Furious indignation

Today is our Gran’s birthday.

And a month and a half ago we walked among tombs of familiar south Louisiana last names. We located our own family names carved into stone.

We went to bury her — their mother, my grandmother — and to cry together. We remembered something that I think she knew well: her life was not ending but instead changing. The change left us sad for us, but rejoicing for her.

Death.

I hate it and rage against it. As Nancy Pearcey says, “Death rips apart what God intended to be unified.” Namely body and soul, which were meant to be one.

At the death of Lazarus, Jesus felt some sort of furious indignation (according to the Greek) at the tragedy. What tragedy? I would imagine not only the passing of his friend but also seeing the reality of his creation broken by death.

This was not part of the design. And we feel the pain of it deeply. Death is not to be celebrated.

Yet at the same time, I feel a familiar acceptance of death. It is our lot for this time on earth and we are headed for it, wrinkles and all.

Death is a door, a seed, and — most importantly — death is conquered by Jesus. Literally no match for Jesus Christ. And he is not far removed from our suffering.

He brought his own body back from the dead and he’s bringing us and our bodies and creation along with him.

“The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

Death. I hate this thing that we were not designed for. But with Christ, it is not my greatest enemy and somehow it’s okay to embrace our mortality for the time being.

So we grieve, we hug, we cry, we lament the ripping apart. Yet with hope and freedom in Christ who went ahead of us. And, of course, we LIVE joyfully in the here and now!

Covenantal Skies

Who is it that has made a covenantal promise with the sky, marking the faithful rhythms of night and day?

Who pulls and pushes the tide of the sea and sets in motion the waxing and waning of the moon?

Who decreed the orderly laws of nature that govern the coming and going of seasons with unbreakable consistency?

Who has designed the function of organs and written meaning into the smallest cell?

“The Lord Almighty is his name.” (Jeremiah 31:35)

It is he “who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar.” (Jer. 31:35)

He says, “If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth…” (Jer. 33)

He has. We live by the rising and setting of the sun and his covenant with it.

He says, “If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time…” (Jer. 33)

We cannot. We lean our heads back to look at the sky, awed yet powerless.

And so we say, “Draw praises from us here in this cathedral of creation. Beneath this starry dome awaken our adoration. In this place where we are so very small — and yet so greatly loved.” (Doug McKelvey)

We are loved. The covenant-making one has come for us as well.

Farewell

Yesterday we bid farewell to the body of my grandmother, almost five years to the day that we buried my grandfather. We will miss her so!

South Louisiana makes me think of stringy Spanish moss, sucking on sugar cane in the fields, miserably muggy weather, and, most of all, Gran and Gramps house and all the family memories.

I remember the creak of their front door, the funny brick linoleum floor, the sweet and distinctive smell of their home, and running my fingers along the wooden bars that led into their kitchen. There are countless memories stored up in my brain but also moments that have, over time and without my knowing, created and shaped the person I am today.

Gran spoke kindly, listened well, cooked the best food (but made us Velveeta macaroni and cheese for us cousins), gave thoughtful gifts, let us eat ice cream for breakfast, taught me math, spurred me on to cook and read, played hours of Mancala with me, watched our swim meets, wrangled and loved her kids and grandkids (then great-grandkids!), and loved Jesus Christ.

She aged with grace and was so patient in her suffering, whether it was her declining health, being wheelchair-bound, or having to stay in her room during lockdown.

After moving away to Spain, my contact with her became sparse, but we reconnected during lockdown last year when I found out I could videocall her. We spoke everyday and read a book aloud together. I’m thanking technology and corona for those special, daily phone calls!

At the end of one of my last conversations with her a couple of weeks ago, I said “I love you.” It’s the one thing you want someone to be sure of in those final days. And she said “I know.” ❤️

This week there has been sorrow mixed with rejoicing — sorrow for the hole that her departure leaves in our hearts but rejoicing over the gift that she was to this family and the new life she now has.

Assume the best

What does it look like to assume the best of someone?

A couple of years ago I ended up at a conference on marriage. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I didn’t mind because you can always learn something. And there was one thing that was said that has stood out to me ever since: Assume the best of them.

Assume the best of people who love you whenever there is a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, hurt feelings, or hurtful words.

This is hard. But it can spare so much bitterness and resentment.

Assuming the best means not automatically assuming that someone does things the way I do them.

It means verbally asking questions instead of making silent judgments.

It means thinking of every possible viewpoint.

It means trusting that the other person had kind intentions.

It means believing that they tried their best and didn’t mean to hurt me.

It means saying to myself, “What that person did was hurtful to me. But I know that they love me, so I will assume that they had good intentions. I will communicate with them about this rather than make assumptions and judge their intentions.”

(If you wanted a little glimpse of how my brain works, there it was.)

What else? How are we different when we assume the best of someone? How are our relationships different?

Thankfulness in 2020

On Sunday I challenged myself to write a post every day this week about things I am thankful for. It is now almost midnight on Tuesday, so you can see how that’s going.

But, I want to express my gratitude anyway. No… more than express it. I want to call gratitude up from within my heart; stoke the fires of thankfulness. I want it to be more than a cursory “Wow, I am so privileged.”

I want there to be genuine, joyful, amazed gratitude at beauty that I know, behold, have, see.

And this practice of beckoning grateful hearts is even more necessary this year. There is so much to be grateful for and our beings are thirsty for the soul-anchoring, heart-stilling, joy-inducing effect of giving thanks.

This year we need to be more thankful than ever!

We need to mine the hardships for the beauty that comes from ashes.

We need to give extra thanks for the people we love so much.

We need to acknowledge the incredible gifts we’ve been given and trace every single one back to the Giver.

Nothing to be thankful for this year? Quite the contrary!

Everything to be thankful for.

We have a different perspective to know a bit more about how to rightly value and treasure what we have.

We have everything that was taken, which has taught us, grown us, emptied us, refined us.

We have the One who daily fills us and sustains us with life, gifts, and grace that we hardly even have eyes to see.

May we receive eagerly and willingly with empty hands and grateful hearts.

I’m stressed, you’re stressed, everybody’s stressed

I’m stressed, you’re stressed, EVERYBODY’S STRESSED!

The problem, I propose, is that we don’t feel like we’re stressed so we aren’t taking care of ourselves (or each other) as if we’re stressed.

I sat with friends several weeks ago. “I’m think I’m doing fine!” one friend commented. “You’re stressed,” I said.

There’s no way we aren’t stressed! We’ve adapted quite well over the past few months, but there’s no way it hasn’t all taken a toll in sneaky, subconscious, underlying ways.

We are UNDER stress even if we don’t FEEL stressed.

We’ve adapted and we are doing life but whether or not we realize it or acknowledge it, we’re running thin. We are tired.

I don’t feel stressed every day. I go about my days, work, do fun things, run errands, and have lots of joy. But when I step back and look at what we’ve experienced, how we have adapted, and what we have still in front of us, I have no doubt that we are all fine and not-fine at the same time.

So, knowing that I’m stressed even if I don’t always recognize it, I’ve started taking care of myself in ways that I would if I felt the stress and weight of life.

I asked the same thing to a friend a couple of weeks ago: “Knowing that you’re living under the weight of a lot of things right now, what are you doing differently to manage that and take care of yourself?”

I’ve also tried to keep this forefront in my mind when interacting with people. “They’re stressed,” I remind myself. I can operate under that assumption and stoke compassion and understanding in my heart.

So… What are YOU doing to seek deep soul rest and rejuvenation during this time?

Communication

There has been “I’m sorry,” “Can I ask you a question?” and “I don’t know what you mean.”

I’ve heard “Please forgive me,” “You need to know…” and “Can we talk about this?”

In the past year, it feels like I’ve been drinking from a fire hose when it comes to learning how to communicate — and there have been plenty of opportunities to put it into practice as well.

Sometimes I marvel at the fact that we humans ever communicate anything with any success.

Even within the same language, words are understood in different ways by different people; we use actions and intonation and imply things; we assume others understand.

Let’s not even talk about what happens when you add in a second language or move communication to typed words on a screen, removing voice, facial expressions, and body language.

In the best of situations, we try to explain something well and might be misunderstood. In the worst of situations we purposefully use words for harm. Things are said and left unsaid and both ways we hurt each other. Assumptions are made based on incomplete information and resentment is born.

We share space (literally and metaphorically) with other humans constantly.

Sometimes we rub one another raw, leaving a trail of hurt. And sometimes we breathe into one another a breath of life, the voice of God, the peace of His presence, the connection and wholeness of relationship that was always meant to be.

How do we create sustainable, life-giving, compassionate, and honest relationships?

I am convinced that intentional, clear, and kind communication is the foundation. In the push and pull of relationships, the give and take, the ups and downs, the needs and gifts, understanding the other’s perspective and communicating my own is essential.

This means asking questions, listening, assuming the best of someone, and seeking to understand how the other person processes and communicates.

And it means asking forgiveness, bringing up awkward conversations, asking what needs to change, and putting the other person before myself.

This is work but something tells me it’s worth it.

The wind in the trees

Sometimes I wish I knew how to identify trees and call them by name. I mean oak, cottonwood, birch, elm, and the like.

Although maybe they all have individual names as well. Maybe their Maker calls them each by name, like He does with the stars (Psalm 147:4). I wouldn’t put it past Him.

Whether or not I know what type of trees they are, I love to look at the green, leafy things then close my eyes to listen.

In addition to the fly buzzing around my head, I hear the breath of heaven weaving between the branches of the tree.

It sounds differently in each tree — the pine needles nearly whistle. A tree with stiff, small leaves seems to tinkle. And another rustles low and clear.

La vuelta al cole

Justo frente a nuestro piso hay un colegio. A las 9:00 se escucha el “klak klak klak” de las ruedas de docenas de mochilas yendo al cole y a las 11:30 las voces de niños jugando en el patio.

En marzo, se congeló todo ese movimiento y desde entonces no había vuelto a escuchar el ruido del cole. Hasta esta mañana.

Hoy empezaron de nuevo los colegios aquí en Cáceres y cómo yo trabajaba durante dos años en un par de colegios, pues los tengo en mi corazón!

Pasé unos minutos esta mañana mirando desde el balcón a los padres y niños, mascarillas puestas y caminando con las manos agarradas.

La vuelta al cole en tiempos de coronavirus. Tiene que ser raro, preocupante, estresante, y emocionante a la vez. Pasé tiempo orando por los padres, niños, y profesores; por paz, bienestar en todos los sentidos, y corazones anclados en medio de todo.

Quiero pedir por el bien de esta ciudad a Él que nos sostiene con cada suspiro y nos acompaña por todo lo desconocido que viene.

Quiero aportar lo que puedo y echar una mano.

Quiero hablar palabras de bendición, esperando el mejor, y no palabras de crítica o desaliento, esperando el peor.

Palabras tienen poder. Donde sea que estemos, que hablemos esas palabras de bien sobre la tierra, la ciudad, y la gente. En fin, que sea un feliz vuelta al cole 🤗

Single and Selfish

“Singleness is freedom!” the multitudes say! Our individualistic, “all about me” culture encourages us “unhindered” ones to travel, squeeze singleness for everything it’s worth, and do whatever we want whenever we want.

There are certainly good upsides to the unfettered single life and I think I’m taking advantage of many of them.

However, I have to be careful because singleness has a tendency to make me incredibly selfish! After all, without some intentional rearranging of my life, the natural flow of my day does revolve around me.

I cook what I want, I eat when I want, I leave my stuff where I want, I arrange my schedule how I want, I go where I want… You get the idea. The list could go on.

Basically, singleness gives me the chance every day to think only of myself and what I want. And that’s so tempting for a self-centered person like myself!

Regardless of whether the single life is chosen or not, the problem is that it can easily and sneakily reinforce selfishness and self-centeredness.

In general, singleness — as opposed to being married or having kids — puts me in a unique position to have to work a bit harder to turn my heart outward to others instead of inward to myself.

Many of my married friends, old and young alike, tell me that marriage pretty quickly trains the selfishness right out of you. Or at the very least it reveals your selfishness to you left and right. Sounds horrible and like exactly what I want all at the same time.

Sure, if life is about putting myself first, then my singleness is all about me and I should live it up accordingly. But, if it’s not about me and fulfilling my every wish… then what?

What does it mean if my singleness should make me not more self-centered but instead more giving? And if my singleness is meant to, somehow or another, be for the good of other people and make God, not me, look beautiful and desirable?

The great magic of all of this is that we know that when we give joyfully and humbly of ourselves, we are filled more than we could’ve imagined. Living in a giving, selfless way is not a sacrifice or a loss.

I’ve tried to think of some practical ways to be considerate of others on a daily basis and train my selfishness out of me even in singleness.

One way I try to do that is to be intentionally considerate of whoever I live with.

While there are days that I wouldn’t mind living alone, I also know that living with someone is not only fun, it also “forces” me to, at the very minimum, be considerate of another person on a daily basis.

Living with someone is one practical step toward training that selfishness out of me (though I’m sure it’s a fraction of how marriage or kids trains it out of you!).

I bop my selfishness on the head when I pick up my things or wash my dishes. I bop it on the head when I take their plans into account before I invite people over. I bop it on the head when I apologize for something hurtful I blurted out when I get home at the end of a long day. Again, I could go on here.

It’s one small way, but it’s a start.

What other ways can you think of to do away with selfishness and consider others in your daily life?

In the end, the point is that I want to healthily take advantage of the time and freedom that singleness allows me while at the same time using it for personal growth and most of all the good of other people and the glory of God.

From what I’ve seen, this is no easy task and I have a long way to go, but I’m ready to put my hand to the plow!