A Letter

I haven’t been here much lately. The blog had to be set on a shelf for a period and different areas of my life had to be tended to and discovered. My journals are full though. God revealing Himself in muddy waters hasn’t stopped. It has just been a time that those things had to be dealt with privately. I wrote a letter to a dear friend who is suffering at the hands of the same dagger of infidelity this morning, and at the end of the email I realized that I had said everything that I needed to say here.

~~~~~~~~~

My sweet friend,

How are you? I keep you at the front of my prayers and think of you so very often. I hope that you find more days that have peace than not, and that the Lord is being so gentle with you.

This week has been a hard one for me. A lot of issues with the husband crept in and had to be dealt with, and with those dealings brought (and brings) new waves of panic, fear, exhaustion, frustration, loneliness, longing, and my list could go on.

I found myself searching for sackcloth, a pile of ashes, and a piece of pottery to scrape my wounds with so many times in the past few days. The ugly cry that sticks in your throat and the mountains of bricks that sit on your heart seemed to plague my nights. I haven’t had that kind of grief in a very long time. It was..well..just hard. But, true to His beautiful nature, God has been tenderly nursing my wounds and drying my tears one at a time. Some of the anguish is being replaced one sticky barbed wire piece at a time with slivers of joy and peace. He is proving faithful, yet again, to carry me through the dark waters and deep gullies.

I’m reading a book called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Certainly a memoir that is moving, but she also talks a lot about grace and the periods of anguish that end up growing us the most to ultimately bring us to places that allow us to look back and reflect on hardships as being bittersweet. So bitterly difficult, yet so preciously sweet because they make us better people and draw us closer to the Father if we can only choose to face those hardships in the Light of the Son and His grace.

It’s exactly the place I’m standing in right now. I hate this period of my life. I hate what it’s doing to my children. I hate that they are being cheated by this broken world. I hate having puffy swollen eyes because I spend more nights than not crying. I hate having to defend my position of waiting and mercy and faith to people who are quick to tell me things will never change and “once a cheater always a cheater.” I hate looking at the man that I love so deeply and have my mind play a dirty dance of wanting to kill him vs. wanting to run to him and just hold him. I hate it.

But…I wouldn’t trade it.

Because in this period of grief and sackcloth and hate, I’ve discovered that I’m a woman I never knew I could be or would want to be. And I’ve discovered the soft hands of the Master as He lifts me up and carries me. I’ve learned that God is big enough to handle me being frustrated with Him, and that crying out to Him in exhaustion and screaming about my lack of understanding of His sovereignty in a broken world doesn’t mean that I’m blasphemous or faithless, it means that I’ve entered a realm of being a friend of God and that we now have a living breathing relationship.

Bittersweet, indeed.

I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know if your nights look like mine. If your conversations with God sound like mine. Or if your eyes stay puffy and swollen, too. I would imagine that we’re not too different. Because this world hurts. And is cruel. And hurls darts and blows that wound pieces of us that we didn’t even know we owned. Because life is messy and ugly and muddy and bloody.

So, I’m praying for you. I’m tasting the bittersweet waters of Mara alongside you. And I’m standing beside you in full faith and hope of the time when all things are made new.

I love you.
Ezekiel Girl

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Sitting in Sackcloth

They wore itchy burlap. Shaved their heads. Tore their robes. And sat in ashes. For days. And weeks.

Universal Biblical signs of sorrow and grief.

We don’t bother blow drying our hair. Stay in our pajamas. Eat ice cream for dinner. And spin sad statuses on Facebook and Twitter.

Such is sorrow and grief in 2012.

I’ve been wearing postmodern first world sackcloth for quite sometime now. These past few weeks have been raw-edged paper cuts to my heart, and I’ve been reduced to a puddle of mangled mess. The tears come with no warning, and it’s safer to sit in solitude than to expose my dirty edges to mean-wellers and back-patters.

I’m just sad.

I’m not hopeless. Or giving up. Or throwing in the marital towel. I’m not depressed about time lapses. Or just now realizing the expanse that tragedy reaches.

I’m just sad.

Because everything is so very broken. And under attack. And Satan is alive and well and ruling this world with the vigor of a whippersnapper with no curfew and his daddy’s credit card.

My young faith once believed that being sad pointed to a lack of hope. That discouragement and grief were evidences of not believing God enough. That somehow these hearts of ours that were created in the image of the Almighty God that clearly grieves over sin and brokenness were not allowed to. That joy meant digging deep and finding spiritual happy places, and if I couldn’t do that, then I was spiritually dysfunctional and handicapped.

I don’t buy it.

After searching the Scriptures and sitting in the Presence for lengths of time with nothing outpouring but my tears, I feel as though I have been granted permission to be sad. And to be grieved. I think it’s Biblical.

Jesus Himself was a griever. The brokenness of our world had to have brought our Christ to His knees more times than is sketched out in the Gospels. It was, afterall, that very grief over the human condition that caused the Father to pack His Only Son’s suitcases for a 33 year trip to save us from ourselves.

Then there was David. If God played favorites, that guy would be it. He cried out to the Father so many times in anguish that I’m almost certain his knees carried permanent bruises from pounding the hard floors of caves and his palace alike, and his eyes must have been bloodshot from teary weariness. David was sad. A lot. (Read the Psalms. All of them if you have time. If you don’t, read 13, 28, & 34 — they’re 3 of my favorites.)

And, then, my main man…Job. Somewhat arrogant, but ever sincere in his grief. He lost absolutely everything except for a whiny wife and 3 know-it-all friends. And what did he do? Tore his robes; shaved his head; wallered around in ashes; cried out to God; maintained his integrity; and worshiped. (Job 1:20; 2:3; 2:8)

Hold the broken pieces of pottery.

What?

He worshiped.

And, therein lies the key to it all.

He worshiped.
David worshiped.
Christ worshiped.

Could it be possible to be sad and mournful and have eyes that can’t blink fast enough to keep the tears from flooding over and still have a heart for worship? Can I possibly cry out in anguish and praise Jesus in the same breath? Can the two marry eachother for a time and it rectify out to be okay in our over-spiritualized brains?

From this broken heart: Yes.

I get it wrong more days than I get it right, but I have found such rest and peace in the midst of the grief since I have allowed myself to do just that: grieve.

I’m not, for even a breath, advocating depression. I’ve walked down that cragged road and stubbed more than my toes on the boulders that litter that path. Depression is a dark and dank place that is spawned from the most cruel places of hell. Depression holds no light and stifles hope. It breeds morbidity and turns all focus inward. If you feel those feelings, get help. Fast. It’s not a place where Jesus would ever want you to be, and the glory of God doesn’t shine there.

No, depression is not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the freedom in Christ to mourn the blasted effects of sin, and to cry out for deliverance and hope for a better time and place.

And to worship.

It may mean that the heaviness of the tears render me helpless on the couch for a week, but that doesn’t have to mean I’m hopeless.

It may mean that, for a time, I forget when to laugh and interject sassy sarcasm, but that doesn’t have to mean I’m crushed in spirit.

It may mean that I’m distracted and disjointed in my conversations, but that doesn’t have to mean that my faith is fractured.

My God is good. And real. And alive. And though I don’t understand His inner workings or the way He can ever work things of tragedy together for good, I’m desperately in love with Him. I’m humbled everyday by His tenderness and gentleness with my very broken self, and I’m so enamored with Him that I will follow Him to the ends of the earth. I will bruise myself more times than I will keep my faith squeaky clean in the process, but, blessed for me, He loves me more for it. And, I know, just as He did for David and Job, and the other beautiful Bible people that worshipfully grieved, He will choose a time to grab my hands and lead me out of the pile of ashes and restore me to a time of prosperity.

I am sad.
My life sucks right now by worldly standards.
I miss having a partner, a husband, a best friend.
I hate that I have to breathe prayers over my children that God will show up in real ways as their Father since their earthly one has failed them.
I’m tired of gossip and hushed stares in my direction.
I’m weary on all fronts.

But I love my Jesus.

So I will sit here. Soaked in ash. And outfitted in burlap sacks.

Drenched to my bones in dirty hope.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…..Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:8,16

Self Therapy Repetitions and Mutterings

To God….
I am beautiful.
I am special.
I’m worth it.

God…
respects me.
honors me.
loves me.
wants to be with me.

God will not….
trade me in.
throw me away.
use me.
forsake me.

Because of God…
I have hope.
I am still breathing.
I can face the day.
I keep on doing the little things that add up to big things.

He is faithful.
He will not fail me.
He will not break His promises.

He loves me.

I matter.

Ring-a-Ling

I found this today.

Well, technically, I didn’t just find it today.

It’s been sitting on the corner of my jewelry box since before he left.  I haven’t moved it.  And it catches my eye often. 

But today it struck me.  Hard.

And I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.  Breath by stinging breath. 

I’ve always been a girl who tied a lot up in symbolism.  I realize a lot of people don’t place too much stock in such things, but I just happen to be one that does.  I love literature that wraps itself up in metaphors and allegory.  I have a couple of tattoos that I got for their absolute symbolic significance to me.  I adore the use of symbols and foreshadowing in God’s Word.  And I love photos and word pictures that paint exclusive images of what someone feels or believes. 

Rings are no different.

They matter to me. 

It used to drive me crazy when the husband would leave his ring at home on a day that he was working with something that would cause it to be dangerous if he were to have it on.  Who cares if it’s a good reason?  You’re supposed to wear your ring.  It matters.

So when he stopped wearing his ring altogether, it drove the nail home. 

And then, when he left, he left his ring here.  With me.  Without his finger wearing it.

And it hurt.  Still hurts.

I know I don’t need to dwell here though.  Already in the 10 minutes I’ve been writing this post, I’m getting sadder.  Because…well…it’s sad. 

I’ve thought about moving his ring to the inside of a jewelry box or putting it in my box of mementos that I’ve been collecting throughout this roller coaster just so that I don’t subject myself to the torture of having to see the empty circle everyday, but I don’t feel like I can or should. 

I think I need to leave it out.  Out in the open.  Just where it was left. 

Waiting.

Sigh.  Waiting.

Because it means something.  All this waiting has to mean something.

Please, Jesus, allow it to mean something.

 

 

The Podiatrist Is In

I picked my middle son, who is 9 going on 93, up from his church small group Sunday night and thought I was going to have to haul folks in for either an exorcism or an intervention. Whichever I could get together the fastest.

Apparently he had been injured during a free-for-all indoor soccer game and his “legs hurt.” If I had to hear about his legs once, I heard about them 14,356 times. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and just when he had me convinced that something might seriously be wrong, the whining stopped. And it was all but forgotten.

Until.

Until it was time to do Math Monday morning. Suddenly, the waterworks started, and he was convinced that the world was imploding and that all life as he knew it was ceasing. No Math could be done with such horrid leg pain, but perhaps “a turn on the Wii would calm the pain?”

True story.

I won’t tell you the rest of it. But it probably goes without saying that something other than his legs were hurting by the end of the day.

I can giggle about that little stinker and shake my head at his orneriness, but the Lord decided to pop my own backside a little tonight.

I have mentioned before that my sweet dear friend, L, and I are reading through Deuteronomy together. Tonight, I was looking over and studying Chapter 8 and had to just shake my head at the way God uses His orchestration of events and happenings to speak volumes to us.

Chapter 8 is lush with serious hardcore reminders of, not only, how amazing the Promised Land would be for the Israelites, but also, how beautiful our own Promised Lands are, well, “promised” to be. But, the chapter also is a rigid memoir of what God had done to rescue, provide, and deliver during the barren time of wandering in the desert, despite the Hebrews pathetic ability to remember His goodness and faithfulness to them.

There are all kinds of symbolic inferences that we could probably draw from each and every one of the saving instances, and, though they are all equally beautiful, one in particular leapt its way off the pages of Scripture at me.

Verse 4 reminds us that during those 40 years in the desert the clothing of the people never wore out. Wow. That alone is impressive to me, because my boys can’t walk across the kitchen floor without bustin’ a new hole in their britches.

But, as cool as the clothing thing is, it’s the next part of verse 4 that makes me draw in a deep breath and check myself.

It says: “…and your feet did not swell during these forty years.” (8:4)

Their feet didn’t swell.

To me that means….”Keep walking, friends. Your feet don’t hurt walking through this mess. So keep walking. No excuses. Keep walking.”

God was dealing with this ridiculous bunch of whiney rebellious precious-in-His-sight people, and He made sure that there wasn’t one thing they could complain about or be in need of. Food? Check. Thirsty? Ok. Clothes? Got it. Your feet hurt? No, they don’t.

So keep walking.

I’m at a place where I’m really tired. I’ve worn out text messages to my sweet friends with just those words. “I’m tired.” I’m so very ready for this nightmare to be over. I’m tired of being strong. I’m tired of being both parents to my boys. I’m tired of doing a life meant to be shared all by myself. I’m tired of being sad. I’m tired of praying the same prayers. I’m tired of crying. I’m just tired.

But my God is the same today as He was when He was keeping the swelling down on those dusty desert-walkin’ feet. And just as He provided everything the Hebrew nation needed to make it, He will provide as much for me.

I don’t need literal water from a rock, but I need strength to get out of bed each morning. Because it’d be easier most days to just stay hidden under the blankets. I don’t need literal manna and quail to eat, but I need Him to dry my tears each day so I can fix lunch for my kids without crying all up in the mac-n-cheese. My clothes may not need saving for 40 years, but I need the ability to rest well at bedtime without being terrified of every noise and creak in the house because I don’t like to be alone at night.

And I may not need literal podiatry assistance, but I am emotionally exhausted beyond belief, and I need the power of Almighty God to just hold me up and help me put one foot in front of the other.

Remember my need to climb north?
To walk my Isaac?

Do you see a theme? Yah, me, too.

Something tells me God is saying:
Keep walking. I’ll take care of your weariness. You just keep heading north. I’ll take care of the details. Just keep walking.

He never said it would be easy. He didn’t have the Israelites wander for 40 years on the lush beaches of Hawaii. No, He allowed it to be a rough harsh MiddleEastern desert. He just promised that He’d handle all the details. And give us what we need.

Wonder if He’ll also take care of 4th grade fractions?

Keep walking, sweet friends. Whatever you’re walking through, just keep the sandals moving. God’s got this.

Climbing North

I tried to take a self-portrait with my phone yesterday for this silly little trending game on Instagram. You know the kind of pictures. The ones where you flip your phone around and try to somehow master looking gorgeous all while your finger can hardly find the click-button on the other side; you forget how to smile without looking like a dork; and, remarkably, every wrinkle and blemish becomes instantly exaggerated in that moment. After 45,879 a few tries, I finally managed one that was worthy enough of posting while maintaining some level of self-respect.

But, what I noticed was that I look old.
And tired. Haggard is probably a better word.

I have aged. By what seems like decades.

Yesterday was a day that reached its ladder down into some really dark places and pits, and I allowed myself to climb down and camp awhile.

It was a day that was to be one of the happiest for our family, and, instead, it turned into an invitation from the pit of Hell to suffer and strap myself back into chains and cuffs. And I accepted the invite.

I hung out with grief and despair and my other old friend, self-pity, for quite a long time. I snapped the locks myself on the cuffs of burden. I let Satan feed me his putrid lies.

Thankfully, joy does usually come in the morning. At least it does if you ask for it and allow it to. And if you are blessed enough to have precious Godly friends that welcome you into their homes on a family-Friday night to pile up in their beds and on their couches with you just to let you cry, the joy seems to seep in a little speedier.

I haven’t completely climbed back up the ladder out of the pit yet. I’m trying. My mind is set to warp-speed, and the thoughts and what-ifs sneak in and take me back down a rung or two just when I feel like I’m making some kind of progress.

It’s not that I don’t think I’m allowed to be sad. Jesus, the Perfect One, was grieved over the sins of people and results of a sinful world. He wept (Luke 19:41-44; John 11:33-35). He was troubled (Mark 3:5). He grieved (Matt. 23:37-39). He had to get alone because He was sad (Matt. 14:13). The Creator of the world was so worn out that He had to be attended by angels (Matt. 4:11). And, in probably the most horrifying depiction of grief in history, Jesus was so distraught that He sweat drops of blood (Matt. 26:36-39; Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:41-44).

If the Savior of the world can cry, I can, too. But what I cannot do is let myself go to places where the Christ never went. He never, not one time, relinquished faith in the Father to make all things new. Did He want it to stop? No question. Did He want the cup to pass? Without a doubt. Did He beg and plead and weep over sin and its deathly consequences? You bet. But, He never gave up the joy. He never thought His Father wouldn’t come through. And He never threw in the towel and decided it was easier to be pathetic and snot-nosed than to get up, dry His tears, and continue on. In fact, after every account of His despair, our Precious Christ goes on to perform some of the most beautiful miracles and teach the most amazing lessons. Out of the grief came beauty. After He mourned John the Baptist, He fed the 5,000. After He wept over Mary’s grief for Lazurus, He raised a three day old rotting corpse from the grave. After He grieved for Jerusalem’s lack of peace, He prepared Himself to die for the city. And after He all but wept Himself to death in the Garden, He subjected Himself to humiliation, torture, and grueling murder on a cross all because He loved me.

I don’t think God is going to ask me to endure public disgrace or torture, but I do know He is asking me not to dwell here. I can almost hear Him saying: Weep, baby. Cry. This world stinks and what is happening to you and your family is not okay. But don’t stay weeping. Get up. Dry your tears. Rest in me. And set about my work.

I’m trying to climb out of the pit. The ladder is tall, and I feel pretty far down. But I can see the sunlight peeking at the top. I want to think I’m trying to climb up and out.

I don’t know if I’m going to be teaching any amazing lessons or be a part of any signs or wonders anytime soon, but I do know that just getting up out of bed and blow-drying my hair today will maybe spur me to play a Zoo game with my eldest, listen to Wrestling details from the middlest, or read a Smurf book with the youngest. And maybe that will be all the Lord’s work I can accomplish today. And maybe that’s just enough. Maybe that’s all the Father will require of me today.

I’m exhausted.
I look old.
I’m tired of crying.
And I’m not sure how much more I can handle.

But knowing that Jesus had the same feelings; that I have permission to be sad; that God didn’t ask me to be invincible…..it makes it easier to stomach.

And I find myself climbing north. Slowly. But at least it’s north.

Furnace Giants

Remember that scene in Facing the Giants?  Coach Grant and Brooke Taylor are desperately praying for a child and continue to get bad news month after month.  In the midst of Grant trying to turn around the football team of the Christian school he’s coaching at, he is also consumed with wanting a baby.  The scene has Grant praying and searching the Word in the middle of the night, pleading with God for answers….

I love that part of the movie.  And then when God answers that prayer in the most beautiful way by blessing them with a baby, but only delivering the news after Brooke declares her love for God, baby or not.  Really really powerful stuff.

I feel like I’m facing some serious giants.  I have been blessed with children, and I certainly don’t coach football, but his really is a prayer of generic giants.  Those giants of fear are overwhelming.  And I’m tired of being afraid.  And I’m pleading that God show me something.

I just watched this movie over the holidays, so I guess that’s why it’s fresh in my mind.  But, the scenes have played through my mind several times as a reminder that God is in control.  That nothing is impossible with God. 

And I believe that.  I really do.

But I find that more times that not, my flesh argues with my heart.  I want to panic.  To be terrified.  To give up.  But then God steps in and uses something in that amazing way of His to remind me of His goodness and faithfulness and trustworthiness.  Even when it makes absolutely no sense to me.  And when all I see is darkness and dead ends.

Another story that has always spoken precious volumes to me is the one of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3.  The 3 Jewish friends stand up for what they believe in and disobey King Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to bow down to his fancy, newly erected statue.  So the king orders them thrown in the fiery furnace.  A great part of the story is when the 3 tell the king: 

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this manner.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, THE GOD WE SERVE IS ABLE TO SAVE US FROM IT, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold that you have set up.  (Daniel 3:16-18)

That’s such a serious picture of faith to me.  And one that I pray that I, too, am able to say.  Claiming with absolute certainty that God is in full-out control.  He can rescue and save.  He can.  No doubt about it.  And trusting that He will.  But, also, believing at the same time that because He is Sovereign, He may choose not to save and deliver in ways that make sense to us.  But, even more importantly, claiming that I will love Him and trust Him anyway.  Like Grant and Brooke Taylor chose to do.

The beauty of the story of Rack, Shack, and Benny (a little VeggieTales throwback *smile*) is that God does indeed save them from the fire.  Which is so amazing!  He doesn’t save them from the furnace, though.  He still required them to take that very scary journey of being tied up and chunked into a furnace by huge Babylonian soldiers.  HOW TERRIFYING.  And God didn’t save them from that part.  These 3 uber-faithful men….and they still had to face the furnace.  Surely, the 3 were thinking, “Okay, I guess that part about God choosing not to save us is about to come to pass.”  (vs.19-23)

But then He showed up.  Yep.  He didn’t just save them from the fire, He showed up and endured the fire with them.  (vs. 25)  Can you imagine the looks on their faces?

And if that wasn’t enough, we find out that they not only came out of the furnace unharmed, but that they didn’t even smell like smoke. (vs. 27)  Wow.

I.Love.It.

I don’t know what God has planned.  It may be exactly what I see for me and my family in the future, or it may be something totally different.  It’s terrifying to walk blind…walking only in invisible and otherworldly trust and faith.  And I fail most minutes of my days.  

But, oh, how I pray for an answer to the prayer like that of good ol’ Grant Taylor….and a movie script ending would be pretty sweet, too.

But, even more, I pray for deliverance from the fire.  I feel like I’m already hogtied and heading headfirst into the doors of the furnace, so deliverance from that isn’t the plan for me. 

I do, however, pray for the ability to walk around in the midst of the flames and to come out unsinged.

Because I don’t like smelling like smoke….