You Don’t Have to Have the Answers

It is hard to update and explain because so much is happening, and I feel like I could write about it for days, but the first thing I need to express is just that I’m being stretched. I know the stretching is for my good, and I’m proud of how we are expanding to overcome and coping with all of the changes and challenges of the past month, and we are so grateful for the people who have surrounded us with love and support. I really do trust that we will be fine eventually, but I still would love to know what is next. So I’m stretched. Stretched in not knowing, stretched in learning to receive, stretched in balancing gratitude with healing.

We have now lived in the beautiful treehouse (as Lucy has named it) for a week, and let me tell you, we love this place. It is an apartment in the upstairs of a metal barn on 10 acres in Northwest Houston owned by very generous friends who took us in with love.  It is fully furnished, and although it isn’t a longterm solution for us, it is an incredibly generous short term solution that allows us to live together with privacy. I don’t think I could pick a better place for us to heal and rest and decide what is next. It is a bit of a drive to the girls’ school, but we don’t mind it. The girls are staying in a room right next to us, which has been helpful as nightmares are still a concern (for all of us, really, but for Grace and Lucy most of all). Nearness to the kids is a gift right now.

Along with nightmares, we all continue to be a little jumpy and easily startled, and each of us is processing in our own way. Lucy constantly wants to play hurricane, I’m usually Harvey, she’s Irma. I know this is normal to play through it, but we are watching all of the girls carefully to help them navigate the effects of the storm. It’s hard for me as an adult to process all that’s happened, I can’t imagine Lucy’s little 4 year old mind. So we are working to communicate and give each other grace.

As we have started to look ahead, we have realized how different we all are in the way we view change. Rebekah and I, the adventurers, pretty quickly started dreaming about what is next, maybe moving somewhere, enamored with the freedom of options. Justin and Grace, the cautious ones, immediately clung to every ounce of stability. They needed some things in our lives to be the same and to steady us. I had to realize, as the parent of a special needs child, that I needed to listen to Grace when she expresses concern about the future.

We don’t talk about this publicly very often, but our sweet girl has overcome so much. We moved to Katy on the advice of her psychologist and neurologist, because Katy ISD is one of the best districts in the city for special needs children, and that decision has paid off. Grace is extremely smart and high functioning, and most people wouldn’t even realize she has special challenges, but in her last school environment she did not do as well. Now, my child is thriving in school, not only excelling in academics but socially as she builds precious friendships. Within weeks we saw a marked change in every aspect of her life, affirming our decision. So when we had to move out of our home after it flooded, and we started discussing possibly moving districts or even schools within the district, it was incredibly stressful for her. At first, I did what every parent does, I gave her thoughts the weight of a child’s in adult decisions. But Justin and I quickly read the fear under her words, and we realized we are seeing our daughter succeed in ways we have rarely seen in her life. So continuing to support her is incredibly important to us. After thought and prayer, we decided that getting her back to her classroom and her friends and giving her stability was our top priority. This house was an immediate gift in that direction, as was the response of our school district after Harvey. Twelve thousand Katy ISD students have been immediately affected by the flood, many of those displaced. The district has worked hard to accommodate us even though we now live far away. The state has officially declared our family homeless, which was humbling and super weird to have happen, but it allows our kids some benefits like school stability and extra support that are necessary to us right now. Wherever we live, Grace has a place in that classroom, and for that we are really grateful.

We are working hard to find a permanent place to live close to, but on higher ground than, our damaged home. Because of the number of homes flooded in Katy, the rental market is insane. After really discouraging web searches, Justin looked at 4 homes in one evening, all were immediately spoken for, unsuitable, or quickly raised prices to a point where we could not afford them. When you have so many damaged homes, everything gets snatched up really quickly, and then there are the people who use the natural disaster to turn an unreasonable profit, and we won’t be a part of that. Our amazing real estate agent is helping us with options either to buy or to rent, but that market is suddenly very challenging. If you are the praying type, we could use it.

But despite the challenges, we are persisting in every attempt to take our girls back home to Katy as quickly as possible. As soon as we have updates on that front, I will write again. But for now, we are healing and growing in this beautiful peaceful treehouse. God is good to us. I feel His peace and provision in ways I didn’t imagine possible. People have been remarkably kind and generous, I can’t tell you how loved and supported we feel. The Church is doing what the church does best, loving on hurting people. It makes me proud and teary and humbled, at a time when I needed to see it, honestly.

For months, I have been learning about daily bread. Each day, I get what I need. I’m trying to learn to not worry about tomorrow or next week or next year, but to be grateful for today’s provision. This entire experience has been the culmination of that lesson. What do you do when you can’t do anything but trust? You trust.

Nichole Nordeman, one of my favorite artists, put out an album right before Harvey came through and upended our world, and I have clung to it these past few weeks. Right now the anthem of this part of the journey is Hush Hush, and every word of it rings true for where we are.

 

“One cup of water at a time, ’til you remember you are mine. I’ll love you back together.”

I don’t need to have the answers, but I know they will come in time. In the meantime, I feel loved and safe, and I recognize how miraculous it is even to feel this way. I’m grateful. Thank you for reading our story, and for loving us through it. YOU are a big part of why this isn’t a negative experience for us, and we are thankful for you.

 

A Time to Rest

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Grace, leaping off the dock. So proud of my sweet girl for conquering her fears and leaping.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28

We just went on a big family vacation with my parents, my brother and his family, and my sister and her boyfriend to Lake Martin, a beautiful lake in Alabama. It was a week at a beautiful place, with my favorite people in the world, and everything in me needed to disconnect and refresh and relax. Since we moved to Houston seven months ago, and even the months leading up to the move, we have been sprinting. Our world, and our children’s worlds, were turned upside down (in the best possible ways), and we haven’t had time to really catch our breath. So we go on vacation knowing we need it, that God has ordained rest for us, and that we are ready to receive that rest and renewal and enjoy one another. I, in particular, had several goals in mind as we left Houston:

1. A rest from being me-centered. Fifty one weeks a year our girls have to comply with our schedule, getting up at a certain time, following certain rules, being places sometimes for hours on end while Justin and I work and serve our church. Although they are not deprived (#firstworldproblems), and they love COF and get our mission here, we also know they deserve a week off to relax and enjoy us. So we try, for these times on vacation, to turn our normal paradigm on its head. They can wake up and go swimming at 7:40 in the morning. They can have ice cream sandwiches at 8:30 pm. We bought fireworks for them to shoot off the bow of the boat. If I had just sat down for the first time that day, but they needed something, I tried to not sigh and make it a big deal, but to get up with joy and let them see that they were more important to me than my rest. I don’t believe in a kid-centered home, and I don’t believe in making our children happy at the expense of making them holy, but for this one week, this fantastic week, I determined to do everything in my power to give them magical childhood memories and make it all about them.

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The cousins.

2. A rest from fears. I am a creative mind, and one of the manifestations of that is that I imagine every possible horrific scenario that can occur at any given time, so I can somehow prepare for it. I do this more when I am stressed or tired or feeling out of control, so I went on vacation at an eleven in the freakout category, to be really honest with you. I was having visions of car accidents, drowning, secondary drowning, heat stroke, boating accidents, critters, brain eating amoebas, furniture falling on children, all of it. So this week I asked the Lord for a rest from that nonsense.  I decided to not give those voices an audience in my mind, to pray when I felt fear, and to not be that mom keeping my kids from having fun because of a Facebook posting of a crazy scenario that is designed to perpetuate fear-based news cycles, that could keep a mother and her children curled up in the fetal position forever. So we swam in lakes, let the kids shoot off fireworks, went tubing, let the kids run around with freedom. And guess what? No nightmare scenarios happened, even without my watchful worrying guard.

The three girls were going to hold hands and jump, and Bekah just couldn't do it. It was so funny watching her let go and just stand there.

The three girls were going to hold hands and jump, and Bekah just couldn’t do it. It was so funny watching her let go and just stand there.

3. A rest from ingratitude. Vacationing with kids is hard, as a mom, and a few times I let myself slip into a pity mentality where I felt tired and wanted a break, but I was continually countering that state of mind with the truth that I am blessed, and that this trip was evidence of how blessed I am. I asked the Lord over and over for the gift of gratitude. One morning I was on a kayak in the middle of the quiet cove where our lake house sat, looking back on the dock where our kids were swimming and laughing, with tears in my eyes. This was my dream for our kids, this idyllic childhood moment, and I was not going to miss the chance to be grateful for it. To be grateful to serve at a place where we have not only the vacation time, but the extra funds to pull off a week like this with our kids. To be grateful for a family who loves us and who wants to travel with us. To be grateful for a mom who conquered her fear of lakes to swim with my kids everyday, and a dad who is the best grandfather I could ever have wished for. To be grateful for the relationships with my siblings that are healthy and affirming, full of life and peace. To be grateful for all the Lord has done in our family’s lives this past year, and how He has carried us. Something about my heart needs beauty and quiet to give God the due He always deserves, and in that moment, on that lake, all I could do was cry with gratitude for where we are in life, all by His design.

It was a great vacation, and was the rest my spirit needed. I met God there, in the squeal of my daughter as she jumped off the dock, and the quiet moments alone, and the love of my sister-in-law as she made a meal for our kids, and the laughter of my family. I am grateful for every moment of it.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1

Take a rest, my friends, sometime this summer, doing what your soul needs. You deserve it, and the Lord will use it.
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The Powerful Woman

“Your husband is a brooder. And brooders brood.” – Bates (Downton Abbey)

powerFor years I have been working through what I believe about women and power (I call it processing, but really, like Bates, it’s brooding). Because there are two extremes in our culture, and I disagree with both. There is the world’s definition of female power, distorted by our enemy until somehow women choose to do things that are absolutely terrible for us to demonstrate we have the right, and then the church’s definition of female power, which in many places is no power at all, or worse, no voice (although certainly not everywhere). Both extremes make me very uncomfortable.

I’ve not always thought about women and power in a righteous way – in fact most often probably the opposite. The rebellious contrarian nature in me (that aged my parents like my rebellious contrarian child ages me) rises up when someone addresses this issue, and I struggle to understand and work through what I believe about rights, submission, surrender, and the power that is mine as a child of the King. I’ll search the Bible for answers, and feel my spirit lift and fall as I read things that encourage or confuse me when it comes to women and power. Paul, for example, writes some pretty strict limitations on women’s leadership, but shortly after praises a female apostle and writes greetings to several women leaders in the early church, and after that says there is no male and female in the Kingdom. It is confusing, and anyone who tells you it isn’t apparently possesses some secret Bible decoder ring that I’d love to borrow for a month or two or forever. And again I’m a contrarian, so I want to know the truth, but I won’t believe something just because you say it is true.

I’ve always been this way. As a child, in my Christian school, I submitted a science fair project on my attempt to determine the point where life begins, studying it both in the Bible and from a scientific viewpoint, trying to work through what I believed. And let me tell you – the entire project didn’t go over well in the school I attended, despite my genuinely pro-life viewpoint (I think I got a 72). Sometimes questions, even asked innocently, make people uncomfortable.

And that discomfort certainly exists when you start discussing women and power in today’s church. We all have a point of view, often shaped by our experiences. For years I served in churches where women on staff were the absolute minority and relegated to non-ministerial “director” roles. On one staff, I was the only woman on the executive staff (terrifying, right?), and I felt like I had to represent all women at a table full of men, all of the time. It exhausted me. So I left ministry, aside from serving beside my minister husband, because I couldn’t figure out how to be me in those environments.

But in the meantime, I kept being drawn to these women who were both powerful and righteous – and I loved watching them be all God had made them to be. I longed to see more of that from the Church that I love.

So this position comes up at Community of Faith for me to serve full-time on a church staff again.  Honestly, I’ve never cried or agonized over a decision more in my life. I actually said no several times. And then I visited here and saw that this church is defined by so many things that move my heart: mission, Prayer, restoring the broken, redeeming the lost. This place is real and simple and powerful. There is freedom here. Beauty. Vulnerability. God’s presence so thick you can feel it. Prayer like I’ve never experienced. I wanted to be here but I was not sold on my role on the staff until I met a woman who demonstrated quiet graceful strength. She is our Pastor’s wife – but we also call her our Pastor. She doesn’t claim that title or call herself that as if it were her right – but she started COF with her husband and her wisdom saturates this place and she completely fills that role in the right way, so that is what we call her, because we honor her. On the drive back to Dallas, after seeing the church and meeting the Shooks, Justin and I talked and wrestled and prayed and processed like our life was on the line – because it was. During that talk, I cried when I told him that meeting her, I finally saw myself here. I knew if I came on staff I would never have to represent all women, because they are very beautifully represented in the women on staff here already. But more than that, I felt like I had seen the right kind of power displayed and honored, and it felt like coming home.

(There are some who will shut down as you read the last paragraph, and I get it. I  hope my heart is coming across correctly, but I also know we all have entirely too much baggage when it comes to the issue of women and the church. We have seen abuses and been taught rules and boundaries quite forcefully, so I get the complexity and discomfort).

So we decide to move here after the Lord confirms our decision about eleven different ways, and I return to full-time ministry. We are at this church, this church of our dreams, serving with people who are fully alive to the world of the Spirit and fully on-mission to reach the world. Last weekend I filmed sixteen people as they were baptized, and our Pastor stood at the top of the steps of the baptistry and said “I’m proud of you” to each one as they timidly stepped into the water and into the new life of obedience to Christ. This place is not perfect, I know, but it is special and the Lord’s hand is here and we are moved by it week after week after week. So many times since we moved here Justin and I have said to each other, “This is worth giving up our lives.”

But even still, it hasn’t been easy for me. I brood. I feel unsettled. Awkward. Striving. Inadequate. Insecure. Too tall. Too loud. Too much. Not enough. I am fighting to process all of this because it is all so new. This new culture. This new paradigm. Even the new roles Justin and I are filling at home and my role at work. In every area of our life there are massive changes, and I am stuck in my head working through them. Most of all, I’m working through how to walk through this door the Lord so clearly opened for our family. Because it’s amazing and refreshing to meet a woman walking in the right kind of power, but it’s hard to be a woman walking in the right kind of power. I feel a little bit like I’m learning to walk again, wobbling between extremes, trying to find my way. Too fearful one moment, too bold the next. Too confident in my own wisdom, then plagued with self-doubt, all the time not relying enough on the wisdom of my Father. My feelings are all over the map, and although rationally I know my feelings aren’t truth – still I feel so many feelings and it makes me uncomfortable.

Finally I come to tonight – and the reason I am writing. There has been some serious violence in our new area in the past months, and the women on our staff were invited to a prayer meeting to stand together against the forces of evil in our town. So I go with some female staff members and staff wives, and we walk into a room with about 16 people total, where we are led in prayer. And it was powerful. All-caps POWERFUL. We are praying in unison, quiet at first, but with more and more boldness as we go. We are humbling ourselves, begging the Lord to intercede and move and change hearts and rescue. We have been afraid, but we aren’t going to live in fear anymore. Instead we are laying down our requests before the God who controls armies of angels. We are also stepping into the power that is ours to fight against the enemy. The leader of the prayer time says,  “We don’t have to take this – we don’t have to be subject to this violence and the schemes of the enemy. We have power in Christ to push back this darkness” and my spirit felt free to walk in that power. It was glorious… and I’m not a person who uses the word “glorious.” We are women, praying in power, as if we have the right to claim this victory and take back this land for the glory of the Lord. Because we do. And I just kept thinking as I left – this is the right kind of power. This is the undefinable thing that moves me about this place.

(As a sidenote, in that room praying with us was one of the most powerful and influential women in the entire Christian world – a name every single one of you would know without question, crying out to the Lord alongside us, revealing the Source of her very formidable strength. When the Lord shows me something, He often has to repeat Himself until even I can’t miss the lesson).

Tonight these conflicted ideas stopped being conflicted for me. The power is not in me, and yet is in me. I am a simple girl. A mess more often than I admit. I know better than anyone how utterly unqualified I am on my own strength to lead anyone or represent the Lord in ministry to a hurting world. And yet I am a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, so His power is in me. He uses me despite my weakness. He empowers me with His strength. And when I walk in that power, there are no limits to what I can or should do for the Lord and His Kingdom. The difference between power out-of-control and beautiful righteous power is the Spirit in which I am walking. Am I walking in surrender to Christ, filled with the Spirit? Then I am powerful and I have no reason to fear or limit myself.

Pray for me, sweet friends, and I’ll pray for you, that we will walk in the power of Christ in the way we were intended, without fear and without a desire to glorify ourselves. And may we progress from infants struggling to walk in this power to daughters dancing and running, pushing back the darkness and bringing glory to the God who created us male and female, for His glory.

For consider your calling, brothers (and sisters): not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God,righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I Cor 1:26 – 31.

I think this is appropriate given the subject matter. 🙂

With Eyes Fixed

My youngest daughter, Lucy, is an active, exploring four month-old. We love this stage, where you can see on her little face her focus and concentration as she learns about the world around her. I also love this stage because she is showing signs of attachment to me as her mom.

photo-21She will be looking around, checking out her surroundings, and something loud will startle her or scare her. If I am in the room, she will turn to me and stare into my eyes before she reacts. If I look at her, smile at her, talk to her in a sing-song voice, and draw her close, she will smile and return to what she was doing because she knows she is safe. If I don’t give her my attention or draw her close, her bottom lip will stick out and she will begin to cry. It is the sweetest thing. This is a very healthy sign of her attachment to me and her understanding that I am a secure base from which she can explore her world (see Bowlby’s attachment theory).

I was thinking about this today and saw a definite correlation to what I, as an adult, look to when I am afraid. I will be going about my day, busy exploring my world… and something scary will happen. Government shutdown. A terror attack in a major city. An unexpected expense. Something in one of my kid’s behavior that seems abnormal. And it unsettles me – it makes me anxious. The fear starts to spiral.

Until I look into the eyes of my Father. Until I remember that He is in control, that my days are in His hands, and that I have a destiny beyond this world. Then I can calm down, secure in the fact that the God of the universe protects me.

Every time I find myself frantic and anxious it is an indicator that I have forgotten to look to my Father. That I have left my primary attachment relationship. When I am making lists and plans, trying to mitigate all the negative circumstances in our lives, feeling alone and abandoned, my fear defines me.  But when I check in with Him first and settle my heart with the knowledge that He is FOR ME, suddenly the very real, and very scary things in our world lose their power to define me.

I need to fix my eyes. I need to seek His comfort. I need to let His Spirit remind me that I am His, and I have no reason to fear. I need to learn from my little Lucy and look to my Protector.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

Talking Ourselves Out of Being Flawsome

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our happiness. Stephen Covey

We are all pretty smart people. God gave us brilliant brains that operate simultaneously on many different levels. We have a thought life, and a personality, and a personal history, we have areas of strength, and areas we feel insecure about, and all of those thoughts result in words, actions, and eventual consequences for those around us. Most of the time the areas of our mind work together to make us sensitive and smart and caring toward the feelings of others.

But occasionally, our actions or our personality can hurt someone around us, damaging a relationship. Or we can feel a sense of conviction about an area of our life that maybe needs improvement, correction, or healing. Someone may even confront us about something that we don’t ourselves see, but as they are speaking, something in our spirit agrees that yes, maybe our actions could be construed a certain way that could be hurtful.

And that is a big important moment in our lives. That is the space Covey described above.

When we are convicted, or realize we’ve hurt someone, or are confronted, it stings. Suddenly we feel tattooed with the scarlet “flaw” and we feel exposed to the world. There is no part of that process that is fun or feels good. And we have this very natural defense mechanism that kicks into high gear when this discomfort of conviction or hurting someone happens. Suddenly our brain rushes to our defense. Our rationalization and reasoning and sense of self-preservation are churning in our minds, minimizing the damage we’ve done and shifting the blame to others. And it is quick and subconscious and completely natural to us as humans (a perfect example is Adam and Eve when they hid their nakedness in the garden and blamed someone else for them eating the apple). We may even have friends or family members who also jump to our defense, ready to do battle with not only our own convictions but with anyone who implies we aren’t perfect, ready to take anyone on who questions our motives. Because in our world, our Christian hard-working world, although we know how dependent we are on grace, it is still hard to admit and deal with flaws and sin in ourselves or people we love.

So there are a cacophony of voices in that important moment of choice. There is the discomfort of conviction. There is the loud insistent voice of defense. There is the voice of embarrassment or shame. There is the stranger in our head of another person’s perspective. There is our anger at being exposed or confronted.

And, if we will stop and listen to it, there is the quiet whisper of our Father.

He is HARD to hear in that moment. I would say, in my life, I have stopped and listened to his voice before reacting maybe 15% of the time. The rest of the time? I have gone off full-bore while listening to one of the other voices. His voice speaks, but is hard to hear in that moment not just because it is quiet but because most of the time, in fact in my case always, He is going to say what I don’t want to hear. He is going to call us to “die to ourselves” and to “take up our cross” and to “turn the other cheek” and to “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord.”

And let’s be honest. We much prefer the scenario where the other person is just “too sensitive” or the standard is “impossibly high” or we just had a “moment of weakness,” where we can shrug our shoulders and say “we’re human and we’ve done our best” and we can go on, unchanged but fully justified in our reasoning.

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Image courtesy wearealight.com

But when we listen to His voice, his quiet voice, something amazing happens. I worked with a speaker last week who talked about being “flawsome” (and can I tell you how much I love that word?). He said in our failures, there is always an opportunity to grow, and if we could learn to “fail forward,” learning and growing as we fail fearlessly, we could transform ourselves, and our relationships, to where we are truly living a healthy, flawsome life.

It’s comforting to convince yourself that your biggest problems are outside you; the problem is, it’s not true, and for this you need grace. Paul David Tripp

So how do we turn the uncomfortable moment of conviction into the flawsome life? How do we silence the loud voices of rationalization and hear the quiet voice of Jesus calling us to confess sin? How do we go from feeling crummy and flawed to feeling flawsome? I think we do what the Bible tells us to do. We humble ourselves. We approach our God and confess our sin. We admit again that we need his grace. We approach each other with love and humility – even when it is hard. We say we are sorry, even if the offense was never our intent. We lay down our lives for each other. We heal. We grow.

The tragedy is not that we hurt each other or that we fail. The tragedy is that we settle for that – we leave ourselves and our relationships there, instead of growing beyond it. And doing so is beneath us, as Christ followers, and beneath the genuine community to which we have been called. We must confess to each other and forgive each other. I have an aunt who does this so well. She and I have battled, and she has forgiven me and she chooses to love me, despite me. Our relationship is stronger because it has scar tissue reinforcing it. I treasure my relationship with her. It is an example to me.

When we follow Jesus’ way, we all get a little more flawsome, together. It’s hard. It hurts. It means listening to the still small voice. But it is so much better than talking ourselves out of change, and healing, and being flawsome. It reminds us that it has always been not about our goodness, but about his grace. And that is awesome.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. Titus 3:4

Jesus I can talk myself out of so much that is good for my soul. Help me with this. Please help me to not be afraid of the flaws that I know are inherent to my nature. Please help me hear your voice of conviction in my many moments of sin and hurting others, and to act on that conviction without hiding my sin and shame. Thank you for your grace that covers over all that is flawed in us.

Raw – A Response to Newtown

I’m raw. I feel bruised. The light seems too bright, the noises too near. Today, the fact that this world is not our home is overwhelming. We took our girls, 3 and 5, to a restaurant last night and I felt exposed and fearful. I saw adults look at them with kindness and sadness, and even that made me want to hide them away. I live half a country away, my girls are safe, and I feel traumatized. I cannot fathom how people in that tiny town in Connecticut feel, especially the ones who woke up today to realize that the nightmare of yesterday was real and that their home is truly empty. I ache for them.

It is like we are all grieving. And the stages of grief are flowing over us.

Courtesy WKOW

Courtesy WKOW

Denial. Yesterday I kept praying that the media was wrong, that they’d somehow find the children okay. That a survivor would be found. That somehow this was all not really happening.

Anger. I confess – I’m furious at everything. Furious at our enemy (damn you. Your end is certain, and I pray it is soon. Jesus has won.). Furious at sin and the death that has wrapped itself around humanity since the garden. I am READY for its power over us to be OVER. Furious at the killer. Furious that he could get his hands on weapons that are that lethal and quick. Furious at our broken mental health system and the casual culture of violence as entertainment. Furious at everyone who is racing to defend their position instead of putting everything on the table to FIX THIS and STOP IT. I’m livid. I just want it to stop. I hate this fear.

Bargaining. I want it not to be true. I keep analyzing it thinking what would have happened if one factor had changed, wondering why and how someone could EVER do this, and even looking at my own kids and begging God to somehow spare them the hurt of this broken evil world.

Depression. I can’t stop crying. Yesterday a scary part came on a movie and Bekah curled up next to me and said, “Mom, will you protect me?” and I prayed “Jesus please” as I cried and held her tight. I just keep imagining those rooms and what those babies saw and felt. I see my Grace’s kindergarten classroom in my head as I read the stories and my heart breaks for those parents. How do they go on? I pray and I pray all day and although I want this to lift I know that for thousands in Connecticut this won’t lift for years, if ever. So I pray and I ask the Lord to somehow supernaturally let my sadness ease someone else’s – let me, from afar, bear another’s burden and lift their sadness. That maybe a parent or a family member or a counselor or a first responder or a teacher or someone in that town will be able to breathe today because I felt a little of their weight on my chest.

Acceptance. I don’t know how any of us are supposed to ever accept any of this. It is fundamentally against all I believe – life and hope and love and the promise of the future. I am grateful that Jesus drew little kids to himself and I believe that those children are with him tonight, and that gives me a small measure of hope, but honestly even that doesn’t seem enough.

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

So what do we do while we grieve? How do we lift this sadness? Should we even want this sadness to lift? I don’t know. How can we help these broken families? What do we do with this helpless feeling?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

We’re trying to process and yet protect our kids from even knowing it happened. We are letting each other cry and vent. We are praying with all we know to pray for the families in Newtown. We are holding our kids tight. We are trying to shine light into a world so dark, and asking the Lord to renew our hope even in the midst of this sorrow. I know Jesus is the answer – and I pray that somehow in this people will turn to him and find comfort and hope. We are asking the Lord to return soon, and to give us strength in the meantime. We are worshiping and praying – listening to hymns of hope and strength. We are sad and sorry and just trying to stand despite all of those feelings.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

Shifting Gears

Courtesy NY Daily News

Still taking a break from Facebook, mostly because I want to still love everyone I know once the election is over.  I have gotten back on Twitter, because without cable, it’s my news source. But even that I’m taking in small doses.

I have shifted modes, though. The damage on the eastern seaboard and the storms plaguing 20% of the American population are heavy on my mind. It has forced a perspective shift. So I am no longer praying for the election or worrying about the outcome. I prayed for months before I voted about who to vote for, and I know that the Lord is in control.

No man in the White House has the power to save us or condemn us, and no matter who wins, our country has survived worse.

I am praying for the people in our land, and in the lands around us also hit by the storms. For those who have lost loved ones, for the thousands displaced from their homes and their businesses, for the millions of people without power on this cold night and the cold nights coming with the next storm hitting in days. For the relief workers, local government leaders, and first responders who are exhausted. For the millions of people processing the events of the past week – for their PTSD-affected minds and hearts. Jesus be near and give peace. We need the voice that said “Peace, be still” to the waves, and the waves obeyed, to speak in might and power and shift this newest storm away from these hurting people.

I am also praying for our country after the election. For peace in our land. For the side that loses to respect and honor the leader the Lord has allowed to be at the head of our country. For protection for our next president. For whoever wins to lead with honor and wisdom. For the voices of division and hatred to be silenced. For the next president to humble himself in the sight of the Lord, so that He may lift them up. I believe that neither of them is too far gone for the Lord to draw to Himself, and that is what I am praying for, in faith. The weight of a nation is too big for any man – and I am praying whoever wins would take that weight to the one Power strong enough to carry it.

I’m shifting gears. I’m praying hard. I’m believing for good. And I hope you’ll join me.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Psalm 107:28-31