Thursday, October 11, 2012

I'll Feel The Toil

Yesterday was another one of those days when words are not enough. One of those days where joy is devoid in that room of the labor and delivery unit. The baby is no longer alive. Now the parents must deliver the baby and say their goodbyes.

Looking back I can see how God prepared me to care for them. He had me in the Word the night before, reading in bed before I fell asleep earlier than usual. Then on the way to work I listened to some new music: "Slow Your Breath Down" by Future of Forestry. It was one of those songs that had me at the first few words, then solidified my attention as the music grew and swelled. I listened to it over and over. These lyrics were running through my head as I turned off my car and walked into the hospital:

Slow your breath down
Just take it slow
Find your heart now, oh
You can trust and love again...
You're not alone
You're now a part of Me
You feel the cure
I'll feel the toil that brought you

Unbeknownst to me, it was courage and strength heading into a tragic day. 12 hours flew by as I lost myself caring for the family. I couldn't eat. I didn't laugh. The tears shed weren't ones of joy. I dressed, photographed, and held the little body that just a day before was alive inside her mom. There isn't a way to explain loss like this to a couple. There is only reassurance that grieving in many forms is normal. And reassurance that I am walking it with them. With every hug I was willing divine strength and healing.

I gave all I had.

I'd love to say that I left it at work, but that would be a lie. Instead I sat on my couch dazed and couldn't make any decisions on what to eat, so I finally just went to bed. I didn't lose an unborn child, but I felt her emptiness every time I rolled over. I spent the morning in bed watching episode after episode of Parenthood, letting the tears (and sobs) flow freely.

I needed to be fully present for work again on Friday, so I spent the day in self-care mode. I read. I listened to music. I went for a drive. I spent hours in a coffee shop drinking my new guilty pleasure (an iced coffee drink called the "Shaker" flavored with hazelnut...I shamelessly downed with a chicken salad sandwich, one with a slice of chocolate peanut butter layer cake). And I went for a walk on the prayer trail behind church. This was the best part. My feet on the dirt, the smell of autumn in the crisp air, the trees standing tall and powerful as the leaves rustled in the wind. As I walked I wanted nothing except to be in the presence of my God. I didn't have anything to say. He knew my pain, after all, He'd caught all my tears (Psalm 56:8). I just wanted to be with Him. Words like Healer and Redeemer and Restorer were pounding in my heart.

Then I looked up and saw the wooden cross on the path. I've never looked at the cross and felt such a rush of comfort and relief. It felt like home. I took a deep breath as I let every emotion wash into the outstretched arms of my Savior.

I didn't have to bear it, because He already did.

Thoughts of my patient swirled in my head as I listened to a few songs on my iPod.

"Let It Be" by Kinfolk 9:

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer
Let it be

 And Brooke Fraser's "Flags":

You who mourn will be comforted
You who hunger will hunger no more
Yes, the last shall be first, of this I am sure
You who weep now will laugh again
All you lonely be lonely no more
Yes, the last will be first, of this I am sure

And Big and Rich's "Holy Water":

She wants someone to call her angel
Someone to put the light back in her eyes
She's looking through the faces
And unfamiliar places
She needs someone to hear her when she cries
And she says take me away
then take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water

I was standing at the foot of the cross, laying the hurt at His feet.

The One with the answer.

The One who comforts.

The One who hears our cries and holds us.

He feels the toil that brings us to Him.

I couldn't help thinking how I want everyone to experience this Love. How can I walk through life and not shout it from the mountains? How could I be so selfish to keep Him to myself? He is more than enough. And Jesus died for all.


I am so grateful. And I pray to God I live with a renewed passion and outpouring of love.

Isaiah 44:23, NLT
Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done this wondrous thing. 
Shout for joy, O depths of the earth!
Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree!
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel.

I will not be silent.
I will not be quiet anymore.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Our Father's Reponse (XII/XII)

Maybe that's it. Maybe he does want to give her the pony (see previous post). But maybe there are more important things for her to do than have a pony right now. It still hurts. It still makes her wonder if she matters. And she must daily seek out His will as she continues to ask the question. God speaks through His son in Matthew:

Matthew 6:25-26, NIV
Do not worry about your life...Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

And again...

Matthew 7:7-11, NIV
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

I think this is where God invites us to open our eyes to the good gifts He is giving us.

Is it a man to walk by our side?  No.

Is it a husband to kneel with us and pray?  No.

Is it a baby crying in our arms?  No.

Is it a son or daughter calling us "Mommy"?  No.

It is a child we get to mentor. It is a community we get to help build. It is a trip we get to go on. It is a friendship tied together by the lack of the very things you find yourselves wanting. And for right now, God has us right where we are for a reason. We get to see Him in the singleness. To know Him intimately. To see Him fill our lives with good things and know on a deeper level how only He can fill us. He created us after all. Out of man, to be man's helpmate, in His image.

Is it hard?  Yes.

Is it lonely at times?  Yes.

Does it make you feel like you're crazy sometimes?  Heck yes. (Or maybe that's just me?!)

But He is good. And faithful. He has a plan for us. And whether or not we feel like it's our Plan B for our lives, it's actually God's Plan A. (Thank you to Cross Point Church's Pete Wilson for this!) Check out what God says here...

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

And He promises to give us hope and a future...if but we would call upon him, come and pray to him. He promises to be found if we seek Him with all our heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13, emphasis mine)

So that, dear sisters (and brothers), is what we are to do. Seek Him with all our hearts. 

In the tearful moments as you hold your sister's bouncing baby. Seek Him.

As you embark on yet another trip with no one in the passenger seat. Seek Him.

As you hold your best friend's bouquet of flowers while she says her wedding vows. Seek Him.

As you bake another batch of muffins for your coworkers or small group girls. Seek Him.

As you watch your nephew's baseball game and cheer louder than anyone there. Seek Him.

Own it for what it is. Don't wallow in it. Don't be in denial about it. Just own it. And if you begin to doubt how you matter to Him. Seek Him harder. He will tell you. It's written all over His Word and His creation...

Did you know He gave His Son just to be with you? Our sin separates us from God in His perfect holiness. Receiving His mercy and grace through Christ to cover our sin, giving Him our lives, this is where we receive Sonship. We are co-heirs with with our Savior!

It is a beautiful inheritance. A relationship with God alone is beauty to last a lifetime. Knowing Him is enough, and yet there is so much more. But with our inheritance also comes suffering. Matt Chandler expounds in saying, "It is not unloving of God to wound you now so that you might have everlasting joy in eternity. God is going to do surgery and then plant us where He needs us so that we can live as sons and daughters. Be faithful where you are."

And as He continues to love you - daily, hourly, minutely - all we have to do is...

just seek Him.

Songs that have met me on this stage of the journey:
A Living Prayer - Alison Krauss
The Light - Sara Bareilles
More Of You - Miriam Tyson
While I'm Waiting - John Waller

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Know Who I Am, But Do I Matter? (XI/XII)

So we know what singleness is. We know who we are created to be, male and female.

But there's still a question I found looming in the depths of my heart. I didn't want to acknowledge it. It was deep. And maybe a little embarrassing, given my background in the Church.

But it was there, nonetheless, so I dug. Here's what I uncovered.

At the same time I started reading The Gospel of Ruth, I began reading Angie Smith's book What Women Fear. (Ladies, this is a must-read too!) I was in the midst of a chapter on fearing death. Not something I struggle with exactly. Sure, I fear safety sometimes. I'm always relieved after arriving home at the end of a long trip or after hearing that a family member has arrived safely. But in general, death is not something I fear - and for that I am incredibly grateful. So I was reading through this chapter a little bit disengaged and happy there was finally a chapter that didn't completely resonate with me.

Then, I read this sentence.

"At the heart of my fear is the burning question of whether or not I really matter to Him the way I want to believe I do."

Oh crap. I read it again. And again.

There was something deep inside that was stirring. But I didn't know what, or why. I mean, do I doubt that I matter to God? I don't think I do. On a head level. But in my heart do I? I had to press deep to get to the bottom of this. And I wasn't exactly excited about what I was finding. But I was becoming aware of this feeling of wondering how I really matter to God. I know He sent His only Son to die for me. I know He loves me more than anything I could ever fathom. The things that break my heart, the things that burden me. Do they matter to Him?

And then my mind engaged in full on war.

Erin, this life isn't about you anyway. It's all for Him. So no, you really don't matter. It's all about bringing your Redeemer glory, reflecting His love and grace. Living a life sacrificed to Him.

I've been pouring over this verse for several months:

Philippians 1:21, NIV
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

So. Do I matter? 

He is my Father. He created me and loves me.

But still.

It feels a little bit like this: Imagine a family. There's a little girl who has several siblings. She and her siblings are loved and cared for by their father. They are provided for and have all their needs met, oftentimes without even realizing it. But this little girl wants a pony. One day she goes to her Father and says, "Daddy, Daddy! I really want a pony. May I have one?" And she hears nothing. So the next day she goes to him and asks the same thing, "Daddy, Daddy, I really want a pony. May I have one?"

Still no response. No pony.

So she continues, "Daddy, Daddy, I have seen some great ponies. You've trained me with a heart to love and care for one. May I have a pony?"

Silence. Years go by. She continues to ask the question. Her siblings are asking too. They get ponies. She has joy seeing their joy, yet she still wants a pony of her own. Meanwhile she continues to train herself to be a good caregiver, filling her head with knowledge of caring for a pony. She gleans wisdom from those around her who have them, continuing to seek and grow in the time of waiting.

And so she continues, "Daddy, Daddy, I see that you've provided a pony for my other siblings, but I still don't have one. Are you hearing me? I am waiting. I see so many great ponies. May I have one?"

No answer.

And eventually, in the silence she beings to wonder if she really matters. If she mattered wouldn't she have one? If she really mattered, wouldn't her daddy want to give her a pony?

Songs that have met me on this stage of the journey:
Surrender - Barlow Girl
This Road - Ginny Owen

I sort out this question soon in "Our Father's Response" - the final post in the Singlehood series...coming soon...!