Rocked

I hiked up the ridge today like my life depended on it.

And maybe it did.

Like pounding up that path would shake out the clutter of my brain, like I could physically purge in all that huffing and puffing the stuff I’m carrying around like so many suitcases.

It worked for Abraham; he found a ram there. It worked for Moses; he saw God face to face. It worked for Elijah; he heard God’s plan for protection. So, maybe God is at the top of the mountain. Because sometimes resting in God means pounding hard the things that aren’t Him.

Because it’s been a rough week. Rough in a dying to self kind of way. And I have to pause and ask myself what I even mean by that. What am I even talking about?

In the first flushes of accepting what I believed was God’s call on my life to act as the head of our Women’s Ministry team, I quickly came to the conclusion that this was way bigger than me, than anything I could manage to pull off. This remains my operating platform. And therefore I have to leave ego at the door and leave things open for God to work.

Things have been working in only the ways that God can make them work. People have stepped forward and volunteered at the last moment. Ruffled feathers have smoothed over without much more than solid prayer. Our groups are full to bursting and the continual feedback is that we’re tackling some really good stuff in our groups. And each time someone compliments me on writing our study of Jonah, there is a moment when I want to take credit. But I can’t. That wouldn’t be right.

So that’s what I mean. Acknowledging over and over again God’s complete control over this is breaking me down. The fact that He is blessing this so richly right now suggests to me that yes, this is His work and that for this season I get to be one of His instruments. And if that doesn’t rock your world, I don’t know what will. That the great big God of the universe might say, “Hey, gorgeous! I created you for this season, for this time, and this place.” Excuse me. I need to take off my shoes because this is holy ground I’m standing on.

But what happens when the wheels fall off the bus? Because they will. Because this is a broken, messed up world. Because we are human and we like falling down rabbit holes, especially ones we dig up for ourselves. And because on every front I’ve got front row seats to her cancer story and his business going under and her messy divorce and his infidelity and her long battle with mental illness and his greed and these are the things that crush and hurt and muddle. How do you say to someone looking down the hallway of a life of pain or rejection or anger that God isn’t sending this as punishment but that yes He is allowing it so that He might be glorified through it all? How do you take someone’s hand, hand them a Kleenex, and pray over them with bold claims for healing, knowing that sometimes… often… the healing doesn’t look like our idea of healing. How are these not just empty words?

It was this that sent me fleeing up the ridge today. Fear. Fear that this is all going to come crashing down around me in a colossal earthquake of failure. What, God, what will I do when You turn your face from me?

Because in the past, it has felt like you have. After the first miscarriage, I was rocked. After the second, mad and determined. After the third? That completely shook my faith. I had no ground on which to stand. Why would the great big God of the universe, the benevolent savior-sender, sin-forgiver, ABBA father do THAT? How could He rob a mother of not just one but another and another and still another child? Where could there possibly be glory in that?

And do you know what He keeps saying? “I didn’t hide my face from you. I have always been there. And we’re dancing together right now; so enjoy the dance.”

And the glory? Where is the glory?

It’s in the ego checked at the door. It’s in the leaving room for God to work. It’s in the full dependency, in the complete breaking apart of self and ego and independence. There on the tear-stained floor, in the fleeing from fear, in the running because it can’t be fixed by my efforts… there is the glory that is the moment of complete surrender.

When you leave the door open for God to work, He does.

And it becomes another step up the mountain of unshakeable faith.

Psalm 27

4 The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
6 Then I will hold my head high
above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
singing and praising the Lord with music.
7 Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
Be merciful and answer me!
8 My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
9 Do not turn your back on me.
Do not reject your servant in anger.
You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.
11 Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
12 Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

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Napkins

My last pregnancy was really messy. I was pregnant, but I kept losing pregnancies so we had to watch the first weeks carefully. Then we found out the hormone levels were doubling and tripling what they would for a normal pregnancy… that seemed great, except I felt like I was swimming in a sea of off-balance, out-of-body nausea that wouldn’t quit and I didn’t want it to. Then there two babies to rejoice over and plan for and there’s our nearly 4 year old to take care of. Plans came to a halt because there was only one baby now, and deep, deep ugly mourning. And that one night when I rocked my babies, one alive and kicking and one dead. And God spoke clearly to me that my baby angel had done his purpose, had accompanied Joseph through those difficult first stages and was now living in Heaven… twins separated before birth. The prolapsed cervix that followed had me struggling to move. Afternoons of Angelina Ballerina on the sofa trying not to vomit, to mother my out of the womb child and my in the womb child simultaneously when all my energy seemed to be going to growing that baby and there wasn’t anything left over for me or her, my already been born baby. There are videos, songs, books, and smells that have such strong nausea associations with them that I can’t look, watch, read, or sniff without a physical and emotional reaction. There was bleeding and pre-labor and a shot to speed up the lung development and then swollen ankles and fingers and pain in every ligament as the stretching stretched me taut. It could have been a lot worse, but it certainly wasn’t a beautiful thing to watch… not in the way that some women carry babies like a fanny pack. Into that mess stepped a few women who agreed to bring meals to help us out. Women from church, who were living chaotic lives raising children of their own, swung by every other day with a meal, a moment of explanation of what needed to be done to finish it off, a smile and an encouraging word. Then they were out the door easy breezy and I felt like the Holy Spirit had just swept through. Because I was hungry for sisterhood, for someone to come alongside me and wrap her arms around me and tell me that this is what women do for their families. And it would be okay in the end. One poor woman arrived with a meal, harried, rushed, and I needed to talk about the news I had just received that my cervix was prolapsed and I would really need to be careful and I was kind of at the end of my wits. And she was too. I felt it in her presence and I saw it in her face as my need to gush overpowered her need to get out the door. Shock, unpreparedness, discomfort all played like banners across her face. She wanted to scream, “TMI!” And I wanted her, anyone, someone, to sit and listen and grab a Kleenex for me. I bring this up because something is trying to break through in my mind. Women’s Ministry has often been about cute little tea parties and happy little socials where women dress up, show off their new hat, gush a bit over each other, and then fold the napkin prim and proper and leave. That’s been my impression. But, I’m starting to see that the napkin isn’t to be folded. It’s to be used as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding, or as a handkerchief soggy and slimy, to wipe away the stains, to give the other a soft lovey, to sponge up the mess. Ministry of all kinds is more like walking into triage than through a flower garden. Because it’s messy out there. The word in Christian circles has been about glorifying God in the little things, in everything we do from changing the diapers, sweeping up Cheerios, carpooling, folding laundry, photocopying at work, grocery shopping. Ann Voskamp is writing about doing what He tells you to do, even if you’re limping along. Stephen Curtis Chapman is singing about it. So is Josh Wilson. And I try. I try to say as I’m folding Mt. Laundry that this has a very important role in my family life and I’m doing a great service of love for my family. I try to look at the grocery store and the playground and the baseball field as my mission field. And I see the women around me and I know they are coming from seminary and life-experience and while I can’t hold a candle to their Biblical knowledge I can see their scars and their wounds and their pain. Because it is my pain and my scars and my wounds. Sometimes we call it spiritual warfare, sometimes we call it out as Satan attacking, and sometimes we just need to go in a room and cry. Someone pass that napkin, we’ve got an ugly cry in room 3. Cancer strikes. Death leaves a void. People betray trust. Sanctity is destroyed. Families are tearing each other apart. It’s messy out there. I have times when I think, “My goodness, I should be traveling to Africa. I need to go and see for myself. I need to take a greater stand, do more, be more… for Africa.” Because I’m certain that God called me to be a part of Compassion Tea and CompassioNow. He gave me an interest in writing. He gave me modest talents in that vein. He gave me a heart that weeps and weeps and weeps for those less cared for. But the door to Africa is shut for now. Instead, He points me to a friend, a neighbor, a fellow mother and says, “Get busy.” The problem is that I’m feeling a lot like I did in those pregnancy days, a bit consumed with what is going on in my immediate vicinity. Whether it’s a secret room under the house still full of wet insulation or a daughter who’s trying out this new attitude and persona or a son who feels left behind because sister doesn’t have time for him anymore, it is consuming me and when another hurting being comes close I want to gush my woes more than listen to her. I mean, what would have happened if I had stopped my gush and asked my meal-bearer for her story. What kind of meeting would there have been? Or it is okay for a season to be the gusher? Can we even glorify God in the gushing? Can the exposure of our wounds to full view be a blessing to someone else? Put out the napkins. It’s messy out there.