Monday, November 30, 2015

The Most Outrageous Story I Have to Tell

I was driving my best friend and her daughter to the airport, this summer, when her daughter (almost six, at the time) asked when she'd first met us. I answered that my daughter Clementine and I had flown to Chicago to meet her when she was three months old and Clementine nine months old. I proceeded to explain: the plan had always been for me to attend her birth, but life got in the way. Maybe one of my daughters will allow me to attend a birth one day, I said, I sure hope so.

The very next day, my friend Sharon called and asked if I'd like to ride with her to the hospital; one of her grandchildren was about to be born. I'd never met either Sharon's son or her daughter-in-law but love my time with Sharon and agreed to go. I imagined I'd be doing some waiting and packed a novel, also--with a fleeting thought of newborn photos--my camera.

At the hospital, Sharon's son came out to greet us. He and Sharon left me to enter the room where the mother was laboring. Within just a few minutes, though, Sharon returned to invite me into the room with my camera. One day after I'd said aloud, in my minivan, that I'd hoped to attend a birth.

This is the most outrageous story I have to tell: that I found myself photographing the birth of a baby one day after expressing, aloud, my desire to attend the birth of a baby. I hadn't discussed this desire with Sharon. There had been no plan for me to meet her son and daughter-in-law that day or in that way, but there I was--in that most sacred space, chillbumps running up and down my arms--watching a baby enter the world.

This is an example of why I believe in God.

I believe in God because I couldn't make up a story like that if I tried. I've had permission to blog about this experience for almost four months and have spent the entire time trying to wrap my head around it. The most logical explanation I can offer is that my Heavenly Father wishes to delight me. And He did. He does.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I'm not going to pretend I know how to speak into your pain. I trust that you have it. Maybe your body hurts. Your heart almost certainly does, even if just in one corner, because you miss or long for someone. Perhaps that someone is yourself: someone you used to be, or someone you hope to become. It seems likely to me that things are imperfect in your world, but even if I'm wrong, things are imperfect in the world. We both know that.

Life is painful in this broken place, and I don't have the answers. I don't have even one answer related to one source of my own, personal pain. But in the event that someone may find this helpful, I want to offer: I have started practicing relinquishment. I read an article about it--a reprint by Catherine Marshall--in a recent Guideposts. Then I read it again. And again. I rarely reread like that, but the premise intrigued me and still does.

"Gradually," Marshall writes in the Guideposts article, "I saw that a demanding spirit, with self-will as its rudder, blocks prayer. I understood that the reason for this is that God absolutely refuses to violate our free will; that, therefore, unless self-will is voluntarily given up, even God cannot move to answer prayer." She goes on to explain that Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, becomes our example; He doesn't want to die but--with His own free will, regarding His very life--submits to the will of His Father. 

To relinquish something, or someone, to God is to accept that I am not in control and that I may not see or experience the outcome I think I desire. It is to trust, however, that God is in control; that He knows best; and that He will work all things to my good. It is to remember that He is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness, that I tend to grow more in hard times than in easy ones. (Click here to read an example of Marshall's Relinquishment Prayer.) 

When I look (and read) back, I see clearly that I've tended to relinquish things and people to God only out of utter exhaustion. (See, for example, this post related to my brother's illness, or this post related to my miscarriage.) This, what I'm trying to do now, involves letting go earlier, before I spend all of my emotional energy. 

I almost always pray on my drive to work, and I've been challenging myself with the question: what can I turn over, today? I've offered to God (among other things/people) the spiritual condition of my children, my marriage, my husband, my husband's joblessness, my job situation, my creativity, and various sources of my pain. And I've experienced some manner of peace. I've experienced Immanuel (God with us: me!) in ways that I find personally irrefutable. In seeking Him, I've found Him, and isn't He good for never hiding from us? Isn't He good for working even in our details?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chip Turns 3

Dear Super Chip,

Happy third birthday. Over and over again, your sisters have been a sharp intake of my breath, but you have been my exhale. You are my everything-makes-sense and everything-is-okay-in-the-world. You are fairly predictable and almost always content.

You are my full circle. You are home to me. You remind me of my grandma, my mom, my brother, your brother Cade. You remind me of myself. (Finally, I have a child who pretend plays like I did. Fisher-Price Little People: hooray!)

You are my fellow night owl, and when I walk in the door from the restaurant, you always greet me with: "Mama! You came back! You always come back! I love you!" You still sleep best in my arms, and that's (mostly) okay. Thank you for waiting for me. I waited for you for so long. We belong to one another; I feel that every day, and

I love you. I loved your "Blue Birthday" party. I love your red sword. I love your laugh, your kisses. I love every one of your sweet teeth. I love it that you think we should trick-or-treat every night; I think so, too. I love it that, in the dark, no other story works for you but "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." I love it that you're nice to pretty much everyone but Cade's girlfriend. (I understand why you pull her hair. She's a nice girl, but her hair is straight out of "The Goose Girl"; Conrad would've tried to pull it, too.)

You're my very favorite super hero. I believe in every single one of your powers. You hold my heart in your hands.


Friday, November 6, 2015

What I'm Learning about Jesus

I don't have time to blog; I really don't. I have seven photo sessions to edit, and I'm off to take more photos in three hours.

I'm behind with my Bible study and struggling to keep up with homeschooling. I don't have time to blog,

and yet. I'm thinking of my friend from the restaurant: the one who advised me to slow my pace when I'm in the weeds. I'm thinking of his saying that, if I slow down, I'll remember everything I need to remember, and one thing I need to remember comes out of my Bible study.

This Bible study. There have been moments that I've felt as though God were speaking directly to me. And He was. He does that. His Word is so relevant to our daily lives. When I don't have time to read the Bible, when I don't want to read the Bible, I need to read it, most. I don't know why I have to learn this lesson over and over.

The Bible study is on Isaiah and took me, recently, into the fourth chapter of Luke. Jesus had entered His hometown of Nazereth after spending forty days in the wilderness. He had eaten nothing for those forty days and had resisted the aggressive temptation of the devil. Scripture says the devil departed from Jesus for a season. Jesus entered Galilee in the power of the Spirit. In Nazereth, He stood up to read in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He read this from the book of Isaiah (Chapter 61):

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19).
Before Jesus closed the book, gave it to the minister, and sat down, He said: "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21b).
Up until that moment in my Bible study, if someone had asked me what Jesus's purpose was, or is, I would've said He died to save us from our sins. Maybe, if pressed, I would've referred to Him as the Creator. And I wouldn't have been wrong, but I wouldn't have been entirely right, either, because I wouldn't have presented these verses. I wouldn't have offered that Jesus's purpose was, in part, to heal the brokenhearted. I wouldn't have suggested that His purpose was to give sight or release captives.

I knew He does those things, but it's different--isn't it?--to say someone does something and to say his or her purpose is to do something. It would be one thing, for example, for someone to say of me: she bakes a good cookie, another for her to say that I was put here on earth to bake cookies.

More than seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus was coming to heal broken hearts, free captives, and so many other things, besides. Jesus didn't just do those things; He came to do those things. I'm having a hard time articulating why I find this distinction so meaningful for the same reasons I've found blogging so challenging, recently: there are things I can't write in this space.

But. My heart hurts. I am grieving. I have blind spots. I am in a prison (or two) of my own making. And it matters to me that not only can Jesus help me, but my life is in the hands of the One who was sent to address these specific concerns.