These pictures were taken last Saturday, when our small town celebrated it's 100th anniversary by putting on a parade which, glory of glories, went right past our very own house! We had 'awesome seats' (and snacks!) and all we had to do was walk out of our front door. It was 'big times' here! We just love where we live (even in it's imperfection), and the people God has brought into our lives...even with (and especially because of!) the various walks of life represented on our street. What a gift!
Hello, friend...i hope you are having a contented week, even if it's busy and/or chock full of challenges. For me, it's been a good week even though this is the leg of the pregnancy journey in which I completely, utterly understand and relate to the phrase "heavy with child"-- and what a gift it is to know firsthand what that feels like. I mean it (in other words, no sarcasm behind that statement). I know of women who would love for just one chance to experience this kind of weariness, out-of-breathness from merely walking from one end of the house to the other (which, in my case, does not take too much effort) or aches and pains that I am.
And so, at 37 weeks along I am looking forward to meeting this little one. I am already being questioned by others if 'this is your last one?". One would think that after being pregnant for pretty much the last 4 years (including the miscarriage, ectopic, Hope plus these 3 in the past 2+ years) that I would shout out an emphatic "YES!"....but I am not ready to say that. Yet.
Ask me in 3-5 months.
I do not usually take time to type out thoughts from the book(s) I am reading, but I very much wanted to share the following:
This past week, there was a chapter from a book I'm reading that stuck to the walls of my mind and heart. Perhaps the words of the author stuck because they put the pieces of my thoughts during the past few months into a coherent train of thought (and beautiful illustration!). If you have time, and want to read, feel free to keep clicking. If you don't, then by all means stop in another time! A little background: the author is at the library, ready to delve into a pictorial history of Ireland:
"Somewhere around Dublin the corner of my eye caught something that hijacked my attention. All decked out in a pretty pink dress with white lace was a sweet little girl in a wheelchair. Her angel face was radiantly pale, and her sandy-blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail sporting a big yellow bow. Frilly white stockings disappeared into her sturdy white leather dress shoes, which were strapped down tight into the folding metal rests beneath her pigeon-toed feet. I could not turn away from this portrait of mangled beauty, despite knowing well enough that it isn't polite to stare at handicapped kids.
Kneeling down close beside the little girl is Dad. With one arm gently wrapped around her, he reads from an oversized storybook propped up in her lap. Slumped over against his shoulder, she is turned towards him, with the top of her precious head resting against the side of his face. She can't walk or sit up straight, and offers only an occasional groan. She's just sitting there as unresponsive, seemingly oblivious, as Dad dutifully reads her a story, altering his voice to impersonate the different characters.
My mind began wandering, imagining this father's world. On bended knee is a man who must walk through life brokenhearted for his daughter, who will never sing silly songs, skate in the park or dance at her prom. A dad who loves his little girl perhaps even more because of that but who will never hear "I love you, Daddy," whispered in his ear or receive a homemade Father's Day card with sunshine and stick people. She will never do most of the things a pony tailed little girl wants to do for her Daddy. A tidal wave of sorrow crashed over me as I picture my Jessica strapped in and slumped over that wheelchair.
The lens of my soul zoomed in on her facial expression as she sits wrapped in her father's arms. Earnestly reading, she sits spellbound, gazing into his face with her mouth slightly open with a smile. He's glued to the book; she's glued to him. What does she see? What does she feel? She seems so content and peaceful, at home really, resting her head against Daddy's face, receiving his love. Then again, that's all she can do. She's not even capable of reciprocating her father's love, and yet I can see she is his most precious treasure. Perhaps most upon this scene in pity. How terrible not to be able to function in the most essential ways; perhaps in the eyes of the world she is useless. Not to her father. To him she is priceless.
Taking all this in, a torrent of troubling thoughts rose from somewhere deep within me. Would God still love me if I couldn't do anything for him? What if I were useless and couldn't do even the basic things I had learned a good Christian does? What if I couldn't impact others in any significant way, lead someone to Christ, serve a person in need, teach others scripture, be a leader? What if I couldn't progress any further in my spiritual life? What if I were barely capable of having an intelligent thought about God? What if....
...Following me into the library that day was this phantom Christian I had created through the years of being the kind of saintly person with whom I surmised God would be pleased. The whole drill seemed to be to strive hard to fulfill God's expectations and play your 1 John 1:9 card when you failed, earning you the right to start over and try harder.
Sitting there, a heavy weariness set in and I wanted to cry. I'm so tired of trying to get God to like me. I'm terrified of being abandoned and left alone in life. It had already happened a few times with people its not supposed to. Having tasted God's love, I didn't want to lose it....
...I worked hard to stay on my game (daily quiet times, attending church, leading groups, and teaching classes) as I envisioned God in heaven perpetually asking "What have you done for me lately?" I was desperate and willing to take whatever rest I could get, even if was just an hour in a comfortable chair eating yogurt-covered pretzels and escaping to Ireland in photographs.
But then there was this out of order child in the wheelchair...useless yet priceless. She can't even sit up straight, but someone has gone through all the trouble of doing up her bows and frills. An occasional grunt is Dad's only reward for giving his all in reading her the story. There's nothing she can really do for him, but she doesn't need to do anything; her father simply loves her. She's just slumped over, gazing into his face, receiving his love...
...What if I'm the girl slumped over in the wheelchair? What if there isn't anything I can do "For" God? What if he just wants me to lean against his face and receive his love? What if this phantom Christian I've been chasing is just a big distraction from resting in what God wants to freely give? What if my value and worth to God are not contingent on what I do? Maybe this is why I am so tired inside. My soul only has so much energy, and the bulk of mine is being drained through striving to earn God's love and acceptance. What would it be like to truly know there isn't one more think I ever have to do for God in order for him to be pleased with me?
...Maybe this is what God is trying to tell me. He wants me to open my clenched fists and discover I am not what I do but what he wants to give me. And what he wants to give me is love and life, unconditional love and life. God placed the little girl right before me and gave me the eyes to see the deeper meaning of her handicapped condition. Until I understand I literally cannot do anything for God to achieve worth and value in his eyes, I won't stop trying. Maybe God wants me to stop trying.
Jesus once said, "Apart from me you can do nothing." Wasn't Jesus essentially saying there is nothing we can do of value for God on our own? Think about-isn't it a little silly to think there is anything God needs for me to do for him? He's God! However, God did create me for the purpose of knowing him and has placed his life inside me so I can know him. God wants me to experience him as life, peace, freedom, wholeness, and joy; and as I trust and depend upon his presence within, I come to know him in these ways, and God is pleased....
...Maybe "accepting Christ" isn't so much a one-time thing we do as a formula for escaping hell in the afterlife, but rather a lifelong process of learning to depend on the sufficiency of Christ within for what we most deeply need and desire. His life fills our empty moats of worth, purpose and love.
-Jim Palmer, Divine Nobodies
That took me about 2 years to type out, but it was totally worth it (for me)! I did not write out the entire chapter, but tried to capture the essence of it. It still makes my heart melt to read the words. I hope that maybe your heart was encouraged too.
Our productivity is not what he wants...all we need to do is rest our heads on his big, broad chest and absorb his love. It is only after doing this, that we can live loving others just as he would.
What a life!