When the Midnight Meets the Morning

“So this is what you got to do because you didn’t go to Bible school.” Her words, halfway between a question and a statement, linger in my mind, like a pinprick of hope in the darkness now past.

I remember that discouraging day when I found out that I wasn’t going to Bible school this spring after all. I remember the confusion and frustration that followed. The “why God”s that I uttered, and the disenchantment I experienced. I remember saying that I just wanted to see a reason – something good that came from not going, something I couldn’t have had without that bitter experience.

I remember that miserable Monday and Tuesday filling out the SCMC application, with the definite thought, “if I can’t have what I want, I’m going to have whatever else I can get”.

Well, I got it.

If you can live a month in one short week, I think I just did. It certainly seems a month or more since I was teaching primary Sunday school and thinking how the teaching nerves were keeping down the “we are going to Music Camp in a few short hours” nerves. Yes. A month. Or maybe two.

How can I begin to describe all happened in that month-long week? The learning and growing and changing and enjoying. The singing (and singing, and singing and singing). The friendships formed, the laughter shared. The being silly and scared and vulnerable together and finding out that not only did we survive, we thrived. We grew. We loved. And all the hard work paid off.

I wish I could tell you all that this week meant to me, but I think you’d have to live it with us to find out. I could describe it all to you – the early morning theory class in which we learned so much about four-part harmonization and the “common practice era” which left us a wealth of wonderful music (and how we all despaired of our assignments and thought the whole course was over our heads, before suddenly finding out how much we had learned and that lots of it made sense now!). I could outline the chapel talks on worship, and the beautiful new songs from the cool new hymn supplement book (of which we now own a copy!). I could tell about Mixed Choir and Mass Choir, as well as all the choirs I wasn’t a part of. I could tell of the loitering in hallways, filling up water bottles at the cool but strangely malfunctioning water station (actually, I take that back – we had no time to loiter, but somehow we always exchanged a few words and a laugh or two at the water bottle station). I could tell about lunch and supper, and all the in between. I could tell about Voice Class (I really should tell you about that one) and the group of people who became friends through the vulnerably safe space in which we sang and made mistakes and critiqued each other and came out stronger and better and happier.

But I don’t think you would understand quite what the charm was.

We know. We who laughed hysterically over our warm up exercises and our inside jokes. (We DIDN’T laugh on stage, I promise you! Even after joking about it in the hallway right before going in to sing, we sang Bambelela with faces as straight as judges. You know who you are – and I’m proud of you.)

We know, who came as strangers and parted friends (oh, why do we have to PART as friends??? Why can’t we leave out the bit about parting?)

We know, who were indelibly changed by this short, memorable week, and left promising ourselves, “We’ll be back. We’ll see you next year. I’ll be bugging you to come – and you’ll be bugging me.”

If you want to know more, you’ll just have to join us next year and find out. I was going to try to tell you, but I can’t. I just can’t. I’m nowhere near the same person I was just eight days ago, and I have no words to tell of that transformation. Except in the words I murmured to my Class Voice teacher as I bade her goodbye yesterday, “I feel like I came into this week with ‘two talents’ and I’m leaving with five.” “Maybe you had five all along, and you just didn’t know it,” she replies with a smile. “Yes,” I can’t help but add, the tears rising to my eyes, “but you helped me find it out.”

And this is what I got because I couldn’t go to Bible school. How bittersweet the thought is. I don’t want to sort through its complexity and say I’m GLAD for the trial that formed such a treasure in me (see the song at the bottom of this post for the key to that sentence). But I do shiver a little to think of a life in which this last week did not have a place. I think of my new friends, and my new knowledge, and the burning eagerness to find out just what God wants from the five talents I now know He has given me. I can’t think it. I won’t.

As I move on into a future that can never be quite like the past, a prayer echoes in my mind – a song I was introduced to this week which will join the ranks of the songs of my heart. Here it is for you, and may it be true for us all in this “long passage” we’re called to walk. When “the midnight meets the morning”, I guess I’ll have an even fuller understanding of the reason why one blessing was exchanged for another – if I need it, after the week I’ve just spent.

One in a Galaxy Release Week!

Hello Friends! Today I have an exciting announcement. One of my very favourite authors all time, who has also become a dear friend, is releasing her newest book this week!! One in a Galaxy is here!

Book Details

Title: One in a Galaxy by Angie Thompson

Genre/Themes: Middle-grade sci-fi about secrets, sacrifice, and the true meaning of family

Sale! This week only (July 25-30) One in a Galaxy will be on sale for $2.99 (regular: $4.99!) (Useful links at the bottom of this post!) Note: this is the US list price, but it is on sale across all markets!

What secrets lie hidden among the stars?

Ten-year-old Riley Dixon is eagerly anticipating his first spaceflight, even if his dad isn’t keen on adventure. But all his exciting dreams for the future are knocked off course when a frightening medical emergency puts their trip on pause. 

As he adjusts to life on the busy Etzio spaceport, Riley begins to suspect that there’s more to his dad’s choices than he knows. But when a surprising encounter brings to light a shocking past, can Riley choose the right course for his future? Or will secrets and silence ruin everything that matters most?

I’m willing to admit that when she first started this book I viewed it mostly as a rival to her Quiet Valor series, stealing precious minutes away from a group of characters who had already stolen my heart. BUT as time went on, and she shared more and more snippets on our writer’s group, I quickly fell in love with a whole new set of characters and the adventures and struggles told so simply and touchingly in ten-year-old Riley Dixon’s voice.

Soooo – if you read this post and you think “middle-grade sci-fi – that’s not for me!” please, please don’t believe yourself, because this story is a lot more than that! Angie’s gift for memorable characters, well-told stories and feel-good endings weave so much meaning into the simple story of a boy’s dreams, struggles and realizations about his past and his future. I loved too the lessons about secret-keeping and the true value of every human being ❤ (And if you’re a person like me who hears “shocking past” and feels shocked already in anticipation – let me set your mind at rest. The past may be bittersweet, but love redemption are stronger still.)

Probably my favourite part about the story is the characters – from sweet, helpful Mina to friend-hungry Luca, and especially the amazing bond between Riley and his Daddy, the characters are really what got me hooked on the story. Plus, I think it’s pretty unique to find a chronic-illness story for middle-graders – and one set in a spaceport, at that!

I sometimes ask myself, “How does she do it?” How does she craft stories that regardless of genre, theme or lessons captivate my heart and invest me so deeply in the characters, carrying me through their adventures and struggles with so much interest, before wrapping up with an ending that invariably has me saying, “aww!” At the end of the day, I don’t think I have a good answer, beyond the fact that Angie just has an amazing sense of story.

But whatever the reason, I’ve come to just accept the fact – when Angie Thompson publishes a new story – be it a middle-grade sci-fi or an intense kingdom adventure or a collection of Christmas short stories (I don’t read short stories!), I’m just going to have to buy it!

And in my opinion, you should too!

Here are some important links for you to check out!

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61626120-one-in-a-galaxy 

Buy paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1951001249 

Buy ebook: https://books2read.com/u/4Aj8vq

Bonus content: https://www.quietwaterspress.com/one-in-a-galaxy 

Grumpiness and Gratitude

I wonder if I’m funny when I’m grumpy.

I know some people who are. They are twelve, ten, five and one-and-a-half. And they are all funny when they’re grumpy. I don’t know if their parents would think so (I rather think they wouldn’t), but I do. I really do.

I hide my smiles when the baby screams and won’t sit in his chair and doesn’t want his dessert and howls inconsolably because life isn’t the way he wants it to be. (And because he’s tired. Don’t forget that. He’s tired.)

I try not to laugh when the twelve year old persists in making unhelpful remarks on other people’s actions and choices – remarks that are sometimes almost witty, except that of course, they’re unkind and disrespectful.

I can barely keep my mirth to myself as the five year old sits soberly, clearly exhausted, and whines over not wanting to eat “these things” (quinoa) and wanting piecrust cookies of her own making instead.

The ten year old just does his own thing, eats his food quietly and helps himself to M&Ms in the pantry without any fuss. This amuses me too.

And so I wonder. Am I funny when I’m grumpy? I rather suspect not. And I don’t think it’s fair.

I think we’re all a little grumpy on the inside today – even if some of us pretend better than others and manage to eat our meals and do our work without meltdowns, unhelpful remarks, whining or quiet trips to the pantry. You see we’re all tired.

Because YESTERDAY we were church camping.

I meant to write about that today. But I’m almost unsure if I feel up to it. Or to being coherent about it, anyway. It’s easier to talk about being grumpy.

Actually, I’m not grumpy anymore. (I was last night!)

By now I’m thankful. Thankful for the food and the fellowship and the hanging out together. Thankful for the conversations and the silences and the just relaxing. Thankful for the splashing of water, and the sound of voices, and the enjoyment of hearing laughter even when you don’t know the joke.

Thankful for long food lines and soapy dishwater and all the people who pitched in to keep the food and the dishwater coming.

Thankful for babies and toddlers and adults and children. Thankful for people who are “mine” and who I “belong” to. Thankful for friendship and smiles and feeling settled and at home.

Thankful for sunshine and for shade, and even for rain pattering outside and chairs clattering and people laughing as we crowd together under the pavilion, halting mid-song as we do it.

Thankful for honesty and vulnerability – people sharing from their hearts, and a Sunday school class that showed it.

Thankful for sermons and for songs, and for friends by our sides.

Thankful for crazy games, and games that were too hard, and games that were too wet, and games that were too fast. (And for laughing people playing all those games with me – and winning some of them!) Thankful for young and old all participating together.

Thankful for campfires and guitars, accordions, popcorn and homespun voices. Thankful for voices raised, and familiar tunes and memories. Lots of memories.

Thankful for cabins to sleep in, and pajama-clad friends, and other friends who look like they got as little sleep as I did. (Maybe less.)

Thankful for group photos and selfies, and picture-taking drones (and little boys crowing over the “toys” big boys buy…)

NOT thankful for people packing up and leaving and saying goodbye… oh, we’ll all see each other again next Sunday, but it won’t be the SAME…

But perhaps what I’m most thankful of all for is the sameness and the differences from this church camping to the last… I don’t know if I can explain myself. There were missing people and new people and both brought a strange sense of comfort. That sounds so wrong… I missed the missing people, but not the way I used to. And there was BELONGING to so many more. “My people” – really mine, in ways they haven’t been before. And there was healing – little bits and specks and strands of it woven into the weekend. Someone talked about the first bricks in rebuilding bridges. That’s what we did this weekend.

We aren’t a perfect church. We’re probably a lot less perfect than last time we went camping all together in that lovely little woodsy campground in the middle of nowhere. But we ARE a church. We ARE a family. And that – just that – is good.

And it’s worth being a little grumpy on Monday evening to have that.

But I hope that SOMEBODY finds my grumpiness funny. It would be something to know that, if I could.

When Pinterest Quotes and WWI Novels Fail

I just realized something.

I was scrolling Pinterest trying to destress after reading too much of a WWI novel, and feeling melancholy as I browsed cute images of babies (yes, that’s what my feed is giving me right now—not totally sure why!), pinned inspirational quotes and marvelled at miniature bicycles made of wire and buttons.

There’s a few things left in life that I don’t understand. (That’s not what I realized, by the way—I already knew it.) There’s a few things that don’t make sense.

Okay, it’s more than a few things. And they really, really don’t make sense. I can’t make them make sense. And the more I try, the more I get tangled up in a series of consequences and motives and “why did this happen” and “how can I make sense of this” and “where in all the world is the answer that will give me a measure of resolution.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again—the last two years completely turned upside down everything I thought I knew about the world.

Everything I thought I knew about society.

Everything I thought I knew about the way things work.

Everything I thought I knew about church.

Everything I thought I knew about family.

In my world, my church, my home, myself, things happened that didn’t seem possible—that I’d never in a million years thought could happen to me, to my church, my family, my world.

It’s all fallen apart, and I have no idea how to put it back together. I have no answer for why heartbreaking things happen, I have no faith in words, promises, people. I don’t believe there’s anyone or anything I can trust.

I scroll comforting quotes on Pinterest and in my heart of hearts I say, “But that’s not true. I know that’s not true.”

Last night, I got a chance to chat with a friend I don’t see much at all anymore. A friend who used to be a major part of my life, but our ways parted and now, a good chat like that is a once-in-a-blue-moon treat.

When the church-plant that caused our lives to diverge happened, I knew this is how it would be. I knew it, because I’ve lived that reality before. When people are gone, they’re gone. Promises don’t help.

I tried to be persuaded it would be different. It wasn’t. Not really. Not for long. (I don’t know if I’m okay with that—it depends on my mood. Sometimes I still feel like balling up my fists and thrashing around like a child having a temper tantrum.)

Today, as I was scrolling Pinterest, I met with this quote:

It makes me feel like screaming.

Because I know it’s not true.

I know. You can love people with all your heart and they still go. You can trust the words they said when they really meant it—and you really meant it. And they still go.

Sometimes they go in other, harder ways. And you don’t stop caring. You don’t stop aching. You don’t stop wishing to believe the promises that melted like maple sugar in your mouth.

Sometimes it’s NOT true that the people you love stay by your side. Sometimes they go, through no fault of their own. Sometimes they go, and it IS there fault and you keep wishing and longing and they don’t come back.

Sometimes people change. Sometimes—oftentimes—they let you down.

Nobody can be trusted. I know that.

And what I realized is: there is really nobody you can trust but God.

I keep looking for people I can trust with all my heart and forever. I have friends—good friends—friends I can trust in so many ways. But I can’t trust that they will always be there. I can’t trust they will never change. I can’t. People do change, people do leave. Sometimes, we leave them.

I have a dream—dear to my heart—of someone, someday, that I’ll be able to trust fully and wholly and forever. I believe I will—under God—be able to. But I can’t trust that even he will always be what I need—always there when I need him.

I think back to the sermon on Sunday—a sermon so powerful I couldn’t help but regret that the power outage kept it from being recorded. My scrawled notes don’t capture the fervour and poignancy of words and message. I meant to tell the preacher how much I it meant to me—hopefully, his wife reads this and lets him know!

It was all about smallness—emotional smallness—the hiding and keeping ourselves from growing and expanding so we don’t become a target again. It hit me hard, in the very best of ways. And the conclusion—that learning to trust again—to trust God again—is the only answer and hope—really struck a chord with me.

I listened to Psalm 37 over and over during my drive this morning. Psalm 37 is about three and a half minutes when read by the great Alexander Scourby. I listened to it for close to half an hour, I think. You do the math.

Anyway—all this long, long, rambling post to tell you that there is no one you can trust but God. Probably you already figured that out. But I think it bears repeating.

There is no one you can trust but God.

And I think until we realize that, and grasp it, and possess it, and let it possess us, we’re doomed to live lives of emotional smallness, straining desperately after soothing Pinterest quotes that just don’t ring true.

At the end of the day, I can’t promise you that your loved ones will stay. I can’t promise that you won’t lose everything you care about. I can’t promise that life won’t hit you—hard—in all the very places you feel most vulnerable.

But I can promise that if you hold onto God, and trust Him and Him alone, you can live free no matter what life brings.

The ONE you love doesn’t go away,

HE walks beside you every day.

(There. A thousand words. If a picture is REALLY worth a thousand words, could some clever artist have told you all that with one picture? I thought not. Another Pinterest-y quote you can’t trust, I’m afraid!)

Working Too Hard

“Don’t work too hard!” my coworker jokingly called as he left for break a few minutes before me.

I looked up from the mountain of pork chops growing under my fingers, laughed, and lightly promised I wouldn’t. But something in his words dug deeper than the casual surface meaning, and stuck with me. Am I working too hard?

The question lingers as I package more chops, and later while cubing sweet potatoes for supper. Deep down there’s something that tells me I do work too hard. Way too hard.

But I don’t really have time to think about it. Life continues. The following morning my thoughts surface at our last-of-the-year book study, as we talk about the importance of service juxtaposed with burning out, with finding our identity and worth in our service. Working too hard.

But somehow I still don’t have time to let it sink in to its full extent, until the evening, when I’m lounging on my sister’s bed, eating a bedtime snack and berating myself for holding out against a myriad of dietary temptations in the morning and falling immediate prey to the lures of leftover cream puffs in the evening. I’m not supposed to eat cream puffs. Well, actually, I’m not supposed to eat gluten, but it amounts to the same thing. Recently, I made all sorts of good resolves about how I was going to absolutely refuse gluten within the relatively safe precincts of home, and only eat it when impossible to avoid in other places. And so instead I bend over backward at my friend’s house to avoid a whole host of tempting delicacies, and then weakly fall for A CREAM PUFF. (Actually, six, if we’re keeping score. But what’s six cream puffs between friends?) I feel even worse when I think about the fact that I’m already planning to cheat again on Saturday for the sake of this amazing trifle.

Why can’t I keep resolves when I make them? Why isn’t my willpower stronger than my temptations? I work SO HARD to make good resolves and to keep them – to be all that I expect of myself, all that others expect of me. I try to eat well. I try to keep my room tidy (don’t ask me how I’m doing on that one). I try to remember commitments I’ve made and deliver them on time. I try to be a better person. To forgive more. To get angry less. To take care of my body and my mind. To serve others. To be diligent. To get stuff done.

And I fail. I fail SO OFTEN.

And maybe that’s the point. I’m working too hard.

Oh, in one sense I’m not – and that’s the other problem. All my life I’ve been haunted by this fear that I’m not doing as much as others. Because my schoolwork used to fit into the morning and leave my afternoons free. Because I graduated and didn’t go to college or get a job right away. Because my illness kept me weak and useless for so many years – spending hours and hours lying around reading because that was all I could do sometimes. Because even now I only spend two days doing a “real” job and the rest of the time – well, let’s not talk about how I feel about my time management about the rest of the time. I write. I really do. But not ALL the time – and some days I’m just SO TIRED that I can’t. I can’t. (I’m being very honest here – please don’t judge me even if you think I should be doing better than I am.)

But all that time, because of this everlasting consciousness of not working hard enough, I’ve given myself no rest of spirit trying to catch up, trying to make the score even, trying to prove that I DO work hard enough – and feeling guilty for every moment spent not working quite so hard.

What is enough? What is too much? How much were we even supposed to work? What really matters in life? Is it important to work a full time job? To earn money? To have a normal pocketbook and expenditure? Does God judge us on our productivity? Or our effort? On how much time we spend “working”? How does He even judge “work”?

And if He doesn’t have the same view of things that we do, why are we spending so much time and effort and guilt on something He doesn’t value that highly?

Am I working too hard? What would it look like to NOT work too hard when I already feel like I’m failing? If all my hard work can’t fix all my problems, then what will happen if I give up on my working too hard? Honestly, I’m scared to find out.

Memories flit through my mind. Memories of a sermon two weeks ago about how sometimes, Jesus doesn’t want us to serve HIM so much as HE wants to serve US. (I’m still in awe of that idea – I could write a whole post on it, and then some.) Memories of the song that has been in my head for days. Memories of so many invitations and reminders in these last few weeks to rest, to let Him work, to leave off working so hard and just give myself some time to be. To exist. After all, that’s what God does. He is the great I AM, not the great I DO. (Something tells me I’ve borrowed that idea from somewhere, but I really can’t remember where! Credit goes to… the unnamed person who thought it up!) There is something about just being – just being IN HIM – that is infinitely more rewarding that working and striving and trying too hard.

I don’t have all the answers. But something in my heart cries out for the rest it would be to simply live, simply exist, simply be. I’m absolutely certain I would do more real good in my world and myself if I could give up once and for all the trap of “working too hard.” May He only show me how!

(Here is the song I’ve been listening to for days. The words are absolutely amazing! Unfortunately, it’s a new release so if it’s not your style of music, you might have trouble finding a cover at this point, sadly!)

Romance’s Rest is Releasing Today!

Hi Friends! I’m so excited today to participate in the launch of the last book in a kingdom adventure series that I have thoroughly enjoyed!! And in my opinion, Erika saved the best for last. Romance’s Rest is definitely the best (although you should really go and read the five preceding books if you haven’t – they are all so good!). In fact, I think it goes second on my all-time list of books with uplifting, God-focused romance that encourages my own ideals for relationship! (If you want to know why you should read the top book on that list, click here.)

Anyway, all that to say that Romance’s Rest is releasing TODAY!! Here are a few important details about the book:

  • It’s Book Six of Truth from Taerna but it can easily be read as a standalone.
  • It’s a Christian kingdom adventure fiction novel.
  • It’s a Biblically-centered romance novel for people who avoid romance novels.
  • It tells the story of Kethin Ellith as he learns the true meaning of love… and relationship with Adon Olam.
  • It’s squeaky clean and family-friendly.
  • You can purchase it right here right now! It’s on sale!

About the Book

Her love seems to have passed him by.
Little does he know that true covenant Love is knocking at his door.

Kethin Ellith’s life is brimful: a new town, his dream job working with people and animals, an active social life, and now a spunky, godly woman who has captured his heart. But how can he have any sort of relationship with her when she’s not even interested in a single conversation?

Faeth Dale delights in being an avid flower gardener and the middle sister of a lively, close-knit family. She has her own non-negotiable reasons for avoiding all male friendships, particularly with spiritually shallow men like Kethin. But would Adon Olam give her this apparently conflicted guidance?

When rejection, grief, and longing jolt Kethin’s reality, knowing love seems permanently beyond him. And what is this spiritual concept of covenant he keeps encountering? As his struggles in this new relationship with Adon Olam intertwine with the struggles of his heart, Kethin comes face to face with both the starkness and breathtaking gloriousness of divine love itself—and a decision that costs him everything.

And here is a fun character spotlight on the main character (who just might be my favourite character from the series outside of Carita from book one!)

Character Spotlight: Kethin Ellith

Age at the time of Romance’s Rest: 27
Personality: ENFP

Height: 6’1”
Hair: medium light brown and straight

Eyes: brown

About Kethin

Kethin has a soul overflowing with compassion and loyalty and a smile to melt any heart. He holds a special love for animals and he’s always ready to speak a word to put people at ease. Everyone loves him, and he loves everyone. He’s the second-youngest Ellith sibling. He loves social events and caring for his farm animals and pets.

Author note

Kethin came to life from an inspiration picture of a young boy with a giant smile holding a cat. When I saw that picture, Kethin emerged and became Kaelan’s younger brother in Promise’s Prayer. His people- and animal-loving personality was there from the start, and it only blossomed as he grew older in each book. He’s a fun character to write and he has such an endearing personality.

Romance’s Rest Excerpt

Kethin, on the other hand, didn’t feel a bit that way. He couldn’t deny that he made friends easily. Every­one seemed to open up in his presence, to tell him how they truly felt and what they faced—who they were inside. Saying all the right words to them was easy. Making them feel understood—it came naturally to him.

Yet Kethin himself never felt understood. He was putting on a front, a false self—yet was it truly a false self? He didn’t even know, but the Kethin inside felt trapped, never visible to the world, never known by anyone, never truly loved for who he genuinely was.

Fun Fact: Kethin’s name appears 886 times in Romance’s Rest!

If you haven’t experienced the stories of Taerna yet, now is a great time to do so! You can get all six books on sale this week only on Amazon! And Promise’s Prayer is Free!

Don’t miss out on the rest of the tour! There’s a bookstagram/blog challenge, mini Bible study, character spotlights, book reviews, and more!

Add to Goodreads

View or Buy Romance’s Rest on Amazon

See the Rest of the Tour

In Galilee

This year for me, Easter fell in the midst of a really hard season. I looked back to Easters past and wondered if I would be able to get into the mood of it again, after great disappointment and a lingering feeling of deadness.

Ironically, that’s probably what the disciples felt that first Easter too. Only they didn’t know there was anything coming that they would need to “get into the mood” of.

I was really struck, as I read the Easter story early on Sunday morning in a brief snatch of space between rising in the early dawn and the many joyful activities of the day, by the fact that the disciples were looking for Jesus in the wrong place.

And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

Luke 24:5-7

They were seeking Jesus where they had lost Him – where they had last seen Him. I’m reminded of a quote I found a while back on Pinterest:

It’s something that comes naturally to us as humans. To look for something where we lost it. To try to find it again in the place it was taken from us.

But sometimes that very tendency causes us to miss the point.

As I read those words Sunday morning they spoke to me with new meaning. Stop looking for God in the dead places – He is alive! Stop expecting Resurrection to come in the same place as death.

This morning – I just had to chase it all down to its real meaning. If they WEREN’T to look for Him at the tomb, where were they supposed to seek Him?

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

Mark 16:6-7

Galilee. Where He told them He would meet them.

Galilee. The place of their calling.

The place of so many miracles.

So much teaching.

Galilee. Their home.

Jesus’ home.

The place where they had spent so. much. time. together.

Of course it would be Galilee where He would meet them.

Galilee, of so many memories – so many times shared together.

Galilee, where they belonged.

Galilee, where Jesus was alive.

And as I think it over, I wonder. Is there a time when we have to stop seeking Jesus in the places that are dead, that are empty. The crosses and the tombs where we suffered so much emotional – maybe even physical – agony. The places where we experienced the heart-wrenching disappointment, confusion, wretchedness. The places where it almost seemed as if God was dead.

The risen Christ wasn’t on the cross.

He wasn’t in the tomb.

Those places – the scene of so much critical and necessary suffering – no longer were big enough to hold the Christ that had conquered all the agony and shame.

He was in Galilee. The familiar scene of so many shared memories. The scene of so much of His work. His first miracle – His Sermon on the Mount. Their homes. Their beloved Sea of Galilee. Every foot of the ground was haunted by memories of His presence – His living presence.

What better place to look for the biggest miracle of all?

Yes, God brings beauty from brokenness. Yes, He gives life where there has been death.

But maybe He doesn’t give it in the empty tomb. The dead and barren cross. Maybe when we’re told to look for Resurrection, we need to go back to Galilee.

Anyone want to join me?

The Purpose of Nerves

Today as I was vac-packing pepperettes, I was thinking about a Sunday school lesson we had a number of weeks ago about different members of the body of Christ. Our teacher encouraged us to think of less obvious body parts to compare to different giftings and roles in the church.

And that’s when I decided I’m a nerve. (I didn’t tell the whole class. Don’t worry.)

I’ve thought about it a few times since and I thought about it again today.

You see, I think we kind of tend to undervalue nerves. I mean, they can be rather annoying. They interrupt us in the middle of something exciting or important or otherwise engrossing and they scream, “This is too much! You’re hurting me!”

We don’t like to be interrupted. We don’t like to be told to stop. We don’t like to admit that something we did has hurt ourselves or someone else and so I say again – we tend to dislike nerves.

I’ve spent my whole life feeling like I’m too sensitive. Like I should “toughen up”. Like I should just get over it. I’ve been told so. Maybe you’ve been told so too.

I’ve also spent my life getting wounded by all the scoffing and disapproval and criticism of those around me. There are a lot of harsh opinions harshly expressed in this world, and sadly, inside the church as well as outside it. Even in the church we don’t like nerves all that much.

But what I realized today is, I was listening to the wrong advice.

Being told to toughen up is great if you’re a muscle. Muscles need to grow stronger and tougher to do their job better. Being told to toughen up is great if you’re the skin – tougher skin can protect you better. Tougher bones don’t get broken so easily and tougher nails won’t chip and tear with rough usage.

But tougher nerves grow less effective instead of more so. Because nerves are SUPPOSED to be sensitive. That’s their whole purpose in life. A tough nerve is a useless nerve because toughness dulls sensitivity.

In the last year or two I’m afraid my nerve has finally toughened up a bit. I got overwhelmed by the pain, you see, and decided that all this toughening up advice was actually good. (Maybe I didn’t DECIDE it except by actions, but that’s what I DID, anyway.)

But the reality is that a nerve is SUPPOSED to FEEL PAIN. If it doesn’t feel, it can’t do it’s job. It’s job is to relay to the brain the body’s needs and the body’s dangers, and THEN, to convey to the body the brain’s directions. Basically, the nerve is the communicator between brain and body. But it can only tell the brain what it has first felt and experienced. When the finger cuts itself, the nerve feels the pain and relays that information. Without feeling – without PAIN – the nerve can’t do its work.

For me, that simple truth is both terrifying and empowering.

It’s terrifying because it means that truly embracing my God-given calling will mean accepting a life where the pain never goes away – where I hurt every time the body hurts and where feeling that hurt is part of my very purpose for existence.

It’s empowering because it means that I don’t need to spend all this time trying not to feel – trying to justify to the muscles the fact that I’m not tough and strong like they are.

You see – I’m afraid of the muscles. They’re so much more “important” than I am. Everyone says so. They’re stronger and more visible and active and – they’ve hurt me so many times. There are external injuries that need to be relayed to the brain, and there are “pinched nerves” too – pinched between over-eager muscles that tightened up too much. I’ve been hurt by a lot of pinched nerves in the church and the world these last few years… And I’ve seen others hurt too…

But when I actually think about it, the oft-despised nerve is just as vital – perhaps more so – than the far-more-glamorous muscles.

Without nerves, we would become horribly injured – like leprosy patients sometimes do.

Without nerves, paralysis occurs.

Without nerves there is no communication with the Head.

Actually, when you think about it, we’re pretty important.

To all those nerves out there who have spent all your life believing you’re “less than” for not “toughening up” like the muscles – you aren’t less than, you’re MORE-THAN. You are important. Very important. You are the communicator between heaven and earth. You are the intercessors with the Father. You are the prophets to the church. You are a vital, indispensable piece without whom there will be lack of communication, paralysis and irremediable damage to the outlying members of the body. You are necessary, and your very weakest aspect in the eyes of the world is the secret of your strength.

One and only one thing the nerve has to make sure of – that nothing interrupts the connection between the Head and the Body.

That’s where my nerve has failed in the last year or two. All the incoming pain overwhelmed me and somehow I cut the connection. No nerve signals. No pain going upward. No strength and direction coming downward. And I wondered why I felt dead and empty – like a lifeless nerve disconnected from the Head. All those electric impulses thrilling up and down between heaven and earth were missing – no wonder the nerve felt purposeless.

By God’s grace I’m going to mend that connection. And I’m going to spend my life being the best nerve I can – not trying to toughen up into the muscle I was never meant to be.

Making It

“When I sew a dress while wearing a dress I’ve sewn, I’ll know that I’ve made it.” I remember telling myself that – it must be four or five years ago now. Maybe it seems like a silly little thing. But to me, it was the tangible symbol of something a lot more important than any achievement of skill as a seamstress.

I’ve always wanted to “make it” – to reach that definite point in time when you know that you’ve achieved your dreams and found the things your heart has wanted for so long. And for me, that silly little statement was a milestone – a roadmarker – a little notch in the measuring stick of time saying, “here – this is where I want to be – that is what I want to attain.”

Several times recently I’ve been reminded of that throw away comment that really was so much more than a throwaway. You see, I’ve done it. Quite a few times now. So many times that I’m trying to remember which time was even the first.

And so I ask myself, “have I made it?” If you measure by that line in the sand drawn so long ago, I have made it – and then some.

The thing is though, life is like a road. As soon as you pass one milestone, another looms on the horizon, tempting you on and on, until you reach the end of the road or decide that enough is enough. As soon as you’ve “made it” one place, there’s another place to reach. And in the journey of life, I feel like I’ve far from “made it” – even though I left that roadmarker of old miles behind.

As I drove along a physical road today, in the afternoon spring sunshine, I found myself listening to an old CD full of memories from my pre-teen years – years when I was “window shopping” into the world in which I now live. It brings a fresh swirl of thoughts to my mind, and again the question surfaces: “have I made it?”

In many ways I now am the person that I looked at with awe back then – wondering. Wondering whether the tantalizing life with the sweet-faced, modestly dressed ladies who captured my imagination was something I could live too. Whether I was willing to do what it took to “make it” and become one of them.

Somewhere along the way the visions of those ladies and girls faded away, replaced by something else. Something better, but something subtly less rose-tinted than the fantasies of old. Real people – real struggles – real needs and conflicts and heartaches and experiences. And somewhere along the line, I changed too, blending slowly but surely into the world I used to view from the outside.

It’s different from how it looked in sanitized, picturesque glimpses at something I had no idea of. It’s better, but it’s less picture-perfect. And I’m a part of it. I’ve “made it.”

It gives me the oddest of all sensations to think that to people just like I was, I’m now the vision on the inside of the window. It’s a scary thought – maybe because I know I’m not the innocent, lovely vision I used to think I saw. The real me is messy and broken and flawed, desperately trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t make sense, and to find the peace that the world can neither give nor take away.

I’m not one of the gentle ladies I adored and reverenced as a child. I haven’t “made it” yet. I’m still reaching and striving for all the beauty of character and life that I still emulate so much. Yet to someone standing on the outside, I may be the vision.

But maybe it doesn’t matter that I haven’t made it yet. Maybe those ladies I saw hadn’t really made it either. Maybe “making it” isn’t even the point, this side of heaven. Maybe we just keep pressing along the road of life, celebrating our little milestones, shaking our heads at how far we come, and “making it” in little ways just often enough that we don’t forget that life has a destination and isn’t just a pleasure trip down a sunny road in spring . . .

And at the end of the day, whether we “make it” or not, there are so many other things we make – friends, experiences, memories, opportunities – that it’s worthwhile and so fulfilling to set out down the road of life after a silly little milestone that means more to us than we ever dare to admit.