Sunday, December 21, 2014

What Story Teaches Us :: We Learn to Grieve #LettersToGrief

I am continuing this series 'What Story Teaches Us' with a post today on grief. So far we have been talking about learning to see and behold, both profound lessons from story. And grief is profound too, as you read this post, you will see grief encompasses so much, and so does story. I am doing this in the form of a letter for a link-up my friend, Kate Motaung, is hosting. She has just published an e-book called Letters to Grief. It is honest and beautiful and a great gift for anyone who is grieving.

Dear Grief,

You are not what I once thought you were.

You are both more and less.

  I once believed you came only through death. I thought you a hammer landing hard to tear through with the sharp point.

I see now how I was blind to your true nature and my own.

I have severely underestimated you.

In the hands of evil and the expanse of unknown, you hold nothing back from the searing lies you speak. You are relentless in malicious intent to steal, kill and destroy. You ball your fury around so much evidence of all that is wrong in this world. You pummel face-on and who can withstand?
And so you have humbled me to the dusty desert plains. You have laid me low. You have kicked me when I curling, fetal, helpless, sobbing cannot find the will to fight.

These Hands hold me and they master you. They raise my eyes to behold a Beauty transcendent. They fan the flame of hope. They carry me Home.
And here I know you as so much less than towering Enemy.  For you are in every aching heave of this world. (Tweet This) 

I peer deep into the story. I find you in all ways in the dear, once perfect, now lost.
I see you in cloudy, gray turning rich maroon, deep umber and fiery golden into long winter. I see you in the hollow eyes of the corner destitute. 

I hear you in the howling wolf, the crashing bang of thunder, the wailing cry of hungry babe. 

I feel you in jealous hatred that tears apart, the once promising love that today abandons and the insatiable craving that runs wild to be known.

I taste you in the brackish water, a touch of salty sea, that cannot quench, and, too, in the tears.

I touch your face in a barefoot child running dirt road towards the cardboard, split wood, refuse-laden of home. I touch you in the fierce hug of every stringing endless goodbye. I touch you in the boney, frail hold of last days.

You are a paradox stirring to life all questions. For yes, you are less than I once thought, but only as I understand the greater part you play. (Tweet This)

 At the heart of your evil you infect everything. Your malevolent intent pulls into the void of consuming loneliness, isolation, despair, death, and the pounding, pleading ‘WHY?’
Yet more, at the heart of your evil you illumine the only true pathway to hope. 

This is where I have come to embrace you as friend. You mold me in the grace of a God becoming flesh and entering the heart of a dark world to bear truth. You press hard into comfort, knowledge, stagnant relationships and make me new. You are the ever-reminder of a greater purpose for the pain, a greater day of face-to-face beholding, and a greater embrace of a Love you keep leading me to receive. 
Yes, dear grief, you are both more and less than I once thought you were.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Story Teaches Us :: We Learn to Behold #TellHisStory #TheGreatestGift

This is the second post in a series What Story Teaches Us. In the first post I talked about how we learn to see. In this post I expand on the idea of seeing, where we learn to behold.

They stomp on short and shorter limbs in a row of nativity. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six of seven nieces. We drape the scarves in robes and wrap in silky strands over hair for the regal flair of the girls who We Three Kings From Orient Are. We gaze towards the center of our living O Little Town of Bethlehem and a baby doll who acts the part of Jesus. Our Mary has a tender hold on Immanuel. And we all feel the pulsing beat of a God who is indeed with us.

There are no rehearsals. Simply the desire to wrap it all special. We line the beige of walls in a rehabilitation center’s community room. It’s mama’s temporary home as she undergoes radiation, learns to write with her left hand and walk again. Rods and pins replace bones eaten by cancer in her right arm and hip. There is no medical prognosis that extends her life past months. Miracles are real and the Babe in a Manger, high and holy, meek and lowly, beckons us to behold. It is the hope born of a night long ago and how we now trust the fullness that came from this one frail infant boy. This is what keeps us and mama tight and secure, beyond a stretching of days into next Advent.

This is the Christmas when Noel becomes altogether new. I am 27 and love to give, but still delight in receiving. Yet, what gift, in all the world, can fill our hearts split wide in the gaping cavern of grief?

Only Him.

It is only His life slipping out messy on the waft of manure. The beholding of promise fulfilled through millennia and culture and countless places of the tragedy of a world gone wrong. In all times and places ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Him tonight.’ For, it is the night of our waning hope and the full day of our rising fear in the coming absence of this family’s living, breathing heart that meets us in the dark hollowed of this year.

And here is where story teaches us to behold beyond the times and circumstances of these days. This Christmas. Remembering, searching the path of all gone before is our only true hunt for the strength to keep living into next Christmas and all that will come after
We behold the holy night where ‘yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.’ And mama’s story and ours shows the messy surroundings where the new day strains to be born. We remember her exhaustion of too much preparation to make it all special. We see her snipping at papa for the crooked tree he hasn’t, yet, in all the many Christmases learned to put straight. There’s the dollar store presents that sparkle of love, but we wish mama knew she didn’t have to run weary to get us things. There’s the Eve of Christmas when the pipes freeze on the farm and we run wild with extension cords and hair dryers to thaw. 

It’s always been a broken beauty, a messy majesty, ringing around thin-paper wrapping of presents and a crooked tree. It’s how together and home really are in the true beholding that comes with story. And though the pain is profound, this Christmas is not one solitary eclipse of the twinkling bright stringing year to year. More Christmases with mama is not that ‘yonder breaking’.  Our story reveals it is our journey, as Advent rounds to Advent, to behold more of the broken Beauty, and messy Majesty all the more hope-filled for the weight of time. He is our Dawn.

Story teaches us, especially at Christmas-time, there is ever the greater, better, before our waiting, wandering eyes. All our yearning strains in humble chords of love and loss for the Story of the Babe in a Manger. It is only here we find an unyielding resilience, where all of the world’s and our years’ of hopes and fears forever meet…tonight. 

May your story, in all its broken beauty, lead you through the dark places and to beholding of Majesty born into the Mess of wafting manure and rough-hewn feed trough.  May hope heal and faith overcome fear. This is the prayer I pray for you, friend, out of the gift of Immanuel as I, too, struggle to prepare Him room.
 Sharing with Laura , Jen, and Jennifer

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Series & A Giveaway :: What Story Teaches Us :: We Learn to See #TellHisStory

Time Slips Through Fingers...But Stories Remain

He's the one all grown up now and going to Hungarian School

It’s Advent. And I love the slowing and remembering. We are ringing around our Jesse Tree, and deepening the tradition a little bit more this year. 

We also have a Hungarian Advent calendar. Last night I did my best to read the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. When I finished, JJ translated into English and said, ‘there was no room in the inn.’ He was right. Neither of us would have understood those words so well last year. 

He is living brave going to school, immersed in Hungarian for 7, 8 or 9 hours a day. Next year he will possibly be reading and understanding that journey to Bethlehem. For his mama, it is sheer grace, a teeny bit of discipline, a bit more stubborn and some amazing language tutors and partners which have brought me to the place to understand any of this beautiful, complex language.

She's the one all grown up below, too :(
Our lives and their stories are unfolding, year to year, advent to advent, hope to greater hope. I wonder how JJ will view his now permanent thread of third culture living when he is older. 

I remember the litany he would go through in the confusion of our whirlwind transitions and subsequent waiting. It was at three years and some change. He re-counted where he had been, was and would be related to our ‘Florida house’, ‘road trip to Colorado’, ‘Colorado house’, ‘road trip to Pennsylvania’, several ‘Pennsylvania houses’ and then finally, one day, our new house in ‘Hungary!’ 

One of the most profound things God showed me at our overseas training during the ‘Colorado house’ phase, is how God is writing my children’s stories. Not me. I play a significant part, but I do not write their stories. God does. How very freeing to see this.

And here's Boy #2 wearing the same outfit, decorating the same tree in another country;)

And this is why I am starting a series today, in the middle of Advent about ‘What Story Teaches Us.’ It gives us eyes to see as we remember; as we walk the path of story. As I embraced the truth of God writing my kids’ stories, I thought about my own. There are things my parents would never have chosen for me. Yet, through no deliberate choice of their own, I went through some very hard things during my childhood. But God is the One who writes my story, too, and He promises it is all working together for good as one who loves Him.This is my hope. For my story. For my children’s story. For the story of anyone I love or struggle to love.

This is why I think it is perfect to start writing about the beauty and freedom of story, as we await the celebration of our Savior's birth. Because our stories teach us to see, and that seeing is the doorway to hope. And that hope is what gives us strength to overcome anything. This is all because God became small, frail and grew up perfect and able to rescue; redeem this whole wide world and every story that is a part of it. 

(This series will keep running in the new year. As long as it wants to, maybe even till next Advent ;)
Here's everybody so grown up & me trying not to cry...and praying I will see

I am guest posting at my friend Jo Ann Fore’s place today. She designed and led the Free Your Story workshop I went through a couple of months ago. I am sure I have gained a friend and mentor for life, because that is what happens when we come together around our stories and God's.

In honor of my friend, and Advent, I am giving away a copy of her book, ‘When a Woman Finds Her Voice.’ Enter to win below. It will run through Monday, December 15th. It may just be a way for you to see through to the hope this Christmas, or give someone that same hope.

 book cover

I sit, head bowed low and back arched forward and down, on the slate gray IKEA patio chair. I stare at the overgrown brush of our garden and hear one word, 'failure.'

My legs feel the rub, a back and forth itch. The fabric--a spectrum splayed amid tiny-tulip-smattering-over-midnight—is that of a journal purchased in the summer of 1994. It lays open before me and the darkened underside moves a touch of rough. It triggers a gnawing pain of wound or scar. I do not know which.

I am in the middle of Jo Ann's 'Free Your Story' workshop. She asks us to harvest our journals. I am not sure I can find any for all the purging before our move overseas. But I do. And in this moment, looking at a visible mess of living-dead, green and brown, I am undone.

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