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In which I realize we ARE more than conquerors…

No, in all these things, we are MORE than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

Romans 8 is going to be my favorite passage of scripture soon. Mostly because I will be reading and RE-reading it over and over and over again until it actually sits firmly rooted in my heart and mind. I would post the entire passage here, but for brevity and clarity’s sake, I will restrict myself to the most poignant aspects that hit me recently in a cherished conversation with a person who grows ever more beloved to me with each passing year of my life.

A little background before I dive in…

It’s my 33rd birthday today and I woke up after a crazy few weeks of sleepless nights, physical pain and suffering through a miscarriage, fog brought on by a nasty head cold, and other sundry craziness, to a dreary, gray day made absolutely BEAUTIFUL through the restorative and healing power of my Savior. I got a phone call from my mother at 7:33am, the exact time I came into the world kicking and screaming (at least I believe I was kicking and screaming given that’s how I usually deal with shocking situations. As beautiful as a birth is, it’s also so very traumatic for both mother and child and I’m positive that’s the truth given my own three beauties who showed up after nine months of pregnancy…my thanks to the fourth baby who decided to bypass that and just enjoy life at the feet of Jesus, waiting for me to join her)

Shortly after the phone call began, my beloved children jumped into bed (yes, I did sleep in this morning…sue me.) and sang a beautiful and slightly off-key rendition of Happy Birthday. My husband gave me his birthday wishes right around midnight last night before he conked out and snored his way through the rest of MY sleepless night, so I know I am FULLY and COMPLETELY loved…

Anyway, the conversation with my mom was a perfect reminder to me why following Christ MUST be shared in a community, because not only was I blessed by her call, I was blessed to be able to bless her with some words of encouragement that God laid on my heart. What an AWESOME way to begin my birthday celebration…with eyes FIXED on my Creator, the one who knit me in my mother’s womb and called me fearfully and wonderfully made.

Romans 8 came afterward, but it fit in SO well and was once more a reminder of what happens when our eyes are fixed on Christ. My mom told me to write down the words I spoke, so I will try to do so, and hope that I do them justice. I know full well that I am not the first, nor am I the last person to realize an important truth about Christ and the cross, but I do hope that this can serve to encourage others in an area I know is a common human condition.

A situation arose recently where our first reaction was anger and hurt. It’s amazing really how often situations like that arise. My husband, my children, my extended family, my friends and acquaintances…all have the power to wound me in many ways and more often than not, they don’t even realize just how deeply wounded and hurt I have been by their words or actions. The tendency to anger and bitterness when wounded is so very easy to fall into and I am guilty more times than I can count. It’s a reaction, like a wounded animal cornered, with no other recourse to defend itself and protect the wound, except to attack. Instinctive, immediate, and often with long-lasting repercussions.

The problem with this reaction, this protecting of our wounds through anger and clinging to the hurts inflicted by others, is that in the end, the only one who bears the consequences is the one wounded and bleeding out. As I stated before, we cling to wounds that the one who wounded often does not even realize a wound was inflicted. While we are cursing and calling down judgment on them in our pain and anger, they remain oblivious and unaffected.

But a bitter root takes hold in US, the wounded, allowing poison to seep in to every crevice of that wound, reopening old wounds, and creating new ones as we focus on the source of the wound. It is often an insidious and creeping thing, insinuating itself into every aspect of our life and coloring everything with its bitter, dark hue. Soon enough, our relationships suffer, our physical bodies suffer, and we cut ourselves off from the very source that can come in and heal any wound inflicted, no matter how deep or devastating.

This is such a difficult concept for me to grasp, and this morning, Romans 8 indirectly influenced my perspective and I read it with new eyes after my conversation with my mom.

Before I get into that passage more, I want to address the direct influence that started the revelation.

A few days ago, I was listening to several of my favorite apologetics teachers, among them, Michael Ramsden, Ravi Zacharias, and a new favorite, Nabeel Qureshi. I believe it was the last one I am referencing today, but each man has, in his own way, been a revealer of this particular truth to me. Forgive me, because the next little bit is going to delve into a not so pretty picture, but it illustrates the point so beautifully, that I cannot NOT write about it.

So Doctor Qureshi was describing exactly WHAT Christ went through leading up to and on the cross and I wept through his entire message. I don’t think we in America really have a solid grasp on exactly how HORRIFIC his crucifixion actually was. Even The Passion, a particularly gruesome visual, cannot come even close to the reality and part of me is thankful for that. The other part feels that lack of reality gives us license as Christians to downplay the work on the cross to a fortunate byproduct of an unfortunate tragedy. Thus we also downplay its full effect in our own lives, to our detriment.

I’m paraphrasing here, but this is the basic rundown. Crucifixion was one of the most torturous and pure evil forms of punishment the Roman Empire thought up to get rid of their enemies. Only the WORST of criminals were sentenced to death this way and no Roman citizen was ever allowed to suffer its abject humiliation. It was reserved for the ones Rome most desired to use as a devastating example of what happened to those who opposed them. The story goes that the Emperor Nero lined his gardens with crucified Christians and torched them, to light the way for his macabre dinner parties. I’m not 100% certain on the veracity of that particular story, but given his madness, I can believe it to be true.

Even before the convicted criminal MADE it to the cross, the Romans ensured the condemned would not make it out alive. It puts the Resurrection into even more poignant perspective because in all of Roman history, not one crucified person made it out of the ordeal alive. Not ONE. When people make claims that Jesus MIGHT have survived the crucifixion through some sort of divine intervention (downplaying the power of the cross and its redemptive work) that claim is categorically untrue.

The condemned Christ suffered the humiliation of jeering, spitting, mocking crowds, but that was just the beginning. When the soldiers took him to be whipped, they did an even more thorough job than usual. Often times, their victims died on the whipping block because of the depths of their depraved torture. Blood loss, broken bones, entrails exposed. Somehow, he had no broken bones, in spite of the worst attempts by the guards to do so, but he fulfilled the prophecy through that miracle. By the end of the 39+1 lashes, the person resembled nothing remotely human. Their skin hung in shredded tatters, bloodied and misshapen, bones and muscles exposed. It was called the predeath, if they didn’t make it to the cross alive, but that never stopped the Romans from finishing their grotesque work.

We’ve seen pictures of the holocaust and shuddered at the reality we are exposed to in those grainy images. Do any of us actually imagine that Hitler was the first or most creative executioner? Through the millennia, the utter depravity of tyrants and despots only changes location and time period. What Hitler and Stalin and Mao Zedong, and Lenin and Hussein and others did to millions, the Romans perfected in their own despicable way in the broken body of our Savior.

By the time Christ was forced to carry the cross, not only did he not look human, but he was naked and barely strong enough to stand, let alone carry the weight of those heavy wooden poles. Some speculate that a crucifixion cross weighed around 300 pounds. I can’t imagine bench-pressing that on a GOOD day. Imagine carrying that weight about 650 yards uphill, from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha. Naked, dehydrated, and resembling a bloody side of beef. It was no wonder, Simon of Cyrene stepped in to carry it the rest of the way, once Jesus collapsed and was ministered to by the women who loved him best.

I took care of a patient once who had a GI bleed so bad, she painted her room with it. Unintentionally. She died shortly after, but I remember that day like it was yesterday. The horror of walking in and seeing her covered in her own blood. I was a teenager still and recoiled, gagging on the smell of death in her room. It took everything in me to go and tend to her, to wash her clean and push away my own instinct to run away screaming.  I still smell that and see it in my mind’s eye just writing it.

(I did warn you this would not be pretty)

I cannot imagine Jesus’ mother seeing her son in such devastation and not being horrified by his image, yet tradition indicates she tended him on the Way of Suffering and offered him water to drink. And Jesus even managed to preach to the women who followed him, weeping over him. If there was ever a sign that Christ truly was fully GOD AND fully MAN, we see it right here in this picture painted in Scripture.

At the end of the Via Dolorosa, Jesus was placed on the cross and nails were driven with great force through his hands and feet. The word, hands, was a bit of a misnomer. He would actually have been nailed right between the two major bones on his forearm, the radius and ulna and directly through the median nerve that traverses the arm. My husband had his ulnar nerve moved after a surgical procedure following his life-threatening car accident. Unfortunately the nerve was shifted in such a way that it sits on the outside part of his arm, a bit unprotected. He has described the excruciating sensation that occurs when that nerve is struck by anything. I might say it’s a bit comparable to childbirth or getting hit in the family jewels depending on your gender, but it leaves quickly once the source of the pain is gone. Jesus didn’t get that relief. He had nails, 7 inches long, driven through the median nerve and the fiery pain must have forced agonized cries with every jolt and shudder. The nails through his feet created their own form of torture, for while it offered him something to push against so he could breathe, it also prolonged his death because the very real will to live that every human body instinctively battles would have forced Jesus to push against that agonizing, horrifying pain to take just one more breath.

I’m weeping just writing this.

Without the nails in his feet, he would have suffocated, unable to draw up to pull air into his lungs. It would have been excruciating, but over far more quickly. Jesus lingered for SIX hours in this state. They offered him bitter gall, a vinegary, sour beverage mixed with myrrh to make it go down a little easier. It was the closest thing to a narcotic, according to some commentaries, but nauseating to consume. He refused even that small, mocking mercy. They posted a sign above his head, claiming him King of the Jews and they jeered at him, casting lots for his clothes.

If the Roman guards wished to entertain themselves further and end a crucifixion that cut into their meal times, they would break the bones in the legs to initiate the afore-mentioned asphyxiation. By the time they got to Jesus, he had already died, so instead, they pierced his side. Blood and water gushed forth. How he managed to have any body fluids left after six hours of this torture, I have no idea.

All of this to state one thing: In the hours before he died, Jesus prayed. He did not curse his tormentors. He did not condemn those whose sins sent him to this final excruciating death. (hint: that’s all of us) He didn’t even curse His Father for sending Him to take our punishment upon Himself. He had no words of condemnation or bitter anger toward all who had wounded and destroyed Him. What did He say instead?

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34 (NIV)

And in the FINAL moment before He took His last, excruciating breath, he absolved every ONE of those who sent Him to the cross with:

“It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30 (NIV)

Do any of us realize exactly how significant these final words were? Still are? Absolution, forgiveness, and redemption. In the midst of the worst form of humiliation and suffering any man could possibly endure, Christ took every last wound onto Himself, carried the weight of our sin, and released us to freedom through the power of His blood shed on the cross.

It makes my suffering from the wounds of others look paltry and petty in comparison doesn’t it? If I want to be truly honest with myself, most of the wound is inflicted by my own refusal to release the bitterness and anger and forgive as Christ forgave me.

Oh but, Christ forgave and forgot it all, we say. He’s divine and the cross was nothing to him, we claim. He went willingly and He’s God. Surely, it’s NOTHING to what we suffer when someone intentionally or unintentionally wounds us. Why would we WILLINGLY take on the burden of someone else’s sin and forgive them? That’s Christ’s job.

It’s amazing to me how much I love to pick and choose the character qualities of Christ I want to emulate. I don’t recall that particular passage in the Bible. You know. The one that says, “Choose one or two of Christ’s character qualities and imitate Him in those areas where you are stronger. Ignore the rest, because, hey, we’re only human, right?”

No. I DO recall the verse that says,

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Luke 5:1-2 (NASB)

And the one that says,

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Genesis 1:27

And this one,

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18 (NIV)

Of course, our present sufferings more than likely referenced persecution and trials experienced by Christians in Paul’s time, but the concept stays the same. The wounds inflicted by others no matter how severe or how petty, are NOTHING compared to the glory that Christ will reveal in us, as we choose, daily (and sometimes hourly or moment by moment) to walk as the redeemed and restored image bearers of our Savior and God.

The beginning of Romans 8 expounds on the differences between living according to our flesh (and subsequently dying because of it) and living according to the spirit of Christ in us (and facing eternity, fully and completely alive). Paul speaks in another of his awesome letters about the light and momentary afflictions that trouble us here on earth preparing us for bigger and better things, and eternal glory basking in the light of Christ Jesus.

Light and momentary afflictions?

This from the man who was jailed, beaten, bruised, threatened, mocked, tortured, whipped, and eventually decapitated for his faith in Christ. I’m beginning to think that my definition of wounding and suffering are SLIGHTLY skewed.

I’ve carried the offense of wounds long scarred for YEARS before finally releasing them into the Father’s hands. My light and momentary afflictions are more often self-inflicted, if I choose to be honest about it. I CHOOSE to prolong the pain and bitterness by rejecting Christ’s example and withholding forgiveness. I’m being as gentle as a bull in a China shop when I say with all respect,

How arrogant of me. Of us. Did I ignore that command to forgive as Christ forgave us? When He forgave, he didn’t half-ass it. (pardon the French, but I’m going for emphasis here) He said, IT IS FINISHED…

And He meant EVERY LAST WORD.

Yet I hold on to offenses, both real and imagined with the iron will of a wild animal who grips its prey in jaws so tight that only death can pry them loose. Only, I find, I am the prey AND the predator. I bit down hard and now am bleeding out around the wound, all the while accusing the original offender of the crime. Am I truly willing to give up eternal glory for a temporary offense? Is my momentary affliction, given by another, TRULY justification for my continued clinging to an offense Christ already called FINISHED two thousand years ago?

Romans 8 is my new favorite passage. And if you stayed with me through this rather long-winded exposition, I pray that it will soon become yours as well.

itisfinished.jpg

 

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In which I grieve and mourn…

What makes a life? I know the arguments run in circles. Does it start at conception? Does it begin with that first, gasping breath after hours of labor? Maybe that’s the wrong question. I’m still trying to figure out the right question to ask.

One week ago, I was thrilled to announce that a long-awaited event was taking place. After months of trying, I got a positive sign. (Actually, it was four positives and one digital negative…I had to be sure) I probably didn’t need one, because I just KNEW it. My body was starting to feel different and I knew it was true. In my head, I was already planning out the next few months, hoping my morning sickness wouldn’t get too extreme, and praying that just this once, I’d be able to enjoy my pregnancy in full. I estimated I was 6-8 weeks. My midwife calculated a little more efficiently given my irregular cycles and said I was WAY earlier. I hoped I was later, but figured she probably knew a thing or two about this…

So I was anywhere from 4-7 weeks, but it didn’t matter really. I felt amazing, if a little tired and gaggy, and I was determined to enjoy the next nine months, come what may. Was I apprehensive? A bit. This was the first pregnancy where I was at a VERY healthy weight, eating healthy, and exercising regularly. Everything felt different, but I figured I could still safely tell others my news. I mean, I had three uncomplicated pregnancies prior to this one, right? No big deal.

Maybe the question I should be asking is, is that tiny little life real because I believe it to be, or do I believe it to be real because it is?

Friday morning I woke up. Had my coffee, spent time doing school with the kids, pondered a conversation I’d had with my mom the night before about my fears regarding pregnancy and loss. Worked out pretty hard and felt great afterward, if a little winded. I’d been experiencing a bit of an achy stretch on my right side from the beginning of the pregnancy, but thought nothing of it. It wasn’t pain and I figured my uterus hadn’t been in use for over three years, so it was natural to feel some stretching. No big deal.

That was until I got out of the shower and started to bleed.

Beyond the fact that I had NEVER experienced abnormal bleeding with any of my other pregnancies, I knew right away something was wrong. There was no pain (at least not that first day) but I knew that for whatever reason, this brief period of time where I once again was given the privilege of nurturing a new life, was now over. Call it a gut feeling, a matter of the heart, or just the facts. I knew. And I lost it.

My darling husband came home to find me curled up on the bathroom floor bawling my eyes out. He held me, prayed with me, and we discussed the next steps. There was no drama (other than my tears) that day, but we both wanted to find out for sure. So I called the midwife, got in to an emergency ultrasound that afternoon, and took a blood test to find out my HCG levels.

Even if my levels were higher, and they weren’t, I would have known when I looked at the emptiness on that ultrasound. I could see all the preparations for sustaining a life in the womb, but no life. Not even a blip on the screen. I’d FELT empty before the ultrasound. Now I had proof that I was empty.

I’ve fought PCOS since puberty hit. I was told that I would struggle with infertility and irregular cycles and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. None of this was new to me. Thankfully, I’ve been managing my symptoms well enough that even the midwife noticed the lack of evidence for PCOS where there should have been. I’m not cured, but perhaps I’ve been given a reprieve.

And the three children I bore prior to this pregnancy proves that infertility isn’t that much of an issue really. I mean, we tried three times, and three times we made a baby. That simple.

Actually, we tried four times, and four times we made a baby. It’s just that now I get to tell people that one of our babies isn’t going to be present here on earth. That hurts just writing it. I’m a mother four times over and I won’t get to meet Pelokid #4 until I get to heaven. Something tells me, it’s a girl. Sweet and precocious and bubbling over with life.

There are a million explanations for why this pregnancy did not end with a live child 40 weeks after conception. Some explanations even range into the, it wasn’t really a baby idea. I’m going to block that one right now, because one, it doesn’t offer me any comfort whatsoever. And two, it brings me back to the question I asked earlier. I believe I was carrying a precious life for at least 5 weeks and that life is no longer present in my womb. I will grieve and mourn that life and then I will take joy in being chosen to be the vessel for that life for a few brief, but absolutely precious moments. All life is a vapor, some lives disappearing sooner than others.

The day after I miscarried, we watched a video on science and faith in regenerative medicine. There was a picture of a basic human cell. A basic picture from a typical biology textbook that any high school or college kid could read. As the scientist/researcher explained the components, I picked out names I hadn’t heard in years. Golgi apparatus, ribosomes, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum. I like Golgi apparatus best. The name is just cool.

Each part of these microscopic cells works in harmony to create a miniscule organic computer in basic scientific terms, but it’s SO much more than that. Put billions of these working, tiny cells together and you create things like skin, organs, muscles, eyes, ENTIRE Human Beings. If just ONE part of ONE cell is out of order, it can cause the entire structure to collapse. To decay and degenerate. The research in regenerative medicine takes these cells, breaks them down into their multiple components, tries to figure out how all the individual components work, and then attempts to recreate a cell using that knowledge. And it goes wrong, so many times. But when it works, ligaments are healed, cartilage and bone are renewed, and skin is grafted. But the original cell is what amazes me most. Because as much as a scientist or doctor can do their best to work with lab-created clones of the real thing, they will NEVER be able to perfect it to the level that our Creator God did on the original model.

Right in the middle of that talk on regenerative medicine, when I was feeling the physical pain of losing a child, struggling with the emotions and mental strain of the ordeal, I felt God wrap me up in His arms and whisper His reassurance in my ear. I looked at the three children He’d blessed Jake and I with and marveled on the fact that, of all the billions of ways it could have gone wrong, HE knit them together in my womb and breathed life into their tiny developing bodies. HE started their hearts beating and formed the neural pathways in their developing brains. HE fit every joint and bone and ligament together like a perfect puzzle and told each cell what its job would be.

I got to carry them and do the work HE created my body to do for nine months of their life. I was the vessel, but HE.

He is ALWAYS the Creator and Sustainer of life. And that little life He recently allowed me to carry for a few brief weeks was His too. He granted me the privilege of being mommy to not one, not two, not three, but four fearfully and wonderfully made children. His image stamped on each and every one of them. Three, He gave more time for me and Jake to love and cherish and raise. The fourth one, He called home. I have NO idea why He gave me the privilege of being a mommy four times and I pray that I will get that privilege again. I have no idea why I was given the privilege of keeping three of His babies, but I’m looking forward to watching them grow and showing them their Heavenly father’s love. I have no idea why the fourth one won’t be in my arms for a VERY long time, but I am so very glad I got to carry her under my heart. And I cannot wait to meet the child who is more alive now than she ever could be here on earth.

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In which love MEANS someONE…

I’ve had some less than comforting conversations with certain people in my life lately that leave me with a pit in my stomach and a painful ache in my heart. The words spoken remind me of the devastating effect false representation and the enemy’s lies can have on God’s creation, his human creation most of all.

Ever heard the phrases, “Thanks for picking up the slack” or “If only they had been more responsible” before?

Another phrase I’ve heard a lot lately, “Love always wins.”

Without worrying about pc-friendly terminology, I have to reply to that one, what a crock.

And before I get crucified, let me tell you. I DO believe Love always wins. I DON’T believe a lot of people who say that phrase actually live like they believe it.

Let me explain. We use the word love for a lot of things that actually have nothing whatsoever to do with love. We LOVE our new car. We LOVE our presidential candidate. We LOVE our clothes. We LOVE that new movie. What we really mean is that the car, the clothes, the candidate, the movie, all give us a sensation like pleasure. We FEEL something that makes us happy when we think of that object or person, but LOVE has nothing to do with it.

In other languages, there are different words to describe various levels and forms of what we in English call LOVE. We wrap up shallow, surface sensation within deeper, more abiding context and it’s no wonder we confuse ourselves when it comes to the real deal.

We spout platitudes and tell people we’re “in love” and it leaves us with all the depth of a quick Adrenalin rush after the 100 meter dash. It’s great and it feels good, but it’s over in moments and what’s left? The come-down after a temporary high.

So what IS love?

It’s not a feeling, I can tell you that right now.

Love is:

  • giving generously without reproach
  • forgiving seventy times seven and then forgiving once more
  • laying down your life for another
  • looking after the poor and the widow and those who have been oppressed and beaten down
  • advocating for the ones who have no voice to speak for themselves
  • opening your home to the least of these, clothing them and feeding them and giving them resources to get back on their feet
  • making a vow and remaining faithful through daily, moment by moment choices to overlook the other’s faults and open your heart regardless of whether the other fully understands how vulnerable that makes you
  • making the hard decision because the easy one only leads to long term pain and no lasting gain
  • patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not puffed up with pride
  • it does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs
  • it does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth
  • it ALWAYS protects, ALWAYS trusts, ALWAYS hopes, and ALWAYS perseveres
  • it NEVER fails
  • it is the GREATEST virtue in the entire world and yet it is the LEAST used
  • it’s an action NOT a feeling
  • brings healing, restoration, and redemption

Every one of these definitions I got straight from one source. Can you guess what source?

“Love always wins” gets thrown around when the newest law is handed down from on high. It is spoken when a special interest group “wins” a big legal battle against the “intolerant” and “bigoted” offender. Religious leaders even use it to push their doctrinal agendas.

Love ALWAYS wins because HE already won. It happened on a wooden torture device, on a hill bathed in the blood of both innocent and guilty, when a Savior embodied the greatest example of True Love as He drew his last breath and committed His Spirit into His Father’s hands.

The greatest definition of love in the end isn’t actually a decision or a feeling.

The greatest definition of Love is the person of Jesus Christ.

And anything less than what He demonstrated on that cross and in every living, breathing moment of His existence here on earth, is a pale, poor imitation of what Love actually is.

We were made in His image, but don’t for ONE MOMENT think that makes us capable of the kind of Love He pours out on us day in and day out.

When we reach out to a sick friend to lend them a helping hand, that’s a pale demonstration of Christ’s Love. When we offer our services for a hurting family who is broken and desperate for a way out of the mess, it’s just imitation and a pale one at that. When we give our time, money, and selves for a ministry that serves the poor and downtrodden, we are just barely scratching the surface of what Christ’s love looks like.

When we accept that everything we have to give in the name of love is NEVER enough, then we can accept that the only one who can is the One who defines and lives it perfectly.

And when we accept that, then He is free to infuse us with Himself, to love others through us, and to represent His love to a world that is dying without it. Ultimately, that is the greatest form of love.

Loving us enough to give us Himself in our place. When the world sees me, I don’t want them to see my paltry excuse for what I define as love.

I want them to see Love (in the form of Jesus Christ) in all HIS glory.

1 John 4

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In which my attitude gives me altitude…

This week was really rough.

And it’s only Monday. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, this week will continue to be rough. Just the facts and I’ll tell you why.

All three of our kiddos succumbed to (DUN, DUN, DUN) the winter ick. That hacky, barky cough (no not whooping, the other one) where it sounds miserable and you want to cry every time your two year old (or five year old, or seven year old) can’t catch a breath between bouts. I thought we’d make it all the way through the cold season without a, well, cold.

No such luck. Now the prayers have shifted to fast healing, and keep it away from me and Jake. The essential oils are on double overtime and we’re cleaning every surface multiple times a day. Which reminds me, I have to go over the bathroom door knobs again. And recheck the hubby’s cleaning job in the boy’s room tomorrow morning. It still smells like ICK.

Anyway, I’ve got like seven hours of solid sleep on the last 48 hours and that might be a little generous.

Two months ago, this would send me into a crazy tailspin of emotional outbursts and meltdowns. I would leave my family in a trail of wounds on the battlefield of my angry rants while I tried to come down off the ledge without slipping and falling.

This year started out with the theme of Redemption. Restoration. Repentance. I could go through the thesaurus and find more, but we’ll go with the three R’s. It’s catchier. I’ve struggled for years with a negative worldview. Everything was colored by a glass half empty (or all the way empty on some days) perspective and even after my choice to follow Christ, that perspective didn’t seem to leave. I felt burdened, heavy with the weight of my constant failures and successes just seemed to be little bumps in the road instead of the road itself. I do a “good” job of living as if I don’t believe the power of God in my life and the power to change my attitude.

Except that Restoration, Redemption, Repentance, ALL have a POSITIVE view of the world. They are words resounding with the idea that THIS is NOT all there is. That life offers SO much more and it doesn’t end six feet under ground so what’s the point.

The three R’s say that hope is NOT some wispy phantom just out of reach, but present, purposeful, and completely possible.

Apparently, I like alliteration.

So two months ago, I would have freaked out when the kids refused to eat the meal I had slaved over and the toddler threw up ALL over me, the floor, his Powoh, the blankets, and. Let’s just say there wasn’t much room space he DIDN’T manage to cover. I would have lost it when the kids, instead of being helpful, decided that was the perfect time for 20 questions, only their version is more like 1,579 questions plus 1 more. I would have reacted, no second thoughts, regretting the explosion of broken, bleeding hearts after Mount Sarah erupted.

I’m not taking ANY credit tonight, because what DID happen, had NOTHING to do with me. I LAUGHED when I tasted the food and realized exactly WHY the kids weren’t eating it. My husband decided to brave through the artery clogging, ten-times-worse-than-a-salt-block flavoring and even gave me props for the colorful meal. I called his bluff when I gagged and hacked my way through the fish taco, promptly downing three large glasses of water to allow the salt, smoother passage through my digestive tract.

I’m going to regret that fish taco tomorrow. I can FEEL my eye sockets swell up and I’m pretty sure I just went back up three bra sizes. (Why do I ALWAYS gain weight in the face and chest first?)

#22MinuteHardCorps here I come. I don’t care if it’s 9 0’clock at night, I’m not going to die of a heart attack in my sleep.

We ate bananas and peanut butter sandwiches to balance our bodies on a cellular level again.

Which brings me to my son’s projectile vomiting episode right during the bedtime routine. I only got a little frustrated when my husband didn’t move at MY speed to fix all of our world problems. I calmed down pretty fast, which doesn’t ever happen for me.

And the 1,579 questions game? I calmly, but firmly informed them the Mommy textbook was closed for the evening and packed them off to bed…once I got the toddler and myself hosed down in calming bubble bath-laden water. He held my hand the entire time and managed to look about as pitiful as a toddler can look, when they are trying to milk the pity as much as possible. Oh, I’m not denying he is sick. I’m just saying, he takes the sympathy play to a WHOLE new level.

If it had been ONE of those situations two months ago, I would have blown a gasket. And humanly speaking, I came close a few times tonight to losing my cool and letting it all explode.

I could go into all the natural reasons WHY my attitude has made an altitude adjustment. Good exercise, healthy eating, relationship building…

However…

Supernaturally speaking, SOMEONE had my back. And this tired momma is MORE grateful that you all know.

Now, I’m going to sweat it out for 22 minutes and hit the sack for my nightly ration of two blissful hours of sleep before the interruptions start. I never knew a king sized bed could be so small before I had kids.

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Dinner tonight was a real Gag! No joke.

 

Posted in Abundance, and Love, Celebration, discipline, faith, Family, Free Fall, God, Gratitude, Hope, hypocrisy, Joy, lessons, life, life lessons, Love, marriage, Marriage and Family, Pain, soul surgery, spiritual training

In which my desire is for my husband…

lessons-learned-in-project-management

I’ve read that part in Genesis so many times, the page is marked and torn. You know the part.

To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”

It’s Genesis 3:16 by the way. In case anyone else wants to rub the page thin, trying to figure it out.

I’m no Bible scholar. I have passages memorized from days long past when my parents lovingly and rightly drilled them into my rebellious brain. I get a kick out of the fact that sometimes in the middle of a Sunday sermon, I will find myself whispering the words just one step ahead of the Pastor and my husband’s eyes glow with pride.

“You are amazing, you know that? To have all that knowledge in your head and to recall it so easily.”

Which is high praise when you consider it’s coming from a man who once (and still) suffers from a traumatic brain injury. I think it a source of pride for myself as well, especially when he recognizes it. I’m not saying it’s healthy for me to be proud of my accomplishment in this area. Just that, considering the topic of this post, it’s a kind of irony.

This Christmas, I came face to face with my pride (and this verse in Genesis). I strongly desire my husband’s approval and attention. So strongly, that it colors my own actions or feelings toward him.

I finally get it. The punishment Eve faced was even more insidious and cruel than I first believed and I wanted to be angry at both men and God in the moment the revelation hit me. In the end, though I struggle with wanting to hold on to my own self-righteousness, I place the blame where it belongs. On Eve’s head. And boy, does that admission hurt.

See, I always questioned why Eve would desire the very person who had, in her greatest hour of need, failed her magnificently. Why on earth would she desire him and how could he rule over her when he couldn’t even keep her from taking the fruit of the tree?

Then it hit me. Because I was always thinking the curse actually hurt Adam more than Eve (minus the childbirth part). But I was focusing on Adam. Eve would struggle (women would struggle) for the entirety of their married life with a desire for their husband that often overwhelms their desire for and service to God. It wasn’t so much that Adam would rule over her.

It was that, his action or inaction, words or lack of words, could make or break her. This was not how God designed marriage obviously. He designed it to be a reflection, a shining example of His love for His bride and her submission to Him.  And how could that be when everything in her cried out for her earthly husband’s approval and affirmation? How could she possibly seek after God with her whole heart, when her heart could break over the simplest misstep her husband made.

If he chose passivity, she would struggle over insecurities long buried. If he chose inaction, she would question what she’d done wrong and whether he still loved her.

In the end, her focus, her desire, could very well pull her away from the one thing she needed most. Her heavenly groom’s unconditional and unwavering love.

I gave in to that this Christmas. I focused so hard on my desire for my husband, that I missed my Husband’s joy and affirmation. I focused so hard on my (his) lack, that I missed out on the overflow of His abundance.

I admitted all this to my poor husband, realizing that I’m still not over it. I’m still struggling through it, but I’m aware of my struggle now. And I  pray that I can accept and take joy in where my desire should be focused.

Because I may come to a day when my husband can’t give me the desires of my heart. Not that he won’t, but that through no fault of his own (whether through death or disability or illness–temporary or permanent) he will not be able to be what I need. So I need to stop expecting that now and focus on the joy and gratitude when he does meet a need–focus on it in the right context.

As a part of the overflow of a good and abundant God. Not through any ability or talent of my husband’s, but through the blessing of a God who longs so much to give His children–His bride–good things. Who wants our eyes on His abundance, not on our own lack.

Posted in and Love, benefits of exercise, Celebration, discipline, dreams, exercise, faith, Finances, Free Fall, God, Gratitude, grief, Hope, Joy, laziness, lessons, life, life lessons, Love, marriage, Marriage and Family, Pain, Winning, Writing

In which the darkness tries to hide the light…and fails…

It’s been a rough year so far. I’m pretty certain that’s been mentioned before in my blogs.

But hey, I’m actually getting in a blog a month now. What do you know? At some point, maybe I’ll stretch and make the three blog/month mark.

Anyway, in the midst of financial woes, medical emergencies, raising young children in the midst of cold springs, weird schedules, and insomnia, I’ve felt the darkness pulling at me.

It’s not something I’ve ever gotten a diagnosis for or experienced time in therapy to deal with the implications of this darkness. But these little demons of despair and depression and discouragement (that’s a lot of D’s) seem to creep in during times of high stress and little to no sleep. They chip away at my energy and my joy and fill my brief dream states with disturbing images and dreams that wake me in a cold sweat. I’ve been running and praying and pleading with God to keep the demons at bay, but sometimes I forget in all the running and praying and pleading, to fall.

Fall into the arms of my Savior. To stop running, stop praying and pleading.

Babies seem to get this concept of falling. As they learn to walk, they kind of toddle until they cannot keep their top-heavy bodies upright any longer and look for the nearest pair of arms into which they can tumble. Ungracefully, certainly not very well. But they trust in those arms with everything in them. When logic and reason tell them there’s no way they will be caught (sometimes those arms are halfway across the room and have to hurry close to make it in time) baby knows–believes–those arms are already there.

I do not care much for falling. I like my legs to carry me with control and poise. Stumbling looks foolish and stupid. Needing Someone’s arms to catch me when I’m perfectly capable of carrying myself through the darkness? I scoff at those arms when I should be trusting them to carry me.

I hate it when the darkness overwhelms me. I feel less than human, non-functioning. A piece of scum on the bottom of a very deep ocean. Drowning because I need light and air and freedom. And the chains are heavy, dragging at me, pulling me into the darkness with an ease that frightens me. I fight back, but often have reached a point where I just don’t want to care.

It’s easier to stay in a little comfort bubble. To let the darkness take me. I can sit in oblivion, not noticing life passing me by with all its joys and sorrows and amazing light. Oh, I go through all the motions, and probably do it well enough that no one would notice the difference unless they knew me inside and out. Even then, I’m pretty sure I’ve fooled my loved ones too.

Because the darkness is all inside me. I cover well and cling to sanity like the last lifeboat casting off a sinking ship. I go through the motions and pretend it’s all right, when in reality, I’m screaming for help inside and no one can hear me. It builds and builds until I finally explode with it.

It’s crazy. I find the darkness recedes the most after I’ve had a great worship experience. I’m not just talking music either. I’m saying worship in all of its colorful forms.

A long chat with a mother whose encouragement is often found in the form of a kick in the pants but I know she struggles with the same thing, so it doesn’t have the ring of judgment it might have had if she didn’t know what I needed most.

A good, solid run where the sweat drips down my back and into my eyes and I’m gasping for air like a land-stranded fish desperate for the ocean again. Where the pain reminds me that I’m alive and God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Making love with my husband (and I defy anyone who says that’s not the sweetest form of worship for a couple bound for eternity in the eyes of God). I will leave this one right here.

Cuddling with my littles, when all is right with the world and they haven’t filled my day with complaining and griping and, “Mommy, he got more than me,” and “Mommy, she hitted me.” When they haven’t drained me dry with their wants and needs and demands on my time and energy. When I have a little more to give and I’m glad to give it. Such precious time when we say, “I love you” and mean it with everything that we are.

When my fingers fly across the keyboard as a new burst of inspiration fills me with ideas for my manuscripts that have seen too little light and too much time in between the writings.

When a particular piece of music sends tears to my eyes. I revel in the beauty of a melody so profound, it can induce me to a blubbering mess of snot and salt water puddles.

When laughter overwhelms me for no reason I can begin to explain. I giggle at first and then fall in to those deep belly laughs that hurt so good.

What joy I experience in these flashes of light through the darkness of days spent wandering far from God and wondering why He hasn’t answered my plaintive calls. The lost little lamb, stumbling around in the dark valley when all the while the Shepherd’s fold is so very close and the only thing He asks is for me to turn around and run back into His arms.

The darkness never wins. It can’t. Because I run to a God who is so much bigger than the darkness could ever be. I never doubt His ability to overcome. He is good, all the time. All the time, He is good. It sounds cliche, but it can’t ever be, because it’s so very true.

Peter grew overwhelmed by the waves and began sinking. BEGAN being the operative word there. Because he never ended with sinking. Christ’s arms were right there, the moment Peter cried out. Peter never had a chance to drown because Christ would never let him.

And so the darkness threatens His light; but once again, it never had a chance to win.

 

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