One Hundred Eight

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Earlier this week I was driving around town with my van full of kids (all mine) and with my windows down, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio, so of course I cranked it up and sang it loudly, thoroughly embarrassing my kids.

The next day, packing up the van to take the kids to school, I grabbed our “antique” CD holder so I could put some new music in the van. I chose a disk from my college days and was transported back in time as Third Day, Jars of Clay, Caedmon’s Call, and Leigh Nash poured through the speakers. I instantly recalled lyric after lyric to song after song on the album, despite the many years that have passed since I last listened.

And I was struck with thankfulness that, at one point in my life, all I ever listened to was “praise and worship” music.

My kids listen to a healthy variety of music, mostly pumped through our house daily with Pandora. They love John Williams and Michael Giacchino, but do they know more Ray LaMontagne lyrics or more Sandra McCracken?

The songs on the City on a Hill album spoke truth to my heart throughout the rest of the day. Music has always been one of the most vital ways of keeping God’s truth and word in my heart and on my lips.

On the way to school, I was quizzing my fifth grader for his memory verse test: Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,  for our God is a consuming fire.” Mac Powell’s throaty growl was ringing in my ears and I realized what an advantage it was to have all of those words hidden in my heart.

Children are sponges, and I want mine soaking up truth, goodness, and beauty. I don’t have to be legalistic about it, but my Pandora stations may get shuffled around a bit.

(This is also on heavy rotation in the van.)

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One Hundred Seven

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Today I found myself wondering how much damage I have done in my life, spreading false gospels. Specifically, I was remembering something I believed to be true during my Freshman year of college.

As I am wont to do, I spoke as though I had more wisdom and authority than I did in reality. I remember sharing with my small group, all of us single gals, that we wouldn’t find love (or maybe I said love wouldn’t find us? It’s a distinct possibility.) until we were fully satisfied with only the love of Jesus.

It sounds innocent. Maybe even virtuous.

But it’s wrong.

I met my husband when I was 20, just a year or so after I said and believed those words. Was I all of a sudden fully satisfied with Jesus? No. Certainly not. I’m still not. My heart was and is a sinful, idol-making-factory. And yet I met, befriended, fell in love with, and married this amazing man.

God doesn’t wait for us to be ready, to be good enough, to be worthy of the good gifts He gives. He gives them in His timing. His good, perfect timing.

How many false gospels am I still believing, living, and spreading today? My closest audience is certainly my children, and I have no doubt they are watching. What might they be seeing?

  • That their worth is found in their clean rooms, clean noses, clean clothes, or clean words?
  • That it doesn’t matter the state of your heart, it’s your outward attitude, facial expressions, and tone of voice that matter?
  • That being on time is more important that being well-cared for, well-prepared, and confident?
  • That food makes us feel better?

Thanks be to God, that the true gospel is both so complex and so simple – that we are more sinful than we dare to imagine, yet more loved than we can even comprehend, at the same time. So while they have a front row seat to my failures and mistakes, my anger and frustration, my sinfulness and selfishness, they are also seeing displayed:

  • That their parents repent, ask forgiveness, and name their own sin.
  • That we cannot be stingy with our forgiveness, because we have been forgiven infinitely more.
  • That they are loved, accepted, listened to, and respected.
  • That the cycle of repentance and forgiveness never ends.

Thanks be to God, “who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

What I Read in 2016…better late than never

I had a baby in 2016, so while I didn’t post often, I still read. A lot.

So here are the books I read! Those in bold are the ones I most enjoyed/recommend.

January
Bury Your Dead
Prayer – Tim Keller
A Trick of the Light
The Beautiful Mystery
How the Light Gets In
The Silver Linings Playbook

February
The Long Way Home
The Nature of the Beast
Prayer and Writing

April
Jesus Outside the Lines

May
The Nightingale
State of Wonder

June
The Kitchen House
The Red Sea Rules
Wild in the Hollow
Cinder– the first in a fun series. I read the others in July.
The Patron Saint of Liars
Beezus and Ramona
Secrets of a Charmed Life

July
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Eligible- I really disliked this best seller
The Nest- I really disliked this one, as well
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
Scarlet
Cress
Fairest
Winter

August
Falling Free
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
All the Pretty Things
The One in a Million Boy

September
Still Life
A Prayer Journal
84, Charing Cross Road

October
Fatal Grace
The Hobbit
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder

December
Cuckoo’s Calling

One Hundred Six

untitled-2I have the.best.timing.

In February of 2003, I sat across the table at a Mexican restaurant from my friend, Charles. He was about to leave for a semester in Germany, and we were enjoying a just-as-friends date before he left. We had been good friends for a while, had been on one disastrous actual date a few months prior, after which he had shared that he wanted to get to know me better. I had idiotically responded that I liked his best friend and we endured a few hellishly awkward months. Now, he was leaving for five months, so the timing seemed perfect to let him know that my heart was changing towards him and maybe I do like him like that, okay, see-you-in-five-months-bye.

It all worked out. We’re married.

But I still have a tendency to drop bombs on the guy at the worst possible times: home for lunch for 25 minutes? Let’s rehash the last 3 months and talk about our issues. A long-anticipated date day? Let’s be miserable and talk about our issues. Middle of the night and I can’t sleep? Let me wake you up and talk about our issues.

Sometimes it can’t be avoided. Sometimes, too much time has passed in between face-to-face time and we have to seize any and every opportunity or we will inevitably coast forever. We could do that; we’re stubborn people.

So this morning, as I am wont to do, approximately 7 minutes before he needed to leave for work, I asked him, “So Love, how are we doing?” Unlike usual, I didn’t have anything specific in mind. I wasn’t trying to corner him. I just wanted to hear his (brief) thoughts.

And here’s where we are: right on the edge of another huge life change. Our 4th (and final) baby is due in about 6 weeks. We feel as though we’ve literally just come up for breath after moving and settling in. Right after we moved in I was sick for a solid month. Then we faced a hard summer filled with questions and doubts concerning potential health issues with this baby. Now we are knee-deep in 5th and 2nd grades and Kindergarten and projects and doctor’s visits and deadlines and no time off work and groceries are expensive and…some of that feels almost, blissfully, normal. We can coast here. We can breathe here. Sure, we’re often exhausted, but this is an exhaustion that at least feels familiar.

What does life look like 2 months from now? What does that exhaustion look like? What does that stress look like?

I could lose sleep over questions like those. (I have. It doesn’t help.) What helps is rehearsing what I already know to be true. God is good. God is sovereign. God is not surprised. God has not forgotten me. God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. God’s plan is good, pleasing, and perfect.

I need these reminders because I am so forgetful and life is so distracting sometimes. In his grace, God has allowed me to learn this lesson alongside my youngest son. Remember his hard days of Kindergarten drop off? We are still facing those in 2nd grade. And so, every day before I leave him, we pray. And we remember, rehearse, and remind ourselves of those same simple yet profound truths. God is good. God has not forgotten you. God is always with you. God has placed you here with this teacher, in this school, with these friends, for a reason.

And it helps. It helps him, it helps me, it helps my not-so childlike faith to grow.

My timing stinks, but his timing is always perfect.

One Hundred Five

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“And while we may not always believe it or feel it, he continues to hold us in his hand as we stumble blindly through the wilderness.”

I wrote those words yesterday and they’ve been echoing in my head ever since. I’m reading through Exodus right now as well as the book “The Red Sea Rules” and my husband and I are indeed walking blindly through the wilderness. I’ll probably have my Christian card revoked for saying this, but there’s not much I hate more than walking by faith. It’s so hard, y’all!!

I love hindsight. I love looking back on a period of time and seeing God’s gracious hands at work all over it. I love to tell those stories of rescue. But drop me down in the middle of the trial and I will whine and complain and doubt and fear and lose sleep and have heart palpitations and get shingles. I mean, it’s been known to happen.

I’ve been in one haunted house in my life. I was probably 10 or 11 and my softball team went as a group. I’m pretty sure my eyes were closed the entire time, but I still managed to get so scared at what I couldn’t see lurking in dark corners, that I begged my mom to get me out of there and she had a zombie open up a side door and let us out. I don’t like being scared. I don’t like surprises. I don’t like the unknown.

I’m 34  years old and I’m still learning that life doesn’t present itself in the way I want. I don’t get to see the end result. I just get to live day by day and moment by moment. And as a follower of Jesus, I’m expected to walk moment by moment in complete dependence upon him. I’m called to a life of faith and trust and rest. I’m so bad at it.

Maybe that’s why God keeps presenting me with opportunities to practice. He keeps asking me to follow him into the unknown. He keeps asking me to trust his guidance and his plan. He keeps asking me to believe the best, and believe what his word says, and believe that the day will come when I will look back and see his gracious hands all over this time.

Gracious God, I’m so ready for this story of rescue.

One Hundred Four

Way back in the day, when we were young(er) parents of just 2 kids, my husband and I were on a date. Dates have always felt rather like a luxury, and since they always seemed to be few and far between, I had a tendency to put enormous pressure on them. They had to serve multiple purposes, not the least of which was valuable face-to-face time to discuss everything we hadn’t been able to discuss in the reality of day-to-day living with little kids. Our dates weren’t always a lot of fun.

On this particular occasion, I recall my husband asking when we would get back to “carefree” life. I laughed, but also understood where he was coming from. While our early years of marriage, before kids, weren’t exactly carefree (applying to grad schools, being rejected by grad schools, getting paid by the hour, finishing school, living off of student loans), we did have a seemingly endless amount of time together, the freedom to see movies, eat Chipotle, read Harry Potter, etc.

Life with two young boys was stressful and relatively busy. We certainly had no clue that God would add a girl to our crew, my mom would die, our son would have Type 1 Diabetes, our business would fail, our house selling and buying wouldn’t go as planned, and then…another baby. Carefree? What on earth is that?

This month, our church worship leaders released their first album. (It’s free! You can download it here…I highly recommend it.) It’s been on repeat in our van ever since Brenden gave me a copy. Just today, the words to many of the songs struck me in a fresh way. I heard the people of God longing for carefree days. Watch this clip and listen to the words from Psalm 126:

CityPres Worship :|: Songs of Rescue from Jody Wickersham on Vimeo.

Song 6: “Although we are weeping, Lord help us keep sowing
The seeds of your kingdom for the day you will reap them.
Your sheaves we will carry, Lord please do not tarry
All those who are weeping will go out with songs of joy.”

Song 7: “Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!”

Song 8: “When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee.

Land me safe on Canaan’s side
Bid my anxious fears, bid my anxious fears
Land me safe on Canaan’s side
Bid my anxious fears, bid my anxious fears, goodbye.”

Song 2: “Father for Thy, promised blessing,
Still we plead before Thy throne
For the times of, sweet refreshing,
Which can come from Thee alone.

Give reviving, give refreshing,
Give the looked-for Jubilee
To Thyself may, crowds be pressing,
Bringing glory unto Thee.”

Scripture is filled with the groanings and prayers of God’s people in the midst of hard times. They lament. They cry out. They beg for relief. They don’t stay stubbornly silent or simply complain to their close friends. They give God an earful and they ask him to respond. They don’t sugar-coat their real feelings. They assume that God can handle it all – the real, raw, hard, ugly truth. And of course, he can. He knows our thoughts before we do. He sees our hearts. And while he doesn’t always respond immediately, or how we want, he does not remain silent forever. His mercies are new every day. He brings the looked-for Jubilee.

And while we may not always believe it or feel it, he continues to hold us in his hand as we stumble blindly through the wilderness.

 

 

One Hundred Three

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Much to my husband’s chagrin, when I first saw Les Miserables, I was Team Eponine. I was supposed to be all romantic and root for Cosette and Marius and passion and “love at first sight.” But I was rooting for the established friendship of childhood friends and wanted Marius to see her devotion to him. Because here’s the thing: I don’t believe in love at first sight. Sure, I believed in it as a college freshman, and for a while I attended every function and every class fully believing that I would meet my future husband. That never happened, and my skepticism about all things romantic began to grow.

I recently watched a video of a musician describing the day she “fell in love with Jesus”. Not for the first time in my life, I was jealous of another person’s story and experience. It seemed more important and impactful than my own. After all, I’m one of those good girls who literally grew up in church and rarely missed a Sunday service. I can’t remember “falling in love with Jesus.” Loving Jesus was always just a given. I was safe in a bubble where it was assumed that I did, and you do, too.

As I reflected upon all of this, I thought about falling in love with my husband. While in my past I impulsively told a handful of boys that I thought I loved them (can you say unrequited?), it wasn’t until Charles that I actually loved a man. But if you know anything about our story, you should know this – it wasn’t immediate. In fact, I was completely against the idea of even dating him. We were just friends who became good friends who became inseparable. It was a gradual process for both of us, learning to trust each other with our stories, spending lots of time together, until eventually we couldn’t imagine life without the other.

So I can’t remember a lightning bolt moment with Jesus. I can’t remember him sweeping me off of my feet. I simply remember his constant presence and friendship throughout the entirety of my life. The relationship and grown and changed and I often take it for granted. But scripture states that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So I’m the one growing and changing. He’s the one faithfully walking along with me, revealing truth and softening my heart and opening my eyes. His is a “love that will not let me go,” and the fact that I’ve had it forever? That’s certainly not a bad thing.