Morning Meditations: God redeems the broken pieces in our story -Psalm 62

“My soul waits in silence for God only, From Him is my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken”  Psalm 62:1

Psalm62

This week marks Sophie’s 3rd birthday.  It seems as if both so much time has passed and so little.  And as I reflect on her life this week, feel the ache for her more deeply I am reminded of all God has done in the past 3 years to transform our lives and our perspective and draw us into a deeper understanding of the gospel.  I spent some time the other day reading in my journal what I had written on Feb. 14th of this year, 2 weeks before Jaden came into our lives.  For truly from Him has come our salvation, our strength and He has and continues to redeem the broken pieces of our story.

“If He can redeem our life from the pit.  If He can transfer us from the dominion of darkness to the Kingdom of His beloved son, surely this loss, this devastation, this disappointment, this broken piece in my story that feels as if it shapes the whole CAN be redeemed far beyond what we could ask or think.  For in saving us, in giving us eternal life He has already done the unimaginable.

If we think He can not or it is too hard to imagine any redemption coming out of the broken pieces of our lives then we know nothing of the cross.  Then we know nothing of the redemption that has happened in the life of a believer because of the cross and the resurrection.   And we must, we must press on to know the Lord.  To know Him in His sufferings and to know Him in His resurrection for there and only there will we be able to say as Paul “I count all as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  He is God, the only God, the one true God who promises TOTAL restoration, TOTAL redemption.  ALL THINGS NEW.

You cannot view your circumstances as redeemable unless you know, press in to know the redemption Christ has given you.  What it means that HE is our SALVATION.  Are you amazed at this? Shocked that God could take someone like you, someone like me and transfer our lives from DEATH to LIFE?  Too often I take this for granted.   I can not see the magnitude of what Christ, the crucified Christ did for me and what His resurrection accomplished.  I see it through a little lens, out of focus.  And as my eyes are stayed on Him in the valley and on the mountains, He expands my lens.  He brings it into focus.  He teaches me to wait on Him alone and as I wait, He reveals the wonders of His love moment by moment, day by day, ever drawing me into a fuller view of Himself that cannot help but shape how I view my circumstances.”

So TRUST in Him at all times O People… Pour out your heart before Him,  God IS a refuge for us. -Psalm 62:8

Morning Meditations: When you have a different plan then God’s 1 Chr. 17:10

“… Moreover, I tell you that the Lord will build a house for you.”  I Chr. 17:10

1chr17:10

David wanted to build the Lord a house, but the Lord said no.  Instead that He would build a house for David.  David’s agenda was not God’s agenda.  Would he submit to what God wanted?  what He would do?  It would be better, it would be different.  But more glory would go out.  The reason David wanted to build God a house in the first place… to honor and glorify Him, to display His greatness.  Instead God would display His greatness not through a place (though he still allowed), but through a person.  The place would only serve to further shed light on the person that was to come.  And that person would not be clothed with extravagant curtains and furnishings but with thorns and blood, his backdrop a cross.  Its never the way we think it will be.  Our ideas are rarely the best.

I feel much like David in even how I prayed for Sophie and Dasah.  “But Lord, your honor and glory going out for all to see would be best displayed with a miraculous healing.  But it would not be that way.  It would be though death, through pain, through loss that your greatness would be on display.  Lord, I have lots of ideas still of how your glory could be most seen.  But let me bend a knee to hear from you, to listen to your voice above my own.”

I sat at the girls gravesite the other day.  I got my hands dirty as I rinsed their headstones.  I wish it was cleaning dirty diapers and the exasperation that comes with the girls playing in dirt or mud or covering themselves in markers.   Jaden will no doubt bring me all those joys. And I’ll have to remember in those moments that I just called them joys no doubt. But that day by the gravesite, I was missing getting to experience those moments with the girls.  So, I got on my knees and used my hands and got them all dirty as I took a hose that seemed to be just placed their for me and cleaned off their headstones.   I still don’t understand why they aren’t here.  Why I have 2 baby girls whose bodies are buried in the ground and I know who live with Christ now.  Sometimes heaven seems so far away.  I listened to a song as I left that spoke of the Lord’s return, the resurrection.  Sitting at their resurrection site, I’m reminded all over again that one day it will all make sense. And it will be clear how much better His plan was.   And we will dwell in His house, with the person of Jesus Christ.   Let us press on to surrender to His plans above our own.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1,2 (emphasis mine)

What does it look like to mediate on God’s word, to allow it to sink into our soul and lift our eyes to who God is and what He has called us too? I often write personal responses to God’s word in my time with him and I’ve decided to invite you into those responses, some current, some from the past few years. I pray that as God has spoken to my heart through His word, so He may use some of these passages to speak to your heart, to cause you to look at His word afresh and perhaps revitalize your own meditation on God’s word. So every Monday look for a new morning meditation!

Morning Meditations: “Weary yet pursuing” – Judges 8:4

“Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing.”  -Judges 8:4judges8:4jpg

They could have stopped, the battle a guarenteed victory.  The kings conquered, though still alive.  But God said He would give the entire campus into their hands, even those who had fled.  And so they continued in obedience, weary, yet pursuing.  Faithful to the call God had given them.  Obedient.  Following His authority and not their ow feelings.  They didn’t quit though they were weary.  You see Gideon’s faith move from fear to trust in this pursuit.  He would not be sueded.

Lord, I am weary.  Weary in grief.  Weary in waiting for a child.  Weary in hope.  Would you help me continue to press on.  To purrs what you have called us to as a family.  Lead us Lord.  Though we are weary, out us still be pursuing what you have called us to.  For you will give us strength.*

*written Feb. 11, 2016.  16 days before God would bring a different kind of weariness into our lives.  The weariness that comes from the joy of caring for a newborn baby.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1,2 (emphasis mine)

What does it look like to mediate on God’s word, to allow it to sink into our soul and lift our eyes to who God is and what He has called us too? I often write personal responses to God’s word in my time with him and I’ve decided to invite you into those responses, some current, some from the past few years. I pray that as God has spoken to my heart through His word, so He may use some of these passages to speak to your heart, to cause you to look at His word afresh and perhaps revitalize your own meditation on God’s word. So every Monday look for a new morning meditation!

 

Morning Meditations: Joyfulness in all things – Deuteronomy 28:47

Deut 29:47

“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things.”  

Deuteronomy 28:47*

The joy of the Lord is my strength.  It is not in me to have joy in ALL things.   To take joy in you no matter what.   But you oh God are the only source of joy there is.   There is no other way my heart can be glad, overwhelmingly glad at the story you have written for our lives.  As I sit outside on my porch, the chimes given to us in honor of Sophie and Dasah softly singing of joy, of life.  The music I’d rather hear… their voices.   Instead only chimes.  And yet, still there is joy.   A tire swing that’s only been enjoyed by friends, nephews.  A myrtle tree for Dasah, a flowering pink tree for Sophie that hasn’t stopped budding since given to us while pregnant with Sophie.  Sweet, beautiful, gentle reminders of the life you gave them.  Tears, sadness and still joy in the midst of it all.   Because you, Oh Lord have met me, and filled my heart with the kind of hope that doesn’t disappoint when life disappoints.

And a son, a sweet little baby, mine, takes a nap inside. It’s a story I would not have written and yet would not trade for another.  It is not joy because we have a child.  It is joy because your presence has become enough.   Because your provision in death and life has overwhelmed.  Because your name has stunned us with awe and glory.  Only you Lord.  Only you could infuse such joy and hope in our broken lives and broken hearts.  We have not walked with you perfectly.  Our sin on great display in the midst of our grief and yet, your grace displayed all the more as you move us to greater holiness and so move us to greater joy.

“With joyfulness and gladness of heart” let me serve you Lord. 

*For greater context in meditating on this passage yourself read the whole of Deuteronomy chapter 28

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”  Psalm 1:1,2 (emphasis mine)

What does it look like to mediate on God’s word, to allow it to sink into our soul and lift our eyes to who God is and what He has called us too?  I often write personal responses to God’s word in my time with him and I’ve decided to invite you into those responses, some current, some from the past few years.  I pray that as God has spoken to my heart through His word, so He may use some of these passages to speak to your heart, to cause you to look at His word afresh and perhaps revitalize your own meditation on God’s word.  So every Monday look for a new morning meditation!

Is He Lord of… my phone?

Yes, I’ve surrendered my life to the Lord, and am continually reminded of what that means, the areas of my life that includes on a daily basis. My children, my finances, my home, how I spend my time, my husband… why should I be shocked that it would also include… my phone?

I’m reading Francis Schaeffer’s book No Little People.  In it he speaks of each culture having something in it that conforms them more to the world and less to God.

“And do not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will o God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  

Romans 12:2

Schaeffer says “There is a world spirit which has existed ever since men revolted against God. It’s characterized by man putting himself at the standard of everything, making himself the standard of value. There is diversity in the unity of the world spirit and each age manifests the spirit in its own way. The basic attitude is always the same, but its particular manifestation in each generation must be sought out.”

What is it for us? Today? The spirit of the world that creeps in and steals our joy, and steals our time away from God and things eternal. The spirit of the world that makes us think this world is our home, when in fact it is not. This spirit that is so glaringly subtle.   I say glaringly because isn’t it obvious? And subtle because it is so normative that we hardly think it’s the world at all. Social media testifies to it the best… this me-centered approach to life, this endless barrage of information, much of which we do not need to know, and is not helpful and yet we can’t take our eyes off of it. So many voices crying for our attention that our hearts, minds and souls cannot pay attention to the One Voice, the only voice that matters.

In my time reading God’s world on any given day I’m embarrassed to say how often I get distracted, by a text coming in, something I remember I need to check online, check to see if it’s done, write a note to myself in my phone. Then I just casually look to see what’s going on on facebook, or instagram or whatever your social media pleasure is. That look that lasts 20 minutes too long and I can’t even remember what it was God was bringing to my mind as I read His word 20 minutes earlier. That intimate moment lost. Other voices have crowded in.

So surrender.   Surrendering involves the laying down of rights, the giving up of things you hold most dear, the entrusting to your Creator that which you want to hold onto most, that you would trust Him with how He leads you with that thing, that person, that dream. A surrendered heart says “I want to do it your way and not my way”.  Our children, our dreams, our marriages, our jobs, those seem the most obvious… but our phones?  That which I hold most dear seems a strong phrase for something so obviously material and yet so essential to our everyday lives, such a part of our very being that many of us (I know not all) would be afraid to acknowledge how deeply we must stay connected to the outside world and friends we’ve only met but once… but wait… what happened to their cat? I must know. NOW.  And I don’t even like cats (so sorry cat lovers).

So we must surrender that which keeps us from being quiet, which keeps us from sitting and staying and listening to God’s word. A surrender of saying “You Lord be in control of my phone habits. Lord, I want to listen to you in regards to social media.” It’s not a throwing away, though perhaps that would seem a lot easier, but inevitably the heart would only be moved to another distraction instead of a growing habit of obedience to the Spirit in all things we are entrusted with.

It’s a “God be glorified in how I uses this material object. I relinquish my control, my rights to do what I want and do what you want with it.”

So today, I’m surrendering my phone, consciously for the first time. It will be a daily surrender, just as it is with every other area God brings to my mind, my family, my future. A daily awakening of my heart by the Spirit to what it means today when I gave my life to Him many years ago.

You could say “well there is so much good online”, I don’t disagree, but for me (perhaps not for you) the proportion of which the distractions outweigh the good I digest is embarrassingly large. Right now I’m simply asking the question:

“What transforms me to the world most right now?”

If I’m honest it’s the distraction that comes from my phone, the countless barrage of information, others’ grand vacations, pretty outfits, pinterest ideas… All of a sudden I’m discontent with my dresser that must now be refinished. A million ideas and thoughts running through our minds, some Biblical, many not. And so many of these move me closer to the heart of man and further from the heart and ways of God.

Right now I’m a voice that perhaps you will read, be challenged by and then move onto another voice… but are we living in such a way that we are surrendered to His voice, listening to His voice above all the others?

What is it that keeps you most attached to the world, that keeps you most from hearing His voice? Surrender that thing. Bring it under the Lordship of Christ. Let Him be Lord of your singleness, your marriage, your finances, your children, your dreams and hopes… and let Him be Lord of the small things too… like your phone.

“Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, And lift them up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in! Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.”

Psalm 24:8-10

Let us be Grace Givers and Grace Receivers

“’They said the wrong thing. They didn’t say anything. They don’t seem to care. They don’t understand.’”   All words that flow through the mind… or many minds of someone who has experienced loss as they engage with those around them who haven’t. Or better put, they think haven’t.   And the fear, the social anxiety, the walls go up. Avoid opportunities for wrong words spoken… and avoid opportunities for words of love and grace to be spoken. For much of the past few years I’ve lived in the former.   I used to be fairly social, fairly charismatic, fairly “woo-like” to speak in strength finders terms.   I’m not quite sure where that girl has gone, but she’s taken a hiatus from life right now. I hope she comes back soon, but she never told me how long she’d be away for or if she’d ever come back.   I feel social anxiety when I’m around new groups of people, large groups of people, people I haven’t seen in a while, basically most people.   I’ve never been a socially anxious person and was typically quite perplexed by even the notion that being around people could create anxiousness in a person.   I know now.   I get afraid. What will people say? What will they not say? Will my emotions get unleashed on the most unassuming person.   So I stay silent, I don’t usually bring up the reality of our lives the last few years unless asked. Sometimes I give opportunities, speak in generalities… let the one I’m talking to decide whether they want to go there with me.”

These were words I wrote a year ago, only 6 months after our 2nd daughter died, as I stepped into the summer where my husband and I were away from our home, taking classes for our work and surrounded by people, many of whom we haven’t seen in years, who we know and love. Yet, I confess I often didn’t believe the best.  If they didn’t say something the first day, I assumed they either didn’t know our story or didn’t want to enter in.   Really… as if it was all about me and my little world?  Some did, the first day.   Most didn’t.  So I gave them grace.  But I was wrong, it was me that needed the grace. So many wanted to enter in, so many had their own stories of loss that connected with ours, so many had words, it just took time to hear them.

Imagine if they all had said something the first day?  Each day, someone different approached me in the hall, initiated a coffee date, came to talk with me during a break as I sat in my seat “working” on something else… mostly to avoid the awkward mingling.   Each one expressed kind words of sorrow, sadness. No empty platitudes, only words that screamed “I see you, I weep with you, I don’t know what to say.”  What grace they gave me. To pass them in the hall and hardly say a word and still to move towards me even though I’m sure it may have appeared I didn’t want to talk. I did. I just didn’t know what to say. And so they gave me grace, perhaps unknowingly, grace to be where I was at, but also to move me forward.

And I look at what is happening in our world today, so much loss, so much pain. So many words spoken too late, too wrong, too many, or none at all.  For the grieving one it is easy to become bitter, to forget that our pain, though deep and misunderstood many days, is actually a pain so many want to enter into, but don’t know how.   I wonder when we’ll lay down our rights, our pride. How long it will take to say they need grace, but so do I. To open ourselves up to saying the wrong thing or hearing hurtful words that the life giving ones would find their ways to our hearts too.

Today, a year later, I see the anxiousness slowly fading away, that social person I thought was forever gone showing her face again. And though I still grieve I can now see beyond my grief a little more clearly. Yet, I can still become paralyzed to know how to step into the grief others are experiencing. This past month my heart has ached afresh for the pain in our nation. The issues in our country, ones I’ve wanted to step into but simply haven’t known how, now matter more to me than they ever did.

I’m white, my husband is white and we recently adopted a beautiful little black boy who fills our life and home with much joy. I wish it didn’t take adopting a child of another race to open my heart to a great passion to enter in, or having a tragedy of such great proportions happen just a few miles away from my home (I live in Orlando). But it did and that’s where I sit today, broken over my own ignorance to the lives that have been hurting for so long, still desperately in need of grace for the words I’ve never spoken, the ways I’ve never entered in.  I pray as I do, as I seek to listen and understand, entering the conversation however feebly, however many missteps there may be that grace would abound in my heart and the hearts of those who are hurting. And the same words spoken to me I want to say to the LGBTQ community, to the Black community, to those image bearers of God in our country who have been marginalized, devalued, considered less than “I see you, I weep with you, I don’t know what to say.”

There are people grieving intensely over the injustice happening in our country and when you grieve intensely sometimes you say and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise. And just as people saw me in my pain I pray that I would see others in theirs, even when I don’t know what to say, even if my words seem to fall on empty ears, labeled as too much, too late, even if hurtful words are spoken back.  Let me be a woman of grace, let us be a community of grace. Bearing the image of grace that was revealed to us on the cross.

Because grace, true grace, is costly.   It cost one Man His life for the sake of all mankind. Grace is the way of the cross. Grace says “I move towards you even when you can’t move towards me, no matter what it costs me”.  On the Cross it said “I move towards you BECAUSE you can’t move towards me apart from this costly gift.”  It’s the kind of grace where we give what another does not deserve and we receive what we know we could never earn.  And when you know this grace, you can’t help but extend it to others.  This kind of grace changes people, changes nations, changes the world.  Let us be grace givers and grace receivers.

 

 

Faithfulness and new assignments

It has taken me time to find words to put to the day to day of this new assignment of motherhood.  Of course motherhood is not a new assignment for me, but the day to day realities of motherhood are quite new.   Its the assignment I’ve been longing for, waiting for.  The last few years the assignment has been that of a bereaved mother, stewarding the story of our girls well, it is still this but now there is another. And his story is still being written. So my assignment is not to steward his story, but him. And that is new, filled with new joys and new angst.

Like David, whose assignment went from being a shepherd, to fugitive, to King, all the Lord is asking is that we be faithful.   To go from a schedule full of investing my life in other women, to traveling across the globe to be a keynote speaker, to changing dirty diapers and trying to remember what day it is are vastly different assignments and yet the same faithfulness is required of each one.   As I prepared to speak at the conference, there was faithfulness in preparing, praying. There was faithfulness in engaging with others even when sickness overwhelmed my body. Faithfulness in trusting God would give me the strength I needed, when I needed it. That He would form in me the words to say, the heart to love.

Is it not the same with a child? Faithfulness in preparing, not a talk but his milk. Faithfulness in praying, not for all the women I will speak to but for all the ways God will work in and through my son. Faithfulness in engaging with my son, when I’m tired and don’t feel well or when I just want to get something else done.   Even now, he’s beginning to squirm and this window of time where I long to just sit and write is quickly closing.  Faithful.  Faithful in the moments God gives me to write, to be with Him and faithful to respond to the needs of my son.  Trusting God in the middle of the night when I can barely keep my eyes open is no different then trusting God when my body is protesting coherent thoughts and I’m about to get up and speak in front of hundreds, thousands of women or just one.  Each requires trust that the Lord will give what I need, when I need it, that He will help me to love my child and eventually more children when it’s easy and especially when it’s hard.   That it would be His love and not my own.

He’s back asleep, my window to write hasn’t closed fully but will soon. It has been more than a laying down of expectations for each day, but for each moment. I have struggled to be faithful in many moments, I get frustrated when I can’t get done what I want to get done… have I asked the Lord what things He actually wants me to get done?  Not as often as I’d like to admit.  I’ve often just done what I have wanted.  I have struggled to trust the Lord in the moments He’s given me, choosing to zone out instead of engage with God, with my husband, with my son.  Fatique washing over my body and getting the best of me many days.  And yet with all the emotions this new assignment of being a mom to this precious boy has brought its one I’m so thankful for, one I love and yet one I am seeing how much I still need Jesus to help me steward well.  My prayer is “Lord, more than anything help me be faithful with the new assignment you have given me. In grief and in joy, in life and in death, let me be faithful. Let me walk with you. Let me steward well whatever this life brings.”

This sweet one God has entrusted to us as our son. I love him so.

This sweet one God has entrusted to us as our son. I love him so.