Chasing Joy

"I am guiding you on the way of wisdom and I am leading you on the right path." Proverbs 4:11

life | through grief

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Three days of mourning have been declared in Haiti after a power line fell on to a carnival float in the capital, Port au Prince.

-bbc news

Moses was 120 years old when he died… The People of Israel wept for Moses in the Plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end.

-Deuteronomy 34

OSO, Wash. — Washington residents paused Saturday to observe a statewide moment of silence at 10:37 a.m., exactly a week after a devastating mudslide tore through this rural mountain town.

-LA Times

I remember when i first read of Haiti’s 3 days of mourning in the aftermath of the carnival tragedy.  not only did they cancel the last day of the event, but 3 whole days of mourning?!  i wondered what that must look like.  businesses closed, schools closed, families gathering together talking about it, openly weeping? i only imagine-not having ever experienced such community grieving.  i read of how Israel mourned for 30 days when Moses died. 30 whole days until the days of weeping came to an end.  wow.  this contrasted against how we do it in the States.  we pause for moments.  and they are moments of silence.  that feels like a slight acknowledgement and then back to work and moving along as ‘normal’.  i have felt the shock of that.  in the face of deep personal loss, i can recall being perplexed by the moving about of others-folks who know nothing of the loss i’ve experienced-doing normal things like getting groceries and picking up their kids from school.  i know in my head; “of course they are, why wouldn’t they be?” while my grieving heart can’t figure out how to make one foot move in front of the other and my grieving mind can not be trusted to work the stove.

our bodies are made to feel.  and some feelings need time.  life follows death, healing follows brokenness, rivers of joy follow valleys of sorrow.

i learned as a child that pain and grief were not to be felt.  count backwards from 10, breathe deep, but by all means, don’t cry.

it takes courage to feel.  i come from a family of wimps.  i mean no offence by that, we wanted to be strong, it’s just that the understanding of what real strength is got mixed up somewhere along the way.  and so i grew up stoic, priding myself on my lack of tears and pretend indifference.  but the color of my world grew more and more gray.  and my heart shriveled.

Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

-Isaiah 35:3-4

This One who wept and groaned loudly, He did come.  and He taught me how to grieve.  and through grieving all the losses past, and continuing to grieve losses big and small as they come, color has returned to my world.  and my heart has opened…

…and i have come to life.

a series exploring the concept of life- what it is and what it means to have it.

a series exploring the concept of life- what it is and what it means to have it.


All photos except for the first one taken by Hannah Lucas

To draw futher in:  John 11, 16:20-22; Hebrews 5:7; Ecc 3; Deuteronomy 34

Life | retrieved

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He surrounds himself with words.  fine sounding arguments to deal with the broken places.  i stand alone in his space and i read them and grieve over how far away from truth and real healing he is.  i lose hope.

but i do remain in that place of acceptance.  acceptance for where he is at and what he is able to give and receive.  another kind of death assigned to me is this relationship.  great glory goes to the Father of the fatherless for the way He enables me to love this man who is limited in his ability to love in return, to love in a way i desire to be loved.  and there is still great weakness and fear that remains in how i’m relating.  i am fully aware of the trembling inside when conversations begin to shift in uncomfortable directions.  i find my own self coping through diversions and distractions, keeping things safe.  i lose myself in the presence of others here, but when it is quiet, the One who gives sight to the blind helps me to see.

Finding the Love that Retrieves at www.everybitterthingissweet.com

in the dark of the night we stand debating over another one far gone and a false prophet among us.  the scene shifts and i find myself in an arena full of those held captive by Balaam and his deceptions.  searching through my belongings, they grab hold of my blue bound book, the one with my name inscribed on the front.  they empty it of the treasures i’ve tucked inside, passing them out to bystanders and mocking me in the process.  i don’t care, i snatch it back-letting the little things go, knowing that the real treasure is the pages and words contained within.  taking my seat, i’m discovered by the other truth bearers who’ve infiltrated these ranks and we band together standing united against the fray.  it’s invigorating and delightful to find i’m not standing alone.

and then i wake up.  it was only a dream.

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i look over at his chair and i remember sara’s words.  i remember how far the Mighty Warrior Jesus went to retrieve me.  the dream brings into focus the truth of the battle, the truth of what i stand on and cling to, the truth that there are fellow soldiers who have infiltrated the enemy’s territory.  i rise and retrieve that blue bound book with my name engraved on the front.  The Spirit brings to mind words and i turn page after page searching them out.  and then i breathe them in.  my Hope Bearer fills me with renewed hope all the while reminding me of my source of worth and joy, lest i misunderstand and stumble into expectations and seeking where worth and joy cannot be found.

Oh Lord, You are my God!  i will exalt You and praise Your name-
for in Perfect Faithfulness
You have done marvelous things…

This is what the Lord says;
I have seen his ways, BUT i will heal him;
I will guide him and restore comfort to him,
creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.

Can plunder be taken from warriors?
or captives rescued from the fierce?
But this is what the Lord says;
Yes
captives will be taken
and plunder retrieved.

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life begins when the Source of life retrieves.  i know this.

i forgot this.

i have renewed hope for this one who surrounds himself with fine sounding arguments.  he is seeking life where it cannot be found, but i do recognize that it is life that he is seeking.  i also recognize that the current god he’s bowing to is successfully tricking him into thinking he’s found it and there is no hope in that.  rather, my hope is in the Mighty One who is Mightier, the Powerful One who is more Powerful.  that greater is He in me than he that is in the world. i hope because Life Himself retrieves captives from the fierce.

See now that I Myself am He!
there is no god besides Me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of My hand.

life

a series exploring the concept of life- what it is and what it means to have it.


to draw further in;  Colossians 2:1-8; Romans 16:17-18;  2 Peter 3:3-9; Isaiah 25; 57:18; 49:25; Psalm 119:72

 

life

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the moon, venus (my guess) and man’s light seen from my front porch

The Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering  They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.

They took the very gift God gave to them and used it to reject Him

In Moses’s song he describes it this way:

  The Lord….He found, He shielded, He guarded, He hovered as an eagle, He carried, He led, He fed, He nourished.
Israel’s response to the God who made him, the Rock his Savior….. he grew fat, he abandoned, he rejected , he deserted, he forgot.

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daily sights-this one, my favorite barn on the way home from dropping hannah off at school.

for the past 9 months i’ve journeyed along with these people.  beginning with the Mighty One’s rescue from slavery in Egypt, His salvation through the red sea, His care in the desert, all to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey-to give them life.  and yet, the very gift of life becomes the means by which they reject.

He knew this beforehand.  and He gave them life anyway.

selah….sigh…

i know this is my story too.  this is my story too.

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this one taken by my daughter hannah

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth, He first prepared for him a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are simply “things”. They were made for man’s use, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.

But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul. Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and things were allowed to enter. Within the human heart things have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk, stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.

…..The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development, never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

-A. W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God

church next to the bus stop, across from the downtown Safeway where the homeless and addicted congregate. 3 blocks from home.

The Ever Near One sustained me with personal and specific truth during all those sick days, those 54 perpetual sick days. now that He has released me from my sickbed, he’s weaving together in my heart some new things.  Jesus said; “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  won’t you come along and explore this topic with me?

life


to draw further in, Deuteronomy 31 and 32

sustained

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i’ve moved from tallying up sick days taken this school year by my children (i think we passed 50 in February-when i stopped counting) to tallying up consecutive sick days for myself.  today is day 51.  for 51 days in a row i’ve been sick.

yes, i’ve done All. The. Things.

everyone says it’s too long.  everyone says someone needs to be doing something about it.  either the doctors need to take this more seriously, i need to take this more seriously, or God needs to take this more seriously.

well, i can’t speak for the doctors, but i can say that both the One who heals and this one who needs healing are taking this seriously.

it has been a trial to be sure.

i have words to say about it-but they are still in fragments and the energy and skill required to formulate them for publishing have not been availed to me yet.  i’m taking notes so i don’t forget, and praying for the Word made flesh to keep my story near till it’s time to share.

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in the mean time, i’ve been consuming other’s work.  and words about that have found their way through the fog.  Tsh Oxenrieder wrote recently about that very thing-seasons of producing and seasons of consuming.

I also haven’t been working much, because my head throbs when I think beyond my basic survival skill tactics.

Producing, consuming, and why both matter. by Tsh Oxenrieder

me too, Tsh, me too.  One of the promises the Very Near One has given me is; The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed….(psalm 41:3) and that brought both comfort and frustration. frustration because i want to be released, not sustained. i want the second half of that verse; and restore him from his bed of illness, to be the outcome today.  but comforting because until then, He is sustaining me.  He has sustained me.

i’m linking up today with emily freeman’s Things We Learned in March because tho these aren’t things i’ve necessarily learned, they are things that have been used in the Lord’s sustaining-bringing encouragement and insight into these hard days-and it felt important to mark them just the same.

so here are a few of the ways He’s done that ….


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You doubt your value, don’t run from who you are  -Aslan

from The Voyage of the Dawn Treador

 He grabbed hold of his lifelong dream and didn’t let go. Hand over hand, hour after hour, year after year, plane after plane, he climbed, he learned, he grew, he flew. What had been forbidden was now free. He became a pilot, a guide, a navigator, a natural. Caretaker of souls.

Carmella Rayone on her husbands journey 


 Whether you run a business or not…the [social media] pulls are a part of our lives (whether you like it or not) and we need to learn to manage it without letting it manage us!

Jeanne Oliver sharing her top 6 ways to keep social media from running her life.


And then there are the well meaning people who want me to know that they were cured of every illness in the world when they went gluten-free! sugar-free! meat-free! fill-in-the-blank free! Then others who want to know whether I have used Thieves because Thieves cures everything. And I have used Thieves and I am not cured. Then others who want me to know my body is strong in the Lord! And my body was built to overcome illness without medicine! Then others who swear by Zyflamend or swear by this acupuncturist or this herb whittled down from a tree-of-life at the top of the Himalayas. You get the point. Everyone’s best intentions are to see you made well, without all the pain and struggle in between.

Asthma + Elephants + A Holy Fight by Jenny Simmons


You have an accuser. Don’t let him in.

So, you, desperate to be out of this fog and to walk, wildly alive, in what He has for you:

Use.your.voice.

Speak His Word, don’t just read it. Fill the space with His truth and leave little room for anything else.

About Those Harmless Thoughts by Sarah Haggerty


The practice of joining in on #itssimplytuesday via instagram has helped me to see through the fog of discouragement and embrace the beauty of an ordinary still sick day.

Let’s take back Tuesday, the smallest day of the week because here is where we  live and where our people live. Here is where we wash our dishes and wait for the snow to pass and pray for miracles and walk with the hurting and carry the burdens and really live.

What We Find on Our Simple Tuesdays by emily p freeman


 

 

a death by which glory comes

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Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.  Then he said to him, “Follow me!”


as the kids are getting older the parenting is getting more complicated.  or maybe it’s just me and the way i strive and think and wonder and fear…

in any case my need for the God who is so very Wise continues to grow, it seems so opposite of what i would think.  most jobs, the longer you do them, the less help you need as you become efficient and capable.  that’s how it was for every job i had before this one.

we’ve got one teen and 2 more following close behind.  and i would be lying if i said it wasn’t hard. and i would be lying if i said i’d become efficient or capable.

i’ve always known that the best gift i can offer my kids is my own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  the more healthy i am the more free i am to love them well, and in a healthy life giving way.

but what i didn’t know was that loving in a healthy life giving way would feel like the very death of me.

This is not a time in which motherhood is reveared or respected.  It is not a time of recieving gratitude from the child.  Nor should it be….

-The Mom Factor by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, on adolescence-emphasis mine

i bow to the idol of knowing, i question and question; “am i being unreasonable? ….too lenient?  am i not taking their sin seriously enough?…to much?”  on and on it goes.  there is One who knows the answer to all my questions, and i must listen to Him…..and that requires the deeper trust i’ve needed all along.

It is a difficult process. And it is even more difficult because mother bears this process within herself.  She is the laboratory for the child to become an adult, and it takes its toll on her.  The good mother gets her needs for love, affection, and respect met by God and the safe people in her life.  Only in this way can she altruistically and sacrificially do the best thing for the child, who desperately needs safe passage toward adulthood.

-Cloud/Townsend

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Jesus said that for Peter, there was a specific death that would glorify God.

so too with me.  being a conduit of safe passage towards adulthood-that is a kind of death. and it’s the death assigned to me as their mother.  a daily cross to take up with a command to follow the One who knows the hairs on their heads and loves all of us perfectly.

it is a death that promises life-life in me and life offered to them.  it is a death whose only outcome can be God’s glory.  my strength indeed is small, but my God is big and i love them and they are worth it.

I’ll chase You through the pain
I’ll carry my cross
’cause real love
Is not afraid to bleed

Jesus
Take my all
Take my everything

I’ve counted up the cost
And You’re worth everything

-Rend Collective The Cost

To draw further in: John 21:18-22; 1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 1:1-6; Ephesians 4:17-32; the stanzas in the hymn Jesus Paid it All

Weekend Inspiration

he knocks on the door and i wonder how my youngest will answer.  last time they played together it didn’t end well.  this is what happens with friends, the more time you spend together, the closer you get and eventually your sin will show up and sin always hurts people.

that day ended in tears and cries of; “it’s like he’s not my friend anymore.”  there were heated words exchanged with my older boy defending his brother and letting that neighbor boy know what’s what.  some days it’s one of my boys who’s sinned and then the heated words are between them, but they are brothers and working it out comes with that territory.  with friends, however, there is the choice to leave things as they ended and just stop playing together.

after that day, 3 boys who’d sought each other out day after day after live-long day stopped.  and when that familiar knock comes, i’m not sure the wounded one is ready.

he opens the door and standing before him is this friend holding an unopened package.  daniel hardly says hello, invites his friend in and runs to get the scissors.  together they open the package and delight in it’s contents.  it’s a pair of gloves, with grips on them, for football.  they look them over and ooh and ahh together and they all head out to play so their friend can see how they work.  whatever had gone on that one day, one neighbor boy didn’t want to open his package without the others.

i stand amazed.  i think to myself-this is what forgiveness looks like.  this is what friendship looks like.

as we go about our weekend, may we bask in the joy of forgiveness with our friends!  if you are the one who sinned, may you still have the courage to show up with your package, inviting your friend to share in your joy.  if you are the one who has been offended, may you have courage to forgive and grace to rejoice with your friend’s new way cool football gloves.

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Inspiring things from around the web, my version of sharing new exciting grippy football gloves…

For Reading:

I recently finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  This powerful read kept me company all these sick days i’ve had lately, and i did cry a few times-real tears from deep down, but the story was so worth it:

She was a girl.
In Nazi Germany.
How fitting that she was discovering the power of words.

-Markus Zusak

I’ve really been enjoying Seth Haines’ Recovery Room series.  Because we are all in need of recovery from something:

Throughout 2015, I’ll be hosting various writers, pastors, and counselors as they step into the Recovery Room. Here, we’ll discuss the things that supplant inner sobriety, and connectedness to an abiding God. Couldn’t we all use a little recovery from something?

-Seth Haines

This post from Emily Freeman on longing was soul-stilling.   She crafts her words beautifully and so often gets to the heart of things right where i am at and brings clarity and hope:

When my daily rhythm feels more like a drumbeat than a heartbeat, it’s time for me to pay attention to three simple realities:

-Emily Freeman

This one is more of a listen than read.  My pastor has been battling a rare illness for a couple of years.  After a grueling 5 months absence, this past Sunday he was well enough to share with his flock;  Learning Lessons in the Crucible:

The more seriously I take suffering, the more seriously I will take those who suffer.

-Gary Glover


For Art and Discovery:

storybookmarketingIf you aren’t familiar with Jeanne Oliver’s creative network you are missing out!  She has online classes of all types for the artist within.  I’m not a painter myself, but i’ve found quite a bit of inspiration for the artist that I am from classes on her site.  My daughter is the one who is gifted in the visual arts, and i have marveled at the growth both in her skill and her courage and freedom after time with Jeanne.   Starting Monday Jeanne is hosting a new watercolor class with Danielle Donaldson.  The site is free to join and there are some free courses you can check out.


  nester

Speaking of classes, Myquillyn Smith, The Nester, is  doing something way cool:

Cozy Minimalist

Online Coaching Program

Join us online for a four-week guided journey where I’ll help you create the home you’ve always wanted starting with what you already have. You’ll pick one room in your house and focus on that space for the duration of the four weeks. Our first session begins on March 26th, 2015 and runs to April 16th, 2015.


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 I discovered Natalie Metrejean on instagram right before she released this. For all the singles or those who know someone who is, this little book is a gem.  It’s refreshing, authentic, and deep. I ordered one for my teen and read it first because i’m picky about these things.  I shared it with our youth pastor and now guess who’s going to be leading a bunch of high school and college girls through it!  Yep, me.  I’m not sure my teen is thrilled, i mean who wants to study with their mom who hasn’t been single since the dark ages?  Pray with me that the Lord would enable me to lead well and enable my dear daughter to connect with Him in spite of me!


Enjoy your weekend friends!

when the journey feels like death

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been walking alongside the nation of Israel as they journey from slavery in Egypt to the land promised to them.  it’s been a long journey, and all along the way they have talked about death….they seem so often to be fearful and obsessed with death:

at the very beginning of their journey:  “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Part way through: “But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

at their destination-right outside the land: “And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

At the beginning of their wilderness wanderings (the result of the above rebellion): “And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LordWhy have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”

it has been a hard road-this journeying out of slavery and into freedom.  it seems to me that their early cries are a question of; “is the Lord with us or not?” but then move into “is the Lord for us or not?”  so often thinking that anything else, even death or slavery would be better than this.

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i’m moving along on a journey out of slavery and into freedom too. and i ask the same questions.  it comes as no surprise really, these questions all got started in that garden with that theiving serpant.

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she says words that make me cringe and my blood begins to boil.  i halfheartedly try to talk my pounding heart down enough to get past the hot button words she’s used and  actually listen to what she is really saying; “compared to the alternative, followers of Christ do get a better life.”  i don’t hold back and give in to the pounding heart rather then the listening one; “that all depends on your definition of a better life.  followers of Christ get beheaded.”  my cynicism wounds and i see it too late to take the words back.  she stumbles over her response and the pounding in my heart gives way to the sting of understanding my sin and my cynicism.

in many ways i’ve been being made aware of my tendencies towards cynicism-and i’m beginning to see it for what it is; hopeless acceptance of grief.

i’m right there with those Israelites-wondering if the Lord is for me or not- if the path the Lord has sovereignly brought me on is meant to destroy me and my children and my livestock.  i see that going back to Egypt is not an option, and so i resign myself to wandering around in the desert-because i’d rather be wandering around in the desert with the Presence of the Almighty God, than back in Egypt without Him.

but oh the difference it all makes when i move out of that acceptance without hope cynicism and into the truth that…..

You have a Father’s heart
and a love that’s wild

-J.J. Heller Who You Are

..

because i’m reading the Israelite’s story, i am able to see beyond their current circumstances causing them to fear death.  i can see the Father’s heart and wild love.  i can see that it has never been the Lord’s intent to bring them out of Egypt to starve them or kill them.  it has been His intent all along to bring them out of slavery and into His presence.  to be their God, their hero, their provider. To give them not just a land flowing with milk and honey, but to give them the gift of Himself, of knowledge of Himself.

and so it goes with me.  He is with me and for me.  He is for you too.

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During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.  You ate no bread and drank no wine.  I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD Your God.

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of His great power and Mighty strength
not one of them is missing.

collect wages from your grief work….there is hope…


to draw further in:  Exodus 16, 17; Numbers 16; 20; Isaiah 40:26-31; Jeremiah 31-in The Message

 

 

 

 

 

 

comforted beforehand

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it was early on an unassuming Saturday morning when i am given that glimpse of the mountains and subsequent truths to tuck away and rest into.  it won’t be even 24 hours later when i will need desperately those very truths-and i could not have predicted, prepared, or known beforehand that would be the case.

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a dear one brings me nourishment for the sick bodies, and nourishment for my weary heart.  but neither she nor i could have seen that in less than 24 more hours how desperately my body will need the nourishment, and my weary heart will need to be reminded yet again that i am loved and not alone.

these days it’s the little things that are having a big impact.

the sun shining through my window warming my feet sends my soul soaring.

waking up to yet another sick one sends my soul plummeting. 

the thing that is causing me to be wonderstruck is the fact that the One who sets my feet like the feet of a deer, He keeps one step ahead of the slow drip of discouragement and provides Truth.  He moves within the hearts of those dear ones He’s surrounded me with and sends them with soup and voices speaking words that cheer and delight, lovingly giving to this heart that is so tired and unable to offer anything in return.  it’s such a picture of the gospel-so very Christ like and i doubt they even realize how well they represent Him in their offering.

this comforting beforehand carries a depth to it because it reminds me that He has hemmed me in behind and before and laid His hand upon me.  He saw all of this coming, He sees all of this happening, and He doesn’t prepare me by giving me a better life-plan (do and do, rule on rule) but a better understanding of Who He Is and How He loves.

When i said my foot was slipping,
Your faithful love supported me
In the multitude of my anxious thoughts within me
Your comforts cheer and delight my soul.

 


 

to draw further in  Psalm 139, Psalm 94:18-19 , Isaiah 28:10-13, Sara Haggerty’s Adoration, today it’s specifically this one.

overshadowed

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while driving, i glance over and the perspective i see of those massive white peaks above massive blue ones is stunning.  it is such a contrast as i can almost see the entire bustling city at its base.

they stand there-so strong, so constant, so unmovable, so still.  i know that if i were to turn the car towards them and drive closer closer in, i’d lose that picture and see the hustle and bustle happening in their midst too, but here-this view- and they are saying something else.

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arrows fly at lightning speed, aimed straight at those sore and weak spots of my heart.  they fly from words without, but mostly from words within. they beckon me back into the courtroom before the prosecutor who always comes to steal and kill and destroy.  the attack is always strategic, wolves tearing at flesh striving to snatch joy away. always striving to snatch joy away.  and they come in all sorts of clothing.

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those massive peaks remind me of what is true.   like the city nestled at the base of those Rocky Mountains, i am small, resting in the Shadow of a Mighty Warrior.  He stands behind me and the wolves scatter.

“But was you not afraid, good sir, when you see him come with his club?”
“It is my duty,” said he, “to distrust mine own ability, that I may have reliance on him that is stronger than all”.”
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress    

this Stronger One has adjourned the court-the verdict is in.  why do i persist in returning?  my identity has been determined by the only One who knows everything, the One who calls me beloved even tho He knows everything.  He is majestic, He is massive, He is formidable, He is mighty, and He is kind.  The Lord Almighty is His name.


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 in my moments of clarity and hope, i entertain longings, desires, dreams;  i look at my laundry/everything/dumping room and form a picture in my head and the steps to take to get it there.  i look at my front yard full of hundreds of years of neglect and the weeds that love to grow and i imagine a new picture and all the ways to get there.  i imagine the hospitality that i will offer and the enjoyment we will all share with the new space i will create.  i look at my 40 year old figure and see the form of my days and how exercise fits just right-right there. i can visualize the enjoyment and joy of all 5 of us getting our heart rates up and the energy and whole body health that will come as a result….. just to name a few.

hope deferred makes the heart sick.

but then i get a call and bring 3 extra little boys home and it’s everything i can do to come up with enough dinner for all of us and a bit extra to send home with them to their sick mom.

but then i’m rinsing out a throw-up bowl one more time and making honey toast for another one who can now keep food down.  i’m washing sheets and learning how to sanitize silverware and cups with no dishwasher.

a couple of days to recover, the desires and hopes flood in only to be hit with another round of illness or something else.  and the only thing constant is my need for strength from the only One who can give it.

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just three days ago i began to formulate a plan of execution for that laundry room.  today as i’m walking though to bring medicine to another sick one it stands there mockingly.  i let myself sob at all the ways it’s a representative of even deeper things, crying out to the One who delights to show Mercy to me.  and together we go to all of the places of deferred hopes.  i breath deep and remember that even if my children flunk out of school, even if we are not able to get well, even if i never tackle that laundry room, even if my husband’s travel schedule never ends, even if on this green earth all the people who want answers to our questions will never get them and will go on assuming how if we only did this or this we could be happy and healthy and wise.  even if, even if, even if….those mountains crumble and fall into the heart of the sea…

sky3

…our standing, my standing, before the King of Kings will not be shaken loose.  His delight in me will not be effected by failing grades or messy spaces, or sick bodies, or cancelled responsibilities.

i think back on those mountains,  i can’t see them from where i stand, but i know they are still there.  and i think of how sure and strong and steadfast my Mighty God is, how He is present in all His grandeur and glory, overshadowing the ins and outs of what feels like a crazy life.  deep within i am filled with joy and awe at the constancy of my Everlasting Father.

i will rejoice in the LORD,
i will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights.

 


 

 

to draw further in:  chapter 4 of Pilgrim’s Progress; The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller, Romans 8, Psalm 46, Habakkuk 3

 

 

 

insulated

ice on window

jack frost making art on my window

halfway down the hall he punches the wall, goes a little farther and slides down with his hood up and his head in his lap. insulating himself from his surroundings and his surroundings from himself. i pass on by saying nothing, carrying the contraband to the principle. i know he’s angry at me for catching him. i pray he doesn’t take his anger out on one of his 4th grade classmates, specifically-my son.

we talk about the superbowl and human trafficking. i mention an idea of skipping the commercials in lue of prayer. reading the response i’m aware of the desire to remain insulated instead. so i give up. my teen however was listening, and at her own party, she and a youth group mate talk about it and she does pray. she shares this with me later and i grieve that i didn’t even try.

i stand in the isle looking for a chocolate bar to give as a gift. i want to ignore what i know is true, but today i can’t. so i spend the extra and make the purchase of chocolate sourced justly and fairly. but i worry that the recipient will be offended by my choice. no one likes the feelings they get when made aware of the evils in this world.  should i have chosen to express my love for them without expressing my love for children halfway around the world at the same time?  would it be better to keep one insulated from the other?

i listen to someone speak passionately about their calling that is so very different than mine. it’s easy to mistake passion for condemnation i notice, and it makes me uncomfortable. but i keep returning to her place because it is so very different. she lives in a big house on a lake. she loves her people well with her made from scratch delicacies. i wonder if she grasps the gifts she’s been given in her big house on a lake. i think she does.

the feet are knocked out from under 3 of us for 2 days. i notice in my Daily Light devotional that this very day last year was a similar story. in my depressed sick brain fog i dream up all the ways i will fight to insulate my brood of 5-all the places i will refuse to go and the people i will refuse to see. i am fed up with always being sick. i think about that passionate one and the health of her family and how maybe if i follow her recipe for living we could enjoy health too? i dream of moving away, somewhere remote…near water sounds perfect. i fight battles in my head all the while my body fights sleep instead of the virus. realizing i’m spinning wheels that are going nowhere i begin to recite scripture to myself and pray instead. the Lord is my Shepherd, i want for nothing…..He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters…. for the first time in days the needed sleep finally comes.

some hours later i find myself up and out and refreshed……walking behind an angry 4th grader punching the wall.

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