A breath of life

We’re talking about the end times.  The two witnesses.

And here’s the line that catches me.

But after three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet 

(Revelation 11:11)

My brain half thinks it knows where this blog post will go.

To those three and a half days.

To Easter Saturday.

To Jesus weeping by the tomb of his friend.

To God being near to the broken hearted.

To making space for grief when things are dead.

To not rushing the need for a happy ending.

And yes.

All of those things are true.

But this is not the word for today.

Very clearly, my heart hears that this is not the word for today.

Today, friends, I need you to know that God is in the business of breathing life.

From humanity’s first breath in the garden, through Calvary, and on to these two witnesses at the end of the story, our God breathes life.

A widow’s son, a synagogue ruler’s daughter, a dear friend.  With a touch, a word, Jesus takes what was dead and breathes life.

He takes the impossible and makes it possible.

He speaks it on the cross and we see it in the blinding light of Easter Sunday.

It is finished.

Indeed.

Death defeated.

Satan trampled.

Hell conquered.

Friends, our God is in the business of breathing life.

Tonight, maybe something looks dead to you.

A relationship.

A dream.

A gift that feels like it fits awkwardly.

A word spoken over you long ago, almost forgotten.

A promise held in your heart, never even spoken aloud.

Or something entirely different.

I know it looks dead, friends.

And another day, I would sit in the ashes and grieve with you over it.

But today, I need you to remember this truth too.

Our God is in the business of breathing life.

Death-defeating, satan-trampling, hell-conquering life.

Let him hold it for a minute.

Refuse to believe that this is how the story ends.

And see what happens.

Christmas Eve

Once upon a dark December, a preacher prepped his sermon for Christmas Eve.  Maybe he was tired.  Maybe he wished that he could kick back on the sofa and watch a movie with his kids instead.  I’m not really sure.  But nonetheless, he prepped.  And prayed.

And on that Christmas Eve, he spoke those words and Power blew through.  On that night, they were the precise words that Jesus would use to snatch a little girl’s heart… a little girl too serious for her own good.  A little girl who knew the words already, who had heard and read the same truth since always, but whose heart was ready on that night.  Ready to welcome Emmanuel.

It wasn’t an outwardly dramatic conversion by any definition.  There was no altar-call.  No pressure of every head bowed and every eye closed.  There were no public declarations on that day and it’s very possible that the preacher never really knew that anything had changed.

But for a little girl, everything had changed.  It was the sprouting of a seed of faith that would hold her fast through the angst of adolescence, the idealism of young adulthood and the bone-deep exhaustion of a stint in full-time ministry (and later– single parenthood).  She was not a feeler– that little girl.  And still she is not.  But that night sparked a knowing deeper than words, deeper than feelings that would hold her through the fragrant springtimes of life and also through the dark, frozen winters.

It was a little girl’s faith on that night.  Shiny and new.  It’s been beaten up a little around the edges as it’s tumbled through the realities of life and the scrutiny of hard questions.  It feels different today– wider and messier, but also very much the same.  That night.  That sermon.  That Power.  For one little girl, it changed everything.

So, friends.  If you are prepping your sermon for Christmas Eve tonight, be encouraged.  Prep and pray and let Power sweep on through.  You never know who is listening.  And, maybe, for one of them, it will be the night that changes everything.

Plan B

Little One and I are playing with legos tonight.

While Sister is at youth group, he has Mama all to himself for one glorious evening and he takes full advantage.

I’ve been tasked with building a house and I am digging through the pile of pieces to find just the right shape and size. And then I run out.

It’s ok, Mama, Little One reassures.  Just try Plan B!

I’m not sure where he learned this phrase, but it makes me chuckle as he picks out a random mish-mash of pieces that ruffle my still-too-perfectionist-for-my-own-good tendencies.

Once upon a time, I was young and idealistic.  I was considering becoming a single mom by choice and I imagined a few folks in my circle bristling at the thought because “kids should grow up with a mom and a dad.”

I didn’t want to be Plan B.

But here’s the thing.  Adoption… as beautiful as it can be at times, is rooted in loss.  In a world without sin, parents who birthed children wouldn’t struggle with poverty, addiction or mental illness.  In a world without sin, there would be no such thing as trauma.  In a world without sin, social workers and public defenders and foster parents wouldn’t need to exist.

But friends, none of us are on God’s Plan A.  We are all a hot mess, desperately in need of rescue and redemption… no matter how our families were formed.

It’s true that Little One has known too much of Plan B… before his adoption and after it too.  Our life doesn’t look the way I imagined it.  I wish I could give more to this sweet boy who gobbles my undivided attention like candy.  So much more.  And right now I just cannot.

Look, Mama! he chirps, snapping the last piece into the fence he’s made to surround our imperfect lego house.  Plan B is awesome!

Indeed it is, sweet boy.  It may not be perfect, but Plan B leaves room for grace, for redemption songs.  It leaves room for receiving help and watching God provide.  It leaves room for telling the truth and making someone else feel less alone– and making you feel less alone in the process.  It may not be perfect, but some days, Plan B is pretty stinkin’ fantastic.

 

An omer of manna

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my pastor. We don’t talk often, but when we do, he has my back. Poo had hit the fan (again) and his question was blunt.

Are there financial needs that we can help you meet?

My answer was honest. There really weren’t. Thanks to great insurance and some other resources we are able to access, money was far, far down on my list of concerns.

A week later, I thought about calling my pastor back. At the suggestion of a friend of mine (who also happens to be a trauma-informed therapist and a fellow adoptive mom), we made an appointment with a holistic doctor. His approach to diagnosis and treatment is outside of the realm of “things covered by insurance.”

We spent a good chunk of change (and a good number of hours) at his office. And we came home with a ton more non-medicinal things to try. Whether they bring relief or not is still to be determined. But we came home with a box full of supplements and hope that we hadn’t yet exhausted all of our options.

Honestly, it’s money I can afford to spend and whether it buys us a little hope, a placebo effect or a miracle cure, I don’t regret it a bit. It’s just that the offer had been made literally days before.

I was reminded of a story that Richard Foster tells of letting God know that he needed a pair of gloves (even if he could easily afford them) and then pausing to see if God might provide them another way before buying them. And if not, buying them with gratitude to a God who provided the resources in the first place.

I didn’t make that call. I didn’t tell anybody how expensive that lengthy appointment was (though, to be fair, my big girl did… so it’s possible that word leaked that way). I just paused.

And, YOU GUYS, yesterday I got an envelope in the mail all ransom-letter looking. No handwriting. No return address. I was half-expecting it to be a Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet (why do they send those with no return address anyway? What if I wanted to convert? Where would I go?). But no. It was a check. A ridiculously generous check that covered a whole bunch of that investment in holistic hope. Like almost all of it.

This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness.’ (Exodus 16:32)

Friends, we’ve been walking in the wilderness for half a year now. I keep thinking that we’ve turned the corner. Surely, we’ve turned the corner.

I don’t like the wilderness much. It makes me feel needy and dependent. Like all I’m doing is taking. And grumbling. And needing even more.

The wilderness sucks, friends. But the manna is still sweet. And still enough. And still there every. Single. Day.

And so, I want to gather up this omer of manna, this story of just right provision, just like Moses and Aaron. To bottle it up and save it and share it and use it as a reminder. To you– but mostly to me– that even here in the wilderness there is enough. Always enough. Because He is enough.

When I sing for you

We’re talking about spiritual battles, about putting on the armor of God.

And though the war metaphor isn’t my favorite, I know that it’s the right one for this moment.

I feel the heaviness, the battle fatigue on every side.

Dreams deferred. Plans derailed. Losses still raw. Prayers with answers too long in coming.

After all, You are faithful.

I sing to remind myself. To remind the dear ones gathered here.

Never once have I ever walked alone.

I cannot help but pump a victory fist because if I know anything, I know this.

And still.

I remember days when I could barely choke out these words. When the dark was too big. Too scary. And I know today is that day for some of the dear ones gathered here.

I am not a feeler, but I can feel it.

And so I sing extra loud and I pray in pictures instead of words.

Pictures of Jesus gathering his battle-worn loves in his arms. Not snatching, but cradling.

Holding.

Holding us together.

The ones singing extra loud and the ones choking on our words.

Because we’ve been both and we will be again.

Never once did you leave us on our own.

We’re here. Together. Held.

You are faithful, God, You are faithful.

Today. Here. For us.

Eagerly Desired

I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you. (Luke 22:14)

Jesus is huddled in an upper room, about to share his last Passover on earth with the ones he’d called, the ones he dearly loved.

They reclined.  Got comfortable. Ate and drank.

They talked and listened.

They didn’t understand everything that their Savior was telling them, they even bickered about it.

But still

He longed for these moments with them.

He had his heart set on spending time together on this night.

He wanted them there.

Every one of them.

Even the one who would deny before morning.

Even the one who would betray him to death.

We talk a lot about different groups of folks having (or not having) a seat at the table.

About power and privilege and having a voice.

These are important conversations, no doubt.

I believe Jesus was a sweeper of the edges, an advocate for the marginalized.

I believe he toppled ethnocentric, patriarchal expectations.

And I believe he welcomes us all to the table.

Friend, you are welcome.

More than that, you are eagerly desired.

Come.

Come get comfortable, come eat and drink.

Come listen and ask and argue, even when you don’t understand everything.

We, too, are the called ones, the ones dearly loved.

Jesus eagerly desires to spend these moments with us.

With you.

Whether or not the world tells you that you have a seat, you are welcome, of this I am sure.

Come.

Come to the table.

Restless

I’ve been feeling itchy lately.

My heart is restless

Like I can’t quite settle into a routine and I want to change all the things.

Summer does this to me sometimes.

Unmoors me a little and gives me just enough time to imagine all the ways that another path might be better.  Easier. More fulfilling.

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you

(Proverbs 4:25)

It’s these words that my heart snatches onto last week, a seed of thought sown, but not sprouted enough to spill out onto the page.

I think about Peter, stepping out of the boat to follow Jesus, his eyes looking straight ahead, his gaze fixed.  

I imagine him tuning out the distractions for just one second, his friends in the boat yelling for caution and him plugging his ears as he locks eyes with Jesus.

Undeterred, focused, he does the impossible if only for a few steps.

Once upon a time, twice upon a time actually, I’ve felt that kind of focus in my own life, an absolute crystal-clear conviction that I was right where I was supposed to be.  Both of those were hard seasons. Seasons of faith-stretching and exhaustion and impossible questions and confronting messiness.

One was a season in full-time ministry.

The other was a season in foster care (which, to be honest, is also pretty much full time ministry).

It was very clear when it was time to move on from both into more ordinary seasons.

I’m back there again.

Feeling all ordinary and a little bored.

And wondering a little what it means to keep my gaze fixed on Jesus as I make pancakes and run around after my kids at the playground.

I’m holding a Tiny One this morning, her arms wrapped around my neck as I sing

From my mother’s womb, You have chosen me, Love has called my name.

I’ve been born again, into your family.  Your love flows through my veins.

Suddenly I’m all choked up.  I sing these words not just for myself.

But for this Tiny One.  

And for my kiddos who have know too much, too soon.

Whose struggles I hide to protect their privacy.  And also to try to convince you that adoption is good.  That foster adoption is good. That transracial adoption is good.  That single-parent adoption is good.

And they are.

But they are also harder than I want to admit.

Even lots of years later.

But today this is what it means to fix my gaze, of that I am certain.

To let Love flow through my veins.  

To be quiet enough to let the Little Ones, my little ones, hear love calling their name.

To embrace my identity as beloved, as child.  And to speak that identity over the Little Ones. One thousand times, in one thousand ways.

Even while I’m making pancakes.