Holidays are Hard

I bawled in church today like a little girl who just got her pigtails pulled.  Jesus is risen.  Happy Easter.  Holidays are hard.  It’s hard to set out Easter eggs, watch the kid’s excitement in the morning, and not feel overwhelmed that Matt isn’t here to experience it with us.  It doesn’t help that I’m wading through my own messy depression, but reflecting on the mourning of Christ’s death just seems so much more understandable after grieving my own loved one.

Since posting last night, four things have happened that have made me decide to change directions in my writing.  These occurrences have given me a glimpse of the clarity I have been praying for.  The first thing that happened was I listened to a Rob Bell sermon from the 2011 Lent season.  I had started on the sermon series about a week ago.  When I came to this particular sermon I decided to wait before listening; somehow knowing it was going to have an impact on me.  The sermon contents, which did impact me greatly, brought me to the next thing.  I realized I wasn’t putting my trust in God as I have before, and I wasn’t doing this because I was being discouraged by lies from something ugly.  As far as I know, these are new lies, with a new message, that are being whispered to me … which I suppose is why I had so much trouble identifying them as such.  They twisted the truth so that it appeared … well, true.  The third thing?  Illumination Church this morning.  The worship, the resurrection, the sermon, my church family … the whole experience gave me the opportunity to open the flood gates I had been holding back for far too long.  And finally, a conversation with my ever gentle and loving Brad that helped me to more clearly state the feelings I was having, and some ideas on where to go from here.

I think where I am headed is to define who I am in Christ.  I want descriptive, colorful, and hopeful words on which to look to when the lies are whispered.  I’m going to the Bible, and I’m going to find and dig deep into these words.  There is solid ground on which to defeat these lies, and by the grace of God, I’m off to find it.  I want to lean on my risen Savior this Easter and remember His reply to Satan, when he quoted Deuteronomy out in the desert.  Jesus said to him “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  I am trying to live on bread alone.  I love God, I worship God, I look to God for answers, and pray to Him everyday.  But when the sunsets on another day I – far too often – think the results will need to come from me.  Nothing comes forth from me that isn’t of Christ, and I am making myself available to the Holy Spirit to write this truth on my heart.

I wish you all grace and peace on this beautiful Easter!

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The More We Love, The More God Exists

“The more we love, the more God exists” Peter Rollins

For those who may be uncomfortable with the above quote, I apologize.  Not because it makes you uncomfortable, but rather that it does so at all.  Understanding the depths of what it means to love each other here on this Earth, and how much that love will impact the will of God, takes courage.  Over the last year of my life I have had a chance to experience what Pete meant by this quote and I’m overjoyed to share this with all of you.

Last Saturday my boyfriend, Brad, proposed to me.  I said yes.  I am so very blessed.  God is so very good.

And so, it is worth looking at why I attribute goodness to God.  It is not because over the last year He has appeared to me – cash in hand – when financial relief was needed, or because He sent an angel to hold me close when I was certain death was my only option in the face of Matt’s own.  Rather, God aroused the Spirit within each of you.    In the people at my church, at my work … my family and friends … and, at times, even in strangers.  He even aroused the Spirit within those in my life who wouldn’t attribute their acts of love to Christ.

God aroused the Spirit in Brad.  Brad has listened, been patient, been faithful, and been a true Christ follower in his venture to follow his heart and capture mine.  There were moments when we first started dating, and my own wounds were still so fresh, that just his presence brought me the kind of comfort I’ve only ever felt in the presence of Jesus.  He was walking as Christ was calling him to.

There have been moments in my life where God has physically shown up, relieved me, held me, and comforted me.  If the people given to me in my life over the last year, including Brad, had been absent I don’t doubt the power of God to provide the same blessings we have received.  I am, however, fully convinced that the Spirit that dwells within each of us is a vital lifeline to those around us.  Do not shy away from the prompting to love one another, even in the most difficult of circumstances, because we simply cannot know our part in God’s will for others.

I am so excited to marry Brad.  I am so excited to continue to heal and grow as a family, with him by our side.  And I am continually and forever grateful for those of you who have reached out, in love, to my family and me.  We love you.

Gummy Worms and Serving Each Other

I had some moments collide this week, in a way only the Spirit can direct them to, and I’m feeling called to share.  About a week before the anniversary of Matt’s death, some friends from church asked what they could do to help ease this time for me.  I initially declined the offer to be part of a meal train since I felt it was too much of a burden on those delivering meals in light of my situation.  After some prompting I agreed, but I still felt some guilt over the service.

So last week a wonderful woman, I feel honored to call a friend, brought over tacos.  Since it takes the three of us a good amount of time to eat all the food brought over; we had our last round of Mexican last night.  As I was bringing out all the containers of toppings thinking of what a blessing the meal was upon my week. I noticed the container that was holding the chopped tomatoes.  It was a container that once carried gummy worms from a local grocery store.  I thought for a moment and then become just a bit teary.

It was about six months ago that I was feeling completely swamped down with life in the midst of grief, when I was asked by a friend to be part of a meal train for a couple at church.  At the time the couple was still in the beginning stages of grief and hadn’t shared their story with others yet, so they requested to not have their name shared.  They simply requested we bring them sweets.

There I was that day at the grocery store.  I was running late to pick up Evie and feeling rushed.  The store was filled with people and the lines were long.  I picked up a basket, instead of choosing a cart, and my arm was loaded down and becoming sore.  I was on the phone, although I can not remember with who, I do remember the conversation being stressful.  All at once I felt annoyed by serving someone I didn’t know, at a time in life that wasn’t easy on me, in the midst of a troublesome day.  I pulled myself together that day; I found my heart for serving, and followed through.  I was glad I did.  I was even more grateful when I later learned who I was serving and why.

So here I was, feeling grateful and guilty, because of those who had made the decision to take time out of their busy lives to serve my family when I caught a glimpse at the Spirit’s work.  In a fleeting moment of clarity I saw into the Spirit-lead, circle-of-favor we get to take part of on this Earth.  I had felt led by the Spirit to serve this couple friend, and despite myself, I did so.  And here I was witnessing the very source of where my service for them began, their service for me was handed back.

It was a small reminder of the huge impact the Spirit can have in our lives if we so allow Him to.  I am so grateful to be part of a community that respects and honors that impact the best we know how.  My encouragement for you is to follow the promptings of your heart.  Do not doubt.  Do not quit when your own shortcomings try to hold you back from that calling.  And when offered service?  Take it with grace and humility.

New Creation Church Video

 

This is a human video I directed/constructed for our Sunday Celebration service yesterday.  It was the last week in our sermon series A New Creation.  I feel so blessed that God is giving me an outlet to be creative for his glory, and I’m thankful to have a church willing to give me the opportunity.  I think the skit turned out to be a unique and fun worship experience.  My hope was that it reflected JOY.  The kind of joy experienced when we are brought to those moments when the Holy Spirit renews and restores our own selves into a new creation.

I have to say the part that touches me the most, watching it now, is the innocence shown by the girl who played the Holy Spirit.  I love how this idea God lead me to ended up playing out.  That the Spirit is portrayed by a small, graceful, and innocent girl.  A Spirit who is reaching for us in our needs; guiding us out of our darkness; leading us to His light; making us a new creation … and when the need arises sending out her henchmen to take down the bad guys.

Everyone I worked with in the skit made it an inspiring experience for me, and I hope others.  The video quality and sound aren’t the perfect, but I my hope in sharing is my readers can enjoy it as well.  And yes – that is me, with a less impressive, scripture reading at the very end 🙂

I Smell Good To God

I love the feeling of coming across a Bible verse that you never knew was there, but sure enough it was there all along. This happened to me in church today. We are in the midst of a sermon series titled A New Creation. This week we discussed the idea of the new covenant, and referenced 2 Corinthians 2. Here is the verse that caught my attention:

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Often we underscore the sense of smell. If we had to give up one of our senses, with the alternatives of being blind or deaf, most of us would probably choose scent. But here is Paul, describing the body of Christ, as a sweet scent to God. How amazing.

And although we often undermine our gift of scent there is nothing else like it. Imagine you are at home and your children are away at the grandparents. Although the quiet is a beautiful thing, and it’s the first time you’ve gotten anything done in weeks, you still ache a little in your separation. You are doing laundry and as you go to throw your little one’s blankie in the washer it grabs you. That scent. You know the one … baby soft skin, sour milk, and Johnson and Johnson’s tear free baby wash. At that moment it takes all one has to contain themselves.

It has happened with my late husband, Matt, too. I remember clearly in the weeks after his death when I was acutely aware that his scent was leaving every last item I had of his. It was painful, but what was more emotional than that was coming across a box months later of his things. Opening the box, that I had packed, assuming it was nothing more than clothes now. Opening that box of t-shirts and for just a moment he was there. He was making me laugh; making Evelyn laugh. I grabbed at the shirts fruitlessly trying to identify the exact place the smell was coming from. Before I knew it the smell was gone. As if opening the box had just allowed the aroma to drift out and away.

We can be those emotionally charged scents to God. When we live our lives according to the Holy Spirit’s leading we send that drifting sweet smell straight up to God. And it says, we smell to God like Christ. We smell like his child.

This idea has me blown away today. I wish to smell good to God. I wish to smell of Christ (Which makes me wonder just how did Jesus smell?). The idea further discussed in the sermon was how, in the new covenant, we find freedom. Freedom, in this case, to smell the way you want. By listening to the Holy Spirit and being reminded to repent when told, to go when told, and to wait when told we have an opportunity to bring an unending sort of joy to God that only the ability of sweet scents, filled with memories and love, have the capability to do.

Yes, I want to smell good to God indeed.