Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hollandaise

A few hours ago, I posted a somewhat snarky update on Facebook, that we were celebrating Pentecost by eating Hollandaise sauce, that glorious French concoction that makes me really glad (among other reasons) that God has been working throughout history to redeem what went wrong at the Tower of Babel.

It was snarky, but it was also true. And, thinking of Hollandaise always reminds me of a favorite passage in my favorite book:
Food these days is often identified as the enemy. Butter, salt, sugar, eggs are all out to get you. And yet at our best we know better. Butter is ... well, butter: it glorifies almost everything it touches. Salt is the sovereign perfecter of all flavors. Eggs are, pure and simple, one of the wonders of the world. And if you put them all together, you get not sudden death, but Hollandaise - which in its own way is not one bit less a marvel than the Gothic arch, the computer chip, or a Bach fugue.

In case you've missed me waxing eloquent about this book before (it's been a few months), that was from the preface to the second edition of The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon (p xxvii, to be exact).

You know what I love most about this book? It's the fact that he can simultaneously make me long both for heaven and for earth, to whet my appetites for both more, because both are part and parcel of an appetite that can only be satisfied by the glory of God.

The rest of that quote:
If this book has any claim to make, therefore, it is that food is precisely an epiphany of the greatness of our nature -- or, to use the most accurate theological word of all, it is a sacrament, a real presence of the gorgeous mystery of our being. People have responded to The Supper of the Lamb, I think, because after all the modern reductionism about food ("Food is only a necessity," "Food is nothing but nourishment"), it gave them solid reasons for glorying in the truth they had suspected all along; namely, that food was life, and that life was good...
Food, like all other triumphs of human nature, is evidence of civilization - of that priestly gift by which we lift the whole world into the exchanges of the Ultimate City which even God himself longs to see it become.

...We are not simply the users of creation; we are, all of us, called to be its offerers. The world will be lifted, as it was always meant to be, by our priestly love. We can, you see, take it with us. It will precisely because we loved this Old Jerusalem of a world enough to bear it in our bones that its textures will ascend when we rise; it will be because our eyes have relished the earth that the colors of its countries will compel our hearts forever. The bread and pastry, the cheeses, the wines, and the songs go into the Supper of the Lamb because we do: it is our love that brings the City home.

I am reminded of the old hymn, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" and the line, "and the things of earth will grow strangely dim / in the light of his glory and grace..." I know what the song is trying to say, but you know what's remarkable about seeing things "in the light of his glory and grace"? Everything on earth doesn't grow dim; it comes into sharper focus.

Pain comes into sharper focus because it reminds us of the seriousness of sin.

Joy comes into sharper focus because it points us to the Giver and the greatest of all joys.

Life comes into sharper focus because there is meaning to every moment, large and small. There is movement, there is a purpose, and there is a telos.

There are a few hours left in this day: don't waste your Pentecost! Make some Hollandaise, make some curry, heck, order a pizza and have some wine with it (yay, Italy!). Consider doing it with some friends. And give thanks to the one who designed all these cultures and will bring all of these amazing flavors together in the ultimate Supper of the Lamb.

Friday, May 22, 2015

"My Soul Knows This Full Well?"

The following is the transcript for a baby shower devotion that I gave last month. I've been thinking since then of the line in Psalm 139, "Wonderful are your works, my soul knows this full well." I don't think my soul knows this nearly as well as it needs to, and so this sustained meditation on Psalm 139 is an effort to know it at least a little better. 

*********



Let’s begin with a pop quiz from the children’s catechism:

  • Who made you? God
  • What else did God make? God made all things
  • Why did God make you and all things? For his own glory
  • How can you glorify God? By loving him and doing what he commands
  • Why are you to glorify God? Because he made me and he takes care of me 
Because he made me and he takes care of me.


I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating God as Creator in these last few months, leading up to Elese’s birth and now in the first three months of her life, and this has made me think: what better time to worship God as Creator –maker and sustainer – than at a baby shower! We are gathered today to celebrate the life of little baby H, whom God has known and named and numbered the hairs on his head and words in his mouth from before there was time.

In thinking about God making a baby, I am reminded of that famous GK Chesterton quote about the sun.

He says:

Now…  it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising ... It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”

And so today, we pause and worship God as creator of this little baby and of every little baby. In the last few months, I've had the pleasure of watching my own little baby develop and grow.  When I nurse her, I marvel at her little bitty fingers, those little bitty fingernails, they're perfectly formed. And if we buy into the Chesterton quote, we have to marvel that God is saying, “Do it again!,” individually crafting each of those fingers and each of those fingernails. Right now, in your belly, God is making perfect little ears, and perfect little toes, and just the right amount of hair, and teeth that we won't even see for months that but that are already there.

What an amazing Creator God we have! That with approximately 353,000 babies born around the world each day, and with each one, God is saying, "Let there be eyelids!

And when labor begins, which is something the doctors have never been able to figure out exactly what starts labor naturally, but God is calling that baby out in that moment, individually.

And when he comes out, we will continue to see Gods attention to detail in creation: the way a little baby knows to nurse as soon as he or she is born, in the way that a baby kicks her legs and does that little panting thing on mom’s lap when she knows she’s about to eat. When she puts her hands in fists and stretches them over her head (but barely, since her head is so proportionately big) when I undo her swaddle. How God designed babies to hit certain, predictable developmental milestones. How a parent is programmed to do certain (sometimes ridiculous) things in order to elicit a response from the baby – did you know that being a mom actually, literally rewires parts of your brain.

When your baby smiles his first smiles or laughs his first delightful laugh, it is God who created that moment, who created your baby's mind to be engaged with that particular thing - in our case, it was Titus jumping on a trampoline that made Elese erupt into peels of belly laughs. And God doesn't just automatically make babies obsessed with ceiling fans, he individually gives that obsession to every baby I know.

It’s not even that God sort of made this kid and then looked around at all the families in the world and said, “Hmm, I think this man and this woman would be the best parents for him.” It’s more like a custom home that he made from scratch and each of your parent personalities and each of your kids was specially crafted to comprise the family that you will be – your kids’ interactions with each other, your interactions with your kids individually and collectively. Those were all purposefully designed and foreordained. There’s nothing haphazard about how God made us, but it was done carefully, and I mean “carefully” both in the sense that he paid great attention to detail and in the sense that it was done with great care – with kindness and affection and joy in us as his children and in families that he is designing to nurture and care for and raise up these little people with the eventual goal of them knowing that love in a personal and profound and life-giving way.

We live in what some people have termed a "culture of death," one that seems to embrace death when life is uncomfortable or inconvenient to us. There are so many facets to this so-called "culture war," but at least one facet has to be deepening our conviction of and worship of God as our Creator. This is the root belief from which all the rest of our life flows, and wherever there's belief, there's worship of what we think is most ultimate, most life-giving.

As the heart of my devotion, I want to read aloud Psalm 139, which is that classic passage about God as creator of babies in their mothers’ wombs. Psalm 139 has become dear to me in these last few months as I anticipated and then celebrated the birth of my own little baby.

As I read to this worshipful language, I would love for you all to picture in your mind the God of all creation, creating this tiny baby. 

Psalm 139:1-18

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

My baby can't even speak, and yet God knows every word she will ever say.

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.

When baby Elese is baptized on Sunday, that will be a tangible way that God says this very thing to her. Because she will grow up knowing that God is the God who made her who takes care of her, even so far as dying to rescue her from her since, she will know that there's nowhere she can go that will escape from God. And rather than this being a scary thing that she can run but she can't hide, this is a comforting thing God our Maker is also our Redeemer.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Even if my little baby get sick or even if God allows something to happen to her and she dies before I do or she suffers in ways that would break my heart, I know that this darkness does not take her out of God's incredible care, because he made her, and he takes care of her.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

God is making the skin cells that will hold your baby together even as we speak. He's creating each tooth that will come through as a baby and then us an adult, and he will individually call them forth in what we call “teething.” He's creating each hair, and he knows when my little baby will go from being a little baldy to having a head full of hair.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Before he’s even born, God knows what day he will be born, he knows what day he will die.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.

As many scientific advancements as mankind will ever make, we will never fully understand the mystery of life, and that is simply because God is God.

This God is the one who made us and who takes care of us, and he will take care of us for all eternity.

In all of this, my desire has been to recognize that we worship God as Creator not just by acknowledging him in passing, but by meditating on his perfections as Creator in all of these details, with every person who has ever existed, especially those who are closest to us and in our care.

It's our duty as Christians, and it's our delight as mothers.
I would like close with verses from another psalm, Psalm 95:6-7
“Oh come let us worship and bow down.  Let us kneel before the Lord our God our maker, for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the sheep of his hand.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

To Stand

Sometimes I don't feel like I'm being a good enough mom if I haven't worried enough.

It's like there's a daily quota and if I meet or exceed that quota on any given day, I can feel really good about the job I'm doing because worrying means that I care. I used to be mystified by all that talk about worrying mothers, but last week there I was, holding a feverish baby, worried that she wasn't going to sleep, then worried that she wouldn't wake up.

As though inherent maternal instincts weren't enough, we have The Internet helping us along: worry about helmets, worry about blankets, worry about adbuctions, worry for what kind of world or country we are leaving our children, worry about money, worry about if I should be buying more organic food, worry about arsenic in rice and the evils of wheat and kidney stones from kale (oh? you didn't know that one? maybe I just made it up, better check with Dr. Google just in case!), worry about vaccinations, worry, worry, worry. If worry were currency, the Internet would be making me rich.

I find myself weary at night despite a not-particularly-demanding day and I realize that it's because of worry. And I know that God in his Word tells me so much about worry, but here's maybe a new one for you on the subject.

In Ephesians 6, Paul has just finished giving a series of commands to different types of people, after a whole bunch of other exhortations to the whole body of Christ. There is a lot involved in being faithful, and Paul goes on at the end of the book to remind us that we can't do any of it without "God's mighty power." And this, what a great line for a mom at the end of the day, when everyone and everything are put to rest except her mind: "And after you have done everything, to stand."

The rush of the day may be over, but your mind is a battlefield between self and the peace that surpasses understanding.

Remember that this is being spoken to you by the seated Commander in Chief, who stood firm and then took a seat as he pronounced, "It is finished." With that "finished," he means that all the bad we could possibly fear has been vanquished and the fact of the matter is, no ounce of worry is going to make things come out better for you than they are going to come out through Christ.

Take a deep breath and say "okay" to God. You've been faithful today; he knows your weak frame, and he's taken care of the rest, even when it seems like an awfully big gap between "me" and "good enough." What truth do you need to apply to your life right now? Where are you finding your righteousness? Where do you need to place your faith more fully in the Lord's mighty power? Pick up some armor of God to help you do one simple thing: to stand. And, in that stand, take another deep breath and rest.

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.    (Ephesians 6:10-18, The Message)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Elimination Diet

I've been doing an elimination diet for nearly two weeks, and while I'm often metaphorical here on this blog, I mean that in the literal sense. My sweet Elese has had worsening eczema over the last two months, and since many people believe that skin issues have their roots in the gut, I have cut out almost all potential allergens/irritants in the hopes of clearing up her skin and identifying a cause. As of about two days ago, she has soft cheeks and I am praying that it's not because I haven't had a drop of alcohol or a slather of butter for what feels a lot more like eternity than a mere 12 days.

All of this denying myself for the sake of another has given me occasion to ponder the spiritual parallels of this exercise. I mean, it's not often that our daily choices have such an obvious effect on another person whose well-being rests wholly on those choices. It's also not often that our choices in the past can be completely undone in a single moment -- in my case, sneaking a bite of cheese when I need a quick protein boost or grabbing a glass of wine on a particularly harried evening, and I'd have to start the whole exercise over again.

They say that becoming a parent provides opportunity for a person to experience the love of God in ways that we previously had not considered. I realize that giving up cheese for two weeks is a really lame comparison to the Son of God dying for me (cue a Jim Gaffigan joke about giving Jesus socks on his birthday); but I am weak and small, and this exercise has set me pondering, so I'll take it. Our well-being is totally vicarious, dependent upon the self-sacrificial choices of the One from whom all good and all life flows.

This morning, I was enjoying Indelible Grace's song "Upon a Life I Did Not Live" and realized that it perfectly complements this point.  If you have 3 minutes and 55 seconds, don't just read these words, but also click play on the music. You want this stuck in your head for the rest of the afternoon.
Upon a Life I have not lived,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death,
I stake my whole eternity.

Not on the tears which I have shed,
Not on the sorrows I have known,
Another’s tears; Another’s griefs,
On these I rest, on these alone
Chorus:
O Jesus, Son of God, I build on what Thy cross has done for me;
There both my death and life I read, my guilt, and pardon there I see.

Lord, I believe; O deal with me,
As one who has Thy Word believed!
I take the gift, Lord, look on me,
As one who has Thy gift received.


Friday, May 08, 2015

Empty

Mother's Day is coming up. Yesterday morning at BSF, the woman sitting next to me mentioned that it snowed last year on Mother's Day. I don't remember snow, I remember sick. I was in the throes of horrible morning sickness, my husband was sick, all the grandparents were out of town, and the two other kids (then 3 and 1) still had to eat, be entertained, and have fights broken up. In response, I wrote this blog post, which I was going to re-post this year, but I kept having this verse come to mind:
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)
How is this a Mother's Day verse? Simple: moms, at their best, or not, all the time, serve without being served in return. It seems like the essence of motherhood is not to be served, but to serve.

Another one:
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Phil 2:5-7)
Theologians call this "emptying" of Christ "kenosis," from the Greek for "empty." The whole incarnation consists in God deliberately emptying himself of the privileges of being God (infinite, eternal, not subject to the ravages of a fallen world) in order to serve those same creatures who spawned such misery; and not only to serve, but to save, at the greatest cost to himself.

At the risk of hyperbole, I'm going to suggest that this is when we are at our most godlike, when we are the most empty. Empty of energy, empty of inspiration, empty of self, pouring ourselves out for the good of another. Now, this is obviously not unique to moms. It's dads when they come home from a busy day of work and play with the kids and do the dishes. It's brothers and sisters who deny themselves in order to make a sibling happy or just to keep the peace. It's our pastors and others who serve in the church not tirelessly but still unceasingly. It's the two women in my Bible Study yesterday who told us that they did not have kids of their own, but who are known by everybody as joy-bringers. An empty womb has brought them into close fellowship with, and resemblance to, an empty Christ.

Are you empty? Perhaps you have never been nearer to God. A very Happy Mother's Day to empty ones everywhere.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Alone but not Alone

Anybody else remember the whole Oscar kerfuffle over that song that Joni Eareckson Tada sang for a movie last year? Me neither. But the title of the song popped into my head a minute ago as I was feeling lonely and remembered that I am not alone.

Being a mommy can be one of the most lonely experiences one can have. Even when surrounded by small people, yes, because those small people alternately seem like aliens and hostiles; either way, they're sometimes not very good company. And, in fact, the job of taking care of them can feel intensely isolating and solitary. You can have the best husband in the world and organize all the play dates you can muster so you can hang out with other moms, but at the end of the day - well, more likely in the middle of the day, say, between 11:30 and 5:00, the battle is yours alone.

And it's so very hard to remember that God is in it with you. He's not exactly offering a hand while you manage a blow-out on a tired baby while yelling at the four year old to stop teasing his soaking-wet two year old sister. Which makes it all the more important that we remember one of God's most oft-repeated great and precious promises in those times: "I am with you."

Yesterday at BSF, T came away having learned that at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses was going to die and God was giving his people a new leader, Joshua. And the exhortation that God gave Joshua over and over was this: "Be strong and courageous, because I am with you."

You: be strong and courageous because God is with you. Be strong and courageous in managing those cranky kids from 11:30 until naptime. Be strong and courageous and actually have that difficult conversation. Be strong and courageous and actually be honest with yourself. Be strong and courageous and reach out and make a new friend, or just get out of yourself and be a friend without needing anything in return. Be strong and courageous and forgive, despite what you fear it will cost you. Be strong and courageous and don't be threatened by that other person whose strength makes you feel inadequate. Be strong and courageous and don't try to do it all, as if it all depends on you. Be strong and courageous and give where it makes you uncomfortable. Be strong and courageous and put in that extra ounce of effort for self-discipline around the house or to not take that one more sip or bite.

All this: because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Does that mean anything special to you? If it doesn't, do you think it should? That's where I'm at right now: I think it should mean more to me - by which I mean that it should make a tangible difference in how I think and how I live - that the Lord God is with me wherever I go. The King of the Universe is always at my side, he's got my back. He is the most faithful of friends and the wisest of counselors and the strongest of allies. Strong and courageous doesn't come from within; it comes from Above.

"The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Zephaniah 3:17

Motherhood in a Word (at a time)

So far today, motherhood in a word, all of them at once, and each of them one at a time:

Exhausting, exhilarating, trying, easy, patience, blow-ups, blow-outs. Redeeming. Redeemer. Tears, laughs, cuddles, thumps. Fear, concern, ignorance. Bliss. Sweet. Bitter. Imagination, concern.

Water everywhere.

Concentration. Escape. Escapism. Leaps. Faith. Headache. Deep breath. Broken. Cold feet. Tractors, excavators, obedience, disobedience, calm, quiet, what.

Yelling, tears, wishes, sweetness, more water. Oranges, towels, cheese, too much, overflowing, empty, full, fall, mess, sigh.

Naps, miss, yawn, blink, hunger, thirst. Try to smile. Belly laughs that nourish the soul. Try not to give in to the tears. Stand your ground.

Clean, wash, fold, kiss. Repeat.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bursting with Pride

We've taken our kids skiing three times in the last two weeks. We are officially crazy, especially since I carried E2 (2 months) around in my Ergo on that first day while holding kids up and eventually chasing them down the bunny slopes, but that is beside the point. (Also, beside the point, but a big shout out to grandmothers who are willing to give up an entire day to sit in the lodge in between nursing so I don't have to kill my back -- just my kees and thighs and gluts and wrists -- and can just ski with one kiddo.)

We had just been skiing the "magic carpet," which is free at our little local ski area, but at the end of the day on Monday we decided to splurge and bought tickets for me and T to ride the lift and try out a real run. Once you've done that, there's no going back.

So today, we did a few warm-ups on the Magic Carpet and then hit the chair lift, to the excitement of the more experienced one and the terror of the other (she loved it after approximately 25 seconds).

I might be biased, but there is not much in the world that is cuter than a two year old and a four year old in their little helmets and goggles and on their little skis that hardly seem longer than an adult's pair of shoes.

And, I'm pretty sure there aren't many better feelings in the world than for a parent's heart to burst with pride at seeing a son or daughter begin to "get" something you love to do. By the end of the day, my little boy was skiing by himself with great comfort and control, and he would occasionally just throw his hands into the air and shout, "Woohoo!"

There actually aren't even words in the English language (that I am capable of harnessing, anyway) to describe the joy in my heart when he let out those screams. I'm sure that this is why parents the world over teach their children how to play baseball or chess or fly fishing or how to drive the truck, and why we spend billions of dollars collectively every year taking them to the beach and to Disney World.

Pardon me if I'm over-spiritualizing my ski day, but do you think our Heavenly Father often feels that way about us? When we take particular delight in something that he has made? Or we master a challenge that has befuddled us? When we use God-given talents coupled with God-given perseverance and enjoy the experience all the more for the effort it entailed? (Trust me, a ski day with a four year old and a two year old involves tears as well as cheers.) What about when we make progress in conquering a besetting sin, even just a little?

Our Heavenly Father is up there rooting for you to live with determination, trust, and joy; and I wouldn't be the least surprised if he doesn't occasionally beam with pride when we find our groove doing what he made us to do. Woohoo!

Friday, March 20, 2015

TGIF

Life is full of strange juxtapositions.

You finish reading a moving account of a godly woman's final days on earth, and then you click over to Facebook where people are proclaiming "TGIF" and broadcasting fun plans for their weekend.

In a sense, it's Friday for Kara Tippetts, too, and many others like her. TGIF signals the end of a long journey, one marked with all kinds of thorns from the curse. Whether it's the challenges of work or the challenges of parenting or sin or sickness or -- most often -- any combination of these, Monday through Friday reminds us that "this life is but a constant death."

On Friday, the week is almost over. We are but a few breaths from getting some rest and having some fun. In truth, Friday might be the hardest day of the week. Death is never pretty. The worst day in the history of the world was a Friday that we will celebrate in just a few weeks.

And celebrate we will. With somber hearts but with eyes fixed on the weekend. A celebration of Sunday, of Son-Day, that will someday never be marred by another Monday.


Thank God it's Friday, because that means we're this much closer to Sunday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

the Audacity

I read a verse in Numbers last week that stopped me in my tracks.

(It's not every day that you make a statement like that. Let's just pause for a minute and relish that statement ........................... and now back to our regularly-scheduled programming.)

In our Bible study, we've gotten to the point in Numbers where the Israelites are on the edge of the Promised Land. The older, grumbling, unbelieving generation has mostly died off. Miriam is dead. Aaron is dead. They've all died because of grumbling and disbelief, and yet God is still going to bring them in and give them the land that they have been promised.

They have also been sustained in the desert for nearly forty years. Every morning, they wake up and food is waiting for them. They don't do anything except go out and gather it, and day after day, it's always there. (Sounds a lot like grace, doesn't it?)

Forty years of provision, forty years of tangible, edible grace, and what do they have to say to God in response? This: "We loathe this worthless food."

We loathe this worthless food!

The audacity! The. Audacity. At least when I think these things, I'm savvy enough to couch these emotions in more subtle disgruntlement. "I'm just tired," "I'm weary," "It just seems like the onslaught never stops."

I had a period in the middle of last year when my daily, nay hourly, mantra was, "Eat the manna." I was surviving physically on very little food that remained in my belly on account of the embryonic stages of our sweet baby Elese (translation: severe morning sickness), and my constant propensity to vomiting was affecting every aspect of daily life. I was miserable and barely functional and I actually ordered a pregnancy devotional that I couldn't stomach (metaphorically, this time) because she was so ushy-gushy about what was going on in the reader's belly. Barely surviving doesn't often mix well with happy-clappy, even though the sober and mature mind should know better than to respond with snark.

Look, Israelites, we're not expecting you to think that manna is Five Star dining, but can't you muster a little gratitude? Or at least cloak your bitterness in the slightest?

Here's my response (marinated in time and Scripture) from last year (is it cheating to just quote myself at length?):

I was weary, both physically and emotionally.

I laid down on my bed at naptime and thanked God for the manna. This has been my mantra lately: "eat the manna." God will give you grace for the moment, no more, no less. I still need to grow so much in my joy, in my serving, in my dying to self; but I see it as a gift that I recognize the manna for what it is, which is God sustaining me from moment to moment.

This is, after all, what our Lord teaches us to ask him for: our daily bread. No more, no less.

But let's be honest again: the manna life is hard. It's scary and it feels so sparse and it takes so much faith and I found myself saying, "Oh Lord, I need to know you more in order to trust you in this. I know that as a man you were tempted in every way without sin, but I'm a woman, a wife and a mom, and these are my challenges. Do you really know what it's like? I know you are my great high priest who sympathizes with my weaknesses, but do you really know?"

And I was taken to the great interpreter of human emotion and experience, the psalter, where I'm reminded by these Holy Spirit-inspired writings that God does know.
Oh, Lord, take me back to you, back to your Word, over and over. Forgive me for the daily, the hourly, ways that I declare your grace as loathesome, worthless food. Give me today my daily bread and a heart to recognize the sweetness of grace when I taste it.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Let the Crumbs of Mercy Fall

People who go to my church will recognize the title of this post as a reference to a worship song that we sing, but you know who lives in a world filled with literal crumbs? This girl!

I think most moms will agree that it often feels like we are surviving on crumbs. There's that take-off of the book "If you give a mouse a cookie" about "if you give a mom a muffin." I just re-read it for the first time in a long time, and sure enough: it ends (spoiler alert!) with the kids eating the mom's muffin, which is a pretty likely scenario in my house.

So, we moms survive on crumbs, eating our kids' leftovers, snatching little bites in between cleaning up spills and breaking up fights. I've been trying to be mindful of having healthy snacks lying around so I can fuel up quickly when the crumbs aren't enough, and I put my leftovers away in single-serving, microwaveable dishes that I can just pop in for a minute and eat. It's keeping me alive and, I'd argue, relatively healthy. If the meals were healthy, the crumbs are still healthy.

I realized a few weeks ago that I'm sort of doing this spiritually, too. I've never heard anyone commend this spiritual diet, and so the fact that I am going to say that it's an okay diet for this season of my life might be going out on a limb (new ideas in Christian theology are more often bad than good), but I'm going to say it anyway: I don't think you should feel guilty about surviving spiritually on your kids' crumbs. Just make sure they're healthy crumbs.

Now, what do I mean? I mean that a daily quiet time and deep personal Bible Study, and consistent attendance at another Bible Study and Sunday worship and Sunday School might not be in the cards for you. I can't tell you the last time I felt like I was really paying attention through a whole sermon. I also can't tell you the number of times I've been highly distracted during a sermon and thought, "This is good! I really need to remember to download and actually listen to this sermon sometime this week." Did it again today ... hope springs eternal that it will actually happen.

But, I'm living on faith right now, and that faith includes belief that the little spiritual crumbs that I collect throughout the day are enough to nourish me from day to day. I eat a literal crumb of bread on Sunday morning, and sometimes I feel like that's the only thing I "take away" from church that day. But I go, even if it's just for that crumb (I love having a robust doctrine of the Lord's Supper).

And what often gets me out the door on a Sunday morning is the fact that I want my kids in Sunday School. They get a full "meal," and I benefit. And when they ask me questions during the week like, "Mom, why did God have to die?" I reap much more benefit in thinking through the answer than the four year old, who happened to be focused on trying to stand on his head while I fumbled through an answer. When we do the catechism, I'm serving up the meal for him, but I am also turning my eyes to God for a few minutes. Evening Bible reading is ostensibly for the kids, but it's the Word of God, living and active for kids and adults alike. Even a sweet story like "Just Because Your Mine" reminds me each time I read it that God loves me and takes care of me just because I'm his (see also: baptism, sign and seal).

Somehow, my stolen bites of food add up to enough calories in a day to keep me and baby running. It's not how I'd like to eat forever. I like to cook elaborate meals and sit down and enjoy them while they're hot. I'd like someday to enjoy an entire meal without wiping up a spill, or telling somebody to sit down in their chair for the 16th time, or yelling, "don't forget to flush!" down the hallway. I like to go out to nice restaurants and relish an amazing meal that somebody else has prepared and served in a beautiful way. There's a time for that, and there's a time for eating microwaved minestrone soup for the fifth meal in a row with a side of cheddar bunnies that happen to be lying on the counter.

Are you surviving on crumbs? Make sure you're feeding your kids a healthy diet, and I think you can rest assured that you're getting some healthy nuggets, too. God fed thousands of people with the crumbs of a little boy's lunch; this is the same God who promises to give you your daily bread if you just ask.