Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What If?

One morning last week Jeff called me away from reducing fractions with Julia.  I took the few steps to the kitchen and looked at him.  I knew the face.  He was going to ask me to do something he wasn’t sure I’d want to do. I also knew that I’d say yes to whatever it was.  It was that face.  He knows me better than I wish sometimes and he knew asking me to share some of our story at the new church plant would add a whole new dimension to my Easter week, but he felt strongly that it needed to be shared along with his sermon.  I like to write to people, not necessarily speak in front of them. I might as well be cuddling with a porcupine.  Two things motivate me:  I’ve been asked and it’s an opportunity to put a magnifying glass on God’s work in our lives.  So I write today because I took time to think this week about something other than laundry, what’s for dinner, and strategies for fighting the urge to become a slacker these last few weeks of school.  These thoughts are already spoken, but now I need to “frame” them here.

When I was in college, I had a Sunday school teacher whose name was Mrs. Summey.  She’s one of those rare people you meet and just can’t get enough of.  From the start I was drawn to her transparency, her bluntness and her confidence in the God she served.  Even being the study geek I was, I hung out with this busy wife and mother of two every opportunity I got.  One Sunday she began her lesson by asking me a question.  “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”  Easy answer, I thought and I proceeded to answer like most of you would have at the time, “I’ll have a good job, be married to Christian man, have a home and a couple of kids”—and so on. Then she asked the whole class the question that carries the weight of possible life change, “What if all those things don’t happen or if one or two of those things don’t happen? What will that be like for Krista?  Will that change her view of God?  What will she think of Him then?”  I was probably 21 at the time and that possibility never occurred to me.  I was preoccupied with figuring out Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, getting a good tan, and wondering if I had found that “Christian man” to buy that house and raise kids with.  What if that didn’t happen?  Really?  I had never thought of that.

At the time, I chose NOT to think too much of what she said, because those things I mentioned seemed imminent, looming, almost within my grasp.  It wasn’t until my first year (1997) of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant that I remembered her question.  “What if Krista can’t have children?  Will that change her view of God?”  So, I asked myself, “Is it?  Will it?  How are you going to respond, Mrs. Sanders, with that Christian husband,  that home and now the title of ‘pastor’s wife’?”  Privately, I prayed, thought, long and hard about God’s character and who had I learned Him to be in my life.  Was He good or not?  Was He worthy of my trust and hope-- even with something so personal, so “expected” in my life?

Even though I was “barren” in the normal sense of the word, I felt barren in many other ways.  All of our incredible seminary friends had moved away, so our fellowship with heart friends was barely sporadic.  Never in my life had I been in that situation.  Loneliness was a new feeling and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.   The church we had started in our home was growing and in a permanent building but it was demanding and challenging at the time.  

So I knew I had a choice to make.  By God’s grace, He continued to pursue me and soften my heart to press into Him.  To seek Him.  To depend on Him.  To KNOW Him.  And it seemed to me, He wanted me to figure out if I truly BELIEVED Him-- not believed IN Him but believed what He said in His Word, mainly what He had to say about His goodness and His love.  One morning, Psalm 136 did a little dance on the page.  It’s that Psalm where every other line is “and His love endures forever”.  And with resignation-- and hope, I wrote this on an index card, “We may never have close friends, but His love endures forever. We may never be financially comfortable, but His love endures forever.  We may never have a great church, but His love endures forever.  We may never have children, but His love endures forever.”   This was where I needed to rest.  Here is where I needed to abide.  All of these things I wanted, but He needed me to BELIEVE that if none of this ever happened, that He’d be enough and I’d be satisfied.  And that I wouldn’t be disappointed.  Ultimately.

After trying four or so years to get pregnant, I had 48 cycles of being disappointed.  I had a decision to make every 28 days.  I had my moments and even days of giving in to fear, doubt and even anger, but He didn’t leave me alone.  If I chose to read His Word, He would love me that way.  Simple, hope-fueling Words like Job 2:10, Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?  2 Chronicles 7:3, He is GOOD and His love endures forever and Psalm 119:75, Lord, I trust in You alone. You are the God who always does what is right!

If you click around here much, you know how my story turns out.  Praise the Lord!  His faithfulness to us through the ENTIRE story is everything you hope for in situations like ours.  He comes through in ways that only His perfect character is capable. Divinely Awesome.  He answered prayer after prayer.  Simple desires that I had, He granted.  Lives didn’t depend on my wants, but He was gracious and kind by just saying “yes”.  Nothing is as humbling as a Sovereign God saying “yes” to a simple wish of one of His children.  I delighted in and cherished every one.

My story turns out wonderfully but what if it hadn’t?  I hear Mrs. Summey’s question like this now, What if the adoptions hadn’t worked out?  What if they had but then got messy?  What if Julia or Brighton had to be put in foster care in the beginning or if I hadn’t been able to be at their births?  What if I had felt no connection to them when they were- finally- placed in my arms for the first time?   Would I put my hope in God still?  Oh, I pray yes.  I shout YES!

I know life can get so much harder than anything I have ever experienced, but my prayer is that whatever I come to experience in my life that it would be filtered through my limited understanding of His perfect love for me and His absolute goodness.

“Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life WITHOUT DAMAGING OUR VIEW OF GOD’S CHARACTER, we do not yet know Him.”

I want to know Him.

I shudder to think, what if I didn’t?
356.  packages in the mail

357.  tender hearted children

358.  my Mom’s group who inspires me with their care for one another, by their desire to be challenged and stretched and for their pursuit of Christ and His ways

359.  home spun fashion shows for 4

360.  boy excitement over new book to read

361.  finding just what I needed

362.  handwritten notes from family to Brighton (thank you for the treasures and making a big deal out of big deal things)

363.  Jesus’ willingness to do for me what I could not

364.  Tenebrae service

365.  songs about the cross

366.  children anticipating an empty tomb (and Easter baskets- just keeping it honest)

367.  winks, smiles and prayers when I am shaking fear in my flip flops

368.  getting to do this

369.  Easter pictures-- old and new

370.  children making memories

371.  Passion plays directed by Daboo, performed by some of my favorite kids

372.  mixing old friends and new

373.  consistent question from my husband, “What do you want to do tonight?”

374.  having a story to tell

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Darkening of Good Friday

"This was the darkest day in history. The Son of God Himself was killed by people who weren't satisfied simply to reject Him; they couldn't stand to have Him exist.”  Noel Piper

"In Him the enslaved find redemption, the guilty pardon, the unholy renovation; In Him are everlasting strength for the weak, unsearchable riches for the needy, treasures of wisdom and knowledge for the ignorant, fulness for the empty.
At Thy gracious call I hear, take, come, apply, receive His grace, not only submit to His mercy but acquiesce in it, not only glory in the cross but in Him crucified and slain, not only joy in forgiveness but in the One through whom redemption comes.”  Valley of Vision

From the Tenebrae (the darkening) service:

This is the evening before the morning.....
The shadow in the sunlight...
The darkening before the dawn....

Our Easter Garden idea from here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Once Upon a Palm Sunday

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with and that we should no longer be slaves to sin.—  Romans 6:3-6

Praise be to God.

Baptism- def. Ecclesiastical . a ceremonial immersion in water, or application of water, as an initiatory rite or sacrament of the Christian church.

Sacrament- def. Ecclesiastical . a visible sign of an inward grace, especially one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace

Grace- def. Theology  a. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God
b. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

It was a sunny, breezy 65 degrees in a very large garden.  Green grass, blue sky and trees full of spring’s silent work framed a space perfect for a Palm Sunday baptism.  In its own wondrous way, nature sang the very glory of God.

Brighton’s decision on January 16th led to this initial step of obedience to Christ and his mysterious identification with His death, burial and resurrection.  Sunday, as we remembered Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and His knowing what His week held yet choosing obedience to the Father, I will remember B’s choice of obedience and will cling to the grace that covers him- “the influence or spirit of God operating in [Brighton] to regenerate or strengthen [him]”.  He’s seven.  By His grace, there are lots of years for regeneration and strengthening.  Lots of years for failing and forgiveness and just as many for successes and praises.  I don’t know the plans that God has for him, but His Word tells me they are to prosper him and to give him hope.  I choose hope.

Hope- def. A desire of some good, accompanied with an expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable; an expectation of something which is thought to be desirable; confidence; pleasing expectancy.

I will choose to believe that when the hand of godly authority is extended to him, he will kiss it and not scorn it.

I will choose to believe that God’s work will be brought to completion in Brighton-- through the years that make him the man God created him to be.

I will choose to believe that, when it matters, he will not depart from the path of righteousness that broke forth like the dawn on January 16th and that it will shine ever brighter until the FULL LIGHT of DAY.  Brighton’s day, whenever that may be.

Friends of all ages came to celebrate with Brighton and we were blessed to have family who made the thousand mile trip to join us.  If Brighton could plan his days, all of them would be like this past Palm Sunday--his favorite people around (the more the better), large slices of cake, freedom to run around outside and feeling affirmed in his choices by those who love him.  It didn’t hurt that there were a few (unnecessary but appreciated) gifts and plenty of extra attention.

This is it.  This is the big stuff..... worthy of celebration.  His life one day at a time.  One act of obedience, the sacrament of baptism, undeniably changing his life forever.

A new life, no longer a slave to sin.

The unmerited favor and love of God.

All praise, glory and honor to Him.  The Lord of Glory.
The King of All.  

Thank You.  
337.  Last ten math lessons  (!!!!!!!!!!!)

338.  the Jesus Storybook Bible

339.  B getting the game ball Monday night (and opportunities for sliding)*

340.  scholarship choices for my nephew

341.  tired van unloading, finally, sister, brother-in-law and cousins

342.  having a three year old in my house

343.  jellybeans

344.  cousin slumber parties

345.  portable baptistry in our garage

346.  friends and family mixing over Mexican food

347.  little boys comparing sketch books

348.  bowed head of children

349.  phone date with nephew

350.  children waving palm branches- Hosanna!

351.  movie night filling up our den

352.  naps for three

353.  baptisms in the garden

354.  friends who came

355.  kisses on the hand

(this sweet picture is worth posting twice-- showing the tender heart of this child)

* Game ball-  TJ was the first person he wanted to show-- not sure how I feel about that-- ha! and I realized that 2 weeks in a row I thanked God for base hits.  Tone it down a little?  Maybe. 

Family Track and Field Night

As a home school group, we’ve done many really fun things but this one may prove to be my favorite, “Family Track and Field Night”.  A couple of weeks ago, families came in their running clothes ready to do things they had never done before or hadn’t done in a very, very, very long time.

Here is our fearless leader.

The broad jump

Comparing ribbons

A BLUR, I tell you

Showing his Georgia pride- no partiality to league or sport here!

Maybe Sarah didn’t enjoy it as much as I did...........

The Daddy-Daughter Crawl

(Thanks, Elise, for this picture!)