Sunday, September 16, 2012

Springs in the Valley

I had to miss church this morning because I woke up in the middle of the night with chills and nausea and all that fun stuff.  I am still feeling pretty aweful but I was able to spend a little of this rare time alone just resting and reading and remembering.  Things I never seem to have the time to do... so in a weird way I am thankful I was forced to quiet myself this morning.  I think God knew He was going to have to cause me some discomfort to get me to just stop and it is especially needed this week.

The coming weeks are always hard for me.  It is a strange and conflicting time for me as I absolutely love fall and want to savor every moment of it, yet it is also the time that I remember the birth... and death of my Emma-girl.  I have noticed that leading up to this time this year I have put a wall up around my heart, trying to block out any memories or feelings that pop up uninvited.  I've just determined I am going to push my way through and breathe a sigh of relief when October arrives and I can put September behind me for another year. 

But, because God knows my needs far better than I do, He set aside today as a time for He and I to break down those walls for just a while and spend some time together just renewing my strength and allowing me to remember and reflect while feeling safely held in His arms.  I am so thankful He knows me so well.  Though these times can be hard emotionally, they are so sweet and necessary.

I took the time to open a cedar chest that sits at the foot of my bed.  One I don't open very often anymore because when I do it is like opening a wound in my heart and feeling the pain over and over again.  This morning as I opened the lid I was overwhelmed once again by the memories and emotions as I looked at pictures, books, cards, toys, clothes, blankets...  I held them to my face and tried to breath in any smells that might still be lingering and I wound the toys to hear the music that used to make her smile.  All of these things, so precious to me because they are all I have to physically remind me of my sweet girl.  Yes, I do enjoy remembering her and the ways she filled my life with joy and meaning.  It is good to remember but it also still fills me with so many questions that have no answers. The whys and what ifs... they still haunt me.

I went to a verse that has brought me comfort through the years.  It is found in Psalm 84 and says, "Even the sparrow has found a home...a place near your alter."  I love that verse because of the special meaning it has for me personally.  We always referred to Emma as our little "sparrow"  because of the song His Eye is on the Sparrow, so when God showed me this verse one day when my grief was still so fresh I held on to it tightly in my heart.  Knowing that she had found her home next to His alter brought me comfort.  And the next verse reminded me that she is so blessed to be dwelling in His house "ever praising" Him.

So, that is where I went this morning... to the verse that comforts my heart.  I read the whole chapter several times and a couple of verses really jumped out at me in a new and fresh way.  "Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgramage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, til each appears before God in Zion."

Several things just really stood out to me this morning.  You see, I really struggle with this whole longing for Home thing.  I am so ready to leave this world behind me and go to the place I was made for.  I know that sometimes I get a little frustrated with the waiting and feel restless for more.  That's how I feel in September especially, so the words "whose hearts are set on pilgramage" really struck me.  Yes, I need to have an eternal perspective but for right now God is choosing to keep me here in this world for a purpose.  It is a pilgramage for sure.  So, while I should long for Heaven, I should also set my heart on the pilgramage before me and find my strength in Him who goes before me.

I love the next verses.. "as they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs".  Wow, did that hit me hard!  The word Baka means "weeping" so the Valley of Baka must have been symbolic of times of struggle and grief.  So when I am passing through theses valleys in life I should be doing what I can to take these dry and barren places and fill them with springs of water.  Each September when I experience my own valley of Baka I can make it a place of life and not death.  It says, "the autumn rains also cover it with pools".  The autumn rains... the autumn rains... autumn... my time of Baka- they cover the valley with pools.  Each year when I walk through this valley I can leave behind some pools of living water, of strength and trust in God to get me through.  Oh, how I love that God led me to that verse this morning. 

Autumn doesn't have to just be about the valley of Baka anymore... but about the pools of water God provides in the desert of my grief. 

"They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion."  And it takes me right back to that longing for Zion.  It is a good longing, one placed in my heart by God Himself.  But, for now, I am still on this pilgramage and I will walk through the Valley of Baka again and again.  But when I do I pray that God will give me the strength to leave springs in the dry places so that when I come back to it each autumn I will find it less empty and barren than the year before.  I will find some pools of living water to sit beside and rest my weary soul. 

So this morning I thank God for a little sickness that pushed me to spend some necessary time in the Valley alone with Him.  I have found strength for the pilgramage before me and life in the spring of His word. 

And my sparrow... well, she is in her Home ever praising her King and God.  And my heart rejoices with her. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life is Messy

As I was washing the dishes for the second time today and thinking that I needed to go switch laundry for the third time, I had this thought...

Sometimes it seems as if my life is just a series of messes.

Seriously, I feel like I am constantly cleaning up a mess, looking at a mess, apologizing for a mess, thinking about a mess... it feels endless and hopeless.  And I look at it all and wish that I could just, for once, have it all cleaned up and have it stay that way.  For a very, very long time.

But then I remember that those messes aren't just messes.  They are the reminder of a life that is being lived with people that I love.  The dishes that I wash were used to share a meal and conversation together.  The toys that I pick up were played with by a little girl and her daddy.  The books and papers that I am forever cleaning off the dining room table are tools to help my teenage daughter learn and grow.  The socks that never seem to make it to the hamper are worn by my husband who works hard and long to take care of his family and the ones God has placed in his care. 

 Sometimes messes remind us that life is being lived and people are being loved.

As I was thinking about all of this it occurred to me that it isn't just my home that gets messy.  My life can be really messy.  There is hurt, rejection, disappointment. And grief.  It can be so overwhelming at times...

Sometimes if seems as if my life is just a series of messes.

And sometimes I really want to run away from it all.  Run from all the hurts and disappointments and worries. I want to go somewhere where life won't be quite so messy.  My heart hurts so much from it all and it seems just too much.

But then I remember that those hurts and disappointments, even the rejection- they come from loving people.  They come from relationships.  The truth is that if you have any sort of relationship you take the risk of being hurt or rejected or misunderstood.   But the alternative is to live in isolation, to play it safe.  Relationships can be hard but they are what life is about.  For every hurt, there are a multitude of blessings.  People help us to grow.  They encourage us.  They love us in spite of ourselves. 

Sometimes messes remind us that life is about relationship and relationships are messy.

I can't avoid the fact that most of the messes in my life are the result of my own messiness.  I am a work in progress.  I feel like I am constantly cleaning up my own messes.  When I make progress in one area I realize I've neglected another.  It can be so discouraging...

Sometimes I can be such a mess.

I get so frustrated with myself for making the same mistakes over and over.  I try so hard to clean myself up and get it right.  I spend so much energy trying to improve myself.  But then I am reminded that it is impossible to fix my own messiness.  I am reminded that I am in constant need of a Savior.  He is the only one who can clean me up and make me right.  My messiness leads me to Him.  If I could do it myself I wouldn't have any need for His love in my life and what a sad life that would be... to live apart from Him.  I can't even imagine it.  I don't want to imagine it.  So, I guess I can say thank you for making me so imperfect and messy because...

My messiness reminds me that I am in desperate need of grace.