Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Can You Come Over?

sunrise lighting and easter cross

I can still hear the little voice on the other end of the phone: “Nana, we’re having Easter at our house next Sunday.  And . . . can you come over?” 

“Oh, how I wish I could, Soren.” My four-year-old grandson, who lives in New Hampshire, had no idea what it would take for me to just “come over” from where I lived in Wisconsin at the time.

Suddenly I am transported to that long ago afternoon when Soren’s father, 4 years old at the time, had invited a friend to come over during Easter week. The boys were playing on the back porch while I was busy in the kitchen. “No, Mark,” I hear Bjorn say. “No, remember you are the angel and you say ‘He is not here, He is risen, just as he said.’” I peek out on the porch. Bjorn, who always loved to act things out, is apparently staging and directing a small Passion Play. I smile and wonder what Mark thinks of all this. The next day, Mark’s mother calls to thank me for the play date and adds: “And Bjorn did such a wonderful job of explaining Easter. We have just stuck with the bunnies and eggs and had never known how to tell Mark the real story. Thank you.” 

I sit here by my fire this morning (yes, it can still be winter—sort of—in April in New England) and wish all of you could come over. To meet my neighbors. To talk about Easter. How this Pivotal Event in all of history alters our world view entirely.  As I wrote last Easter, the cross and the lily change everything.

Why do I wish you all could come over and join my neighbors and we could chat?  Because we live in a broken and bleeding world.  Because I know many of you, like the many moms I see every Thursday and the moms I pray for every day, are struggling with all kinds of broken things. Broken career dreams for you and/or your husband. Broken relationships. Broken finances. Broken bodies—sick kids, secondary infertility, chronic diseases, special needs. 

I live amidst what my new favorite poet Ben Palpant calls the “Broken Brave” (Sojourner Songs, p. 32). Friends and neighbors grappling with failing eyesight and fading memories and compromised mobility due to brain tumors. And no, I don’t actually live in a “senior neighborhood”; there are also two babies due—arguably a different kind of bravery.

So what does Easter have to do with all this? It’s a reminder. No, more—it’s proof.  God loved us enough to enter our broken world and become broken Himself—and rise again whole—that we might one day be completely whole again. We say it at communion: “the body of Christ, broken for you.”

One day what is broken in our world will be restored. And whole. 

My friend asks the question.  A friend who has lost much. We are talking about medical conditions that seemingly have no earthly “cure.” I share with her about a time of disappointment when what seemed to hold promise of a cure didn’t work out that way.

“So what did you do?” she asks.

“I talked with God about it,” I say. 

“And what did He say?” she presses. 

“He reminded me that one day—in Heaven with Him (an unfamiliar concept to her)—all will be well and whole again. Forever.” 

Then comes the real challenge: “And that was enough for you?”

A long silence while I ponder: What is the true answer of my heart here?  And then: “Yes, my dear friend. That is enough.”

Is it? It’s the Big Question, isn’t it? We grappled with it last week in Mom to Mom talking about prayer. We struggle with it often in everyday life. Much too big a question to address in this humble blog post, which is one reason I wish you could all “come over” and we could talk about it. We could listen together to one of my favorite songs: “Even If” by MercyMe. And talk more.

But in the meantime, Good Friday is coming. And—praise God!—Easter after that.  He Who was broken for us conquered death for us—and for our children. It is enough. Because HE is enough. He Who was Himself “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” walks alongside us every step of the way in this broken world. He gives us strength in our weakness, comfort in our sorrow, mending for our broken places, and—sometimes—healing in the here and now.  But always, Hope. Hope in what is yet to come: “. . . the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (C.S. Lewis, at the end of The Last Battle)

Because of Easter. Come on over!

Can Prayers Be Only Tears?

eye crying

A sweet mom from across the country posts the question on Facebook: “Can prayers be only tears?  Cuz that’s all I’ve got now.” Yes, my friend. Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.

I know from experience. My own—past, present, and most likely, future. I also know from the shared tears of many friends. Turns out we’re in good company. Job’s eyes poured out tears to God (Job 16:20). God told King Hezekiah, “I have heard your prayers and seen your tears.” (2 Kings 20:5) The Psalmist said God even kept track of his tossings and tears: “You have kept my tears in your bottle.” (Psalm 56:8 ESV) Sometimes tears are all you have. 

Or even groans.  Or stony, dazed silence. I am taken back to dark moments long ago when I sat up all night in a little apartment staring into space, unable to pray.  Even—for that one night—unable to cry. The pain of loss was just too deep. The feeling of betrayal was paralyzing. “Why, God?  Why? Why? Why?” Actually, to be completely honest, I guess there was one prayer I croaked out: “I just can’t talk to you right now, God.” 

In the long hours of that awful night, three thoughts penetrated my numbness. First, I knew friends were praying for me when I could not. Second, I thought I remembered reading somewhere that Jesus “intercedes for us at the right hand of God.” (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25, 10:10-12) And I had long loved that verse in Romans that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Wordless tears. Deep groans. Lonely loss. The times when—at least for quirky poetry lovers like me—you remember random lines from Emily Dickinson. “I felt a funeral in my brain . . .”  And “After great pain, a formal feeling comes/The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs . . .” 

For most of us, unlike Emily, at times there simply are no words. But there is God.  He knows our ragged hearts: “How long must I wrestle with my tears and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2) He hears our sighs: “All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9)   He sits with us in our sorrow. Nicholas Wolterstorff’s plea from Lament for a Son comes to me: “Come and sit with me on my mourning bench.”

HE sits with us. And He does even more. He gives us hope. Sometimes earthly hope. There’s so much ahead that we cannot see. Tears are blinding. But—I have to be honest here—sometimes it’s not earthly hope. But always, always eternal hope. “. . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:18b-19a) Eventually we learn to take hold of that rope offered to us. Like those toddlers holding on to the rope as they follow the teacher, we learn to hold on. And no matter what, He holds the end of that rope.

So, my sweet Facebook friend—and every other friend whose prayers are only tears right now, here is my prayer for you (borrowed from the Apostle Paul): “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

There will come a day when there will be no more tears.  But we’re not there yet. So in the meantime, cry when you need to. Just remember Who is sitting alongside you.          

Generational Wealth

“We will tell the next generation . . .”  Our pastor alluded to it last Sunday.  I re-read it this week in Psalm 78.  And I saw it in action recently in a Mom to Mom group where I spoke.

Meredith Moms

You could call it “generational wealth.”  I’ve heard the term used in the context of legacy giving and non-profit donations: inherited wealth passed on generation to generation.  Churches and charities love it.   

But the generational wealth I’m talking about is far richer than the largest donation, the greatest bequest.  The Psalmist expands on it in Psalm 78:3-7:

“. . . what we have heard and known,

what our fathers [and mothers] have told us

We will not hide them from our children

We will tell the next generation

The praiseworthy deeds of the Lord

His powers and the wonders He has done . . .

So the next generation would know them,

Even the children yet to be born,

And they in turn would tell their children.

Then they would put their trust in God. . . .”

It’s the Titus 2 principle, on which Mom to Mom was founded, fleshed out.  And I saw a wonderful example of it in a precious Mom to Mom group in Meredith, NH.  Four generations in Mom to Mom: Titus 2 leaders Mini and her daughter Mary, Mom to Mom member Carrie (Mary’s daughter) with her daughter Rose.  It was a first, for me, to meet four generations of one family in Mom to Mom.

Four Generations at Mom to Mom

Four Generations at Mom to Mom

In that same morning there were many memorable interactions with women about “real mom” life: particularly challenging children; grown kids in crisis; marriages that died—some brought back to life again by our resurrecting Lord, some still dead but with daily strength supplied by that same Lord.  And then there was the mom who wrote this in a note to me: [Mom to Mom] has inspired me to trust in the hope of Christ for those in my family who are still unsaved.  I also have faith that God will redeem the years that the locust has eaten—from all the mistakes I have made in raising my children.”     Can’t we all say “Amen” to that?!

A precious gift given to me summed up the morning.  One mom had painted on a beautiful plate a verse I had alluded to in their last session (Session 16 of Growing Together).  This same mom had several years ago painted Mom to Mom sayings on her bathroom walls—the only place she got to sit down in those days!  No, she didn’t present me with a piece of the wall.  But the verse on the plate captures it:

plate photo

Generational wealth: Pass it on!

Images courtesy of Susan Brown. Used with permission.

 

Desperate

Desperate

The word “desperate” comes to mind often these days. There are a number of reasons.

This winter’s weather, for many of you. It seems there’s a new storm on the way every few days. Every plan made feels subject to cancellation, and I see a lot of moms in supermarkets with that desperate look in their eyes.

Then there are the conversations with my daughter, whose two-year-old is being very two. And it’s wearing his mother down. Yep. Desperate. That would describe many a day with that charming little whirlwind of a boy. And his two sisters.

In the midst of this long winter for weary moms, I’m preparing to speak at a local Mom to Mom. They haven’t met for a month now. Three “snow days” bled into school vacation week, and I suspect there are more than a few moms feeling desperate.

All of this—and much more—is why I’m so glad Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae Hoover wrote Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe.

Sarah Mae is a young mom with three small children and Sally is an older (or should I say more experienced?) mom with four grown children. Each chapter begins with an exchange of notes in which Sarah is looking for help on a particular issue or with a particular stage of her parenting. Sally is able to provide hope from “on up the road apiece.” I like the dual perspective.

If you are a young mom—or an older mom—or if you know a young mom or an older mom, you really should get this book. Here’s why:

  • It’s real. Sarah’s descriptions of mom-feelings, beginning with the introductory “I can’t be a mother today, Lord. I’m just too tired,” are honest, authentic, and written from the heat of the battle. They help moms sigh with relief: “Phew! I’m not the only mom who feels this way.”
  • It recognizes the depths to which being a mom can sometimes send us. Sarah has struggled with depression, and she writes about it with raw authenticity. And Sally responds with heartfelt encouragement both practical and Scriptural.
  • It reminds us how much we moms need each other. We were not meant to do this mom-job alone. God knew what He was doing when He provided the Titus 2:3-5 model of older women teaching and encouraging the young women. It is the heart of our small groups at Mom to Mom, and I love the one-on-one example of this which Sally and Sarah provide.
  • It points us Godward. Rather than providing parenting formulas or models of mothering perfection, Sally gently and wisely steers Sarah away from perfectionistic mom-models back to our Perfect and All-Powerful God. She encourages Sarah to trust her own God-given instincts about herself and her family, relying on His Word and His power and help and strength rather than searching for the perfect parenting formula.

One caveat: I am so grateful for the transparency with which the very real problem of depression is addressed. And Sally’s responses to Sarah are full of empathy as well as practical and Scriptural encouragement. But I wish they had been clearer about the need for professional help in some cases. Moms need to draw on a wide range of resources for this very prevalent problem, and I wouldn’t want moms who need this kind of help to miss it.

Bottom line: This book lives up to its subtitle: “Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe.” Read it. And breathe.

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