the ponderings of a mother

These are the ponderings of a mother in love with her children, both in my arms and in the grave. Some of these ponderings are quite emotional, some are funny, others contemplative and spiritual. All are sincere. May these writings bless you in many ways and bring you closer to the one, true God and Redeemer of all things.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Where do we go? A Funeral Sermon at Christmas.

This is my sermon I wrote for and shared at my grandfather's funeral. James T. Boyd left us December 10, 2013. It is also written for any who sorrow, for any reason. Peace and rest to you this season. 

Oh God, where do we go from here? Where do we go when the patriarch passes while loved ones are left to refigure life anew? Where do we go with the unanswerable questions… and even deeper pain? What if there are regrets, unspoken honor, and unfinished conversations? Where do we go with longings cut short by uncontrollable events?

These are difficult questions made to feel even more piercing by the Christmas season we find ourselves in.

Around us is the glitter, the music, the magic. The fury of the shoppers and the excitement of children. Yet to those in our situation it feels like a blur as our hearts sit heavy and still, blindsided by loss unforeseen.

Death, tragedy, pain, bring up these questions like this. Do they not? They creep into mundane life. Even as I was writing this sermon I realized I hadn’t saved my document, so I clicked on “save as” and instinctively typed “Grandpa’s Funeral Sermon”.  I felt my heart ask “Is that real?”  So, I looked out the window of the library as the birds flew over a frozen river and tears came again. I want to hear him say “Hey, kid” with arms wide open. I want to see the joy on his face when he holds my children again. I don’t want it to be over.

For those here who ever prayed a prayer of any type I am guessing it was a prayer for something or someone. These prayers may begin with “Lord, I need…..”, “O God, Please help my friend……” “Can you change this circumstance…” Good things to ask of God, He says bring all of these requests and needs to him. He even teaches us different ways to do so in the Bible. But where do we go when we have prayers and longings in our heart that can’t be answered with a change of circumstance? When the prayer of “God, I cannot bear this, I want it to be like it was” simply cannot be?  How do we make sense of and where do we go with such a helpless feeling?

I remember, almost 3 years ago now, when we gave birth to our stillborn son, Jonan. I was unprepared for the feelings of emptiness awaiting me when I returned home from the hospital. No more aching back, no more kicks in my belly, no more hope of new life. I remember lying on my bed after his funeral, soaking my pillow with tears, and realizing I have no idea how to pray. I have always prayed for something. Please fix this, please change that, please provide this. But what I wanted was Jonan in my arms looking at me and cooing. But I couldn’t have that. And so I was lying there with the very first question I asked a few moments ago; a question many who hurt for one reason or another ask: “Oh God, where do we go from here?”

And that can be a terrifying place to be.

It challenges our own comfort, how we make sense of the world, and how we make sense of God. We are stripped down and unless we have something powerful, something real, something that transcends our own mind and heart we end up stuck and really, truly not knowing where to go from here. We may find ourselves hearing and offering the ‘pat’ answers like “It was for the better” “God needed him in heaven” “God never gives us more than we can handle” “Heaven needed another angel”  “There is a reason for everything”

Yeah, I have said those things, too.

But one of the reason these words don’t often bring comfort we long for is because glib words can never offer the peace our souls are looking for at a time like this. They are too small an answer for a story as large and complicated as we find ourselves within. I don’t mean our individual stories of our lives. Though they are very important. I am referring to the story with a capital “S”. The big, cosmic Story. A story that, though doesn’t take away the sadness, is big enough to give us peace with unanswered questions.

I want to take us for the next moments to a space where our souls can rest. Even amidst a season with all the glitter and bows and cheer, there is a space prepared for those who grieve.

You likely know the story somewhat. Mary, full term pregnant, and along with Joseph was travelling to his hometown for a census.  They made the long journey, likely by foot, and to no surprise, she went into labor.  Because of the census and everyone travelling back to their hometown, they were turned away from the one place they were sure they would find rest: The Inn. But they found, instead, everything they needed in a dirty stable in Bethlehem. And I would say to you: I think we might, too.

Allow me to briefly set the stage before I read a few verses from the Bible. Let’s go back to the beginning. Well, there was God. God is love. Out of this overflowing love He creates a phenomenally complex and beautiful world for his pleasure and enjoyment. As one of my college professors often reminded us about the amazing universe: the outermost rings of Saturn…are braided. He would say “What kind of God braids rings of planet that no one will see or know about for thousands of years?” He would continue with a smirk “I would like to meet that God.” This being we call God creates earth and heavens so full of beauty and pleasure and love and peace…and joy it makes us ache inside, even to this day, when we catch a glimpse. From that place, He creates humans. Us, you and me. The crown of His creation.  And he says it is very good. Then he does something I will never understand: He gives them freedom. I have to say, if I was given the opportunity to create something more perfect and beautiful than I had ever imagined or known, and then when I am done I have the ability to keep it great and wonderful forever or make it vulnerable to someone else… I just may say “Let’s just keep it as is. It’s perfect, beautiful, they can still enjoy it, and I just don’t want it to be subject to them.”

But God wants more than perfection.

He wants us. Our hearts. Our sincere love. He wants us to choose Him. So freedom it is. And you know the story, the apple, the serpent, the blaming. He made me do it, she made me do it. The talking snake made me do it. And that was it. Paradise lost. Loneliness enters, pain enters, death enters. So, if all this: the pain, sadness, life not working the way it “should” doesn’t feel right to you, it’s because it isn’t. We long for more than this… because there is more than this. We ache for more because our hearts are made for more. This is not how it was meant to be. We are in a world gone awry by sin. And it affects everything.

So for thousands of years people live separated from God. He gives them opportunities to come close. You may remember the 10 commandments where God gives a basic way to connect with Him. Like Commandment One: “There are no other gods but me”, don’t waste your time talking to gold and bowing down to stone. I made the gold and the stone. I live, and I can actually answer you when you cry out. Or Commandment Six: “Don’t take the life of someone else”…they are made in my image, I love them. Or Commandment Ten: “Don’t envy what your neighbor has” come ask me for what you need and trust Me, I delight in your asking, I do not shame you for it.

But it’s a rough road through the Old Testament. God’s people follow then lose their way, then figure it out again. And throughout it all these people called prophets pop up here and there. They are people sent by God to tell everyone what is on God’s heart. What He’s thinking. Like any good parent, sometimes it is correction when they have lost their way, sometimes it is encouragement or hope when they are weary or discouraged. I want to read here some words from one of the more well known of the prophets, named Isaiah around 500 and some years BC.

Isaiah 65:17 “For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. …no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who only lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days…”

These are the words from the heart of a God who is saddened by what was lost in Eden more than we ever could know.

Then we move on 5 centuries or so and we come to what are known as the Gospels, in the New Testament. The new story. I will read from Matthews and Luke’s words. Matthew quotes Isaiah who lived so long before him because Matthew was among people were waiting and longing for redemption.

He quotes (Matthew 1:23) “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

And Luke, recording the details of this God’s arrival on earth, tells us (Luke 2:10-12) “…the angel said to them ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

This baby. This God. This God-man who we call Jesus, he grew up and taught about this new way. This new Kingdom. He would walk around and talk with people. Crowds would gather hanging on to every word he said. He would hang out in bars, and homes, and synagogues. He would tell them about what God’s heart is like and why they long for so much more than they experience. He taught them to pray to God the Father and say “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” But what is or was this kingdom? And what does it mean for it to come on earth? Well, He would teach them in stories called parables. If you read the gospels you will see Jesus often saying “the Kingdom of God is like…” this or that.  He used common parts of their lives so they could better understand what God the Father was like. He told the story of the Good Samaritan to help them grasp God cares for all people; he told a story about a lost sheep to tell the great lengths He would go to just for one us; He told a story about an estranged son who came home and a Dad that embraced him that we may understand the extent of His mercy.

Sometimes I think about what Jesus might say right now that the Kingdom of Heaven is like. I wonder how he would take the things in our life and portray his heart to us in this moment. I don’t know, exactly, but I do believe He might stand here and say, “The Kingdom it’s like… family and friends grieving the loss of a father, a friend, a brother, a grandfather, an uncle, a husband and they receive My comfort. It’s seen when I offer space for them to come and instead of hardening their hearts and hiding behind a past they regret, a future full of unknowns, or pain that cuts so deep, they come close to Me just as they are.” He might say, “The kingdom, Kimberly, it’s like this…it’s the legacy of a broken yet faith-filled man named Jim who plants seeds of faith that go on for generations and generations that bless the hurting world that I love until it is all made right again. That, Kimberly…that is the Kingdom.”

So as we live into our grief.  As we live with this new reality.  As we move through the Christmas season and it seems there is no room for our pain as there was no room for Mary and Joseph. And when you wake up Christmas morning and it is unlike any Christmas you have known before as reality sets deeper and deeper. Remember that Christmas is not about what is going on at the Inn, out in the village, it’s not about the magic or bows. It’s about that which the Magi sought, and the Angels sang: that which is inside the stable.

So where do we go from here? We go to the stable. We go to the God that held back nothing to redeem us. We come and peer into the manger cradling a baby and we realize it’s not “being strong” or “staying positive” or “moving on” that God asks of us. But we realize it is okay to be weak and vulnerable before this God who became weak and vulnerable to save us. And so, as “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” plays on the radio and you know we will not “all be together” and our “troubles are [not] out of sight”, or when scenes play in your mind of what you wish you had or had not done, or your heart beats for conversations that simply cannot be, and your arms ache for the hug that won’t be returned: go where you know there is space enough to hold these very real sorrows. Go to the stable. Return often to the one they were waiting for thousands of years ago that Christmas Eve night, to the One who has promised to come back again and wipe every tear from our eye: Return to Jesus. Open up your hearts and say “God, Emmanuel. Come close. I know this is not how you meant the world to be, but I know this is not the end. God, as it hurts, oh it hurts, fill my heart with your presence. Help me know you are near.” Let honest prayers to a real God pour out. And particularly during this Advent season as the world moves on in festivity and caroling, remind yourself that the very first Christmas was as much about those who sorrow as those who rejoice. Remind yourself that the baby is also God…who overcame death so we could know Life itself.   Remind yourself of the classic Christmas songs like “Hark, the herald angels sang, ‘glory to this newborn King’”, “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel”,  and “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

Because if this stable can contain the One who braided the rings of Saturn, then there is room for our sadness in that stable. There is room for the most broken heart. Within this world that is mingled with pain and beauty, with deep sorrow and new life….God has not left us. Jesus, He is here. He is Emmanuel.

Friday, December 21, 2012

O Come, O Come

Between working from home, basic hygiene, nourishment needs, relational needs, the holidays, oh...being pregnant, a one-year old, volunteering…yeah, I don’t seem to have time for my writing luxury these days. I have missed you all! Thanks for being patient and following along these ponderings with me. True-to-life is the nature of them, so true-to-life is the nature of their frequency as well, I suppose. Well, enough ado. O Come, O Come…

You may notice the title post as the beginning to familiar Christmas hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  During the season of advent our church sings this as the opening hymn every week. It is good reason to get out the door on time! It moves me every week, by Saturday midday I find my soul beginning to salivate for the processional when the crucifix moves by followed by the a cappella voices raising this praise. If you have ever heard this song, particularly live, however, you may recall the somber tone is carries. It is deep and guttural at points. Half of the words in the third line are “mourns”, “lonely”, and “exile”...yet the refrain every time:  “Rejoice! Rejoice!...” The range of emotions in this song captures the way I feel this advent season.

  The first Sunday of advent I was moved to tears during this song; I had caught the eye of an older friend in our church. After years of a good battle, now in hospice, she was attending church pushed in a wheelchair by her husband.  The beauty deep within her eyes has always captured me, it did that morning as well.
We sang:
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Captive. Mourning. Lonely…Words apt for the pain one must feel in such a place terminal waiting.
By the second Sunday of advent I had spent the week praying for a family in our church who just delivered their stillborn daughter; she was just a bit older than Jonan when he was born.  Her mother birthed her on the same floor of the hospital I birthed Jonan.  My heart ached as I remember those walls, resounding with so many tears…generally that of newborns. But not that day.  As we sang that second week the words pierced deeper still:

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

Satan’s tyranny. Depths of Hell. The grave. Yeah, that fits when one finds that grave too soon. And if we are really honest, doesn’t that feel like all whose graves we visit? Never is there enough time. Our hearts ache for more. Always more.  Free thine own, we sing…give them victory o’er the grave. As I have written before, this is either great naïveté, master delusion, or it is real Hope.

The third week of advent, this last Sunday, even the drive to church felt like my heart of just ounces was carrying the tonnage of the van I was driving.  My dear friend’s father passed away as she arrived at the airport, hopeful exchange final words with him. So long since they had been face to face. News to break one’s heart. Then, the next day:

Newtown, Connecticut.

Friday I watched the unfolding story. Restless sleep, awake praying for families desperate for a time machine. Saturday I checked in for updates.  Tears I couldn’t withhold. God, now? Families forever marking their holidays with tragedy? It’s gruesome. Bloody. Sick. Angering. Incomprehensible. And I knew I would have to sing that song again that Sunday.
And we did:
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Death’s dark shadows. Ugh. Dark, gloomy, clouds of night. Yeah, that might scratch the surface for these families.  Cheer hardly seems to be on the agenda for their future, as I imagine they fear.

But every time, every verse…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. The writer holds little back to the misery we all have known in our lives in one way or another. And in our human scales we could say some have known it more than others. But we all know…pain is pain is pain. It pulls us inward, it breaks us fresh, is causes us to question so many things. The interesting part of pain is when it is not us, we sort of want to shield it and keep our happy lives, our happy lives. It is uncomfortable to turn on the television to aerial photos of law enforcement surrounding an elementary school reminding us that even if our little worlds feels good today….all the world is not good today. And when it is our little world struck with pain, it becomes easier to be self-righteous in our pain. All these happy people, they don’t know pain like I know pain.  

Pain is not easy to deal with, and even more difficult around this time of year.  Our culture offers little in this way. Remembering is meant to bring someone close, in a sense, like we do with the Eucharist, Do This In Remembrance of Me, but by the very act of remembering we must face the reality that we have to remember…because they are not here with us. Then we come to a song like this. Like many of the Christmas songs we sing on the radio or in a group somewhere yet miss the depth of meaning for the familiar tune. This song captures the heart of a God who knows, a God who will (and now has) enter our pain. A God who, amazingly, not only wants to free us from captivity…but IS ABLE free us from captivity.  The captivity of death, pain, sin toward one another, toward ourselves, apathy, hatred, gluttony, sloth, oh the list goes on. This is not another god we cannot simply be content with as one god among many…depending on your personal choices because basically all the gods people follow are the same.  I hesitate to sounds so brash, but, my friend, they.are.not.the.same. They are not the same and even a brief comparison reveals this. Find a song like this one about any other God. That contains any historical facts within it at all. And let me know what you find. Find a god that came among us, helpless as a newborn, yet triumphant as a King, able to bridge the great divide of a chasm that (still, at times) feels un-bridge-able. But this little King, He is able. This God who came near. Emmanuel. And he offers us a place for all the tragedy and all the pain and all the good and all the confusion to come together. He gives us a Narrative that explains it all. No, it doesn’t wrap it all with a nice bow, but it does help make sense of the senseless in a time when we seek understanding.

But lest we think this God does not understand pain. Or this is a God that calls us to forget our pain because there is something greater, please, think again. How can the Man of Sorrows also be the one for whom we sing “Rejoice! Rejoice!...”? It is one of those dichotomies of this Kingdom of God’s. Paul writes in 1Thessalonians 4:13 “we do not grieve like…[those] who have no hope.” Too many Believers have used this to abuse those who grieve. They offer meaningless quips of “comfort” that diminish real pain for a “hope” that supposedly causes us to forget that we have real hearts on earth that ache in real ways. One author puts it this way, referencing the verse above:

Paul…was reassuring us that the sorrow we experience in this world is mingled with the solid hope that sorrow won’t have the last word. Somewhere along the line, however, his words have also come to mean that, in some sense, we sorrow less than others. Somehow, because of our hope, we are supposed to rise above our losses. Some believe it is a sign of spiritual maturity not to burst into loud sobs at a funeral or to lose sleep over the plight of [those oppressed] in the world. We should smile bravely, hold our heads up high, and show the world the difference faith makes in the face of grief.

I think, instead, perhaps the difference between how we and the world sorrow is that we sorrow more, not less, and in our sorrowing we are entering in some mysterious way into God’s sorrow. We grieve individual losses, estrangements, prodigals, broken-down lives, the shattered dreams; he grieves a world of losses, a world of shattered dreams…His is the distress of a master craftsman over a masterpiece destroyed- for the way things are is not the way he meant them to be. As we grow in likeness to Jesus, we will be gripped by the same sorrow over what is wrong in this world and over our part in it, and we too will weep.

She continues on…

…But God didn’t give up on his vision. Instead of washing his hands of us, God pursued, and continues to pursue…Trillion dollar bailouts to rescue a flagging economy are nothing next to what God has expended to recover [us]. God himself is leading the rescue effort.

I won’t attempt to add much to her eloquently stated words. That scripture above does not stop at “we do not grieve” but goes on… “as those who have no hope”. So I offer in this pondering that if you are grieving, your loss or for another’s loss, and it seems ill-fitting in this advent season…it is not. This is the season that marks our safety to grieve in the arms of a God who came to us. A God who knew our pains before any of us were even conceived. And for those who have lost their loved ones, their parents, friends, babies…let’s remember together that the oft quoted “spirit of Christmas” is not believing in Santa, angels, or some sort of “magic”, but it is the spirit of Christ. And only in Him is there space for all of us who grieve and all of us who are joyful. There is room.

The song continues:
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Home. Make safe. Close the path to misery. Not many dispute the longing for these things. Too many furry about this season, souls’ ablaze with confusion and restlessness seeking to create magic for someone or missing a magic that they once knew.  Let’s instead seek what the Magi sought… Emmanuel, the one and only God With Us.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Days 5 through 9

14. So being out of town for the weekend visiting friends gave me the chance to simply enjoy life and get my mind off all the daily tasks. I was simply living joy and enjoy moment by moment…it was wonderful!  I am going to count simply living as my joyful gratitude for Days 5-8. The Spirit of the Law, right? J

Day 9

15. Having my first official day of “work”
16. Watching Elsa’s pure enjoyment as she watched a video of herself around 3 months. She could hardly contain her excitement. It was SO cute!
17. Continually sharing this video with friends and family. Enjoy J

18. Having dinner with a wonderful friend this evening.
19. Elsa's soft little fingers rubbing my face as I nurse her to sleep. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4

Day 2

6. Colorful leaves having fallen all over my car when I went to go somewhere in the morning
7. Elsa falling from standing, though gently, and rolling to her back with a look of I am about to cry, but I start laughing because it is so funny…and so does she!

Day 3

I awoke this morning with that immediate feeling I sometimes get when the baby monitor is already blowing up with sound and I am still tired, body and spirit rather unwilling. Then flashes through my mind the remembrance…I have to find three things today! Body and spirit move and inkling more toward willing than the second prior and I find the strength to rise.

8. That overwhelming smile of hers when I walk into the room to get her after a nap
9. Still sitting on my lap after 8 books
10. Being especially affirmed of some particular skills I am working on

Day 4

11. Finding the energy to make a yummy pumpkin roll
12. Elsa saying “Uh-Oh” for the first time at the right time!
13. Finding the song by Elizabeth Mitchell called “So glad I’m here” while in the kitchen cooking with Elsa playing on the floor (you should look this one up! She is a children's folk type singer)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 1

1.  Placing pumpkins and other fall décor all over my home
2.  Receiving a magazine in the mail highlighting the top 50 influential Christian women
3.  Finalizing a job offer for me doing editing from home! Woooo!
4.  A bright tree ablaze with orange only a glances distance from my window
5.  A morning to write on my blog while Elsa slept tight
       So today was pretty easy, so much just handed to me to be thankful for! I did 5 instead of 3 J

31 Days

As I look at this blank screen to begin writing I feel the little inkling of terror a writer faces when they look at another blank page. Yes, the page is fresh and ready for creative prose, poems, stories, or whatever, but it can also hold that tad of intimidation. The wide open white speaks of something yet to come, a creation yet to be seen or invented, oh, and therein lays all the fun! It’s sort of like being young, for many, at least. There is the energy, the idealism, the possibilities. The thought that I could possibly do something with my life that really matters, that really affects history, that matters to real people’s everyday lives.

For lots of people (many? most?) I am sad to report, those dreams get lost in life. Lost in disappointment; lost in pain; lost in disillusionment; lost in plain ol’ doldrums. And I understand how that can happen. I know what it is like to receive one blow after another. I know what it is to be painfully betrayed, to visit the grave, to lose the job, to watch the dream literally fall apart right as you thought it was being realized, to be shut down by those who actually do love you. And I have been devastated by my own ability to do the same to those I love. Right now, I know what it is to feel like survival from one moment to the next is the best hope for my day.

As I have written before, there is a season for everything. Not all seasons are for world-changing just as not all seasons are for only menial tasks. In the midst of my current state-of-survival I am searching for something more. Something, well, a bit more live-giving. Something more God-like. I have allowed my survival state to snuff out joy and this disposition has blinded me to beauty, and ultimately, to God. Basically,

It has got to stop!

I am reminded of the Scripture verse is Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus is talking about worry. Here is an excerpt Matthew chapter 6:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin, Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you- you of little faith? So do not worry, saying "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Now this is not an admonition to stop working and forget about real life, but an encouragement to set our hearts on something different than the daily grind…and the future daily grind that we may worry about. Jesus was not out-of-touch here; the last thing quoted here is him saying “each day has enough trouble of its own.” Boy, do I know that! But the part that strikes me most here is from verse 25:

“Is not life more important…”

I certainly have not being living as if this is true. I can get stuck in the rut of making life work is more important. This essentially equals me working hard to be sure all of life doesn’t fall apart. So my life becomes about survival, eating, cleaning, serving, etc. I have it upside down. The eating, the cleaning, the “making it all work”…these things are supposed to serve my life, my life is not supposed to be just about these things. I spend much of my time worrying about how it all will come together and miss life in the midst of it all.

And I am just plain sick of it. … Is not life more important?

Of course my days will still have food prep, laundry, bed-making, toilet scrubbing, but may they also have a life that is not bereft of gratitude and joy, missing the Source of all good things.

In order to help me do this I am joining in Ann Voskamp’s 31 Days to Crazy Joy. I have never done anything like this before but I have put links here for you to join if you would like. Or at least read about it and follow us who are seeking True Life in the midst of our days. This will go through all of October. My hope is to post each day the gifts I have found in my everyday life. This is stretch for me right now, so please pray with me and for me in this. Because really, is not life more important?

Here is the link to Ann's blog and the 31 Days to Crazy Joy, once I figure out how to make this more pretty, I will do so :) 

holy experience

Monday, August 27, 2012

I don't want to go that deep.

I feel like I really liked Elsa up until about two weeks ago.

Recently, things have been challenging. Not so much because of the sleeping, the eating, or even the crawling…but because of the needing. She seems to fancy little else than me.  I can’t make reason to it, but perhaps now that she is mobile she likes the fact that she can “come get me” any time; perhaps she sees now that she truly is a different person than me and is adjusting to this reality; or perhaps she simply wants to be with me. She likes me. She needs me. And she is, as far as we can determine, a deeply wired extrovert (more on that another time). Not to negate the relational essence born within us all, we just think Elsa may have a hefty relational capacity.  

Last week was simply exhausting. I cannot make my breakfast without dodging around her little hands and feet begging for me to pick her up. She climbs up on my legs and screams. Many times I pick her up, but sometimes I just need to, oh, eat, brush my teeth, pee. Nothin’ fancy here, just regular life stuff.  It is difficult to determine what she wants and she is whinier than ever before. All this plus this inability to do (what feels like) anything is, frankly, starting to wear on me. I enjoy time alone to think, pray, read, write. I like to have a little, you know, s  p  a  c  e. I have relationships where I am vulnerable and honest…it’s not that I am not trying to hide; I merely desire space to disengage or engage to my comfort level whenever I want to... Is that so much to ask?

Apparently the answer is “yes.” And let me tell you, I have a rotten attitude about it. Rot-ten. No two ways about it. If you desire confirmation, please reference Jeff. He can certainly affirm this about me lately. He joyfully comes home last Friday evening for his weekend to a wife frustrated, angry and passing him a baby saying something about how going to work must feel like a vacation. No joy. No grace. And certainly, no dinner.  Just hear about my crummy day and somehow make me happy (though we all know this is a near impossible demand to meet with so much rotting from within).  We manage through the weekend. I sleep in both days with daddy-super-powers taking care of Elsa. By 9am on Sunday morning, I was up and ready to enjoy the day, meanwhile Jeff collapses on the bed after putting Elsa down for her nap. Something deep inside me felt vindicated. “It’s tough sh-t, isn’t it?” I say with a smile. “Uh-huh” rolls off his lips mingling with the drool as the drifts off to sleep. There’s just no other way to say it right now.

About two hours later we are sitting in church when Father Stewart gets up to preach.  He’s using that verse about children and the Kingdom of God. That one from Matthews Gospel in chapter 19 where Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” With the Great Teacher Jesus being in town, many parents were bringing infants, toddlers, and probably older children to for Jesus to bless them (a very important thing in that culture). The disciples were none-too-happy about this. They were trying to keep them away. You can read above how Jesus responds.  This is not just a PR moment for Jesus. (If you read the whole of his Gospels, you may have gathered he isn’t much for PR anyhow.) What he is doing is living the Kingdom, and telling us how to do the same. These are not just cute, innocent children. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. Whoa. That is a big statement. Weighty. A, hey, catch this, listen up, pay attention sort of statement. (Not to mention there is no mention of the innocence of children anywhere in Scripture, there is even mention to the opposite.) It is the openness, the desire, the I-trust-you-and-just-want-to-be-with-you childlikeness to which Jesus is pointing us. This, he says, this is essential to the Kingdom.

Great.  I am utterly guilty. I despise this very part of my daughter right now. When she screams, inwardly I do, too. So, I could hear this sermon and put my mind in an-okay-time-to-try-harder place at home. Knowing full well my attitude has not budged; I could merely feel the burden of obedience rather than the joy of submission.

But I won’t settle for this. I know this is a relationship with a Living God, not a “faith” to which I complacently offer my intellectual ascent.  

Ok, (my attitude begins to begrudgingly bloom)…what do you want to say to me here, God? Help me. Pick me up…

I get the sense within (not an audible voice) that the moments Elsa cries out for me…let those be moments for me to remember my own childlikeness. My own need for God.  To remember my soul really does cry out for the closeness of the Only God who ever came near.  I feel this challenge deep.

Now almost 24 hours since I have heard this call from the Spirit of a Very Near God, I find myself longing to submit. I cried as Jeff and I prayed last night…Oh God, help me see her, love her…like her. I have opportunity even as I type this…she is waking, she calling to me. She is breaking into my oh-so-precious space I call “my own.” But the call I need to remember that my life is not my own as I follow Christ. And that to be in the Kingdom is a call to go deeper than I want, on terms I don’t want to sign off on. Sometimes, I simply don’t want to be transformed at that deeper place. I wish to stay disengaged, aloof at my computer while she eats, reading a book on the ground while she plays. As I offer my will in submission to the One who is bringing the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth, I find I am moving, ironically, into childlikeness…and away from childishness.

Oh, God have mercy on me.

Where is it that God is asking you to replace your childish attitude with a childlike heart? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


August here and I have not posted since June! This points to nothing other than a full summer of activity, family, friends, and visitors. Since my last post we have survived the highest  heat for any July on record; began eating from our CSA box (never a dull week); found a new farmers’ market with better prices than our previous (thank you Iryna!); welcomed a nephew (hi, Luther); and introduced a new tooth into the Pelletier household! Phew. In the cracks we have had three visitors, just as many trips to the dentist (…grrrr), and a couple trips to the city.

Despite all this, we still feel we are enjoying the slower pace of summertime sun. I have begun to write a lot more. Words unposted, but good for the soul. Jeff has begun to exercise(!), Elsa has begun to crawl (!!), and God, well, God remains ever-present. Emmanuel. The God with us. Oh, what a great truth, dwarfing all other realities we may try to construct. So, as I have been seeking to ever bring together the pieces of a life lived full and present… I seek to remember daily, sometimes hourly or more, Emmanuel: God with us. With me. With you.

To be fully present to all my summertime moments I must be fully present to the Maker of all such moments. Though I may sometimes coerce moments to make them more comfortable, pleasurable, easy experiences for me,  I then become un-present to them…seeking only to use the moments of my life, not be in them. So, this summer I have been trying to take-them-as-they-are. All moments. Being present to Emmanuel. So that life is not only God with us. As unendingly powerful and important as that is. But that my life can by Kimberly with God. Attentive and thankful.

I am most certainly a work-in-progress! Envy slithers into my soul without invitation, the god of easy takes me away from my daughter, the lust for emotional-satisfaction drives me and I extinguish intimacy with my husband. But Emmanuel. Emmanuel turns me back and sets soul right. So I turn toward Emmanuel and build and altar of thanks…becoming Kimberly with God in the heat of summer, being ever-refined, ever in need of refinement.

Thanks be to God for all the good things. Grieving the difficult along the way. And offering it all back up to Him for redemption.

Blessings to you all as this summer moves on. Seek Emmanuel. Because He is. God with us. 

And now for the picture collage...of course :)
First up:  A few CSA creations (Community Supported Agriculture, basically we pay a farmer in the winter months so he can grow food for us all summer/fall. We get a box of whatever he is growing every week from June-November. And we get no say in what is grown...that is the adventure part!)
Rice Noodly, peanut buttery, Bok Choy Creation (not our favorite)

Chicken salad with all things from the box. Walla walla onions are my new favorite onion.

Chicken stir fry with kolrabi

Homemade and canned dill pickles, cucumbers and dill from the CSA box :) Can't wait to try 'em out!
Bread 'n butter pickles made with local honey. Cucumbers from the CSA box and honey from our honey guy, Roger. 

Fresh lemonade on one of those grueling days, made with honey from Roger and a touch of stevia. 

Second up: cousins! So happy Elsa has great cousins to grow up with. That was one of the greatest parts of my childhood. Cousins.

Jeff pushing Elsa and cousin Ben during their visit in July. So much fun!
Elsa meeting Luther. She loves him, no surprise...we all do!

Luther Roland Birky fresh from the hand of God. Born July 26, 2012. 7lbs. 2 oz. 20 inches.  
             And Lastly, but need we say? Not least! Elsa Jenae. And need I remind you...her name means "joyful"?!
Out to lunch after church. She enjoyed her first lemon right after this...her face didn't look like this once she ate it. 

Early morning bath in the sink. Gotta have pictures like this for the wedding montage. 

And..pick-a-boo with papa while sitting in the highchair.
Life certainly is joyful.