Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Where have you been?"

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven.
                         Ecclesiastes 3.1

There is a time and a season for every matter, and sometimes, quite suddenly, what emerges is not what we expect at all.  There is a time and a reason for every matter, and sometimes God's path takes us to an unfamiliar place.  After five years of writing, Nightly Tea came to a screeching halt on a humid day last spring.  I had to let it go.  My world was spinning a little too fast.

On a bitterly cold afternoon last February, I answered a phone call from our oldest daughter, who was then within a month of giving birth to her third child.  It was a “911 Mom” call.  “I need you.”  Within an hour, I was on the interstate, heading to help.  Little did I realize that I was not just on the road to Cleveland, but to radical changes in my life.

Just a month after I returned home, my husband and I left for a week of hiking, to take a break from a long and literally deep Chicago winter. We knew some changes were already ahead in our lives.  We had placed our house on the market, where it had lingered for two months.  We were about to pull up the realtor’s sign and consider what else to do.  Little did we know what God had placed around the next bend.

Instead of returning from our respite in a week’s time, it was more than a month before I came home for even a few days.  Indeed, in the next four months, I would be home for just three scattered weeks.  At the beginning of May, another one of our daughters, then just 24 weeks pregnant, was confined to bed for the duration of her pregnancy. With her very curious and mobile fifteen-month-old son dashing about, well, it was time to switch into gramma mode once again. I moved into their back bedroom and put on my running shoes, not to exercise, but to keep up with a toddler. 

Running and writing faded into a memory.
We inched our daughter day by day through her pregnancy.   And then, quite suddenly, our house sold.  We sorted through our belongings, packed, gave away and lightened our load (“a time to keep and a time to cast away.” Ecclesiastes 3.6)   We learned every day to ask, “What, God?” What to do.  What path to take.  He led us quite literally one day at a time.  And we felt Him asking us daily, “Are you willing to follow Me one more step?”

He made our way evident, just one step at a time, even in what we did not understand or what made sense to us at the time.  His timing was perfect.  His provision was precise, and we found God using our situation to provide for strangers, people not even on our radar, but on His.

Three men arrived one hot August morning, stacked our possessions in a truck and took them away, first to a storage locker, and then to another house in a city new to us.  In the upheaval, evidence emerged not of chaos, but His design, no reason to fear but to trust God a little bit more.  God is here too.

From the get-go, we prayed that God would make our way clear and unambiguous.   His direction did not always arrive spectacularly like a FedEx box delivered to our porch, but we learned – once again – not to seek answers, but to seek Him, not even to see Him in it yet, but to faithfully follow Him through it.

And while His leading was not always clear and unambiguous, God was.

I lost track in how many different beds I slept in the ensuing months, spare rooms, hotel rooms, engaging the kindness of family and friends.  One night I awoke in the murky darkness of 3.20 am.  As I emerged from a deep sleep, I did not know where I was.  By the anemic green light of a clock, I could discern tall posts at the end of the bed, and for a moment, I thought, “Aahhh, I'm home.”   And then I realized that place we called “home” was no longer ours.  We don’t live there anymore.   That house has been relegated to memory and new owners. 

Almost on a daily basis, I felt like I couldn’t touch bottom.  And I realized, fear just blinds me to the reality of God.  "Trust Me," He reminded me over and over.

God’s plans are not subject to my understanding, nor my control.  I may not know fully His purpose, but there are a multitude of divinely appointed reasons.  There always are.  His design transcends our carefully-laid plans and timing.  There is still purpose to it, even if we never find out why.

And God changes each of us a little bit more.  

I do not know what is yet ahead, but God…  Always, that which God appoints, transforms us forever.  And we learn even more to wait, listen and let God reveal Himself in the story He is writing for us.

More later, my friend.

Nightly Tea is back.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An unexpected visit

Studying European history one summer when I was in college, I had the privilege to participate in a seminar group.  One morning, our agenda included a visit to a rather ordinary watch shop, small and ancient with creaky floors and narrow winding stairs.  I had no idea who we were visiting, nor the significance of this old house, brimming with stories.

At one landing, a living room was situated, illuminated by a large bay window on the street side and decorated with well-worn old furniture.  Over by the window sat an old woman, her silver hair braided into ring around the top of her head, like one of my great aunts used to wear.  I stood in the back of the room, and literally, this ancient woman radiated with joy and love.  I was captivated.  And although that was decades ago, I still remember distinctly what she said to this group of college-age students.  I was still a teenager.

"You, all of you are so young.  Don't wait until you are old like me to be used by God," she said in heavily-accented English.

I had just met Corrie Ten Boom.

That summer, I read her own incredible story in The Hiding Place, and thereafter, about every year or so.  It is that good.

This chronicle of faithfulness will take your breath away.  Don't just put it on a list to read when you get around to it.  Put it in your hands, just one chapter a day.

"Childhood scenes rushed back at me out of the night, strangely close and urgent.  Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.  I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do."

--Corrie Ten Boom
The Hiding Place
page 15

God redeems the past into the future.
God transforms the ordinary
                 into the extraordinary.
God equips in incredible ways
      to be used mightily by Him.

As for you,
you meant evil against me,
but God meant it
                 for good,
to bring it about
that many people
    should be kept alive,
as they are today.

                 Genesis 50.20

Friday, May 16, 2014

Not easily forgotten

I'm majoring in the basics this week, caring for my bedridden daughter and her family, helping them to keep their heads above water as they navigate through a tough situation.  As one of our other daughters jests about this season of life, "A successful day is when the children are fed and you even get a shower."

Yesterday, I took fifteen-month old Adrian to his doctor for a checkup and his vaccination shots.  Afterwards, we maneuvered through the grocery store, dangerously without a list.  On the way home, he was a bit cranky from the shots and the lack of a nap.  I began to sing children's songs out loud to soothe him.  As I sang "Jesus loves me" over and over, he calmed down and settled into a deep sleep, comforted and secure.

And the words of that song from my childhood so very long ago spoke to Adrian, but I was impacted as well as I drove and sang even after Adrian fell asleep.  It is not just a children's song, but that which is not easily forgotten.  Jesus loves me too.  That is what the Bible is all about, a scarlet thread that runs from the first page to the last.

And that truth made a significant difference in my day.
That truth has made a significant difference in my life.

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak,
        but He is strong.

To Him who loves us...

               Revelation 1.5

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Through the eyes of a toddler

Adrian is now fifteen months old, curious and exploring.  Anything and everything attracts his attention.  Our daughter says that he plays with everything except his toys.  Indeed, he has carried around a small shoe box for days, stopping every few minutes to put something in it, and a few minutes later, take everything out.

He is learning through everything he examines or plays with.  That is what a toddler does.

He learns in all he does.

May we be aware of the same.

What can I learn in this situation,
        in this work,
    in this relationship today?
What is God teaching me
            to be more like Him?

The LORD is merciful
             and gracious,
slow to anger
and abounding
        in steadfast love.

                Psalm 103.8

Monday, May 12, 2014

Being bold

God calls us to be different,
not in a weird sort of way,
but bold in loving Him
by being bold in loving others,
and kind.
It is not just being responsive
                     to obvious need,
but seeking out opportunities.

How can I love others today?
LORD, give me a heart
                   to know how.
Even now.
Even here.
Even that person.

Love them back.

Let the redeemed of the LORD
                          say so.
                       Psalm 107.2

Let the redeemed of the LORD
                          reveal so.

What does being redeemed look like?

Not just being nice,
     but loving boldly.
Because you can.

A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another;
    even as I have loved you,
that you also love one another.
By this
all men will know
that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

                     John 13. 34-35