Pass Me Not

 

This was my favorite hymn when I was in high school, though I’m not sure why. We never sung it in church; I just found it in a hymnal one day and fell in love with the lyrics. The other day my daughter asked me to sing a song I liked when I was a teenager, so I chose this one. I hadn’t really thought about the lyrics on years, but they ring oh so true for me in this season. 

Pass me not, O gentle Savior
Hear my humble cry
While on others thou art calling
Do not pass me by

Refrain:
Savior, Savior
Hear my humble cry
While on others thou art calling
Do not pass me by

Let me at thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief
Kneeling there in deep contrition
Help my unbelief

Trusting only in thy merit
Would I seek thy face
Heal my wounded, broken spirit
Save me by thy grace

Thou the spring of all my comfort
More than life to me
Whom have I on earth beside thee?
Whom in heaven but thee?

Check out this video of a folksy version of this hymn, which is how I always sang it in my head as a teenager, having never heard it before! Sorry I couldn’t get the video to embed here; I’ll try again later. 

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How Long, Oh Lord? A Different Kind of Rainbow

How Long

photos courtesy of Renee Van Druff, used with permission

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?…

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

Psalm 13:1-2, 5-6

The other day I read this post from Twin Cities Moms Blog about “Rainbow Babies.” If you’re not familiar with the term, a rainbow baby is one that is born to parents following a loss, particularly miscarriage or stillbirth. The idea is that the new life is the beauty – the rainbow – after the storm of a loss.

Certainly every child is precious, and there is something special about the way parents cherish any baby that is born after having lost one.The thing is, when you see a spectacular rainbow after a storm, all you can do is marvel at its beauty, and you hardly remember the darkness or fear that came with the storm. You know the hard part is over, and you have something beautiful in its place.

I’m sure that is the experience of some parents who have a rainbow baby – that having a child makes everything better and easier. However, I am so thankful to Beth, the author of the aforementioned piece, for pointing out that not everyone has that experience.

It’s been just over a year since my first miscarriage and not quite 10 months since my 2nd miscarriage. I’m also 6 months pregnant with my 6th child (the 4th that will make it to delivery). And if we’re being completely honest (and I pretty much always am), I’m not as happy or whole as I thought I would be.

What I Don’t Need To Hear

If you have ever experienced loss or tragedy of any kind, you are all too familiar with platitudes – you know, the generic, often spiritual comments people make when they want to help but really have no idea what to say. I guess these statements have helped some people somewhere at some time or else they wouldn’t have caught on as sayings. However, the truth is that these things are annoying at best, and often they tend to hurt more than they help.

One I have repeatedly heard regarding miscarriage and especially subsequent pregnancy goes something along the lines of this: “Well that loss is really a blessing in disguise, because if you hadn’t lost that baby, you wouldn’t have little so-and-so here.” I mean, I get the logic. I may have even said something like this before I had a miscarriage and knew better. (If I ever said this to you, I’m sorry.) So, looking at the calendar, it is true that if my 4th pregnancy had continued, I wouldn’t have had the 5th pregnancy 2 months later, and if the 5th pregnancy had continued, I wouldn’t have had the 6th… At least not in the same time frame. However, that line of thinking doesn’t help me; it actually makes me feel worse. It will give you a headache and probably raise your blood pressure if you do this for every dumb sympathy phrase you hear, but just for kicks and giggles (not really), can we dissect the theology of this particular platitude, please?

I am all about the sovereignty of God and perfection of his plan. I understand the eternal value of my children and the mission for which he has called them in this life. But saying that one child died to make way for another presumes that the latter child’s life has greater value than the former. I can’t help but feel this suggests God ended a child’s life because the parents somehow made a mistake and conceived at the “wrong” time. Is this problematic for anyone other than me??

Let me tell you something, friend, especially if you have ever lost a baby: God is the giver of life, and that was the right time for your child, though only a short time. Your child’s life mattered and matters.

Eternal Perspective

Years ago I read a post from Johnna regarding the late-term loss of her daughter, Branson. Although her experience was years before mine, I never forgot her words about purpose. When she was pregnant, she felt the Lord had a specific calling for Branson, and the loss of her life could have felt like that calling was lost, God’s plan thwarted. But God. It is so easy to get lost in the temporal things that we understand, or at least have some grasp on. But God is so much bigger than this life, and his plans are not limited to the confines of this earth and this life. Just as Branson’s purpose is being fulfilled in eternity, so the lives of my lost children will also realize their potential in a life I do not yet know… but I will.

Today I am struggling with the why. Why did things happen the way they did? Why would God encourage me so much in the process only for me to be let down in the end? Why is it a year later and I’m still angry and sad? I knew there would be days and moments when I struggled, but this season is quiet and lonely. I thought things would be better by now.

Maybe… Maybe we aren’t supposed to “get over it” and move on; we are supposed to experience the pain in this moment. What is light without darkness, high without low, joy without mourning? Rather than wishing to skip the hard part, God, allow me to sit here and grieve our losses, whatever that looks like. Teach me Your goodness through the struggle and the pain.

A Different Kind of Rainbow

Believe me, friend, I am not writing this from a place of healing. I do not have such wisdom to impart from “the other side” where things are happy and I’m not hurting anymore. I am writing in my brokenness, grieving the loss of my two children every single day. I ache and long to know them and be known by them. I intensely miss them, even though we never truly met. I really don’t know what I’m supposed to be learning in this. God, that would make this process a lot easier if I did! I am hurt and confused and frustrated… But I’m not getting out of this boat. There is a storm raging all around me, but I won’t abandon ship. I’m not praying for God to calm this storm or that he would calm me, his child. I’m just hunkered down in the hull, curled under a blanket in the fetal position, holding on for dear life, trusting that the one steering this vessel will keep me safe. I can’t see the way out, and nothing I do can make the ride easier; this is pure, blind, reckless faith based only on a hope I haven’t seen.

Maybe for me it’s more like a rainbow after a tornado… There is definitely beauty there, and hope for a bright future to come. But while I stand here admiring that gift of light, I’m standing in the middle of wreckage, a mess of lost memories and opportunities that will take time and work to sort through. And while I may never recover what was lost in that storm, there is hope to rebuild.

…In time.

O Lord, come back to us!
    How long will you delay?
    Take pity on your servants!
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
    Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.

Psalm 90:13-16

Waiting for Spring

Waiting for Spring

In my world, spring is the most glorious season of all. I mean, you’ve got the warmer weather and pretty budding trees and flowers and grasses and pollen… oh Mylanta the pollen…

Spring is particularly glorious for those of us parents who have been cooped up indoors with our children for the last 3 months of dreaded winter. Cabin fever is a very real thing, and it is even realer (pretty sure that’s not a word) for small children. Hats off to all you cold-weather-loving parents who bundle your kiddos up and go outside to play in the snow, but that’s big time not me. Yeah, we go out in the snow when it falls – which is rare here in Tennessee – but I get so frustrated every time because we spend 45 minutes finding and adorning 3 layers of clothes, removing and re-adorning said clothes 5 times after 5 sudden potty emergencies, searching for those blasted boots, crying that the boots are too tight with extra socks, and fighting over who gets to wear which toboggan before we finally make it out the door. Then the kids play for an hour on a good day – 10 minutes on a normal day – before coming in, wet and freezing, refusing to take warm baths because they’re too cold to undress (because preschooler logic is so very logical??), and resuming the either excessive blanket-fort movie-watching or running-and-screaming-indoors-like-it-is-outdoors that we would have been doing from the beginning anyway.

Can I get an amen??

Can I get an amen??

The coming of spring is like the dramatic breakthrough of dawn, when the darkness and cold of winter is overcome by the beautiful force of sunlight. I have Relient K’s “High of 75” stuck in my head literally all season. Because to me, winter is a season of cold, bleakness, and depression.

But the truth is, we need it.

Winter isn’t the season of death it can feel like to us haters. Winter is a season of rest. After all the growth and production and change and development of spring, summer, and fall, winter is when everything goes into hibernation mode and just chills for a bit. No visible growth, no work to keep up with, just rest.

Are you needing rest?

In Biblical terms, we call that a Sabbath. Once a week, God commands the Israelites to observe a day of rest in recognition of God resting on the seventh day of creation. (We’ll save the creationism discussion for another day.) Taking a day off once a week is something we can all wrap our heads around. But I’m talking longer-term than that. In addition to the weekly Sabbath recognition, God also creates this Sabbatical Year. That’s – you guessed it – a whole year of rest.

“While Moses was on Mount Sinai, the Lord said to him, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you have entered the land I am giving you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath rest before the Lord every seventh year. For six years you may plant your fields and prune your vineyards and harvest your crops, but during the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath year of complete rest. It is the Lord’s Sabbath. Do not plant your fields or prune your vineyards during that year. And don’t store away the crops that grow on their own or gather the grapes from your unpruned vines. The land must have a year of complete rest.”

Leviticus 25:1-5

If that seems extreme to you, consider this. the concept of fallow lands – that is, allowing soil to rest by not planting crops for an extended period of time – is an ancient practice backed up by modern science. The earth actually needs this break in order to regenerate sufficient nutrients to sustain a healthy crop in the future. Depleting the soil means future crops will suffer.

Are you feeling depleted?

Winter and Sabbath seasons are necessary for the health of the earth. These seasons of rest are needed for the health of our souls.

The other day I pulled out my resumé to update my profile for a freelance writing website. (I don’t have any offers, in case you were wondering.) It was so depressing. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since just before my 3rd child was born, so it’s been a while since I looked at it. The frustrating part was looking at those dates of my last employment and thinking, Why would anyone hire me when I haven’t done anything in 4 years?

Here’s the thing about winter: even when it seems bleak and desolate, important work is being done. The rest is important work. Plants are storing energy and nutrients they will need for spring production; sabbatical soil is being chemically rejuvenated; my soul is finding meaning in the mundane and investing in the future harvest that I won’t reap for years to come. This season of rest is not dead, it is preparation for the spring.

If you’re feeling depleted and in need of rest, don’t despise the changing of the seasons. And if you’re like me, feeling stuck and a little useless (or, at least that bachelor’s degree I’m still paying for feels useless…), remember that the seasons change. And the down time is needed for the spring time to come.

Your season is coming.


And because I couldn’t make mention of Relient K without giving you an embedded video…

I’m Sorry for Judging You

Confession time:  I did something I regret yesterday.

I walked into Chick-fil-A with my two preschool-aged boys, as we often do when we need to get out of the house but I can’t really think of anything to do. This day, in particular, we had actually made it to the gym for my yoga class (20 minutes late, but hey, we made it!). I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant, but I look 8 months, and of course not even spandex will fit, so I was wearing my husband’s gym shorts and one of his t-shirts. My swollen calves were on brilliant display between the oversized shorts and my bright purple tennis shoes, which are the only shoes I can stand to wear for more than 30 minutes at a time these days. My hair was frizzy from being curly the day before and not having time to wash it that morning, so I threw it up in a bun atop my make-up-less face. Simply stated, I was straight up People of Walmart* material.

*It should be noted that I shop at Walmart all the time, and I love it because no one freaking cares. That’s actually quite a beautiful thing. I’ll write more about that one day…

But I didn’t go to Walmart; I went to the fancy gym among all the fit people with their spandex and weight racks, then to Chick-fil-A – the classiest of all fast-food establishments – where the folks asking “would you like waffle fries with that?” look more put together than I do, and they politely smile and tell me it’s their pleasure to serve my sloppy self and kids who obviously dressed themselves.

My boys immediately ran to the play area, as is their custom, while I got our food. Luckily I scored the perfect seat, the booth right next to the play area window, so I can eat my food – still hot! – while the kids play. I sat down and watched through the window, content to go ahead eating my chicken strips (and side salad… hey, I tried) without letting the kids know their meal was also available.

That’s when I saw her: a mom sitting in the play area watching her child – another woman who, like myself, didn’t seem much concerned with impressing anyone. She was wearing cotton shorts and a t-shirt with flip flops, but what I really noticed was her hair. It was dyed different shades of purple and blue, but by now it was badly faded. Usually when I see someone with wild colored hair I get excited and compliment them, a simple courtesy that meant a lot to me when I was sporting pink locks a couple of years ago. For some reason, this day, I didn’t. Instead, my only thought was, Sheesh, that color looks awful when it’s faded like that. You can’t wear that color if you’re not going to keep it up.

Then I noticed her daughter, just a toddler. I started to jump up and remind my rambunctious boys to be careful around the baby, like I usually do when there are itty bitties in the play area with them. But I stopped and watched this little girl for the worst possible reason: she looked different. She had a large bump on her forehead, unlike anything I had ever seen. I glanced at her often, trying to hide my curiosity, wondering if it was a pump knot like my kids have gotten or… gasp! What if this child is abused? Now, truthfully, this bump was unusual, but why did I jump to that conclusion?

I finally got up from my seat and went to tell my boys to be careful. When I got in, I walked right past the other woman without even looking at her. My 4-year-old was standing next to the little girl, and he reached out to touch the bump on her head. He giggled, “Look, Mommy! She has a BIIIGGG bump, and it’s squishy!”

I was mortified that he said this right in front of her mother, and I got nervous about how to respond. I quietly replied, “Yes, she does, but it’s not nice to touch people’s faces. You need to leave her alone and watch out because she’s small.”

“But look how big…” he interrupted, “and it’s squishy! That feels weird!” He and my other son snickered.

My back was to the mother, so I couldn’t gauge if I needed to reprimand him or calmly say something about how our differences make us special, but it didn’t matter. No words would come out of my mouth. I just stared at him until finally the mother sweetly chimed in, “Yeah, it does feel funny! It’s actually a birthmark, and it should go away by the time she’s your age.”

Now I knew I had failed Sensitive Mothering 101. Not only did I not help the situation of my own children teasing someone else for being different, but I had actually assumed the mark was a sign of abuse, and honestly, it was because of the mother’s appearance.

This mother and her daughter eventually moved to the booth behind mine when they got their food. As I overheard snippets of their mealtime conversation, I determined that this woman is a loving, attentive, good parent. Maybe she was overly sweet because she sensed my judgment and wanted me to hear, but really, does that matter? She had every right to make me feel like the slug I was.

Please know, this scenario is not normal for me. I am generally very friendly and will make conversation with anyone nearby, especially someone who looks like she did. I am often intimidated by moms who are wearing clothes and makeup and have their hair fixed when they run errands with the kids, so I reach out to the care-free moms that do what they gotta do to get out the door. Solidarity, girl.

Honestly, I don’t know why this day was different from others. Probably it’s because I have been depressed lately, feeling frustrated that my constant fatigue keeps me from being productive, and annoyed that none of my clothes – even maternity clothes – fit. I don’t feel like myself, which is pretty much a defining characteristic of pregnancy in general, but for some reason it has gotten me particularly down as of late. I could write a book on that, but the point is that I was thinking selfishly.

Now, I’m not saying depression is inherently selfish – I have walked that road and fought that battle, and if you are there, know that you are not a bad person and you certainly are not alone. But being depressed makes us feel not ourselves, and that can lead to thinking selfishly when generally you wouldn’t. Selfish thinking is giving so much attention to yourself and your own issues that you don’t value or respect other people. Yes, judging others is really about being selfish – putting someone else down to somehow lift ourselves up. The depression I have been walking through caused me to look at another mom who is probably a lot like me and we should totally be friends and thinking she doesn’t care about her own appearance, so she must not care about her child.

Geez, I hope no one around me thinks that way, because I am a hot mess.

In Romans, the Apostle Paul reminds us how selfish thinking leads us to devalue those around us:

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

Romans 12:3

He goes on to talk about how the body has many parts, and as followers of Jesus, we are the Body of Christ. Each part serves its own purpose, and to value one over the other because of the way it looks or the dignity of its job is missing the point of the organic function. When we look at those around us and put them down, we are missing the point. We can’t evaluate the fulfillment of our purpose based on the way we look or dress or what color our hair is. What matters is if I am using the gifts God has given me and living according to the faith he has given me. If I am doing those things, the only thing I will feel for those around me is love and compassion. Rather than judging that mom or hurrying out of the room after my 4-year-old acted like a 4-year-old, I should have sat down on the bench next to her and asked about her daughter, her family, and even tell her about the time I had pink hair.

After all, I’m used to eating my food cold.

Good Friday

John 16:22

“I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him.”

Matthew 21:31-32

How do you celebrate Easter?

Of course our consumer culture is obsessed with bunnies and candy-filled eggs and sugary animal-shaped marshmallows that do not taste anywhere near good enough to compensate for the cavities you can immediately feel forming as you chew them.

Then there are the Christian “purists” who shun the pagan fertility symbols and shame the watered-down American church for promoting traditions rooted in sin.

And then you’ve got someone a little more like me, a Christian reflecting on and celebrating the defining moments of my faith while also taking my kids to Easter egg hunts. I’m not entirely buying into the Easter sales pitch (this may have more to do with my being broke than pious), but I’m not going to give you a hard time about it either. I usually forget to get/hide Easter baskets for my kids, and therefore we have sort of avoided the whole Easter Bunny thing. My family “believed” in the Easter Bunny growing up, and I think I turned out okay, so I’m not necessarily opposed to it. But do you think I’m a better Christian if I say we choose to focus on Jesus during the Easter season? We are Christians, we are pastors, we focus on Jesus… but I’m also forgetful, so try not to be too impressed.

The way I personally focus on Jesus during this season is by retracing his steps leading up to the Crucifixion. I’m not just talking about the Last Supper and trial, but I’m really interested in his ministry in Jerusalem. He knew this was his last stop before his death, and he had a lot to say to God’s Chosen people of Israel. Have you ever noticed the weight we give to a person’s last words? It seems only fitting we give that same weight to Jesus’ last teachings, as they may hold some important insight into the things Jesus valued the most.

In the synoptic gospel accounts, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and his first stop was the Temple. He was so appalled by the blatant exploitation going on in the courtyard that he went on a rampage against the religious leaders who had allowed worship to be marketed as a commodity. (Well that could preach today.)

I don’t think it looked like this, but I love this video:

 What in the name of Me is going on in here??

Soon after this, Jesus started preaching in the Temple and among the people. He didn’t get a warm reception from the Pharisees, or the religious elite, because he said stuff like this:

[Jesus said to the priests and leaders,] “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. Which of the two was obeying his father?”

They replied, “The first, of course.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him.”

Matthew 21:28-32

The more we read and focus on Jesus’ words, the more we see that the Gospel is a message of the heart. Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Israel by demonstrating it was all about our hearts in the first place. His sacrificial death made a way for us to be reconciled to the Father by faith alone, and the works of love will be a natural outflowing of our hearts, which now have peace through Christ.

My favorite way to celebrate Easter is by sharing that message of hope and love with those who might not make it into church Sunday morning to hear it from a pulpit. Today’s post is late on this Good Friday because I was out late last night hitting up my local strip clubs. No, I don’t carry a Bible or memorize a sermon, and most of the time we chat about our kids or hair or movies. But the Love of the Father is consistent, pursuing, relentless, and doesn’t require that you get your act together in order to receive it. I don’t walk into those clubs carrying Jesus with me; I follow him in, because he’s already there, loving his children.

Don’t be like the Pharisees who missed the Truth standing right in front of them while those they condemned jumped on the Jesus train. Today is Good Friday, and in the sorrow of Christ’s death, we rejoice that he paid that price for ALL of us.