19
January

Thy Will Be Done

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About 6 years ago, I was pregnant with our youngest, Boston.  I was cooking dinner one night and our oldest, Josiah, who was 7 at the time, was coloring at the kitchen table. I was off in my own little world, focused on what I was doing, and Josiah looked up at me and said, “Mom, if my sisters die and if you and Dad die and if everyone in my family dies, I will still love Jesus and believe in God.”  I dropped the knife in my hand onto the cutting board, looked up at him, walked over to him, looked him straight in the eye and through tears, said, “Never ever forget that you told me that. Never forget it.  Remember these words and hold them in your heart, because life gets hard and we forget when bad things happen that we love Jesus and that we believe in God.”  I gave him a hug and then went on about my cooking through tears.

15 months ago after The Accident, I wondered if Josiah remembered that conversation from years before.  I wondered if he remembered those words he told me in his innocence.  He knew at 7 that he had a younger brother with Jesus, but he didn’t remember going to the hospital and seeing him, but he saw us grieve and maybe he remembered us clinging and trying to figure out Truth. After The Accident, our kids still love Jesus, I think. I cannot make the assumption on my own, but they claim to and I trust the Lord that He has them in the palm of His hand.  I feel so badly that they have had to struggle this way.  Struggle with pain that we  shouldn’t struggle with, but I’m hoping that through it, they will not see that God’s will is not always about us, but it is about God always receiving glory in our life.

Saying “Thy Will Be Done” scares me.  It scares me because when we say those words, we don’t always know what they mean.  When we whisper them in pain and in worship, we don’t fully understand God’s intentions, but we are also saying, “I’m Yours.” We are also saying, “I’ve got nothing.  You have everything. Help.”

Those four words have a very big meaning.

Jesus cried them out in the Garden before his arrest, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)  He gave the ultimate sacrifice and He suffered the most out of anyone who has ever lived.

I know that life can take more twists and turns.  I know that more things are going to break.  More grief is going to be met.  More suffering will be had.  My prayer is that I can say, “Thy Will Be Done.”  I pray that I can somehow be that steadfast and still ask the whys and be content when I don’t get answers. I pray that my children can still say, “Thy Will Be Done” when continues to throw punches and the experiences that God ordained long before time take place, their hearts will be steadfast, because living out “Thy Will” is not about how we are feeling, it’s about our knowledge of the Truth.  It’s about knowing the steadfast love of our Lord.  It is about knowing the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  It is about being confident as to where our hope and joy lie and that this world is not our home. We must be confident that Jesus is enough for this life until we are Home.

Psalm 71:17-24

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God,
teaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
I will also praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
who sought to do me hurt. 

(emphasis mine)

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18
January

The Moment When You See

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Photo by Elizabeth Huff

The day this little girl was born, I cried.  I cried because my 31 week preemie was here safely.  Then I cried because my husband walked in and told me her diagnosis. We didn’t expect a little bundle with Down Syndrome, but we received one of the cutest.

I have other children too, and so many times I get frustrated when a stranger will point out my “special” daughter (I do believe, however, that both of my daughters are special), and they’ll start asking questions about her.  There was one stranger at Costco, years ago, that stopped me and asked about all of my other children before they asked about Tullie and what her needs were.  I so appreciated that, and I think my other children did too, but today, I’m going to talk about Tullie, because she did something today that caught my eye and it wasn’t anything unusual.

We were cleaning up breakfast this morning, and I told Tullie to grab her math book and blocks and start her school work. I turned around from the sink and saw Tullie grab her math book and then reach up on her tiptoes for the box of blocks for her counting.  She then sat down at the table, opened up her book and did the next two pages.  Drew the lines between her numbers to separate her columns, because we are doing carrying in addition, added each column, did each problem, then turned the page, read the word problems and solved them.

It’s not an amazing feat.  It’s not life changing or earth shattering. She didn’t solve any world problems, or settle an argument between her siblings, she simply did her math work on her own.

These last few weeks, I have noticed how much she has grown.  How mature she has gotten.  She still loves Frozen and Shopkins and will happily play dress-up with anyone, but she has also grown so much more independent, sweet, kind, loving and is developing into a very beautiful young lady.

When babies are born, we are aware that they will grow, but it’s AMAZING that they do grow. When those babies who are “special” are born, we assume that we will be stuck in “baby” forever.  Everything will be slow and they will learn to add numbers when they are 35 and maybe graduate from high school when they are 60.  The unknowns are insane and those first hours, days and years are intimidating because everything IS slow and overwhelming and hard and you’re dealing with the unexpected, but then we look up from the kitchen sink one day and notice a young lady, who served herself breakfast, dressed herself, put on her glasses, brushed her teeth, is reading everything in sight, cleaned her room, dusted, looks both ways to cross the street, can gather eggs from the chicken coop and will happily empty the dishwasher and put everything away in it’s place.

Photo by Brenda Joy Photography

When we receive the unexpected we expect the worse, we don’t often expect the best.  When Tullie showed up the first thing that popped in my head was, “Crap! She’s gonna live with us forever.” Now, I don’t think I’d mind that too much.  She is the sweetest and most giving.

Tullie has taught me patience.  She has taught me how to be gracious.  She has taught me how to be kind.  She has taught me how to love.  She has taught me how to accept life as it comes.  She has taught me how to respect others.  She has taught me the Gospel.  I wish that everyone got a Tullie.  I think that the world would be kinder and more gentle.

Many times in those early years, people told me, “Jesus knows what He’s doing putting Tullie with you,” and when I heard that I would sneer in my heart. I’d get mad, because I didn’t WANT the inconvenience and it seemed cliche to say because they didn’t know what to say. But, Jesus did.  He knew what He was doing.  He knew what our family needed.  He knew that I would need hugs from a sweet girl, when I had tears in my eyes from grief.  He knew that I would need to see her gleeful proud-of-herself smile when she was sitting up independently at 10 months old while I sat and watched and played with her while I grieved her brother.  He knew that I would need her belly laughs and giggles while we rode in the car.  He knew that I needed her quick wit and snuggles while I wept more tears of loss. Jesus knew.  He knew what our family would need.

So, today, I looked up and my eyes saw a very beautiful, sweet young lady, and she happens to be ours. For that, I feel very fortunate.

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15
January

On Turning 40

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I never write about my birthday, but I’m going to this year.

I’m turning 40 tomorrow.   I’ve now been around the sun 40 times. Four decades. Two score.  When you’re a kid, you never think that being an adult will come and then we turn 40 and we’ve been adulting a lot longer then we’ve been kids.

Josiah asked me the other day if it was fun being an adult. I just chuckled and walked away.  I remember asking my parents the same thing and they chuckled too.

My 40 years is not what I expected. When I was a kid I wanted to be an opthamologist.  I had gone to the eye doctor a lot when I was a kid, so I thought it was a cool job.  Then as I got older, I went on mission trips to Belize and lived in Mexico City for a year after high school, and I decided that I would probably live as a missionary in another country teaching English.  I went to Croatia and Honduras while I was in college.  Then I was home for a summer and started hanging out with my soon to be husband and all ideas of living overseas molded into living in Seattle instead, which was an amazing decision for us.

During my adult life, I have learned that nothing in guaranteed. Something, that sadly, my children have already learned.  We can plan and have dreams, but it does not mean that things will go the way we intend.

I have learned that life will bring hurt.  Hard hurt.  I have learned that it is okay to live with a broken heart. A broken heart does not always heal.  It still bleeds.  It mends and sometimes those scares break and they bleed again.  It’s okay to be broken.

I have learned that my identity is not in what hurt I have experienced, that I am a wonderful housewife or in my ability to parent my children. My identity is not in how many children I have, how many losses I have experienced or that my expectations are not being met.

I have learned that my identity, my safety, my suredness and my hope is only found in one thing. The Gospel. I read Ephesians 1 regularly,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

I have learned, the hard way, that goodness is in the hardness of life.  That Jesus’ goodness is in the hardness of life. That when there is muck and pain and dung, Jesus is there and He is good and his lovingkindness endures forever.

I have learned that God is tough.  He has big shoulders and He can handle my whys and my ugly cries.  He can handle my yells and my anger.  He has given me far more than I can handle, but He can handle it, so I don’t need to worry. (Even in the sound of triteness of those words, I cling to Him being able to handle it.)

I have learned that I am more of a wretched sinner each day, and it is only through His amazing grace that I am able to take breath each day.  For that I am grateful, even as I long for Home.

Everyone has learned so much about life by the time they are 40.  I know that this isn’t new information.  I know that it hasn’t just been learned by me, but these are the things that I have been mulling around in my head and 40 causes us to think about our life.

This next year, my only hope is that Jesus will use this broken vessel and this hurting heart for His glory.  I know that He is, but I also know that He is not done writing this story.

I guess we’ll see what happens next…

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11
January

Worshiping

 

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We were created to worship, and God created us to worship Him.  When man fell into sin in the Garden, man began to worship other things.  There are multiple accounts throughout the Bible of things that man created to worship and man started worshiping God’s creation rather than the One who created it.

Worship is part of us.  Some of us worship success. Strive for the next thing in our career, which isn’t bad, but when it is before God and our family it can become an idol, or worshiping something else like sports teams, our spouses, our self, our friend…the list goes on and on.

As Christians, we strive to worship God.  Not His creation, but instead stand in awe of His creation.  We strive to worship God by working hard at the job and tasks that He has given us to do, but many times we will get distracted by the next thing, and always wanting more.

When we are in pain, when we have experienced loss and when we have been sinned against, we do not want to worship God, rather, we want to worship what is around us, being envious of a friend who has all of her children, being envious of the guy who got the promotion we wanted, or, dare I say, even worshiping our pain.  Pain does not feel good, but it can be a place where we can build a nice tight cocoon where no one can enter and where we may be angry, bitter and resentful.  We are also at home there, no one and nothing else can hurt us if we are more focused on our self then on anybody else.

After my husband’s mom passed away from cancer, we had our daughter, Tullie, a month later and she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and then we had our son, Eli, 10 months later. Our family had had a very tough year. Grueling.  I would stand in church and I was worshiping my pain, because each song that would come up to be sung would be something about how magnificent our Lord was or how good He was, and with each word I would get more and more resentful. I was angry.  I was broken. I was not filled with hope, nor with joy.  I also did not understand the Gospel.

A couple of years after Eli passed away, I started to study.  I started to dig.  I started to read about what Jesus did for me.  I had known it as a kid.  I had believed it.  I had been a Christian since I was 6 years old, but I had yet to understand the Gospel.

Jesus started to use my brokenness, my pain and my suffering to understand the Gospel. I learned the Truth.  I had been hearing it all my life, but I began to learn the Truth.  With each whip that lashed my Savior’s back he took my pain into the wound that the lash left on his body.  The thorns that were pushed onto my Lord’s skull and caused the blood to drip on his brow held my unbelief in the midst of dark moments of grief.  The nail scarred hands and feet that stuck my Savior to the cross for all of the world’s sins, forgave me of my false worship.  That our Lord alone conquered death.  THAT OUR LORD ALONE CONQUERED DEATH!!! And with that conquering of death we do not have hope in this world, but rather a glorious hope of eternal heaven that he is still creating with no more tears. No more pain. No more suffering.  A grand reunion which will be perfect.  And with that conquering of death we have joy and hope in our suffering here, not in this world and most certainly not in our pain, but joy in our Savior and what he has done.

Since we lost our youngest son 15 months ago, we have continued to worship.  Not because we are grander then the next worshiper, but because our Lord is worthy of it.  In our pain there have been guterl cries of “why” and there have been tears of grief that have wet our pillows at night, but Jesus has been gracious and worthy of our worship because of the Truth of the Gospel.  There is not a Sunday that has yet to go by where I have not stood in church with either tears in my eyes or streaming down my cheeks because of the Truth of the Gospel and the desperate need for the Savior to help through the hardness of this earth.

The Lord hears our weary and weeping worship when we are full of pain.  He doesn’t care if we come to him in tears, anguish and screams.  He has large shoulders.  He is always giving us more then we can bare, because he is strong enough to bare it.  He wants to help us in our brokenness.  He wants to help our unbelief. He wants us to grip the threads at the edge of his garment. That’s why he died for us.  That’s why he conquered death.

Psalm 16

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,

nor discipline me in your wrath.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; 

heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. 

My soul also is greatly troubled. 

But you, O Lord-how long? 

Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; 

save me for the sake of your steadfast love. 

For in death there is no remembrance of you;

in Sheol who will give you praise?

I am weary with my moaning;

every night I flood my bed with tears;

I drench my couch with my weeping.

My eye wastes away because of grief;

it grows weak because of all of my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,

for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

The Lord has heard my plea;

the Lord accepts my prayer.

All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;

they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

(emphasis mine)

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15
December

When there are no words…

There are many times when we hear something tragic we feel like we need to say something. When a friend tells us their baby has died inside them. Or when a friend shares about their struggling marriage.  Or when a friend shares that they have lost their job. Or if a friend has lost a family member. Or if a friend discovers that their child is disabled. (The list goes on and on.) There are many times we feel like we NEED to say something.

We don’t.

We don’t need to fill that space with words, because a lot of times there are no words to say and if we did say something it would just be filling a void to make us feel better.

This week, I have had friends and family share hard news with me, and each time I have said, “I have nothing. I have no words.” Even in my prayers for them I have had nothing. My prayers have been considered lame if I was sitting in a prayer circle at church being judged, but they have been prayers of my heart. “Lord, I don’t know what to say. Please help _______. Lord, please help _____. Give _____ wisdom.”

Romans 8:26 says, “…the Spirit intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.” When we don’t have words the Spirit will intercede for us and groan for us. My prayers seem trite and without wordless but our Lord hears our groanings for ourselves and our friends.

We are quick to say something, but not always quick to think. We are quick to fill a void so that we do not feel uncomfortable, but in that uncomfortableness Jesus is there. He does not run away from uncomfortable like we do. He gets in there and He comforts. He also uses His children to comfort others.

A time will come to speak while we walk with our friends, but more often than not the cries of our heart for our loved ones is enough. When the time to speak does come, we must ask the Lord for wisdom and share His word. His Word is the only absolute truth and perfect wisdom for all of our hurting hearts.

 

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