Monday, April 30, 2012

Answered Prayers

It finally happened.  Something I have been praying for for years was answered.  The answer came quietly, not with the fanfare, the earth-shaking I expected.  One day I woke up and this prayer was answered.  I still brushed my teeth.  I still got dressed for the day.  I still went to work.  I didn't feel different, but some really big things had changed. 

In the spirit of full disclosure the day our answered prayer found us was a bit different.  It was last Tuesday night, and we were at the funeral home in Scottsville, KY, there for Ma's visitation.  Tim's grandmother had passed away the weekend before; family and friends gathered together to remember and celebrate a life well lived.   That afternoon Tim had been offered the job as an assistant principal at an elementary school in a town not too far from where we live.  That evening he accepted it.  The juxtaposition of it all does not escape me:  As we were saying goodbye to one life, a new life for us was just beginning.  The sentimental side of me wants to believe that Ma had something to do with God's timing, that she talked Him into a parting gift, letting her sweet grandson know that as she passed through Heaven's open doors God was opening a few on earth as well.

I've been praying for God to do something wonderful for my husband for a long time.   We have both sensed that there was more for him for a while.  That he was made for more than the life he was living, that God had given him gifts, insights, abilities that were not being used.  That he had passion and excellence within him that needed to be given expression.  Tim is a natural born leader.  We've been asking relentlessly for years for God to give him a place to lead.  And now that door has opened.

Have you ever noticed that God's answers to long held prayers feel as if they've been answered all along?  Certainly in putting the question to Him, we wonder if He hears, if we've asked the right way, did we hold our mouth right.  But I've noticed the feeling that comes after the answer arrives is so closely akin to recognition.  It's as if the answer has always existed as such and just our noticing it has changed.  Like walking into a familiar room and saying, "Did someone put that lamp there?"  Then you realize it had been there all along.

A part of me feels that way.  That this is such a natural step for Tim, that he was made for this experience and that it has been waiting for him, with his name on it for a long time.  From the first time I prayed a heartfelt prayer on his behalf, asking, begging, beseeching God to do something wonderful for him, God knew this position was his.  And for all those tenuous moments when discouragement and disappointment threatened to eat away at our hearts, God was preparing him for this moment.  In those painful times, God was power-packing my husband with everything he would need for such a time . . .  as this. 

I love seeing Tim walk into this answered prayer with confidence.  I wonder if he would have been able to if God had answered us immediately, if He had not withheld the disclosure of the plan until now.  Because the truth is that the confidence came with the waiting.  Ironic isn't it?  The waiting is the very thing that made him the man he is today.  One would think that waiting, being told "no" time after time would dry up one's confidence, make one want to give up and give in, to go home and quit dreaming, quit trying.  Instead the very opposite happened.  I know now that without Tim's waiting there would have been no strength of heart, no depth of understanding, no clarifying of purpose, no purifying of passion, no honing of instinct.  It's kind of like cooking.  It is the rendering down, the waiting, that intensifies the flavors. 

When our third son was born, I named him Jeremiah Allen:  Jeremiah, for the verse I had been holding onto for Tim for so long--"For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future with hope" (Jeremiah 29:11); Allen, after Tim whose middle name is the same.  I wanted Tim to be able to look at our son and know that God had not forgotten him.  That God did indeed have good plans for his life.  The thing that has always amazed me about this Bible passage is that God's good plans for us are born while we are in exile, away from the home our hearts are longing for.  And it is that very separation that gives us everything we need to walk into the hope God has for us. 

I'm so glad, so thankful, that part of our long wait is over.  Thank You sweet Lord, for answers that have been there all along.  And thank You for revealing them.  It helps me hope that my own heart longings will also be answered.  It helps me remember that You have plans for me too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


This was the sunset we saw coming home.  It took my breath away.  In the car with three boys, Noah saying, "Mama you need to take a picture!"  And that's what I did.  I believe it was worth turning around for.  How many things in life are like that?

Many, actually.  But rarely do we take the time to see, much less turn around to get a better, clearer, closer look.  The last couple of days have been like that for me.  My family has drawn close to Ma as she gets closer to death.  Tim's Grandmother is such a sweet, funny lady who welcomes everyone like they are family.  And now she will soon be welcomed Home. 

I sat by her bed tonight, watching her breathe, waiting with her for just a while.  The moments seemed to slow, kind of like her breathing, and I thought of the nearness of new life, brimming and brewing as this life prepares to give itself over.  "Oh we are so close!"  I thought.  So close to the Eternal.  Here is this person I love, soft skin blanketing bones, waiting for the moment of eternity to come to her.  Just being near her makes me feel close to that glorious, eternal life too. 

Oh I long for it.  Not my own death, mind you, but life that is touched by the Hand of God.  I long to see God's Glory revealed.  I long to be ushered into the Next Thing.  I feel in my spirit that I am waiting, have been waiting, that the waiting is full, pregnant, ripe, ready to bust open, and yet I could not even begin to tell you what exactly I'm waiting for.  I just know I'll recognize it when I see it.  It's hard to tell if the waiting is devouring me or expanding me.  Faith says it is growing me in ways I cannot imagine.  My weak flesh says it is the foolishness of unsubstantiated hope.  Today I'm going with the faith side of me.  Ma is not the only one in transition. 

I am thankful for those sweet moments with Ma, watching her breathe, touching my lips gently to her cheek, lifting my youngest son to brush his sweet lips against her cool skin too.  It was a Holy time filled with beauty and God's goodness.

So on the way home we saw this amazing sunset.  It was like God showing off for us, whispering gently, "Glory is closer than you think."

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Good Morning Easter

Good morning, Easter.  The house is quiet.  Tim is running.  The boys are asleep.  And here I am with you.  I feel a kinship with the ladies of Easter.  They came to greet you in the early morning, not even knowing you waited for them, not even knowing you were their destination.  They came with  heavy hearts, the burden of grief and loss obscuring their sight, robbing them of vision.  I sense I am like that too.  There is so much on my mind.  It makes me grumpy.  Blind.  I long for much.  I live in the tension of what I long for and what is.  And because my mind is elsewhere I miss seeing you, the wonder of God's Hope and Love, right before me.

What I love about you Easter, is that you do not stop to wait for blurry eyes to recognize you.  You arrive in our midst and set to work, righting wrongs, resurrecting dreams, relieving sorrow with joy.  You are new life springing forth, bringing your gifts before we are aware of them, certainly before we are worthy of them.  How so very much like our Savior you are.  Gentle.  Persistent.  Insistent.  Unstoppable.  Unstaunchable.  Very much alive.  Even today you are very much alive.  Often arriving while we are still asleep, to groggy and incoherent to say our own names. 

So I love it when you call us by name.  The Savior's voice drifts across your morning dew.  In that simple act of love we hear our names spoken where we have no reason to expect it.  Hearing that one familiar word, spoken in such familiar intimacy, by our beloved Lord, at the same time familar and unrecognizable, changes everything.  Hearing our name infused with the promise of new life changes us.  Here we are, blindly longing for something that we don't even need, to complete the rituals of death.  And then you, Easter, step in and change everything, beyond all our imagining. 

I'm so glad it is Easter.  I need Easter in my life.  I need to hear my name spoken in hope, the sound waves penetrating the veil of my tears and unbelief.  I need to be called to newness I have not even imagined.  I need you.  So I welcome you this quiet morning as the rest of the world wakens. 

My sweet husband is back from his run.  Soon sleepy boys will emerge, ready for poptarts and cartoons.  It is time for my own morning run.  To begin setting out Sunday clothes.  To start our journey toward worship so that we may greet you formally.  But I am so grateful for this quiet moment to say good morning and . . . thank you.

Monday, April 02, 2012

New Life

I love Spring.  I love how it brings with it the promise of new life.  Just a few weeks ago these beautiful buttercups announced Spring's arrival in our own front yard.  In our most barren corner.  I love that.  And I love how their hardy tenacity survives from year to year, weathering storms, winter, and little boys who like to dig.  Every time I see them bloom I am reminded of God's unrelenting grace, God's determination to bring beauty to the barren landscapes of our lives.

These blossoms particularly hold a special place in my heart.  They were planted several years ago by our neighbor Mr. Lonny.  It's been a little over two years since he passed away, unexpectedly, long before anyone was ready for him to.  By simply coming forth each year, our yellow flowers remind me death never has the last word.  Life continues, showing up when we least expect it.

I've struggled in the past week to remember that new life is always breaking open our normalcy.  Sometimes I get discouraged.  I forget that seasons are just as much a part of our personal existence as they are of nature.  When my heart is in the thick of winter, dormancy, and quiet slumber, it seems the world will continue in just that state forever.  In such a season, waiting is less about watching for the new thing and more like the eternity of being suspended mid-air, never knowing when gravity will actually start working again.  Actually this moment will seem like a split-second from the perspective of eternity.  But living in it feels endless. 

And so I have pondered the beauty of buttercups, even while my heart struggles with a season of undetermined boundaries.  I don't know how long I will have to wait for the new thing.  But my yellow companions remind me that new things are still HIS thing. 

These ponderings have been especially poignant the last couple of weeks.  Just a little over a week ago I "celebrated" the year anniversary of discovering the Bishop was ending my appointment at the Wesley Foundation.  I've spent the past year learning to let go, grieving the loss of a ministry family I loved dearly, and allowing my dreams to be reimagined.  Through it all God's mercy and grace have sustained me.  My spirit has found rest.  I have relished the time spent with my family.  God has been a Good Shepherd to me.  He has restored my soul, in ways that are beautiful.

On the anniversary of the announcement of my move, I was the co-leader of our church's ladies retreat.  The theme selected by our women's ministry team was "Time Out for Restoration."  It was wonderful to spend those two days engaged in the kind of ministry I love.  For those two days I felt like John Wesley when he said, "I set myself on fire, and people come to watch me burn."  It was an amazing weekend.  Honestly, it was not an opportunity I sought out.  It came seeking me.  Only God could have arranged it the way it all played out.  It was an amazing experience. 

In some ways its wonder scares me senseless.  There's nothing else on the horizon.  I left that weekend with words echoing along the walls of my heart, "Oh God, I've still got so much ministry left in me!"  A plea.  A prayer.  A heartfelt cry.  Oh Jesus, please don't let this be it.  

Yet I remember buttercups, the promise of new life springing forth when we least expect it.  The truth is that the Bishop ushered me into God's promise.  Since I was released from my appointment at the Wesley Foundation, I not only have a new life, I experience new life.  Let me explain.  On my fridgerator hangs a wooden cross.  On one side is written:  "I die to control fear worry uncertainty anxiety".  On the other are these words:  "So that I may live to hope peace joy love".   I wrote those words during a devotional I led for a Board of Directors meeting at the Wesley Foundation just a couple of months before I learned I was leaving.  Even though I was in a place of "security" (i.e. I had a full time job, benefits, etc.) I was a walking mess.  Control, fear, worry, uncertainty, and anxiety weighed on me every waking moment.  Yet in the year since then, even in learning to live with less, I have so much more hope, peace, joy, and love.  Even now in my aingst about the unknowns of our future, my heart is at rest.  I know God is good.  I know God will go with us wherever we go.

So I welcome Spring.  I welcome the new life God's goodness brings.  I welcome the possibility of being surprised when I least expect it.  I welcome new things.