Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nothing to Say

I hope you'll allow me another previously unpublished blog post, originally from August of 2013.

It was the first Andrew Peterson song I had ever heard.  It played on Christian radio in Nashville several times a day, and before I knew it, I was in love.  I had to have the whole album.  I mentioned the album to a friend, and within a day or so, I was holding Carried Along, Andrew Peterson's first major label album.  (Thanks again, Kenny, for the gift)  Over the last thirteen years, I have grown to love everything about AP's music.  I love his songwriting, the humility in his song delivery, the truth he conveys in his music.  I have found several of my favorite singer-songwriters because of their association with him.  In fact, Jake and I met because of a Facebook concert invite of an artist that I learned of through Andrew Peterson.  So, you know, I feel like I owe him one.  I have been to four of his Behold the Lamb of God shows held every Christmas season, and as long as he continues to perform them, I will continue to go.

But as much as I love his current music and the beautiful things he has written along the way, my sentimental heart is still deeply connected to the Carried Along album.  I am all tied up in the lyrics and the harmonies.  I know just when to come in with my background vocals as I sing along.  When one song ends, I know in exactly what key the next song starts.  It's on my list of go-to music when nothing else sounds good (Nickel Creek's self titled album and The Weepies Say I am You is also on this list).  I love every song on this album with equal affection with the exception of the song The Coral Castle.  (Sorry, Andrew, it's just weird and dark sounding, and I don't think I will ever learn to love it or even understand it)  I even have the song Rise and Shine as my alarm clock for Sunday mornings.  So appropriate.  I love this album.

Last Saturday Jake and I had planned to attend the Greene County Fair.  I was looking forward to funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos.  We had saved up a little money specifically for fair food, since rides are pretty much off limits to me right now.  The fair didn't open until 1 p.m., so we decided to head to our favorite local Amish store to look around.  Jake goes to the Amish store to look at health foods and to buy local honey.  But I had a secret agenda for going to the Amish store.  Every Saturday they make fresh donuts and pretzels.  The donuts are huge, and they may well be the best plain donuts I have ever eaten, especially because they are almost always warm.  So we went, I got a donut and Jake refused to eat any of it.   It was almost lunchtime, and we were trying to think of something to eat (never mind that I had just had a donut).  Jake looked up the mileage between the Amish store, which is on the outskirts of town, and Asheville, North Carolina.  We are never really too far from Asheville, no matter where we are in town, but he calculated that a drive to Asheville was only about an hour long from where we were.  We had not left the house prepared for such a drive.  Generally I don't leave the house for the day without wearing comfortable clothes and shoes or without a car charger for my phone.  I was wearing my super-tight TOMS that I have only worn twice, my under-belly maternity pants (which I can only handle for about an hour or so before I want to scream), and my car phone charger had been left at home.  We decided to ignore the inconveniences, bypass the fair, and we headed to Asheville.

We had been on the road maybe about 25 minutes when we realized it.  Driving down the interstate, everywhere we looked there was green and there were mountains.  And though I am a Texas girl that loves big sky and long, flat roads that never seem to end, I was overwhelmed by the beauty.  Everywhere I looked there was a breathtaking view.  I wanted to stop right in the middle of the interstate and stand and take it all in.  The clouds were billowy and gray, but everything about the trees and the mountains spoke life.  And we were speechless.  I reached for my iPhone, and Jake knew what I was going to play.  Nothing to Say was perfectly appropriate.  As we wound our way through the mountains, we were both quiet as we listened to the song playing both inside and outside.

Our day in Asheville was a success. We made a quick trip to the cloth diaper store so that my baby will be both diapered AND environmentally conscious. Coffee from Waking Life, something decaffeinated for me, and something iced for Jake. Lingering in Malaprops Book Store before our dinner at Sunny Point Cafe, where I had breakfast for dinner and Jake had the boldly-named Mighty Good Chicken Sandwich.

We took a different, faster way back home. A back way that is filled with scary two lane roads that cut through the mountains in a series of sharp twists and turns. It is beautiful during the daytime but terrifying in the dark. Thankfully we made it home to tell the story.

It isn't often that I find myself without words. If you know me, you know this. I am... um, verbose. But it's a lovely feeling. To be so wrapped up in the beauty and goodness of God that you just have to be still, nothing at all to say.

And if you want to hear the song...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Living the Dream

Note: This is a previously unpublished blog post from last June. It is not a post that reflects my current life situation, but it was where I was in my heart and mind then. Interestingly enough, I wrote this because I genuinely wanted to be able to stay at home with Jude, and it just wasn't possible. Within three days of writing this, Jake lost his job at the church in Delaware and we started planning a move to Fort Worth, where I currently stay home with Jude most days of the week. God knows our hearts. He cares about our pain. And sometimes His solution doesn't always look like we think it will. But He is always working behind the scenes on our behalf... I know He was when I wrote this.

My son was sick this morning, and so Jake and I spent the morning having the "who needs to work more?" debate, and I won.  Or lost, depending on how you look at it.  So I left my baby in the capable hands of his father, and they went to the doctor to discover that my little guy has a double ear infection.  His first.  And I wasn't there to hear what the doctor said or to hold him as he was examined.  Instead I drove off to work to take care of other people's children while they work.  And so the cycle goes.  If we are all working, someone has to be watching all of these kids.

Motherhood wasn't supposed to look like this.  I did not dream of spending my mornings in a whirlwind of diaper changes, shower turn taking, diaper bag packing, pumping so the baby has bottles, and rushing, rushing, rushing to make sure we are out the door on time.  We are rarely out the door on time.  This was not my plan.  I imagined leisurely mornings of nursing and rocking and reading books.  I dreamed of playmats and peek-a-boo.  Of library story time.  Of babywearing mommy groups... they have these, you know.  I dreamed of play dates.  I knew that being a stay-at-home mom would be hard.  We might be a little poor.  I would clip coupons and make my own baby food.  I chose cloth diapering because it would be cheaper in the long run (and it totally is).  And for the first four months, I had this life.  I was exhausted and spent so much of the time in a sleep-deprived stupor.  But it was good.  The baby was held and rocked and fed and we managed to pull off simple, stress-free days, mostly.

Then we moved.  The cost of living is higher here in Delaware.  The job offer we got included jobs for both me and Jake.  And it meant daycare for Jude.  So I cried.  Because of all of the things I knew I wanted for my son, being at home with me was one of the top priorities.  A thousand worries flooded my mind, some realistic, some not.  Sickness.  Freak accidents. Germs. Abuse.  All of the things I felt like I could protect him from while he is in my presence.  And can I be really, really honest for a minute?  I felt angry.  Angry that churches preach that women should be keepers at home but do not pay their staff members enough to allow their wives to do just that.  The conflict within me was real.  Is real.  Because I spend my days raising other people's children while down the hall, someone else is raising mine.  And every day that I pick him up and he hasn't slept well or he is running a fever or has wet through his clothes... again, I feel like I am the one that has failed him.  I have this one job, to be his mom, and I am not doing it well.  I feel like I get so few hours to do it.

I have learned that expectation is a thief.  It robs me of contentment and joy. When I expect one thing and I get another, I feel cheated.  I feel resentful.  I feel like I have been given a raw deal.  And I end my days feeling frustrated, and when the frustration gets too much, I turn it off and exchange it for numbness.  And this, this situation I am in, is not what I expected.

I can't change my circumstances.  I have looked at it from a thousand different ways, desperate to change things.  I want to stay home with my son.  I have cried and prayed for the chance.  I really have.  And I know that if God were to release me from this thing I am doing to stay home, He would provide. I know He would.  He always does.  But I don't feel it.  Not right now.  So the only thing I can change is me.  My attitude, my heart, my expectations.  And really, I can't even do that.  But God can.  And He does.  I just have to let Him.

I long to feel a release.  To hear God say "Yep, you're done"... in my heart God talks like that.  But instead the thing I feel is the gentle presence of God as it shows up in our morning worship, and it says "My grace is sufficient".  And when I dance and sing with three year olds "Our God is a great big God" or teach about the simplest of Bible stories, I am reminded that He is capable.  He is mindful.  He is in the process of changing my heart and my dream.  Instead of longing for time at home, I want to long for obedience.  Instead of wishing that I was at home rocking my son, I want to pour hope and truth into the little hearts of the kids that enter my classroom each day.  We will rock when we get home.  And we do.  And God will fill in the gaps.  He will heal the sicknesses and make the time I have with my son profitable.  And He will keep giving me chances to be Jesus to a room full of three-year-olds.

May this be my new dream.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

But If He Doesn't

This is one of my favorite recent pictures of my dad. Thank you to everyone that has prayed us through these last few weeks. We love and appreciate you all.

I am a Bible story girl. From my earliest days, I was taught the stories of ordinary people that God used to do extraordinary things. Stories of miracles and city walls falling and giants and waters parting.

I believed those stories.

I believe those stories.

The story of David killing Goliath with one stone. Sarah having a baby as an old woman. God speaking the earth into existence. And then there are the three Hebrew children. You know them. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They wouldn't bow before the statue created by King Nebuchadnezzar. They were thrown into the fiery furnace. They survived it all. Not a singed hair. No smoke smell on their coats. The fire had no power over their bodies*. It's an unlikely story. And yet, it's true.

I love this story. I was reading it over yesterday morning and there were so many things that stood out to me, that excited me about the detail that is communicated in these verses. The faith that is exhibited. The deliverance that was experienced. The glory that went to the only one worth of it... God himself.

These three wouldn't bow to the giant statue. They were brought before the King, threatened with a fiery death, and this is what they said. (Bear with me, y'all. I am not going to preach. Probably. But you might need this as much as I do.)

Standing before an angry king that had the power to kill them, these three brave young men still said...

Our God is able to deliver us. 

Our God will deliver us. 

It is one thing to know that God is able to deliver. It is entirely another to know that God will deliver.

And then they said something that still sends shivers up my spine because of it's brazenness.

But even if He doesn't, we will not serve your god or bow down to your image.

But even if He doesn't. We won't bow.

We are almost to the four week mark of my dad being in a coma. He has suffered a brain injury after a fall that resulted in a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain. It has been the hardest four weeks of our lives, without question. With good reports, we have felt hope. With the negative reports, we have felt despair. There have been three separate times where the hospital called for us to come quickly because they thought he wouldn't make it. Each time we went and we prayed, sang, and read scripture, preparing for the worst and praying for a miracle. Each time, we experienced deliverance.

This morning, my dad is still alive. He is breathing on his own. He yawns and moves his mouth and his eyelids flutter. He stretches, and we see a change in his heart rate when we are around and talking to him. Some of the doctors and nurses are negative. They speak doubt and fear into our circumstances, and since they are the medical experts, it's difficult not to let their words sink into our hearts and settle there. It is hard not to bow down to the fear and uncertainty.

But like I said, yesterday I read Daniel 3. I read it out loud to my dad when I visited him. And God spoke directly to me through that story. We need deliverance. We are desperate for miracle. We are begging God for an awakening. For complete healing and restoration. For my sweet dad to have another 15 or so years of life and ministry. We want him back.

And the first part is easy.

Our God is able to deliver us. 

Of course He is. He is all-powerful.

The second part is harder.

Our God will deliver us.

That's pretty bold. But for the past couple of weeks, this is settled in my heart. I believe deliverance and healing is coming.

But the last part. The last part is rough.

But if He doesn't.

But if He doesn't, y'all.

If this confidence I feel in my heart proves to be faulty. If this deliverance and healing isn't earthly like I believe it will be. If God chooses to take my dad home to heaven.

We will not bow.

Not to fear. Not to despair. Not to unbelief.

But if He doesn't, God will still be God. All-powerful. All-knowing. Loving, compassionate, with new mercies every morning. He will still be ever present in our situation. It will all be for our good and for His glory. With my human eyes, I don't see how it will work. But I believe it.

I have so many friends right now dealing with hard things. These things have weighed heavy on my heart over the last few weeks. I am thankful that God has placed me here in this situation, where we are dependent on the prayers of other people, to remind me that other people are dependent on my prayers. And I have prayed. Some of these situations seem more impossible than others. But I am praying for a miraculous deliverance. You might need deliverance. You might need God to come through in a way that seems completely impossible. God is able. And he will deliver. But if he doesn't, He is still sovereign. He is still faithful. He is still good. He is still able to redeem your circumstance and use it to reveal himself to people who are watching you walk through it.

He is still God.

*If you need to strengthen you faith a little, turn to Daniel 3:27 and read about how they "saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power". Your fire has no power either. I mean, this whole chapter is so filled with good stuff.


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