Monday, January 23, 2012


Before Emmett was diagnosed with cancer, I was taking some graduate classes, and, not to toot my own horn, but I was rocking grad school like a champ, and I LOVED it.  I remember one night on the drive home from midterms in early February shortly before Emmett's diagnosis.  I knew I'd done well, and so I was happy, but as I drove and prayed, I wondered that my happiness in graduate school and a potential career change had not made me any more content with my life.  Sure, I wasn't bored anymore, but I wasn't necessarily more content.  So I distinctly remember praying that I didn't want to just make more money doing a more challenging job, but I wanted to know Christ, no matter what.  And I remember it, down to exactly where I was on the drive home, because at that moment I could have sworn I felt something move, like an invisible gear clicking into place with a resounding pop, almost as if God were waiting for me to pray those words so he could shout a big, "finally!" to the heavens.  

Now Emmett was already feeling some of the effects of the cancer that would eventually claim his life, so I feel in no way guilty about that prayer.  But I have wondered if the last piece of the plan before Emmett's diagnosis was to get my heart in the right place.  

Lately, my heart has most definitely been in the wrong place.  Something about the turn of year has reminded me that eventually I have to move forward.  Not that I have to move on, or forget, or do anything necessarily, but facing potentially five or so more decades on this planet reminded me that I have to spend that time doing something.  That reminder has particularly unsettled me because Emmett and I had plan, and he did not stick to it, so now I'm left uncertain of where to go.

So while reading Brokenness: How God Redeems Pain and Suffering by Lon Solomon, I came across these passages:
I still thought usefulness to Christ was about methods and knowledge and human experience.    I knew nothing about needing God's Spirit to flow through me unhindered.  I didn't realize that spiritual usefulness is all about spiritual formation in my own heart.  I was ignorant of the process by which God prepares his servant...
It seemed to me that rather than rewarding me for asking God to use my life, God was somehow punishing me.  The whole thing baffled me.  It seemed so nonsensical, so contrary to human logic: volunteer for God to use you and instead he curses you.
At one time or another, as followers of Christ, so many of us have asked God to make us usable; to make us powerful servants of Jesus Christ; to do whatever is necessary to bring this to pass in our lives. When we pray such prayers, we are really asking for God's brokenness.  So God sends problems, suffering, and heartache our way.  He sends failures, setbacks, and losses that are uniquely fitted for us.  We so often refer to these as tragedies.  But here's the real tragedy: our ignorance of the principles and process of brokenness often causes us to curse God when all he's trying to do is answer our prayer.  We often resist the process and resent the Lord for putting us through it simply because we don't understand how it all fits together in God's strategy for making us spiritually usable.  Nothing is accidental in a Christ-follower's life.  God actively orders every detail.  He knows those things that will most effectively shatter our self-life, and those are the things that he allows to come upon us.
And wow!  So... um... yeah...  That was relevant.

After devouring this book in about a day, I decided to reread the story of Abraham's life because I felt I had been resenting the Lord a little bit.  Okay, maybe a lot.  Anyway, I noticed some important things about Abraham.  Did you know it was twenty-four years before God called Abraham to leave his home before God even started to fulfill the promise of making Abraham into a great nation?  That's twenty-four years of wandering with not much to go on.  During that time Abraham was faithful to his only wife who was barren.  At that time only having one wife and being faithful to her, especially when she was barren, seems like a pretty remarkable feat.  At the same time, Abraham clearly wimps out on several occasions, but God always rescues him.  But think about all those mornings Abraham woke up and looked at all his stuff and was happy, but not really, because he didn't have an heir.  Or what about all those times he packed up his tent and moved again, perhaps wondering in his heart what good it would do?  Twenty-four years is a lot of days to wake up without even a hint of an answer to God's promise.

So I feel a little better.  Not because I have any more of an answer to the questions I have, but because I feel a little more confident that I'm in good company.  But I liked the phrase Lon Solomon used about allowing God's Spirit to flow through me unhindered, so I've caught that as my prayer for the time being.  And for the time being, it is enough.  Mostly. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

itchy scratchy crunchy

One thing I don't really struggle with is trying to earn my salvation. I suppose you could say I'm a bit of an underachiever in that area.  When I feel God working in my soul, I don't get all "Hallelujah, praise Jesus!"  I get uncomfortable like a toddler in one of those itchy scratchy dresses that crunch when you move, except it's all itchy scratchy on the inside and I can't just change my clothes.  And believe me, I've tried changing outfits about a dozen times each morning, but nothing I can do on the outside makes me feel less itchy scratchy on the inside. It's a strange parallel between my physical and mental state, but I find it uncannily accurate.

I was so grouchy this week that by the time Friday morning rolled around and Quinn treated me to a massive meltdown in Chick-fil-a, I was just done. You should feel more sorry for the students I taught on Friday than for me because I was ferocious, like rabid dog on the warpath, ferocious.  And though I've managed to keep the foaming at the mouth under control, I'm still not really settled I my soul, as evidenced by the fact that I changed clothes seven time this morning because everything felt wrong.

I suppose this is the point where most people change something on their lives, buy something, lose weight, get a new hairdo. I have this suspicion that God is trying to squeeze a crunchy pink dress over my head, and it is stuck around my ears because it's so stiff and tight. All I really want to do is run in the other direction, like a toddler after bath time.

Confession time.

I wrote the above during the sermon at church yesterday. That is exactly how crunchy my soul feels right now.  My mind was buzzing so badly that it wouldn't even let my soul hear the words of encouragement for which it is desperate.  I'm just thankful we live in the digital age and I can go back and listen to the sermon when my spirit isn't so noisy.

So Romans 8: 22-25 is very accurate in my life right now:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
I've got the groaning part down.  But the hoping and the patience?  Still working on that part.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Full Heart

Check out the new Team Emmett website:

My heart is full to bursting this morning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ice Cream and Oprah

One of the funniest moments in our marriage, at least in hindsight, was when I came home form work one day to find Emmett lying on the couch eating ice cream and watching Oprah.  I promised not to tell that story while he was alive, but I suppose I can freely share now!  We had just moved into our house and he was still working at Starbucks, where his ring had slipped off unnoticed.  Although it was found lurking between packets of artificial sweeteners later that week, Emmett had come home crushed and deflated.  But when I walked in and he explained everything to me as if confessing a murder, all I could say was, "You finally get it!  This is the exact feeling I've been trying to describe to you for years!  The "I-want-to-crawl-under-a-rock-and-wither-away-but-since-that's-not-an-option-I'll just-overdose-on-ice-cream-and-bad-tv" feeling!"

Emmett was a little taken aback by my lack of concern for his wedding ring, but it was a complete break through in our marriage communication.  To my knowledge he never had another "ice cream and Oprah" moment, but from them on, that phrase was all I had to say on a bad day, and he knew exactly how I felt. It was amazing.

But boy have I had a week of "ice cream and Oprah" days.

Although the holidays were lovely, I had approached this particular new year with a sense of dread.  Just like the coming of 2011, I did not feel ready to accept the changes that the last year had brought to my life.   The turn of year gave those changes a piercing clarity that I can ignore most days.

But I underestimated how much Quinn would feel the change.  I'm not sure why Quinn feels the absence of his father so acutely right now, but he has been peppering me with questions.  He told me the other day he was sad because he couldn't remember how daddy used to make him laugh and asked me to show him.  Another day he wanted to know how daddy was going to get to heaven when we had put him in that box.  Another day he wanted to read all the books we have about heaven and just cry for a while.

Monday morning I got out of the car at Quinn's school and saw a father in a nearby car getting his kids out, and something about the sweet way he interacted with his kids made me realize exactly how much Quinn was missing.  Man, it was all I could do to drop him off before completely losing my self-control.  I drove to work but ended up calling in for a sub because I couldn't stop crying.  I ended up crying almost three hours before I finally managed to pull myself together.  I didn't know it was possible to cry that long, but apparently I have amazing endurance.

Now don't go feeling all sorry for me and Quinn.  Well, maybe you can a little, but we're not having a pity party over here.  There are plenty of other people out there in similar or worse circumstances.  But I do confess to making and eating almost an entire pan of brownies myself, although I made the fatal mistake of making them before Quinn went to bed so I had to share.  Next time I won't be so foolish.  I mean seriously, you'd think I was new at this parenting gig.  Making brownies before bedtime?  Amateur.  But now I know.

So Tuesday morning, I woke early and began my day with a strange kind of quiet time.  God told me to clean my room.  While initially slightly offended because, hey, I'm not a total slob, I realized that sometimes you just need to take time to put things in order.  And no, this isn't some great parallel about how I've been neglecting myself while taking care of everything else.  I've honored my promise to Emmett to take care of myself pretty darn well, I think.  But sometimes you just need to spend some time putting things in order, not to appear a certain way or impress someone, but just to get ready for what God is doing in your heart.  To clean.  To hear.  So as I straightened my room (though now you would hardly know I ever did it), God managed to straighten out my heart.  And though I'm sure to mess up my heart again (and again and again and ... well, you get the point), I'm confident in God's ability to straighten it out, no matter how twisted it gets.