The rain here in Houston just keeps coming.  Yesterday, school was cancelled as sections of major highways were submerged in water.  My children spent the morning wanting to watch the news.  They were enthralled by the extreme nature and power of the water, the drama of high-water rescues caught on tape, the tragedy of cars being swept away in the floods, and the science of meteorological forecasts.  Our hearts ache for those in Wimberley, San Marcos, and Houston.  Those who have lost much in the wake of such abundant rainfall.

This morning, a sideways downpour met us as we raced to the car for school.  It’s ironic that yesterday when multiple school districts were closed, we had dry patches of back porch.  This morning, as we drove to school, we were pelted by torrential rains.

How odd is the abundance of a good thing.  Rain becomes flood.  Hydration becomes destruction.  Sugar turns to fat.  Wine becomes alcoholism.  Appetite shifts to gluttony.  Money fuels greed.  Job provision develops into family neglect.  Ministry births idolatry.

How odd also when the abundance of a good thing has been present, yet the back porch seems dry.  There have been entire seasons when others around me are drowning in the same blessings being poured out on me, yet all I see is dry bones.  Perception can be quite the deception.  Have you ever been so blind to a plethora of grace-filled showers that you actually pray for the rain to go away?  We, who are so small compared to the vastness of the universe and the Being who by a single word bore all we know and see…we who think we know, but have no clue.  We think we can define blessing and curse, based on the wisdom drawn from the state of our comforts or the lack thereof.  What if that which was brutally irritating provided a path to the deepest peace?  What if that which depleted earthly provision sanctified and produced the fullest satisfaction?

I’ve written before of God’s abundant grace and how we never arrive at a place where we render it useless.  It is free, unending, and always available, whether we seek it out or not.  We are covered by its huge umbrella of acceptance, that knows no distinction and can’t be held by our good works.  This I know.  However, as I mentioned above, there is so much that I do not know, understand, or comprehend.  If there is one thing that I will never have enough of, it’s God’s perspective.  It is the one thing that won’t turn in on itself:  Godly wisdom.  For to see the world and our circumstances through God’s eyes requires humility, compassion, justice, and a servant heart.  Idolatry defies God’s perspective.  He detests the worship of anything other than Himself.

I want this: His perspective.  With it, there is nothing to fear, nothing to solve, nothing that can steal my joy or His throne.  How do I find it?  Unlike grace, Scripture tells me that wisdom requires a bit of my action:

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding” (Proverbs 3:13).

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight” (Proverbs 4:7).

The Hebrew word “qə·nêh” is used in these verses for “get”.  The same word is used when Scripture talks about buying or acquiring land.  It is a word of action, involving sacrifice or payment.  Do I really want to “get” wisdom?  What if it costs something of sacrifice?  What if it’s price is uncomfortable?

Proverbs 9:10 also explains that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”  Maybe today the price to be paid is accepting the fact that I am small, finite, and foolish compared to the size, longevity, and wisdom of God.  Maybe today, I simply stand in awe of Him, this world He created, the power of the raging water before me.  In recognizing my smallness and His largeness, I will begin to “get” some wisdom with the sacrifice of my pride.

I want to shout, “rain, rain, go away…”.  Yet, I will watch in awe, and submit that I don’t know the condition and needs of my own back porch.  And I will let Jesus and His compassion overtake me as I see the needs of others unfold.

I continue to pray for those who are meeting disaster and destruction head on.  Please pray with me.  If you are able to financially help or donate goods, please visit ADRN (Austin Disaster Relief Network) which is gathering funds to help those in Wimberley and San Marcos, not only with their physical needs, but spiritual and emotional as well.


37: garage sale 

Our neighborhood held its annual garage sale this morning.  The streets were packed with cars and bargain hunters.  We were on the lookout for two armed chairs to complete our dining room table set.  We never found any, but we did come across something we didn’t even know we needed…an old school desk.  Once we brought it home, it was immediately put to use by the kids.  Who knew we needed this desk?  I guarantee that this buy has already been used more in one day than the chairs we were looking for would have been used in an entire year.

I think of all the times I am searching and praying to find particular objects, circumstances, or opportunities, and God has something completely different in mind for me.  Sometimes I wonder why I even look to begin with if I’ve got the wrong shopping list in hand!  But if I had never gone perusing down the block for dining chairs, I’d never noticed the desk.  I think God gives us desires to get us simply out of the house.  He places things on our hearts to just get us off the stinkin’ couch, only to lead us to the things we really need and can truly benefit from.  I don’t know if I’d gone through all the trouble of navigating the busy and congested streets of our neighborhood for one old schoolhouse chair.

I wonder what other special finds God has sitting in someone’s driveway for me…and you?  We’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled.

 “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.”

Psalm 146:8


38: celebration

Today we celebrated my niece’s First Communion and the wedding of a dear friend.  It was a day full of celebration.  What a wonderful thing to add to Lent.  It’s not too often that we associate celebration with Lent.  However, today was also Palm Sunday, a day marked with joyous celebration.

When the people waved their palm branches as Jesus entered the city, they had no idea how their hearts and cheers were going to shift in a week’s time.  Did that lessen their praise?  Did Jesus hear, “hosanna!” and think to himself, “yeah, right, just wait and hear what you’ll say to me on Friday…”?  I don’t think so.  I think Jesus lived in the moment.  I think He received the praise and honor from the people.  I think He knew what was coming, but He also was riding on that donkey fully taking in every face He saw, every song He heard.

I tend to worry through even the good times–worrying about what’s to come, never fully taking in the moment. Even at this wedding full of good friends, beautiful weather, and yummy cake, every time I paused to consider what a great time I was having, I immediately thought of the 3-hour drive home and the early morning battle to get to school on time.  It was such a joy-kill.

I pray that I learn to live in the moment with joy and celebration.

 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 16:11


39: bad math

So I realized today that somehow my Lenten math is off.  I thought today, Monday, was the 39th day of Lent.  Then a google search revealed that the official 40th day of Lent is Thursday, April 2nd.  I’m totally boggled about where I went wrong!  Oh, well!  I will take this as a gift from God.  Now, I’ve got till Thursday to write the my last Lenten post.  Thank you, Jesus!  Because honestly, I’m tired and have a cold, and all I want to do is sleep. There’s really no point in hiding it.  We all feel apathetic and tired at some point.  His grace covers even those emotions, and it it sufficient for them.  There’s no need to feel guilty or to bear shame because I’m not feelin’ it today.

Thank you, Jesus, for releasing me from guilt and bad math.

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

John 1:16 

Day 25: intentions

I had good intentions of getting a lot done today, including adding something to Lent.  It didn’t happen…any of it.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15 


Day 26: insanity

Today I unintentionally added insanity to Lent:

My little raccoon dumped a bag of chili cheese Fritos on the master bathroom floor mat.  It looked like the Pyramid of Giza piled atop white Egyptian sand.

He stole his sister’s deodorant and hacked it into little pieces all over the upstairs bathroom.  Moisture-blocking deodorant, when ground into a fluffy bath mat, is very hard to clean.

He locked himself in the bathroom while I was making an important business call.  We don’t have a key.

He threw multiple toys over the banister…after I had just taken them upstairs to the toy room.

He removed and hid all the printer ink cartridges…as I was trying to print copies of music for Sunday.

He ninja-swiped open dirty diapers as I tried to change him.  I am so done with poop.

All of this was before 10:00 am.

I didn’t have time to add something inspirational today…(hello, reality…thanks for showing up uninvited.)

“Be gracious to me, O God, for man (boy) tramples on me; all day long an attacker (a toddler) oppresses me”  

Psalm 56:1


Day 27: coffee creamer

So, obviously the last couple of days have been ridiculous, but let’s be honest.  This is life for most people: crazy.  When asked how things are going, we all say it:  “Busy.”  “Crazy”  “insane.”  This is the norm for most of us, especially if we’ve got lots of responsibilities, whether it be tasks at work, or children at home, or a combination of the two.

Again, I got nothing done today.  I seemed to rush and rush, strive and toil, with little to nothing to show for it.  When I left to go pick up the kids from school, the house was still a mess, laundry still needed to be done, and I still hadn’t finished preparing for the bible study I was supposed to lead tonight.  We drove straight from school to church to meet up with Daddy for dinner.  During the bible study, the older kids were going to hang out in his office while he worked and Judah was going to the nursery.

When everything was finished for the night, I texted to see if they had already headed home.  I was surprised to hear that yes, they were already home because Gideon had thrown up.  My first thought was “oh, no! Not more sickness!”  Then, I heard the rest of the story.

Apparently, Gideon has a routine when he hangs out in Daddy’s office.  He goes to the staff coffee station and sneaks the little individual cups of coffee creamer.  Tonight, it seems as thought our 5-year-old with the early signs of addictive behavior, couldn’t stop himself from indulging.  He consumed enough cream to make himself sick…well, that and the starburst flavored slushy he got with dinner.  (It makes my stomach curdle just thinking about it.)

When he ‘fessed up to the deviant looting of coffee condiments, he said it was such creamy goodness that he couldn’t stop himself.  This from the child who at age two snuck a stick of butter from the fridge, pulled a chair up to the TV, and ate the butter like a Snickers.  (We are really going to have to keep an eye on this one.)  He obviously doesn’t know his own limits, or what’s good for him.

In the world of sweet things and buttery goodness, it’s very possible to add too much of a good thing.  Not so with Lent, or with God.  My crazy has needed an abundance of grace and He has more than enough to not only meet my level of need, but to surpass it.  His  mercy will never run out, and of His goodness I will never grow weary.  It’s impossible to have too much of Him.  When I allow myself to actually taste His goodness, even in the midst of crazy, all I want is more.  I can’t stop myself from indulging.

When I find myself growing weary and sick of life, unable to think of something spiritual to write about (as I did the past three days), it’s not because I’ve somehow had enough Jesus, or that He’s gone AWAL.  The reality is that I’ve not been opening my senses to taste the little morsels of goodness that He has individually packaged for me throughout the day.  I haven’t tasted.  I haven’t thanked.

Unfortunately for Gideon, God used the little 5-year old’s intolerance for copious creamer consumption to get my attention.  I thank Jesus for His grace.  He has loved me through the past half-week, despite my weakness and inconsistency.  He has loved me, even when I’m not feeling it.  He has remained faithful.

Over Lent, I’ve been adding and adding, and the days that I thought I wasn’t adding at all, grace was being added unto me.  I just didn’t recognize it.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  

2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Day 13: Prayer

After a day of following your child back and forth from the bathroom to the bed, any and all efforts are made to not have to repeat the itinerary over the next few days with all your other children.  Today, as I washed laundry and wiped down surfaces with bleach, I added a lot of prayer.  I asked others to pray.  I pleaded with God to protect the rest of us from this yucky little bug.

Then my husband came down with it.

God was faithful in answering my prayers…none of the other kids have caught the illness…(yet).  And I start to wonder, “Did I leave him out of my requests to God for health?”  And in this question, I’m somehow trying to understand and make sense of why he got sick.  Perhaps, God’s answer to my prayer isn’t at all dependent on if I get my request right.  I don’t think He answers only according to the exact words I use.  I think He answers the way He does for reasons I just don’t understand.  And I’ve got to learn to be okay with that.  I have to learn to trust.

So I added prayer.  And I will keep adding prayers…and Lysol.

 “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.”

Psalm 69:13


Day 14: Lysol

You thought I was joking… I added so much Lysol to the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen today, that I think my lungs are disinfected.  As I add to Lent, the whole point is to remind me of all I have gained because of all that Jesus gave on the cross.  This deep burning feeling in my chest, while caused by inhaling potent and probably harmful chemical vapors, reminds me of the deep spiritual cleansing I receive through Jesus.

It is His death on the cross that wipes away my sins and purifies my every inch of being.  This doesn’t mean that I am perfect.  I daily bring my germy, nasty self to the foot of the cross and He covers me in the Lysol-like grace of His forgiveness.  When God looks at me, He sees Jesus in my place.  It’s completely undeserved, but He sees someone who was perfect and spotless…in my place!  This free gift was given to me on the cross as Jesus willfully took on all that my sickness of depravity deserves.  Each day, His death works it’s wonders, canceling out my sin and shame, making me clean and new.  Unlike Lysol, His blood kills 100% of my grime, there is not 1/100th of a sin that His sacrifice doesn’t cover.

What freedom!  What health!  What grace!  What a way to live!

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Psalm 51:7

Sometimes life doesn’t make sense.  In a world and culture that loves rhythms and systems, order and reason, sometimes life runs against the current.  Chaos abounds, and it’s enough to drive us all mad.

So what do we do when the chaos hits the fan?  What do we do when the world’s run amuck and we don’t know up from down?Here’s my laptop confession:  I eat chocolate and TV binge-watch.

We are not promised order, as we define it.  We are not guaranteed to always understand.  However, we are ensured that we don’t have to know the ins and outs of all that lay before us.  That truth is a really hard pill to swallow…chocolate is much easier.

As a parent, much of my “order” is defined by good behavior, and the procedures to get there involve discipline and consequences.  I am learning, however, that grace is chaos compared to behavior charts and house rules.  Grace, as it rubs against the grain of our daily structure, order, and expectations, usually asks us to forgive uncomfortably.  Grace requires understanding, not strict obedience nor lax leniency.  It demands time and action that unquestionably directs others toward Jesus.  This doesn’t always follow the steps and procedures that I have deemed responsible.  Grace-filled parenting erroneously appears irresponsible and “soft.”

How do I reconcile that in my heart?  If we are to live under grace, and extend grace to others, and to live in Gospel-centered community, we must train ourselves to think outside common sense, order, and definitions.

Forcing ourselves outside of common sense is quality practice.  Jesus and His “upside-down” kingdom runs counter to all cultural common sense.  The first shall be last.  Debt is freely cancelled.  Those are not lessons from Kindergarten.  From early on, we are groomed to follow the line leader and to take responsibility for our actions.  We are taught how to fill our sticker-chart of good deeds.

Having a plan, asking questions about the plan, and having a back-up plan feels responsible, and there are times when this is required of us.  So when we are occasionally asked (or forced) to not have a plan, we can feel lazy, dull, and even immoral.  To practice frivolity, at least to some degree, stretches us outside our common sense limits and our desire to control the chaos.  Grace often resides beyond these personal boundaries and the limits we’ve drawn.  Perhaps we should push ourselves outside these cultural guidelines so often, that functioning against the cultural current begins to feel normal–less uncomfortable.

Today the kids have their Valentine’s parties, and so we’ve been getting our “creative” on.  We decided to order cards from the store, so the other night we had a photo shoot.  In an effort to practice frivolity, we threw out common sense.  It seemed more like Halloween than Valentine’s, and I believe we successfully thought outside of the box.  (Pinterest makes it really hard to be truly unique.)   We stepped beyond order and reason, and with a little bit of crazy and a whole lot of laughter, we came up with a plan–a plan of non-sense.

Ava’s favorite candy is Three Musketeers.  I’m sure there is someone smarter than me who could have drawn a connection between the sword-toting trio and Valentine’s Day love, but I had nothing. We bought the candy, a fake mustache, and inverted Gideon’s pirate costume.  Ava, who has an amazing ability to defy inhibitions, slapped on the facial hair and hat, and began hamming it up for the camera.

IMG_1916 IMG_1918 IMG_1923

I love this girl.

This musketeer embraced the utter non-sense of it all…and we laughed.

The lack of meaning and connection became the thrust of our message.

You see, when we cling to reason and order, to practicality and systems, we miss musing in the senseless things of life, or at least the things that seem senseless to us.  I mentally draft connections from one event to another, or apply meaning to a situation that just simply doesn’t exist.  It’s my meager attempt to make sense of life, to organize the chaos.  Meanwhile, I miss the freedom in the chaos, notably that I don’t have to figure it out.  When I don’t know what to do with my kids and their behavior, I find myself holding fast to proper procedures and guidelines.  In turn, I miss the beauty of extending true grace…that which is undeserved.  My rules are all about what is earned and deserved.  Grace doesn’t fit in that box.

The clear message of Scripture is that God has His plan and we are in it…somewhere.  From the first meal in the Garden, mankind has been tempted by “knowing.”

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Genesis 3: 6-7

….and since the first instruction in the Garden, it hasn’t been humanity’s place to know.  

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2: 16-17

I desire what isn’t for me (namely, knowing the plan and controlling the situation).  Not much has changed since the Garden.  Eve and I have much in common.  One would think I could learn from her story.  For when her eyes were opened, it didn’t go well.

I desperately want to see the big picture, the plan that lies ahead…at least how the next few weeks will pan out.  I want to make sure my children respect authority and obey the rules, often at the expense of grace. But it isn’t for me to know and it isn’t for me to withhold that which is so freely given to me.  And if all that I seek to see was indeed revealed to me, I can only assume that the irresistible knowledge I crave now wouldn’t satisfy in the end.  I can only assume that without grace, my children would grow up to be wonderful, respectful citizens, but who sit in constant judgment and have ongoing relationship inadequacies, including relationship with their heavenly Father.

SO…I practice.  While cute on a Valentine’s card, I currently struggle to experience non-sensical joy in the midst of chaos and unknowing.  I’d like to say I could, because after all, that’s what a Proverbs 31 woman would do: “laugh at the days to come.”  But let’s get real…when the chaos hits the fan, trusting God’s plan worry-free is a set of skills most of us lack.

So I practice the skill, even in silly photo shoots, which honestly, takes no risk.  But even that little taste of embracing the self-adhesive mustache makes the crazy around me slightly more palatable. Can you imagine if I practiced this skill with grace? That takes guts!  I can only imagine that the effects on myself and those around me would be astounding.

As I fumble and muddle through all this, here is my hope…it’s for you, too:

“For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Isaiah 45: 4-6

When we are not trusting, when we do not know or acknowledge Him, He is still faithful.  He still equips us–with peace and with grace.  When we are in the wilderness, He continues to guide, though we whine and complain with every step.  He continues to know us and our cravings to understand and make sense of the desert.  He calls us by name…even when we resist to call on His.  He promises to make at least one thing known to us…Him.

He will supply us with frivolous grace, and even more opportunities to shower others with the same.  He will sustain us in the chaos, when we don’t see a way.

Romans 9:15-17 says,

“For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.'”

It is because of His faithfulness that I am compelled to respond with trust.  I trust not because I can make sense of the situation, or predict the future.  I can trust that when grace is given, Jesus takes care of the consequences and conviction that my guidelines and sense of justice want to establish.  I will not walk forward in hope because I have a glimpse of what He is doing.  I know it depends on nothing of me, no will or exertion, not even an optimistic outlook, and therefore, I am free to not have one.

(gasp…)

I press on with wishy-washy hope and just try to trust.  I will start with baby steps and simply try to trust Him with the plan, and with the aftermath of His grace.  (Accompanied of course by chocolate and tv drama).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Here’s the final Valentine: (completely non-sensical)

IMG_0501 “Roses are red, violets are blue.  All for one…and 5 for 2?”