autumn

After weeks of brilliant blue skies, summer’s long-exhaled goodbye, the rain recently returned to my corner of the Pacific Northwest. Three years in this part of the world have taught me winter rain is a fact of life. No matter what the weather is doing or the summer has been like, the rain will come.

The first few early weeks of rain-washed earth and sky are so, so lovely. Monochromatic gray clouds march in formation against scarlet leaves, flaming in bright defiance to their fate. A steady heartbeat of raindrops lull me to sleep most nights. By morning, glittering marbles decorate the seams and stitches of yesterday’s webs.

A friend and I were discussing matters of faith, life, and everything in between recently, and she brought up the concept of viewing the passage of time as God does. The child of missionaries, she spent a large portion of her childhood overseas. In the information delay of receiving news back from the States, she shared how her dad would still pray for family and friends who already had surgery, etc., because he didn’t yet know the outcome. Believing time not a linear concept to God who holds all things—all of creation, all of humanity, all of everything that ever was, ever is, and ever will be—in His hands, prayers could never be in vain or too late.

Time then could be viewed as a constraint of our humanity. Since our human lives stand finite as part of creation, decaying and longing and groaning the further it stretches away from that pivotal point in the garden, time matters to us, scares us. Our mortality confronts us with increasing regularity as time passes. I feel this fleeting nature of life more acutely, the seasonality of it all, in fall more so than any other time of year. The rain arrives, days shorten in on themselves, darkness envelops morning and evening routines.


This is my oldest daughter’s last year of high school, the final year of her childhood set in motion. It feels like a long goodbye, where every significant day, such as the beginning of the school year or holidays all invite desperation, silently screaming, last, last, last! The last first day of school, the last Thanksgiving spent at home, the last weeks to peek my head into her room at night and whisper, Good night, I love you, over her sleeping form. Each parent knows, deep down, the brevity of childhood.

So many mothers view this season as one of only innumerable loss. They feel emptied and abandoned. I have seen this play out in the lives of numerous other women. The way they behaved, lashing out against the inevitable change of children to adults, sons to husbands, served as a cautionary tale in my own life, encouraging me to fight to maintain my own identity in Christ, separate from my children. If we are not careful, even motherhood becomes an idol.

Resisting motherhood’s all-consuming nature does not render me blameless of idolatry. With each passing year I, too, feel the crush of time’s passing, windows of opportunity slowly closing against dreams and desires lurking just out of reach. Fear of provision births scarcity. Appointing myself as sole producer of my happiness, provider of my needs, purveyor of my future, forgoes faith and disregards the very heart of the Gospel.

We humans will do almost anything to avoid suffering. Anticipating the void my daughter’s leaving will hollow in my heart and in our lives, I’ve been fighting the urge to rush headlong into “what’s next.” How will I ever know the right thing to fill this space if I don’t first know its imprint? My daughter’s moving forward into the next season of her life doesn’t terminate my role. She will always be my daughter, and I will always be her mom. My very body testifies to her existence, the soft and milky-sweet weight of her forever etched on my soul.

Yet, in this weird season of lament, there is also so much joy. Grief, but such excitement for my daughter and her future. I feel particularly drawn to pause here in the midst of these seemingly conflicting emotions. I hold back from giving myself over fully to one or the other. A cup of bitterness to the left, blessing on the right. I’ve been meditating on Psalm 16:5-8 often.

Lord, you are my portion
and my cup of blessing;
you hold my future.
The boundary lines have fallen for me
in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who counsels me—
even at night when my thoughts trouble me.
I always let the Lord guide me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16:5-8

I don’t believe this point in my life (or any for that matter) is viewed as a dot on a finite timeline from God’s perspective. Rather, our earthly lives compose a body of work–past, present, future–with endless opportunities–mind, body, soul, strength–to participate and create and glorify. Rarely do we get a glimpse of the end-game, but we are still tasked with trusting.

I don’t know what the future holds for my daughter, but I trust the relational and spiritual groundwork we’ve sought to build her whole life. I also trust the One who holds her so tightly and loves her infinitely more than I ever could. My life, her life, our lives, bound and sealed by Jesus’ finished work. Life is hard and I am sad at this particular point in my story, but I know there’s a bigger and better story, written by the One who is and who was and who is to come.

The Journey Back

Sometimes I really hate writing. More aptly, I hate reading all of the writing that’s constantly churned out by the masses, leaving me so bone tired trying to process and make sense of it all. I mostly blame the internet. With its allure of a listening audience and its ease of publishing, gone seem the days of silently wrestling with God, chewing over a passage of Scripture or a piece of work until, at last, you dislodge the meat, spitting the fat into your napkin.

I often lament that thinking is a thing of the past, toppled by the ever-present god of doing. We toil and try and if something fails, well, we must pick ourselves up and immediately try again. But what of thoughtfulness? Of patience? Of wisdom and her bed-fellow prudence? Everyone is so ready to share – what they’re doing, what they’re reading, what they’re eating, what they’re feeling.

The voices online shout louder and louder, and it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what is for me, as recommendations about every facet of our lives come at us rapid-fire from every corner of the internet. It’s not even just blatant, “do this and read that” messages. Instead, we are instantly served up a plethora of human existence to scroll through. Being such social creatures, in moments of despair and dissatisfaction, we can’t help but to wonder where we’ve gotten our own lives so wrong.


Two years ago exactly, I stopped blogging. I struggled mightily with trying to tie-up loose ends in my writing which the Lord had yet to bind in real life. I felt convicted by this dissonance and remain increasingly wary of sharing what the Lord continues to sift.

In swathing the banner of vulnerability over the blogosphere, I worry we smoothed away the culpability for duplicity or oversharing. Even just the simple question of should I share this gets overpowered by the urge to produce something, anything to show for all the life we’ve been living. And if I’m honest, it is so much easier to consume the work being wrought in a fellow sister’s life as a spectator than it is to sit quietly under the Word myself.

But sit we must, and sit I did for two long years. Words, which used to come with such ease, stretching into sentences and paragraphs, slowed and then stopped altogether. Yet, in those months of silence, I began to sorely miss this outlet. This space, which gave me a place to process and dream, was something of a friend to me.

I debated starting a new blog but returning here felt right, like coming home after a long time away. Here, I will retrain myself in the art and discipline of regular writing. My hope is to produce words of value, words that don’t simply spoon-feed watery milk, but incite an insatiable hunger for solid food. If you’d like to follow along, you are most welcome.


May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Making Space

Our bodies hold things. Trauma, memories, spaces and places we’ve been before. Our muscles remember. Our minds remember. Our hearts remember.

What about our souls? 

Our made-in-the-image-of-ness. This made-for-so-much-more-ness. Because this too must be imprinted on our beings. Deep down, we remember what it was to walk in the garden on cool mornings. Creator and creation, side by side. This commune of spirit to Spirit.

Much of the here and now is lacking. But we have been called, called to remember. Because the Kingdom of God is near. It is in the very fiber of our existence. Threads knit a universe as the world spins on.

So we press and we push and we toil and we try. After all, that’s what image bearers and light bringers do. Salinating the air around us, each grain sparkles, a glimpse of what’s to come.

Prepare the way of the Lord, a call. Hearts open, we make space.

 

This Past Year, a Lament

It’s funny really. The way life works out. Sometimes we get just what we asked for. Other times, we get what we deserve. And sometimes, we’re completely blown away by the unexpected.

In the past year, I’d imagine you faced situations that fall into any of these buckets as well. Life happening, more quickly with the passing of each and every day.

As this year draws to a close, I feel her songs still unfurling within my soul, stirring up lamenting and rejoicing in equal measure. After all, can we truly rejoice without lamenting?

This past year introduced fresh losses. A bitter cup at times. But with loss, these dreams expired, relationships released, there is also room. Room for growth and change. So as I spend time grieving the losses of this year, I must also let go and forgive all the hurt I’ve carried in my heart.

Traveling lightly into this new year requires letting go of resentment. To those who have hurt me this year, to myself in my own sins and disappointment, I choose forgiveness. And in this release, the hold on my heart is slowly eased as well.

Wings once clipped are healing, ready to stretch and take on the bright blue sky of opportunity. And in this expanse of grace-filled freedom, I rejoice over the bounty of God’s goodness to me. Each lung-filling breath exhaled in melodious gratitude.

In the giving
In the taking away
In the sun and the rain
You love me everlasting
Even in my ungratefulness
Rescuing me
Breathing new life into my soul
Adding flesh and fortifying my weary bones

And no matter what the coming year may bring, I stand here, content in the right now, unafraid and ready. For I know God, my guide, means good for me.

Homesick

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The Oregon winter is truly something to behold. Magic at play in the forest, freshly-washed and shrouded in fog, each branch cloaked and dripping bright green. A cloudy day parts to reveal the majestic face of the mountain reflecting the last few rays of the day off her snowcap.

I take far less pictures. They don’t even come close.

Some days the difference is so striking. Others, it feels like we’ve just swapped houses.

The status quo a car ride, traveling smoothly. My eye catches a street sign: Ely Street. Little reminders of home coming as small, unexpected blows.

Being away isn’t much trouble at all. Not unless you think about how far, how seemingly impossible home has become.

“But I left home too,” the Voice whispers, “For you, for them, for love.” 

And in this forest world so alien to me, this tide of homesickness binds me to my Savior. And though I may not fully count it joy, I refuse to settle for mere existence.

There’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior” (Philippians 3:20, MSG).

Again, our weary world waits. Pangs of longing thrum deep within the heart of the earth. Advent then, advent now.

Here in this homesick, rain-soaked place, I live, I love, I wait.

Christmas

Just two weeks left until Christmas. Race and rush and wrap and stuff.

So many people chime in with what Christmas is about. I’m positively drowning in the cacophony of what Christmas is and what Christmas isn’t. What we should and why we mustn’t tied with a bow, pleasing all, offending none.

Christmas is about Jesus. But what about those who do not know Him?

Christmas is about family. But what about the orphaned and the abandoned, the slave, the refugee?

Christmas is about giving. But what about those with nothing left?

Christmas is about joy. But what about the grieving among us?

Christmas is about cooking and baking and eating. But what about those who are not invited to the table?

 

This will be our first Christmas away from our families. No big celebrations, no large meals, just the four of us. And in this pared down simplicity, Christmas will still come. Because Christmas is more than a date on a calendar, a winter break. Christmas cannot be contained in the largest gathering or drowned out in a tide of grief.

Christmas is about redemption. Ever, always, and only. 

For those whose homes are filled with family and friends, joy and laughter ringing in the halls, Christmas is about redemption. May we never forget our need for a redeemer. 

For those who cry alone in the dark, “This can’t be all there is,” Christmas is about redemption. May we seek out the margins and shine, for darkness cannot survive the light.

For those outside, simply waiting for an invitation, Christmas is about redemption. May we open wide the door in welcome, remembering we too were once outsiders. 

Redemption is messy work. There are no guarantees of safety. There is no return on investment. There is always a price to be paid. After all, what is the cost of a life? Of our own humanity?

And into this chaos, this raging cacophony of knowledge and noise, Christmas will indeed come, quietly, seemingly unnoticed, under a star-sprinkled sky.

May we remember to go outside and simply look up.

Balls & Beds

Catching my eye as I passed our Tree of Gratitude, a leaf etched with B A L L S. Balls. I giggle and ask the youngest about that one.

By far the most prolific appreciator of our Tree, she responds, “You know, play balls, soccer balls, footballs.”

Expressing thankfulnesses in construction paper leaves. So easy and neat and clean and Pinterest worthy.

But as I sit down to fill out my own leaves, uncertainty sinks in.

Am I truly grateful? If gratitude is more than a feeling, then something more is required.

Gratitude and ungratefulness coexisting. Oil and water, seemingly at odds, sloshing about and filling in the cracks.

What am I thankful for? Intrinsically, everything. Breath inhaled, life, warmth. Family, love, encircling. Shelter, home, sustenance. My daily bread. Jesus, grace, mercy. Breath exhaled, rest.

What am I not thankful for? Conversely, everything else. Am I less grateful when I cannot feel joy? When I crave something more? Does my uncertainty negate all I have been given?

 

The hubs talked to the Christmas family we’re sponsoring with his work team. He told me the dad asked him if they were going to be able to get a bed. A bed. These parents have been sleeping on their apartment floor in sleeping bags. Their children, on an old couch.

And suddenly, even little things seem too much. My gratitude for a working dishwasher, a hot cup of coffee, seem trivial. I don’t deserve any of it.

We love to argue just how deserving we are. We worked hard for the things we have. We are. We have. We deserve each and every one. Gold stars awarded, pats on the back given. Leaves on our Tree of Gratitude.

 

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” John 9:1-5

While the sun shines, the leaves may wither, but the One who sent me is at work.

And so instead of looking within for thankfulness, I look gratefully to what God can do through me.

There is no reason my neighbors should sleep on the floor, and if you agree, I humbly ask for your help. Partner with us on giving this family some beds. A place to rest their weary heads and hold their bodies up off the floor.

We’ve set up a GoFundMe if you’d like to donate.

And in doing so, may they feel the love and light of the One who sends us.