"be who you are and let the rest of the world deal with it" —brent curtis


Monday, May 3, 2010

Never Late and Right on Time

In case you just tuned in . . . this post is the follow up to my last post—"No Darkness." You might want to give it a read before you read this one. :o)

A few weeks ago, my friends were grieving the loss of a baby because at the very last minute, the adoptive mother changed her mind.

My friends were devastated. I was devastated. And it looked, for just a second, like God had stepped out of the room.

I fought—we all fought—to trust Him.

And a few days later . . . they got a phone call . . .

Let me be the first to introduce you to Baby Barrett "Bear" Crider. Handpicked by God, chosen for Dustin and Lisa, for such a time as this.

He's an answer to some years-long prayers.

And he has come, just like God's blessings always do, in His perfect timing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

No Darkness

This morning I got a text message from a sweet, sweet friend. She was driving to St. Louis because after years of struggling to get pregnant, countless Hannah-esque prayers for a baby, and months of going through the process of adoption, my sweet friend and her husband were going to meet the newest member of their family . . . a little African-American baby boy who was born a little under a week ago.

God was answering a years-long prayer.

My friend and her husband scurried to get the baby's room ready. They scurried to get their lives ready. Friends were set to send out baby shower invitations. And I'm sure as my friends drove to St. Louis to start this long process of adoption, they were passing mile markers and picking baby names. I'm sure their hearts were full and ripe with dreams for the future. I'm sure it was a priceless, rich drive.

But this morning I got her text message. And it said that the adoption had come to a halt. Apparently the birth mother had changed her mind—she wasn't returning the agency's calls. And since the birth mother would most likely be leaving the hospital this morning, and taking her infant son with her, my friend and her husband were headed back home.


I just have no words for that kind of disappointment.

Oh Jesus, this hurts.

I have good friends who have been in similar heartbreaking situations. They have dreams . . . big, good dreams. Husbands who want to be in careers where they're using their God-given gifts, but despite years of sending out resumes and going on interviews, nothing has panned out. I have friends who have fought deadly diseases for years, living in and out of hospitals and doctor's offices, and are waiting for a breakthrough. I have single friends who have longed to be married for years but still go to bed every night alone . . . and lonely.

I have from-the-core-of-my-heart requests that have gone unanswered too. There's no telling how many hours Jesus and I have talked about them, or how many urgent tears I've cried along the journey. The aching and the longing and the struggle . . . well, it's hard.

And after a while, it can seem like God has turned away. Or forgotten us altogether.

The last few months, I've been recovering from a pretty confusing round of life, where things haven't panned out like I wanted them to. But in the midst of that, God has brought my attention to a specific verse. And in my saddest moments, the truth of this verse rattles around in my heart like a defense against the despair that is threatening to move in. It's this: "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." First John 1:5.

John is telling us a simple, yet profound truth about who our God is. "God is light," he says. God is illuminating, warm, bright, hopeful, good. He is the Source of life and the Source of all good things.

But in case that truth isn't clear enough, in case it just seems like a high and lofty feel-good thought, John camps out on another point: "God is light; in him there is no darkness." Not only is God light, He is not darkness. So God can't be cold, cruel, unfair, evil, or hurtful. There is no shadow, no wickedness in Him.

But in case we still doubt that truth, John adds another phrase to silence the voices and fears in our hearts that might still be questioning what he has revealed. It's as if John's saying, "I know that God's perfect goodness might seem hard to believe. The hard stuff of your life might seem like evidence stacking up against the goodness of God, but let me add this little phrase in here just in case . . . to remove any ounce of doubt. God is light, yes. There is no darkness in Him, yes. But there is no darkness in Him AT ALL. Zero. Zilch. Nada."

There is no darkness in God. No darkness at all. That means He can't be cruel—it's impossible for Him to be cruel, actually, because cruelty doesn't live in Him. Darkness doesn't dwell in Him at all—not a drop, not a dash, not a smidge. The only decisions God can make are good decisions. The only decisions He can make are wise decisions. Purely good is all God can be—all of the time.

I'll be honest—it seems incredibly cruel for a sweet girl to be driving home this morning brokenhearted and empty-handed while yesterday it seemed like her deepest dreams were about to come true.

But God's Word declares, it clearly declares, that even in the midst of all of the junk that goes on here, He is good. That in the muck and mess of this world, in the broken hearts and the broken dreams and the brokenness, there is a foundation of goodness that is working in it all. He is working in it all. Even if we don't understand how He's working, and even when we can't see, God is working for good. His goodness is the song that is always playing in our lives, even if the pain of life is drowning it out.

And I'm clinging to that truth. I'm clinging hard.

So, Jesus, we're still dreaming. I'm not giving up. We're not giving up. I'll be honest, from where I sit it seems like there are some things that are off the tracks today. It looks like some darkness got mixed in with Your light. But You promise—YOU PROMISE—that You are good. And even though reality today looks exactly like the opposite of that, I'm throwing my heart on You. I'm putting all of my eggs in Your basket. So whether it's the brokenness of this world that's showing its ugly, vile face today, or if it's Satan and his cronies doing their dirtiest, or if it's You working for good in some way that I can't understand, I'm not going to start to distrust You.

You are good. Period. You are always good. And You promise that even the vilest, yuckiest, most heart-breaking situations that You are working for good. There is nothing in my life or in the life of my friends that You can't—and aren't—using for good. I am throwing the weight of my heart on that reality. All the chips of my heart and my life are on You.

And Jesus, I know You see our hearts. We long for You do to some big things in our lives. We know You love us. And even though we can't see how Your light is working for good right now, we trust Your timing. We will wait until You move. Our eyes, and our hopes and dreams, are on You.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Name It and Claim It :o)

So . . . yesterday I took a field trip to Home Depot to buy some ceiling fans. Summer is being a bit bossy with Spring right now, so holy cow—it's hot. And southern girls don't sweat—or so I'm told. So I'm using all of that as an excuse to get new ceiling fans.

To find them I went to the only place where you pay to do things yourself. :o) I had just come from work, sporting heels and a pencil skirt, so I guess I didn't look like one of the locals. That fact must've been obvious because when I walked in the doors, a gentleman in his mid-60s decked in his orange Home Depot garb took a glance at my heels and asked: "Ma'am, can I help you find anything?" (As in, "Like, your brain? This is the place where you buy nail guns and hammers and lawn mowers and testosterone-y stuff. You and your skirt don't fit here.")

And then my adventure began. His name was Bo, and he was from Russia, or the Ukraine—but obviously, because of his thick accent, not from here. I explained that I was looking for indoor ceiling fans. As he guided me through the store he went on and on about how proud he was that I had come to Home Depot all by myself to buy ceiling fans without my husband.

"Oh, no, no," I interrupted. "I'm not married. I don't have a husband."

I'm not sure if he didn't hear that part or if what I said translates to something else in Russian, but he proceeded to go on and on about how proud he was of my bravery for tackling Home Depot solo. He was acting like I was out trekking through the hills of Afghanistan searching for Bin Laden with nothing but a squirt gun.

After he went on for a bit longer about my purple-heart-worthy bravery, we arrived at the ceiling fans. I already knew which ones I wanted—I had been to three other stores the day before with my cousin Deanna but none of the stores had the fans I was looking for. Once we found them, I was so excited—about as excited as I'd be if I really did, in fact, track down Bin Laden in Afghanistan with a squirt gun. It was a world-changing find. :o)

Once we found the fans, Bo, ever-so-helpful Bo, didn't want me to make the LONG journey back to the front of the store in my heels to get a cart, so he volunteered to do the honors. (What a gentleman.) And while he was gone, I had to call Deanna to tell her about my colossal find. As she and I were hanging up, Bo turned the corner with his cart, with a big grin on his face and his crystal blue eyes flashing with excitement. "Oh, you're so excited about your fans that you called your husband! He is going to be so proud!"

"Oh no," I explained again. "I'm not married. I don't have a husband. That was my COU-sin. Not my HUS-band."

Again, I'm not sure if what I said got lost in translation, but as we walked to the front of the store to the checkout lines he went on and on about how my husband was going to be so proud of me for finding these fans.

I didn't know what to say. I tried to insert the truth that I was still as unmarried as I had been three minutes ago, but Bo either wasn't listening or wouldn't have it. According to him, I was going to win the "Wife of the Year" award when I got home.

He was so enthusiastic that I almost started to believe him.

Bo courageously ushered me through the treacherous aisles of Home Depot, right up to the cashier. As he handed me off to another capable Home Depot employee who would help me complete my arduous journey, he turned to face me. I thanked him very much for his help in finding my fans, told him how excited I was, and stuck out my hand to shake his. He grasped my outstretched hand in both of his in a tender clasp, looked me right in the eyes, and said:

"Give my regards to your husband."

I gave up.

"Yes, Bo. I most certainly will," I answered.

As I walked to the parking lot, the proud owner of two new ceiling fans, I decided that maybe he was speaking in faith. Yes, that's it. Bo is a Prophet. And I'm claiming his words. :o)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Cupcake Gospel

Holiday time = pressure time.

At least it is to me. It's self-imposed pressure, I know. I just really, REALLY want the day to go well. For everyone in the family to feel loved. This world can be so harsh and hard and cruel—we're always bumping into pain and getting our hearts hurt—so I feel like there should be one place that's safe and soft for each of us . . . one place on the planet that's home.

And despite all of our dysfunction, I love each of my family members very much. I want them not just to know that, but to feel that from me. If I could box up my love for them and hand it to them like a present, I totally would. But I guess love isn't that catch-able. It's not that put-your-hands-on-it-able. Love shows up on its own watch. It's communicated and received and felt in its own time. It's lived, not manufactured. It can't be scheduled. It's the butterfly that flits through our nets if we try to catch it. I guess that's why it's so beautiful—and why it's so priceless when it shows up.

But even though I know all of that, every holiday I try to create places for love to show up. A place where it can come in and prop its feet up and be comfortable and stay awhile.

This year at Easter the "let's-make-some-memories-as-a-family" method of choice was cupcake making. My brother and his cutie girlfriend were coming home and I knew it would bring Mom so much joy to have the bustle of baking going on in her kitchen. (Mom is sick, and these days she rarely leaves her bed.) Plus, Stephanie (Ben's cutie girlfriend) is a fantastic baker, so I figured she'd enjoy cupcake-baking. I love learning new recipes—plus I'd get to learn from Steph the Chef's mad cooking skills—so I knew I'd enjoy it too. And Ben, well, he loves to eat, so it was a no-brainer. :o) And, to top it off, after we were finished, we could leave Mom with a slew of cupcakes, give some to Stephanie's family, and we'd each have a cute little perfectly-decorated, totally-scrumptious cupcake ourselves. In my mind, it was the perfect recipe for memory-making.

Everything started out really, really well. Steph the Chef was teaching me all of these new cooking tricks and the theory behind why ingredients react the way they do when they bake. We made the batter with only a few minor hiccups (a small event I like to refer to as the "Butter Massacre of 2010"), plopped the batter in their cutie Easter-colored paper holders, and then popped them in the oven for their 35-minute sauna.

After we put the cupcakes in the oven we realized that all of this baking was making us hungry. So, Steph and I decided to go grab some food, while Ben, the super-handy carpenter, took over the cupcake-sitting.

Steph the Chef and I happily drove to paradise (read: Chick-fil-a) and got our lunch. When we came back, Ben the Carpenter had done his job perfectly. He had gotten the cupcakes out of the oven right on time. It's just that our yellow-cake cupcakes looked more like they were chocolate.

They were burnt.


It really wasn't Ben the Carpenter's fault. Steph the Chef said that sometimes old ovens cook hot, and obviously the cupcakes agreed.

I was bummed. Really bummed. Deep-sigh-and-heavy-heart bummed. I tried to play it off like it didn't matter, but I was disappointed. I wanted to make a great family memory and burnt cupcakes aren't exactly family-photo-album worthy. But, I guess I faked it okay, and we carried on. Some homemade frosting and some sprinkles later, our cupcakes almost looked normal. Except for the little detail that they were indented where they should have puffed up and out like mushrooms. And except for the other little detail that they were yellow cake but they looked more like chocolate cake. And except for that other tiny detail that they didn't taste quite so good.

Oh well.

(BTW, Ben the Carpenter is a minimalist when it comes to sprinkles. I never knew this about him.)

Because the cupcakes were pretty much unedible, we only left four of them unfrosted for Mom. Mom loves chocolate, but chocolate doesn't love her, so we had to leave the frosting out on the ones that she would eat. What was sad was because of that, Mom got the saddest cupcakes. Hers were the ugliest because they didn't have the all-concealing chocolate or the party-inducing sprinkles on them. They were burnt, they were brown, and they were concave.

And that made me sad. Really sad. Deep-sigh-and-heavy-heart sad. Tried-and-failed sad. Since Mom is sick, I just want everything to be perfect for her. Since she's dying, there are only so many minutes left to make memories. There's just no time for burnt cupcakes.

I guess the smell of cupcakes woke Mom up and she got out of bed and teetered behind her walker down the hall. When she got to the kitchen I went into a long explanation about the oven burning hot and going to get lunch and how we had accidently burnt the cupcakes. I had unpeeled four of them for her and put them in a bowl on the counter. I showed them to her in all of their hideousness and told her that she didn't have to eat any. That I understood why she'd want to skip out on them. I was ashamed of them, and sad that I didn't have anything prettier or tastier or better to give her. I was close to tears as I saw her look them over . . . they were just so ugly . . .

Then, love flew in like a butterfly and stayed awhile.

In the middle of my apologetic explanation, Mom steadied herself at the counter with one hand. Then she reached out with the other, her arm shaking as she grabbed a cupcake. It shook as she carried it to her mouth, burnt crumbs flying onto the counter. I thought she'd stop eating after she took the first bite. But she didn't. I almost sobbed as I stood beside her and watched as bite after shaky bite, she ate all four of our burnt cupcakes.

All four of them. As if they were the most delicious things she had ever tasted.

It was a symbolic picture of who my Mom has been all of my life. My mom has always supported me no matter what—even when my best efforts are burnt. Not only that, my mom treats my burnt efforts as if they're beautiful. She's complete acceptance and unconditional support—no matter what. It's both humbling and freeing to be loved like that.

As I watched my Mom I realized that while I had wanted to set up a memory-making fest for my family, God had set one up for me. And I think I will remember it for the rest of my life.

Thanks for loving me like Jesus, Mama. I am able to see Him clearly because I see His love in you.

The Breathing Room

Sooo . . . half of me is wondering why in the world I want to take up something that requires my fingers to come into contact with the keyboard any more than they already do.

I'm already a prime candidate for carpal tunnel.

Oh, well.

But I think I want to do this. Because not everything I want to say goes into the magazine I write. And because, well, a lot of what I do want to say isn't fit for the magazine I write.

So, welcome to "The Breathing Room."

“The Breathing Room” is a name that’s built on a story in Ezekiel. While God's people were in captivity in Babylon, He spoke to a man named Ezekiel. (BTW, Ezekiel, I can't wait to meet you and ask you all kinds of questions about how you heard from God—I so want to hear from Him like you did. Except for maybe the "lie on your side for six months" part.) At one point on Ezekiel's very random journey with God, God led him to a valley full of old, dry bones. And God told Ezekiel that the bones represented the people of Israel.

God's people had become old, dry, stale, stagnant, empty, and lifeless. But God had never created them for that. He had created them for life—for full, rich, vibrant, heart-alive, LIFE. So God instructed Ezekiel to speak to the bones and say: “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to breathe into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord’” (Ezekiel 37:5-6 NLT).

It's the perfect picture of what God does over and over in me. Every time I come to God, I come just as me—with misconceptions about who He is so my view of life is off, with places where I’m believing lies and they’re making me insecure, with places where I’ve got a little view of Him and I’m scared because life seems so big, with wounds where the death of this world has killed pieces of something in me and I’m not quite free. I come to God like this—broken and bent, dead and lifeless in places, like the dry bones.

Yet in those moments, God comes fully as He is. He is full of life, of goodness, of wholeness, of truth—with not an ounce of darkness in Him. He comes with His infinite grace, His limitless patience, and His unending love. And in our time together, He breathes life into me.

I walk into these moments feeling anxious, insecure, and chained, I walk away peaceful, secure, and free. I come broken and He comes whole. I come deceived and He comes as Truth. I come in deflated, He comes full. It’s a mini-resurrection—God CPR—every single time I meet with Him.




And God has made it so that no matter what’s going on in my life, I can step into this place with Him. A place where I can exhale and relax. A place where I can shake off the burdens and expectations of life and of myself and breathe deeply. There’s room to be myself here. This place, with God—in God—is a life sigh. A breathing room.

He is my Breathing Room.

So, there you have it. This place for me will be my blog breathing room. A place where I can just be myself (hopefully—get outta here insecurity). A place where I can exhale my thoughts—even if they're not polished and magazine-ready . . . ESPECIALLY if they're not polished and magazine-ready.

And I'd be honored if you'd like to step into any part of that journey with me. :o)