Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All is worship and all is holy

When I got the group text that morning from the husband, I wondered.

I opened and played.

And there was the eldest and she was vacuuming and the white noise filled the audio.

But then I heard it. Under the muffle of the vacuum's voice I recognized the melody before I remembered the words.

Her clear little voice rose strong out of that labor and she was singing of the Christ child.

All is worship and all is holy

As she pushed that vacuum back and forth, she was oblivious to the daddy proud standing at the top of the stairs who was capturing it sacred.

She sang crystal loud. Proclaiming joy and Jesus for the angels.

I smiled and my heart smiled and I choked back gentle mama tears for the girl singing her little lungs out to Jesus. Does she have any idea how much joy that brings her Father? Could she know that her little voice rings louder than a choir as it rises to the heavens? Does she realize that she's worshipping true and precious?

And I wonder tonight if Mary knew that bearing the Christ child was worship true and precious. If she really understood the magnitude of her choice, of her sacrifice, of her 'yes.' Could she have known that when she took shelter in that meager barn, the angels gathered close, watching, waiting.

All is worship and all is holy.

And as her time drew near, all of heaven drew in a deep breath of expectation. Waiting. Holding. The entire universe paused, breath caught all up, waiting for that first wee cry, that first wee breath. All creation waiting for the Christ child to be born.

And then the exhale. The fulfillment. Our Redeemer.

And I'm guessing there was a wild babble of angelic voices and the angel choir may have been caught off guard a little with all this excitement. And then maybe a tiny, weary voice rose to the heavens out of all that labor and she was singing to the Christ child, the words of a lullaby drifting among the stars, and the angels caught it and joined their voices to hers in strength and worship and volume and breadth until the whole universe exploded bright and bold and joyous with their song proclaiming Jesus. Worship. True and Precious.

Our waiting is fulfilled. The season of Advent is over and the event of Christmas has arrived.

Our Savior is here, birthed into our waiting, birthed into our distractions, birthed into our worries and burdens and toils, birthed into our broken and weary, birthed into our broken. So that He may redeem us, perhaps not out of all our mud and mire, but through it, so our worship may ring bright and true and precious because Jesus loves our messy, our befuddled, our cracked and fractured places.

All is worship and all is holy.

Today may our words and our actions be worship. May we capture it sacred and true and may our worship rise to the heavens proclaiming the Savior's birth. Because He's here. Right. Here. And I don't want to miss Him.

Grace always Rises,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What to do when life rains all over

You know that saying:
When it rains it pours.

Yep, I'm totally there this week.
It's raining and it's pouring and I'm waiting for the old man to snore.
Fat chance.
I'm pushing hard into Jesus this week. Because it matters more than my rain.
It started Saturday night when I felt that nose thing and the skin thing and the overall feeling of malaise take over.
And then it was Sunday and the husband was working on the roof (yes, still!) which left me to tote the three little people to church.
And then I was scheduled to work in the nursery and I had 8 kids by myself and it seemed they were all having issues. Of the screaming kind. Including me. (me not so much screaming though--just to clarify). And I pushed hard into Jesus, trusting, leaning. Because it matters more than my rain.
And then it was Monday. My alarm went off and I cringed a little because the skin was hurting and the nose and the body. And it's finals week so it's not like I can call in sick this week. It's not like I can throw my hands up and call it good. It's the end and I have to finish well. And on this morning, it seemed like a lot. I may have even told my last class of seniors that I felt horrible and that I didn't really care about their grade problems or drama problems because I felt that badly. Who does that?
Sick people. That's who.
But I finished. It wasn't pretty, mind you, but I finished.
I pressed hard into Strength even though it was pouring.
So this morning I wake up and the nose is a little better and the skin not so sensitive, but I have a cough and it hurts to talk and I'm a teacher and that's what I do for a living and may I just say ugh.
So off I go to contaminate the world with my germs. Sorry world.
But still pushing hard, leaning hard into Jesus. Because it matters more than my pouring rain. He matters more.
And I do pretty well. Not contaminating, but holding my pieces together, trusting Jesus for enough to get through the day, being semi-productive, slowly but steadily forging my way through the stack of essays on my desk. I even apologize to my last class of the day for my heartless, unmerciful statement the day before and that today, I might care about their problems just a smidge. They sometimes think I've lost my mind, so they grant me grace.
My phone rings. It's the preschool where the twins go.
"Kadence just threw up."
Her timing...impeccable. Truly comedic in all its brilliance.
And I felt like crying. And laughing.
But what can you do but keep going. Take one more step. Trust for one more breath. For one more moment when the body is weak and frail and the soul is bone deep weary.
So I leaned hard. Muttered "Jesus is in control. Jesus is in control," like a mantra under my breath.
Pressing into the heart of Jesus, into the healing grace of Jesus even as the rain pours and it seems like too much in a season already full of too much and too many one more things that seem to make the straw that broke the camel's back look small by comparison.
In my eyes anyway.

And so we go home, the sick little girl and I, to wallow in our sickness together.
We take naps and go to pick up the other two from school.
Kadence is a jabber-jaw...words flying every which way. Feeling better??
So, I venture a quick trip to Target.

More rain.
Apparently, she was not feeling better and emphatically threw up in the car,
literally as we pull into the Target parking lot.
And for the second time today, I felt like crying. And laughing. Because really it's like watching a comedy/tragedy play out in real life.

What to do???
I know, you are all probably saying...ummm...go home.
Ok, so here's the thing...I live 20 minutes from Target. I needed pull-ups like tonight. And I'm still feeling pretty crummy so I'm not going back later.
And she's sitting with a blanket of throw up in her lap. I have to stop anyway.

Sweet Kadence says, "Mama, we can still go to Target right?"
Decision made.
10 minutes--in and out.
She takes another blanket in case she needs to throw up again.
We all wash our hands in the bathroom.
New shirt for the throw up girl.
Pull ups.
And a sense of relief that we made it through the store without incident.

It's pouring today. And that's okay. Because there's still grace, always grace. A whole lotta grace. And it has my name on it. And I'm pressing, leaning, crawling hard into the lap of Grace to sit in it. To soak in Him, to be in His presence, to let Him love me because I know that's more important than the rain. He can control the rain. What He wants is my attention. My heart. My broken. This week, I need Him more than I need air. I. need. Him. And He's got me. And the rain can fall and the storm can wail, and I'll just sit here curled up under His wing and trust Him to battle the storm for me. And tomorrow is a new day. Maybe it will still be raining. Maybe not. It doesn't matter. I've got Grace.

Grace always Rises,

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When My Traditions Lose Heart

I love traditions. I love the expectancy, the waiting, the excitement, the expectation, the build up.

 All this waiting and excitement mirrors the expectation for the Christ-child.

Christmas brings the advent of many traditions in my family.

I long and wait and plan for that Saturday after Thanksgiving when we make the trek to the mountains to cut down our Christmas tree.

For years and years we have made this pilgrimage and I love it no less today than I did when I was 8.

I love that it's my family--all of them--the whole wild passel spilling through the trees, tumbling down hills, filling the air with smiles and shouts and giggles as we search for the perfect tree.

I love that we are together--all of us. Family.

My dad is the root digger in my family. He's walked hard and long and painful to learn family, to live family.

Family is sticking hard and true when cancer ravages a grandma's heart and soul. Family is staying close through long nights and longer waits and doctors and bad news and the long haul.

Family is hurting with a sister when a husband lies between here and the after for months with hoses and tubes and bandages and sickness spilling out. Family is loving out compassion and living out empathy and loving through and loving while and loving after.

Family is knowing that a frail father's Alzheimer's mind needs a different love. Family is deep and runs faithful giving back to the roots what time and sickness has stolen fierce.

Family is taking those who have no family and loving them and grafting them into yours. Family is not blood but choice, commitment, grace.

My dad lives family in a quiet, gentle, graceful way. He has taught me deep down where things get etched in truth, because he's not afraid of hard, of grief, of joy, of pain, of sorrow, of gladness.

It's family who offers grace when others throw judgment. It's family who sticks when others fall away fast. It's family who doesn't give up but commits to the long and the hard and the painful. And whether it's family that you are born into or family that you make...family is family. Family is eternal.

And when we are stripped of our leaves and laid bare, it's the roots that matter, that keep us, that ground us. 

I adore every messy, dysfunctional, crazy, chaotic, heart-wrenching bit of family--because they are my family, they are my roots. And roots run deep into grace. And grace runs deeper still.

So Christmas trees and the Christmas traditions we carry over from year to year remind me of family, the ones we're born into, the ones we make, the ones we're adopted into.

But I need to keep revisiting the "whys" of my traditions because what happens when my traditions get old and trite and worn and one-more-thing to do on my never-ending list? What happens when I cling to what I've always done because I've always done it and I don't remember the why to justify the doing?

What happens when I lose the heart behind the tradition?

What happens when I lose it?

In a season jam packed to bursting with way too much of just about everything--too much candy, too much food, too much spending, too much on my calendar, too much on my list, too much of too much--I struggle with losing my mind.

I can't catch my breath and I gasp for something elusive and just out of my reach. I get lost in all the stuff and I can't see the forest for the trees--I can't remember the "why" for any of it--and frankly, in the moment of too much, I probably don't want to think about the "why" for any of it.

Sad, right?

Traditions can become like habits. The things I do without even thinking about them--like brushing my teeth or folding the laundry--a mind-numbing task to check off my to do list.

Instead of coloring the tapestry of life with brightness and joyfulness, reminding my of my blessings unmeasured, my eyes shift and I lament and my heart mumbles under its breath because one more person wants one more piece of me that I don't have to give. And I can't catch my breath.

When my traditions lose heart, I have to take heart and slow down.

I confess saying yes is my Achilles Heel. If it sounds good, then it must be good. And if it must be good, it must be God working and I should say Yes. And then my plate is crowded to overflowing with so many passionless yeses and there's no room and I can't breath, suffocated by all this stuff that isn't the stuff of grace and the things I need to say yes to have no spot to sit.

And then there's this downhill slide to a small, but very potent, emotional breakdown and it's just not pretty. I have to grant myself permission to say no, to let go of what I think I'm supposed to do, and to be.

It's hard to focus on what really matters when I am moving too fast, doing too much, and not taking care with myself and my time and my people because what really suffers in all my yes-ing is my family.

I am learning that not all good things are the good things I am called to do. And just because something is good doesn't mean that I have to say yes to it. When I can be still, breathe grace deep, then I will hear the small, quiet voice of the Lord and then I know.

Grace. In a season where we wait earnestly for the Christ-child, I seem to forget grace made manifest, love made tangible, redemption made mortal.

We worn and tired wives and mamas and sisters and daughters know the demands of juggling babies and in-laws and presents and dinners and where-are-we-going and what-are-we-doing and being pulled in a thousand directions at once and it's hard and it hurts and we end our days wondering what's so great about Christmas.

I have to cling tighter and harder and fiercer to the One who offers freely the gift of grace.

I have to remember that at the end of the day, the only things that really matter aren't even things--they are people, my people, my roots.

Our roots, our legacy, begins with Adam, with Jesse, with David, with Mary, with Jesus--Immanuel: God with us, God in us.

When I can get rid of all the weeds that choke tight and threaten sanity and blind my eyes and really grab onto my roots, cling desperately to my legacy, my Grace roots, I remember Immanuel and the earth shifts slight, the ground shakes quiet, and world gently rights itself.

Oh blessed breath of Heaven, breathe in me and through me and around me and within me. Breathe grace. breathe. deep.

Traditions are meant to remind us of our legacy, our roots--where we come from, who we are, to bring us together, to draw us in, to bind us tighter. Without that I only have empty, meaningless, graceless habits.

Advent is a season of waiting, of grabbing hold of our roots in expectancy, looking forward to the Christ-child's birth. Traditions are part of the expectancy, the waiting, because they remind us of what's coming:

Immanuel. God with us. Grace with us. Truth with us. Love with us.

Grace Always Rises,

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What it means to worship Immanuel--God with us

Immanuel--In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Immanuel--The Word became flesh.
Immanuel--God with us.
Immanuel--God. With. Me.
I have to catch my breath.
I have to stop and let my heart, my being, soak in this Truth. Soak in The Truth.
I sing songs with these words every Christmas. But it is today, right now, that my soul demands I stop, slow down, and feel what this means. My soul begs of me that I be still and know Immanuel.

Who am I that God would make Himself like me--that He would put on skin and clank around in bones, that He would opt for a heart that pumps blood through thin-walled veins and wounds that can bleed red and deep and scar deeper.
That He would choose to dwell among us.
That He would choose to dwell within us.
What would that be like?
How would that feel for the God of ALL CREATION to humble Himself and be like us:
to walk on dirt, to hunger and thirst, to be tempted, to go without?

What would it be like for the God who placed each single star into all the galaxies and all the universes and named them all to bring Himself low and become a Servant to the very ones He created?
What would it be like for the Ruler of the Heavens to suffer from fatigue and boredom and worry and sadness and sorrow?
My mind, my heart cannot fathom the love that all this requires.
I. am. simply. humbled.
I am brought up short.
I am caught in all this wonder and caught up in all this awe of such a God.
A God who didn't have to do any of it.
A God who was worthy of all our praise and all our worship without any of this.
But who chose to do all of it.
Who chose to walk the hardest road so that we might have One to follow.
Who chose to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that we wouldn't have to.
To do this...God became a BABY.
A. Baby.
I remember my babies.
Helpless. Vulnerable. Beautiful. Weak. Dependent. Colicky. Cranky. Hard. Wonderful.
Yep. He became one of those babies.

God, the All Powerful, was a Baby. Born to a single, teenage mom.
I'm baffled. I'm humbled.
He put on flesh. He made Himself NEED. The God who made all things, Creator of heaven and Earth, in one moment became needy. He needed care and nurturing and love. He made Himself vulnerable and helpless and weak.
I have to sit in all this love for a minute. I need to let the Truth seep into my pores and deep into the cracks and crevices of a heart jaded by the jingling of Christmas bells and the bustle of the mall and the wrapping of presents and the busyness of this season.
I need to hold this Baby, God incarnate, Holiness with skin on, tight.
I need to rest a minute because this is IT:  A wee babe who was born in a barn far from home and wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in a re-purposed feeding trough, this is my Savior. 
Stop and wallow in this Truth--doesn't it bring you to your knees, doesn't it make your heart LONG to know the heart of this God who would become so low because He loves us so much?
Advent is all about waiting for the Savior.
Shouldn't the expectant birth of a baby take on new expectancy in light of all this wondrous love?
Because how can this NOT change me?
How can I not be moved and shattered and speechless when I grasp what it means for God to choose this kind of entrance into a harsh, unforgiving, dark world?

He chose to be like us because He chose us to love.
He chose us to redeem.
He chooses us. Still.
And despite my lack and my ugly and my unremarkable-ness in light of His magnificence--
He chooses to love me. 
He chose to have a heart that could be broken.
He chose to clothe himself with fragility that could be wounded.
He chose to be weak, so that in Him we could be made strong.
He chose to be made humble, so we might understand His sacrifice.
He chose to live a human, mortal life so that we could live an eternal life.
He chose to be all that we are, and yet still be wholly divine, worthy of our adoration.
He chose to be a baby.
Into the stillness, a baby will be born.
Into the darkness, a light will shine.
Into the waiting, salvation comes.
And we wait in awe and wonder and expectation for Jesus--
for Immanuel--
God. With. Us.
grace always rises,