The TRULY Beautiful People

I’ve spent the last three days with over a hundred bereaved parents.

And they are all beautiful.  

Beautiful in their bravery and their brokenness. 

It was probably the most diverse and HONEST “church service” I’ve ever been to-and it had nothing to do with the facility.  It had everything to do with hearts.  

These are hearts desperately longing to beat to the rhythm of the heart of God.  Hearts that are too shattered to pretend when there is an altar call.  Hearts that don’t care if sobs escape or tears stream down.

And hearts that receive other hearts with open arms no matter if the body that carries them looks familiar or proper or fashionable or is the same color as their own.

It was hard to be surrounded by so many hearts carrying so much pain. 

But it was also beautiful. 

I wrote this last year and was reminded of it yesterday:

We spend so much time, money and effort trying to make our decaying frame look less like the temporary shelter it’s intended to be and more like an eternal monument to beauty.

But try as we might, we are impotent against the forces that will eventually drag us to the grave.

What if, instead, I worked as diligently to exercise my inner woman as I do my too-generous bottom?

Read the rest here:  Beauty That Lasts

Something To Sing About

If you live in the city or a heavily-developed neighborhood you may only see a few birds. But out here in the country, with plenty of cover and a variety of bugs, trees and weeds, there are dozens of species living within earshot of my house.

sing aloud every day

And I love, love, love hearing their songs.

Sometimes it’s the keening wail of a hawk flying high and searching for something to eat. Sometimes it’s an owl calling to its mate or warning off another suitor.  Often it’s the chitter-chatter of wrens or robins or cardinals as they go about their daily business and fuss over patches of ground finding food.

The blue-jays chase the squirrels.

Mockingbirds dive-bomb crows.

Each one doing what it was created to do, not worrying about a thing.

A veritable chorus fills the air.

And at night I get a lovely bonus-a whippoorwill’s voice drifts toward my window through the dark reminding me that not everyone is ready to fall asleep.

All these songs make my heart sing too.

They lift my spirit and fill me with hope.

They remind me that I have also been given a song though I often forget it.

Yet in the light of day, the Eternal shows me His love.
    When night settles in and all is dark, He keeps me company—
    His soothing song, a prayerful melody to the True God of my life.

Psalm 42:8 VOICE

But when I choose to remember and sing, it calls courage to my heart.  

sing anyway 2

 

 

Count Your Blessings?

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

I grew up singing this hymn.  It has a catchy tune and a good message-if the most trying thing you have had to endure is ordinary disappointment.

But if you’ve been devastated by the storms of life, hope dashed to bits on the rock of despair, heart shattered into a million pieces by loss-well then, the advice seems rather infantile and useless, however good-intentioned.

It is useless, if what I’m trying to do (or what someone else is trying to do for me) is pile up blessings on one side and losses on the other and make the scales balance or better yet-tip toward the blessing side.

Because there is NO way to balance losing my son with any earthly blessing.

I have my other children.  Yes, but I had them when I still had him.  I have my health (sort of).  Yes, but I had it when I still had him.  I have a home, freedom, food-yes, yes, yes.  But all that I had when I still had him.

So you see, I can’t make it balance out.  No one can.

But there is a kernel of truth in this hymn.  And it’s not in trying to pile up one side and weigh it against the other.

No.

The truth lies in two things:  First, when I learn to count blessings I change my heart’s focus from what I’ve lost (and cannot regain this side of heaven) to what I still have.  It helps me live forward instead of trying (without success) to live in the past.  It whispers hope and courage instead of shouting death and despair.

Second, counting blessings forces me to see God’s faithful love even in the midst of terrible loss.  It reminds me of Who He is, what He has done and what He continues to do.  It brings to mind and burns into my spirit the truth that God never fails, His Word is true and He will finish what He started.

The Psalmist begins many of his songs with something like this:  “Where are You God?”  “Why have You forgotten me, God?”  “When will you answer my plea, God?”

He lays out his case, his worries, his broken heart before the Lord, begging for mercy, for action, for some kind of observable help.

And then there’s a turn in the song, it’s like a switch is flipped in the Psalmist’s heart-he remembers…

He remembers Who God is, what He has done in the past, how His faithful love has sustained him and continues to sustain him.

Nothing has changed except the Psalmist started counting blessings.  The pile of blessings didn’t outweigh the pile of troubles but it bore testimony to God’s gracious goodness even in the midst of trouble.

That spoke hope and courage to the Psalmist’s heart.

And it speaks hope and courage to mine.

How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever?
    How long will You look the other way?

How long must I agonize,
    grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win?

Turn back; respond to me, O Eternal, my True God!
    Put the spark of life in my eyes, or I’m dead.
My enemies will boast they have beaten me;
    my foes will celebrate that I have stumbled.

But I trust in Your faithful love;
    my heart leaps at the thought of imminent deliverance by You.
I will sing to the Eternal,
    for He is always generous with me.

Psalm 13 VOICE

Bluebirds and Hard Work

So, what keeps my heart tied to this weary world when what it really wants is to go Home and be free of pain and sorrow?  What anchors me to the sod when my soul longs to float away?  What compels me to stay?

Last week it was bluebirds and hard work.

Washing up dishes from a morning cooking frenzy, I raised my eyes to look out the window and there-looking down the chimney of our smoker-was a bluebird.

bluebird

Unconcerned with me he rested for some minutes where I could drink in the vibrant hue of his feathers. There’s just nothing like that blue anywhere but on the back of those beautiful birds-no matter how long I look at one, I always feel it’s not long enough.  Then off he flew to join another on a branch.

It was a gift.

And I tucked it in my heart to pull out later when I needed a reminder that there is still beauty and life in a world that also includes pain and death.

About an hour later I joined my youngest son at his house just a few miles from the farm. It’s an older home on main street in our little town and needs some work before he moves in.

It was carpet day.

So for the next few hours we worked together and by the end of the day we had done it! Carpet laid.  No major mistakes.

carpet-installers

Success was sweet!

I was really just a go-fer and cheerleader but it felt oh, so good to have something work out just as planned.

It felt absolutely victorious!

We sat in the finished room and drank it in.

Someone else may have just moved on to the next task in the long list of tasks needed to finish the house.  But when life has gone terribly wrong, you learn to relish those moments when it goes right.

THIS is what I hold on to.

These slices of beauty and victory are treasures I tuck inside.

collect beautiful moments

 

Why Do We Turn Away?

The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

The long hours of nightime darkness that invite questions that demand answers.  The quiet hours of daylight that insist on playing a home movie of the years that went before. Forcing me to wrestle.  Tossing me in the ring of trying to reconcile this tragedy with my worldview.

And many people turn away from the spectacle.  

Even good, loving, Christ-following friends find it hard to stick around and watch.

Because it challenges their worldview too.  

It makes them wonder if what they have always believed about God is true.  It makes them fearful that if it could happen to my son and to me, it could happen to their child and to them.  Ir raises questions, they’d rather not answer.

And they don’t have to answer them-YET-because their lives haven’t been turned upside down and inside out.

So they run.

They stop calling, they stop coming and they keep their distance in public spaces.

It hurts.

A lot.

It’s human nature to avoid pain.  No one marches headlong into suffering. Empathy requres energy.  Compassion demands opening your heart to the hurt hiding inside someone else’s.

I understand, truly I do.  

If I could find a place where sorrow and longing couldn’t find me, I would stay there forever.  But I can’t.  I have to carry this load, I have to face the tough questions, I have to work hard to give my heart a chance.

It is so much easier when others come alongside.  I feel so much stronger when others choose to call courage to my broken heart.  I find great comfort in knowing that someone is willing to risk their own comfort to bear witness to my pain and struggle.

Please don’t lower your eyes and hide.  Raise them and help heal.

I know it’s hard and you don’t have to, but please don’t turn away.  

compassion is a choice

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Blessings

I’ve always been this way-careful as I walk through the woods.  I don’t remember a time when I could crash unaware of what was underfoot.

So when springtime brings the violets, I find myself zig-zagging this way and that to avoid crushing them as I go about my daily chores.

Often obscured by last year’s leaves-I can make out the vibrant purple peeking from underneath-if I’m paying attention.  

But there are plenty of folks who make it all the way through March and April without ever seeing them.

And that makes me sad.

They are so beautiful.  

I consider them a gift.

It’s easy to race through life and never take note of God’s gifts.  We get busy and distracted and overwhelmed by the need to make a living and we ignore the Lord of life.

If I am going to SEE what He’s doing, how He’s providing, where He is blessing, I have to open my eyes.

But once I do, I find that blessings pop up everywhere.  

Just like springtime violets.

violets-in-wood-not-mine