Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bible Study ~ James 1:19-27

James 1:19-27

*Who is it (this passage/all of Scripture) about? (God/how He wants believers to live to portray that they belong to Christ)

* Who is James writing to? (believers)

Therefor, to understand this passage, we must first determine if we are saved (gospel/the message of salvation from our sins that is found in Jesus alone). If we find ourselves not saved, then we must consider, again, Jesus' offer of salvation.

*If we find ourselves to be saved, then how does this passage apply to our lives?

*When King David faced his times of most intense persecution and danger, he frequently prayed a rather impressive request. On his heart was his need not merely for protection from his attackers but, even more, for protection from sin. (Psalm 25:4-5, 20-21) (Psalm 141:3-4)

*It was a kind of praying we Christians need to learn: not just "Lord, keep me safe," but "Lord, keep me pure," because we abhor sin even more than suffering.
This is the need the apostle James saw for the young Christians who had been scattered by persecution. He wrote in loving concern to strengthen them for clear-headed moral courage even when others were doing evil and even when that evil was being done against them.

*But James is not merely a moralist. A moralist has a list of ethical guidelines by which to live a happy and respectable life. A Christian has a person, Jesus Christ, to whom the Christian owes everything, to whom the Christian surrenders everything, for whom the Christian lives in everything. Because of that relationship with Christ, the Christian becomes a person of deep moral commitment. That is how James writes – as a Christian of profound moral earnestness. Therefore what he writes now is not just a gathering of moralisms: "Be quick to listen and slow to speak, because it will help you get along better with people." James is writing about life in Christ. (Does this reflect your life?)
*He has just been telling his readers: When you face trials of various kinds, beware of the temptation to sin. It is not the suffering of the trial but the temptation to sin that is the most serious danger to you, because sin kills the sinner. Sin gives birth to death, whereas you have been given birth by the work of Christ to be delivered from sin and death. Because you have been given life in Christ, now live the righteous life that God desires.

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; John14:23a
Bible Study Credits: Terri Stellrecht

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Snowin' in Wisconsin

We are in the midst of a sizable Wisconsin snowstorm. The weather man is predicting 6-8 inches of snow within a twenty-four hour period. He didn't realize that we had two Christmas programs scheduled for today, or the consequences in our household of having to cancel them.

He probably didn't realize, either, when he was making his guesses, that for the past two years we have had snowstorms on the very day that these same programs had been scheduled. Or that the blowing winds and fast falling flakes would result in an avalanche of emotions for this grieving mother because, as if the holidays aren't hard enough, the last days of Trent's life seem to be relived all over again the closer we get to yet another anniversary date.

The same snowstorm, same programs, but all overshadowed by the missing of a child. I just couldn't endure going today. So I cried in the bathroom instead. And blamed the weather. The predictions told to us at the beginning of this journey are proving to be right: grief gets harder rather than easier. The second year is worse than the first. And I can only imagine that we have the rest of our lives to fight this unending battle.

My sister calls it Chinese water torture. Drip. Drip. Drip. Just like the faucet in our bathroom. Drip. Drip. Drip. It's all the little things that will drive you crazy. The old shirt that has been left in the hamper for twenty-two months. The bunk bed that the boys insisted on setting up again. Eating cheese puffs and reading a book before bed. The thought of taking pictures for Christmas cards. Or cutting a tree from the woods out back. Or buying only four pomegranates for the stockings on Christmas morning. Drip. Drip. Drip.

So I got out the Bible. And went to Ezra with the kids. The old people cried, and the young people rejoiced after building the temple foundation. I guess I'm lumped in with the old people because it seems crying is all I'm doing these days. After I cried some more, I sent everybody outside.

Sliding and snow forts brought smiles. Hot chocolate and cookies helped, too. And then Rob came home and announced that the roads were horrible. And we discussed heaven, and just how long eternity is going to be, and how good God is.

And I realized, in the end, that God had something better planned for this day. Something that couldn't be found in make-shift sanctuaries full of little boys dressed in bathrobes and tween-girls pretending their name was Mary. Nor could it be found in beautiful Christmas songs that have been rehearsed for months with good friends. It took many tears, and many snowflakes, to ultimately find Him.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Five Years Later

Five years later, and finally I hear the words I've longed for, "I just felt like giving you a hug." Followed by the sweetest hug I've gotten in a long time from an eight year old boy. They have been five patient years as I have been waiting for this magical time in adoption that I didn't realize wasn't already here.

I remember that after Grace came home there was something special about that anniversary date. I wasn't concerned at all about Micah prior to that hug. He is not needy or overtly affectionate, but rather a very content, happy kiddo that doesn't require much physical attention. That's why the arms encircling me, and the need for a mother's embrace, overwhelmed me. There were tears of joy stinging my eyes this time instead of tears of grief.

One of the things I look forward to in heaven is the hope that all of my children will be there. We had such a short time of enjoying five kids in our home. I imagine an eternity of having all my kids together again. Nothing exotic, just simple things: horseback rides, camping by the river, sitting at the supper table ... for eternity. No death, no tears, no goodbyes.

I have found that my focus is more and more on heaven these days. Trying to imagine it has exhausted me, so instead I find myself planning for it. Painting the girl's room and the upstairs hallway found me telling God what kind of a mansion I'd like in heaven. I laughed when I realized He would probably give me an old, run down farmhouse to fix up because I would enjoy that the most. Poor Rob~ good thing there's no marriage in heaven. I think he's had about all the old farmhouses he can handle.

A big old farmhouse, with a wrap around porch, spiral staircase, and acres and acres of privacy to raise goats, kids and horses would make me content for an eternity. All this, and no sin, no curse, no enemy to destroy. Walking there with my Savior for ever and ever and ever.

News of another teen age death struck our community yesterday. I woke up nearly sick for that mother today. How long, Oh Lord? How long until you come to reign?

The tears of grief flow as I force myself to feel the immense pain of losing a child. Words won't form for cohesive prayer, so I allow the Holy Spirit to pray them for me. I realized that I am resorting to stuffing again, thinking that not feeling the feelings as I force them to stay in their pit may help. It hasn't before, but who knows? Maybe it will work this time.

So I make myself write a blog post. Make myself vulnerable. Talk about Jesus again. Scare the enemy a little more. Like Martin Luther said, "Why give Satan a vacation?"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bible Study~ Our Identity in Christ

Our Identity in Christ:

We desperately need to know that first of all we are sinners and will one day stand before a Holy God and give account for our lives, some of us sooner than others. Scripture is primarily meant to reveal who God is, and secondly to reveal that we as a creation are sinful and have no hope aside from Jesus' atonement on the cross. There is a great danger to focus on ourselves and primarily about living a good life here, rather than being prepared for eternity.

I challenge you to read some of the Scripture verses that God led me to, as I was in His Word studying for tonight's lesson, that talk about who we are as mankind:

We are sinners: Romans 3:23

We are dead in our sin: Ephesians 2:1

We are God's enemies: Romans 5:10

We are the ones who crucified Jesus: Luke 22:63-23:43

We would rather turn away from God than have Him: Romans 1:21-23

God said that He will not yield His glory (Isaiah 48:11), and that glory will ultimately be revealed through Jesus (Heb 1:3). If we are Christians our whole lives will be pointing to that glory, especially through the gospel message (the grace and forgiveness poured out on sinners through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross), as the Holy Spirit is working in us towards that same reason.
If our lives are not portrayals of Christ, as seen by our longing for Scripture, obedience to God' word, and repentance of sins, it is because we are not saved and we have God's wrath to fear on judgment day.
Salvation is only found in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross to forgive sinful mankind. The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus became the only acceptable and perfect atonement to take away the just wrath of God. Our sins were nailed to the cross, on Him. We have been set free through Jesus, welcomed into the throne room of God Himself, protected by Him who should look upon us with scorn. What amazing grace that is poured out on sinners by a glorious God!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Worth of Enduring

“It is worth it to endure all things for the sake of hearing the gospel.”

When I heard the words spoken out loud my soul resonated them as truth. And not only hearing the gospel, but knowing the gospel: The good news of a Savior who died for His elect, an atoning sacrifice before a Holy God, Jesus' precious blood poured out to cover disgusting sins that He never committed, all to reveal greater the glory of our Creator.

A few days later, after grappling continually with grief, those words came back to my tired mind again as I lay in bed wafting between living victoriously in the promises of Christ, or wallowing in pitiful sorrow for another day.

There are times when the rising of strength can almost be measured when the Word of God is remembered. Twenty months after Trent's accident, I have easily assigned heaven and being in the presence of God's glory as second choice to having my son here. It has become harder to conjure up the excitement of what he must be experiencing due to my own pain in what I am experiencing. I have forgotten the worth of the gospel. I have allowed my thoughts, like Eve did (Genesis 3), to rule.

But, if “it is worth it to endure all things for the sake of {knowing} the gospel,” then what a privilege it is to wake up every single day to knowing that my son will not be opening my bedroom door to come in and snuggle. What a privilege to cry every tear. What a privilege to want to battle with my heart for God's truth. Every day, every moment nearly, deciding who will reign.

I sometimes tend to think that I deserve better from my King. I have been spoon fed the same lie that most of us have been told: that the children of God won't/shouldn't suffer, that only what is seen should be considered, that eternity may not be such a long time, that God's glory may not be so glorious or His holy standards so holy. But had I read without my own version of interpreting the Scripture, I would hold unswervingly to embracing and enduring pain, knowing that every infinitesimal detail was from the hand of a Sovereign God; all for His glory, and somehow my joy (Romans 5:1-5). My heart would wholly be as the Samaritan woman's heart, who took even insult from her Savior, and saw the worth of begging for the crumbs, as a dog, in order to know Him (Matthew 15:22-28).

Jesus didn't tend to plead with people to know Him, He actually seemed to do the opposite (John 6:53-38). He warned people to count the cost before even considering following Him (Luke 14:25-35). He warned about the crosses to come; the crosses that would prove our allegiance (Luke 9:23-24). The Kingdom is not free for the taking, it is a Kingdom to be conquered, and it starts in our hearts. Our wicked, deceitful hearts that long for their own way rather than those of God (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts that demand our own comfort rather than discipline and submission, our hearts that trade truth as found in God's Word for pride, for ease, for what's on sale at WalMart.

So I sell my fields, as it were, for the greater treasure (Matthew 13:44). I lay aside my longings for my son, for God's Son. As Paul says, I count everything as loss for the sake of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:7-11). If pain reveals my heart, and pride shows that sin really hasn't been done away with no matter how hard I try to cover it up, and shame puts me back on my knees, and my short temper causes regrets, and my un-gracefilled life finds me begging again for salvation as found only through Jesus, then it is worth it to endure all things for the sake of knowing the gospel. I continue to put myself where the gospel can be heard, enduring the temporal cost, for the eternal value.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Hot Chocolate Morning

It's a hot chocolate morning. The air is nippy enough to need extra quilts on the beds now, and when I couldn't stand it any longer this morning, I hiked down the basement steps and started the wood stove. Cole even shortened his daily run and only made it to the end of the driveway, cat and dog trailing behind him, commenting when he came in that it was too cold to go any further. Had I been quick enough I would have snapped a picture of the sunrise beaming behind him on his way back up, but the recliner felt too good to move that fast. He sat down at the dining room table with his cup and plunged back into his school work, hoping to finish early so he could be free for the afternoon.

Even hot chocolate hurts. Somehow, it's easier to pour only four cups now, but never without that familiar dull ache that begins around my heart and threatens to overflow in tears. That ache is lighter this morning after being on my knees before God. Today, I was able to remember the promises and look forward to eternity; the bearing of my cross seeming to have some purpose.

My mind refuses to rest, but words have been sparse lately. I tell myself that I will sit down and force them out, but then so often only find myself staring at a blank computer screen. I long for the flow again.

I have been pondering eternity, salvation, suffering, relationships, soap, the great outdoors, and how to live without investing my life here but rather for an inheritance in heaven. I haven't quite figured it all out. I've been wondering if Trent has gotten over the awe of being in heaven yet. As I continue to praise God daily that he is there, it dawned on me that he is there. If my praise has continued for nineteen months, what must his be like?

An amazing conversation happened around our kitchen island the other day when the kids and I were trapped with nowhere to escape because we where elbow deep in pumpkin guts. We started talking about what it might have been like for Trent that afternoon as he went down that slope and saw his first glimpse of Jesus. I nearly held my breath as I heard the work that God has been doing in these little souls that surround me; work that I was unaware of. We live our lives side by side, so close and busy together, but so often we neglect to talk about what matters.

I honestly can't imagine what it would be like to see Jesus. Even the thought brings tears and overwhelms me. I feel the insignificance of being allowed in His presence. I feel the slightest sense of His holiness as I think of it. I feel my sin and my need for a Savior.

God did an amazing work by using Trent's death to save my brother in law. For these many months it has been a great joy amidst the sorrow to see his life dramatically transformed. A couple of weeks ago we had the joy of witnessing my sister's whole family being baptized together. Talking a few days after the baptism, Brenda shared the remorse that it took Trent's death to have their eyes opened. I felt the impact like never before of what salvation really cost. Somebody did die, sin was that serious. Jesus died.

Rob read us the story of the crucifixion from the book of Mark at our family devotions last night. I could hardly stand to hear the words. My finite brain can't make suffering equal eternal glory, but Scripture tells us it's so. If anything, perseverance is going to be what gets me. Only by the grace of God do the days marked off on a seemingly never ending calendar make sense without my son. I used to be so content in this world: goats, food, sunshine, WalMart. Now only what is done for Christ matters. For this pain I try to remember to praise God, too: for nothing satisfying other than Him, for living eternally minded rather than for here.

This concept has been popping up everywhere: suffering equaling eternal glory. James baffles me when he says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) He tells us in the next verse to ask God for wisdom. So I asked.

“Is suffering worth it?” My Bible notes inquire about the age old question to myself again and again.

God's answer to me on that sunny morning nearly a month ago came from 2 Thessalonians 1:11 and 1 Timothy 1:12-18. Sweet promises made personal.

“Suffering causes {me} to be counted worthy of God's calling- it is only endured by God's power- ultimately so that Jesus will be glorified in me, and me in Him according to the grace of God. Scripture says that God appointed {me} to His service. He gives strength. He considered {me} faithful, even though I am a sinner, the greatest of all sinners as Paul says, all by the grace of God that is poured out abundantly. I need to PERSEVERE because through suffering God is revealing His mercy and His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. All for the honor and glory of God for ever and ever. Fight the good fight.”

Jesus' glory on this earth was the cross. He told us that as His followers we would be given crosses to carry. Heavy, splintered, bloody crosses. Burdens and yokes that would be impossible to endure aside from His grace. A constant reminder that this is not our home, a reminder of our longing for an eternal home. Somehow those crosses work to crush us, the sinful flesh part of us, and allow Jesus alone to shine through. The weight of those crosses seems to be what shatters anything in us that has no godly value and reveals our allegiance to our God, or His to us. They reveal more than we want them to, and make us go deep.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)

Suffering, a crown, eternal glory, and a Savior worth trusting. Somehow it makes sense, even when I can't seem to make it make sense.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bible Study ~ Purity


*Who is {it} about? Us or God?
All Scripture ultimately points back to Jesus. Although it is beneficial to examine our lives in light of Scripture, our study of it should constantly cause us to stand in awe of this amazing God and the fact that He allows sinners to draw near to Him.

*What does purity mean? Examples of purity?(Bride, gold, water)

Definition: to be free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind. To be clear, or free, from blemishes.

*If God alone is pure/holy (holy: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness-Lev. 11:44a), and mankind is sinful (Romans 3:23), then how does God allow us to come into His presence?

Since the Old Testament speculated that the people would sin and therefor be unclean, the purification rituals furnished a way to return to cleanness. The priests and Levites purified themselves first, then the people, and then the city gates and the wall. By doing this, they were prepared for worship. We read in Nehemiah 12:30," Then the priests and Levites purified themselves, the people, the gates, and the wall." The altar for sacrifice and the objects used in the tabernacle were purified so they would be prepared for worship. The last aspect of their sacrificial ritual was the sacrifice itself.

Because of sin, a cleansing agent was required: water, blood, or fire in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was for our learning. In the New Testament, our cleansing is complete through Jesus' death on the cross, which was a final, fulfilling sacrifice for sin. In Mark 16:16," He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. "
*Think about it:
God is the absolute example of purity, and to fellowship with Him we must be pure. The eyes of the Lord are too pure to look upon evil. God expects ethical purity, and sin results in uncleanness. Our Lord God has no part with sin. God is our light in the world. When we turn off the lights, there is darkness. Without God in our lives, we are living in darkness, which is a sinful life. Habakkuk 1:13a," You are of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wickedness." We are only seen as pure and forgiven when God sees us through the salvation of His Son, Jesus Christ's, death on the cross. Being seen as pure, or not pure, has eternal consequences.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

Verses about purity:

2 Samuel 2:27; Psalm 24; Psalm 51; Psalm 119:9-16; Proverbs 20:9; 1 John 3:1-10

In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor. Ephesians 1:7

Bible Study credits: Terri Stellrecht

Bible Study~ Purity


*Who is {it} about? Us or God?
All Scripture ultimately points back to Jesus. Although it is beneficial to examine our lives in light of Scripture, our study of it should constantly cause us to stand in awe of this amazing God and the fact that He allows sinners to draw near to Him.

*What does purity mean? Examples of purity? (Bride, gold, water)

Definition: to be free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind. To be clear, or free, from blemishes.

*If God alone is pure/holy (holy: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness-Lev. 11:44a), and mankind is sinful (Romans 3:23), then how does God allow us to come into His presence?

Since the Old Testament speculated that the people would sin and therefor be unclean, the purification rituals furnished a way to return to cleanness. The priests and Levites purified themselves first, then the people, and then the city gates and the wall. By doing this, they were prepared for worship. We read in Nehemiah 12:30," Then the priests and Levites purified themselves, the people, the gates, and the wall." The altar for sacrifice and the objects used in the tabernacle were purified so they would be prepared for worship. The last aspect of their sacrificial ritual was the sacrifice itself.

Because of sin, a cleansing agent was required: water, blood, or fire in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was for our learning. In the New Testament, our cleansing is complete through Jesus' death on the cross, which was a final, fulfilling sacrifice for sin. In Mark 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."

*Think about it:
God is the absolute example of purity, and to fellowship with Him we must be pure. The eyes of the Lord are too pure to look upon evil. God expects ethical purity, and sin results in uncleanness. Our Lord God has no part with sin. God is our light in the world. When we turn off the lights, there is darkness. Without God in our lives, we are living in darkness, which is a sinful life. Habakkuk 1:13a," You are of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wickedness." We are only seen as pure and forgiven when God sees us through the salvation of His Son, Jesus Christ's, death on the cross. Being seen as pure, or not pure, has eternal consequences.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

Verses about purity:

2 Samuel 2:27; Psalm 24; Psalm 51; Psalm 119:9-16; Proverbs 20:9; 1 John 3:1-10

In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor. Ephesians 1:7

Bible Study credits: Terri Stellrecht

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ponderings of Mice and Men

The weather is turning cooler, and the sputtering air conditioner is turned off (hopefully) for the season. Another indicator of the subtle change in seasons is the fact that we have little furry brown visitors. As I sat in the early quiet, enjoying the hush of the house this morning, I heard pitter-pattering feet scurry across the dining room. Eeek! It headed right under my computer desk, so I get up and carry the laptop to my comfy chair instead in an attempt to de-clutter my brain. Along the way I grab the fat barn cat who is sitting outside on the covered porch hoping that she is hungry and will do her job; no luck, she heads to the dog food dish. When Grace comes downstairs and hears the news she brings in the orange kitten, too, and goes on a mouse hunt herself, ever the critter collector. I will be going on a trap hunt soon, hoping Cole will set it and check it for me over the course of the day. I put the foot rest up on the recliner and let the chaos continue.

Words have seemed to elude me this summer; their return is as of a welcomed friend. Neither writing them nor reading them have been much comfort as of late, but this morning they seem to flow. Maybe the barometer shift has brought freedom with it as well.

The thought dawned on me the other day that I've been crying for nearly a year and a half. Sometimes I wonder if that is too long, or not long enough. I wonder if there could possibly be any more tears. Often they are just dry sobs, as if the well has run dry and lamenting groans will do in their place. I almost wish the old tradition of mourners wearing black would come back into style. My heart is still broken on the inside, but the outside must smile. I wonder if others have truly forgotten, or if they just honestly don't know what to say. Everyday I wake up to the fresh loss of my son. One morning not so long ago I woke up and enjoyed a brief moment of forgetting that he wasn't just in his bed across the hall from me. . .

These words spoke to my soul this morning:

But now, this is what the Lord says –
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel;

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Isaiah 43:1-3b

This all still seems so unreal; it still seems like just yesterday Trent was here, and then at the same time it seems like forever since he was here. I remind myself that he is still Trent, he's just in heaven. The battle of fighting for that reality is never ending. Our minds were not made to understand death; the separation is inconceivable. Silly analogy, but it was so obvious to me: we have had two crying goat kids in the barn for the past couple of days – they're sad because it's weaning time and they can longer be with their beloved momma. As I fed them last night, and then headed outside to feed the rest of the herd, I found myself telling them “It's okay, mommas just on the other side of the wall, soon you'll be together again.”

“Trent's just on the other side; soon you'll be together again,” I heard whispered to myself.

The reality of eternity is unimaginable: eternity. What does a mortal mind even do with that word? Because we only know death here, how do we conceive of forever, and ever, and ever? Which brings back the whole concept of God and His glory, forever, and ever, and ever. What are twelve years here, even fifty years or eighty years, compared to eternity? So I trudge on, fighting to find the joy of the cross set before me.

And there is much joy. Not a worldly joy as I am so used to expecting, but a new-found depth of joy; a joy which has been granted as a privilege only to sufferers. The joy of seeking God, a desperate need of knowing Him and trusting Him; of depending on Him to be who He says He is for the simple reason being that unless He is the Great I AM, this life has no meaning. Chasing the world reveals only futility in the end: Trent took nothing with him to heaven, and neither will I. I seek for treasures that will not tarnish or rust, treasures kept in heaven for me.

But the battle is fierce. Stepping into the ring means you get beat up. When you share the gospel of Jesus, people either repent or rage. I wonder if we really understood eternity, and the cost, if we would be bolder. I wonder at the binding of the truth in our society at large, even in our churches. I wonder why it is so difficult for my brain to understand the words of Scripture, or to live them out.

My tears lately have been over my own sins as well. When you are drawn closer to a holy God, a consuming fire, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, you can't help but see your own failings. The idolatry of looking only to our own short comings should not over-ride the glory of what Jesus did on the cross to pay the price for our salvation, but refusing to look at our own sinfulness is of no benefit either. God has been taking me through a time of chastening lately, and it hurts. I fall at the foot of the cross repeatedly. I am reminded that “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean” (John 13:10). This chastening reveals much grace if I will choose to see it rather than reject it.

Honestly, I am tired of being grown and sanctified, chiseled and shaped, pounded and hammered. My flesh likes its current state of sinful indulgence most days, and looking like Christ is not my top priority in my own will. But God doesn't let His children go their own way, He sanctifies them for His own glory, to reveal Himself in them, not to reveal their greatness in obeying Him. Therefor, I find much hope in the fact that God continues His molding in my life.

So as I raise my hands in surrender, acknowledging that I really can't do this: can't persevere on my own, can't control sin on my own and can't change my wicked heart on my own, God has me right where He wants me: walking by faith, not by sight; trusting Him to do it all, trusting Him to be faithful, trusting Him to be “that good.”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thousands Elsewhere

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. Psalm 84:10

It was brought to my attention the other day that we are in the "thousand elsewhere" part of that verse. Hmmm... I've been pondering that thought for quite some time since. How glorious would it be, then, to have been in God's presence for 483 days?

I woke up this morning overwhelmed with the anxiety of the realization that it has been nearly sixteen months since I have seen my son's face, or held him in my arms, or heard his voice. I have cried a river of tears in those months. The old wooden floor of my bedroom becomes the battleground every morning as I fight for victory; a victory that I often times forget has already been won: a victory for the truth that those who believe in the Lord Jesus will be saved. I try to remember that these trials are only for a little while. I rejoice that I am allowed to participate in the sufferings of Christ so that I may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13). I set my mind on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).

Better are 483 days in God's court than 483,000 days elsewhere.

Friday, May 18, 2012

This New Day

Part your heavens, O Lord, and come down . . . Psalm 144:5

I wake up to another new day to battle the ultimate question: do I trust God?

Written on a sermon note tucked in my Bible from who-knows how long ago, the question is asked again in black and white: do I really trust God? It's one I've been repeating to myself for fifteen months. One I have pondered deeper this past week when the news came that yet another teen-ager died in an accident in our little community.

I wonder why we got the "good story" of a son who professed faith in Jesus Christ. I wonder how the unsaved grieve without the hope of God. I wonder the ultimate question of how you would grieve a loved one who did not know Christ. I feel the paralyzing numbness longing to take over rather than feeling the emotions or asking the questions.

I read on to the end of the notes: The Isrealites stumbled and fell because of their unbelief. Their main sin was unbelief. We stand by our faith, and that alone. Not by sight, but faith.

I repeat the promises found in Scripture that I have known so long: those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved; we are victors in Christ; those God predestined he will also glorify; to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ; Jesus is coming soon and His reward is with Him.

"Keep looking forward, don't look around," I wrote weeks ago as the concluding line.

I look around and see only two boys going fishing with their dad instead of three. I look around and pack only four bags instead of five for an upcoming camping trip. I look around and feel the consuming pain of grief that steals the joy from every simple event.

For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. For the joy set before me, I walk this walk by faith. I try to imagine the glory of God; the unbelievable magnitude of heaven; the first glimpse of standing face to face with my Creator.

A kind lady called a few days ago to tell me how she was blessed to read How My Savior Leads Me. She went on to tell me about when her husband died she realized after a few months that along with the pain of his loss, she was actually more jealous. Jealous that her Johnnie was in the presence of God, without sin.

Randy Alcorn writes in his book, Heaven, that "For the Christian, death is not the end of the adventure but a doorway from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, to a world where dreams and adventures forever expand."

Do I trust God and the plans He has for my life, and my son's life? Yes. Do I long to be there with him? A resounding yes. But again I wake up with the same thought: Here I am still, Lord, please use me then today for your glory.


Listen to my cry [O Lord] for I am in desperate need. Psalm 142:6

I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Psalm 143:6

Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name. Psalm 142:7

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day

I survived. Only 364 days until I have to do it all over again. I was granted the privelege of doing whatever I wanted to do, so I chose to stay home from church and cry. I did attempt to salvage the day and be a good mother when everyone got home. I opened presents and ate kid-made deep fried hot dogs on china. Then I made the kiddos work in the garden with me. And I cried some more.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming.
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop
and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
You, too, be patient and stand firm,
because the Lords' coming is near.
James 5:7-8

I'll try, James, I'll try.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I wonder if any of us really get this. As the lightbulb burns out above the bathroom sink, again, and the faucet still drips; as I lay in my bed watching the morning sun rise, and with it I am begging God to let me remember that His glory will rise this day, too; and as I wait anxiously for does in the barn to show some sign of actually delivering their kids, and as I long to be brave enough to allow myself to feel the intensity of loving my own kids who are this side of heaven, I wonder if I really get this: This majesty of my God. The great hope that is found only in Him. The cost of Jesus' blood that was poured out for souls.

I tend to seek primarily for the instant gratification that pleases my flesh, fooling myself that something here will satisfy, while my inner-being constantly cries out for my Maker. The discontent after Trent's death has not ceased to exhaust me. What worldly things used to bring great joy now only fail. A crying for something that satisfies is the ache of my heart; a satisfaction that will not be found until eternity begins and I am in the presence of my Savior.

The writer of Hebrews talks about those who were waiting for a better country~ a heavenly one (Hebrews 11). They were looking forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. We are reminded of the "greats" who lived by faith, longing for this heavenly dwelling. Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward; he persevered because he saw Him who was faithful. Hebrews 12 reminds us to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross."

God has been reminding me over and over again of His promises. This God, of whom "it is impossible for Him to lie," (Hebrews 6:18) gave His own son, Jesus, in our place as the atonement for sin. This same Jesus who has entered heaven itself, now appears for us in God's presence (Heb 9:24): Jesus himself petitions God on our behalf. His sacrifice was a "perfect sacrifice, and is right now sufficient to make perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Heb 10:14).

Never before giving up my own son have I understood to this depth the cost of salvation or the importance of living in obedience to the words of Scripture. Until your heart breaks, and you have given all, you cannot consider giving your own life in exchange. "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:25

I can't imagine God's glory. I can't make anything here in this world compare. I think, truly, that is the ache of this grief: the longing of having what my son has; to be in the presence of God.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Know Him in His Sufferings

I have been fighting, fighting, fighting such an intense spiritual battle this past week. You too? No? The enemy has nothing to attack? I have forgotten that it is a privelege to be counted worthy of trials. I prefer the pity party as of late. I have been having a hard time trying to grasp eternity, or the magnitude of God's glory, or why it matters so much.

But then I can feel the shift beginning, and I start to rise, ever so slowly from the pit; but still I rise and catch a glimpse of it again. I feel as if I'm barely holding on to it somedays. Do you see it? Do you get it? This whole "big" picture~ beyond you and me and our lifetimes, all the way into eternity; trying to figure out what really matters.

I was encouraged reading somewhere the other day that Scripture really is all sufficient, we don't need to look beyond for any outside affirmation of God, so I go back there even more. I love the book of John: continually Jesus reminds us, "I am telling you the truth!" Continually, I am reminded that that truth matters so much. The truth of believing in Jesus which leads to eternal life in heaven matters a whole lot to Trent right now. Oh Lord, haste the day when you reign. Reading Malachi this morning ... oh my, you'll have to go read it for yourself. What offering will I be bringing before my God?

More so I realize how we all tend to hold on to this world so tightly, as if it will last forever, with little thought about the next. Alexis and I have started "fighting" over blessing others~ eternal blessings for even a cup of cold water Jesus said. For eternity? "Let me get it. Let me rise; let me suffer; let me die to myself. Use me, Lord; here I am. Let your glory come shatter me." As scary as those words are to speak out loud, they are the utterings of my heart: to have the joy of knowing Jesus in His suffering. We will not know Him in His glory if we do not know Him in His suffering, it says in Romans.

I realize over and over, especially at 3:30 in the morning, how helpless I am to fight this battle. So I entrust myself all over again to the One who is capable.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Roller Coaster

There have been good days and bad days on this rollercoaster of grief. It still surprises me when the intensity of the plummet hits. The longing for my son is intense; the hope of my Savior, though, is greater yet. I am learning to stop when I feel the start of that sinking feeling. I repeat the Promises, I hold on tighter, I simply breathe or retreat to my bed and cry myself to sleep. My fear lately is that I will forget my son. It is a battle to accept the peace from God as His grace to sustain me until I see Him face to face. Without the "forgetting" a person would go insane. But you also start to go insane realizing that you can live without your child this side of heaven. Back to the Promises; back to the brevity of this life; back to trying to comprehend just how long eternity will be and that what ultimately matters is where we are with Jesus Christ. Come now, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

For I am the Lord your God

I just let the tears fall these days; I don't even wipe them away anymore. I intentionally strain to hear their sound as they form a path down my cheeks. I think of the God who knows the sound of falling tears; the God who knows His children so intimately that He catches every drop and stores them in His bottle. The tears do not go unnoticed before His throne, as I am so easily persuaded to think that they do. The prayers go beyond my bedroom ceiling as I lie there, begging for strength.

Out of the gloom there is a reminder:

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand,

and says to you,

"Do not fear, I will help you."

Isaiah 41:13

I forget that.

I forget that it's not by my strength, or my will power, or my motives. I forget that promise when the panic attacks hit at six in the morning. I forget that when I am jolted awake realizing again that my son is dead. I forget that he is in heaven.

I wonder why they come now, after so many months of peace about God's good plan; so many months of watching His glorious work. I wonder if it's because I'm tired: consumed by busyness of my own making, too busy to keep my eyes focused on the cross, seeking my own Kingdom rather than His.

I know that God will do all things for my good, all things that will lead me to knowing Him deeper.

I recall the verse about suffering being granted from our loving, heavenly Father: a gift.

A gift to know Him, a beckoning into fellowship, an opportunity to forsake the ways of the world if I will take it. But it is a gift with a great cost. Often times I don't want it. Gently, though, God presses in. The tears end, the peace takes over, the words flow, and grace consumes.

I will trust my Savior Jesus for where He leads me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Sorry to those who have checked in on me to mention that I haven't been blogging. I guess I just ran out of words to say. There seems to be a depth of pain that there are no words for: not for comfort, or peace, or even for prayers.

It seems as if this past year has hit me all at once, and I am exhausted by being on display. My Mom was right the other day when she pointed out that we must feel like we are wearing a scarlet letter every time we go out in public; as Grandma, she feels it too. After a year I don't know how to answer the "How are you doing?" question anymore, and honestly, I think people don't quite know what to do with how I am doing. I am tired of missing my son. I am tired of grieving. I am tired of the pain. I am tired of the tears. I am tired of making everybody else cry. So I smile at them, and I stay home, and I wander the woods with my kids and my goats.

I read the other day that in the second year of grief you enter a stage where you respond by either fight, flight or freeze. I have tried to avoid a whole lot of grief advice, but this resonated with where I am.

Grace has been praying for my joy to come back. It's been a tall order lately. I have overwhelmed myself with busyness these past few weeks rather than looking intently for the majestic God behind all of this. Her ten-year-old questions stirred in me some of my own again. She was so relieved to hear that we will have clothes to wear in heaven, and that we won't just be standing around singing for eternity. We wondered aloud together what Trent was doing right now without a body, we laughed about how he always did want to be first at everything, we talked about Jesus' horse and if He would let us ride it when we got there, and we tried to envision just what God would look like. We were pretty sure that He wouldn't even come close to resembling a squid, and were both glad for it. Probably no hairy arms either, but being I can't begin to fathom His glory, I had no further offer of how to explain Him in a way that would do justice.

Loving these kids this deep is so hard. My heart wants to protect itself from hurting anymore.

The loss of Trent threatens to crush me. I fight, flee, or freeze in various forms.

Watching Micah read this past week has amazed me. I wonder how my baby is nearly done with first grade. I wonder when he learned /sh/ and that periods mean to stop. Home school has been survival of the fittest around here this past year. It has also been a saving structure to fill our days. Somehow everybody is thriving, even though we haven't done many extra's. Everybody is reading', ritin', and doing 'rithmetic, and the Bible is a daily standard, as well as bedtime prayers and talking with Dad at night. What a legacy this man is leaving to his children: the son of alcoholic parents, saved by grace, raising his children for the glory of God.

Another twelve year old boy has me taking second glances. For an instant I want to replace him in my mind and pretend that he is his brother walking by as he grows into the same lanky form and wears the same shade of t-shirt. But I don't allow myself to go there. I force myself back to reality. I look again for God's good plans. I look forward to eternity. I pray that they'll all be there; all my kids, God. I pray that they'll all know Jesus as their Savior. A day doesn't go by that my heart isn't pleading for their souls; barely hours go by without the pleas being on my lips.

I have begun building again. It dawned on me the other day that Trent is enjoying heaven without us. I picked up my hammer and swung harder. Lord willing, by the time the mosquitoes come out in full force there will be a recycled screen porch in the flower garden. It's even fairly level, and it passed Rob's inspection. We've had many opportunities already to sit in it and giggle and fight over laps, even without a roof or screen, so I anticipate it will be well worth the effort.

Isaiah 30:15 says that in repentance and rest is my salvation, in quietness and trust is my strength. In this season of quietness I am learning to trust. In my weakness I am learning about God's strength. I continue to rest, and I realize that God already knows my heart; there is no need for forcing eloquent words. As much as I have never wanted to learn perseverance, I am coming to terms with the fact that I probably have a long, long way to go. And, like Steven Curtis Chapman has recently penned, it's just a long way home.

Friday, March 23, 2012


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

I guess, then, there is a season to be quiet. Quiet. An odd concept in our culture. A time to lay on a bench, in the middle of the woods, alone, being quiet and waiting to hear the voice of God.

Quiet enough to hear the squirrels and the chipmunks rattle the leaves; quiet enough to hear the flapping of the wings of a flock of Sand Hill cranes; quiet enough to hear the mosquitoes buzzing in March, and quiet enough to hear God whisper, "Just trust me."

This is what the Lord says,

" In repentance and rest is your salvation;

in quietness and trust is your strength."

Isaiah 30:15

I walked through the woods, and proclaimed my trust. I cried the tears, and proclaimed my trust. I accepted the gifts and the prayers, and proclaimed my trust. I gave up my plans, and proclaimed my trust.

I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash

and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare.

Ezekiel 13:14

Pain has a way of laying flat the flimsy walls that we build. Grief batters against the soul again and again, challenging the construction of who we have built God to be; this God that sits enthroned in His glory as we struggle along in our flesh.

He will accept nothing less than to have His children acknowledge who He really is. He will continue the refining until all falsehood is removed.

The tearing down process is exhausting. God strips us bare of any false beliefs until only the foundation is left, the true foundation of His character as laid out in Scripture.

And then the rebuilding can begin.

The call to read the words in the book of Ezekiel 5-15 this morning came as an answer to many prayers: prayers for a glimpse of God's glory, prayers for sustainence, prayers for my will to be truly yielded to God's will.

But Ezekiel wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting visions of heaven, the great hope of a gracious God, gentle leading by a kind Savior. Not my own sins revealed through the lives of the Isrealite's. Not a humbling of who I am. Not the acknowledgment that I really don't understand just who God is and what He's doing, let alone trying to define eternity and the glory to be revealed.

How do you wrap your brain around the concept of death?

I look at old pictures and see physical evidence of my son. Yet, he's not here anymore.

Theology tends to get twisted and warped as we walk the hard roads of suffering, and our once rock-solid doctrines can begin to take on a form of their own. Eternity seems to be no closer than it was yesterday, if it really ever will begin. God's glory has no definition that the brain can comprehend. And Heaven? It tends to evaporate into an unattainable destination that seems somedays like it may never come.

But it does come; it has come. The reality is too raw many days. But how? Where? Why?

This God, who's thoughts are higher than our thoughts as far as the earth is from the sky, this God that refuses to be put inside our pretty little boxes, has a way of destroying our flimsy white washed walls.

The foundation is laid bare through suffering so that all will be built on His truth, for His glory.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Insanity


It just has a way of keepin' on, even if you can't keep up with it.

It has been crazy busy around here lately. A birthday and an anniversary and purposely scheduled craziness might have something to do with it, but still .... crazy busy.

Five of the six poodle-pie puppies have found new homes, which means that I have five less poodle-pie puppy messes to clean up every morning. Grace has gone from one puppy to the other making them her favorites as they all leave: first D-O-G (said phonetically, Deogie) and Licorice left, then Cheesenout, and Rosie, and yesterday Chocolate, leaving behind little Boaz who is doing his best job to convince us that we do need a goofy little yellow lab. Sigh .... Rob is doing his best to stand his ground amongst all of us animal lovers.

The farm is busy, too, with six milking does now. Martha delivered last week~ another buckling. We have decided that next year must be our doe year as we are over run with bucks right now. This new guy brings the total up to 6 bucks and 2 does. Micah donned him "Stripey" as the rest of us were all pretty much named out. Yes, we also got our bottle calves. It is more of a "going through the motions" event this year with little to no fan-fare over the black and white buggers.

And then there are the chickens: our egg laying girls have been loving the sunshine and have been laying us lots of farm fresh eggs. In an attempt to get back on track with actually farming we have been recording eggs again. In the last ten days of February we brought in 74 eggs from 16 hens. Good job girls!

Our pullet chicks are doing great, and there are some very happy Craigslist people who bought several over the weekend. We still have some little ones in the basement waiting to graduate to the big outside coop, and some more six week old pullets waiting for homes if anybody needs them. Overall the chicken business is good for so early in the spring.The weather has been crazy, too. We had the biggest snowstorm of the season a couple of weeks ago, and in the past two days it has been so warm that all the snow has melted. The kids dug out the shorts and flip-flops today and even took out the duck boat on the pond to celebrate.

I bought roses. This, in itself, was a significant event because it's one of those things that we used to do when Trent was here. As a reward for making it through Aldi's with two overflowing shopping carts, we would take turns picking out bouquets. When Grace saw the flower displays last week on our grocery shopping trip she asked if she could pick some out .... I woke up from my stupor enough to say yes.Insane is how I have felt lately. If somebody would just find me a straight jacket in a cute brown and pink pattern I could be content sitting in a padded room rocking back and forth. And then don't wake me up until it's my turn to go to heaven.

The crying doesn't seem to do any good, so I have opted for the insanity behind curtain number three these days. I mean, really, how else does one wrap their brain around the fact that their son is not here? Thoughts of God and His glory and heaven consume me unrelentingly. And for the millionth time I ask: How do you go on living here? What do you live for? When you know that this is all temporary, what is worth investing in?

Oh~ and the tiny push that sent me cascading into the insanity mode: somebody stole Trent's identity and claimed him on their taxes. Yes, we were informed that we would have to paper file our taxes and prove to the government that our dead son was really our dead son rather than somebody else's dead son who was claiming that our dead son was their dead son. Uh-huh. Now you see why that cute little straight jacket might not be so bad? Who would even think up these things?

So, I humour myself with barn chores twice a day: feed the calves, feed the goats, feed the chicks, feed the calves, feed the goats, feed the chicks. It's cheap therapy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


But I am the Lord your God...
I cared for you in the desert,
in the land of burning heat.
Hosea 13:4a

Fourteen years ago a son was brought forth from my womb. This morning I am again recalling that day. I remember the pain and the contractions on top of contractions caused by the induction medicine that was administered because he was thought to be several days overdue. I remember the nurses, and the doctor who insisted that I would labor eight hours longer than I did. I remember my mother's hands braiding my hair in an attempt to soothe the pain that was so necessary.

I remember the nurses taking him from my breast shortly after he was born to administer oxygen, a foreshadowing of his life perhaps. I remember my husband stealing him back, refusing to be separated from his firstborn son.

I remember the struggle to feed him from my body over the next several months, and to draw near to him for fear of my intense love that seemed like too much. I remember the battles over his little soul in the years to come. I remember the day of his salvation, the acknowledgement of a Savior's grace, the hope of eternity in the presence of a holy God.

I remember counting his toes again on that hospital bed in the emergency room the day he died, just like the day he was born: one, two, three, all the way to ten. I remember God's grace when He gave and when He took away. This same God, who cared for the Israelites in the desert, who cared that a twelve year old boy needed a Savior, who knows the sound of a mother's falling tears.

I find this pain to be a driving force that pushes me closer to Him, not away, lest I be satisfied here, in the temporary, becoming proud and comfortable and ultimately forgetting my God. This beckoning found through suffering, the hurt that penetrates so deep, is an offer to draw near to the Almighty.

I could barely get to the praise for a son in heaven this birthday morning; I could barely get past the pain. And then came God. Then came the words of Scripture from the Sovereign One who intends to carry me all the way until I see His face. I can't see the eternal worth of this suffering right now, but the God who called me to this trial continues to prove over and over again that He is faithful. He cares for me in the desert; in Him will I be satisfied.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mud Pies and Glory

Jesus hears your every expression of grief . . .
He knows the sound of your falling tears.
Rev. Tim Wesemann,
"Grieving with Hope, Leaning on Jesus."

Sorry to say it, but most of the grief books or articles that we have been given this past year really haven't been of much use (except for this one quoted which was given to us by a new friend who has literally been in our place.) Most of those books contain very worldly advice, wrapped in pretty Christian packages. Of the one's that I have read so far, none of them seem to be indicating that we should be finding our joy in God's sovereignty as we trust Him in our sorrow, or that heaven really is the goal for the believer. Almost all of them seem to be pointing to the "graduation" from grief, which is accomplished when one learns how to live again without your loved one.

In other words: somehow let's all attempt to make death normal and accept it, rather than seeing beyond it into eternity, especially our very own eternal destinations, and the great big God that is behind everything. We'll all link arms and pretend with each other that death is "normal."

Death should really be a flashing neon sign that screams at us to wake up. It is reminding us again that all is not right with the world; death is the epitome of sin itself. As John Piper says: "It is a great sadness when sufferers seek relief by sparing God His sovereignty over pain." As I've repeatedly said: "My problem isn't with the God who ordained my son's death, it is with my reaction to it."

As His children, do we delight in God? Like Job*, do we trust Him in the good and the bad? Really trust Him?

I read the other day that the great apostle Paul lived for two days: this day, and that day. Scripture is full of the phrase "in that day," referencing to the day that Jesus will return. This struck me, because it so simply sums up my unanswered question from all these months: "How do I live now?"

I guess I live today making every attempt to be obedient and to draw nearer to Jesus because God has me here today so therefor He has a purpose in it. But at the same time I live for "that day," anxiously looking for it and longing for it.
These days are short; eternity is long.

Somehow I try to equate new calves and peeping chicks as having much meaning in light of God's glory. So much of my effort seems futile when I am only pouring it into my earthly kingdom. I can't figure out how to balance the seemingly meaningless things we are all accustomed to pursuing in light of the reality of eternity; especially an eternity with promised rewards* from an in-exhaustive Heavenly Father.

The kids and I were talking about those rewards the other day. I asked them what they thought the rewards would be: chocolate, gold, toys, chickens. We could all only guess. Jesus Himself offered them; rewards for eternity for all those things done in His name.

Then why do I invest in the temporary?

The kids were fighting over a certain colored cup the other day. Our cupboards are overflowing with every type of mix-matched cup imaginable thanks to a certain Uncle Jim, and yet this one single cup they both had to have. I not-so-graciously flipped out. It's a cup! Give them the cup! Are you telling me that you wouldn't give up one lousy plastic cup in exchange for eternal rewards? Go further~ fill it up with water*, hand it to your sister . . . Jesus promised eternal rewards beyond what we can even imagine for such a meaningless action. Yeesh.

And then I do the same thing.

The physical is so tempting. But I want the cup, the house, the jeans, the hair-do, the goat. I want it here. I want it now. I don't want to wait for what's better. I can't see it, therefor it's hard to believe it.But if we believe in Jesus only for this lifetime we are to be pitied more than all men*. He said to look for "that day" when His glory would be revealed in it's fullness. Those who hold out the Word of God will shine like the stars in the universe, Scripture says*. Do you think He's kidding? I bet Trent would tell us otherwise. I think had he known, if any of us really knew, we would have handed over the cup.

What if we lived like God wasn't kidding?

What if believers lived for Him; lived for eternity, looking for His glory to be revealed in it's tiniest form here as we believe and trust Him and live by and proclaim His Word through our actions and obedience? What if He's not kidding and it's too late to realize it until we get there? Has He not warned us, or been patient enough, or been kind enough?

Like C. S. Lewis said:“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

What if we weren't so easily pleased by the world's offer of mud pie's, but rather looked up to this amazing God who created the sea's and so much more?

How do you do that?

I don't have the magic answer. I do know it involves alot of prayer, Scripture, an intentional drawing nearer to this God, repentance, and trust*.

*Job 1:21; Matthew 10:42;1 Corinthians 15:9; Revelation 20:12; Philippians 2:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-27

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Almost All There

It's all there: the pictures, the smiles, the memories, the horses, the kids . . . all except for Trent. It was one of those unbelievably gorgeous February days when, in the midst of paperwork and home school, I declared a fun day. Just like we used to do: pack up a picnic, the kids, and the horses and head out back. Even if everybody fought and the horses were ornery we were still together.

After my announcement I began procrastinating: we need to feed the chicks, does Micah have socks, change out of your nice pants, what kind of sandwiches should we bring, I have to put on some make-up, mascara, eye-liner, pick a pair of shoes . . .

I just don't want to do it; I don't know how to do it. When does the ache stop?

I beg for grace, and yet more grace . . . more and more and more. I think of eternity, when death will be no more. "Why not just start it today, God?" I ask Him; just start it today.

The grace trickles in. I have to go; I have to smile; I have to live. I remember that God is sovereign and Trent is in heaven after all: I know, I know. I just want to go have another picnic with him; I just want to hear him laugh again, and see him ride the short horses, and talk with him and see him play with his brothers. I don't know how to dream anymore. The perfect spot for the cabin doesn't seem so perfect anymore.

But God's grace is ultimatley sufficient, so I ride the horse, I eat the tuna wrap, I live for my kids.

The camera batteries were exhausted mid-picnic, so I couldn't hide anymore. I was forced to participate: to explore the woods looking for old bee-hives, laughing with my kids, playing games, really riding my horse, looking at the trees and the trail and the flying pheasant and the two girls ahead of me instead of looking for the perfect shot.

And I felt it, next to the ache and the pain, I felt the glimmer of joy rising.

Grief seems to force you to choose between emotions. Pain often rules and joy seems impossible because your loved one is gone. But does it have to be impossible? Is God not enough for joy in grief? For trusting His plans while you live the day's He still has you here?

This afternoon I stumbled across Isaiah 29:13 (NASB): Then the Lord said, " . . . [these] people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote ..."

The words cut deep: lip service, rote tradition, heart far removed. I don't want my life to be lip service to God. I long to know Him and trust Him with my very being.

I read once about a mother who expressed that God graciously revealed to her through her grief that her greatest desire was really her child, not Jesus. Such a fine line. One that we think we have a right to as mothers: to place our children above everything else, even God. I long to let God be God, and to be so satisfied in Him and His plans that my life reveals it fully; to be so consumed with Him that the things of this life are meaningless.

Maybe that's the real pain: what I thought was reality in this world has been lost along with my son. Somehow I have to learn how to live here the rest of my days until I get to heaven, not being of this world but in this world. I will continue to listen for that trumpet, and as I wait I'll dance before my King (Phil 3:20; John 17:14-15; 1 Cor 15:51-52; 2 Samuel 6:16).

Monday, February 13, 2012

A New Song

Sing to the Lord a new song,
His praise from the ends of the earth.
Isaiah 42:10a

My first thoughts this morning were about that last week a year ago. It was my underlying intention, I guess, to relive every moment of those days for . . . for what? Nostalgia? To question again God's plan, or attempting to have devised my own plans by asking the inevitable "what if I had only's?" Do I think that guilt would somehow have changed God's sovereignty?

I am finding out - the hard way - that there is this part of grief that insists the one left behind is held in a bondage of guilt . . . guilt for being happy, guilt for not crying enough, guilt for living. This "monster" continues it's attempts to overwhelm me. Like Traci reminded me the other day: "We were not originally created to experience death." Our very beings cannot take in the concept of death; our soul, mind and bodies are repulsed by the reality of it.

My second thought this morning was again the realization that it was not me who died a year ago. If I die along with Trent, what does that say of God? That He's not worthy to make plans greater than mine? Ummm . . . hello . . . I can barely balance my checkbook, let alone decide the fate of every soul that ever lived plus their eternal time and destination to face their Creator so that it will portray the most glory to God forever and ever and ever.

His ways are higher than our ways; higher than the heavens are from the earth; who can fathom His ways; it is better to be in heaven with Jesus than here in this world where the curse of sin still looms so heavily; I will fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, who, for the glory and joy set before Him endured even the cross; will God's grace not be sufficient today; will His mercies fail this new day, this new moment?

And then I finally remembered that I don't have to figure this all out. God has only asked me to trust Him in it. So I went to my knees in prayer; I praised the God who gives and takes away; I begged for grace, and for salvation for my children who are still here.

Little Raelynn was so excited the other day to get a new dress. In her simple child-like belief (which, I might add, Aunt Terri could learn from) she said to her Mom, "It's too bad Trent didn't die this year, I could have worn this dress to his funeral."

Anybody who has never grieved without the hope of God and heaven would be mortified at some of the things that have come out of our mouths this past year: there is no doubt in us believers in the family that we will see Trent again, and when we do he is in for quite a few pit-attacks, nouggies, games of tag, popping kisses, and hugs that may never end.

I continue to attempt to learn how to live without my son; I attempt to decipher what really matters in my short days here.

The shock that Trent is really gone still surprises me most days. We are getting "used" to it at home, but the odd comment, or seeing somebody we haven't seen in a while, brings it all back fresh. "Are you really talking about my son?" I want to ask them.

Everywhere we go we make people cry: my mom, my sisters, our friends, the tax guy. There are no adequate words to express the depth of what it is like to see somebody grieving over your son; grieving for us in our grief; feeling the pain on our behalf. I am a people-pleaser and want to take it away from them. I want to tell them not to cry; to tell them that I am sorry for always making them cry; to tell them that I will quit writing and talking about Trent so that they won't have to cry . . . but I have to remember that ultimately I don't write for them; I don't share for them.

I fear forgetting Trent: his smile, his voice, his eyes, his favorite dessert, his favorite pair of jeans.

I don't know how to celebrate the one year anniversary of my son's death. I don't know how to continue when the months have turned into years. I guess it will be a lot like yesterday, and tomorrow, and the first day: all by the grace of God. I keep telling myself that as the days tick by I am counting them down the other way: rather than being one day longer since Trent died, I am really one day closer to eternity myself; one day closer to seeing God for myself. Isn't that the ultimate goal for the believer in Jesus? Isn't heaven the reward? Isn't this the temporary world, and eternity is the end result?

Billy Graham once said: "I am convinced that when a man is prepared to die, he is also prepared to live. The primary goal in life therefore should be to prepare for death. Everything else should be secondary." I am ready for death, secure in Jesus Christ, therefore I am free to live.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I woke up crabby. Which soon turned into tears. Which soon turned into a headache. Which all began with an overwhelming longing for Trent to just walk down those stairs again this morning. Or to just be in the mix of kids and puppies. Or to just be around the corner to say "good-morning Mom" and give me a hug. The freshness of it hit me hard today. The intensity of missing him has been almost stronger this past week than it has been this whole past year.
Some tell me it is the shock of grief that is wearing off. Some tell me that the second year is worse than the first. Some tell me twenty years later it is still going to be hard. Some tell me that the rest of my life will involve this continuous battle.

What I've realized all over again is that this battle is a battle to believe. At the core, I am battling to gain victory over my flesh of feelings to hold on to the truth of God's Word. My feelings tell me that this hurts; my feelings tell me that I just want my son back; my feelings tell me that God can't be good in taking a twelve year old boy to heaven.

I pick up my sword and make feeble attempts to fight:

" . . . but He [God] who sent me [Jesus] is true." (John 7:28)

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my [Jesus'] word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)

"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out . . ." (John 5:28-29b)

"My Father is always at his work to this very day . . ." (John 5:17b)

"The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent." (John 6:29)

As I was on my knees in tears I was reminded of Hebrews 12:1, and the great cloud of witnesses that surround the believer. Commentaries indicate that these are the believers listed in chapter eleven, the list of the "greats", who overcame unbelievable trials and have now entered God's presence; who have been in God's presence for centuries since those trials. If we, as believers, had just a glimpse of heaven, and a true vision of who this God is, would we be more willing to trust our lives, and our children's lives, in His hands? After that first moment that our soul is in His presence, wouldn't we have gladly given up more if we had only understood now Whom it was we were entrusting our lives to?

I am not belittling grief, I am not denying the human reaction to it and every right that I could claim as a mother to feel the raw hatred of this and justify every tear and the right to stay in bed and cry. But what I cannot deny is that I have no grounds, as a believer in Jesus Christ, to not believe His promises in Scripture, other than my own wicked heart. Did He not say it? Did He not lay out the path of salvation clearly? Did He not tell us enough about the Father and heaven and eternal life and His love for us and the good plans He has for us that we should doubt Him?
I have no ground to stand on when I try to pull out my "human" card to try and trump His sovereignty. This battle is a battle for belief; it is a battle for eternal souls. If I were to face God today, would I face Him ashamed that I didn't just believe?

So I fight . . . I fight to believe every word in Scripture as if I would face God today. I face Him in my prayers; I face Him with the truth of my feelings, and actions, and heart; I battle to believe.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012



As I was making the bed a while back God impressed upon me that I was the lucky one (as in the definition meaning "favored one") . Grief longed to consume that morning; the impression had been preceded by many tears, prayers, and waiting for strength to start the day. As the tears continued, the blessings that come with suffering began: I realized that I can't even get out of bed in the morning without the thoughts of heaven and eternity; I can't begin my day without coming to terms with God; I no longer consider my days my own, let alone my dreams, ideas, or my very life, but wait for God's leading.

"Lucky" is having your eyes opened to God, no matter the cost.

I spoke to a young man the other day about Jesus. My walls had been built high and strong, and I had vowed there would be no break in them for my own protection, but then this young father broke all protocol and walked over to where I stood alone. After the small talk, I asked the all important question, "How's your walk with God?"

We've all learned the game, the game of Sunday smiles and every body's saved; life will go on forever anyway and there's always tomorrow to ask and decide. But life doesn't go on forever, and tomorrow may never come. The facade of the game is shattered, and I can't stomach the rules of it any longer. A bit of digging revealed the truth, to both of us. Game over. Now truth can begin, truth can be said, fears are revealed, honesty is given words, genuine prayers can be lifted for a brave man who is walking the line of no decision being a decision that one day he will wake up to the realities of.

I talked to a mother a while back. She wondered how you get to where I am; I wanted to ask her where it is that I am. Please tell me, because I don't always know.

Where I am is clinging to God. Where I am is battling, moment to moment, for grace to believe, to trust, to hold-on. Fighting for breath, literally; fighting for reality; fighting to see beyond this world to a sovereign God who holds it all in His hands, including me. Where I am is on my knees, begging for strength. Where I am is in the Bible, constantly repeating the words and promises, trusting in them. Where I am is looking intently for God's glory, now as well as future. Where I am is believing in the One who gives and takes away. Where I am is waiting for Jesus to return and make this all right; waiting for the curse to be lifted and for the tears to be wiped away.
As the tears flowed down her face, all I could ask her was if she trusted God with her teen-age son's life. That's all that I'm doing; that's where I am.

I have been reading Uncle Tom's cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. When I remembered part way through that the little girl dies I almost quit reading, but I am so glad that I have continued. As much as the book is about the atrocity of slavery, it really is a testimony of the gospel at it's core. After Eva's death, the author says:

"Thine is the victory without the battle - the crown without the conflict."

Some battles are won even before they are fought; other battles continue for years. I think of Trent's short life: he was a child his whole life, he never tasted of the cares and concerns of adult trials, or battled the battle's of years worth of sins. His was the "crown without the conflict".

I realized the other day that I could potentially live another 50 years . . . waking up every morning for another 50 years to fight for the victory of this battle. I thought of the blip of our lives on the screen of eternity. How would you even begin to measure eternity? And where would 12 years, 50 years, even 88 years fall on that line? In the grand scheme of things, isn't it the other side of eternity that matters? Isn't it where we are on that side that we should be more concerned about rather than our short time here?

Another line from the book was said by Eva's father, St. Clare, shortly after his daughter died. He had been indifferent to the gospel his daughter continued to share with him, until he had to come face-to-face with who this God was and what eternity held. He said, "I am braver than I was, because I have lost all; and he who has nothing to lose can afford all risks."

Eleven months ago I held on to this world and it's trinkets with a tight grip; I have been forced to let go. Actually, it was God's mercy that released my grip; it was a direct answer to prayers that Rob and I had been praying for right before the accident. Prayers for God to wake us up to Him; prayers to draw us closer, to know Him deeper, to live our lives for Him, to use our son in a mighty way for the gospel. We are braver now, because we have lost all. We see eternity clearer now, we see God clearer now, we see our short days clearer now and are counting the cost of how we live them. There is nothing in this life left to lose; we can afford all risks that hindered us before from trusting God, knowing God, telling others about God.

St. Clare asked Uncle Tom at one point, "How do you know there's any Christ, Tom? You never saw the Lord."

"Felt Him in my soul, mas'r - feel him now!" was Tom's reply.

I feel Him in my soul; feel him now. I long for the day I will see Him with my eyes; see what Trent see's; know what Trent knows. Fifty more years here does not thrill me; the sooner I see my Savior face to face the better.

Second Thessalonians 1:10 says that those who have believed will marvel at Jesus when He comes in His glory. Marvel at Him. First Peter 1:5 says that God Himself is a shield through faith. As the waves of grief consume, the panic attacks, grasping for breath, flashbacks of hospitals and policemen, I envision that shield of God Himself surrounding me. The enemies arrows are poised and thrown, but the shield of God protects. I hold on to God's grace that He continues to give; His eternal encouragement and good hope (2 Thes 2:16). Eternity is where my eyes are focused; eternity is what I continue to look forward to.