The Final Say

blog-pic-editedReading my One-Year Bible a while back, I came across this verse: “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.” (Prov. 16:33, NLT)

Depending on how you look at it, that can be either a really good thing, or a really nerve-wracking thing. It all depends on whether or not you trust The One who’s ultimately in charge of the dice.

For me at this season of my life, it made me breathe a sigh of relief.

Thank you, God, that I am not in control! I prayed.

It reminded me that I could make my plans, I could choose my paths, and I could even make some huge mistakes–but the Lord could get me right back to where I needed to go.

The Message version says this: “Make your motions and cast your votes, but GOD has the final say.”

With the election taking place even as I write this, does that give anyone else the same kind of peace as it does me?

GOD, The One who created the heavens, the seas and everything in them, who sent His one and only Son to die for us because He loved us, who created the stars and knows them by name–that GOD has the final say?

You mean my electric bill doesn’t have the final say?

That diagnosis from the doctor doesn’t have the final say?

Those hurtful words from someone I trusted, they don’t have the final say?

No, dear child of God, and let this sweet truth sink in one more timeno.

But it all depends.

Do you trust Him?

‘Cause it’s all well and good when we’re throwing the dice blindly, hoping it’ll work out in our favor. But what if you thought long and hard, you know exactly the numbers you want to see, you may have even thrown in a few double-sided just to make sure you get the kind of outcome you want… and  Almighty God lets out a breath and blows it all away?

Now that’s a little harder.

Throughout my walk with God, I’ve been both comforted by this verse, and I’ve been challenged by this verse.

Begging God to make my dad well, and having God say, “No. Not right now.”

Working hard to have a career take off, throwing my dice, and hearing the Lord say, “No, Lizzie. Not right now. I determine how this falls.”

Asking God to heal a friend from cancer, and hearing Him answer, “No, daughter. It’s time for her to come home to me.”

Once more  I’ll ask… do you trust Him?

Because of all the experiences I listed above and so many more I couldn’t even count, I can tell you truthfully that as for me, I do.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a hard-won trust; a battle I’ve wrestled with God many times and one I still have to wrestle when flesh doesn’t agree with Spirit. (Which is a lot!)

But doing this life partnered with God, getting to know Him and His character, I’ve come to understand something from the very bottom of my heart: He is a good, good Father.

He tells us no at times and He says “not right now” at others, but He has always answered my prayers, and He’s told me yes more often than He’s told me no.

And in every instance where He’s told me no, He had a reason and a purpose behind it, and even when I couldn’t understand, this promise has always proved true: He turns everything to the good of those who love Him. (Rom. 8:28.)

Sometimes it takes a while to get to that good. Sometimes it never makes sense, it just heals a little bit. But every word of God proves true.

So one last time I’ll ask: do you trust Him?

If you do, if you believe His Word is true, then ultimately no weapon formed against you will prosper. No true harm will come near your dwelling, and nothing–I’ll say it again–nothing can separate you from the love of God. (Rom.8:35-39.)

…Not even who’s in office.

We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.

The final outcome always and ever belongs to him, regardless of the opposition or our circumstance. The future is safe in His hands, our hope secure.

Thank the Lord that we are not in control!

 

 

Good Things on the Horizon

The parents have just left to check out a new land they’ve never seen, like Abraham, a land God is calling them to go to based solely on a promise.

They’re nervous but excited, and I wander in an empty house too full of quiet and all the apprehensive thoughts.

I hope it’s what my parents hope. That it will be the new start for all of us like they think it will be once we move.

But I’m here in my childhood home, the one we lived in for 18 years, and full of melancholy and what losing all of this will mean.

Friends. Family. State. Home. Are we making the right choice?

I know the Lord has made promises to my dad for him and all his family–and I trust God’s promise and the ability of my dad to hear God–but I’m waiting for that quiet assurance within my own soul. So close now to moving, and I need that assurance.

Something to look forward to so that leaving all of this behind won’t be so hard.

But I can’t see it yet. Have no idea what to expect or if there is anything to look forward to. I feel as though I’m blindfolded and stumbling forward, just having to trust that The One holding my hand is leading me toward something great.

Right now, it’s so dim–a hope just barely seen, a pinprick of light in this tunnel, and the only way out is by going through now, because it’s final and the house is sold.

I haven’t heard the Lord telling me to stay behind, and overall I feel as though I am supposed to go and follow my family to this new state. But at least Dad has a specific promise to cling to. What is there for me?

I need a promise, Lord, I’ve prayed for weeks.

Soft light filters through my troubled thoughts, and I glance out the window, feeling drawn for some reason, called, lead outside.

I follow the sudden urge, and the second I step around the corner of the house, my jaw drops and all breath is stolen from me.

It is the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. The clouds are glorious streaks of pink and orange, the clouds building towards me as though reaching out for me, calling me to a land far beyond. At the base of the clouds–I almost can’t believe my eyes–a rainbow.

A sign of God’s promise for good.

I run back inside to get my camera praying I won’t miss it, knowing I’m meant to capture this, remember this.

They’re even more brilliant by the time I make it back outside, and at first, a pang in my heart realizing this is one of the last times I’ll ever have this view, standing here on this property.

But as I stare at that rainbow, tears well up at God’s tenderness towards me, and peace begins to fill me.

Here, now, is that promise I’ve been praying for. And it’s so much more beautiful and grand than I had ever pictured!

The heavens displaying His glory remind me of the might of The One who holds my world in His hands, and how perfect the rainbow, reminding me of the sweetness of His promises.

It might not be in words, but His promise and reassurance for me spreads across the sky and reaches across the horizon, promising more brilliance and glory and hope for my future than I could even begin to comprehend!

So much more than I could ever ask or imagine. (Eph. 3:20-21.)

But with the sunset, actual words of promise finally sink into my heart as well:

I am not taking you to this new place to abandon you, but to bless you. I have good things in store for you. 

A long-forgotten verse springs up within me: “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” (Psalm 31:19, ESV.)

Clouds with Scripture 2

And I remember.

Ahh, thank you, Holy Spirit, for constantly working to remind me of the truth. For being the antidote from the spiritual amnesia I’m so prone to. So silly of me. Whether here or there, I know you’re in control and will perfectly care for me as only you can.

And the promise… thank you for the promise, Lord!

The promise of His faithfulness no matter what life brings, His promise for good because He is good, to work all things towards good, and a good so good He has to store it away, it’s so much!

Do you hear that, oh worried and troubled heart?

He has good things in store for you. So much overflowing, abundant good, He had to store it all away it was so much!

Do you get it? 

He’s just waiting to hand it out from the storehouse of His love for you, every day, each and every moment of the year. He’ll never run out. He won’t forget.

Do you see it?

Isn’t this sunset, this beauty, so very good? Is it not in the sight of all humankind if we’ll just stop to see, and doesn’t He have many more sunsets in store, with sunrises, too- and won’t He provide them the moment that we need them?

I walk away with a smile as the sunset fades, knowing I have a promise I’ll see fulfilled, because as the Scripture says, “The LORD’s promises are pure like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over.” (Psalm 12:6.)

And I do see them fulfilled. 

A new year, and a new place, and even after experiencing so much of God’s goodness and faithfulness this past year, once again I find myself worrying about what the future holds in store.

But I have a picture, and a promise, and I remember with a smile…

Good.

There’s good for me in store. 

 

 

 

He’ll Be Here Soon

I look out at the early morning light from a hospital room as the city sleeps, and I am reminded of another time very similar to this. Same hospital. Same sleeping city. Then as now, the city seemed completely oblivious to what was going on only a few stories above them. With my dad laying almost unconscious, the lights of the city had looked cold, indifferent. But today there’s a soft light pouring over the mountains in hues of rose and gold, and the lights of the city look like little stars that refuse to give into the dark.

It’s a beautiful day to have a baby, I think.

And so it is.

Whether it’s just my nature or the nature of watching a baby being born, I am very contemplative. The night has brought tears, and fear, struggle, and sweat. To get my sister Rachel’s labor going, we walked the first and second floor. The third. And then… the fourth.

My heart clenches as we step off the elevator and I realize where we are. The floor is different here, so I recognize it immediately. My shoulders tense involuntarily as we pass the patient’s rooms, and memories come flooding back.

Inside one of these rooms, I looked out at a sleeping city and begged God to wake Dad from his deep sleep. Inside one of these rooms, someone else might be doing something similar.

I ponder this as we make our way back. Same hospital. Two totally different experiences. A place of both sorrow and of joy.

Rachel has thrown up from the pain and lays writhing on the bed. Her body curls and uncurls from the contractions, and she begs for a warm bath. The tears streak down her cheeks, and I feel them filling my own as she’s lead away to the bath and the door closes.

I sink down onto the couch and bow my head. I didn’t expect it to be so hard to watch her be in such agonizing pain.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” I whisper.

I whisper, even as she screams it: “No, no, nooo–I can’t do this!” And Mom says soothingly back, “You can, honey. You’re stronger than you think. You’ll be able to do more than you ever thought you could.”

Her body tightens with the next contraction, and she holds her breath until we all say as one, “Breathe, Rach. Don’t forget to breathe. Work with them.”

All of this reminds me of the verse that says, “But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:20-22.)

I feel the truth of it now more than I ever have before.

Remembering my dad’s pain. Thinking of all the pain we passed as we walked the halls. Seeing, hearing, feeling her pain even now–and being completely powerless to stop it. If there was just something I could do! But nothing I say can calm the fear. Nothing I do will ease the pain. And isn’t that the toughest thing of all? Seeing the ones you love in pain?

In the kind of emotional pain that wracks the body with sobs the same way as the contractions take over my sister now. All encompassing. Impossible to get away from.

My own pain, I can handle. But seeing a loved one in that kind of pain… it’s almost more than I can bear.

Labor Pains 2I get it now. The verse. All of creation groans and waits. The earth contracts and eases with its own kind of labor pains… ever watchful for the day when the Savior will return. And when He comes, He will wipe away every tear. (Rev. 7:17) 

With the city just below, my sister in front, and all the memories in my heart of the hallway we walked, I recognize it for what it is now: the continuous labor for what we lost when we lost Eden. It contracts and eases with both death and new life. And in my own heart and life, I see the same. Was it only a year and a half ago that my heart was contracting with the pain, curling into itself? And now, for a happy occasion, and the pain has eased and a sense of anticipation lingers in the air.

Always the anticipation. Always searching for… something.

With all the rest of creation, I wait. Through all the labor pains, we breathe…and cry…and moan. Like waves, it ebbs and flows, carrying us along, trying to suck us in, releasing us onto the shore.

I wonder… does the same way of dealing with physical labor pains apply to the emotional kind as well?

It makes sense, somehow. To just breathe.

Sometimes, it’s the only thing you can do.

To let the pain have its way and let it shape us into whatever it is that needs to be birthed. That way, if we work with it instead of fighting against it, maybe we can give birth to hope. To joy. To love or peace. To forgiveness or grace or mercy. For has He not promised to make everything beautiful in its time? (Ecclesiastes 3:11.)

All Creation waits for the glorious day when He will return and all pain will be taken away…breathing through the contractions, and holding our breaths in anticipation of the coming majesty. And we were given the Holy Spirit to help coach us through… He who is called our “advocate,” or “counselor.” (John 14:26.) Like my mom beside Rachel’s bed, He leans down to grip our hands and remind us of the truth: “With me, you’re stronger than you think. Together we’ll get through this.”

Rachel’s been pushing for almost two hours, and she falls against the pillow and gasps, “I can’t do this. I don’t think he’s ever going to come.”

And the doctor and nurses are all quick to say, “Yes, you can. You’re almost there! He’ll be here soon.”

None of us can see him yet, and we all exchange doubtful glances. It’s been a long time, and we see no sign of progress. No sign whatsoever that he’s coming. How can they be so sure?

It’s only a week until Christmas, and all of a sudden, I’m in a stable where another young woman falls against the straw and cries, “Joseph! I can’t do this!” He squeezes her hand even as the terror clenches his heart, and forces out between quick swallows, “Yes, you can! You’re almost there. He’ll be here soon!”

And all of Bethlehem waits, even as the star shines down proclaiming His life and all the prophets and the wise men promise, “He’ll be here soon.”

How can they be so sure? A Savior? Sent into this ugly, messy, painful world? And the pain just keeps on coming and we’re not sure it’ll ever end.

But in hope, we wait… and through the stillness… a cry! Our Savior is born! He who is called Counselor, Father, and the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6.) He who is come to take away the sins of the world! He who came to win victory over the grave! He who came to cry our tears and feel our labor and bleed our blood. He who will come again to wipe away every tear from every face.

I cry as baby Boe arrives–all perfect eyes and ears and toes. He gives his first cry–gurgly and strong, and Rachel stares wide-eyed in shock. Her head falls back for an instant, then she’s looking up once more in awe and amazement. The cord is cut, and Boe is laid close to her chest. He snuggles in and blinks at her, and Rachel says with reverence in her voice, “Yeah. I’m your mommy.”

My heart shouts and leaps with joy, and I am certain as I stare at this new life: HE is here.

Emmanuel, God with us. 

And He always will be.

For just a moment, a glimpse of heaven’s beauty in front of me.

And all creation waits

New Baby Boe

Permission to Not Be Okay

Not OkayI was house sitting for a neighbor, on the phone talking to a friend about how to navigate through a plot hole in my story, and all the while breaking inside.

Just the night before I’d been woken up with a phone call from my sister informing me that our dad was back in the hospital after blacking out.

Since this had suddenly become our family’s norm, my mom told me not to worry and to work on my story for school while they ran yet more tests to find out what was wrong.

So while I asked questions with my mouth about how to get my character into their “inciting incident” (which means trouble for them), my heart sought out questions for the trouble we were in.

I sank onto a couch that wasn’t mine, laid my head in my hands, talked writing through my tears with a laptop open to a blank page and a blinking cursor.

It wasn’t just my character that needed help. It was me. Like the laptop in front of me, all I could see was a blank page and a blinking cursor, and I didn’t know what was coming next.

Would my dad be all right? Would my family make it through this? Why couldn’t they find out what was wrong with him? Where was God?

I snapped at my friend for a suggestion that made perfect sense for the character, but that didn’t address what was really bothering me. Ever so gracious, her voice reflected surprise at my outburst, but she gave me another suggestion anyway.

Finally I told the truth: “I don’t know, Britt. I’m just done! I’m sick of trying. I don’t want to write anymore. I don’t have anything left.”

I cringed at the raw truth of what I’d just said. I didn’t have any strength left to fight anymore, in any area. I was as empty as the computer screen in front of me, and I had nothing left to give, not for myself, not for my family, much less for some imaginary characters I was supposed to help navigate through life’s difficulties when I couldn’t even navigate through my own.

I waited for the repercussions. The “pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get over it” pep talk. But to my surprise, my friend only paused for a second before calmly following with the shift in conversation and saying some of the wisest words I’d ever heard: “Okay. Then don’t write.”

I was shocked. But as her simple statement flooded through me, relief and peace did too. The tears flowed more freely, and without all the distractions, my heart finally opened up to God in the truth of the pain and fear I was feeling and how much I needed Him.

The truth of needing permission to not be okay.

To not have it all together. To not be able to write just then. And to know it was okay… to not be okay.

Because I wasn’t. And I was so sick of pretending like I was. Of putting on a smile when I was truly angry and confused at the way my life was going. Of well-meaning but ignorant Christians hearing a bit of what was going on in my life and brightly saying, “Oh, dear. Well, God has it under control! I’ll be praying for you!” And never once following up or asking if my family needed meals or really offering any kind of support at all.

I was so tired of straining. So tired of having hope and faith and having that hope thwarted. Of working so hard to be the good one, to do my best in school, to never show any signs of spiritual or emotional fatigue so I could be strong for my family.

I was not okay. My family was not okay. And at that time, I wondered if this would be the thing that finally broke us. The thing that finally broke me. And it almost did.

But for God’s grace! 

There’s a time and a place for how He delivered us out of that and how, instead of breaking us, it made us stronger and closer than ever before.

But today is not about that. Today is about that moment when things are not okay. When you have nothing left, and for some reason, you’re still straining.

You’re still striving, even as you’re breaking.

Still preaching, even as you’re losing the battle yourself. 

Still smiling, even as you’re suffering.

If that’s you, dear heart, God has a message for you: it’s okay to not be okay. 

This is your permission, love. This is your moment. Whatever it is, let it go. Give it to God. You’re too angry to give Him the pain? All right. Then give Him the anger. Cry it out. Pray out your frustration. It’s Him you’re angry with? Tell Him.

It’s safe in His hands, and He already knows. Give it to Him so that He can heal you and set you free. So He can meet you exactly where you are, the way you are, and run to you with arms stretched wide.

He loves you, dear heart. He loves you so much. 

None of us are okay. It’s why Jesus had to come.

After some Pharisees asked why Jesus hung out with such scum as tax collectors and sinners, He says this in Mark 2:17: “When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.'”

Jesus can’t do His thing until we let Him. Unless we let down the mask and say, “Lord, I’m sick. I need help. I’m not okay, and I know you’re the only One who can help me.”

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He operates in truth, and we need to as well if we want to operate in the freedom that comes from truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32.)

Even if that truth means admitting we’re a mess. 

Because we are. All of us are in the midst of holy grace.

But in the light of holy grace… wounds brought to the Healer of broken hearts can restore all.

Tears can become prayers, and a hallelujah born from the pain can be the most beautiful and powerful praise song ever heard.

His arms are available to you. His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness abounding.

We are not and never will be enough, but His grace? Oh, dear child, His grace is more than enough.

Be still for just a moment. Listen to His heart for you, the song He sings over you, the plans He has to prosper you and not to harm you. Remember His blood poured out for you, the price He paid for you, the nails He took for you, and know–know dear child of God once and for all that it is okay, to not be okay.

Because in His name it is finished, but for right now…

Four days behind schedule, Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus and saw his sisters mourning his death. Though He knew in just minutes He’d raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept.

Jesus wept. He knew the outcome. He knew life would come again. He had faith.

But He also knew one other, very important truth…

It’s okay. 

I Only Have

Sometimes the burdens of life weigh heavy and I cry out, Only Have

“Lord, I only have two shoulders.”

Sometimes the projects leave me worn and busy and I cry out,

“Lord, I only have two hands.”

Sometimes I can’t fill every need and I cry out,

“Lord, I only have two feet.”

Sometimes I worry about the next bill and I cry out,

“Lord, I only have two dollars.”

Lord, I only have a little hope. 

Lord, I only have a little strength. 

Lord, I only have a little faith. 

Lord, I only have a little courage. 

Lord, I only have two little fish and some bread. 

And Jesus said,

“Give me what ‘you only have,’

and I’ll give you Me instead.

Because I give grace, not lack,

Prepare feasts from just a snack.

Can take a seed of faith and use it to move mountains,

Can take a drop of rain and pour out living fountains.

Can take a spark and fan it into flame,

If you’ll but ask for it in My Name.

So give me your two shoulders,

And I’ll take the burden from your back.

Give me your two dollars,

And I’ll give grace to meet the lack.

Give me your two hands,

And I’ll fill them up past full.

Give me your two feet,

And I’ll use them to fill another’s bowl.

Because what “you only have” is all I really need,

A beginning, a start, a seed.

A little bit of faith goes a long way as you’ll see,

And when you give me what you only have,

You’re getting everything of Me.

{Scriptures to go along with this meditation: Matthew 14:13-21, Matthew 17:20, John 14:13-14, 1 Peter 5:7

Daffodils in the Snow

The daffodils were bright, happy patches of yellow in the otherwise dark store, and they took my breath away as an employee gathered a bunch together to arrange.

They made me smile at first, but that soon gave way to a heavy ache as I forced myself to look away.

They’re just flowers, I sternly reprimanded myself. Perfect flowers, the rebellious side of me whispered back.

Ask any single girl around Valentine’s Day, and I’m betting most will tell you they do their best to ignore any and all flowers. Because most girls like flowers. And even more, we like relationships and having someone to spend the day with. After one too many Valentine’s and no flowers… it can get start to get a tad depressing. And if you’ve never had any flowers on Valentine’s Day except from your mom… um, yeah, that would be me.

But God has taught me so much about what true love looks like in the years I’ve been single, and while it can definitely be discouraging, the number one thing I’ve learned is this: love is so much more than we ever give it credit for. Love is

“Love” in our culture has been re-defined and restricted in a way I don’t think God ever intended, often reduced to being contained to two people or within a single family; so much so that if you’re a single adult out in today’s world…well, then. Love just isn’t for you, and we all know the shame and stigma that comes along with the title “single,” and I can promise you the effects are felt whether we admit to it or not.

It’s still very much one of my deepest desires to have husband, home, and family, and please don’t hear me say there’s anything wrong with wanting those things or that it somehow makes you “less holy” if you do. It’s a beautiful thing, a sacred thing, and you can serve God just as easily within marriage as you can without. And trust me–I’ve read my fair share of articles/blog posts that sound like a whole bunch of embittered single women turning their noses up at marriage pretending as if they don’t care, and I’m not here to be one of those women.

But, oh, church, hear me– love is so much more than a word for Valentine’s Day. So much more than a sign for the family room or a word spoken at a wedding. Love was always meant to be shared, to be extended and multiplied, given freely and frequently.

I can thankfully say at this point in my life that God has blessed me by teaching me to expand my own definition, to consider myself blessed not because I have any “one” child, but to consider myself blessed because I have many.

While I know I still have a lot of misconceptions to break through about my idealized view of romance just as God broke through my idealized version of what motherhood would be like my first day babysitting (which took about .5 seconds after the parents left and I did a head count and came up one short), I feel pretty fortunate to have a preview of what real love looks like, too, and I can pretty much tell ya it isn’t all sunshine and roses.

But I can tell you this:

Real love is loyal. It’s faithful and true. It’s hard working, generous, and kind. It’s patient and merciful. It’s humble and right. It’s strong and it’s pure, and oh, man, is it hard. 

It’s sitting on the floor of somebody’s living room just to be with them in their grief.

It’s staying when you’d rather leave. 

It’s getting on your hands and knees to scrub a floor from a mess you didn’t make.

It’s holding someone’s hand in the hospital just to help them sleep. 

It’s the mundane of folding laundry and washing dishes. It’s choosing to look over someone else’s wrong and clothing them with grace as Jesus does instead.

It’s singing lullabies over a sick child, ladling out soup to the homeless, or standing next to a father at the grave site to let him know he doesn’t stand alone. 

God has planted within each of us such a great capacity to love. He is our Creator, after all, and the Creator Himself is love.

But love also has an enemy, and we are a generation that’s love-starved. We strive after “The One”, and all along we miss The Many. We chase after the ring, and run right past a relationship with Him. And oh, dearest, how we miss it! How we miss the sweetest, most important of loves, for His mercies are new every morning! (Lam. 3:22-24.)

The truth is that I used to think I wasn’t loved, and I thought I wasn’t loved because I didn’t have what the world defined as love.

A first kiss, flowers on Valentine’s Day, an engagement ring, or so many other things. And I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you it’s left some wounds, and I’ve believed the shame. Pitched a tent and put my feet up right in the center of it, in fact.

But I’m so happy to tell you I was wrong.

I am loved by The Most High. So loved that He died on a cross for me! I have more love in my life than I could ever know what to do with, and that’s because His love is a bottomless well. An endless desert for me to explore, an ocean for me to sink into, and as sure and as permanent as the sun is in the sky. Something I can extend to others and partake of for myself not just one day out of the year, but 365.

The same as it is for you. 

And how could I forget the family and friends surrounding me? The many families over ten years who have given me the honor of letting me into their homes to rock their babies to sleep or teach their preschoolers their ABC’s or get even the most determined of my charges to laugh. The precious people I was completely blind to because I was so focused on the one thing I didn’t have instead of all that I did.

So if you’re there today, dear heart, if the sight of roses make you cry or you had to spend one more Valentine’s Day with another broken heart in your hands, may you know that love is already yours. That there is now no shame, because that shame was taken away in Jesus’ name. His was the first love, the only love, and the kind of love that not only meets us where we’re at, but runs straight for us to embrace us as we are. 

May we follow after Him and never forget: Life is too short to only love one person.

And you know those daffodils I was talking about earlier? I found them one winter not too long ago shooting straight up through the snow in front of my car. And we’ve never even planted daffodils. 

So look for your daffodils today, daughter of The Most High. Because you, you are precious to Him, and my guess?

My guess is they’ve been right there waiting for you to discover all along. 

Daffodils in the snow w Frame

The Woman With the Comfy Hat

It was just a Taco Bell. The likes of which I’d seen many times before. It was the same food, same in-and-out mentality. Only this time, I was actually looking around.

I think it was because this particular Taco Bell had recently been remodeled. If not for that, I probably would have never seen them.

The African-American man with braces on his arms and deep bags underneath his eyes. The woman standing alongside him with pursed lips, looking all at once determined and tired and worn.

DistractionThe small family sitting nearby, with the young daughter’s perfect posture. The father with the storm gathered in his eyes, and the mom with the phone in her hand. The pretty young girl attempts to make a joke, smiles; but the dad never looks up from his food and the mom just gives a half-smile before returning to her phone.

Later we go to Wal-Mart, and once again, our eyes are focused on our goal, and we see almost nothing as we whiz by nameless faces, racks, and carts. Suddenly, I hear a warm, sweet Southern voice behind me:

“Excuse me–can I stop you?”

I look behind, a little disoriented at the sound of a voice in my product-cluttered tunnel.

My eyes focus on a cheery blonde, wearing a wide smile and a comfy-looking hat.

“Excuse me,” she says again, “Can I stop you guys? Is that your mom?”

I suspiciously nod–not certain if she’s some sort of salesperson– and she walks over to my mom. “I noticed your hair and loved it,” she says. She sweeps her hat off her head and runs a hand through the close-cropped hair. “I just went through chemo and it’s growing back, but so far I haven’t found anyone I trust to cut it. I saw your hair and wondered if you could give me the name of the lady who did it?”

For the first time, I notice the white patch on her chest and the hat suddenly registers in my mind. My heart fills with sympathy and I long to help this woman any way I can.

But she doesn’t have a pen and neither do we, and we can’t remember the name of the salon where my sister works. She starts to back away apologetically, and my heart beats an accusing thump in my chest: Do something! Help her! All she wanted was a number.

But my lips feel too sticky to part and she’s walking away quickly now and all that will come out is “Bless you” and it’s not what I meant to say at all.

We each go back to our business and the walls and shelves all close in again until I’m surrounded once more. But my world feels bigger somehow, and I can’t get the woman with the comfy hat out of my mind or out of my heart.

Who was she? What was her name? Is she in remission? Does she have family around her loving and supporting her? Will she find a hairstylist she can trust? Does she know the Lord?

The accusing bump continues its beat, and I can’t help but shake my head and ask: why couldn’t I have at least given her that number?! So little to ask. So brave of her to do so. Such a little thing to give.

Or why couldn’t I have prayed for her? Given her a single word of encouragement, or invited her to church? Was it just a coincidence we met? With as big a God as I have who delights in the details, I don’t even know if I believe in coincidence anymore.

Her politely-spoken plea echoes once more in my ears: “Can I stop you?” And suddenly I realize why those words sink so deeply into my heart and into my soul like a hand into dough or a foot into snow: because if she hadn’t asked… I wouldn’t have stopped.

Because if she hadn’t taken off her hat, I wouldn’t have noticed.

Because every day I rush by, never seeing, hardly breathing. And the walking wounded walk by as the faces of my waitress, the cashier, barista, my sisters’ friends, and even the face of a sweet little redhead with freckles across her nose and pleading in her eyes, saying, “Can I please just stop you long enough to play with me?”

Can I stop you? Asks the man with the braces on his arms.

Can I stop you? Asks the hurting family at the table.

Can I stop you? Asks the hardworking woman taking out trash and clearing tables.

Over and over again, in every face, and all at once I realize with a swallow and a sinking in my heart why the woman with the cancer and comfy hat bothers me so much. Because I haven’t stopped. I haven’t seen. Nor have I cared or loved or given as I ought. As Christ told me to do. As I want to do. As He demonstrated.

People Needing JesusSo many opportunities I’ve missed. So many people I’ve passed by.

I am no better than the ones in the parable whom Jesus spoke about as a man lay broken, bloody, and bruised. Laying by the side of the road, he calls out for help, and yet, I press on–too busy to see, too busy to care. On my own mission and thinking, “Someone else will take care of it.” (Luke 10:25-37.)

Passing by the homeless, the poor, the destitute–forever, always thinking, “Someone else.” And so it is. Forever someone else. Or worse–no one else.

Am I any less guilty if the wounds I come across are battered souls instead? 

I am reminded of the man who died on a cross to cover those sins for me. Who breathed the same air and walked the same sod, standing sinless and pure and matching my every selfish stride just because He cared enough to stop me and let me know that I was headed in the wrong direction.

I am reminded of the very same man who stretched out His arms to die on a cross for me, and for a mother who I imagine must have looked at so many as her son was lead up to Calvary, asking, “Please, do you see Him? Do you know who He is? Do you see your Savior? My son, and the Son of God? Will you stop them?”

And at last, as they stretched Him out and spread out His palms, I imagine her pleading, asking once more with her eyes,

Can I stop you?

You, my son, my Savior, who listened to His mother’s plea and turned water into wine at a mere wedding?

You, my Son, whom the angel told me would save all the world from their sins and whose kingdom would never end?

Oh, my precious Son, who’s known so much more than me since the time you were twelve and even younger still within my womb–can I stop you?”

His love was the love that moved, and breathed, and lived to the point of death itself. That pushed and extended itself to the least of these until it became the least of these–spread out on a cross, helpless, bloodied, and bruised. The same man on the side of the road became the man on a cross, and we are all speechless as He breathes His last breath and the ground shakes and the earth darkens and we realize that this–this is what we’ve been waiting for. What we’ve meant to see all along. The earth shudders with His last quietly exhaled breath and suddenly: everything. Stops. Even the sun and moon and stars all stop to watch this one event all creation has waited for since the very beginning.

The eyes of the thief and the guards were opened and out of the depths of their dark tunnels they heard the Savior call:

“Can I stop you even now?”

It’s a call we all will have the chance to hear many times in our lives. To either heed, or to place hands over our ears. To ignore, or to obey. Jesus said, “It is as to me you give the cup of water. As if to me you welcome in.” (Mt. 25:31-40.)

So with every face we pass, it is He who asks, “Can I stop you?”

And with His question, I am but left with just one more: what will my answer be?

Mercy