Wednesday, January 18, 2012

over here again. humbled.

Can you imagine the stench?

Joseph has walked and Mary ridden 90 miles in the scorching sun, the wind whipping around their faces and caking them with dust from the dirt road. More sweat pours from Mary’s brow as she experiences the pains of labor for the first time. The stable is packed with all the travelers’ animals. Flies buzz around them in the heat and the air is heavy with the smells of sickly sweet hay and kmanure.

And into this, a baby enters.

I have witnessed this kind of birth before. Woman sighs and baby falls right into the dirt and in the dark of a tiny mud hut with the light of just a thin candle our eyes search for something, anything, sharp to cut the cord. Water is a luxury and too far to fetch at this hour so we wrap the baby in whatever filthy rag-scraps we can find without even wiping her off first.

Joseph, still merely a child himself, searches for anything he can find in the dim light to cut the cord and swaddle his child, probably rags carrying the afore mentioned stench and the dirt of the journey. Trembling and exhausted they wrap Him as best they can, and swatting flies away lay him in the same trough out of which these animals have been eating.

Behold, the Savior.

And in this moment God fulfils every promise and every prophecy. This, God’s perfect time. God does not wait for the world to get ready, He enters right into the mess.

He makes Himself very least, no more status or opportunity than an easily overlooked infant in the slums where I spend so many hard hours. Very least so that He can commune with the very most desperate – you and me. He doesn’t mind that I am not ready yet and He doesn’t mind the wretched condition of my heart or the stench of my sin. God’s time is now and He enters into the mess, ready or not.

His perfect timing, now. Now is where He has called us. And we are just not ready yet. We need to clean up the house a bit and pray a little more and seek more counsel and we don’t know how to do that yet and oh, we have our excuses. And God says, “I’m here now, and I am ok with the mess because I am here for the messy.”

God doesn’t need us to be ready for Him; He has been ready for us since the beginning of time and the Messiah is here calling us to commune with the Holy One, to eat at His table.

I want the house to be organized and kids to be clean and nicely dressed and I want dinner to come out of the oven on time, but at the end of the day they laundry still piles and there are still crumbs in the corner and can anyone remember if I brushed my teeth today? And it can’t be the New Year yet because I am just not ready for it to be a new year yet.

But I remember when I wasn’t ready to move to Uganda. I remember when I wasn’t ready to kiss the people I loved the most goodbye. I remember when I didn’t have enough money to start a ministry, and I remember when I wasn’t old enough to be a mother, and I remember when I didn’t know how to parent. I remember when I couldn’t cook for fifteen people and when I didn’t want to share my house and my things and my life with sick people and addicts. I remember when I was afraid of the slum community that now holds hundreds of friends and when I was terrified that my daughter would never walk and when I was scared that we would never heal after tragic loss. And I remember that never, not once, was I really as ready as I wanted to be. And I remember that God kept all His promises, every last one, in His perfect time.

This new season looms and I don’t know what is next. But He doesn’t need me to be ready for this season because He is ready. He just needs me to be clinging to His feet.

Now, God’s perfect time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I really am going to start publicly sharing His 2011 miracles soon (you know, one day, when there is a calm season... ;) ) In the mean time, I am blessed to be guest posting here today..

One of my very favorite things about gazing out at my backyard is our sunflowers. Seeds brought from dry Karamoja and planted in the fertileJinja soil grow at least ten feet tall and radiant, heads lifted to the sun.

Much to my dismay though the time we get to enjoy the flowers’ bloom always seems brief in comparison to the time we have been waiting – days of pulling seeds from the dead heads and drying them in the sun before carefully pushing the back into the soft red dirt. Weeks of waiting and finally some tiny green shoots. Weeks of watching as the shoots become thick stalks and climb into the sky. Weeks of wonder as small buds open into something glorious and beautiful.

And then so soon, they bend their heads and begin to die. And something in me is so sad as I watch the flowers seemingly loose their splendor. But my children are nothing but excited. They rush to the backyard and I cringe as they hack the stalks down and pull off the flowers that are now bigger then their faces. I look at the bare garden and feel loss, but they feel only eager anticipation. Because they remember: next time, there will be more.

Always, the shoots spring up and reach for the sky. Always they bloom beautiful and then always they bow, bending low to the earth and waiting for my children to run wide-eyed in wonder to the harvest. And always, we plant the seeds and next time there is a bigger harvest, more flowers. Many more. They remember: beauty from ashes.

I see beauty in the outcome and sadness in the death, but they know beauty in the process.

This is what my loving Father was teaching me every day of the last year, this beauty in the process. That while a healed and whole family is a marvelous thing to behold, the process that got us there is where He was most glorified and where He drew us to Himself. That a wound al healed and covered with smooth new skin is not nearly as wonderful as the relationship that was built while I bandaged that wound everyday for 8 months and cried tears and laughed stories of my Savior. That dreams die and plans change and seasons end, but He is not dome yet. He sees the seeds that come with al the endings and He is faithful to turn them into harvest, into beauty.

Sometimes we look out at our lives and it seems the garden is empty – plans dead as withered leaves, dreams laid waste. Could we rejoice in the season of waiting, believing that God who brought Jesus out of the black tomb and brings green shoots out of hard earth will bring new life out of all dark seasons too? Could we know that beauty is in this whole process, the waiting part too, not just the end result?

This year, I have beheld exquisite flowers, glorious outcomes that could have only been designed by God himself. I have watched Him make family out of strangers. I have watched Him sell a book that I never intended to write. I have watched my little girl walk with her foot flat on the ground for the first time in all five years of her life. I have watched alcoholics become moms who work hard to provide for their families. I have watched my 16 year old walk through processing the abuse in her past and learn to jump rope and have her childhood finally restored to her after nearly 4 years of living in a family. I have watched God answer prayers that I hadn’t even spoken yet.

As I gaze in wonder, I remember how He brought us out of the dark and the hard. I remember how He protected us from the pounding rain and the scorching sun, baby green shoots clinging to Him for dear life. I remember that as we reached high to the Son, He came down and pulled us closer. We turn out heads up in awe and we know what is around the corner, but we look expectantly to the bowing and the bending and the death of all we had planned because we know – in Him, there will always be more. Glorious hope.

Friday, January 6, 2012

“I just want to remember,” she says matter-of-factly, and she pulls the covers right back up over her head.

It is well after our 8 o’clock bed time. I have been sunk deep in the couch and in the Word knowing that 13 pairs of feet were tucked snugly in 13 beds. But as I make my way from the couch to my room, something catches my eye and I peek my head in the girls’ bedroom.

There flat on the cold, hard tile floor is my 11 year old with her blanket pulled tightly around herself. It doesn’t look as if she has rolled out of bed; it looks intentional. I nudge her awake. “Honey, what are you doing on the floor?” Why would anyone ever choose to sleep on this, the hardest of surfaces, with a comfortable bed just inches away?

“Remember,” she mumbles sleepily, “I just want to remember. Some people don’t have a bed,mom. I didn’t have a bed, mom. God gave me a bed. And I wanted to remember what it was like to not have one.”

We have to remember. Because how can we ever move forward if we don’t look back? This God, He makes promises and in remembering we see the truth: this God, He keeps promises.

A new year is such a perfect invitation to remember. I look out over this vast blankness, yet to be filled with His promises and fulfillments, yet to be riddled with hard and splashed with joy. It threatens to be overwhelming. For a moment, pondering the how's and the why's and the what-if's seems much more alluring than meditating on these promises printed on thin paper. In knowing who I am not, I forget who He is always: powerful, able, faithful. But then I think back over the hard and the joy of last year, the faithfulness of God in each one of those moments and I know that I can move forward with this Father holding my hands.

I peek my head back in a she’s sound asleep, her chest rising and falling against the tile. I kneel there for a moment and think hard about all He has done, how far He has brought us. I am completely overwhelmed by His goodness and His faithfulness. We can do tomorrow. We can do this year, with all of its unknown and all of its hard and all of its joy because we trust in this God who has given us so much to remember.

Will you join me this month in remembering? I have spent the last month of quiet pondering all that God has done this year. Allowing myself to be completely overwhelmed by the beauty of life with this Savior friend by my side and in awe of the miracles He has performed, big and small, on our behalf. I had to ponder and cry and laugh and lay prostrate on the bathroom floor in gratitude for all that He has done. And now He is whispering, "It is time to share. Tell my people what I have done for you."

So with no fancy writing and no eloquent words and no worrying about punctuation (because His works are too perfect to be embellished), I am going to spend this month remembering out loud His goodness, taking a cue from my 11 year old daughter and remembering all He has given and knowing that in Him there in only more to come.

Thank you for praying us through 2011. Please rejoice with us at all He has done!

Shout for joy to God all the earth!
Sing the glory of His name; give Him glorious praise!
Say to God, "How awesome are our deeds!
So great is our power hat your enemies come cringing to you.
All the ends of the earth worship you and sing praises to you;
they sing praise to your name."
Come and see what God has done:
He is awesome in His deeds toward the children of man.
He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There did we rejoice in Him who rules by His might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on all the nations -
let not the rebellious exalt themselves.
Bless our God, O people;
let the sound of His praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living, who has not let our feet slip.
For you, Oh God have tested us; you have tired us as silver is tried.
You have brought us into the net; you have laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads.
We wnt through fire and water, yet you have brought us into a place of abundance.
Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what He has done for me.

Psalm 66:1-12,18