Tuesday, November 20, 2012


When you live over seas for an extended period of time, it isn't so much the large things that get you, like being a thousand miles from your family.  You prep for those kinds of things and adjust your life.  It's the little things, like the clerk not helping you bag your groceries or not getting ice in your water at a restaurant - the little things you don't prepare for mentally, that somehow have the power to spontaneously and completely unhinge you.

Being a widow and a single mom is somewhat similar.  You expect holidays to be difficult.  You plan ahead and put on your game face.  It is almost surprising how easy they are because of the hustle and bustle.  But changing the light bulbs... Now there's a task that can completely unhinge me.  Shortly after Emmett died, I was wondering why all my rooms were so dim, and I realized that about half my lightbulbs were burnt out.  I'm not sure I changed a lightbulb for the entire time Emmett and I were married.  It's just something he did.  He noticed poor lighting and changed the bulbs.  I noticed dirty bathrooms and cleaned them.  It wasn't exactly equal division of labor, but it worked.  So when I went to change the lightbulbs, I wasn't even entirely sure where we kept them.  And wouldn't you know that nearly every single light fixture in my house requires a different size and shape of bulb.  So when a light goes out, it's another trip to the store for a special bulb.  So when my shower light went out again this week, I sure did want to cuss.  I'm still showering in the semi-dark with the sensor light in the rest of the bathroom turning off every five minutes.  Because I'm awesome.  And lazy.  Mostly lazy, I guess.

Quinn came home from school yesterday, and when I asked him how the day went, he suddenly got very confessional.  "Mom," he said, "I'm sorry. We had to write down what we were thankful for, but I only had room for three things, and you didn't make it on the list, but I really am thankful for you."  I chuckled and asked him what made it on the list.  He looked me straight in the eye with the biggest grin on his face and said, "ME! And the world and God because I love the world he made."

Recently Quinn has been bringing up the world and how God made it and how much he loves it.  On Sunday we talked about what it meant to be a new creation and how God was making all things new.  Last night as we read the last chapter in his Jesus Storybook Bible, which is amazing, by the way.  The chapter is about the letter of Revelations, and it is such a beautiful picture of heaven and God making all things new and right.  At the very end, after this chapter, is a little part about saying yes to Jesus and being made new.  Quinn likes to read that, as I've always assumed to stretch out bedtime a little longer.  He's seen baptisms, and when he brings it up we talk about that passage and how one day he can make a choice to follow Jesus.  Usually we go on about our business and he forgets about it, but last night he was adamant that he wanted to say yes to Jesus right then.

Now having come to faith as a young adult, I have a hearty skepticism that borders on a sinful disdain of people who say they accepted Jesus as a child.  Now I know it can happen, but I sure was surprised to find Quinn so adamant and myself so hesitant.  I caught myself wanting to say he couldn't pray right then because there's no way he was old enough to really choose.  And then I thought, "but that's not the gospel!"  So being the good mom I am, I threw out a caveat knowing how much he doesn't like to pray out loud.  I said "okay, but you have to pray for yourself because no one else can do this for you."  He looked at me without flinching and agreed, though he asked me to help him know how to pray. I also said he'd have to talk with our pastor and let him know how he felt about Jesus, to which he also very surprisingly agreed.  And then totally out of the blue he said, "but I'm only going to get baptized if I can wear goggles."  I'm sure Jesus got a chuckle out of that one.

After praying and finishing bedtime I hopped on the treadmill for a long run to help me process the day and the upcoming holidays.  On the one hand, I was overflowing with joy at Quinn's heart, but on the other hand, I thought, "well, crap, now he's got a big target on his forehead."  I found myself thankful, but mostly terrified about how to shepherd this child without Emmett.  How in the world will I do that when I can't even manage to change the lightbulb in my shower?

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Epistemology.  A fancy word that nerdy people like to throw around that essentially means the study of how we know something.

Hope. An expectation of or desire for something good to happen in the future.

At some point last month, I sat among the women of our community group and couldn't think of a single prayer request to offer, even though I felt adrift in a sea of chaos.  I couldn't put my feelings into words until later when a friend from that group asked me how I was doing, the real question, not just the passing courtesy.  It was a hard question to answer.  Luckily it was a friend who expected a real answer, and I said, "honestly, the best news I could get right now would be that I had a terminal illness or that Jesus was coming back tomorrow."  Like the best of friends, she wasn't embarassed by the weightiness of my confession, and so we embarked on a short conversation about hope that stirred new thoughts and feelings to the surface.

I have been aware for some time of this overwhelming desire to be with Jesus, not because I'm particularly holy, but rather because I have no reasonable hope that my life here will get better before then.  Yet I have also felt this desire to be peculiarly sinful because it is a desire borne from weariness rather than love, a desire more focused on squirming out of responsibility rather than following Christ.  I suspect that anyone who has also seen her future drastically redefined by the illness or death of a family member might feel this way.

So I find myself on a prayer journey towards hope.  At a funeral recently, so many strange phrases were thrown out about deceased loved ones, that I began to realize that people, myself included, have no idea what the Bible says about death, resurrection, heaven, and the new creation.  My heart has always been stirred by passages like Isaiah 54 and Revelations 21 that speak of creation being made new and whole again.  Yet I find myself stumped at how this future changes my life today.

So I picked up a book called Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright.  It's been sitting around for a couple months, and the Spirit finally pressed it on my heart.  In grand Eeyore fashion, I picked it up and said to myself, "Well, maybe it'll do some sort of good because, after all, it does have the word hope in the title."  Big pathetic sigh.

I hesitate to quote the book because I am pretty sure I haven't got to the really good part yet.  I'm still in the opening chapters, where I'm only underlining about half the sentences.  But I will leave you with this tidbit:
Hope, for the Christian, is not wishful thinking or mere blind optimism.  It is a mode of knowing, a mode within which new things are possible, options are not shut down, new creation can happen.
I'm learning that God is transitioning my hope from a small, selfish desire for things to work out for my good in this world to a broader way of seeing the story of Christ unfolding in his new creation.  That maybe he wants to transform not only my actions, but the way I see his story unfold in the world.