I feel a grief waiting. But this time, I have time to grieve. This time, I choose to make time to grieve. To lean into limits. My limits, my families limits, my church’s limits, my relationship limits…so that I can open the door to His knocking. I feel a grief waiting. A welling that can only be truly felt when one stops to breath it all in and breath it all out. Until the pace returns to the rhythm of my heart…the place where You are.
There are days when the space between everyday life and heaven seem less mysterious. The days when no amount of pinching or denial can make the reality of the world stop feeling so real. The days when I can either let the ache put me deeper in the cave between my sheets, or deeper in the truth that pierces between soul and spirit and joint and marrow (Hew. 4:12).
In one 24 hour period of a few weeks ago, I found out about:
And the cap remains.
The Silencer becomes the silence
The fizz settles into muted nothingness.
I am aware of my nothingness. I am aware of the distance that remains between where I once stood and now sit. And what remains after the settling is just not enough to keep up the routine. I don’t have the energy to try and shake my bottle again.
There are so many questions left unanswered. Will my son truly ever recover from these “episodes”? Will I find those vacant stares in other ways as he grows older? Will he ever drive a car? Will he be “that kid”? Will he stop dreaming as the fuzzy parts of his brain cannot differentiate between fog and freedom? Am I losing him? And these are merely the questions that I have allowed to drift to shore. I fear the other issues would bring a tsunami.
What happens when the questions of my life take more of my thoughts captive than the answers that speak the truth of God’s character? What happens when the Silencer has his way with me, and like Zechariah I lose my voice because of my disbelief. Because when it came time, I chose not to speak truth despite what my eyes saw and my emotions felt (Luke 1:20). What happens when the fizz begins to settle and the overflow of my heart becomes a well too dry to draw forth His living water. And we all know how this could end…the silence…stays silent.
God speaks so clearly about the power of our words. James 3 talks about how the tongue is like the bit in a horse’s mouth or the rudder of a ship. It “boasts of great things” and will turn the body in whichever direction it speaks. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook” (Proverbs 18: 4). “A fools lips enter into contention; and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul” (Proverbs 18:7). “Death and life are in the power of the tongue. And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18: 21).
Is it a wonder why we are attacked in this area? Why the evil one who kills, steals, and destroys (John 10:10) would do so by taking away our very words, our very voice. So here I sit in the moment between longing for my sheets and longing for something more.
Here I am Lord in the midst of this awaited grief. And even though I am curled in a ball in the middle of my unvacuumed floor, I am boldly at the feet of your throne. For it is time. It is time to answer the questions like Peter did. Do I know You? Do I love You? (John 21) How do I grieve my limits Lord? How do I rest in the stillness of my own hollowness? Is this the part that You ask me to count all joy (James 1: 2)? Is my very grief what allows You to show me my great need for You? Like Much Afraid from Hinds Feet On High Places, is the way to the “high places” reached only when I travel with Sorrow and Suffering as my companions? The knowing You and the “power of your resurrection and the fellowship of Your sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Your sufferings. To not just know about Your sufferings, to not simply empathize with them, or to have courage to glance at them from time to time. No. You say to know You I have to fellowship with You in Your sufferings. To sit at the table, to pray in the wee hours of the morning, to cry, to morn, to pursue…pursue…pursue relationship in the midst of suffering. To find peace, joy, contentment in the midst of suffering. To find You in the midst of suffering.
Your word says that that You do not want us to be ignorant, “lest we sorrow as those who have no hope” (1Thes. 4:13). I can either grieve with hope with You, or turn yet another blind eye to grief for the sake of waiting for a “better time”. To grieve without You is as painful as not grieving at all. A different mask to the same emptiness. But to grieve with You, with hope, that is a promise of Your very character.
I feel a grief waiting. Not just my own, but of a people. A non-generational, non-cultural, non-gender specific grief. A grief that will know much and little, joy and sorrow, feasting and hunger, freedom and pain. A grief that if focused on myself, as my culture directs, will surely consume and mute me. But You alone are a consuming fire (Hew. 12:29). Am I ready to keep reading that verse and receive Your kingdom that cannot be shaken? If I focus my eyes on You, my grief catapults me to boldly knock on the gates of this unshakable kingdom, entering Your very courts. Your presence demands that I enter with thanksgiving and praise (Psalms 100:4). It demands a yielding of myself with bowed humility and lifted hands. And with this spoken grief, I can stand sobered to the reality that my life is IN YOU (Col. 3:3). I can hear its beckoning to awaken my sleeping soul and carry my cross. OH LORD, I long to know You in Your sufferings so like Peter I can answer the questions and say that I KNOW YOU and I LOVE YOU.
So I will make time to grieve this time. I will lean into my limits and deny myself. I will allow grief to be my companion and hold its hand. I will choose to silence the Silencer with Your truths and carry this cross. With this spoken grief, would your words of life bring back the fizz that overflows. And this time Holy Spirit, I feel you removing the cap. For your spoken word can only bring life. It is just what it does. It can be no other way.
It was Colby's, my husband, birthday this past Saturday. As the butcher paper card stamped with a large, bold 38 listing 38 reasons why we love our precious daddy hung a bit crooked on our living room wall, we celebrated a day of being together. We like to display our cards in our family. It is worth the grief of hearing the Indian Jones and Superman theme songs and the melodies of dogs farting the birthday song over and over again, as it is always amongst the old man cackles of our 6 and 8 year old boys. Growing old is an honor in this place, and we love the days that bring minimal rules for most is justified by the simple statement of "It's my birthday". But within the opening of gifts, I watched our boys bring their own cards to their father. Coen, our 6 year old, in his simplistic yet black and white way began to read to his dad that he "loved him more..." He loved him more than football cards, the Longhorns, and his "stuff" animals. If you knew Coen you would know that he was declaring true love for his father in the most humble and honest way that he could relate. This kid is a seeker of truth. A lover of discovering the simple within the confusing. He doesn't love his dad because of the things that he was declaring, he simply was saying that I choose you dad because I love you more. And then our 8 year old, Carter, began to read his letter. He wrote his card by himself in his room one day after school the week before. It was after we finished our "38" wall décor card and he quickly realized that there were more than "38" reasons why we love this man in our life. Speaking all of those truths about his dad stirred what the Lord is beginning to reveal in Carters' very heart, that he is one who sees vision in His promises. And in his found freedom of speaking truth, he began to write down who his dad was in the spiritual and the promises of God that follow. "A dreamer of God never fails Him. A dreamer of God says yes to all of His commands. A dreamer of God helps people. A dreamer of Jesus never gives up. A dreamer of the Holy Spirit is honorable..." Even though his voice stopped, his words continued as if echoing in each of our hearts. He was just speaking God's heart over Colby.
The weekend has past and it is Monday again. Monday is one of my mornings that protect so that I can be with God. With age I have figured out some things about myself. One of those things is that I have to be outside. So I took my usual jog around our neighborhood's beautiful trail. Spring is here and with the signs of life budding on the trees, it is no crazy coincidence that there are things that the Lord is asking to grow in my spirit as well. In complete honesty, this Spring they are the things that are hard for me to say ok to. I haven't quite been able to put my finger on some of my angst, but as I jogged the Holy Spirit reminded me of the birthday cards. It took me a mile or so to choose to enter in the conversation, but as I began to give the Holy Spirit permission to "go there", I began to find myself praying out loud...
"Lord I love you more than knowing where we will live in a year"
"Lord I love you more than knowing how you will continue our new business of using energy management with funding justice missions"
"Lord I love you more than knowing where the boys will go to school in the next year"
"Lord I love you more than all of this crazy stuff I feel about writing and worship"
"Lord I love you more than being right or wrong, perfect or ridiculous, charismatic or simple, able or completely and totally inadequate."
"Lord I love you more. I choose you."
And as I spoke those simple yet game changing truths, vision began to come. I began to feel and see that as I bring you my faith and repentance then YOU, in your grace, can do what you have declared to do...bring freedom. Freedom to speak truth. Freedom to speak your promises. Freedom to speak your hope. So Lord, as we all sit on the verge of being another year older, we say that we love you more, we choose you, we love to speak who we are in YOU. Holy Spirit continue to reveal to us the simple in the confusing, your vision in your promises.
Thank you for Birthdays. Thank you for Birthday Cards.
Thyme article: My Good Verses His Best
There was a time, there are still times, where the fog settles in and seems to not only pervade my mind and emotions but my spirit. Where the dust of the black and white in my life settles in an earthly gray that seems to steer my life in an autopilot direction instead of an adventurously expectant one.
We all have a story. We all have a testimony. Some stories are stained with the tears that only true trauma can bring…death, divorce, addiction, disease. Some stories seem to have more empty pages than those filled with the life of words. Some stories seem to just keep going, with no true beginning or end, no true anything. I think we all navigate through all of these seasons of stories at one time or another, but the story where my life seemed to most recently land was the latter. It was February of 2012 and life was good, but not the “best”. My husband of 11 years at the time was wonderful but restless. My two boys, 5 years and 3 years old, were blessings but in and out of preschool, church, grandparent’s houses, and our offices more than they were at their own home. And I was just plain busy. Aren’t we all? Isn’t that always the excuse, the reason for my saneness in the insanity, my identity?
I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, but by trade I am a pediatric physical therapist. At the time I had a wonderful professional career as one of the managers of a thriving pediatric clinic. A job that allowed flexibility, certainty, and passion. But due to my character, it was also a job that opened the door to busyness. The type of busyness that multiplied with the “flexibility” of checking emails on iPhones, “certainty” that comes when managing over 40 other busy people, and “passion” that demanded not just my time but my emotions. To add to our professional careers and home life, we were also very involved with our family and friends, were the college group leaders at our church, I led a weekly women’s Bible study, and was a co-leader of our church’s worship team. All “good” things, but did I ever stop to ask the Lord if they were the “best”? Well, if I were to do that, it would first require stopping and possibly waiting for an answer, and that was not quite in the box of my “super-mom/wife/woman” identity. The identity that busyness had proved worthy.
God was gracious to keep blessing our lives, but my list of things I wanted to do when I had more time just kept growing….set up sheet forts with the boys, take our dog out for a jog, cook a real dinner, clean my house during normal business hours, go to bed at the same time as my husband, go on a date night, read a book other than the book I would stay up to read until 1am the night before I had to lead the bible study, spend more time with my kids, spend more time with my husband, spend more time with the Lord, etc… I wanted to be the one standing in the well overflowing from my intimacy with my one true God, but instead I felt more like Gulliver on Gulliver’s Travels lying on the ground pinned down by thousands of tiny strings.
It wasn’t far into February when my precious husband came home from work one day and I was in the kitchen washing dishes. He started a beautiful conversation talking about all of the things he loved about our lives….our marriage, our children, our family and friends, our church, our house, our jobs. I was nodding my head along with every one of his statements, but in my motion the stillness of my spirit felt like it was waking up just a little bit, for I knew that these statements were the conversation starter and not a recap of our “best” world. He was very encouraging but when the pause came, I turned the water off and put the towel down and paused too. He then went on to say that although he was happy with the good in our stories, he felt empty and longed for the “more” that the Holy Spirit was stirring within his spirit. His dreamer self-began to light up. He started talking about going back to school, spending more time on his dreams of starting a non-profit. He started talking about taking classes online through a seminary to get a master’s in Ethics and Biblical Justice. He started talking about a seminary outside of Boston (not Austin) that had a program where we could live on campus. He stopped talking. My mind said, “act shocked”, “if you cry he will change his mind”, “go back to the dishes”, but in the stillness I felt myself walk over to him and land in his arms. It was time to go. It was time to look my thief in the eyes, the raider of my stillness, the stealer of my time, and the robber of my patience. I had allowed busyness an open door into my life. And what once was a concealable pet, quickly became a dragon that controlled much of my emotions, thoughts, and time. So together, we finally stopped and asked the Lord what His best was for our family.
We moved by the end of August of 2012. I cried for the first 500 miles. We said good-bye to everything that I knew and everything that I thought I knew. I said good-bye to everything I knew about me, and everything I thought that I knew about me. Like the growth of my children, the reality of how quickly routine can come and build a house on sand began to set in. The question was not how I allowed such a thing to happen, but if I was able and willing to stop in His stillness and wait for Him to take me step by step into this new routine, into His way of life.
As we moved 2000 miles away into an 800sq foot apartment on the campus of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts the Lord showed me the stillness in the midst of the chaos of making new friends, finding new jobs, new insurance, new grocery stores, new schools, a new church, etc… For the first 3 months there were more unknowns than knowns and more waiting than finding. But because of His graciousness, the Lord began to teach me how to stare busyness and its friends anxiety, worry, and fear, in the face.
My busyness had left no room for waiting, no room for patience. The earthly gray of my paradigms of God were the things producing a work in my life. I was living in “gray” when He has called me to live in hot and cold and black and white. In the midst of our transition I had some free time as I waited for my physical therapy license to transfer from Texas to Massachusetts. My husband started seminary, my oldest started Kindergarten, my youngest started a part time preschool, and I started doing the things that I had always said that I wanted to do when I had more time. I learned how to use a crock pot, started reading the Bible at Genesis 1, and went on long jogs through the beauty of the Fall in New England.
I spent the first few jogs just telling the Lord how I saw this craziness, my fears, emotions, what ifs, and allowing myself to grieve over my loss. I soon ran out of words and that is when the miracle happened. I could hear the stillness and I let my spirit rest in it. I was quiet. I stopped. He began. The truths from the words that I was reading from His word began to flood my thoughts and voice. Verses like Psalms 130:6 “My soul waits for you Oh Lord, more than watchman waits for the morning, Yes, more than watchman waits for the morning” and James 1: 2-5 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete and lacking nothing.” I began to speak out the words and what they meant. And in the camouflage of earphones and the woods, I began to hear my voice speak from the overflow of my intimacy with the Lord. I would say things like “I love to wait for you Lord”, “I was made to wait for you and to keep my eyes on you”, “Moving to Massachusetts is my joy”, “Not knowing how we will pay for our rent next month is my deep good because you know”, “In you I am patient and it is having its good work in me”, “You are worth waiting for”, “I am lacking nothing”, etc… How I saw myself changed, because I was seeing myself in the black and white of how He sees me. How I saw Him changed, because I was seeing God in the black and white of His word and not in the gray of culture, routine, and paradigms.
Most people think we have moved to Massachusetts for my husband to go to seminary, but I know that God moved us to save me from a story that was blind to my dragon of busyness. We all have a story. We all have a testimony. Busyness was my old story. He is my new story. What is yours?