Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Great Expectations

I love our church. We have some of the most gifted teachers and preachers around, and I just feel so privileged to get to hear them talk. Tonight was Wednesday night church, where you can go and eat dinner then break off into various different classrooms. We've been slowly easing back into church involvement, since for a long time neither of us had the energy or desire, and being in a new city I guess it has taken us longer than it would have back in Atlanta. Anyway, all that to say, I saw in the bulletin that Michael Card was leading a class through the book of John, and I thought "Well, that is not something every church offers." If you have not heard of him, he is an amazing songwriter and scholar with a really thorough knowledge of scripture.

So, tonight our friends Kate and Todd went with us and we read through John chapter 6. I could have sat there all night and just listened. But there were a couple of things Michael Card said that just really resonated with me. The first thing was that "if you follow God long enough he will fail to meet your expectations."

In this chapter a group of people come to find Jesus and basically ask him to perform some miracles for them so they can believe in him. He instead turns the tables on them and tells them that He is the Son of God and that he is the bread of life. If they will believe in Him they will have eternal life. He refuses to jump through their hoops and instead challenges their motives and hearts. After this dialogue "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (v. 66). They had an image of who Jesus was and he wasn't conforming to it. He failed to meet their expectations so they left.

I thought about this because it is so easy for me to create in my head an image of who God is and demand he act that way. He shouldn't make me suffer. He shouldn't let children die of cancer. He shouldn't let friends lose their jobs at Christmastime. And if he fails to meet my expectations, I have a right to be angry.

I really have struggled with trusting God to protect my family now. I had an expectation that he would keep my children safe and it was shattered. I used to read Psalm 23 and think, "This means God will keep evil and sickness and sadness from us, because we are loved." But then I looked closer at the Psalm. It says:

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

That is exactly what we have done. We have walked in the shadow of death and watched it steal the life of our precious son. But the next verse says "I will fear no evil, for you are with me." Even in the shadow of death we can be safe and fearless. Even if death wins, it cannot take our soul. That is safe in the arms of God. We may experience evil but we don't have to fear it. Now I see God protecting my family in a different light. I pray that He is gracious and does protect our health and lives, but my idea of "good" is so different from His.

Back in John, after some of his disciples left him he turns to his twelve and says, "You do not want to leave, too, do you?" And Peter's response is so simple yet so powerful: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Michael Card called it "loyal despair." I could so relate to that. I have felt exasperated and heartbroken and angry, but deep down I know where the words of life are. Only His words have ever brought me any real peace. So I have felt like, "Well, I would leave if I could, but I know you would woo me back." I know you are true and real, but I just don't always like what you do. I think God can handle that.

Another thing Michael Card said was that God often puts us in impossible situations so we will see our need for him. At the beginning of the chapter he asks Philip where they can buy food for the 5,000 people who had gathered around him. Philip balks and says that 8 months' wages wouldn't be enough to pay for it all. John hints that Jesus had in mind already what he would do but he wanted to test Philip. I guess Jesus wanted to see if Philip knew what He was capable of providing. In the last few years I have definitely felt like I have been in impossible situations, but it never occurred to me that it was on purpose, so that God could show his sufficiency. I try to be so self-sufficient all the time and then feel like a failure if I can't handle it. How freeing to think God doesn't ask us to carry the whole burden. He wants us to give it back to him.

Thinking back on our whole journey with Joseph, it is just so clear we absolutely could not have functioned and thrived without many, many hands helping us to do so. We were just exhausted, heartbroken, and couldn't think straight most of the time. There were so many times I thought, "This is too much. It's just too much for any parents to have to bear." But the thing is, we didn't have to bear it all on our own. So many people brought us meals, gifts, money, cards, emails, groceries, etc. And so many people just loved Joseph and spent time with him and made him laugh and brought him joy and happiness. It wasn't all dependent upon us, and I think that is one lesson God was teaching us. That life isn't meant to be lived alone. We need each other and He works through us to help one another.

He may put us in impossible situations. He may not fulfill our expectations. But He is good and He is God.

"To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy 2009

Hi blog friends! It has been a long time since I've written. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Years.

I cannot believe it is a new year again. This past year went by in such a blur that I barely got used to it being 2008 and now I have to get used to it being 2009. Has it really been 9 years since Y2K? Remember that little thing? Ha ha. A lot of people I know have mentioned that 2008 was such a horrible year and they are so glad it's a new year. I started thinking about that and realized that from the outside most people would probably say it was a horrible year for us, too. But as I pondered it I realized I just don't feel that way. I would never say it was a horrible year. We had some really trying times, some nightmarish things to walk through, but we also had some very dear and precious memories with Joseph-- and he was still with us in 2008. So in a way I think I didn't want to leave 2008, because that is the last year Joseph was with us.

Usually at the beginning of the year I have some goals or hopes for the new year. This year I'm having a hard time doing that. I am just having trouble getting excited about moving forward. I'm not completely stuck--I feel like I'm just resisting moving on. One thing I have been doing lately that I'd like to continue into the New Year is memorizing scripture. I am in the middle of Psalm 139 (at the suggestion of a blog friend, Angie) and I love that if I have some alone time in the car or doing errands that the truth of God's word comes into my head and reminds me of my true identity as a child of God. Oh, and I got some great stationery for Christmas so I also plan to write lots of hand-written letters to my long-distance friends (because, you know, without cute stationery it just couldn't be done :)).

We didn't send out Christmas cards this year. I ordered them and went to pick them up at Walmart, but when I looked at them I just felt sick. The whole way home I cried and then I decided I just couldn't send out a card without Joseph in it. So, I have about 85 Christmas cards on top of my fridge. Who knows, maybe I'll send them out in July just to be silly. But, thank you to everyone who still sent us a card. I make a little collage out of them after Christmas and it hangs on our wall all year:

While digging out Christmas decorations this year, my mom found a dress that used to be mine so I tried it on Holly and was so excited that it still fits her. I think it is the only article of clothing we kept from when I was little (after 3 trans-Atlantic moves things get lost or given away). Here is a picture of Holly in it:

We had a wonderful time on the cruise. It was just what the doctor ordered for us. A great diversion and lots of fun time with family. Holly got to sleep on a "loft" over our bed, which was big fun. After a couple of nights we read that children under 6 were not supposed to sleep in it. Oops. She did great, though.

Santa came aboard!

I hope and pray all of you have a very happy and healthy New Year.