Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Little Flower Girl

This weekend was one of those times I took my gift of grief off the shelf for a little while. I didn’t have a lot of time to spend with it. It was a day of celebration, and most of my energy and attention was focused on my little flower girl. If you’ve ever been the mother of a flower girl, you understand!

The first of my eight nieces got married this weekend, and even though no one at our table noticed my older daughter’s absence, or at least they didn’t say anything if they did, I felt it acutely. Between times of trying to keep my 4-year-old looking like a princess, and still letting her be a little girl, I kept my little gift of grief with me all weekend. There were two times at the wedding when I felt my older daughter’s absence most. The first was when my brother-in-law danced with his daughter to Steven Curtis Chapman’s Cinderella

And I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know
Something the prince never knew
I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t want to miss even one song
For far too soon
The clock will strike midnight…
And she’ll be gone.

‘Nough said.

The second time I felt her absence so strongly was, when saying good-bye to my brother-in-law, he whispered to me that he missed my daughter. I’m sure he has no idea how much that meant to me. But most of the time it feels like hardly anyone even remembers her. It was nice to know that my husband’s brother does. 

So, I’ll shed a few tears tonight before my head hits the pillow, and tomorrow, I’ll put my little gift of grief back on the shelf and I’ll be back at life as usual. It’s what she would want, and it’s what God calls me to do. If you see me at church tomorrow, you’ll never know I was up until after midnight, spilling my tears and emotions in this little blog post. I’ll be smiling and worshiping just like always--and it will be sincere. There is plenty to smile about and be grateful for. But I’ll never stop missing my older girl—she was a flower girl once too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Ask Why?

There are so many things that happen in life that cause us to ask, “Why?” Sometimes, at the top of our lungs we want to scream, “Why?” We want to shake our fist at God and say, “Why me?” “Why now?” “Why her?” “Why this again?!”

I have a friend who has cancer. She’s not asking, “Why?” She’s asking, “Why not?” We live on planet earth. This is our temporary home. We won’t be perfect and whole until heaven. There’s no reason to think that some of us won’t get cancer. I love her response early on when she first received her diagnosis. When people tried to treat her like she was knocking on death’s door, I remember her saying, “I’m not dying, I’m living!” She has not slowed down enough to ask, “Why.” She is busy doing ministry and caring for other people. She knows there may come a time when she will have to slow down physically, but as long as she has the strength and energy, she intends to allow God to use her to do whatever He’s calling her to do.

Lysa TerKeurst, in her book, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl, says, “Asking why isn’t unspiritual. However, if asking this question pushes us farther from God rather than drawing us closer to Him, it is the wrong question.”

We’ve all had life situations when we were tempted to ask, “Why?”
  •          Why did our son get mixed up in drugs?
  •          Why have relationships between family members gotten so strained?
  •          Why does life have to be so hard?
  •          Why is there so much grief in the world?
  •         Why must people suffer?
  •          Why must children go hungry?

The list could go on and on. The problem with asking, “Why?” is, it causes me to get stuck in an endless loop and wallow in my grief and guilt. I begin to ask questions like,
  •          Why did I let my daughter get into a car with a 16-year-old driver?
  •          Why didn’t God intervene as he does with so many others who miraculously survive car accidents?
  •          Why wasn’t I a better mom to my son?
  •          Why didn’t I see that he was sliding down a slippery slope?
  •          Why didn’t I do more to protect my kids?
  •          Why hasn’t God “shown up” for my son?

Just typing those words makes my blood pressure rise. But asking those questions gets me nowhere. It does no one any good. It doesn’t bring my daughter back and it doesn’t help my son with his addictions. I can’t do anything to change the past, I can only change my future.

Lysa TerKeurst says the more appropriate question is, “What?” I remember when we lost our daughter in a car accident, I didn’t care why. It didn’t matter why. Knowing why wouldn’t bring her back, so who cares? I did, however, need to know what. What do I do with this? What do You want me to do, Lord? What next? I had planned to focus on her for the next three years. I wanted to help her make the transition to our new community and get through high school. I knew after that, it was likely that I would have a lot less time to spend with her. I thought I had three years. But I didn’t. So, now that the whole focal point of my life was gone, what was I supposed to do?

I’ve been seeking the answer to that question for seven years now, and somehow, I think I’ll be on this quest as long as I live on planet earth. As long as I’m growing, learning and changing, the answer to the “What next?” question changes as well. We’ve had several other major transitions in life since our daughter was killed, and with those situations, I’ve been more tempted to ask, “Why?” But God continues to remind me to ask, “What?” instead.

So today, in what situations are You asking God, “Why?” How would asking, “What?” change how you approach that situation? Once you begin to ask God, “What?” better buckle up and hold on tight! You may be in for the ride of your life!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

To Know Him

I have a friend who is desperate to know who her “real” father is. She has a step-father who has raised her from a young age and into her adulthood. But there’s this intense inner desire “to know him,” her biological father.

I can’t imagine not knowing my father, and there’s a part of me that’s tempted to trivialize this desire and say, “It doesn't matter! You know the father who love you and raised you, who loves your kids as his own grandkids. Who cares about the guy whose DNA you carry?” I don’t ever want to say something like that about something I don’t understand. Especially when I realize that my little girl may very well have a similar issue some day.

So, the purpose of this post is certainly not to minimize my friend’s desire to know her biological father, but I do believe that beneath her longing to know him is a deeper longing to know her Heavenly Father. She does know Him. She’s a woman of strong faith. But does she really know Him? Do I really know Him?

Our pastor is preaching a series on God’s love. This weekend, he talked about God’s desire for us to know Him. Pastor briefly mentioned a scripture in Ezekiel that says, “that they may know that I am the Lord.” He unpacked to word, “know” from this scripture. It doesn’t just mean that we know about God. It’s the deepest knowing, the same as the way a husband knows his wife – intimately. It’s a covenant love.

Well, I decided to look that scripture in Ezekiel up for myself. I went to and typed in “they will know” in the New Living Translation. I found, not one, but 22 verses! But I also remembered hearing “that you will know that I am the Lord.” Maybe that’s the one Pastor was talking about. So I typed in “you will know.” I found, not 22, but 32 verses! So at least 54 times in the book of Ezekiel, God expresses His desire for us to know Him deeply and intimately.

I believe God has placed within every human being, a deep, intense desire to know Him intimately. We try so hard to quench that desire with everything from relationships, to drugs and alcohol, to ministry, to food! It’s time we all learn that the only thing that will truly quench it is to know God and open up our deepest, most inner selves to Him. That’s why I’m off to read more in the strange book of Ezekiel about God’s desire for me to know Him, my Unswerving Hope!

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly as He knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12 MSG

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Way Up is Down

Our culture is obsessed with being whole and feeling good... we want a painless pentecost... we want gain without pain; we want resurrection without going through death; we want a crown without going by way of the cross. But in God's economy, the way up is down.
--Nancy Leigh DeMoss in Brokenness

A painless pentecost, resurrection with no grave; life without death; crown without a cross, the way up is down. These are hard concepts for us Americans! We are all about working hard and reaping good results. 1 + 2 = 3, right? Good works = Blessings, right? Giving = Receiving, right? Obedience = Favor, right?

It's true that we reap what we so, and that if we never plant, we'll never harvest. But anyone who knows farms knows that there's not a bumper crop every year. Some years, like this year, you wonder if there will be any crop at all! And sometimes, the cost of farming is greater than the harvest. That's why so many small family farms have disappeared. It's not a simple science. It's not planting = reaping. There are so many variables--too much rain, too little rain, not enough sun, too much sun, pestilence, a wet spring and a dry summer or a dry spring and a wet summer, damaging wind or hail.

Does that mean we give up and quit sowing? No! We accept the good years and the hard years... and keep looking to God, our unswerving hope!