Friday, November 28, 2008

A star to discover

"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life." Author Unknown

On this day after Thanksgiving I am so grateful to be sitting here in my usual spot with no hurried shopping planned or any place we need to go. The house is quiet with Danica napping and Delaney at the table drawing pictures of her favorite ornaments from the tree we decorated as a family yesterday. Later we will bake gingerbread cookies while we play Christmas music. Tonight we will begin our month long celebration of the Advent of our Savior, the life which brought eternal life.

Although we celebrated Christmas growing up we did not observe Advent in any way. As a lover of ritual when it brings me closer to truth I am searching out new ways for my own family to make the Christmas season more about Christ. (This has been a wonderful resource in my preparation for celebrating Advent in our home.) The anticipation, preparation and longing of Christ's Advent depicted through rich symbolism and imagery is a beautiful way to keep our hearts and minds focused on the coming of our King. It calls us to be still and reflect--to REST in the gift of gifts.

I received in the mail today an advanced copy of Keri Wyatt Kent's new book, Rest, Living in Sabbath Simplicity, to be released a week from today by Zondervan. (Stay tuned for Keri to stop by on her blog tour sometime in January.) I am only about half way through this convicting and encouraging book all about the real purpose of this present wrapped in a command called the Sabbath. As she describes the purpose of the Sabbath and the heart of God behind it she returns over and over again to the concepts of observing and remembering, the same truths that draw me to make celebrating Advent a new focus in our home. She writes, "In the Hebrew tradition, Sabbath is not simply a day but a mindset, a living and lived-in symbol. The day is the centerpiece of the week; anticipated for three days, practiced for one, and remembered for three days after." Our Christmas should reflect this same mindset of anticipating with prayer and longing, joyful celebration and then remembering. Oh how I long to live in the symbol of this season all year long.

I love this prayer by Henri J. M. Nouwen, "Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"

Thank You for showing me new truths about how to celebrate You. Please give our family the grace to be still and discover the Bright and Morning Star during this season and always.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not just covered but cleansed

I am looking out my front window at the wrecked car still sitting in front of our home. The snow has been falling for several hours and what was a mangled mess is now covered in a beautiful white blanket so you can barely tell from my angle the car was in an accident at all. This makes me think of Isaiah 1:18, "'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the Lord, 'Though Your sins are like scarlet, They shall be white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.'"

The snow on the car will melt and the ugliness of the wreck will be revealed again, but in Christ's blood my sins are not just covered for a day or two they are completely wiped away. No past sin will be dredged up and no future sin will melt away the forgiveness offered by His sacrifice for me. It is finished. His work is done and my salvation is secure.

Thank You for assurance found in the cleansing power of Christ's blood that washes me whiter than snow.

"Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow!" Psalm 51:7

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My hands are holding you

After college I was working in Harrisonburg, VA as a property manager for off campus student housing. The office I worked in was literally less than one minute from my townhouse, and I would go home everyday for lunch. As I sat on Port Republic Road with my left blinker on waiting to turn back into work a 16 year old playing hooky from school plowed into the back of me and threw me across oncoming traffic and up a utility pole.

I imagine finding out you have cancer is something like that day. You are living life, planning what's for dinner that night, what you'll do next week or next year, and then without warning it hits you from behind and mangles your life. When the dust settles from the surgery and the treatment and the months of life you have lost you take inventory. Am I totaled? What's the blue book value of this crazy life, and do I have any equity left once the loan is paid? Can I get a new life? And you wonder why this happened. Deep down inside you feel this might be a result of a lopsided checks and balances sheet where God and sin are concerned regardless of what you know in your head about Christ's saving love.

Last night our car, parked on the street in front of our home, was demolished by a drunk driver. It made me think of the accident 10 years ago. In my crazy head, especially after all we have been through in the past year and a half, I think immediately God is "punishing" me for the spiritual hissy fit I pitched the day before when I found out my dear friend Angie has more cancer. I have lived my life this way. Always thinking my circumstances are about cause and effect, behavior and consequences, and I never measure up.

Angie has been battling breast cancer for more than a year and had a biopsy on her neck Monday for a new growth. Last week I prayed so hard and believed so much that she would call me on Friday morning and the news would be good, and we would praise God. Did I really think if my faith and prayers were strong enough I could somehow influence God's plan for her life? So, when her news came, I became full of doubt and questions and fear. It was sin. I was angry and Satan began attacking me from all sides telling me this Christian life is just too hard and to give up.

Last night I sat and wept. My girls are both very sick again, and I haven't slept. The car situation ripples to cause all kinds of waves for us financially. My friend must endure more than I can imagine. "God, where are You? What are you doing?" He answered to me deep into the night, "My hands are holding You." After hours of crying Danica finally fell asleep around 4:30am, and I rested in His loving arms. "Stop striving, Monica. Stop trying to earn grace. Don't turn away!!!"

Tenth Avenue North - By Your Side

Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Cause I, I love you
I want you to know
That I, I love you
I'll never let you go

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"The snow reminded me of the beauty and mystery of creation, of the essential joy that is life." From Snow, a novel by Orphan Pamuk

It's been snowing on and off since last night. It's beautiful. I love watching Delaney, this dear daughter of mine, who also embodies "the essential joy that is life" experience something as simple as daily weather. As we snuggled in her bed tonight with the peaceful piano compositions of my friend, John Thomas, playing softly in the background we looked out her window into the night sky and watched the snow softly falling. We began talking about why it snows, and she asked all kinds of questions I should be able to answer but couldn't. I suggested she ask the librarian tomorrow at school for some books so we could study together. (I resist the urge to run to the internet for information because oh how I treasure the search in a real book found on real shelves guided by a librarian who loves the hunt as much as I, and I want Delaney to treasure this too!) She says to me, "If God were here in my room I would just ask Him how he makes all this snow. I think He is just up there sprinkling it with His hands." Perhaps it's better left as a bit of a mystery, this blanket of white that covers us tonight making us be still and quiet and remember our Creator.

Thank You for snow. I know I have grumbled before because of the cold and wet and inconvenience but tonight my daughter reminded me it is from Your hand, another gift reminding me to be still and know You are God.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Calvary stills all our questions

I have been reading Amy Carmichael's Rose from Brier this week and the above title of one of the chapters has stuck in my head and my heart. So many questions pressing in on me and every single one can be answered by Calvary.

One of the most difficult recurring questions I face each day is in regards to what Amy's book is specifically written about, continued physical suffering. I ask God why He has given me chronic physical pain in the form of severe fybromyalgia. I am presently in a horrible flare and my body has deteriorated in the past days so that I have constant shooting burning pain in my legs and hips and knees and even my toes. I can barely lift Danica and when I do it hurts so bad I want to cry. My face and my back is twitching. I cannot sleep. I have made my peace with this thorn in the flesh many times before but somehow I always end up back here asking "Why?"

Amy writes, "What, then, is the answer? I do not know. I believe that it is one of the secret things of the Lord, which will not be opened to us till we see Him who endured the Cross, see the scars in His hands and feet and side, see Him, our Beloved, face to face. I believe that in the revelation of love, which is far past our understanding now, we shall "understand even as all along we have been understood." And till then? . . . There is only one way of peace. It is the child's way. The loving child trusts. I believe that we who know our God, and have proved Him good past telling, will find rest there. The faith of the child rests on the character it knows. So may ours; so shall ours. Our Father does not explain, nor does He assure us as we long to be assured. . . But we know our Father. We know His character. Somehow, somewhere, the wrong must be put right; how we do not know, only we know that, because He is what He is, anything else is inconceivable. . . There is only one place where we can receive, not an answer to our question, but peace--that place is Calvary. An hour at the foot of the Cross steadies the soul as nothing else can. "Oh Christ Beloved, Thy Calvary stills all our questions." Love that loves like that can be trusted about this."

A Father who loves me enough to give His only Son to die for me can be trusted. And so once again I lay it all down here at Calvary. I surrender my body to Him, a living sacrifice, and offer thanksgiving for this pain which helps me see more clearly the price that was paid for my sin. I breathe gratitude for an affliction that keeps my eyes fixed on things above and not on this earth.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I just pulled one of my "power suits" out of the closet freshened up with a new scarf I bought on Friday. I picked out my shoes, my trench and a matching hand bag. This is the first time in over a year I have even thought about what I was going to wear the next day the night before. Tomorrow morning I have an interview. It's strange for me to feel nervous about meeting with someone for any reason. I love people. I love to hear about their business and share my experience. I am not afraid of what is not meant to be so I rarely feel bad if after the interview I am told I am not qualified enough, overqualified or not a good fit for whatever reason. So, I am not sure why I feel so uneasy about stepping out into the work world again.

EXCEPT. . . when I think about leaving my Danica all day with someone else I begin to cry and feel sick and frantic. I am terrified to hand this precious child to a stranger. I have to admit there are days I long for meaningful work and an office full of adult conversation. I miss wearing nice clothes, having a quiet commute alone with my thoughts and being recognized for good ideas and hard work. None of those things could ever compare to the gift of caring for my Dani Jean. Yes, there are moments of drudgery but every time she smiles I feel rich and know my work is blessed.

There is a certain amount of money we must have to meet our basic needs. We have cut back as much as possible and to keep Delaney in her school I have to work. My database telecommuting job has been such an answer to prayer, but as things have slowed and the checks are shrinking barely making it will quickly turn into not making it. I am a realist.

God knows my heart. He knows my desire to be here answering my most important call as a wife and a mother. He knows the balance in my checking account. He knows my willingness to work as hard as I need to to help provide for those I love. He knows my physical limitations. He loves me and He will lead me and give me grace whatever His will.

Thank You for granting peace in my core even when surrounded by fear and doubt. Thank You for faith to believe even when I don't feel.