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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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Book Review: All My Belongings

index

This book has become another favorite. I read it in one night (about three hours total) because I knew the busy week ahead would hold little time for reading. I woke up exhausted the next day, but it was completely worth the lack of sleep. 🙂

Warning: There are spoilers, though I will not tell the ending…just for your information.

All My Belongings is the story of a woman trying to find home when home is a place she cannot wait to escape.

I resonated with this, even though our reasons for running were vastly different. I came to a point in my life where home was full of bitter regrets and stifling rules without the saving grace to buffer me. I did not know who I was apart from the four walls of what I imagined at the time to be my prison cell.

I know now that there is healing and grace and forgiveness in the relationships and bridges I tried so hard to burn. I found Christ for myself, though I knew Him all my life, in the great big world. I discovered my identity in the Savior and realized that running away would never fix the wounds I carried. So I found home again, in the arms of those I loved and with new-found perspective to see them for the children of God they really were.

This book is exactly that. And it’s a whole lot different too.

Because I never had a father who practiced the crime (or art depending on who you talk to) of mercy killings. In the stylings of Kavorkian himself, Jayne’s father helped (or forced) many people to take the final step into the afterlife–including her own mother. Even before she walked in on him administering the fatal dose (and reported him to the authorities) her parents had shut her out of their lives and their home. Oh she was still present physically, but she was unwanted and a necessary annoyance in their world of disease and devastation. She gave up everything–her hopes and dreams–to care for her ailing mother and it all fell down around her with her father’s devastating choices.

To escape the stigma attached to her name after her father’s trial and conviction, she changes her name to Becca Morrow and moves across country to take care of the sister of her dear friend and mentor.

Upon meeting the elderly woman and her handsome son, Becca realizes just how difficult it will be to keep up the facade her life has now become.

How does one continue a lie when one is desperate for truth and love? When one is desperate for a home to call her own?

Just as Becca is settling in to her new life and finding peace in the midst of a new normal, tragedy strikes again. She’s once more at the center of a murder investigation, only this time, she’s the chief suspect. The victim? The mother of the man she’s fast falling in love with, and he doesn’t even know the real Becca Morrow.

I love the redemptive power in this story. Not only is there reconciliation with her past, there is a genuine chance to start fresh in the beauty of an identity that is God-given. No longer is Becca homeless and destitute and unloved.

She is a daughter, a friend and beloved. The pain of the past is not erased. Her wounds have to be reopened for true healing to occur. But she finds home in the most unlikely of places and a chance for redemption in the loving arms of her Savior.

Cynthia Ruchti has the amazing ability to take such raw, emotional topics and weave them into a powerful story of forgiveness, healing, and the binding up of the captive’s wounds. She writes of tears and laughter and life and hope that glows in the dark. I find myself swept up in another tale that doesn’t have all the loose ends tied up in neat packaging with easy answers and quick fixes. It’s one of the reasons why her stories restored my faith in the Christian novel. Because life is not always neat and wrapped up pretty.

Life’s actually a lot like guacamole…you can’t get the good stuff without getting the mashed up bits.

And life’s really good with chips and a side of guacamole..

Posted in Celebration, faith, Faith, Hope, and Love, Family, Free Fall, God, Gratitude, grief, lessons, life, life and death, life lessons, Love, Memorial, Pain, spiritual training, War, Winning

In which I honor my fallen heroes

My family has a rich history of service to our nation’s military. I can honestly say that every branch of the service is represented in the fine men and women with whom I share a genetic bond. I am proud of every one of them for what they have sacrificed and fought for down through the ages.

I want to also remember those who have fallen, either in battle or in the natural passing at the end of their lives. I also want to remember those who have fallen in a different way entirely. Those soldiers who have fallen in to civilian life and do not know quite how they fit in the puzzle that is not a war zone. Those soldiers who have fallen because war hardened them and shaped them in ways even they cannot fully comprehend. All bitter memories and pain too deep for words.

My grandfather died in the natural course of his life at the brilliant age of 89. July 25, 2013, three days after my husband and I celebrated our seventh anniversary. I’ll always feel the bittersweet of those memorial days now. He lived a long, amazing life. A man of integrity and character, he knew what it meant to build with his own two hands, the life he wanted. He fought death so hard, because he was stubborn enough to try to outlive it. I loved that man and wish I’d told him more, exactly how much he meant to me.

My father is also fallen but not in the eternal sleep either as a soldier dying with honor on the battlefield or an old man at the end. My father has been broken and changed and rebuilt and destroyed by life, not just as a soldier, but as a man. He won’t admit it, because pride comes in many different forms. His wounds aren’t all shrapnel and amputated limbs and the stench of gunpowder in his lungs. But he too clings stubbornly to life with the tenacity of a man who’s still fighting on the battlefield. I love this man too and even with all his wounds and his pride and his damned stubbornness, he’s a hero I’m h0nored to know. I wish he could trust in THAT truth above anything else. It would sure make our relationship a little easier.

But I have my own wounds, and while I was never on a battlefield (unless you count the reenactments during the civil war days or a museum at Cantigny Park) I too fight my own battles. I hope to follow in the footsteps of these two great men and in the footsteps of my other family members who have fought and fallen before me.

In the great exodus of the Israelite nation, the people stopped along the way to commemorate both the bitter and the sweet of their journey. The battles they fought both within and without, the lives of the fallen and the lives of those yet to fall. They memorialized things that to some, might seem trivial, meaningless. Unless you’d been there and witnessed it for yourself.

Today, I want to commemorate the men and women in my life who have fallen and those who have yet to fall. In life, falling is not always a bad thing, though we seem to make it that way with all of our ideas about failure and fairness and black and white. Sometimes, falling is just the precursor to learning to walk. For those who are learning to walk and falling a little or a lot,

Thank you.

 

Fallen-soldiers

 

A Blessed Memorial Day!

Posted in child, faith, Faith, Hope, and Love, Family, Free Fall, God, grief, life, life and death, Love, Pain, soul surgery

In which I fall apart…

I’m falling apart and I really don’t know why. Reading the Bible feels repetitive, my daily routines are shot by three needy, chaotic kids, and my husband is trying to be a rock while struggling with his own work and faith problems.

Now before anyone gets any ideas, there is nothing wrong with me or my family right now. We have bills and health issues and crazy times just like everyone else and probably no worse than anyone else. In fact, I can name on both hands and toes how many of my friends are going through rough stuff right now and it’s far worse than anything I’m struggling with right now.

My son killed a baby bird today. And I LOST it. Not temper, screaming, throwing stuff lost it. Like broke down in the middle of my soggy yard and bawled lost it…

The thing is, these little things in life are really tripping me up right now and I don’t know why. My son makes a mess somewhere in my house at least once a day…most of the time more than once.

For some reason, I’ve been seeing mountains in these molehills.

I mean, okay. So I told my son about fifty times that if he touched the eggs in that nest (who builds a nest in the middle of our raised garden beds anyway?) he would be facing consequences. And he still dragged all four eggs up to the house with a grin on his face to show me his “find.” It’s a wonder they weren’t all broken in the process…that he only managed to kill one is a miracle.

And yes, that same son has been told a million times that taking the lid off his sippy cup and dumping out the contents is a definite NO. As soon as I get distracted by the baby or something else, I’ve got a huge puddle on my hands. He’s been disciplined for it and it still happens and I’m just so frustrated that I can’t get through to him.

Is it a huge thing? No. It’s a phase and he’s testing boundaries (God, is he testing boundaries). It will pass and I will survive.

For some reason, I can’t seem to convince myself of these facts though. I feel like I’m having a mental breakdown and it’s doing NOTHING for my already short fuse.

It’s amazing. Sometimes I have all the right words for other people who are struggling with doing life. I know exactly what to say. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to the music below and knowing exactly where I need to go and to whom I need to go.

My son just came to me to apologize. And I fell apart while I held him. Fell apart and fell on Jesus. Prayed for my son’s heart and for mine. That He would fill us both with obedient spirits and tender hearts. That He would heal those breaks and build our relationship into something beautiful. That He would fill my heart with an abundance of unconditional love. That my first response to failure and sin would not be anger and judgment. That my first response would be love and falling on the One who did the same for me on the cross and every day of my life.

 

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Hope, and Love, Family, God, grief, Joy, life and death, Love, marriage, Marriage and Family

In which life goes on…

My husband and I renewed our vows this last weekend. It’s been seven years since we stood before God and His witnesses to covenant together–our lives, our fortunes, and our future.

I am proud to be the wife of a great man. It is amazing that the best parts of him were exactly what I needed before I ever knew I needed them. His character, his personality, his adventurous spirit–all complement me in ways I did not fully understand when I said I do. Even now, I am still forever learning exactly why God led me to him and I am so excited to spend 60 more years living and loving with him.

I’ve thought of my grandfather often since this whole situation started. It ended with his passing on the 25th of July and a full military burial exactly one week ago. I was privileged to be a part of the ceremony–singing with my sister a song of hope and comfort. I am surprised I made it through the verses without breaking, but glad that I at last found my voice. It was an honorable passing though his last days were not. At the same time, I know that I and others fought well and did all that we could to bring him peace–and that will have to be enough.

It’s bittersweet as life continues to roll onward. I find myself catching snippets of his favorite tunes or getting weepy over a familiar card game. Yet in the same breath, I feel a sense of relief and comfort knowing–and having confidence in–where he is now. Someone attempted to offer me comfort from a rather humanist perspective without any aspects of faith or a future hope beyond this world. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was not the comfort he wished me to feel.

I’ve realized in the midst of this time of grief, the absolute comfort and peace my faith in God affords me. Others may scoff and ridicule what seems to be a foolish, blind trust. I, however, cannot afford NOT to have faith in the unknown, unseen God. It amazes me that such faith is a threat to others when it is supposed to be so very personal and peace-giving.

So life goes on. I feel the soft movements of the child in my womb as they grow and develop–my child, a gift from the God I trust. A reminder of life’s beautiful moments–cherished pieces of hope and legacy and the future.

My daughter and son grow and learn–each in their own unique and wonderful/frightening/amazing ways. Another reminder for me that faith is my anchor in the midst of an ever-changing reality.

My husband and I look forward to many years together–though life is not absolute, nor is it predictable. We enjoy each moment as it comes and pray for one more day in each other’s arms. We will accept the time we are given and be grateful for those precious moments.

I return to my writing, feeling the surge of creative movement once again. Oh, I have missed that in the past months and weeks of grief and stress and early pregnancy. I look forward to once more using the gifts God has given me for as long as my fingers continue moving.

And life goes on…

Posted in faith, Faith, Hope, and Love, Family, Free Fall, God, grief, hypocrisy, Joy, lessons, life, life and death, life lessons, Love, soul surgery

In which I reflect on judgment and vindication…

Psalm 82

New International Version (NIV)

A psalm of Asaph.

God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the “gods”:

“How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance.

I went to the scriptures for comfort tonight after a disturbing talk with someone I love. The pain radiating from her voice at the situation she was thrust into breaks my heart and I don’t know what words to say to comfort or encourage her. I’m having a difficult enough time not shouting to the heavens for fire and brimstone on the ones who hurt her in the first place. Then I remember that I shouldn’t take up an offense for another. God alone is responsible for judging others.

What I can do is pray and cry and forgive.

Oh how easy that might be if I were not so very human.

I’ve learned through some VERY difficult lessons in life, that the human race cannot be trusted–myself included in this judgment. We are vindictive, sinful, base creatures with selfish motives and not a kind bone in our body. But for the Grace of God, we are all condemned to death because of the choices we willingly and willfully make day in and day out. I am again stating that I count myself among the worst of the human race. Deceit, pride, unforgiveness, slander, (did I mention pride) flows in our blood as swiftly as the disease and devastation that has destroyed God’s world–all because we “knew better” than God. What a joke. We just condemned ourselves to eternal separation from the one being who loved us enough to bridge that gap with His own pure blood.

So when I reflect on my human tendency to want to rip another human being to shreds for the pain they’ve caused, I might as well finish the job with my own hardened flesh.

Besides, God doesn’t need me to defend Him or His all-seeing, sovereign plan. He works EVERYTHING out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We just like to attempt to screw it up with our own pigheadedness and selfish ambition. Whatever gets us our own way, right?

I shudder for those who walk so far from God’s will. Nothing I ever did on this earth could come close to standing before an All Mighty God someday and having to give an account for our choices here on earth. I’m not a huge fan of fire and brimstone preachers, but I can honestly appreciate their fears that we as a human race have lost our fear of the All Mighty God.

We treat Him as a salve or a quick fix. We act like He’s this miracle worker or someone who answers to our whims just because we asked. We pretend that He’s our best bud and that we DESERVE the time of day He’s giving us.

I shudder at the thought of standing before God someday and having to explain to Him exactly why I treated Him more like a bobble-head on my dashboard than the All Mighty Creator of the universe. Somehow I don’t think He’s going to accept that I just didn’t know any better.

Deep in my gut, I KNOW and I shudder.

I also rejoice, because I know that He is ever merciful and forgives so much–His Grace is sufficient in our weaknesses and His strength and love covers a multitude of wrongs.

Praise be to God because this wretched sinner has a whole lot of wrongs to be covered. (No, not hidden–covered by His sacrificial blood)

As angry and pained as I am tonight, I know that God is asking me to forgive and show grace as He has so often shown me. Tonight, I have to ask Him to forgive them for me.

Tomorrow, I might have to ask the same thing…

Someday, I pray that His forgiveness would be mine as well.