In Between dusk and dawn

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

On the cusp of dawn, leaving the night behind, but not quite daybreak.
The in-between.
Mysterious. Dark and light mingled and entwined and, for a few brief moments, inseparable.
Wide awake during the in between, praying…thinking, I strangely had a flashback to college.
Religion 101. Junior year–yes I realize that is late in a college career to take a general course and the registrar and prof were not happy with me, but I was and still am of the opinion that the point of a liberal arts education is to have a diverse, balanced course of study all the way through school…ok, sorry about that…stepping off my soap box now and back to the blog… Religion 101…junior…oh yeah…
Willis P. De Boer. Close to retirement, lanky with what I thought at the time were unusually long appendages (now I know that it’s just part of being Dutch) and a slight brogue, he gestured with those far reaching fingers and said we were the in “the already but the not yet”.
The already but the not yet.
The in between.
Like seeing a mountain range far off we recognize the majesty and vastness, but don’t really begin to understand their scope until we travel into them. The view is different from the foothills to the passes to the mountain tops to the high plateaus. Discovery is around every corner and rarely looks the way we expected it to.
When Jesus came to earth, He ushered in God’s Eternal Kingdom. It’s already here. But as is painfully obvious, the fulfillment of that Kingdom seems forever in the future with, at times, little evidence of its existence. For the past 2000 years we, the human race, have been journeying through the mountains of the already but the not yet.

Oh, we’re in awe of the beauty and rugged delicacy. But we’re fickle people and even the majesty of the mountains becomes mundane and all we see are the rocks and foot falls. Sometimes we’re fearful that any misstep could lead to disaster. Not always aware that what we’re in is so much bigger than us, we continue on.
I know I’ve felt lost in the mountains…in the in between. Caught in the middle…wanting desperately to get through or at least to a peak so I can get a bigger view and maybe see how much farther there is to go. Caught. Between night and day.
But then there are those moments, when beauty or art or music or communion with loved ones, or acts of kindness and generosity, or the realization of sacrifice transcends what we can grasp and is something felt not thought, and we get a glimpse of the already but the not yet. Signs of the coming dawn.
Life in the in between.

***forgive mixing metaphors and being a bit melodramatic…remember I wrote it in the wee hours and after reading Bronte.***

*reposting from the archives today. I originally published this back in 2010
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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 

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.

 

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.

Hand-me-downs and leftovers

I’m all about hand-me-downs and leftovers. The youngest of three girls, I grew up in my sister’s clothes and, in general, loved it. Even today, I still benefit from my generous (and incredibly stylish) sister. And leftovers? They’re my friend. Chicken chili or lasagna the next day? Even better than the first time!

But hand-me-downs or leftovers in a relationship? No, thank you. No one wants to feel like they’re getting leftover time, money, affection or attention. No child wants to feel like they come second to work or church or siblings. No friend wants someone who only calls when it’s a crisis or they need something. No spouse wants to feel the leftover energy or affection or love from their significant other. Hand-me-downs and leftovers leave us feeling like we don’t deserve any better. We don’t just feel loved less, we feel unloved, un-cared for and ultimately rejected.

To recap…

hand-me-downs from your stylish sister that save you money–good; hand-me-downs of affection–bad.

leftover food–good; leftover time, energy or love–bad.

Apply that to a spiritual relationship and it magnifies the feelings of worthlessness. If you think you get God’s leftovers or His crumbs, then you constantly feel like the kid with dirty shoes who can come in but needs to wipe their feet and stand in the corner. No warm welcome or seat at the grown-up table for you. No sir. Be quiet and wait until someone more important offers you what’s left. Be happy with hand-me-downs and leftovers from God’s children who are well-behaved, more faithful and frankly, just better than you.

Yeah. That’s how I’ve felt lately. I’m not gonna lie (and believe me, I wish I could), September was a crappy month. Many times I wished someone would wake me up when it was over– just like the Green Day song. Saying goodbye to kids (real, grown-up goodbyes), grieving both old and new losses, coming to terms with past hurts, dealing with physical illness, and enduring depressing thoughts left me cold, sad and tired. To be brutally honest, the cumulative effect of all this gunk, is thinking, feeling and believing that all I get or deserve from God is hand-me-downs and leftovers. Why should I get anything else?

But here’s just one of the many problems with thinking and living this way: if you live thinking you’re impoverished, you believe you have nothing to offer. You either believe what you could offer isn’t good enough or you believe that you don’t have enough resources. And then, perhaps, you get some weird self-pitying pride mixed in there and the whole thing turns into an ugly mess of self-accusations and self-defamation and a faulty, dangerous view of God and self. Brutal.

So how do I (we, if you can identify with anything I’ve written) interrupt the cycle? One way to start is by remembering and believing Truth.

If we believe we’re children of God, then here’s the Truth:

We’re not given hand-me-down rags; we’re dressed in the King’s own robes. 

We’re not invited to a rickety table of leftovers; we’re invited to a feast.

Because of God’s love and Jesus sacrificial gift of his own life, we’re invited to share in His bounty and sit at his table.

“Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David…”

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near. ~Isaiah 55 1-6

I know when you’re struggling it’s difficult to see Truth, let alone believe it, but I pray these words bring hope and encouragement to your mind and heart today, friend.

It’s the little things

it’s seeing the morning star each day as I stumble down my stairs in the dark
it’s the kind smile of a stranger
it’s celebrating milestone birthdays with loved ones
it’s the surprise gift of chocolate from a thoughtful co-worker
it’s the thank you received after helping a kid succeed
it’s the faithful prayers of a loving spouse
it’s the bright smile and sweet laugh of my favorite 18-year-old
it’s hot coffee on a chilly morning
it’s cold water on a warm afternoon
it’s night-time walks with the one I love
it’s the fields, golden and ripe for harvest
it’s the way you know the sun is still shining even behind the clouds
it’s the soul-calming knowledge that this world is not all there is
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.

 

Long day

24 hours.

1,440 minutes.

86,400 seconds.

There’s no such thing as a long day.

And yet…

It’s been a long day.

Do you have long days?

What makes a long day long?

Long because of a weary heart. Long because sometimes the burden’s we carry can’t be shared. Long because people can be jerks. Long because the dark sometimes seems bigger and more powerful than the light. Long because we desperately miss someone we’ve lost. Long because change is hard. Long because of anger or sadness or illness. Long because we have a crappy attitude. Long because we’re not sure that what we do all day is enough, or worse, that it even matters. Long because we see someone we love headed straight toward a head-on collision. Long because we’re holding bedside vigil in a hospice room. Long because chaos defines the headlines.

Long.

Just long.

What do you do with long days? What do you when there’s really nothing you can do? I cook. I eat chocolate. I pray. I pray more. I stew. I pray again. I write.

And, I listen to music. This is the first song I heard when I got home today:

And the phrase that soothed my rumpled spirit?

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

“…love’s purest joys restored.”