Monday, March 29, 2010

Bad Monday, Good Friday

The Sunday before last Jason and I were asked to serve communion at our church along with some other young couples. We said yes with little hesitation, pleased that we could help do our part as a member in this seemingly small way. In the few days leading up to it very little thought was given to what we would be doing other than what would be worn (people were going to be looking at me!), who would be willing to watch Cora when we were up front (thanks, Nana), and lots of prayers that I would not have to hold the tray with the little cups of grape juice in them, as "clumsy" and "dropper" could very well be a part of my given name.

Sunday morning came, I dressed in my Sunday best, and off we went. When we reached the designated meeting spot, we were told that we were, in fact, in charge of the trays of juice. (Dear Jesus, You're funny.)

Jason and I were assigned to the least populated section of church (which leads me to believe Pastor Steve knew on some level who he was dealing with), and off we went. The serving itself ended up going off without a hitch, and before I knew it we were standing in the front of church, waiting for our own bread and "wine" to be given to us. It was at this moment that I was (figuratively) knocked upside the head by a realization so concrete that it almost (literally) took the breath right out of me.

You see, I was not a "good girl" growing up, in many senses of the word. I liked my social life and I didn't like rules, which was not a very productive combination. For many years I lived according only to getting what I wanted, how I wanted it, with little regard to the impact it would have on those around me. I was at the center of my universe, and expected to be at the center of everyone else's as well. I was still friendly, still kind (as long as you didn't try to give me a curfew), and still church-going. But I was not good.

And standing there in the front of church, the only thought that kept crashing in unrelenting waves through my mind was, "I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy". And I have never been so right about anything in my entire life.

I had not earned in any sense of the word the right to serve anybody the blood of Christ. Who was I, to be serving this precious drink to Jesus' beloved's? Who was I, to be a part of this holy, this sacred, this ancient rite? I was nobody, and that simple truth brought me lower than I had ever gone before.

But the funny thing was, I welcomed that feeling. I wanted more of it. I wanted my whole being to be so overcome with how undeserving I was that I could almost refuse this food and drink before me. Because only then would I understand what I was really a part of in that moment.

And that's where my mind is at now, as we step into the beginning of this most important week in a believer's year. I find myself wanting desperately to know my sin. I want to recognize how unworthy I am. I want to be thrown into the depths of my depravity, and kept there day after day until this Sunday, when the knowledge of Christ's sacrifice for me will be the one thing that can rise me back up.

I want to know how low I should go, so I can see how high He will take me.

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day for brokenness. I pray for unfiltered knowledge of my sin. I pray for the clarity to see the awfulness of my ways, and know there is nothing I can do to make myself worthy of Your love, much less Your life.

Convict me, Lord, in every word, every thought, every deed. Show me how every breath I breathe is somehow tainted with the wickedness of this world, and the sin in my heart. Help me to recognize that without You I would be nothing. Without You I would be doomed to being a lost soul, in this lost body, aimlessly roaming in this lost world.

Do not shield me from the pain of Your sacrifice. I want to ache when I think of Your beaten body carrying Your own cross up the mountain, I want to feel physically ill when I imagine the moment the nails were driven through Your holy, yet human hands. I want to weep when I picture You hanging there, struggling to breathe, waiting for death to finally take You. I want to be driven to my knees knowing that You went through all that for me.

I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy.

Break me, Lord. Break me, so that I can have full knowledge of Your love for me, Your grace in response to my sin, and the holes in Your hands that can heal the holes in my heart.

Make this week a hard one. Make it hurt at every turn. Make it unbearable. And then remind me that You did it all so that You could make me Yours.

I'm looking forward to it.

I love You, Lord.

In Your most precious, holy, sacrificial name,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Blind Shall See

Dear Friends,
It seems to strange to be writing on this site once more. It feels as if a lifetime has gone by since I found myself staring at this once very familiar screen. At this point I don't even know what I am supposed to say, I just feel the Spirit urging me here, and so I will obey.

I have been intentionally absent from this blog for the past six weeks or so. To make a long story short, I unknowingly was giving Satan a huge foothold into my soul with this blog. He was using the circumstances in my life, and this very convenient outlet, to bring me down to depths so deep I completely lost the person I used to be. He did it so slowly I never even noticed. He did it so deceptively I never even doubted that I was still walking with Christ. He did it with so much purpose, so much planning, and so much hatred for me and my Jesus. And I never saw him coming. Never sensed him near until it was too late, and the pit I was in had consumed me.

He had an angle on every facet of me. He turned the grief I was feeling from losing my father into something evil, and selfish, and dishonest. He made all the wonderful things in my life seem as if they didn't matter, as if they didn't count, and as if I was entitled to them. He turned all my blessings into burdens. He made me blame others and blame God for all that I didn't have, and turn a blind eye to all that I did. Because of him, I lost out on so many opportunities to share the Good News because I was so lost in the bad.

And it took a long time, but I'm on to him now. I see him now for what he is, and I see where he is. Or more importantly, where he is not going to be anymore.

Namely, smack dab in the center of my heart.

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of my Dad's death. Every part of me right now is straining against writing about how painful this is, how much I miss him, how this last year has been beyond difficult for my family and myself. But I am going to resist, because I know now that that is the devil at work in my life.

Yes, I miss my Dad. Yes, not a day goes by where I do not long to have him here again. Yes, I still do not understand why he was taken from us so soon, and so quickly. But that cannot be my focus anymore.

Tomorrow my Dad is going to be the guest of honor at a party planned especially for him. Tomorrow he is the "birthday boy", and will be celebrating one year of life at his Father's side. Tomorrow his perfect body will enjoy a perfect day in a perfect place. Tomorrow marks one more year closer to the day when we will spend eternity along with him, dancing and singing before the great I Am.

So tomorrow I will make a conscious choice to keep Satan at a distance when he is going to be using all of his power to turn this day into a day of mourning, and weeping, and blaming, and sorrow. Tomorrow I vow to take a stand against him, let him know that I recognize his advances, and gleefully cast him back into the shadows where he belongs.

Tomorrow, along with missing my father I will celebrate my father, and rejoice wholeheartedly in the fact that I will be seeing him again. In heaven. With my Jesus. For the rest of all time.

Take that, Satan.

You are welcome here no more.

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day thankful for sight. Thankful for eyes that can identify an enemy, but more so for eyes that can still find You. I lost sight of You there for a long time. The only visions I had of You were clouded with doubt, and skepticism, and distance. I admit, Lord, that I fell away from You willingly. The devil did find a foothold in my life, but it was me that didn't try to fight him off. I was lazy, Lord, and he jumped at the chance to expound on my lackadaisical approach to my relationship with You. I am reminded now how vigilant I need to be in response to how determined he always will be. He is determined to not let me see You. Determined to make me think that I am in good standing with You, even when my devotional life is nearly nonexistent. Determined to undermine how much I need You in every, single area of my life.

It speaks volumes to me, Lord, that I can spend this night, the eve of the first anniversary of my Dad's death, focused more on righting what is wrong between You and I then mourning the loss of my beloved father.

And it brings warm feelings of happiness and contentment realizing that this is just as my Dad would want it to be.

I love You, Lord. I love my father, I surely will be shedding tears for him in the days to come, but it is only You I will seek, only You I will strive to see.

Please tell him "Happy Birthday" from his family. We'll surely be celebrating too.

In Your Name I pray,

Saturday, February 6, 2010

March Sadness

Dear Dad,
Oh, what I wouldn't give to know if you could read these words! How I miss you... how I long to touch you... to see you... to hear your voice... I'm struggling right now, Dad. I still need you so badly to be here.

I turned the calendar over a few days ago to the month of February, and there it was. On the bottom right-hand corner of the page. The month of March. The month you died. It stared right back at me, almost daring me to defy that a whole year has gone by since you left us.

How can this be??? It seems impossible on every single level. There is no way it has been almost a year since you were here, since I have heard you say you love me, since I have seen you hug my children, since I have watched you talk with my husband, since I have been your daughter in a place other than in my heart.

More and more often lately I find myself wondering if you were ever really real, or if you were just a really good dream, just a really awesome part of my imagination. Were you ever really a part of my everyday life? Did I ever really exist in a world where I could talk to you whenever I had the inclination to do so? Stop by your house or your office just to say hello? Duck under your arm for a hug whenever I felt like it? It doesn't seem there could have ever been a time when this kind of carefree life together was ours to share.

I drove by our old house the other day, and upon first glance so many thoughts came rushing to meet me.

I thought of a memory Mom shared with me, about when the two of you sat on the family room step the first night you spent in your new home, and you prayed for God's blessing over all of the comings and goings of your family in the years to come. You were only a family of four then, little did you know God had three more blessings in store for you while you lived under that roof!

I thought of you carrying me into this house for the first time after I was born, and I wondered what was running through your mind. Did you already have dreams for my life? Did you hold me close and breathe in my newborn scent? Did you kiss my fingers, the way I so often saw you kiss your grandchildren's? Did you have any idea how much I was going to love you?

I thought of all the times I would follow you around the backyard as a young girl while you were weeding your garden, or picking your beans and strawberries. I remember asking what you were doing, why you were doing it, and could I help? You were always so patient with me. (Until I was old enough to know exactly what you were doing, and had decided I definitely didn't want to help. Then your patience would run a little thin.)

I thought of your precious rose bushes in the backyard, and how every summer you would let me pick out the one I loved best to keep in a glass of water by my bed. It was always pink, and it would always be in full bloom, meaning it wasn't going to last more than a day or two. But you never tried to talk me into a different one, always appreciating and respecting that beauty, to me, was a flower erupting in petals and color, not one which I would have to wait to see come into it's own someday down the road. (Did you know already then that patience was never going to be one of my strong suits? You always knew me so much better than I gave you credit for.)

I thought of you relaxing in your beloved brown recliner, reading the newspaper in your cut-off shorts in the heat of summer, not blinking an eye as I weaseled my way under your arm in all of my sticky, sweaty mess just so I could be close to you. I would only sit there for a minute, as I found myself not quite as into the Sports section as you were, but I just loved knowing that you were never off-limits to me. You were always available for affection, and I could go in for a quick snuggle whenever the spirit moved me.

I thought of laying in my bed at night, long after I was supposed to be asleep, waiting for you to come into my room and kiss me goodnight before you retired to your own bedroom. I would pretend to be sleeping, and relish the feel of your soft kiss on my cheek and your soft stroke of my hair. I would fall asleep immediately after, comforted into complete security knowing that my Daddy was so near, just one room away, right where I wanted him to be.

Dad, I so miss the way you loved me. I miss all the parts of you from my childhood on up through a year ago that turned me into me. There's something about a father's love that cannot be replicated, never duplicated, and it hurts so much not having this in my life anymore. I miss your fatherly concern, I miss making you proud, I miss having you call me up just to say hello and see how I am doing. I miss knowing that there is a man out there who has spent years and years invested in me, invested in seeing me turn out to be the best possible version of me, and I miss knowing that my future was always of great value and importance. I miss being prayed for by you. I miss the earnest, diligent, sincere manner in which you would lift me up to the King. I miss you praying in expectation for me... praying without ceasing... praying in love. There is not a doubt in my mind that not a day went by where I was not placed at the throne of Jesus by your lips. I miss this, Dad. The love you had for me is impossible to match, and I am having a hard time moving on without it now.

They say that the first year is the hardest, and I am hoping this to be true. As I sit here now, it feels almost as if I have betrayed you by being able to make it this far. As if by me continuing to live my life somehow demeans the love I have for you. There were times in the beginning when I literally could not breathe when I thought of you not being here anymore, and that seems more accurate of the way I should still be feeling. I don't want to get used to not having you here. I don't want to be okay with your absence. I don't want to relegate you to just a part of my past. You deserve so much more than that. You deserve to still leave me breathless, because that is still how much I love you, still how much I miss you, still how much it hurts to have you gone.

I am afraid, no, terrified, of losing my memories of you. With every day that goes by I am taken one more day away from the time we spent together. I am taken one more day away from hearing your laughter. One more day away from listening to you give me words of fatherly wisdom. And I can't bear the thought of losing any part of you that was a part of me. I don't know any magical way to keep these parts of you alive within me, other than to repeat my memories over and over and over again in my head. And so I do.

My dearest Dad, saying good-bye to you still isn't an option for me. With the one-year anniversary of your death approaching it is no more easier now than it was over 300 days ago to fathom the rest of my life without you. You still consume me, you still occupy so much of me, you still are the very first place my thoughts go to when they are left to their own devices.

But Jason reminded me again the other day that while it's okay for me to look back, I need to remember that there is a future. I cannot get so caught up in my life without you that I forget that I will have life with you again. You and me, we're not done yet. I think it was Steven Curtis Chapman who said, after his little girl passed away in a tragic accident, that "Our future together will be so much greater than our past". And I will hold onto that now. I will remember that you were mine once, and you will be mine again. I was your daughter once, and someday I will be your daughter again... for all eternity. Someday soon we'll be stopping to smell the roses, together. You'll let me pick my most favorite one, and I will turn to you and see your eyes shining into mine once more.

I miss you, Dad. Everyday, all day, I miss you. Life is beyond hard without you in it. But along with my pain I will try to see your face in my future, where I know it will be. I'm ready to be with you again, Dad. And this time it will be forever.

Your loving daughter,

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day wondering if this pain ever gets any easier. It seems silly sometimes, sometimes even wrong, that it should still hurt this bad. I guess it's just a testament to the love I had for him, which in turn is a testament to the man You molded him to be. He loved You more than anything, Lord, and that love changed him into a man impossible not to love in return.

I have so many questions for You someday, Lord, regarding the life of my father. So many answers I need from You. But right now I am just going to be grateful that I will have the opportunity to ask them. One day I will see You, and I will see my father again, and it is only because of Your love for all of us that this is a possibility.

Thank You, Lord, for loving him. For showing him how to love. For teaching him to love his children towards You. For being the only true example of unconditional love that he could model for his own family so that we, in turn, would grow to love You too.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of my father's life into my own. And, please, be near to me now while I figure out how to keep on living this life with him no longer in it.

I love You, Lord. Forever and always.
In Your Name I pray,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Numbers Game

I have always been a horrible math student. Actually, I despise numbers of any kind. I made it through Algebra and Geometry just fine in high school, and even went on to Advanced Algebra, but I think my love affair with anything formulaic started subconsciously rearing it's ugly head right around that time, and eventually my Mom got a phone call from the principal telling her that I had missed 17 math classes, and was she aware of all the doctor's appointments she had been signing me out of class for?

Oops. Busted.

To this day I avoid any numbers like they're the plague. Balancing the checkbook? All thanks goes to my mathematically unchallenged husband, Jason. Sudoku puzzles? I would rather have my hair pulled out strand by highlighted strand. If it were not for my trusty calculator (circa 1985 with all of about twelve buttons on it), teaspoons would be tablespoons, pints would be quarts, and my children would be even more leery of my cooking then they already are.

Give me letters and words any day. Oh, how I love the written word! I have a special place in my heart for my dictionary. I get excited about books on grammar. I can totally lose myself in someone else's term paper on the molecular make-up of water if it means I get to play editor and come up with all sorts of ways to use better phrasing and punctuation.

(Now, to all you fellow English-nerds, please don't start perusing my entries for errors. I'm sure there are some in here, and if I start thinking that you're going to be looking for them the pressure may be enough for me to get out my fine-toothed comb and locate them first. And frankly, right now I'm just too lazy.)

But anyway, ever since my Dad died it seems as if numbers have been creeping into my days, and not in a good way. I find myself tabulating, figuring, and subtracting these normally uneventful, mundane areas of my life until I have them boiled down to a definitive number. Something concrete, something I can hold onto, or something I can discard.

For instance, here's a sample of some numbers that have been finding their way to me as of late.

65: The age my Dad will forever be to me. I become so envious of people with father's who are in their 70's, or 80's, or 90's, because I will never know my Dad in that stage of his life. I wanted to see him grow old, to see what he would have looked like, to have been able to care for him, to be given the chance to honor my elderly father as the Lord commands me to. Now, he is immortalized to me as a mid-sixties man for the rest of all time.

4: The number of dried roses in a vase in my bedroom from a floral arrangement my friends sent to his visitation. These flowers make me angry every time I look at them. I can't help but think that it is too soon for me to have my Dad's funeral flowers on display. But I cannot, will not, ever part with them.

3 (minus 2): The number of live plants that came home with me from my Dad's funeral. Two I have failed to keep alive (no surprise there), but the last one I have grown an unhealthy and abnormally protective relationship over. If that one dies, I have lost one more thing that ties me to my father.

10: The number of months I have lived on without him. You could easily tell me this number stands for ten days, or ten years. It's hard to think that there would be any difference. Pain is pain, no matter how much time has passed.

13( plus 2): The number of grandchildren he shared his life with while he was here, plus the two who have been born since he died. (Dearest Cora and Gage, my prayer for you is that we can relate to you all of who your Papa was, instill in you his heart for the Lord, and be a living example of the love of Christ that would have been his lifelong gift to each one of you.)

2 (minus one big, fat, giant 1): The number of fathers in my life. At our Alberda family Christmas party I took along some homemade soup. As I was in the kitchen helping myself to a bowl, my father-in-law spoke up from the next room and said, "Nice work, Susie-Q". To my recollection, my own father never once called me Susie-Q, but hearing this from my father-in-law completely leveled me. It was such an obviously fatherly thing to say, and it totally caught me off guard how much I missed having that fatherly pride and affection shown to me. I was left speechless, holding the ladle and holding back tears, longing to feel like a daughter all the time, and not just once in awhile. That big, fat, giant 1 is the one that immerses itself in my hours and my days, and casts an overwhelming shadow over my future.

72: The number of minutes my father will spend in heaven without me if I live another 50 years, if 2 Peter 3 is to be taken literally and one day in heaven really is the equivalent of 1,000 years here on earth. (See, Mr. VandenBerg? All your math teaching was not completely lost on me. Unless I figured this wrong, in which case I'm sorry. And then you would be right, I should have listened to you when you told me that there would come a time where my math skills would come in handy.)

10 x 4 : The approximate number of Sunday services I have sat through without my father by my side. This is the one hour a week where his absence remains as bitter and as real to me as if he had just passed away days before. Although enough time has gone by that I don't expect to see him rounding the corner at church anymore, when I take my seat I can still feel him next to me, I can still see his reverent face ready to receive teaching, I can still remember his humble heart lost in worship. Sunday's are so hard for me, and rarely do I make it through a service without the memory of him there next to me bringing tears to my eyes. This one hour a week remains very bittersweet for me, as the comfort I find there in Christ often goes head-to-head with my sorrow over death. It is a constant battle, on a very appropriate battlefield.

Plus 1: The only number I have found to matter in my life. The number that all the other figures and formulas combined cannot touch, cannot hold a candle to, the number they all bow down before. The number of my God in my life. This number reminds me that I am always me, plus One. And this One can never change, will never leave me, and is perfect just the way it is. Without this One I am nothing, I am nil, I am zero. But with this One I am infinite.

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day choosing to focus on my "plus 1", and to let all the other numbers fall by the wayside. None of them matter, Lord, in comparison with You.

You are my everything. You have carried me through the hours, the days, the months that keep adding up, keep growing greater and greater as my life with my father falls further and further behind.

And You have never once changed. You cannot be divided, You cannot be added to, You are not just one part of the equation. You are the equation. Everything begins and ends with You. You are sovereign, You are holy, You are powerful, You are in control, You are mighty, You are just, You are strong, You need no one or nothing.

And yet You still choose to be gracious, compassionate, merciful, and kind. You still come here to mourn with me, to comfort me, to offer Yourself to me, to love me, and invite me to love You.

All of these things add up to one amazing, unfathomable God. An indescribable God whose only desire is to be allowed into our lives as our "plus 1".

Lord, You are the one and only number that makes me whole.

Thank You for completing me.

In Your Name I pray,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haitian Heartache

I feel like the world's most heartless, selfish person. If there was a way to be lower than a smooshed-up slug hidden under a rock in the deepest, darkest part of a forest, that is where I feel you would find me.

Our brothers and sisters in Haiti are suffering through the most excruciating form of devastation and destruction imaginable, and I literally cannot bring myself to find out the details of what has happened, or watch the latest news, or look at the graphic photos of the condition this beloved country and it's people have been left in.

And to top it all off, I feel as I should be connected to this tragedy much more so than if it would have happened anywhere else in the world. Our church has had a close relationship with Haiti for the past three years. Members of my family and friends have traveled there, we've heard countless stories of the work that is being done to help this land, I've seen image upon image of these beautiful people. I should be out pounding the pavement, going door to door asking for donations.

But I am frozen. These people's pain is so much bigger than me. I feel helpless and overwhelmed. And therefore I have shut down whatever part of my heart it is that should be open to doing anything I can to help.

It's not that I haven't been in prayer for Haiti, because I have. A lot. Countless times throughout the day when the Holy Spirit puts this country on my heart I stop to lift them up to Him. But I never make it very far, because it just hurts so much to think of what's happening over there, and the tears start flowing. God literally could not have chosen a more desperate, a more poor, a more impoverished nation to have this happen to. These people had nothing to begin with, and now they have even less than nothing. How is that possible?

And even more than that, I am afraid of what this is going to do to their spirit. Everyone I have spoken with who has spent time with any of these people comes back humbled by their love for the Lord amidst their poverty and destitution. They attest to the dancing that goes on in the midst of despair. They talk of the "hallelujahs" that accompany the hunger. The Haitians are a picture of a people who's souls are satisfied by the Spirit even as their stomachs rumble in their emptiness.

I have been so inspired by their dedication to Jesus, their genuine love for the Lord, their willingness to look past their circumstances to see that this world is not their home.

And now whatever little they had to hold onto has been taken from them. Their hunger will be worse, their desperation will be taken to a whole new level, their mourning and weeping will become a constant refrain, their feet will stop dancing in order to dig graves.

And it's just too much. Why, Lord, why?????

Again, this is one of those questions that we will never know the answer to while we remain here on this earth. And so while I sit here, hurting, shedding tears for these fellow brothers and sisters of mine who are suffering so, I will continue to pray. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to willingly look at the pictures or hear the stories of these people, but I will do the best I can to see to it that they are continually placed at the feet of the King.

On a side note, I urge all of you, if the Lord so moves you, to find a way to make a monetary donation to this disaster relief effort. I know that Compassion International has set up a link on their site ( to directly help Haiti. (And then while you're there you will also be given the opportunity to sign up to sponsor a child if you so desire... I promise you will never regret welcoming one of these children into your lives).

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day for mercy. For healing. For strength. For eyes and hearts that still search for You. I pray this day for Haiti.

I know You must be there right now, Lord. You can always be found among "the least of these", and these people have been left with nothing. They have no homes, they have no food, many of them have no more family. Their physical world has been destroyed, Lord, but I ask today that You protect their mental, emotional, and spiritual one. Protect them from hopelessness, protect them from fear. Protect them from desperation, protect them from the suffocating sorrow that surely must follow a devastation of this size.

Remind them, Lord, that they still belong to You. Be near to every single one of them and remind them that You alone are in control. You are bigger than collapsed buildings, and piles of rubble, and loss of life. You can renew this land, You can rebuild it, You can give hope to it's people and give them a vision for their future.

Let them feel You, Lord. I pray with all that is in me that You let them see You. Be real to them today. Take them out of the shadows and into Your light. They need You, Lord. We know they have spirits of steel, but even steel can be tested, and damaged, and destroyed.

Give them reason to believe, Lord, that You are still worth dancing for. And then give them the strength to do so.

Heal this land. Rebuild it better and brighter than ever. Use this tragedy to open our eyes to the least of these, Your sons and daughters, and give us the desire to come alongside them so that we can be a part of their healing too.

Use them also to teach us how to turn to You when we have lost everything. There is a part of me that wonders if You allowed this to happen to this country because of their great love for You, and You knew that taking away what little they had would only give them the opportunity to glorify and praise You more, and then give us the chance to become witness to it.

We love this land, Lord. This is a special, beautiful people. People who remain in Your care even when the world around them crumbles. I plead with You today to save them, to carry them, and to raise them up triumphant.

We are watching, Lord, and we pray in confidence and expectation.

In Your Holy Name,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Clearing My Head

There have been so many times in the last days/weeks/months that I found myself thinking the same thoughts, praying the same prayers and asking the same questions over and over again. It's gotten to the point that whenever I find myself reliving these same ideas, I get so annoyed and tell myself to just move ON already!

So this post is an attempt to once and for all clear my head of certain questions and statements that need evacuating, but to also remind myself of other things which I should take to heart more often. Some of the questions I already have the answer to, some remain a work in progress, and some I will never find out this side of heaven. But, in my attempt to start fresh in 2010, here is the last year of my life in sentence form...

- Heal him, Lord, he's in so much pain.

- Thank You, God, for a clear PET scan!

- My God, a lump. The cancer is back.

- "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up". James 5:15a

- "I love you, Dad."

- You are mighty to save, God. I know You will save him.

- "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

- "Dad, you have taught us how to make it back to you someday. Because of your faith we will be together again."

- My Dad is dead.

- Do I trust You, Lord?

- I do not trust You, Lord.

- I have to trust You, Lord, or I die too.

- We'll make it through this together, Mom.

- Will I ever get my Mom back?

- Boy? Or girl?

- Welcome, my sweet, sweet Cora Dean. "Can you see your namesake, Dad? It is killing me that she cannot know you..."

- How can I parent three children when I can barely make it through today?

- Why all the hope, Lord? Why didn't You just take him right away? Why did You give us such great hope?

- I am unequipped for this life You have chosen me for. I will fail them, Lord. All of them.

- "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me." Psalm 138:8

- I'm trying, Lord. I love You, and because of this I will continue to try.

- Where is he, Lord? Can he hear me? Can he see me?

- Where are You? Do You hear me?

- How could you take him away from my Mom, Lord? Do You not know her? We can't care for her the way he did... we're losing her, Lord.

- Guide me, Lord. Use me, mold me, take "me" out of me.

- Speak to these precious children when I cannot. They are Yours, Lord.

- Protect the rest of my family, Lord. They are mine, all mine. I could not go on without them. You know that, right?

- Mess with me, Lord... but not so much that it hurts.

- I need to see You, Lord, I'm losing faith that You see me.

- "Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

- "Dear Lord... Oh, never mind... You're going to do what You want anyway..."

- I miss him, I miss him, I just miss him so much. How did this ever, ever happen?

- Forgive me, Lord. I am so full of doubt, and anger, and bitterness.

- Thank You, for reminding me Who I serve, and that the things of this life are just preparing me for my life with You.

- Help me grow, help me be a better mother, a better wife, a better person.

- Will this pain ever go away?

- Sell the house? Or stay? Your will be done, Lord.

- I trust You, I trust You not... I trust You, I trust You not... I trust You, I trust You not...

- "Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You." Psalm 63:3

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day struggling to pray at all. It's not a good day down here. My head is full of negative thoughts about You. But I'm trying, Lord. Please honor the fact that I am trying, it is all I have to give to You today.

I'm having a hard time remembering all the good things You have done in my life, Lord. I'm like the men who helped You divide up five loaves of bread and two fishes among 5,000 people, and then soon afterwards found themselves doubting You. My problem is that I know You can do anything, my faith in Your power remains unshakable. I just don't have faith that You will do anything I ask You to. So many times, Lord, I come before You in absolute faith, asking with what I believe is an earnest, fervent, God-fearing heart, honestly seeking that Your will be done, and so often I feel as if You aren't even listening. Feel as if my prayers are falling on deaf ears. Even if the answer is not what I want it to be, Lord, would You please just let me know You are within hearing range?

I am sorry, Lord. I know You are near. If I did not know it, I would not be wasting my time talking to You at all. You just make it really hard sometimes to continue on this difficult path of constantly seeking You out and trying to figure out what You want from me when it seems I'm not getting any direction one way or the other.

I've had a lot of stuff filling up my head over this past year, Lord. Some good, a lot of it not-as-good, but there is one thing that hasn't changed. You've heard all of it. You've heard my questions about You, my angry accusations towards You, my loving thoughts about You, my constant refrain of, "why? Why? WHY???". You may not have answered me outright, but I do believe, from the bottom of my heart, that You have heard everything.

And so I will continue to wait. And pray. And persevere. And love You. Because that's all I know how to do, and desire to do, even when I get in my own way sometimes.

Hear my prayer today, Lord. In all of it's confusing, wandering, meandering mess, hear my prayer, and know that it's just all about me trying to find You.

In Your Name I pray,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Resolve

Today I find myself enjoying one of my favorite weekends of the year. My husband is attending his annual Shepherd's Convention (yes, you read that right. All sheep, all day long), and I am currently sitting in a hotel room, all by my lonesome, with five hours of pure, uninterrupted bliss waiting for me to relish and and fill up with all sorts of "me-time" pasttimes. Do I want to lose myself in some TV that has nothing to do with Dora or an Imagination Mover? Sure, why not? No one will object! Or, perhaps I want to take a nap! What a concept, falling asleep without one ear and one eye half open just waiting for a determined child to rouse me from my semi-slumber. Or maybe I'll read the book I brought along! You know, the one about absolutely nothing that I've had in the bookcase for months now but have always been guilted into replacing with the latest "parenting self-help" guide, or the well-meaning literary classic which is sure to stimulate the few brain cells my children have not destroyed. Or! Maybe I'll hit the local mall! This option really scares me, as it's been eons since I've been unleashed sans kids in any form of a retail establishment. I may just lose all concept of time and eventually wander out, eyes blinking against the natural sunlight, three or four days from now.

But before I do any of that, I want to ask you a favor. As I sit here, pondering the person I have become as a result of 2009 and thinking ahead to what this next year may have in store for me, I face an incredible desire to just do everything different. To erase my slate and start fresh. To banish my old ways of doing things and charge ahead with new resolve to be a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, a better sister, a better daughter, and a better Christian. I feel as if 2009 was a year spent almost entirely within myself, and I want out. I'm sick of focusing on me, and want instead to love those around me intentionally, love them well, and love them without feeling as if I am entitled to something in return.

I'm planning on taking this total makeover slow, as a complete turn-around is bound to take me awhile, and the first goal I have made for myself is time-management. I want to learn how to schedule the time I have been allotted with purpose. Our God is a God who loves order, and I want to best seek out what that means in my day-to-day life.

So, I'm wondering... do any of you out there have any secrets you'd be willing to spill on how you structure your days? How you balance time with the Lord, time with family, time with friends, and time for yourself? Any juicy tidbits that make your daily planner look more like an actual day-job and less like a Jackson Pollock painting? Please share, inquiring minds want to know. :)

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day seeking out the best way to devote the day-to-day of my life to you. So many nights I go to bed feeling as if the hours you have given me with my children, my husband, and with You have been completely wasted. The hours turn into days, the days turn into weeks, and more often than not I feel as if I have not contributed anything worthwhile to my family or to Your kingdom. I am selfishly hoarding my life, and no one is benefitting, least of all me. I want to make my time here count, Lord. I want to be the wife who supports and encourages her husband to be a godly man, the mother who daily instills in her children the passion for knowing and serving You, the friend and neighbor who cannot help but point to You in all I do and say because I am so full of You that nothing else is capable of coming out of me. But I need to start small, Lord. I've tried to skip the baby steps before and understand now that a relationship with You takes work. Alot of work.

I ask You to help me organize my days so that they have meaning. Help me recognize the importance and practice of beginning and ending my waking hours with You. Guide my seconds, my minutes, and my hours so they flow smoothly, and so that I may be a good steward of this season You have given me. I'm only here for such a short while, help me use this small interval of time to make a lasting impact on Your world. Let me make a mark which will reverberate eternally in the lives of those around me.

Get me off this hamster wheel, Lord, and open my eyes to clearly see the path you have set out before me. Lead me as I put one foot in front of the other, and as I relearn how to every moment watch and wait for You to guide me into the next one.

I am Yours, Lord. Change me, mold me, use me.

In Your Name I pray,