Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No documented evidence remains for all the damage I have caused in the last months. I should be relieved. Instead I am disappointed. How will I ever remember all my mistakes which God has kindly redeemed?

It seems as if it has taken eons to arrive here, and now that I am here, I hardly know what I should do with myself. Sure, I have some goals. But what if I actually reach them? Then what will I do?

Lydia’s answer seems reasonable. “You should write an auto-biography.” I’ve never wanted to write an auto-biography. Why would anyone want to read about my life? Why would I want anyone to read about my life? When the time comes that I change my mind, I’ll wish I’d kept my journal more faithfully. “You’ll be famous someday,” she said. I doubt it. The facts are these: God has been very gracious to me and gracious through me and I am humbled. I know the exact location of entrance for any good found lodging in my heart, mind or life.

Marked off for the year are such projects as: assist with Enoch’s birth. He’s here. He’s arrived. He’s dark headed and dark-skinned and growing like a yeast bread. And Elijah adores him. Five weeks in Tulsa both dragged and flew. Elijah bloomed in that time, his speech turning from broken English to complete sentences, his answers changing from parroting to “yes” and “no.” We spent hours together “studying” and listened to every heartbeat we could locate through my stethoscope.

“Listen Jijah’s heartbeep?” he’d ask, picking up the earpieces. I’d press the diaphragm over his heart and he’d listen, mouth open in a smile of awe, big brown eyes fixed vacantly across the room.

“What does it sound like?” I’d ask.

“Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom,” he’d say the rapid thumps. Then he’d make another request, “Listen Booyah’s heartbeep?”

The diaphragm would press against my chest and he’d listen again, his eyes shining.

“What does it sound like?”

In a deeper, serious voice, he would respond, “BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.”

Every morning he’d bid me good-bye as I headed out the door to school. CNA school. My class at Interim Health Care threatened to drown me with homework, but once I found the balance between memorizing the book and passing the test, the world became a bit more sunny again. Perhaps something inside me secretly hoped I wouldn’t like it. That it would be too hard. That I’d be able to come away from the class saying, “Well, I finished that, but enough is enough.” Or maybe I feared it. Or maybe I feared liking it. Or maybe I liked fearing it. I seem to get an awful lot of kick out of anxiety. At any rate, in the end my fears—or were they hopes?—were not realized. Once clinicals began, early mornings at a nursing home and then a hospital, I discovered that white scrubs were just my thing. Even if they were still too big. So much to learn. So many people to help. So much perspective, character, life to uphold, strengthen, encourage and—love. So much opportunity.

Apparently the stress was still enough to pack on the weight for me. In the class final, paired with my seatmate, Brittany, I stepped on the scale for her turn demonstrating taking height and weight. She slowly inched up past one-hundred. At one-twenty she looked confused and started to bump the weights back down. “Keep going,” said the proctor, a little, firm lady of whom we were all terrified. And she did. Past one-thirty. Past one-forty. And she finally stopped at one-forty-three. We looked at each other and blinked as she reported the number. “Now,” the proctor chuckled, “would you like me to take my foot off the scale?” After that tense moment, the rest of the test seemed like a breeze.

A few of my classmates dropped by the wayside as we went, but seven of us finished and graduated and scheduled our state boards. I just didn’t think I should take anything for granted and I stressed about the boards, too. Stressing always helps my performance. No? Tell that to my knotty stomach. Taking Hannah Marie as my “patient” helped relieve some anxiety. In the end I became convinced that the goal was to pass CNAs—as long as they were not safety or health hazards. So I received my certification and came home.

After a couple of days of flurried cooking, cleaning and rearranging of Lauren’s house, that is. Where Mom now resides, calling me to ask where undiscoverable items are lurking. I usually don’t know. Oops.

Here I am now, the proud possessor of a CNA license. A nursing school hopeful. Owner of an almost new car--my inheritance from my Grandma who has gone before me. Trying to wrap up a recording project for my dad. Trying to finish editing a book. A theology book. How can I even begin to explain in a way that will sound like non-fiction? And trying desperately not to get entirely sucked into the presidential campaign, while studying history, Austrian and Keynesian economics, the constitution, and the current state of our country. I can’t decide if my life is making more or less sense every day.

“What is your life goal?” read the essay question for a very profound scholarship contest. That choice of words was deliberately made to suggest sarcasm.

My gut reaction? Well, eventually, I’d like to die.

Yes, that is my life goal. I will be satisfied when I come to death and know that the hard part is over. To me, death is a finish line at the end of a race. It would be easier to run, I think, if I could see the finish line. But, no matter. Life is work. It is pain. It is toil. It is tears. Death is rest. Because death isn’t destruction. Not for me. It is the end of work, pain, toil and tears. It is resurrection to new life. Perfect life. Holy life. Rest. I will no longer feel tiredness, confusion, distraction, temptation, fear, guilt or doubt. Death marks the beginning of life. Real life. Perfect priorities and perceptions. Eternal worship and joy in the Creator.

Almost every day I wake up and think, “I wonder when I will die?”

It’s not like having a sword hanging over my head. It’s like waiting for a promotion.

Oh death, where is thy victory?

Thou now art something I embrace

Not as a chasm fixed and dark,

But as a passageway to grace.

For thou art but a hall to peace,

So sure my soul may be in Christ,

Who triumphed over death and sin

To pave the way that leads to life.

Wednesday, July 21, 2011

Sleep hung over me heavily like a wet blanket as I felt it first in my spirit and then in my senses. At first I thought dark smoke rolled and hissed around the room just out of reach of my bed and then I stiffened as the spiritual presence thickened. The single word “demons” bolted through my mind. Here? In my room? What did they want? Did they think they could claim me for my sins? Did they think the holes in my heart bid them entrance? Who had sent them and how had they gained admittance to my room?

A finger of fear stroked the back of my neck, but it was chased away almost immediately by a powerful Name. Say it, the depths of my heart urged. Say the Name.

Aloud, I said, “Jesus keeps me sleeping or awake.” His righteous wrath and vindication sprang to my mind. “He will bind you and cast you into eternal torment. You know that.”

Beside me, Lydia slept soundly.

The darkness in my room thinned as my muscles unknotted. I rolled over and whispered into my pillow, “Thank you, Jesus.” Then I went back to sleep and slept like a baby.

I have no idea whether it was dream or reality, but the truth stands like a powerful sentinel. Jesus keeps me sleeping or awake.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

“Wait for Yahweh; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for Yahweh!” ~Psalm 27:14

Frankly, I really detest the hiccups. Uncontrollable, they are. And embarrassing. It’s impossible’s cousin trying to behave like a sophisticated adult and carry on an intelligent conversation when every other sentence is broken up by an insufferable “hic!”

Lydia has been leaching her amusement out of me these days. In the past, she discovered that humming or playing or singing only a few bars of a song would send me into continuous replay mode, humming it all day, entirely unaware that I was even humming it. She chose real hum-dingers of songs, too. “What are you humming?” she’ll ask, and then giggle, when I suddenly realize I’ve been busily humming “Blow the Man Down” or “Bill Grogan’s Goat” while rolling out pie crust. But the last few days she’s been giggling because, all on my own I’ve been humming two golden oldies from two ancient movies. Try “All I Want” from My Fair Lady and “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof. She thinks it’s funny because of what it suggests, I suppose. And perhaps, with the combination, all I want is a rich man. Now, wouldn’t that be lov-ely?

As technology would have it, hauling my load of internet work to the Dtown library didn’t prove very beneficial. CenturyLink apparently was experiencing technical difficulties, since their network connection was not much better than our own. I gave up on several items of business, but managed to relist everything on Ebay and discover a rather interesting message on my nanny profile.

I must confess, when I put up a profile on, it was not a very hopeful affair. Sure, I wrote a nice bit about myself in an effort to trick poor, hapless parents into believing that I am responsible, professional, capable, smart and talented. But I realized that the number of caregivers looking for work was vastly higher than the number of parents advertising for care needs. In fact, it looked like my profile was quite likely to be lost in the smelting pot of “I can take care of your kids” pages. I’d “applied” for a couple of old postings, just in case those folks hadn’t found anyone, but never expected anyone to actually find me.

Signing in today, I saw a new ad up—“Christian Family Seeking Christian Live In Nanny.” In Cville. Curious, I clicked on it and took a look. Christian. Homeschooling. Wanting like-minded nanny. Fifth child on the way. Live on a ranch. They looked like fun, but I couldn’t handle live-in, nor even full-time, and it was far enough away to make a commute not something I’d volunteer.

I clicked over to my profile and, lo and behold, Christian Family had sought me out. “Your profile caught our eye,” the message read.

Curious, I ran a search over caregivers in their area. I’ll bet it caught their eye. Standing out bold were the first few lines of my profile, declaring to the world that I was homeschooled, liked to be outside, could handle large families, etc, etc.

This one is certainly a more promising lead than the guy contacting me about tutoring for his son. English tutoring. He sounds like a second-language English speaker. His situation sounds far-fetched. He’s far too compliant. Doesn’t seem to care about the price…or how far his son would have to travel…or the fact that he’ll be in Canada and he’s never met me, done a background check or has any idea as to my qualifications. Oh! But he wants my address—my physical address, not a P.O. Box—to mail a check. And my phone number and cell phone number. Perhaps he’s for real and I’m losing a good client, but every fibre of my being shrieked “RAT!” I’m not sure what his game is. Maybe he’s an identity thief. Maybe he’s a forger. Maybe he’s a stalker. Maybe he’s a bored fourteen-year-old. I wrote him back an exorbitant price and asked for a bunch of corroborative information. Oh, and I gave him my credit card number. Just kidding.

Miss Nancy and her husband, Walt, joined us for supper. She sounded so ticked when I called the other night to invite them. She’s a super lady and a sharp cookie. Walt, too. Nancy described Berlin in the nineteen forties, where her family lived for just a year before the Berlin wall went up. She had to be air-lifted out when the threat of Russian attack forced Americans to flee. Walt experienced the war at home, in a cotton field, full of sun-burnt POWs cheerfully picking cotton by hand, glad to be away from the war and well-fed. His father, who had left home at twelve and never progressed past third grade, had become a sought-out engineer making improvements to the cotton gin.

I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into women’s health. The clockwork of the female system is a delicate balance of power and productivity. Once again, with growing understanding comes growing sadness. Because most women have no clue. And many health care providers really don’t understand the female functions, either. Because of this, women are all-to-willing to take the easy route now, cheerfully oblivious to the hard road they might encounter later. I can’t even tell you how horrible a monster, packaged in a tiny, pink pill, that birth control pill is. Yet here it stands, a pillar in so-called women’s health. A staple in the American woman’s diet. A hero in the American drama.

I swallow a sigh because I really had hoped to be studying First Peter in depth. Ryrie’s Basic Theology lies forsaken and alone on my bookshelf. And “Run, Baby, Run” whispers alluring suggestions to me, from beside it. I know if I dare to pick that book up, I will not put it down again until I have rushed through it, start to finish.

Instead, I read a few chapters in Psalms and Proverbs and scurried about my day.

Lord, it is so very hard to be in two places at once. How can I be both here and there?

One thing I asked from God, my Love,

That where He is, there I may be

That dwelling in His house above

I’ll gaze upon His majesty

And gaze, unhindered, in His face,

Where death can touch me not, nor fear,

And then in realized faith, His grace

Will be the hand that draws me near.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

“Thy hands made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments.” ~Psalm 119:73

“Abigail!” Lydia exclaimed from the other side of the room. “How about just one of us talks? Okay?” She’s been saying it rather a lot lately. The reason is simple: since Josiah has left, she and I have developed a distinct habit of saying exactly the same thing at exactly the same moment. Answering questions, commenting, offering advice, even making snide remarks. Far, far worse a connection than I ever shared with either of my brothers. It’s not occasional. It’s almost constant.

I’ve never in my life been such an emotional roller-coaster. I try to pinpoint it to a time, a place, a cause, but I can’t remember. Just when did I become so emotional? I say that, like it is true, but I don’t even remember. Perhaps I have always been this up-and-down.

Apparently, I ride with dignity. The other day Mom commented, “You are such a calm, logical girl. Very much in control of your emotions.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I shrugged.

I suppose that does make me appear unemotional.

This morning I felt strong, determined, hopeful. Two realtors were scheduled for visits and I had a plate of possibilities to pursue online while my parents negotiated. Somewhere in my heart of hearts I believe I must have been hoping we would find a realtor who could work with us to get us what we wanted.

But alas. Alas. Alas. The real estate system is set up like a trap, closed to all but the chosen club. And should one of those chosen club wish to break the caste system, to step out of protocol—well, he is sewn up into a straight-jacket that hardly allows such deviation from the norm.

At lunch Papa began to talk of online marketing ourselves. Trying to get our website better optimized to catch web-shoppers. I wilted. I don’t know enough to accomplish the competition necessary online and I don’t believe I will ever be capable of it. Top rankings in search engines requires money, the right website, the right smarts and…well, the right product. I just doubt that a private website for a single house is ever going to bump out established sites like and ReMax. It’s not because our site isn’t pretty. Or well organized. Or well-done. It’s just that people don’t usually Google for homes. They go straight to sites they know of, if they’re smart enough to know where to look. If not, they Google to find MLS listings. I know enough to feel pretty certain I can’t bring in the traffic necessary to sell our home by our website. I feel like I’ve been asked to compete in a barn-raising with a rusty hammer and a few bent nails. The other team, of course, has a truckload of power tools.

After lunch, I sprawled across my bed and cried. Covertly, of course. I cried out to God that my heart hurts. It just hurts. I plead to know when I will be through this—this grieving? Is it grieving? It feels like grieving. Am I grieving the loss of focus? The loss of depth in my relationship with the Lord? But the Lord has been with me. I have not lost Him. He has not lost me. He cannot lose me. Am I grieving the loss of my idealism? That perfect is so out of reach that I must struggle and fight to simply survive? Am I simply battling? Daily aware of a struggle I forgot existed. I don’t know what hurts. I just know my heart is heavy.

A walk in the sunshine and fresh air stirred me up and made me ready to keep fighting. I pulled on my jacket just to escape, to be free with the breath of the wind in my hair and the kiss of celestial fire on my face. As I walked, my spine prickled with determination. God is doing this! He has divinely purposed difficulty and even sorrow in my life to make me strong. Courageous. Because I trust in Him. Can’t I see how dependent He has made me? Pleading for ideas, for creativity, for stamina. Pleading for help to accomplish what must be done.

Dog-ugly is the correct descriptive to describe the hideous creature that came barking and snarling out of the woods at me. Rather a large bulldog of a mutt with a ragged mouthful of sharp teeth. Disgusted, I raised my arm over my head and pointed straight into the ugly beast’s tan-and-white face and shouted, “Get out of here! Go home! Go!” She stopped, taken aback, before beginning her charge again. I stomped and shouted my order, staring her down. She slinked backward and waited until I continued on my way, still wary, since I dislike turning my back on a hostile canine. “Go home!” I ordered one last time, as she slinked along behind me. She picked up her speed and made a sharp turn down a side-road. Probably home. I was attacked by an angry dog once upon a time in a land far away as a little girl. My Papa came to my rescue, shouting down my great white attacker with the authority that confidence and rightness lends. I’ve never forgotten the lesson and never been attacked since.

I returned home with a few new ideas pressing at my mind. There must be other holes in this wall I keep slamming into. And perhaps, just perhaps, if I slam into it enough, it will weaken—and crumble.

Either that, or I will.

During the second interview, I eavesdropped as I worked at my desk. “We’re not desperate to sell,” Papa told the realtor. “We own our home—it’s all paid for and we have no other debts. We don’t have to sell right away.” A comforting perspective.

While I stuffed sweet potatoes and seasoned chicken, Mom pinched together the crusts for a Colorado pie for the neighbors. We talked. And talked. From every angle of every plan to keep us through the next year. She’s an advocate of trusting the Lord. Which I know is right, but I’m not good at. I can always argue, “Yes. We have to trust Him. Nothing will happen without Him. But we also have to work hard. He wants us to grow by working hard and recognizing His work in it.” Which is true, too. How can I find that balance? Sure, the lilies of the fields don’t toil or spin…but if I don’t toil or spin, it’s laziness. The answer isn’t to quit toiling and spinning. It’s to get the proper perspective.

We sat down to pray for supper. My turn, and as Papa asked me to pray about what we’d heard today and our options, I was reminded again of a simple truth. Priorities. All day I’ve struggled to lay my head against the chest of my Heavenly Father and just rejoice that I am His. My mind is overwhelmed and occupied by responsibilities and preparations. How can I maintain my responsibilities while seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness? Some argue that my responsibilities are exactly that. But it’s not what I do that makes me godly, it’s Who I worship.

Now I am exhausted. And I just want to go to bed without journaling. Again.

Herein lies a sign that the Lord is teaching me perseverance and determination and discipline. I wrote anyway.

In days when I feel dry as the Sahara desert, it’s encouraging to see any little sign of the green growth of spiritual fruit. He will teach me perspective. He will guide me in prioritizing. He will give me wisdom. He will give me strength. He will use all this dry boring effort poured into stuff that burns up and takes wings to fly away to shape me into a worshiper.

Herding sheep taught David to praise.

Lord, this life o’ershadows me,

O’erwhelmed, I take my eyes off Thee,

But as I grope my way about

This is the truth without a doubt:

That though I take my eyes off Thee,

Thou never takes Thine eyes off me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet.... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long? ~Rebecca Harding Davis

When I signed in tonight, my screen saver flashed a neon message: “Hi Cutie!” This is what comes of telling Lydia my password. And then telling her how to spell it. It’s been very effective for some time. It must have been a couple of years ago that Zach and Josiah hunched over my laptop on the floor of Josiah’s bedroom, trying in vain to imput the proper code. “The hint question is from James,” Josiah discovered, and turned in his Bible to look up the verse. “’Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.’” Zach’s fingers clicked over the keys, “It’s ‘submit.’” He gloated. The screen remained locked and over in the corner, I smirked. Suddenly, both of their heads snapped up and Zach looked accusingly at me. “Is it Greek or something?” Well. And. So? Greek words make good passwords. But now it is probably time to change it. All good things must come to an end.

With a little extra time on my hands today, I caved to the sunshine’s allurement and slipped on my no-longer-white tennis shoes for an out-of-the-house experience. “Wanna go to the woods?” I invited Freckles, and her tail whipped around like a Comanche’s blades. She jumped up for her routine nose-to-hand touch before dashing off for the nearest forest entrance. The only time she stays behind me, while trailing in the woods, is when we force our way through some dense underbrush. Then, and only then, is she more than willing for me to cut the trail. My old meditation haunts have rapidly become brambles and thorns. A sad picture of what happens to the worship places in my heart if I don’t use them frequently. Standing in the sunshine on the bank of the creek, my mind clambered at me. “You should be redeeming the time! You should be praying! Here you are, quiet and alone! Think of all the things and people you have to be praying for!” But my heart argued back, “No! Even a ‘good agenda’ is not always the right one. Here in God’s creation, I am without an agenda. God knows all those needs. I don’t need to talk. I just want to listen.” I tumbled down into the prickly, dead grass and pushed my toes right to the edge of the gurgling stream. Slimy green moss hair clung to rocks, waving in the gentle current. Freckles splashed through the water in a vain attempt to convince me what a marvelous game wading could be. I’ve been talking to the Lord a lot. About the same things. The same people. The same circumstances. Over and over again I’ve pleaded this case or that cause, I’ve sought wisdom or begged for strength. He’s given both abundantly. And He’s cared for me faithfully. I know we are commanded to keep knocking and keep asking and keep seeking fervently. But sometimes, I just sit silent and stare at God’s creation, intricate, minute and always functioning on a perfect schedule, in a perfect order, in a perfect system. He holds all together by the word of His power. I sit silent and I rest in God’s unchanging character. In His eternal providence. In His faithful provision. In His undying beauty. In His matchless power.

Yes, there is a battle to wage. There are those whom Satan is seeking to destroy. There are circumstances that are overwhelming. There are people dying and people being born.

But there is also a Lover who is unhindered by time who beckons me to “Come away to a lonely place.”

Yahweh was quiet today. I heard nothing, sprawled by the creek in the afternoon sunshine. My life did not change. My mind was not impacted by some great new discovery or insight. My time was not poured out in a raging battle. My energy was not demanded by a difficult project. Yahweh was quiet today, and oh! How good He is when He is quiet!

I came to supper hungry. I thought. I guess I wasn’t hungry enough to sell my birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. Though I ate it and was thankful. I refused the cottage cheese. And mushrooms. I’m a pretty agreeable eater, but there are a few textures that just dislike me. Who wants to eat curdled milk? Or crunchy bug-like beans? Or fungus? Ick.

Resolved: that tonight I will be in bed before eleven. So far, so good.

Creation praises You by being,

Let me be and praise You, too.

With the breath You breathed into me,

Let me breathe my praise to You.

Teach me ways that lead to worship,

Make my heart one single word:

“Trust” the nature of my nature,

By Your gaze, my mind allured.

Let me be before You, quiet,

Savoring Your saving grace.

Teach me e’er to choose the good part,

Longing only for Your face.

Monday, January 24, 2011

“How idle it is to call certain things God-sends! As if there was anything else in the world” ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

“You have to shake it,” Lydia giggled, shaking out her wet toothbrush. We were swapping stories from the day. She told the tale of a Wal-mart adventure, picking out cottage cheese. A simple task, usually. Ahead of her, a little old lady intently read the label of a cottage cheese container, then deliberately put it up to hear ear and shook it. Lydia selected her carton and was just ready to move on when the lady halted her. “You’ve got to shake it,” she declared. “You can’t tell if it’s good unless you shake it. It could be all dried up and hard in there. Shake it until you hear it sloshing around.” Politely, Lydia answered, “Okay.” “Now,” Madam La Shaker urged, “Let me see you shake it.” Obligingly, Lydia shook the cottage cheese and nodded her head. “Good girl,” her instructress beamed and moved away. Later, Lydia spotted her tapping fruit.

I’m afraid hers were far more entertaining than mine.

“The church is God’s graduate school for angels,” suggests William MacDonald. We’ve seen it in Ephesians, as Papa has taught, that God demonstrates his multi-faceted wisdom to the heavenly hosts through these helpless, erring, ignorant little people He calls by His name. Peter echoes a similar sentiment when he proclaims that the gospel which was given through the prophets was something into which even angels long to look. And Hebrews tells us that God assuredly does not give help to angels—but He does give help to the sons of men.

I’ve been pondering the subject of God’s invisible servants lately. It’s awesome to think of the Almighty God dispatching these holy, sinless beings as our servants. Not because we are greater than they. David says we are a little lower than the heavenly beings. But because God is greater than they and He has so decreed it. These faithful ministers who valiantly fight to protect the elect, to defeat the enemy in territory he would feign claim, are being taught God’s wisdom through His mercy toward us.

I wonder what it is the angels see. Without a doubt, I know I must be completely ignorant regarding the battle that rages in the spirit realm, while I float glibly through life, whining when I don’t get my own way, sobbing because God feels distant, wondering where is the answer I asked from the Lord, trying to grasp circumstances and see God’s plan in them and suddenly being amazed when God breaks through and celestial light pours over the scene of broken human life. Behind the scenes of my tiny existence is raging a cosmic battle.

A shining moment in the hallway of my memory stands the moment I discovered a portal into the spiritual world. Daniel, a man the angel Gabriel said was greatly esteemed by God, fasted and prayed for an interpretation to a powerful vision. For twenty-four days. Twenty-four silent days in which it seemed God had overlooked him. Then suddenly one day, Gabriel stood before him, saying, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; the behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come…”

And shall I reveal what I understand from this passage? Almost nothing. Except that battles rage in the heavens and our souls are kept and God’s purpose is not thwarted.

So be it.

My words, my meaningless words, they falter,

Here before Thy heavenly altar

How can I praise the Ancient of Days

In a way that will honor Thy Masterful ways?

The angels surrounding Thy eternal throne,

Cover their eyes, crying “Holy, holy.”

Heaven is lit by the light of Thy face,

Yet none can gaze full on Thy infinite beauty.

I let my words fall to the ground at Thy feet

And trust that their silence is ever so sweet

As a fragrance that flows from the love Thou bestows

On a weak-kneed scribe with no skill to compose.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” ~Proverbs 4:23

Oh the nasty, nasty cold, rain that drizzled down from the nasty, cold sky all day today. I like rain, when it’s warmer and leaves behind it the glow of green growing things. Spring rain. Ah, refreshing. But Arkansas nasty, cold Winter rain. Ick. We haven’t seen the sun since Thursday, and even then it was only in a game of peek-a-boo.

Nick delightedly led the way into the kitchen to show me his cooking creations. Crabby Cheese Puffs and Lobster Fried Rice and Deviled Eggs. He was also pretty proud of the fact that he’d made his bed. Mom bestowed a very affectionate pat on his back. Kirby, too, seemed quite willing to have his room inspected and pronounced very orderly. He and Nick have the housekeeping figured out. Nick cooks. Kirby cleans. Together they make a tidy little homemaker. Fun it is, having everyone in on the hosting rotation for church.

Nick shared what he was learning in John chapter eight, and a lengthy discussion followed, regarding the nature of the belief of those Jews to whom Jesus spoke. Papa followed up teaching Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3. There’s a lot to unpack in these few verses as it seems like Paul prays that believers would understand something that is humanly beyond comprehension, then follows it up with a jubilant doxology to the God who can do the impossible. I wish the other guys would be more forthright in sharing what they’ve been learning. I miss Zach’s simple scripture readings and Mike’s practical application studies and the occasional thoughts or provoking questions for Josiah—and even Bobby, Tommy or Dathan. Lord, take control of our hearts and little assembly and teach us to grow and mature in You. Add to our numbers for edification and exhortation and encouragement and accountability. We need more men. We need more leaders. We need more passion. We need more life. We need more iron sharpening iron.

After the meeting and a very satisfying pot-providence, we curled into chairs, couches and futons as Mom read aloud “The Gospel Blimp.” A modern parable, of sorts, with rather a few embarrassing insights. Oh dear. That’s about all I have to say on the subject.

Au revoir!

January 22, 2011

“Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~Matthew 6:34

I just want to curl up, cozy with a mug of blueberry tea and read.

My deep dark confession: I don’t want to journal tonight.

Hate me. Stone me. Boycott me. Shun me. Cast me out of the synagogue. I don’t care. Just don’t take away my book.

Of secondary interest: Lydia has been purging, and doing a right smart job of it, too. In fact, I dare say her bookshelf looks better than mine.

Amber stopped by on her way back from Mountain Home. “My therapist is so awesome!” she exulted. “She assigned me homework of looking up verses to see what God says about my worth.” I stood my iron up and reached for my Bible as we began to discuss some verses. Because self-esteem is not the issue. We didn’t make ourselves. But recognizing God’s work—and ourselves as His creations—that is the esteem we must cultivate. Amber sat on my bed, carefully attaching flowers to a couple of headbands—creating. In the end, she had a couple of fun, new accessories. Creation. Something we learned from God.

I’ve achieved emotional equilibrium. I decided I would never be anxious again. Or discouraged. It’s just not worth the emotional energy and besides that, it accomplishes nothing. I’ve come to grips with the fact that life is difficult, but I can’t help surviving. Until my time comes to die (which blessing I will embrace with rapture *ooh, a pun*), I will manage to survive everything else that happens to me, whether I try or not. I can’t lengthen my life by worrying. And, frankly, I can’t actually shorten it, either. My times are in His hand. So I might as well forget about worrying.

The end.

I told Tabby of my resolution today, via Bluetooth attached to my ear while I deep-cleaned the far end of the house. On the other end of the line, I could hear a moment of profound silence followed by her giggle. “Well, if you’ve really figured that one out,” came her reply, “then you’d better write a book. It would be a best-seller.”

A pause before I rejoined. “Well, I started to…but it was really stressing me out.”

We were having one of our “entertain ourselves at our own expense” pow-wows. First we make a case for why a besetting weakness is so stupid. Next, we point out how that besetting weakness besets us. If you’re ever hard up for laughs, poke fun at yourself. With someone who knows you well. I promise, you know all the best places to poke.

It’s like this: we can’t stand drama. In fact, we often shrug when we see others stressed out and comfort them with words like, “It’s not such a big deal, really. You’ll survive.” Of course, that’s because we have earth-shaking, ear-shattering, moon-melting, sun-darkening, global-warming-kinds of crisis in our lives. You know, the kinds of drama we look back on and think, “That really wasn’t such a big deal. I survived.” That kind of drama. And we are always calm, cool, collected and…you guess it. Stressed out. You try surviving global warming. If the polar ice caps melt, the world will be flooded!

Which is why I’ve decided not to be anxious.

Besides that, the flood is past and promised never to occur again. The world will be destroyed with fire!

I suppose that would cause some global warming. Nothing a new heaven and new earth won’t solve. And the best part is what dwells in the new heaven and earth—righteousness.

Surprising, isn’t it, how poking fun at yourself can bring you into a proper perspective?

Even between the time I talked to Tabby and the time I am journaling when I don’t want to, that nauseating fear of failure has gripped my mind a half dozen times. Yipes! Someone actually bought into my whole “I am a smart person who can tutor your poor child” ad? My hands start shaking as I type a very pert, very professional e-mail response. Do I even remember eighth grade math? I think I can hear my bones rattling. Eek! Did I totally oversell myself answering that florist that I am pretty familiar with RussVegas? Can I memorize a map before Valentine’s Day? What if he wants me to do more work? Am I capable of negotiating? My heart melts into a pool of wax and drains out a crack in the bottom of my shoe. Oh yeah! Those poor homeschool mothers. Are they signing their kids up for class number boring? Maybe I shouldn’t have revealed that I’m a published author. It’s not like I’ve written a Newberry. Can I ever deliver to the expectations I raised with that one? My adam’s apple swells to the size of a grapefruit. And this CNA stuff. Um. What if I totally fail the boards? And what if I can’t make enough money? What if I can’t hold down a job? What if I can’t, you know, do things right?

And then rushes in the determination. I have to. I don’t have a choice. I just will. Other people do it. I can, too.

On its heels gallops the third horse of the apocalypse: his rider’s name is discouragement. I don’t want to become a CNA and work in a nursing home. Sure, CNA sounds like a wise first step in the medical field, as well as a very useful set of service abilities. And I don’t think medical training is ever wasted. But I can hardly bear nursing homes. I really don’t want to tutor. What if the kid isn’t even willing to work at it? I don’t want a “job.”

Last comes the pale rider of emotional numbness. When I suddenly realize that I’m not feeling anything. Sure the anxiety is gone. And the discouragement. In its place lurks a pale, sunless-moonless sort of existence.

You can see why I’ve resolved not to be anxious.

Jesus commanded me not to be anxious.

Ah! But there is a deeper current to His words than my paltry resolution has demonstrated. “Do not be anxious for your Heavenly Father…”

He knows what we need. He provides. That’s why I’m supposed to seek His kingdom first and His righteousness.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a big deal or not.

He doesn’t function on back-up plans like His tiny creations. He just has one sovereign plan. And it includes earth-shattering, ear-splitting, moon-melting, sun-darkening and, yes, some serious global-warming. Followed up by a new heaven and new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Oh yeah! Bring it on!

I’ll probably be hiding in the cleft of the rock until it’s all over.

You spoke the world into existence by the power of Your Word,

And You will slay the prideful devil with the same eternal sword.

This, this power that stretched the heavens from the corners of the sky

Is the power proceeding from You on which a man must feed, or die.

This Word that You spoke, oh so softly, as a fragile, wordless babe

Will be thundering back in glory, turning every word to praise.

Friday, January 21, 2011

“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” ~Proverbs 3:3-4

Today marked the thirty-third anniversary of the founding of the Scott family. Mom tagged along with Papa to school (his idea) and they caught dinner at the Chinese buffet in town. I was disappointed that they came home too full to eat the cheesecake I’d made them.

I called both my brothers to remind them and they still forgot. Silly boys. I remember the year I signed Nathaniel up for an online calendar and plugged in all kinds of reminders of special occasions for him. He was insulted.

Mom and Papa cuddled on their bed, looking through old photo albums and reminiscing. Sometimes you realize that you’ve known your parents all your life and still don’t know everything about them or their past. My folks have weathered some heavy storms. Mom giggled as she reminded Papa of their first home—a little trailer house in a trailer park run by an older, toothless couple named Doris and “Snooks” Snufflebean. This dearly beloved couple peeled their potatoes with a knife, leaving far too much nutritious flesh for my frugal mother to pass up. They’d give my parents the peelings to fry up. I certainly never knew the folks myself, but the names were enough to send me into a fit of laughter. Just watch—I’ll be swept off my feet by a “Snooks” Snufflebean.

“And remember that little neighbor boy?” Papa chuckled. “He must have been about four.” “The red-head,” Mom added. “Yeah.” Papa’s eyes twinkled. “He would ask a question and when you told him the answer, he’d say, ‘I know it.’” I sat up straight. “So that’s where you got it!” Papa nodded, and then a suppressed giggle broke out. For as long as I can remember, he’s done just that. Ask me a question and when I answer, say “I know it.”

Last night I believe a spider was tap-dancing in my throat. This morning it felt more like a bite. But a couple of vitamin C and zinc lozenges knocked the itsy bitsy irritation right down my drainage spout. I don’t stop and thank the Lord enough for my ridiculously good health.

Today’s triumph: I stayed awake during Bible time after breakfast.

Kindness and truth, the Proverb pairs. It’s been simmering in my mental soup all day. There’s a balance there. Kindness without truth can be a wuss. Truth without kindness can be a bully. Kindness and truth. Bind them together inwardly and outwardly. Together they bring good reputation in the sight of God and men. I’m called to tell the truth in love. Stand for what is right, yet humbly. Fight for what God commands, yet gently. Live by the standard of holiness, yet approachable. Merciful. Compassionate.

Lord, Thou art both love and light.

Thy kindness is that Thou dost right.

Yet in Thy holiness Thou prove

That there is room in Thee for love.

And Thou would have me so reflect

The beauty of Thy intellect.

For knowledge makes the foolish proud,

While wisdom lives to love out-loud.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you.” ~1 Peter 5:6-7

Last night I dreamed I was a missionary to the Ghenges River. Only it looked more like the Amazon. Trees that stretched into heaven, silent, verdant, yet holding hidden stories. I kept asking my guides about piranhas as we canoed, barefoot, with our pants rolled up to the knees to keep them dry.

I awoke this morning to a grievous discovery. First it rained. Then it snowed. At breakfast, Papa volunteered to help me as I rescued my clothes from the line, shook out myriads of perfect, unique snowflakes and loaded them into the dryer.

He’s been so tender lately, even as he holds my hand during meal-time prayer, so careful to thank me frequently, telling me “I love you, baby,” every night, and gently saying “Abigail, wake up” when I struggle miserably to stay awake during Bible time. It’s been driving me crazy for months now. It doesn’t seem to matter—little sleep, or plenty—I fall asleep any time I am not going. I’ll be wriggling, trying to keep myself awake, changing positions, sitting up, shifting my gaze. Slowly my body begins to relax. The strength simply slides down from my face and drains out my little toe. My eyes cross, my vision blurs and suddenly I am being called back from a blissful slumber. Not only is it infuriating, it’s embarrassing.

I waded through six telephone book pages of attorneys today, searching, not for legal representation, but for an office cleaning job. Obviously, attorneys are the right kind of people to target with this kind of service. They all already had a cleaning lady. Next I called florist, looking for extra contracting as a delivery girl for holidays. After several of them kindly told me they already had a pool to draw from, I was startled to hear one say, “Actually, yes we do that sometimes. Are you familiar with RussVegas?” Swiftly, I retrieved my jaw from the floor and answered. He quizzed me a little—asked my age, where I lived, if I had another job and told me he did indeed need a “jumper” for Valentine’s Day. And that he would probably call me—and seemed pleased by my offer to come in next week. A very small possibility, but still, after a host of “nos” it’s always nice to hear a “yes.”

Papa was very quiet, pensive as we drove through the slush into a soggy RussVegas. The radio told tales of the sexual trafficking of children at the Super Bowl. Inwardly, I raged against the demons who would dare to destroy what God has made. Papa whistled through his teeth and seemed almost about to speak. That little knot of not knowing twisted inside my stomach, until I asked if he was tired. “No,” came his answer, “Just thinking.” We picked up applications from a fitness center—and then from a few less glamorous places. “I ought to have you apply to some of these places a few days after I do and see if they discriminate based on my age.” His blue eyes stood out, crisply highlighted by his white goatee and golden skin. Handsome. Trim. Strong. But something else. “Are you discouraged?” I ventured. “A little bit,” he admitted, and I began to see more clearly. “Mostly just because I might not be able to finish the PTA program and have to go back to corporate work.” He looked weary. In all my past longings to be a man, I never really grasped how much pressure is really on a man. Sure, when times are good, he can thrive and flourish and grow strong like a cedar in Lebanon. But when times are lean, he not only grows lean, but he watches his family grow lean, as well. Sure, Papa can always find a job—with some heartless corporation that just wants to own him and drive him into the ground with hours and counter-productive activities. That’s what he’s staring at. The possibility of going back to something that slowly sucks out his life. He’s too old for up-and-coming jobs. Too experienced to out-bid the young guys. And too independent to sell his life for stability.

I do think he’d be a good PTA. He’s been good at everything he’s done. I think he would enjoy it. Once upon a time, he began his college career in physical fitness. And he eats up medical information like a caterpillar about to change forms.

I want him to make his goals.

A tiny flame sprang up deep inside me. Where I’ve been blindly stumbling, just trying to help out, battling discouragement and disillusionment, I see. Not a path. Just an attitude.

Kelley at Homeland Realty hadn’t offered much hope when I’d propositioned her about “alternative” routes to selling our home. SharpMLS didn’t seem too promising when I finally got ahold of Mr. Jude T. Smith—a month after my original messages to him. Somehow in all this crumbling economy jargon there must be at least one more little thing I can do to push a little harder. Bingo. I can proposition all the rest of the local realtors. Maybe one will bite, but at least they will all know about our home, have access to our website and know we are willing to pay a finder’s fee. I think I sent a dozen e-mails this afternoon. Tonight I already had two responses. A very pleasant one from Ms. Tabatha at Remax, offering all she could. And a bite. Another, smaller realtor saying, “I’m willing to negotiate. Call me.” Sent from his iPhone.

I couldn’t help grinning as I read the messages to Mom and Papa. It’s like we’re back in the game again. Maybe we can score a touchdown yet.

When your Papa says to you, “I’m so glad you’re not giving up,” you want to keep fighting. At least, if you’re me. I noticed, while working in the barn the other day, that the fighter is reawakening in me. “You don’t have to carry that if it’s too heavy,” Papa told me as I hoisted a rugged, blue-sprayed pallet. So I carried it.

Papa is hoping we can sell the house before his heavy load of classes starts in June.

While cuing up a BBC “Life” episode, he turned to me and began, “I don’t really just want you to get a job to get a job.” Agreed. I was browsing at a snail’s pace. “I would want it to be something that would be good skills for you to have—things that could serve your family. And maybe some orphans.” He smiled as he began to tell me about a CNA training program in Little Rock—two weeks prep for the state boards. It would be a first step toward any medical goal. That could be followed by some work in a nursing home, perhaps. Practical training that would never go to waste, plus some income. Better income than scrapping up odd jobs. I am certain I wouldn’t actually enjoy working in a nursing home. Just walking into the place turns my stomach with the lingering stench of decaying lives. Have you ever smelled hopelessness? Visit a nursing home. Perhaps I could administer hope. And it could be service. And it could prepare me for service. Service often includes stomach turning.

My mind felt numb at the thought of taking training and studying for boards and taking a job. It’s so foreign.

It would be one more tool in my toolbox.

Perhaps my life isn’t as old and stale as it seemed. In this hardest year of my life, past now by three weeks, I can see God carefully laboring and fashioning, while I cried and complained and demanded answers. What He is fashioning, I don’t know. I know the tumult of desires that rages below the surface of my supposedly analytical mind. To be a helper, a wife and mother. I was unaware how distinctly I desired that until this year past. To pour life and energy into lives that God can shape and mold, hoping, praying, trusting that they will join their parents in service to the King. To throw the rope of God’s good news to the lost, to wrap my arms around the lonely, to depend on God for daily life. Somewhere in that mixture is an intense interest in the human heart, mind and body. A desire to relieve suffering, to hold, to help, to heal.

I pray that the Lord would grant wisdom. Is this, too, part of the preparation?

Preparation, I whisper. Preparation for what?

I look at life and I see, all that I have been was preparation for who I am now. All that I am now, must be preparation for what I will become. What is it? I don’t know. Probably someday a wife. Because I stare at my clients at the clinic and I think, “These young women need an older woman to train them to be sensible, pure workers at home.” I am not yet that older woman. I want to walk that path to gain the wisdom and maturity to be that older woman. Probably someday, I will be a widow. Because most of the older women I know are. I am not afraid of widowhood. In it lies rare potential. I hope someday to open heart and home, married or single, to the Fatherless of the world. I hope to be strong enough to help the faint. I hope to have courage to rescue the captives, following in the footsteps of my Lord. To heal the broken. To bind up wounds. Medical training is never wasted. Could this be preparation for what I am to be? But it is not so much preparation for what I will become here—on earth—as what I will become at the glorious appearing of Jesus, when I am forever revealed as I was intended to be. Blameless through Christ Jesus. Glorified through the power of His resurrection.

In mercy, the Lord is carrying me, through a maze of life where I might be lost or destroyed. In mercy, He will carry me to the end. And through the end. To the beginning.

Yahweh, You stretched the heaven above,

The stars tell stories of Your love.

In distant suns the tale I’ve read

Of how You crushed the serpent’s head.

These flaming worlds fell from Your hand

To show that nothing halts Your plan

And You will reign as Lord supreme,

Beginning and the End, and King.

I think I understand the stars.

You’ve named them all, both near and far

And set them as a sign for me

To measure my infirmity.

And yet, I gaze at heaven above—

It is not stars, but me, You love.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

“Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” ~1 Peter 1:13

Inadvertently, I left my laundry dangling forlornly from the clothes line tonight. I hope it doesn’t snow.

“Did you see what I did?” exuded my dear Mother, pointing to the hanging file on the study wall. I paused, noting the empty bottom section. “Did you do the budget?” She nodded, her smile stretching across my face. “You did it for me last week,” I protested. She nodded again. “I miss it.” She what?! For how many years did I watch her performing that hated task, groaning over mistakes, pecking at the computer keyboard, face-palming when an account didn’t balance properly. Not because she can’t handle money, but because she hates computers. I shook my head to be sure I’d heard her correctly. “I miss cooking and cleaning, too.” She added.

As Lydia and I changed into our dusty, dirty, saggy, baggy, stained and distressed mode of dress for an afternoon of outdoor enterprises, she commented, “This outfit makes me feel like I’m ten. Because this is how I dressed when I was ten.”

I looked her up and down, taking in her puppy-covered fleece sweatshirt and faded denims before I responded. “This outfit makes me feel thirty, because this is how I dressed when I was thirty.” I tossed my classy flats aside and pulled on my no-longer-white tennis shoes.

Lydia rolled her eyes and let out a huge chicken squawk. A very good one, in my opinion.

I raised my eyebrows. “A chicken?”

She snorted. “A chicken laying an egg.”

“Because,” I tried that one on for size, “that’s how you dressed when you were a chicken laying an egg?”

Some things are only funny to sisters.

In the next instant she’d drawn her hair up into a poofy bun. “Who do I look like?” she asked, critically eyeing her reflection in the mirror.

I made a very reasonable attempt at a guess. “A chicken?”

“No,” she rolled her eyes again. “It’s a sticktight.”

I blinked. “A sticktight?”

“Well, no,” she huffed. “That’s not the right word, but it’s like sticktight.”

I blinked a second time. “Like sticktight?”

She made a helpless gesture. “You know. It sounds like ‘sticktight’ but it’s a different word.”

If I only blinked twice in the course of a conversation, my eyes would get very dry, so I blinked again.

“It’s like when a person is stuck in a box.”

And the light came on in the dusty attic of my brain. “Oh, you mean a stereotype?”

Pleasure oozed out every pore in her body and she beamed at me endearingly. “Yes! It’s like a stereotype holiness hairstyle.”

My mind came alive with a mental image—a sticktight decked out in a poofy, holiness hairstyle. “Sticktight, huh?” I said, and we cracked up again.

If you’ve never been a sister, you just wouldn’t understand.

The barn claimed our attention, as Papa attacked the stored lumber with a vengeance, throwing boards down from the rafters which he deemed “old” or “decrepit.” Discrimination at its finest. “We need to saw them up for firewood,” his voice drifted down from ten feet in the air. Dutifully, I trudged off for “my” pathetic corded girl-size chainsaw. Salvaged from a broken pole-saw. Plugging it in, I primed the engine and fired it up. It gave two wheezing moans and sank into a deep slumber out of which I was unable to rouse it. “Try the Skil saw,” Papa suggested, as another board clattered into the dust at my feet. The Skil saw made more promising noises, but after chewing through a couple of pieces, I heard Papa’s whistle far above me, in the world outside my hearing protection. I stopped sawing and looked up. He looked pensive, a dimple peeking out from the corner of his white goatee. “Why don’t you pile those up and I’ll knock ‘em off with the chainsaw in no time.”

A very sensible idea.

“Were you singing while you fixed supper?” Mom’s voice broke into my thoughts as she handed me a sudsy plate. We’ve been hand-washing the dishes most of the winter this year. Short Josiah, we just don’t make enough mess to merit running the dish-washer.

A second was all the time I needed to make a quick reconaissance into recent history for the answer. “Yes.” (“Lamb of God” to be exact. Before I drifted off into a brown study running mental facts and figures to test the wisdom of drop shipping and web-marketing and supposed success rates. This is undoubtedly the reason that food sometimes gets better done than could be desired, when I am cooking.)

She pointed toward the condensation beading up across the window. “Well, you steamed up the windows.”

In other news, I finally have arrived. At my long-awaited goal. From across the dinner table, Mom plaintively commanded Lydia to stop growing. “You just look so grown up these days!” she complained.

Lydia looked pleased.

“That’s because she’s wearing my clothes,” I reminded the family. Only half a joke.

Papa looked over his plate at Lydia, who had discovered how deliciously distracting the potatoes were, their flavor enhanced by too much attention to herself. “It’s true,” he added his opinion. “They make her look sophisticated.”

In retrospect, perhaps it is not I who have arrived at the goal: sophisticated. It could be Lydia. But at least it is because of my clothes.

Jacindarella’s study of First Peter inspired me, and I made a quick read today. This man’s life and legacy stand out to me as a stark contrast in strength and fragility. From a work-man’s standpoint, I see Peter as the strong, brawny, hard-worker. From a religious stand-point, he was unlettered and untrained. He had a Galilean accent. He smelled like fish. But he was humble. Pliable. Passionate. And devoted. Even though his mouth ran ahead of him like a herald, he meekly took rebuke and sought restoration time and again. Once upon a time, he said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man!” Later he declared, “Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In this letter, he pleads with believers to keep in mind the precious blood of Christ and live in holiness. Stop and consider how personal were his words, “The precious blood of Christ.” Peter, the fragile stone, who slept while this precious blood dripped from the body of his praying Lord. Who stood beneath the cross of his Beloved Master, agonizing over his denial, as this precious blood dripped away Christ’s life. Who raced to the tomb and found it empty. Who was restored by the never-ending grace of Jesus and charged to “tend my lambs.” I want to take a closer look at it, drawing the parallels between Peter’s admonishions and the lessons Christ taught him.

For isn’t this what Christ told him? “After you have turned, strengthen your brethren?”

The enemy demands to sift,

Yet in this, is God’s gracious gift,

For Satan, fueled by hate for man,

Is still within God’s sovereign plan.

And God, in kindly love and grace

Has granted Satan time and space

To sift the chaff and purify

That man, his God, might glorify.

For when God turns him back from sin

His soul’s a battle God will win.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

“Lord Jesus, I need to be freed from this self-worship,

Pride takes the stage leaving me as a slave to self-worship…

Lord Jesus, take over this life to produce Christ-worship…” ~B. Morr, Self-Worship

Today I had a grumbly in my tumbly. If I’d recorded my thoughts earlier today, they would have been full of eloquent protestations of frustration and disillusionment. All I can say now is, “Yuck.”

I’m thankful I didn’t write earlier.

If I’ve ever had to repent so regularly for skewed perspectives and smelly attitudes, I’m glad I wasn’t journaling then, either.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

“God has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunshine is a common grace, they say, but today it made me ponder how delicious will be the Sonshine, when it is Christ who gives light in the Eternal City.

Slowly, slowly, Lydia and I are winning the war against the leaf infiltration. They have run out of reinforcements and we are obliterating them, one pile at a time. Perhaps by spring, we will have reduced them all to ashes.

Usually Maggie and Freckles play very nicely. In fact, Maggie is more than delighted with her daily outing, accompanying me and Freckles on the trek down the driveway to get the mail. Today, returned home, she discovered a very nasty pelt in our yard, and when Freckles approached inquisitively, attacked her ferociously, pinning her to the ground and going for her throat. I intervened and ordered Maggie home. Reluctantly, she watched from the hedges, her eyes hard with greed, contemplating the best way to snag her desired object as I kicked the disgusting thing into the woods and sent Freckles up to the house. Later, she slunk back and retrieved it, stealing it away home as her trophy. Lydia heaved an indignant sigh when she discovered a bloody little hole punched through Freckles’ ear.

When we all came down the porch steps, decked in coats and boots, Freckles’ tail reached an RPM of at least 100. Ah, but, poor puppy. As soon as I said, “Good-bye, puppy” her tail stopped and her ears drooped.

“You were talking about me, I know you were,” Lydia accused, trying to hide a grin, as she climbed into the back seat of the Camry next to me. Actually, we were. We were talking about how she perfectly pulls the athletic girl style—with the dress up look of a polo of button-up shirt. Her hair was up in a pony-tail with a black sport head band wrapped around her ears, and the look just seemed made for her.

“We were saying how cute you are,” Papa teased, from the front seat.

“That’s Abigail,” Lydia shot back. “I get to be something else.”

“Actually,” I joined the conversation, “I’ve been demoted. You are the new cute. I’ll confess, it’s a sad day for me to let go and move on, but you have certainly surpassed me. So with great strength of character and fortitude, I resign the title. Wear it proudly.”

Lydia scowled. “Nice try.”

We followed Bruce and April and Jocelyn up highway seven, destination: Pedestal Rocks. On a road that curvy, Papa found his driver’s side tires straying into the center line at times—sending a buzz up Lydia’s and my spine that felt like it vibrated our bodies from toe to top, leaving our hair frizzed.

Arrived, we divided our carrying items and struck out down the trail. “We ought to tie a rope to Speed Boat and just get a free ride,” I heard Mom’s voice ring out behind me on the trail. I hadn’t meant to be walking so quickly, but the rugged terrain, the sunshine and fresh air and the sense of adventure felt marvelous. Arrived at the rocks, Speed Boat Senior (aka Papa) forged ahead with Mom in tow, while the rest of us clambered up and down the pedestals posing for pictures, starting snow-ball fights and marveling at the interesting rock formations—pedestals (surprise, surprise), random holes, fissures, cracks and caves. Not to mention a few used-to-be overhangs. Sometime, when Spring arrives and we are less encumbered by extra clothing, it would be fun to tackle a few of the harder rocks for some climbing.

As we hurried down the end of the trail, April squealed. “Rose hips!” Closer inspection revealed the bright, red berries, sprouting from the slender, thorny stems of rose plants. “Try getting a close up from the middle of the bush,” Jocelyn teased, as I worked for just the right angle with the camera. A twinge of daring stubbornness crept up my spine, and I lifted one thorny branch and slipped underneath. I did get better pictures from the middle, but as I turned to retrace my steps, my glow of pride at braving the bush died. Unknown to me, Bruce had been carefully holding the brambles away from me the whole time. How often do I think myself brave, completely unaware of the Father’s careful protection?

After supper, I settled in to finally start reading “Living the Cross Centered Life” by CJ Mahaney. Once upon a time I devoured books like they would melt in the manner of manna. I just don’t seem to find the time for much reading these days. I know that only One Book is necessary, and I often feel like it lies neglected in various corners of my living space far too often. But as I began to read, it seemed like very appropriate timing. I’ve hated that my life has seemed overwhelmed by secondary importances—theological issues, practical issues, relational issues, life issues, grief issues, heart issues, sin issues, disagreement issues, tissue issues. I’ve been praying and reading, but it’s been because I must, not because I can. I must solve these issues. But prayer is a privilege. In the past it was like walking into the King’s throne room and being invited to sit on His lap and lay my head against His chest and listen to His heart. And reading is a love-story. It’s like stealing away to a secret nook to pore over letters from my Betrothed, learning how He thinks and what pleases Him and what a home He is preparing for me. I needed someone to say to me, “Abigail…only one thing is important…it’s the good part that Mary chose…sitting at the Lord’s feet.” Meditating. Focusing. I needed someone to push aside the clambering “needs” and take me by the hand and lead me back to the cross. At first I felt stupid, ready to attack myself with condemnations that would delight my enemy. I should know better. I know what the One Priority is. Or Who, rather. But that isn’t the point, either. Condemnation, Mahaney reminds me, is also eyes not fixed on the cross. My answer is not to condemn myself for folly or blindness, but to give thanks for God’s indescribable gift.

Lydia padded softly into the room and scooted down beside me. “It’s still early,” she whispered. “Will you do something with me?”

Then comes the wrestling. Is it selfish that I want to be by myself with the Lord? That I don’t want to do something with her? Is it because I want to “feel better”? She’s lonely. I don’t know. Only One Thing is important, but other things are still important.

We discussed the virtues of various books and finally read Little House on the Prairie, snuggled up in bed with our heat blankets set on 9.

As I sat against the back wall of my bathroom—my study—just pondering the Lord’s character—His goodness and His mercy and His faithfulness—words from the Preacher in Ecclesiastes came back to mind. “There is a time for every event under heaven…” Berating myself for my lack of joy and passion lately, perhaps I have forgotten that sometimes there is a time for sorrow. A time to mourn. Even to mourn before the Lord. Because some of the things that break my heart must also be sorrowful to Him. He doesn’t delight in inflicting pain. He doesn’t smile on a wayward path. He hates divorce. Divisions are like wounds in His own body. He can’t rejoice in seeing His blood trampled as unholy. As I opened up to read the Preacher’s words, I nodded. “In much wisdom there is much grief and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.” It seems, as I plead for wisdom and understanding, I discover more that grieves me. Yet which is worse, to pursue folly in blithe ignorance, or to seek to know what is right only to find that the road of obedience is rugged? But again, the eternal perspective refreshed me. “He has made everything appropriate in its time.” Even weeping. Even mourning. Even silence. Even uprooting. The purpose? To put in our hearts a longing for eternity. “He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning to the end.” I don’t have answers because God does not intend me to know in this life what His purposes are. Why He tarries. Why He permits. Why He withholds. Why He is silent. In unfulfilled longing is hope. “I know that everything God does will remain forever, there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already, and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.” And here is the Divine Parody—that even in mourning, even with a heavy heart, the gospel is still my hope. Because mourning turns my heart to eternity when all will be made right, when I will finally be perfected, when I will know fully even as I am fully known. And what is my guarantee? Christ’s work on the cross, proved acceptable by His resurrection. This is my promise of purpose. Him. Who fills all in all.

It’s still and quiet in this place,

You meet me here with saving grace.

You met me with this grace before

When I first owned that You were Lord.

And since that day, Your grace has been

The light that I am walking in.

When darkness has obscured my view

Your grace has turned my eyes toward You.

Friday, January 14, 2011

“I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” ~John 17:15

Overachiever that I am doomed to be, it’s a rare thing when my marker board turns up empty at the end of the week. I’d done at least all I could on every task. Every to-do wiped clean. As I wiped the last one away, I stood in awe. Well, thank you, Lord for your mercy.

We were eating supper when Freckles excitedly informed us that an intruding car had pulled into our parking lot. Soon Olga was inside, delivering eggs and chatting. Again Freckles barked, and we heard Justice’s steps on the porch. It was far too cold to bide his time in the car. We invited them in, passed them pieces of pumpkin cheesecake and settled in for a chat. We talked up and down all kinds of subjects and then Olga began sharing that she’d been reading up on some Russian culture lately. Things she remembered, but remembered differently, having been away. Looking back, she realized she’d never seen any “disabled” folks. Her study revealed that the Russian government had developed a tidy way to hide them away—essentially forgotten by their families, kept only among other disabled folks for their entire lives. “Anyone ‘irregular’,” she said, with disgust at the thought of considering them “deformed” or “undesirable.”

“You’ve been reading a lot in Russian, haven’t you,” Justice asked suddenly, as she finished what she was saying.

“Well, yes,” she answered, smiling.

“I can tell,” he explained, “Because your vocal patterns are different. You’re using lots of indefinite articles like ‘a work’ instead of ‘work.’”

Thus launched a very interesting discussion of Russian grammar. “Which is more difficult?” we asked, as she tried to explain at least half a dozen Russian tenses and the change it made simply in a noun. “Russian!” she declared quickly. “I’d rather speak English any day.”

Tonight I knelt on the cold tile in my bathroom, trying to pray—for so many people about so many situations. Overwhelmed with helplessness, I finally just opened to the simple prayer Jesus taught His disciples and began to personalize it. Then I turned to John 17 and read. All my life, I’ve begged the Lord to break me, pour me out and use me up, but I’m afraid I was overly confident. I’m so exhausted. So emotionally drained. I have been for several months. And I haven’t even come close to touching the life I have prayed to lead. Struggling to feed myself, not feeling like I’m being fed from anywhere else. All year, it has just seemed like one situation after another has sucked away my emotion and passion, and I have been helpless to refuel. I’m completely empty. I have nothing left to give. I’m shot.

And I’m so disgusted with myself. Why can’t I feed myself? Why do I come away from Bible Study still exhausted spiritually? I’m so stale. There’s no passion left for evangelism. I want to turn and walk away from anyone who spouts folly about God, instead of probing for their conscience. Where has my love gone? Where is the bold Spirit that used to come upon me? Where is the strength that once upheld me? The joy that drove me? The compassion that motivated me? Why am I shriveling up? When I’m years removed from true persecution, why am I moaning like a wounded animal? The Lord upholds prisoners in solitary confinement, He can uphold overdramatic me!

But the Lord Jesus’ words as He prayed for those whom God gave Him, sent a small fire back into my soul. I’d knelt, struggling to pray for others. Struggling to pray for others that I’ve been praying for with no visible results. Struggling to know what to pray. Weary. No words to speak. No direction to aim. Wondering if anyone has been praying for me? I’ve not been asking for prayer. Everyone seems to have so much already burdening their hearts and minds. Can’t I muddle through without troubling anyone? Can’t I handle these little loads that come my way? Can’t I even feed myself? There in the Garden, as His life and His heart were ebbing away, as He awaited His betrayer, as He prepared for separation from His holy Father, when He was drained and empty, He prayed for me. He prayed that I would glorify the Father, that I would continue in God’s name, that I would have full joy, that I would be kept from the evil one, that I would be made holy through God’s word, that I would be unified with my brothers and sisters, that I would love as He loves and that, someday, I would be with Him. And if God heard Him on my behalf regarding sin and my just punishment, as proven by His resurrection, then I rejoice knowing God heard Him on my behalf in the garden.

I am weary, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, feeling nothing

Empty words I’ve heard are only the reflection of myself.

But when Christ, my Life, knelt lonely in the Garden, pleading pardon

For my soul, that I’d be whole, and wholly yielded to the King,

He was heard, His words were spoken from a broken man, yet God

Found them pleasing, for this reason He was heard, His every word.

And I’m trusting that His pleading for the life that I am leading

Will be proven as I’m kept from death, His breath my daily bread.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

“When you pray, rather let your heart be without words than your words without heart.” ~John Bunyan

I woke up a half dozen times last night, thoughts conceived, ideas forming, plans about to be delivered. Lying in bed, covers pulled up to my cold nose, I regurgitated data I’d subconsciously taken in back in our early days on Ebay, running mental calculations, forming a selling model, and weighing risks. I think I might know a small online business venture that will pay its own way. But it could have waited for its hatching until daylight and left me to slumber in peace.

My father has certainly raised an odd crop of children. Sometimes I look back on the day’s happenings and simply chuckle. Now devoid of sons, he packed his girls up in their coveralls and trekked out in the woods to cut wood. Not so surprising or odd. But when the lawn-tractor, to which we’d attached a trailer to haul logs, showed a tire puddled up into a flat mess, the really interesting began to happen. Lydia and I made a super team, as I jacked up the tractor and she retrieved the green slime and began to take careful measurements. Actually, the jack was too tall for the lawn tractor, and I had to pick up the rear end while she shoved it under. After chocking the wheels, of course. She showed me how to take out the valve needle and pump in the slime, then I hauled out our bubble of compressed air and pumped it back into a healthy donut shape. Viola. Back to business. After we finished, Lydia was dispatched to disconnect the battery cables, to save the battery over the winter months.

I’ve gotten used to doing odd kinds of jobs myself, but the humor is hitting home to me now that my thirteen-year-old sister is out-manning most of the men coming out of Americana college life. And teaching me a few techniques in the process.

"Where’s the salad spinner?” I asked aloud, a floury tortilla-to-be in hand, as I opened cabinet doors and peered into shelves. On the other side of the blanket that partitions the living room from the kitchen, I heard Lydia pause in her piano practicing. But that was the extent of an answer. A salad spinner doesn’t just disappear. Especially not our watermelon-sized contraption. Baffled, I went in search of Mom, the forever reorganizer, to discover if my missing tool had been relegated to the back shelves of some distant cabinet. No such luck. Returning to the kitchen, I opened the door to the cabinet where it should have been, just on a whim. And there it sat, calm and contented, and very obtrusive. Exactly where it had not been five minutes before. “Lydia!” I hollered, and the piano stopped again. “What?” came her innocent response, followed by a giggle. She’d misplaced it while stowing away clean dishes and decided it would be funnier to replace it than to ‘fess up.

I sat before the Lord today feeling entirely empty. Empty, but at rest. I read nothing. I prayed nothing. I thought nothing. But I knew again that I was before the Lord. That there is not a hiding place on earth I could be that He is not, not a word I could whisper that He would not hear, not a tear I could cry or a smile cross my face that He would not see. And I walked away, silent, but calm.

Why do I strain and weep and plead

When Thou art all I want and need?

And Thou art He who hast pursued

Me with Thy mercy, rich and good.

I cannot be more close to Thee

Than Thou hast worked through Calvary

And resting in Thy risen Son

Has made my soul, in Thine, as one.

I wrestle with Thee for Thy grace

And plead to see Thy precious face

When Thou hast lavished grace on me

And promised for eternity

To be my sun, my shield, my light.

‘Tis Thou hast vict’ry in this fight!

Thou won the battle before time.

Why should I need a surer sign?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

“One thing I have asked from Yahweh, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of Yahweh, all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Yahweh and to meditate in His temple.” ~Psalm 27:4

It’s rather a humorous moment in time when you discover, while pressing your clothes, that your breath is creating more steam than the iron.

I was valiant when I pulled on a skirt today. And I actually wore it for close to half an hour, before I took pity on my poor, shivering limbs and changed. Papa and I arrived early at the Internet Marketing Conference for which we’d received tickets. We stood in the sunshine streaming from the cafeteria window and watched as other guests arrived, most not conforming to the requested business casual. Poor, I thought, as I watched them file in. Many of them seemed to be on the low side of the bell curve for income. Of course. That’s why they would be at a free internet marketing conference. Who could blame them? Stores Online Inc. was emblazoned across the polo of the gentleman who took our registration and pointed us into the conference room. Where we sat. And sat.

Finally our speaker, Mr. Mike Webb, took the platform. Papa whispered to me, “His father is named World Wide.” How appropriate for an internet conference.

He was very up-front about extra costs, realistic about effort required and reasonable about expected results. He pumped up the audience with declarations of his honesty and the quality of Stores Online’s help. Expected. It was a promotional dinner. And he offered great prices for great services. At least, from the sound of them. “You can check this out for yourself!” he declared over and over. But he never gave us the chance. At the end of the day, he was offering impressive exclusive rates for a workshop—if we could qualify and if we signed up before we left the room. What about checking this out for ourselves? What about research. “If you even have to stop and think about this price,” he insisted, his eyes wrinkling up, “then you’ll never make it. You’re just one of those do it tomorrow folks that never does it.” All around me, folks agreed enthusiastically. Someone needed to take a shower. Of course, as he’d pointed out, on the internet, no one cares who you really are.

We filled out our questionnaires to see who would and who wouldn’t make the grade to qualify for an invitation and exclusive rates to the workshop. I filled in the answers I knew they were looking for. I couldn’t wait to get started, I marked. And I was willing to put maximum effort into it. Because I’m not so introspective that I can’t see what’s coming. My name was called with the rest of those who qualified. Almost everyone. Immediately, they hustled to the back of the room to register for the workshop and pay down their money.

I sat down to eat my free sandwich.

Whether he noticed me in particular or whether others who had received certificates of qualification were also missing the invaluable opportunity, I don’t know. With an air of great patience, Mr. Webb carefully explained that the opportunity was only good until we walked out of that building. We couldn’t call in later, hoping to catch the workshop. We couldn’t show up at the workshop without registering. As soon as we left, our lovely little certificate would be worthless. Our certificate that said we were worthy to attend a training workshop and receive a free netbook because we put down the right answers on a short questionnaire. Anybody that wanted the opportunity to go should have known which answers would have been considered worthy.

He looked straight at me from across two tables as he spoke and I smiled at him and ate my pickle.

“It makes me sad,” he said, after a drink of water, “to see people drowning. But I’m doing this for you. Some of you even qualified and aren’t going to do anything about it. It makes me even sadder to see someone drowning and to throw them a lifeline and watch them refuse it and continue to drown. I can’t help you if you won’t even help yourself.”

He had gone out of his way to be very reasonable. He’d encouraged us to be reasonable and to think reasonably about whether this was something we could take on and succeed at. He’d been up front about fees and costs. Didn’t he expect us to think reasonably about it?

It might be a legitimate business. It might be a good deal. I’d have loved to do a bit more research later and consider it. But if they’re so confident that they can deliver, why aren’t they willing to give us some time to back check them? I pondered if he was paid a flat fee or a commission based on how many attendees sign up.

As I’d listened to the presentation, I was overwhelmed by the subtle seduction of greed. “You’re here because you want more money” and “you wouldn’t be here if you were satisfied with how much money you have.” They offered free, then they offered cheap, to get you into a program that promised to teach you how to make more money. Sure, it was a marketing conference. I expected it to be all about money. Mr. Webb hyped up the audience and built up their trust by insisting that Stores Online Inc. works to make money for them. Sure. Nobody works to make money for someone else. Or at least, if they do, it isn’t intentional and they don’t market it. I watched a group of folks, none of whom looked lavish of money, write over big checks without a second thought, paying for the chance to make money. And I wondered how many of them would ever actually reap back that price. The play on greed and impulsiveness disgusted me.

I tucked my certificate into my computer bag, pushed my potato chips aside and ate my brownie.

We arrived home and sold the dining room rug for more money than the workshop would have cost. I think maybe we’re doing a-okay selling online, for now. Thank you, Craigslist.

I found my heart exposed in Psalm 27. And I found His heart exposed in return. “Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for Yahweh.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

“Around God is awesome majesty, the Almighty—we cannot find Him; He is exalted in power; and He will not do violence to justice and abundant righteousness. Therefore men fear Him; He does not regard any who are wise of heart.” Job 37:22-24

The sun rose today, bright and clear, and I snuggled under the covers, enjoying my morning off from making breakfast, while Lydia reluctantly slid out of bed. These cold mornings dawn and I long, every one, for Tuesday and the luxury of staying curled up in a cocoon for just so much longer.

I made the acquaintance of Lydia’s snowmen and admired their stately six-inch tall forms. I loaded mountains of laundry into the washing machine and, for once, courtesy of the snow-covered ground and chill air, passed them on to the dryer. Lydia cracked herself up by listening to Michael Card on high speed dubbing and made fun of me. Apparently, she spoke to me and I continued on in my own world, but when Freckles came scampering up to the window and she greeted her with a “Hi Beautiful!” I responded. I caught up with Tabby while exercising the treadmill belt and Jacindarella while stirring together a pot of chili and a tossed salad. I marked off to-dos and avoided to-don’ts.

These are the days when little of value seems to transpire.

We spread out on Mom and Papa’s bedroom floor to finish reading “Exploring Planet Earth”. A little below my age-level, I know, but an interesting read non-the-less. I surprised myself with how much I knew and remembered, especially of more recent history--air and space travel. But then, my Papa did work at the Kansas Cosmosphere in my wee days and I vividly remember much of that. I found the contrast between believing astronauts and unbelieving astronauts to be so distinct. Believers recounted that they couldn’t imagine how a person could not look back at the earth from space and be in awe of the Creator. Unbelievers puffed themselves up. The Russians said something like, "We were up there and never saw God so He obviously doesn't exist." Just how small of a God were they looking for? Because the God they didn’t see is the God who sprinkled the stars like dust from His fingertips and unrolled the heavens like a mantle and holds all things together by the word of His power and dwells in unapproachable light. They were staring at a universe He humbles Himself just to look at and marveling at its vastness. Did they expect Him to fit inside His creation?

Each moment, each pondering, reveals to me again how powerful, how eminent, how huge is the Lord God Almighty. He teaches the Monarch butterfly to migrate from Canada to Mexico where it lies dormant all winter. He equips the ant with wisdom, ability and teamwork. He instructs the grete to swim and the flying fish to soar. He provides nectar for the bee and dung for the beetle.

Yet at the end of each day, I feel forsaken.

No one can shake my trust that an all-knowing Creator has left His fingerprints around me. No one can prove to me that He is empty air. No one can cause me to forget His care of me in the past, His mercy, His grace, His joy poured out on me. Those truths are fixed in time and space with the certainty of gravity and the necessity of air.

But at this moment, I see the natural world around me, awash in His care, guided by His wisdom, basking in His touch, and I weep. Because I am pleading His wisdom. I am begging His guidance. I am seeking His truth. I am craving His presence. I am starved for His filling. I only want to know, Divine Judge, if I am doing right.

I am lonely. I am pining for Yahweh.

For an answer, I hear profound silence.

And in my tears, I am wrong. For I have suggested that I am a more devoted Lover than God. That I have sought Him with more passion than He has sought me. That I have sought to battle for right and have been forsaken by the righteous King. That I have tirelessly sought an audience from an ever-hearing Lord and have been refused admittance to His presence. That while I have emptied my resources and provisions, He has withheld from me the strength to continue. I have supposed that because He is so huge as to overflow all time and space, that He is distant from me. That while He is tending the sparrow, He has forgotten that I cannot fly.

He has not.

If Thou art silent, God on high

When I cry out for reasons why,

When I weep, lonely, hungry here

Thy voice, Thy Word, Thy pow’r to hear,

If Thou art silent, when my heart

Is rent and broken, torn apart,

When understanding flees my breast

And sorrow haunts me in my rest,

If Thou art silent, when I weep

And doubts o’ertake me like the deep

When everywhere Thy smile seems laid

Except the dust of which I’m made,

If Thou art silent, though so strong

When morning seems to tarry long

And joy has fled my heart and mind

And truth seems vagrant, hard to find,

If Thou art silent, as Thou art

And speakest not within my heart

Then teach me, in Thy silent face

To read pursuing, haunting grace.