The amazing face of Grace

"You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the 'lord of terrible aspect', is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for his child; jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes." ~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I 'lightly invoked' the great spirit at age four - in that childlike faith Christ demands, seeing only the loving face of a sacrificial Savior, the face He revealed to me at that tender and innocent age. I had no idea just how "consuming" God was when I accepted His free gift of salvation. I had the notion that He wanted me to go to heaven (for some unknown reason) and cared little about me beyond my eternal fate. I read verses about 'good works', but thought little about them, except to determine that they were not necessary for my initial salvation - as per Ephesians 2:8-9, "for by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." I was puzzled by the inner pull I felt to honor God with my life, and irritated still further by the social constraints of being raised in a Christian family. I carried out my sins in private, boldly still wearing the badge of Christianity in friendships sullied by my poor choices after dark and behind closed doors. Irritation was not the only emotion I felt - I was torn, broken, battered, crushed, beaten, and heart-broken by my seemingly uncontrollable desire to sin, and confused as to why it crushed me so. Was I not "free in Christ"? Freed from the burden of a destiny in hell, couldn't I do anything I wished, without fear of the future? (forgetting many verses I learned in my youth, including Romans 6:19, which begged me to offer my body for holiness instead of slavery to sin: Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.)

I wasn't free. I was bought with a price. My life turned once again one dark night of my college years when I contemplated suicide because of the blackness of my heart and my actions. Afraid it was futile, I remember kneeling by my bed (one of the first times of many that I prostrated myself physically before God as a sign of my inner brokenness) and crying out, truly crying and begging God for answers. In His amazing grace, He sent His grace on the beautiful feet of His servants: first my parents, loving me still despite my faults and wrong steps; my brothers, who passionately and fiercely protected me and told me that I was to be treasured, not used and discarded; my aunt and my grandmother, who asked no questions, yet knew more of the truth than I would have ever told them in words, and with quiet words and sweet silences communicated their love; my friend, who all through college persisted with me despite my depression and anger, then lived with me and struggled through the tension with me as I turned my life finally in a different direction. God saved my physical life from the myriad ailments that weakened me and brought me time again to that silent brink that separates life from death. And finally, He sent me to a job where I watched true suffering, bringing me perspective and a deep gratitude for His grace in sending me smaller trials. Then a husband, who loves me like the "consuming Fire" Himself, passionately, jealously, fiercely, yet quietly and gently - with a depth I didn't imagine possible. Through him, children who desire me and need me insatiably, demonstrating what it should look like to seek.

C.S. Lewis says that our suffering is a sign of God's love, not His indifference. Do we take more care and pay more attention when teaching those we love or those we hate? I am learning through suffering. God is removing another curtain from before my face, and, oddly, I am finding a new layer of answers to my big questions through the experience of cancer.
Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. ~ Hebrews 12:25-28 exc. NLT/NIV

Consuming Fire
Fan into flame
A passion for Your name
Spirit of God
fall on this place
Lord have your way,
Lord have your way
with us

Come like a rushing wind
Fill us with power from on high
Now set the captives free
leave us abandoned to Your praise

Lord, let Your glory fall
Lord, let Your glory fall
~ Tim Hughes, Consuming Fire

Praying you enjoyed this repost from the 2008 archives.
Happy New Year!

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

This cold winter

I know you see me
Like some wide eyed dreamer
That just rolled in off a dusty mid west bus
Yeah, on the outside I look fragile
But on the inside is something you can’t crush

Cause I'm country strong
Hard to break
Like the ground I grew up on
You may fool me
And I'll fall
But I won't stay down long
Cause I'm country strong

I have weathered
Colder winters; Longer summers
Without a drop of rain
Push me in a corner
And I'll come out fighting
I may lose but I'll always keep my faith

Rosy as "Mary" in our little homegrown Christmas pageant.

The Holmen grandkids.

A word for 2011

Strong's 5278

1. remaining under, endurance; steadfastness, especially as God enables the believer to "remain (endure) under" the challenges He allots in life.
2. to preserve: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one's faith in Christ
3. to endure, bear ill treatments bravely and calmly

That He may say of me, "and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary." (Revelation 2:3)

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..." (Hebrews 12:1)

Not too different from 2010's word, is it?


Mountains melt into valleys and
you suddenly find yourself in shadowlands
where all of life seems out of your hands
don’t think you’ve got no one left

Here’s a key to my front door
got a pillow if you lost yours
you got a seat at my table
you’ve got a home

Here’s somebody who believes you
let truth remind you
you’ve always got a place to go to
you’ve got a home

Rain has come for all of us
pours out a different tune for everyone
there’s rhythm and rhyme inside the dissonance
we’ll listen for it side by side

~ You've Got a Home, Christa Wells ~

If you take it all

On the windowsills, the microwave, the kitchen soffets...
in this heart of the home (my domain?),
the words echo loud from the cardstock reminders.
I've anchored His words to the doorframes as reminders (Deuteronomy 11:20).

They speak without any words of mine.

If You washed away my vanity
If You took away my words
If all my world was swept away
Would You be enough for me?
Would my beating heart still sing?

If I lost it all

Would my hands stay lifted
To the God who gives and takes away

If You take it all
This life You've given
Still my heart will sing to You
Will You be enough for me?
Will my broken heart still sing?

Even if You take it all away
You’ll never let me go
Take it all away
But I still know

That I'm Yours
I'm still Yours
~ I'm Still Yours, Kutless ~

To my youngest daughter on her weaning day

I remember the day you were born, when you nursed so hard and long that your tiny stomach was hard as a rock and you couldn't even breathe. I remember the day you weaned yourself at 13 months when I put you off once too many and you decided your pacifier was more reliable than your mother for comfort. 

I remember the day I started giving you a bottle because I had to wean your brother so he wouldn't drink my poisonous milk during cancer treatment. I remember the day I took your bottle away and you begged me to nurse you and I couldn't do it because my milk was still poisonous. I remember the day you quit talking and walking and couldn't even hug me back, and I gave you a bottle because for some reason, on that horrible day, the one thing you could remember was how to suck.

I remember the day my milk came in 6 months after I lost my baby, and I cried in the shower, and I cried all around the house, and you licked the milk off my shirt and asked me if you could nurse again. I remember three days later when I decided I would say yes, and I nursed you, a tall 3 year old, and wondered if it was the right thing to do. I remember your next doctor's appointment when the doctor said that you had finally started growing again after not growing for almost 10 months. I remember his sweet smile when I told him I had started nursing you again, and all the things he told me about fatty acids and protein chains and DHA and GLA that you couldn't get from anywhere else, and how that was healing your brain.

I remember a month ago when my oncologist told me I couldn't put off my cancer scan any longer. I remember my eyes squeezing shut, and the vision of that poisonous blue pill, and the memory of how I would feel when I nursed....again...for the very last time. I remember the taste of the sage tea that dries up my milk so I don't get breast cancer from the radiation.

And now the day has come. I nursed you for the last time...again. We giggled together and it just felt perfectly right, like it has all this time, to be nursing you. And totally wrong as the sage tea burns my throat and my heart aches for not nursing you anymore.

But you are taller now - 3 inches taller than you were when I started nursing you. You are learning not to cry when your brain fritzes out, and you are learning to chew and chew even when you hate the texture of the solid food we feed you. You are learning your alphabet again, and sometimes you can count all the way to 8, and you love babies and are potty trained all over again. You are talking, walking, jumping, hopping, squealing, loving, all day long.

I think you are ready. And I know I am not.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.
~ from Ecclesiastes 3 ~

I am thankful for all of it.
Learning not to lose you by making something else my treasure.
Getting to keep you when you walked to death's door...and turned back to us.
Nursing you, despite all the looks askance, with milk for the baby we won't meet till heaven.
Watching you grow up and away.

Everything beautiful in it's time.
December 26th, 2010

Still, still, still

Paintings dry on the window sills as cookies cool on the racks.

Still, still, still
"Salzburger Volkslieder"
Aus Salzburg, 1819

Still, still, still,
Weil's Kindlein schlafen will.
Die Englein tun schön jubilieren,
Bei dem Kripplein musizieren.
Still, still, still,
Weil's Kindlein schlafen will.

Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
Mein liebes Kindlein schlaf!
Maria tut dich niedersingen
Und ihr treues Herz darbringen.
Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
Mein liebes Kindlein schlaf!

Groß, groß, groß
Die Lieb ist übergroß!
Gott hat den Himmelsthron verlassen
Und muss reisen auf der Straßen.
Groß, groß, groß
Die Lieb' ist übergroß.

Wir, wir, wir,
Tun rufen all zu dir:
Tu uns des Himmels Reich aufschließen,
Wenn wir einmal sterben müssen.
Wir, wir, wir,
Wir rufen all zu dir. English
Still, still, still

Literal English translationStill, still, still,
'Cause baby wants to sleep.
The angels jubilate beautifully,
By the manger making music.
Still, still, still,
'Cause baby wants to sleep.

Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My dear babe sleep!
Maria sings you a lullaby
And brings you her true heart.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My dear babe sleep!

Great, great, great,
The love is more than great!
God has left his throne
And must go by road.
Great, great, great,
The love is more than great.
We, we, we,
All do call out to you:
Open heaven's realm to us,
If we must die one day.
We, we, we,
We all call out to you.

Merry Christmas 2010!

Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6-7 ~

Dark side of the moon

A whole forest coated in crystal,

A tree laden down with it, these transient jewels of atmosphere and providence.

When the sun hides behind a curtain of glitter in the cold afternoon light,
and the moon flees to the dark clouds, leaving only a trail of it's blue light behind...

I feel it.
The cold.
Deep down.
Surrounded by cold.
And I am tempted to look for warmth.
To look for yellow light and gaeity, to find Christmas morn
safe in her little box of expectation, her little panorama of bliss.

What I see in these scenes, as the fleeting moon flies away and reappears as it dances with the clouds is something amazing: the grass on the hillside, lit briefly by the beams, dark and invisible when the moon flies high behind the clouds - that beauty, that grass, is still there invisible or not.

I've known this so long about God. He is always there, even when I can't see Him.

Now I learn it about something else. We live in a culture that is disposable. Disposable products, disposable relationships. Paper plates go in the trash, and marriages hit the shredder at the courthouse when they are through. It almost seems as if we can dispose of relationships. But it isn't true. Something happens when you love somebody - whether it's the homeless guy you pass on the street and loop-back to bring him a warm, fastfood meal, or the time you spent 7 years getting to know someone and finally calling them best friend. Your life will never be the same because of that relationship. You have been branded by it in your soul. I believe we will see those bonds and beautiful connections someday when we get to heaven.

I've lost friends over the past weeks. Our friendship now is in the shadows of the darkened moon. I can't call them up, or enjoy anything else that passes as friendship in this world. But you know what? The sinews of the Body of Christ are still there, even in the darkness. And someday they will be visible again. When the moon comes out from behind these clouds, I can't wait to see those sinews glistening - the sinew that holds me to you, beloved.

Today, I mourn you. The moon is behind the clouds.

Someday, I'll rejoice with you, for what God has wrought between us no man can destroy.


I made a ham dinner, all by myself. The tradition of several generations before me took over, and we had ham (spiked beautifully with pineapples and cherries), potatoes, rolls, corn (from our garden), and spiced apples and black olives. The children thought it a feast...tablecloth, cloth napkins, and even some alcohol-removed wine for them!

Oh, the anticipation!

A dark season lit by the beauty of these precious faces, their joy and deep connection to the Chirst child. Tomorrow, dress rehearsal for our little family pageant (the debut of the Thul Family Players).  These months have been full of moments of rediscovered. Of letting things be. Watching them develop. Our gift opening as a family was so sweet. Christ has us adrift by some magic with these souls we love most.