Monday, June 22, 2009

The Choices lull is over. The schedule book revealed that I’m booked solid for the next several weeks. I’d established a new Earn While You Learn client and visited with another young married lady in for a pregnancy test when we got a phone call. “Do ya’ll do abortions there? My friend wants an abortion.” We got her friend right in. In all honesty, she didn’t seem terribly crisis. She wanted an abortion because she already had a couple of children and she had a little pressure to get one—but nothing violent and she also had lots of support. She admitted she knew little about abortion procedures or risks—but she wanted the truth. We walked through the gestational progression of an infant in the womb. I could see her eyes soften as she looked at the detailed pictures of tiny, unborn babies. Tears formed in her eyes as I explained the abortion procedures and she whispered, “That’s horrible.” Then I shared the possible risks to her and some common Post Abortive symptoms—depression, relationship issues, suicidal thoughts, guilt, anniversary grief, alcohol and substance abuse. She seemed to reach eagerly for the good news of the gospel. We couldn’t really tell how far along she was. “Will you come back in a week for an ultrasound?” Becky asked her and she agreed. “I think she’ll come back,” Becky told me. “I really do.” And I agreed. Every time I hear a girl tell me why she wants an abortion, my heart breaks. What a trap each of these women has fallen into! A trap in which there is no easy way out, but deception makes appear easy the most dark and despairing choice—to destroy their own children and, in so doing, their own lives. It’s a quick fix, some say, but I have yet to meet a woman who has endured an abortion who is not suffering—silently, miserably, guiltily suffering. So much for women’s liberation. I hate the bondage of so-called liberation. “You can be like God,” the serpent told Eve. Our culture tells them the same thing, “You can be like God—choosing life or death for your child.” Yet life is sacred—belonging to God. All life. The father’s. The mother’s. The child’s. Satan hates the seed of the woman. Diabolically. And when he tells each woman she can be like God, discerning good and evil and she rejects God’s perfect purpose for her—to sustain life—then comes death. For the baby and for her. The clich├ęs of the pro-life movement, though well-meant, are too shallow to encompass the reality of abortion. “Abortion stops a beating heart” we chant. Well. It does. But it also breaks a beating heart.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

“Is this a swimming day?” Papa asked me as I finished up a slew of outside chores. Vigorously I nodded. We’ve not been to Slant Rock once this summer. As it turned out the Schriebers accompanied us and we splashed in the shallows of a more distant beach until Josiah and I headed over to the rope swing. Somehow it wasn’t as fun as sometimes. We both felt weak and tired, but we climbed the nailed-on boards to swing into the water anyway.

Often my ears will ache a bit after swimming, likely due to the less-than-clean water, but today proved a bit more frightening. As I hit the water the third time, I heard a loud pop and my ear began to burn intensely. “Pressure,” I thought to myself. “I got water in my ear. It’ll go away.”

It didn’t.

By the time we got home and I had showered, I could barely hold my head upright. The pain spread through my left ear and down into my jaw and neck leaving me with an intense headache. Miserably I stared at my supper, my head tilted to the side.

And my family began to make suggestions. Josiah offered ear drops that he’d used to stave off ear-infections. Mom suggested alcohol. Papa offered an anti-inflammatory pill he had. I tried all of them, with no success. In fact, the rubbing alcohol felt like molten lead seething inside my brain. “You know,” Mom said. “Once Uncle Wayne burst his ear-drum and he tried putting alcohol down it and the pain drove him up the wall.” Great. Just what I needed to hear. Burst ear-drums? Do they ever heal?

I began paging through our medical books for info about earaches. And I discovered that using Q-tips and wearing earplugs can force earwax down into the inner ear and cause buildup of pressure and, guess what? Burst ear drums. And guess what I’d been doing that morning before I went swimming? Weeding. With ear plugs in. Oh yes.

There is was. I must have burst my ear drum.

The hopeful news? They grow back.

But in how long? I was beginning to feel like curling up in a fetal position and crying. Supposedly I have a high pain tolerance. My family began making more suggestions, but only one thing sounded good to me: heat. Wouldn’t heat relieve the ache?

So I snuggled the left side of my head against the heating pad on my bed and sat there. And sought to control my thoughts. I could tell I hadn’t lost any hearing. And it couldn’t be an infection—it had happened too fast. And burst ear-drums heal. Eventually, at least. “Please Lord,” I begged. “Heal it quickly. Because I’m not very patient with these things.” After that all I could do was read and I’ve been trying to limit my reading to the most important book, so I flipped open my Bible and began reading Psalms. My comfort book. I sat there reading the rest of the evening. At least three hours. Moving hurt. Turning the heat off hurt.

I don’t know when it quit hurting, but Josiah came in to chat with me and I sat up and waited for the shock of pain. It never came. My face still felt mildly boiled from the heat pad and there was a tingling in my ear. A good tingling.

Maybe it was just swimmer’s ear, but I’ve never had swimmer’s ear that incapacitated me like that. Never. At any rate, I rolled up the heating pad, put it away and closed my Bible.

And that’s just the end.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last night as I struggled against the insistent tears of hurt, I sat up in bed and told myself, “Abigail, don’t be silly. Suffering for doing what’s right might sound heroic and deserving of drama, but you’re losing sight of true suffering for what is right. Jesus suffered unlike you can ever imagine suffering and He learned obedience through the things which He suffered and has left us an example that we should follow in His footsteps. Which means it’s just what we should expect—all of us. And it works to teach us obedience. You are learning to be obedient to the Father and that’s just exactly a part of your Christian walk that you need work in.” Slowly, methodically I refuted my whining “Why did I get hurt? I didn’t deserve this” attitude. I reminded myself of my rebellion against God, my sin against His holiness and my utter helplessness to stand justified before God. Suddenly what I deserved came into focus like the slow turn of a camera lens: I deserve hell, utterly separated from God, hopeless, dark and agonized. It is only by His mercy that I am not a miserable, damned sinner. Perspective dampens the martyr’s tears and wells up within me the overwhelming joy. I am saved. From a horrible eternal existence without God. From exactly what I deserved. Jesus took the wrath that I deserved. Here I sit, moaning about something I didn’t deserve when He has left me that example. In that moment I knew that I was not suffering. My pain was healed. If the Lord of glory would rescue me from eternal punishment at the expense of Himself, He will do for me what is best. Why do I so lack trust and wallow in misery over things that should bring me joy? So, by His grace I did what was right. Do I suffer for it? Sheesh. Can it really be suffering if it is what God has allowed to teach me obedience? Obedience is only tested through the hard and painful things. Can it really be suffering if given from the loving hand of my Abba Father? Can it really be suffering when measured alongside the suffering of Christ?

Peter held it too much an honor to be crucified like his Lord and asked to be crucified upside down instead. Did he suffer for Christ? He said that suffering in the flesh helps us to forget our flesh and live instead for the will of God. That doesn’t sound to me like a tragedy, but a triumph.

I will learn to embrace the cross, the thorns, the nails if only they demonstrate that I am following the footsteps of Christ and will someday be like Him.

“For even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” 1 Peter 3:14

Teach me, Lord, to measure pain
Alongside of my greater gain
The things that make me seek to hide
Drive me to Thy wounded side.

And there I place my hand and see
That Thou wast wounded more for me
And through Thy pain Thou learned to kneel.
So I will learn and Thou wilt heal.

Concerning Believers and the Sabbath

Accompanied by Josiah, I was dropping off eggs to Dr. Don one day early this spring when began to share some of what he had been studying lately. Z. Hall had been looking at the Sabbath and had encouraged him to do the same—with the result that he had become convinced he ought to “keep it” and was very excited to do so. Dr. Don is always excited and he spoke a million miles a minute with a quick wind-up asking if we had any thoughts, but in the busy rush of a dental clinic he had to be off to the next patient before we had a chance to respond. I walked away chuckling. If he thinks I am quiet and serious, it is only in comparison to the outstanding energy he and Miss J possess. I did have many thoughts which began with one simple scripture and have continued with me until I have at last been able to unravel them all in digital letterhead. What I’ve discovered has brought me great delight and, as always, has brought again to mind the beauty of the gospel and the precious Lord Jesus—who is Lord of the Sabbath.

The phrase “keep the Sabbath” has been used loosely throughout the years since Jesus’ resurrection. In my lifetime I’ve heard it defined in a dozen different ways for a dozen different purposes. But if we, as believers, are to keep the Sabbath, we must understand what it is and where it originated. And we must know if Jesus’ coming has changed the Sabbath or ended the Sabbath or fulfilled the Sabbath or left us simply groping to know whether or not the Sabbath is a remnant of a past covenant or an integral part of this period of grace.

“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” came the command from Mount Sinai, through the tablets of stone which God wrote in the presence of Moses (Exodus 20:8-11). The edict harkened back as a picture of creation, when God created the world in six days and on the seventh, the Sabbath, He rested (Genesis 2:2). “For six days you shall labor and do your work, but the seventh you shall keep as holy to the Lord your God. You shall do no work therein.”

For the Jewish community, living under the Law of Moses, each day began at sundown and continued through sunrise until the following sundown, in the pattern of creation (Genesis 1:5). The Sabbath began at sundown on our Friday and ended at sundown the following day—on our Saturday. The prohibitions for work included all regular labor and travel and food preparation (Exodus 16:23; Deuteronomy 5:12-13; Exodus 35:2-3). The goal? To keep the day holy to the Lord. It sounds beautiful, until we consider the consequences of failure to keep the Sabbath: for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, a man should be stoned to death (Exodus 31:14-16; Numbers 15:32-33).

Should we be surprised? Through the Law comes death (Romans 7:9-10). And as each person living under Mosaic law soon found, the Law also brings a curse (Galations 3:13). And where the Law is, sin abounds all the more (Romans 5:20). Romans gives us the true perspective on the Law, “by the works of the Law is no flesh just before God.” (Galations 2:16) Because even if we kept all the Law and yet stumbled in one respect, we would be guilty of the whole Law (James 2:10). Justification cannot come through the Law (Romans 3:20). The Law is holy and righteous and good, but it lacks power to make men right with God (Romans 7:12; Romans 8:3-4).

Then what is the purpose of the Law? This side of the cross, we are given a clearer understanding of the purpose of the law: to show us God’s holiness. To show us our helplessness. Paul preached clearly to those who would seek to be under the Law that “the Law has become our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.” (Galations 3:24) In our vain groping to be right with God, we search for things to do to please Him, to earn His favor. But the works of the Law can never please God. With all our working, we will always come out like the rich, young ruler—unable to love God the most (Matthew 19:16-24). Living under the Law, David understood that God wasn’t really interested in our “sacrifices”, but there was something He was looking for: “a broken and contrite heart.” (Psalm 51:17) That was the purpose of the Law—to shut every mouth (Galations 3:22). To break our hearts with the knowledge of our sin.

But death is in the Law because it can only break hearts, it can never heal them. The Law was preparatory, setting the stage for the great act of God: Jesus Christ. In Christ the Law was fulfilled—in two ways (Romans 10:4; John 15:25). Jesus fully kept the spirit of the Law which He summed upped as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40) And He finished the Law. The purpose of the Law is to break our hearts and shut our mouths and leave us silent before God—in need of a Savior. The purpose of the Law was to take our hands and lead us to Christ. The purpose of Christ was to reconcile us to God—to make us right with Him (Ephesians 2:16; Romans 5:1). Righteous. Holy. Once we know Jesus, there is no more purpose in the Law. Its purpose is fulfilled. Finished. The Law does not speak to the righteous man, but to sinners (1 Timothy 1:9).

Where does this leave the Sabbath? By the time Jesus made His debut in the worldly time-table, the Sabbath had become an intricate system of rules which could be wriggled in and out of until they bound every man, woman and child under a load too heavy to carry. Instead of being a day of rest, the Sabbath had become a day when good was denied and evil was planned (Mark 3:4). Instead of being dedicated to God as a day wholly devoted to Him, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day devoted the Sabbath to seeking to destroy God’s Son (John 5:18). Yet Jesus proclaimed Himself Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5).

Jesus said, “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

In the Law we see God’s holiness, we are reminded of the past, but we are also given glimpses and foreshadowings of things to come (Hebrews 10:1): the Passover lamb, which pointed to Christ, the day of Atonement, which pointed to Christ, the mediating High Priest, which pointed to Christ. As the writer of Hebrews phrases it, “Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant.” (Hebrews 12:24) So also the Sabbath of the Law was a shadow of things to come—of a greater rest in Jesus.

Is there a Sabbath rest for the believer? Absolutely! “There now remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for he who has rested has ceased from his works.” (Hebrews 4:9-10) The rest which the Israelites failed, by unbelief, to enter into in the wilderness is the very rest which we may now enter—through belief in Jesus who has finished the work that saves us and has sat down at the Father’s hand (Hebrews 3-4). In the temple of old, the priest’s work was never done. Even on the Sabbath, he must offer sacrifices, for even on the Sabbath did the people sin. No seats were placed to relieve his weariness. Always the constant reminder that men cannot outweigh their sin by sacrifice. Only Jesus can. Jesus, the High Priest who offered Himself and was heard has opened a way for us through the curtain that was torn and sits by God, always living to intercede for us (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 7:25). Because His work is done, we can, by faith, enter into His rest—a rest from our works. A rest from the Law.

Through Christ we are able to keep the spirit of the Law—“Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Through Christ we are able to stand before the mercy seat of God, accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). Through Christ we have entered our Sabbath rest—and remain in it—free from the works of the Law. Free from the curse of the Law. Free from death that comes through the Law. The mystery is revealed, the purpose of the foreshadowing is made clear. Christ fulfills the Law. Christ is Lord of the Sabbath.

In light of this, the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Through Him, then, let us continually, offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that gives thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:5) Ought we to keep the Sabbath day holy to God? Scripture tells us our Sabbath rest is in Jesus, and in light of Jesus every day should be holy to God. The Sabbath ended a period of works. Our works have ended. Our Sabbath does not. Just like the priests in the temple were to offer continual sacrifices, so we should, too. Just like worshippers sought God in the temple of old, so our bodies are a temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), indwelt by His Holy Spirit and we are to “offer our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1-2) Acceptable through Jesus. And in a like manner, whatever we do, in word or deed—gathering sticks, baking bread, traveling—we are to do in the name of the Lord! Not through the Law comes holiness, but through Christ and His work and through doing all yoked with Him in light of His love.

"Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17)

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God: Jesus.

Monday, June 15, 2009

See, it's like this: it doesn't happen often, but when it does, beware. Today I was riding an emotional rollercoaster--and it looked like a suburban. It's been building up for a couple of weeks. No, actually, it's been building up for a year. A year's worth of build-up can be pretty nasty. And to top it off, several things this weekend resulted in a complete drop-out in the careful nest of my emotions--mostly due to relief, partly due to confusion and a lot of bewilderment. Why did I have to go through all that misery, confusion and pain, trying desperately to do the right thing--and there's no point to it?

Then along comes the reminder that I still haven't sold the suburban. That suburban that I've had for a year to sell. That one goes like this: Papa gave me the suburban (sort of) to sell with a caveat. See, the money I get from the suburban is supposed to pay for my wedding. Whenever. That's the missing link for all those people who keep pestering me to find out when I'm going to get married. I can't until I sell this suburban. (That's a joke...I think.) The problem is that I never wanted the suburban. In fact, it was kind of embarrassing, so I never explained to anyone why my parents gave me a suburban. In olden days girls had countries or lands or cows for dowries. I have a suburban. It's not very useful to drive in the meanwhile and if I never sell it, it's not exactly the kind of vehicle I care to start out with. In fact, on the surface it feels like the kind of gift where the giver says, "You know, I've got this thing I don't want anymore. And someday soon, I'm going to have to pay for her wedding. So, why don't I just give her this thing I don't want anyway and tell her to sell it and pay for her own wedding." And I feel just that valuable. Which isn't very.

Is that the truth? Tell me, dear Searcher of Hearts, since when were emotions dependent on reason or truth? My wish-wash emotions aren't terribly interested in the truth. So this gift I have has been weighing on my will, mind and emotions for a year now. And I've tried everything that doesn't cost money out of my pocket in order to sell it. Oh people are interested until it comes down to a price and then they aren't. At least not in a reasonable price. Or they're super interested, but wait? You live in D-town? That's too far to drive. Nevermind. More trouble than it's worth.

And today Papa expressed his frustration that we still have a suburban. You must understand, this suburban and I are both still at home for one simple reason: the right person just hasn't come along yet. The right person who needs just this special vehicle (which is really not so much special as not in demand) and is willing to pay the price. Yet here we are, still paying tags and taxes, trying to keep clean and spiffy and advertised something that no one wants. And here I am, trying to sell a suburban to pay for a wedding when no one even wants to marry me.

How pointless is all of that?

I fought tears and crashing emotions all the way to work where I dropped Papa off and wished him a good day and noticed that the gas was on empty. I hadn't even been the last person to drive it, but I would get to fill it up--and I was already late for Choices. I drove away feeling frustrated, lost and unloved.

Remember, emotions are not always reasonable. Or based on truth.

Trying to talk truth into my weeping soul, I began reminding myself, "Nobody promises results, Abigail. You're just supposed to do your best and seek to do what's right anyway."

"Yeah," I argued with myself, "But that's just not fair. I've tried so hard! I've been honest and forthright! I've researched, I've posted ads, I've tried to please my parents. I don't get why hard things always happen to me. Why I'm always frustrated and hurt and confused. What am I doing wrong?"

That was a rhetorical question, you know. When I ask, "What am I doing wrong?" I don't expect an answer, or I expect to hear "nothing." Because, clearly, no fault lies with me.

Instead a verse in Philippians drifted over the current of my complaints. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks. This is God's will for you."

Great. The good ol' rejoice always passage. Smiling is God's will for me.

But the truth began to sink in deeper than my level of self-pity. In everything give all honesty, I had always resented that suburban. I had viewed it as a burden, something I hadn't asked for, which would be sold to pay for a designated purpose I never sought. Gee thanks. Some gift. In all my recalling, I could never recall being thankful for that suburban. In all my recalling, I could recall being irritated about trying to park it, or having to park it at the library for advertising and walking to Choices, or having to wash and vacuum it or having to get gas. I certainly was not grateful for that gift. A generous gift from my loving parents.

Then began the sermon. I'm very eloquent when I preach at myself. "Abigail, be grateful! You be grateful! Be grateful!" I signaled and shifted into the turn lane on Main street. "You be grateful for this suburban!"

And the suburban died. Right there in the middle of the busiest intersection in town at two o'clock in the afternoon, this suburban that I was going to be grateful for died. And it wouldn't restart.

Two possibilities--absolutely no gas, not even fumes. Or the battery, which we'd just replaced and had worked on, since the battery light was on. Becky called to tell me there was no power at the clinic and we were closed and I sniffled into the phone as I explained where I was anyway. Kindly she offered whatever help she could. Then I called Mom to see if Josiah could tell me anything about what my next course of action should be. I didn't relish braving oncoming traffic while checking on the battery if I just needed more gas. I tried starting it again. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Even on empty, surely I could have made it that last block to the gas station.

Then I heard sirens and saw the flashing blue lights. By now I had tears streaming down my face. So much for being grateful, I was ready to call a wrecker and have this stupid car towed. And plan a fifty dollar wedding. Fifty years from now. I feel terribly sorry for the police man who approached my door. He probably has enough to do dealing with one emotional woman at home. When I opened my door I was both laughing and crying. And I know I must have looked like a tiny teen who didn't know squat about cars. He quickly noted the for sale signs and asked, "Are you just test-driving?" Ludicrous. I don't WANT this car. Can't you tell that just from looking? (I'm sure my parents never guessed. I still need to be sure I've thanked them.) I tried to explain my situation as best I could and he nodded in sympathy. "Can you start it for me?" Which I did and nothing happened. Then he said, "Do you have it in park?" Well, no. I'd been driving when it died. And I was already emotionally nuts by then. Of course I didn't think to put it in park. I shifted into park and turned the key. And it started. "I feel stupid," I said and laughed and snorted and choked on tears. "You're okay," he smiled. "See if you can make it to 2nd and Arkansas and I'll follow you."

I made it. And filled up. And went home. And washed the suburban. Vacuumed it. And sprayed that silly foam on the tires to make them shiny. Because everyone is looking for a car with shiny tires, you know. Then I posted up some new ads. And I whispered, "Thank you for this suburban. I don't understand. I don't get it. It doesn't seem fair. It hurts. It's annoying. I don't see the point. But thank you."

Because I don't have to understand. Things don't have to go right. Things don't have to make sense or have a point. But I have to be thankful. That's God's will.

Now, the temptation is to say, "Look, Abigail! You learned your lesson! You're thankful now! God can bless you now!"

But the Lord is not a genii in a bottle. Rubbing Him right doesn't earn me three wishes. Doing the right thing doesn't equal getting what I want. I assure you, I want to sell this suburban. Trust means doing the right thing and believing that He sees it, is pleased and will reward it--sometime. Someway. His way. I can't make anyone buy that suburban. I can't make things happen by believing--that's humanism, paganism--not Christianity. But by believing, sometimes I can see things that are happening in a new light--I can believe God's promises that He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly, that He works all things for the good of those who love Him, that trials produce proven character and that His will for me is my sanctification--that I would be made holy like Him. With those promises in mind, I can look squarely at anything thrown my way and say "Okay. Thanks."

Thank you, Lord, for an excellent reminder.

And...when You get around to it...please sell my suburban.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I forget just how spoiled I am. Until we have thunderous storms like today and find ourselves devoid of electricity. And then we have nothing to do. By the end of the day when Travis offered a generator even the luxury of lamplight seemed a privilege of rare proportions.

It's good to be reminded of all the "extra" things I enjoy without a second thought.

It's good to be reminded where I was without Christ, as I read Romans again today. I read Romans a lot and, in spite of having memorized it a couple of years ago (thanks to Tabitha's encouragement), I always discover how little I actually know. For the last couple of weeks I've been answering in my own mind the questions that others put to me and I hope to have written thoughts to share soon--for feedback. You know, it's not really fair to read my thoughts and not share your own. (Ahem, Jacinda...Hannah...Sarah...and others.) ;)

I need a shower. The generator, unfortunately, didn't suffice to get our well-pump running.

If you read this, tell me something amazing about the Lord.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Read this,” Sherry told me Monday as she handed me several printed pages. “We’ve been given a citation and will appear in the Senate chamber Wednesday. See if you want to come.” My stomach flip-flopped. I’d expected some increased opposition after the murder of Dr. Tiller but I couldn’t imagine what we could have possibly done. “What is it about?” I asked, my brows knit together, perplexed. Sherry smiled easily, “It’s for our service to the state and community in saving lives.” I blinked. Wait. The citation wasn’t bad?

I told the family at supper. “It’s a citation for good work,” I explained. Papa leaned back in his chair, an enigmatic smile spreading across his face. “I got a Police citation once.” Three heads snapped quickly to look at him. “It was a citation for aiding in the apprehension of a criminal. They called me a hero.” I raised my eyebrows. “Tell us about it.” And he did.

See, when I was a wee little bairn, we lived in Hutchinson, Kansas where Papa worked as an electrical technician at the Kansas Cosmosphere. Before it was such a big deal. In fact, you can still see his work in the displays as well as several space suits that Mom sewed for the manikin space walkers. One day, Papa was working on a bicycle on the screened patio when he heard a ruckus. As he opened the screen door to see what the noise was, here came a policeman in hot pursuit of another man. As Papa started to close the door and turn away the policeman yelled “Stop him!” Papa opened the door right in front of the fleeing criminal who lost his footing and tumbled to the ground as the officer of the law dived on top of him with handcuffs. That was that. After loading up the hand-cuffed man the police officer stopped by the thank Papa. “I want to give you a citation,” he said, in spite of Papa’s protest that he hadn’t done anything. “You did more than most people would have done.” By the time Papa arrived at work the next day, he was heralded as a hero.

Mom was giggling from across the table as Papa finished his story with his disclaimer, “The policeman was the real hero.” “Tell them what it was the guy had done,” were Mom’s words. Papa grinned too as he remembered. “Well,” he said slowly, “He’d stolen a pizza.”

Now see? I always knew my dad was a hero, even if he didn’t tie Superman up in his own cape like he once told me.

Today, Crisis Pregnancy Centers all over the state of Arkansas were given a citation for their dedication and service in saving lives—both women and babies. It was my first time in my new home-state’s capitol building, and I turned circles gazing up at the marbled pillars and stairways before we entered the Senate chamber for the simple ceremony. In fact, we were some of the only people there, due to congress being out of session for the summer. It was brief and quaint, but it’s something that’s never before been done in Arkansas. Perhaps never in the nation. Recognized by the government for the effort to save lives. Just after Dr. Tiller’s murder. Just when we expected to be blasted with a smear campaign and redoubled efforts to close our doors.

We’ll hang the certificate in the clinic and take comfort knowing that we have friends in congress who will do their best to uphold the rights of the unborn and the interests of abandoned women from the side of politics.

Praise the Lord for such an encouraging reminder!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I feel as though I’ve thought a million thoughts today and talked a million more. And when I get them all down on paper, perhaps I will expose a few of them to the critical eyes of the world. I am amazed to consider that the Lord knows all of them already.

Lauren shared with me over the phone how she and Nathaniel have formed a method of dealing with issues “on the love seat” to remind them that love must be at the root of it. Without revealing particulars she shared some of her thoughts on when and how to work through issues. “My problem,” I expressed, “is that I have the mistaken view that loving means just always giving in.” “Well,” she answered, “I could probably learn a lot from that.” “No,” I protested. “Not giving in and joyfully serving, but giving in without joy, just giving in and grumbling inwardly. So instead of setting boundaries, I just give in and it festers until I am whining and wondering why I have to be the one who always gives in.” She suggested the best thing I’ve heard yet: seeking to respectfully set boundaries, express preferences and desires and then give in. That’s love.

Why is it that just when I begin to discover what love really means, I discover as well how unloving I am? It seemed easy to never say anything negative, always give in, just do whatever it took to make good happen and pretend like I had no feelings. It’s so hard to really love. In fact, I think I’m a complete failure.

Jesus, help me.

My 22nd birthday, Friday, June 5, 2009

All week long Mom had been asking, “So, what do you want to do for your birthday?” All week long I’d been answering, “I don’t know.” In the back of my head I was thinking, “I’d like to do nothing for my birthday.” Not nothing as in I don’t want to do anything, but nothing like Winnie-the-Pooh means it. The kind of nothing that can be done while relaxing.

At breakfast, Papa assigned me a weedeating task and I sighed inwardly. I should have asked to do nothing. Instead a shouldered the weedeater and marched out to the tick-infested woods. And returned tick-infested. I thank the Lord that chiggers don’t bite me. And I’m immune to poison ivy. And mosquito bites vanish in a matter of hours from my skin. In the realm of ichiness, ticks are my only enemies. Usually they are easily vanquished, no matter how numerous. What followed was a shower during which I got a brilliant idea.
With Emily coming in the afternoon, wouldn’t it be lovely if she and I could go knock around town, maybe do some thrift-store shopping and just generally do nothing for the afternoon? With soggy hair and a crooked smile, I suggested my plan to Mom as she fried hamburger. I expected her to declare “What a lovely idea!” Instead she half-shook her head. “I don’t know about that,” she said. “I’m not sure if that’s a good idea or not.”

I swallowed my tongue. In fact, I think it slid all the way down the back of my throat and down through my nervous system into my left foot where it sat feeling like a heavy lead-weight. Hadn’t she been asking all week what I wanted to do? And we were doing absolutely nothing. The kind of nothing that simply means not a thing. I rounded up my scattered thoughts before I asked, “Were you planning something?” She kind of shrugged. “Not exactly. I just had a little thing I thought we might do. We’ll see about it.”

Emily was due to arrive any time when I finally ventured again to ask Mom what she was thinking. “Well,” she said, “It’s probably okay. See what Emily wants to do when she gets here.”

I bobbed my head. Emily’s pretty easy to get along with. Usually.

In came Emily. I was in the rapping mood and started talking a hundred miles an hour. “Hey! How are you? I was thinking…I know you just came from town, but would you be up for a little goofing off? We could look for some business shirts to go with those jackets you’ve got.” “Well,” said Emily, “that might be okay.” In an instant I was off again, “Oh! But before we go, look at this bag of clothes from Amber C and see if you like any.” Emily agreed and began digging through clothes while I sat by watching.

A red pick-up pulled up into our nifty little parking lot. I glanced out the window and did a double take. “That’s funny,” I knew it wasn’t Tim and Lindsey, though I was expecting them later. “It looks like…it can’t be…it…really looks like…who in the…? It is!” And that was all I said. Then I split a grin almost big enough to swallow myself. And I just stood by my bedroom door grinning as the girl scrunched in the middle seat of the pick-up stretched her long arms and climbed out.

Just a little something Mom had planned. Just a little something called Tabitha and Cliff.

“Now you can go into town if you want,” Mom flashed me a smile as she came out the door. “Were you surprised?”

I had no clue. Absolutely none. Even though a few almost hints had been dropped. Why in the world would I suspect that Tabby and Cliff were coming all the way down just for my birthday?

With Cliff’s permission to steal his wife, we piled into Emily’s car and headed into town where we pretty much did nothing. I couldn’t have had a better birthday if I’d have planned it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I am a victim of abuse. Just look at my right thigh—covered in a lumpy, reddish, purplish, bluish wound. It’s a fact from which I can no longer hide.

Every night for several weeks now, it’s happened. Every night. Sometimes more than once. As any crisis, the phases begin with my sudden awakening as I hear the dreaded sound. In sets denial. “Tell me this isn’t happening. Not tonight. It can’t be. I’m too tired for this.” Persistent truth turns my thoughts to the more plaintive pleading. “Please stop barking, Freckles. Please. Please just be quiet.” The truth is as loud as the barking outside my door. I clamber out of bed as the next stage settles in: anger. Seriously. That dog should realize that we aren’t afraid of deer attacking us and massacring us in our beds. As soon as I open the door and our little wag-tail dive-bombs my toes, licking and wriggling all over with delight, my anger melts into guilt. How could I be angry at her when she so desperately tries to please. “Be quiet,” I say sternly, holding her mouth closed tightly. That exemplifies resolution for my crisis. Suddenly I understand the full import of what is happening, I comprehend what I must do, I suck up and do it and in the end I am a stronger person. Except for last night.

Because last night, Freckles was the victim of an unjust accusation. I slid the heavy glass door open to scold her and discovered that while she licked my bare toes earnestly, the barking continued. Taska, on our property, let the whole world know that she had decided to run for best watch dog. About as conceited and ridiculous as Al Gore running for president. Of course I knew that we’d torn most of the deck off. All that was left was a narrow walkway in front of my door and a small walkway out to the hot tub. I thought I was stepping onto the walkway to peer out at Taska, but actually, I missed it by a few inches and stepped right off the edge of the porch. Thump. Down I went about three feet and landed easily on my feet where I stood, feeling slightly dazed. It wouldn’t have been a nasty accident at all, had not the walkway decking boards decided to give the side of my right leg an aggressive kiss on the way down. The result was something like an enormous hickey, spreading the length of my right left. And it hurt something fierce. Freckles licked my face as I climbed back up onto the deck. “Good girl,” I whispered, gritting my teeth. “Good girl. Don’t bark.”

We saw the light at the same time. Just a tiny green lantern flittering aimlessly across the driveway. “Bark!” went Freckles and dashed off down the steps. With a quick lunge she gulped down the firefly and met me at my door with a green sparkle stuck to her lips. “Be quiet,” I warned, before limping inside.

A private examination revealed a large patch of strawberries growing up my leg. I climbed into bed and went to sleep. Freckles didn’t bark.

By morning the strawberries had become a fruit salad. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. Very colorful. Perhaps even a few gooseberries had joined the ranks leaving my thigh feeling rather tender the rest of the day.

Now, if my father had done to me what that porch did to me, we’d call it abuse. And I’d be a victim. I’m thinking of exposing that porch for the monster it really is.

I hope Freckles doesn’t bark tonight.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My mind has definitely switched back “on.” I think I’ve thought a million thoughts this week, but can’t remember a single thread of them.

A quick life update:

The Schriebers moved here from Illinois at the first of the month. Glenn and Papa met online several years ago and Glenn has steadily pursued a friendship with Papa, even traveling to visit and encourage us when we lived in Kansas. For several years now they have desired to move and be near us, but this was the first time they were able to sell their house and order things to allow for the move. They've always lived in the same vicinity--the adjustment for them will be huge! On our part, we are delighted to finally have church fellowship. As in any fellowship, we'll have to get used to each other and learn to prefer each other in honor.

“Of all things,” Josiah said sadly one day, bearing a dustpan into the kitchen, “I stepped on a bat.” The poor fluttermousse lay panting, his wings bent and his webbed tail spread out. He must have already lay expiring on the cold garage floor before Josiah’s bare foot discovered him. Perhaps it’s a hopeful sign that more of his kind linger in the nearby woods, ready to annihilate the army of gnats that has encompassed us. This valiant departed assailant had to be laid to rest in the woods shortly after supper, his last breath gone on the wings of time. This was shortly after our visit to the Mystic Caverns where we expressed our desire to have bats move in around our house to help with the insect overpopulation.

I finally sat down and sorted through a million things I'd stacked in my "think about when I get a chance" file. I worked through some of my fleshly cravings for fulfillment to be reminded of the truth that Jesus is all and does all good. I waded through some of the circumstances and issues that confused me a year ago and caught my breath at the perspective I saw--from just a year away. Circumstances are just circumstances. Sure, God allows them. But they bear little weight when measured against truth. And sometimes truth demands time to become more clear. For the first time in my life I am not confused. I think I am finally beginning to grasp the balance between true patience and my own supposed patience, true love and my supposed forebearance. True love is so hard--takes so much time and effort, seeking someone else's best interest through scripture, wisdom and kindness and seeking to base my actions on that--not simply saying what they desire to hear or giving what they want or doing what they want. It's painful--but nothing like the cross, the nails and God's rejection which Jesus suffered for me.

I was listening carefully to Papa’s voice one day as he read the expanded version of First John when the dive-bombing occurred. A mosquito-eater tumbled out of the sky and bounced onto the table, just inches from my Bible, then clumsily bobbled across the table and off the edge. His mission must have remained unfinished since he repeated the performance twice more before disappearing from the scene of conquest.

I finally got a tetanus booster, a week later for five dollars at the Health Department. My foot was entirely healed.

Lauryn got fish. I wish I could even retell the history of her tank of five finned friends and the dramatic disappearance of Pinky Tuscadero and Fred. Falsely accused, Hot Lips was detained in solitary confinement for further questioning until Fred reappeared. Thus began operation "rescue Pinky Tuscadero" which ended happily with Hot Lips being cleared and the whole family being reunited with joy and laughter.

We watched Miss Lauryn direct the Dtown Highschool Choirs--complete with choreography that screamed her name. She did a fabulous job. Is anyone surprised? She graduated with honors a few days later, along with Emily, Shoko, Donnie and Stacy. We spent the day either in bleachers or at parties--parties according the the believers here consist of prayer, encouragement, good food, praise and lots of love--well and sometimes some volleyball.

Originally I told Angela I'd help her photograph her friend's wedding. Then she agreed to become the wedding coordinator, which loaded her down with responsibilities. But it freed up her camera. In fact, I enjoyed our teamwork--I did all the photography, she did all the bossing.

It was about ten o'clock when Nathaniel called a very pregnant Lauren to ask for a ride. See, a group was playing "Fugitive" and Nathaniel, Donnie, Tommy and Dathan had worked out a perfect strategy for eluding the cops. Lauren and I hopped in the car. Well, actually, I hopped, she plumped. Being pregnant slows down activity and Lauren is VERY pregnant. As the four boys crowded into the back of my car I had one thing to say, "you guys smell amazing." Tommy's voice piped up, "What do you mean by amazing?" Folks, those guys normally have great hygiene--Tommy even reputedly smells "dewicious"--but that night they smell amazingly BAD. Their strategy paid off with a winning game!

Lately I've been blessed by April's company. In fact, we discovered that we wear the same size of clothes--she's just six inches taller. Sadly, she looks much cuter in my clothes than I do.

I've been following up on Christy's clients at the clinic. Sometimes as I open a file to decide what course of action to take next I am overwhelmed by the stark sadness in the notes she left--abuse, taking advantage, broken hearts, substance abuse, abortions, devastation. I closed files that were years old. For years Christy has faithfully waded through sad situation after sad situation. The Lord has been at work in my mind and heart--finally I am able to weep as I read a file, pray for that poor girl, close the file and walk away knowing that the Lord is the only One who can save--any of us.

Jess graduated highschool. Dathan had never met her, but he cheered the loudest. Even did a special cheer for her. Of course, he was cheering and shouting names for almost all the rest of the graduates. And clapping so widely he nearly smashed my face in. Without the least embarrassment. I was almost embarrassed, sitting next to him as he thoroughly enjoyed himself at a highschool graduation where he knew no one.

Papa is back at work, but has had weekends off so far! A huge blessing!

And just when the grass is growing more quickly than a child, all our lawnmowers decide to go on emergency medical leave. One is leaking oil. A blown gasket? One destroyed its own blade belt. Too much stress? And one has been in pieces in the barn all year. If we could find all the hardware for it underneath the Schriebers extra stuff that's being stored in it, we might put it back together and sell it.

It's a strange thing. I'd been exhausted for months, dragging myself out of bed each day, struggling to stay awake during Bible reading or prayer, going to sleep any time I sat down and sleeping hard. Lately I've rediscovered quiet time--alone time with Jesus. Perhaps it's just been emotional exhaustion that leaves me zapped. At any rate, I am at rest--with energy again. And thoroughly enjoying the Lord's lovingkindnesses.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It shouldn’t be too complicated getting a tetanus booster. Maybe I just complicate everything. It shouldn’t have been too complicated to pull nails from the old decking boards in our barn.

But I managed to step on the edge of a board and felt the sharp point of a rusty nail slide right through my inch-thick boot soles and through the padded sole of my foot. “Ah…” I took a deep breath. “I just put a nail through my foot.” Tommy looked up quickly from the board he was wrestling with on the dusty floor and said cheerfully, “Well, I hope you’re up to date on your tetanus shots.” Josiah shook his head and sighed. “Um, actually,” I answered, slowly removing my boot and staring at the quickly spreading bloody spot on my striped socks, “I haven’t had one since I was eleven. That’s when I ripped my leg open on a rusty nail in the pond dock.”

So I limped inside and, while the boys finished pulling nails from the pile of lumber, I washed my wound and poured in peroxide. Mom just went about fixing lunch and Papa continued Bible studying. My parents are clearly given to panic. Will having a nail-pierced foot make me more like Christ?

After a year and a half in Arkansas, I still don’t have a doctor. I haven’t needed one. Really, the wound looked pretty good, so all I was concerned about was the tetanus shot. Tetanus is not something to fool with. I lost a baby goat to tetanus—actually, I spent days treating her, getting up with her at night and trying to get her through before Josiah and I finally put her out of her misery. Misery it was, too, stiff-legged and resembling a rocking-horse with spasms shaking her until she bleated in pain. Not something I want to risk getting.

The health department said they’d give me a booster—Thursday. Another doctor we called needed to see me—to the tune of a hundred twenty dollars. The ER, well, that would be expensive. Backi suggested telling the Health Department what had happened, which prompted them to say that I need to see a doctor. Finally the Millard-Henry clinic said I could walk in and get a shot from the shots nurse.

It sounded too good to be true.

It was.

Dathan and Josiah dropped me off before heading over to see Donnie. And then I discovered that I had to be an established patient. The doctor on call couldn’t even see me that day and it would cost several hundred dollars for an appointment.

See, I’m an adult daughter, not a full-time student, so I have no medical coverage. Which makes getting a tetanus shot difficult. Just a shot, that’s all I needed.

I arrived at Choices a little late. The only client on the schedule was an abortion-minded girl who hadn’t shown up the week before. I was limping by the time I showed Becki my foot. “Do you think I can wait for a shot?” She cringed. “I hate to mess around with tetanus.” But she was impressed with how clean the hole was. “It’s deep,” she told me. “I can see into it. It’s at least an inch deep. That must hurt a lot.” I shrugged. Actually, it wasn’t too bad.

And in walked a frightened little couple. “Can I help you?” I asked and they exchanged glances. “I sure hope so,” the young man told me, chewing on a lip ring. “We think she’s pregnant.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: never judge a book by it’s cover. Ponytails and piercings often cover the kinder hearts—beware the people who look like they have it all together. Those are often the most hard-hearted of all.

I’m forced to draw a curtain before much of my visit with them. I spent two hours with this couple and when the girl on the schedule came in, Sherry had to see her instead. At the beginning they wanted an abortion—it seemed like the quick fix. But never did they truly want that abortion. They had some true concerns and some real fears, but as we talked the Lord worked to show them truth, to relieve their fears and also to open the way to show Himself to them—as a very real Creator and sustainer of life. They left clutching an ultrasound picture—the best ultrasound picture I’d seen, though it was only seven weeks—and planning to come back to discuss adoption. In their eyes and words I could see and hear sincere conviction—that child would live!

As Josiah and I crowded into Dathan’s pick-up, I praised the Lord, entirely forgetting the possibility that I might die a miserable death of tetanus since I’d never gotten that all-important shot. The Lord can heal. The Lord is in control. He can move hearts. He is the Creator and sustainer of life and my life is in His hands.

Father, Thou art life and ever living
Thou gives life and in Thy giving
Thou gives all that I might need
To be conformed to Thee indeed.

Every moment death might claim,
But I am claimed by Thy own name
Which is a confidence I have
That I will live beyond the grave.

Friday, May 1, 2009

All day I pushed from my mind the weight of knowledge that was frustrating me. Sometimes I feel like I know more about everyone else's business than they do. Humorously, sometimes I feel like I know more about everyone else's business than I know about my own. Before the Lord I can honestly attest that I don't try to get muddled up with matters not concerning me. Somehow getting concerned in matters that concern others just happens to me. Then arises the dilemma--is this matter secret? I desire to be discreet, though I often lack wisdom. Am I supposed to DO anything with this knowledge? I desire to tell the truth, though I often lack discretion. Am I allowed to seek advice from my father? I desire to be wise, though I often misunderstand the truth.

And my emotions raged up and down, around in circles, roller-coastering from confusion to anger. While showering, I showered a far distant person with a piercing lecture, expressing the truth from my perspective. Before I'd finished drying my hair, my anger had melted into understanding and compassion. We all act out what has been acted upon us: Fear leads to insecurity. Lack of intimacy leads to lack of commitment. Hurt leads to pretending that we don't hurt. Stifled sensitivity leads to insensitivity.

And then I am reminded of the Lord's grace to me in my failing and flailing and confusion. I am forced to kneel and plead forgiveness for myself again and also plead the Lord's mercy and grace that my own life would be a cause of encouragement in the Lord and that the Lord would protect all those I love from me, even in the best of my intentions.

What a mercy that the world was not given into my hands to govern.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I had a dream. In my dream, white and black walked side by side.

Not racial equality. A bride and groom.

Actually, the dream began with me asking Lin N if she’d mind a little matchmaking. I knew a guy I thought would be perfect for her. Could I give him her number? She assented. And I did. And they got married. And I sang at their wedding. Then I awoke and, behold, it was a dream.

A couple of days later, Emily sat patiently by, chatting with me as I labored on a jacket-dress. “How’s Lindsey?” I asked. Because I hadn’t talked to her in some time. In fact, the last time I’d talked to Lin N she’d been sharing how the Lord was working in her heart to desire to become a homemaking wife and mother and how she was loving cooking and how she had her school debt almost paid off and how she was content in the Lord. A very good time to keep track of a girl, if you ask me. “Fine,” Emily answered, which is what she always said.

And then the funniest thing happened. I never intended to tell anyone about that dream, but I opened my mouth to say something and it toppled right out. “I had the weirdest dream about Lindsey.” When I finished, Emily gave me a funny smile. “That is funny,” she said. “Did you know who the guy was?”

Ah. Yes. Who the guy was.

Indeed I did.

“It was Tim.”

Then her face became a study in comedy. “Was that just out of the blue?” A million thoughts raced through my mind before I answered, “Maybe not entirely. I might have thought of it before.” Because I had. Lin N and Tim were in the same general vicinity. But they didn’t really know each other. But they should. They really should get to know each other well.

“Can I tell Lindsey?” Emily asked me, and my mouth must have hit the floor. That seemed like a stupid thing to do. Tell Lin N? Like she needed any distractions. “If you think she’d find it funny.” Emily snickered, “Yeah. I think she’d find it really funny.”

That night my conscience hurt worse than a stomach with too much wedding cake. How indiscreet. I shouldn’t ever have told Emily. And I shouldn’t have let her tell Lindsey. Embarrassed, I called Emily to apologize. “It’s fine,” she assured me. “Really, it’s fine.”

Then my mind went clackety-clacking. So did several others. For real, it was fine?
Today a letter arrived in the mail. A letter signed by both Tim and Lin N. A letter informing their friends that they'd decided to share their lives. With each other. Emily and Bruce were the sole confidants. Everyone else was awash in amazement. Well, I wasn’t exactly awash in amazement. Surprised, yes, that it had happened so fast and so secretly. But delighted. I don’t think I’ve been this excited since…well, maybe since Tabby and Cliff became engaged. I called Lin N. only to discover that I didn’t have anything to say. Mostly we giggled.

Lin N. has always inspired me with her passion for truth, her hungry heart for obedience and her unflinching standards of modesty and purity. God demonstrates Himself strong in her life and testimony, turning her into a woman who fears Him and is worthy of praise. And Tim is a gentleman, a man of integrity and a sincere seeker of the Lord.

I suppose we could all say this is a dream come true?

Thursday, May 14, 2009--Getting up to Speed? Maybe.

I sat down at my desk yesterday to reconcile bank statements and catch up my budget and finance records. That's when I noticed that my calendar was still turned to March. For everyone who cyber-stalks me and wonders why you were all left hanging in March, rest assured that the oversight has extended to most of my life. In fact, until the past week, I had created a bin of "unthought thoughts" in my mind, to be sorted out and organized later. That's how crazy life has been.

BUT, Papa's back at work, the eight-week solid wall of company has dissipated (slightly) and our schedule is resuming normalcy. Whatever that is. So, perhaps, just perhaps I'll return. Poor Jacindarella says I'm long overdue for a post.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

All day long, everyone kept asking why I was so goofy. On the level, I didn’t think I was being silly at all. I was just enjoying life. I woke up this morning knowing without a doubt that Yahweh is in control, that He has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, that I am His daughter and that He will conform me to the image of His beloved Son. Gurus advocate meditation for a sense of well-being. I can’t imagine what they could meditate on that would boost them like knowing the Author of the Universe—and calling Him “Abba.”

Josiah and I made the trek to our namesake town, looking at a property for Glenn’s family. I’m afraid to say anything after the last attempt. I didn’t like the last property at all, but I’ve never seen where they live or what they’ve worked with in the past and I’m a poor hand at construction. Please limit me to screwing screws or destroying sheetrock. Or sanding. There’s nothing to be destroyed sanding. This house seemed much more inviting and certainly better cared for. Dutifully, we took pictures and notes and will offer our observations to those wiser than we. The most delightful event of the trip was a quaint bridge we crossed on our way. Josiah is a perfect companion for me, since he is always more than willing to stop and take pictures. Except, he likes to take pictures, which means he wants to use my camera and force me to be the model.

The ever increasing disorder in the back rooms at the clinic is going to finally drive me over the edge. After spending several hours working on tangled paperwork, a client finally showed up for her appointment. “She’s here to see you,” Linda handed me her file. “Uh, yeah,” I answered, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” We scurried to a back room before I blurted out, “She’s here for a follow-up and ultrasound, there weren’t any issues—what am I supposed to talk to her about?” We had excellent, thorough training on dealing with tough issues, but I found myself panicking as I realized I didn’t know what to do when everything was smooth sailing. Thankfully, that simply meant a short visit, the ultrasound and then passing her down to a mentor. Which left me plenty of time to begin to feel trapped in a kitchen littered with random items. “Look, Josiah!” I exclaimed, opening the refrigerator door. “At least we could keep all the soda cans in one place, don’t you think?” He was sanding the ceiling tile he and Donnie had patched and looked at least forty years older, covered in sheetrock dust as he laughingly answered, “You sound like Papa.” As they rounded up purses and coats at seven-thirty, the ladies found me sitting on the kitchen counter, cleaning out cabinets and consolidating. Becki sat down in a chair laughing at me, which I found rather uncharitable. “Girl, you’re crazy!” Of course, she can vanish into her tidy, little office any time the piles of the undone grow too daunting. Bonnie just giggled, “Have you been eating goofy pills?” Actually, I did have two hamburgers for lunch. Perhaps that was the problem. But someday I’m going to get that place spit-shined clean. It just may be someday a very long time in the future.

Emily had a “surprise” for me, on our way home. Thank you notes from her classroom of second-graders. It wasn’t hard to tell which story was the favorite, thanks to the pictures at the top of each page. “The Little Red Hen” hands down. Emily was embarrassed as she pointed to a letter at the bottom of the pile. “He asked me for a third sheet, and I told him to write on the back. He said he already had. It’s…well, he’s a little odd.” She proceeded to read me a lengthy, rambling letter in which this young man professed over and over that I was the nicest teacher ever and he hoped I would never die. Emily found it embarrassing, but I think it sure beats being told I’m silly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I was scouring the walls of my shower this morning when I straightened up, bumped my head against the water knob and gave myself a surprise shower. As I walked into the kitchen to start lunch, Mom passed me in the hallway and asked, “Why are you all wet?”

Papa valiantly loaded himself into the Camry to go to work this afternoon. Around six o’clock he came rolling back up the driveway. The nurse had sent him home on limited disability for at least a month. My head was spinning as I heard the verdict. At least a month! What an odd shape for a blessing to come in. Having Papa home for a month is both exciting and daunting—a totally new thought. What in the world are we going to do for a month? And then I laugh. All kinds of thoughts begin to fill our minds—we can finally invite some of the families over that we’ve been hoping to see. And I have some confusion and questions that have been nagging me for months—things I couldn’t seem to resolve on my own but tried to cheerfully ignore. I’m not sure if I can even put words to them, but Papa has been just so busy and tired that I didn’t want to exhaust him. Perhaps he’ll have time to dissipate the fog that surrounds most of my brain and clouds my convictions. So much for recuperation for him--perhaps I'd better hold off a while yet.

I'd scoffed at the official ground hog who, reportedly, turned tail and climbed back into his hole back in February. "He saw his shadow!" they announced. "Six more weeks of winter!" I've never given much credence to weathermen, hairy or otherwise, and we've been enjoying days of warmth and sunshine. "It wasn't his shadow he saw," I declared to Josiah, "It was the new presidential administration that sent him back into hibernation." Today the weather grew nasty again. Cold. Drizzly. Uninviting. The political climate is at least as nasty. I think we're on a collision course with socialism, thanks to nodding, smiling politicians who swear to uphold the constitution and then go at it with a grappling hook. Even Hillary Clinton as Secretary of state didn't turn my stomach like seeing our own Kansas Governor, Kathleen Sibelius, appointed to the cabinet. Bleak is the political horizon, which reminds me once again that the battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities of darkness--and I should be spreading light to individual hearts and pleading that Christ will soon return.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Miss Lydia and I signed in to the Sequoyah grade school at about one forty-five and navigated the hallway to find the second grade room of Mrs. Underwood. Our mission? Visiting Emily’s classroom and telling stories! We started off with the version of Little Red Riding Hood I’d pulled out for the homeschool talent show so many years ago—the year I called up the parents and made them perform for the rest of us. Which they did admirably. This time the kids were so delighted they asked to keep their masks. Then we followed it up with the Three Billy Goats Gruff, Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood. Lydia played a delightful Little Red Riding Hood, carrying her basket of goodies around the room to distribute marigold seeds. So there went last night’s hasty preparation. The kids begged us not to leave. Perhaps I’m ridiculous, but the whole time I was reading Puss in Boots, my mind kept nagging me miserably—Puss was a blatant liar. No matter what kind of a hero we’ve made of him and how funny his antics are, he’s a liar—something God’s word speaks very strongly against. How inconsistent I am to decry lying in life only to glorify it before a classroom of second graders because it is performed in a fairy tale by a clever kitty sporting boots. I’m at a loss what to do…apologize to Emily for endorsing such a story? My mind wants to argue that it is so trivial, but my conscience insists that if lying lips are an abomination to God and the liar has his place in the lake of fire, how could even a joking lie be trivial to the Lord?

Which turns my stomach with guilt and dread because, even though others often say I “speak truth”, I know the truth and it is far from their opinion of me. I know how deceitful I am, how willing to skew truth in my favor, how at ease in telling partial truths, how comfortable withholding information or pretending ignorance. Tonight on the phone I was nearly brought to tears as Lauryn prayed for me and coupled my name with truth. I only wish it were true, but my heart is wicked and deceitful above all things, who can know it? Sometimes I'm not even sure in my own mind what is true--how can I tell it?

Always I am brought back to the Way, the Truth, the Life and humbled in His presence--no deceit was found in Him.

Father, lead me in the truth. Thy word is truth.

Monday, March 9, 2009

An X-ray revealed that Papa’s collar-bone was broken in three pieces. The M.D. told him he might need surgery and shuttled him on to an Orthopedic Surgeon who gave him a sling that fit and a pat on the back and sent him home. In the medical field, they are all still practicing, you know, and none have yet reached perfection. At least they no longer use leeches or seek to balance bile and phlemm and blood. There’s simply nothing to be done for a broken collar-bone, except try to keep it from getting jostled. In the meanwhile, Papa’s neck and chest have turned a rainbow of purples and greens. “It’s kind of fun taking care of him,” Mom announced this evening, “Well, except for the flossing. That didn’t go too well.” As for her, she forgets she has a sore knee at times. Like tonight when she got excited and slapped her knee—then bounced out of her chair crying, “Ow, ow, ow!” Lydia and I strove desperately to control our giggles, but when Mom’s amazing sense of humor won out, we joined her laughing.

This morning I sat cross-legged in beg and opened my Bible to Job. And sighed. Sometimes it seems like a passage in scripture is just alive and teeming with amazing truths and encouragement for exactly whatever I’m experiencing. I’ve eaten up Job in the past, but my mind was blank this morning because Job was a godly man under intense attack. I’m not a godly person and my life is cruising along comfortably. Too comfortably perhaps. Truly, I have nothing at all of which to complain. But as I waded in, the Lord proved Himself all-wise with a completely different angle from a story I thought I knew. Behold the wonderful friends who came to comfort Job in his misery—it truly does bespeak devotion that they came and sat in the ashes with him for days before speaking. But when they spoke, they spoke not the truth of God, nor with compassion and they tore apart everything Job expressed. And God rebuked them for their “counsel without knowledge.” I drew in my breath, reminded again how vital is compassion when offering counsel and how necessary is truth and how dangerous the task of taking on responsibility to rebuke or exhort or offer wisdom. How necessary it is for me know God if I would speak to others of Him and not incur His holy rebuke. And how closed my heart so often is to the possibility that someone might suffer in testing—that they haven’t necessarily sinned. My response to suffering should be to embrace, to listen, to weep with those who weep and only rebuke or counsel when I am certain of the truth from scripture.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It’s a glorious, quiet Sunday afternoon and my French door is standing wide open. Freckles just galloped by on the rickety porch, her tongue lolling out of her mouth, in pursuit of an insect. In the other room, I can hear Mom and Papa talking about insurance and local doctors and ER costs and nausea.

Sometimes you just know what’s going to happen, but it almost seems as if the knowledge is removed—somewhere outside yourself. When Mom told me she and Papa were going for a motorcycle ride, we started talking about the dangers. In fact, it’s the statistics and dangers of motorcycles that led Papa to decide he’d rather I didn’t have a motorcycle license. As they aired up the tire I had an odd, eerie sensation. Mom tells me she did, too. The whole ride she kept praying for the Lord’s protection, but even more that He would just help her to be calm and to trust Him. As soon as Mom’s ring-tone started, I knew something was wrong—I knew they’d wrecked. Mom’s voice was calm and deliberate, explaining where they were and what had happened and asking me to bring the truck and have Josiah and Tommy drive separately. My mind flashed back to the time, several years ago, when Papa had cut his knee open with the chainsaw. Now, I could hear the same tone in her voice as she said, measured, “I’m fine. The motorcycle is fine. Papa’s injured, but we can take him in ourselves. He’s up at some folks’ house.”

That’s why Mom and Papa are discussing medical procedures. From the way he hunches and winces, Papa must have his broken collar-bone and perhaps even have a broken or bruised rib or two. Mom has a banged up knee.

It could have been so much worse. What Mom and I had actually discussed before they left is how many motorcycle wrecks are fatal. Even little spills can do big damage. With their helmets and layers of protection, Mom and Papa had no scratches. They spilled into the ditch on a hairpin curve right in front of a house where people were out in the yard. And they had cell-phone reception—barely. All near-miracles for those of us living out here in the boonies.

Papa just now hobbled through the open glass door in my room, his arm in a sling, a smile on his face. “It’s a pretty day, isn’t it?”

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Little Rock Zoo was a zoo today. Redundancy is not something of which I make a common habit but in this case I’ll make an unusual exception. Tommy didn’t know when he invited us to come see the zoo, that the zoo had invited everyone the same day—for a free day at the zoo. They expected at most 8,000. By the time we escaped the massive gates in mid-afternoon, at least 20, 000 had been through the front gates. I found myself studying people with as much curiosity as ever I studied primates or reptiles or pachyderms. Hairdos resembling the plumage of exotic birds, outfits that rivaled peacocks and all kinds of faces with all kinds of expressions that might frighten even the apes. Among the hordes of people that crowded so thickly as to make me feel like I was inside a pressure cooker, I lost myself in watching and forgot that others might find me of interest: until a group of Indian men caught my attention, clearly discussing me inside the tropical rain forest exhibit. Not checking me out, but discussing my clothing—a blue Punjabi and flip flops. Likely they were noting that I had the scarf around my neck incorrectly or that the pattern was severely out of style, or even that the make was certainly from farther East into the Orient than Asia—from Thailand to be exact.

The exhibits Tommy showed off with the most pride were the ones he’d built—tall posts wrapped with rope and covered with a thatched roof. Papa walked along almost in a daze. By the time we left the zoo, his exhaustion was dripping down his face like perspiration. Poor guy. He dislikes crowds as much as I dislike chocolate cake.

We followed Tommy and his sister Shazelle…er…Jennifer….home for supper. His poor mom has been begging to come with him to visit us for weeks. She’s quite certain he’s keeping her away on purpose. I can’t imagine why Tommy would do that? (end sarcasm) His family is certainly unique with a capital “Q” (which translates to slightly odd), but splendidly hospitable and splendid cooks. “Tommy said to be sure there was ice cream in the house,” his mom announced, proud that she was quite prepared, not only with ice cream, but also with an enormous, gooey chocolate cake. How does one politely refuse chocolate cake? That’s an honest question, since I wasn’t successful.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My training with Choices has been accelerated, to put it simply. Folks ask about my involvement and I almost feel embarrassed in my attempt to explain what I do and why and how. Almost a year ago I joined Christy and Daniel, a Crisis counselor and a local youth pastor, as part of a team to teach abstinence in the public schools. It was Papa’s suggestion; I had to warm up to the idea. By summer I’d applied as a volunteer at the clinic and been scheduled to come in on Tuesday for training. My training consisted of a quick introduction to the phone system, scheduling and reception procedures. In the previous sentence, we’ll define quick as five minutes. And that was that. Before I knew it I was not only handling reception work, but also designing promo literature, doing some fundraising and assisting the administration. Then a Bible study client dropped in my lap when Christy went on bed rest for her baby at Christmas time. It was about that time that the Lord started bringing more volunteers in and Sherry suddenly realized I’d fallen through the cracks. I joined a group for initial and mentor training and then began training others for office work. Ordinarily, the ladies come in and shadow a mentor in the non-crisis counseling for several weeks and then launch out with Earn While You Learn on their own. I was familiar with the curriculum after making scores of copies, but I’d still never managed to shadow a session when Becky turned to Sherry at a prayer meeting and said, “I was going to schedule Abigail for some Earn While You Learn clients. Is that okay?” Sherry’s face was blank as she replied, “We’ll talk about that later.”

By this time I was also handling finances, after a quick training session with our secretary, Maggie, who started the clinic with Sherry seventeen years ago and is about to move to Idaho. In the previous sentence, quick is defined as half an hour.

The rest of the afternoon I worried, fretted and racked my mind to figure out what I was lacking, why Sherry wouldn’t be comfortable with me being a mentor. Before I left that night she caught me and I sensed an explanation was on the way. “As you know, several of the ladies are retiring and several are taking extended vacations. In February we’ll be down to one Crisis counselor. I need Crisis counselors. I’m working on a date for some training for you and a couple of the mentors so that we can hopefully get you ladies onto the pregnancy tests as soon as possible. I know that’s where your heart really is and since you’re so much younger, you’ll be able to relate well to many of our younger clients.” I probably didn't hear anything else she said. So that’s how I happened to skip the typical year or so of mentoring and waltzed through five weeks of intensive Crisis Peer Counseling training. I couldn’t believe how perfectly everything we were learning fit into what the Lord had been teaching me for the last year or two: the difference between goals and desires, learning to obey and leave the results to God, learning to gently confront and listening, truly listening to a person’s heart behind their words.

Tonight it all came together as I waded through my first sets of intake forms, pregnancy tests and Earn While You Learn applications. How ironic that, as the youngest Crisis counselor at Choices, supposedly especially able to relate to the younger clients, my first client should be a woman with a daughter my age. Sometimes irony can be the very finger of God.

During the past five weeks of training, while the seasoned counselors were gone in a dozen directions, we had very few calls. But as Sherry left for a trip to Georgia, she dashed me off an e-mail saying, “You have clients this week.” I'd have been nervously nauseated if I'd known what she really meant. Clients: I was booked solid. As were the rest of the new counselors. Now I feel intensely guilty for having booked the ladies with a client every hour. I walked dreamily from one appointment to the next, hardly able to clear my mind in between. From the lady who was forty-one, knew the Lord and was ecstatic about being pregnant to the young teen who thought there might be Someone “up there” but had never heard of Jesus and declared she was painfully shy (though she talked a million miles an hour to me) to the young lady who already had a little girl and was certain she was pregnant again, but who couldn’t contain her wonder as I led her through a pictoral description of the baby’s growth inside her womb, I loved every minute of every session.

They were all easy situations, I know, but I marvel at the wonder of it: walking into a small, dimly lit room with a woman I’ve never met before and loving her, for whatever crazy reason. Knowing that the Lord knows every detail of her life. Hearing the story of someone God created and desires to know Him fully even as He fully knows them. Seeing the nervous hands twiddling or the eyes that dare to look up and make eye-contact for the first time and watching the fear drain from her as she relaxes and opens up. What forever amazes me is the response to confrontation. “I see you were using condoms…did you know about the holes in condoms?” Her interest is peaked as she sees that I must be telling her the truth—since she’s pregnant. And the door is open for me to bring up another issue, “Did you know about some of the studies about living together?” No anger, rejection or scoffing. That’s what amazes me. Whether or not she’ll take to heart and put into practice my recommendations, she receives them as though they have value. An hour ago I was a complete stranger. Then I listened to her. Now she’s ready to listen to me. It’s the remarkable truths that Sherry told us: loving equals listening which equals respect and treating someone with respect earns their respect in return. That’s why I see in hundreds of exit forms that come through our filing system, “I was scared when I came here, but now I feel much better.”

Sometimes I wonder what in the world I am doing at Choices. Sometimes I wonder if it's the right thing. I don't always agree with every aspect of how the clinic is run. I doubt my abilities. Which is just fine, since any good is accomplished through the Lord. I doubt my wisdom. Which certainly needs to be doubted. I doubt my choices, my decisions, my convictions. In truth, I doubt everything but my salvation. The Lord mercifully squared me away on that one several years back through proving His complete responsibility for my salvation. And, in truth, it's through my salvation that I have any hope of accomplishing anything of worth--only because Jesus bought me at the price of His own blood and will continue to perfect me and work through me. That's the only thing of which I feel confidently certain. It's the only true wisdom I have to share with anyone.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I was half-way through my tooth brushing late last night when I suddenly realized the toothbrush protruding from my mouth was purple instead of silver. Don’t tell Lydia.

Impulsive shopping is a wonderful fault when coupled with generosity—at least in the case of our neighbors. I arrived, ready to clean, to find a note with my pay directing me to take home an enormous cedar jewelry box, a bag of apples and a huge bowel of fresh berries. Mary also keeps me in facial wash and lotion, has supplied me with tennis shoes, hair items, jewelry and purses and given me more lip gloss than I’ll ever manage to use. I hardly own any jewelry since I wear basically none, but the apples and the berries were a welcome surprise.

Fernando Ortega prophesied truly: “This time next year there’ll be a red-headed grandson sitting on your knee.” That’s what we’ve all been secretly believing and the grandson part, at least, is true. Lauren and Nathaniel called today after their ultrasound with the news that Peanut Scott truly is a boy! So they’re back to the drawing board on names, but certainly delighted. I maintain he will have red hair.

I just finished Ezra and Nehemiah. The spiritual correlations are really neat to see--Revival. For the Jews, it was restoration of outward religion (and renovation of their hearts, as well), but the pictures play over. They read the entire law to the people in one day! Revival starts with listening and loving the Word of God. Then they began reinstating sacrifices--for us we know God desires broken and contrite hearts. They confessed and put away their sin. Next they renovated the temple. God wants us to offer ourselves living sacrifices, keeping our bodies pure and undefiled. They rebuilt the wall--setting up boundaries and protection to keep out unholiness and enemies. And the enemies ridiculed and attacked, especially as they saw the walls going up and the place being rebuilt! But by preparation and faith the Jews fought them off and continued in triumph! And I love what Nehemiah and Ezra told the people after they read the law, "This day is holy to Yahweh your God, do not mourn or weep!" God wanted them to rejoice in the new life He was building, not weep over the past that couldn't be undone. It's interesting, too, that the book of Nehemiah seems to be taken from Nehemiah's journals and he says several times at the end, "Remember me, O God, for good." His prayer made it into scripture, so I think he must have been heard.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I saw one of the most romantic things I think I've ever seen last night. Josiah and I went with Grandma Sandy to a stroke recovery meeting--for Uncle Ed. As we settled into the huge hospital lobby chairs and watched folks arrive, in came a young couple. The husband had a few grew hairs, but the wife looked younger than forty--strapped into a wheelchair, struggling to hold her head up. As the meeting progressed, she shared her story, speaking with difficulty. She'd had her stroke at the age of thirty-two, six years ago, and she was excited to finally be able to control her own wheelchair button--with difficulty. She was dressed carefully, neatly and stylishly. Her hair was done to perfection, her make-up carefully applied, her jewelry tidy and trendy. Several times during the meeting, her husband gently removed her glasses and applied eye-drops to her eyes, unobtrusively. He was a quiet man, saying very little, yet his wife's appearance spoke volumes. Six years ago she suffered a massive stroke, leaving her completely incapacitated to take care of herself, much less her little son. It might have seemed like a good time to put her in an assisted living and move on with his life, but this husband has stuck by her, faithfully for six years. Not just helped her get by, but been careful to help her feel beautiful, valued and womanly. That's a pretty devoted husband. To me, this "for better or for worse" love is the most romantic thing I can imagine. Why? Because it's for real. Gushy romance and emotion? Kids can play at that, but it takes real men and women to love for six years of helplessness.

My mind turns to Jesus, by whom we know what love is: He laid down His life for us. He didn't come to be served, but to serve. While we were still helpless, Christ died for us. Friends insist I'm not romantic because I turn away when the movie heroes kiss or I'm embarrassed when twitterpated couples goo-goo at each other and I roll my eyes at Valentine's Day. But tell me again the tale of the lost sinner, purchased by the King of the Universe and I'll weep and clasp my hands like a love-sick school-girl. Real romance moves me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I can’t seem to catch up and I hate to move on, leaving behind all the unimportant little things that happen. I’m silly, but dates just stick out in my mind and today makes exactly a year and a half in Arkansas. I realized I’m beginning to conform to the culture. Sunday night, Grandma Sandy offered me a Coke and I asked her “What kind?” She looked at me blankly before answering, “Well…Cherry.”

Just a few things of possible interest before I move on:

Freckles got herself caught in a trap. We rescued her, certain she’d be feeling pretty mellow for the next few days. No such happening. Apparently it was a pretty pathetic trap.

Jacindarella boarded a plane and moved to Peru, with a long-term goal of winding up in Bolivia.

Dathan moved back to Arkansas, one semester short of graduating with his master’s degree, under rather interesting circumstances—involving false accusations and an unjust campus judiciary system. That didn’t stop him from filming several new Homely Hobo videos.

We spent the month of January milking the neighbor’s cow while Olga was in Russia trying to straighten out citizenship issues. Josh Potts was right: milk comes from Wal-mart. The stuff I squeezed from the lumpy udder of Maxine was pure and undiluted labor: unfiltered, unpasturized, unhomoginized. It’s been sometime since my milking days.

President Obama was sworn into office and lied through his teeth when he swore to uphold and defend the constitution. Every action since has been in total opposition of his oath. Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State and Kansas’ own witch of a governor, Kathleen Sibelius has been appointed to his cabinet. I shudder, I quake, I groan. One thing it certainly accomplishes is turning my mind away from politics and back to the nitty gritty of seeking hearts for Christ.

Mom and Papa celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary. In honor of the special occasion, dinner and entertainment were provided by Wynkyn, Blinkyn and Nod aka Stop, Drop and Roll aka Larry, Curly and Mo aka Sin, Cosin and Tangent aka Knife, Fork and Spoon aka Uno, Dos and Tres aka A, B and C etc, etc, etc.

We’re now a family of night owls. Well, sort of. Papa was put on second shift at ConAgra, meaning he works from right after lunch until eleven at night. That’s a little different schedule from heading out for work at 5 AM. But we’re enjoying having the mornings together.

Tommy got himself fired for overstaying at our house. Over speaker phone. We almost felt sorry for him before he confessed that it was a set-up he and his boss had hatched to prank us.

Lydia turned twelve and in honor of her birthday she hosted a tea party. Unfortunately, she has no young lady friends her own age, so her special event was attended by a group of terribly excited young men—between the ages of 20 and 30.

Josiah finished the front deck for our house. Finished with finesse, I must add. It’s simply beautiful, even devoid of his original plan for a grand staircase. We hauled in a load of gravel and added a parking lot out front.

Nathaniel turned twenty-five. Twenty-five sounds so old. At least for my brother.

I set a new personal running record: five miles in fifty-four minutes.

Josiah’s been writing rap for some time now and it’s been steadily growing better. He brings pieces to me, pleading for help and the concept finally rubbed off. I never intended to show my first attempt in that genre to anyone but him, but he enjoyed rapping it so much he wanted to show it to Zach and then the cat was out of the bag. I’ve never labored over a piece of poetry, but that style certainly requires effort, so I take off my hat to those who make a regular habit of it.

Judy was admitted to the hospital for a blockage in her stomach and gave all of us something of a scare. I’ll confess I had no clue whether or not she’d ever come home again, but the Lord cleared up the blockage and brought her home safely. Of course, their car gave up the ghost not long ago, so life is a tight circle of daily happenings for them.

This week I navigated the streets of the Kansas City metropolis in snowy weather all by myself. Well, Josiah was with me, but he’s no help when it comes to navigation. It’d been nearly a year since I’d seen my grandma—my Mom’s mom, so we decided to make the trip. “This is so much fun,” said my eighty-two-year-old grandma who runs a hundred miles an hour (as long as her pacemaker battery is charged), “I’m so glad we get to spend time together without any adults present.” Because at twenty-one, eighteen and eighty-two, we’re all still kids.

That’s all the measurable changes. My mind has been busy running a million different directions. I started over again in the Old Testament in January and I just wrapped up Second Chronicles. I’m always in awe of the concept that I am God’s temple—and He has chosen to indwell me. I find myself lying awake at night trying to fathom God—His size, His majesty, His eternity, His beauty, His power, His glory, His love. It’s when people try to accuse me of being smart that I feel most stupid, knowing I lack wisdom and understanding and feeling foolish in my vain efforts to understand God or to plan His ways. But always, always His ways are good. Dissatisfaction and restlessness have been pervading my attitude for the past several months—some for my spiritual good, some reflective of my selfish tendencies. I can’t bear the thought of mediocrity, or status quo Christianity, so different from the life of Christ. I rage against the expectations of the world, and also of conservative Christendom that seems so content with so much safety, tranquility and comfort and would counsel me to be as well. Yet, how am I set apart and holy? In my raging, I forget that idealism can be a lovely thing when applied to oneself, but a devastating poison when prescribed for others. And I neglect to remember that God was no fool when He placed me exactly where He placed me and that my part is to joyfully submit to my authorities and to sing His praise with every tone in my body and trust Him to orchestrate the majestic symphony of time. I always come back to the same lessons, like a dog chasing her tail, alternately confused and enthusiastic. Obviously, I didn’t earn God’s favor.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I had thought I’d be lonely, but I turned out to enjoy spending the day alone. The house was so warm and cozy in spite of the pouring rain that I wound up in shorts all day, working out, writing, reading, Bible studying and playing the piano. Yesterday’s musings now have a melody—I like it, I think. At least I like it today. Would I had recording equipment.

Freckles was rather delighted to see me in the morning and we took a romp together. I will never cease to be amazed how quickly she can cover the ground. With me running full throttle, she loped at my heals, periodically springing up to nip my backside. No doubt she thought the surprised gurgles I made meant I enjoyed her performance. By pinching her mouth shut I soon set her straight and we played with less awkwardness thereafter.

If Michael Card and I were exchanging brainwaves, we couldn’t have been thinking more alike. As I listened to his newest CD, “The Hidden Face of God” (a Christmas gift from Nathaniel and Lauren) I was blown away by the similarity of his thoughts and words to my own from last night. His music weeps with the simplicity and intricacy of agonizing truth. How real is the pain of the world. How real the deceiver who delights in our suffering. How real God’s infinite love for a world at enmity with Him—though He can’t bear to even look upon our sin. How real the grief and wounds born by Jesus, our Healer. How real the redemption through His blood. How real the hope to which I now cling—fully assured that through every heart-ache, every sorrow, pain or grief, the Lord is working for good, for beauty, for His glory.

Lord, aid my sin-dimmed eyes to see
Thy plan throughout eternity
The workings of Thy majesty,
‘Tis Thou defines reality.

When truth and my perception part
Renew my mind and cleanse my heart
To put my hope and trust in Thee
In theory and reality.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Early this morning, through the haze and fog, the rest of the family loaded up in the car for the trek to Kansas City. I do feel ever so slightly left behind. How must Papa feel? He came looking for me several times during the day, no doubt lonely. I spent the day sorting through, throwing out and cleaning the whole house. It hardly needed cleaned and I’d just been through everything in my room. I’m thankful for the plenty that I have, but I just have too much! Being with Grandma, I’ve felt guilty constantly turning her down for gifts.

“Do you like it?” she asked, displaying her pink and silver china. It was very nice china. Not really my style, even for china, but still very nice. I knew what she was really asking and hastened to assure her I liked it, but didn’t want any china. I just don’t. Ever. Why in the world would I want a fancy set of dishes that I might use a couple of times a year, but when I do have to treat like…well, china. Not to mention all the space they take up for having little real purpose. No, Grandma darling, I’m just not a china person. I’ll pencil myself in for a nice set of stoneware or something and a pile of plastic for kids and fun times and that will do it for me, thank you. Papa beats me out on practicality, though, with his affinity for white Corelle. Color me something a mite more cheery, please. Useful, yes. Colorless? I hope not. Poor Grandma. I think she must have offered me half a million different objects, all of which I attempted to turn down graciously. She must think I’m the most persnickety person ever. I know friends have often lamented their inability to find me something appropriate. The mainstays of womanhood—jewelry, lotion, perfume, knick-knacks, purses, candles, decorative dishes, even flowers and candy—all of it is wasted upon me, I fear. Ah, but kind well-wisher, simply find me a good book or a box of fine tea and I will love you forever.

Or a nephew or niece. That’s always a winning choice of gifts. Our Christmas package arrived from Nathaniel and Lauren and I had strict instructions to try to get Mom and the crew on the phone while Papa opened it. Which I did. The ultrasound was taped to the back of Michael Card’s new CD. The family was delighted, but not terribly surprised. After all, Nathaniel had seemed terribly anxious for us to get this package. And he’d dropped hints like, “I think you’ll like it,” and “It’s something Lauren and I made.” Lauren’s mom cried when they told her. Her dad punched Nathaniel in the stomach and said, “What are you doing getting my daughter pregnant?!” Then he laughed. First grandbaby on both sides. This will be one spoiled baby. I’m betting on red hair and brown eyes.

We interrupted our quiet day of study and cleaning for an appointment with Kelley, the realtor who sold us our house. The mission: to look over a property in which Glenn and his family are very interested. Snatching up my camera, I followed Papa outside and nearly rear-ended him when he stopped abruptly. “Do you have any keys on you?” I grinned sheepishly. Oddly, I had contemplated my key ring long and hard and finally opted for leaving them lying placidly in my desk drawer. Apparently he had done the same. There we stood, looking at our feet, locked out of the house with no keys to the pick-up either. And the hidden rock with the hidden key proved to be better hidden than either of us remembered. Finally a phone call to Josiah revealed the hiding place—in the shop cabinet of all places—and we retrieved the keys and went on our merry way. I’m not entirely sure Mom was wise when she chose to leave me home to take care of Papa. He and I are two pleas in a pod. For some reason the whole house filled with smoke this morning, thanks to the fire place in the living room, and neither of us could tell why. And I completely forgot there was such a meal as lunch until he came looking for me, his tummy growling like a cornered grizzly.

The house proved to be Arkansas epitomized. At least four-score and twenty outbuildings on ten acres, with a home about half built. But it might suit the Schriebers just fine and we told them so. It’s always difficult to try to render judgment for someone else. I’m not certain I know what they would and wouldn’t like. “It’s spacious,” I told Glenn on the phone. “And seemed very solid, structurally.” Like I know anything. I didn’t even think to check the plumbing.

One last project called my name when we arrived home and I wouldn’t have heard my phone ring except the vibration alerted me. “Aw,” I thought, for once in the mood to chat with some unknown friend, “I wonder who is calling me?” I whipped my phone out of my pocket and read: Taylor. Nevermind. I do believe Josiah makes and receives at least as many calls on my phone as I do.

A quiet day like ours would be incomplete without a sudden burst of activity on the telephone. Sure enough, come supper time, suddenly the whole world remembered our number and decided to find out if it was still connected. Probably the most interesting was ZW from Washington (as he told me), a grandson of a friend of Grandma's, living in Fayetteville and very lonely. “Something bad” happened to his wife, by some other man, while he was overseas in the military, he told us, and she wound up divorcing him because she couldn’t view a man the same again. Then he was in a terrible car wreck and now has a back that barely supports him. He moved here to be near his daughter. And he’s been feeling pretty down-low and lonely. It must have taken some courage to call some complete strangers just because your grandma recommended it. Or some sheer loneliness. What a sad story. He can’t be very old and already his life is ruined. Or so it seems. What might the Lord have yet in store for him?

Isn’t that the truth for all of us? Don’t we all have ruined lives? Even the most picture perfect person is empty without the filling of the Holy Spirit. Broken. Helpless. Wounded. Fallen. Fearful. Deserted. Hopeless.

Ah, but the Great Physician heals all wounds and brings beauty from ashes. I’m clinging to that promise for tonight and for every night to come for the rest of my life—until I see Him face to face and He wipes away every tear.

See this fallen world is wounded,
Bleeding, broken, stained and scarred.
Yet Thou knowest all our frailty
For Thy body, too, was marred

Beyond beauty, beyond grace.
This fallen world tore Thy back, Thy hands, Thy feet, Thy face.

Lost in anger, pain and sorrow,
Each wounded woman, each scarred man
Lashes out in tiger-fury
And drives each nail in Thy hand.

Beyond beauty, beyond grace
This fallen world tore Thy back, Thy hands, Thy feet, Thy face.

That first wound that grew and festered
Passed from Adam’s sin to Cain’s
Each single sin a foul rejection
Each wound a deepening, spreading stain.

Until the climax of this sickness
Cried “crucify!” in wounded rage.
The greatest wounds, the cruelest sorrow
Could heal the pain of every age.

Beyond beauty, beyond grace
This fallen world tore Thy back, Thy hands, Thy feet, Thy face.

Wounded for this world’s transgressions,
Scourged to purge away our sin
By Thy wounds, our own are healed,
By Thy piercing, we are sealed,
By Thy death, the cure revealed:

Beyond beauty, beyond grace
Thou rose and conquered sin and death to heal the human race.