Least

Gig

Thursday night Kyle and I stayed up past our bedtime and snuck into a student gig at the U. It was the debut show for Here Between, a band of three brothers. My boys. Playing and singing Luke’s original music. Grant at the keys and Nils on electric. They were the evening headliners preceded by two other bands. And they were AWESOME.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re the mom. Of course you’d say that. But I’m telling you, it’s true. The only flaw in their performance was that it was too short.

I came home late savoring the music and filled with wonder over such a night. It was past bedtime for teenagers, too, but the house was lit up and adrenaline flowing. Jimmy sat at the piano working out a song he’d recently been learning. Felipe was at the kitchen table putting finishing touches on a pencil drawing of a London street. And I said it to Kyle. There’s a lot of creative energy in this house.

 One of Luke’s friends made a comment at the end of the concert. Abby used to hang out in our home on Wednesday nights for high school ministry, and now she’s part of Luke’s posse at the U of M. She said she’d been watching me while the boys were singing. Like how you watch the groom’s face as the bride walks down the aisle. That’s how she said it. What is it like to be their mom?

And that’s when I realized what HE’D been doing. How just that morning memorizing the Word from Ephesians something happened that had never happened before. It was something Paul said and how it hit me. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me…*

Right there in that moment, I knew this was ME. Less than the least, and yet…

Here’s the thing. All week long, and for several weeks, really, I’d been wrestling with something – and not sure if the conflict was with Satan or God. Terribly aware of overwhelming weakness. Making mental lists of the ways I fail. And I’m absolutely convinced that ALL condemnation is the enemy’s trick, and it’s never HIS. Not the Father’s voice, and yet He is sovereign over even this. It’s there in a frame by my living room lamp – Romans 8:28. He works ALL THINGS for good. (Take that, you creep.)

This has been such a big part of my story. Oh, God, I’m so grateful. Yesterday morning I shared all the details with a new friend over coffee. I took her all the way back to that time in my 30’s – a mom who was bent toward pride and perfection – and how God changed my direction, and rewired my heart. Every day since He’s been refining.

And He uses this season of magnified weakness to perfect my heart so I understand this. Although I’m less than the least, He gives me this grace.

 It’s hard to explain this to Abby and others who wonder. What is it like to be Mom? It’s good, and delightful. Like a happy surprise. My heart feels this pleasure – and yet it’s somehow unaffected. At peace, and thankful. That’s it. Less than the least, and yet this…

*Ephesians 3:8

Full Circle

The Lord Fights

You who have been following this story from the start will understand best. And you who have prayed. My soul sisters and brothers – it’s your story, too.

We’re blessed to be a blessing. I’ve known this all along. Years ago watching boys growing up, loving Jesus so sweetly. Each one uniquely aware of His Spirit. Following Him. Kyle and I would say it together – He blesses so much. Too much to ignore it and keep to ourselves. To whom much is given, much is required.

Much is required. And it has been MUCH in every way. Much patience and prayer and perseverance. Much trusting and serving and sacrifice. But more than that – it is so MUCH blessing. Blessed to be blessing and He’s blessing us still.

We thought we’d be sharing our family experience. But it’s not so much sharing as sacrifice.

This was my story the first couple of years. Family the way we’d always known it – placed on the altar. His Altar. And I’ll admit it right now. We weren’t all that willing. Kyle and I. The giving was grueling. Most days we’d like to have climbed up the altar and grabbed that whole offering back.

But we didn’t. And I tell you all that, so you’ll understand this…

He multiplies blessings. He turns water to wine and feeds masses with fishes. And bread, sweet bread. So much manna raining from heaven. I fed on His manna for weeks on end. If you’ve been reading this story you’ll surely remember. My daily provision.

The Lord will fight…you only need to be still.

His whisper at night became our anchor. He said He would do it. We had to believe Him.

God is good, and He’s faithful. How many times have you heard me say it?

He is. HE IS. He multiplies blessings, and He brings them full circle. I tell you I’ve seen it right here in my home.

It’s Tuesday afternoon and I receive this message, a text from a mom at the start of a journey. A journey LIKE OURS. Jimmy was such an encouragement to all of us on Saturday… like a youth pastor in the way he understands… patient yet persistent… And her message goes on.

My Jimmy. A pastor (: BLESSED to be blessing…

Full circle.

Beauty from Ashes

LCA Hug

Our hearts have been heavy this week. A whole community mourning the loss of one who left us too soon. A classmate of Jimmy’s, and friend to many, a daughter and sister, and it’s a story too hard for words.

This world is a broken place.

All week long we’ve lived in this weird collision of sadness and wonder. I remember a Beth Moore study, years ago, and we talked about it there. How joy and sorrow can coexist. And it’s true. I’ve seen it happen. Beauty from ashes.

Wednesday morning I was leaving for work, when a note on the kitchen table caught my eye. It was a letter to Jimmy, and I’ll confess it right here. I snooped. How could I not? Two-and-a-half pages, handwritten, all scripture and holy counsel. Who could this be? I turn the page over. A boy at school, two years older than Jimmy, knows my boys’ heart is desperately hurting, reaches out in love. Beauty from ashes if ever I’ve seen it.

Story after story all week long. A community of kids who grieve and rally and GET IT RIGHT. I’ve been praying my heart out, year after year, for THIS to happen. All those early mornings of doughnuts and prayer, and He’s been listening. His answer is yes. A school revival, and it looks like THIS.

We weep and rejoice and we love TOGETHER. No one is meant to face the awful brokenness of this world alone.

Wednesday evening we gathered students for a Holy Week service at church. Creation. Fall. Restoration. New Life. Four movements telling the Gospel story, and Pastor Greg told the kids – this is your story, too. We watched this video of plates crashing and lives breaking and Jesus coming and putting all of our pieces back together. Whole again with His perfection.

We’re beautiful, broken, rescued people.

I’ve been reading this week from Romans. My mind’s bent toward a sister, a twin, torn apart – when I come to this: we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.* HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?! I’m somewhat confounded and I ask it out loud to God. I cannot see how such suffering could possibly bring hope.

Unless…

I read the passage again and again. I’m looking for answers. And that’s when it hits me. The author, Paul – he’s writing to THEM. Not one, but many. Not one single reader, but a whole church gathered. Suffering, enduring, hoping together. All of us hurting, and all of rising in this beautiful, broken, holy revival. This is the CHURCH.

Today is Good Friday. Beauty from ashes. Joy and sorrow. Grieving and hoping. A day to remember how death was never the end of the story. Jesus was torn so all of our desperately broken hearts could be whole.

*Romans 5:3-4

Unexpected

Worship Leader

We were walking out to the car with bags in hand when he said it. I’m going with you. Just like that.

We’d invited all three teens to join us on our last minute trip to Des Moines. No one seemed interested or available at the time – homework assignments and soccer practice and worship leading already on the docket. But then, just as we were heading out the door, Felipe surprised us, saying he wanted to come after all. And he meant it. A quick shower and clothes hastily thrown in a duffle and there he was, squeezing into the last remaining space in a backseat already crowded with odds and ends requested by Grant and Kiana – and hardly complaining. And from the front seat Kyle and I exchanged a – well this is unexpected – silent message with each other.

You just never know.

We planned this whirlwind road trip with my Dad in mind. He’d spent several days in the hospital while we were in Florida, a misdiagnosed appendicitis fiasco requiring emergency surgery. He’s recovering well, but housebound for a while, along with my mom who’ll be nursing him. And I’d been itching to make a trip to the farm to see them both. We’ll be halfway to Des Moines. Why not see kids and parents both in one weekend trip? And so. Despite a hundred reasons NOT to add one more thing to a spring schedule already bursting at the seams, we threw wisdom out the window and headed south. Felipe in tow.

I think deep down he was motivated by the possibility of gloating in Grant’s presence in the event his NCAA bracket defied all odds and finished on top. Felipe had South Carolina winning it all, a pick he’d made based on jersey color. Heading into the Final Four, Felipe’s point potential far exceeded his Anderson brothers and cousins, who had of course made choices based on real information. Exactly what makes the madness so sweet. But alas. This particular Cinderella story was not to be.

It was about halfway through the second game of the evening when the phone rang. It was Pastor Mike Howard calling for Grant. I’m switching gears for tomorrow morning. A whole day spent on writing a sermon and at 9pm he was hitting DELETE. No kidding. I’m supposed to preach a different message.

 Unexpected.

So Sunday morning we pack our bags and drive the few blocks to the elementary school that’s Revision Church. Kyle and Felipe and Kiana and me, sitting together down toward the front. Grant begins with a worship song, and from the start the Spirit is sweet. This is exactly where he’s supposed to be. Grant – and Felipe, both. My two firstborns. One son leads and the other follows, and everything about this is holy and right.

By the time Pastor Mike takes his place on the stage I’m already in awe of God’s crazy perfection. Not one bit surprised as Mike starts his message and from beginning to end it is just for him. This is Felipe’s message. Perfectly crafted and profoundly delivered. And yes, it is true, our pastor friend is a preaching master – but not even a genius could take credit for the miracle unfolding here.

Afterwards I tell them – Grant and Mike, both – keep saying YES to the Spirit. God’s plans are crazy amazing. And unexpected.