the shadow side

img_1604

there is a conflict in my soul as of late that i have not been able to put words to.  my words here have slowed as i wait and navigate through whatever it is i’m having trouble saying, or am afraid to say.  i write, i publish, and then i delete.

this morning i found the words, but they didn’t come from inside of me.  they came from another kindred soul who took the time to stop and ponder, to search the heart, to write this down.  here is what she said:

“By the time we show up at conferences, feet padding the plush carpet of yet another hotel, we strive to look grown up in our Sunday clothes and polite (if not well-rested) faces. We do, of course, try to have good things to say. We strive to articulate all we believe and present a gracious face to the world. But a whirlwind of hard work and sore shoulders, heartache and heart-searching lies behind us. Imperfect attitudes, impatient words, and discouragement are the shadow side of the inspiration that propels us forward. We struggle, we grapple, we cry. We also laugh and cook and sing. We wash a thousand dishes and cook a thousand good meals and light the candles every evening and play our classical music. Behind every conference we throw or speech we give are countless quiet days of hard work and hard choices. I’m not saying that we live differently than the ideals we hold forth. I’m saying that we fight like wild men to attain them and we have been fighting for as long as I can remember.”  Read more here:  ~Good and Hard, Lifegiving Home Series~

i don’t know how to write the balance.  i also know it needs to be written, because the shadow makes the light shine true.  the shadow is where our humanity bonds.  without the shadow, words become merely a manmade fluorescent imposter. without love, i create nothing but an idolatrous shrine for myself.

there is fine line between too much good and too much hard.  i live daily in the temptation and fall into sin.  i live daily in the redemption and joy of God’s gifts. i live daily in the tension of a paradox that i’d rather not admit because i cannot fully understand.

The truth I find is that every good thing I know requires hard work. It requires, not just a dose of effort to get it started, but the grit to hold fast and keep on when the inspiration fails. Day in and day out, a life that is in any way good requires steady labor, something I don’t always factor in when I am dreaming about the lovely things I’ll make and the heroic deeds I’ll accomplish. The good life – here in a fallen world where what was meant to be good was broken – is a hard life. We fight fallenness in every atom of existence. But every bit of the goodness we we make proclaims the someday new heaven and earth. And somehow, brings the kingdom come, even amidst the shadows.”

“They who fight much, who endure each other’s quirks, who ride out the tempests of difficult circumstances and personalities, who laugh and weep and watch each other’s creation know a comradeship that can only come from the brotherhood of battle. The victory we have, the love that knits us close was only to be forged in struggle...

The truth is that we have wrestled with God over and over again, every one of us, just like Jacob in the wilderness grappling with sin and pain and the strange presence of the Almighty. In striving to create new things, to live our ideals, to keep communion, we wrestled with God in our hearts and we wrestled with God in each other. Every inch of ground we gained in love came with years of hard battle. But we fought forward, knowing that to fight was to hope and even to love, because it was a kind of journey. We were fighting our way back to each other and not away. We were grappling toward beauty and we wrestled until we were blessed. We strove until we overcame.

That, I suppose, it at heart of what I am striving to understand, to tell myself here and as I do, tell you too. If love is to be formed, if families are to stay close, if  stories or songs are to be made, if ideals are ever to be kept, hard work is the high and never-ending cost. In a fallen world, where the good that was meant to be was broken, we have to wrestle every day to love God, to do justice, to love mercy, to make beauty. But God wrestles with us. His Spirit incites us to the fight with visions of the good that was meant to be. His Son joins us in the battle, brother and lover who suffers so that we may overcome. And the Father waits at the end of our battle, the “great rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Tears are flooding my eyes as i write, as i realize this labor i’ve so often bemoaned and despised and rejected and fled from, this hard work she speaks of–there’s another word for it:

Suffering.

God is disciplining me.

He is binding me to Himself.

He is wooing me deeper into His love.

 

the field work

img_1393

“Mom?   You know why I think this is so hard for you sometimes?”

“Why’s that?”

“Because we’re boys.  And you grew up with girls.”

img_1376

i’ve always thought i somehow inherited an abnormal dose of masculine warrior blood. while i have no problem getting in touch with my sensitive and nurturing feminine side, there’s a part of my heart that was made to unite and conquer.

i was born to fight.

 

i was born to die.

img_1411

so it thrills me beyond belief

to let the boys be boys–

img_1222img_1224dsc_0014

and while one of my biggest reasons for wanting to homeschool was so my kids can spend their days exploring the world

it completely freaks me out of my mind.

It kills me.

life lessons

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.”
~Psalm 126:5~

 Anthony Esolen was right.

I am the student here.

“Because the people God uses don’t have to know a lot of things, or have a lot of things–they just have to need him a lot.”
~Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible~

There is no way but to trust

“that he who goes out weeping, bearing seeds for sowing;
shall come home with shouts of joy”
~Psalm 126:6~

There is no way but to trust

that “Every word of God proves true…”
~Proverbs 30:5~

Morning by Morning: I was going to do it right

img_1053

(originally written for Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife)

I was supposed to be a good wife and a good mom.

That was my plan. That was my dream. I wanted to be the wife ready to greet my husband, tired after his long and draining day, with a warm meal and a warm heart. I’d admire his quiet strength, his stable spirit, and his steadfast love and dedication to God and family. I’d daily be thankful for how hard he worked and how much he sacrificed to provide for me and the children. And I don’t know about you, but motherhood was going to be my crowning joy and shining achievement. I wasn’t going to be like those other moms. I was going to be the beautiful mom who loved. I’d rock my babies to sleep in the night and whisper sweet lullabies in the quiet of dawn. The children and I would spend our days singing and reading and cuddling under blankets and sipping hot chocolate and going on walks through the gentle breeze of summer.

Great expectations sure make for great stories. Girls are not the only ones to begin new chapters with such high hopes. A shepherd boy from Bethlehem had his own heart full of dreams. The anointed one’s story began before his time. The children of Israel had begged God for a king, and they got one, but King Saul’s reign hadn’t gone so well. The king was only human, which also meant he was deeply flawed. Spending years on the run as an innocent outlaw, David knew first-hand how bad things could get when the Lord’s servant goes astray. Following the tragic falling away of King Saul, David sets his bar high, hoping to redeem the image of God’s king.  Young and newly crowned, the man after God’s own heart opens his lips, and out flow the words of Psalm 101:

I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, LORD, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life–
when will you come to me?

I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.
I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.

The perverse of heart shall be far from me
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.

Psalm 101:1-4

In politician fashion, he continues for eight devout verses, zealous in his intent to put away falsehood, walk in purity of heart, and execute justice, not only in his own household, but throughout the entire kingdom. This time things will be different.  David will walk in the ways of God. Goodness will reign. Wickedness will swiftly be dealt with. He will see no evil, hear no evil, fear no evil on his divine watch. He ends the Psalm with this solemn pledge: “Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the LORD.”

Morning was the time for bringing criminals to justice. (Thank-you to the unknown Lutheran Study Bible contributor for that enlightening study note)! Imagine you’re a prisoner the night before the big trial. Maybe you’re the falsely accused, eating crumbs with the riff-raff, suffering for a wrong you didn’t commit. Maybe you’re the pauper caught stealing red-handed. Maybe you’re the dreamy Jerusalem lover boy standing face-to-face with the prophet Nathan, coming undone as your secret sins of adultery and murder are coming uncovered. Maybe you really don’t care and have no idea why any of this even matters. Maybe you’re just tired of getting out of bed every day and facing the reality of all your daily shortcomings.

Talk about some sleepless nights. How many times have you reached the day’s finish line, thoroughly burdened by how much you’ve blown it? We were too much this or not enough that.  “If only” becomes the new song of our lives. It’s easy to remember all the sinful ways we have failed and continue to do so. The weary soul lies down, not to sleep in peace, but to toss and turn in the dungeon of our own guilt. A mother’s heart seems especially vulnerable to this. It doesn’t matter how tired you are or how much you tried or didn’t try. Your flesh condemns you the moment your head hits the pillow—the very moment God has given you for rest.

We need a King to save us from all the oppression. God gave us one. The King of kings endured His cross for a very specific reason—because He wanted us. Though we couldn’t live up to our own standards, or God’s, He still loved us. From before the foundation of the world, He knew our names, our dreams, our passions, our stories. He knew the ways life wouldn’t play out and the ways it would. He knew the depths of our fallen natures we never even knew we had. He knew no woman would ever make it to the end of her life—or the end of the day– without a desperate need for God’s forgiveness.

Christ has come to give us new things to remember. We all know what happened with Israel’s bright and hopeful king. God redeemed his life from the pit. God restored the joy of his salvation. God kept His promise that a Son from David’s body would forever reign on the throne. David was a good king because he had a good God who forgave him for all the ways he wasn’t good. As the broken man could only find out through his failure, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. Justice has been served through Jesus.

Jesus endured the morning trial. He endured the sleepless night in Gethsemane. Mornings are now the time for new mercies. Mornings restore a brighter light to the earth, shining the joy of fresh perspective and unmistakable arrival of a brand new hope. While we continue to bear the weight of our cross, we no longer carry the weight of our sin. Great expectations remain in our hearts because great expectations are inspired by God. He inspires a hope that is out of this world. He sets our minds, our eyes, and all our hearts on things above. He lifts us up to hope in Christ. For in Him, every day is a new beginning, and in Him, every morning I witness a miracle.

I become the wife and mom He always wanted me to be.

~~~~~

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide  
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten-thousand beside!
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Great is Thy Faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All have I needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

the visible spectrum

I wish you could hear these trees.

God has given me such a beautiful place to thrive. In the parsonage, I could always look out my back window, at the fields and the sky, and be filled with just enough hope.  That I could see the sunset every night, that my children had a wide open space to run free, that I could sunbathe in my backyard with beauty and privacy, these were precious gifts that lit the world to me.  These were signs that God was good, that He remembered me.

For God so loved the world, he filled the world with colors.  Color can’t exist without light.  I don’t know how to explain this, but for me, seeing is believing.  If I can’t see, if the world goes completely dark, with no color or music to translate into light, I am lost.   There is nowhere to go, nowhere to run, nowhere to fly, nowhere to sing. I’m like a bird with no wings,unable to be what I was created to do.  This is where God makes His greatest moves. This is where Jesus comes in.

“Thy  Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

“God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all.”

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men…”

With Jesus I can see again.

With Light we join the choir.