I didn’t order this

When you are going through a deep and painful grieving process, it’s a very mixed bag when it comes to what emotion will rise to the surface next. I am sure that you are familiar with the five stages of grieving, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I like these stages in theory but if you try to tell me which one I am currently experiencing, you will likely just irritate me. I am aware of the stages and if I feel the need to label where I am, I will.

Through all these stages both Kel and I have felt this overwhelming sense of confusion and surprise. Just days before mom took her life I was straightening my hair in the bathroom while listening to the song beautiful things by Gungor. Our family likes music while getting ready in the morning, and we have iPod docking options in both the kitchen and the bathroom to accommodate this. On this particular morning I was listening to a song, which I love, called Beautiful Things by Gungor. The first few lines of this song deal with pain and a longing for something good to grow in the soil of your life. I remember thinking to myself, for this first time in a very long time I am not feeling an overarching sense of pain in my life. I do have an intense longing to be a fertile ground for God’s work in my life, but I am content with my life, happy with where we are. Dads’ death took me a long time to get over, but on that morning I felt contentment.

Flip ahead two days, when I got another, completely different, earth shattering phone call. It just flat out doesn’t seem fair that just when I was content, not proud, not boastful, but content that I should draw the “Go back to square one” card in the game of grieving a parent.

The best way I know how to describe how it feels right now is that I am sitting at a huge long table. The kind you would see in a castle where the two diners sit at opposite ends so ridiculously far apart that it makes conversation impossible. As I take my seat the waiter brings the traditional silver platter covered with a silver domed lid and sets it in front of me. The lid comes off to reveal something so incredibly terrible and awful that my entire body is repulsed by it. This isn’t what I ordered. I don’t want this. You have to take it away. But as much as my entire being is opposed to the contents of the tray I am steeped in the knowledge that this tray is my only option. And I have to sit in this chair for a long time and deal with what has been placed in front of me, and not only me my entire family.

This was supposed to be a season of joyful anticipation for the birth of our son, Noelle’s brother. This is fall, and soon thanksgiving and then Christmas. This is my favorite part of the calendar year, the part I look forward to and savor. How could it be so suddenly defined by the arrival of this terrible thing?

I can say with honest sincerity that I don’t point a blaming finger at anyone because this tragedy is now part of my story. In the future someday, I might, but today as I sit on our couch wrapped up in my favorite sage green blanket I am not angry at anyone, not my Mother and not God. I am just in shock that this is the now. I am in total despair at the length of time this will take to heal from, to process. I am keenly aware that there is good in the now, and that there is life still continuously moving inside and around me. I feel hope even though I know it will only truly come to bloom in the days ahead of me. And if I check the guidebook for my personal life I find myself without instructions on how to cope with this exactly. But I know that my God is pouring love into my life in the form of friends, family, and everything I eat that is made from apples.I love and live for apples in the fall, and that is one part of me that seems to remain unchanged. I feel that our family is being lifted up by prayer in an almost tangible way. All of that makes each painful day more possible.

And so I can be here, and feel the exhaustion, the hurt, the shock, the numbness and the pain. I can do this because he does make beautiful things out of the painful parts of our life even when he doesn’t cause them. I can live through this because while this death seems to define today it won’t define who I am. I can get up tomorrow and keep eating and breathing because I believe that even when something incredibly painful arrives and demands to become a large chapter in our story, I know it isn’t the entire story. That a beautiful theme will sing louder than the pain when the book of my own life draws to a close. 

Pieces of a funeral

Not really ready to write about much but I do want to share a few things for those of you who were too far away to experience the comfort that was my Moms funeral this past Monday.

My Aunt had heard this song and really resonated with it and brought it to us to share at the funeral. It’s incredibly powerful, painful, but fitting.
Here is the picture tribute put together to remember her life in photos.
And these two scripture verses came to the surface
Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
James 1:12 Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
It was an incredibly painful hour for me, but I am so thankful that all these pieces and more came together to honor my Mom, attempt to make sense of all of this, and bring comfort to those in attendance.

Golden Calves

So Kel and I are trying to read the bible in 90 days. And its intense. And we are behind. I always seem to start reading plans and then get stuck in Exodus or Leviticus and give up. So I reread Genesis thru Leviticus or so every time. I’m interested in seeing how the bible ends one of these times. I hope we win.

So today in Exodus, I was reading about Moses up on the mountain hearing from God about how things needed to be run in Israelite life pertaining to the ten commandments and the Tabernacle. And from what I understand he was up there a rather long time, about five and half weeks. And during this time the people got antsy, and bored waiting to see what God had in store for them. So they took the next logical step and built some golden calves. Like you do. And God was so pissed off that he wanted to end them. Moses had to talk him out of it and still God withdrew his presence from them so he wouldn’t essentially end them by proximity.
Every time I reread Exodus, (which as mentioned above it all the time) I always try to put myself in a place of humility when it comes to the Israelites. No holier than thou attitude here, I make all the dumb moves they did, and some new ones that they hadn’t invented yet. So back to the story, they couldn’t wait on God to speak for five and a half weeks so they distracted themselves with other gods. And then threw crazy drunken parties to honor their new bovine buddies.
So I am an impatient person and prone to drama and distraction. I do not like waiting on God for big life direction at all, and if a big decision is taking too long I try to force it, my way. I mean our modern culture has us so preprogrammed against patience and waiting that I am surprised the word still exists. Everything is available next to now. Patience I am finding is a lost virtue, dying quickly and in need of revival.
So I was thinking about what my Golden calves may be, what needless and stupid things do I distract myself with when I grow impatient waiting on the Lord? I can tend to jump to conclusions and then work within those conclusions as if they were absolute reality. I also have a small golden calf of what if and worry. I like to paint for myself and my friends all sorts of potential end game scenarios and then build them up to be large and likely outcomes. Either way I busy myself fretting, dramatizing, what-iffing, and eating ice cream. None of which could be adequately described as waiting on the Lord.
Thankfully the story of the Israelites is one of constant death and redemption. And I don’t have to live out their exact story line. My story can veer, and it does veer.
And then Moses said

Exodus 33:13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” 14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

And so tonight I think I’ll just pray that, and call it good.

What I learned in Waco

Last weekend I had the gift to be able to attend the David Crowder Fantastical Church Music Conference in Waco, TX. It took me about three days to unpack our clothes and get our suitcases put back in their assigned spot. It has taken me a week to find the space to go through my notes and unpack what I took home in my heart. So in summary, suitcases are easier to unpack than 2 days of profound insight into worship. But profound insight is a more rewarding unpacking experience by far.

I have given it some thought and I think that the best way to write about it all is to give it to you in quotes and personal thoughts. So what you are really getting is what Leanne took away in her suitcase. Hope you don’t mind.
Regarding Worship: “Sing a song with some people who really believe it instead of just mouthing words & critiquing the guy at the front” ~Francis Chan
Well I know for certain that I am guilty of an occasional session of worship critique. What I thought was profound about what Francis Chan said what that he discussed Worship as something we do for God, not something that we do for us. Duh. I almost always go for me. I almost always focus on if I like the song, the delivery, who just walked in and who hasn’t walked in yet. Corporate worship can be a real struggle for me, me who is so easily distracted from God by social settings. And so the moments where I feel what I am singing and then actually relate it to using my lungs to tell the air how good God is are rare. Too rare. Worship is about God not my personal preferences. So maybe my best worship and exaltation happens when I am alone.
But here is the other key component: worship is about community. We gather to sing for a reason. What was so beautiful about this weekend was that it gave me a chance to be in a room with other people who has been stripped of their busyness and agenda and were given space to sing to God together. And believe it. And mean it. We were singing words and feeling them inside and then putting them out in the world to tell the truth about our God to the space around us. It seems like we have far too few moments where we realize that we aren’t the only ones. We aren’t the only ones striving, we aren’t the only ones struggling, we aren’t the only ones relating to God, there are thousands of us. And we can get together and sing something together and feel closer to each other and to God for it. And this is what God thinks is really good when it comes to worship. He sees our worship as “really good” and this is far more important than whether we had a good experience.
So yeah, that was Francis Chan.
And then there was Gungor, who sang instead of spoke.
They sang this:
All this Pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change
At all?
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground
At all?
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things out of us
I heard this for the first time sitting in the very back of the balcony in Waco Hall. And I cried because I knew again, I wasn’t the only one. So often on a Sunday I feel like I can go out and make the following week into something drastically different than the week before. I am going to reflect, rest, read, and truly be with people when I am with them. I’ll marvel at the beauty of a toddler learning to navigate her world. I’ll walk outside and be reminded of the beauty and steadfast love of God. And then Wednesday hits and I’m so often irritated with my life, dissatisfied and weary.
And then I’m reminded of Sunday, and how this week didn’t shape up as I wanted. There were fleeting moments of beauty, but more ungrateful discouragement than small wonderful moments of thankful reflection. But wait, he makes beautiful things out of, dust? And ground that has been longing to be tilled and cultivated can grow life? Yes. True. He does. He can. My life CAN change at all. Wow. Tears. Thanks God for bringing me here, not giving up on me. For waking up with me each morning at whatever time Noelle chooses and giving me another chance to open myself to you making my life into a beautiful thing.
That’s enough for now.

On flipping the switch

You may not be like me, which is fine, but if you aren’t then you may have trouble relating to this post and your opinion score for me may drop a few points. On the other hand you may be able to relate to me and feel comforted that you are not alone, so points be danged I’m going to fill you in on a secret. I on occasion go insane. I mean a ranting and raving, loose all sight of reality, want to throw dishes at the wall crazy. This state of being usually comes from one part desperation, two parts exhaustion and an epic failure to come through on self-care.

If you have asked me how this pregnancy is going I probably said “fine” and that I am not sleeping well. Still the case. No vomiting, I can still wear my shoes and wedding ring and cook with raw chicken. But the sleep thing is a killer, up five or so times a night for about 20 minutes or more each time. This is seriously messing with my REM and rest. On top of this my sweet little girl has decided now is a great time to start one of her very unpopular “get up at 5:15AM” phases. Thanks a ton my sweet one.

So enter me, this very morning, in the kitchen at 5:20 with hardly any sleep and one lovely yet demanding toddler yelling in sync with her unborn brother’s kicking. And I still needed to figure out what to do for Bible Study at work this morning, which is not only a point of stress, but also guilt. If I was teaching out of overflow a deep an impactful bible study surely should have poured from my soul days ago. On top of cries of “Milk Milk!”, a kicking unborn baby and undone bible study guilt, I enter the kitchen to find that my husband made an epic batch of Thai soup. The aftermath of which is taking up every square inch of counter space. Also we are out of coffee. And off the handle I fly.

I start with a groan, some muttering, a strong desire to break something plate-like. Then I turn to the nearest loved one and start telling them how this is all their fault. And you know you are a great mom when you’re ranting at your hungry one year old for daring to wake up with hunger. Next closest person? (luckily sleeping) Kel. The maker of the epic soup mess. He gets some choice crazy ranting. Then I cry and say things like “It’s never going to be okay” and “when is it my turn to be taken care of instead of the other way around?!” Then I tell Noelle that it must be nice to have breakfast handed to her on a silver platter every day. I am sure you can’t relate.

Now enter the voice of God which is daring and true enough to speak up and say something like, “rely on him or you are never going to make it through.” Often this voice will be the next person I take my rage out on. Well God, if you had ____ then I would have _____ and this never would have gotten so bad. Now I have a choice in this very moment. I can see a glimmer of hope, give the rage to God, take some deep breaths, sit down, and flip the switch back to reality. I can choose to believe that God is right, and that my crazy yet somehow delicious ranting is wrong. I can give my laundry pile of crap to him and allow him to help me with the steps back to reality.

However, this switch flipping is hard to do when you have flown off the handle. Off the handle is a place of freedom and lunacy, where nothing is your fault and breaking stuff seems like the logical next step. The amazing thing about God stepping into the handle free zone is that he shows up and draws us in, we just submit a little, he does all the work, yet it’s so hard for us to A) choose to see him and B) believe that he is the voice of reason in the midst of our madness. We don’t do much in our relationship with him, yet he loves us so much if we are willing to take the baby steps, he will run the marathon to meet us.

And so this morning, I sit exhausted, enduring another episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, with my switch flipped to sanity. I don’t know much else about how it will all come together, I have a bible study thought, I am hoping for a nap, and maybe a cup of coffee.