What God Gives

Some may say, God gives you only what you can handle. But in my personal experience I have lived the exact opposite of the well known phrase.

What God gives has always been so much more than I can handle. 

There was a time when I believed the old saying and in my times of heartache I pulled up my bootstraps, mustered up my strength and marched on like it was something I could handle.

But over time I have realized in all my handling and mustering God was not giving me what I could handle at all. Instead, God was bringing me to a place where I could find the end of myself. Where my strength, faith and hoped ended is where I found my need for others to come alongside me and hold me up when I couldn’t hold myself up any longer even with the sturdiest of bootstraps.

I found my need for something bigger than myself.

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In pain and loss and suffering, God gives us more than we can handle, the weight is too big for us to bear alone.

But when God give us more, God also gives us Himself. In Him, God supplies more hope and more faith than we could ever muster up in our own strength and through His people God gives us so much more love than we could have ever even imagined for ourselves.

This week our family experienced a traumatic accident. My father-in-law, my husband’s best friend, was struck by a car at seven o’clock Tuesday morning.

What God has given us since that moment has been the end of everything we thought we could do in our own strength.

It is amazing for me to think of all the blessings I have personally experienced this week and I know my husband, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law can testify to so many more personal blessings as well.

God has given us the timing of this accident to happen when my husband was minutes away from where his father was when normally he would have been two or more hours away.

God has given us friends who are willing drop everything, loan their new car, their time and their energy to spend the night with my four young children so I could drive down and be close to my husband in his heavy moments of grief and uncertainty.

God has given us two people who held the elevator for us the same night as the accident as we were running to catch it. They asked us who we were visiting and as we shared our story they shared that their son was in the trauma ICU too from an accident which had occurred the day before.

God gave us them, complete strangers, to whisper the words, we will pray for Mack. We learned their son’s name was Tommy and we whispered we would pray for Tommy too.

I asked as the elevator was closing, because we had gotten off, where they were from and they said St. Louis, a beloved place to my husband and I as we spent our first three years of marriage there while he was in seminary. The couple held the door open to tell us they were saved by a Covenant Seminary student twenty years ago.

As we left them they told us their son was going to be okay, as was the other student from Asbury in the car who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. In that moment God gave both my husband and I hope.

God gave us that moment. He was the weaver of two completely different stories crossing paths at the same time to give the gift of hope for another day.

God has given me people to pick up tortillas for taco night, friends to sit with my kids while I gave my older child the regularity of volunteering in his classroom and friends to send pizza over because all I can do right now is throw pizza on a paper towel.

God has given us people who will pick up new guitar strings so my husband can play music for his father while he is laying in a hospital bed.

God has given so many visitors at the hospital. So many more than my husband can even count.

God has given us hundreds of people praying across the country for my father-in-law. So many texts, emails, phone calls and messages. More than any of us could keep up with even on our best days.

In these hard moments and in uncertainty, God has given us so much more than we can handle. The burdens and heartache have been too big to bear alone. 

But God has also given us more prayer and more love than we can handle. 

God has given us more love.

God has given Mack more love. And I believe it is the more love that keeps us going. More love than we can handle. Because love is bigger than burdens and hard places.

If you have prayed for Mack’s recovery, reached out, visited, brought groceries or have been a friend, I personally thank you for showing me how God can give me more burdens than I can bear alone but also more love than I could have ever imagined for myself.

If you are praying for Mack please also pray for Tommy and all the others in the Trauma ICU.

Thank you for praying and for giving more love than we can handle.

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Unraveled Church

It feels strange to learn how to “do” church while your husband is in full time ministry. For some people it feels strange to “do” church at all and to others “doing church” feels like an old perfectly broken in baseball mitt.

For me it feels like I have the old cozy baseball mitt but my hand just hasn’t settled into those comfortable places yet.

“Doing” church is something I am still learning to do. And this is where God has me.

There was a time when I would try to settle into those comfy spots like a stepsister forcing her way into a glass slipper. Forcing my hand to make it touch every contour, nook, cranny and seam. I believed if I could just do it better or try to make it fit harder maybe then the doing of church would feel more comfortable.

And then there are times when I haven’t even felt like wearing the glove at all. I saw the glove and I knew my hand didn’t quite wear it well so I hid behind pride, behind shame and even behind the pointing the finger of blame.

The root of pride that I was just too different.

The trunk of shame from who I have been and what others have said about who I am.

And a branch of a pointing finger which bore the fruit of blaming others for a perfect glove which wasn’t quite snug enough.

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And now I realize, ten years into being one with someone who is called to lead God’s people in God’s church, that doing church or learning to do church is simply a process. It is a constant unraveling of  what you thought you knew from who God is calling you to be. Whether you have a brand new glove or your glove is cozy and your hand feels like it fits every cranny.

Everyone is in the process of learning how to love Jesus more and love their self less.

And God has me in the process of learning how to do church. A place where I know my hand isn’t quite settled into every cozy place and I am okay with that.

I don’t feel cozy in my glove when I sit in the front row on Easter Sunday and one of my handsomely dressed children is eating their boogers. My pride still has me finding my worth in how we look sitting there in the front row.

I don’t feel cozy in my glove when my husband doesn’t share a story just right from the pulpit and the expression on my face shows it. My perfectionist self reveals it’s rolling eyes and my wanting to control rears it’s ugly side.

I don’t feel cozy in my glove when we are adjusting to a service which is thirty minutes earlier and with four kids we seem to be walking into worship late and with wrinkly slacks almost every Sunday. The soil of acceptance and my need for others to see me as “shiny and freshly pressed” seeps into my pridefully drenched roots. Sometimes my heart finds it’s worth in freshly pressed pants.

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It is only when I can undo what I have already wound up tightly, unravel what I thought I knew from what is true and start with feeding the roots of myself with faith and belief… this is where I can find freedom.

Dependent roots grounded in the gospel of truth which remind me that yes, I am different, but I am also uniquely knit together and wonderfully made, called specifically to be in the front row with booger eating children for a purpose I don’t quite know the meaning of yet.

A trunk of fresh bark, firm and strong by the Word and His power which reminds me that in Christ, I am a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come and I am more accepted and loved in Christ than I could have ever dared to dream of.

And branches that don’t bear fruit of blame and pointing fingers at others when I don’t feel like I fit in but instead bear fruit of love and service because I realize unraveling this idea of doing church is not at all about me, or anyone else around me. When I pull back the threads of pride I can see clearly that church is about God and calling people from all different backgrounds to love and serve Him, no matter how well the glove fits, in the name of Jesus.

When I recognize that my biggest discomfort about fitting in and “doing” church well actually has mostly to do with my pride (myself) when I point that branch back at me, it is there when I can wear my glove more comfortably.

Even though I haven’t quite completely grow into it yet.

It is there, when I unravel what I thought I knew about doing church from my pride and unbelief that I can be comfortable with just being in process.

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It’s not about shoving like a stepsister. We all desperately want the glove to just fit better but instead we should be learning to be more comfortable in the places that don’t quite yet fit. This is where we find faith and belief. This is where we trust that God will grow us in the ways he needs us to grow, in His timing.

We are loved when our gloves don’t seem to fit, our kids eat boogers and we are running late with wrinkly pants.

I will grow into the coziness of the glove in God’s good and perfect timing. Being in process of doing anything is a good thing. God is good and He is at work, we need not shove. He is able to grow us into our gloves even without our shoving.

I am a pastor’s wife, learning to “do” church. I am in process and I am okay with that.

The Crumbs On The Countertop

I am not proud, but there have been moments in my Christian life when I have cried over the dust on my baseboards, the spills on my carpet and the crumbs on the countertop.

Cleanliness is next to godliness and serving a God of order where my favorite things to say about keeping a tidy home.

But something has happened to me.

I thank God because He is before all things and in Him every single thing holds together. Even those tiny crumbs.

What happened to me is something I never would have imaged could happen to me. What happened to me was something that happens to a lot of people, I simply had my fourth child and now I do not have time to care about the crumbs on the countertop.

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I saw the crumbs on the countertop just this week and then the dust on my nightstand and the piles of folded laundry sitting out in the laundry room left sitting out and not put away.

I noticed the meal planning board with it’s good intentions but meals which were never made.

I tried to figure out when my life started to unravel from my idol of order and it all comes back to having that fourth child.

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I thought about my love of the order and cleanliness and then I thought about my kids. My three sons and that fourth child, my only daughter.

Yes. I am overwhelmed by the constant need for me to tend to something.

But I am thankful.

I am thankful for the gift which God has graciously given to me in having a fourth child.

The gift I needed, where I came to the end of myself and my abilities and ultimately all I had was dependance upon something much Greater than me.

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That fourth child, in all her lovely wonder, pushed me to a place where I found the end of myself and the need for a God who is before all things, and in Whom all things hold together.

That fourth child has given me the greatest gift. The realization that I don’t need to have every crumb wiped up and every baseboard completely dusted. The realization that every single moment will not be picture perfect and my hands are more full than I could have ever dreamed.

I see the crumbs on the countertop and although they still make me a tiny bit crazy, thanks be to God for helping me see the other things around me which are more important. The lives He has given to me to love and care for and the ability to let go of the spills, the crumbs and the dust.

That fourth child has helped me see that loving, caring and tending is greater than cleaning or dusting or tidying.

Thank you God for that fourth child, for bringing me to the end of myself and for finding a place where it is not me running this ship, but You, You holding it all together and graciously showing me the way.

Thank you God for the gift of seeing crumbs on the countertop less and being involved in the lives of my children more.

I couldn’t have come to the end of myself without the graciousness of God. I am thankful for that fourth child. Abundantly. Even if I can’t keep the order around here like I wish I could.

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Prayers For My First Grader

It was supposed to be rest time in our home at 1:30 this afternoon. I put my baby down in her crib, closed the door and walked down the stairs to call the boys in for rest time just the way I normally do.

I sing to the tune of Mary Had A Little Lamb: ” It’s time to find your resting place, resting place, resting place, time to find your resting place, it is time to rest.”

But as I went to open the door and sing my song I saw three boys laughing and playing and I just could not make them stop.

So I watched them play from the bay window. The older two were on the swings and the younger was whacking them with a pool noodle. They were all laughing hysterically but I started to cry as I watched them.

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Today was the last day that all three of them will run around in the backyard after lunch time most days of the week. Tomorrow our biggest boy goes off to first grade and seventy one percent of his lunches and after lunch play times will now be spent outside of our home. (Mathematicians don’t hate on me here… I did not configure school and summer vacations into that one.)

So as I watched them I prayed. As I have gotten in the habit of praying for my kids when I spy on their play times.

I prayed for my son’s first days in his new classroom.

Lord, you are faithful and good. Please give my son good relationships with his new teachers and help him make new and long lasting friendships with his classmates. 

Lord, help him find others to run around on the playground with the same way he runs around our backyard at home. 

Lord, give him friends to sit at the lunch table with and joke and laugh… but also in the appropriate ratio of socializing and food eating. 

Lord, help me remember your faithfulness to us last year. Give me hope and trust for a school year which will grow us and stretch us in ways we weren’t expecting. 

Lord, give my son confidence in his work. Help him know in his heart that he is always loved by The Most High God. Help my son remember that he is kind, smart and important, uniquely knit together, wonderfully made. 

Lord, help my son stand up for himself and others. Help him be strong and courageous because You are with him wherever he goes. 

And Lord, help me be strong and courageous too because You have written that You are with my son wherever he goes and You are faithful. 

And as I watch these boys play, help the youngers left behind miss their brother well. Help them miss him enough to long to play around him but not enough to forget the fun they have when they are all together. 

Lord, we need you in transition and the unknowns. Help us trust You more and love one another better in the days to come.

Amen. 

And now the hardest thing to do is to leave my prayers and trust. To walk in the faith that calls us to believe in God’s faithfulness, even when we can’t see His faithfulness coming. To let the tears come with peace. The peace of God which transcends all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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First grade, here we come.

You can pray for me too.

If You Think You May Have Married A Crazy Person

I know it crossed my husband’s mind a time or (let’s be honest) a dozen times when we were first married. I know in our first months of matrimony he looked at me more than once like he did not even know me at all.

The first time was perhaps when we were fighting about something really good like how long an unused glass should sit on the countertop. My husband would say an empty glass could sit on the countertop and be refilled again for further hydration purposes throughout the day and I am more of a “as soon as it hits the countertop I am swooping it into the dishwasher” kind of gal.

One of these first fights had us both pretty heated as we were both just learning the dance of communication in marriage.

Literally while I was firmly speaking about all the times he had left his glass out with hands going in all directions my sweet husband sat down on the couch opened his Bible and motioned me to sit next to him. He started reading the scriptures to me and I think my head started spinning like the exorcist lady.

I gave my husband my evilest of teacher looks and I growled, “YOU GET THAT BIBLE AWAY FROM ME.”

Call me a horrible Christian or call me human but I did not want to hear the Word of God in that moment.

This may have been the first little appetizer of my insanity and the first time my husband may have thought he married, for better or for worse, a crazy person.

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The soup and salad course of this dazzling crazy person meal would probably have been the time he brought a buddy home after seminary class while I was at work without telling me. When he brought me home that afternoon and mentioned the great time he had I FREAKED OUT because I had not cleaned the toilets that morning.

The entree was most likely when I had my new husband take me to the emergency room because I believed I was having a heart attack. I was twenty-two and generally in good health but on the way to the hospital I was panicking about quadruple-bypasses.

The dessert course was most likely the other argument we had about glasses on the counter and he asked me if we could pray about it and I said “Sure, you pray out here in the living room and I will pray in the bedroom.” And I fell asleep instead of praying.

And this was really me.

I was really married to my husband and I was struggling to believe truth, hear truth and walk in truth.

And I was really hurting.

BUT

My husband loved me though it.

He may be the only person that has truly seen me in the worst of times, the craziest of times, and loved me through the crazy.

And at times our marriage has felt like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride but my husband has fastened his seatbelt and committed not to unbuckle and bail when the bumps and hiccups feel like something he didn’t sign up for.

“Human sin is stubborn,” says Cornelius Plantinga, “but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way.”3 Stubborn, persistent, unrelenting grace that changes us. Now that’s good news indeed.”
― Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”

The beautiful thing about a marriage founded in the gospel is Michael and I both are not committed to the person who we see sitting in front of us right now in this present moment. As husband and wife, we are committed to the wretched mess being sanctified only because of the power of God working in us. And we believe that God isn’t finished with us yet but working in us until we reach our full potential and beauty.

So if you are in a Christian marriage and you are contemplating whether or not you married a crazy person…

Cling to the truth that the icing on that cake is coming and one day, God will perfect us with all the endless truth and beauty freely offered on Christ.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

He is able to redeem the crazy person and give the crazy person the gift of grace of being known and loved.

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