Monday, April 27, 2015

Needing to Be Needy and Fighting Together

Breastplate of righteousness. Belt of truth. Helmet of salvation. Shield of faith. If you’ve been in the church a while, you’ve heard more than one call to “suit up” with Ephesians 6 armor. And if you’re like me, you’ve imagined yourself as a solitary soldier, dressed head to toe and ready for spiritual battle.

It wasn’t until much later that the obvious dawned on me: A lone soldier is a sitting duck. 

Last month at Ungrind, I wrote about our need to be honest about our physical needs and the glorious glimpses of grace seen in helping and being helped. Today, I'm over there discussing spiritual battles--because if it’s hard to ask for help with practical needs, it feels downright impossible to reach out for support when we’re emotionally or spiritually low. We’re embarrassed that we’re still struggling with the same old sin; we’re frustrated by how stuck we feel, maybe even too cynical to believe a friend’s words could make any difference. Yet we need each other even more here, in our most tender places of vulnerability.

Click over to read about how I'm experiencing grace when I'm needy and grace to help others fight

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

If You're Needy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands (Or: A Tribute to My Amazing Mother)

I wrote last month on Ungrind about the beauty in helping and being helped--how important it is to be honest about our needs and let others demonstrate Christ's love for us. Then I had opportunity to take my own advice...and oh my goodness, I am here to tell you it is good advice, if I do say so myself :)

They say that God does not give imaginary grace. He distributes it like manna; He provides what we need for this moment and asks that we trust it will be on the ground to meet us tomorrow. So I suppose that when I say, "I cannot even imagine being a military wife or a single mom--I could never, ever do it"...the reality is that if I had to do it, God would give me what I needed.

But I am thankful that to date, my worst solo-parenting challenge has been a two-week business trip. And I am not afraid to admit that His grace to me has come not in the form of supernatural strength and patience to push through on my own, but in the form of humility to ask for help and an extended visit from this beautiful, servant-hearted woman:

When Steve made plans to be in Europe for 13 days, and it became clear that I would not get to tag along, I emailed my mom. My parents were due for a visit this spring anyway--so, "please," I said, "could you come for part of the time I am on my own?"

Her response was to fly down for an entire week.

Grammy landed in Nashville on Wednesday, March 25, a lovely belated birthday present. And the number of mournful "I miss Daddy"s I heard from the mouths of little boys decreased exponentially. She took us out for lunch at Chuy's...


...and, as I rolled my eyes, bought Lego Bionicle sets the boys had been drooling over ("For Easter! Just let me--I don't live close so I don't get to do this very often!"). She played ball in the backyard, picked boys up from school, washed dishes, babysat, even vacuumed my floors. She read countless books; she helped me work on a project for the house; she took us out for frozen yogurt. Perhaps most valiantly, she let wiggly boys take turns sleeping in her bed :)

We dragged Elijah and Jude to a "GIRL movie" and took them on a field trip to Cheekwood.

In between all that, we chatted about everyday life; we delighted in the boys together and laughed at the funny things they say; we exchanged eye rolls at their drama. One night late in the week, after a particularly trying bedtime, I came downstairs, hugged her, and said, "THIS is what every night would have been like for the last week if you hadn't been here. And I would be institutionalized. THANK YOU."

We also spent an evening listening to Vietnam-era recordings of her parents and siblings, which I recently had converted to digital audio files. (The family sent cassette tapes back and forth with my uncle when he was in the Army in Vietnam, as apparently the quality of phone calls and/or opportunity to make them was terrible.) I'd never heard her dad's voice before, and it was fun to hear really young versions of my grandmother, aunt, and uncles.

Then on one of her last days here, when both boys were in school, we did a Stray Boots tour in Nashville! We loved the ones we did in New York a couple of years ago, and we each independently had the idea to try one of the Nashville ones. We had a perfectly sunny day for it and so much fun being tourists.

The only thing I regret is that I didn't do what Jude is inclined to do to me: grab her hand while walking together and say, "I'm so glad I have such a nice mama." :)

So I'm saying it now: I'm SO glad I have such a nice mom. She is an extravagant display of God's grace to me and my family.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Multitude Monday, Take 348

Thanking God this week for...

7250. this fabulous blog, where people who don't fit neatly into categories of "complementarian" or "egalitarian" are coming together for respectful, gracious dialogue. LOVE.
7251. Jen Wilkin's fantastic message on Exodus 1-2: "Fight Like a Girl"
7252. theology discussions over supper
7253. precious boys remembering Sunday school lessons, understanding, seeing Jesus
7254. Steve asking them great questions, teaching them

7255. Elijah choosing library books at school that he knows Jude will enjoy
7256. the blush of pink dogwood trees
7257. rain
7258. broccoli salad
7259. emojis

7260. the way others' insights and perspectives help me think about Scripture differently/more deeply
7261. frequent opportunities to discuss it with and learn from other women in person
7262. keeping us to the end--His ability to present us before His presence blameless with great joy
7263. the reality that when it seems all hope is lost and He is absent, the story is not over yet and He is still at work for our good
7264. the thrill of seeing your name in print

7265. the gift of having my name in the Lamb's Book of Life
7266. a dining room full of friends, children, noise, life
7267. homemade guacamole
7268. friends' precious 4yo telling me three times how much she loved my white chicken chili

7269. one friend's honesty about his struggles to understand/believe Scripture
7270. another friend's passionate, confident faith
7271. Steve sitting quietly throughout our intense conversation, then throwing in a decisive insight that blew all our minds :)
7272. this inspiring, challenging, fascinating biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

7273. the gray-blue of a pre-storm sky
7274. the way the neighbors' white dogwood tree in peak bloom glows against it
7275. grace to reach out for help from the pit of despair
7276. Steve speaking words of life and hope to me
7277. teachers and staff at Elijah's school working hard after hours

7278. old journal entries that make me laugh/smile/give thanks
7279. the boys being thrilled about new books
7280. smiles from a friend's baby girl

7281. the boys' faces when we told them we were going to Lego KidsFest

7282. creative, fun-loving husband who's still a kid when it comes to Legos

7283. animal models made of Lego bricks
7284. the anticipation of peony blooms and strawberry season

Thursday, April 16, 2015

After Easter

"Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." (Luke 24:5-7)

Over and over Jesus had told them of His coming death, and they stiff-armed the prophecies. "No, Lord!" We won't accept this. Not what we had in mind. Makes no sense. It cannot, must not happen like that.

If you cannot or will not hear the bad news, you cannot, will not comprehend the good news.

If you do not embrace the painful, the ugly, that which is terrible and does not make sense--you will not be prepared for the weight of glory.

Without the death, there can be no resurrection.

With dull and disbelieving hearts reluctant to accept His statements about His death, they primed themselves for confusion and doubt about His resurrection. "They were perplexed about this" (Luke 24:4).

And yet. This resurrected Lord is the One who opens blind eyes. He does not leave them alone in their confusion; He sends His angels to proclaim holy truth, remind them of what they failed to believe. "Remember how he told you."

Still they did not believe.

So He came Himself. "Jesus himself drew near and went with them" (v. 15).

I'll wait while you go back and reread those words. Let them stun you: Jesus himself drew near and went with them.

"He went in to stay with them" (v. 29). He sat down with them. He ate with them. "He took the bread and blessed it and broke it--" This is My body, given for you.

"And their eyes were opened."

This patient, patient Jesus. The Lord has risen indeed.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Multitude Monday, Take 347

Thanking God this week for...

7220. free iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts on Mondays--great way to start the week
7221. songbirds
7222. carrying sleepy Jude downstairs in the mornings, his arms and legs wrapped tightly around me
7223. redbud trees in bloom

7224. afternoon writing time
7225. Steve telling the boys at dinner, "Not all mamas are good cooks like your mama."
7226. the pleasure of imaging God by being creative
7227. a friend's critiques of my poetry serving as catalysts for revision
7228. Elijah is not too old to hold my hand

7229. his asking out of the blue for a notebook to take notes during the sermon at church
7230. his excitement over a cheap green spiral notebook
7231. friends around our table
7232. Steve's ambition + hard work = 14 tons of gravel delivered to fix our driveway
7233. Steve's humility + wisdom = recognizing it was going to be too massive an undertaking to move it all by hand, and renting machinery instead of killing himself

7234. a friend's hospitality
7235. this strange but delicious creamy kale and Brussels salad
7236. "Fear and Faith" panel discussion
7237. wise and winsome women of God talking theology and pointing women to Jesus
7238. an afternoon at the park

7239. a laptop + camping chair to sit and write while the boys played
7240. Jude telling the truth about his sin
7241. his brokenhearted repentance
7242. a new phone
7243. awesome customer service from Ting, our fabulous + cheap cell phone company

7244. approval from our pastors to extend our new Sunday school class beyond the trial period
7245. one of the women sharing how the class is stirring up her desire/motivation to be in the Word during the week
7246. lovely women around my table last night
7247. getting to snuggle a newborn

7248. Jesus succeeded where Solomon and David and all other kings failed
7249. building a house for His name, not of stone and wood and gold but of living stones, people knit together to display His wisdom and goodness and reflect His glory

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Multitude Monday, Take 346

I miss blogging. I don't even know what happened here...but somehow I need to take some of my friend Danielle's advice about making space for creativity in the midst of motherhood. Unlike her, I struggle mightily with time management, and thus find myself mired in a cycle of feeling overwhelmed, escaping, and being ruled by the tyranny of the urgent.

I've been absolutely itching to write lately, and have even managed to scribble out a couple of poems. But I'm also feeling the pull to get back to this blog. I've been somewhat more back in the habit of giving thanks offline, but haven't been able to carve out the time to transfer lists here weekly. Here's to spring and new beginnings, and taking time a day late to thank God for recent gifts like...

7165. my BIL's engagement = a new sister-in-law coming!
7166. being pleased for all His fullness to dwell in Jesus and reconcile us by His blood
7167. we who were alienated an hostile can be holy, blameless, above reproach before Him
7168. running into friends at the park on a sunny afternoon
7169. boys cleaning out the van, actually doing a great job

7170. a spring break outing to Warner Park with friends
7171. boys getting filthy and having fun
7172.  boys' spontaneous gratitude: "That was SO FUN, Mom! Thank you for taking us to the park!"
7173. encouraging feedback about my work on the Simeon Course
7174. free drinks at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts for my birthday
7175. physical and spiritual bread broken with our dear small group
7176. this beautiful moment of Jude and his friend huddled over the Jesus Storybook Bible while we grownups talked about a passage from John

7177. grace to parent patiently, not get irritated, uncover the real problem
7178. rare parenting wins that feel so rich and rewarding
7179. birthday phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, cards
7180. birthday dinner at Mafiaoza's
7181. Jude rapping Shai Linne lyrics while playing with Legos: "C-H-R-I-S-T! We praise! C-H-R-I-S-T! We serve!"
7182. my briefly lost fleece jacket found again, still lying on the sidewalk where I'd dropped it
7183. God is moved to pity by the groaning of His people
7184. full, forever healing for precious Rusty Schultz
7185. his and his mother's incredible testimony

7186. the glorious reality of Heaven that awaits us
7187. Jesus has defeated death--it will be the last enemy to be DESTROYED
7188. a weekend in Memphis with one of my favorite families
7189. coming full circle: Diane's kids babysitting for mine after I used to babysit for them :)
7190. What's App for communication with Steve when he was overseas

7191. adorable golden doodle puppies
7192. grace to cast off anxiety
7193. caring for me and wanting me to cast it on Him
7194. snuggling a friend's brand-new baby
7195. first forsythia blossoms

7196. rich time studying His Word
7197. a week-long visit from Grammy while Steve was out of town
7198. the world turning vibrantly green
7199. Grammy spoiling the boys AND me :)
7200. sweet, precious, earnest time in prayer with beautiful sisters from church

7201. Skype with Steve--and an unbelievable connection when he was in London. YAY technology!
7202. the tremendous affection I feel for my husband
7203. his sending me selfies in front of famous sights in London
7204. listening to an old recording of my grandparents' voices with my mom
7205. a gorgeous day for a field trip to Cheekwood

7206. sunlit tulips, and pansies that remind me of my grandmother
7207. hyacinth for days

7208. tulips, tulips and more tulips--and we barely saw a third of them in bloom

7209. Jude's preschool art fair

7210. Mom and I thinking alike, separately having the idea to do a Stray Boots tour in Nashville while the boys were in school

7211. sweet reunion with Steve after two weeks on different continents, answered prayers for his safety
7212. the way reunions and vacations and homecomings point to Heaven
7213. his bringing me Swiss chocolate
7214. grandparents babysitting so we could have a date

7215. a three-day, low-key weekend together as a family after a chaotic month
7216. an arm band for my phone
7217. poetry
7218. these crazy cuties, and the fact that their wedding outfits still worked for Easter six months later

7218. Jesus' patience with His unbelieving disciples
7219. He is RISEN, just as He said!