Monday, October 20, 2014

parenting with hopeful tenderness

I found Boy 1 lying with his face in a pillow, sobbing with great, big gulps of grief.

"Did you already know?" he asked.

"Yes, buddy. Daddy told me last night. I'm so sorry, sweetie. Can I rub your back and sit with you?"

"I guess."

His voice was muffled because his face was still buried in feathery pillowness. I sighed. What's a mama to do?

There are problems a ten year-old boy's heart mourns with with great sorrow. They seem small compared to other sorrows that the earth can scarcely bear- war, poverty, sicknesses that have no cure. But that really isn't the point, is it?

These troubles are dark and heavy to this boy of mine, all full of grief, sprawled on his bed. I sit on a Spiderman quilt next to the child whose birth ripped my heart in two, making space for a grander love than I ever thought possible, and I wait for him to find his way through his loss.

There has never been a human on earth who hasn't felt the cutting of this kind of moment- expectations slashed by circumstances beyond our control.

Plans rescheduled, school applications rejected, cars totaled, promises broken, job interviews gone awry, families torn apart, deals that don't work out, crops that fail, babies lost, churches that fail, and lives that despair in the middle of storms that won't cease. 

Free will leaves so many loose ends, so many possible ways we can be wounded by unexpected tragedies.

Aren't we made to be loved? Aren't we made to belong? Aren't we designed to know in deep soul spaces that there is a God and He never fails us

Yes, but we live among empty tombs. Like Mary, we think the worst has happened, and we place our hope on one last glimpse of hope in the darkness. Maybe the emptiness of our losses is confusing because our hearts can't bear the vacancy any longer. We need fresh hope from heaven and to hear our name called out by the Lord of Love.

I rubbed my son's back for a few minutes until I had to go.

"I have to go get dinner ready. Maybe a good meal will help?"

"No. It won't." 

Ah, yes. Each heart knows its own bitterness, as the Proverb says. I said a silent prayer and left.

Later that night, after tacos and brownie sundaes, those blue eyes locked with mine, and he sighed with contentment.

"You were right. Good food helps."

I smiled, and I knew we both felt the emptiness fill a bit. The loss is still there, but now so is something else: tender hope. 

That boy I love made it through after all. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

when you want to ask God why

{Today I am reading back through old posts, looking for light and truth in all God has already given. This is a repost from 2012, and it's encouraging to know that circumstances change, but our hope remains in the same God who is the great I AM....}

"I don't want to be a cliché," I tell him late one night after a hard day.

"What do you mean?" he asks.

"I don't want to be the wife who pesters her husband to death because she can't handle her own responsibilities," I mumble out the words because they are the most soul-born, honest sentiments I have spoken in months.

It had been a day full of emotions and hormones that I buried down inside, dumped at the feet of Jesus and refused to let dictate my responses, my tones, and my actions. I was exhausted and alone in that moment; who knew all I had laid down today? Only Jesus could really ever know.

I think of it more now, and I know what else I don't want to be. I don't want to be the mother who keeps her house in order but loses her children's hearts. I don't want to be the pastor's wife who is lonely and has no life of her own. I don't want to be the Christian who reads her Bible but misses the most important commandment: to love God first with her whole heart, soul, and mind, and to love others more than herself.

Keeping that commandment is easy when your life is full of cozy emotions and easily-won achievements. Dark days require bravery if you don't want your heart, mind, and soul to harden and shrink away from God.

I stood in soul-dimness for several years after the birth of our sons. We had three boys in twenty-seven months. Let's break that down: Boy 1 was born in January of 2004. When he was four months old I got pregnant with Boy 2 who was born in February of 2005. When Boy 2 was five months old I got pregnant with Boy 3 and he was born in May of 2006. They were newborn, fourteen months-old, and twenty-seven months-old in the spring of 2006. I was overwhelmed and tired.

I rocked three babies at one time and cried this prayer a lot, "Why God? Why would you do this to me? Why would you do this these poor babies? How can I possibly be a good mom to all of them at once?"

Many days I wasn't a "good" mom. I just survived the tantrums and the diapers and the feedings, went to bed and got up to do it all again the next day. No one learned their letters, how to count, or their colors. No one went to butterfly parks to marvel at God's creation, or to the museum to see how wind makes electricity.  On the worst days no one napped, my patience wore too thin, my anger burned a little too hot, and my apologies flowed like a fountain.

But most days, I trusted that since we were in the middle of God's will, we were going to be okay. Most days Boy 1 and I drew with sidewalk chalk on the driveway while the babies slept. Most days we took a walk, two boys in the stroller, one boy in the sling. Many days I made dinner in the crockpot to avoid insanity in the afternoon, put lipstick on as Mr. Fantastic walked through the door, and was thankful for adult conversation.

Every day I hugged my boys and told them how much I loved them.

Then, as the days turned into weeks, then months, and then years, I learned how great God is. I see how the chaos has driven me to Him. I have learned how selfishness is driven from the human heart when suffering turns into submission to a God who sees everything.

The answer to my prayer of "Why?" was simple: so I could know the gospel. The gospel answers the deepest questions the darkness of this world brings up in our hearts. It says:

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." - 1 Peter 5:10-11

The gospel, in its truth and power is never cliché.

Monday, October 13, 2014

when silence thunders of God's love

art by Jen Renninger

We stand on the edge of a cliff. Can't you feel it? The wind swirls around us, water from crashing waves occasionally sprays our faces, and even though we know a deafening roar rises from below us, the silence overrides it.

It's so very quiet on the edge of God's newness.

The truth of our souls lies beneath the water. God wrought caves there. They hold mysterious corridors and the answers to our deepest cries for mercy and justice. Will we dive into the unknown darkness, entering the places God has already gone and prepared for us?

For this how we begin to map out our souls.
Our Creator Father breathes in deeply, a long inhale that takes generations to be completed. His holy lungs fill with the joys and pains, the glory and the ashes, the beauty and the brokenness, and He smiles because He has good plans for all of it.

High above us, beyond trees that shelter from the heat of summer, past the clouds that hide rainbows of promise, above the air that waits in anticipation for the day it will hold rays of Light carrying final redemption, He is beginning to exhale a fresh wind of His Spirit.

The silence is pregnant with God's pleasure, His adoration of His children, and His sovereign plan to bring us deeper into Who He really is.

It is time to leap from this cliff, to swim beneath the waters of God's mysterious ways, and to be held by Him in the darkness.

Oh my soul, don't be afraid. This is part of the terrifying journey of faith. Quiet your rattling words that beat hope to dust. Let go of every anxious thought and swim into the caves. Be brave, my soul.

Find treasure in who He is, feel the quiet thunder of His grace, know that "He is". This is how new things begin: one leap of faith into God's mysterious ways.