If You Can

Every few months I get the urge to clean, purge, and organize our home. I scour cabinets and closets, categorize books and magazines, systematize medicines, and ruthlessly look every clingy stuffed animal in its pitiful eyes.

I think the compulsion comes from years of chaos growing up when I would obsessively clean to try to take some burden off my parents and brother. I felt a tangible sense of control after rearranging and assessing and the physical space achieved after getting rid of things freed up precious mental and emotional “space.”

This week has been one of those weeks when I am craving mental space. There is so much going on in my relationships and with my (lack of) health. I wake up and try to stop the thoughts from rushing in. I have to cry out to God to protect me from my own worry and circumstances.

My house has been under assault.

I have cajoled and pressed my family into deconstructing their rooms and collections throughout the house. I sit impatiently next to them sharing the advice of one who doesn’t cherish physical objects. Most often I remind them, “if you can let it go - you should.”

Indeed. My inner turmoil is far more critical than the outward, and the answer is staring me in the face.

If you can - let it go.

If you can give our hurt and pain and stress over to God - let it go. If you can forgive and move on - you absolutely should.

But perhaps you can’t. Sometimes letting go is honestly too much to ask. So you assess. You make new boundaries. You figure out something that will work for you. It makes little sense to see a problem and just let it build day after day until you become used to living in confusion and disarray.

There are so many projects I want to tackle right now. I am ready to pass on baby clothes and gadgets to a nesting mom. I am curious how 3 feet of random belongings have piled up in the luggage closet. I want to reassess and reorder the arts and crafts cabinet, but I must deal with my spiritual house first.

It has been under assault. I need to let go of some petty things done by people I still love, and want to continue to be in fellowship with. I need to forgive myself of some failures.

Sadly, I need to put up some new boundaries. There are some people that just won’t stop hurting you until you let go of the ideal of them, and then you find that they don’t belong within your boundaries at all. Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

I’m shaking out rugs and sweeping behind appliances looking for thoughts and attitudes that don’t belong in someone with the mind of Christ. I am letting go of my old patterns, and clinging as hard to Jesus as I know how. I am finding that the mental space I so desperately crave can only be found in casting my cares on Him, and submitting to the establishment of His ways. He speaks across the tossing waves of my soul, and calm erupts. In Him I find rest and peace, and space to be me.

Holding On

Psalm 27 (in part)

The Lord is my light and my salvation -

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life -

of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing I ask of the Lord,

this is what I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to seek Him in His temple.

For in the day of trouble

He will keep me safe in His dwelling;

He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle

and set me high upon a rock.

Though my father and mother forsake me,

the Lord will receive me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord;

lead me in a straight path

I am still confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Psalm 30 (an excerpt)

LORD my God, I called to you for help,

and you healed me.

You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;

you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people;

praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,

but his favor lasts a lifetime;

weeping may stay for the night,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.

You turned my wailing into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth

and clothed me with joy,

that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

Psalm 147 (in parts)

He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars

and calls them each by name.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;

His understanding has no limit.

The LORD sustains the humble,

but casts the wicked to the ground.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,

nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;

the LORD delights in those who fear him,

who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Psalm 23 (KJV)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness

for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through

the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life:and

I will dwell in the house of the LORD



I dreamed of death

Two nights ago I dreamed that death was a figure sitting in a canoe in the middle of a quiet lake. It was shadowy and mysterious. I want to say that death was ugly and aggressive and hateful, but I wasn’t afraid. We just watched watched each other, neither moving. Death was aware of me, and I was not surprised by its closeness.

I received distressing news yesterday. The steroids have not worked to put the Churg-Strauss into remission in more than a year. My eosinophils continue to be elevated, and my labs have started to show some damage to my liver. The treatment has become a liability.

We are switching tactics, becoming more aggressive. I am going to start methotrexate in combination with the hated Prednisone. I can hardly wrap my mind around the idea of ingesting poison to make myself well.

I feel that I should be reeling, but instead I am looking out across the lake - curious.

I see the sun rising and I marvel at the beauty of God’s creativity. I delight in the warmth and crispness of a new day. I have always wondered if God set the sunrise in motion unattended, or whether He joyfully paints the sky with brilliant color each morning.

Either way, I can sense His pleasure with what He has created.

I sometimes worry about my own smallness. I am not destined to be great. Both the world and the church have laughed at my desire to be more than completely ordinary. All my life I have been put in my place by neglect, abuse, disinterest, manipulation, and fear.

And yet, He adores me. He may have set nature in motion and left it to cycle and recycle, but not me. His Word speaks to me. He is in my heart and mind correcting me, rebuking me, comforting me, and transforming me.

Created in His image, and conformed to His likeness.

Disease may take my life, but it can only deliver me utterly into His arms. Fear may threaten to overwhelm me, but I trust Him.

Psalm 112

Worst Momma Day Ever

Let me start off by saying I am not comparing myself to those moms that abuse, abandon, or neglect their children. I mean the rest of us. Those that love our kids so much it hurts. They bring us sunshine, fulfillment, and purpose. We find it hard not to bring them up in every conversation. We’re sure our child is the most clever, athletic, charming, beautiful child that ever lived. We put our own needs aside to serve, discipline, and nurture our children. I am that kind of mother.

And yet, today I failed: myself and my child.

I have some excuses. You may even sympathize. I had already folded so many loads of laundry I’d lost count except that I knew there were at least a dozen dryer sheets left to be gathered off the living room floor. I was standing in the bathroom mopping up a puddle of urine left by a four-year-old that likes to wait until the last possible second to run to the bathroom, and then some. My one-year-old was screeching and scratching my ankles because he was overtired and hurting from the two teeth pushing through his gums. I’d spent the day redirecting, supervising time-out, spanking, and clinging to the patience that seemed determined to slip through my grasp. I could feel the mounting stress of a to-do list that never ends, and no sign of rest on the horizon. A few immature and rude comments from my mostly wonderful husband put me over the edge.

I’d had it. I was sweaty, smelly like the dust and dirt and grease I’d scrubbed from chairs and cabinets and floors, and as exhausted as the baby rubbing his eyes and pulling his hair now hanging off my hip.

Wearily, I announced “I AM LEAVING. I need a break.”

From the other room I could hear the husband ask (what seemed antagonistically to my overtired brain) “Ha. When do you plan to get back to all this?”

So I grumbled, “how about never,” grabbed my purse, and walked outside. I got as far as the stairs out front, and sat down dreaming of a quiet hotel room that I didn’t clean, a nice meal at a restaurant that I didn’t cook, and maybe a novel: one that didn’t pop-up, sing songs, or come with colorful pictures.

What I didn’t know was my sweet tender-hearted four-year-old had heard me grumble. She was sitting in the window with the weight of the world on her shoulders watching to see if I would come back inside.

Taking just enough time to gather my sanity, maybe four minutes, I slipped back inside mentally re-prioritizing my to-do list. I’d just decided the baby needed me most when my four-year-old came around the corner weeping. When I asked her to sit down and tell me what was wrong, she could barely choke out the words “you said you were never coming back. I prayed Jesus would send you home. I am so sad. My heart is slipping away.”

Sigh. Worst Momma Day Ever. It doesn’t get much worse than shaking the foundation of trust and security in your little one.

I pulled her on my lap, and told her how sorry I was. Cuddling, we had a long talk about sin and mommy learning to control her mouth. (Ouch.) The baby crawled over and fell fitfully asleep on my lap. We just sat in the hallway, and set to right our seemingly out-of-control world piece by piece, prayer by prayer.

I couldn’t bear to let her out of my sight the rest of the day, and I have a feeling she felt the same way. When I put her to bed tonight, I had to sit in the hallway and talk to God. I feel this deep hurt wondering if this will be one of the memories that will stick out in her mind instead of all the fun and normalcy of our daily lives.

I am still trying to wrap my mind around the enormity of being a mama. I can tell I am going to need a lot more grace both in giving out and for myself. I can’t promise to stop caring about a messy house and the frustrating repetitive tasks of mothering little people; but I do intend to take a break before my self-control snaps under the weight of chores. Next time I will bite my tongue off before I use it as a weapon of sarcasm and stress. I will sit down and make sure my kids, friends, and husband know that I am human and I too have limits and needs. I will rest.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved." (Psalm 127:1-2)

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." (Isaiah 30:15)

Excerpt from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]

"There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour."

I pray God would continue to challenge your hearts and mine with the injustices of our hour. I pray for creative, loving, and brave responses for the needs we see. Let us drag whomever we find in darkness through His tunnel of hope and redemption. Let us be extremists for love and the extension of justice. I pray that God would speak to each of our feminine hearts how we might uniquely and purposefully show His mercy, compassion, comfort, and love to this hurting world. Amen!

He speaks in hurricanes

I have a new recurring dream.

I'm still being chased, but now it's a monstrous hurricane with 12 spiraling tornados stretching across entire cities that is after me. Destruction is clearly imminent, and yet I am still running. Running because I am hopeful that I can escape, yet torn sometimes because I am confronted with leaving my children briefly to secure a safe future for them.

I should back up and mention that I have had recurring dreams (mostly nightmares) since I was 4 years old. I have never known what to make of them. I am deeply skeptical, and dream interpretations fall squarely into my idea of wacky.

Every once in a while my frustration with these dreams oozes out, and last week a dear friend encouraged me to look up the significance of being chased in dreams. I read with uncomfortable clarity that they are a common theme pointing to anxiety and avoidance. I admit it.

I have been avoiding dealing with people.

People who push and crush my boundaries with a capricousness born out of self-importance. I don't mean that I avoid them. I avoid "dealing" with them. I have excused immaturity, padded myself with neglect, and borne increasingly heavier measures of false guilt. I have been a toxic waste dump for some, and still a worn out pack-horse for others.

Is it any wonder I wake up covered in sweat with tensed muscles and feel that I get no rest? Perhaps it isn't far-fetched to think God is trying to speak to me in a dream when I have refused to listen in consciousness. Sigh.

So the new dream. No longer I am hounded by a person, but nature itself has set out to destroy me. This time I was listening. I'm avoiding Churg-Strauss Syndrome.

More pointedly - death.

I have had days of late when faith is a challenge. When I feel that I can't take one more disappointing lab result. When the pressing weight of opening one more hospital bill anchors me below the surface and I can't breathe in God's peace and love. I can't breathe period.

My mind grapples with questions of faith and stumbles around an apologetic mine-field.

Then there are moments when I shake my fist at death and the grave. The stubborness that travels the corridors of my soul bursts out and declares that


even when I can't catch my breath. I trust God when I have promised to pay for bills that I fear will outlive me. I trust God even when His plan for me is painful, and the road He sends me down is dark and lonely.

I trust God knows better than I, even though I am humiliated by my own frailty of mind and body. It feels foolish, but I believe in Heaven. This life has been a great disappointment to me full of pain and many sorrows, but I trust that points to another place my soul was meant to be.

I don't want to ignore the questions that come because I have to face the idea of dying. I want to hear God's voice before He speaks in hurricanes.

Do I believe God can be good and let me suffer? Yes. Though I wish I were somehow too important or perhaps too beneath satan's notice, I was bought at a price. He deserves my devotion and praise regardless of my temporary earthly circumstances.

Is He concerned with me? Does He see my suffering? Isaiah 53, NLT

"He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down."

It breaks my heart to think of Good so broken because of me, and yet His taking on my burdens and sin touches the very core of my hurt, it mends the cracks in fibre of my being.

Is it fair that I must fight for my breath through a thick sludge, and take drugs that wreak havoc on my emotions and body? The best I can answer this is that God and I are not equals. My thoughts are too beneath His to judge Him, but I have tried Him. His mercy has been a cool Spring rain, refreshing me. He is more tender than a mother holding her newborn for the first time. Surely His sacrificing His only son (for me) shows His utter commitment to justice far beyind my comprehension.

What of my children? What will happen to them if I die? I feel so surely that NO ONE could love them as deeply, so purely, without any encumberances as I do. Though it pains me, I will trust Him with them. I will acknowledge with my mouth what my heart just doesn't feel, and pray for strength to keep trusting.

The hurricane is coming, but I still have Hope. He may yet heal me, but even if He doesn't I count Him worthy of my trust.