Category Archives: Searching in Family

5 weeks, 6 days

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Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you,  and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. Ex.23:25-26.

Last Thursday I woke up 5 weeks 6 days pregnant. That night, I went to bed 0 weeks 0 days pregnant because I miscarried for the fifth time. This is my third miscarriage at 5 weeks 6 days. We did not plan for this baby; pregnancy was a surprise mingling anxiety and hope. I did everything right to overcome the genetic disorder that strips babies from my womb. I swallowed the vitamins and the blood thinners at the precisely recommended amounts and times. I prayed in faith on my knees, battering heaven with a request for mother-grace. But this baby emptied from me, my seventh child and my fifth to die.

I am so sorry, little one. I am so sorry that my body cannot take you past this one day in your little life. 

Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev.21:3-4.

(Someday, someday, all of this will be untrue. Can I wait until that day?)

Long ago, when the world was still new, a woman named Hagar was a slave in Abram’s household. She served Abram’s barren wife Sarai. Sarai would not wait for the child of promise, so she gave Hagar into her husband’s arms. Since Hagar was considered property, not person, her child would technically belong to Sarai (a loophole in the promise?) 

In Genesis 16, the Bible says that when Hagar conceived, she despised her barren mistress. In response, Sarai mistreated Hagar, spilling out all of the rage of an empty season. Hagar fled into the desert.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert.  And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

(As I attempt to control and manage these pregnancies so that not even God can take these babies from me, He says, “Heidi, my daughter whom I love, where have you come from and where are you going? Who are you? To what have I called you? When will you live my story instead of the one you hold onto?”)

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”

No thank you, Lord. 

The angel of the Lord also said to her, “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael (which means GOD HEARS), for the Lord has heard of your misery.”

O Lord, finally, some good news. You are going to fix this….

Right?

“He will be a wild donkey of a man…

Excuse me? What?

…his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

WHAT??? No thank you, Lord. I didn’t ask for this. This isn’t my fault. You are supposed to fix this, not make it worse. You are punishing my children for something that I didn’t even do?  No. No. NO.

No.

I am Hagar. I live a suffering I cannot manage or control, that takes my children away from me and I cannot save them. God comes to me in my desert with no solution; only the razor’s edge of this reality, You could have saved them, but You did not…..

That is hard news, almost too hard to bear. The Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, the walk of tears. The Cross before the Crown.

She gave this name to Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God Who Sees Me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

(Do you see it, the deepest mystery, the paradox of glory……..?)

Hagar’s response was worship, not rage or despair or a shaking fist. God gave her no words of comfort or alleviation; He offered no earthly intervention to lift her cross. He told her to go back to the abuse of her mistress and wait to bear a child whose life would be marked by conflict and rejection.

He gave her nothing but His Presence, and it was enough.

He saw her in her desperation and he came to her with the Truth of Who He Is alongside the full weight of what He required of her….(Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going…?) .  

Suffering and glory are parallel tracks. Yes, I lose my babies whom I love at 5w6d because my body and my blood are broken in their genetic code. Yes, God could have saved each and every one of them, but He did not. Those things are true. Also, He is the God Who Sees Me, the God who reaches for me in the desert because my heart matters to Him. That is also true. Our hearts were made for glory, so we falsely believe we have to choose which is more real, which to believe.  The tension feels like it will rip us apart, but it will not if we will bear it. Suffering and glory – they are both true.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body….Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor.4:10, 16-18.

I have learned that childbearing is dangerous for most of us. We each live our own surrender story, our own version of the parallell lines. Some have too many children, some not enough. We live under fear or anger or grief or exhaustion or guilt or some combination thereof because of the brokenness of our life giving stories. What is it about this season of life that is so fragile and vulnerable? I have two healthy and dazzling children that call me Mommy. I know life as well as death. I worship in joy as well as grief.

Give me Hagar eyes, so that I may see the God Who Sees Me. Help me to lock eyes with you, to bear the tension of the parallel lines of suffering and glory that are both true. I choose to look up at you as Hagar did, to see the One Who Sees Me and to worship in response. I choose to believe that the death that happens deep in my body is not the end of my story, not even the defining part of my story. Show me the life of Jesus revealed in my body, in my story. What is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal. This life is just a shadow of the glory to come. I cannot see the glory, but I can see the One Who Sees Me. I trust You, I love You, I choose You.

Opaque

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My super-extra-mega-ultra-amazing-and-fabulous mother and father-in-law took Jack and Lucy to Disneyland this weekend. They spent three days at the Happiest Place on Earth while Scott and I spent the weekend alone. In our house. Just the two of us. Together. Without our kids.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh……………

(We had the best.weekend.ever.)

Jack and Lucy came home last night. As I held them a bit too tightly in my arms, they laid their little heads on my shoulders for one suspended moment before they began to chatter simultaneously, clamoring for Mommy to acknowledge their big adventures.

My eyes blurred. Just let me hold you for a few more moments. I missed you so much.  I am so glad you are safe.

They prattled endlessly, eyes wide and clear, bounding in their seats as they gave me their memories, treasures slipping from their hands into mine.  Now they are our treasures.

I tucked them into bed with extra cuddles and one more story.  They slept with their Disney toys.  I told them I had missed them a hundred times.

They were gone for three days.  It was precious for all of us, but I ached for them to come home.  As I stood outside of their rooms last night in the stillness of bedtime, I wanted to blast back in and wake them up – to look into their eyes and breathe them in.

On this question of fear.

When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways on which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them.

The ways in which our investments in each other remain too freighted ever to see the other clear.

Joan Didion, Blue Nights 

I wonder what I do not see in those little faces.  Lord, give me grace eyes to see who they are, to see through the veil of my blind spots.

When Hagar wandered in the wilderness, God came to her.  He led her to water, He promised that she would survive and bear a son, a leader.  She worshipped God there; she called Him Jehovah, El Roi, which means The Strong One Who Sees Me.  

God sees my little ones.

He has engraved their story on the palms of His hands.  Right now I am a central character in their stories, but it is my choice whether I will remain in the heart of those pages or write myself out.  It seems to me that the fastest way to disappear from the story of a child is to miss who they are.  To believe that their story is mine to write, that the plot lines and characters and conflict are mine.  To see me instead of Jack, or Lucy, or the God Who Sees Them.

So I stood outside of their rooms last night, I thought for a long time about who they are.

  • Jack sleeps face down on his pillow, his mouth slipping off in order to breathe.
  • He hates to be alone. His relational need is endless.  I want to be with you, he says.  Who is going to play with me?  Who is coming over today?
  • He is terrified of water in his face.  He used to cry in the bath, but now he sings.  You brave, Jack? says his little sister in wonder.  He trembles a bit, but says, Yes, I’m brave.  And he sings.
  • When he feels disconnected, he clings.  He climbs up my body and wraps around me like a vine. I want to be with you, Mommy.
  • He adores his sister with a fierce and protective force.  He went to a birthday party last week.  The guests all painted hats with puff paint.  He brought home his hat swirled in pink, Lucy’s favorite color.  I made this for you, Lucy, so you wouldn’t forget me while I am at school.
  • He is a theologian and a student of character.  Mommy, when Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden, they believed a terrible lie that God didn’t love them.  When the Devil tells me that God doesn’t love me, I tell him, YES, HE DOES and that protects me from sin.
  • When he is angry or threatened, he lashes out to protect himself. We wear thin helping him manage his mercurial emotions, which range from ecstasy to despair.  Sometimes I let anger be my leader, Mommy.
  • Like most firstborns (his Mommy included), he feels compelled to please authority.  When my voice is brittle, his chin sinks into his chest. Mommy, your voice is grumpy.  You don’t like me.  He tries to hide his disobedience, like the time he hid a book of matches into his room and lit every single one.  (What will he try to hide from us through his years? Lord, I pray we will always see him hiding and honor him – as we teach him that everything is safer in the light.)
  • Lucy sleeps on her stomach, her pacifiers in a clump under her belly.
  • She is happiest when our family is together at home.  She radiates light and movement when we gather for a simple night at home.
  • When I put her to bed at night, she fervently and repeatedly yells “I LOVE YOU, MOMMY!” as loud as she can manage as I close the door to her room.
  • She wants to read the same story every single night before bed.  The Little Mermaid.
  • When my Mommy-patience crumbles, she gazes straight into my face with steady eyes, then pads silently into the living room to play alone.
  • She races downstairs in the morning in a desperate daily commitment to arrive in the kitchen first so she can bring Jack his chocolate milk and Juice Plus gummies.  Here you go, Jack!
  • When Jack cries, her brow knits and she puts one tiny hand on him. You crying, Jack?  You sad, Jack? Awww, Jack.
  • At Christmas time, she sat on Santa’s lap.  She trembled, so I waited for her to cry.  Instead, she hunched her shoulders, settled her body into immobility, and stared at the floor.  I lifted her away into my arms; her body was stiff and still.  She did not look at me.  (How can we protect her heart from withdrawing from us?  Lord, I pray we will always be safe for her.)
She was already a person. I could never afford to see that. 
Joan Didion, Blue Nights

I want to be a student, not a master, of my children.  I want to see them, to learn them, to know them.  Lord, give me grace eyes, wise eyes, brave eyes to see who they are.  We saw a movie called Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close about a family whose story was marked with the claws of ripping loss.  To me, it was a love story about the beauty and the ashes of sacrificial mothering.  This woman chose to see her son, to meet him in his heart instead of her own, which left her to mourn alone two separate and heavy griefs.  That kind of strength is its own redemption; I want to be just like her.
(You should go see this movie, but be aware that I didn’t have tissue so I was forced to improvise with my silk scarf.  So bring tissue.  Thanks, scarf, you took one for the team. You might never be the same again.)
I type in the silence of bedtime as my children sleep off the heady elixer of a magical weekend.  Sometimes, when I snap at them or when we are apart, fear punches me.  I am afraid that I will lose them, one way or another.  Life is fragile; it unravels so quickly that it takes my breath away.
 All that I know to do is to lean into them while in the grip of grace.

GTD

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Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col.3:17.

My most game-changing goal in 2012 is to develop my productivity.  GTD = Getting Things Done.  Here are my commitments this year:

1.  Wife & Mommy (this entails shopping, meal planning, tickling, making crafts, traditions, family dates, laughing, disciplining, exploring, travelling, cooking, being silly, picnics, coloring, mopping, making forts, telling stories with silly voices, reading out loud, and lots more fun….).  I want to be super good at Wife/Mommy.  This is Numero Uno.

2.  Clean my house 1x/week (bathrooms, kitchen, vacuum, dust)

3.  Complete one professional development project (book proposal, manuscript, curriculum). I have a book proposal idea that captivates me….

4.  Blog 2x/week (3 is better)

5.  Function as a contributing member of the Women’s Leadership Team at Vanguard Church, which means bimonthly meetings and active administrative/relational support

6.  Complete a Bible Study curriculum to teach at Vanguard Church in Fall 2012

7.  Promote and support Women Inspired as the National Church Liaison Director

8.  Travel with my family to Hawaii for 3 weeks and England for 5-6 weeks, and possibly Cape Cod for some amount of time.

That seems like a lot to me.  I am confident that the commitments are manageable, but my productivity needs a boost or I will crumble to dust in, say, February.  Thankfully, I am married to the most productive person I have ever known, ever.  Ever.  He owes his prolific achievement to three powerful forces:  1.  innate drive, 2. Getting Things Done by David Allen, and 3. the Apple store.  I aim to channel his mojo with the self-same Productivity Trifecta.

1. Innate drive.  Check.  Wait, is that a 1997 rerun of Law & Order on TNT?  

2.  Getting Things Done by David Allen.  Yes.  I have it.  I promise to read it.  Even though it is boring to read books that are, ew, practical…..Sigh….. I already use the 2 Minute Rule and the filing system and, Ok, I admit it, they are totally rad.  (I am in love with the filing system because this week when I needed paperwork for Kindergarten registration, I opened my filing cabinet and, bam, immunization record and warranty deed and birth certificate.  Boom. Productive.)

3.  The Apple Store.  Snooze.  I mean, yes, honey, that app is TERRIFIC.  Wait, I just fell asleep again.

But Dreamy Scott loves me so he sets up the stuff he buys for us at the Apple store and tells me how to use it while my eyes glaze over.  Sometimes he even gives me his hand-me-down iStuff when Apple upgrades to, wait….yep, I just dozed off.

So, here I lay down my productivity gauntlet.  You may judge me with my blessing if I fail, but I am confident that I can do my work well if I will put on my big girl pants.  Pray for me to be productive so that (serious stuff ahead) I can reflect glory to the Lord in the callings in which I choose to walk.

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

1 Chron.21:24.

Resolved

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And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.  Rainer Maria Rilke.

Resolved by Lucy White, age 2, for the year 2012 –

1.  “Pink”

2.  “Princess of everything”

Resolved by Jack White, age 5, for the year 2012 –

1.  To play football

2.  To hold my breath underwater

3.  To save $10 in the bank

4.  To buy a costume or a toy with my own money

5.  To read through the Jesus Storybook Bible with Mommy

Resolved by Heidi White, age 32, for the year 2012 –

1.  Read through the Bible, chronologically, with Dreamy Scott

2.  To stay under (a specific number) pounds through healthy eating and exercising 3x/week

3.  To complete 2 one-week fasts for the purpose of spiritual and physical cleansing

4.  To read Getting Things Done by David Allen and implement its productivity system

5.  To update family/friend photos throughout our home

6.  To read one non-fiction book per month for the purpose of personal and professional growth

7.  To blog 2x/week (3 is better)

8.  To complete one professional development project (book proposal/manuscript/curriculum)

9.  To clean the house (bathrooms, vacuum/dust, kitchen) once a week

10.  To call (three specific out of state relationships) once per month

Scott has an extensive list of goals that I will not share.  As always, they reflect his high standards of excellence in personal and professional life.

Our story takes my breath away….

Space

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A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. Ecc.2:24.

Yesterday my hilariously lovely friend Rebecca posted this on my Facebook wall – Girrrrl, you are QUIET!  Now, since I am NOT quiet as a character trait, I remain confident that Rebecca refers to my recent social networking silence.  I have thrown up a few well-deserved Facebook LIKES in the last week, but mostly we have dwelled in a special nook of home-space for the following reasons:

1.  Dreamy Scott was home for TWO WHOLE WEEKS.  Boom.  Family time.

2.  Christmas is an epic extravaganza in the White family – and I love every complicated, busy, overwhelming, expensive minute of it.  Immanuel-God-With-Us envelopes us with an opportunity to worship through togetherness and tradition, both light-hearted and deep.  I get lost in the work and the joy of it.

Making a candy cane shaped pizza on Christmas Eve

Pinata at Scott's company Christmas party

Presents? For ME?!?!

SOMEBODY was a sheep in the church musical. Baaaaaa.

Five Advent candles. Immanuel.

Wrapping baby Jesus in swaddling clothes (get it??)

Riding a pony on our Family Christmas Date

Christmas breakfast

Jesus' birthday cake

3.  After Christmas, Dreamy Scott and I hunkered down, cleaned up the mess, channeled our excess holiday adrenaline and went into what I can only describe as a pathological productivity vortex.  I mean, I think we both expected to relax for a minute, but GEEZ.  We painted our home office, cleaned out the basement and garage, redecorated the kids’ rooms, sorted through every possession we own, reorganized our storage and deep cleaned the house.  GTD.

4.  Steig Larsson.  I read all 1,431 pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.  Yep, I can firmly confirm that the books are addicting, if (emphatically) not edifying.  Also, I read a biography of Catherine the Great.  Reading is, like, my favorite.  I do not often have time to read, so I drank in some hours on my Nook like a thirsty sponge – while the boys played Skylanders, which is a super sweet new Wii game that was part of our Christmas magic.

So, now that the last gasps of 2011 have died away, our little family emerges from a precious internal space to welcome the newborn year and its yet-untamed challenges refreshed, thankful, zestful – and a bit tired.

Game on, 2012.

Covered

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Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Ps.32:1.

Snow covers Colorado.  It started to fall soft and delicate last evening, while we celebrated our pre-Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa.  Tiny snowflakes swirled their way through the gathering dusk.  We watched them dance from under Christmas tree warmth.  Then we slept deep as the flakes swelled thicker and stronger, mounding heavy white upon the surfaces of our city.

Snow washes fresh and clean.  Snow covers soft and still.

Snow is a covering.  It strips away the grunge of daily grime.  It falls soft, dusting a blanket of icy cleansing, transforming neighborhood into wonderland.

Covering and cleansing.  That is what our dark stains cry for.  That is how Incarnation reached down for us – by covering us, cleansing us, causing the redeemed to dazzle with the purity of driven snow.

The Covering and Cleansing of Incarnate Grace falls down to grimy earth through Advent. He falls upon us, soft and still, unobtrusive, yet transforming everything that has ever been or ever will be, all at once, for all time –

White Christmas.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Ps.51:7.

Joy

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Many generations ago, simple shepherds watched over their sheep on a hillside on just another night.  Suddenly, the light of impending Joy dazzled their humble lives – and lit up all of history.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11.

Yesterday we returned from a snow trip to Vail. We are tired, but we hold a new collection of white-dusted memories.  Tonight we light the candle of Joy.  It is a pink candle.  In advent tradition, purple is a somber color, pregnant with heavy meaning.  But pink is exuberant, overflowing with life.

Joy to the world.  The Lord is come…

…Let earth receive her King…

…Let every heart prepare Him room…

…And heaven and nature sing…

…And heaven and nature sing…

…And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

As tiny snowflakes dance over Vail, we abide under the jagged nearness of the Colorado Rockies.  We eat, sleep, play, rest, connect under its untamed shelter.  Nothing sings God’s glory like a wild mountain range coated with falling snow.  Nothing invites childish glee like an expanse of fresh powder.  Heaven and nature sing.  In the midst of Advent season, we roll away together for the simple purpose of enjoying the sweet wonder glowing in a snowy day.  Let every heart prepare Him room.  Snowball fight, flying intertubes, snow angels, hot cocoa, gondola, hot tub.  Joy to the world.

Immanuel-God-With-Us sought us in our heaviness and lifted us into freedom. The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Mt.4:16.  He burst through His own grave to save us from ours.  It is a gift too great, too infinite, to bear on fragile shoulders.  Why, O why do we not crumble back to dust under the weight of it?  Always and only because the Gift is wrapped in Grace.  The proper response to Incarnation is infinite, overflowing, staggering, explosive, rollicking JOY JOY JOY JOY.

…Joy, unspeakable Joy, an overflowing well, no tongue can tell…

We are human, and therefore composed of dust and breath.  We cannot live on the high plane of Joy to which the gift of Incarnation forever beckons.  But we can, and ought, to revel in earthly Joys.  We should pursue them wholeheartedly in God’s name and to His glory.  (Snowball fight, flying intertubes, snow angels, hot cocoa, gondola, hot tub.)  Simple family laughter is a profound form of worship.

…Joy, unspeakable joy, rises in my soul, never lets me go…

What do you do to light the candle of advent Joy?

Martha

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But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Luke 10:40.

We leave for Vail on a ski trip tomorrow.  Today we made these Christmas tree cakes…

…made and delivered several of these Christmas cocoa mixes…

…sorted, washed and folded a lot of these…

…fetched my dog’s vaccination records from the veterinary clinic, shopped at Walmart (a feat of desperate courage during the holidays), packed for three of the four members of our family, washed approximately seven thousand dishes, sat in on Jack’s Christmas program rehearsal.  I ruined a double batch of banana bread.  It was undercooked in the center when the timer beeped, so I put it back and and forgot to set the timer as I scooted out of sight, out of mind in order to discipline a wayward child.  When I finally remembered the neglected loaves, they were tough in the middle and black on the edges.  Bummer.  I just love that recipe. 

The hours of my day slip away in a whirlwind as I strain to check off the list.  I snap at Jack after dinner.

“Do NOT touch that suitcase.  Mommy worked super hard to get that ready; please keep it organized. ” 

“Mommy, you hurt my feelings.  You are kind of grumpy with me.”

Pause.  I want to escalate, to blame.  I force my mind to see the priorities we choose to live.  Relationship over productivity.

“You are right, Jack.  I am so sorry.  I feel grumpy because I have a lot to do right now, but that is not your fault.  I did not make a good choice with my words.  I should speak with kindness to you.  I’m so sorry.  Will you forgive me?”

Competence should not require forgiveness.  I lose my sight when I choose a mere series of tasks to guide my hours.

After the day fades into night, the house settles into the peace of sleeping children and finished projects.  When I look at my list, I rest in a successful day.  But when I look at my heart and the hearts of my children, I feel the loss of missed opportunity.

Lord, I almost completely slipped past who they are today.  My little ones were a distraction instead of a priority.  I spent my day annoyed at their child-longing for my value and attention.  I feel ashamed.  I am sorry.

As I sit here typing, tears well up as my eyes lock on the Jesse tree standing strong on the kitchen counter.  Every day of Advent, we read a Bible story. Together we weave the ancient truths throughout history, tying the threads of Old Testament foreshadows into the profound glory of Incarnation.  After the day’s story, we hang an ornament that represents the daily fragment of grace we just experienced.  Every day, we add another simple laminated square onto a growing representation of God’s unfolding redemption story.

The sight of the Jesse tree slays me.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It is not that the crossed out list does not matter.  But the list should always and only be a means to an end.  The means is productivity; the end is ever increasing faith and joy embedded into the culture of our family.

Advent is a season of waiting and preparing.  It can be a hard season, because waiting and preparing are hard for fragile souls.  Today I did not attune my heart to the echoing call of Incarnation – the why of this precious season.

Tomorrow is a new day.  I will spend most of it in the car on windy winter roads with a beloved friend and five (likely maniacal) children.  Two mommies, five preschoolers, one car, three hours.  You do the math. But…..

Only One Thing is necessary.

Yes.

Preparation

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Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Is.40:3.

I work fast and furious at the end of a long clamor of day hours.  My shoulders clench at what is still undone.  I mix gingerbread pancake batter, stir coconut milk hot cocoa, google advent verses, clean a bathroom that is simply too gross for me to have in my home for one more moment, tidy what feels like swamps of clutter, handwash dishes because my dishwasher is kaput (again. first world problems.)  My phone and computer blink as my inbox and voicemail bloat, unaddressed.  Unwrapped presents sit in piles downstairs.  Lucy needs a new winter coat before we leave for Vail.  The dog has not had a walk in days, and I neglect my writing.

I place the advent wreath in the center, the heart, of the dinner table.  I trace my fingers over the tiny porcelain baby Jesus. “Remember to remember Incarnation,” He whispers to me,”I AM the source of this season of swirling preparation.”

Jack and Lucy bounce at the garage door in anticipation of Daddy’s arrival.

The garage door finally rumbles.  The joy of Daddy’s homecoming lives daily triumphant in our home, resulting in a rousing game of CHASE.  Dreamy Scott kisses me hello, smiles into my eyes, but I see the creeping fatigue, the reckoning of endless hours. I recognize my story, too, in those weary eyes. This decade should be called the Tired 30s,” I remember sweet friend Kristen saying one night.  Yes.  We all live so tired from the effort of building a life worth rejoicing in.  It is hard work creating a safe place, beating back this fallen world.

CHASE reigns for a loud era of the evening.  Finally, we sit around the table, preparation finished, dinner hot and inviting. We eat and laugh.  Our shoulders relax; the tangled knots of stress fall away in the warmth of happy voices.

We light the Candle of Hope with a flare of fire.  We review our prayers of Hope from last week.  Then I hold steady the Candle of Hope while Jack tips the waiting wick of the new candle, Preparation, into the flame.  The Candle of Preparation – ignited by Hope.  We sit in silence for just a moment as we gaze at the glimmers.

“Do you know what preparation means?  It means getting ready for something.  What are we getting ready for right now?  Yes, right, Christmas!  Advent is when we remember to wait for God.  He is already here, of course, but Advent reminds us of waiting for the very best gift in all of history – baby Jesus.  Tonight we celebrate preparation, getting ready for Jesus.  We remember that is is valuable to work hard for something that has not yet happened, but will certainly come.” 

The candles gleam a circle of golden light dancing on the faces of the Three I love.  My heart turns over in the candlelight. I remember why I spend my days in constant movement.  I do it for them.  I look at Scott, reach out to touch his fingers.  He does it for us.  We are so tired from the busy preparation for the sake of worthy goals.  

We need the warm blaze of hope to redeem cold preparation. The fallen core of this world will not repair until the end of days.  Until then, we spin in endless cycles of renewal and dying. We live tired because all that is worth fighting for costs the best of who we are.  

My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. 
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Ecc.2:10-11.

But Hope ignites Preparation.  I whirl, exhausted but happy, in ever-circling revolutions of entropy because I lift my eyes to the Hope of Incarnation. Immanuel-God-With-Us transforms our tired stories into a preparation for eternity, for everlasting worship, for celestial reward.  Christmas is a vortex of busy-ness, yes, and that will always be.  Beyond this season, simply living a faithful life on this side of eternity wears our souls ragged.  But living zealously is worth the effort, since our dead souls have been resurrected by Immanuel’s flame of hope.

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 

 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness. Ecc.2:24-26.

Hope

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It is good to wait silently for the salvation of the Lord. Lam.3:26.

Tonight we welcome advent as a family.  Advent is defined by purposeful waiting for a sure Salvation, certain but not yet grasped.  Advent is hope promised but still deferred. In Advent tradition, the Christ-child, the Savior, is nearly come, but He is not here yet.

Jack lights the Candle of Hope, his posture strong yet shy as he navigates the flame.  He catches Daddy’s eye in awe as the blaze licks the wick, catches, flares, then settles – Hope newly aflame.  

This week God ignites a fresh flame of hope.  My past four years were a crucible, characterized by crushing failure, aching loss, relentless opposition, piercing judgment, intervening rescue and infinite grace upon grace.  My life became a long season of Advent, of hope-certain-but-not-yet.  My fragile humanity crumbles to fragments, but I am safe, upheld by divine mercy.  I lived in dust, waiting, hoping, for my God to someday lift me out.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke 
   while he is young.

 Let him sit alone in silence, 
   for the Lord has laid it on him. 
Let him bury his face in the dust— 
   there may yet be hope. 

Lam.3:27-29.

Today is a step into Hope.  It is my first day officially back on the women’s ministry leadership team at church, the same church that released me four years ago.  The enemy of our souls snarls and snaps, but Living Grace is my everlasting Hope and I am undone by His neverending cascades of loving favor.  My role on leadership is quiet writing for a season as the Lord builds a new vision in the women of our church.  God is birthing a dream within in our team for a deeper teaching ministry to women, so I will create a Bible study curriculum scheduled at this point to launch in Fall 2012 at Vanguard Church.

My heart brims over as I watch the Candle of Hope flicker on the faces of my favorite Three.  I rest in the glow of Advent, the long arriving redemption.  I remember the long trail of brokenness behind us.  I remember the bloody, battered talons we inserted into the Hope of God-promises through that long season of bitter gall.  I remember the joy of steadily dawning freedom shining over our recovery path.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His Holy Name.  Sing like never before, O my soul, and worship His holy name.  Matt Redman. 10,000 Reasons.

I exult that the Lord keeps His promises, that our Hope is eternally sure.  I revel in the grace of family in the glow of candlelight. I rejoice that God gives me a new voice to proclaim His brilliant glory to His beloved.

What do you hope for from the Lord right now? we ask each other in the Light of hope.

Lucy says, Blue and Pink.

Daddy & Mommy say, we hope that the Lord will alleviate personal and professional pressure & attack at work.

Jack, the little theologian, says this, I hope for faith, hope and love.

YES. And Amen.