"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Songs of My Heart

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Like a stream of consciousness, the memories come unbidden.

I was simply sitting down to blow dry my wet hair and then in my mind's eye, I am there...  nearly 20 years ago, but I am "seeing" it and feeling it, like it was yesterday.

While in this season of launching my first child, there seems to be this movement in my mind... seemingly random memories coming like a wave.

Different things trigger the memories---a picture, a smell, a song, a comment.  This morning it was music.  As I often do,  I hit play on my "Worship" playlist.  I sat to begin a regular morning routine of makeup and hair.  Within only a few notes, the memory came rushing in...


link for song...  take a listen, if you can


The song begins with ..."It is our confession what we are weak... so very weak!" 

In a moment, I was taken back...  holding, rocking, clutching a baby girl.  We had taken this little one with us across the ocean into a backwater country.  Young and terrified, I stood over her crib, holding her tiny body while her fever screamed at my momma's heart, "Be afraid, be very afraid!"  

It is an intense fear that we feel as we hold our little ones and watch them writhe and struggle against sickness.  It is a deeply intense fear that we all feel when we are out of control... when we can't fix it, we can't make it okay.  

That night long ago, it was this song that I sung over her.  As I held her and prayed, the words seemed to flow out of my soul---a song, a prayer, a confession---

 "It is my confession, Lord, that I am weak---so very weak---but, You are strong!"

It's our confession, Lord that we are weak…So very weak, but You are strong
And though we've nothing, Lord…To lay at Your feet
We come to Your feet and say, "Help us along"
A broken heart and a contrite spirit, You have yet to deny
Your heart of mercy beats with love's strong current.
Let the river flow, God.  By Your Spirit now, Lord we cry
Let your mercies fall from heaven! Sweet mercies flow from heaven!
New mercies for today--Shower them down Lord, as we pray

How long did I rock her and sing this song over her that night?  It feels like I have been singing and rocking this over her for her entire life!

Today, as I writhe and struggle with the feelings of launching her.  As I watch her sadness, her pain, and as I feel my own...  As we truly roller-coaster-ride the ups and downs of this launch:  ...excitement, hope, anticipation, mixed with the high fever of grief, frustration and terror...

As her tears, and mine, scream at us, "Be afraid, be very afraid!",  I am in that selfsame place I was 18 years ago.  

I am holding her, rocking her with my heart, and I am praying these very same words... 

Help us along!  New mercies for today, Lord, shower them down as we pray!  

And, each time I sing this.  Each time I pray...  He holds and He rocks.  He stills.  In these moments, I know He sings over my soul.  Even when I can't hear it, I know He is singing...  He is always singing His song.  

Today, I choose to listen and lean in.  I let Him hold me and rock me.  Today, I say "yes" and hear His words--- Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Enough

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In this season of life sleep is not always a given.  There are many mornings when I feel heavy and exhausted after the restless or sleepless night.  It had become a daily habit of mine to tell the family at the breakfast table how much sleep I had gotten...  "I only got 3 hours of sleep last night" ...longing for those around me to take part, sympathize, and understand.

It was only a few weeks ago that I had the thought... why am I keeping track?  What is the point?  Is it helping me in any way to know?**

Brene Brown in her fabulous books often talks about a 'mentality of scarcity'.  We walk around struggling with the "not enough" feeling all day long.  Scarcity.  I am not enough... or I don't have enough.  Not thin enough.  Not smart enough.  Not tall enough.  Not funny enough.  Not enough time.  Not enough sleep.  Not enough energy.  Not enough fun.  Not enough money.

This 'not enough' mentality--- scarcity--- haunts us and follows us around throughout our days. But, it's a lie.  This way of thinking is absolutely false.

In contrast, we are told that we have "all we need for life and godliness"...  (2 Peter 1:3).  Scripture tells us that God gives us all we need...

It is false to say I don't have enough for life.  No!  In Christ, I truly have all I need!

"The way to slowly die is to believe you live in scarcity---not abundance" ~Ann Voskamp

According to Scripture, when we live in Christ, we live in abundance.  Abundance of grace. Abundance of strength.  Abundance of peace.  Abundance of life and light and truth...

So, I have decided to stop keeping track.

An older friend here told me she read an article that said it is helpful to not look at the clock when you wake up in the middle of the night.  The news article stated that it helps you fall asleep quicker if you don't know... or don't look.  I started there one night.  (and this was quite a discipline)

Now when I am tossing and turning... or wide awake... I just don't look.  I cover my clock with a book!  Why do I need to know?  It only brings trouble to my mind, it never helps.

I just stopped keeping track entirely.  I don't count.  I don't keep track and I don't tell my family how much sleep I got, or didn't get.  I actually don't know!

My goal in the morning, instead, is to swing my feet around, plant them firm on the ground and stand on the truth that I have enough.  For today.  For life and godliness, today, I have all I need.   In this, I can be very thankful for any and all sleep.  Slowly, I am trusting I got exactly what I need.  Jesus is my enough.  He has given me all I need today for life and for godliness...

Today, I had just enough sleep.  If, in fact, I didn't get much; then, He will give me enough energy for what He is calling me to today.  In Him, I have enough.

I speak to my soul...  Trust the Lord, Stephanie.  Trust that He is Your enough.  Trust that in Him you have abundance.  He has given you what you need.  And, indeed, He will give you what you need for today.  



**Of course, it is helpful to keep track of these things when we are struggling to take good care of ourselves.  ...am I giving myself the vegetables I need?  Am I giving my body exercise and healthy care?  Am I going to bed at a beneficial time---allowing for enough sleep?  In these ways, it can be super helpful to know... or keep track.  But, this isn't my problem.  I am taking good care of my body--- heading to bed at a decent hour.  I am just simply not sleeping.  (a very common problem, so I hear, with women 'my age' and older!)  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sorting and Slowly Saying Goodbye

She is sorting her room.  It's time.  In 12 short weeks, she will pack up and leave this home... beginning the launch into a new world.

Bravely, she has been sorting and purging her things.  Her clothes...  ah!! but, I remember her in that shirt, that dress, that sweater!  

This girl, my sweet girl.  The one who keeps everything... the girl who remembers gifts given to her from 10 years ago.
With courage, she sorts and she purges.

Her art... her crafts...her jewelry... her books...   ah!  I remember those art books and the years of painting with those brushes!   ah!  I remember her devouring that book series.  

Unlike some, we don't have the freedom (or the "illusion" of freedom) to assume we will be in this physical place forever... so she has to pack it all up.  It all needs to be put in a box or a bag... a few things to store for "memory" sake (can Grandma's attic even take any more of our things!?)  ...a few things to fill a dorm room.

Most of her things...  most---we will just give away.  The first load went today.  Dad drove it up to the local charity store and offered these things as a gift.  We lay it down and give it away.  It feels heavy as we carry the boxes of books and label them "free to a good home".  ...in a strange way, the books feel like they have life in them---tied so strongly to a lovely memory of her.  Her childhood in a pile stacked in a box.  ...memories of her snuggled up in bed, reading.

It's a strange journey we walk here on earth.  All of us.  We know, somewhere deep, that this earth is not our home.  We are not long for here.  We know this.  Scripture tells us that walking this sod is only a quick, whispering breath in the scheme of time and Reality.
"Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
Our lives are just a mist...  a mist that appears and then vanishes.  

So why does it hurt so much to let these things go?  Why does this pink sweater, this piece of art, that necklace, and these books... why do they tug at my mother's heart and hurt so much.  Why does the box of books feel so very heavy as I lay it down? 

I am pondering and sorting with her, I think.  I am sorting through memories.  Sorting through the truth of these last 18 years...  

I told her today that part of me wants to do it all over again!  She was such a joy to parent.  Like a good, familiar book that you want to snuggle up to read over and over again---I want to 'read' those years just one more time.  

But books are not always for keeping---they mold and gather dust.  The jewelry rusts.  The sweater will fray...  And, the sweater is not her. These things are not full of life.

And, ....and, my girl is not for holding-on-to.   I can't keep her.  She was never mine to begin with...  I must let go.  I must continue to release and surrender.  

Bravely, today I sort and purge with my girl.  I remember and rejoice.  I regret and rehearse.  With courage, I allow the very-now of sadness and grief to come.  I let go and lay down.  I hope and I pray. I trust and I press-in to the One who IS always.  

For, I, too, am launching into a new place...  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

What does freedom look like?

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When talking about our fragile bodies, the word "mass" is never a good word. Mass is just a bad, bad word.

When the word mass comes with a measurement of length and depth and is found in your 17 year old daughter's abdomen... well, it is an absolutely sickening, horrid word.

She had been in pain.  We knew that the daily pain had been increasing... with frequency and intensity.  But, you just never expect.  We didn't expect it.

On January 14th, they found a mass in my daughter's upper abdomen.  The ultrasound tech poked, prodded and spent an extra 20 minutes measuring and trying to discern the realities of this mass.   In that beautifully new, pristine white, sterile, cold room, the doctor explained that there was a 3.6 cm x 3.5 cm x 1.5 cm mass.  He showed us the sonogram---there it was, plain as day...even to an untrained eye.   It needed more investigation and he scheduled a CT scan for the following day.

The next 48 hours was a wild mix of emotions.

We were in a different, foreign country.  We had only arrived the day before.  My husband was scheduled to speak at a 400 person conference in Asia on the topic of "Freedom".

Freedom.

For the past three months, as he had been preparing his lessons for the conference, it had become our family mantra, "What does freedom look like in this, Lord?"  ...when my email account is failing, when my friend is in depression, when my unsaved family member is in the hospital, when I spill beetroot juice on my white sweater, when the university decisions for our kids hang in the balance, when we are grieving the upcoming launch of our girl.... In these things, small and large, what does freedom look like?  

In jet-lag, in shock, in someone else's home.  With this news... what did this mean?  What was next? The mantra question just hung there around us, whispering into my soul.

What, Lord, does freedom look like in the midst of this?  

After we sent out an email to let our prayer partners know of the mass... the email responses began to come in.  Our friends, so many of our friends, were standing with us.  Praying, they wrote.  One after another wrote to us and told us, "We are praying!"  Our family, our friends... they were praying for us. These emails were a sweet balm.  As they came into our inbox, we read them together, prayed and felt the comfort of Father's kids worldwide standing in the gap.  Asking.  Pleading. Praying.

Our friends who live in this foreign land---they cooked for us, shuttled us to and from the hospital, prayed with us.  Laughed with us.  Cried for us.

Freedom looked like being the weak ones---the ones in desperate need of prayer and help.  Freedom looked like the comfort of the Body of Christ.  Freedom looked like unhindered asking... His kids knowing God's heart, His power and the possibilities asking on our behalf.  

For those who follow this blog regularly, or know me personally, you will know I am not a big "crier".  I don't cry easily.   I have often said that I have plenty of tears inside, they just don't seem to make their way out of me!  My crying friends  (which tend to be some of my favorite people) know that I envy them.  I tell my free-to-cry friends often what a gift their tears are to me.  If only... If only I could cry like that!

These past months, though, something beautiful has been shifting in me.  I finally asked a free-crying-friend to pray for me.  I asked her to ask the Lord to give me the gift of tears.  He has been answering.  Slowly but surely, I am crying!  ...weeping, in fact, at times.  I rejoice in this health.  I am still not a "crier"...and I don't anticipate that my personality will change... but, I am more free to allow the heavy, hard, tear-filled pain come and have it's way.  I am finding freedom to feel. Freedom to be sad---deeply sad---I am finding freedom to cry.

What, Lord, does freedom look like in the midst of this?

So, with this horrid, terrifying news, I quietly excused myself to the guest room...and I wept.  I wept freely and with faith that He was with me, He was hearing.  Lament in the purest form... I poured out my heart in tears to the Lord.  Pain,    pain,    pain... that was all the words that came with the tears. Just deep pain.

My baby girl.  My darling baby girl.

Pain. Pain. Pain.

Freedom in the Lord looked like pain and tears for me that night.  Freedom looked like feeling. Lament and surrender wrapped up in pain... there was deep freedom.

48 hours of deep pain...  waiting, watching, feeling...

As we waited in the hospital for the next poke, the gross green-colored juice to drink, and the IV... my daughter began to sing a song.  I don't remember what song it was... but it was quiet and it was worship.  It was surrender.  We joined her and sang.  A quiet singing in the busy, bustling hospital room. Freedom looked like surrender.  Freedom looked like worship.

On January 16th, the very same doctor looked at us and shook his head, shrugging his shoulders.  He said he couldn't explain the discrepancy.  The mass was gone.  The CT scan showed a clean, pristine, beautiful abdomen.  No mass.  No problems.  All was "healthy and good" in my girl's abdomen, he said.

It's a miracle!  I said this without really thinking.  It just popped out of my mouth as an exclamation. "We asked Jesus to take it away!" I told him.  He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.  "There is no mass," he said.

No mass, he said.  These are good, good words.

We walked away with two CDs in our hands:  an ultrasound with a mass and CT scan without a mass.  Walking away with a documented miracle, and deep relief, my daughter and I jumped, danced and cried in the hospital!  Right there in that place, we freely expressed our joy.

Freedom looked like proclamation and witness.  Freedom looked like profession of joy, praise and worship---  Dancing and crying and hugging... looking a bit "mad" I am sure to any on-looker.

As we exited the hospital, aware that we wouldn't be back anytime soon, the phrase came into my heart... He said "yes!"

He said yes...  

I knew that freedom looked like receiving and rejoicing in His "yes" to our asking, our praying, our pleading.  Freedom looked like knowing He sometimes says "no"... but, today, He said yes.   Trusting Him for His answers.  The freedom to ask and to trust His kind, His all-knowing heart...

In this... In this there is freedom.

What Lord does freedom look like in this?  

...freedom looked like being exactly who I am with and in Jesus.  ...Needy and weak.  ...Honest and real.  ...it looked like surrender and worship.  Weeping. lamenting, rejoicing and laughing.  ...freedom looked like asking, hoping, pleading, expecting.  ...freedom looked like receiving and proclaiming.  ...witnessing and trusting.

You Lord, present in the the unknown, the scary, the painful,  the "no" and the "yes".  You, Lord, Present in the lament, the worship and the joy...  You, Lord, are our freedom.  
You are freedom, Jesus.  You.

It is for freedom that I am set free.... (Galatians 5:1)

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom... (2 Corinthians 3:17)




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