Our family has been struck again, less than a year after our Kristina died, and I am reminded of how much I hate cancer, of how much I hate death

To an outsider, it may not seem quite as much the tragedy as before. This is my Papa, after all, my eighty-six year old grandpa. He is not fighting for the chance to raise his children or wishing for a chance to grow old with his spouse after only a few years of marriage. He has lived a good and full life. 

And yet it is a tragedy. Death itself is a tragedy, and while I am tempted to rail at God against the ugliness of it all, deep inside my heart I know that it is our sin, our rebellion that let death into our world in the first place and it is God’s mercy that gave us life again.

Cancer and death are tragedy, they are ugly. For our family, this cancer is as ugly as any other. Yes, there is difference between a twenty-six year old and an eighty-six year old. And yet, I am greedy. 

I am greedy for more time. I want to yell at God, “NO! It is not enough! Thirty-four years with my Papa is not enough. I want more time! I want him to meet this baby growing inside of me. I want all of my children to know and remember him. You did not give me enough time!” 

All this while stomping my foot like the child that I am.

Yet my heart has been changed through Kristina’s struggle and death. I have learned a little more about Who God is and who I am in relation to Him. I have learned about obedience in the midst of the ugly

And I have learned that I have a choice in all of this. I can choose to blame God, letting my anger and grief drive me away from Him, or I can choose to be obedient and thank Him, clinging to Him and letting Him be all that I need.

So at least for today (I know I still have disobedience, some yelling and foot-stomping inside of me for another day), I will choose this:

Thank You, Abba, for the gift of my Papa and my Gram. 

Thank You for giving me so many years with them, years of such close relationship and of so many beautiful times with them.

Thank You for giving them so many talents and abilities and for giving them the desire to teach and share those skills with me.

Thank You for their wisdom, for all that I have learned from them, for all of the wisdom that I now have stored in my own heart.

Thank You most of all for making their hearts like Yours. Thank You for allowing me to see You in them, to see in their lives how You want me to live. Thank You for showing me through them how to live faithfully as a child of Yours, as a spouse and as a parent.

Thank You for the beauty that is their lives. 

Thank You, Abba, for Your grace.

The Gift of Loudness

I could see the fear in the ever-widening eyes of my youngest as the train barreled past us, just across the street, its whistle screaming in an attempt to warn foolish drivers out of its way. I picked her up and she immediately wrapped her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist in a vise-like grip that I have never felt before.

My eldest used to also be terrified of loud noises. She went through a long period of time when she was afraid of fire engines to the point of hysteria…even if they were parked and turned off.
As a musician, sound fascinates me. The science of how wavelengths work to create sound and music is a beautiful gift from God.

What about loud, clamorous noise, though? Is that a gift as well?

We all jump high when a car horn sounds behind us. Our hearts skip a beat when a clap of thunder crashes right above our heads.

As I held my littlest one, rocking her and shushing her, assuring her that the big, bad train would never leave its tracks to come and whistle in her ear, I though about how much I loved the feel of her chubby little arms and legs clinging to me.

As often happens when thinking about my own children, that made me think about how God loves for us to run into His arms and cling to Him.

Could it be that when we are distracted, when we are looking to other things for our rescue or our comfort, He uses a loud noise in our lives to help us remember to cling to Him and let Him take care of us?

He knows that we need a soft voice. When Elijah was in deep despair and asking to die, God came to him.

God wasn’t in the wind that tore apart mountains and shattered stones. God wasn’t in the earthquake that felled trees and tossed around boulders. God wasn’t in the fire that raged and roared and burned.

God wasn’t in the loud.

No, God was in the gentle whisper. The whisper that reassured Elijah that he was not alone.

Will you be still? Will you allow that loud noise to propel you into His arms, to send you to wrap your whole being around God?

Simply listen and let Him whisper His love and presence to your heart.

art credit: Elijah in the Wilderness by Washington Allston

Making new friends

I always enjoy making new friends.

I’ve recently discovered that you can make new friends without actually ever meeting them! A couple of months ago, I got involved in an online writing group and have had a glorious time making new friends from all over the country (and in a few cases, outside of the States!).

This mid-week post is a result of one of those friendships. My new friend, Debi Stangeland, has asked me to write an essay for her blog today. Will you come on over? Explore her blog a little while you’re there. It’s good stuff!

If you’re here from Funki Planet, welcome! Please explore and make yourself at home. I’d love to get to know you better.

God’s Passing Notes

I am really tired of getting things wrong, of feeling ashamed of myself.

I didn’t speak when I should have spoken because I was afraid of someone’s opinion of me.

I spoke sarcastically to my husband in front of several friends.

I chose to read story books rather than to spend time with God.

I yelled at my babies. While we were praying!

I often have a really hard time loving myself. I feel frustrated with my inability to obey, to love, to be perfect. I often have a very low opinion of myself.

I am fairly certain that I am not the only one who feels like this.

I want to share a truth that was recently spoken to me: Your opinion of yourself doesn’t matter.

Does that sound hard? It is true.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself…it is the Lord who judges me.  ~ I Corinthians 4.3

It doesn’t matter what you think of yourself, whether or not you approve of yourself. Only God’s opinion of you matters.

That’s worth saying again.

The only thing that matters is whether or not God approves of you.

This then is…how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything. ~ I John 3.19-20

And the best news of all? The news that fills up my heart and gives me peace?

If you are in Christ, God does approve of you!

Just read Romans 8:

vs 1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

vs 33: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Yes, this includes bringing charges against yourself!) It is God who justifies.

vs 38-39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (italics mine)

When I am playing a difficult piece on the piano, sometimes I play the wrong notes. When that happens, rather than getting upset, making horrid faces and just quitting, my mother taught me to simply improvise the wrong notes into the next bit of music. These wrong notes are then given a new name: passing notes – notes that don’t really fit but can become fitting.

For me, one of the most breathtaking things about being a Christian is that God can take our worst mistakes and turn them into His passing notes. That’s what God is promising to do for us in the end, and it can start now. And if you haven’t heard that before, it’s time you did. ~ Jeremy Begbie

So. Take a deep breath. Quit thinking about yourself and your mistakes.

Trust God’s approval of you in Christ. Allow Him to turn those mistakes into His beautiful passing notes that lead us to become who God intended for us to be.

His Invisible Hand

Our family has been learning over the past few years as we experienced some truly ugly things. We’ve learned about who God is and what He asks of us even when we don’t understand or like what is happening.

My learning will never be complete (for which I am grateful…I’m one of those odd ones who loves to study and learn!) and I recently was struck by yet another lesson as our church studied through the book of Ruth.

As I studied Ruth and as I thought about this book as compared with other books in the Bible, I noticed that God seems to work in two very different ways.

God sometimes uses His visible hand of miracle to accomplish His purpose. Think about the parting of the Red Sea and the manna provided from heaven. Think about the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the feeding of the 5,000

God also sometimes uses His invisible hand of Providence to accomplish His purpose. This is what happens in Ruth. Israel is in the period of the judges which means that they are bouncing around between brief periods of stability and long periods of rebellion, being conquered by foreign armies, and experiencing severe famines.

Here are Naomi and Ruth: they are widows, they are childless, they are in a foreign land, they are going home to Israel not knowing what they will find.

Naomi, especially, knew the traditions of her God. Perhaps Ruth had heard the stories. The miracle stories of Noah saved from the flood, of Israel rescued from Egypt. I imagine they may have wished for that visible hand of miracle.

Instead, they got hard work gleaning in a field, an owner of that field who just happened to stop by and act with kindness, the surprise of that very owner being a close relative, a desperate and courageous request from Ruth. The result? A marriage, a baby, perhaps a bit of stability. Several small blessings along the way, but certainly no miraculous raising of the dead.

And yet.

From that marriage and that child came the greatest king that Israel would ever know, bringing wealth and stability and godliness to the nation.

From that marriage and that child came the greatest King that our world would ever know, bringing rescue and mercy and grace to all the nations.

My honest confession? I want the miracle. I don’t want the invisible hand of Providence. When Kristina was fighting for her life, we begged for miraculous healing. That’s not what we got.

And yet.

Even though the miracle is what I wanted, I can still trust in God’s unseen hand. I can know that God is still working, even though we, like Naomi and Ruth, may not see the end of the story.

Even though I am now pleading for another miracle, I am so grateful to be assured that while I pray out my sadness, my anger, and my bitterness, God is right now at work healing hurts not even felt yet and creating answers to problems I haven’t even yet encountered.

Abba. Thank You.

(if you are viewing this via email/in a reader, click here to view this video)

art credit: Whither Thou Goest painting used with gracious permission by artist Sandy Freckleton Gagon

special thanks to our Pastor for his thoughts on Ruth