Let Me Be Singing When the Evening Comes

I love the song, “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman. I especially like the line, “Let me be singing when the evening comes.” I’m not sure what I previously thought it meant, but as we sang it Sunday during worship, its meaning in that moment became clear.

In the previous weeks, something had been building. April was financially stressful for sure. April was also busy. However, it wasn’t all bad. God certainly provided all kinds of extras for us to enjoy. Last week though, it all seemed to fall down. I was hurting and very sad. There were several events that just were all compounded together. A family member was dying, I was feeling alone and unimportant and the anniversary of Emma’s Type 1 diagnosis was soon. I was taking all of this so much harder than I expected. And on some level, I was thinking that I shouldn’t be feeling this way at all.

So here I found myself with all this sadness that I didn’t think I deserved to feel. I kept trying to reason myself out of it. I found myself cornered and instead of turning to God I tried to tell myself that I really had no reason to feel this way. I tried to confess my sadness away. I tried to will myself to be thankful and grateful. I did everything except face the sadness with God. I came up with a million reasons why what I was feeling was wrong and it only made things worse. I just became angry and withdrawn. I was always two thoughts from tears. But God in His infinite patience persisted.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I love joy, especially in God. There is nothing more beautiful and intoxicating than the exquisite joy found in Him. There is so much joy found in celebration of all He is. However, sometimes I can’t get to that place. Sometimes joy doesn’t look like a celebration. Sometimes joy is quiet. In those times that joy is absolutely your strength. When my heart is heavy and hurting, I absolutely need both His joy and strength. I have learned through suffering and loss that joy doesn’t always look like what we think it should.

Sometimes joy is just knowing He is there with you in the valley. Sometimes joy is knowing that He is with you at your darkest and your lowest. Sometimes joy comes first thing in the morning when you know He will walk with you through the same struggle today that He did yesterday. Sometimes joy is knowing that eventually He will lead you through to the other side. Sometimes joy is just knowing that He is faithful to use whatever horrible place you are in for good. Sometimes joy is knowing He brought you through another day and there is relief in your last thoughts before you fall asleep. And so many times joy is knowing that He doesn’t shy away from our hurts but walks into them willingly. Through all of that comes strength.

His provision in the valleys is even more abundant than when times are good. Sometimes His provision is a friend who texts you with just the right words that say you aren’t alone. Sometimes His provision is a husband who knows you are hurting and sets aside time to hold you while you cry. Sometimes His provision are the people He has placed in your life- family and friends who remind you that the road you are on is tough and its ok to be broken and sad. Sometimes His provision is another person in front of you to serve so that your heart can be distracted from your hurt for just a little while. His provision is always himself.

Sometimes celebration isn’t hoopla and dancing. Sometimes celebration is a quiet, sobbing surrender. Sometimes celebration comes as you stop resisting the grace that’s being offered to you and instead relinquish the iron grip on your composure. Sometimes celebration is the widening cracks in the walled-off parts of your heart finally giving way as the damn breaks free. And often celebration is being able to sing at the end of yet another day.

Let me be singing when the evening comes despite this valley. Let me be singing because God and I have journeyed another day together and I’m not alone. Let me be singing, even if it is a song of lament because it means that for this day the battle over bitterness has been won. Let me be singing because in this moment my heart is not hard and turned away from Him. Let me be singing because I know that those are no small victories but a reason to be thankful that He has rescued me from myself again.

I have learned that the valleys aren’t to be avoided and fought. I have learned that they are a part of a life in a broken place full of broken people. I have learned so much about the character and nature of God as He has walked with me through these places. And I know I will see so much more when I am on the other side and look back over the places we walked together. I will be able to see even more clearly His strength and provision through the toughest places. I pray that my foolish heart won’t walk so long in circles the next time, thinking I can make it out on my own. And I pray that each day I will be singing when the evening comes.

Emma, Type 1 Diabetes & the Gospel

Today, we are at the 5-year mark of our daughter Emma’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. So much has changed since that day. Sometimes it seems that day was a lifetime ago. Sometimes it still feels painfully fresh in my mind. I’d like to say it has gotten easier with time, that we’ve figured it all out and that diabetes is but a small speed bump in our day to day lives. But that isn’t the reality of our lives. The road hasn’t gotten easier but God also hasn’t deserted us. In his way, He is using this horrible disease to draw me closer to himself and to rescue me from myself.

Last year Emma made the decision that she was ready for a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) and an insulin pump. We always wanted it to be her decision. Personally, I was glad because her current therapy was beginning to wear on her and frankly, it wasn’t working anymore. These two devices have been such a tremendous blessing for Emma. No longer are her days filled with shots and her overall health is better. Her A1c dropped two points and for the first time, she was under the target for her age range. We can give her more freedom and make better-informed decisions for her treatment. We were and still are so very thankful for both devices.

However, things aren’t perfect. With tighter control comes more dangerously low blood sugars. We often treat lows multiple times per week. Most of these lows are at night. There is also the work of always changing a pod or putting on a sensor. Puberty and the natural process of growing require more insulin. With the benefits have come all new challenges. 

Emma was 6 years old at diagnosis. She was too young to really understand everything that was happening to her and what it would all mean for her life. Over the last year, she has begun to truly process her condition. She is tired and weary of the constant and unrelenting nature of her disease. She is weighed down by the reality of a lifetime of diabetes. She is aware of her mortality and each night is a struggle for her to go to sleep without fear. The pump site changes and the sensor changes have become more painful. The finger pricks are hurting more and more. She is tired of being strong and she is often angry. Dale and I have been watching this unfold with broken hearts. Recently, after a tear-filled sensor change, both of us realized that we had slipped back into a depression, having to watch Emma suffer and struggle so much.

The next night, after making sure that she was checking/calibrating before bed, tired and weary I fell asleep. Sometime around 2 am I unexpectedly awoke from a deep sleep. I looked over at my phone and realized her cgm had not been transmitting for hours and I hadn’t heard the alarms. I reluctantly got out of bed to go and fix the problem. For some unknown reason, her cgm was reporting a signal loss even though it was beside her. For the next twenty minutes, I did several things trying to solve the problem so I could go back to bed. Finally, her phone started reading her BG. It said 101 and going down. I debated whether to give her a snack or wait it out to see if she started to rise like normal. Before I could decide, her CGM said 111 and steady. I was satisfied with that number. However, I just didn’t feel released to go back to sleep until I checked her with the meter. The meter said 72. 72 is a low BG but not crazy low. I gave her a snack and waited for her BG to go back up. Instead, it went further down into the 50’s. Finally, after rechecking and suspending her pump, she was back into the 80’s and going up. I realized what had just happened. God had intervened to save Emma’s life. I wasn’t supposed to wake up. The CGM makes so many noises all the time and it is easy to become accustomed to them. The CGM didn’t see the low BG. Technology had failed us but God had not. 

One of the hardest things about being a parent of a child with diabetes is watching your child dying numerous times a week. Their BG is dropping and they are dying while you try desperately to do what you can to save their life. Over and over again. I know that sounds harsh. And for so long I downplayed the seriousness of our situation, of her disease to be able to manage our life each day. I had to make it seem like something I could handle. But God is trying to rescue me. I’m not meant to handle this disease on my own. This burden is too much for me to try and handle without his grace each day. The depression came about because I was slowly realizing that no matter what gadgets and treatments I get for Emma, I can’t fix it for her. I want so desperately to make it somehow better for her. I want to protect her heart from the hurt and suffering that she is feeling. My heart breaks every time I hurt her in order to treat her.

After that night, I realized that the only hope for Emma is the gospel. The Gospel is the only place where she is going to find grace and compassion. The Gospel is the only place where she can find healing and an answer to her suffering. Only the Gospel can redeem this disease for her and provide a purpose for her life. Only through the Gospel will she ultimately be cured of this disease through eternal life in Jesus.

I had unknowingly fallen into a trap. I had begun to put my faith into something else to save Emma. I had placed my faith in technology and in myself to save her life and her heart. Emma ultimately belongs to God. And he loves her more than I do. He has plans for her life. He desires his own relationship with her that will be hard fought and deepened by her suffering and his provision for her. In my Mom heart I tried to stand in the way of that. She is my beautiful girl and each day is hard fought for her life. But God is asking me to trust him with her physical life and her heart. He is also trying to rescue me from the way I have been harming myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically by trying to carry a load I was not meant to carry.

I don’t fully understand what this looks like day in and day out as I still perform my duties as her pancreas. And I know that Emma’s road is going to be hard and full of lots of gospel conversations. I know there will be tears, heartache, fears, pain and so many things I cannot fix or endure for her. I don’t yet have this perfected yet. I barely have a handle on it. There are many days with tears and some days where the little scraps of tape and glue I have holding it all together mercifully give way so that I can receive the grace that is being extended to me. This seems impossible to accomplish right now but I know that God will continue to patiently walk me through this. I know He will never give up on me.

Call to Worship: The Prodigal’s Joy

I’ve been learning about joy, about joy in God, the kind of joy that comes from God. I don’t mean happiness but a real joy that transcends circumstances. God has been teaching me about himself and the relationship He wants to have with me, about the kind of interactions and conversations He wants to have with me.

A few weeks ago I was in a moment, in a place where I just wanted to enjoy the moment and I just wanted to spend it soaking up all of Gods presence I could. For some reason, I felt that I kept missing it or couldn’t let go.  So I just began to shed off, name all off the stuff,  that I was dragging into this perfect moment. There were so many anxieties, regrets, inadequacies, and insecurities that I stopped counting.

I realize now that I spend so much of my time either thinking about my past or my future. I am usually either tangled up in regrets or in the throws of anxiety. Instead of relishing the present I am rehashing my mistakes, beating myself up for what could’ve been or be fretting about what I should be instead, what might happen, where I am not enough. I was missing the opportunity, the invitation for joy that God was extending me so many times during my day. I couldn’t just stay in the present for a moment because I was too busy being discontent and critical.

But God is calling to us, waiting for us. He wants to show us how much He enjoys us, enjoys spending time with us when we let our hearts be open and vulnerable to Him. When our guards go down and our strivings, anxieties cease to take precedence in our mind, there we can find joy, can find God waiting to embrace us. There we find our Father waiting to rejoice, celebrate with us. I am the prodigal. And I need to daily embrace the father who is standing with open arms, waiting to celebrate the love He has for me.

Mary and Her Baby

Look at my baby boy. So tiny, so new. His skin is so soft. His dark eyelashes are so long, just laying there against his cheeks. Joseph was so excited, so in love with him. When he held his little hand, those tiny fingers curved around and grasped onto his finger. I could see the tears in his eyes. My heart was so full with the love I felt for them both. I felt so much love but also some relief. I didn’t realize that I was almost holding my breath until that moment. The last few months have been so hard on both of us. I was so scared Joseph wouldn’t love this baby that is not his own. But Joseph has been so good to me, so kind and caring. I never should’ve doubted God but I did. here I am a virgin carrying the son of God in my womb – and I doubted He would be able to turn my husbands heart to love this precious baby. The angel appeared to me to tell me Gods plan for His son to come. It seemed too much, too crazy. Yet here was the messenger of God appearing to me  saying it was to be so. All of my doubts, all of my fears, my disbelief, it was overwhelming.  The sad, pitying looks of others, of even Joseph nearly broke me. I felt rejected, scorned, and condemned- but then the angel appeared to Joseph too.  And we were married. It was still hard. People said such cruel things to us. Then the baby – we could see him growing, feel his kicks see him moving. I just don’t think we could truly comprehend that the son of god was a tiny baby growing and developing inside of me. I am no one special. We are from no where special. And to think that our holy God, this part of the creator of everything became a small baby, to be born this way. He grew inside of me Joseph keeps apologizing for the hay and the animals and the smell. But honestly it doesn’t matter anymore. Look at my baby. He is so beautiful. The angel said he is to be the the messiah, the redeemer, the savior. I don’t know how that will be or why he needed to send his son into the world this way. But I am looking at this perfect little baby in my arms and know that I am looking  at the face of god, a miracle who already has my heart.

The Artist Prayer

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” -Hebrews 12:28-29

You will be here.

When I take the stage, when we come together it will be great!

How can it not?

Because it is what I was created to do. On every level. Not just as an artist, a minor creator- but every level of me was made, created to bring glory to you! My purpose is to worship and bring glory back to you.

There is no nervousness, no fear, only anticipation! Glorious anticipation-

and these small bodies are not designed to contain all that you are.

You placed inside of me on my rebirth, a piece of you, a piece of divinity, a piece of the power and wonder that created the universe, that created life!! That defeated death…

Perfection housed inside of imperfection. It is like a jar trying to hold the power and volume of the ocean. A paper box trying to hold the fire and intensity of the sun. We will leak and break.

And if we are blessed, if we let go we will explode into brightness with the power of who you are.

I was made to bring glory to you. Like a glittering gem in the crown of the king-

and like jewels on a beautiful woman I cannot add to your beauty, Father, only draw attention to it.

But you will come today. You will take my offering and you will delight in it. My heart will never be pure this side of heaven- but for this moment in time you will be reflected inside of me, as I celebrate who you are! As I bring glory to you, worship and honor to you. Because when I am being who I was made to be, you will always come to me and be who you are.

Thank you Father for making me your vessel. Let me ride the anticipation and savor the electricity that tenses my muscles and threatens to drive me wild. It is only a sign and a reminder of what is to come when one day I receive a body that is made in perfection to praise you. Come with me and let me now glorify you. Delight in me Father. Amen!

Call to Worship

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 1:10

Overwhelm me, God.

Fill my lungs with your breath, infuse me with life.

Fill my mind with your thoughts, so I think as you do.

Fill my eyes with your vision, show me what you see.

Fill my heart with your love, let it spill out and drown me.

Take me in my refuse state, take me apart. Break me, press me, mold me, shape me into your creation. Change me into a place worthy for the indwelling of your spirit.

Create a vessel that shows your handiwork, that reveals your touch.

Leave your maker”s mark upon me.

Teach me to worship you. Teach me to love you. Teach me how to live in your grace, how to walk with your hope.

Grant me the firm faith in your words, and the steady assurance of your promises.

Make your undeserved, freely given, unending, all-consuming, all knowing, ever present, transforming love the song on my lips, the fire in my heart, the very reason I live.

This day. Every day. Amen

Mary, after his death

Have you heard? He is alive! My Jesus is alive! Words cannot express how I feel. Just two days ago it seemed that all hope, all life was gone. I have mourned my precious Lord for two long days. But this morning, this very morning I saw him. He spoke to me! To me!! He could have appeared to anyone- to Kings or any of his disciples. But he chose to reveal himself to me.

This morning when we went to the tomb to anoint him one last time it was a scene of such confusion. The tomb shouldn’t have been open. Inside was a young man. He must have been an angel. I was so afraid. Who am I to be in the presence of an angel? And we bowed and wept in fear, in awe. And he asked us why we were seeking the living among the dead. I didn’t understand. But his next words pierced my confusion. He said Jesus has risen just as he had told us He would. He said Jesus was alive, not dead any longer! We had forgotten in our grief that Jesus had told us That this would happen. Don’t you see!!! It was true. Our small minds had refused to believe. We had seen such horror, such hell in the death of our Lord and lost all hope. My heart had been broken when I saw him die. I had lost hope. But with those words, life was breathed back into my heart. And I ran, stumbling and sobbing with joy, with relief and with guilt that I couldn’t see him for everything he was before.

And then he showed himself to me. And I knew it was him when he said my name when I looked in his eyes and saw the way he had always looked at me. When I am with him I know how unworthy I am to be in his presence yet he makes me feel as if he has been waiting for me to appear. I wanted to cling to him, to cry out my grief and sorrow. I choked on the words, and I was caught in my own whirlwind of emotions. I didn’t know whether to move, to speak out of grief or tremendous celebration. And honestly, I just couldn’t understand how this could happen. He was dead! And now my beautiful Jesus, my Lord, my love was standing here before me, beautiful and radiant. And he spoke to me, Mary, once a whore, delivered from demons. Jesus, who has the power to defeat death is standing before me. He told me to go and tell the others. I didn’t want to leave him but I could not refuse. I had to tell Peter and John! I ran, ragged breath, tears blinding me as I ran. My heart was pounding in my ears, “he is alive! He is alive!”

I followed this man from place to place! He loved me, healed me and delivered me! I watched as he spoke to the powerful, the broken, the poor and the unloveable. I watched as he cherished the outcasts and the misfits. I watched as he chose his disciples from the lowliest of our people. And I watched as the most pious and religious of our people rejected him. I had seen his greatness in my own life every day when he looked at me with such compassion and tenderness. He had loved me when everyone else would only spit on me, calling me names kicking their filth on me as they walked by. And yet I had not understood really who he was. I didn’t know that I had been looked upon by the son of God, had been loved by righteousness. And now I know. And everyone else has to know! We have to celebrate to tell everyone about Jesus!

The Path that Love Leads

I have been walking a path with God through shame and conversely joy for a little while now. I have been letting him lead me through this difficult journey. Sometimes it’s painful and I withdraw but usually, I participate as he plunders in my heart and soul. I listen as he holds up my thoughts and feelings, actions and behaviors. He holds them up to the light of the gospel and filters them through truth. I must admit sometimes the line between apathy and submission is hard to distinguish. Frankly, sometimes I just stop and refuse to move. But only for a little while. My soul has already tasted the fruit of His joy in my life and I long for more. And other times the pain of an addictive perfectionism is too suffocating to endure alone any longer. I feel as if He is unraveling tangles of misconceptions, lies and then deceits I have bought into. I feel as if he is rescuing me from the prisons I have constructed for myself. Patiently He is walking me through the minefield of the carefully constructed war zone I have allowed existing in my mind. His love is jealous and will not allow me to be hurt and stolen from him, even if I am the perpetrator. Sometimes it feels like we are swimming upstream, against the current of society. It feels as if the surge of the tide of this world is going to pass over me as it crushes me against the shore, breaking my spirit into mere fragments of the beautiful creation He has made. But it’s those moments of joy stolen in the day where I know God is walking with me and relishing those moments of mutual delight that make this difficult path sweet. It’s the safety of intimate confession, the peace of being loved and known and the absolute certainty of the goodness of God that compels me to keep following on this journey.Thank

Thank you, Father, for loving me and caring enough for me to lovingly restore me to wholeness. Thank you, Father, for your patience and never-ending grace that continues to nourish me even when I am a petulant child, ungrateful and spoiled. Continue to love me, change me and save me from myself. Lead me into joy and away from the misery, I find for myself. In your wonderful name, amen.

Prayer of the Ungrateful

Father, you have tenderly loved me and cared for me. You have created and crafted me. You have always known and understood me. Yet I have been terribly blind. I have been the most ungrateful child. Please forgive me.
For over thirty years I have walked in your grace even when I didn’t know you, even when I just thought that I knew you. You began to call me and change me. And still, as your love and mercy continued to flow through my life I was so miserable, hateful and full of resentment. I allowed my fears and insecurities to overwhelm me. I allowed the disappointment of what I didn’t have and who I wasn’t to shape and cloud my vision. Instead of seeing the beautiful gift of life you gave me, I focused on my shortcomings, my failures and the opinions of other imperfect, fearful people. Even when I saw you, even when you revealed your heart to me, I doubted you. Even as my love for you grew, I doubted your love for me. I couldn’t understand how you could see the person I was seeing and still treasure me. All I could see were my failures, my infirmities, and my imperfection. I kept framing my thoughts, my joy around my ability to package this imperfection into the appearance of perfection. (Or at least the acceptable level of imperfection) And I tried so hard to make my hard and hurting heart, my squishy body, my messy house, my poverty stricken spirit fit into the perfect, acceptable, “normal” little bow wrapped box to present to the world. I wanted their approval. I wanted them to say “good job”, to like me, to envy and worship me. I wanted more than what was mine to have. I wanted to be the one that fit in everywhere instead of the one that fit in nowhere. I wanted to feel understood, valued and approved of. But now I see that my mistake was to place my heart in the hands of other imperfect people. I was seeking something you alone can give. There is no right box, no universal mold, no central approval committee. I have wasted so much time squishing this beautiful, organic life you have given me into this rigid square mold of unattainable perfection. I have pushed aside your gifts or tried to hold myself to some rigid idol of what all of this is supposed to look like. I allowed the critics to flood my head and influence my life. I have allowed the opinions, the criticisms of others to be my motivation, my standard, my god. I have looked to the wisdom and opinion of other people, struggling with this same affliction to soothe the shame, the uncertainty of my soul. And I have criticized and nitpicked my life because of the hurtful, critical things they have said. Sadly, most of those things weren’t personal, weren’t really critical, weren’t meant for me at all- just their own desperate attempts to find the same approval, the same healing and freedom that I am looking for.But you, Father, have been so gracious and merciful. You have patiently worked and waited for the moment I would be ready to see you, to know you, to know the truth. You have removed the scales from my eyes and cut the root of the disease in my heart. The blind woman now sees and understands what you have seen all along. You have patiently and lovingly changed my heart and shown me that you truly love and delight in me. I am enough in your eyes. I am beautiful and a treasure to you. You are not waiting or withholding your love, your approval but you have freely given it to me. You have not withdrawn your love or taken it back or even been angry with me all these years when I foolishly told you it was not enough. I refused to believe you and called you a liar. I was critical of my existence, the person and life you created. I was ungrateful for my life and all of the beautiful things you placed around me. You sent friends and family that I missed because I was too busy focusing so narrowly on the imperfections, so intently on how to be perfect, to give the impression of perfection. I have wasted time, hurt others and squandered years of your love for me just so I could look good, look right, fit in, receive applause, receive validation, deflect the shame. I numbed my heart and my mind. I placated myself with food, with words, with looks, possessions and anything else I thought would stem the tide of anxiety,

But you, Father, have been so gracious and merciful. You have patiently worked and waited for the moment I would be ready to see you, to know you, to know the truth. You have removed the scales from my eyes and cut the root of the disease in my heart. The blind woman now sees and understands what you have seen all along. You have patiently and lovingly changed my heart and shown me that you truly love and delight in me. I am enough in your eyes. I am beautiful and a treasure to you. You are not waiting or withholding your love, your approval but you have freely given it to me. You have not withdrawn your love or taken it back or even been angry with me all these years when I foolishly told you it was not enough. I refused to believe you and called you a liar. I was critical of my existence, the person and life you created. I was ungrateful for my life and all of the beautiful things you placed around me. You sent friends and family that I missed because I was too busy focusing so narrowly on the imperfections, so intently on how to be perfect, to give the impression of perfection. I have wasted time, hurt others and squandered years of your love for me just so I could look good, look right, fit in, receive applause, receive validation, deflect the shame. I numbed my heart and my mind. I placated myself with food, with words, with looks, possessions and anything else I thought would stem the tide of anxiety, fear, and shame growing inside of me. I used others as a stepping stone to rise above the stink of my shame, my hurt, the emptiness, the fear of being nobody, of not being special, of being insignificant. Thank

Thank you, Father, for forgiving me. Thank you for ripping back the curtain, for slowly and methodically leading me to the place where I could see you and see myself. Thank you for always loving me, always valuing me and caring enough about me to change me into someone who could love you, treasure you, delight in you.