It’ll be Ian’s first Christmas.  When I look at him, I understand a little more of the cost of Jesus’ incarnation.  Mostly because I’ve never spent so much time with an infant before.  My omnipotent God condescended to become someone’s completely helpless and needy, kissable baby.  He bowed His head and came.  Not just as a man.  Not just as a grown, fully competent man of trade, though that would have been humiliating enough for the Son who simply spoke the universe into existence.  But He came as a baby who had to nurse at the breast of a fumbling first time mom.  And I can’t wrap my mind around it.  The nearness of it.

But other thoughts come knocking this Christmas, too.  They aren’t completely unrelated.

In this season at least — and I don’t know, maybe for the rest of his life — Ian won’t know the fullness of my side of the family.  At least not all at once.  He can’t pick up on everything yet of course, but he’ll experience it by the things he doesn’t experience.  The loved ones he doesn’t get to interact with as much, his family he won’t grow to know as well, just because it’s harder to foster relationships with everyone when each fractured piece has to be cherished separately.  And because of our limited nature, some pieces will be neglected.  Some loved ones will be strangers to him.  And I grieve over this.  Sometimes bitterly.  My son won’t know the fullness and richness that is my side of the family.  At least not as continuously and intimately as I’d known it in my childhood.  (I know this is extremely common.  I know it could be worse.  But common never eases the pain, does it?)  This is not my first fractured Christmas.  It hurt as a daughter.  It hurt as a wife.  But ah — it hurts in a different way as a mother.  I don’t mean Christmas holds no joy.  Not at all.  But it’s a joy mingled with pain.  And I think that’s okay — at least when I consider Christmas in its original glory and un-glory.  Stripped down to a manger, but one containing no one less than the Lamb of God.

So last night before bed, I jotted everything I wanted to remember and tell myself as long as this season of brokenness lasts.  The tone may come across strong.  I really needed “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” kind of language last night.  Nothing spineless would do against “Apollyon” and Giant Despair.  So in raw form, and in the order they came to mind:

Don’t become bitter.  Who are you to hold a charge against anyone?  You are no better.  The gospel says you are no better.

Adjust your expectations.  They are not Jesus.  You are not Jesus.  That’s why He came.  We all fall short.

Don’t become bitter.  This is worth repeating twice.

Pray.

Our earthly families aren’t the end-all be-all.  They point to a greater, more eternal reality.

God is sovereign.  You weren’t meant for the next home over. He placed you in your family with precision.  Don’t waste it.

Your family doesn’t cause you to sin.  They can tempt you to sin, but sin is always of personal volition.

May it never be that you echo Adam and accuse God with, “…the woman You gave me” — or rather, “the family You gave me.”

Your family is not beyond hope.  That’s why Christmas happened.  Christmas didn’t come for those who are whole — or who look whole or think they are whole.  It came for the diseased and broken.

We don’t celebrate Christmas because our family is together and happy.  We don’t celebrate Christmas for any other earthly reason than this: Jesus entered our world to rescue us from the power and penalty and pervasiveness of sin.

The goal is God’s glory.  Don’t idolize the image of a perfect family.  Is a stable family a blessing?  Yes.  But do not bow to it.

All families are broken in some way — at least on this side of eternity.  You cannot escape heartache or grief or brokenness in any relationship, even as a hermit.  Where memories might cease to assault you, the absence of relationship will takes its place.  Only your relationship with God is safe — and really, only on His part, not yours.  Thank God He is faithful and able to make us faithful to the end.

It’s better to be broken than hardened.  It’s better to be broken than hardened.  It’s better to be broken than hardened.

Don’t forget your church family.  Ask for prayer.  Embrace their encouragement and exhortation.  Love them well.  Remember they’re broken people being sanctified, too.

Love your family, period.  Remember the costly manner in which Jesus laid down His life and by His grace, do the same.  But remember this key difference between you and Jesus in this: He was better than than those for whom He laid down His life.  You are not.

No matter how wearying and how long the labor, or whatever the results or lack thereof, you are called to be a peacemaker.  Peacemaking is dirty work, and you are completely unqualified except in Christ.  Don’t grow weary of doing good.  The labor is ours, the fruit is God’s to give.

Look brokenness in the face.  Don’t pretend it away.  And then tell brokenness to look Jesus in the face.  See who wins.

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Holiday winds don’t automatically bring cheer.  In fact, sometimes they just aggravate the rheumatic spots in our lives — old aches, heartbreaks, disappointments, sorrow.  Sometimes I admit I’m more prone to upset or melancholy as the holidays draw near.  The brightness of the holidays illuminates all that is wrong or missing instead of revealing what is right and whole.  And the more I try to pretend I have no pain and that my life or loved ones aren’t sorely broken in parts, the more painful and broken they all feel.  I look to what I think Wholeness should look like.  I look to what I think Joy ought to look like.  And I look in all the wrong places and faces.  Because anywhere and anyone except Christ is the wrong Where and Who.  Let me — let us — remember that tomorrow, Thanksgiving, and as Christmas draws near.  Because we need Him every day — on holidays no less.  And He is near —

On holidays no less.

Dirty mangers.

June 4, 2012

Abba, sometimes I miss Your answers to prayer, because I’m looking for answers served on silver platters.  I’m looking in the mailbox for a sealed envelope with a clear address label instead of in the junk drawer.  I’m looking away toward the airy skies rather than here at the muddy ground.

But Your answers to prayers for redemption look messy sometimes, don’t they?  They look like loss?  Like a mis-answer?

And yet — and yet — if Your greatest Answer came in a dirty manger, should I be surprised if your other answers come in dirty mangers?

This morning, when I arrived at work, I had a note on my desk.  Words of Life neatly printed, illustrations colored with much care and detail. Thoughtful, sweet exhortations from a young but wise friend.

As I read her note, Scripture came to mind, expelling many lies with the single thought: “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.”  How is it that He prompted her to color His truth into my heart today?  Timely exhortations to remember my Light, to be ready for His return, and to extend vertical peace horizontally to those around me.

Thankful for His tenderness.  And for a certain 8-year old whose middle name is Hope.  :]

Today, she was Abba God’s tender touch.

38.

August 3, 2011

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.  In these lay a multitude of invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed.  One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

(John 5:1-9)

38 years is a long time.  Long enough to think this is who he’d always be, long enough to establish an identity and reputation tied to his invalidity.

But it didn’t matter.  38 years or 38 seconds, it didn’t have any bearing on Jesus’ ability and His kind willingness to heal.

Let me learn something of my Savior here.  And something of man.

A man’s hope to radical change is not determined by his history.  Rather, his hope of healing — and his hope of complete transformation and continued sanctification — is determined by his Redeemer’s might and mercy.

And would I be self-righteous?  Utter folly.  For my hope lies in the same. ♥

Hymn: There Is a Hope.

December 10, 2010

Some things aren’t worth skim-reading.  Recently discovered this hymn by Stuart Townend and Mark Edwards.  It’s well worth a slow, meditative, prayerful read.  Today in particular, every word of it read like a balm — for struggles with a flailing, thrashing flesh; for daily wear-and-tear; for lack of a quiet and gentle response within.  But there is a hope.  One that is outside of me (in Christ alone) and yet within me (Christ in me).

Praise.  God.

There is a hope that burns within my heart, that gives me strength for ev’ry passing day; a glimpse of glory now revealed in meager part, yet drives all doubt away: I stand in Christ, with sins forgiv’n; and Christ in me, the hope of heav’n! My highest calling and my deepest joy, to make His will my home.

There is a hope that lifts my weary head, a consolation strong against despair; that when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit, I find the Savior there! Through present sufferings, future’s fear, He whispers, “Courage!” in my ear; for I am safe in everlasting arms, and they will lead me home.

There is a hope that stands the test of time, that lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave, to see the matchless beauty of a day divine when I behold His face! When sufferings cease and sorrows die, and every longing satisfied, then joy unspeakable will flood my soul, for I am truly home.

(Townend and Edwards, 2007)

Lit(tle) boy.

December 4, 2010

Inspired by a true story that took place in Illinois.

He was just two, battling against an invisible foe whose name he couldn’t pronounce.  Leukemia.

And one day, the Captain said to him, “Soon it’ll be time to put down your sword, little one.”  His parents, battling beside him, heard the word and bowed their heads.  Hearts slain — who can adequately describe it? — but still.

They held him near as the news settled in their hearts.  How soon?  They weren’t sure.  Weeks, maybe.  But they held him near, tucking away the memory of his frame, his smile, his scent.  And as they did, an idea began to emerge, perhaps an idea given by the Giver of every good gift.  He’s got to have one last Christmas. But it was only October.

Papa climbed the attic and blew dust off of a box.  Train set. And another. Tree ornaments. And another.  Christmas lights. “Yes,” he thought, as he looked at the lights.  “He’ll love it.”

Strains of Dora the Explorer music and the little boy’s laughter came from the family room.

The timer sounded in the kitchen, and Mama opened the warm oven.  Cinnamon, ginger, sugar, butter. Now it smelled like Christmas, too. She glanced at the calendar.  Next week it’d already be November.

“A little early to be putting up Christmas decorations, isn’t it?” Neighbor asked with a chuckle.

Papa’s eyes stung from little pools that suddenly collected in their corners, but he smiled and gave a tug at the line of lights.  “My boy’s gotta have one last Christmas.”

Next day, when Papa came out to grab the morning paper, he gave a soft cry.  Neighbor’s home was decorated, too.  Early.  For Christmas.

Day after that, when he came out again for the morning news, Papa gave another cry.  Mama and the little boy came out to see, too.  The whole street was decorated.  Early.  For Christmas.

Over the next few weeks, as the angels watched from above, one house at a time in that town was decorated — like a line of Christmas lights, lit and tugged through town as each heart was tugged.

And each evening, Mama, Papa, and the little boy went to see the Christmas decorations.  Candy canes in lawns, reindeer on rooftops, lights.  So many beautiful lights.  And so much love for the little boy.  For Mama and Papa, too.

As November progressed, the sun set earlier and the nights grew longer.  But more and more Christmas lights appeared across town, across the city, across the nation.  It tugged at Mama and Papa’s hearts to see them.  As for the little boy, he didn’t think it strange at all; because as far as he was concerned, it was Christmas.

Christmas came and went that year.  And so did the little boy.  He went, but not until he shed light on a whole town, and many towns beyond that town.  (Not unlike another Little Boy who once came.)

And when he went, he went to meet the One who came to bring life.  And light.  To a world of setting suns and long nights.

True, lasting light.

(Read the actual story about the little boy Dax Locke here, here, here, here, and here.  The true copyright of this Story, though, is held by the Father of lights.)