Faithful

Thumbs Up!

At some point I realized it had become my word for the new year. Not really into resolutions, but certainly one to reflect, and how many times have I said it this way? I just want to be faithful. Looking back at all the ways He’s blown us away with His own faithful presence and faithful provision. God is good and He is faithful. So there I was mid-January, the last day of the Village retreat with all the other adoptive moms, and they have this tradition, to pick a word. This year they nailed those words into wood and spelled them out with string, and the thing is I was too tired for so much hammering, but still I knew. My word would be FAITHFUL.

I’m quite convinced He does this on purpose. God hammering home His own message, and what better way than to give me a book. The first book of the new year, as if to say… here’s where we’re going. So I finished the last chapter this morning, pencil underlining all the main points, and then taking it to Luke’s bedside table so he can read it, too. Salvation by Allegiance Alone and it’s as academic as it sounds but in a readable sort of way, and I’m telling you what, I’ve been eating it up. This author, Bates, bases his whole study on a Greek word, pistis – which I’ll be the first to say comes out a bit awkward in polite conversation. But it’s this same word I remember savoring in a seminary class when my German professor said much the same. Most translations use “faith,” but more often than not it’s really “faithful.” God, and us, too.

I just want to be faithful. And if you even knew half the ways we’ve needed this prayer since the first of the year, you’d know what I mean by the hammer. Making every sort of overwhelming decision to the tune of every imaginable human opinion and we’re in over our heads and we know it. At the end of the day it would be oh so tempting to give in to that lie about what everybody out there is thinking about us, but really does it matter? Is it enough to be faithful?

What does it look like to be a faithful parent? A faithful neighbor? A faithful steward? I look at all this treasure He’s placed in my hands, and there are certainly days when the most practical option is to bury it deep and take a nap. But then I remember Jesus Himself speaking these words, and I know for sure I don’t want to miss them. Well done, good and faithful. Well done.  

This morning I took advantage of sun and 40’s to get outside for a mid-winter run, and that’s when I saw them. The cutest little guy and his grand-dad out shoveling a driveway, the toddler bundled in camo, carrying a red shovel, his pop’s face lit up like it’s Christmas morning. And my soul about took off soaring, knowing this snapshot was God’s gift just for me. Remembering like it was yesterday our own dads with our little sons, and picturing, too, my husband, a grandpa, and it comes full circle. This is what it looks like to be faithful, too.

So we parent teens, and we make plans with aging parents, and we give advice to adulting kids, all the while knowing we’re not by a long shot up to the task. But God is, and He’s faithful. And we’ll give our allegiance to be faithful to Him.

 

His master replied, ‘”Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)

Fairytales

Linden Hill

There are believers in Minnesota. No doubt, there’s no other explanation than this. They’re calling it the Minneapolis Miracle – the purple play that couldn’t possibly have happened. But it did.

I am a fan of fairytales. I am just enough child with just enough imagination to believe in happily-ever-after. Which is a good thing these days.

Last weekend there were twenty-five or so of us adoptive moms at the Linden Hill Mansion. Pretending freedom and feeling pampered, sharing our lives and our stories. You had to believe in the fairytale or you’d never have done it. All of our stories start this way. The first evening together we circled the great room and made introductions. It was Beth whose words gave collective pause. Can you repeat what you said? That thing about how we all carry a fairytale – our kids and ourselves, both. And what needs to happen is not so much disbelieving, but releasing. Seeing how God gave us the dream, and then letting Him write the story. His story, His way, and if you pay careful attention you can see bits of the fairytale in the way it unfolds.

There are things happening in my own story, just this week, too good to be true. Things I’ve been dreaming and prayers I’ve been praying, and just maybe it’s happening. I hold loosely, believing. His Hand in the story, and I’m spellbound watching like a last-minute play. Is this really what’s happening? Would You do it this way?  

Oh my goodness, it’s been quite a week. Everything happening all at once, and if this is a novel these are the chapters you can’t put down. Crisis. Conflict. Climax. It’s all that and then some. This story’s complex; I’ll say that, too. Some of it so raw and so hard it would wake you up quick to any thoughts of fairytale dreaming, except to say the story’s the story – and the whole plot matters. The broken and ugly are part of the beauty, and He’s in that, too.

These are lives we’re talking about. Broken, ravaged, beautiful lives. And what in the world would we ever do if we couldn’t cling tight to this bigger narrative of His Redeeming, Healing, Restoring story? Every detail a part of HIS PLAN.

And can I say this, too? This is no disappearing Snapchat story. We’re not living under any illusion of vanishing moments in a disposable life. This is forever. An eternal story, ever unfolding, and all of it matters. The crisis is part of the fairytale, too.

And I’m willing to say. I believe it. I do.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”

 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever!

Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

Evergreen

Evergreen

I’d leave it up all winter long if I could. Never mind the pressure of those who’d have Christmas boxed up and packed away at New Year’s welcome, or shortly thereafter. Epiphany means Christmas is DONE. I could tell my neighbor meant business when she said it, and I’m secretly thinking about how I’ve got absolutely no intention of stripping my home of greens and lights any time soon – inside or out.

Personally I’m of the mind January can use all the help it can get and then some. My sweet young friend Isabella hit the nail on the head when she told me about how she’d had an aha this Christmas about evergreen trees. Everything else is dead and barren, but God left us with this one tree that keeps on living, and it’s the symbol of Christmas. His life in our deadness, and what is Christmas but this? Isabella tells me about how she cuts armfuls of branches, bringing the outdoors in and filling her dorm room with holy reminders. And it was my aha, too. Me snipping fresh branches of white pine, post-Christmas, my winter décor. Call it seasonal survival or Minnesota madness, the “Happy Lamp” sitting on the desk in my office has not proven to be nearly as effective as those few sprigs of pine.

Even during our recent reprieve, temps rising 50 glorious degrees midweek past, sun and thawing for three straight days – But it’s still ugly. Felipe’s honest appraisal and I can see his meaning. Snow melting black over salt-white streets. He’s got a point, and no wonder he’s feeling nostalgic about those childhood winters of nothing but 90’s.

Truth be told, he handles it well. I honestly wondered, those first two winters. The first one short, God have mercy. That second season so long and so dark we all wondered and not just a little if we’d ever see light. And now here we are in our fourth winter together, Felipe working full time hours industrial cleaning, driving a company van from one end of the metro to the other on those salted winter streets, coming home smelling ripe and looking like a chimney sweep – but still smiling. He smiles. That stoic kid in all those pictures, and this year it was his idea to take the family photo. And you just never know.

I’m going for the first time ever on our church retreat for adoptive moms. Friday through Sunday I’ll head north with the other “Village” ladies for a weekend away. It’s the one group I’ve been meaning to join but for whatever reason it’s just never happened. Like Tiffany said in an email response to my registration, “God’s timing…” And I believe it is. Three years into this journey and I’m looking forward to joining my sisters of kindred spirit, each with a story of following His Spirit in this wild adventure. This morning reading through Tiffany’s packing list – right there at the top “a family picture.” And I smile, knowing which one I’ll take.

Jimmy’s hobbling around school this week on a swollen ankle, a basketball injury. Snowboard and soccer practice on hold for a while. The same evening Jimmy got hurt, Kyle drove all the way home from the southernmost part of the metro on a flat tire, not knowing. The same day our furnace went out. People ask all the time how we’re doing, and I’m quick to say, there’s always something. Life in this family is never boring, but even on days when the landscape’s ugly, there are signs of Life, keeping us going. HIS LIFE. Like a sprig of pine in the dead of winter.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:10-12