Friday, December 19, 2014

Joy

But the angel said unto them.......

Today a mother lays her son to rest.

Do not be afraid for I bring you tidings of great joy.......

Today a father kisses his littler girl goodbye for the last time.

Which will be for all the people. 

Today a child sits in a cell, alone and afraid.

For today in the city of David.......

Today a wife will leave her wedding ring on the pillow.

There has been born to you a Savior.......

Today a man will lose his life because he will not renounce his faith.

Who is Christ the Lord.

Today a life will be broken. Today a spirit will be torn. Today a family will be broken. Today tears will run like rivers and fill the seas of broken hearts. Today some will wonder what the wonder of this season is. Today faith will be tested, strained and maybe broken. Today, in this week of joy where the pink candle of Advent is lit.

Today often feels far from joy. We tend to wonder, when we're faced with trials and tears, where God is. Why he has so seemingly abandoned us. We wonder if he is even watching this menagerie on Earth, because it is so difficult to hear his voice.

El-Roi: The God who sees. 

But sweet friend, He does see. He sees when you are hurting and struggling. He understand the pain that you feel and recognizes the depth of your loss. He felt each one on the cross. He knows your heartache and your mistakes. He sees your tears, and he counts each one. And he hurts right along with you.

Yahwey-Rapha: The Lord who heals.

We have burdens of sorrow that weigh on our hearts and our souls like a cancer. We have diseases that riddle our bodies and our minds. We have friends and loved ones whose passing will be marked by this season where we are to feel joy, and yet sorrow will flood our heart. But Jesus, Jesus heals. He heals not only the carries of your body but the vanquishing of your soul. He heals not just the war-ravaged mind but the war-ravaged flesh. He covers each wound with a bandage of his love and grace. He is the usher of life-he calls forth the first wail and carries the last breath. And sometimes he calls us home.

Yahwey-Shalom: The Lord our Peace.

He is the keeper of all peace. He is the nurse of broken hearts and the grace of each morning. He sees the wars of this world and knows that one day it will all be washed in His glory. That he will return again, a warrior for his people and bring peace.

Emmanuel: God with us. 

He came the first time, not as a warrior. Not as a mighty tower of power and strength. But as a baby. Wrapped in swaddling clothes in the humblest of all places. Kings and shepherds alike were called to him. The richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. He walked this earth as a toddler, a child and a man. He experienced the gamete of human trials and emotions. He died the death of a common thieve-though he had done no wrong.

And he did it for you. For me. And he would have done if for only you or only me if that's what we needed. He would have died a thousand deaths to bring one child home to him. But only one was required. He took the cup of judgement and wrath and he drank it fully so that we don't have to.

And he is with us still. What joy there is in that!

This week of Advent, as the stresses of the season seem to mount we are meant to feel joy. We are called to prepare our hearts, not our trees, for the coming of the Savior. We are asked to recognize the Light of the World through the darkness that may hover over our spirit.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a heavenly host, praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!". 

This gift that was given to us is far more than a token. This is the gift of peace. The gift of joy. The gift of hope. The gift of salvation. It is the ultimate gift that can be given: a child, a life.

He is the God who sees us, in all our joy and sorrow. He is the God who heals us, from our broken heart to our broken body. He is the God who brings us peace in this shattered world. And though he walked this world as a man 2,000 years ago, he is Emmanuel and with us still.

I don't know what sorrows you face this season or what heartaches are holding you tight. But I pray that in this week of joy, you feel the Savior wrap you in his arms and love on you. I pray that you find  peace in the chaos and joy in the preparation.


Blessings to you and yours.
~M

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Peace in the Season of Sorrow

I want to write about peace. I want to write about the angels in the heavens and the light that shown down and the shepherds who watched their flocks that night.

I want to write about Advent. About getting caught up in the waiting and the reasons not the paper and the trimmings.

I want to write about the candles and the ceremony and the sparkle in my daughter's eyes as she links the verse on the wall to the one the leaps off the page.

This is what I want. This is what I've been trying to write all week.

But I can't.

Each day I've sat down in to write in this space and come up short. A few lines. A paragraph or two. But then the light runs out and there is nothing to share because there is so much sorrow.

We were friends in grade school. We used to climb the tree in her front yard and debate the value of carving our names. We roamed the field in the back, spying on the neighborhood boys and creating wild adventures of our own. We became amateur architects and spent hours drawing out the houses that we would one day build. Side by side, of course. Then we would fill them with our ten (yes 10!) children.

The dreams of a fourth grader are not easily vanquished.

But the hope of a mother can be.

As the relationship of girls often do-our friendship fluctuated and changed through the years. In high school we had a couple classes together, but we ran in different circles and our lives took different paths.

As adults the challenges of childhood fade away and a few years ago we ran into each other again, budding the friendship that was there before. As fate would have it, my brother and his family became her neighbor and just a few short months ago we spent the afternoon together in my brother's house. I met her children and her husband and I shared her joy at the life growing within her.

But her faith shown through.

There has always been a light about her and now it seemed to shine even brighter.

Two days ago, this world turned upside down.

Scrolling through my news feed the babe and I stopped to look at her baby, the sweet boy born just a mere 46 days before. I'd watched from the online world as he had grown and been showered in love by his big sisters and his family. But this day. This day my heart swelled with her not in joy, but in sorrow.

She had posted the picture and a few short lines to the friends who would see. Jesus had come to take her baby home.

Oh friends.

And I kept thinking to myself, how can I write about peace, when there is such sorrow?

I cannot imagine her loss. But I have been strengthened by her faith. By her sweet sharing of grief over these last two days. By her constant faith and even encouragement to others who are feeling loss.

And then the reality of it seeped through, like the first break of morning after a long night. The second week of Advent, the week of peace is not for just a remembrance of that first night. It is not merely a hope to feel the earth remember his presence. But it is a reminder that even though we live in a place, in a world, where peace is seemingly absent-God is never missing.

He does not abandon us.

Not in the flurry of the holiday season.

Not in the pain of loss.

He fills the space of empty arms.

He holds tight the hearts of the wounded.

He showers us with his love.

He brings us peace.

I cannot begin to imagine the sorrow that my friend faces. I cannot begin to understand her grief. But I can pray for her peace.

Will you join me, friends? Will you join me in this season that is supposed to be filled with such joy but is outlined in such sorrow? Will you help me lift her and her family up in prayer and pray for the peace that transcends all understanding?

If you feel so led, there has been a fund set up for her family. You can follow this link and help them say goodbye to their sweet boy.



Sharing today with Lisha Epperson and Jennifer Dukes Lee.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Emmanuel

This song? This song wrecked me tonight. I was on my way to my first office Christmas party for this new job. I had changed outfits about a hundred times. I had darkened my eye shadow and donned the blingy earrings and scarf. I was headed there solo. On my own. The fam has had a bout of the stomach flu this week and while I wanted my hubby by my side-he wasn't able to make it.

The roads were dismal. Snow has been falling steady and it was hard to see if they were wet from the precip or icy underneath the dirty fallen snow. I had the heat cranked up high and the Christmas music higher. I love (read: am obsessed with) Christmas music. Seriously. There is nothing better. O Come O Come Emmanuel is my favorite. It has been since I was a fourth grader at Trinity Lutheran School, sitting in chapel one Wednesday morning when we opened the hymnals to this page and the words leapt off the page and imprinted themselves on my heart.

I didn't understand the lyrics, but I knew the symbolism ran deep. Oh come oh come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lonely exile here. Until the Son of God appears. The nation, his people, waiting. Oh come thou rod of Jesse come....There's history to that. Old book history. It's Advent history, which in all my years of living this life I'm just now learning about. And in so finding that piece of Christmas that has been missing.

Photo credit: Feminine Genius Inc.
Advent. The time of waiting. When the first candle lit is one of hope. When hope seems so lost and foreign and the battles rage on down our streets and in our nations. The time when we wait in stillness and anticipation of the coming king. The coming peace. Then this song comes on as I'm sitting at a light on Front Street, and the words ring out The world waits for a miracle. The heart longs for a little bit of hope. O come, o come Emmanuel. 

And I sat there, thinking how this song is so perfect and timely and how much pain and we are waiting and now I'm crying and my mascara is going to run and I'm going to show up to this party with these people I don't really know as the "New girl with the wrecked face." Yes my thoughts run on like this.

Glory to the light of the world. Behold your King. Behold Messiah. Emmanuel. 

We are waiting. As the children of Israel waited. In exile. In suffering and lost in our own transgressions. We wait.

As we travel to work on those dirty roads and we hang the Christmas lights and trim the tree. We wait. As we sit in the Principal's office or the doctor's office or the banker's office for the news that will make us or break us. We wait.

We wait for the Day-Spring to come cheer. We wait for the light of the world.

We wait in anticipation of the coming King. The Advent. The joy that comes with the pain of labor. We wait for the angels to usher in his majesty and we wait for his scepter to lower and give us grace. We wait for a miracle.

 But my friends, he has come! He is the song for the suffering. He is here in our midst. And he is coming again.


God with us. Emmanuel. He is the light of this world. We have only to look.

Friday, November 28, 2014

I Want to Show You the Mountains

I love photography.  I had always wanted a fancy-schmansy camera and a few years ago the hubbs got me one as a gift. I've had so much fun playing with it, learning about light and shutter speed and f stops and a whole host of other things I still don't understand.  And there's a lot I'm still lost on. But I love to play with it.

And sometimes I get frustrated with it too. Or more accurately sometimes I get frustrated with my lack of knowledge.  Often I'll see something so beautiful and I want to capture it on film, but a setting will be off and what I end up with is a blurry light-altered representation of what I really see. And that makes me mad.

Because I want you to see what I see. I want to show you my mountains. How on a cloudy day they are this deep shade of blue that is almost the color of midnight and the grey clouds and fall trees are such a contrast that it leaves me speechless. I want to show you the river as I see it:fast and foaming and carrying life and danger.

So I look through the tiny window into this other world and I hold my breath as I push the button, and I hope that it comes out right.

These last few weeks it seems like we are looking through blurry lenses. Our shutters are off and instead of letting in light we open the blids to a shudder-worthy scene. Our ideas and beliefs are thrown out for the world to see, brandishing our scars in a harsh light. Words that should be clear and open are blurred and dangerous, the light trapped behind misconcieved notions and preconceived ideas.

We've lashed out in words and actions and lines have been drawn in fire and police lines. Truth is lost somewhere between fear and protests and platforms while our nation struggles to catch its breath under the weight of a thousand broken hearts and ravaged dreams. We search for peace and honesty and acceptance but we are found lacking through the filter of others.

And I just want to see your mountains and I want to show you mine. Pull out the negatives and press flat the film of a history we're still making. I want you to see the way the light catches on the leaves and in my heart and I want to see the glory of our contrasts.

I want to show you how they look so far away but are so strong and looming and yet accenaccentuate the rivers and ponds and the tender trees. I want you to see that we are so far apart, but the beauty in you creates the beauty in me, if we only allow ourselves to change our filter.

I want to show you my mountains.  Will you come and see?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

He Makes Us Brave

Hello friends. It's early. Again. So bear with me. The babe was up for a good chunk of time last night because apparently all his pacifiers have gone the way of the Doh Doh and have subsequently disappeared off the face of the earth. So instead of gently getting him back to sleep when he woke up, I instead tore the house apart in search of plastic salvation. By the time I finally found one (under X-mans clothes on the floor of the bedroom) the little man had sufficiently screamed himself awake to the be up half the night. Follow up this glory tale of motherhood to 0515, when strange beeping and clashing of pans comes to me from the kitchen. Apparently it's Bot Bot's snack day for high school advisory and she forgot. So she was up making pumpkin cookies (thank you mom for leaving the mix and saving her bacon).

There are mornings, friends, when all you can do is hit the bold setting on your shiny new coffee pot (because it ASKS me if I want my coffee regular or bold! Oh sweet machine which is the proper 12 cups and not the inept 10 cups as our prior one had been! (It was an accidental 10 cup purchase. Never in our right minds would we have bought a 10 cup machine. Honestly I don't know why they even make them.)) and dig into the bible study that you've were so on top of for a week or two and have instead fallen waaaaayyyyy behind. So here I am, my new favorite coffee mugs (because I love red oh so much. Especially antique red, which is what the box from Costco says they are and they will go so nicely with my kitchen when we revive it from 1992.)

Babbling. Sorry. Sleepy. Moving on.

So anyway, I'm back in on of my favorite books-Esther, and doing one of my favorite studies-Love God Greatly. The funny thing is that I am quite literally months behind, but when I opened the daily study, I had left off on Wednesday, and when I opened my bible, both the right passages were book-marked. Funny how God works, eh? Anywho, read a little Esther 4 where she sends this message to her uncle, Mordecai after he tells her she must go speak with the king, lest their entire culture and race be wiped out from the kingdom:

"All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life."

So basically she's saying, "Hey-unlce Mordi, this is gonna get me killed. Remember his first wife, Vashti? She just didn't want to join him for dinner and he booted her behind to the royal jail. You think little old me is going to be able to just waltz on into the royal court with the king and all his men and just ask that he not annihilate our people and he's going to be okay with that? Have you lost your mind?" (I may have taken some liberties with her thoughts, but I'm thinking my girl Esther would have had at least some of these racing through her mind.)

Did I tell you we've finally found a new church? (yes this will relate, I promise. My tired brain isn't making all the fast segue connections quite yet. Transitions may be a little bumpy this morning). Yeah, after years (read YEARS) of searching for one that we like-we've found it. The pastor is just real, you know? Tats and history and all. And his love for Jesus and the people he serves is evident. He's been talking about the flood, and really it's been an amazing study. Unlike any that I have ever heard before. Through out the study he's been paralleling the flood and the Savior, the destruction and the grace. A few weeks ago he spoke on how prior to Jesus coming, the flood was the wrath of God, taken out on an earth who was warned for 75 years, and refused to acknowledge God. The destruction did not come easily or lightly. It was painful and discouraging. Flash forward to Jesus. The man who when beaten and bruised and humiliated took the cross for us, and he asked God as he was praying to take this cup from him if there is any other way. But there wasn't. There was no other way for us to enter God's kingdom than through him. So Jesus took this symbolic cup, the one that held all of God's wrath and judgement for us. For Me. For You. And he drank it.

Dang. That's some powerful stuff right there. But here's the grace-because he is our perfect salvation, God sees us only through him. Jesus told us "No one comes to the Father but through me." Because we're pretty pitiful. But through the lens of Jesus-we are beautiful and pleasing to God's sight.

I can only imagine what Esther was feeling as she pushed open those doors to the royal courts. As all the men turned to look at her. Some I'm sure in shock. Other's perhaps smugly. And then her king. Was his face a mix of emotions? Caught between his own law and the love for this woman? I don't know. I can only imagine what it would have been like, but I'm sure you could have cut the tension with a knife. Or a scepter.

And that's what he did. The King extended his scepter to Esther and heard her request. She was allowed to come to him and speak her piece because he had extended her grace.

Jesus is our scepter, kids. It is through him that we God extends us the grace and the love to enter his presence. To sit at his feet. To speak to him. He is our eternal grace and salvation. He is our only hope to save our people, our nation. He makes us brave. That is a beautiful thing. Even on an early morning.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Give Thanks: Give Back

I've been absent from this blog for a bit. I've been working on my second novel and I'd like to share a little bit with you. The following two paragraphs are a sneak peak at my current work in progress. This book is about a little boy named Peter and his social worker, Julia. 


"I could feel Peter’s foot tap-tap-tap the back of my seat as we made our way out of town towards Jacob Phillip’s house. Normally this would drive me crazy and I was about to tell him so when I caught a glance of him in the rear-view mirror. He was sitting ramrod straight in his grey and black booster seat. In foster care, Peter’s foster parents should have received stipends to meet his physical needs, but often that money was spent elsewhere, and with a kid that moved around as much as Peter did, it was easily lost. This meant a trip to what was lovingly called “The Closet”. The foster kid’s closet is full of random articles of clothing and shoes and other outerwear that had been donated or handed down by other kids in the system. I had taken Peter there a number of times. The blue Seahawks jacket he had picked out of the foster kid’s closet last fall was pulling tight against his shoulders and his faded jeans had run ragged at what should have been the knees, but hit Peter more mid-shin. They were likely hand-me-downs also.

If by looking at his clothes you couldn’t tell something was off, you would by looking at his face. His dark blue eyes were smudged with the blue/purple markings of lack of sleep and his cheeks were hallowed out and pasty. When I looked closer I could see the fine movement of his jaw. He was grinding his teeth. His whole domineer was that of a ball of stress. His fingers we absently toying with the black garbage bag on the seat next to him, poking small holes in the exterior. Inside the bag was the entire contents of Peter’s little life. All of his clothes, shoes, toys and other personal belongings. The bag wasn’t even half full."

These two paragraphs are a sneak peak at my current work in progress. This book, my second novel, is about a little boy named Peter and his social worker, Julia. 

Did you know that for many kids in foster care, this is exactly how they move from place to place? Quickly, and with their belongings shoved into a plastic garbage bag. Can you imagine? Think of what this would do to your self-esteem. Not only are you being taken away from your home, or the place you've called home, again-but with everything you own, or at least as much as you can pack in the time your social worker gives you-shoved in a black garbage bag. 

It's not the social worker's fault. It's not the child's fault. So much gets missed in move to move when you have nowhere to put your things. This holiday season I'm hoping to make a difference in some kiddo's lives, and I'd love for you to join me. See we're so blessed. Like crazy blessed. And we'd like to pay it forward so this year my family and I are adopting one of the local Youth Homes and will be taking Christmas presents to them. Last weekend I hosted a Give Back party with Thirty One Things where guests could order a bag or other small item to donate or bring a gift to donate to the kids. Would you like to help? There are a multitude of things that can be donated, and if you're local, feel free to drop something off. If you're not local but you still want to help, please consider finding a group home in your area, or contact your County's Social Service's office and see what they need for donations.Or if you'd like to donate a bag, consider visiting my web-page and check out the Cinch Bags.  Make a difference in a kiddo's life this holiday season. It's worth it. I promise. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Still

It is {almost} Friday. And I have missed this place with the sisterhood of #fmfparty. Tonight I join in again, linking up at Kate's Place where we have shared chocolate and stories and loved on each other. Come on over and join us, would you?

Prompt: Still

Go.


Dear Son,

Ours is not the typical relationship. I did not carry you in my body and catch my breath when I first felt you move. I was not there in the delivery room, catching you as you entered this world with curled fist and loud cry. I was not there at your first birthday. I did not fully appear in your life until you were three. Long after the synapses and sheaths of your brain were formed. Long after you'd determined safety and love the redemption or lack there of for both.

But I love you still.

I remember holding you in my arms and teaching you how to hold back. I've slept in your toddler bed, my arms wrapped 'round your tiny frame in an effort to show you my love. I've taken the kicks and scratches and pushes and pulls and angry words like a sword to my soul, because I know you don't mean them.

And I love you still.

My son. I've had intimate conversations with the principals and discipline officers and counselors, therapists and most recently the Sheriff. I've called in all the recruits that I can think of over these last four years, and I pray prayers of intercession over you daily. I pray for peace. I pray for love. I pray for you to understand how much we want you to be happy, and to feel our love cover you.

And I love you still.

I am terrified for your future. I am heartsick over your pain.

And I love you still.

And this is what I think you don't realize. That no matter how much you push or pull or fight, I will love you still. That no matter what you do or don't do or the choices you make, I will not be the one to leave. I will love you still.

Stop.