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.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

Forecast

The weather’s been sketchy the last few days. Today’s forecast boasts “Showers with scattered storms and patchy fog mingled with sunshine.”  Brad looked at the radar and started discussing the instability of the atmosphere. Little showers pop up and fall apart. The sun peaks out, heats everything up, then hides. The air, saturated with moisture, smells damp and springy. It’s difficult to plan any outdoor activities. Weather in Iowa is notoriously unpredictable, but this is different. This is shifty, changeable weather from minute to minute.

I’ve often compared chronic and major depression to a fog, skewing and distorting reality and making the journey slow and arduous. But the last several weeks, it’s felt more like today’s weather: changeable and unpredictable. One minute I’m walking in sunshine and the next, I’m caught in a downpour of painful memories, self-loathing, and isolation. It’s been exhausting, living in this low-pressure system. I’ve dealt with depression now for 30 years so I have the coping skills down and employ my full arsenal regularly. But sometimes, when the tears blind side and the inner accusations mount, my weapons seem useless and my attempts at alleviating the pain, futile.

John records for us in his book in the Bible that Jesus said: “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy but I come that you may have life and have it to the full.” As I grow and walk through life, I continue to realize that the “full” life doesn’t mean a pain-free life or a happily-ever-after life. It doesn’t mean living in a sunny and 75º degree life all the time. It means living in a redemptive life. It means that nothing is wasted; no joy or pain that we experience is trivial or useless. Full life means growing and loving not in spite of the pain, but because of it. Full life means we’re never alone even when it feels like it. Full life means there’s always Someone going to bat for us. The writer of the book of Hebrews talks about the Great High Priest who constantly intercedes or advocates on our behalf. Even when it doesn’t feel like it and we can’t see the effects, things are happening behind the scenes. We have the best possible Person making sure we’ll be ok in the end. I know it’s true. It’s just, some days it’s hard to believe the Truth because the atmosphere is so unstable.

I’m glad it’s Easter tomorrow. Jesus coming, living, dying and rising again doesn’t mean the pain is gone on earth. It doesn’t mean there’s no struggle. It doesn’t mean life is happy and perfect all the time. It means there’s redemption in the pain. It means I don’t walk this road alone. And neither do you, my friend. I have no idea what your skies look like today. Maybe your marriage is failing. Maybe your kid walks a dangerous, self-destructive path. Maybe you’re staring retirement in the face without a penny to your name and it scares you to death. Maybe the brokenness and pain of the past cripples you to live in the present. I have no idea. But Jesus came to offer hope, stability, and redemption.

 

 

 

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 

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.