Monday, February 8, 2016

grace means goodness

I woke up and found the pot of leftover, homemade spaghetti sauce from last night still sitting on the stove. Failure and waste waved its hand good morning at me.

I stumbled around fixing coffee, tired after a stormy night. Two children had cried out for comfort when the thunder boomed and woke them up. Now the dog was whining aggressively at my feet with a ball she wanted thrown. 

A vintage typewriter loudly clacked away as one kid practiced spelling every word related to toilets he knew.

The kids had every light on in the house and it was so bright I thought I was going blind.

Someone punched someone else for sitting in his "spot". Everyone had 2,754 things to tell me. I was spreading Nutella for one kid before I had the chance to take my own cup of coffee and learn to be human again.

Can a girl get a redo at 8am?

I was pretty sure it might be an Airstream kind of day.

On Airstream days I shop for cute vintage travel trailers online. I calculate how much money we would have to save to live a nomad life, camping at beaches and on mountainsides all over North America. I imagine homeschooling under the striped pop out awning after collecting shells at Doheny beach or pine cones in Banff. Since it’s a fantasy, the kids are obedient and love to do all their schoolwork. I have perfectly toned arms and really amazing hair in these fantasies, too, because why not? For an hour or two, I pretend a family of six could comfortably and peaceably live in a tiny silver bubble without being tempted to drive straight off a cliff when no one gets along.

Airstream days are lovely because my dream seems so good it could actually become our real life. We could cruise away, unencumbered by responsibilities and callings and the expectations people and God toss at us while we swing away like my boys at batting practice. I become part hippy, part nomad, and part Chris Farley ala Matt Foley, ready to live "in a van down by the river!"

Except a promise I made twenty years ago contrains me, binds me, and draws me back to reality. Faith can become a real dream squasher when you've ditched reality in favor of dysfunction.

Jesus asked me to follow Him, and I vowed I would. He isn't leading me to hop in an Airstream and choose my own adventure.

God has led me here, to whiny dogs and bickering kids, to stormy skies and loud clacking typewriters, to a beloved family and a church full of His glory. I live in this house where the leftovers get forgotten, but we are remembered forever by the Maker of all things.

Twenty years of following Him has proven that His goodness blossoms in our willingness to trust and obey. Life makes so much more sense in the rear view mirror. I can see how the darkness that prowled taught me to love His invisible light. I can see how the wounds we suffered drew us closer to Him and to one another. And I can see that I rarely had a proper grasp on how His goodness was overtaking even my own efforts to change the path He chose for me.

The odds are pretty good that His goodness is in the all the mess around me right now, too. It's just hard to detect because of the emotional noise and ridiculously bright lights.

I hope eternity is like an Airstream dream-come-true. We will all of live a happy nomad life on heavenly shores after following Jesus through all the deserts and darkness. Until then, our happiness is bound up in our assurance that God is who He says He is and our ability to follow even when we'd rather run away.

Cheers to Monday, friends. Here's to annoying lights and coffee that takes too long and people who can't get along. Dig in and savor the gospel right in the middle of it all. His grace means goodness.

Monday, February 1, 2016

old enough

I promise it's true: the older we get, the younger we feel.

Which is ridiculous, because we remember middle school like it was yesterday, when we thought thirty was old, forty was ancient, fifty was incomprehensible, and sixty year-olds probably need to just take a nap all the time. Our plan was to be forever young. Growing old seemed about as likely as being abducted by aliens or mastering the moonwalk back then.

And yet, time itself just kept ticking away until we became the world's oldest middle schoolers in the history of the world.

In all honesty, it's the best thing that ever happened to us. Maturity is better than the Beatles, Bono, the Backstreet Boys, or even Bieber (depending on your awkward middle school music experience.)

I suspect it's all the vulnerability we are learning to bravely live. All the shirking of shame; all the scary choices to let love and weakness lead the way. Those choices make us younger as the years pass. It seems impossible, but those of us who have lived this way can bear witness to the miracle.

Youth was full of wonder: wondering what we would become, who we would be, who would find us worthy of love. Wisdom has given us a gift in the years: we have become who we are and we are happy to alive, to be loved, and to not be in middle school any longer.

Sure, our bodies are fading, but our souls are getting brighter. It's easy to miss this storyline of ours when we're running around trying to be enough for the demands of the day. But it's all there in 1 Peter 1:7-9.

"These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

Faith isn't faith if we know how everything's going to work out. Faith looks Hard Luck in the face and names it Amazing Grace.

And vulnerable faith, well, that's faith on steroids. Vulnerable faith knows it can't stop the years from running along at breakneck speed. It doesn't want a cure for aging, it wants joy in the midst of life-as-it-is.

Vulnerable faith is sticking our chins way out there and deciding the punch we haven't taken yet- the one we can't see coming because it's coming at us through the safest door- that punch is going to be the one Jesus uses to change our life and make us more like Him.

Don't say it isn't fair. Fairness is fleeting nonsense, a pish-posh nothingness that will only leave us crooked and full of resentment. Love and forgiveness are never about fairness. We don't want today to be fair- we want eternity to burst with endless belonging.

But to get to eternity, we'll have to get old first. Aging is like passing through customs to get into a new country. Lots of lines and waiting, until suddenly, one day we find ourselves in our thirtieth or fortieth or eightieth year, awestruck at the way youth was fleeting and maturity is like a sun rising and gaining beauty with each tick of the clock. 

This life only keeps getting better. All we do is win, because all we do is love Jesus most of all. 

(But I'd still love to master the moonwalk. A girl's got to have dreams, you know?)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

when Love sleeps

In the deep, still darkness of the night, we woke up and noticed our bedroom light was on.

Four hours before, we had turned every light off and gone to bed. So, strange light was concerning. Lights don't come on all by themselves, after all.

Morgan got up to check on the house while I waited to be killed by intruders.

He came back five minutes later, pointed to the ground and said, "Finley."

There she was, our seven year old daughter, right next to our bed. She was snoozing away like a little bear cub hibernating for the winter.

Morgan turned the light off and we both went back to sleep.

Except before I drifted off, I lay there thinking about the mixture of confusion, fear, and relief the midnight drama had brought us. The whole experience was a mini version of how life can be full of mystery and almost-tragedy.

Because there are nights we wake up and the light is on: our boss has to let us go, our house floods, the money isn't enough, or our child is walking out the door for good. We get up to investigate or we silently wait for the end to come.

When the end does finally arrive, we find that Love has been sleeping beside us the whole time. The darkness takes its toll on us, but life goes on and the gospel offers us the chance to see how God weaves the unexpected into His greater plan for our redemption.

I don't ever want to go to sleep without knowing Love is next to me again. I want to live out here in the full light of the gospel.

Let me look at you and say, "Sometimes I'm a real slacker loser who gets scared and hides from life." Then you can look back at me and say, "Really? Sometimes I don't know right from wrong or dark from light and I'm terrible at doing my life."

Then let's grab hold of all the other sleepers. We'll shake the shame and brokenness, as God binds us up in His grace and mercy.

God has flipped a light on in the middle of our dreaming and there is a way to be made holy and righteous and glorious in Him.

Who wants to be perfect on our own when we can be redeemed by a Savior, be born of His Spirit, and belong to God together?

I don't want to live my whole life and find out I never learned how to die.

I don't want to hide my wounds so well God can't wrap them in His grace.

I am tired of ignoring the shrapnel of my mistakes and living with the sharp edges of false beliefs always cutting deeper into my soul.

Love sleeps beside us. He has turned on all the lights we turned off. When we lie down with Him, He restores us, making us whole and redeemed. The night will go on, but we are never alone.