Loving Well.

It rained on Saturday. Not a steady, all-day downpour, but an on and off drip. As we pulled into Fort Snelling, the drips subsided and the clouds thinned. Damp, colorful red and yellow leaves littered the hollowed ground as searched for the grave. We stood, three figures, remembering and missing. For four years he’s been absent from us and in the presence of the Holy. The tombstone reads: “Alive in Christ” and as I stood, I tried to imagine what that meant for Dad and what it means for me. We left the cemetery and went on with our day, enjoying each other’s company, but missing Dad’s.

As I drove home yesterday, I pondered again Dad’s life and legacy. Once again, I remembered his love, humor, intelligence and wisdom and thanked God for it. Dad loved people well. But his love came at personal cost. An introverts introvert, dad would have preferred to live his life in his home surrounded by his books and music with his lovely wife by his side. He could have easily and happily stayed within the confines and safety of his home. But he loved God and God calls us to love others. So he did. Dad loved others through kind words. He loved them through hugs. He loved them through his teaching and wisdom. He loved them through his generosity. He loved them through faithfully and skillfully practicing his trade. People experienced God’s love because Dad saw every interaction as a means of showing God’s love.

I don’t know what your day looks like today or if your life sucks right now. I don’t know what battles you face or the mountains that seem insurmountable. But I pray for you, friend. I pray if you’re not feeling loved, that someone will be God’s love to you today. And if you claim Christ, I pray you take loving others well as a serious and beautiful calling.

 

 

 

 

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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 

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.

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.

It’s the little things

it’s climbing into a toasty bed on a cold, damp night
it’s the smell of fresh-baked brownies mingled with the sound of my daughter’s laugh
it’s early morning texts from a far-away friend
it’s long, slow conversations about everything and nothing
it’s purpose-filled work
it’s finding scraps of paper etched with handwriting and wisdom from a beloved
it’s the privilege and strength to pray for hurting souls
it’s soul-feeding words found in unlikely places
it’s the hope and anticipation of seeing loved ones
it’s laughter in the midst of pain
it’s creamed, blueberry honey on a big bowl of oatmeal
it’s gradual peace in letting go of past hurts
it’s knowing your dear ones sleep in safety
it’s the unexpected gift of grieving
it’s typed messages on What’s App from Costa Rica
it’s being enshrouded and enfolded by a Love I cannot fully comprehend
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.

 

Walls

Thick cinderblock 521walls lined each narrow, meandering street. Topped with barbed wire and broken glass they shouted a clear message of stay out. Iron bars covered every window and door. Heavy gates, either of solid wood or black metal, completed each mini fortress. Walking out of our simple guest house into the courtyard each morning, hearing the noises of a city waking up, yet only seeing cement walls and metal gates saddened me. A long history of government corruption, instability, and violence led to the walled, barred and gated atmosphere in Nicaragua.

It felt disconcerting to be on either side of the wall. When we were safe inside the fortresses, there was peace accompanied by a sense of loss. Lush trees, vibrant flowers, beautiful birds, and even more beautiful people lived in abundance on the other side, yet couldn’t be seen from within. When on the outside, we saw the immense beauty, but we also lived with a heightened sense of our surroundings, cognizant of the real dangers we faced on the street. Constant tension existed between experiencing relative safety and beholding abundant beauty.

90 down the mt

But if we never ventured outside the walls of Quinta Emily or Hotel Rosario, we would have missed meeting Moeses and Ricardo and we would never have seen the beauty of Mombachito or Somoto or Laguna de Apoyo. We may have experienced comfort and safety but at what cost? We went to Nicaragua to experience Nicaragua. We went to see the natural beauty, to experience a different culture, to practice another language, and to observe what God is doing through His people in other places. We didn’t go to stay safe behind walls in a sanitzed  environment.

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies is “There’s a wall there.” (Kronk speaking of Eyzma’s reluctance to share emotionally in Emperor’s New Groove) It’s a funny part of the movie because it’s true. We’ve all built walls in our lives.

In an attempt at self-preservation and protection, we build our own emotional fortresses. Some walls we erect to keep our inner life hidden, our emotions in check and our faults and secrets safely vaulted. Others we construct clearly to keep danger at bay. Block by block, we wall ourselves in, trying to insulate our lives from pain, hurt, disappointment and failure. We hide behind our walls of bitterness, envy, anger, shame, and judgment both confused and fearful of the reality on the other side. Regardless of why we build our walls or what they’re comprised of, the result is the same: we hold others at bay and hide. We don’t fully engage in the beauty on the other side of our walls and we don’t allow anyone to see our true beauty. Living inside our fortress makes it difficult to accept or give love, encouragement, and grace. We each have a unique beauty to offer this world and when we hunker down, drawing our knees up to our chest and keeping our head down, no one sees or benefits from what we could offer.

For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago. ~Paul to the Ephesians

When we stay hidden behind our walls, either paralyzed by fear or too comfortable with apathy, it’s impossible to give the unique gifts we possess. Living in solitary worlds behind walls deprives everyone of the beauty that is you and prohibits you from fully experiencing what others can offer.

Personally, I know I don’t always realize when I’ve built walls until they’re so high I can’t see over. Brick by brick, I build them…shame, doubt, anger, jealousy, discontententment and pride mortered together with fear. Tearing down the fortress is hard. It wasn’t built in a day, it won’t come down in a day. And sometimes, I don’t want to pull them down. I’m used to these walls and there’s a perverted comfort living within them. But it’s a false sense of security that doesn’t bring actual peace; it only adds to loneliness and isolation. It’s a risk to tear down the wall. It’s a risk to venture beyond the gates. It’s a risk to love, to share, to give and recieve grace. But in the risk, also comes a freedom and a deep sense of living the way we were created to live: in mutually beneficial community.

A friend introduced me to this song not long ago and I love it. Even though the metaphor is light and darkness, the message is the same: we weren’t created to hide.

With years of keeping secrets safe
Wondering if I could change
‘Cause when you’re hiding all alone
Your heart can turn into a stone
And that’s not the way I want to go

So I walk out of the darkness and into the light
From fear of shame into the hope of life
Mercy called my name and made a way to fly
Out of the darkness and into the light

Read more: Ellie Holcomb – Marvelous Light Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The Prayer of a dying man

*I posted this entry the morning my dad passed away. Two years ago today, his heart stopped beating, his eyes stopped seeing, his lungs stopped drawing in oxygen and this dying prayer was his last. I miss him every day. At the risk of sounding cliché, please, don’t take for granted those whom God gives you to love. Death is a certainty so please don’t waste this day of life, but offer it in worship.

CIMG0089A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn-bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.   A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.    ~Jesus

“Give me a worshipful heart”, he prayed.

Even as his breaths weakened, his spirit whispered praise.
Even as his body failed, he offered himself in worship.
Even as his mind struggled to keep events, dates, and linear reasoning intact (yes, he used the words “linear reasoning” in his last days), his heart remained steadfast.
Even as he languished with pain and discomfort, he spoke of the privilege of suffering if suffering for God.
This  intelligent, analytical, systematic, studious, loving and kind man, in the end, still offered heart and mind to his God.
The words of Paul to the Colossians became his dying anthem:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,  of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.