31 Letters to my Mother {Day 11} Cupped hands, held high

 Dear Mom,

Guess what? These letters are not just bringing healing to our hearts, but they’re inspiring people to reconcile with each other here on earth. While they have the blessing of breath and life to share.

I’m broken hearted that our real life, skin to skin time has passed. I will never claim that this road of losing and remembering you is an easy journey.  It has undone and remade me Mom.

Yet, I keep imagining myself with cupped hands, held high, begging God to redeem my story.  A posture of “here, take it, make it beautiful in a way that only you can.”

Do you remember the story in John 9 about the man born blind?  I have no idea how heaven works, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  Heck maybe you’ve done drinks with THE man born blind.

My mind is imprinted with the verse: “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3

I love that Jesus side steps the stupid trap of the question and gives something far more lovely.

We question “why” all the time, both on purpose and by nature. The why of pain is a road that cannot be navigated and to be honest I rarely mess with it anymore.

I have no idea how to sort out what God sends for his glory and what is an inevitable result of living in a broken world.

This world, that operates outside of original intent.

I don’t think God sent your depression, or that his finger was on your death.

Yet I am glad you’re free of pain, whole and reunited with Our Father, and Dad too. I’m glad for the redemption of your story, my story, our family, this life.  Piece by piece, day by day, bit by bit.  

That the works of God might be displayed in him

Redemption, hope, healing, reconciliation, I see those works happening and they certainly fall under the heading of works of God.

For without him, those words are not, cannot come to fruition.

I love you, I miss you,

LeaRae

A Part of the Story

Do you remember the complete and utter drama of trying out for plays in school?  You audition, trying desperately to bring the hero or heroine to life and then you wait in a awful blend of dreams and dread.

The day arrives when they post THE LIST on the auditorium door.  All the hopefuls gather ’round, scanning the list of roles, wishing to see their name.  Asking the same question, will I get to be a part of this play, this story?

Life gets a whole lot better than it was in high school, thank God.  You come to realize that the most important plays and stories aren’t happening on a stage some Saturday night in April, but everyday, all around us.

waiting on a homecoming

More beautiful than any hoop skirt heroine is a little boy home for the first time from Ethiopia, finally part of his forever family.  More lovely than a choreographed rendition of “Getting to know you” is a text message letting you know that a broken relationship has been restored.  Listening to your son learn to sing is more precious than a part in “Meet me in St Louis” because this is a play that will last a lifetime.

I cherish nothing more than being a part of stories, my story, your story and above all else God’s Story.  I meander through my little house with it’s smudged walls, scattered toys and full pantry and my breath catches and escapes in a heavy sigh.  I think about all the people whose stories are dark today, whose mind is full of hard and heavy sorrow and questions.

I can’t be a part of every story, but I can breathe prayers to a God who is the author of every page.  I can beg him to teach me to become more aware of the story being woven all around me, to play the part that is the most helpful in his over arching desire to redeem and restore.

I can open my eyes wider and savor the moments where I am privileged to speak the most beautiful lines.  To be a part of the dream scenes, the ones that will forever alter the lives of those I love.

Yesterday was a dream day, our family stood along side many others with signs that bore the words “welcome home” and my dear friend Joely walked down the airport hallway beside her son, finally home from Ethiopia.  They gathered as a family of four for the first time.

My heart popped and every hair stood on end, how many times had we sat and talked about this moment, rehearsing it in our heads, the day when she would bring her child home after a 2 year pregnancy of fundraising and paperwork.

Finally it came, and it was more beautiful than I could describe, and as we drove home my heart overflowed with thanks.  I was humbled to be a small part of the day they brought him home to stay.

Anytime you are humbled to be a part of someone’s story and you have the clarity to realize it, breathe thanks.  Really the story is what we have, it’s how we change the world, bring heaven to earth.

Lord give us ears to hear the direction of your spirit as we live out the moments.  Thank you for every story we are blessed to be a part of, and give us the courage to go for the roles that are hard, to reach those that others aren’t reaching.

Thank you for sharing your story with me, dear one, any day that our lives intersect is a moment of beautiful humility for me.  Be blessed, be brave, see the story.

Beautiful Scars- The Year of my Drinking

I’m so excited to be sharing a real and lovely post from my friend Addie Zierman who does most of her writing over at her blog “How to Talk Evangelical.”

Addie has a way of taking your soul and putting it into words, so I implore you to follow her blog immediately if you know what’s good for you.  Addie is sharing her voice for my “Beautiful Scars” Series, and if you’re interested in doing the same I would love that, click here for more info.

Beautiful Scars- The Year of my Drinking by Addie Zierman

That was the year that I was very sad. The year that I was drinking to get happy. Drinking to forget and remember and feel something all at once.

Before that point, my relationship to alcohol had been downright ambivalent. As an on-fire-for-Jesus high school student, I had thought drinking was a sin. As a college student at a conservative Christian college, I adhered to a strict Lifestyle Statement that banned it altogether.

But in 2007, I discovered my own bottomless, inexplicable sadness. And I discovered Starling Castle Riesling…a sweet, mellow wine that I could drink in great gulps.

After the first glass, I felt happy and buoyant. After the second, honest and authentic. Somewhere in the middle of the third glass, I felt myself float away like a balloon, and all of the pain looked tiny and surreal so far beneath me like that.

The Depression, of course, had to do with biology and with old wounds, never really healed. In this place of darkness, you encounter something normal like loneliness, and you cannot handle it. In this place, some church person that you barely know says some well-intentioned something, and it breaks you in half because you have become so brittle in your pain.

And what I want to say is that yes. I have been wounded.

Many of the wounds came from the high-mobility, high-passion evangelical teen culture of my youth.  There was a high school boyfriend who, in his scrambling to be “passionate for God,” broke my heart brutally again and again. There was a fervent, teen missions organization that set impossible standards and then made me feel less-godly, less-beloved and less-chosen when I couldn’t meet them.

My wounds came from unexpected places, places that I thought were safe, people who I thought were speaking the Word of God, and they cut deep. I was wounded and it was cruel and unfair and painful. I was wounded, and it matters.

But the thing about wounds is that they will heal if you let them, if you tend them, if you take care of them. But we are terrible at this. I am terrible at this.

Ever since the Garden, we have had this compulsion for covering. We cover the pain with silence or with excuses or with simplified Christian answers or with Starling Castle Riesling.

We walk around this world infected with anger and bitterness that we do not understand, and we just keep throwing stuff on it, expecting that we eventually, we will bury it deep enough that it will just decompose like an old piece of bread.

But this is not how it works. By covering my wounds, I only compounded them. In my desperation to numb the pain, I made it worse.

I drank and drank and raged. I flirted with temptation and peered into the cavern of my own darkness, and then, one day, I reached the bottom of myself. I reached that desperate place where I had to change or fall into the abyss.

Here is why my scars are beautiful: because they represent the work I have done to become whole.

My scars are beautiful not because they are wounds but because one day, I stopped pouring the Riesling overtop them. Because I went once a week to a sweet, serious therapist who made me talk through the ache. A therapist who helped me find them, clean them, sew them back together one brutal stitch at a time.

Scarring is that beautiful thing that happens when you hold out the painful thing and let the healing in. Let God in.

It’s that thing that happens when we uncurl from around those tender places and expose them to that startling, searing, beautiful Light.

Addie Zierman (@addiezierman) is a writer, mom, and Diet Coke enthusiast. She blogs twice a week at How to Talk Evangelical, where she’s working to redefine faith one cliche at a time.

Glimpses of heaven- restoration, rest and pinterest

I had to giggle a bit after I did a search on Pinterest for “heaven.”  I found mountains, beaches, perfectly organized pantries, a closet full of shoes, decadent desserts and baskets full of expensive yarn.

A Pinterest search for “Heaven”

My personal favorite (since I’m well known for my addiction to a great bath) is this one

heaven on earth.  Dear God, maybe for my birthday?  

I don’t think about heaven much, although I have many waiting for me there, I don’t imagine it at all, ever.  Something about allowing my thoughts to drift to the details of heaven feels naughty like some sort of strange wishful thinking.

Just knowing that God is here sustaining and redeeming me through THIS life is enough, what have I done to deserve any sort of crown or reward?

It’s not that I don’t believe in it, I truly do.

Then I stumbled upon Hebrews 4 over breakfast and it gave me a little piece of the puzzled, delivered neatly to my peanut butter smeared dinette table.

“The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.” ~The Message

Although yes, there are references to streets of gold, bejeweled buildings and crowns, I think it’s really about being done with striving, a place of rest.  And end to our continuous search to fill our God shaped hole.

No more paying bills or anti depressants, no more counseling appointments that didn’t pan out or broken down mini-vans.  No more wondering if we are enough or hoping other people will receive our hearts with grace.  Rest.  Peace.  Wholeness.  Restoration.

That is a hereafter I can believe in and even long for.

When you look at the most basic breakdown of the bible it’s this:

Creation and wholeness lead to Sin & Brokenness.  God choose his people and promised his son, they strayed and were exiled.  Christ was born, and modeled the perfect way to live.  He gave himself over to death, and then HE BEAT IT.  He returned to his father and left us his Spirit and a promise that he would be back finish it all up.

Heaven is the final piece of the puzzle, the story tells us that behind all the images of golden streets and crystal fountains, it’s basically “us” back at the beginning, fully restored to our whole, original selves.  Living fully redeemed and connected to the one that our insides are truly longing for.

I think this verse also speaks to God’s call upon us to practice Sabbath, a rhythm that he started the second he was done creating the universe.  In today’s culture we groan about the thought of taking an entire day off, we label it is unfeasible and unnecessary.

Is this verse telling us that sabbath is one of the ways that we can get a glimpse of heaven on earth?  A day of rest that brings us back to the beginning, God calling us to be just who he created us to be, to commune, to give up our striving one day a week and just be the child he made us to be.

Maybe we can bring heaven be enjoying a long meal with friends, a good book on the patio, a long nap in a cool bedroom, a few hours pruning roses, a game of golf with family.  Maybe sabbath connects us to heaven by helping us believe that the busy, striving world can go on without us for a day.

Because it will have to go on without us permanently when we transition to heaven, won’t it?

The more time I spend reflecting on what Heaven really is, the more comfortable I become with it, the more I do long for it.  A place of rest and total connection with our savior which result in worship through our very being.

We get to be fully who we are and fully in relationship with the one our hearts yearn for.

That’s where my parents and grandparents are, that’s what lost friends and loved ones are enjoying.

Wholeness, Shalom, Rest.

I’ll take that after a bejeweled crown any day.

Tell me about your heaven.

Sucker for Hope- The Pirate Elephant Saga

This is my one year old son’s little toy elephant.  When you pull his tail he plays a lullaby and our little man can’t nod off without him.  He was intended for a soft snuggly life of comfort and happiness.  The only problem is that when I was painting my sons room “peaceful meadow” green a few months ago, I dropped a big drip of  paint directly on his eye.  My son wasn’t even all that attached to him before I maimed his eye with “peaceful meadow” but after I blinded him in one eye I started putting him in bed with our son every night, to try to make up for maiming him so badly.  I feel very real guilt over what I did to this poor elephant, so much so that I’ve spent real time thinking about ways to make it up to him.  I feel like in his current state he’s probably the creepy guy of the playroom, that when we all leave the house and the toys come alive that he’s probably singled out and alone.  The thought of this breaks my heart, so I have decided to give him a cool orange eye patch and give him a sort of “dos equis most interesting” toy in the world persona.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about why I got so broken up about the one eyed elephant.  I came to understand that it touched on something deep inside me, I have a real passion to see people realize their created potential.  My heart breaks for those who experienced pain that has stunted their growth and screwed with their hope.  I hate the thought of orphans across the world that go uncared for, unloved and unfed.  And yes, I experience real guilt when I maim a stuffed elephant.

I am a bleeding heart when it comes to hope, restoration and redemption.  I love to go out to the salvage yard and give an old chair a new chance to bring warmth and comfort to our home.  When a marriage fails, a diagnosis is terminal, a small business doesn’t make it or a friendship cannot be reconciled something aches within me.  All that hope down the drain instead of growing and bringing beauty to our world, it’s just not the way it should be.  Our world and lives are full of moments where hope doesn’t pan out, where potential isn’t realized but rather squandered, every moment holds potential for beauty but as we grow up we stop seeing the world for all that it could be and we start to give up hope.

This passion for hope and restoration is something that God put inside all of us, in my world sometimes it comes out in silly ways but mostly it defines my calling.  I feel called to help people restore their hope, to unload their brokenness and exchange it for the easier yoke of God through Jesus, whose entire life’s purpose was to bring restoration to everything.  When you see something broken, full of unrealized hope and potential and something stirs within you, that’s God using you to bring about his redemptive work.  His business is to restore, renew and reunite.   Romans 8 says all creation groans to be set right again, from the fields all the way up to the cosmos.  It’s funny what God will use to remind us of our calling.

All around us are is brokenness and God works through our hands and feet, I so want to be used this way today.

How are you being nudged and broken to redeem and restore?

Well I’m off to sew an eye patch for a musical elephant.  Hope you get after something quirky and wonderful of your own.