Monday, February 28, 2011

Full Circle

With my neck craned over my shoulder, I back out of the driveway, the sun's rays just clearing the roofline, morning chasing me into the street. Two have already left for school, and at 7:30 I am now third to leave each morning.

I merge into a river of cars streaming east towards downtown, and I sit up taller behind the visor to shade my eyes from the unforgiveness of sunrise. It feels so fast, this new rhythm, the current of career pulling me forward, a pace that reprioritizes a life. I did this so long ago, but it's not like riding a bike. I have forgotten.

Sixteen years ago, life slowed by minus forty hours per week. I slowed down, so baby could grow up. Then another, and a third. At the begininnig, I felt adrift in a stagnant sea of afternoons, but time filled out pregnant round, and days filled up with life, lives.

Baby food, and stroller walks, bike rides and dripping popcicles. There were fevers and bugs in jars, twinkling little stars and tiny holding hands, arms reaching up. Sixteen years of building people, making room in a womb of days for a next generation to live.

It's morphed into text messages and acne. Shakespeare assignments and razors. Flat ironed hair and Facebook friends. Fights for bathroom mirror time and the unfamiliar reaching up, not down, for child hugs.

How grateful I am for that slowing, now that there's a quickening. There's really only been twenty-four hours every day all this time, no matter how one spends forty of them each week. I chose to spend them at home. Now that I'm riding the morning and afternoon tides to and from a career again, I'm even more sure I chose wisely.

If time is sand that slips through an hourglass, it fell as precious gemstones to form the riverbed upon which the current rides. It bouys us and moves us ever forward above an extravagant and valuable foundation.

And from a vantage point of sixteen years invested, I smile from behind the steering wheel at the sunrise, thinking that, today, the earth will circle round to sunset, making another pregnant bump. This one is forty hours a week faster to be sure, but just as full of new life.

Sunrise over Porta Hotel, Antigua, Guatemala

Friday, February 25, 2011

Postcard from God

Have you ever gotten a postcard from God?

He's so thoughtful to send only a quick postcard because since life's spinning out of control, there's not enough time to read a long letter anyway.

The picture was postcard perfect and the words he wrote on the back on my heart were even better.

I'm sharing it at Laced With Grace today. Come on over and see for yourself -- just click the graphic below.

Laced With Grace

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Making History

In all of time, there is only the past, the present, and the future. With the past behind us and the future ahead, what remains is the present, the time machinery that turns the future into the past one moment at a time. The present is a wee crux of time that slips ever quickly into the past. And then that moment is past, and now this one. And another one. It won't be caught, stopped or even slowed. The present is fleeting; and the past keeps growing vast.

It may be history, but it's important because it's the basis for how we understand the present.

When I see 911, I think of an emergency call. If my grandmother had seen the same configuration of numbers in 1950, she would think only of the number nine hundred eleven. But if she said that number aloud as "nine eleven" anytime after the year 2001, it would conjure images of terrorist attacks. Those three numbers have three distinct meanings determined by historical perspective.

We understand the present based on the past and what we know of it. That's why God tells us what to remember and what things to forget.

  • God had Joshua build a pillar of twelve stones on the far side of the Jordan as a memorial, to remember that God allowed Israel to cross on dry ground. (Joshua 4)
  • They ate the Passover meal annually to remember the passing over of the death angel to spare the sons of Israel. (Exodus 12)
  • Love does not keep a record of wrong. (1 Corinthians 13)
  • I count all things as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus...forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.... (Philippians 3)

It's important to get these things right. They cause us to understand our present...or misunderstand it, as the case may be. If we forget what God says to remember and remember what God says to forget, we taint our view of history. And a tainted history skews our meaning of life, our very identity, and the wisdom gleaned from that tainted past with which we approach the future. There's an awful lot hinging on that wee crux.

Further, my smaller story of me feeds into God's larger story of all time. If I view my own life through my near-sighted lens of egocentricity, I can't make out the larger, farther-away story, the one that's God-centered. Eve did this in the Garden. It had some drastic consequences, and there's a host of others recorded in the Word for our warning.

What I desperately need in order for this not to be my experience is the lens of faith. That's what all those people in Hebrews chapter eleven had. They had faith to be far-sighted. They let themselves fall out of their own focus in order to gaze upon God. I want to do that.

I want my life to be caught up in the glory of God's larger story.
I want my present to bleed into His past.
I want my story to become His story.
And I want to make history.

This is a reflection on "History: Whose Story," Truth Project, Tour Six because I want to take what I hear on Sunday and live it out on Monday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Land, Ho!

Yesterday was my first day on the new job. It was also a day that I re-posted an old writing confessing and describing my sin of worry.

I thought God had begun a work in me last Spring when I saw Jonah's whale as a life raft and jumped overboard. I then clung to a supernatural appointment with God thinking I was following his will, and that it would be quick, clean, and seamless. Of course, it's no surprise that not long afterward I began to worry yet again, wondering what kind of crazy person tells the testimony before God's actually done something amazing?! After a few more months of rejection and humbling searches for that illusive job in Corporate America, I had all but given up. The life raft had become a tomb.

But, as was true with Jonah, the whale spit me out on dry ground. Only it took nine months instead of three days, and I now see that it was never a tomb at all, but a womb. And this fish tale was really that of a birth.

God was not only fishing around our financial situation but around my worry situation as well. And it didn't start last May when I began to study Jonah, but one sleepless night of worry last February, long before I recognized my own need for rescue or understood His need to spit me back on track.

God's work in our lives is always infinitely more than we can imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

"Selling myself" at job interviews had become so distasteful to me that I could no longer bring myself to do it. In fact, I had not been to an interview since November.

The first week of January I received a call from a temporary agency that had found my resume online. I had never worked for a temp agency nor taken a temporary job. They had a need for a bookkeeper to help a local ministry catch up their books so they could meet their year-end IRS obligations by the January 31 deadline. I took the two and a half day job and met some amazing people at Jubilee Academy. This ministry to inner-city kids had a similar vision as that of our church, and I had no idea a ministry of this sort even existed in our city.

I was learning all this from the director's assistant who was working beside me in the office that first morning. It was during that time that the pastor of the church where Jubilee Academy meets had come in to meet with the director. It was the beginning of January -- remember? -- and the pastor had resolved to become more available to the academy, and thus decided to begin weekly visits. This was his first.

The assistant became insistent that we interrupt the pastor and directer in order to explain the commonalities we had fished out. Business cards and website addresses were passed around, and I had to tear myself away, remembering that I was really there for the accounting.

I spent a delightful two and a half days with these lovely mentors and students. By the end of three short days, their books were in much better shape and I was sad to leave.

One week later, the pastor learned that the church and financial administrator for the other congregation he pastored would soon be leaving for the mission field of China, and he immediately thought of me.

The director had been pleased with my work (a professional reference), and the spontaneous camaraderie and rapport between us in the offices of Jubilee Academy (the interview) had already taken place, unbeknownst to me. There was no sales pitch involved.

In fact, I did absolutely nothing to meet these people nor acquire gainful employment. But God saw fit to bring ministries together that are like-minded and give me an instant affinity for this pastor who would become my boss, on Valentine's day no less.

I did not land a job. God graced me a ministry. Every detail attests to it.

Meanwhile, over the course of time from last May until now, I've chronicled in my One Thousand Gifts List what God had been doing to my worry. If I had not been recording small graces, I might very well have missed it entirely.

The seed of worry that had clung to God's life raft, then died in the tomb, had finally gestated into "having to wait."  God, being more patient than I, waited me out and matured my "having to wait" into "waiting patiently." (All that rejection and failure had a way of making me less demanding.) And once I got better at waiting patiently, it grew into "trusting Him," and finally gave birth to "resting."

In the dark, secret place of the belly God makes all things beautiful in his time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Once I was resting in Him, no longer waiting on Him, He made me wait no longer. He's a Father who gives good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11), both the ones we ask for and the ones He knew all along we needed.

If you'd like to read the whole whale tale from conception to birth:

Part 6: Land, Ho!

Photo by Michael Barbati, used with permission

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Armpits

Hi, my name is Dawn, and I'm a worrier. But don't worry -- God has me on his twelve step plan for anxiety sobriety. It looks a little like this: The opportunity arises to totally freak out over an earthly care. You know when that happens, right?

First you feel like an elephant moved into your chest and is trying to escape through your esophagus -- heavy and slow. Instead, the pressure creeps behind your cheekbones and begins to crowd your tear ducts. When you finally think you have that under control, it props your eyelids open at bedtime and flings your brain into a whirlwind of rapid-fire irrational thoughts. Then, just in the nick of time, God comes through with a word of scripture or encouragement from a sister. You have just enough strength to make it through until God (finally) meets the need and puts you out of your misery and leaves you feeling like a dope for worrying in the first place.

Well, Saturday night the whole process began agian. What can I say -- practice makes perfect. I was up to the tear duct part by bedtime, so I got up and went to the computer to read. Sleepy time tea took its toll, and the next thing I knew, I was in Sunday School. Although I don't remember much about the lesson in Mark 13, a little nugget from the opposing page tapped me on the shoulder and did this:

 It was Jesus quoting Psalm 110:1 and the Holy Spirit's sword sank that truth, just with a slightly different slant, deep into my anxious heart. He used those words to tell me to draw near to his right hand while He defeats my enemies. Right now my enemies are Fear, Worry, and Financial Pressure.

I wanted to hear it straight from the horse's mouth (in this instance, King David), and discovered verse two, which says something about Jesus extending his scepter to gain victory. The rapid-fire thoughts now made me see Moses with his arms lifted to the heavens while Israel defeated her enemy on the battlefield and Aaron and Hur sat under Moses' weary arms. So I went to investigate that, and found even more a few chapters prior in Exodus 14:14 which says, I will fight for you while you keep silent.

God had given me a strategy to glorify Him in my weakness, and to reassure me He hasn't left his throne. Little did I know that my Father was arming me in advance of this week's onslaught of earthly cares. (Doesn't that sound less sinful than worries?) Doubt, Despair, Anger and their friends were soon to join the enemy camp.

Monday morning I found an obscure Proverb, more truth that spoke directly to the new assault. It has become the promise I have clung to all week. I also found the Chips Ahoys in the pantry. As I dug into the bag, I dug into prayer without ceasing, forcing myself forward in faith, feeling Jesus right there beside me every precious step.

It's made me wonder what fervent prayer is anyway. Is it the prayer you want answered so badly that your prayer comes all the way from your toes? Is it when you beg and badger like a spoiled child? Is it when you pray the same thing for the hundredth time this hour because the worry keeps pushing you to your knees -- ceaselessly?

These prayers are certainly different than the ones prayed before meals and at bedtime. Are those casual prayers? Is God fervently listening? Is the prayer even for Him, or is it for me?

All I know is that God directed me to stay at His armpit. His provision has already started to come in the form of zeros on a check. It's humbling when God is so good and teaches so much and always comes through in the end, no matter what that looks like, even when I feel so unworthy of any of His goodness. For now, I plan to stay put right where He has me, and let the chocolate chip cookies keep me company until every enemy is defeated.

This is a repost from the archives to link with "Hear it on Sunday -- use it on Monday" at Nebraska Graceful. I just love when the sermons reach past the pew and grips our Monday or Tuesday or Friday.

Friday, February 11, 2011


This Monday I start a new full time job. I've been counting down the days because I can't wait until it gets here and because I dread it getting here. It's bittersweet going back to work.

It also happens to be the weekend of Winter Retreat for our three kids, so Mike and I find ourselves home alone. It's an ironic finale to a sixteen year run as a stay-at-home mom. Isn't God good that way?

We drove downtown mid-day on Thursday, the sun shining bright. Kids missing a day and a half of school were giddy with the scandal of it. But spiritual training is at least as important as the academic sort, so we drove onward feeling a little rebellious.

After working all afternoon in two separate offices, Mike and I met up at quittin' time to begin our weekend, since he's off on Fridays. I wanted to stop at the grocery store for foods the kids don't like: sweet potatoes, asparagus and perhaps a steak or two.

Mike said, "Shouldn't we be eating out tonight?"

Being the submissive wife that I am, I graciously acquiesced to his decision as head of our family.

We rushed home, worked out, showered, and headed toward take-out in cardboard cartons with wire handles. We picked up milk and granola at the grocery before we were home again, famished.

We filled our stomachs with a meal, the washer with another load, and each other's minds and hearts with coveted conversation, the kind that goes beyond tomorrow's activities and logistics to real thoughts and goals. We talked of change and what it will be like having me away from home full time for the first time since babies came along. What that will mean for us, our marriage, our kids. How it will be good for our teenagers and an almost teen to take on a bit more responsibility at home, and how my contributions to our family will just take on another form.

And then he said it, threw it out there among the humming washing machine and dirty dishes and a pair of steaming coffee cups. Some of the most romantic words I've ever heard were couched in ordinary take-out at our everyday kitchen table, twenty-two years into a marriage.

"I wish you didn't have to work at all. I wish you could always be right here to pursue your dreams and serve our family as well as you have until today."

And while our children are a state away, I find myself in a state of disbelief, at how much I'm loved, how much was appreciated over thankless, hard, years of sippy cups and piano practice. God knew I would need the confirmation that He had put all this going back to work thing together and Mike's support. This wife and mother and daughter of God, the recipient of true love, is giddy with the scandal of it.

And it's still only Thursday; the kids won't be home until Saturday night.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Irreconcilable Differences

I hate it when people die of cancer in the movies. It hits a little too close for home. Sort of like fatal car accidents.

Now those are irreconcilable differences.

If my title made you think of divorce and not cancer and car accidents, I can understand. It's the number one reason listed for most divorces in courtrooms across America. Divorce paperwork has had to fell at least a rain forest worth of trees as the divorce rate climbs and no demographic is immune. Divorce court is an entire industry making a killing (pun intended) on irreconcilable differences.

The differences part I get. People are as different as their fingerprints and snowflakes. No two life experiences are exactly alike. In many marriages they're not even remotely alike, and, in either case, I can see the need for a dance, an ebb and flow to make something beautiful.

Two separate entities are lessening to become a mere one, but it is somehow more instead of less.  It's a mystery because it declares the Father's love for His Church-Body-Bride. And how he loves every inch of us. If you don't believe me, just read Song of Songs -- it documents the Love of loves. And we're supposed to be earthly illustrations of that Love, us husbands and wives. He even died to become one with us.

But we're different, so it's hard. Two becoming one takes more chemistry than the first date: pressure, fissure, fission, shedding, dying, living, surrender. That's quite the ebb and flow, and most of us have never had dance lessons, so I get the differences thing. I really do.

But I also know it's a beautiful thing to get to the other side of that dance to abject oneness.  It's a wholeness that's more than oneself, yet something that wouldn't be at all without the offering of that self. It's beautiful, and it's worth it.

But, these days, when two don't make it to the other side, it's called irreconcilable. And that's the sticking point for me.

My mom and dad divorced, and it made me vehemently never want to be. My husband has come close to death enough times for me to know that whenever Death really does take him, it will be too soon for me (unless, of course, it comes for me sooner).

Death is an irreconcilable difference.

Life is not.

Not when there's a cross, and a hanging Savior. Not when blood and water flowed for our falling short, our selfish desire to live instead of die to the flesh.

I admit there is a crisis when we come face to face with our own inability to become less than the one we were, in order to become one with another. It's more than Fallen Man(kind) is capable of, this self-denial. It says so plainly in Genesis chapter 3.

And citing irreconcilable differences is asking to be excused from giving an explanation. But even I feel due one; it's not my divorce, but it's hitting too close to home, like movie-set car accidents and cancer victims. When family members give up on their marriage, I feel it. When I call and get no answer, I feel divorced. When we talk, and it's vague, I feel our differences.

But divorce doesn't have to be irreconcilable. Cancer and car accidents and death certainly are. But divorce doesn't have to be.

More thoughts on marriage as I walk with Him.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Somewhere In the Middle

Our family is working our way though Elizabeth Elliot's devotional A Light Unto My Feet: The Bible's Light for Your Daily Walk. Her most eloquent words of wisdom could stand in their own right. But when they are couched upon her life experience of giving more than she ever imagined she would on the mission field in Ecuador, I nightly feel my faith pale in comparison.

I see the cost of serving the Lord counted with complete and peaceful surrender by so many others, and I fear the heavy price would crush rather than buoy me. They are so many:  Jim Elliot, his wife Elizabeth, Peter, Paul, every apostle save John, every martyr, every tortured, imprisoned, persecuted Christian down through the ages and today. They did not, do not, languish. Not in prison nor fear. Instead they thrive and rise to the occasion with no lack of faith.

Then there is me. I both worship and complain freely. Though I live in a land and time of peace, I'm often anxious, troubled, and worried over every unknown. Darkness arouses fear when it should elicit faith. I'm duped into thinking I am safer when I swim with the crowd. But isn't the wild, caution-less walk with Jesus brazenly on top of the water?

It's going to definitely mean no longer being Somewhere In the Middle.

364 ~ praying with Mom over the phone
365 ~ His strategy for success:  taking every thought captive
366 ~ saying I love you and being loved, too
367 ~ tea parties and button-eyed dragons
368 ~ a Guatemalan village of 1,100 with a working water filter
369 ~ water engineers generous with their time and expertise
370 ~ God's perfect provision
371 ~ changes and new beginnings
372 ~ looking forward to Spring
373 ~ family dinners and devotions
374 ~ once upon a time and happily ever after: He makes the past and future both bright
375 ~ sixteen years of stay-at-home mom status
376 ~ a musical challenge to live extreme for Christ and
377 ~ winning the fight for faith

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One Lifetime

One lifetime's not long enough. It's what I tell him now. I've thought much about what life would be without him. He's almost left me for heaven too many times.

There was a nasty bout with pancreatitis mid-twenties and a relapse a few weeks later that boomeranged us back to the ER and another hospitalization. Our mid-thirties uneathed a cancer diagnosis that ran wild amongst a wiley second grader and two pre-schoolers. It was a touch-and-go month of hospital beds I prayed would not be a deathbed. Never mind the actual treatment that half kills.

And in those eleventh hour vigils enveloped by the organic smell of infirmity and strangled fear, I planned. I thought of mortgage payments and college tuition, a late start career and single motherhood, and made a morbid plan.

How would I live without him? 

And my thoughts were pragmatic because the practical was urgent and I couldn't bear the sentimental. But he is more than his paycheck, his stern daddy voice, and horsey rides for a house full of three-feet-tall laughter.

And I think of these things now, while he's healthy and lingers longer with me. He winks when no one watches, and for a moment, although we're five, it's just he and I hanging by a glance in mid-air. I hear him breathe life's rhythm beside me, steady and quiet through the nights. He hugs from behind when I'm anchored to a sinkful of suds, and I feel his palm on my middle holding me strong. I am filled when he eats from my dishes and am heady with the smell of him is in my sheets.

These are the things that make me know two things for certain when two-become-one are finally parted by death.  I will be but half, and one lifetime will have not been near enough.

Recent thoughts on marriage that I'm voicing today with others at Walk With Him Wednesdays at A Holy Experience.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Almost sixteen years ago I left the workforce for undivided motherhood. Although I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom more than anything, I was surprised to feel a little naked when one of my labels was suddenly sheered away from my identity. How would I answer the question that always comes, "So, what do you do?" Let's face it, the answer helps people know where to catalog us, as if what we do equals who we are.

In a way it's true. We do what we do because of who we are, at least a little. The former does lead to the latter in a one-way path. The thing is, the reverse is not true. Who we are is not because of what we do.

Or perhaps it is. And maybe that's why I find myself on the brink of another identity crisis, because I'm going back to work full-time, and it feels odd.  This time, letting go of my stay-at-home mom status is the same thing all over again -- just in reverse -- sixteen years later. I've wanted to go back to work for some time, and now that it's happening, I realize change isn't always easy.

Why am I letting what I do define who I am? Because I know that's what others will do.

Maybe it just takes time to get used to a new pigeonhole.

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