Darkness


In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.
Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 29:18-19

We visited John Piper's church in Minneapolis on Saturday evening. It was a fun double date with a couple from small group...a chance to get out and to hear a great preacher teach. I sat next to two blind men who came into the service late and were searching - vainly - for a place to sit. The sermon was on John 3:31-36. It was an oddly transcendent experience. Hanging out on the edge of consciousness, like I sometimes do, heightens all your senses, as you are in that peculiar "fight or flight" mode in which you are constantly assessing your pot odds, constantly evaluating the situation to determine what will be least painful, humiliating, or distressing for those around you. I was on the verge of passing out during the sermon, when my heart rate plummeted for no good reason whatsoever. In some ways, it was a spiritual experience because I was hanging on by my fingernails to the edge of the conscious world. The other thing that lent this sermon special light was the fact that the power of the words of the Bible were paired with the emphatic muttering of the blind man next to me: "amen!", "that's right, brother."

This man was born without eyes to see with. He is anxiously looking forward to seeing the kingdom of heaven, I'm sure. I felt a sense of kinship with him. I was pretty sure we could sit in a room somewhere and talk about lots of things before we got to the subject of disabilities or disease. That was the last thing on his mind as he sat through that service. He wasn't thinking about what he can't do...he was focused completely - so much so that he leaned forward with anticipation and excitement - on the ancient words of the Bible.

It was a good example, in a week that has been a dark one. I needed to be reminded of correct perspective, as usual. (Everything quickly becomes relative inside of oneself.) I needed to be reminded of eternity, that destination I'm on my way to that overcomes all cares and trials of this short lifetime here on this turf.

Tomorrow I head to the electrophysiologist. The one who will determine my medical future, how far we will go to determine the cause of my fainting and what means we will use to treat it. I trust this man, as Aaron knows him well and trusts me to his skilled hands. However, I still feel a bit of dread. I am jumping back into a lake of suffering I climbed out of many years ago. I will never like cardiologists. Too many bad memories. I am hopeful this is a brief interruption. I am looking forward to so much about this summer. Little things, like Katy's t-ball season and first year at Vacation Bible School, Rosy learning to read, and Amy becoming so much more verbal. Caleb learning to walk, really walk. I hope not much is derailed by this fainting business.

Grace trumps asceticism

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold.

~ Fields of Gold, Sting, performed by Eva Cassidy

By some small miracle, the yellow wildflowers of spring defeat the various pesticides used by the farmer who plants the fields around us. Our entire vista is dotted with these gifts from heaven, a literal field of gold all the way to the treeline at field's edge. I have prayed for this field as long as I have lived here. That whoever eventually builds there - if anyone - might be a dear friend.

I don't ask for help easily. Foolish pride. I don't want to be sick, or weak, or needy. I talked with my children about this the other day, and Katy nodded emphatically - it is remarkable how similar the cloth from which we were cut is. This holds in my relationship with God as well. I don't like to ask for something just for my own joy. Some ascetic tendency that whispers that I have a limited number of opportunities to catch the attention of Christ, that my requests should only be for the salvation of souls, and not human pleasure. Forgetting entirely that he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25) As a child, I remember framing my requests in a way that I thought would make them difficult to refuse, always connecting my desire with an opportunity for God's glory (although in my heart, the glory was often for me). "Please, God, let me get a homerun so that everyone will see that homeschooled Christian kids aren't big geeks! That will bring you glory, right, God?" I find myself now, an adult, doing the same thing - in a more mature way, of course. "Please, God, let my friends build a house in the field across the street. We will be so much more effective if we can work together, right, God?" Really what I desire is kinship, fellowship, the joy of waving out my front window to a friend in the early morning.

But doesn't that bring God glory as well? The kids and I just finished memorizing I John 4:7-8, Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone that loveth knoweth God and loveth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love. The love alone that would be visible, rising like a sweet perfume off this small 40-acre section of Wisconsin soil, is a reflection of God. I wonder if we don't sometimes forget how simple our complex God is. We rack our brains to determine why on earth He created us in the first place. Perhaps it was for the same reason we beget children ourselves: to smile more, to experience the burst of joy when they learn, to laugh uproariously at their childish mispronounciations and quips, to burst with pride as you see a mini version of yourself accomplishing "great" things. The seed of creation (in my human case, procreation) may be the most simple reason of all: because I can. To see what it's like. Is there anything unholy in that, I wonder?

I pray today for simple things:
  • Please, God, don't let me faint while I'm on a date in Minneapolis
  • Please, God, let the sunshine last while we plant more seeds in the garden
  • Please, God, make today a happy day for my baby
  • Please, God, don't let me faint at church tomorrow. Prevent any ambulance rides this weekend. For on you I depend for each breath and heartbeat.
  • Please, God, help me figure out why our phones aren't working so I don't feel so isolated. I am flummoxed by technology again!
  • Please, God, help me complete my school assignment so I can get on to household tasks.
And in this, as in all else, not my will, but thine be done (Luke 22:42).

What will you do with today?


I woke to a silly love note from my husband. A melon sticker on my fridge. It's probably been there for a few days, tucked amidst the chaos of birth announcements and children's drawings under the magnets on the fridge door.

...if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give
good gifts to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:11


Being sick induces many people to doubt God's love, faithfulness, or even his existence. In my life, the opposite has been true thus far. Because it has made each moment sweeter, each blessing more fragrant, each day longer and brighter and more cherished. The way the sunlight glints off the drop of sweet watermelon nectar falling from my son's cherry lips, the way he holds his fingers just like his father would...this man-child glimpse into my husband's past and my future...

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider:
God has made the one as well as the other.
~ Ecclesiastes 7:14a


I can lament that the fruit is gone, that my days pass so quickly and I wonder how many more are left. Or I can see the beauty in what's left. The pink glow on the edge of the rind. The glossiness of the wet fruit lying akimbo in a pile of discarded beauty. The joy that is left in each of my days, between ambulance rides and chest pain and exhaustion. The sweetness of each kiss from my children, the warmth of my husband's embrace in the wee hours of the morning. What's left is different, not less.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12


Sink your teeth into today. Slip into my skin for an afternoon, and bring the beauty of today into focus. The sunlight of this glorious morning warming your child's hair, bringing each strand (which He has numbered!) into focus out of the shadows of this dawn. Perhaps the cool dew on the ground as you weed your garden. Or the tang of the orange juice - miraculous fruit! - as it assaults your taste buds with breakfast.

Living like you're dying doesn't mean completing your Bucket list. It means realizing afresh the gift this life is, that each breath is a miracle in itself, and means that there is something left in the purpose and plan God created for your life that you have yet to accomplish.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be
.
Psalm 139:16

I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all of a sudden going fishing
Wasn’t such an imposition.
Well, I finally read the Good Book,
And I took a good long hard look,
At what I'd do if I could do it all again,

I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
I gave forgiveness that I'd been denying.
Some day, I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dying.

Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you’d do with it.

~ Live Like You Were Dyin', written by Craig Wiseman

Richly blessed


As the Scripture says,
"Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame...
the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
~ from Romans 10

I have been so blessed the past few days. Husband proffering extra hugs and lots of help around the house. Mother and sisters-in-law who jump to care for my kids, so tenderly they barely know I am gone. Friends making meals, babysitting, sending flowers, e-mail notes of encouragement. It only takes a week of illness to show you how deep the river of love surrounding you really is. Thank you all!

In the hospital again

I went back to the ER via ambulance this morning after fainting several times at home with my mom and my kids. The good news is, I was wearing the heart monitor the whole time, and they noted no life-threatening heart rhythm problems during the episode. I did have an episode of fast heart rate (tachycardia) and some slow heart rates (bradycardia). So far that is all we know about the monitor. My blood sugar and magnesium levels were also a bit low, but not low enough to explain the severity of my symptoms. I spent 8 hours in the ER, and left with very little information about what is going wrong with my body at present. I have been transferred to a new cardiologist who has more expertise with electrophysiology studies (which will likely be the next diagnostic step unless other changes clear up my problem). I am also scheduled to see my endocrinologist in the next week or two to discuss the role my thyroid is playing in this whole mess. I still suspect that Synthroid, my thyroid replacement hormone, is the root of the problem. I will be contacting my regular doctor tomorrow to request a few more blood tests and to try splitting my dose, taking half in the morning and half in the evening.

After leaving the ER this afternoon with no "real" answers, I was feeling very down in the dumps about this trial. Being told to basically just go home and keep fainting every day for two weeks until you can see the cardiologist sounds ridiculous! However, after some sweet fellowship with old friends tonight, I have a better grip on the joys of my life, and the sorrows are fading more to the background again. I am planning on skipping my Synthroid in the morning and taking it in the evening instead, so that Aaron will at least be home while I am doing my fainting if that is what comes to pass after I take my daily dose.

Some specific prayer requests that I would humbly ask you to bring before the Throne:
  1. This trial would soon be over, and would include no more crisis events (such as the Mama of the house being hauled off on a stretcher to an ambulance while all the children watch!)
  2. Protection for my heart, and wisdom about my Synthroid, which is preventing my cancer from growing back
  3. A doctor who will look hard at all the puzzle pieces and identify a cause and a solution
That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us! With God we shall do valiantly. ~ Psalm 60:5 & 12a

Make me a star

Obedience, humility, cheerfulness ("Do all you have to do without complaint or wrangling") are rare in a warped and crooked world--nearly nonexistent, in fact, where each lives for his own ends. If a marriage counselor were to ask each partner, "What are your goals?" and the answer were "How can I best serve my husband or wife? What can I do to further his or her goals?" the counseling period would be over, the bill low. Any two people, any community of Christians who set themselves to look only to the other's interest would be a rare and radiant thing, shining, as Paul said, "like stars in a dark world" (Phil 2:15 NEB).

In that same sense, a Christian might well pray, "Lord, make me a star."
~ Elisabeth Elliot, A Lamp Unto My Feet


One of the reasons I love the Bible is it puts all tests into perspective - quickly! Open up to any given page and you will soon be reading of people being thrown into jail, stonings, crucifixions, whole nations being chased into the wilderness, or men being asked to sacrifice their beloved, people in hiding, famine, war, cruelty. None of which I currently suffer. Just a tiny little pain in my heart, and a little exhaustion at the end of the day.

Just like so many times before this, I have a choice in how to respond to this current trial. I believe God leaves room to cry out in the desert, to lament, to mourn, to bellow an anthem of anguish, like David did so frequently in the Psalms: Answer me, O God, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant, for I am in distress; make haste to answer me! (69:16-17) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (22:1-2) God also makes room for silence. For those times when you are exhausted from sorrow, and sit like a statue, and even your thoughts have abandoned you. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. (62:1)

I read the Psalms in times like these because they calm the waves of fear in my heart. I watch as David is persecuted, and delivered, and persecuted again, and delivered again. I see him descend to valleys and ascend to mountaintops, I hear his cries of sorrow followed by shouts of praise. What stands out, as I read these songs of his, is that he never curses God. Although he is angry with his circumstances, at times, yet he doesn't say, "God, you dirty rat! YOU did this to me! I am turning away, I have given up on you." Instead, he begs, Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah (be still and think on that). (62:1-4)

I am learning, today, in this perfect storm of medical misfortune, to continue praying. To huddle in the rain under the wings of the Savior, instead of running as fast as I can in hopes of outrunning the weather that surrounds me. To experience what it means to be with Someone who steadfastly loves me in the deepest, darkest nights of life.

He created me, this woman with intense, passionate emotions. The question is not what emotion do I feel, but how do I respond? I do not believe that my fear, my questions, my disappointment will be counted against me as sin. But if I respond with a spirit of anxiety, or anger with God, that is where the error lies.

If I choose instead to respond by crying out to Him, praying to Him, and trusting Him, then I have the unique and precious opportunity to shine as a light in darkness.

A long day

...my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. ~ Psalm 143:4 & 8 (ESV)

Another day of chest pain and palpitations. Hard work to keep up with the kids and the house. I am worn out. The cardiologist thinks it may be time for a pacemaker, but will probably decide to try medications first, depending on the results from the 48-hour heart monitor I am currently wearing. My appointment is June 1st. Thanks for your continued prayers.

Give to the wind your fear
Hope and be undismayed
God hears your sighs and counts your tears
God will lift up, God will lift up, lift up your head
~ God Will Lift Up Your Head, Jars of Clay

Tilling up abandoned soil of the soul

And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. ~ Mark 4:26-29 (KJV)

1. Honeydew seeds sprouting in my kitchen.

I started writing at 9 a.m. yesterday morning. I woke up on Memorial Day more rested than I had felt in months, thanks to my dear husband who woke up with the kids shortly after sunrise, fed and played with them. I slept on. At eight, I rose, and took my Synthroid with my morning cup of coffee. Settled in to my computer to edit some photos and type a few words of praise for a glorious weekend.

2. Husband's hands cutting string to mark the garden rows on Saturday.

The seeds of other plans for my day, long slumbering within me, began to sprout. My chest began to ache a bit. A few palpitations - that old, familiar feeling as though my heart has experienced a sudden, magical metamorphosis into flopping, oxygen-gasping fish. I typed on, trying desperately to ignore what was most surely a harbinger of a change of plans, if nothing more. After about an hour, I called my endocrinologist. For four days, these sensations have begun about an hour after I take my morning dose of thyroid replacement hormone. I know that theoretically, this medication can cause a heart attack if the dosage isn't quite right. I thought perhaps the medication was causing my symptoms. I waited anxiously by the phone, repeating Psalm 3:5-6 in my head over and over, to the little tune my mother wrote when I was just a child: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

3. Tomato cages lie waiting.

Flash forward to the emergency room. Place of humbling. Crisp sheets with their hospital smell. Doctors and nurses who stare in my stoic face - that face that denies pain and turns more to stone with each incremental step deeper into pain I go. Everyone unconcerned. (I would look worse if I were that sick, right?) Something inside me roiling around, shouting to my subconscious, "Something's not right here! Better get some answers! This isn't feeling good! Better start fixing something quick!" I lay silent and somber on the bed, hoping everything will just fade away. That it will be the medication after all. Not my heart...again. I remember, over and over, that I forgot to kiss my girls goodbye in the rush to leave for the hospital. Pray God it won't matter.

4. Dandelion half-blown in the weekend winds. Beautiful symmetry.

An hour after I arrived at the E.R., my heartrate suddenly dropped. In a gasp of recognition, I knew this was bad. Really bad. Like the worst I remember, an incident in an E.R. in Minneapolis when they had to rush for the paddles and send an electric wave through my body to start things up again. Shock life back into the cells deep within me that were shuddering to a stop. My body reacted, too - my pulse rocketed like an engine slumbering at idle, suddenly roused to life with a jerk. The cold sweat rushed over me, and I saw the room fading off in the distance, dear husband running for the door to call for help, wondering if the wave washing over my face was a long one.

It wasn't a long one. I woke up dazed, and another wave washed over. My body bobbed to the surface, shuddering. My soul recoiling. Slammed into high gear, fighting for breath and consciousness, my body shook, pumping adrenaline through every precious cell. And I came around. Twenty minutes of medical panic later, the shaking stopped, my heart slowed down again, I was covered in tubes and wires..."lifelines", the nurse called them.


I don't want to remember this place. Much less be here again. After five uneventful hours of apparent health, they released me to my own recognizance. Chest still aches. Heart still feels like it's taken a beating today. Back to the cardiologist tomorrow for a Holter monitor. Talk of a pacemaker, maybe, finally. Admitting I may never outgrow this, after all. Abandoning hope that my body will fix itself.

This parable from Mark, the parable of the growing seed, looks different a day later. I typed it last morning, before the pain and the rush and the submergence. Before I had to surrender yet another life-and-death struggle to God. Before I cried out, broken-hearted, exhausted, "why, God? Why would you allow this, now? Why clear me of cancer - again - to plunge me back into heart problems? Can't I have a month off?" My heart is pumping strong, steady, 56 beats per minute. Just like always. A deep ache fills my chest. Part physical ache, part emotional and spiritual. Wrung out. I feel like the swimmer who barely made it back to shore, clinging to the rock on the breakwater, floating up and nearly losing grip when the wave washes in, being pulled back out by the ebb. I don't want to trust anything to anybody. Every human thing in me screams for independence from this failing body. I want a refund! An exchange!

But the parable in Mark says all I can do is scatter seed. Water it. Harvest it. The growing part, the bearing fruit - that's all sun, rain, and Providence. Sleep, rise by day. That's my part. Faith. Rest. I know this pulling me closer to my Maker. The struggle lies in not resisting the pull. The inevitable pull toward the grave, for one. The awesome tug away from self, for another. A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3)

God, be near, calm my fear
And take my doubt

Your kindness is what pulls me up
Your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can’t climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

‘Cause You are and You were and You will be forever
The Lover I need to save me
‘Cause You fashioned the earth and You hold it together, God
So hold me now

~ I Will Lift My Eyes, Bebo Norman

Enemies as reminders

If it were not for the adversaries who make us conscious of our impotence, how would we learn to trust God's omnipotence? Lord of the armies of heaven, I praise You for your power to conquer. Teach me to trust your power, not mine.
~ Elisabeth Elliot, A Lamp Unto My Feet



What are the enemies in your life that remind you of your impotence, your inability to succeed? My enemies have changed over the years: today they're the piles of unfolded laundry; the child who pees on floors and furniture despite my best efforts; the unexpectedness of cancer; my own laziness and procrastination. Yet without brokenness, without failure, what would I have to write about? The richness of life lies in the whole spectrum of experience, not just in the joyful, successful chapters.

Reunion

Say of your brothers, 'My people,' and of your sisters, 'My loved one.'
Hosea 2:1

We met at Uncle Dennis and Auntie Rosalie's house in Minneapolis to pick up Katy and Rosy after their 6 day Kansas City trip. Caleb and Amelia were so excited to see them!




I marvel at the tenderness that exists between these sweet children. I also marvel at the number of books that address sibling rivalry, and the few that have been written about sibling love.


I am thankful that the fabric of my life is woven with these beautiful threads, strengthened by the cords of husband and children. I am so blessed.

Wind-blown

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
my heart and my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out
~ From the Inside Out, Hillsong

I woke up in the middle of the night and felt an old, remembered pain in my throat. I couldn't talk when I tried to reassure Amelia, who woke up when I startled. It brought me right back to the bottom of the black pit I found myself in last summer, newly diagnosed with cancer, recovering from surgery, unable to speak out loud. After a few words, my voice clicked back "on", I reassured Amelia and lay watching her as she fell back asleep. I lay awake, praying and thinking about how much has changed in a year's time. Now, I am used to cancer, a shadow in the back of my thoughts. It is part of the rhythm of normal life now. I lay marveling about how fit I feel, physically. I would never know I have cancer if it weren't for a doctor who tells me so. Yesterday I biked a few miles in the wind again, pulling a sail in the form of a Burley full of sixty pounds of kids. The horses we biked to visit were far up in the pasture, and I biked through a plowed field, then pulled the bike another 100 yards or so and finally walked through brush until we could finally coax the horses out to taste the oats we brought to feed them. Amelia and Caleb were thrilled, I was bone tired. Who knew a cancer patient could do such a thing?

When I woke this morning, it was just a sour day from the start. I feel as windblown, emotionally and spiritually, as I do physically in the 30 mile per hour gusts the Midwest is suffering today. The onslaught of wind buffets my body like my mood has buffeted my mind today. Lots of potty accidents for Amelia, fussing from Caleb, wind making all outdoor tasks impossible. I am worried about our missing (pregnant) cat, and frustrated by the ill-trained dogs who haven't gotten enough attention with Aaron gone. Every task I began ended up convoluted and difficult, and I found myself cursing the curse, begging God to ease my load a little on this bad-for-no-good-reason morning.

My mom sensed my mood when I dropped the kids off, and gave me permission to spend some time with God after my school teleconferences were done. I put some loud worship music on while I put clothes away, as completing a task is the quickest way to reconnect with God in these busy days of motherhood. Hands busy free my mind for prayer. I laid it all out there for God. Told Him I'm frustrated. Told Him I'm frustrated that I'm frustrated!! I cried while I sang out the words to "From the Inside Out" (above). And felt relief and release as I sang to "One Way" (below). Whatever the troubles of today, it's true: He's the only one I can really believe in, rest in, shout at, cry to, live for. There's nothing else I'm that sold on. Nothing else that resonates with every part of my emotional, spiritual, and rational mind. He's the only thing capable of inspiring me when I'm ready to throw in the towel on all the little irritating details of my life.

I lay my life down at Your feet
Cause You're the only one I need
I turn to You and You are always there

In troubled times it's You I seek
I put You first that's all I need
I humble all I am all to You

One way
Jesus
You're the only one that I could live for

You are always, always there
Every how and everywhere
Your grace abounds so deeply within me

You will never ever change
Yesterday today the same
Forever till forever meets no end

You are the Way the Truth and the Life
We live by faith and not by sight for You
We're living all for You
~ One Way, Hillsong

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection...Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (from Philippians 3)

Forging friendships

I spoke with an old friend today about some painful things...an impending separation, old wounds that haven't found healing, connections missed over the years. I was reminded again how purposeful Jesus was about relationships. Our pastor referred to a New Testament story this Sunday, the one in which the blind man is calling out from the noisy throng for healing as Jesus passes through a busy street clogged with clamor and chaos. Jesus stops, puts a hand on His disciples shoulder, and looks straight at the man, inquiring what he wants. The man says simply, "To see, my Lord." Jesus heals him on the spot, and tells him to go on his way, that his faith has healed him. And the man departs, praising God from that moment on (Mark 10). Jesus could have just healed him without ever speaking to him. For that matter, why send Jesus to do it at all? Why not just say, "Okay, world. From 32 to 33 A.D. there's going to be healing in Jerusalem. No questions asked, no contact with Savior required." Why bother with the whole Jesus thing at all? Why give the disciples that gift? Why not just heal everybody?

I propose that it is because relationship is what ultimately matters. That connections are what light God up about the human race. He likes to hear me laugh, just like I tickle and tease to get my toddlers to giggle. He likes to hold me when I cry, just as I bend to kiss scraped knees and nurse smashed fingers. He likes to rejoice with me when I rejoice, and answer my questions when I am perplexed, and sit with me while I rant occasionally. I think that's why Jesus personal touch is what was required for that blind man to see again. He wanted to connect with him, and to draw praise from his lips forever.

I see the connections forming between Caleb and Amelia, these lonely days without older siblings to entertain and diffuse conflict. They've worked out a new pecking order, they're sharing, they're pretending together. Amelia led Caleb in a fabulous game of imaginary phone yesterday that was a sight to behold! These connections...aren't they what we're designed for? Loving one another?

That's why my heart aches when hurts go unsolved in the friendships I've cherished and worked for and nursed along through hard times. I look forward to heaven, when dear ones are gathered round me, without these little bruises and thorns to throw our connections off course.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. I John 4:7-8

I throw up my hands
"Oh, the impossibilities"
Frustrated and tired
Where do I go from here?
Now I'm searching for the confidence I've lost so willingly
Overcoming these obstacles is overcoming my fear

Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around you crumbles
He will be strong, He will be strong

I think I can't,
But I think you can,
Gather my insufficiencies and
Place them in your hands...
~ For the Moments I Feel Faint, Reliant K

Growing up

These chubby feet are waltzing toward manhood so quickly. It is one of the consummate sweet joys of motherhood to have children of both genders, watch in incredulous delight the myriad ways in which they are inherently different from birth. Each of my children is magnificently unique, although they share their papa's olive skin tones and a host of other physical features. I have one tomboy and one girlie girl. Then one who straddles the fence on all issues of femininity - my little lioness. And a manly little boy to top off the brood.


It is easy to forget how fast he's growing, when I watch him slumber. The sweet perfume of baby breath draws from me a melancholy chord of regret over lost days nursing and cuddles missed while away receiving cancer treatment. An even deeper note of bittersweet longing begs me linger at his sleeping side, knowing he will so soon toddle off in individual pursuit of a world that is completely foreign to me, the masculine world he has dwelt in from the moment he first drew breath outside of my clinging womb.

He wrinkles up his eyelids in concentration when I disturb his sleep. Stubborn even in sleep. I look forward to all the curve balls parenting a son will throw my direction. I look forward to the dirty nails, and the sand in the hair, burrs in baby clothes, and sticks and rocks for toys. I look forward to toads in pockets and snakes snuck into bedroom, to model rockets and the smell of fire on a little towhead man-child. Yet I am loathe to give up these sweet baby days. I don't want them to be over quite yet, especially with this last little one. The last baby I will birth.



His golden locks fell like shafts of sunlight as I gave him his first real haircut today. The curls I've loved, that cupped his sea-shell ear lobes, fell last. I briefly contemplated a Hasidic aesthetic, just so I wouldn't have to cut those forelocks off. Vestiges of babyhood. I comforted myself that he's still not even walking...that all this motherly nonsense about growing up quickly is simply that - nonsense! But there it is again, that ache deep within as I watch them grow up right before my very eyes. I bent my head, looking down at those golden curls on the floor, and whispered the prayer an elderly woman at church told me of this past Sunday, "Lord, let me be here to watch his life unfold. Lord, protect my life so that I might be here to protect his."

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.

~ Ruth Hulburt Hamilton, Ladies Home Journal, October 1958

Headwinds & tailwinds

I went for a bike ride Saturday afternoon. It isn't every day that I can go on a bike ride at a moment's notice. I usually have to recruit at least one additional adult! To date, I have three kids who can zip along as fast as training wheels will take them, and one who can't even peddle yet. Despite the various carriages, seats and other contraptions we've amassed to haul them along attached to our bikes, it still isn't a one woman job to convey four children plus self on a leisurely cruise through the neighborhood! With my children slashed to just two toddlers for the week, I took advantage of my new-found freedom on wheels. We set out on this blustery Saturday, with a steady wind of about 15 miles per hour and gusts far stronger than that. As I rode past the farmer's wheat field, the rustling and rushing of the wind through the grass was reminiscent of the moors of England which I've always longed to visit. The sound of the wind blowing through the trees and crops created such a whir that nary another sound could be heard. Occasionally it died down sufficiently to allow the bird songs of spring to break through. We clipped along with the wind at our back, visited several neighborhood horse pastures to see the colts and fillies of this spring's birthing, and threw rocks in the creek. I congratulated myself at being so fit as to barely notice the fifty-plus pounds I was pulling behind me on my first bike ride of the year.

Then I turned around to head home. And found, with some surprise, that I had been considerably helped along my merry way by the wind which was blowing straight at my back. And now blew straight in my face. Surprising how much wind resistance a bike trailer, two toddlers, and a rather wide and out-of-shape mama can create! We struggled on and on, mile after tedious mile (all four of them!), wondering if we would ever make it home. I had to pause a few times to walk the bike, children protesting to "Go faster!" from the back, legs like jelly. I remembered this feeling, that deep, muscle memory of countless endless bike rides home when my legs spent all their energy carrying me farther away with no thought of how I would make the return trip. I made many such trips as a child. I remember the cracked lips of cottonmouth, and the aching hips perched far too long on a skinny bike seat. I remember, yet I forget.

I do the same thing with God, and that's why he sends a little headwind my why every now I then, I imagine. I fly on my merry way away from Him, exploring, testing my wings, glorying in my strength, wit, beauty, resourcefulness, intelligence, frugality. The wind is at my back, speeding me along with a false sense of my own ability. With the wind at your back, it is easy to fly along without taking note of how far you've gone. When you turn about to head back, the wind reminds you of the long journey home. Any sin is like that: I remember going out for drinks with friends in college and never noticing how far past my limit I was until it was much too late, and the consequences had to be borne as I fought my way back to my normal, sober life. How about eating? Easy, isn't it, to put pounds on, and so very difficult to shed them. Sleep? I constantly stay up much too late and don't notice the time until I suddenly realize I have to wake up in a few short hours of interrupted slumber.

Cancer has been my headwind, recently. It reminds me how close I must draw to Christ to survive the journey home. If the wind were at my tail, I might quickly forget - I have quickly forgotten - and begin to suffer from "supermom" syndrome again. Although it's never fun to fight the wind in your face, to push hard against the peddles and make such small progress back, it is good to be reminded. This world is hard, and I am weak. I am in need. I am thankful for saving grace.

Bittersweet produce of parenting

A trip to Kansas City with Grandma Nel. Katy received it for Christmas, and was so excited...and also a bit trepidatious. We assuaged her fears by reassuring her that Rosy could go along for company. When I was little, I used to read a book called The Maggie B, in which Maggie goes on a sailing voyage with only her brother James as "someone nice for company". So Rosy is Katy's "someone nice for company" this week in Kansas City. We put check boxes on the calendar two weeks ago, and the countdown began. They began packing their bags a week ahead of leavetaking, packing, unpacking and repacking their stuffed animals, dolls, and books. Bittersweet moments, watching them prepare for this milestone, knowing I would be a lonely mother at home with two lonely little ones while the "bigs" were gone.

It's pretty easy to give in to fear when you're preparing your two beloved girls for a trip to a destination - however safe and welcoming - four states away. A road trip of that magnitude conjured up all kinds of grotesque images of car wrecks, and kidnapping at reststops, and lost children at zoos in strange cities. I worked hard to teach them my full name and my phone number so they could call if they were lost or stolen. And then tried to put it all out of my mind. Relax and revel in the joy of packing with them.

It got the better of me the night before they left. Midnight rolled around. Their bags were all packed and piled by the front door for our morning departure. The velvet blackness of the night sky mocked my insomnia as I muttered frantic prayers begging for their safety. Finally I comforted the ache deep inside by taking a few photos of the girls sleeping...just in case.

We made it through the next day - even packing them up in Grandma Nel's car without a tear falling. Amelia and Caleb and I headed to the park, and I felt remarkably unfettered by anxiety, having poured my cares out on the shoulders of Christ, for He has promised to bear my burdens (Psalm 68:19; I Peter 5:7). We made grand plans to be rid of Amelia's "nuksies" (pacifiers) once and for all; to cuddle every chance we got; to read lots of board books; to teach Amy the ABCs and Caleb to say "bottle". It will be a fun week...albeit lonely. This has been the end goal of all my attachment parenting...all those nights cuddling with babies in my bed, all those achy backs from slinging them all day long, all the times I haven't left them with a sitter or in nursery because they cried such bitter tears when I tried to leave. All so that, at four and five, they can smile and wave as they go off on a five day adventure with beloved grandma and longed-for far-away aunt and uncle. Have a great trip, girls!

I found this excellent tidbit from Shepherding a Child's Heart very intriguing. I am including it here in the hopes that you may find it challenging and useful as well:
"Discipline exposes your child's inability to love his sister from his heart, or genuinely to prefer others before himself. Discipline leads to the cross of Christ where sinful people are forgiven. Sinners who come to Jesus in repentance and faith find grace and mercy. Jesus' redemptive work entails forgiveness, internal transformation, and empowerment to live new lives. The alternative is to reduce the standard to what may be fairly expected of your children without the grace of God. The alternative is to give them a law they can keep. The alternative is a lesser standard that does not require grace and does not cast them on Christ, but rather on their own resources." (p. 120)

The bliss of ordinary troubles

My appointment today yielded more good news: the ultrasound shows just the regular, routine problems of womanhood, no new cancer. The doctor didn't even feel there was need to perform a biopsy. I rejoiced in the ordinary. Rejoining the ranks of the sisterhood, worried about everyday issues that plague women across the world. Not cancer.

Thanks for the prayers.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Love letter from an alien land

He called to tell me it was on it's way. He had been gone, out of cell phone range, for five long days. In the span of our three month courtship, it was an eternity. He took to a remote beach on the Pacific Coast of Washington, with a Bible, a camp stove, and a tent. To think about things. I could only imagine what terrible decision he might reveal to me when he got back. What does one discover in the wilderness? I hadn't ever been there alone, and to imagine one so intrepid...

And that's what he told me when he got back: to expect a lumpy package. No hint of what was inside. No epiphany shared.


It arrived, at long last, and it was lumpy indeed! It showed some obvious scuffs and bruises from what appeared to be a rather difficult journey between the Washington post and my door in Minneapolis. I peeled back the cardboard expectantly, hoping for some clue to that unrevealed epiphany from his days on the beach. Only to reveal this alien rock. Pock-marked and dull gray, at first glance one could even say it was ugly (one whose eyes weren't clouded by the rosy shades of love, that is!). Yet in each hole and crevice there was a shell. A beautiful shell. This rock had been home to hundreds of little creatures when it was adrift on the bottom of the sea, rolling in toward shore with the breakers. And he spent $26.18 to ship it to me! I had waited all my life for love letters, and this is what I got. A lumpy package, a few scrawled lines of endearment, a man's heart woven inextricably into the convoluted bumps and lumps of large gray rock shipped from coast to heartland. It wasn't until months after our wedding that he finally revealed the epiphany: on that lonely, wind-whipped strand, he heard God whisper, "Marry her."


What he received in return for the lumpy package was probably equally alien to him: line after line, page after page of letters. Ginger cookies on his birthday, overnighted so they would still be fresh. A crock full of homemade bread. A jar full of agates from the Lake Superior shore.

Two halves of one whole, making up a more complete profile of the face of God when we're put together. May 2nd came and went this year with hardly a memory shared, celebrated in a house full of sick progeny. The day we embarked on this beautiful, perplexing, synergy we call marriage. The day of our first kiss. Celebration, in these busy days, takes place in myriad unexpected ways, ways that would have seemed alien to me in years past. A quick kiss as he whisks the wee ones of to bed, a fleeting glance that shares humor in some joke above the children's heads bent over supper, hands hard at work together in the house or the yard.

Every day leaves me looking forward to more with this man, my beloved alien.

Comfort


As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you;


And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice,
and your bones shall flourish like an herb:
and the hand of the LORD shall be known toward his servants...
~ Isaiah 66:13-14

Ultrasound is normal

1. Silver moth in forest reminds me that ugly is beautiful, too.

The ultrasound results came back clean! No obvious tumors or growths, a relief. However, it will probably mean I need that dreaded biopsy on Thursday to convince everyone (myself included) that everything is normal.

Caleb continues to be very ill. I took him in the doctor this morning, and they are running some tests but offered no treatment. Guess it will be a few more days of copious laundry duty and multiple showers & baths for us!

Happy Mother's Day


He settles the barren woman in her home, as a joyful mother of children. Praise Jehovah!
Psalm 113:9

They began to come up with the grass in the front lawn Aaron planted for us after four long years of indecision and financial woes. We had been waiting until we could afford to do some landscaping, longing for that flat lawn that marks every home in suburbia (and few in the country). But four years is just too long, and money just too tight. He mowed down the native grasses, tilled a swath in front of the house, and scattered seed during the long, cold rains of September. When it began to sprout, I was horrified at the number of weeds that came along with the grass. Or so I thought!

A few days later, and I began to look closer. They weren't weeds after all. They were tulips, my favorite flower, planted on the sly right in with the grass! Aaron assures me he'll just wait to mow every spring until the tulips are done blooming.

I have boxes in my brain, maybe a few more than the average person. Goes along with my "type A" personality. One of the boxes has a nice, straight label that says "flowers". In it are all kinds of images: tulips in gardens, tulips in vases, maybe even tulips in a bouquet proffered by the handsome hand of my husband at the door some weekday afternoon. But never, ever planted in with the grass. It is one of the joys...and one of the challenges...of marriage, this tearing down of boxes and revision of boundaries and ideas. Learning to see expressions of love in such unexpected places.


Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. ~ Ephesians 5:24-33

Safety

Unshakable faith is what I attain to. Not yet what I have. Good news came by half this week, as my mammogram came back normal. Now I am anxiously waiting my ultrasound report, which will determine if I need a uterine biopsy next week. Another test I am definitely NOT looking forward to! We have a busy day of hard work in the garden, not to mention tending the children, two of whom are still laid low with this stomach virus. That should keep my mind off things. I loved this devotional by Elisabeth Elliot this morning, which captures how I am feeling just perfectly.

"The King's heart quivered as the trees in the forest shake before the wind" (ls 7:2 RSV), Isaiah tells us in the story of Syria's occupation of Ephraim. The worst had happened. The thing Ahaz feared had come upon him, and he was terrified. So are we when we seem to have no defense against something. We are at the mercy of an enemy--debt or disease or disaster or doubt--and we wait, quivering in fear, for our final ruin. Then we are reminded of our sure defense, the only absolutely impregnable stronghold--the word of the Lord, and when He speaks ("This plan shall not succeed, it shall never come to pass") as He did to Ahaz, we are safe. No power on earth (or in heaven or hell) can shake the Rock of our salvation. It is on that Rock that we plant our faith and stop quivering. ~ Elisabeth Elliot, A Lamp Unto My Feet

How to cheer up a sick baby

The kids have rotavirus, that dreaded stomach flu that lasts and lasts. Caleb has been hit worst. His fever is high, cheeks scarlet, tummy upset, fussy night and day. The first day, my mother's heart went out to him completely and wholly in compassion. Today, I find myself getting frustrated. I am a little fried after forty-eight hours with little sleep and even less time to myself than usual. As I type this, I am pecking with one hand while rocking him in the other arm, still in my pajamas, the mess of both breakfast and lunch still piled on the counter waiting to be cleared.

When cuddles and bottles won't suffice, perhaps a little silliness will fit the bill! We got out a new children's cookbook of Katrina's and found something fun to eat. These cheery caterpillars brought joy to our souls if not the sick tummies.

After our joy-filled but failed attempt at lunch together, I bundled the two littlest ones up on the couch in flannel blankets and comfy pajamas. They took a nap together, and woke up so sweetly. The close relationship of these two amazes me...more proof that God knows what He's doing when He sends a "trial" my way! I never would have intentionally spaced my children so closely - especially these last two, who are 15 1/2 months apart - yet it has been nothing but a blessing to have four little ones as close as stairsteps. The space between Amelia and Caleb couldn't be more perfect. They are best friends, despite the occasional fireworks that spring up due to their interest in the same things, toys, books, and activities.



When thou openest thine eyes.
Pray Him also to prosper thee
And thine affairs in deed:
All the day after, assure thyself,
The better shalt thou speed.

~ Rising in the Morn, Hugh Rhodes, 1540

Understanding the sting

My mammogram results came back negative for cancer today! The lump on my sternum is a piece of bony scar tissue, probably from an old multiple rib fracture I suffered while playing goalie in college.

Rosy danced on a red ant hill today, and came running to me, arms waving, a familiar look of terror in her eyes. I remember that feeling of consternation and panic so well from my own childhood. My mother once told me (the only girl in the family, bolstering female stereotypes faithfully by being petrified of bugs, snakes, and toads), "Oh, that ant won't bite you!" I wrongly interpreted her statement as "ants never bite". My first foray on a red ant hill found me bewildered and shrieking in pain as they crawled all over my body, stinging everywhere. My best friend, also covered in ants, knew exactly what was wrong and began flailing wildly, slapping them out of her hair and off her skin. I continued my crazed dance on the ant hill, trying to determine what in heaven's name could possibly be causing me such ridiculous pain. My father finally came to my rescue, and I will never forget my mother's horror as she bathed the thousands of red welts all over my body later that morning.

Do we, as children of God, do this with the words of the Bible, I wonder? Do we take statements like that in Jeremiah 29:11 (plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future) and assume that means we won't ever find a lump on our chest? Or that the lump on the throat the doctor discovers will either be harmless, or that we will be miraculously cured?
I would argue that sometimes the plans include lumps that turn out benign and draw out a response of new praise from our hearts; and sometimes they turn out to be malignant, and bring us through a million fires we would never have chosen but bless us indescribably in ways no human would ever request. When we read the assurances of scripture, shouldn't we also balance them with the suffering of scripture? Shouldn't we read them with the eternal perspective always fixed in our minds - that, in the end, all sorrows will be healed and all tears will be wiped away? I need to learn to recognize ants that bite, and ants that don't, in a figurative sense. To throw off the naïveté of spiritual infancy, and recognize the realities of adulthood in the servanthood of the faith: wars, battles, scars, wounds ministered to through God's compassionate - and unknowable - mercy.

And to the two secret servants of Christ who brought His love to my doorstep today in their beautiful, love-worn faces and backs bent to ease my labor:

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, proclaim peace, bring glad tidings of good things, proclaim salvation, and proclaim to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7)

Learning from each other

As I watched Caleb playing with this little boy at t-ball practice the other day, I was reminded of the strong human bend to emulate. The church is an important part of God's design because of this: we copy what we see in front of us. If we lack mentors who share our faith, and role models who practice it, how are we to keep from drifting away in our own actions, thoughts, and prayer life?

I have been thinking about this as I contemplate joining a cancer survivor's support group. I miss the support - the opportunity to follow along in someone's footsteps on this difficult road. I'm going to search for a book, at least, that is specific to cancer. See if I can find one. I wonder about starting a Christian cancer support group? I'm beginning to think that might be a good idea.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)

Here's an afternoon treat that brightened my mood on this stormy afternoon:

A Jonah day

"The trouble is, I've got things the matter with my conscience," sobbed Anne. "Oh, this has been such a Jonah day, Marilla. I'm so ashamed of myself. I lost my temper and whipped Anthony Pye."

"I'm glad to hear it," said Marilla with decision. "It's what you should have done long ago."

Marilla passed her hard work-worn hand over the girl's glossy, tumbled hair with a wonderful tenderness. When Anne's sobs grew quieter she said, very gently for her, "You take things too much to heart, Anne. We all make mistakes . . . but people forget them. And Jonah days come to everybody. As for Anthony Pye, why need you care if he does dislike you? He is the only one."

"I can't help it. I want everybody to love me and it hurts me so when anybody doesn't. And Anthony never will now. Oh, I just made an idiot of myself today, Marilla. I'll tell you the whole story."

Marilla listened to the whole story, and if she smiled at certain parts of it Anne never knew. When the tale was ended she said briskly, "Well, never mind. This day's done and there's a new one coming tomorrow, with no mistakes in it yet, as you used to say yourself. Just come downstairs and have your supper. You'll see if a good cup of tea and those plum puffs I made today won't hearten you up."

"Plum puffs won't minister to a mind diseased," said Anne disconsolately; but Marilla thought it a good sign that she had recovered sufficiently to adapt a quotation.
Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 12, L.M. Montgomery

It all began with a two hour battle with Caleb over nap. A brief reprieve came mid-morning in the form of a trip to the farm in rain coats and mud boots, camera in hand.



The smell of freshly loaded silage, warm milk, and spring seed greeted us as we emerged from the car. We spent a lovely hour visiting the calves and petting barn cats and feeding the goldfish in the farm wife's amazing pond. We picked some rose buds off her tree, which was just beginning to flower. I marveled afresh at the co-mingling of ugly and utilitarian with beautiful and rare. The freedom of routine that has allowed these hearty people to flourish under back-breaking work and endless responsibility, planted as they are on this windy hill a mile from our home.


We paused on the way home to get out on the "troll bridge" - an unexpected treat. We marveled together at a small deer carcass graveyard (fascinating stuff to children, jawbones and ribcages!). We listened to the distant hum of an approaching train on the rusty tracks...until the sensible mother in me hauled the entranced wee ones off the rickety rail high above and back to the safety of the blacktop on the other side.

Home again. Kids with the flu. T-ball practice to prepare for. Lunch and dinner unplanned. A stressful doctor's appointment in the afternoon. T-ball practice, right at dinner time. Dinner was late, Aaron called in to work - good for the finances, a strain on the wife's workload! An e-mail announces a crisis at school stemming from the spring semester, which has just ended. An error in textbook writing discovered and in need of correcting. And so it went, on and on.

I wanted to throw my hands in the air, throw my head back and holler - perhaps even swear a bit!

I thought about not writing this. I prayed about it, actually. I don't write these words to be a discouragement. I write them because they are real. I want to nail a name to something that doesn't get hung up in public in the Christian community. I want you to know that living with cancer doesn't immediately transport one into the realm of the saints. It is a process of daily working out my faith, working out the difficult little details with God. For instance: why, God, would you pile on trouble after trouble today? On this day when cancer is rearing it's ugly head and I have to come to grips with the fact that my future is that uncertain, why allow all these other tests to enter in to the picture? In that sense, perhaps it was more a Job day than a Jonah day: I'm sure Job had these same feelings, multiplied a thousand times, when God allowed his livestock, children, wife and health to be swept away in one awful day!

At t-ball practice, Katy was pensive. I marveled afresh how my attitude seeps into the soil of these little souls. I prayed hard about what to say to my husband, so that I wouldn't drag him down to the depths along with me. I wrestled with God about how to be authentic, and open, and yet spare those around me the ripping and shredding that was going on in my spirit today. How to ask for support...to express my need to be lifted up, without dragging down.

And so it went for me today. There are days in everyone's life when the clouds gather and the thunder starts to roll. Today was unexpectedly awful, and I am praying that tomorrow will be unexpectedly beautiful. I have storms to weather at school, in my work as a freelance author, as I serve others in church and family, and in my health. Thank God I have His wings as my umbrella!

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

~ Under His Wings, William Cushing, 1896