0796d0208d9efd3a9fe56226051a41dc

Poverty, My Greatest Blessing

I love old, beautiful churches, so it is no surprise I was drawn off the busy streets of downtown Chicago and through the front doors of Fourth Presbyterian Church this past Thursday morning. Inside I sat down to enjoy sacred shelter from the cold and the hustle and bustle of what was going on outside the majestic doors, although that was not my motive for going in. I walked into the church wanting to experience Jesus and expecting I would. I had no pre-conceived notions what that would look like, but imagine my surprise when I found what I was unknowingly seeking in the eyes and embodiment of a homeless person.

After a couple of minutes inside, I broke through my fascination with the beauty around me, and I noticed near the front of the church a handful of people sitting on both sides of the middle aisle. I quickly realized they were homeless. They had come in off the streets to warm up and rest. I sat silently in the back just observing. God began to make something evident to me. I wasn’t there to watch homeless people in a beautiful church. I was there to remember one of life’s wealthiest truths.

There in that reverent church, I felt drawn to engage, so I walked forward and sat down next to one of the men. I said, “hello.” His disposition was gentle and relaxed. He was soft-spoken. It was apparent that he and his friends were broken, impoverished, homeless, needy, unclean and dependent for every need.

His eyes. I will never forget them. They looked sad but settled. They were sunken yet soft, wrinkled while welcoming. The story they expressed was foreign yet familiar.

This man and his friends bore no weight of expectations beyond shelter and rest. No schedules were taunting them, and no plans or unmet duties were daunting them. They just came as they were, destitute, weary and worn.

I sat there in clean, warm clothes seemingly not lacking, yet oddly I knew that even though it looked like the homeless people had nothing, in a different way they had everything, the most important thing, I need every day. A fresh awareness of the poverty of my heart is my greatest blessing.

As I sat with this man, I asked God to make me more like him. That sounds crazy, right? Not at all. I want to enter into The Lord’s presence fully aware that I am poor, needy, lost and unclean without a Savior outside of myself. I want to come free of distracting thoughts about schedules, deadlines, and duties, and for the love, thinking about what I will eat next! I want to come as I am, not as I feel I should be. I want to come aware of what is but more focused on the hope of what will be. I want to come empty of myself because it is only then I can be filled by my Savior.

These people were an exposed and unfiltered expression of me. I can dress up in my best smile, clothing, and accessories, surround myself with desirable things and people, but underneath it, and right in the middle is an impoverished heart that cannot be dressed up. It is destitute, broken, frail and in desperate need of a Shepherd every day.

Just like the people I encountered, I am a homeless heart wandering around grasping for places of shelter and rest because this world is not my home and everyday-everyday-I feel the ramifications of my exile.

The good news is this, though, I do not wander without hope or direction when I remember it is my poverty, not my perfection, popularity or “power” that yokes me to the love of my Provider. Neither do you, friend. Neither do you.♥️

And, this was the hymnal song that was on the board.

img_0624

The Battle of Hope

I have been struggling with the battle found in the word hope.  Hope is a beautiful and bright assurance that allows us to persevere through even our darkest realities and scenarios because we know the best is yet to come. However, while we wait, the burden of seeing the actualization of our dreams and desires can leave us battered, and sometimes beaten up.  The first position of hope is of things to be realized once we are Home and have entered eternal life. The second is the concern we carry that the things we long for may not be complete in this fleeting life.   In my reading this morning, Romans 8:24-25 ministered to me to patiently persist as I have been arduously enduring through this fight of faith with a matter near and dear to my heart. ~For in this hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.   For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  What are you desperately hoping will be achieved; a cure, a child to come home, a reconciled relationship, a successful pregnancy, financial stability, a life partner, victory over addiction, fill in your blank.  Fight to keep holding on with free hands and a faithful heart that is courageous enough to say, Even If, (Daniel 3:18), not here Lord, when I see your face.  Thy will be done.  Amen.

0796d0208d9efd3a9fe56226051a41dc

I Will Try Again Tomorrow

Yea, it is the end of one of those hard days when you feel beaten, battered and bruised, sometimes literally. Your heart has been spun up and wrung out.  Emotions have swirled through your body like a tidal wave leaving you feeling washed out, weak and worn.  You have been fighting all day for this person, praying like the persistent widow for that situation, enduring physical pain necessary for healing, and filtering waves of grief and gratitude that amidst it all, curiously still co-mingle.

There is finally a lull of silence with the parting of the sun; your soul settles slightly, and you know you must choose to either concede or conquer the day’s chaos.  Then comes a gentle reminder that you aren’t in this alone.  He’s in the midst of your pain.  He is present with your people, and he is bigger than that situation.

At the end of days like this, I am so grateful that the Psalms are in the Bible.  Many days I am living them as sure as I am breathing; crying out for relief, reassurance, direction, strength and forgiveness.  Then, when the commotion begins to settle slightly I reach deep within to find despite it all gratitude, thanksgiving, worship, and redemption slowly start marching along to the beat of my broken heart.  I take a breath, and each one becomes a little deeper, a little deeper, and finally I enter a state of ailing rest, remembering that tomorrow, should she come, holds new mercies, strength, grace and fuel for the road ahead.

Today must be released to the past, and it is then when I hear the soft but resolute roar;

I will try again tomorrow!

And you friend must courageously commit also to engage again tomorrow with a fresh mind and hopeful heart!  You are loved.

0796d0208d9efd3a9fe56226051a41dc

Prayer For the End of a Weary Week

a_beutiful_sunset_in_greece______by_oofallenangelloo-d5beilu

Father, sometimes the end of a week meets me worn.  Your gentle Spirit woke me at 3:30 this morning as you sometimes do. Wide awake and atypically alert, I asked because I knew you had a message for me.  That message was; my battles belong to the Lord.  How easily in my flawed self-reliance I forget to release those battles from my modest hands into your masterful ones.  Remind me God that it is not my capabilities, but yours, that determine outcomes.  As the battles are yours, so are the victories and the seeming defeats.  Sometimes in my myopic vision I feel conquered.  Gift me with remembrance that I am never overcome when I allow you to battle on my behalf.  In all the strife I face, that my friends face, give us the grace to resist self-security and rest in Savior sufficiency.  Too often in my urgency to resolve I engage from a stance of me against Goliath.  I am more than ill-equipped God.  Give me an unshakeable confidence in you that enables me to lay down my weary weapons and surrender my battles to you.  Amen

0796d0208d9efd3a9fe56226051a41dc

Fragmented Edges, Hopeful Hearts

Carter had his first of three appointments with the vision doctor yesterday. We were there two hours; it felt like five. It was a long afternoon, and very taxing for him physically, and ultimately emotionally.

I think it is difficult in any situation to not form expectations in our heads. This holds true in happy scenarios and difficult ones. Our pictures, which are very often our own worst enemies, can be thieves of peace when they develop differently than how they looked from behind the lens of our vision.

I went into yesterday’s appointment knowing there were visual issues; I just didn’t realize the extent and multitude of them. It honestly felt like the air had been sucked out of my sails, as I was not prepared.

I know many of you moms know this and live this every day, when you hear a doctor tell your child something like, “I know you don’t much joy in your life right now, and it may be that way for a while,” that is heart breaking! Even harder, I am forty-two. I can reason and find gratitude amidst the grief. For a fifteen year old boy, that is an arduous task, further clouded by the effects of a head injury.

Sometime after we got home from Oregon, I found a white, small bag in my laundry room. I didn’t know what it was or where it came from. We had very little luggage, and I never saw it in Carter’s hospital room or in any of our bags. I have no idea how it got in my laundry room. When I opened it up, it smelled awful, and I immediately knew it was something that had been wet, and in that bag for a long time. Upon pulling it out, I felt my heart rise to the top of my throat, and sink with a hard painful plunge into the depths of my stomach.

It was the swimsuit Carter was wearing when his accident happened. It was shredded and frayed because it had been cut off his body. I cannot adequately describe the intense infusion of opposite emotions at that moment as I sunk to the cold, hard ground. It was like being pulled between intimidating agony and intense appreciation. I cried and then I rejoiced right there on the uninviting but accommodating laundry room floor.

My first thought was to throw that swimsuit away, but for a reason I then did not understand, I could not do it. I washed it, folded it and put it on my laundry room shelf. It is in a spot that I see it every time I go in that room, which is frequent. Now and then I pick it up and hold it close to me. Each time I do this, the frayed, rough edges that are image bearers of the sharp edges that grazed them catch my eye. I keep being drawn to their messy appearance that is a remnant of the trauma that ensued.

It occurred to me one day that those edges keep beckoning my attention because they represent something important. That battered swimsuit is a great representation of both tragedy and triumph. It makes me think of what Jesus’ robe must have looked like at the end of his journey which would also illustrate great despair, but not void of eternal hope.

Life is kind of like Carter’s fragmented swimsuit. Sometimes things cut us up, unravel our plans and leave us feeling weary and worn, but when we live in the shadows of a Savior, we are never without hope, and we are ensured an ultimate victory. That is great news that we continue to rest in daily!

We continue to covet your prayers for healing friends. I am grateful and encouraged by all of you. Thank you from the deepest places of my heart.