Awake.

I wrote this song for Advent this past year. It is probably the most theologically dense song I’ve ever written, and it was a challenge to keep up with the weighty concepts I was attempting to communicate. I had to make sure I was using the right words to convey the idea I wanted, but also to make sure that what I was saying was worded in a way that didn’t miscommunicate the theology, as well as making sure it all sounded good aesthetically. Tricky!

Of course, with all the heady theology of the song, it was also important to me that it be engaging on an emotional level. I didn’t want this to be simply a recitation of theological tenets, but a call to the heart of the believer. I was reading through the prophecies of Isaiah in preparation for writing this song, and felt that my job for this song was to be the one “who brings good news, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'”  That chapter (Isaiah 52) begins with summons to God’s people, one which I included, only slightly reworded, as the bridge for this song.

Awake, awake,
put on your strength, O Zion;
put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;

Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
be seated, O Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.

I’ve never had quite as specific a purpose as I felt laid on my heart for this song. It’s anomaly for me in many ways, but my prayer was (and is) that it would stir in people’s  hearts, including my own, a reawakened fervor as they heard sung over them the miraculous truths of all God did for us in the incarnation.

Awake.

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all things new.

I always want those new mercies every morning to mean that I actually feel new every morning. I want a wiped clean slate, I want a clear head. But most mornings, since I’ve been a mom (otherwise known as the majority of my adult life), I’ve awakened feeling woefully unprepared for the day. Yesterday’s baggage follows me into the new day, be it lost tempers and harsh words, or sluggishness and a pile of dishes. I can’t just forget what happened yesterday.

The beautiful thing is that I don’t need to forget all those things to have a fresh start. Today is new.

Having these three sweet and precious, raggedy and rough-around-the-edges souls in my care has given me need to wake up each morning and grab onto the new mercy like never before. I don’t have time to waste wallowing in or mourning past failures. I don’t have time to wait for the perfect place to start. I don’t have time to wait until I’m sure I can succeed at the tasks I’ve set for myself, or til I know I can do things just the way I want. I just have to wake up, take a deep breath, and fall hard on mercies that have been new every morning since creation and will be long after I’m gone.

I’m discovering just how vast the mercy of God is, in the way that he meets me in that spot. This year I’m choosing to be present, even in the mess and struggle, and in the process I’m discovering the beauty that exists in the life I have. I don’t have to fix all the things or wait for more ideal circumstances. It’ll be wonderful when I get to sleep all night again, and I’m taking steps to make sure that happens sooner than later, but in the meantime, even though I woke up every hour last night, I still get to choose to accept the newness of this day. I still get to choose to engage my kids instead of walking through the day in a haze. And I get to be constantly surprised at how my decision to fall on the grace and mercy of God, which frees me to step into the limitations of my days, uncovers so much joy and hope. That simple decision to get up and face each day like it’s a new start is growing and changing me, and I can feel it.

I may be tired, I may be stretched thin and emotionally on edge, but I am being made new.

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the question.

I find it the hardest to believe God loves me when it’s the middle of the night and my baby isn’t sleeping well. Isn’t that silly? There are much harder things about my life than sleeplessness, but during the day I can convince myself that it’s all ok. Like, I’m going to work harder, we’ll all get our act together and everything will be fine. We can take care of ourselves. But in the middle of the night, when the baby’s up for like the tenth time, and I’ve just been praying and praying that she’ll sleep and she’s not, in my exhaustion I can’t cover for myself anymore. The real state of my heart rises up in the questions I can no longer quell: “God, don’t you love me? Why don’t you do something? Do you really care?”

A friend of mine told me recently that instead of only asking God to do things for her now, she asks him to be with her. That really struck me, because that actually deals with the very root of the question. The circumstances change, but what I really need is for God to be with me. Only then am I safe, only there am I loved, truly and perfectly. I’ve always loved the part of the Christmas story where it says that the child’s name will be Immanuel, God with us. Isn’t that what our hearts are constantly crying out for? “God, where are you in all this?” But in the incarnation, God left everything, all the riches of heaven, all the glory of his status. God made himself man to be with us.

I still want God to do his magical thing and make my baby sleep without me having to put forth any effort. I still want to feel safe and in control and never have any fears about the future. I want my friend’s cancer to go away. I want my other friend’s depression and anxiety to be less debilitating. I want all the little kids to be safe from the people that want to hurt them. I want wars to cease. I want things on earth to be as they are in heaven. I still ask God to do things and get confused and sad when they don’t happen.

I don’t know the answer to the question of why God does what he does, when he does. But the incarnation gives me a clear answer to the deep question of my heart, the “where are you, God? Don’t you love me?” I long to have that answer made real in my heart.

God is with us. God is with us. God is with us.

 

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what i have is enough.

Money is super tight round these parts right now. We always have enough, though never a lot, which is surprising when you consider we are a musician/stay-at-home mom, and a furniture designer and maker/founder of a fledging business. Look, sometimes you make sacrifices to do what you want, ok?

Anyway, mostly when we have a month or two where we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, it can be very stressful. This month is no different, but today as I was sweeping the floor, my kids playing contentedly around me, I realized that this Saturday has been really peaceful. I’ve neatened the house, washed some dishes, hung out with my kids, even enjoyed the pleasant surprise of a brief visit from old friends. And I think the lack of excess income is actually contributing to the simplicity and peace of my day.

The weekend is kind of supposed to be a time when you run errands, do fun things, get stuff done, right, but the fact that I have no money to spend means I’m not rushing about trying to figure out what to buy. I’m not buying into the idea that some new thing will make my life better. I’m learning to find where I am and what I have to be enough.

For a brief moment, today, I found contentment and gratitude in this season of scarcity, and I’m grabbing on with both hands, putting it down in black and white because I don’t want to forget that it’s possible.

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present for the hard stuff.

The last few years, I’ve had themes come to mind for the upcoming year, rather than specific resolutions. The theme that keeps impressing itself on my heart for this season is being present. That idea is everywhere these days, and the things I’ve read don’t seem to do it justice. The blogs I read make being present seem this really warm and fuzzy thing, like I’ll just sit down with my hands cupped around a warm mug, inhaling the beauty in my day like the fragrance wafting up from my coffee. Frankly, right now, being present is a terrifying thought to me. All I want, all day long, is to escape. I am deeply afraid of committing myself to the present, to being present. The definition of “present” is “existing or occuring now” or “in a particular place”. Both of which scare me.

I don’t know what it is about this season that is so hard for me. I’m living the dream! I have three beautiful children, a house, a loving husband who is also my favorite person and best friend. But life is so hard, or at least feels so hard. Most days I feel like I’m scrambling to stay abreast of everything, scrambling just to keep ahold of myself in the middle of chaos. Somehow, without realizing it, I’ve disengaged. I spend my days trying to hide from my kids, from conflict, from the mess. I have completely quit childrearing because I can’t handle confronting alllll the feelings. I’m so tired of it.

I’m missing out on my life.

I’m missing out on my kids’ childhoods.

I feel betrayed by the fact that everything I’ve wanted is not making me happy, that it’s so hard, that I feel like I hate my life. What’s to hate? Why do I feel this way? All I want is to get away from all this.

And yet, in the midst of all this negative emotion, I feel called to be present. I am scared to death. I have tears in my eyes as I type.

A few thoughts, and here is where, if you don’t believe in the Christian narrative, I’ll probably alienate/lose you. Heads up.

1. I know that, as a child of God, I am clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, and that’s how God sees me. I don’t believe God judges me, because he judged Jesus for me. But I do believe that, as proverbs says, the way of the transgressor is hard. I am making my life hard inasmuch as I am choosing to walk in disobedience to what God has required of me. I keep asking Matthew why our life is so hard and, while truthfully this stage of life is just hard (three kids three and under? yeah. hard.) I really think life is harder than it needs to be right now, and I know in my heart that I am making it hard for myself. The ironic thing is, as I desperately try to escape all the hard things, I’m just making everything harder and harder.

2. I am called to be present when all I want to do is leave. This is impossible. But at the same time, it’s entirely possible by God’s spirit in me. I’m given the choice of life or death, right now, and I’ve been choosing death. That may seem melodramatic, but it’s true when you view it through the lens of scripture. In trying to escape, run away, I’ve been letting discontentment, fear, and anger sow their seeds and bear fruit in my life. That fruit is death, death in my days, in my heart, in my attitude. Here’s the thing, no matter what I’ve been choosing til now, I still have the chance to choose afresh. These verses are comforting and challenging:

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.”

Again, this may seem melodramatic, but I am perishing. I am. No more.

3. I still don’t want to be present. I still don’t want to engage my life, (this is embarrassing) to care for my children’s emotional and spiritual selves, sometimes I even resent caring for their physical selves (the endless snack requests? yeah.) but I am still called to do just that. Psalm 118 is my prayer for this time, this year. Here’s a few verses from it, but you should read the whole thing if this resonates with you in any way.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes. 

(It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to escape by fill in the blank. May it be so!)

I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.

(Feeling the results of my particular bentness of heart has been severe. It is still hard, but I know that God has life in mind for me.)

THIS is the Lord‘s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
THIS is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

(This is what I’m called to this year. Living this. Annnnnd, so, in the knowledge of my inability to do it, I come to this next verse.)

Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!

(Heeeellllllp!!!)

Hopefully you can’t relate, hopefully you are in a much better place than I, but if not: you’re not alone. The wages of our sinful, destructive behavior is death and perishing, but there is great, great hope for us. The Lord is on our side! That which he calls us to do, he enables us to do. Amen and amen.

 

Also, I’m totally still going to try to get my oldest into preschool. I’m not crazy. I’m still going to try to make my life easier in tangible ways. Amen and amen.

 

 

 

 

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