Grace Brings Glimmers of Hope….

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I am sitting in my favorite coffee shop, sipping great coffee and listening to good music mixed with the chatter of happy folks. I have a pen to use in my journal, but the pen is not cooperating; the ink just won’t flow very well and I find I have to re-trace the lines. I am, however, stubborn.

I want to use this pen, and when I am done I want to slide it back into its flowered sleeve. Because the lilac pen and the flowered sleeve hold more than a simple writing instrument; they hold the memories of the woman who used to write with this pen. Back when it flowed well.

The pen and the holder are stylish and I can remember Mom pulling them out of her purse and using them. I can remember even that act being done with a sort of elegance.

Mom was always stylish, and she carried herself with this confidence and elegance. Everywhere. People noticed her.

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Dementia has stolen her thoughts and some of her elegance. Not all, though. She still carries herself with dignity and she still speaks with an innate politeness and compassion.

However, she simply is not completely there…she is a shadow of herself. A physical reminder of the strength of character, sharpness of wit and commanding presence she once had. We catch glimmers.

I realized that sometimes I am not much different.  Some days I am a shadow of myself. I am caught in the mundane and the demands of the day, the trivialities and the noise, and I am lost. Sometimes the broken world is stronger than the creativity and the wonder that I desire to develop. The strength of character and the intellect I inherited are stifled by a weariness of a broken world.

I catch glimmers of who I could be, of who I would like to be.

Those are the moments God graces me with a reminder.

A lavender pen tucked in a floral case. Words of grace and beauty from authors who live more fully in the moment than I.

Words of grace from a Creator who understands the weariness because He took on the flesh we wear and He walked:

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ

Words of reality that although this world in which we walk and live and breathe is marred by brokenness and by sin, there is still healing and there is still hope. Words of reality that although sometimes we only see the glimmer, there is One Who sees more and Who knows the whole of the story. He sees the result of the storm we walk through and sees the result of the long obedience.

He sees the ultimate healing and the ultimate glory that we only long for in this season.

“When I asked my mother why the trees were so much larger on the ridge than anywhere else, she replied that it was because the winds were the strongest and the storms were the fiercest on the ridge. With nothing to shelter the trees from the full brunt of nature’s wrath, they either broke and fell, or they became incredibly strong and resilient.
God plants you and me in our faith as tender saplings then grows us up into “trees of righteousness,” using the elements of adversity to make us strong. And He leads us to endure, not just somehow, but triumphantly as we choose to praise Him, regardless of the storms swirling within us or the winds howling outside of us.” -Anne Graham Lotz

Callouses on the Soul

When I was 24 I spent a short time in Amsterdam as a missionary. The city is beautiful, and I loved walking along the canals and sightseeing. As I would walk back to the YWAM base in the evenings I would look in the homes that faced the canal. Almost all would have their drapes drawn back and the lights on and I could see the activities of dinners being made and families going about their business.

 

There was something comforting about watching these little pictures of life as I walked along, and I always enjoyed the changing scenery.

 

Facebook seems to be a virtual walk, looking in on the lives of friends, and even of strangers, as they draw back their drapes and live life in front of us. Status updates paint the picture of dinners being and families going about their activities.

The struggle for me is that mixed in with the mundane and the humorous are the many stories of deep suffering.

Stories of babies who are struggling to live when their bodies are not cooperating. Babies who do not survive just after birth. Marriages that are struggling. People who are filled with fear in the face of job losses and struggle. Deaths of acquaintances. Deep griefs and struggles posted in snippets.

 

I watch from the street, as it were, and wait to see how the story will unfold. I watched along with thousands the story of Lane Goodwin unfold, praying for God’s mercy and grieving with this family I have never met for the loss of a child I never saw in person.

 

There is enough grief in our “real” life to weigh us down. As I watch my mother continue to lose more of her mind to dementia I am sometimes overwhelmed with grief that she is not able to rejoice in the amazing life of Madeleine…even though she is physically present. I think it is actually more painful that she is physically here…I can hear her voice and talk with her and see her hold my little girl, and yet she is not here. The mourning is not given over to the comfort that comes after because she is not healed or at peace yet.

 

We live in a broken world, and broken things hurt. 

Sometimes I feel the need to have callouses on my soul to protect from the pain of suffering around me. I cannot fathom the depth of grief in losing a child…so I watch and pray, but I strengthen the callous that keeps it at arms length. I invest myself in the pain of those I will never rub shoulders with because I can grieve with restraint, while keeping the grief over those close to me in check with these callouses. 

A friend posted this the other day on her Facebook status:

“i am just sick of users. i often want to say to the people that see the beautiful things that God does for me, and want to steal those things: ” do you want to pay the price? it is extremely high. did you have parents, safety? have you been spared the rage of others? have you been Loved deeply? do you have a little child? have you been hugged lately? do you know what it is to feel safe? do you walk without trouble? great. i’ll trade places with you. you can have my life.”

 

and yet, i say this only to make a point: everything beautiful has a cost. the beauty comes through fire” Gianna Jessen

If we give in to being calloused, we miss the beauty in ourselves and in others. There is beauty in the pain, but oh it hurts to find it sometimes. There is not beauty in callouses. We have to be willing to allow ourselves the freedom to embrace the suffering of others and allow it to impact us because we are on this journey together. God works through our suffering to change us, to soften us and to give us wisdom. Suffering slows us down and filters the inconsequential things out of the way so we can hear differently and we can feel differently and we can see differently.

 

The wonders of life…the laughter of children, the sound of music, the colors of art and nature…are more vibrant when we’ve been through suffering and grief. I say this knowing that I have suffered very little and my pain is far less than most. I watch through the windows and am drawn into the lives of those around me who walk through great suffering and find that God is in the midst of it and has not forgotten them. That He hears and that our pain and our brokenness hurts because we know that we will be made whole and we long for that day.

 

We are not made to carry the pain and the suffering alone. We are made to rely on the strength of another:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls aroundlike a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 5:6-11

We are  able to remain vital and present in suffering because we know that God is present and he will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. We will be changed by the suffering…either we will build up callouses to protect ourselves and in the end become hardened, or we will be changed into something more through the suffering…a beauty that can only come through pain. Amen?

 

Messy Monday

Today truly feels like a Messy Monday. And only one kiddo is up so far.

I’m unsettled this morning. One of those days that are difficult to stay focused or to get thoughts together well.  It is not just the need for more coffee…it’s that unsettled, frustrated, foggy feeling. That feeling where it is hard to sit still in the chair, hard to keep my eyes on the page as I read…the kind of feeling where I seem to jump from activity to activity.

Actually, yesterday was a really good day…spent with family, spent sering in the nursery, and just a generally good day.

It ended with me doing something stupid…backed into someone at McDonald’s. Yes, in the car.

I haven’t had a car accident of any kind in 10 years, and that one was because someone turned illegally across traffic and hit me…before that I think I was 16 when I had the last accident. That’s part of what irritated me so much about last night…it was just an accident and I messed up. But, it frustrated me and it messed up someone else’s night. No major damage, and the insurance will take care of it, but this morning it has me irritated with myself.

We all do stupid things, of varying degrees of significance. It should unsettle us a little…it spotlights our inadequacies, our areas where we need growth.

It sets us up for Messy Mondays.

I can tell I’m on edge, and that could set up for a miserable day of homeschool. So, instead of getting all the lesson plans out and organized…I’m going to read. Reading some in Scripture, and reading some in Bonhoeffer’s biography. That settles me…it shows me that every single one of us humans do stupid things. We sometimes do more than stupid…we sin, we rebel, we fall short. And yet, God is not surprised, and He is able to take our inadequate abilities and lives and make something remarkable. The stories of what He does are amazing…thus, reading the stories of those who have walked with Him is vital in my life. It tells His Gospel again and again.

Messy Monday. Nope. I’m not going to let it be…it is going to be a bit more humble Monday, but it is going to be laced with Gospel and with grace.