of control. But if they can just close their eyes and call to mind the truth, they will have hope.

Hebrews 6:19 describes hope as an anchor for our soul. Storms are an inevitability of living in a fallen world. Sometimes they roll in slowly, sometimes they pop up out of nowhere. Sometimes a sweet friend loses his life just shy of his 32nd birthday. But in times like these, we have an anchor for our soul, and that is what makes our grief different. We still have the same emotions in common with all of humanity. We grieve with sadness, with questions, with shock, with anger even. We wonder how we will ever go on now that our lives have been altered so dramatically. But in the midst of everything, if we can just call to mind the hope that we have been given through Jesus Christ…

The hope that Jesus has conquered the grave for those of us who trust in Him…

The hope that the glories of heaven cannot even be compared to what we have experienced here on earth…

The hope that God is sovereign and good and wise…

The hope that He will work all things together for our good…

The hope that this life is not all that there is...

Then our grief will be different. We will not be floating aimlessly on the vast sea, tossed about by the waves and winds and driven far off course. We have an anchor. We have hope. We have Jesus.

That’s what I don’t want to forget.




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When I Rise


These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7

When I sit in my house…
There are little mouths to feed. The kitchen that was spotless before I went to bed last night is now cluttered with pots and bowls and spoons, fruit peels and vegetable ends, and random baby dolls and dominoes. We sit at the table…or, let’s face it, more often the kitchen floor…and eat our breakfast or our first, second, or third morning snack, or lunch, always followed by “Mommy? Well, I’m still hungry, so…”

When I sit in my house, it is not for long. I check my email and then jump up to turn the light on in the bathroom for a potty emergency. I look up a recipe and then run into the living room to rescue a baby who has rolled over onto her stomach and forgotten how to get back to the starting position.

When I sit in my house, it is to build a mouse house out of treasure rocks. It is to make train tracks out of dominoes. It is to color with magical markers that only write on magical paper. It is to change dirty diapers. To fold laundry. To wipe up spills. And change more diapers.

When I sit in my house, it is to nurse my sweet baby. I sit on the couch and send my 2 year old to the book basket to pick out some books to read together while I feed her sister. 

Oh God, will they see You in me? Let Your truth be in my heart and on my tongue and on my mind, when I sit in my house.

When I walk by the way…

There are little hands to hold. And when did Claire get so big that I had to force that issue, anyway? Wasn’t it yesterday that she couldn’t even walk without clinging to my hand for balance and strength?

There is a huge stroller to push. I strap my girls in and run. I’m going to have man-size forearms by the time they outgrow the double jogger. Along the way we always point out every squirrel we see and make sure to speak to other walkers, joggers, bikers, and dogs.

When I walk by the way, the destination cannot be the goal or else I will live in frustration, because wherever we go there are countless stops to make. “Mom! A flower!” “Mom! An ant!” “Mom! Look at that rock!” The smallest pieces of creation come alive for my girl.

Will they see You in me? Let Your truth be in my heart and on my tongue and on my mind, when I walk by the way.


When I lie down…

I never know how the night will go. Will I be getting up multiple times this night? For feeding a hungry baby, for comfort after a nightmare, for a drink of water for a thirsty child? And if they sleep through the night, surely I won’t. I will wake up and wonder why I haven’t been called out of my bed yet. 

Will they see You in me? Let Your truth be in my heart and on my tongue and on my mind, when I lie down.

When I rise

When I rise, there are libraries, parks, and fountains to visit. There are groceries to buy, bills to pay, deposits to make, packages to mail.

When I rise, there is breakfast to make. There are songs to sing and stories to read and little hearts to teach. There are tantrums to handle but there is also laughter to enjoy.  There are so many sweet moments to absorb and remember and treasure. There are so many hard moments to teach me grace and humility and dependence. 

When I rise, I wonder if I will make it to the shower today. I try my best to savor my hot cup of tea before any of the littles begin to stir. I think about all the things I want to accomplish and sometimes remember that only a few of those things really matter.

Sweet Lord, will they see You in me? Let Your truth be in my heart and on my tongue and on my mind, when I rise.