Saturday, January 26, 2008

“Look,” Josiah pointed to two new holes in the leg of his pants. “I almost got myself.”

I glanced down at the chainsaw in his hands, then back again at the greedy rips near his thigh. “That’s too bad,” I answered, “those were good-looking jeans.”

We both laughed, thankful for the Lord’s protection, remembering the day Papa sliced his leg open with a chainsaw, as well as countless other chainsaw horror stories. Popping our earplugs back in we bent back to work cutting firewood for our every hungry stove.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Israelites can be grateful to God one moment, worshiping Him and singing praises with dancing and timbrels, and testing Him with complaints and demands the next. “God has brought us out to starve in the wilderness!” On the heals of His miraculous parting of the Red Sea. Still, God proved patient and answered the plea of Moses with bread from heaven. Gathered every morning. Jesus taught us that man does not live by bread alone but on every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. Does it seem likely that the concept should hold true: we should spend time gathering the precious nutrients from God’s word every morning? And when the water was bitter, God freshened it. When there was no water, He provided water from a solid stone. If ever the hand of God was clearly demonstrated, it was to the Israelites fleeing Egypt. Yet they ate the manna in the wilderness and perished. They passed on to eternity without ever trusting the great Jehovah. It doesn’t seem possible, but I see the same story repeated today in godly families where the children are inundated with God’s word, yet fail to trust Him. We are not saved by witnesses the work of God. We are not saved by eating the food He provides. We are not saved by following godly leaders. We are saved through seeking refuge in Jesus, the Passover Lamb, slain for the purification of our sins.

Lord, I praise Thee that I am
Purified through Thy own Lamb,
Thou demands a sacrifice—
In response, Thy own Son dies.

Thou art merciful and just
Teach my faltering heart to trust
Thou Who gave Thy Son to bleed
Will fulfill all other needs.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Apparently the bewildered bird yesterday prophesied falsely. It’s freezing today.

Josiah and I had a huge fight this morning. It lasted perhaps five minutes, but the intensity was enough to work out all my restless energy. The fight was entirely my fault. I guess I’m worn down emotionally, tired of making peace, being cheerful, seaking to serve, pleasing everyone, being a gentle, quiet and at-home kind of girl. Everyone else had run to RussVegas and I was filling my sink with soapy, sudsy dishwater while Josiah talked to me when he reached over and pulled out the sprayer nozzle. The next thing I knew, cold water had blasted me in the face. Deep inside I thought it was funny and outwardly I was only mildly annoyed but a little imp of anger tugged at my heart and I began to scold. Josiah was laughing and insisting it was an accident, but I worked myself into a white-hot passion. I wanted to hit him as hard as I could (which is pretty hard). Not because I was really angry, but because a desire for conflict raged inside me, demanding release. I can’t remember the last time I was angry like that—where it actually came out in words and nearly blows, instead of being stifled by studied silence. For the past couple of weeks it has seemed that my emotions had completely shriveled up and died, and I’ve been living my life on pure control. The fight blew over as quickly as it had begun and we stood, washing dishes in sullen silence, tears of repentance mingling with the still un-dried remains of the cold blast and dripping into my steamy dishwater. Finally we both rushed into apologies. Most impressive through the whole situation was Josiah’s self-control. There was a day when his temper flared up at nothing, like a cherry bomb in the presence of fire. Now he could kill me if he wanted to. He never even struck. It’s moments like these when I recognize spiritual warfare and the fact that I am a new creature. Becoming angry was an effort. I chose to be angry, to think up angry things to say and to threaten. I dug up that ugly side from somewhere hidden deep away because I wanted to. I had to work up the passion to continue. In all honesty, I was not in the least overcome by sin, but chose it for the moment because that is what I wanted. It wasn’t too strong for me, I sought it out.

How strange. Why did I do it?

Lord, no sin can ever bind me
No temptation seek or find me
But Thou also dost provide
Thy own grace in which to hide.

I can conquer through Thy power
Evil forms in evil hours.
Before I even cry to Thee
Thou looses bonds and sets me free.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The sound of a sparrow twittering and singing outside my window, startled me from my quiet time this morning. Is it possible that spring is just around the bend?

A pig is a critter of worth, I am firmly resolved, and will go to great lengths to prove it by rhyme, story or science. I simply wish our internet connection could pick up a little speed to aid me in my research endeavors. Counting the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin while waiting for a page to load gets to be rather a boar. But someday, when I hold in my hands a stiff, new copy of my book, smelling of glue and wet paper, I’m sure I’ll forget the agony and pain involved in the researching process for the joy of finally holding my “baby”. Notice I said “when”, not “if”.

Back in time with Moses and the children of Israel, enslaved in Egypt for four-hundred years, I found myself sucked into the story of the ten plagues which Yahweh sent on the land of captivity. “Pharaoh will harden his heart,” he warned Moses, “And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment—I AM YAHWEH.” One by one He proceeded to challenge, attack and prevail over the primary gods of the Egyptian religion. Did the Nile give life, through the aid of Hapi and Osiris? It was turned to blood, the symbol of life and yet dealing death to the land. Did frog represent good crops, insect control and blessings in the afterlife? Let us enjoy an overabundance of frogs—followed by a place of insects and destroyed crops. As the Lord moved down through each of the ten plagues He showed Himself to be God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. The last and final plague was directed at Pharaoh himself, believed to be a god, yet unable to protect his own heir. The Egyptians worshiped so many false gods, depended on everything but Yahweh for their sustenance, and finally crumbled and fell into ruin, no longer a splendid world power as at one time. Why? Because God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. He opposed the conceited Pharaoh, dragging him through the mud as he foolishly and repeatedly refused the advice of his counselors. Because Pharaoh refused to listen to God, God clouded his judgment so that he couldn’t even think clearly. His heart was hard. What a sober warning to me, to humble myself before the Lord, soften my heart to His word and seek Him while He may be found.

Lord, Thou opposes haughty men,
To trust ourselves is such great sin.
We will find our hearts grown hard
If we turn deaf ears to Thy word.

Teach me, Lord, to count my days
That I will offer all my praise
To Thou who rulest earth and sea
And yet attends Thy ear to me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In the darkness of the deserted hallway, but a few moments ago, a shapeless apparition reached out a cold, clammy hand and grabbed me. I yelped (simply because I have forever lost the ability to scream, due to my father’s careful training in the proper usage of decibals). The next instant I realized it was only Lydia, groping her way from the opposite direction with her hands outstretched to prevent bumping into hard blockages—like me.

There’s a first time for everything, they say. Whoever “they” are. I was in and out of the campus library several times today without every so much as catching a glimpse of Taylor. And I never once saw Zach on campus, though we passed him on the way into town. We weren’t positive it was him, though the evidence stacked up--pink scribbles on the back window, beat up truck with a toolbox, hulking shape with no hair (to speak of)—until Papa’s phone went off and he was demanding to know why we weren’t waving back. After an hour with Jacinda in the library, winking over the tops of our respective computers, we immerged into the daylight, away from the annoyingly immature gaggle of girls and silly, stalking boys. “Is it just me,” I asked, “Or do all the students…” “…look like babies?” she finished before answering a resounding “yes”. It’s hard to believe that, had I gone to college, I’d probably have been slated for graduation in May. Another surprise awaited me at lunch when I discovered I am even older than Oly—by an outstanding twenty-two days.

The day itself seemed rather inside-out and upside down. I barely saw Lauryn in passing, work-worn and headed to donate the gift of life—blood. The majority of the day was spent with April, catching lunch, scrambling around campus to run errands and finally flopping onto the pink and green futon in the Sweetest Suite for some heart-to-heart. She asked about Amber and I started to answer before she interrupted hurriedly with “If she wouldn’t mind you telling me this.” Impressed by her desire not to be a gossip, I’ve been meditating on my “sharing” habits. Things charged to me in secrecy remain with me. But what about those things mentioned to me in simple private conversation? How much of that am I at liberty to divulge? Does what I share honor the Lord or His son or daughter? I need to evaluate my motives and my words. I need to protect my brothers and sisters in the Lord from embarrassment or dishonor and so protect His name.

Lord, guard my heart and mouth and mind
From thoughts and words and deeds unkind
From telling secrets not my own
That rumor weeds may not be sown.

May I bring before Thy feet
The whispers I would fain repeat
And speak of none to aught but Thee
That I might guard their dignity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

“Abigail,” Mom called from the other room where she was talking with the milkman. “Are you twenty-one?” I think my heart slammed through my ribs and hit the floor with a bounce, about the same time my jaw did. Sheesh, I thought. I’m not old.

Also of note, I devised labels for my newest business venture—selling Grinola: “cereal that makes you smile”. Cheesy, I know. Sadly, my poor mind is overtaken by marketing schemes—the slogan “mares eat oats and does eat oats and you each oats” marches neatly across the backdrop of my creativity. Unless I can control and limit myself to a very simple style, I’ll soon have erected a website with the same background, my Grinola logo splashed across the top, nutrition fact panels, arguments for the consumption of oats and an e-mail contact form. That’s a rough draft, at least. By the way, oats are super good for you: full of fiber, great for your heart, low on carbohydrates and tasty to boot.

The book of Genesis has given way to the Exodus from Egypt—or at least the prelude to it. Moses has been born a “good” baby, rescued and finally run off into the wilderness where God called to him from a burning bush. It being the middle of winter I can imagine Moses’ surprise when the bush burns…and burns…and burns. Here’s what claimed most of my thoughts for today: Moses’ repeated begging that Yahweh send someone else. “Who am I to go?” he objected first. Did it really matter? He whom God sends is empowered of God—it is God who is worthy, not Moses or anyone else. And it is God who chooses and sends. Three more objections follow, which God patiently works with, providing Moses with adequate equipage for the task. “I made your mouth,” says Yahweh, “I’ll teach it what to say.” Finally, fresh out of excuses, Moses says, “Please Lord, send the message by whoever You will—whoever else, that is.” I read it and shook my head, rolling my eyes toward heaven. He just doesn’t get it, does he? Then the Holy Spirit stirred in my heart. Only Moses? How often does the Lord give me a message and I make excuses. I don’t know what to say, Lord! I’m no good at talking! I hardly know them! They’ve already rejected me! As surely as God took a wandering shepherd, not quite belonging to Egypt, Israel or Midian, to command Pharaoh to release the captives, He can use me to demand that Satan release those in slavery to sin. I need only say, “Here am I.”

Lord, the message that I have is Thine.
The words are truth, the power divine.
Thou, my mouth has formed and filled
May my anxious heart be stilled

To trust in Thee to speak and move
To fill me with Thy perfect love.
On holy ground, I stand, unshod,
Be Thou my strength, Almighty God.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My eyes and mind conspired together to deceive me. Somehow, through my haze of grogginess I thought the clock said six-thirty and clambered out of bed to go shower. Returned with soggy hair and poised to wake Jacinda, I discovered an interesting phenomenon. I’d gone back in time. It now said five-forty-five. Shivering, I gathered my Bible into my arms and spent the next hour and a half closeted in my warm, steamy bathroom, reading.

For all our earliness, and sitting-around-waiting to go-ness, we walked into Sunday School, at First Baptist, to find the rest of the college class completely immersed in First Timothy. From there we filled up a pew with Lindsey and her host family for the regular meeting. Halfway through announcements, with Brother Jeff sharing how the Lord was providing for Hall down in California he interrupted himself to announce, “Well, there’s Becki now!” Sure enough, there was Becki, trying to creep in unnoticed from the back door. “By the way,” Brother Jeff announced, as she made her way up the rows of curious eyes, “Becki and Hall are now engaged!” She finally gained her seat and cuddled in with Lindsey amidst a shower of applause.

Jacinda treated us all to spaghetti for lunch—at our house. She and Meagan came over, and pretty soon Zach showed up, too. When Taylor texted him asking if he could join us as well, I deferred my power of ruling adult and asked that he call Papa, who readily granted permission. After lunch we all crowded around to play “ImagineIff”. “ImagineIff Zach were a sports penalty…” we all dissolve in laughter that only grew louder when we reached the last option—which turned out to be the unanimous vote. He would be “excessive celebration”. “ImagineIff Taylor were a form of communication…if Lydia were a piece of furniture…if Josiah were a cartoon character…if Abigail were a donut…” and finally “Imagine if Jacinda were a room…she would be the kitchen.”

By midafternoon the sunshine had crawled under my skin beckoning me outside. Since everyone else played the wimp, complaining that it was too cold, I bundled myself up and ran full-speed down the woodland path and returned endowed with exuberance and energy. Daring the chill of my room, Jacinda and I vanished for the finishing touches to our “getting back in touch” and were still deep in conversation when Mom and Papa arrived home, signaling the end of the weekend.

I polished of Genesis today, finishing up with the inspiring life of Joseph. Each step along the way it seemed that something was going wrong. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Joseph was a man of great understanding, and filled with God’s holy spirit and he answered the question eloquently. “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Ultimately, God knew exactly what was happening and had everything under control. The very thing Joseph’s brothers thought would put an end to his dream, brought about the fulfillment of it. And the very thing by which they caused their father the most grief turned out to work for the salvation of the lives of the whole family, as well as those of many across the whole world. God does not cause all things, but He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him.

Lord, I see Thy mighty hand
Stretched out to bring about Thy plan.
That which seems our deepest woe
Thou can work to overthrow

Or Thou can work to use instead,
To give our souls and spirits bread
To save us from a worser fate
And show the world that Thou art great.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I don’t make a habit of reading until nearly two o’clock. AM, that is. Last night I was like the person who ties up the guard dog so the mailman can visit and then is burglarized in the middle of the night because she forgot to untie it. Thanks to the ongoing hostility between the internet device and my alarm clock, I’d unplugged the latter and gone to bed timeless. Surprisingly, I bounced out of bed, feeling refreshed before seven and danced around the house getting breakfast and waking the kids.

Our favorite babysitter arrived around supper time. It’s a rare care when a twenty-year-old hires her own babysitter, but with me and Jacinda, it’s become a common occurrence. “I don’t care where we sleep,” she told me over the phone, “as long as it’s warm!” Easier said than done, but with Mom and Papa out of town, their cozy suite lay open before us—provided we kept the fireplace running. I started a fire shortly before she arrived and must admit to a great deal of excitement in the prospect of sleeping warmly.

We spent several hours jamming. Sometimes with Jacinda on piano, sometimes yours truly, sometimes both and sometimes I fooled around on my improvised snare while Josiah pounded out the real beat. To put it bluntly, Jacinda is a much better pianist than I am. And Josiah is a much better drummer.

Among the patriarchs I’ve been studying, I could distinguish definite points of salvation in the lives of Abraham and Jacob. In the lives of Isaac and Joseph, I see only consistency, it seems. Trust from early on. At first I was nearly disappointed, since I’d set my heart to discover the story of each one’s faith in God. But as I meditated on it longer, I found myself encouraged. In my own life I can place my finger on no one point where I decided to trust the Lord, except for a prayer I prayed when I was three. Mostly my life has been a slow building up to the present. I believe God. Isn’t that all that matters? The truth of this statement is clear in the book of Genesis—each of the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph—believed God, as evidenced through their obedience to Him. Has the “plan” of salvation changed? Not at all. As it says elsewhere, God passed over the sins previously committed, reckoning righteousness through faith in Him and His promises. Jesus’ blood was atonement for all sins of all those who trust God. What about the poor heathen in Africa who has never heard the name of Jesus? Can he look around and see God’s creation? Does he recognize his helplessness? Can he cry out to the Creator for mercy? Then he can be saved. And when God introduces him to Jesus, he will fall on his face and worship him as the Son of God.

Lord, Thou changest not, I see
That humankind, the same as me
Are rescued from Thy righteous wrath
By choosing that one narrow path:

Submission to Thy will and word
Where’er the words of each are heard.
This path to blessed eternity,
Is only found by trusting Thee.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Today I took scissors to both Mom and Lydia’s hair. Or hairs, if we want to get technical. Josiah promised to cut his own Sunday morning.

Mom and Papa pulled out of here around two headed for Horseshoe Canyon Dude Ranch and a weekend to themselves to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary. Thirty years. What a time stamp.

I would smash my biological clock with a sledgehammer, were it possible. Every time we receive another wedding invitation that annoying, little love-bird pops out cuckooing at the top of his lungs and making me feel left out. Left out of what, I’d like to know? The rest of the day I drooped like a weeping willow—at least inwardly. Lydia read me a story about horses and I started sniveling. It seems everyone is going through the same struggle at the same time. Or maybe we’re just always struggling with this little imp we'll call the “wish for wifery”. What is it about being married that captures the entire desire system of a young woman and prevents her from functioning in a disinterested or content frame of mind?

I can’t say that I greatly admire Jacob. I mean, the man had the nerve to wrestle with God, to demand that God bless him before he would let Him go. How irreverent must he be? God could have slain Jacob. He didn’t have to bless him. Why did Yahweh Almighty, God of Hostss, allow a weak, disobedient man to wrestle with Him—and prevail? In those early dawn hours, while Jacob wrestled with God for his very soul, God reached out and marked Jacob His own. The limp that Jacob, now named “One who strives with God”, would carry to his grave would remind him of that night he saw God face to face and his life had been preserved. Mercifully. One touch put his hip out of place. How helpless he truly was in the hands of Almighty God! God delights for us to wrestle with Him, our will and His struggling so that when we demand He bless us, we can see how completely helpless we are. Everything we have is a blessing. Every step we take that we do not limp is a mercy of the Lord’s. The very fact that our life has been preserved is Yahweh’s compassion and long suffering.

Lord, when I wrestle Thee I find
That Thou dost show Thyself more kind
For Thou could crush and Thou could kill
Yet Thou preserves and keeps me still.

To come to Thee should bring my end
Yet Thou hast chosen me Thy friend
And wrestling with Thee only proves
How powerful Thy saving love.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Discussion around the supper table turned to matters of behavior. “You can dress a chimpanzee in a three piece suit,” Papa adamantly insisted, “But it won’t make a gentleman out of him.” I held my face straight for as long as possible—approximately two minutes before my breath wheezed out in a sort of giggle snort. Thankfully, Mom and Josiah had done the same. Mastering our giggles, we continued listening intently for another couple of minutes before the humorous mental images overtook us a second time, resulting in a second round of laughter. “Are you getting a picture of that?” Papa asked, a distant twinkle in his eye. “The worst part is,” I said, “That it keeps popping up—in different ways!” We all melted into laughter, each of us imagining a hairy chimp sporting a three piece suit and waltzing about pretending to be a gentleman. Perhaps it was one of those things you had to be their to appreciate.

I rode into RussVegas with Papa today for a very important occasion. The poor, beat-up Tempo is finally being replaced with a suave ’98 Toyota Camry. To copy the words of the oh-so-important voicemail I left Lauryn: It drives beautifully, but it sure stinks. Probably the previous owner was a smoker and somehow we managed to forget the smell-tests while test driving it.

Several interesting “nevers” to note: First, I’ve never been on campus a single day that I didn’t see Zach. This morning, walking from the parking lot behind the library to Summit and back again I managed to run into him. Second, I’ve never gone into the library without passing Taylor on his way out. He must spend his days going in an out of Ross Pendergraft’s special building. Third, I’ve never received a parking ticket, although I’ve never successfully located any visitor parking and simply park in one of the large parking lots regardless. Fourth, I’ve never called for an escort in Summit, always managing to tag a resident in and ride the elevator up to the fifth floor where I waltz into the Sweetest Suite. This morning I arrived early enough to catch the girls in their PJs and took a mental walk down memory lane, chatting with them as they got dressed and each headed out to class.

Amber begged to take me to lunch at Whattaburger. Just hearing that name sends my mind scurrying through an interesting host of memories. Amber’s not been very faithful to finish the Bible study notes I gave her, and I’ve not been very faithful to check up on her. She asked if we not continue them now that school’s started, “so that I won’t feel pressured to do it.” I’m really struggling. I know I really need to lay it out straight for her and talk to her about how vital it is that she be in the word daily. We’ve talked about it, and she knows it. I’m just so tired. So worn-out. So faithless when it comes to keeping her accountable. But I love her and I want to see her walking with the Lord. She’s just got so far to go—even the basics seem to elude her—and I simply don’t know how to get her from point A to point B. How do I make someone read God’s word? After lunch I took her to class and when I came back out of the library to leave campus several hours later I found a sweet note from her. I decided to drop by to see Dr. Roberts, the history professor whose class I so cheerfully disrupted a year ago with Lauren. He was gone to lunch, but I left a sticky note, signed “Girl”. “Do you think he’ll remember you?” Amber demanded. “By name?” I just grinned. “He’ll know.” She read my note over my shoulder. “Girl?! How in the world is he supposed to know who that is?” “He’ll know,” I said again.

Moving on to things of more eternal benefit. Along with behavior, we were discussing “a gentle and quiet spirit” and all the ins and outs of being gentle and quiet—whether it means lowering the decibals, making a habit of mumbling or simply rolling over and playing dead. What adorns a godly woman? Perhaps the secret is in the Holy Spirit and His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. It is the characteristics that will make me beautiful before men and God long after my youth and health have faded. When I am old and weathered, the lines creasing my forehead, crinkling me eyes and hugging my mouth should not be lines of worry, wastefulness, anger or despondency.

Lord, teach me to be beautiful
In Thy Spirit, heart and soul
For Thou can set the plainest face
Aglow with Thy own saving grace.

May my face a mirror be
Of Thou, my glorious deity
That Thou might look on me, perfected
Because Thou sees Thyself reflected.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When the weather station says there’s a thirty percent chance of precipitation today and it’s currently raining outside, does that mean there’s a thirty percent chance that it will continue to rain or am I simply a victim of outdated news services?

And when my muse digresses into discussion of the weather, does that mean the weather has become intensely interesting or that absolutely nothing of great interest has taken place today?

“There were tears when Lydia and I arrived without you,” Mom informed me over the phone from the S Family’s house. “Here’s someone who would like to talk to you.” “Hi Agigail,” comes the sweet, little voice from the other end. “Hello Miss S…this is S, isn’t it?” Silence. Then I hear voices in the background. “She’s vigorously nodding,” I hear Miss J giggle. S’s voice again, “You doin’ good?” I could see her earnest little eyes as she talked over play phones to me the last time I babysat and feel her warm little hand tug at my sleeve when she handed me a picture. Plain and simple it goes like this: I miss the them.

I’ve come to an important revelation. I don’t pray enough. Pray without ceasing is the command I’ve received. I pray intermittently. Infrequently. Once in a while. When something bothers me. Usually for myself. In God’s Word I keep coming across instances of intercession. God reveals something He is about to do to one of His friends—we’ll say it’s Abraham and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, this time. And what is His friend’s reaction? Immediately to plead with God, according to His character and will. God has revealed so much to me, through the pages of His Word. Soon He will destroy the whole world and judge righteousness. How often do I pray for those who still live in rebellion to Him? Every day, you think? Perhaps if I did, I might be esteemed of God, even as Daniel was.

Lord, Thou sit as King of all
Thy ears are open to my call,
The curtain has been torn asunder
It must cause Thy soul to wonder

Why I linger long without
And keep myself busied about
So that my thoughts are never free
To waft as prayers up to Thee.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My thoughts are scattered to the four winds and, since they tend to be heavy, are likely an environmental hazard. I have absolutely no hope, no desire and no reason to gather them into a presentable bouquet. In fact, my journaling impetus is nearly as dead as our lawnmower transmission. Why do I make the effort to record the life of one speck of sand on the vast seashore of time? As if they way in which the tidal waves move that single grain were somehow marvelous in the grand panorama. To those gazing at the scene, the drama unfolds, not in the lapping of the waves against the shore, but in the rising of the sun—as it should be. But could I be counted worthy to reflect back but the faintest gleam of that sun ball’s glory, I should be content.

It’s past eleven and I’m typing in the dark, hoping no one will realize I’m still awake and stirring. We’re barely home from supper at the Thomas’ house. Fettuccine Alfredo. The dish Audrey fixed Wes when they were dating. “I’ve got it made,” he thought, savoring the delicate herbs. “This woman can cook!” He soon discovered that she could cook—fettuccine alfredo—only. My head is drooping; my eyes are dry, my vision growing fuzzy. I know I will sleep through my five o’clock CD alarm clock. On purpose. But I’ve got to finish this entry. Why? Because it’s become tradition. Always, before I go to bed, I write in my journal.

God’s sovereignty is growing as I read Genesis. Growing in my recognition, at least. Don’t ask me to explain it. If I could understand His workings, I’d be something more than the ignorant, little girl I am. Understand, never. Recognize, yes. Certainly. Without a doubt. As I follow the journey of Abraham, not only from Ur to Cana’an, but also from idolatry to being a friend of God, I am struck by God’s choice. Indescribable. Did Abraham choose Yahweh? He didn’t even know Him. Yahweh chose Abraham and led him, step by step into a deep relationship with Himself, a covenant dependant only on God. And Isaac, the son of promise, did He choose God? He was born into the covenant, by the miraculous work of God in regeneration, and led by God through God’s sovereign choice. Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac, of whom God prophesied, “The older shall become the younger’s slave” and further said “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Both born into the covenant, yet only one received the blessing. Why? I don’t know. How? I don’t know. But the fact of the matter remains: God chooses us. There are many things we don’t know about God. Sometimes He seems to have two sides: one merciful and loving, the other harsh and angry. So much we don’t understand. Why does He do what He does? Why does He allow what He does? Why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people? Why does He save whom He saves and harden whom He desires? Does it matter? Would we understand should He part heaven and earth and sit down among us to explain? Trapped inside of time, can we hope to see the finished picture as He does? He has revealed to us His character. To that we should cling and be satisfied that He who formed the ear is not deaf, He who made the seeing eye is not blind, and He who is outside of time is not slow. He who built the universe and wrote the program for its operation is surely capable of fulfilling His purpose in every event, and He will surely not be thwarted in anything He has set His mind to do.

Lord, Thy sovereignty supreme
Is far above the mental dream
That I call intellect, and so
I come before Thee, bow down low

And own Thy wisdom far beyond
The scope or limit of time’s dawn.
For Thou who hung the world on naught
Need not, by Thy own work, be taught.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I accomplished two things of varying importance.

First, I have now seen the inside of a transaxle—a small engine transmission that includes the axle. Do not ask me to put it back together.

Second, I have deactivated my Facebook account and feel oddly at ease and free. Once meant to be a tool, to keep in touch with friends at large, Facebook had slowly come to rest in my life as a monster, guilt-tripping me for not updating, not keeping up with wall posts, not reading others’ notes, overwhelming me whenever I logged in and regulating my relationships. It may be a temporary thing. I don’t know. It’s something I’ve wished to do for some time. Perhaps it is just me moving on. Perhaps it is just me expressing my restlessness. Perhaps it is the Lord removing a hindrance.

The relationship between Tabitha and me is like a door at which I once sniffed, seeing a light underneath and wishing to enter. Now it has swung open and I am curled on the rug by the hearth, enjoying the warmth and radiance of trust and vulnerability—where there is trust, the fear of vulnerability shrinks from a hulking devil to a whispering mouse. We shared the things that worry us, plague us and cause us sleepless nights. The frightening “what ifs” of girls struggling to keep their eyes on Jesus. Would God make me marry someone I don’t like? What if I miss the one He has for me—He makes it really clear and I just don’t see it? What if the wrong one asks? And things get really complicated when we let our imaginations conjure up all kinds of scenarios. What if I like one guy, and my dad likes another one and gives him permission to ask me, and then how am I supposed to know which one is the right one or if either of them are the right one, and what if I miss the right one because I’m so stressed trying to decide which one is the right one when the right one is somewhere else altogether? Voiced, these fears sound absolutely ridiculous. As if God’s will is a penny lying on the road that we might accidentally step over. Or worse, a magic trick, where we must pick a card, any card, just be sure it’s the right card! As we poured out our fears tonight—about her back, about our fellowship, about marriage and whatever other horrors plague the minds of young women—the Lord nudged me. “Look what I have wrought,” He pointed out. “You though I’d taken her friend when you moved. You thought I’d ended something beautiful. You were mistaken. It was only the beginning. Don’t I know best?” How could I ever worry about what He has in mind? One step at a time. One day at a time. Suddenly these frightening decisions resolve themselves. The darkness that we can’t peer into to see the future, becomes light around us as we proceed, and through the grace of the Lord and the truth of His word, they path is seen to be simple, straight and solid.

Lord, Thou bid me not to worry,
Yet caught up in my fear and hurry
I agonize and seek Thy will
For questions that are unasked, still.

But, Lord, there is enough to do
In every day Thou guides me through.
Thou wilt make my pathway straight
As I entrust my heart and wait.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Daniel means “God is Judge”. We began reading through the book of Daniel as a family yesterday. Papa pointed out the repetition of certain numbers—especially ten, which appears to be a number of testing or judgment. “We met with the S Family for ten weeks,” he added.

While Papa returned Nick to campus for the Spring semester that begins tomorrow, the rest of us snuggled into a cozy afternoon of projects. With the creative urge strong upon me I dug through my stash of hand-me-down fabric until I unearthed a large piece of cream colored double knit. Loosely using a little girls jumper pattern, I cut, pinned and sewed until I had a nifty little shirt dress to wear over pants. I had just changed the thread to a chocolate brown for some artsy top-stitching when my machine rebelled, began skipping stitches and finally refused to sew at all, no doubt protesting the slippery knit fabric. After teasing, pleading and begging uselessly for some time I threaded and old fashioned needle and went at it by hand. Before I knew it my creativity had expanded to include custom embroidered vines, button flowers, beadwork and intricate knotting over the bottom, back and shoulder of the dress. Hand-washing will certainly be a necessity.

Abraham is now in Abraham’s bosom, according to my reading for today. Pondering the life of Abraham leaves me in awe of the Lord and His ways. They are too high. I cannot attain to them. He called Abraham from among complete heathens. I see no evidence that Abraham was in any way seeking Yahweh, yet the Lord appeared to Him and called Him and promised to bless Him. Each step of the way, Abraham hesitated and God had to give a little nudge. Abraham’s journey lasted for years before he actually believed God and was reckoned righteous. How does this work? Amazingly, beyond my understanding, the Lord can and does draw people for years sometimes before they finally trust Him. The human mind can devise all kinds of questions: What if Abraham had died before he trusted God? What if Abraham hadn’t gone to the land of Canaan? Does it matter, all these “what ifs”? The point is that God was in control. He drew, knowing precisely when Abraham would finally trust and obey Him wholly. Was He fooled or thwarted? Absolutely not. Never. Faith bore immediate fruit in Abraham, though. God made a covenant with him and told him to circumcise his whole household. The same day, it says, Abraham and his son Ishmael and all his household were circumcised. He’d not even yet seen the child of promise, though he’d believed God. And later, when God told him to sacrifice his son, his obedience was immediate. That’s the undeniable mark of those who are “righteous” in the old testament. They obey God. It is the evidence of their faith in Him and His faithfulness.

He who has shown Himself faithful, since the beginning of time, is truly worthy of my faith.

Lord, Thy arm is full of power
To lead or save at any hour.
Thy faithfulness, as proved in past
The steadfast mountains, will outlast.

Thy promise of my soul’s salvation,
More secure than earth’s foundation,
Causes hope that’s staid in Thee
To grow to touch eternity.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My consciousness reached awareness by five in the morning, but hardly passed that point the rest of the day. I wish being tired were simply an emotion I could wrap up inside one enormous rejoice in the Lord and tuck away under my pillow. Like the restlessness I am busily coating with contentment. It’s a never-ending cycle. Clawing its way through my shroud of contentment, this unnamed restlessness is bound and determined to gnaw my bones and set my teeth on edge. What do I want? I don’t know. An adventure of some sort. A mountain to climb. A wall to scale. A river to ford. So that I can quit with the drama and focus on simply surviving.

I accomplished to find success empty. I pursued recreation to find boredom. I slept to waken tired. I walked the house as in a dream—a forgotten dream.

My discontentment stems, not from a lack, but from an overabundance. Distractions. Temptations. Hindrances. Other things. I have enough of everything but the Lord.

Lord, Thy bounty is increased
And yet my want is not released
But wanders, restless, by Thy stream
And feeds a wild, elusive dream.

But everything I seek is dry
And can not please my lustful eye.
Naught in this world can seek or save,
Thou art the One my spirit craves.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Not only should you not judge a book by its cover, but you should also beware judging by its language. Josiah and I ventured out to buy wood from yet another source and found our seller chewing tobacco, destroying the English language, cordial, kind, with amazing customer service and one of the most naturally born gentlemen I’ve met. “Aroun’ here,” he mumbled, sending out a stream of tobacco juice onto the ground, “we don’t let ower leddies work. We’ll handle it, ma’am. Won’t take us long.” I protested that standing by while he and Josiah loaded the pick-up made me feel useless. “Not useless,” he chided. “Yer doin’ the drivin’.” Whatever qualms I might pick with the South, the folks down here treat each other with respect, and chivalry turns up in even the least promising places.

As we passed the High School on the way home, we noticed Zach’s pick-up parked near the road and remembered he’d be speaking to the Christian Student Union. We said a quick prayer, pulled in, left a note under the wiper and continued on our way. Some people are simply predictable. “It will mean a lot to him,” Josiah and I told each other. “He’ll call us when he finds it.” Should we have been surprised when the phone rang mid-afternoon and Zach’s voice came over the line? “Thanks for the note,” he said, “it meant a lot to me.”

I suffer from a severe guilt complex. Please say you didn’t notice. I’m forever finding fault with myself and hearing my name fills me with dread that I will be rebuked. As if I were rebuked often. When Papa asked me for his SLR camera, which I have used for several years now and was packed with my things during the move, I felt a funny little knot of fear work itself into my vocal chord. As it vanished behind his bedroom door, I worked my nimble thoughts, trying to untie the straining throat, until he came out and asked to see me in his room. “What did I do wrong?” I wondered. “How was I not taking good enough care of it?” Backpack, lenses, filters, camera and cleaning supplies lay scattered across the bed. “See this?” he asked, waving his hand over the extend of my photography experience. I took a breath, waiting for the punch line. “It’s all yours.” Some moments hang on the edge of eternity before finally dripping through the chasm of time. If time hadn’t caught it’s breath along with me, I’m sure I’d have suffocated and this journal entry would have never existed. Instead I gathered the precious pieces into my arms, carried them into my room and deposited them on my own bed to be cleaned and put away after supper.

I launched out on a journey through the entire Bible today. In the past—the far, far past—I used to attempt the straight through read, only to find myself bogged down in Leviticus and Numbers. If by some miracle I reached solid ground back in Dueteronomy, I was sure to skip Song of Solomon (it wierded me out) and usually wind up on repeat mode in Psalms and Proverbs. Hopefully I shall reach my destination in Revelation this time. So far the simple truth of the gospel has stood out in perfect relief: fallen man, saved through believing God as evidenced by obedience. Tragedy to triumph—in order to bring God glory. And blessings—He blesses those who obey Him.

Lord, may I ever, eager be
To magnify Thy will in me,
That all who chance to read my story
Pause and give Thee all the glory.

May I prove that I am Thine
By making known Thy greatest sign:
Changing water into wine
By changing worthless lives like mine.

Thursday, January 10, 1008

“I’m going to tell you about the day Josh saved my life. One sunny day last Fall,” Zach began. “Josh and I went to Bona Dea to walk and run.”
“We jogged,” Josh interrupted. “Because Zach made me jog.”
Gathered around our dining room table, we shared stories at Papa’s request, laughing and commenting until Josh forfeited his turn and the buck was passed to Zach.
Zach: We were talking…
Josh: We were actually arguing. (His eyes rolled upward toward the ceiling, remembering.)
Zach: And Josh was telling me about alligators that jump out of the creek.
Josh: One alligator sighting.
Zach: And snakes all over the place waiting to attack.
Josh: I hate snakes.
Zach: And we cross this bridge…
Josh: There was no bridge.
Zach: Whatever! There so was a bridge!
Josh: (Just smiles.)
Zach: And all the sudden Josh grabs me and throws me off the path.
Josh: (shaking his head) Zach is a three-hundred pound man. I did not throw him.
Zach: You pushed me. Whatever. I went flying off the path.
Josh: That would be worth seeing.
Zach: And I’m like, “What is going on? What happened?”
Josh: You didn’t even think about it, man. You reacted.
Zach: Oh yeah? Okay, so I reacted immediately.
Josh: He screamed like a girl and jumped.
(The table erupted with laughter. Lauryn was nearly in my lap, laughing so hard tears rolled down her cheeks and should could hardly get her breath. The serene look on Josh’s face didn’t even crack or peel or threaten to come loose.)
Zach: And Josh yells, “It’s a snake! There’s a snake!”
Josh: There was.
Zach: So I grab this huge club and I look down at my feet and there is this snake…about this long (both guys hold their hands out maybe six inches apart). So I killed it. Josh saved my life. And we went right back to running and arguing.
Josh: That is a true statement.

We spent most of the evening exercising our abs, laughing and laughing and laughing. The occasion was a game night, dreamed up by Miss Lauryn and somehow grown a little to include Zach and Daniel and Josh, besides our own family and Nick—a right rollicking crew.

Most precious, though, throughout all our fun and games, was the unity of spirit. Called away to help Josiah with homework, I returned to find the rest crowded around the piano singing praise songs, the abandoned game of Balderdash lying neglected on the floor. And before we split ways, we gathered around for a prayer. Creeping to my bedroom through the quiet house, I marveled at the way my spirits had lifted through the agency of a little fun and fellowship.

Lord, Thou gives us joy and sorrow:
Weeping now, but joy tomorrow,
Thou appoints a time for all
A time to rise, a time to fall

A time to laugh, a time to cry
A time to live, a time to die.
Lord, my times are in Thy hand,
Help me, each time, to understand.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It never fails. On the heels of an emotionally charged day, I crash and burn under the load of boredom the next. Boredom. Restlessness. Frustration. A deadly combination which mixes, bubbles and threatens to overflow.

What in the world am I doing? Where is all my time going? Some days I feel like I spend half my life cooking, cleaning and washing dishes and it’s probably not too far off. When I go for an hour run, what have I really accomplished? When I spend an hour writing to the Willises, what of that time will count for eternity? I beginning to feel like a thin coating of peanut butter—spread out so much that I can’t even gather myself together to be of any nutritional benefit. A bit of this, a dab of that, a pinch of the other and voila! We have casserole de la Abigail. Serve it up hot with potatoes. From one thing to the next until I’m strung out like a pan of spaghetti and can’t even focus on one task to finish it.

Christy, the speaking coordinator for Choices, and I had a lovely little conversation today and she kindly laid out the abstinence presentation they give in schools. Dubious is still my word of choice. The longer I listened the deeper I sank in doubt. The phrases, statistics and charts prove to me again and again that even those public schooled sixth graders know more about sex in its various forms than I do. I’m okay with that. There are some bits of knowledge that aren’t very important to my current stage of life. However, I suppose it could be argued that I know more about abstinence than many of them. So the decision hangs heavy on my mind and heart, nagging me like a naughty child. Bluntly, honestly and in the purity of my conscience I will say without pretending (albeit redundantly): I do not want to do this thing. I have no desire in the world to join this project. This presentation is last on my list of things I’d like to do in 2008. In fact, I’M AFRAID.

How do I know if my time is being wasted? How do I know what I should be doing right now? How do I know what the Lord wants of me?

Lord, see my heart? I cry,
It’s sitting at Thy feet, while I
Am left to cook and clean and scour!
It is wasting hour on hour!

Lord, tell my heart to help me,
But I heart Thy voice speak to me:
“I wish that thou would join thy heart
It has picked the better part.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

As we pulled into the driveway and prepared mentally for a dip in the hot tub, Lauryn and I listened to Reliant K’s song about emotional girls—we should get them all mood rings. Once upon a time I prided myself on my stoicism. If I ever cried it was for a very good reason, which still holds true, no doubt, if only I could figure out what my good reason is. At the moment I think I want most to crawl into bed and curl up in a ball and cry my soul into the gates of paradise. Which does, believe me, feel possible at times. Why bed is the chosen haven, I have no clue, but some things are simply facts because they are.

To pin myself to one emotion at the moment would be more cruel than pinning a living butterfly to the Styrofoam wall of a bug collection. Today spanned more lives than those of a cat, so I think I must be at least as old as Methuselah now.

It began with something as simple as driving the poor, skeleton of a Tempo into town to the mechanic and then hitching a ride with Papa to the dental clinic, where I swiped millions of dollars (in gospel tracts, courtesy of Living Waters) and headed out for a shopping spree of my own, since Mom had given me no shopping list.

Dashing through the early sprinkles of rain toward Wal-Mart I spied a couple standing under the eaves—the girl on the phone, the guy standing patiently by. Quickly I approached them and began talking with the guy, sharing the gospel with him. They were living together, but seemed to be new believers and were very interested in our churching situation—even were asking to come visit. After we parted, the guy came running back to me asking for a couple more million dollar bill tracts to show to his mom and another person. As I was making a return, the tornado sirens began screaming overhead and a voice came on over the loudspeaker: “This is a code black warning! All associates and customers, please go to the back of the store by the toys.” Early morning doesn’t yield a hefty crop of customers, and we were soon all crowded in the back rooms near the bathrooms, waiting for word that the tornado watch was over. The moment seemed simply too opportune, as the Lord had gathered the whole store together in one place with nothing to do. I didn’t have the guts to just stand up and preach to all of them, or the peace with feeling that was appropriate, but as I moved from person to person sharing, the Lord allowed me to speak at least briefly with several ladies. After that, the Holy Spirit had me on a roll, and I moseyed around town, poking into stores, walking through the open doors of opportunity. Sharing the gospel through the midst of a fast-paced society is nothing like the easy chatting that leads into depth in a clinic room while a dental patient waits to see the doctor, and I must confess it’s often less promising. Folks are in a rush and their happy to take a tract and even visit with you for a short time, but while moving through check-out lines and grocery aisles it’s hard to do much more than plant seeds. I also must confess that the south must surely be one of the most evangelized regions I’ve been in. Nearly everyone can spout out “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.” I just pray that He died on the cross for their sins in such a way as to cause them to repent and trust Him.

I ordered Miss Judy up an egg mcmuffin meal on the way to see her and Amber, and was so busy thinking about other things I drove past the second window without pausing to pick up the food. I remedied the mistake, of course, but I must admit I’m finding it harder and harder to concentrate on simple, little, temporal tasks. Three hours passed pretty quickly with Amber and her mom. We studied through Ruth, since Audrey’d been recommending it for some time, and I felt strange explaining Jewish customs and laws to fill in the background for the story. Sometimes I find it hard to remember that others haven’t sat under the same thorough Bible teaching as I. The life stories unfolded innocently at first, from the vignette Judy shared about stealing corn when she lived in a children’s home at age eight. The picture became more sinister as the years passed and she was adopted by a family who turned out to be abusive, struggled to make her way the in the world, married a man who proved to be a jerk and passed her LPN test the day Amber was molested at the home of the babysitter. I sat spellbound, not by details, which they kindly spared me, but by the sheer horror of the facts—the shock that the people with whom I was laughing and joking had seen the evil face of Satan with such reality. Just the other night Amber shared with me how she had witnessed a fifteen year old boy drowned. It’s just Amber and Judy against the world. They have no one else. My stomach tied up in knots, hating the horrible tangle of events that has finally landed them where they are, suddenly understanding so much more than before. Now, more than ever before, I love them, deeply, painfully for the suffering they have endured because of the sin of all history and because of the redemption God would love to bring about in their lives—and has already begun. At the same moment, I felt intensely humbled. Unworthy to be sitting with them pretending to sympathize when there is simply no way in the world I could ever understand the pain they have been through. Only Jesus will ever fully know the extent of the devastation wrecked on them, and only He can know the extent of the beauty He can bring from it. I hope I may be privileged to be a witness to His work.

The rising chill, in spite of the sun, didn’t daunt Lauryn and I. We met up at her church downtown, planning to work out but became adventuresome and ran a couple of miles instead—outside, against the shivering wind. We finalized the experience with a trip back to my home and a dip in the hot tub, where we girl talked about frustrating things like emotions—who needs them anyway? What purpose do they serve? “If we’re made in the image of God,” Lauryn pondered, “Why do we have these crazy emotions? And what are we supposed to do with them? How in the world do they glorify God?” Should those who love the Lord be always cheerful? Jesus wept. Weeping with sorrow, repentance or sympathy is encouraged in the Bible. How about weeping for no reason—just to clear one’s mind? We both confessed we are guilty of this one, whether we wish to or not. It simply happens. About once a month. Sometimes more often.

Tears are coursing down my cheeks now. Try as I might, I can’t deny them their duty of staining my cheeks, swelling my eyes and calming my spirit. Why? How can I tack such a simple question to such a complicated day? Why am I crying? Because I don’t know what else to do. I am utterly incapable of mending such enormous brokenness.

In the secret recesses of my bedroom, in the quiet hours of the night, alone with my thoughts, memories and emotions, I crawl into bed and weep. My heart breaks and splits wide open. Purged of the poison of the horrors of this world, bleeding and in pieces, I cuddle in the arms of my Redeemer knowing beyond argument that He can and will bind the gaping wounds and renew life.

Lord, bottle up my tears before Thee
Count the tears I weep before Thee
Promise me that Thou wilt hear me,
Keep Thy presence ever near me.

Hold me in Thy arms and still me
By Thy perfect pleasure will me
To be restful, trust no other
Like a child against its mother.

Monday, January 7, 2008

While busily engaged in scouring and scrubbing the supper dishes, Mom exclaimed “What is that orange thing on the top of the window? It looks like a worm!” Hastily glancing up from a spaghetti sauce coated pan, I began to giggle. “Nick peeled the carrots for me,” was the only explanation needed before we both doubled over with laughter.

Supper proved an interesting affair, with my newest version of turkey burger meatballs containing pickle relish and smothered in tomato sauce. “It’s good,” everyone insisted, but I remain dubious. At the dental clinic, Papa discovered that Chris Coty was in down for some tooth work and staying in his van, so he invited him out. We met Bo and Fika over the phone, received a phone concert and heard some interesting stories of how the Lord is using Chris and his boys in Lancaster County. At one point, Chris mentioned something about us just rescuing an idiot, which sent my mind churning. I was thinking of Lot and the two angels he discovered spending the night in the city square—the idiots. He extended hospitality which returned upon his head in the greater blessing of being rescued from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I couldn’t formulate my words to explain what I wanted to say: that many times those “idiots” prove to be the greater blessing to their hosts.

Lord, Thy word is very clear
That we should hold our brothers dear
And willingly should offer homing
Whene’er we find them roaming.

And, like the people of Thy book,
I find, upon a closer look
That often we the blessed may be
Rejoicing in their company.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I know with a certainty that I am still in denial. When I glanced back over my journal entries from the last two days I noticed I’d written “December” and “2007” at the top. Having fixed that error, we’ll see if the truth has truly sunk in yet.

We met again without the S Family this morning, but Dathan was here, which added balance to the teaching. Papa took us on a journey through the epistle to the Galatians, sharing how we, as Christians, should not seek to be enslaved again to the Law of Moses. My pulse pounded through my brain during the entire meeting, shattering every logical thought that tried to enter, and shivering down through the rest of my body as well. It persisted on through lunch and an amazing afternoon of Frisbee and running with the addition of Zach and Josh. Warmth and sunshine continued through today, and we all turned outside in t-shirts and sports pants or shorts for some athletic activities. My throwing proved lame: wobbly, off target and just plain weak. Coaches Zach and Josiah pulled me off to work on it and finally demanded if my throwing was normally this bad. “Not quite,” I admitted. “What’s going on?” Zach asked, in typical Zach style. Slowly it came out that I hurt all over, my fingers felt a bit numb, my neck hurt a bit. “How do you sleep?” came the next question. I hesitated. On my back usually, but lately it’s been tucked up in a ball completely under the covers because my room is so cold. His diagnosis? A pinched nerve. True or not, I felt amazing by the time we all trooped in for supper—aside from the headache and a few minor aches. It never ceases to amaze me how intricate our bodies are—one tiny thing amiss and we are miserable. Somehow we survived millions of years of random change things amiss to emerge the most refined of all evolution.

Sitting down at the piano tonight, I knew my desire to play from a hymnal was zip. Dutifully, I clamored through two before giving up and giving over to the song that whispered inside me, dancing at my fingertips, pleading to be played. Again, tonight, I played myself—or somehow the essence of who I am as I stand before my Maker—in awe of Him and His beauty. Probably, like so many others before it, the music will be gone in the morning, but tonight I played for my God. Instead of being the performer, I was simply applauding.

Lord, Thou gives us songs to sing
In praise to Thee, Eternal King.
When songs of praise come from our hearts
We’ve found the truest, perfect part.

How often we, in foolish pride
Attempt to capture, or to guide
And chain the melody because
We seek a rating for applause.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Our enormous table was full for breakfast this morning. Seeing it full makes me smile. So many extras—and yet they belong. Hospitality, we call it, and it is highly praised in scripture—from the time of Abraham, who begged three strangers to allow him to prepare a feast for them to the time of Lydia, who prevailed upon Paul and his companions to bless her home with their presence. God opens our hearts and homes to His people.

Following a war against unwanted timber and green briar, which left us scathed but triumphant, and a conflagration in which we burned the bodies of the enemy, we leapt back into the filming mode and created another “Homely Hobos” video, this one titled, “Wheel Work 4 Food”.

The Lord brought home to me a foolishness in which I'd been indulging: that somehow, those who have suffered a disappointment, an emotional wound, a sorrow, a loss, are less able to love fully. What an immature and ungodly sentiment! Here I sit, a testimony to the fact that what God has healed is healed. What God has restored is restored. What God rebuilds is rebuilt. What God plans is better. Am I any less able to give, through God’s strength, the same sacrificial love? It is only through His power I can offer it in the first place. And who am I to look down on someone else, judging them as having not guarded their heart or having run ahead of the Lord and so unworthy of His blessings? None of us are worthy of His blessings. None of us are untainted, unscarred, without disappointment. It is healed wounds, perfected disappointments, rebuilt dreams that make our ashes something beautiful and notable as God’s work.

Lord, I find I judge my brothers,
Take note of the wounds of others,
Seeing them as somehow weak
Forgetting it’s the sick Thou seeks.

And have I no wounds of my own
That are treasure to be shown?
For what Thou heals are healed, Lord,
And strengthened by Thy saving word.

Friday, January, 4, 2008

Midafternoon and I returned from a walk and sat down to grade Josiah’s math, suddenly aware of an intense headache. As I tried to push it out of my mind and concentrate on checking over his problems, it slowly began to dawn on me that my head had hurt before I went for a walk. In fact, the longer I tried to remember when it had started, the farther back I could remember it simply being there. After reaching as far back as remembering an ache before Dathan arrived on Wednesday, I gave up.

With the extra effort of a few phone call reminders, we wound up with a neat little crowd for the evening. After some singing, Papa began to share the Biblical view of fellowship: who we should and shouldn’t fellowship with, and how we maintain fellowship--fellowship being defined as a sharing in Christ. It boils down to three basic rules:

*I fellowship with those in fellowship with Christ.
*I do not fellowship with those not in fellowship with Christ.
*To maintain fellowship, I will walk with Christ and imitate Him.

Undoubtedly the study has been inspired by the (at least temporary) separation between us and the S Family over “doctrinal” issues. As we searched the scripture, we could find no grounds for this being a division. If the others are feeling as I am, they are wondering who will be kind enough to pull this sword from their hearts. I might pretend to be wise. I might pretend to be possessed of understanding, but there are many things in this life, in this Christian walk, which I do not understand. One of the greatest being how it is possible for people who love the Lord and His word, to come to such differing persuasions about Him and His word. Secondly, how these differing persuasions can so hinder fellowship between those who live their lives with the same purpose. Honestly, I am tired of talking about the differences. Inwardly I cringe when the subject comes up and we take note of disagreements—why widen the gap? Suppose God does create people for the sole purpose of destruction? If He is God, and I know He is just and good, then whatever He does is just and good. It’s a truth He’s been hammering in to me lately with such force that to ignore it would be worse than ignoring a sledgehammer to my head. Do I need answers to the universe packaged up in neat little theological packages? I need only a few simple truths. God is God. He does what He pleases. Who am I to answer back? Will the faultfinder contend with God? Not I.

Lord, if Thou should show Thy plans
I’m vain to think I’d understand.
If I had counseled at time’s dawn
The end of time would there be drawn.

And man would not have passed the floor
To claim Thy perfect Son’s life blood.
I dare not press Thee to reply
Because Thou art my God, not I.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Herein I celebrate the three month anniversary of my segue into Arkansas living.

Curiosity caused me to run a word count on my journal, and I discovered that the enormity of simply living this change spans enough journaling to fill a novel. A rather interesting correlation: were I to spend the same amount of time each day on one of the novels I’ve started, I could expect to finish within three months. Somehow those projects seem a bit more manageable with my newfound knowledge.

Lydia and I moved into Mom and Papa’s room for the day and stoked their small stove as full as it could handle. When the boys joined us a short time later to show off a video they’d shot in the living room, they were amazed how toasty we were. Actually feeling hot seemed such a luxury that I made no effort to delayer. Silly videos shot with Dathan’s puny digital camera set the wheels of creativity spinning, and soon we’d developed a who production team: Josiah and Dathan starring as Li’l JoJo and Dat Udder Dude in the short film “Homely Hobos: Upside down or Rightside Up?” field directed by Mr. Penguin (a.k.a. Nick) and produced and scored by Yours Truly. “Proud of ourselves” hardly even begins to describe our feelings upon viewing the finished short.

Since the move, three months ago, so many things have changed, shifted, become clear or grown more confused. I remember the excitement, the expectancy when we moved, as I waited to see what God would do. Much of that has faded. Some has even tarnished into worry, confusion and doubt. What has He done so far? Only He knows fully. The mystery still remains. What will He do? Only one thing can I say for certain: He will glorify Himself.

Lord, Thy plan is simple, truly:
Thou wilt have the praise that’s due Thee.
Complications come when man
Adds amendments to Thy plan.

My mind can’t grasp the Pleiades tail
And yet I think their Maker fails
And, by my wit, rewrite Thy story
Thinking to bring greater glory.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Here’s a little math problem: if the living room, where the fireplace is, was fifty-five degrees this morning, then the dining room, several hallways away was probably at least five degrees colder, making it somewhere around fifty degrees. When Lydia and I walked out of our room into the dining room, it seemed warm and cozy to us, meaning the temperature difference between our room and the dining room was significant. Let’s say it was between five and ten degrees. This means our bedroom, when we dragged ourselves out of bed this morning, was somewhere around forty to forty-five degrees. It’s amazing just how chilly a little math can make one feel. I envy the early Americans and Eskimos—at least they didn’t know how cold they were.

Doorbells are a modern convenience that we would do well to integrate into our life. Something past four I heard a soft knock on the front door and paused in my work to run inventory on the inhabitants of this house. Mom was in her room, working away and Lydia and Josiah were out sawing logs—for real. I jumped up, overturning my desk stool and dashed down my hallway, dodged the great table in the dining room, skirted the kitchen island and flung the front door open just in time to see Dathan slowly descending the front stairs. “We’re here!” I called after him. “We’re actually here!” After receiving a detailed tour he commented, “No wonder it took you a little while to answer the door.” Within a few minutes, the months since we’d last seen him had dropped away and he seemed as much at home here as he ever did when he used to drop by on his way home from school in Kansas.

“You look like a child of the ‘70s,” a passing fellow grocery-shopper commented, admiring the sari I’d wrapped over layers of jeans, tights, turtlenecks and under armor. We’ll just say my personal style is unique. But she liked it. I mentioned the sari came from India, via a friend’s mission trip and the door of opportunity swung wide open until she one-upped me. “Do you have any religious beliefs?” She smiled, “Well yes. I believe God made us all, loves us and sent his Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins and that’s really something for me to smile about.” Being one-upped in that manner is not so bad, after all.

We’ve been reading through Acts over breakfast, and I’m struck by Paul’s boldness. Everywhere he went he stood up and preached the gospel, never worrying about whether or not he was interrupting anything. The prophets of old did the same. Jonah walked into Ninevah and upset the whole culture with his shocking revelation: God will destroy you if you don’t repent! The message hasn’t changed. Why has the method?

Lord, I know Thou spoke of old
Thy words are precious, more than gold.
When Thou would speak again, today—
O may we hear the words Thou’d say—

Please see me fit, though less than scum
To be Thy mouth, to be Thy tongue
To tell the world the words from Thee
That they might praise Thy diety.

New Year’s Day, Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Several years ago I resolved never to make New Year’s resolutions. If I am not quite mistaken, that was the first resolution I have ever faithfully kept. Don’t be horrified to think that I never have new resolves. Can you even begin to believe such a lack in me? Instead of making new resolutions every year, only to be dropped, trampled on or broken within a month, I simply make new ones every day. Some as basic as: today I will drink eight cups of water. Trust me, this one is harder than it sounds when the heat of summer and the loss of sweat are no longer driving me to it. Others are a little more serious: today I will finally unpack and clean my camera and I will plaster my seat to my seat and write at least five hundred words on Eldenwood and I will line out Bible study notes and questions from John for Amber.

I’d neglected to remember that Papa would be home from work. Instead of accomplishing a single one of those tasks I wondered around the house like a little, lost puppy, trying to assist Mom in planning where to hang pictures. Unpacked everything and even moved into the garage in less than a month, but we still have to hang pictures on the walls. Perhaps Papa is beginning to rub off on me, but there’s something of ascetic beauty about an empty wall—so simple, so straightforward, so unassuming. We soon complicated it a bit by the addition of family pictures and a few plaques which we rebuilt to match our new d├ęcor and more modern styles. We still have several empty places, begging for a hanging of their own, and several empty frames which I plan to fill by the aid of my good Canon and a little editing to add scriptures. Hence the resolution to unveil my camera, clean it and fire it off in the woods.

Granola forms the principle part of my newest marketing scheme. Why, I must ask, was I doomed to be an entrapraneur? If I could help myself, I would. “What do you need money for?” Papa asked, curiously, when I submitted my plan to him. I shrugged. So I can buy recording software to record audio dramas and…make more money so I can buy a good camera and…make more money to…um…have? “You want to record audio dramas?” he asked. Again I shrugged. I’d like to try my hand at just about any creative process known to man. And every creative idea comes complete with a marketing scheme. If I were a wise woman, I would hire myself out as a marketing consultant. Instead, I am stewing over the finer points of marketing homemade granola to a mixed multitude. “I want to see if I can.” It was Papa’s turn to shrug. “You know you can,” he answered. “You already tried that with tea parties and it grew too big.” In all honesty, it is not I who needs money, but others. At a table full of people, however, it’s awkward to admit to my dad that I want to work with my hands to have something to share with those who have none.

As a family, we’ve been traveling through Acts, stopping off with Paul to pay special attention every time he preaches the gospel. He has no formula, but I’ve learned a lot through his presentations. To the Jews he lays out exactly how their fathers rejected the Lord time and again and then comes down to Jesus, the promised Messiah, rejected by them. To the gentiles, he begins with the God who created earth and heaven and who will judge us all then points out our unworthiness. When the sword finds tender flesh, and his listeners are cut to the quick, he offers the saving grace of Jesus. When seized, attacked and forced to render an account of his teachings and actions he resorts to sharing his own testimony. After all, a testimony is a person’s own story and who can argue with it? What a powerful tool the story of the Lord’s calling in my life can be, and I should always be ready to give an account for the hope within me.

Lord, this work of Thine, my story,
Is written to give Thee the glory.
So in telling I proclaim
The wonder of Thy matchless name.

My tongue, a scribbling scribe’s own pen,
Must write each word that Thou portend
Attesting Thy dictation here
As Thou dost tell it, year by year.

Monday, December 31, 2007

I woke up on the last day of two-thousand and seven and said to myself, “Bangs wouldn’t be a bad look on you just now.” Myself chewed on that for a minute and responded, “True. In fact, they might help soften the effect of the perm that is growing out.” Together we went to the bathroom, peered in the mirror, dug out a pair of scissors and snip-snip. Ta-da! Having pleased myself, I continued on my merry way to finish out the old year with a flourish.

Mom announced with an air of grand finality that she would like to teach me to do the budget. Her surprise was all but audible when I eagerly agreed and we met together shortly before lunch to sort out mile long receipts, organize date and input credits, debits, check numbers and memos. Housewives may gather rotten tomatoes, spoiled eggs and the slimiest leftover cabbage leaves they can find to punctuate my next statement: I enjoyed nearly every minute. The one “task” I’d been stewing over, realizing I had no experience in, and dreading. I’d pictured it so hair-pulling, nail-biting dreadful that I think even having to dance on tables with apple-crates tied to my feet would have seemed pleasant. Reconciling made such perfect sense that my dear, little brain heaved a happy sigh.

Having the laundry room right off of my bedroom has its negative drawbacks: in the form of my secret penguin friend. Following a quick knock, which I had barely digested and certainly not responded to, Nick came shuffling in, laden with an enormous bag of dirty laundry. “Just passing through on my way to the washing machine,” he beamed. I grunted, without taking my nose of my deskwork, but a moment later he was standing at my elbow, “I’ve been going through Lydia’s piano books like you suggested. Would you be willing to, maybe, give me a lesson over lunch?” I assented, desperately clutching my train of thought by the caboose as he talked on about notes, timing and hand positions. It seemed like he had hardly left before the door slid open again, “Knock, knock,” he said, cheerfully, “Just coming through to move my laundry along.” This time he showed up at my elbow with a “What are you doing?” Just a general note for future reference: if what I am doing is any of your business, I will let you know. Grumpy Abigail moment lengthens due to Nick’s incessant cheerfulness. I have to hand it to that guy: he is one of the most cheerful people I know. From the moment he rises in the morning and comes shining out to the breakfast table to the instant he bids me goodnight he is one perpetual grin. Considered by most to be a sanguine myself, I am forced to admit that I could take rejoice in the Lord lessons from Nicholas Perry. The third time he interrupts my pushup routine. For some odd reason I always feel guilty when I am caught doing pushups. Perhaps the illegality of my concealed carry—my guns—my arms? At any rate, when I headed for the shower I made sure to close both doors and put up my little sign with the “Don’t bother me I’m: Showering” emblazoned in green AND I carried all my clothes with me to the bathroom. What a selfish creature I am when little “intrusions” into my protected domain leave me feeling stripped of my dignity and privacy. Graciousness is what I’ll work on at the moment. After all, a gracious woman attains honor.

Crowding together into my parent’s room to listen to The Way of the Master’s witnessing encounters with Todd Friel is how we chose to spend our New Year’s Eve—until shortly after ten, that is, when we all retired. Several of the last people with whom Todd spoke simply baffled me: a woman who chewed him out for believing that God could be anything but all loving. “What a negative message you’re preaching,” she chided, even after her ignorance was displayed for all to see. The last was his interview with a leading atheist woman, famed for being suave, cool, collected, pleasant and a “good person”. When she came up against the “good person” test from scripture she fumed and fussed and refused to even “play that stupid, little game”.

Ezekiel brought it all together for me. After struggling to the end of the book several days ago, I picked it up again today and made a mad dash through the entire book and it suddenly made sense, boiling down to two repeated verses. God said, “You keep saying the way of the Lord is not right, when it is your own way that is not right.” The foolish atheist kept reiterating her arrogance, “IF I stand before your God on judgment day He’s going to have to do some answering to me!” She was mocking God, spitting in His face, but He is such a God of compassion that He says “I take no delight in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked should repent and live.” In a book I’d found boring and gruesome I found a glimpse of the beauty of God: So holy and righteous, and yet so full of mercy and longsuffering, not wishing that any should perish. For this reason He waits to send judgment.

Lord, the fools might spurn Thy name
But Thou remains, eternal, same
And though they try to smear Thy fame
They only bring themselves to shame.

The darkness which they seek to live
Is what Thou will most freely give
One day when they, before Thee, stand
And Thou at last withdraws Thy hand.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I failed to mention that I am now the proud possessor of a blow dryer—a very nice one, with nifty attachments for curls, for which I thank my dear, kind mother. I will no longer have to drag my sopping head from bathroom to bathroom begging for the use of a hair dryer.

Also of note: two weeks have passed and I am still drumming and, wonder of all wonders, improving.

Sunshine warmed the afternoon and we all ventured outside in various directions. I snagged Mom’s phone and dialed Susanna, home from Kenya and recovering from Malaria. We talked for over an hour as she shared her experiences, how the disease (for which she had been inoculated) seemed to be a direct spiritual attack leveled at her by a “mad woman”. She shared her clearest memories of her hallucinations, and admitted the doctor their didn’t think she’d ever make it home. How she miraculously became well enough to fly home with her friends, only to have a severe attack in Detroit and wind up in a little hospital where no one understood Malaria at all. The Lord has been merciful, though, and she is nearly well.

Faithful Tabitha called after supper and we quoted our scriptures and chatted for a while before she finally mentioned that she’s just not very open—that she never really shares much. She’s afraid it won’t come out right. “Start sharing” the Lord prompted me, but confusion overwhelmed. “Share what?” Instead I tried to encourage her, “You’ve shared quite a bit with me,” I offered. Then I told her how I’d been so closed off once upon a time, such a long time ago, secreting everything to myself, afraid to be vulnerable for fear I’d be hurt. “Share,” the insistence became stronger. I hesitated a moment, walked into the laundry room and closed the door and opened my mouth. All of the things I’d be wanting to share with her since we moved came tumbling out, jumbled into a confusing heap of past, present, future. I poured out my frustrations, my heartaches, my joys, my confusion, my doubts about the Lord’s leading and then I shared about “no”. How Jesus told the healed demoniac “no”—not as a punishment, but because He had something better in mind. My mouth worked faster than my mind could process, pouring out the contents of my heart. Before I had finished we were both crying. “Abigail,” she whispered. “I need to share something with you.” It was ten o’clock before we hung up, having emptied ourselves of every secret, fear and doubt and carried them together to the foot of the mercy seat. Perhaps with so much weight off her heart, her broken back will heal.

Lord, the weight of living here
Amid the doubt, the pain, the fear
Could not be born by anyone
Were they not yoked with Thy own Son.

And Thou hast bid that we, like Thee
Should seek to set each other free
By sharing loads to make them light
And thus fulfill the law of Christ.