Deep calls to deep

 

Things have felt a little upside-down here lately. Tensions are high, meltdowns are becoming a regular part of the day, and we have collectively become  a rather grouchy bunch.  Our children have developed a keen sense of selective hearing in addition to a very obstinate streak that seems to be growing each day.  Simple requests somehow morph into all-out battles.  Sometimes it takes all of our energy to deflect a looming mutiny.   We try to stick to routines.  I am always conscious of being generous with encouragement and consistent in correction. Yet I totally blow it most of the time.  My patience wears thin and I find myself losing my temper more and more.  I hate the voice I hear when I lash out at my children or my husband.  I feel defeated.

I could tick off a variety of factors that could be contributing to this mess:  lack of sleep, too much Halloween candy, change in schedules, business trips for Steve, late night/early morning studying for me….I could go on.  These are all external factors, and while they can affect how we think and act, I worry that as a family we are pulled and pushed around too much by these things. We allow them to control us.  I find myself hopping from one smoldering fire to another, trying to put them all out.  I run ragged and exhausted.  Why do I try to hack through life’s jungle on my own instead of trusting God to clear the path before me?

I am yearning for the peace that transcends all understanding.  I have known this deep peace countless times in my life, but it seems to escape me in these moments when all hell seems to be breaking loose.

A piece by Arthur Tappan Pierson, an urban Presbyterian pastor in the late 1800’s, spoke deeply to me.  He wrote:

There is a part of the sea known as “the cushion of the sea.”  It lies beneath the surface that is agitated by storms and churned by the wind.  It is so deep that it is a part of the sea that is never stirred.  When the ocean floor in these deep places is dredged of the remains of plant or animal life, it reveals evidence of having remained completely undisturbed for hundreds if not thousands of years.

The peace of God is an eternal calm like the cushion of the sea.  It lies so deeply within the human heart that no external difficulty or disturbance can reach it.  And anyone who enters the presence of God becomes a partaker of that undisturbed and undisturbable calm.

(taken from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman)

Undisturbed.

This peace can only be attained through ages of silent stillness.  And I think this kind of stillness can only come through complete surrender.  Do I trust God enough to allow myself to sink into His love?  No matter what storms are raging on the surface, can I surrender to Him and allow Him to carry me down into that beautiful, deep place?  I know He has so many mysterious treasures there.

This is the peace that I want to reign in my heart.  This is what I want to live and breathe.  Father, I surrender.

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:7)

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All Things New

I wish my mood matched the weather today. Outside my window sunlight is dancing through green and gold. Blue sky yawns; clouds pass and sigh. The sun and the breeze pull life along like a toy on a string. I want to dance in this warmth, but my heart is heavy — weighed down with grief for a friend going through a sorrow so deep, I can’t muster the strength to imagine it. She has to bury her newborn son.

I want to think about something else. Anything. I try to distract myself with chores and lists, but thoughts and words tumble through my mind and come careening out, spilling all over my good intentions. I can’t continue. I think about the pain she’s going through, and I fall to my knees and cry for her, with her, though she doesn’t know it now.

I want to push sorrow aside and continue on with my day.  It hurts too much to sit with these feelings of grief and fear…opening up old wounds.

But sometimes we need to press into the pain, no matter how much it hurts. We need to let the wound open up and expose it to the air. I feel vulnerable. The mother-heart is wrenched and twisted with grief for another.  My soul is filled with a familiar ache, and I am afraid.

But then He whispers to me, reminding me of His love reaching through the pain. He shows me the garden of Gethsemane — tears and sweat and blood, anguish so deep. Praying for that cup to pass, yet embracing it in full obedience, He had nothing to block the pain, no one to offer relief. Heaving heavy beams upon His beaten frame, He went willingly. Nails driven through flesh, his heart broke wide open as Love poured out for all, even for those who drove the spikes into his hands and feet. They couldn’t take His life; He gave it…for them…for me…for you. True love is costly.

He reminds me of the glory that comes through pain. Resurrection cannot happen if there is nothing dead to revive. Hope reigns, and death is not the end. We treasure the now because we know each moment is sacred.  There is a still sweetness that comes with sorrow, along with the peace that He makes all things new.

 

Would you join me in lifting up a grieving family?  Here is their story:

 

Grandpa Roemer

The following is part of a group writing project for The High Calling over at Getting Down With Jesus.

 

Grandpa Roemer loved cars.  He loved to look at them, talk about them, work on them.  His strong hands were often stained with motor oil from hours of tweaking his gold Mercury. Oftentimes I would sit on a stool in his garage and watch him hunched over the motor in his navy slacks and white T-shirt, his strawberry blond hair always neatly combed.   I loved to study his hands — long fingers with neatly trimmed nails, though usually calloused and dirty from hard work.  He was passionate about cars and thought everyone else should be, too.

Grandpa often referenced a person’s car when describing someone:

“You know, Ed with the Ford came by the other day….”

In high school he always referred to my boyfriends by the type of car they drove.

“Oh, yes.  Greg with the Buick.  I like him.”

Always for American cars, he quickly dismissed  Jon with the Mazda before I could protest.  I should have listened to him sooner.

Grandpa grew up on a farm in Illinois.  I listened intently to his stories about the storms their farmhouse weathered, the first time he tried chewing tobacco (he swallowed it), tractor mishaps, and his relationships with his brothers and sisters.  A staunch German Lutheran, he proudly showed me his German Catechism books and recited prayers in German.  He was a bright student who boasted a perfect spelling record through the eighth grade, the last grade he completed.  After that he was needed on the farm, where he worked until the war when he joined the Navy.  Sometimes I would sneak into his room where his Navy pictures were displayed on an old oak dresser.  I would scan the sea of young faces until I found him in the second to last row — strong and handsome, I tried to imagine what my Grandpa was like as a brave sailor at sea.  He was young once.

But there was one thing that bothered me.  A lot. I hated the fact that he smoked a pack a day. It was a bad habit he picked up in the Navy, he said.  He told me he wanted to stop, but couldn’t.  I remember making signs with my younger sister from the back of cardboard boxes and posting them throughout his house.  “Please don’t smoke,”  “Don’t get lung cancer!”  “I love you, Grandpa.  Please don’t use cigarettes,” they read in our best bubble letters.  We even snuck them into his lunchbox.

It was shortly after this that he made an announcement:  ” Ok.  I’m going to quit smoking.  You are quite persistent young ladies.”

And he did.  Cold turkey.  We were so proud of him.  I didn’t miss the smell of smoke when I went to visit him.  Instead, I breathed in the roses he brought in from his garden and displayed on the kitchen table as we chatted.

Grandpa always told the truth. Shortly after  I began college I went through a very dark time.  When my grandfather learned that I was battling depression and an eating disorder, surprisingly he seemed to be the only one who understood me.  There was no judgement like I feared.  There was no “Well, why don’t you just EAT?” that I had heard so many times before.  There was only compassion. Listening. Love.  During this time we also learned that Grandpa had  lung cancer.  He was battling his own demons, and with the help of God, he told me, all things were possible.  I believed him.

I took a semester off of college to get some counseling and re-gain my footing.  I treasured the time I spent with him now that I was home for a season.  I returned to college the next fall with a stronger sense of identity and determination.  I was thinking about Grandpa Roemer one evening while I was walking through a bookstore.  I wanted to send him a note, so I picked up a card.  On the front was Genesis 31:49 which read, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other.”  When I came back to my dorm room that evening there was a voicemail from my dad.  I dialed home with trembling fingers, my heart filled with fear.  My father picked up, and I knew right away. “I’m sorry, sweetie, Grandpa’s gone.  He died at 4:30 today.”

That was about the time I had picked out his card.  I wept. My father went on to tell me that he and my mother and uncle were with him when he passed.  Apparently he had a moment of complete serenity when he sat up in bed, looked intently across the room and said fervently, “I want to see Jesus.” And then he did.

A few days later I was a pall-bearer at his funeral.  He was buried on a sunny November day with a 21-gun salute. Even though it’s been almost 14 years, I still miss him terribly.  There are so many things I wish he could be here for.  I wish he could have seen me graduate from college.  I wish he could have heard my harp audition.  I wish he could  have met my husband and children.

That’s not what happened, but he gave me something so true and authentic that I try to be conscious to always carry it with me — the gift of understanding.

Trust

” You’re mean! I want out of this family!”  E, age 5, screams at me as she kicks off her shoes.

I take a deep breath. “Honey, please put on your shoes.  We need to go.”

“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!!”

I wrestle her shoes back on her little feet, only to have her refuse to put her jacket on.  B (age 7) waits patiently by the door, shoes and backpack on, ready.

“Thank you for being ready, B.  Let’s go.”

B unlocks the back door and walks out to the car.  I pick up E and carry her, her jacket, and her backpack and plop them in a heap into the car.

B buckles his seatbelt.  “Why does she do this ALL THE TIME?”

I don’t know.  I really don’t.

We arrive at school and I walk them to the front door and give them kisses.  At this point B usually takes E by the hand and they walk in together.  But not today.  E’s not having it.  At all.  I look pleadingly at my son, saying, “Please take her in, honey.  She’ll be fine.”

I peel off E’s death-grip and B seizes the opportunity to whisk her through the door.  I turn around to look as I walk back to my car.  Hand in hand, I watch them disappear down the hall.  She’s fine.  Her tears are gone.  She has a slight bounce in her step.  When I pick her up this afternoon she will greet me with a huge smile and a hug–my sweet happy girl.  I check the time.  It’s 7:42 a.m. and I’m already emotionally exhausted from this battle.  I pray out loud for my children as I thank God for the green lights on the way to my 8:00 class.

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but this scenario has played out (with subtle variations) more times than I’d like to recount since school started in mid-August.  I run through the checklist of things that are within my control to help the mornings go more smoothly:  7:45/8:00 bedtime: check.  Clothes laid out the night before:  check.  Healthy breakfast:  check.  Morning cuddles: check.  Morning devotion:  check.

Am I a perfect parent?  No.  Far from it.  Am I good parent?  I think so.

And then it hits me.

I am not responsible for my children’s behavior.

I think about that.

I am responsible to them.  It is my job to provide for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.  But how they respond to these things is their choice — their own free will.  They can either embrace or reject these things.  Even though Steve and I know what’s best for our children, it’s not always what they want to hear (or do.)  All we can do is build up their trust and try to guide them to make the best choices.

You know where I’m going with this.

Sometimes I can have very selective hearing when it comes to listening to the voice of God.  He often calls me into situations that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  Maybe even a little scary, like the first day of school jitters, or when he wants me to engage a threatening-looking stranger  in conversation.  Many times my gut reaction is to question if I’m truly hearing from him.  Of course, usually I know when it’s Him, but somehow I figure that little hesitation can buy me some time.

“Oh, you’re talking to me? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.  You want me to do what, now?”

But once I hear I’m faced with a choice: trust and obey, or doubt and go my own way.

Trust.

I think at the root of her tantrum this morning, E just didn’t want to be away from me.  She wanted to be close.  Separation can be scary — especially when you’re five years old.  That’s why trust is so important.  I want her to trust me that I’ll be back at the end of the day. I want her to trust her teachers and her classmates.  And I want her to trust her Savior when He tells her, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  I want to trust Him, too, and I want to show my children the right response to trust: obedience.  Not out of fear, but out of love.

My default mode is to stay safe….wrapping myself and my loved ones in protection. Trust is risky. You could get hurt.

“But, God….what if I fail?  What if this person lashes out towards me?  What if I look foolish?  What if….”

Trust.

I can trust the One who died for me.  And I can peer into my daughter’s heart and see my own fears reflected there….they’re not so different from my own.

 

He Leadeth Me 

Text: Joseph Gilmore

Music:  William Bradbury

1.            He leadeth me:  O blessed thought!

O words with heavenly comfort fraught!

Whate’er I do, where’er I be,

still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

 

Refrain:

He leadeth me, he leadeth me,

by his own hand he leadeth me;

his faithful follower I would be,

for by his hand he leadeth me.

 

2.            Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,

sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,

by waters still, o’er troubled sea,

still ’tis his hand that leadeth me.

(Refrain)

 

3.            Lord, I would place my hand in thine,

nor ever murmur nor repine;

content, whatever lot I see,

since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

(Refrain)

 

4.            And when my task on earth is done,

when by thy grace the victory’s won,

e’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,

since God through Jordan leadeth me.

(Refrain)