Why You Can Begin Again

“We’ll be there in twenty minutes,” They said, and it was all I could do to respond and keep my voice from cracking. She had slept in my arms that whole morning, with her little fist clutching my finger.

I had kept smelling her and touching her.

“They’re coming,” I said, from my corner of the couch, “They’re coming!” My voice cracked wide open. “We just have twenty minutes, Ryan. Twenty minutes.” I felt like I was gasping for breath, like a fist was squeezing the air right out of my lungs. “How can we have just twenty minutes?” I said it desperately, crazily.

Leo played on the floor. Ryan’s eyes filled with tears and he just shook his head. I held her so tight she woke up.

She smiled and a tear dropped from my chin to her cheeks and made her blink. “How can this happen?”  I stood to go change her diaper and put lotion on her skin, one last time. “I can’t do this.”

Sometimes we’re left with the broken pieces.

The moment their car had disappeared and I walked through our navy blue front door, my heart split open and bled out like never before. I felt crazy with the sadness and my body shook with cries that cut the air with jagged-raw grief. I clutched the edge of the counter top and held on, while gravity fought to pull me to the floor. All I could say was no.

No, no, no, no, no.

“I want her back,” I said through wild eyes brimming with tears, “I just want her back, okay?”

But sometimes we’re left with the broken pieces.

I went to bed that day and I barely got up for four days. There was no concept of time or calendar days. My phone rang and beeped and I barely noticed. There was no sense of purpose, just all this overwhelming pain. I held her pink and gray elephant blanket and I breathed in her scent and closed my eyes and tried to feel her in my arms again.

It didn’t make a difference that we knew, when we got her, that our story would probably hold a good-bye. Not one bit.

Because no matter how you receive a child, if you choose to love them no -strings-attached, you will give them your heart, you will make them your life, and saying good-bye will leave you staggering.

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I lost myself in my grief.

I got stuck there in my tears.

It hurt so bad. I never could have imagined how much I would miss her.

People didn’t understand and I could tell, and the fact that they didn’t understand made me angry.

I got lost in that too, and it became easier to see the judgement and lack of understanding, over the gestures of love.

Sometimes, in a spiral of despair, broken pieces shatter into more broken pieces.

And when you can’t make sense of where to go from where you stand in a whole lot of brokenness, you hide.

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It was in the darkness of a church, in the middle of a concert, I realized that’s what I had done.

I could hide myself away, somewhere safe, far from pain, but if I refuse to feel, I’ll never bleed, BUT I’LL NEVER HEAL. I hear JESUS calling me, out of the grave I’ve been sleeping in, with new lungs, I’ll begin again, lift my voice and sing my part, this is the sound of a living heart.

Tears wet my eyes. I felt like my heart was cracking right down the middle and letting go of it all. The heavy sadness of saying good-bye. The hurt I felt from other human, well-meaning people. The feelings of failure as a mom.

So many times, I had cried out to Jesus, but then in that dark church, in the middle of the concert, I realized He not only heard my heart and caught my tears, He was calling me out.

And maybe, this is what you need to know, right where you are today?

That whatever broken pieces you’ve been left with, Jesus is calling you out. 

Your song won’t be the same. Or your story. But you can be sure that

Every tear will be redeemed, in the hands of God.

A new door will open, a new path will unfold.

You will make it, friend. One single step at a time.

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Because by Him, through Him, and unto Him, you can begin again AND –

live more fully than you ever did before. 


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Comments on individual blog posts have been disabled, but feel free to connect with Renee anytime; she values feedback of any kind and looks forward to hearing from you!

Also, make sure to hop on over to TOP PICKS for our highest-rated personal recommendations on music, movies and literature. We’ll be updating on a regular, unscheduled basis so make sure to check in.

 

 

On Silence

The silence has not just fallen on the ears of the blog readers,

it has encompassed my heart –

frozen creativity and the ability to communicate through words –

compelled me to rest.

 

The silence has left me speechless, quiet and withdrawn.

 

The silence has given me space to breathe and to function, space to simply BE while my heart tries to relearn how to live.

 

The silence of grief is misunderstood, misrepresented, and mistaken.

 

It is lonely. Uncertain. And terribly vulnerable.

 

And as I slowly climb from the valley of silence, I know that I will never be – never speak – and never live the same.

 

Yet the silence does heal.

Why You Can Face that Hard Thing

Then there was the time we left the church.

I don’t think anything else could have been so hard and so right, then that. How do you graciously leave a church community? How do you say “good-bye” (in that “I-go-to-church-with-you” way) graciously to people who you care for and people who have cared for you?

Yeah, all that and then some. If you’ve ever done it, you know what I’m saying. That’s been a huge part of our 2015 right there. Six years of questions and conversations and thinking and praying and frustration and iron-sharpening-iron and rebuke and tears all culminating in that final decision: it’s time to leave.

If I told you the truth, I wanted to leave years ago. Almost as soon as I started attending, but not quite that far back, I wanted to leave and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I would have left angry.

I’m glad my husband is cut from the cloth of something greater. I’m glad he said, “No” and I’m glad he stood on that, holding me all the time.

I’m glad because I can look back now and see how Jesus had a work to do in my heart. How he put me where I was for a good reason and how He kept me there as long as He did. Six years. Six years that sometimes felt like a painful eternity.

I know it’s so cliché, but Jesus really does know better.

When we finally did leave, it could not have been more clear and my husband could not have been more decided. I think some people wondered if it was really for real, but I knew it the instant Ryan said, “this is it”, that this was really it.

And of all things? I cried a lot of tears.

I cried, not because I didn’t know it was time and it was the right thing to do. I cried, because I care and I love and I hate change and I hate good-byes and this was all really, really hard.

Hard, because you know that as much as you say, “we’ll stay in touch”, the nature of relationships change.

Hard, because you know there will be misunderstanding and hurt and possibly even judgment.

Hard, because starting again is always hard.

Hard, because new friendships will be made and that will take a lot of time and effort, and the old friendships you could depend on might continue, but they might not too.

And yet — following Jesus always pays. Always.

Jesus is why and how you can face that hard thing in your life. He’s the reason you can stay in your imperfect church and sometimes He’s the reason you can leave. He’s the reason you can risk your heart again, and sometimes He’s the reason you protect your heart. He’s the reason you can say yes, and sometimes He’s the reason you can say no.

Not everyone will understand your path and your journey and your decisions, but if Jesus is the reason? You can hold your head high and take it on the chin, because you know, deep in the core of your soul, that following Jesus pays.

You there? The one reading this?

You’ve got a Savior and a Redeemer and a Refiner and His name is Jesus. If He’s got the whole world in His hands, that means He’s got you too. So step out and step in Him.

And never look back.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19-25, ESV

Why You Should Hang On, Hopeful

I strained to see straight, hands anxiously gripped the steering wheel between swiping at tears. “Lord, have mercy.” I poured out my heart to the wide-open, early morning sky.

Sometimes it is too much.

I didn’t ask for this.

Life is heavy. Heavy with pain, pale with uncertainty.

There is no emptiness here. Life is full up and teeming over, no one is asking for seconds and hope is but a thin shadow on the wall shrinking away the closer you get.

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I know what it is to live here.

Life laced with anguish, praying “No, God, no. Please.”

Wishing you could rewind the day, the phone call, the news, the reality…wishing that rewinding would somehow erase it all. Praying beggar prayers, knowing that no matter how hard I pray, the ache won’t disappear.

This is real life and in real life, sometimes you have to just dig in your heels and plunge forward, straight into the thick of the angst.

Sometimes fiercely believing in redemption is simply not enough. 

“From the end of the earth, I call to you…” I turned the corner, right there by the half-frozen creek bed edged with snow-covered trees. The sun hit the windshield and glared, blinding rays of early morning gold. I hit the brakes, pulled down the visor and those words flashed through my mind, me swiping at tears and peering ahead.

“From the end of the earth I call to you, God. From the end of the earth…” I paused, trying to come up with the rest of the verse. “From the end of the earth, I call to you…when my heart’s overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

 Sometimes your life unravels. Somebody hit pause in a rather forlorn place in the story and the pause button got stuck.

Maybe you know what I mean?

Sometimes there ain’t nothing else left to do.

So you keep on making supper and washing windows and tackling projects and making lists and going to church and changing your son’s diapers. You keep on smiling and singing and laughing. You keep on doing the next thing and the next thing and the next. You try to write – that one thing you love doing – but the words stick and nothing flows and what is there even to write about anyways? You try and you manage to spin a few random posts, but the blog is really just falling apart. And the most startling aspect is that you don’t know if you even care.

Does breathing equal living? You think about that a time or two, between laundry loads and scheduling conflicts.

Forget supper…you don’t know what’s going on with your family, what’s happening in your church, what’s going on with the club ministry.

And this feeling of being stuck at pause is lasting for months not days. You wish there was a conclusion you could come too, so you could write the blog titled “What to Do When You Feel Stuck”, but instead you sit writing the blog you want to call, “Help, I’m Stuck”.

I cry out to God.

I cry out to God.

I cry out to God.

He says nothing. The air is full of the silence. How can emptiness feel so very full anyways?

God says nothing, and it feels like I cry from the ends of the earth.

And I wait and I wait and I wait.

I sit in the silence and I wait for His reply.

It has not come.

And the only thing I am sure of when I feel stuck?

He will come.

So I’m telling you that I don’t have the answers and I can’t see the way, but I’ll tell you what I do when I feel stuck –

I hang on, hopeful.

Because my Redeemer lives.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” – Philippians 1:6

Hope for Today…because NOW is the Gift

Thunder rolls across the sky. The air is thick with heat. A warm breeze blows. And everything begs for the skies to open –

for rain.

We all need rain.

The earth is parched and we’re all sticky with sweat, longing for cool drops of water to fall.

I sit on the couch for moments of quiet and all would be perfect if the skies would just open. I want to hear the rain fall in sheets of rejuvenation.

The whole earth begs to be refreshed.

And my soul.IMG_5645IMG_5656

The words on the mantle are bold. Now is a gift. What does it mean?

I hung that burlap banner because I wanted those words to stare me in the face everyday.

So when the little blonde boy sits in time out again, there are words before me, silently declaring over any frustration, that now is a gift.

No moment can ever be lived again, exactly how you live it today, right now.IMG_5616IMG_5565IMG_5716IMG_5724bIMG_5706

This stops me in my fumbling tracks.

I will only have this moment once. Other moments, similar, may come, but a moment never repeats itself exactly the same.

So when the baby with brown eyes and brown hair, screams and throws a fit when we go inside, again, there are words before me, silently declaring over any frustration or helpless feeling, that now is a gift.

And when the pan of granola bars never holds together and it’s a 9 x 13 pan full of oatmeal and honey crumbs.

And when jealousy plagues my soul at Pinterest-perfect decks or pregnancy news or effortless figures.

Now is a gift, says to me ~

You are loved in this moment.

You are enabled in this moment.

You are prepared for this moment.

because…

grace is now.

Grace we will never deserve and can never obtain – to face a lifetime of envy, bitterness, frustration, sin and insecurity.

Now is a gift, because grace is now —

for YOU.

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Don’t forget to check out the Links to Love page for the {June} edition! All of it, right here. 

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Happy Independence Day from my little corner to yours!

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The Slow of the Quiet

The whole world is racing and everyone is trying to climb over the next person and we are all this mass of humanity trying to outdo each other, trying to outdo ourselves, swept along by the mad dash of our plugged in lives.

We’ve got Pinterest and Facebook, Twitter and blogging, email and Skype.

We are inundated with resources to keep up with and no one has time.

But when God came to Elijah? He waited for the fire to burn out and the wind to cease and the earth to shop shaking, and God came to Elijah in a still, small voice.

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When I write in my book of blessings, I write – “Quiet. The slow of the quiet.”

I need the quiet. My life depends on it.

When I forget to still and get caught up in the pacing and racing, I am stripped of what is sure.

We’ve got smart phones beeping notifications around the clock and tablets and laptops and Ipods, and let’s face it – easy access to destructive distraction.

But God came to Elijah when the fire burned out and the earth stopped shaking.

The truth is? What we’re really desperate for is connection and we’ll miss it completely unless we first connect with Him.

It’s the morning after I sleep restless, a night of fighting off fever with the baby, and all I want to do is sleep…because my body is running on nine hours of sleep in forty-eight hours, with a 3-hour jet lag transition to boot. All I want is sleep, but I can’t sleep.quiettime

So I rise and I wait in the quiet and I’m found here in the silence of an early morning with Him.

 

The Glory of Suffering

Her eyes are deep pools, sad and questioning. She came, walking light and carefree, laughing about nothing and everything with the abandon of a fifteen-year-old girl.

Who knows what triggered her silent withdrawal?

But there she sat, head buried in folded arms resting on the table, forlorn and defeated.

I rub her shoulders, “You ok?”

The shake of her head is slow but there’s no mistaking it. She shrugs. “Not really,” she whispers.

I keep rubbing. “You wanna talk?”

“No,” She rests her chin on her hands and I watch the muscles in her face, working to keep back the water rising to the surface, threatening to spill over.

“C’mon, let’s go in the other room…” I squeeze her shoulder.

“No,” She insists, shaking her head a little more emphatically.

I gently persist, “C’mon, girl.”

We walk to the other room and sit and the tears spill over and drip off her nose and I just hug her tight.

Sometimes we all just need a hug.

“You want to tell me what’s bugging you?”

She’s quiet.

“Are you missing your dad?” I know I hit the nail on the head with that question.

“I know God is real. But where is He, Miss Renee?” She lifts her head and her look is challenging. “I pray and I ask Him to help me and I keep believing, but I feel alone. I don’t even want to keep living sometimes it hurts so bad. I won’t commit suicide, I just won’t, but I think about it.”

Sometimes there are no words. What do you say to a fifteen-year-old girl who lost her father completely unexpectedly?

That unsuspecting spring day, he’d gone to the ER for random, questionable pain.

He never came back.

“I never really said good-bye, Miss Renee,” She is sobbing now, “Do you know how bad that hurts?”

I pull her close and keep rubbing her tight shoulders.

Her dad had died weeks after returning home, after a year away. There had been counseling for him and his wife and a lot of hard, hard work. And then he’d returned. Home to be the father and husband he really wanted to be, with God’s help.

“Will I ever understand why?” Her defenses have crumbled and my heart feels shredded by her grief.

“I wish I had good answers…answers that I knew would make you instantly feel better,” I pause. “But I’m not going to pretend with you. I don’t.”

She wipes her nose and nods her head. She’s old enough – been through enough – to get that.

“You know Job?”

Yeah, she nods her head, she knows about Job.

“Job lost everything. Everything. Do you know how God answered Job’s questioning?”

She shakes her head slow, “Not really.”

“Let me read it to you:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

I read a couple of chapters. “Why do you think God was saying all this to Job?”IMG_0023IMG_9992

The tears have slowed and she’s quiet. She’s thinking.

“Why did God say, “Where were you?” I press and I can see her pressing into the holy Words, thinking.

“Maybe…” She hesitates, “I don’t know…it seems like God is saying how great He is.” Her voice is soft.

“Yeah.” I’m proud of her. This girl with the short, thick hair and the quick laughter and the round eyes. “It was kind of like God was saying, “Job, I made you. Why do you ask me where I am, Job? I never left you. And Job? Job, nothing happens that I don’t see. I am the Creator. I have not forgotten you.”

Sometimes there are no answers. No formulas. And sometimes the best doctrines on suffering fall short. Everyone sits in Sunday School and tries to talk about what it means to suffer and why we suffer and everyone ends up saying almost-the-same-thing in about twenty different ways.

And maybe the question we should be asking is not “Why do I suffer?” Maybe we should be asking, “Why don’t I suffer more?”IMG_9318

This is the entitlement age.

Where people who don’t work have more {government} money to spend on food than the man working hard at the layman’s job. And everyone and their brother, including everyone who really can’t afford it, has a smart phone and cable. This is the age of working the system.

We’ll fight for every right that we determine we should have, except when it hurts.

Then we cringe and balk. We deserve so much more.

But the truth? We don’t really deserve anything.

And everything we have is a gift, on-loan from our Creator. He is gracious. He is grace.

John Piper, he said something once about Christianity being more about resolution than mere consolation.

The entitlement-people see being saved as being “safe”, so when bad stuff happens, we start shaking our fist at God, saying, “How could you let this happen?” The submitted ask questions too, but they ask them to know Him, not demand for more or better.

Elisabeth Elliot said,

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.” 

So this girl I know, has had her personal encounter with the cross and she has suffered a deep loss. She feels alone sometimes, like even God has left her, and she asks God lots of questions, but she presses in deeper to know.

And sometimes, that is all we can do.

“It’s okay to ask God ‘why?’ He doesn’t mind. You won’t always get an answer, but don’t get mad. God hasn’t moved an inch, girl. Sometimes He might feel far away, but don’t be fooled. Push forward in the dark times, girl. Press in.”

I don’t have good doctrine for why fifteen-year-old-girls have to lose their daddy whom they have recently been restored to relationship with. It feels every centimeter as cruel as it sounds. I have firsthand seen this pain.

I don’t know what to tell the barren woman who sees the abortion statistics and the faces of wounded children bound from her with governmental red-tape. I fill these shoes too.

I don’t have words for the new mother who is clawing at freshly turned earth, for the baby that died so young, in the middle of his sleep. A senseless death, a piercing loss, the emptiest of empty.

But if I could say anything to the anguished heart?

God hasn’t moved an inch. 

He is present. With you.

The glory of suffering is that every second of our misery is a moment of restoration.

Redemption is happening now.

God, the Creator, is still the Creator.

And I promise you, He is creating a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory.

 Press in. Press on.

Why Your Words Matter {The Second Part}

Souls bleed.

They fracture.

Spirits are crushed and hearts are broken.

Living souls are thwarted.

And this is why words matter.

Most words speak life or death, and there are very few, if any, neutral, in-between words.

Relationships have crumbled and fully disintegrated over poorly chosen words, and real men and women have walked weighed-down and defeated under the weight of a word.

And words are too easy to come by in this time we live, with Facebook statuses punched out on smartphones and instant messaging in too many various forms, and haven’t you ever sent a text you instantly wished you could take back?

So maybe now is just as good a time as any to consider our conversation.

How do we speak? 

I’m washing dishes at the sink and the spring sunshine is warm on my arms.

And I’m thinking about words we speak, how they are easy to come by and impossible to erase. 

I’m especially thinking about them in the context of the body of Christ, because the church community as a whole has a rather poor reputation in the area of the tongue.

You know just what I mean.

How many things do we hear through the grapevine, things we have no place knowing?

How many times have we shared personal details about someone’s personal story — maybe in the form of a prayer request? Regardless of how, we’re pretty good at inventing excuses for information-sharing conversation.

How about the conversations that can happen in the context of mentoring? “Well, I needed to tell my mentor!” and then, “My mentor needed additional insight from her mentor!” We all know how that ends up.

Our words matter because they either feed souls or crush souls, breathe life or hiss death, bless and encourage or tear down and destroy.

We must repent.

The sower soweth the word.

I know it’s out of context, but when I read that verse, it struck me – how we’re all sowers sowing words, good or bad.

Everyone speaks but listening is art, and it’s the listener who sees and gains entrance to the deepest beauty of the soul.

What if we all took care to listen and took time to see, before we dared utter a word? The careless becoming the careful, our language turning lyric, our words no more condemnation but invitation. 

What would relationship be? How would community grow? If the words we scattered were words that would water, never choke? 

We’re all disenchanted with surface relationships and superficiality, and maybe just maybe we’re stuck there as long as we continue to heedlessly talk with ears half-shut and eyes half-closed.

I think this for myself, but I know one thing at least –

words matter an infinite lot.

What You Do, When You’re Hanging Onto Life by a Thin Thread

I move.

It’s after I recklessly pace through my kitchen and dining room. After I run to the basement and slam the lid of the washer and stand watching the colors of our clothes spin together, wishing the noise of the washer and dryer would drown it out.

The baby is crying and I can’t figure out why.

And I had to leave him and walk away, for a moment to catch my breath.

I know the books tell you that you’re a good mom if you know yourself well enough to know when to walk away.

The raw truth?

You feel like a total, bumbling, flailing flop.

Some moms choose to let the baby cry it out, but I can’t stand it. My greatest mothering fear is that my boy will feel abandoned. I just need a moment to collect myself and draw an ounce of strength.

His cries escalate and I climb the stairs.

I wish I felt strong, but I know it.

That I’m really just hanging on to a thin thread.

The baby falls asleep eventually, but it’s too late for a quiet moment on the couch.

And that makes me angry.

“I’m trying to be a good mom, here, God. Don’t you see me?” I call Ryan in tears and I tell him, “I’m done with this mom thing. Finished. I want out.”

Yes, can you believe it? I really, really, really said that.

Later that night, we talk while the baby sleeps in the green room across the hallway, and I sit on the floor and he’s laying on the bed listening.

I’m crying again and I’m telling him everything I feel…

Tired and weary and sick of  thinking up creative activities for busy toddlers.

Totally done with whining.

Desperate for space to breathe, to do something I enjoy just because I want to do it. 

Completely over cooking. Why do we have to eat anyways?

“Am I just selfish? I don’t want to be?”

I’m in survival mode right now.

How on earth do you live in survival mode?

What do you do, when you’re hanging onto life by a thin thread? Wishing you had more time?

Time to breathe.

Time to actually do the things you need to do.

Sometimes there’s just not even enough time for that.

You move.

You move forward.

Forward. Into. Life.

Praying the whole time.

Repenting when anger gets the better of you.

Surrendering your grip.

Letting go in order to receive.

More coming tomorrow…if there’s time. 

 

Why Your Words Matter {Part 1}

The house is quiet, save for the comfortable rumble of my old dryer faithfully tumbling wet clothes dry.

The morning was full of sorting laundry and changing loads, sipping coffee and ladies group with homemade vegetable soup and babies cooing in warm winter sunshine pouring through bay windows, toddlers fighting over pretzels, the free-spirited laughter of friends and conviction.

This one phrase from the book of Mark stands out to me, totally out of context, but I can’t shake how the words seep into my mind.

“The sower soweth the word.”

Mark was telling the parable of Jesus about the sower who sowed the seed, but when I read that one verse, The sower soweth the word I’m not thinking about the sower and the seed and the soil.

I’m thinking in the context of my life.

Everyone speaks words, but to listen is an art, and it’s the listener who sees.

The one who talks who hasn’t first mastered the art of listening, is careless.

But the one who listens and speaks, they gain entrance to the deepest beauty of the soul.

Everyone speaks but listening is art, and it’s the listener who sees and gains entrance to the deepest beauty of the soul.

The words soaked with conviction tumbling through my mind, like the load of wet clothes rotating in my dryer downstairs.

More thoughts coming later…