Mercy

“A beggar poor at Mercy’s door, lies such a wretch as I;
Thou knowest my need is great indeed, Lord, hear me when I cry.”~Samuel Medley

Throughout my life of faith, grace (or rather Grace), has meant everything to me. The knowledge, belief ,and experience that Grace is real, has been my bedrock. Grace: being given something I didn’t ask for and don’t deserve that’s more than I could imagine. I’ve been given saving Grace, sustaining Grace, guiding Grace, and forgiving Grace. It’s all a gift.

Lately, another reality of God ignites my soul: Mercy.
Grace is all about Love…free, unconditional, pure, saving love.
Mercy possesses a different quality. Mercy suggests being spared from something. There’s an element of judgement in Mercy that makes it even more wonderful. I deserve “A” but am shown Mercy and get “B” instead. Beautiful.

The words above by Samuel Medley**, grip my heart each time I hear them. I show up, beggar poor–nothing to offer, nothing to give–at Mercy’s door. He opens the door and instead of sending me away empty-handed or throwing me some scraps and then slamming the door in my face, He invites me in. Essentially, because of sin, we’re all strangers to Him. And yet, even as a stranger, because of His Mercy, He opens the doors wide open. He asks me to live there, in this place of Mercy.

But here’s the thing, if I leave Mercy’s door, I leave beggar-poor again. I can’t go there, fill up, and expect to distribute the wealth I’ve been given as if I were Father Christmas. No, I come a beggar, and if I leave, I leave a beggar. So often, we, as Christians, talk about being “filled” in such a superficial way. It’s as if you can tank up on God like you would gas and run for a while until you’re empty and then go back for more filling. He’s not a cosmic gas station. I come to God with nothing and I leave Him with nothing.

The only way I can share His love –the only way to be “filled”– is by staying at His Mercy Door. Jesus put it this way in the book of John:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” 

When we stay in His presence, we become a channel or instrument of His grace, love, forgiveness and mercy and not a distributor of it. God, may we show up beggar poor at your door and feast on your welcoming Mercy so others may experience it as well.

**The words are lyrics from “Love me to the End”; a hymn by Medley and covered by Red Mountain Music. Take a listen…

***Posting from the archives today

 

 

Finding Freedom

**make sure to watch both videos in sequence.

We struggle under the weight.
The failed relationships.
The strained marriages.
The wayward children.
The painful life not quite left behind.
The job we hate.
The words we can’t take back.
The words we can’t forget.
The sorrow of letting go either through death or circumstances.
The forever tight finances.
The hounding health issues.
Sometimes, we shove all of it, all the burdens, into our briefcases or purses or backpacks and lug them around.
We become accustomed to their mass and bulk.
Even comfortable under the load.
We don’t see that after a while, they don’t just burden us, but everyone around us.
Failure.
Disappointment.
Unmet expectations.
Unfulfilled dreams.
Past mistakes haunt.
Past abuses cling.
Careless, painful words echo.
Fear hangs.
We weave our tortuous way along life’s path with burdens strapped to us like extra appendages.
Or tumors.
We hide.
We fight.
We run.
We labor.
Eventually, we will buckle under the weight.

Is there hope?
As Easter approaches, I’m reminded that yes, Hope exists and my belief is renewed.

Writing about Jesus, the prophet Isaiah brings Hope:
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

Then a few chapters later, he wrote more about Jesus:

He has sent me to tell those who mourn    
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,  
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning,    
festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks    
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins,    
repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them,    
though they have been deserted for many generations.

We do not have to live, breathe and move with our burdens defining us and disfiguring us. 
There is Hope.

A Quieter Grief

Subtle, nagging, tugging, I felt the grief pulling at my heart all day. Through worship, memories, sights, and sounds, I felt his absence.  Tears threatened and spilled over and I cried for the missing and the longing.

It’s been a big year in the life of my family–engagements, graduations, jobs, marriages, moves– and we didn’t get to share it with him. It’s not like he feels like he’s missing anything–he’s in Glory experiencing ultimate joy and complete rest. For the last three years, he’s understood an eternal perspective that I can only grasp at like a child chasing a bubble.

So I didn’t cry for him today. I cried for me. I cried for the missing and the longing.

Quiet grief blanketed me today as I remembered.  And that’s ok. Quiet, private, intimate memories trickled into my consciousness. The beautiful legacy of love and grace that he left behind gently washed over my soul. I reveled in the exclusiveness and privacy of my grief. That may sound strange, but God brought His healing balm as I walked this quiet grief-road primarily alone.

I don’t know what loss you’ve experienced. I have no idea how far along you are in your journey of grief. Maybe it’s fresh and new and your pain is public. Maybe people are starting to forget even as your own longing ache intensifies. I pray, no matter your surroundings and circumstances along the way, you’ll take comfort in the One who always walks beside you.

Lasting Legacy“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” -Jesus 

Healing balm

I just finished reading The Hunger Games at school with a few sophomore students. Two times, Katniss faces injury and needs medical help, once for herself and once for her partner, Peeta. In both instances, help arrives just in time. Both times, she’s provided with a goopy balm that brings both relief and healing. Both times she knew she needed help. She knew the situation was beyond her and both times she had no choice but to wait for someone to show mercy.

It’s been a whirlwind week and weekend. Graduation, parties, wedding stuff, end of the school year busyness and daily life kept us all on our toes and living moment to moment. We made it. We celebrated milestones and enjoyed it all. But honestly, most of the time, I was one step away from a wreck. Trying to hold it together emotionally and stay on top of home life and work and all the extras felt overwhelming. At each moment when I didn’t think I’d make it to the next without a meltdown, help arrived. Not in the form a beeping, parachuted tin of balm like Katniss received, but  in the form of people. Calming words, reassuring hugs, and surprise guests eased my burdens. My kids and friends and family stepped up and stepped in and provided an amazing graduation party for our daughter. My sisters and sisters-in-law threw a spectacular shower for my other daughter. My sweet mom did my laundry and dishes and held things down on the homefront. They were all a healing balm to my weary soul and I’m beyond grateful. I could not have walked through the last week without them.

And then, in the middle of it, we got the late-night call every parent dreads.  Our son and his girlfriend were in a car accident. Thankfully, mercifully, both my son and his lovely friend were miraculously unharmed but somewhere on CR 38 is a concussed deer who got the better of the 2005 Honda. In the dark, rainy night, Brad and I drove N & C back home and in the midst of relief, I worried. Although they were safe and sound, I could tell they were both shaken and my son was beating himself up over the accident. I tried to speak reassuring words. I tried to bring comfort, but it was still fresh and scary. Then, when we arrived home and walked in the door shortly before midnight, all his siblings were waiting to give hugs and listen to the stories. They provided relief that I could not. As a parent, it was an absolute joy to see and hear them surround their brother and friend with love and support and laughter. They were healing balm to an injured spirit and it was beautiful.

IMG_7078Paul says to the Roman people “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other.”  The entire weekend was a beautiful picture of community. At every turn, friends and family were sharing our joy, lightening our load and comforting us in our pains, insecurities, and shortcomings. We experienced servanthood and mercy and generosity and grace upon grace upon grace. Thank you, you beautiful souls, who lived life with us this weekend. Thank you for your selfless giving of time and talent and resources. Thank you for setting up and taking down and serving food and cleaning up and filling in the gaps and taking photos and making runs to the grocery store and planting flowers and giving hugs and speaking wisdom and for bringing joy. Thank you, my own dear children, for being there for one another and for providing a healing balm to one another in a fallen world. I love you all and thank God for you.

And to those reading, let this be an encouragement to show up for people. Be community for others. Share their burdens. Lighten their loads. Be generous with your gifts. Be a healing balm to a weary soul today.

time

Where does it go? Every minute has 60 seconds, every hour 60 minutes every day 24 hours and on and on. Each increment of time stays the same. Time’s a funny thing isn’t it? A day or week can drag on and seem an eternity but a year can fly by. When I think back over my life I’m struck by the fact that there are entire decades that are a blur. How did I get from age 18 to 49? My kids are practically grown and I know I didn’t miss their growing up, but there’s a lot of it I simply don’t remember. How can this be? I don’t want to forget life. I don’t want to forget this time–this busy time of graduations and weddings and kids moving out and back and out again. I don’t want to forget people and places I’m experiencing. I’d like time to slow down, please.

This picture of my dad & me from three years ago popped up this morning in the “On This Day” feature on Facebook. There’s so much about Facebook that bugs me, and yet, this is what I love about it. This brief moment in time from three years ago, brought back to me today.

Padre

Three short and long years ago I heard his voice. Three short and long years ago I could hold his hand and smell his cologne and see his million-dollar smile. Three short and long years ago he still drew breath from his tumor-ridden lungs. Three short and long years ago he and mom could sit, side by side, in sweet harmony, a complete pair. Three short and long years ago he still graced this earth. Three short and long years ago, he and mom could have made the trip to Iowa for graduations and concerts and presentations and life events. I know he’s not really missing anything–I mean who would trade the glory of heaven for the stuff of earth? No one. He wouldn’t come back if he could and that’s ok. But, I miss him and wish he could be here to share life with us.I miss talking to him–we were so alike in many ways that he often understood things I couldn’t articulate well. I miss his intellect and depth. I miss the way he could knowlegibly converse on any topic at any time. I miss how he used to stand right in the middle of whereever you needed to be and not realize he was in the way. I miss his quick wit, movie quotes, and bear hugs. I miss that he’d be so proud of his grandsons and granddaughters and he’d love meeting the beautiful souls their choosing as their life-partners.  I miss him. We miss him.

I keep trying to figure out how to end this post, some way to make it more universal (although grief is universal). But really, all I feel today is sad and a deep longing to simultaniously turnback and speed up time.

Washing the Windows

A few weeks ago, I got rid of my 22-year-old lace curtains and purchased new (hopefully a bit more modern) ones. Because of the style change, my once-hidden windows were now fully exposed and the dirt was thick. So, I did it. I washed the windows*. Now, dear reader, you need to understand that my ancient home boasts 23 windows, 21 of which have storms–heavy, antique storms. It proved to be a Big Deal and my dear husband, although a trooper, was a little annoyed at the level of his involvement (which was both necessary and vital because I’m not that strong or handy). When we finished, it felt like a huge accomplishment and my nice, clean view of the outside world thrilled me. Literally, the house felt lighter.

I needed new curtains. I wanted new curtains. And my new curtains look great. However, my incredibly dirty windows overshadowed my new curtains. Until I cleaned the underlying grime on my windows, the appearance of the curtains didn’t matter much. But here’s the thing, washing the windows in my old house was an arduous task (which is why I hadn’t done it in so long). It required help from my husband. It required time and strength and elbow grease and ladders and tools and that was just the prep work. For the actual washing of the windows, it required cleanser and newspapers.** Washing my dirty windows wasn’t a quick or easy job and I can’t just do it once and never again. As long as I live in this house, the windows will get dirty and I’ll have to periodically repeat the process.

As I stood on the ladder, sweating and scrubbing, trying not to fall and honestly, cursing under my breath, I couldn’t help but think of the window-washing that our lives need. We can begin new habits. We can change behaviors, but until there is healing of our hearts, the change is only superficial. Until we do the hard work of removing the layers–prying away the storms– and scrubbing each clean, we won’t see the outside world clearly. We’ll be looking through layers of our dirt. The filth might be caused by childhood trauma, rebellious mistakes, or profound loss. But no matter the cause, if we’ve lived without processing and healing, the dirt builds up and our perspective clouds. It’s difficult to see people and situations truthfully or objectively because we view everything through our messy filter. We take things personally. We hold grudges. We envy others. We make excuses for our mistakes instead of owning them. We may think others are out to get us. Whatever dirt cakes our view makes others look yucky too. And it’s no way to live and it’s not fair to the people in our lives.

Grief is a hard road to healing. Counseling to overcome childhood trauma is a hard road to healing. Confronting family members and dealing with crap is a hard road to healing. Honestly evaluating your own choices and the motives behind them is difficult and often digs up even more stuff, and is a hard road to healing. Getting out of debt and dealing with financial mistakes and burdens is painful and is a hard road to healing. But if we want to be mature, healthy, functioning people, we have to clean up the crap and stop covering up the dirt and living with 22-year-old curtains.

I don’t know what your view is today.

Maybe you’re realizing just how dingy the windows are and you’re sick of it. Seek help. Ask someone you trust (or at least respect) where to begin.

Maybe you’re in the middle of a hard road to healing. If you are, you can do it–truly, you can do this–your view will not always be so cloudy. You will see the sun shining brighter.

Maybe you’ve walked that hard road and are experiencing a fuller, healthier life. If that’s the case, travel alongside someone struggling today.Tell them your story. Be a voice of encouragement and hope for them.

No matter where you find yourself this morning, I pray for God’s strength, healing and hope for your heart.

*side-note: it started raining within 24 hours and didn’t quit for several days. Of course.

**my Mom-in-law’s cleaning tip from eons ago: use newspapers instead of paper towels or rags–it’s cheaper & won’t leave any lint or residue.

When the washing machine breaks…

The washer broke yesterday. Daryl, the repairman, asked if it sounded like a jet engine when it was spinning. Yes, Brad answered. It’s the bearings, he replied.

I demanded much from that washer and it delivered. Over its lifetime, I estimate it washed almost 9,000 loads. If the old washer could talk, it would tell tales of late-night loads of barf-filled sheets and early morning spins of the basketball uniform worn the night before and needed immediately. Four kids and two adults (and lots of college kids) used it for jersey’s, Pizza Ranch uniforms, sweaty running gear, dusty work clothes, frosting-filled aprons, towels, and the occasional delicate.

It had a good run; then it died.*

And the washer dying? Almost sent me over the edge–into a full melt-down mode. In the middle of telling myself to get a grip and stop freaking out over the washer dying, I stepped back and thought of our lives the last few weeks.

In the past 16 days…
We welcomed one child back home and said goodbye to another.
We celebrated an engagement, two new jobs and a birthday.
We ate meals, worked our jobs, cleaned our house, hosted guests and made two unplanned trips.
We bought a wedding dress.
We mourned with a broken-hearted sweetie.
And the washer broke.

It was the dead washer that broke this camel’s back.

My friend sent me an Andrew Peterson song earlier this week called Be Kind to Yourself. He wrote it for his daughter, but it speaks to me in the middle of my mess. Many of us are good at being kind to others, but being kind to ourselves can be difficult. Every fault, every frustration, every past mistake, every instance of shame & regret, every dumb word spoken comes rushing back in moments of frailty and we mercilessly beat ourselves up. I’m so frail, people. I suspect, no matter the tough mask you wear or the high walls you build, you’re frail too. And instead of being kind to ourselves in our frailty and humanity, we scold ourselves and try to muscle our way through it. If you’re like me, something stupid like the washer breaking may make you doubt God’s love. It’s ridiculous, and yet I believe we all do it. We doubt that the Creator of the Universe could actually love us. I regularly doubt it. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s true. Doubt is why I write so many “It’s the Little Things” posts; the posts are my exercise in practicing belief. I believe learning to be kind to ourselves is also an exercise in practicing belief.

Yes, I need to get over myself and look at the big picture. Yes, I need to rejoice and give thanks for the countless blessings given to us. Yes, I need to remember and believe and practice faith. And yes, in all of that, I can be kind to myself and not beat myself up for feeling stretched thin.

I don’t know what your broken washer is today. I don’t know what *thing* will feel like too much. I don’t know what may cause a meltdown in your heart today. I guess I just ask you to join me in trying to remember God’s love and be kind to yourself in the middle of the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

*(side note–perhaps that should be on my tombstone: “She had a good run; then she died.”)

 

It’s the little things.

it’s warmth and shelter in the middle of the storm
it’s card games and Mario Cart and wii
it’s lingering over books
it’s baking cookies and bread to enjoy together
it’s a selfless man who constantly and consistently works hard with no need for a spotlight
it’s food for sustenance and enjoyment
it’s soothing, soul-feeding music
it’s more than enough of everything even when my warped view tries to tell me otherwise
it’s reading Truth freely and without constraint
it’s sharing memories over old photos
it’s prayers prayed with the same, loving man for nearly 3 decades
it’s the love and affection and friendship of mothers and daughters and sisters
it’s laughter, unforced and free
it’s a future Hope of more than enough Grace
it’s everyday reminders that we’re not alone…
and there is a God…
and He does love us…
it’s grace in the little things and as well as the big.

It’s the little things.

it’s waking up to a world covered in a million white sparkles
it’s time spent with my sweet mom
it’s phone calls with my sisters
it’s the countless games of cards played around the table
it’s praying as each loved one came and left again
it’s finding meaning in the mundane
it’s knowing growth will come
it’s the words of hope and comfort that sooth the weary soul
it’s hope that life isn’t lived in vain
it’s experiencing peace and rest amid a strife-filled world
it’s conversations so long and meaningful that your coffee gets cold
it’s help with the dishes
it’s the joy of hearing familiar voices after long absences
it’s laughing until you cry
it’s sharing struggles and rejoicing in victories
it’s finding a draft you meant to post two weeks ago
it’s everyday reminders that we’re not alone…
and there is a God…
and He does love us…
it’s grace in the little things and as well as the big.

Seek

 

Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me. My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival. I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together. ~Jesus

I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is like a branch that is tossed out and shrivels up and is later gathered to be tossed into the fire to burn. If you abide in Me and My voice abides in you, anything you ask will come to pass for you. Your abundant growth and your faithfulness as My followers will bring glory to the Father. ~Jesus

So many questions whirl around in my head regarding the future that I easily “get lost in despair”. I wonder about my own direction and purpose as I view my emptying nest. I wonder about my kids’ futures as they try to determine their own paths. I  can quickly feel overwhelmed and small. Then, I’m drawn back to the basics. Called gently by my loving God to the simplicity and power of these two actions: to seek God and seek good. As we seek God and seek good, He draws us to Himself; it’s the essence of abiding in His love.

Seek God…seek good…

I have no idea what this year will bring. I have no idea what the road ahead holds. But, no matter what my home or bank account or job looks like and no matter where my kids are, I know as I seek God and seek good I’ll be exactly where He wants me to be.

Seek God…

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart~Jeremiah

Seek God and live. ~Amos

Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” ~Jesus

Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.~Jesus

Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. ~Jesus

Seek good…

Seek good and not evil, so you can live. ~Amos

 Learn to do good;
    commit yourselves to seeking justice.
 Make right for the world’s most vulnerable
the oppressed, the orphaned, the widow.
Come on now, let’s walk and talk;
let’s work this out. ~Isaiah

The Lord told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah

Love your neighbor like you love yourself. ~Jesus