Category Archives: aches and lessons

the sweet and bitter…

friends holding hands

they are still best friends. and when you are four-almost-five, a year or two together is quite a significant portion of life. a year of separation, due to a family move, has not dimmed their friendship. two mother-hearts are torn when they mention missing one another.

she loves surprises, this sweet daughter-gift of ours. and we love giving them! this time it was a few precious hours, shared with others, but a chance to eat pizza and giggle and dance and just be friends together again. a time to renew and reaffirm the depth of childhood friendship. a time to forget the separation and miles and hours now required to enjoy what they once took for granted.

the inevitable tears came. copious tears. a child’s sorrow is hard for all to bear. the deep, unchecked emotion of childhood. the great joy replaced by grief.

as I tucked the still-sorrowing girl into bed, we talked about the roller coaster emotions of the day. was it worth having those precious few hours together when it made her so terribly sad now? “oh yes, mommy. I would rather see her for a little and be sad than not see her at all. she is my friend and I love her. even if I am sad now.”

I left her room with the refrain of Psalm 84 running through  my head, with its modern adaptation:

Better is one day in your courts

Better is one day in your house

Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere

how amazing! better is one afternoon with a dear friend than not being together at all. better is one day in God’s presence, in His courts, than a thousand without Him.

even more amazing is that, unlike leaving a friend and feeling bereft of their presence, we have the gift, not only in the here and now, but into the infinite future, to live each day with God, to be in relationship with Him continually.

there is no bitterness of separation, only the sweetness of days, of life, together.

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to borrow words from another…

listening friend

I usually have plenty to say. and I would probably broach this subject myself, but Sarah does so beautifully and honestly. it is an experience we’ve all had at one time or another. a heart hurt, making its way up the throat, over the vocal chords, and finding voice. the words seem received. compassion seems to be birthed. but the one we’ve trusted with this pain suddenly says, “I know exactly what you mean…” or in some similar way cuts across our pain and inserts their own.

our stories are so very different, but at the core, in the painful places, Sarah says it so much better…

http://www.sarahmarkley.com/2011/02/twisting-your-pain-to-fit-me/

oh, that we would give each other the grace and compassion to meet in the pain and walk it together, holding, instead of hurting one another with careless words, inserting ourselves into their pain, allowing it to remain theirs and become instead, partners on the journey…

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strength and perseverance

it has been a windy season. most days our daughter-gift wakes up and asks if it is another windy day. or more likely, she makes a statement of it.

when we lived in southern California, it was news when the winds blew. sometimes Santa Ana winds, and other times from storms coming through the area. it always puzzled us how often downed trees made the news, downed by strong, but not devastating winds. I remember a co-worker once stating that her son had not slept all night because he was afraid of the wind.

in this land of four very distinct seasons the wind is not a headline-grabber by any stretch of the imagination. tornadoes, blizzards, thunderstorms, and severe weather in general, are part of life. we do talk about the weather here, and for good reason. it shapes us in ways we do not expect. a beautiful day, no matter the season, is cause to stop and enjoy, if only for a moment. a windy day, in our understated manner, will be called gusty. bitingly cold wind might be described as blustery. rarely do we consider our trees and worry about them toppling.

this difference between the stalwart northern trees and those of our California friends is striking. many of the trees making their way into the news were the same as the sturdy ones “back home.” so we researched. and talked to some who might understand our confusion. what we found was fascinating. and has implications on our spiritual lives.

for a tree, life in California is easy. lots of sun. a relatively temperate climate. few storms. it seems trees have little reason to work at sending their roots deep, so they spread wide. and trees topple in seemingly innocuous winds. the root system cannot tolerate much abuse and a strong gust will take a large tree down.

to survive the extreme seasons of the north, a tree must send its roots deep and wide. they must be strong. and they must persevere through the ever-changing weather. their wood is different, stronger, than an untested tree. a northern forest gives a wonderful picture of this strength and tenacity. the outer rim of a forest boasts the strongest trees, standing strong and mighty, facing the storms and protecting those in deeper. those inside, the protected ones, are not as strong. they will topple, much like those in California. their fortress of protection, when removed, leaves them vulnerable to the elements.

how like the trees we can be! how we often long for the easy California tree life! we pray God saves us from trial and testing, grateful for uneventful days, and breathing relief when tragedy is averted.

but in the trials, the windy, stormy times, He grows us. our roots in Him go deeper.

it is easy to feel abandoned to the storm. to wonder if He is punishing us or has forgotten our suffering.

maybe the better thought, the better question, is to ask which roots He is wanting to grow, where He might be strengthening our faith.

He does not send the storm to punish, but instead to protect. in those times we are not forgotten, as we might feel, but instead remembered, cared for, and nurtured.

even, and especially, in the storm.

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days on the calendar…

It was one of those days. A date on the calendar. For most, just a date. For me, an anniversary. A painful one.

Dreams shattered.

Life swirling around despite it.

Holding to Jesus. Desperately clinging to Him.

A heart and body wounded, never to be the same.

New questions. A paradigm shift.

A fresh sensitivity inward. Someday to turn outward and hold others in a similar place.

We all have them. Quiet anniversaries. Sacred. Shared with few. Life hurts that remain quietly remembered.

Walking wounded all. Feeling so very alone.

And yet not. Others have tread these familiar paths, so new to us, so unreal.

Death of a loved one. Job loss. Diagnosis. Car accident. Miscarriage. Relationship destroyed. Betrayal. Devastating confession. And so many more.

It is good for me to remember dates like these. They remind me that we all carry heart hurts. And most often we do not know the significant dates on someone else’s calendar. They may need some extra grace, a smile, a kind word. Things that cost me so little time, such small effort. Being  Jesus’ hands and feet. Bringing some Barnabas encouragement.

More than just a date on the calendar…

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healing tears (i cried, part two)

healing tears

there was a place in life so painful I wanted to walk away and start over. well, maybe not all of my life. but a good portion of it. years of pain from many sources. years of shattered dreams, crumbling like glass, falling to the ground, carrying pieces of my heart. again.

to say it was the lowest point of my life is no understatement. and it was here, in the depth of that agony, I decided to walk away from Him. the cost was too great. the pain too deep. in those moments I could no longer trace His path and walked away.

because the circumstance of life in that moment were so painful in and of themselves, no one knew some of the tears I shed were farewell to my beloved King, my Redeemer, my Friend. the journey simply cost too much and I had nothing more to give Him. to give no one, really.

it lasted less than 24 hours. theologically and apologetically, I knew there was nowhere else to go. I knew I would not really leave Him. where would I go? to whom would I turn? even then, I knew my earlier farewell was a sham.

and then…

blessed be Your name came on through the car sound system. a familiar tune. words glossed over. and yet not. yes, it is easy to called Him “blessed” when things are going well and all is right in one’s world. but those last lines caught my wounded heart. the decision to leave Him still flitted around my heart. until

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

did you catch it? He gives and takes away. that is His right, as my Lord, my King, my Redeemer. Job knew and acknowledged this. he did not curse Him and walk away. I just wanted the walking away part.

but did I? or would MY heart choose to say that He was “blessed,” even when He took away? even when there was so much pain in my offering?

in that moment I knew the truth of that refrain. He IS blessed. on the good days and the bad. when things are rosy and when they are black. and that blessedness falls on us as His children.

in my pain, I was fickle, looking for a way out, someone to blame. He was handy. and big enough to shoulder it, never judging me for the fear, anger, or weariness that had taken hold in my heart.

He flung His arms wide, whispered, “daughter,” and hugged me. I chose, in my pain, to call Him “blessed.”

years later, it still brings tears to my eyes. even in church…

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I cried…

it probably does not sound like big news to anyone but me. it is.

I didn’t just cry. I cried in church.

this is significant because I can be pretty stoic. a bit hard to read sometimes. certain emotions come freely. others are locked away and rarely see the light of day. and when they do, it is somewhere safe, not in church, not in any public place.

I’ve become a bit contemplative in recent years, causing me to weigh my emotion even more carefully than before, frequently seeming to “check out” a bit as I talk with God about something.

to cry in church is a watershed event. that it was in response to a song made it even more so. perhaps you know the song. the words are familiar to many. lines glossed over, sung without realizing the depth of their meaning.

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

(Matt Redman)

ah, the agony my heart returns to when this song comes up. it is one of those songs I sing alone in the car, at the top of my voice or in the smallest whisper. regardless of my volume, the stereo is on higher than usual. this is, to me, a song of pain, a song of healing…

(continued tomorrow)

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beauty in the disappointment…

please pardon the delay. this post was lost in the shuffle of life a few weeks ago. although we’ve turned the calendar page on Easter, it still lives in our hearts, its message ever true and sure.

it is the middle of April. and we live in northern climate. snow is the last thing anyone wants to see at this point in the calendar year. yes, we all know it can and does happen. but it is no longer fun.

so when we awoke to snow on the ground the other day, we were all disappointed. even the youngest in our home knew snow was no longer welcome. she stood in the dining room, frantically waving her little arms, “go away snow! shoo! shoo!”

would that it were that easy to get rid of the snow.

would that it were that easy to get rid of life’s disappointments. would that it were easy to see the beauty in those times. the contrast of daffodils against the snow  is not always easy to see when life is dark.

given that it is Holy Week, thoughts easily turn to the disciples and what they went through as Christ died and was buried. I wonder what they were thinking. were they wrong to follow Him? how could He be killed, just like that? would the authorities soon be after them? their disappointments must have piled on top of each other!

and yet, the beauty came, more glorious than anything they could have imagined! HE CAME BACK! He did not stay dead. in their darkest of dark days, they could not have conceived the stark beauty awaiting them. their experience brings us hope and comfort, even when spring snows threaten.

we have the advantage in knowing the end of their story. it is written for all to know. our own stories, our own disappointments, are not yet concluded. their fruition is a great unknown.

it can be terribly difficult, but waiting for His beauty to shine is always worth the pain of dark times. these are often the places of deepest formation and growth. may you feel His grace and love when cold snows and dark nights threaten to steal your joy. may He gently gather you to Himself and give you rest. and may you have a glimpse of the daffodils in the snow, for all their bright color and cheer, to warm your heart on dark days.

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