It was a wobbly start even though my six-year-old looked confident as she
picked up her bike. A breeze whipped her hair across her face as she looked
over her shoulder to throw me a smile and to make sure I was there, watching.
She had protestingly donned jeans, ever my skirt wearer. Last year, she had
finished the best part of bike season fairly proficient. We had even biked
together, though a little precariously, in the addition where we live. Now, at
her first attempt this year, she expected the best. However, the bike wobbled
under her as her muscle memory geared up for the first time in months. She fell
over several times. It actually took a couple of days for her, but soon she was
riding confidently and feeling rather happy, I would say.
My bike wobbled too as my friend told me they were headed back to the
hospital with her little girl. I was walking along just fine when God asked me
to start riding again. I too glanced over my shoulder to make sure He was
there. I got out my bible and let truth sink into my heart from passages that
had sustained my life more than once in storms. A couple of the pages seemed to
fall open to these deep, life-preserving verses. Others stayed hidden deep in
my own rusty "muscle memory". A slightly easier season of life had allowed my
muscles to weaken a bit as I focused on other things. Now my heart demanded
them to do their job. I found myself reminded of my desperate need of
So with It is Well playing in the background, I got on my
bike. I flexed my memory, "Is it first Corinthians four or second Corinthians?"
I checked both and reread, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly
we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
I climbed back up on the bike and unsteadily rode toward Jesus. The process
of surrender and trust is a wobbly one at times, at least for me. The drive for
me to encourage my friend with life-giving truth and not just kind words makes
me get back up when I fall.
However, I gained strength and momentum in the riding.
Paul reminded me of my aim in Philippians 3, "that I may know Him and the
power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death." The courage God gave to the early disciples in Acts 14 gave courage
to me, "strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." Jesus' life itself begets strength in Hebrews 5, "Although He (Jesus) was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered."
I continued reading reminding myself of our sovereign God, our great
treasure. As I focus my mind willfully on who He is, my heart fills with love,
adoration, and gratefulness. When the God of the universe promises Himself as
Abraham's very own shield (Genesis 15), when He guarantees the priestly tribe of
the Levites the inheritance of Himself (Deuteronomy 18), I find myself saying,
"Lord, I want You as my shield and inheritance!"
"You are my portion and my cup...indeed I have a beautiful inheritance,"
Psalm 16 declares. "May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation say evermore, 'God is great!'" Psalm 70:4 sings. "You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes," Psalm 119:68 reminds.
I am biking hard now in hot pursuit of God instead of my own understanding,
and there is indeed the fullness of joy in His presence.
Seeking out a quiet moment, a quiet corner in the bustling hotel lobby for reflection. Desiring not only quiet for my ears, but a quiet for my heart as well. The past month has seemed in many ways like a bad dream. Trouble upon trouble seemed to be heaped upon those we love.
Sometimes words just don't suffice.
My heart is heavy and even the most carefully chosen, thoughtfully descriptive words cannot convey the its emotion today.
I've many times thought about narratives from the Bible - how much unrecorded agony (and joy) are left to be imagined by the readers. Years passed with Joseph in prison, long agonizing hours of Christ on the cross, hundreds of years as slaves in Egypt - summed up in mere sentences.
As several dear families in our life live through their own valleys, I carry a burden for them. A burden to be heard and understood, to not be forgotten. To not have their sorrows be a short sentence in our life at present.
I remember an amazing moment years ago when I was sharing with a dear friend some of the struggles that we were going through with Brad's health at the time. She stopped and asked me to wait as she imagined what it was like to be me. She validated the gravity of my emotions, the stress of my life, and attempted to put herself in my place.
That was a monumental moment. Many people offered sympathies or encouraging words at appropriate times. But, she tried to walk with me.
And in a time when I was convinced I needed to be strong, it felt good to be weak and needy.
She wept with one who was weeping inside.
I would ask you to pray for my nephew, my cousin, my dear friend's daughter, my tornado victim friends if God reminds you.... but I also know that you have your own friends with their own needs.
Church, our brothers and sisters around us are in desperate need for support.
Body of Christ, the lost and dying world is in desperate need of love and hope.
As hard as we may look for the perfect Christmas gift this month, let us look even more dedicated for those in need and then lay our lives down to love.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
the day that china came to us felt special, but i didn't know how special.
i picked our exchange student up at the airport in great excitement. she was sweet and kind. i am mesmerized by her culture. i am intrigued by her family and her life a world away.
but what floored me was my american. my little american gave up her bed, her room, access to some of her very most important toys without complaint. i watched her as she walked unknowingly in Christ's footsteps, and i marveled.
while i've been trying to prepare my american for the losing of "life" that finds true life, i was not expecting to see the beautiful reflection of truth in my young daughter's eyes yet.
while there's lots of sad news - hard news in the world, i look at my daughter and see hope. i see good news - The Good News.
welcome, our china doll.
"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 16:25
the bowl was more of a manifestation of my lack of talent than anything.
i had stared at the blank, chalky bowl for far too long. brad was offering endless suggestions that were all limited by my perceived inability.
so i got up and got the stencils after his recommendation about using a scripture. i was looking at a great soup bowl perhaps... what scripture goes in a soup bowl?
matthew 25, of course.
the limited room afforded me the following two word phrase: feed jesus. this morning, as i ate my oatmeal, it did what i had intended it to do.
it reminded me that caring for others IS how i care for jesus.
so do i care for him?
as i ate, i thought about hungry bellies in my town and around the world. i thought about thirsty babies and mommas. i thought about those in prison, forgotten. i thought about the flood victims i've met in their attempt to rebuild their lives.
it's easier to not think about the needy. life gets busy.
my life gets busy.
unknowingly, unintentionally, inadvertently, i can quickly forget about the very people jesus cares for so very much. please, Lord, help me to remember the hurting.
"speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” proverbs 31:8,9
nobody knows exactly how long joseph was in prison. it's something like more than 2 years and less than 13. i recently googled the history of joseph and found that it is contained in about 23 chapters in genesis. however, the actual account of his time is jail is a little less than 2 and a half chapters and that hits very specific highlights.
i look at that and think to myself, even only 2 years of prison time deserves more space. what was going on in those years? that intrigues me about reading history. lapsed years are indicated by a few words.
we've lived here for almost 3 months. sometimes i feel i need to justify that we are not starting some sort of ministry yet or giving more at established ministries. and you know, maybe nobody puts that expectation on us, but i have.
somehow my heart has begun to really embrace what we are called to at this season. i want to trust in God's timing, not in my expectations or what i think others are expecting of me. i want to embrace this deep and meaningful work that God is indeed doing in me. i want to rejoice and enjoy the changes i watch in brad daily.
i want to embrace the passage of time in our lives when someone else would look in and maybe record little in our biography, but we would know. because we experience the calling to the Word. we see the passions stirring in us. we encounter the lesson that only God can suffice in today's need. we learn the value in the process of patiently cultivating relationships.
we dream often about reaching out to our world in ways we haven't yet. but it seems to be God's desire for us to wait and grow in us patience, hunger for Him, dependence on Him.
and that is deep, meaningful, important work that i don't want to rush through for the sake of answering my own or others' expectations. that would be idolatry.
my soul, wait silently for God alone,
for my expectation is from Him.
as i look around our new space, i smile. i like it. it's simple. it's easy to care for. i LOVE that because i don't love cleaning but want things clean.
the temptation of early morning entertainment of FB, email, TV shows and news headlines has been eliminated by the placement of our computer. i LOVE that because i enjoy entertaining myself (uninterrupted while munchkin sleeps) but tend to overindulge.
it's small. we got rid of lots of stuff so we could fit in this space and not rent a storage unit. i LOVE that because i always thought i could get by on less, and now i know i can.
and yet, to be perfectly honest, there's a temptation to take my eyes off Jesus and compare myself to cultural norms. there is a pull inside of me to give amia certain things, portray myself in a certain way, relate to my friends in a particular habit.
i have the shameful ability to attempt to honor myself instead my Lord. it's sneaky - often completely indiscernible to me. i miss the skewed motivation in my heart. my head convinces me that all is well. it's the dilemma of those infamous 18 inches.
moving knowledge from my head into my heart is assuredly astronomically above my natural ability. that is supernatural work for my supernatural God. as i struggle in the discipline of seeking Him in His Word, i find the miracle of my heart creeping towards Him.
whom i look at (Jesus) from which position (head or heart) matters.
God, please make these 18 inches on the short side, i just want more of You.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and who is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1,2
the sign out front says sold now. but in my heart that transition was well under way over a year ago. it began the day that brad and i sat across from each other and answered the question: how do we give Jesus more?
even after the decision was made and it was what i wanted to do, the mystery of human emotion kissed my memory with recollections of gatherings with friends and family, amia's first steps, euchre nights, warm fires on cold nights. lots of memories were made here in our first home.
these are sweet things - treasured things. however, all of that is tapered with the biblical idea that this world is not our home. for me personally, leaving this place is indicative of that. it is a tangible reminder to my intangible soul that i don't live for me.
these treasured things are tucked tightly away in my heart as i look with anticipation at an unknown future.
the death of this way of life is not painful, as i anticipated, but joyful. perhaps noisy neighbors will make it painful... or any number of other commonalities of apartment living. :)
but i suspect that perhaps the expansion of God's kingdom in me personally will be its own consolation and among my most treasured things regardless of what situations come.
God, please make it so.
may God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations. psalm 67:1,2
"For whosoever would save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."
Jesus' words from Luke 9 rattled around in my head like a jar full of change that had been dropped on the floor. Pennies and nickels of scripture rolled down the stairs of my life and continued spinning and rolling in every direction in my mind - under furniture, down registers, and continued into the hidden places in my heart. It was loud. When it all stopped and lay still and silent, I could not deny its effect.
It was a mess. My life had been simply sweet. Even with the heartaches of our infertility and Brad's continued health issues, we were grateful to God and truly happy about life and love.
However, nearly a year ago, I surveyed my life and found that I did love my life and my family - which is wonderful and godly - but I was loving it more than Jesus. Which, according to plenty of scriptures, is not true discipleship.
OK... (deep breath)... so I confessed to Brad my thoughts and inhibitions. As it turned out, he'd been having his own similar struggles. It felt incredible as our conversations shifted over the course of a couple months from the disconnect we felt between the scriptures and our lives to what course of action should be taken to rectify it.
How do we give Jesus more? How do we give more time to those hurting? More money to those in need? Both of us quickly realized that we needed to get out of this house. Even though we knew that the house upkeep took time and money, there was another element. It provided a place for us to hide. We could love each other, invest in one another here in this home as we worked to maintain and improve it. To us, it began to feel so... small. Our family of 3 in a world of 7 billion. We knew God was calling us to something more. The idea of moving intimidated and excited us. We discussed it and prayed about it for a couple months until we could avoid it no longer. It was our next course of action.
Jesus' words seem weightier.
Paul's admonitions seem more real.
Our hearts are embracing the idea of not only, "Life is short, " but also, that what really matters is eternity. We've decided to flesh that out with a sign in our yard.
I don't know if there will be a buyer.
Regardless, I know we are different.
And that doesn't feel good, it feels great.
emily... just plain emily.