Dry Wells

A reading of this post is at its end.

I really DO like dandelions--and wild violets.

I really DO like dandelions–and wild violets.

The well has run dry. At first it was simply, “I have to push off writing a blog post until I meet other writing deadlines.” Then, during a weekend when I spent MUCH time in the car running errands, I noticed an emptiness. No strings of thoughts connected in my head. Phrases popped up, but a blog post generally requires more than my observations on the nude dandelion stems I noticed when stopped at a red light. (Trying to put together a line that sounded like poetry, I played with ideas like “a tangle of hollow stems, wound round each other, trying to hide their nakedness” and “look-at-me blossoms withered to fluff. Now even that has blown away”).

But not only did that seem very negative toward dandelions–which I like–it was as far as I got. The thought trail ended, and my mind jumped next to “what to fix for dinner.”

Still, there wasn’t time to actually write, so the vague feeling of emptiness was easily shoved aside.

But this afternoon, the deadlines aren’t as pressing, so I’m writing a blog post.

And nothing is coming!

Usually panic would already be fluttering (“Will I ever be able to write again? Am I done?”), but today I’ve been able to pin its wings and tell it to “Settle down” in a firm voice.

It has.

That’s Grace.

Grace in painful kindness lets my well get bone dry so I stop looking at it and stop trying to sponge up the droplets. Grace helps me to see the cracks in my cistern and, oddly, to be at peace about my own brokenness.

Then Grace turns me to the spring that never runs dry.

Sometimes this Source is like a waterfall, spilling over me with power. Today, though, it is a gently bubbling brook, smooth, with no undercurrent. I will eventually wade, will plunge in, but for right now I am content to stretch out in the quiet shallows.

Grace knows exactly what I need.

I am very grateful for this, not only for the trust I am able to rest in today in regards to my writing, but for the understanding that this applies to my motherhood, to my marriage, to my friendships, to my running of a busy household.

My wells run dry—much of the time.

Making way for Grace.

And that’s good.

NOTE: I wrote this yesterday afternoon. This morning, at my church’s women’s Bible study, we sang “You’ll Come” by Hillsong United. These words jumped out at me: “You’ll come, let Your glory fall/As You respond to us/Spirit rain/Flood into our thirsty hearts again/You’ll come, You’ll come.” Here’s a link to the entire song performed by Hillsong: “You’ll Come.”

NOTE 2: I had already discovered some beautiful verses in Isaiah 58 that are incredibly inspiring (who doesn’t want to be known as a “repairer” and “restorer” of things/people who are broken!?). Then, also in the Bible study, I was reminded of the following verses in John 7. Enjoy–and thanks for reading.

John 7:37-39a (click on the link to read the entire chapter)

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[c] 39 By this he meant the Spirit,whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Isaiah 58:10-12 (click on the link to read the entire chapter)

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Advertisements

From then to now-Grace

Random shot--beautiful leaf on my driveway

Random shot–beautiful leaf on my driveway

The past couple of days I have been ridiculously dramatic—in some ways approaching the time of mother martyrdom I wrestled so much with when my kids were very small. This time around, though, I’ve given into it with greater abandon and even a bit of flair, and deep down I’ve known what I was doing.

I attribute the difference to Grace.

I’ll explain, starting with the past first: When my children were toddler-stage, I believed that “good moms” loved being with their children 24-7 (along with a host of other bad beliefs). Therefore, I rarely took my husband up on his offers to let me “get away.” Despite his offers, in a deep down, hidden place in my heart, I blamed HIM for my sense of duty, for my unhappiness. But I didn’t come right out and say all this. I was prim and proper in my martyrdom, quietly convincing myself that I truly was right to see myself as the “martyr” who “willingly” (hmm!) took up the slack in her home, in her husband’s busy life, with their children, with her friends, in her job…

I saw that as saintly.

Ugh!

It was truly a miserable time. I was locked in a pious, tight mold of spiritual smugness. It was constricting. It stifled true life.

When God began tugging the log out of my eye, I began to see my “mommy martyrdom” more clearly, and I began to battle it. Not a pretty process! It was tooth-and-claw, hair-pulling, nail-scratching. I remember thinking—wailing at times—“I will NEVER be free of this!”

Fast forward to the present: I’m not going to claim “complete victory in Jesus” over my martyrdom tendencies, but I do have a far greater freedom from it than I did (which leaves me “free” to battle other monsters in my soul.)

So during the past couple days, as I’ve gotten irked with my kids for cluttering up the house (“I’m not your slave, you know! My job is not to clean up after you. I’m not doing you any favors if I do for you what you can do for yourself!”) and with my older daughter for asking me to run her here, there, and everywhere (“She has no consideration for my time,” I’ve thought.), things have been different. I didn’t hold back as I ranted in my journal yesterday about feeling invisible to my children, like a “non-entity.” I let it loose, and I didn’t try to couch it as a prayer for God to change my children’s hearts. And as I was doing it, I KNEW deep down that I was being a bit ridiculous.

After all, just the night before, Dave and I watched a documentary on REAL slavery, about the 27 million people around the world who live in bondage. Just that day I’d read about the Nepalese workers dying at the rate of one per day in Qatar because they are being forced to labor in horrific conditions on the stadium that will be used for the 2022 World Cup.

So I knew I was being dramatic, but at the same time I also knew I was getting a little closer to the honesty that makes me cling to Christ in real desperation. He sees right through my politely expressed prayers of grievance to the far grittier issues in my own heart, and THAT is what He wants to expose. So when I vent to Him (and not to every other person at random—that’s just complaining), I am coming like a little child, without pretense, admitting that I need…something! and I’m coming to Him because I may not know exactly what I need in that moment, but I know HE is the source of ALL I need, and I go running to him.

So, though my rant wasn’t pretty and it will never, ever, ever be published, I’m leaving it in my journal.

Because the difference between then and now is GRACE!

*Here are the links to the End it Movement website (lots and lots of great videos and info on human trafficking) and the news story on Qatar.

Always grace for regrets

Last week I overheard a conversation. The guy said, “A few years back, I rode the train every day to the job I was working then. That time became my listening time, my prayer time. I often prayed for other people in my train compartment, and for those coming and going.

“One day I felt led to pray for a woman sitting across from me. By all appearances, she looked homeless. The urge grew stronger. I wasn’t simply supposed to pray for her. I was supposed to approach her and ask if I could pray with her.

But my stop was coming up, and if I missed it, I would be late to work.”

He paused and looked directly into the eyes of the other person, owning the moment and his own admission. “I didn’t pray with her. I got off the train.

“And I’ve never forgotten that.”

I have regrets, too. Sometimes they are like that man’s, disregarded urges to reach out to a stranger. More often, mine are with people who are part of my family. I have mornings when I drop the kids off at school with a crummy feeling in the pit of my stomach. In the quietness of the post-drop-off, I examine why and realize it’s because of missed opportunities. I fussed instead of listening; I rushed instead of taking a moment to be still and assess; I lost it instead of laughing over something small.

We will always have regrets like these. It’s part of being human, being stuck in time, in moment-by-moment living.

The awful thing about “little” regrets like these is that the choices don’t seem nearly so difficult when we have the privilege of retrospection. In hindsight, I’m sure the teacher would have chosen to be late to work just that one day. I can almost always look back and see the humor in a mess or situation that at the time caused me frustration.

Yet the solution is not simple. It has no formulaic answer. I know that prayer—lots and lots of cries for help—is required. Slowing down helps. “Living at the pace of faith.” (Gotta admit—I stole that one from a church billboard, which has been making me think every time I pass it.)

But when we forget to pray, when slowing down doesn’t seem to be an option, when we’ve been chewed up and spit out by the pace of life, there is the constant of all constants: grace. We need blessed, real grace to actually remember to pray and slow down and live in faith. We also need it because the regrets will continue. We set ourselves up for guilt and shame if we think we can live without regrets, without missing the mark again and again and again.

This is messy sanctification, but it’s real, and it takes us, bit by bit, into a deep assurance that His grace is always greater than our regrets.

Always.

I need the Gospel–everyday

Yesterday afternoon nine-year-old Jake told me he needed to talk to me “in private.”

“Mom, lately I’ve been struggling with the idea that God is mad with me.”

“Why, sweetheart?”

“Because I haven’t been reading my Bible as much lately, but when I am reading it, I’m doing it so He WON’T be angry with me, so I know my reasons are bad, so I think He’s angry with me.”

Oh, we don’t need a DNA test or even pictures of childbirth (thankfully there are none!) to have proof that this child is MINE!

“Do you think Jesus is mad at you?”

“No.”

“Well, who is Jesus?”

“He’s God.”

We talked about how Colossians tells us that Christ is the exact likeness of God. He is the visible representation of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:16, AMP version). Christ is not different from the Father God. Rather, He reveals Him as He is to us weak, frightened, rebellious (which only makes us more frightened) children. Through Jesus–and because of what Jesus did for us–we can know God and His love for us.

“But what about my reasons for reading the Bible? How can I read it if my reasons aren’t good? How do I make them good?”

Simply more proof that Jake is my son!

Another conversation—about how we can’t make them good, only God can, and He knows full well that we aren’t capable of purely pure motives in the here and now anyway. “We just tell God,” I said. “We tell Him we know that our hearts aren’t right, that we can’t make them right, and we ask Him to help us. Then we do what we know is good and right to do—even with our impure motives—because we trust that God can work good and right out of them.”

It was a joy to have this “private talk” with Jake.

It was also necessary.

Not just for him, but for me.

I needed to be reminded of the Gospel, of Grace.

In preaching the Gospel of God’s marvelous Grace to Jake, I was preaching it to myself.

And I need that—every day.

The guilt of simply being human

I'm so thankful for the view out my kitchen window! Beautiful!

I’m so thankful for the view out my kitchen window! Beautiful!

Yesterday, after reading a Facebook message from someone I had unintentionally hurt, my stomach was in knots.

When I shared both the Facebook message and my guilt with my husband, he looked at me in surprise. “Jen, why do you feel guilty? You simply weren’t able to do what he needed. It wasn’t possible.”

But I still wrestled with the feeling of guilt.

The guilt of being merely human.

The guilt of thinking I should be able to do it ALL (in other words, of thinking I am like God [the oldest sin of all]).

The guilt of forgetting that I am completely incapable.

To deal with this kind of guilt, I needed a broader definition of sin than the one that defines it as intentional actions, thoughts, and words that “break the rules.” That is a very limited—and unbiblical—definition of “sin,” and it didn’t help me deal with my Facebook situation.

The New Living Translation of Romans 3:23 defines sin as “(falling) short of God’s glorious standard.”

I fell short with my friend—not because I wanted to, not even because I had another choice, but simply because I had no capability to meet his expectations. I’ve “fallen short” in some other areas as well lately, and, for reasons only God knows, He has made me sit for awhile in the discomfort of my own inadequacy, my own “falling short.” I have tried to mute the message, tried to distract myself with writing and meal prep and people and the radio, but uneasiness has burrowed into my soul, and my thoughts circle constantly around my feeling of guilt.

So this morning I took a long walk in the thick snow at the dog park. Two women were there when I arrived, but they soon left, and I was alone—with my thoughts.

Still wrestling.

Round I walked, breaking through the snow crust, doing battle in my mind, swinging like a pendulum from excuses to accusations.

On the third lap, I stopped. “God,” I said, “I want to prove myself right in this situation. I want to ‘feel’ right. And I have been doing a whole lot of talking in my own head trying to figure this out. But I can’t–because I’m not capable. I fall short—both of a complete understanding of this situation AND of any ability to fix it. I am only human. Help me to see myself—and then see YOU—as I should.”

“Please, God, I need You!”

Then, finally, rest came. I could admit my own inability, my own “falling short.” And I could glory in the fact that the God who loves me has NO limitations. He is not bound by time. His strength is unlimited. He does not run out of energy or patience or goodness. He never forgets, not ever. He never fails—not at anything He does.

He IS the glorious standard.

And He is fully aware that there is no way I can reach His standard. In fact, I think He gets tired of my thinking I can.

So when I let go of trying to reach His standard on my own, I see HIM and His grace far better.

And I am awed by the Glory!

I continued my walk, joyous now, rejoicing in the beauty, and just before I left I did what I could not have imagined doing twenty minutes earlier.

I fell back into an untouched patch of snow, gazed up at the tops of the trees, and made a snow angel!

The Long View

All of the kids except Nina. They love photo shoots.

I watched Wheaton Academy’s performance of Les Miserables tonight.

Amazing story, amazing performance, music, direction, and adult leadership.
It was seriously excellent, and I was moved,
But I needed some time to get past the amazing performance to the truth God wanted me to see in it.
You see, I left the show missing working with high school theatre, the incredible thrill of working with students, of helping them transmit a character and story they didn’t know they had within themselves, of getting to know students in the very personal ways theatre creates. I left missing the world I was involved in for many years.
With that longing still in my chest, I came home to my 11-year-old daughter baking shortbread–while listening to the music of Les Mis. Jane was in the kitchen, too, singing along. Then Nina came down. They all saw the show last week and have been waiting to hear my reaction to it. Nina wanted to talk through several of the scenes. We sang songs together–not very well.
No wow factor—just my life.
And it struck me that my longing for something I no longer have—though not wrong—is a desire for a different story than the one God has put me in right now. I, like most people I know, am drawn to redemptive stories, stories that have purpose and sacrifice and change and love. The problem is that, though I’m pretty good at recognizing redemption in others’ life stories, I can be really bad at spotting it in my own.
So I want someone else’s. Tonight I wanted what I used to have. Yesterday I read the blog of a friend who is working in Africa marketing jewelry handmade by Ugandan women (check out her blog on my blogroll), and I wanted to be on the front lines of a social justice mission. Two days ago I learned of an Iranian pastor who is on death row for his Christian faith. Though I did NOT want HIS life right now (or that of his wife’s!), I for certain thought of his story as being more redemptive and more important than my own.
But generally, when we look at a life from outside it, and think, oh, that’s so redemptive, so purposeful, the people in it don’t see it that way; often, they are asking for escape from it (a truth clearly showed by the characters in Les Mis).
It’s good that we recognize redemption in others’ stories—we should use that recognition to encourage them and pray for them—but we also have to START seeing redemption in our OWN stories.
We have to start seeing it in the crushing, painful times.
In the grind-it-out, nitty-gritty times.
In the waiting, I’m-not-going-anywhere times.
In the doubting, wandering, holding-on-by-a-thread times.
If ANY of our stories could be condensed down to the 2½-hour-movie-version, we would be able to see redemption in it—at least our OWN redemption. But life doesn’t come with a soundtrack that lets us know when big moments are coming—or that this IS a big moment, a moment full of grand and glorious purpose. So we don’t see the BIG story.
We need the long view, the big view. God tells us His view of time is entirely different from our own. Our days are but moments to him. Our lives like breaths. This does not at all mean that our lives don’t matter to Him (for we know His thoughts toward us are precious and numerous, like grains of sand on the seashore; see Psalm 139:17-18); no, it tells us that He HAS the long view, the big redemptive view of how all our lives web together into the biggest story of all.
All these things in my life that I am tempted to think DON’T have real meaning—they DO. They are part of that biggest story. They may be behind-the-scenes stuff, but they matter. My nitty-gritty is affecting the stories of Dave, Em, Jake, Maddie, Patrick, Nina, Jane—and all the others they bring home for dinner, for the night, for the weekend. My nitty-gritty is being used to change ME.
MY story is a story of redemption.
So is yours.
We need to ask for the long view
And for the grace to persevere when we don’t see it.
Scripture passages:

Psalm 90:4 (The entire psalm is one of lament, but even in his sorrow he looks to the Lord for the “long view” {verses 16 and 17})

2 Peter 3:8-9 (and from there to the end of the chapter—lots of long-view “stuff”)