prayer in action

Last week I posted about wanting to show grace in the midst of the busy.

Then I read a beautiful post by Ann Voskamp.  I wrote these words down on a 3×5 card and put them on my fridge. Glibly thinking, “This is good stuff. I should remember this,”

“Breathe in: Lord, I receive what you give.
Breathe out: Lord, I give thanks for what you give.”

Wednesday we picked up sweet little respite baby. Wednesday night I got sick. Again. For most of the week I battled nausea and exhaustion. Again. I tried desperately not to be discouraged (these are similar symptoms to what I had before my gallbladder was removed). I tried not to worry about what wasn’t getting done in my VBS planning. Finally, on Saturday afternoon I lay in my bed resting and my mind drifted back to the words that I had posted on my fridge. But I was skeptical. How was this prayer going to help? How could I receive this illness, and even more, be thankful for it?

I started breathing, and praying.

Lord, I receive what you give. I receive this illness. I may be fighting against it and discouraged but I choose to receive.

Lord, I give thanks for this illness. Pause. How? I give thanks for sensing your presence with me this week. For feeling your grace when I needed it most. For a loving, patient, generous husband who cared for me and these children so faithfully. For these two boys who were thoughtful and kind. For this sweet baby who was a joy to take care of. For knowing my weakness. For watching the Body at work when I needed help. For dependence on prayer.

Through the breathing and the praying the Holy Spirit began to change my heart. I began to feel the worry and despair lifting. Do I want to be sick? No. Do I trust that God will show himself good and faithful even in the midst of this sickness? Yes.

As the new week begins I keep breathing and praying. In and out.

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on grieving…

A year ago, about this time, we were meeting two children who we thought were going to become part of our family. As is typical in the social work world no one could give us any guarantees but we were assured that the plan was for the kids to become free for adoption and placed with us. I was a nervous wreck and filled with excitement all at the same time. But as soon as I met them my heart opened wide and I saw our family with them in it. I knew it would be tough and we honestly and realistically talked through the challenges but my heart had been freely given and I was ready. I started to dream and plan. Every time we visited with them my heart cracked open just a bit wider. It sounds silly but in the few visits we had with them I saw their little spirits and loved them completely.

I was in the library when I got a phone call from their foster mother. Through tears of frustration she told me that the plans had changed. And just like that 2 children who I loved, and saw as part of our family, were gone. I grieved deeply. Yet, I also felt guilty about grieving. Here is some of an email I wrote to my mom,

I had a good talk with [a friend] yesterday. After that conversation (as well as a conversation with [someone else] about a failed adoption that they had many years ago) I felt the permission to grieve as if I had miscarried 2 children. Even though we knew this wasn’t a sure thing and I tried to compartmentalize and be practical the truth is that I met the kids, and came to love them, and despite my best efforts had dreams about what our family would be like. I don’t need to feel guilty about that, all of it is healthy and normal and right. And the flip side of that is the sadness of the loss. It hurts, and it sucks, and there just is no way to get around it but to go through it. And the acknowledgement of the the fact that I will continue to feel as if 2 children are missing from our family. But again, that is okay.

I do not say this as a cliche, or in a trite manner, but I truly believe that God’s way is good and even though things seem unclear to me, they are crystal clear to Him and He has this whole thing mapped out. We met [the kids] for a reason. Maybe that reason is that I will pray for them for the rest of my life, even if I never see them again. Maybe my prayers for them will change my heart in ways I don’t know yet. And maybe those prayers will somehow shield and protect them as they grow. It hurts me to think of them being hurt. But none of my kids are really mine to control. And none of the outcomes of my kids lives are up to me anyway. I see that now very clearly.

I was unprepared for the depth of emotion I am feeling as this time of year rolls along. I have continued to pray for the kids almost daily this past year. But I just assumed, since our decision to not pursue permanent placement at this time, that I had “gotten over it.” So the jolting moments of sadness have taken me by surprise. I am surprised at how much I miss them.

Two weeks ago we were at youth conference. My husband was chaperoning and me and the kids were just along for the ride. It was exactly one year ago that week that I had first gotten the phone call about the kids. Memories of my emotions during that time were rushing back. During one of the evening worship sessions we began singing the song Forever Reign. Tears came fast and furious because this song was on repeat during that week, one year ago, when my fears were so strong. The words were so meaningful to me that week. It was so comforting to me to choke out the words to this song through my tears and fears and anxiety.

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

I miss the kids. I think about them every day and wish I could hold them, care for them, love on them. I pray desperately that they are being cared for. That they will come to know God and His great love for them. Sometimes I am so angry I can barely stand it. I rage against “the system” and against God. And yet…

Two weeks ago, I stood in the throng and just lifted my arms high. I couldn’t even sing the words, but I felt them deeply in my heart.  It is still true that God is good. It is still true that His love is enough. It is still true that He reigns. And it is still true that I can run to His arms to have my heart healed.

You are good, You are good
When there’s nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost its sting

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I’m made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I’m letting go

Oh, I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing
no other Name
Jesus, Jesus

Oh, I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

grace in the busy…

It has been quiet around this blog. There are many reasons, and no reasons. Mostly it has just been a really busy summer. There has been a lot going on for us personally as well as in our church community, add to that the lack of structure that is summer and we are running a bit ragged.

This week especially is looming busy and I can already feel the muscles in my shoulders tensing up. I am working 4 days a week for a few hours. We are going to have a baby here for respite care for 5 days. I start back volunteering on Thursday nights. I am planning our church VBS which is in 2 weeks. Aaron is the secretary for the pastoral search committee and is spending hours reviewing applicant resumes and listening to sermons.

I don’t always treat my family lovingly and graciously when we are busy. I tend to get caught up in the stuff that needs to be done and ignore my relationships. I let the messy house overwhelm me. I let the lack of structure stress me out. When I get tired I justify my lack of self-control and get snippy and easily frustrated.

So, here is my goal this week. In the midst of all the busy to still show grace.

A wise, mature mother of 7 was sharing with me the other day that when her kids were all little and life seemed so hectic she would breathe deep and say, “This is when the gospel matters most.” When all her kids were fighting and the house was a mess and she was exhausted, “This is when the gospel matters most. This is when grace in action really matters.” That has stuck with me.

Yesterday I thought we had plenty of time to get to church. I had responsibilities in the morning service and needed to be there by a certain time. But at the last minute we got held up with one boy who needed to change his shirt. I thought we were ready to head out the door but the minutes were ticking by as he was trying to button up the shirt.  I lost my cool. I yelled and berated and stomped us out the door preaching about punctuality and thoughtfulness. We got to church flustered and grumpy. I had the opportunity to show grace and love and I blew it. I got us to church on time, but the price was high.

This week will get hectic. This week will be tiring. This week will not be structured the way I like.

With God’s help I will show grace. When it matters most.

 

Accepted

I have been reading Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel as part of my quest to discover grace in a new and deeper way. This quote had me in tears because it pretty much describes my exact struggle and journey over the past year.

Manning quotes Paul Tillich from The Shaking of the Foundations

Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life…it strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes in that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.” If that happens to us, we experience grace.

It has been hard for me recently to quiet myself and just accept the fact that I am accepted. I have had to make myself stop doing and performing and seeking and intending. I have fought hard against my natural inclination to do more to somehow prove my worthiness. But it was necessary. It was necessary for me to put aside myself and my own pathetic attempts at proving my righteousness in order for me to accept grace.