Tag Archives: inspiration

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.

Lifeless

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As for you, you were dead in your sins. Ephesians 2:1.

Jesus raised three people from the dead during his earthly ministry.

1.  Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Mark 5:22-13.  Can you imagine?  His little daughter.  You see, I have a little daughter.  She has a cough right now and it does not occur to me to fear for her life.  But if I lived during Jesus time……

So Jesus went to her bedside, but she had died while he was on his way there. Jesus took her limp hand between his own rough ones and spoke life over her little body.  “Talitha koum!” (little girl, I say to you, get up!)

And she did.  She got up. She was just alive, then dead, then alive again – within a matter of minutes.  Jesus, Life Restorer.

2.  Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. Luke 7:11-12.  The son of a widowed woman, whose future was now coated with unimaginable loss and inevitable poverty. She had lost her husband and her son; there was no one to care for her heart or body. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Luke 7:13.

So Jesus, His heart turned over within him at the sight of her suffering, helped her.  Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. Luke 7:14. The bearers of death stood still at his touch. Death cannot move forward in the presence of Life Everlasting. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:14-15. 

3. Jesus’ close friend Lazarus died from a rapid sickness. Jesus arrived at the grave of his friend after he had been buried four days. He wept with the man’s sisters, Mary and Martha, then stood in veiled glory before his friend’s grave. Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. John 11:43-44.

Three dead souls, raised by the power of Living Grace. Is that not what we all fight against – old death? As for you, you were dead in your sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world …All of us also lived among them [the dead] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Eph.2:1-3.

Death is the great equalizer. Jairus’ daughter, in her fresh innocence, was just as dead in the first moment that the breath left her tiny body as Lazarus decaying in his grave after four days of stink and loss. Just as dead as the ashes and bones in the graveyard I passed a few days ago. Just as dead as Jesus wracked on the cross after days of torture. Dead is dead. Ugly dead means the same as pretty dead.

When my soul was dead, before Jesus, Life Restorer, it was ugly dead, like Lazarus. Perhaps yours was pretty dead, like Jairus’ sweet daughter. But dead is dead – lifeless, inert, empty, gone….

We all fight old death. The shame, the injustice, the strongholds of our past life as a dead soul. We wonder if our old soul will rise again, like a zombie, to haunt and devour. Will the cocoon suck us back into darkness, take back our wings and colors, un-make our regeneration? 

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10.

Do we really understand what Jesus has done for us? He came to breathe Eden life over us. We are dust and breath, earth and heaven, a complex creation. He bought us back from the grave. We leave old death to stink and fester, while we rise above it, more than conquerers. He vanquished death. He made the grave un-true. There is no death for the saints; there is only passage. We leave this world someday for another, a better, world. We are immortal. We once were dead, now we are not. Now we live. Through Christ, the black hole of old death releases us to “life to the full.”

How to escape the fear of old death?

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:44.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, CLOTHE YOURSELVES with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col.3:12-14.

Take off your grave clothes. They are the rags of old death. Replace them with the white linen of virtue and holiness. Wear the clothes of the Living, not the dead. Leave the shrouds of darkness in the grave and step boldly into the light of Life.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Cor.5:17.

Generations

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These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Heb.11:39-40.

It is cold.  I shiver as I sit upright in bed, my Nook screen glowing into the darkness.  I cannot put it down; I am entranced.  I read a long book, a redemption story.  This story is about a young man raised in a dysfunctional home, battling to be free of childhood pain.  I studied Psychology in graduate school and the intricacies of his relational dynamics fascinate me.  Generational fallout wafts its poison around this young man’s life and he breathes it in, making it a part of him.  Deception, manipulation, greed, revenge, secrets, rivalry, betrayal, anger, selfishness.  The family waded through a generational quagmire of scheming ambition and relational distrust.  Children compete for echoes of lost love.  Sisters and brothers betray each other for tokens of divided attention.  Parents see only their own scars.  This young man grew up twisted, bent inward to dreams.  He experiences a long redemption after leaving home, but he carries scars that occasionally seep out the embedded poison.  His story ends with forgiveness and wisdom, deep resolution that eternally shapes the successive generations.

I read the Bible.  Genesis 30-50.  The story of Joseph, the last Patriarch.

After the flood, the Patriarchs begin with Abraham, who marked the world with a mighty faith, then circle outward to Isaac, then Jacob, then Joseph. If you have never read their stories, O my stars, do it now but not with a weak stomach or a legalistic theology. The black thread of generational sin, specifically deception, begins with Abraham then twists its knife deeper into each new generation, creating sticky problems that they try to solve with other forms of moral decay, which divide and overwhelm the family line.  Honestly, the fact that God chose these wrecks to be the foundational covenant-bearers of the history of redemption is so unexpected as to seem wildly ludicrous.
 
I finish the morally muddled history of the Patriarchs as I always do, stunned and introspective. I wonder again that legalists ever read the Bible.  It is not a book for the dogmatically religious.  As wise Pastor Kelly says, the Bible will mess with your theology.  Adultery, deception, nepotism, incest, violence, ambition, rape and division characterize God’s story.  These flawed characters connect, entwine, wind around each other to form a transcendent redemption, but the details are sordid and the key players often despicable.

So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into a new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.
What we read in Scripture is,
Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”  Romans 4:1-3.  The Message.

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  Romans 4:2. NAS
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It hits me late in the night, a heavy weight of glory, the glory of matchless mercy.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – they are exactly the right family to undergird God’s story of redemption.  They are cracked into pieces, just like you and me.  This damaged family produced a series of unlikely heroes, beloved and chosen, not by merit, but by mysterious grace.  Abraham believed in his role in God’s story, which set off a chain reaction of redemptive splendor that continues today.  I emerge from the history of the Patriarchs with no desire to justify their dysfunctional choices or to whitewash their flawed history, as I have heard many Bible teachers attempt to do.  I simply see my own broken reflection in the mirror of God’s word.  They were selected and redeemed by the same mighty grace that woos me.  Therefore I can walk with their limitless confidence in God’s character reflected onto me.  We are all unworthy of our destiny, but O, I am dizzy with gratitude for it.  “I am my Beloved’s and He is Mine.  His banner over me is Love.”(Song of Songs 2:4).  

I pray to be like Jacob, post-wrestling.  His name means “deceiver” and he lived up to it more than any other Biblical figure except the Devil himself.  But God changed his name to Israel, which means “God Strives.”  Mercy, yes.  On His deathbed, Jacob, the manipulative mastermind behind thirteen broken children, four desperate, conniving women and a bounty of riches gained through ambitious schemes, prayed this prayer of blessing over his grandchildren.

May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
on the earth.

Genesis 48:15-16.

To see a legacy of faith instead of works, to believe in the Promise more than the past, to walk humbly into an endless vortex of grace…..

Yes.

Towers

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When I was in (Christian liberal arts) college , I was the angst-y sort.  I listened to Counting Crows and Ani DiFranco. I dated a guy who wrote a play about an intelligent but melancholy chick who questioned everything.  Her name was Sarah, and she was (TA-DA!) me.  In the play, titled The Bridge, Sarah (played by moi) stood on a rickety old wooden bridge with different people in her life and discussed deep issues like how-far-is-too-far and did-my-parents-screw-me-up.  The play was a huge success.

I made a friend who was a kindred restless spirit.  He and I would sit around on the (for real) old railroad bridge near our school, smoke cigarettes, and contemplate weighty topics with the earnest duality of angst mingled with idealism.  We decided that there are two types of people – blinking lights and steady lights.  We based this insightful metaphor on the radio towers that peppered the endless Indiana horizon.  These radio towers gleamed blinking lights on their pinnacles and steady lights on their lower rungs.

Blinking lights were on top, we mused, but they paid the price by switching off half of the time.

Steady lights were, well, steady. They were unfailing, dependable; but lower.

(D to the RAMA…….)

I lived like a blinking light.  After all, I had a well-developed metaphor to justify, right?

Throughout my twenties, I danced a long, broken rhythm of failure and salvage. Through both extremes, I learned that I am the beloved object of divine pursuit.  I began to recognize the steel underpinnings of mercy in an inconsistent life.  Slowly, I understood the cost and the glory of holiness.  The Holy Spirit transformed me deliberately, excruciatingly, through a lifeline of grace in the murky waters of regret and loss.  The joys of those years far outweigh the pain. I finished college and graduate school, moved to breathtaking Colorado, met and married my best friend, gave birth to two miracle babies, experienced indescribable healing, settled into a beautiful life.  The theme of my twenties was REDEMPTION.

though i have closed myself as fingers, 
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens 
(touching skillfully,mysteriously)her first rose. (e.e.cummings)

As I approached my thirties, to be blunt, I wanted to get off the crazy train.  No more aching crashes and burns, no more falls from earthly grace.  I began to hunger for my long redemption to produce the quiet solidity of righteousness. The theme of my thirties is PURITY.  I ask God to transform me from a wrecking ball into a rebuilder as He purifies me.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him. James 1:5.

The Lord whispered the theme of PURITY for my thirties through my friend Tosha, who has a theme for every decade of her life.  To cultivate PURITY, I prayerfully decided to devote myself to developing a PURE character trait through every year of my thirties.  Last year, the character trait was truth.  This year, it is forgiveness.  

(Why do I choose forgiveness?  Click here to read why.)

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Heb.12:12-13.  I thought I was good at forgiving, but, to my shame, I have discovered recently that my arms are feeble and my knees weak. This year, I pray for strength deep and abiding to be a grace-giver.  I remember well my seasons of limping, falling forward into grace.  I want to shine a light of grace on those in darkness.  I want to build a towering monument to forgiveness in my life.  Blinking or steady, it does not matter; I want to shine forgiveness from a glowing countenance free from shame and strongholds.  This is the year of forgiveness.

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.

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.