A simple melody

I have a pretty simple voice. It is strong and I can carry a tune, but I was always a soprano in choirs so I can’t pick the alto line out of the hymnal like my mom. or make up a descant on top of the melody like my sister (the music therapist). But strong and steady I can sing the chorus and verses. As loud as you want it I can sing out. It came in handy from the back of the stage in the musicals I was in.

This summer as I was praying about what to do, what would honor God, what would restore me from the whirlwind of this school year, God moved my heart and settled on my guitar. The one I got for my twenty-first birthday. The one that has spent years in silence interrupted by a couple month stretches of me attempting to re-learn what I forgot.

While most of my friends spent their teenage years dreaming of a boy who could play them the guitar, I always wanted the guitar myself. I wanted to be able to play.

It is the simple melodies I am attracted to. Nothing on the radio or to remind me of high school. I am learning to play old hymns and songs from the toddler music class they have free at the Y, Old Macdonald and Twinkle Twinkle. Tonight I wanted to look up some songs from serenade night at Church camp I now sing as lullabies. I love anything you would sing around a campfire.

It is true that I heard the Lord tell me he would use my voice right there at that camp. I thought for a time He meant singing. I was drawn to my Mom’s old guitar because I thought I might need the skill.

I have since received a different vision for those same words, that the Lord would use my voice. I believe I am supposed to tell the stories I have been entrusted with, starting with my own. It is in a way the exact same thing I pictured when I was twelve. A simple story, a strong melody, the Lord leading, and I sing out. My taste in stories and songs are the same. I find the simple ones the most compelling, the old stories new again the most beautiful.

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When I am desperate, God is till enough

It got a little dark around these parts on Wednesday.  I have the strong desire to tell you that when my sister therapized me she pointed out my nature to catastrophize things and then make some self deprecating joke or point to my own sinful nature and laugh it off. Isn’t Abby silly, she gets so worked up over stuff when God really has it. Sigh. Maybe one day I will learn. (Insert patronizing head shake and finger wagging at myself here.)

But today the Spirit is leading me to leave it. In that moment, it was that bad. It was worse. Some days this Jesus-filled-spirit-lead living thing is hard. Whether it is because you have as many diapers that need changed as hands every morning, or you drive into work everyday thinking that if you got into an accident you could skip today (hello, first year of teaching), you feel like you are suddenly in a situation that you did not sign up for and you have no idea how to get out.

Even though I try desperately to be a Jesus Lover, to live by the Norman Family Creed, to dismantle the Failure Siren, it all came to a head last week. I now understand better than ever before why the Lord implores us to humble ourselves. Being humbled by the reality of your own sinful nature totally sucks. The difference between knowing in your head that you are a sinner, and watching your sin punch someone you love in the stomach is severe.

In the midst of that I called out, Is God enough? And my call was answered. Because He is enough. He is enough and He is faithful. Not in that, yes, yes, the Bible says He is faithful so it must be true kind of ways, but rather in a visceral I did not deserve His grace and the Lord chose to lift me from my pit of self loathing anyway kind of faithful.

God was enough when  I confessed to my small group ending in “my heart is so ugly”, and they all laid hands on my head and chose to love me anyway. He was faithful in the Peanut placing her little hand on my head and patting. “Okay, mommy? Okay?” and “Jesus, Jesus, Amen.” I hope she never grows out of praying more Jesus over people. I have yet to run into a circumstance that wouldn’t be helped by more Jesus.

Meanwhile the Rooster was tickling my foot and checking for smiles. Bringing me joy, being the change she was insistent on seeing. I suppose you could say that a 7 month old was only grabbing what was right in front of her, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed her looking. I wasn’t even the first. Her looking and tickling and smiling, that is what was right in front. God is enough. He is faithful.

Thursday I received an email from Sarah Bessey.  I hope to never get over how much this means to me. There was a marked change in the way that I write out my life when I read hers. Her honest living and writing gave me permission to be the me God is molding me into. The Lord saw fit that I receive her words to me on my lunch break and cried big fat ugly tears on the keyboard until the bell rang and my freshmen were about to walk in the door. (The only crying that is acceptable in my 9th grade class is the crying I cause.)  She did not smack my hand for bringing her name into all of my mess, but instead offered prayer, understanding that grad-school is hard for the wife too, and assurance that as loud as we howl, it is enough. God is enough.

Then, Friday another email. Grace extended that I do not deserve, hope and restoration chosen when death and excommunication would be easier. Understanding and assurance and the door left open when I was sure it would be slammed in my face. There is no clearer way to see Jesus in a believer than when they extend unwarranted forgiveness to you.

Sometimes God has swooped down and healed my heart. BAM. Done. I am forever changed. I can mark the day on the calendar that He healed my body. It is finished. This change, this enough, God’s faithfulness that I am sure I do need and will need all the days of my life, this is a healing that God is asking me to choose, that He offers in this moment, and this one until the “and this moments” are linked in an eternal chain that I must continue to grab on to.

And I will, continue to grab on to that glorious chain. Because today I know that falling is hard and it can get lonely in those moments when you are no longer sure where that healing is. That chain gets covered in the muck that is the moment right here. But it will be unearthed because my God, He is faithful. My God is enough.

Sometimes on Saturday

Sometimes all it takes is making coffee with the french press to be reminded;  Out of what looks like muddy water to us, God makes beautiful things.

Sometimes your friend sends you a text message with the word “ass” in it and it makes you think: “She has grown so much since I have known her!”

Sometimes you wake up to your oldest babbling through the baby monitor. She tells Teddy all about J, and M, and S each in turn. You are reminded how blessed you are that God saw it fit to give your daughters a whole bonus family.

Sometimes you are sitting in the bathroom waiting for your child to agree to get out of the tub when she stands up and announces “All done!, Towel.” When you wrap it around her, she insists on crawling into your lap and having you rub the towel close. You learned how to do this from your mom. You tell her that this is the very best part of the bath and she agrees.

Sometimes both kids take a nap at the same time and the dog insists you sit outside with him. You agree so you don’t have to clean the house.

Happy Saturday! Hope yours is going just as swimmingly.

Easter Sunday: Still Not Over It

I wrote yesterday about my reminder on Easter Sunday, that I follow a God who came as a man and defeated death. I don’t ever remember not knowing…but it somehow struck me as new. Maybe that is a part of the whole “God’s mercies are new every morning” business.

Not only have I been marveling at the fact that it happened, that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. I have been thinking about the implications of it. What exactly does that mean for me if I identify with Christ? (Which I do, see here.)

Somewhere along the way I became deeply connected to my identity with Christ on the cross. In the third grade, when I prayed the sinners prayer after Wednesday Night Alive with Mrs. Wiegand, it was because I knew that I was not enough. Somewhere deep in that 9-year-old body I knew that I was never going to be good enough on my own. I needed saved. I did not have to be convinced of my own sinful nature. I just knew.

If the gospel ended right there, if Jesus dying for our sins was the last chapter in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, then that would have been it. No Acts to Revelation. No early church, no current church, no Christians. The power of the cross is only realized when linked with the power of the resurrection. Jesus died for our sins, yes. Sin leads to death so even though it is an amazing sacrifice that someone else would die for my sins, a sinless God who is also fully man, in a way it is expected, credible. The story had to go there if we were to be saved.

I am in no way trying to diminish what Jesus did for me. I am so very grateful He did it. But I think perhaps I have been ending my reflection there, at the cross. The reason Jesus died on the cross for me, and for you, is so that the story doesn’t end in death.

The story doesn’t end there. There is more. Jesus Christ was resurrected into a new body, a new creation. The old went and the new came. My sins died on the cross with Jesus, and I have been resurrected with him. I am a new creation too. The sacrifice on that cross lead to the incredible miraculous transformation of the resurrection. The man who was killed, became the living God. Hallelujah. It is unexpected. It is incredible. It is beautiful, and miraculous, and completely indescribable. It is big and unexplainable. Perhaps that is why I have kept my distance. But the resurrection is also personal.

I am supposed to identify with the resurrection as much as I do with the cross. I am a new creation. When I got baptized on Easter Sunday morning in the sixth grade, Mrs. Wiegand’s husband, Pastor Wiegand, didn’t leave me at the bottom of the baptismal, symbolically buried with my sins. He brought me back up, as a new creation. I was buried with my sin and then resurrected as new.

The newness, the holiness, the miracles. I get to claim those too right along with the sinful nature now pierced and dead. Because the story didn’t end at the cross. There was a resurrection. I don’t know that I have been lately, claiming the new creation that Christ has promised me. Sometimes the sinful nature still seems so evident to me. I am sure I have not been identifying other Christians in their newness.

The sinful nature not only can be conquered, it has been conquered. The old has gone, the new has come. Hallelujah. I am not sure what exactly this means, walking it out day by day. But I am excited by the possibilities that this newness has to offer, the hope of the resurrection. Yes that sounds good to walk in. I’ll take more of that.

We Still Want a Political King

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. I grew up in church so I’ve heard the Palm Sunday stuff before. That it was traditional in the day for a ruler to come through the town. A stallion meant war, a donkey meant peace. But I heard a new tidbit this year (Thanks Pastor Tim). The palms that were waved as Jesus passed through signified that the people still expected Jesus to lead the political revolution.

A week later the same people who were screaming “Hosana” were screaming “Crucify Him!”  They did not recognize Jesus for who he was. Their savior, someone who came to deal with the depravity of their own hearts. They were looking for someone to come and revolutionize the political system, to finally usher in God’s law and then they would get to be the ones on top.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus came back, would we recognize him? Would we be paying attention to the people and places that Jesus would go to? Would we beg him to get off the cross and go in to congress and do something already? Would we understand it any better the second time around?

I think we are still looking for the Political messiah. We are still waving those palms, begging God for our nation to turn toward Him. We still want a political messiah, not a personal one. Because a political savior deals with them and all of their stuff, and a personal savior deals with me, and my stuff.

And it is a whole lot more comfortable to have others change based on what I think, then to allow the Holy Spirit to rearrange my life, and trust that He will rearrange other people’s lives as well. I do want Americans to come to know the Lord, every single one of them. But I don’t think that is going to happen one law at a time. I think it can only happen one person at a time, one heart at a time turning toward God.

This Holy week, as I think about the beauty of the cross. I cannot get over how very personalized it was. For me. For you. To connect us to God. I think Jesus could have come to reign as king of a nation. It probably would have been a lot easier to rule a people who adored his decisions. Instead, Jesus chose to die on a cross, to sacrifice himself for people who literally curse his name. He was dying for people’s sins even as they became angry with him for saving them.

We are still clamoring for a political king, but Christ wants so much more than that. He doesn’t just want the hearts, and minds of the nation as a whole. He wants my heart, my life. He wants us to follow him regardless of what the laws say. He knows that changed laws do not change hearts. Christ centered hearts create Christ centered lives, and people are drawn to those lives. Then their hearts change too, and pretty soon no one cares what the law says. We just all follow Jesus.

From Pee to Living Water

I think sometimes I overlook miracles. Ones that happen everyday so they no longer seem impressive. They happen every day at my house, two under two lends itself to miracles. Two babies with clean diapers at the same time, synchronized nap times, first words, first steps, a not-yet-two-year-old who agrees to go along with the plan. They don’t happen all the time. But enough that I forget they are miracles.

Lord, allow me to pour out you Living Water.

But it is emotional miracles, change of heart miracles, miracles you can’t see I have been noticing lately. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the healing, the manifestations, the return of $900 for your $500 deposit. I’ve seen them, and plan on seeing more. But the emotional miracles, the ones you can’t see. I’ve been seeing a lot of those lately.

Like the time just this weekend when God changed pee into living water. I wish I was speaking metaphorically here, but I am afraid that a misguided child snuck into a friends house and offered his practical joke in the form of peeing in her boot. A child that she could have ignored, but instead has been kind to. A child no one else thinks about much. His parents are too busy, too sick, too overwhelmed, too underserviced. The best that they can is not enough to meet the needs of the kids they have in the house. So the child sneaks into another house, and pees in a boot. Who knows why really, he probably doesn’t know himself.

The pee in the boot was not the miraculous part. It was the gross part. The miraculous part was the Living Water that was poured back out. The initial reaction was expected, I am calling the police (you should I responded) I am telling those kids I am done (be done I agreed) I am telling those parents that I don’t care how overwhelmed they are, they need to get a handle on those children (it is for the children’s own good I encouraged.) But then we prayed about it. And the bitter, stinky, gross puddle of waste that was pooling in our hearts was touched by the finger of God. And as the puddle rippled…..the piss in my friend’s heart was turned into Living Water. I love praying with Godly people.

I wonder if those kids would like to go to church with us? (I wasn’t so the church’s kids community could handle all that.) I had planned on asking those boys to walk my dog with me, I wonder why I never asked the parents. What would it look like if I were radically kind to those boys in direct response of being pissed on? It would look like Jesus. Like what Jesus did for us. What Jesus does for us. Even when we know we are doing wrong and continue it anyway, just because we feel like it.

I know that there are other miracles that are flashier, water to wine lets you continue to party. Manna every morning lets you keep walking. Being healed of blindness, lameness, leprosy; tumors disappearing all of these are glorious things. But turning a puddle of pee into living water, and watching someone pour it out to the pisser. How do you get more miraculous than that?

This post was written for Just Write. Go check it out!

Grass Day 2: Seeds of Faith

 

As I explained yesterday, Juliet helped in the grass seed throw down in our back yard. Rarely is she allowed to grab handfuls of stuff and throw it all over the place and not get told “no, no.” Having a 22 month old (I am very aware that at this point I am just refusing to call her two because….she was a baby two seconds ago!) that you are trying to explain things to, makes you realize just how very little you actually have figured out. I mean, really, why do we have to wear pants outside anyway? What is up with that?

                                                       Little in the Hands of God is much…..
 
 

So I am tossing this grass seed out and I am thinking, this girl has exactly zero idea that we are actually doing something here. She has no idea that I expect something to come out of this activity. She just thinks we are running around the backyard having a good time. And really how would I explain it to her? These seeds are going to bury themselves in the ground, then they are going to open up and grow roots down and poke up out of the ground beautiful green grass. In two to four weeks.

The Peanut can’t even comprehend the time it takes for a cookie to cool down. She just knows there is a cookie on the counter and not in her mouth. So the time thing alone is impossible. And when you actually break it down, no matter how scientific you get, it still sounds a little mystical. Because it is a little mystical. This teeny tiny seed has everything it needs to become a blade of grass that can then die and regenerate itself. Everything it needs, with the right set of circumstances and this seemingly worthless seed becomes the grass I have been dreaming about for two years.

I was thinking about how if someone who had never seen anything planted came to my backyard they would laugh at me. This is surely not going to work. Sprinkle little beeds of dead looking grass in the dirt. Put water on it and you honestly expect the ground to be covered in grass? You are an idiot.

But I know that this is possible, that this is what I can expect, because I have seen it. Every year from preschool through the third grade I planted something and watched it grow, from a seemingly worthless seed to a styrofoam cup of live green stuff that I held with two hands because I did not want to spill it. Because I was proud of it, and thought it was pretty cool that a plant could grow out of a seed. We had a garden one year where I even grew pumpkins and cucumbers, and lets not forget the space tomatoes that we got from our LEAP class. ( I am aware there are maybe 200 people on earth that understand the back end of that sentence. Shout out to Mrs. Salvage!)

The doubts are creeping in, about these seeds that have been planted. (That is my post for tomorrow). But it is easy to keep them away right now because I have seen with my own two eyes, the evidence that given the right circumstances, plants do grow from seeds. There is not a way to explain it, you simply have to see that it is true. I think that is why we have small children plant stuff. The evidence takes hold stronger if they experience it for themselves.

I had seeds of faith planted in my childhood, and I got to watch them grow. There is a huge difference between understanding that God is your provider mentally because the Bible says it is true, and watching a “random” check show up a week after you prayed for the mortgage bill to be covered. Or have the light bill come back on after your dad met someone on the street who handed him a check on his way to tell the electric company he didn’t have the money. Or getting a phone call just hours after you prayed for a car, offering you the exact same car you just lost, only two years newer.

It is easier for me to believe the Lord wants to physically heal people, because I was healed. It is easier for me to trust that God will provide for our families needs because He has never screwed us over before. Even in my car accident, the Lord was faithful. But if I stop noticing, stop talking about them, I can forget about those seeds, and how they grew into blooming bushes of God’s goodness. Just like it is easy to forget that every living plant I pass every day starts from seeds.

It also makes me want to intentionally plant seeds with my girls, to pray for things and watch with the right circumstance of faith and love, those prayer seeds grow into bushes of God’s goodness. And to remember that those things started out as little seeds of faith.

How about you? What bush of goodness is growing in your life?

Grass Day 1