When I think of fog

October is not my favorite month. I’m not a fan of witches and other creepy creatures that make their appearance in store aisles, and I don’t really appreciate the previews for movies I’d never in a million years want to watch coming on in our living room when we just want to enjoy a football game with the family. Not to mention, the amount of candy that finds its way into this house, and maybe also my mouth, is more than a bit unnecessary.

If it weren’t for the fact that my favorite girl was born in that month, I don’t think October would even make it into the top 10.

This particular October was a bit better, though. Mostly because the kids and I kicked off the month with a car accident on October 1st.

I know what you’re thinking: Car accidents aren’t usually something to celebrate. True. Only here is the thing about unhappy surprises and totaled vehicles…  they sure are great reminders of what is actually important in life, and they are perfect opportunities to see God at work.

I’ve been thinking of a verse in Luke where Jesus has just performed a miracle, and the recipient of the miracle wants to continue on with him, and just be with Jesus. Because really, wouldn’t you? But Jesus says to the man, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

So here it is now, nearly 8 weeks since the accident, and I have yet to share how much God has done for us. He showed up on that foggy morning in October – in more ways than one.

It was a pretty typical Thursday morning in our house, except that we were leaving about 25 minutes earlier than usual so I could go into the school with the kids. Just 4 days earlier, a beloved kindergarten teacher had passed away somewhat unexpectedly, and we had a staff picture scheduled for that morning in her memory. We all planned on wearing matching blue shirts with a sparkly silver “1-4-3” written on them, a phrase Mrs. Williams always said to her students. It was her way of saying “I Love You.”

While it isn’t unusual for us to leave the house late, the kids and I piled in the van and left a few minutes ahead of schedule. That was a good thing, because I hadn’t realized how thick the fog was until we were already on the road.

The majority of our drive to school is spent heading west on Birch Bay-Lynden Road, a 50 mile-per-hour road with one stop sign about half way to our turn onto Custer School Rd.

I had reached my full speed after the stop sign when I saw the truck pulling out of a driveway just barely ahead on my right, crossing over in front of us to turn left and head east. He was in my lane, and I was about to plow right into the driver’s door. I remember thinking, “He’s going to die!” as I swerved to the right, trying to avoid the collision. As quickly as the thought passed, I saw what I was now headed towards. The man was pulling a flat bed trailer with a massive piece of farm equipment on it, and my thought quickly changed to the fear that I was the one who wouldn’t make it, that the farm equipment was going to crush me.

I remember the impact, the car fishtailing, being amazed that the corkscrew shape metal on the plow hadn’t gone through the windshield, and then sitting there at a standstill staring at the airbags that had deployed, surprised at how small they actually are, thinking about the Statue of Liberty being the same kind of small surprise.

The kids were screaming in the back, both holding their chests where the seatbelts had held them tightly. They were complaining of pain there, but nowhere else. I wondered if they had broken any ribs.

I tried to open my door to get out, but it was jammed shut. I could feel pain in my knee and knew I couldn’t climb to get out another door, so I decided to wait. The kids started to calm down and assured me they were okay. While I talked to the 911 dispatcher, the other driver got out of his truck and tried opening my door from the outside but to no avail.

I made a few more phone calls: first to Matt, then to my boss. I couldn’t reach either. I was starting to panic and couldn’t figure out how to work my phone. I knew coworkers would be expecting me soon, but I couldn’t remember how to call the school. My neighbor teacher is listed in my contact favorites (because she is a serious favorite.)

I called her. She answered. I went from calm to hysterical in about 2 seconds. So did she.

By the time I got off the phone, Jacob had gotten pretty worked up again, because it was all super scary. And because his chest hurt. But mostly because of the amount of panic coming out of his mother.

It was about this time – when I was panicking and getting super frustrated with the door that wouldn’t open and the electrical locks that wouldn’t work – that my 1-week-shy-of-turning-8-years-old girl calmly said, “Mom, don’t worry about the doors. I unlocked mine. I can get out. See?” And sure enough, she had opened her door and was calmly unbuckling. She didn’t climb out yet, though, because she was staying close to her brother who was pretty upset by now.

“I’ve got to get him,” I thought. I absentmindedly reached for the door handle so I could get out, and my door easily opened. It wasn’t until I was out of the car that I realized I had just exited the same door that wouldn’t open from the inside or out just one minute earlier.

As I reached in to get Jacob, I saw an officer that had just arrived heading towards us. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. Deputy Pete Stevenson is a family friend, the dad of one of my dearest friends in the world, grandpa to Annalise and Jacob’s bestsest buddies, the worship leader at our church, a guy I sing and laugh with often (usually at the same time), and a man I love dearly. He and his wife are the sweetest people you’d ever meet, both servants in all they do, and they’ve been a huge support to Matt and me. He could have been anywhere in the county, yet here he was headed towards me just minutes after our accident, before anyone else arrived.

Around the same time, I started to set Jacob down so I could hug Annalise, but he wasn’t ready to let go. He was pretty shook up and just wanted to be held. While I felt badly about it, I didn’t give him a choice: I needed to check on my girl, too. As I set him down, Pete and I saw a man walking towards us – Pete’s brother Phil. Phil is our pastor, another family friend, another guy we love dearly, and one of Jacob’s all-time heroes. As I hugged Annalise, Phil scooped Jacob up and hugged him tight.

Paramedics had not yet arrived to look us over, and Pete had just been scanning around for a warm place for us to sit down. (He has since told me he was worried about me being a “walking wounded,” internal injuries or bleeding and unaware because of shock.) He had Phil pull his car up so we could sit. Phil also called Matt and let him know what was going on and that we were all fine.

Paramedics arrived and asked me to climb in so they could look me over. By now, a third comforting face had arrived – my boss of many years. He climbed in the ambulance with me. I wasn’t alone. My kids weren’t alone. By the time I got out, they had already been checked over and were calmly sitting in the back of a warm car, Pastor Phil’s arms around them. All was well.

Matt arrived shortly after and took our family home. Home. No one went to the hospital. No one required further attention.

In the next hour, a lot happened. While I was resting with my hurting – but not seriously damaged – knee up:

  • The kids had a dance-off for my entertainment.
  • My boss, our awesome secretary, and the 2 other members of Custer’s third grade teaching team (a.k.a. the wind beneath my wings) made sure my afternoon shift was covered and plans were done so I didn’t have to do a thing. Except continue watching the dance-off, of course.
  • My dear friend (the daughter of Deputy Pete) brought Matt and I lattes and laughter. (Laughter usually accompanies her presence.)
  • A friend from church texted me to tell me she was bringing us dinner. She had driven by the accident and didn’t stop because she saw we were well taken care of by Pete and Phil, but she wanted us to not have to worry about dinner.
  • Pete’s wife Judy brought us fresh home-made biscuits, jam, and soup for lunch. I still don’t know how she whipped it all up so quickly.
  • My dad – who was on a call this way from Oak Harbor, stopped by for hugs, as did Matt’s mom.
  • Another sweet friend who heard the news brought cookies and flowers.
  • My boss texted to say someone from school would be bringing by “a meal.” (The “meal” arrived in a cooler and fed us for the rest of the weekend and then some.)

The next day, the kids and I were back at school. I was able to be in our rescheduled staff picture in memory of my co-worker. People were surprised to see us there perfectly fine, save one swollen knee, a cut on my leg, and a few seat-belt bruises.

From beginning to end, October 1st felt like one miracle after another. God’s protection from harm, provision in the form of people we love bringing comfort, warmth, care, food, laughter, and love. His perfect timing in placing Pete just minutes away on his shift that day and Pastor Phil unknowingly just a few cars behind us on the same road. Even a car door opening after it would not previously budge was so clearly the hand of God.

Miracle after miracle after miracle. So much so that I struggled to write this after our community has felt the pain of car accidents with tragic results.

Except for that verse. “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39)

I don’t know why some accidents end in tragedy and some don’t.
Or flights, for that matter.
Or illnesses.
Or pregnancies.

But I do not believe any of the events of that day happened by accident. I believe my God – in His limitless love and mercy – spared my family. I believe it was because of His great grace that He provided people we love to bring us further comfort in some very scary moments.

And I believe when I don’t understand why, it is okay, because He knows a whole lot more than I do. It is not my job to know. It is my job to trust.

On the morning of October 2nd, Jacob climbed in bed to cuddle me. He stayed quiet for a while, obviously thinking about something he wasn’t ready to say out loud just yet. Then he broke the silence. “Mom? I still can’t believe it. When you had to set me down, Pastor Phil was just right there to scoop me up and hold me tight! Me and him have been buddies for a long time, and right when I was really scared, he was there to pick me up.”

He’s right. Phil was there at the exact right moment. And isn’t that just like God? Just what God does? He picks us up when we’re really scared. Right when we need comfort and peace in the middle of our storm. He just picks us up and holds us tight. And His timing is always perfect.

As is the case for many others, this year has not been easy for our family of four. On January 3rd, we lost our second set of twins to miscarriage. On June 27th, my Auntie Jill passed away at the young age of 62. In September, Annalise’s kindergarten teacher – a co-worker and friend of mine – passed away as well.

But can I tell you what the Lord has done for us? He has provided comfort and encouragement. He has sustained us. He has answered prayers of protection. He has surrounded us with loving family and friends. He has blessed us with a new home, a new van, and an abundance of joy. The God who is great and mighty and has command over angel armies has not left our side for a moment. He has held us tightly through it all, and we will continue to follow Him through the good and through the storms. He is good, faithful, loving, and unchanging. He is our only Hope.

And because I am always a slow learner and quick to forget, I will look at these photos often to be reminded of His gifts of grace. In the first one, the van front smashed in, but not enough to cause injury. Protection. And Pete’s car, first on scene. Comfort.

car2

And in the second one, Pastor Phil’s car behind ours. God’s perfect timing. And a reminder he holds us tightly.

car1

And that thick, thick fog. Although I cannot see through it to what lies ahead, I know the One who can, and I choose to put my trust in Him. 

 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. ~ Hebrews 10:23

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. ~ Psalm 33:20-22

 

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Borders to Altars

There have been times in my life where words fail me. (I know, hard to imagine. But it’s true.) Times where I have so many questions in my head I can’t think straight enough to write them down. Or maybe it’s that I’m so overwhelmed with a feeling, thought – with GOD – that adequate words don’t exist.

Or maybe it’s both.

Today is like that. This week, this month. Words fail me. Too many questions. And too overwhelmed with awe, underwhelmed with vocabulary.

I’ve prayed 2 prayers for a while now: 1) God, break my heart for what breaks yours, so that I can see – really truly see – what matters. 2) God, oh GOD, reveal more of Yourself. More of your Truth. More of your character. More of You. Overwhelm me with YOU.

It’s funny how sometimes, our prayers are answered with a giant NO. Other times, they are answered in a way we never imagined…

And then there are the times we get exactly what we asked for. Only we didn’t truly understand what it was we were asking.

I’m going to attempt to put into words what it is I’ve learned. No, that’s not right. I’m going to attempt to put into words what it is I’m learning. Transformation is a process, right?

What I’m learning has been aided by sermon messages from our wonderful Pastor Phil (sermon series on Hebrews called “Jesus Transformational Greatness”), conversations with him or with various friends, a Bible study on Gideon by Priscilla Shirer, some song lyrics, speakers at Christian Musician Summit Northwest 2013, and Bible verses I’ve read during my own quiet time. While I will do my best to credit what they specifically said, it might be a bit difficult since it’s so jumbled right now. All I know is this: God has used a lot of different people and circumstances to teach me some things. It is, after all, the Holy Spirit who does the teaching in my heart. (John 14:26)

I have a friend who – just this weekend – heard a clear message from God. I told her to write it down. I told her that with time, our memories fade. We begin to forget the message we heard, or doubt we ever heard it in the first place. There is a real and true enemy of our souls, and he’s an expert at making us doubt or feel like we’re – or at least I’m – crazy. He’s had centuries of practice.

In Hebrews 1, many of the verses are references to other verses throughout the Bible. Pastor Phil pointed out they were all put together, allowing us to “overhear” a one-sided conversation, God the Father speaking to God the Son about him. What a gift! So I told my friend to write down what she heard and to keep doing it, so that over time, she will have a similar record of things God has said to her. A record of her one-sided (or two, if she writes what she says to Him) conversation with God.

I wanted her to write it down as an altar of stones. Like in the old testament, when people would build an altar of stones as reminders of an encounter with God, a physical way to show others and to remind themselves – of a time when God did something mighty. The writing it down – her altar – will serve as a reminder when she doubts and as a sign to others – if she chooses to share it – of the greatness of God.

I have some altars of my own. Mostly, I’ve written them here in different posts. Someday, I’ll print out my altars and keep them in a place for my children and children’s children, to point them to a history of encounters with a real and loving God. But there are other altars, too. I have some that are just reminders for me. Some altars we carry with us, like scars. Jacob’s scar on his ankle where his PICC line ran to his heart – a reminder that God is our provider and He is the God of healing and comfort.

And as I so desperately wanted my friend to build her altar in remembrance, so she would never ever forget, I began to realize that I’ve spent a month learning some things, experiencing some things, and I’ve built no altar. I’ve kept it hidden, partly so I can process it and make sense of it all. But I’ve realized there’s another reason…

Do you ever have a moment where you see something you’ve seen a hundred times, or read something you’ve read before, or hear or sing something you’ve already heard or sung, but it suddenly stands out to you as for the first time? The words cut your soul so deep, and suddenly you understand?

It happened to me with a song today. And I realized this: I haven’t built some altars because I have some walls – some borders – I need to break first. I haven’t written some things down because of my own fears of what it will mean or where it might take me.

When I’ve prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His, and to overwhelm me with more of Himself, I got exactly what I wanted asked for. My heart has been broken for the broken-hearted. For those who have lost deeply recently. I’ve wept and shook, and made myself physically sick over loss that people I don’t even know are experiencing. My heart has been broken for the wasted food, money, resources, of those of us that are “wealthy,” while others have such great need. For the pitiful pleasures we – I – settle for in this life. And my heart has been broken for a hundred other things.

But my heart has been overwhelmed with the goodness of our Creator. I sit here in awe that the same God who made the universe with His word, the same God who who sends out armies of angels at his command – armies of warrior angels – the same God who rescued Gideon and the other 299 Israelites with no weapons by defeating the Midianite army of over 130,000 armed soldiers, the same God who came as a baby, lived a perfect and holy life, died on the cross for my sins and rose again defeating death and the grave, the same God who sits on the throne today, is the same God who walks before me, behind me, and lives within me today. He never changes. He is always the same. And He is always with little, insignificant me.

And while I knew this before, I have been overwhelmed with it to the point that in some moments, it takes my breath away.

Some of you may not really believe this, but I do: There is also an enemy. The same enemy that will want my friend to forget what God spoke to her, he will do whatever he can to make sure others don’t learn the truth about God. He will do what he can to keep up any border I have, preventing me from fully trusting a perfect and trustworthy God. He will want me to have restraints on my faith. “I will trust You God, but I won’t do that.

Today, I was singing a song I’ve sung before, and as Tim Timmons says, God just totally apprehended my heart. (I tried to come up with another word, but that described it perfectly.) I started out singing with confidence, believing I believed these words..

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand…

As the song went on, the reality of the words began to hit me.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me

Oh yes, I have borders. I have all sorts of them. God, I will go with you where you lead me, but just not out of this county. God, allow me to be used to bring You glory. Only not that way. Because don’t you dare, God, don’t you dare allow one of my kids to die. If I ever lost a child to suicide or a drunk driver, God, I will not stand in the Emergency Room in worship. I will cry out and shake my fist in anger. And I will be done, God. DONE. I won’t be able to go on. So yeah, God? I fully trust you… but partly because I’ve gone through my fair share of hard times and I’m thinking my life is and will likely be smooth sailing now. It’s easy to fully trust you now that my hard times are over. You won’t let me experience something like that again… or will you?

People often say God never gives you more than you can handle. I’ve known this was a lie for sometime, but I was reminded again this weekend. God did not promise to protect us from ailments, to prevent hurt in our life. Life is full of heartache. He does promise to walk through it with us. And if we only ever encountered situations that were totally manageable, what on earth would we ever need God for? And how would His faithfulness, glory, and steady hand be revealed in a life that is never in need of Him? When David’s baby died, do you know what he did? He went to the temple and worshiped right away. When my babies died, you know what I did? I stopped going to church for months. So, God? I get that. I get that your glory is revealed in our trials. But you know what? I had a pretty big trial once. And maybe from here on out, my trials could just be littler ones.

Except that’s not how it works. Because 5 years ago, this wonderful family lost their daughter in a tragic car accident. And now, just a couple weeks ago, they lost another daughter who was hit by a drunk driver. And just today, they lost that daughter’s twin sister who was also in that car accident. And in between time, I’m sure they were holding out some major hope that God would spare her life. Only He didn’t. And I just don’t understand, God. I don’t get it! I don’t get how one family can have such heaps and heaps of heartache. And that makes me realize, God, that I am not immune to further heartache. And you know what? I’m just not sure I’m willing to go there, God. Does that make me weak? Unfaithful? Arrogant that I question You, the Creator of the universe?

And then the song continued…

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Ok, God. Hear me on this. I want to be used by you, to go deeper than my feet could ever wander, I want my faith to be stronger. But God? That family. There is nothing – no amount of a strengthened faith or… nothing – that could sufficiently counterbalance that kind of pain for me. It just can. not. happen. And even though you don’t promise to keep us from hurt, can you maybe just keep us from hurt that is that big? Why do you even allow hurt that is that big? I don’t understand!

These are the things I actually think. And so my heart was apprehended, because my trust has borders. Limits to where I will go with God. I might as well just say, God? I promise to follow you anywhere, as long as it fits with my plan, mmm-kay?

I have a dear friend who told me she has prayed for herself and her kids to have the hard jobs, because they reveal the glory of God. It got me thinking… I pray for God to use me, but I also pray – in a sense – that nothing goes wrong. How do I expect God to reveal his power, perform a miracle, do anything, if I just want life to remain hunky-dory?
Yes, God can use someone who isn’t hurting. But my borders, my limits, tell God this: Use me, but only in my way. I trust You, but only so far. You are sovereign and eternal and I know nothing and am but a vapor, but I still like my way best. 

And so, as my heart was apprehended, I decided these borders need to come down. I sang the song (or tried to) while weeping for this family who has lost so much. I sang the words while intentionally knocking down the walls that form these borders of trust. They now lay in a heap, a pile of stones, as an altar.

I didn’t want to write this. I didn’t want to post it. Something about saying “I fully trust – really truly fully trust” scares me. As though by saying it out loud, it’s going to bring a tragic circumstance my way. But it won’t. The truth is, by knocking down these borders on my trust, my circumstances won’t change, but the way I view them will.

And so, when I look back at my border-turned-altar, this is what I want to remember:

  • My Savior and my God, I choose to trust without borders. Take me where you will. I will follow.
  • When I feel like I am drowning I will remember that you are the one who lifts my head above the waters. (Psalm 3:3)
  • At this altar, I remember how fleeting life is. You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. (Psalm 39:4-5) Yet, You remain and never change. You have always been and always will be.
  • And in remembering this, I need to remember to purge myself of the things that are not relevant, and stay anchored to You, the One who is. (Thanks, Pastor Phil, for that one.)
  • At this altar, I will be reminded that my lack of trust – my borders – will not change the outcome of my circumstances, it will only change my response to it. If I should be led into waters where my iniquities have overtaken me and I cannot see, where they are more than the hairs of my head and my heart fails me, I will still seek you. I will rejoice in you and worship for you are my help and my deliverer. (Psalm 40: 12, 16-17)

But LORD? I can’t promise that I won’t hit another border on my trust in You. I just promise that when I do, I will try to work through it to knock it down. To turn that border into yet another altar. And I will kneel there and say, “YOU are my rock. YOU are my deliverer, oh God. The lifter of my head. In YOU I put my trust.” I will try to remember that in those hard times, with the hard jobs, You give strength in the moment, day by day. I am not prepared with enough strength today for what lies ahead into tomorrow. “As my days, so shall my strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25)

If you’ve read this far, take a few minutes to click on this video and listen to the song. Maybe think about what borders you have on your trust in the Lord, to tear them down, and turn them into altars of remembrance.

Long After

At the end of October, 2012, Superstorm Sandy ravished cities and towns on the Atlantic Coast. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. The storm reeked havoc and mass destruction to the tune of over 75 billion dollars. 275 lives ended.

I watched the news and read the headlines and saw the pictures sent around social media. My heart ached and tears flowed for the overwhelming loss and mind-boggling mess.

And then, my life went on.

But long after the waters rose and the winds came and the towns were devastated, the damage is still being repaired. Scars everywhere.

Rebuilding takes time.

Long after the storm ended, 17 willing hearts from a church in the small town of Custer, flew to the devastation to help with the relief efforts. Just one group of many who come, work, and go home while another group arrives to step in where they left off. Because even so long after, there is still much work to do.

People, being the hands and feet of Jesus. Sacrificing. Working. Serving. Bringing hope. Being love.

Long after the storm has ended and my life has long since moved on, help and hope still come.

Long after God promised Abram a child, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. And her heart rejoiced as she laughed.

Rejoicing comes after the heartache.

And long after that, another Son was born. A Son that would bring Light to the dark and stormy world. A rescuer.

Because a loving God doesn’t leave us in the dark, in the midst of the storm. A loving God sends a rescuer. A loving God sends Light.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~ Colossians 1:13-14

Long after aching loss, broken hearts, wild anger, God tells his story of redemption.

Long after the boy was sick, the scars remain, telling the story of God’s love and faithfulness, and of healing. Because God restores.

And I’m learning… Long after our storms, our scars remain. And they tell our story.

Long after the son left his father and squandered his riches, he returned. And he was reconciled to his father. And his father rejoiced for the life that was once lost, but now was found.

And when parents teach and listen and love and pour Truth into their children and pray over them and weep for them and hold them tight while letting them go, it sometimes isn’t until long after that they finally see the fruits of their labor, the work of the Lord in the heart of their grown child.

And sometimes, they don’t see it at all. And they feel like the storm is raging on and on. And all they can do is pray.

But that is no small thing, to pray to the Rescuer, the Redeemer, who can calm any wave and still any storm.

And even while it may still rage, he still holds you in the palm of his hand.

So what’s your long after story? Is it one of redemption? Reconciliation? Rebuilding and restoring? What’s your rescue story? And what are your scars that tell this story, God’s story?

Did rejoicing come after your storm?

Or are you still in the storm, in the darkness, looking for a way a way out?

Just remember, after the storm has ended, the sun shines again. It always does. And your scars will be your story.

*Sandy Relief team, you are in my prayers as you are the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing hope and being love.

The Helper

People say to look for the helpers.

I guess this originated from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’…”

Mr. Rogers was a wise man. A wise man who – it appears – was raised by a wise woman.

Find the helpers. Because we can’t let fear of one rob us of our faith in others.

There are so many helpers, supporters, sympathetic mourners.

Because people care. They grieve. They are there… to support, help, sacrifice. They are near to the broken-hearted, to comfort. They redeem this tragedy by bringing good from it, by restoring hope, joy, peace.

They LOVE.

 

And isn’t that just like our God? Just exactly what the Bible says about Him?

He cares.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:7

He grieves.

“In all their suffering he also suffered…” ~ Isaiah 63:9 NLT.

Because a Father grieves for the pain his child feels.

He is there.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God is with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~Deuteronomy 31:6

He is near to the broken-hearted. He comforts.

“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” ~ Psalm 34:18

He redeems and restores.

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” ~ Psalm 130:7 

He is the God of hope, who can fill you with all hope, peace, and joy… if you just trust in Him! (Romans 15:13)

And He loves. Oh, how He loves!

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:38-39.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…” ~ Jeremiah 31:3

 

And we were made in His image. (Genesis 1:27)

These people, the helpers. Look for them. In Boston, and all over. They are giving us a glimpse of our God, our Helper. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

Look for the helpers… And see an image of a living God, full of love.

The story.

What to say? Words whirling around, no where to land. Emotions swirling, not one sticking for very long. Crying one minute, laughing the next.

What do we do with grief so great? When it is not even grief of our own, but of a place we’ve never even been? Only it feels like we have been there. Every teacher I know feels they know that place and wondered “what if” on Friday, as they hugged each student good-bye. Every Mama and Daddy, we hurt so deeply, eyes filling each time we glance at the little hands we still get to hold. Grandmas and grandpas, relatives of all sort. It feels like it’s not far from home, doesn’t it?

Some try to argue it out. Blame someone. Our laws, politicians. It’s their fault, right? Or God. He could have stopped this.

It’s what we do. We try to figure out what went wrong, try to make sense of it all. The truth is, we just can’t. Not like that. Blaming politicians or gun laws isn’t going to get us anywhere. Blaming God sometimes feels productive, like you have finally found the source of the problem, at least that’s what it was like for me. I spent plenty of days months and even years blaming God for a tragedy I’ve experienced. While the anger felt correctly placed at the time, it only served to stir up more anger, more frustration, more hate. I’ve learned from my own tragedy – while very different and of a much smaller scale than what we all heard of on Friday – that blaming God gets you nowhere, because it is anger placed in the exact wrong spot. Hate directed at a source that only gives Love. I’ve learned that no matter how much hate is poured out, His Love pours out infinitely more.

Here is what else I’ve learned…

I’ve learned that tragedy, tremendous tragedy and evil exist. But so does God. And He is Love. He will never abandon nor forsake us. He loves deeply. He knows our hurt, and He weeps with us.

I’ve learned that on a day like today, when the grief bubbles over and runs down your face at a moment’s notice, there isn’t much to do except pray. And that is no small thing.

I’ve learned that on any day, on every day, we need to soak up the moments. Not let them slip past. Not take them for granted.

I’ve also learned that on any day, when the frustrations of being a Mama are great and the bedtimes are later than they should be and the kids say words they shouldn’t in tones they shouldn’t and I do the same, that it is ok. That I don’t need to feel guilty for letting a moment slip by and not loving every second, because day-to-day life is just hard sometimes. And frustration from the day and longing for the kids to be asleep doesn’t mean I love them less or that I don’t know how incredibly blessed I am. When I wish for no more diapers or for a moment alone, it does not mean I’m taking my moments for granted.

I’ve learned that in our hardest moments, when we have no words to say, when hurt runs so deep that it grips the heart and soul and stills the tongue, that Jesus, the son of God, prays for us. Jesus, the Son of God intercedes on our behalf. On behalf of those mommies, daddies, and all that are hurting. When our words run out or won’t come, or when they whirl around with no place to land, the King of Kings, sitting at the right hand of the Father, prays for us. And when Jesus, God the son, prays to God the Father, he can only pray the perfect prayer, exactly what needs to be said and exactly what needs to be done.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that Jesus is our only hope. He is the joy of more than just this Christmas season. He is the Hope of my heart. The hope of Oregon. The hope of Newtown, CT. The Hope of the nations, and of this world. He is the only hope. When the pain of life seems greater than we can bear, Jesus comforts. Jesus heals. When we think we can not go on, He sustains. When all around seems to crumble, He is steadfast, a solid rock.

Some blame Him for the heinous acts that have occurred in our country, yet His Love is limitless for even them. I wonder, do we also praise Him when we see blessings poured out? Or does He get ignored until the next tragedy, where we can dump further blame on Him? 

Do you know this Hope? This Hope that is Limitless Love? This Joy, that is found not in the packages under a tree, but that was nailed to a tree? This Joy to the world, that He has come to bring a Hope of life eternal?

Do you still wonder, why didn’t God stop it? Why didn’t He stop the evil that is beyond our comprehension? And while we’re on the subject, why didn’t He prevent every other pain in this world – big and small – if He really truly loves so much? That’s okay to wonder. He understands that, too. It doesn’t all make sense to us, but we must know the whole story.

I can not summarize it better than a friend did already, so I will post her answer. It may not satisfy the answer to the question, why did this happen? Because really, there may not be a satisfying answer for us. There is no answer on this earth that is great enough to make any of it feel ok. I know this, because even in my smaller-scale tragedy, nothing that would come out of it, nothing I could ever imagine, would be wonderful enough to make the pain in my Mama’s heart seem worthwhile.  So while our “Why, God?” may not magically disappear, this story answers some very important questions. Of why life can hurt so much when God loves so much, why evil and pain exist, and why Jesus is our only Hope. I encourage you to read it all. We need to know the whole story

From Carissa Krause, in response to a Facebook question about God’s plan:

With the very words that He spoke, God created everything. By His very breath, Adam’s heart not only began to beat, but his mind began to think and his soul was connected to God. “And God saw everything that He had made and it was very good.” Adam and Eve enjoyed an astounding relationship with God. Fully secure. Fully accepted. Fully significant. Wow. To sit down and try to wrap our heads around this is mind blowing.

While I won’t get into the specifics of what we Christians call “The Fall”, I’ll just plainly state that Adam and Eve sinned. They did what God told them not to do and when they did that, the connection that they had with God was broken. They died. Not physically…yet. But they were spiritually dead. Any every person born from them and after them would be spiritually dead too.

Now, let’s just be real for a minute. If it wasn’t Adam and Eve, it would have been you and me. Let’s not forget that their sin did not catch God off guard. It’s not like He had to come up with His plan in the middle of the night while Adam and Eve were huddled behind a palm tree sewing their fig leaves together because they were ashamed in their nakedness. God is omniscient. He knows everything. If He knew “before the foundations of the earth” that I would be His little girl, then He knew before He ever began to stir up the dust to make Adam that I would need to be redeemed. Therefore, God had His plan set from the beginning. Because He loves me. Because He loves you. Because He is Love.

His plan unfolds in every page of Scripture and is so clearly stated in Genesis 3. We had a problem. God loves us. God wants us. God is Holy, He is not stained by sin nor will He accept any stain into His Kingdom. We were all born stained. We are all born spiritually disconnected. We cannot do anything about it. We have a problem.
God has a plan.

The Good News or “Gospel” as we call it, was first proclaimed by God Himself in Genesis 3:15. “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” God said that One would come who would deal a crushing, disarming and deadly blow to satan.

Jesus is the plan.

All of the Old Testament points to the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. The plan is to give us back what we lost. To give us back our LIFE. Not physical life, spiritual life. The plan is to reconnect us to God. In order to do that, God had to remove our stains, our sin had to be paid for. So He took His Son Jesus, wrapped Him up in human flesh and sent Him to earth…because He loved the world.

And Jesus was born.

And Jesus loved.

And Jesus was perfect.

And Jesus died.

And God brought Jesus back to life.

And Jesus pointed everyone to God…

Because Jesus is God.

And whoever receives Jesus…

…is clean and connected to God.

This is the plan.

There is not another one.

This is Christmas.

This is Easter.

This is the Beginning and the End of the World.

Now, in light of yesterday’s tragedy, people ask where God was…or maybe the question is better put, “what is God’s plan in that?” We are upset because God, who could have stopped this…didn’t.
Perhaps we are not all that different then, from those awaiting a Savior in the New Testament times. He was rejected by some perhaps because He did not come the way they thought He should. Perhaps they thought the Savior would come and disarm the Roman rule and set Israel free from its oppressors. Wouldn’t a Savior stop the shooter?

Friends, He did.

We get so caught up in what we can see with our eyes, what we feel with our emotions, but God told us that it is by grace through faith that we are made alive. Our oppressors include the world, our own human nature and the devil…and on the cross, Jesus disarmed them all.
The plan WAS fulfilled, IS BEING fulfilled and WILL BE fulfilled.

My heart aches at the thought that these mothers will not hold their babies again. I am angered at the fact that the lives of these people were stolen from the ones who love them. While I hurt with those who hurt…I have not forgotten the plan. I have not forgotten that Jesus did not set Israel free from Roman rule, nor did He stop the Holocaust, or the stock market from crashing, or my father-in-law from dying, or bring my brother’s baby or my cousin’s baby healthy and into the world…

He paid for my sin and set me free.

This life I live, I live by faith in Jesus Christ.

He is the plan.