Saturday, November 26, 2011

Just Stand

And after you have done everything; just stand.
from Ephesians 6:13

Just stand. Or lay. Or get on your knees. Sometimes there is nothing else to do. And as a "doer", doing nothing is the hardest thing in the world. So I {fitfully, anxiously, nervously} just stand.

Anxiety hits hard, and at unexpected times, like at 5:30 a.m. after Rob has already gotten out of bed and the dark is dark and the thoughts won't quit. What if God isn't there? What if eternity never comes? What if I am swallowed up today by this reality? What if the whispers of the enemy are true? Why can't I remember the rest of that verse about God being faithful and that Jesus is really coming back one day?Just stand.Although I feel withered, and beat, and tired and bent, I will still stand.

Just stand.

Stand firm in the Word, firm as the battle rages, firm as the shame heaps from within and my arms and my whole being feel weak; I will stand firm in my Savior's tight grip.

As Elijah (1 Kings 19), I resort back to simple rest. Food, coffee, a bed and a book. A needed respite from the world that continues to invade with it's never-ending demands. Rest for my weary soul, rest to fight the battle again, rest to remember the Promises.

I wait for the peace again, the calm in the storm. I wait to be renewed. I wait for the comforting whispers from a voice not my own. "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you."

But as for me, I will always have hope.

I will praise You more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteousness,

of Your salvation all day long,

though I know not its measure.

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts,

O Sovereign Lord;

I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone.

Though You have made me see troubles,

many and bitter,

You will restore my life again.

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You~

I, whom You have redeemed.

Sweet Promises from Psalm 71

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Letting the Hurt, Hurt

Today, again, grief just hurts. I don't know why I am so stubborn and refuse to realize that and so often try to stuff it instead. I just want to fight it, as if I could fight the pain. It just hurts. We were not ultimately created to know death; it is the deepest, darkest taste of sin. Death is too much reality of the world we live in; so much proof that this world is in need of a Savior to make it all right. Oh, that Jesus would come soon and make it right.

Some days I wonder why I had to be the one to experience this, to feel this, to live this. Why couldn't I just go on with my rose colored glasses living my merry little life? But then other days I praise God for waking me up; waking me up to reality. And I praise Him for showing me the brevity of life, and for showing me the way of salvation, and for showing me Trent's salvation, and for giving me hope beyond this pain.

God asked me if I trust Him. Do I really believe what He says? Do I really believe His plans are best? Do I really believe in eternity where all will be made right? "Yes, Lord, I do" is my weak reply as I lay in my bed trying to figure out how to get out of it this morning. Then let the hurt, hurt.

The tears come when I go to my knees to try to worship this Creator God; this God with His perfect plans of pain. He is good; so good that I can't even fathom how good. My words are not sufficient, only tears are. Tears that will one day be wiped away. Tears over sons, and lost souls, and faithful prayer warriors.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Love You More

If I love you more, will you love me less?
2 Corinthians 12:15

"I love you more." It's been a regular saying around our house for years. I think it started out with a little bunny book nearly a decade ago when we didn't know what tweens or teen-agers were. "I love you more." The battle still continues today, especially at bedtime, especially with a little tween girl. It's a good battle.

I heard God whisper it today as I sat in my broken recliner, drinking my hazelnut flavored coffee, looking out over the frosty yard, hair uncombed, listening to four kids (who were supposed to be) quietly working on school books, or lost in their own little world with God. "I love you. I love you more."

My morning rejoicing over Trent being in heaven has gone to a morning contentment lately; one can only stay on the mountaintop so long. Even rejoicing becomes exhausting. After nearly nine months I find (I know, I know, duh) that I keep coming back to the same reality: this is still real. It's not going to change. Trent is not here. Graciously, God continues to constantly point my eyes to Him, to His truths, to His joys, to eternity.

But it's a battle. A battle that becomes ferociously intense at times. So I praise the Lord that He made me too stubborn deep down in my genetic core to refuse a good fight. My husband can attest. As can my sister who is too much the same way.

God is the author and perfecter of our faith. What He uses to grow me may not be what He uses to grow you. But are you growing? Are you fighting? Have you bowed to Jesus as Lord?

This trial leads me to recite over and over and over again the promises of Scripture. I put no confidence in the flesh; my God is sovereign; it is God's will that I should be sanctified, therefor I put my hope in God alone; I will strive to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer because I know that this present grief and suffering won't even be worth comparing to the glory of Jesus Christ that will be revealed; throughout it all God is refining me and proving my faith (and Himself).

Salvation, and God's word, and Jesus Himself continue to be my greatest joy. I mostly look forward to eternity: not to next week, or next year, or when the goats are due, or the mortgage is paid off. I have never prayed "Lord, let your Kingdom come" with such a fervency and longing before this trial.

I stop often and look up at the stars and the moon at night. I have been known as of late to even stop on my walk up from the barn and just lay down in the cold grass to look up. Two kiddos looked at me odd the first time I was laying there, but soon found a comfortable spot of their own to gaze upon the heavens. One day I will know what the face of the God looks like who made those stars, and the sun, and the moon and put them in their place. Genesis 1:16 almost makes those little twinkling lights seem like an after thought when God was creating the universe. If the stars are the after thought, what then is the creation? What, then, is the worth of salvation? Especially considering that salvation cost the Creator His own Son?

It's as simple as "I love you, too, God." I think He wins. He does love me more. I'll just bask in that knowledge today.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do You Think there are Tomato Schmears in Heaven?

"And I know this man . . . who was caught up to paradise.

He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell."
2 Corinthians 12:3-4

Do you think there are tomato schmears in heaven? Do you think boys will still want to kick box with their moms? Do you think they will make that popping, kissing noise when you tuck them into bed at night? Do you think there are mud hills so I could slide down with my son, rather than ewe-ing about the dirt and just standing back and taking pictures? Do you think I could cover myself with mud and dive into the pond to rinse off? Do you think there will be duck boats so I can just sit back and enjoy the ride again with my boys at the oars?

Will there be mornings of breakfast in bed, with pudding and cool whip and a cherry on top? Will there be stairways so I can take a turn riding the mattress down? Or forts to build, or trees to climb, or homemade boats to sail, or short horses to ride, or four wheelers to get stuck? Will there be tents to pitch or squirrels to chase? Pheasant's to mount or big fish to catch? Rivers to explore and lakes to enjoy?

For an eternity I will be able to look out into a crowd and spot those ken-doll locks and expect a young man to walk up and put his arm around me and rub my lower back just because he loves his mom and knows I need him close. I will see the twinkle in his eyes again, the sparkle reflecting from his Savior, as we go forth without the fear of death. If mud hills and duck boats and silly boys were this good this side of heaven, what must the other side be like?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cat Tails in the Pond

There were cat tails in the pond this summer. I just noticed them today. A whole season has nearly passed and another one will soon begin. And I feel as if I have finally looked around to realize it. The pond is a mess; the grass is shoulder high, the green moss is thick in the water, and the other half of the dock still hasn't found it's permanent home. I can't recall if I even sat under the little arbor on the island to enjoy coffee and my Bible once this past summer. And the cabin sight . . . it looks a lot the same.

I took a walk and hid today. I know~ mother's probably shouldn't do that, but my kids are old enough that I can hide once in a while. I just sat and watched the world go by. And took pictures. I can usually gage my emotional/spiritual well being by how many pictures I take and if I am writing or not. Even grocery lists and school schedules count; goofy, happy stuff is even better; lamenting is healing and rejoicing in Jesus is the best.

As I sat in the weeds I wondered why projects and ponds ever mattered so much anyway. And then I realized why as I recalled and treasured the memories of this pond: the day that we laughed {and grumped} so hard hauling supplies in the little duck boat to build the arbor with five kids; a full dock that sat in my driveway for months as a special anniversary gift until it was cut in two and put in place so I could walk over to my island; planting blue flowers that never grew in a "victory over death" garden for a son I love and miss; ducks laying on rotten eggs for months; Canadian geese flying in for a landing; catching and releasing entangled wild ducklings; big brothers carrying little sisters across near-frozen water before there was a dock just because she wanted to stand on the island with the big kids; ice skating and shoveling snow; mud slides and a dozen muddy kids; treasure hunts and swimming, smiles and friends and dreams.

And I wondered how to begin feeling again. How to live again. How to find joy here again. I realize joy here is so temporary. It's not the things of this world that we should focus on or invest in to find our joy; it's the people, the occasions, the relationships, the eternities changed and the God who changes them. I realized, also, that this is a time to work; a time to work for the coming Kingdom. All that we see here will pass away, maybe sooner than we think, and our opportunities will be over. As like the fleeting days of childhood, that seem some days as if they will never end, and then do end; all too quickly. Soon, our days will end, or Jesus will return and there will be no more opportunities. What is done for the Kingdom now will be done; there will be no second chances to live this life again.

The other day we were discussing the importance of salvation, obedience to the words in the Bible, the joy found in repentance,the reality of eternity, how Jesus lived in His time here, and how grateful we were that God is sovereign and that He has opened our eyes to the brevity of life when we are still young enough to change our focus. Don't you discuss those things at your dining room table? We were also discussing the millennial reign of Jesus. The thousand years that Scripture says Jesus will reign on this earth before the final judgement.

Can you imagine it? I barely can. I realized that I will get to do what I love, all the things God made me to love, forever. Even goats, and kids, and ponds, and cabin sights. But it will all be without the curse. There will be no more draining spiritual battles to fight, sins to repent of, or children who die. The things unseen will be seen; I will walk face to face, hand in hand with my Savior.

But this is still the battle zone. So I fight; even it's by just hiding for a while and taking pictures.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dance Before Your King

My little sister sent over some pictures of Trent the other day. They came on a good day, a smiling day. I didn't even cry over them, until I saw Brenda and tried to thank her.

Grief is such an unpredictable monster; silently sleeping some days, roaring other days, lying under the surface threatening to burst often times, paralyzing to the whole mind and body when it wants to be. We were discussing the other day the physical pain of grief itself. There is a literal aching in my arms to feel Trent again, and my chest is constantly sore, probably from trying to hold it all in, and then finally letting it out. The exhaustion is overwhelming as well. I try to protect from "extras" as much as I can so that I can just commit myself full time to this process.

I strive to remember that it is God Himself who has ordained the pain, the ache, the memories. Maybe the pain is just a taste of the curse of sin that I have spent my whole life getting used to, and now am seeing just a touch of the reality of that fatal first bite (Genesis 3).

Pappa Murphy's about did me in the other day. It should not be that difficult to walk in and order a family size Canadian Bacon with black olives and a cinnamon wheel. But after the young man took my order I had to turn around and study the menu lest the tears start. And then the stuffed pizza options taunted me even more. I've never ordered alone at Pappa Murphy's. There was always a young boy, with his swagger and Ken-doll locks, who opened the door and stood by my side as they made our Cowboy pizza. I didn't let the tears fall until we were driving down the freeway in the dark, with the radio turned up, with a teen-age girl by my side holding the pizza on her lap instead.

But then an hour of sweet conversation followed. Promises amongst the pain. Hope through the tears. Eternities ahead to forget these struggles. A Savior to look forward to. A God who ordains all things perfectly.

I've smiled the last two days. Smiled for a son in heaven. I take the days as they come; one at a time. I can't live them any other way. Deer hunting opener and big, hungry guys in orange suits will come when they come. And if they all sit around my table eating chili, but not taco soup, this year and we all cry~ so be it. Big brothers have big shoulders. They loved him, too. When Thanksgiving comes and there's an extra seat at the SPOONS table, and nobody is on that end to catch the flying silverware, and we all sit and cry~ so be it. Maybe we'll laugh, too, and pretend that he's teaching David and Gideon how to play. I can't go so far ahead as the annual "Wisconsin tan/tattoo revealing" December swimming party, either, or the following Christmas celebration at Grandma's house. That day will come when that day comes.

I was paralyzed by the fear in the middle of the night last night. Sheer panic. What if I wake up one day and God's grace isn't sufficient? Prayers, pleas, and promises go through my mind. And then God answers a specific request, and Rob rolls over and holds me. Maybe he was scared, too. Maybe he was reaching, too.

But then there are days that I dance. Like David, with all my might, I dance (2 Samuel 6:14). It doesn't matter who's watching. It doesn't matter if they understand the dance or not. The music is playing triumphantly; maybe there's even a trumpet I hear in that band. A choir of angel's are singing. So I dance; I dance before my King.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Longing All the More

This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it

and established it~ the Lord is His name:

"Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
Jeremiah 33:2-3

My eyes are focused on heaven today. At the same time my mind and my hands are here to love and nurture those that God gave me to love and nurture. A gal commented to me the other day that we will eventually get over this period of grief where all we think about is heaven and being there ourselves one day. She assured me that I would live enjoying this world again. I'm not sure that I want to get back to that point. If that is the desired goal of grieving, just to live here, then I rather prefer to stay where I'm at.

The temptation to consider every day of the rest of my life nearly overtook me. From this perspective of the still fresh pain of grief, I was almost consumed in the pain of considering how to fight this fight every single day that I wake up here without Trent. I almost ran ahead, worrying about tomorrow, forgetting what God has already done in the past every single day that I have woke up without Trent here. God brought me back to here; to this very moment, to this taste of His grace, to this overwhelming peace. He assured me that it would be there then, too, but not until I got there and needed it.

I look around and watch others living, grieving, seeking God. I observe the similarities of how God works, as well as the diversity of it. God has narrowed my "window" down to the immediate: my family. He's closed me in, so to speak, and shown me the importance of these little souls. This is the "world" that He has called me to. Not to a foreign land; He has brought the foreign land to me. This is my mission field. If I fail here, I am no good "out there". When I am faithful here, He let's anything that's left overflow to touch lives. And He has blessed me in the overflow; I am daily praising Him for that overflow.

At times, my "window" opens a crack and I rejoice in the glimpses of the good works I see Him performing. For friends who encourage and pray, for lives that are touched when all I want to do is hide on my little goat farm, for grown men who repent, for teen-age girls He has allowed me to watch as He transforms their lives, for little hearts who are grieving, too, and the mother that cries out to Him to give her the grace and wisdom to keep on loving.

And then I long for heaven even more, and the day I will see clearly all of His good works.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Smiling Again

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is His love towards us;
and the faithfulness of the Lord
endures forever.
Praise the Lord.

Psalm 117

I woke up smiling this morning. A smile on my lips and from my whole being, inside and out. I had almost forgotten what that felt like; the beaming, the joy, the freedom. I had dreamt about Trent. I woke up with him still in my arms. And then I remembered that he was in heaven. And I praised my God for it. I praised Him for a son in heaven while my arms clung to my empty chest and the smile stayed, inside and out. Then I went to my knees and praised God again; for his sovereign plans, for the good works still left for me to do, for an eternity to look forward to, for another day to trust Him, for more opportunities to share about Jesus, for children and a husband still here to minister to, for a son in heaven. The sun beamed through my bedroom window, as if to celebrate with me, and to announce the glory of God in the coming day. It feels good to smile again.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

To Smile Again

I don't know, anymore, how to delight in the simple joys of this life. I can only vaguely recall what it felt like to get out of bed with my only thought being that of looking forward to coffee, and sneaking down the stairs before the kids or the dogs woke up to enjoy the quiet of the morning curled up with my Bible in the recliner. I can't remember what it felt like to just play with my kiddos who are still here without this dull ache in my chest, or the fear of loving them so much, or enjoying them too much, or praying such big things for their lives. To all curl up on the couch with a good book used to be a treasure, now the thought brings tears. Pizza-and-movie night often finds me avoiding looking at the corner of the couch that Trent always claimed. I can hardly remember what it used to be like.

Or maybe I can, and that's what scares me.

I'm smiling on the outside, but the inside still hurts.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I've Seen Their Faces

I spoke to a young man this past weekend about Trent's death. A young man, a teenager, who did not know God when he was allowed to be a role model in my son's life without even realizing it. A young man, whom I am not even sure if he knows my God yet.

But I saw his face.

I saw his jaw clench. I saw the words penetrating his very soul. I saw the fight between his pride and the tears stinging behind his eyes. Then they started . . . one by one. Tears dripping down a handsome face of a young man being broken by God. A young man that saw too clearly everything his parents diligently tried to teach him all these years was true. A young man who sin not very long ago threatened to rule, who was steeped in that sin until the stench filled the very church he has attended for years; the very church that embraced him and forgave him and loved him still when he repented. I saw his face. It revealed his heart.

Then I saw another man.

A stoic man, a man that refuses to have his heart revealed. A man who preaches it, but is not allowed to live it. A man that cannot bring himself to reveal the tears, or feel the touch of an embrace, or let the hurt run deep enough to be shattered. I fear for this man; the man with the Bible in his hand, the man without tears.

Light And Momentary

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake,
so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
2 Corinthians 4:10-11

We forget that the men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen the New Testament were Jesus' friends. Flesh and blood, walked by His side, ate with the Savior, watched Him bleed, friends. Two-thousand-and-some years later it is pretty easy to pour a cup of coffee, with extra cream and sugar, and curl up in our recliner's and read these words. But this was their friend. Death is cruel; crucifixion crueler yet. It was under that vivid memory that they walked their walk and preached their gospel.

It is written "I believed; therefore I have spoken."
With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,
because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead
will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence.
2 Corinthians 4:13-14

You cannot live the same after experiencing death. And after experiencing a resurrection . . . it goes without saying, your life would change. I know that Trent will rise again one day because of what Scripture says (2 Cor 4:14). I know that my life has changed because of experiencing his death. I can no longer live as if this world matters and will last forever, when right before my eyes there is too much evidence that it does not. There is more. Jesus is the "more". God proved it by raising Him from the dead.

For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Do you live for the "seen", or the "unseen"? Do you groan, longing to be rid of these mere earthly tents that we live in, longing to be clothed with your heavenly dwelling (2 Cor. 5:1-2)? Do you long to see that glory? The eternal glory that far outweighs anything here?

We live by faith, not by sight.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body
and at home with the Lord.

So we make it our goal to please Him,
whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body,
whether good or bad.
2 Corinthians 5:7-10

I feel the shame creeping in even writing these words. I fear that "man" will not be pleased to hear them again. I fear for the deaf ears that they will fall on, for the hardened hearts that will refuse them again, the dull souls that will ignore them. The warning has gone out; the choice is yours, the choice is mine. This day . . . yet again this day, there is still hope, there is still time to call on the One who can change your heart. His name is Jesus.
Be reconciled to God.

God made {Jesus} who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

Do you even understand that? Do you understand the depravity of sin? Your own sin? I cannot begin to see the depth of it, yet it is simple enough for a child to understand. We have sinned, Jesus paid the penalty of an eternity in Hell for us somehow through His death on the cross, and proved the power of God when He was resurrected from that death, and He said He is returning one day in judgment. Sound the warning, shout it in the streets, repent and be saved! Beg God to open your eyes, live for Him who matters.

As God's fellow workers we urge you not to recieve God's grace in vain.
I tell you, now is the time of God's favor,
now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:1 and 2b

I have seen death. I have felt its sting. I have known it's reality. I have seen the hard faces that refused to be changed by it; I fear for those souls. Be changed. Let God change you. Give up whatever you are clinging to here in this world. Turn to God. Surrender today; the day that He is still offering salvation.