Friday, December 27, 2013

The Monster

Grief is such of a monster.

There is no better way to describe it on this cold, snowy morning. The holiday season was spent in a blissful numb. Several times I would attempt to take a mental temperature and try to gauge just what it was that I was feeling, expecting the pain to overtake rather than the ability to enjoy the events. Numb is okay, as Alexis reminded me. None of us minds Novocain while sitting in the dentist's chair after all. Another Christmas spent without your firstborn son and a little numb is just fine.

But like the fuzzy lip, it doesn't last long. It's reminiscent to the feeling after the first anniversary. Being all pepped up to do it well, face it all, go through the motions at least. Then it hits ... hard. Coupled with the fact that I've been on a marathon picture sorting, collage making frenzy doesn't make it easier. In grief, I have found,  you do what you can do and you do what you think you have to do, even if it might seem irrational to everybody else. I have gotten it into my head that I have to have all of my pictures sorted and printed into book format before we hope to move in the Spring. I have gotten through two and a half years, nearly 1,000 collages. Which brings me to 2011. And we all know what happened in 2011.

As my mom said the other day, I'm living in three realms: the past, the present, and the future. When I first started the project I couldn't convince my brain again that Trent really wasn't here. As if he had just been hiding in the woods for the past three years, like in the pictures. I almost called him in for supper a couple of times.

Then there is the jolting present. Shutting off the computer and seeing the empty chair and bed. No Ken-doll locks, no giggle, no smacking kisses goodnight.

But then there is the future, the glorious future. To keep my eyes trained there often times becomes difficult. It's reality seems unreal, lately. As if God has asked too much. I force my heart to repeat the promises. Clinging to the hope in them. Battling for victory.

Victory.

The victory to overcome this deceitful heart of mine. Victory over unbelief. Victory over thinking that it would be better to have Trent here. Victory to live victoriously.

I felt strong enough to venture into the February 2011 pictures today. I figured I better do it while I thought I could. I realized again the depth of my weakness. A son in a coffin three years later is harder than it was that day. I see the people again, the ones who were here with us. I see the bewilderment, and even the lost-ness, on so many of their faces.

Then I look at my face in the pictures. I can almost see the grace of God being poured out. I wonder where that it is now. I wonder why God lets it get so hard. Not blasphemously wondering, just wondering at His good plans that includes our total weakness. I wonder if at the foot of Jesus' cross it was the same. Mary, looking at her son... fully trusting God, but wondering... how is this the good plan? I envision Jesus at Gethsemane, asking if there wasn't another way. Accepting that this was the wisest way.

Somehow glory is only seen through the impossible. Our faith is only proven through the impossible. To make it to the end, longing for God alone, only happens through the impossible.

The pictures that were taken the days, even months and years, before the accident were so worldly. To see my heart three years later, and what it desires now, is enough of a reason to praise God that His ways are higher than mine. His love baffles me. Why me? Why grant this suffering to me? The other option would have been to let me go on living only for here and now, indulging even more into my kingdom rather than His. There is no appropriate description for how deep my longing runs for Christ, to see His face, to bow at His feet, to know His glory.

Would I trade that desire for a lifetime of a son, when it would mean trading an eternity of being satisfied in God? No.

The perspective helps. This blip of a life is kept in check. I try to remember to look up from the grief once in a while. For as debilitating as it is, it drives me nearer to God.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Cards


I wish thee no greater good than that God break in upon thy careless heart,
and shake thee out of thy false peace, and make thee lie down at the feet of Christ. 
~Richard Baxter, The Saints Everlasting Rest

I seriously considered inscribing our Christmas cards with that line this year. But then I thought otherwise. My smiling, polite genetics got the best of me and I went for a safe, happy, NIV, non-eternal verse: "Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again - Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) I made it through the picture taking this Summer, made it through the collage process this Fall, and have even started a list with the intention of really sending them out before the blessed holiday is over.

And then the kids who were brave enough to venture out into the below zero weather to trek through the snow banks to the mailbox started bringing me Christmas cards. Safe, happy, NIV, non-eternal versed Christmas tidings with pretty covers and well wishes for a happy holiday. I handled it well to start with. I made it through the first few. And then I cried. Cried because everybody else gets to send out happy cards this year. Cards with all their children smiling in goofy poses. Cards about how big Johnny has grown, and how sister got a new car and brother is getting straight A's.

While I pondered my past year, and considered what I would write for a cheery holiday letter, I thought of the many mornings waking up to fight the battle just to get out of bed, fighting for God's glory to reign, fighting to say "thank you" for my son being in Heaven with the next words from my lips being a plea for the salvation of my children who are still here; the constant weight of their eternities laying on my heart like a rock.

Or watching my daughter cry her eyes out, focusing on grieving not as those without hope, and trying to come up with the perfect answer to the barrage of people who think her greatest achievement this past year should have been getting a driver's license rather than a deeper walk with the Lord, that time spent behind a wheel would have been better spent than time behind a Bible.

And, rather than my husband getting a promotion, how I've watched him work two jobs to support a family in this hard economic time, how I've watched him battle for victory to lead us well in the midst of his own pain, how I've watched his desire for God reign over his desire for the world, how I've watched his strong hold to Scripture win over his flesh.

I could write about letting it all go, giving up our kingdom of a farm and material possessions in attempted obedience to what we hope will be a life of being poured out for God's kingdom. But somehow it seemed wrong to report those growths, as if I would be destroying the façade of everybody else's joy at this time of year.

Then I remembered that God loves me. He really, really loves me. Loves me enough to "wish [me] no greater good than that [He] break in upon  [my] careless heart, and shake [me] out of [my] false peace, and make [me] lie down at the feet of Christ."

Then it struck me how sad I was. Not so much in being sad that Trent isn't here, though I miss him like crazy, but sad because in my own power I cannot change one single person, especially the ones that I love the most, to value God's glory and "break in upon [their] careless heart, and shake [them] out of [their] false peace, and make [them] lie down at the feet of Christ." Instead I watch so many professing believers walking around careless, with peace, not lying down at the feet of Christ. As Casting Crowns puts it (Spirit Wind), "Believers leading carnal lives... wonder what they're fighting for."

Along with all this, John Piper's book, The Pleasures of God, has my head swirling with his chapter on God's glory in bruising the Son on the Cross. He talks about God's delight in His own glory, and how the suffering of Jesus to take on the curse of sin in obedience to the Father was a measure of Jesus' love for God's glory. It's as if Jesus and God are battling to prove their love for each other, round and round, one-upping the other in proving it. Which all causes me to look fresh at my own suffering and how I view God in it.

If, like Jesus, the measure of my own suffering is meant to reveal God's glory and will result in God, and myself, delighting even more so in His glory, then I am right where He wants me. If suffering weighs out our truest affection, and if one of God's greatest delights is His glory, and if He allows His children to suffer to prove their greatest desire (all the while acknowledging that the ability that it would be His glory that rises to the top ultimately comes from Him), then what a joy it will be to see the measuring rod on that day that I enter God's presence and He says, "Well done good and faithful servant. You loved me this much and trusted me to portray my glory through you while you suffered this much." 

It is not the suffering that is rejoiced in, but what is accomplished by God via that suffering: the revealing of His glory that works out even our own salvation. To come to an end of ourselves just may be God's greatest mercy. To be sure, salvation only comes about by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, but God continues to prove it by increasing our longing for Him throughout our lives.

Which brings me back to the Christmas cards. And how much easier it would be to have five children posing, but how much greater is the work that is being done to only have four. So all that rambling to wish you this holiday season:

No greater good than that God break in upon thy careless heart,
and shake thee out of thy false peace, and make thee lie down at the feet of Christ.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Pleasures of God

Don't read John Piper for an hour immediately before going to bed lest you wake up with thoughts like these swirling in your brain in all out attempt to connect the dots, before the coffee is even done brewing, and causing you to wonder ceaselessly, yet again, just who this God is that has chosen you to have a sneak peak at the unfathomable beauty of His glory to come:

* One of God's greatest pleasures is His delight in His good plans for His children.

* God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

* So, when I am satisfied in God and His good plans for me, I will be most satisfied in Him.

* To be most satisfied in God I must be most satisfied in God, not other things.

* When I pray and long for God to be glorified in me, it means that I must be most satisfied in God.

* For God to answer that prayer He must first make me delight in what He delights in, namely His glory.

* To prove that I delight in Him, as a Christian's desire would be, he removes what I do delight in to reveal what my greatest delight really is.

* The pain comes when it is discovered that it is not God, or His good plans, who is my greatest delight.

* God takes away what I desire more than Him for my own good, for my eternal good, to prepare me to delight in Him above all else for an eternity in His presence. He makes Himself my greatest desire so that I can say as Paul did in Philippians 3:8, "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."

* Nothing else will satisfy me like God will. Attempts to be satisfied elsewhere will graciously fail if God is going to be glorified in me.

* When I am fully satisfied in God, my delight in Him will overflow.

* God is like a mountain spring, never ending, never needing filling, freely offering my thirsty soul to fill on Him alone to be satisfied so that I will be able to run down the mountainside and share with others, knowing that there will always be enough grace and He will never run dry which means that I can be filled yet again.

* God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

~My thoughts from the book by John Piper, The Pleasures of God

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Morning

 
It's Monday again. How the days go by so fast, I don't know. This chilly morning brings with it extra kids snuggled double in a bed, cousins excited for doughnut day at Aunt Terri's house (click here for the recipe if you, too, find the desire to add an extra five pounds to your hips). The noise level is a bit higher in this old farmhouse, and the boy energy has been flowing since before eight o'clock. I make my face smile, squeeze extra tight with the hugs, and clench my coffee cup as I push the dog off the recliner while seeking a quiet corner to right my heart before my Savior.

The conviction of luke-warmness, with a dollop of bubbling anger, has boiled to the top lately. I now wake up without immediate thoughts of a son in Heaven. I wonder how the funeral predictions could actually be coming true that eventually you do go on and begin to survive without the ever-pressing force of grief. The normalcy of life without Trent is forcing its way in. Still not a day goes by without tears, or a fervent missing and crying out to God, but they are going by with less intensity.

As appealing as that sounds, I fear for the lack of impact it has on my soul. The expectation of eternity has waned, the realization of this mist of a life has dwindled and is being replaced by thoughts of paint colors and decorating schemes.

...anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37a-38

That verse may not challenge anybody else, as my dear {young teen age daughter with no children} daughter pointed out that she doesn't have any problems with it or loving Jesus the most. But this old mother was convicted to the core. I imagine standing before the throne of God on that day that my name is called to give an accounting for my life, especially for this time that I was granted the privilege of suffering in order for God to do "his will, and work in me what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever" (Hebrews 13:21).

I've realized, recently, how unwillingly I have taken up this cross to follow in the path of Jesus. How quickly I would take back my easy life, pre-child death, and live contently until the ripe old age of ninety-two without a care or thought of eternity. The outcome would be not seeking Jesus this way. Not counting the cost. Not being forced to look the powerful truth of Scripture square in the eye. Not having to acknowledge who I love the most, Jesus or fill in my own blank. Not knowing if I would be found worthy.

Not being tested means never realizing the worth or validity of your faith. Not being tested means not seeing God's power revealed. Not being tested means remaining stagnant. Not being tested means risking your eternity.

And what do you do with that?

I plead with God to right my motives and make my days count. Somehow pursuing eternity, investing here only as much as is absolutely necessary, and making sure my salvation. I ponder how to store up those treasures there, where moth and rust will not destroy, while treading this earth and needing it's resources to physically live. I pray and trust that my children will not be warped as we refuse to indulge them with the goods this life has to offer, but would instead constantly find their joy in and turn their attention to an unseen Judge and Savior.

As Rob read Scripture to the kids the other night, pondering in the book of Acts about Jesus ascending to Heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God, I sensed a precipice of sorts. I recalled, not so long ago, five young children squirming on the couch listening to their father proclaim the promises of life ever after. Now one child is living the reality of the words while the rest of us try to imagine it; try to live our lives expecting it.

I wonder how to lay out the importance of it to the rest of them. Failing on my own, and instead relying on prayer and God's grace. Longing to impress upon their young souls the foundation of loving God the most, assuring them that it is easier to start serving Him young rather than when the stubbornness of age has established it's rugged path in their daily lives.

Sigh.

The reality of how to live out these Biblical truths reveals itself in the smiling faces before me. Investment into those whom God brings into our lives. Being where He calls us, faithfully serving where He leads us. Counting the minor things as major.

The houseful of children get nervous when I finally rise from that old, worn out chair, two cups of coffee later, with an opera song rolling sweetly {annoyingly?} from my lips as I dance with the smiling blonde girl. It's time for doughnuts, kiddos. I'm sure the extra sugar will make this Monday all the sweeter.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Widow's List


No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she ...
has been faithful to her husband,
and is well known for her good deeds,
such as bringing up children,
showing hospitality,
washing the feet of the Lord’s people,
helping those in trouble
and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
1 Timothy 5:9

I have been playing a bit of Bible Bingo lately. With some busy schedules lately to goof up my lounging with a cup of coffee on the old recliner, plus having finished up my regular reading, I have just been quickly flipping through Scripture at random the past few mornings. I find myself mostly camped out near the end of the New Testament seeking out Paul's words and longing for some much needed encouragement and hope.

This verse in First Timothy has stuck with me, rolling through my brain and guiding my actions. After Trent's death the never ending question has been, "What do I do now?" Trying to balance what has to be done just to keep on living, with what has eternal purpose. The little bit of left over energy and emotion that remains after grief has ruled for the day needs to be channeled in the right direction lest the pity party claims it again. Battling to live truth as declared in Scripture sometimes goes no further than the brain, but there is a rumbling deep inside that refuses to be quieted lately and somehow the old energy is coming back to put some of it into motion. I still barely get a start before the tears come, threatening to paralyze me again. More days than not, though, lately I have been able to get past them quicker, or at least think I can get past them.

So then, what to do? What really matters? What does God say matters?

Richard Baxter, in The Saints' Everlasting Rest (Free book download here), admonishes the believer to set their minds more on Heaven and eternity, to believe as if it is reality, and therefor to live it out in our daily actions.

"O, that we would mind our inheritance and value it but half as it doth deserve! There is nothing else [greater than Heaven] that is worth setting our hearts on... I would not advise thee to make experiments (living our lives other than as if Heaven and God were reality) at such dear rates, as all those do that seek after happiness below, lest, when the substance is lost, thou find too late that thou didst catch but at a shadow; lest thou be like those men that will needs search out the philosopher's stone, though none could effect it that went before them; and so buy their experience with the loss of their own estates and time which they might have had at a cheaper rate, if they would have taken up with the experience of their predecessors. So I would wish thee not to disquiet thyself looking for that which is not on earth, lest thou learn by they experience with the loss of thy soul, which thou mightiest have learned by easier terms, even by the warnings of God in his Word, and loss of thousands of souls before thee.
 
Indeed, so far as duty and necessity requires it, we must be content to mind the things below; but who is he that contains himself within the compass of those limits?
 
 And yet if we bound our cares and thoughts as diligently as ever we can, we shall find the least to be bitter and burdensome, even as the least wasp hath a sting, and the smallest serpent hath his poison. . . . The like may I say of our earthly cares; it is their property to be hard and troublesome, and so they will be when they are the least. . . . We, the citizens and inhabitants of heaven, are bound by solemn and frequent covenants, not to have our hearts enticed or entangled with any foreign honours or delights, but only with those of our own country. If thy thoughts should, like the laborious bee, go over the world from flower to flower, from creature to creature, they would bring thee no honey or sweetness home, save what they gathered from their relations to eternity. . . ."

Along with those thoughts I look at Paul's list again:
  . . . faithful to her husband and well known for her good deeds,
such as bringing up children,
showing hospitality,
washing the feet of the Lord’s people,
helping those in trouble
and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
 

And then I look at my life from the perspective of eternity. I look at all the possessions that I am hoarding and striving for here and see how their value pales in light of what matters to God. I look around at my junque, and consider that knowing Christ is of greater value than the treasures of this world. I see all the material stuff that I will have to give account for one day, and then seek out ways to make them glorify God. I remind myself to invest in what truly matters: souls.

There is the overlooked simplicity of being a faithful wife; faithful with my mouth and words, faithful with my thoughts and prayers, faithful to build my husband up to be who God is making him to be.

Good deeds, often times the simple things like being the one to get up and let the dog in. Will that be glorifying in the presence of the King, to battle the selfishness in my own heart that would rather refuse to rise in order to give my family comfort?

Bringing up godly children, showing them a broken vessel who is desperate for God. Living out absolute dependence on a Savior who said He loves and redeems the vilest offender. Pointing them to what matters: not this temporary world, or indulging in what it offers, but where our souls are with our Creator.

Hospitality, even if it means an impromptu meal of hot dogs and baked beans served in the old pot on mismatched plates while sitting around the scratched dining room table talking about what really matters.

Washing the feet of the Lord's people. My heart has a long way to go on this one. What humbleness that is still so far out of my reach to stoop that far. To forgive and love like Christ did. To draw that near to other sinners who have offended my shallow feelings and not edified my ego.

To help those in trouble. So often I don't see beyond my own front door to even see them. So often I am consumed here at home, where I should be for this time, that I don't even know that there is trouble. Could I not stretch myself a bit more to see it, though? To put myself where I can see it? A hug is so simple, an email, a card, and a heartfelt prayer means so much to those in trouble and is such a simple offering.

Devoting myself to all kinds of good deeds, good God deeds through His power. Balancing what is my strength and what is God's strength, God's callings or my ideas, has been rumbling around my thoughts lately. How many things do I futilely do on my own instead of listening for God's clear voice? How many plates do I attempt to spin until God knocks them all off so I will finally look to Him alone and live out what He is asking and what glorifies Him? What in my life will matter for eternity? What will be on my widow's list?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Temporary Insanity

The pendulum seems to swing full force in my life. Either I am huddled up in the fetal position under the covers, or the throttle is set at full bore and we all go along for the ride. I prefer full bore. I prefer having too many things to do for the Kingdom with a chaos of people surrounding me while doing it.

Lately that hasn't been the case. It's been quiet. And lonely. Grief seems to have a power of its own to close you in to a painful shell of yourself. After a while you get exhausted by trying to figure out what to do with the outside world of well meaning people who don't know what to do with you, either. There are the handful of brave ones who don't skirt the subject of your dead son, but most are skittish.

It's a strange place, wondering if you should venture in to deeper waters or stay on the shallows talking about the weather. Mostly it's the weather. Which brings the barrage of "why don't they say anything, why don't I say anything, fine I'll hole myself up in my house and never come out again."

Whoosh goes the pendulum.

Holed up in my house on purpose is where I've found myself lately. And that's okay. The kids are getting cabin fever already in October, but I've cocooned myself into a little quilting world and would be happy to not emerge until the snow melts next Spring. Lucky for them Aunt Traci came and whisked them away to the outside world for a day of swimming earlier in the week. I stayed home. And told myself I wouldn't cry. But it didn't work very well. If I could just let it all come out maybe I'd get on with life. But I'm so tired of crying and I can't seem to conjure up much joy lately.

"Sometimes it's just hard," were Traci's wise words. "There doesn't have to be an excuse. It's just hard." And lately it's just been hard.

Hard to go to friend's houses where other Aunts mistakenly use Trent's name. I don't mind. I mind the tiptoeing around us more. But then it's hard when somebody does talk about Trent. Hard to fathom that kind of love. Hard to believe that's what it is supposed to really be like; that other people carry this burden with me and all these whispers of the enemy aren't true. Hard to hear that people don't know how to help their children grieve. And even wonder at the concept that they should. Hard to hear that a young man was bawling into his pillow the night his friend died and that his dad sat on the couch next to him and watched a movie. Hard to hear someone be amazed at how strong you were only to know how truly weak you are.

Our weakness portrays our dependency for God. I keep trying to remind myself of that. Keep trying to force what is reality to overrule what I only thought was reality. It's been a losing game lately. Until God answered my never ending prayer to remind me again of the reality of eternity. Remind me to stay awake. Remind me that this is not a game we're all playing.

That reminder was through another child's death. Through another way that God used Trent's story for His glory. Another battle fought through folded hands and tears poured out over a girl and her family that we never knew. Prayers of a husband so tender that I am both convicted and ashamed at my own brutal heart. Tears wept because their day probably started out naively just like our day had over two years ago, and now they are in the midst of preparing for a funeral. Tears because we know what that feels like and know what is ahead of them. Know the ache that never leaves even when it feels like everyone else has.

Tears because we long for them to not walk the walk alone but to fight, brawl, battle and conquer over all to know the goodness of God in every detail of the rest of their lives until they, too, meet God face to face. Tears because these precious ones have gone before us and know what we only long to know. Tears because we know these are the easy days for them. Tears because we are so humbled by God saving our son by His Son and allowing us to share in their sorrow even if they never know it. God knows it. God hears. God cares.

So I dig deeper into the material cupboard. I look for more to do. I busy my restless hands as I wait for eternity to begin. Because it's either that or crawl back under the covers.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Trent's Story


On Friday February 18, 2011, God did the unthinkable in our life: He chose to take our 12-year-old son, Trent, home to heaven in a skiing accident.
It is only considered “the unthinkable” because our plans are not God’s plans, and our ways are not God’s ways.

Before Trent was born we had entrusted the Lord with his life and had asked Him, above all else, to bring salvation to our son. Our greatest desire was that he would be used in a mighty way for God’s glory, and that God would let him dwell in heaven for eternity.

God answered our prayers that Friday in a mightier way than we could have imagined, and we have been rejoicing in His good works and His mercies ever since.

Trent was a boy who truly lived. From the very beginning he did what he loved and enjoyed to the full the gifts and skills that God had given him. In his short life he saw much of this world, traveling as far as India, the Bahamas, Bass Pro Shop in Missouri where he explored his favorite destination on his golden birthday, as well as many family camping trips. God instilled a love of hunting and fishing in Trent, and a joy of the great outdoors. Since he was little all he wanted was to turn 12 to be able to go deer hunting. During his 12th year God allowed him to shoot two deer. Trent loved to pick on his siblings Alexis, Cole, Grace, and Micah, to protect his mother, to snuggle with his father, and to be with his friends, especially his best friends: Thomas and Samuel. He tried everything that interested him, even carving his own long bow and succeeding in taxidermy. In his short years he lived life to the fullest.

But as we are all destined to, Trent also died. On Friday, February 18, 2011, we said goodbye to our son as he left for a skiing trip with his friends, not knowing that he would never be coming back home. God says that He knows the number of our days, that He has created each one, and that He will do what He pleases (Psalm 115:3; Job14:5).

God’s standards to enter His kingdom are high: He expects perfection. Trent was not perfect, not even close. God graciously provided His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, as the atonement for our sinfulness and requires that we simply believe and acknowledge Him for it.

For most of his life Trent struggled with his own sinfulness before God. He knew that he was not right before God, and nothing he could do would ever make up for the sins he had committed to make him worthy to enter heaven. In the spring of 2010, God graciously chose to bring salvation to Trent through repentance and the saving grace of Christ Jesus. Trent’s life was transformed and we enjoyed the young fruit in his life as we watched God work.

It was with great peace and much rejoicing, then, that we as his family have sent him off before us and accepted God’s perfect plan for Trent’s life. Our longing is that God would be glorified in what He has done to wake up many to the realization that we are not guaranteed any number of years in this world (Psalm 39:4-5).

On Friday morning we had our son; on Friday afternoon he was gone.

What we have asked so many people since the accident is: “What if it had been you? Where would you be right now?”

We diligently raised Trent up to know his sinful state and taught him what the Word of God says because we know the implications of denying Christ now, and God was gracious to answer our prayers and to save him. Scripture says that the gospel will go forth with much sorrow and heartache. Please let Trent’s short life be a wake-up call to you. We are rejoicing in the sorrow because we know where our son is and that we will one day be with him again for eternity because of our own salvation.

God's mercies are new every day and His peace does surpass all understanding (Lamentations 3:22-23; Philippians 4:6-7). God has been so gracious to us by blessing us first of all with His peace in His perfect plan. The family and friends who have surrounded us and have lifted us up in prayer are amazing and another testimony to God’s goodness.

It is with great rejoicing that we release our son, Trent, age 12, to our Heavenly Father. Dance before your King, my son.

The Romans road to salvation:
Romans 3:23; 3:10-18; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9; 10:13; 5:1; 8:1; 8:38-39

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Making the Connection

There is something powerful about sharing God's word. Think I'm kidding? Go share the gospel. Hold out that glorious promise of Jesus to forgive sinners, offer hope to the hopeless, hand out Scriptural truth like it was candy at a Fourth of July parade. See what happens when you live like heaven is a reality and this life really is a mist. I guarantee you two things: God will uphold you as He refines you through His designated fire and Satan will use every wily trick to defeat you. The enemy knows our weaknesses better than we do. He'll attempt to fool us with the same schemes over and over again. And we'll fall for it nearly every time.

I should see the connection already, but things come slower these days. I have begun to realize that my impatient ways are not God's ways and I try to wait for His timing and leading to act. I'm not sure how to justify that I know when it is His timing, but it all works out to happen exactly when He wants for so many unknown reasons that we may never know.

And then, when the time comes to reach out with the truth, so do the attacks. The defeat. The mornings of crying over socks and preferring bauling in bed rather than rejoicing for a son in heaven. Just as I get to the verge of considering minutely that God could have done things differently (dare I whisper better?) the Holy Spirit reigns my thoughts back to the words of Scripture. Somehow I force my feet to the floor lest I wallow all day in my pity party. I cry before I get to the door. Cry as I walk past the boy's bedroom. Cry as I start the coffee pot, all the while sinking deeper into despair with every step. Such a low that hasn't been felt for quite a while. It slams me: hurt, hurt, hurt. I turn in to it rather than clinging to the words of truth. I start to believe it rather than believing the promises of a Sovereign God.

I read about Richard Baxter (author of The Saint's Everlasting Rest) the other day that he believed like a Calvinist but lived like an Armenian. Meaning, he lived believing that God was sovereign and all powerful, but lived like his salvation (and the salvation of those around him) depended solely on his efforts. One of my weak spots is doubt. What if God isn't real? What if Heaven isn't real? What if eternity isn't real?

But, as I consider my son and the truths of the Bible, I turn it around and ask: What if it is? What if God is sovereign but somehow my salvation and the salvation of those He brings into my life does depend on my efforts? What if that accounting of my life really happens? What if the ones who have been given more (more truth, more access to Scripture, more opening of the eyes, more awakening of the soul, more passion, more knowledge) will be held to a higher standard? What if my ignoring and my apathy really have serious consequences in somebody else's eternity?

What if...

So I bolster through the morning. I finally quit my griping. I finally bend my knees and my heart in prayer, focus my eyes on God's word, and commit my life for the thousandth time to His ways and His plans. Then I dig out a card and ask for words to write to a mother whose twelve year old son died in an accident one short month ago. I try not to let my own tears fall on the page as I force myself to realize why I have this ministry in the first place. Why I am privileged to know what she is going through. Why my heart breaks so deeply for a woman I've never met. Why it matters so much if she starts out the hard process of grieving her son with praising her Savior. I package up two books along with prayers and search for an address, reading the details of her son's death again through my internet search. How morbid it feels to look up children's obituaries and hunt down their living parent's addresses.

Then I click on my emails and find that somebody in Indonesia is requesting a book. Indonesia. I dig into the box for another and tell Trent, "We're going to Indonesia. God's taking you to Indonesia." My prayers for my son's life to be used in a mighty way are going to Indonesia. Alexis gets worried over her mother talking to her dead brother, she may be the one who finally ends up committing me to that insane asylum. It's okay, Lex, I know he can't answer me.

But ... Indonesia.

Can you fathom the ways of God? Would you have ever thought we could bring the gospel to Indonesia? So I tuck in an extra couple of copies. As the dust of the rejoicing over God's work starts to settle another request for books pops up from a sweet Grandmother who wonders about printing her own story. The humbling begins and I catch a glimpse of eternity when the glory to come is going to be incomparable to these temporary trials. I begin to realize that God does know what He's doing and His plans are more glorious than I could ever imagine and that I really don't want to face Him knowing that I fussed about every little thing that He did.

And then the light bulb goes off: this always happens when God uses the story of Trent's life for his glory. Defeat, whining, doubt then a tiny revealing of His work to encourage me of little faith. So I wrap up the books, say another prayer, and vow to myself that I'll see it coming a bit quicker next time rather than going through the same pathetic motions of fussing and doubting God's good plans.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Saint's Everlasting Rest


It's weird having your picture taken. It's weird to look at pictures of yourself. It's weird to post pictures of yourself on your own blog. As a camera fanatic, I am much more comfortable with the gadget in my hands rather than pointed at my face. But, like I keep telling the children, you'll need some photos for my funeral one day. I'm doing my best to ensure that there are shots without the double chin or sagging arms. Use this one, kiddos. Somebody blow it up and put it right on top of my casket. Let it be what you remember of me. May it be what I strive to live like before you, rather than the sulky mother that I've been.

Don't think I'm going suicidal, I'm not. I've just been reading a book by a man who has been in heaven for over three hundred years. (Three hundred years. Just let that concept sink in for three seconds.) He shares about his longing for that eternal rest, his desire to know God perfectly, spirit to spirit. He thought he was going to die so figured he should start thinking about such things. Turns out he didn't pass as quickly as he figured and ended up writing more than just his own funeral sermon but a four volume essay on heaven and the saints' desire to be there. Every turn of the page brings tears. Then conviction. Then that deep sighing that has been present for so long. That unsatisfied longing for God.

He writes:

"Can any soul that hath made God his portion, and chosen him for his only happiness and rest, find rest in so vast a distance from him?"

The universal longing of a Christian's soul to be in God's presence struck me last night at the supper table. Poor Rob, he gets all of my out-of-the-blue, unsorted, confusing blurps, "God revealed the same thing to Richard Baxter as He has been revealing to us: the longing for God's presence when He will dwell with His people." A foreign concept to the world, one only fools would believe in and bank on. If that's the case, then call me the biggest fool of all because I'm waiting for the good stuff, folks. I'm setting my sights on Heaven. I'm waiting impatiently for it and this book isn't helping.

Richard Baxter, The Saints' Everlasting Rest. It's good stuff.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chosen

But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises of Him
who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9
 
 
Life has been a whirlwind of cross country meets, orthodontic appointments, replying to Craigslist adds and home school lessons. The impending threat of cold weather on the horizon has us living in limbo between hoping that we might actually be able to get the house moved and enjoy a lake view before snow flies, or being content to settle in for another long winter at the farm. That wouldn't be so bad either as this old farmhouse is well insulated and has a wood stove to boot. Compared to a the new/old farmhouse we're looking at, with probably next to no insulation, we might appreciate being here come January.
 
But our hearts are already at the new place, stolen by the peace that envelops us every time we visit. Alexis reminds me that it probably has more to do with not having a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes rather than the place itself fulfilling us. Yes, my wise young lady, probably so. All we have to do at the new property is to lounge on the discarded lawn chairs and gaze at the lake view.
 
We've never had to wake up there to the realization that has become our life for the past two and a half years. The battle has not had to be conquered yet on that soil to call God's ways right and perfect, to call death a lie, to force truth to reign over emotions. The enemy has not prowled there, seeking to destroy with the thousand-and-one reminders of a son whom we long to be where he used to be. The woods hold no memories that cause a flood of tears, no overgrown trails that are too painful to walk. There is no dining room table to recall where salvation took place, no empty desk full of school books that were intended to be finished, no empty wall where a near-teen-age boy used to lie in his bed waiting for a kiss good night.
 
I allow the thoughts to twist with their torturous pain, ripping through my heart. Wallowing in them. Knowing the hurt on an intimate level. Knowing there is nowhere to escape it. It consumes as it threatens to choke out any hope.
 
"But you are a chosen people," Peter wrote so long ago. "A royal priesthood, belonging to God, to declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (From 1 Peter 2:9-10)
 
My mind wrestles with the chosen part. Going back to the beginning of First Peter, the apostle says that we are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. A God whose ways are higher than mine, higher than the heavens are from the earth.
 
Chosen, then, to suffer. Chosen to endure grief. Chosen to extol the glory of God through a trial I cannot endure on my own. Chosen to be refined by the fire. Chosen to sort where my affections really lie. Chosen to have my eyes pointed heavenward. Chosen to lose all in this life for the hope of the next. Chosen to be poured out. Chosen to reveal absolute weakness for Christ's incomparable strength to shine through. Chosen to know a taste of God's agony, to know what it is to give up a son. Chosen by a God who is faithful and true.
 
Chosen, so that above all, I would be granted the power to be able to declare the praises of Him who called me out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Daring to Draw Near

 

Again on our home school schedule, right at the top, is the daily requirement of Bible and prayer. It has been there as long as there has been a school schedule in our unscheduled lives. But this year I have chosen to torture the children and really require that they pray. Not just crossing it off the list, or quick praying before we eat, or passing the prayer basket, but to dive deep into conversations with the Almighty. To make it worse, they have to do it sitting next to their brothers and sisters. And, harder yet, most of them aren't saved.

The pull came out of a personal desire, a need for an accounting in my own prayer life which has leaned more towards the Jonah side: fleeing from God rather than drawing near. Numbness is easier than the constant tears, so I've chosen that route rather than bowing before my Creator; traded wooden floors and humbleness for a comfortable recliner and cup of coffee. Mornings are hard enough. Conquering the flesh, getting to gratitude for a son in Heaven before my feet hit the old wooden floor has been something that I've too easily passed over. And, because of that choice, find myself heading straight towards apathy. Holding God at arm's length rather than daring to draw near.

Personal prayer with God alone is powerful, but as Scripture says, where two or more are gathered Christ is there as well (Matthew 18:20). Corporate prayer breaks down walls that we easily hide behind when our eyes are wide open, and especially when we live together twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with no escape from each other than the occasional cross country practice. Our battle weapons get dull when we don't refuel with honesty and by drawing deep from God's well. My greatest desire is to see God glorified through my children, and that will only happen when my children are truly satisfied in Him, so I have set off on a determined effort to train them up and give them the daily habit of authenticity before their maker.

Have you been there? Real, raw, spiritually naked before God?

Lately I find myself not even needing to tell God my heart, not faking the hurt, because He knows. The searcher of hearts knows. My sister reminds me that I am right where He wants me. Right now I don't like where He wants me and He knows it, so there is no point of denying it. Not in anger pointed at God, but honest, lay it all out on the alter, sort it out, hash it out for the ten-thousandth time until joy in God's plans becomes my honest joy. But the majority of that starts with prayer. And prayer is hard work.

After the giggles around the kitchen island, God lead the kids and I to begin our prayer session with acknowledgement of who He is. As children who have been raised in church events their whole lives my kiddos know how to start and end prayer. "Thank you God for this, and heal so-and-so, amen." How pathetic. They know they're not saved and God knows that they're not saved. We think we fool Him. We think those piddly prayers honor Him. But He says that He hears the prayers of the righteous, that honesty is what He desires, that only those with faith please Him (James 5:16; 1 Chronicles 29:17; Acts 17:11).

So we started at the beginning: Who is God?

We all thought we knew. But when our answers are only based on what Scripture says about who God is, it starts to put things into perspective. Eyes closed, five voices getting solemner by the moment, claiming the claims of Jesus Himself. Rather than starting prayer with "thank you" we started with acknowledgement. How hard that proved to be, to break our own rote prayer style that has been acceptable to our lazy selves for so long.

That prayer session revealed much- our doubts as well as our own self righteousness. Pride boiled near the top, but sweet voices longing for eternity were mingled in as well. Prayers spanning between an eight year old boy to a forty year old tired mother revealed where our hearts really are.

Day two brought the discovery of a book on the shelf of our home library by John White called Daring to Draw Near. It is full of insights on prayers that are recorded in Scripture and how God is revealed through them. Not a how-to-pray book, but a peek-at-God-through-prayer book. What an amazing concept: to turn prayer into being about God rather than about us!

If my children can get past the torture concept, past the giggles, and God chooses to reveal Himself to them as they dare to draw near His throne I will give them all A's. And God, Lord willing, will have created a few more powerful warriors for His kingdom.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When Hope Survives

 
CreateSpace has been my friend this summer. They have this wonderful feature where you can get a proof copy of your un-finished manuscript printed for about $5.00, cheaper and easier to handle than printing nearly two hundred pages on my archaic printer. I have been plugging along on my devotional, When Hope Survives, grappling with concepts like this revelational thought that popped into my most recent pity party:

We look here for temporary substitutes to replace God
which ultimately only bring discontent, depression and despair.
 
The pitiful things that I replace Jesus with condemn me in themselves.
 
Real joy is found only in God.
The key to joy, then, is to look to Him alone.

Not exactly what I've been doing lately. Hence the reason why writing the theological parts for the book might be a bit of a struggle right about now. The cloud of discontent, worry and grief have overruled lately.

The recent triggers: a little brown leather ball and a different seventh grade boy in a white and purple jersey. Another home school year with only four names on the schedule again. Those baying dogs in their boxes in the back of the old beat-up hunting trucks that continue to pass by on our quiet road. The next fifty years of my life to look forward to with everyday beginning with the thought that my son is not here to enjoy them with and battling to sing the praises of God for that. Fighting my flesh to call this good, seeking God's ways rather than mine, reminding myself to rejoice in the blessing of suffering.

Some days I honestly can rejoice. I am able to keep my focus on eternity, realizing the gift of having my eyes opened to it. Looking around watching so many people living carnal lives, only desiring the next recreational excursion or new toy rather than looking forward to Christ's return when we will marvel at Him, when His glory will be revealed, when our souls will be fulfilled in His presence, when the accounting of our lives will be reckoned and the grace of God will be shown for how it carried us. The gift of suffering becomes clearer, then, as I realize that it brings with it the desire to focus on eternity.

The book is still a long way off from being worthy of publishing, even self publishing. I pray for the words to write, but fear writing them at the same time. To attempt to permanently describe God, a black and white representation of the Almighty... it's a scary thing. I tread upon the responsibility with great respect and patience.

But then at the same time I feel the need for it to be finished. Now. I see the desperate need for a reminder of hope. I see grieving mothers, friends, and people I've never met (besides myself) needing to be redirected back to the promises of Scripture, back to Jesus, back to the gospel, back to the source of joy. Not just for those grieving a child, but those walking any road of suffering. Trials consume a person. Blinders need to be removed so that hope can shine forth. The truths of God penetrate the darkness.

So I continue to pick up the proof copy, continue to edit, edit, edit and wait for the perfect words to flow when it's God's time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Bit of Advice



There is probably a good reason behind the old adage about those who are grieving, the ever popular response of, "I don't know what to say, so I won't say anything." Even as a grieving mother I stand guilty as charged. Too often I have kept my mouth shut, too, because there really aren't any right words to say. But to all the Christians out there, let me offer my advice on what truly not to say:

*Don't turn the grief back to personal emotions, instead turn it to Christ.

*Don't wallow with said mother in the now, but rather, change her focus towards the glory to come.

*Don't discredit the feelings, but point out that they are feelings; point out the truth of Scripture, the truth of eternity, the truth of Jesus.

*Feel free to give that poor, unsuspecting, grieving mother in the midst of her pity party a good, swift kick in the behinder. I have a sister who is very good at this, and very unafraid to do it. Wham! "Get over it! Open your eyes! Heaven is a far better place to be. Jesus saved your son, He even showed you that He saved your son. Get out there and fight for more souls."

*Then let that poor blithering mother melt into a pile on the floor right before your very eyes until her tears stop. And next week, do it all over again.

***********************
 
To all those who have been brave enough to point me back to Christ in this trial,
my unending thanks

Friday, August 9, 2013

Without Fault


 
To Him who is able to keep you from falling
and to present you before his glorious presence
without fault and with great joy.
Jude :24

I've been sicker than a dog all week. Another splendid side of grief I am finding. Even two and a half years later my body's resolve to fight anything other than the constant barrage of spiritual and emotional attacks is low. Illness strikes with a vengeance and sends me to bed, or the doctors office, more often than ever, revealing yet again another result of the curse of so long ago. Being in bed, feverish and hacking away, leaves the household to go awry. I made an attempt to rule from under the three quilts I was huddled under, but it just wasn't the same.

At the low points seems to be when God moves. The weakness that the apostle Paul so often talked about is where glory shines the brightest through our lives. I hate that weakness. I hate the face-to-face honesty that is found in it. Total dependence on something outside of myself. The tears flow too freely as well as the first ammunition of protection: anger. Stupid this and stupid that, until I only have God left to accuse. Stuffing is the wadding over the cannon ball that eventually ends up exploding, so I try to balance it all. But then there are the tears; too many tears. The headache kind of tears, the smearing all over your face and sopping wet t-shirt kind of tears. It's unbelievable where they all come from and what simple things they come over.

I said goodnight to Rob last night. He looked at me strange. "What did you say?" he asked. Just goodnight. "I thought you said 'Goodnight Trent.'" The look, after twenty-four years, after two years, the look before the tears. I remind myself that eternity is going to be a long time. I pray for all of my children, for all those God has given me to love, that they would be there. That they are those who have been called and loved by God, that they have this testimony in their hearts.

Sin weighs heavy in these weak moments as well. It blares its resounding siren in my soul, reminding me of the depth of depravity that I am capable of. Revealing the expanse between sinful me and a perfect, holy, glorious God. An expanse so wide that one slip may be all it takes to turn that love into eternal separation. How I wander so easily from the promises I am not sure. Fear maybe, or too many voices echoing over the years. A healthy respect of a glorious God who isn't kidding, perhaps.

"To Him who is able...."

The words penetrate the pain. "To Him who is able." My eyes have been looking the wrong way again. This is not a performance test. This is not about me. None of it. It is about revealing God. Revealing Him who is able, Jesus Christ.

In this weakness God's word has gone forth. I have noted since the beginning of this grief journey that when the word of God, especially the gospel, is being poured out is when the attacks seem to hit the hardest. I should not be blindsided by the connection anymore, but I still am. Trent's story, or rather, God's story of Trent's life, has been shared umpteen times these past couple of weeks in various ways. As a mother, as a vessel of God, as a spokesman for His gospel, I press on to share it with as many as possible. God makes it too easy sometimes. As I wallow in my pity party in bed, He is doing glorious things through words that He ordained to be wrote many months ago.

He is able. Yes, Jesus is able.

The next part of the verse, "able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy" covers every false whisper of the enemy. I just finished reading in 1 John 2:1b-2a, "But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense- Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins." The combination throws a powerful punch. Combined with John's encouragement that belief in Jesus Christ promises the reality of eternal life brought more tears. Always tears these days.

Tears over the washing of my own sins that I have no excuse for before a holy God, but more so, tears to realize that Trent has been presented before the glorious presence of God, escorted by Jesus Himself. Brought before Him without fault and with great joy.

A few months after Trent's accident the thought terrorized me that when we die we immediately face judgment, not the refining fire of judgment of our works that Paul describes in First Corinthians 3:12-15, but the salvation judgment of Hebrews 9:27 where we stand before God face to face to give account as to what we did with the testimony of His Son, Jesus Christ. I long for a glimpse into this eternal realm where sins are as if they never were, where justice comes through scarred hands, where the Savior died for His very creation. To understand glory. To look upon it, unblemished. Ushered into the very courtroom of God with great joy. The thought of my son having walked that walk overwhelms me.

The pressure seems to continue that it's time to get over with grieving. But I never want to get over longing to be where my son is, longing for heaven, longing to be where there is no fault, no sin, no fear. The privilege of being given this suffering is to be able to share the hope of the Savior who made the promises. I battle to hold on to it above anything else in this world that so easily consumes. I strive to keep my eyes heavenward. To live seeing eternity as a reality, not a distant possibility.

The illness, the pain, the weakness, the intense grief of a mother's breaking heart are the necessary requirements for revealing the facade of what surrounds us. They all point toward what really matters: eternity. Eternity and where we will be found before this glorious God when we arrive there.
To the only God our Savior be glory,
majesty, power and authority,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
before all ages now and forevermore!
Amen
Jude :25
 
 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

To Beat a Dead Horse






Victory. Today I had a taste of it. The relief of immense pain, a glimpse of the hope to come, laughter and smiles. I wake up now and my immediate thought is no longer that Trent is in heaven. My immediate thought lately has been "why is that bird singing at 5:45 a.m. again?" At night I make the choice between sweltering hot or a morning solo, shutting out the cool breeze or leaving the window open. Most nights I've chosen the heat. After a couple of swipes at the snooze button I realize I am awake and thinking about the events of the day: kids to get on that big yellow school bus, chores that need to be done, which rows need to be weeded in the garden....

I realized tonight that I wrote those words over a month ago. Then I realized that it's been nearly as long since I've written anything authentic. Stuffing has been the menu choice of the emotions as of late. I am feeling worn-out in this grief journey by other people's opinions. Or, rather, my opinions of what I think other people's opinions are. I can't stomach the game of small talk anymore. To bring up your dead son, or not bring it up, is exhausting. And I'm just plain tired of processing this. Tired of it all, actually. Of always hurting. Of always trying to theologically sort everything. Always defending. So I've just kind of shut down.

And attempted to go through the motions of living.

I literally look up every once in a while and force myself to remember Trent's presence in our home. I hate it that I can hardly conjure it up. Where he sat- the seat is not so empty anymore. Seeing him lying on the living room floor in his sleeping bag for movie night. The open wall where the bunk bed used to be. The hand on my back. Him asking for Mom. Kickboxing. Smiling. Kissing and popping noises. That giggle that always made you laugh with him.

That's why I stuff. If I don't, the avalanche of tears begin. Instead, I steadfastly resolve to wait for eternity. When I look around, I go insane. I am tired of reading theological fluff of people who have never suffered. The actresses rendition of Corrie TenBoom tonight in the Hiding Place movie spoke my heart. I hate this, too. Please, Jesus, please carry this when I can't.

Those pictures. I forced my children to smile. Literally forced them. It cost them an extra weeks worth of chores plus cleaning out the barn. Their rebellion for not wanting to take pictures without their brother either. One obedient child, who's heart showed even as she plastered on the smile, broke down afterward. Sometimes this feels like too much. Too much to ask of a mother.

The lies are so subtle: this isn't worth it, there is only the bottomless pit of the pain that the hand of God won't reach so far or stretch so wide or hold so much. Give in. Let go. Quit yapping about all this Jesus stuff.

If I would only run to Him.

And quit fearing man.

Clenching to the Word. Waiting patiently. Loving the promises instead of doubting them.

Satan likes to mock Christ's saints. I see him dancing around Jesus in the gospels, tempting, taunting, so alluring.

Back to the word. Back to the truth. Standing solid.

One day every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. One day it will be made right. One day eternity will begin.

I'm not remembering that victory of a month ago tonight. God has been teaching me weakness instead. Showing me a taste of just how weak I am. Making it all be by only His strength. Pitifully, I still fight. Wanting to be the strong one, strong enough to endure anything. Stubborn and bullheaded, instead of submissive and patient. My head is about bloodied beyond recognition for how many times I've beat it against His sovereignty.

He holds me in the end. When I quit thrashing. He is there. Bottling every tear. Calming His child. Pointing me again to what matters: Jesus. Only Jesus

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Servants


I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace
given me through the working of His power.
Ephesians 3: 7

Years ago I had started memorizing the whole book of Ephesians. Somewhere in the events of the past couple of years the majority of the words have escaped from the recesses of my memory, along with most other minor and major details of life. Often a night still finds me crawling out of a panic attack reciting the first few verses, though. I don't get much past the grace, peace and praise before the words have started their calming effect and I am able to breathe again. Breathe, just breathe.

Delving back into the book during my Bible reading schedule has been an exercise for my brain. Somewhere I recall these passages floating around in the neurons of my brain, but again, at the same time, they are fresh and new. The theology baffles me- predestined, chosen, God's purpose and will, the times reaching their fulfillment, glory, seated on a throne with Christ- but the Holy Spirit allows some light to shine through once in a while.

Ephesians 3:7 stopped me today. Paul calls himself a servant of the gospel, right after referring to himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. Images immediately spring to mind with serving being so common in our home. Serving ten children tacos, then doing it again with round two of seconds for some hard working kiddos. Chasing goats out of the flower garden, road and chicken coop numerous times in one afternoon. Waking early to nurture young students, preparing bodies and souls for the day ahead. Loving a husband, talking to friends on the phone, encouraging sisters, delving deep with daughters, praying for opportunities with strangers. Somehow sprinkling the gospel in every action and striving to point everything to Christ - forgiveness of sins to the glory of God through Jesus' death.

Paul talks about his position with pride. Not a sinful "make it about me" pride, but a pride because God chose him to be a broken vessel whom He would pour out His glory and power. God has been splitting that hair in my life lately, the "who is it about" hair. I can mouth that it is all about Him, but brokenness is when truth comes out. The battle starts when our flesh is crushed, trying to determine where it hurts the most and what the crying is about, revealing what we so easily cover up.

God makes it all about Him in a believers life. Above everything else that He does to sanctify us, He makes sure that His glory reigns above all. He quiets us in the midst of the storm, not always taking it away, but granting us one more opportunity to see His power, confess our trust in Him, let go and let God lead. Another opportunity to quit fighting Him, quit fighting where our position is, quit forcing it to be about us.

A servant of the gospel. To be granted the privilege of sharing Christ. Not in our own power, but all by the grace of God, to the glory of God's eternal purpose.

That word again: eternity. It's on my lips when I wake up and when I go to bed. Eternity. My brain can barely grasp its meaning. But I know its reality. To deny it would be to deny my very own son. So I beg constantly to be used in such a privileged way as Paul was, to become a servant, even a prisoner. To ask that the God of the universe, this eternal God, would choose to grant such a high honor to display His glory through this broken vessel of clay.

There is a Day Coming: The Day of the Lord



"As testing comes on God's people He is removing the love of other things because you realize that is not the most important thing." Tom Kelby Revelation 6 "It doesn't mean that you won't have days when you'll say, 'I don't like this. I would give anything to be out of this.' A good God who loves you will keep you through it and prove your faith."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Incomparable


The ache doesn't end. It hit like a two-by-four to the backside as I stood by the kitchen sink yesterday. Wham. Instant gut wrenching, tears refusing to pour out, dry sobs instead. Then in the bathroom, once the door was shut, on my knees, the same heaving heartache longing for a release. Too scared to allow myself to feel it completely, too scared even to pour it out before God, too scared to be drawn nearer. I am so tired of crying. Tired of grieving. Tired of missing my son.

Three o'clock in the morning seems to be the time my mind runs away with its real fears. I finally realized what the panic attack was about this morning at five forty-five when Grace crawled into my bed already showered and dressed for the first day of summer school. Perhaps that has been why the last few days have been so full of anxiety. More pictures without Trent, more experiences without a firstborn son, more grief. The guilt constantly swirling around with it, ever near, telling me that I am a horrible mother to the ones left here. So I paste on the smile, grab the camera, and try to start the day without a cup of coffee. I see them excited for the new adventure, so glad that they have joy, jealous of the innocence.

Cole's words still haunt my memory from last night, my desire for him to talk about his brother's death being immediately followed up with a desire that he wouldn't have. "I was sitting on Lexi's bed this afternoon and when I looked down my hands were so pale, as pale as Trent's were when he died. Why do you think?"

I think I don't want to think about Trent's pale hands, Trent's pale body, a dead son's body lying on an emergency room gurney over two years ago. I try to answer with some know-it-all home school mother explanation, how the hands are so far away from the heart and take longer to pump the blood to them, therefor maybe he was letting them dangle and cut off the circulation.

"Then why were Trent's hands so pale?"

Well, you see, when our bodies die the heart quits beating, causing the blood to quit circulating, which causes your skin to look pale. Standing in front of the mirror together, giving him a quick hair buzz, a closeness both physical and emotional that has been scarce since the teen years started and it's not so cool to show love for your mom anymore. Longing to run, run somewhere where son's aren't dead anymore, where spiritual explanations are accepted easier than cold answers, where there is no balance to giving God the glory when everything is about your rival brother, where things don't hurt this bad in a mother's soul, somewhere safe that emotions can be exposed, heaved up rather than pushed down, down, down.

Incomparable.

The word was used twice, less than ten verses apart in the book of Ephesians (1:18-19 and 2:7). The second time made me stop and reread the passages. I've been trying to compare this grief to something that is incomparable. The pain that I so often feel that should be impossible for any mortal woman to carry is met by a God with incomparable great power to sustain me; a never ending well to drink my fill from. The glory to be revealed and the riches of His grace to be poured out will come from the hand of an incomparable Savior.

Somehow this battle has shifted into being a battle of worth. The subtlety of Satan, and being careful to not give credit where credit is not due, the subtlety of my own deceiving flesh has shifted the gears again and has put God on trial. Being careful, of course, to frame it appropriately so as to still sound Christian, but to actually insinuate that He is a liar. How twisted our thinking becomes in pain. How consumed we get, how far we run, what lies we tell ourselves and convince ourselves to believe. Ephesians woke me out of my stupor for a moment, if even for one tiny glimpse, one more miniscule longing for God and eternity in this blinding time.

God's power is incomparable to sustain me. He promised that the riches of His grace to be revealed will be incomparable as well. As the apostle Peter says, these trials, which last only a little while, are achieving the end result, the salvation of my soul (1 Peter 1:3-9).

And then, for the umpteenth time, my brain asks where it is, where glory is revealed, where our eyes can take it in? For the handful of seconds that I can actually allow myself to try to comprehend Heaven, I realize that Trent is there, before this incomparable God, this God that I am always trying to compare. The gut curling tears come just as hard as the painful ones during these moments. How, where, and why can't I be there? The longing never ends to be in God's presence, consuming me as much as the longing for my son.

As if in answer to my many questions, God once again used Jon Bloom's writing along this walk (God's Mercy in Making us Face the Impossible, May 17, 2013, Desiring God blog).

There are times when God orders our circumstances in such a way that from a human standpoint his promises are impossible to fulfill. And if at that point we find these promises almost unbelievable, as did Abraham (Genesis 17:17–18) and Sarah (Genesis 18:11–14), what God has exposed are the boundaries of our faith — boundaries he means to expand.
 
Resting in the promises of God is learned in the crucible of wrestling with unbelief — seasons, sometimes long seasons, when everything hangs on believing that God “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17) and there is no safety net.
 
If you’re in such a season, as difficult as it feels, God is being incredibly kind to you. Because such seasons are when we really learn that nothing is too hard for the Lᴏʀᴅ (Genesis 18:14). And the joy in God that results makes any agony endured not even worth comparing.
 
Abraham and Sarah “grew strong in [their] faith” (Romans 4:20) because God pushed them to believe more than they thought was possible. For the sake of our joy he does the same for you and me.

"So suck it up buttercup," I repeat to myself. Resist the devil and he must flee, the victory has been won, and it is an incomparable victory. Take heart, stop the runaway emotions and feel the tremble of the earth awaiting its approaching King, groaning in its longing for a Savior that is coming soon. God is reigning from His throne, He is on the move, the battle has already been won. His glory is going to be worth it all, His grace beyond my feeble imagination, the joy unending. This same God that Trent stands before now is the same God who will carry me until that day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Seeking Joy

The thoughts won't quit. Busy days, sunshine and hard work, it should all equal a solid nights sleep. But the thoughts still don't quit. The mornings only come earlier, the desperation greater.

From the beginning of this grief process numerous people have encouraged us that time would heal. Lately, the push of the general consensus has been that it's time for us to find our joy again here. I almost listened, my people pleasing nature being quick to conform rather than to trust the whispers of God.

There is more than here. So much more.

Jesus endured for the joy set before him. Paul lived for That Day. The Apostle Peter said the inheritance was waiting ahead of us, not here. What good would it have benefited Trent to have lived only for here, only for now? Twelve years, his entire life span, compared to eternity. An eternity that is somehow based on what we do here for our Savior. Rewards and treasure to store up there, trials and sanctification that are achieving for us an eternal glory. A sovereign God in complete control of it all while at the same time we are responsible for our own actions in it. Our very decision to respond to the gospel, to choose heaven or hell in a sense, and I should just be content to be happy with some new hobby.

That concept of seeking out ultimate joy here is no longer a reality. My soul screams out the insanity of all these well wishers' kind words. The demeaning of the gospel in exchange for my fleeting pleasure. Idolatry in its subtlest form.“Seek it here,” repeated over and over again.

What a fool I must be portraying myself to be to those who have never tasted of this depth of pain, this desperate need for there to be more, with the only satisfaction being found in God. What else is worth seeking out? What field is worth selling all of my possessions for, even the giving of my very life? How could the more be in this life? How could more joy be found in experiences rather than in a Divine Creator?

It's pretty easy for somebody who has held their child every night for the past twenty-seven months to tell us to just be happy here, while really implying that we'd quit making them feel guilty, to stop talking about eternity all the time. So many professing Christians have mastered trying to convince the outside world and themselves that everything is all about Jesus when really it's not. Only torturous pain will drive you to look deep enough to ask the hard questions, to seek only God Himself. When you're bucked off the soothing carousel ride of life and are lying flat on your back is when you finally look up.

Christ talked about heaven constantly, trying to explain it to his followers. Eternity. Eternity. Eternity. He didn't seek His kingdom here, in fact he denied a worldly kingdom when it was offered to him. He didn't build castles, establish Facebook friends or make sure he saw all the sights and crammed every imaginable experience into thirty-three years, rather he sought fellowship with God, pursued heavenly missions, battled for obedience, waited patiently for the glory due him.

The Apostle Paul was warned about how he would suffer for the sake of the gospel. Somehow, his joy was found in that honor. How my brain battles with this concept. How much easier it would be to content myself with believing the words of those who encourage me to just seek out the good things God has given me for the rest of the days I am here. “He made them for your joy, so enjoy them,” I hear over and over.

Common grace, yes, but past the sun and the croaking spring frogs and the new birth of farm animals is God himself. I can't get enough of Him to fully notice the rest. But there's not enough of Him that this sinful flesh part of me can drink in because of the physical separation of heaven and earth. It's not that I've grieved too long, or I need to get on with life, or I need a new hobby. It's that I truly long only for God. Substitutes won't satisfy. It really is all about God, glory and the gospel.


 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day Seven Hundred Ninety-three



Day seven hundred ninety-three is the day that insanity hits. You may have thought that you were already there several times before this day, but you realize by the depth of the freshness of the emotions that you haven't been.

Day seven hundred ninety-three is the day that you switch from repeating the mantra of "I can do this, I can do this, I can do this" to really not wanting to do it anymore. The insanity part kicks in because you begin to realize that there is really only one option available: to live the rest of your life without your child.

The sun shines after a long winter, you actually smile inside and out, old plans are rejuvenated, and you even begin to dream again. Then the mere sight of the woods haunts you, annual vacations become thoughts of torture chambers, and the new spring calves make you cry. Insanity begins to sound better than the alternative.

I've heard it likened to the breaking of a colt. Until there is no fight left there is no real submission. Until I quit fighting God there is no real submission. On the outside I am functioning with the concerns of today, but my heart keeps longing to go back to Egypt like the Israelites (Acts 7:39). My heart keeps going back to two years ago instead of looking ahead.

As I wiped the dust off of Trent's picture I told him, "I'm not ready yet. Not ready to live without you."

And those pictures, the ones that drive you closer to that insanity with their beckoning questions of heaven and eternity. Constantly I wonder when mine will start and I will get to see God, then I am reminded that Trent does see God, right now.

I sit down hard, dumbfounded, trying to wrap my brain around that concept.

I open my Bible and read Jesus' words about this eternal kingdom, Paul's words about the unspeakable glory of it, and John's words about the indescribable visions he saw. Our lives are as a mist, Scripture says, so on day seven hundred ninety-four I just try to figure out what is worth living for until the sun shines and dries up the mist and I see the Son.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Prosperity Gospel



Waking up again in the middle of the night desperate. Desperate for God. Lying there acknowledging all the things that I use to replace Him, all the things that look like Christianity. Piper's words echoing through my brain, "God is enough. God is enough. God is enough." Years of falsehood shed in one YouTube video. Yet another removing of everything my flesh clings to that isn't God. The things that rise to the top surprise me, the first one I realized was my own trust in my knowledge of Scripture. What a fine hair to split in this whole heart revealing process God has brought me on. Verses are not enough, theology is not enough, fill in the blank is not enough. Only God is enough.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Esther

Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9


February 15, 2013. That was the date I had wrote on the calender for Esther's due date. Over two months ago. Every day she was under scrutiny. Signs, no signs? We checked pretty consistently: swelling, ligaments, udder, anything? Looking at her big belly and trying to imagine the thoughts of God as He was designing His new creation inside that caprine womb. Maybe a sign, nope, definitely no signs.
Then a few weeks ago, once we had finally given up hope on the February due date, the signs started. Maybe next week, we said. Then, maybe tomorrow. Don't leave home, don't schedule anything extra, don't live lest she deliver those kids without us. Then the tomorrows came, and the signs didn't change. The middle of the night checks waned, then the middle of the day checks, too. The early morning races to the barn soon became solo walks of enjoying the scenery. Halfheartedly now we check on her in the middle of chores. I'm sure some day she has to have those kids.

Two years after Trent's death, a date that I hadn't had wrote on the calendar, I find myself much at the same place as with Esther. The anticipation has waned. I keep telling myself that heaven will come one day. I'm sure Jesus really meant soon when He said He's coming back. The middle of the night and early morning worship services have dwindled to hiding under the covers until I absolutely have to get up and face another day. The arms haven't been raised as much and the prayers have become pathetic groans.

Weary? Yes. Like Anna and Simeon in the gospel account of Luke, I wait {un}patiently for the day that I will see my Savior. I wonder how many weary days they waited. I wonder what they did in the meantime. Then I wonder at the overwhelming joy that they must have felt when the promise was finally fulfilled.

One day we will make that trek down to the barn and, Lord willing, there they'll be – kids more beautiful and intricately formed than we could have ever imagined. We will forget the long months and weeks of waiting, and we would have gladly made those middle of the night trips all over again when we see momma with her babies.

As we stew in frustration over “when will Esther have those babies” a miracle is taking its time to form down in her stall. The pain and hard work will belong to Esther alone, the price that she has to bear for it to be possible that there is such beauty for us to behold. Like when Jesus delayed before going to Lazarus' tomb, His glory is often times seen more divinely when there's waiting involved.