My start date for Renovaré Institute for Spiritual Formation was August 1st. Each month we are answering a theological question as well as meditating on a particular passage from the Bible. We are in a learning environment which values the importance of possessing good theology while knowing that it requires encountering God to change us. Thus, the curriculum has those two streams, solid theological learning with opportunities to encounter the biblical Jesus.
Who is God?
What is the Gospel?
Who are we?
Last week, the 40 other students in my cohort and I filled La Casa de Maria retreat center in Santa Barbara, California for our first of four residential weeks of learning with our instructors. I struggle to find words to capture that week. To capture the richness of the teaching, our instructors, as well as the relationships formed on paper isn’t possible. Yet I want to offer you a taste.
As I was en route back to Orlando after a life-changing week, I texted Dennis something like this to capture one reality resonating in me from the week:
“I was introduced to such a gentle vision of the gospel.”
God is a lover ever-pouring Himself into us if we allow, never forcing Himself upon us, yet continually wooing us into His Kingdom. In the Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard captures a taste of God’s essence in this statement,
But he is simply one great inexhaustible and eternal experience of all that is good and true and beautiful and right. This is what we must think of when we hear theologians and philosophers speak of him as a perfect being. This is his life.
Throughout my coursework thus far, my vision of God is expanding, I am tasting His goodness more richly, and feeling His heartbeat for me more palpably. My understanding of the Gospel has expanded beyond it’s small borders to something far more expansive than I’d ever imagined.
Finally, being surrounded by a learning community of people with a shared desire to know God, love Him well, live well, and pour His love into others was the richest of fare. For those of you who have given so that I may so richly receive, know that you were there with me in thought throughout the week. Gratitude for you is bursting forth.
PS. I’ll elaborate on the above topics and in more detail in future posts.
Because some of you are asking, we are sending a little update from O-town. We fared well through the storm. The climax of Irma began around six last night and continued through the evening with continuous tornado warnings, one of which passed right over us. These created some tension within us. The wind howled, belting trees in every direction and rain pummeled the earth as we drifted to sleep, hoping and praying for protection from these forces of nature. We awoke to light winds and sun peeking through this morning. Thankfully, we fared well as did our neighborhood. Some trees and fences are down. There are roof shingles here and there, but the damage is mild given the destruction others have experienced from Irma. Here are some photos from around our house
Downed trees were a common sight around our neighborhood. This picture is our backyard.
Once cleanup from Irma began, our streets were lined with piles of branches from trees.
Our neighbor had two trees down. Others had fences go down.
Out of a case of cabin fever, Brockman studios produced a few videos.
We are grateful for your prayers and that God is a protector. Had the damage been worse, He would still be our protector. We were incredibly blessed never to have lost power. Sooooooooo thankful for this! We have friends whose yards and streets are flooded and are without power. Our neighborhood seems to shine in its drainage abilities. Whew.
As Keegs and Dennis walked around the neighborhood this morning to survey the damage, a police officer told them Orlando is under a curfew until 6 pm and to go home. Glad there’s only one day more we are under a curfew, and we enjoy so much freedom in America.
September 07, 2017
The music score brought on an intensity that moved you to the edge of your seat. Caught between horror and fear, you tensed for the next victim. If I played the unmistakable tune, you’d likely know it instantly--the 1975 thriller, Jaws.
Awaiting Hurricane Irma feels a bit like that. The havoc Harvey inflicted upon Houston ramps up the intensity for Irma. Tweets, web headlines, and chatter about the storm has a similar impact to the music score in Jaws.
Palm Beach Atlantic University closed after class yesterday and won’t re-open until Tuesday. This released Madison to drive home last night, surrounded by multitudes of South Floridians evacuating in preparation for Irma. She was in the thick of bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way home to Orlando, adding an hour to her usual three-hour commute.
Our Gator (UF mascot), Keegan, is at school in Gainesville. UF is canceling classes on Monday, the day after Irma is to strike our area. Keegan plans to stay in Gainesville, study, and ride out the storm with whoever remains.
We intend to ride out Irma at home. We considered leaving the area, but our schools here in Orlando are in session until Friday, and we’re hoping as Irma moves across land, she’ll slow a bit as she reaches central Florida.
We are 45 miles inland from the coast. The hurricane force winds are currently measuring 50 miles from the eye. If the eye runs up the coast, we will be on the outer edge of the high winds.
We are preparing as best as we are able. It’s wild walking aisles of the grocery store with shelves completely emptied. It’s actually a bit eerie. Our hearts are so burdened for the islands being pummeled by Irma right now. We’d love your prayers for us as well as for all those in Irma’s path and wake. We will send an update as soon as we are able after the storm.
August 13, 2017
The rumbling within me began this afternoon. Irritability encapsulated my heart, my mind and my body. In Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard paints the picture of all of these parts residing within our souls. It this is the case, then it’s accurate to say my soul feels like it’s been turned upside down and inside out.
It took me a few minutes to become aware of this rumbling. I was fine this morning and through the early afternoon. Then Dennis attempted to be playful…and I wasn’t playing. That was my first clue all was not at rest. As I grilled the burgers and sat through dinner, I felt a restlessness within.
Part of me wanted to clamor my way out of it. To stop it. The other part of me was curious. Curious about what brook was bubbling down deep, refusing to be silenced until embraced. That’s always my battle…to embrace the ache beneath the rumblings. It feels unnatural to lean into it, wrap myself around it, befriend it. Yet it is in this space, I have found Immanuel, my with God. So I leaned into the ache.
As I waited in the rumble, willing myself to not spill over onto everyone in my household (this is the deep battle of spiritual formation), my soul felt like Pop Rocks in my mouth. Then finally, a moment of clarity.
Our Keegan has been packing all day, completely cleaning out his bedroom. He returns to Gainesville on Tuesday to begin his sophomore year at the University of Florida.
Ding, ding, ding.
Pause. Exhale. Yes, that is what this is inside of me.
Cole will be moving into Keegan’s larger bedroom, which meant Keegan was completely moving out of his room. And purging. There was something about this purging and moving out of his room which was my undoing. He is entering into manhood, full of vision and passion for his future. I love being a witness to his unfolding story. I am so blessed he’s been mine to nurture for so many years. And it is Keegs living out of his design, which forces me to live out mine and open wider my hands, my arms, my heart and release him into the world. And this deep ache is beauty, and wrestle, and death, and hope all entwined into one woman’s soul.
My with God says He knows what it’s like to release His Son. He knows. All this goodness and ache He enters into and expands my soul to make more space for Him. He says His grace is sufficient for this ache, to hold me in it. So I will resist the urge to run from it ten different ways (i.e. shopping, eating, media, etc.)
And my with God says His grace is expansive enough to hold my dear neighbor who just shared she has breast cancer. It was only two years ago her young granddaughter was in the fight for her life with a brain tumor. And He was with them and held them there, in that deep place of ache of a completely different kind. And now He will be with Joanne as she battles for her own life. All these aches...some good and some brutal. Each one an opportunity to be more deeply entered by our with God.
His is an unusual kind of love. Perhaps this ache will expand me to hold more of this love, more of Him so I have more of His love to pour into others.
I miss you already, my Keegan. Yet in the same breath, It fills me to see you open your expansive wings and soar.
August 10, 2017
We sent this letter to a number of our friends. Dennis just thought today that we wouldn't want to miss any of our friends here that are not on our mailing list. So, this is a letter explaining a beautiful opportunity for Lisa to expand her capacity to say "yes" to what God has in store next.
Almost two years ago, I met Julie at a birthday dinner for a mutual friend. After spending several hours together over dinner, Julie asked me if I led a Bible study or was involved in one. “Why do you ask?” I said.
Julie replied, ���Because I can tell you walk closely with Jesus and I want that in my life.”
“We don’t need a Bible study to connect. Let’s get together!”
Julie and I began meeting several times each month at Lake Eola park in the center of downtown Orlando. Surrounded by quacking geese, massive oaks, and the rippling of a lake, Julie invited me into her world. With raw authenticity, she shared how when she began working with Cru, she felt deeply connected to God and was excited about her work. Twelve years later, she was still on staff with Cru and married with two small children, but detached from the joy of the mission.
As we sat in Lake Eola park week after week, Julie shared how she felt disconnected from God, and how God felt indifferent. Her life wasn’t all that she thought it would be, which frustrated her. God didn’t feel loving or attentive to her and wasn’t showing up like she thought He should. She felt hopeless that there would be any change and had lost hope for the future. She almost felt dead to the God with whom she’d once enjoyed dynamic love. Julie was so spiritually empty that she was completely incapacitated as a gospel communicator.
Despite Julie’s reality, she still possessed a deep enough hunger to experience an intimate relationship with God that she reached out to me across a table of women, grasping for a lifeline. In the darkness, Julie was incapable of navigating a path to the one who is Light on her own. She needed a guide to lead her through the shadows and the depths, casting vision of how her story fits into God’s larger story. She needed someone to show her the face of God and the impact of her quest to look for life outside of Him. And she needed someone to lavish her with the Father’s gracious and merciful heart as she encountered her own darkness.
As I interact with Cru staff, I find that Julie’s story is not an isolated one, but a common story. It’s a story of those who are burdened to share the love of Jesus Christ as a vocation, but in their journey of faith and work, grow disillusioned with God and themselves.
Having a guide in their journey can mean the difference between remaining disillusioned in their darkness or being spiritually transformed into the image of Christ in their darkness, coming to see God as Lover and themselves as Beloved.
You can be the difference between Julie remaining disillusioned in her darkness and her being spiritually transformed, spiritually invigorated—you can change her life.
To change Julie’s life, I need you to revolutionize mine. I have been accepted into a two-year program with Renovaré Institute for spiritual formation where I have the opportunity to be further trained in spiritual formation, my greatest passion and calling.
It takes $6,000 to change both of our lives, and tuition is due July 1st. We can’t do this without you.
Please consider sending a gift of $100, $200, $500, $1000 or whatever amount gives you the greatest joy. You may give by clicking the black bar at the top of brockmans.org.
You are the gospel champion who brings transformation to so many lives. It is a gift to partner with you.
June 4, 2017
Today Mez was baptized. And it was an amazing morning.
When I awoke this morning, I decided to text two of our youth leaders at our church to let them know Mez was getting dunked at the 9:45 service. LIfe has been so full (ok...it's always so full with five kiddos) that I barely live moment to moment these days, especially since I have my college kids home from school and all seven of us are back at home base. So it didn't occur to me to communicate with our youth staff until two hours before the service. I thought it might be a long shot for them to get over to the sanctuary where Mez would be baptized because it was happening at the same hour as when the youth group meets for Sunday School. Out of the many services our church hosts Sunday mornings, the 9:45 was the best service for her baptism today rather than the 11:00 service we usually attend. Yet it would mean that she wouldn't be surrounded by the youth group during her baptism.
At 9:30, our family arrived at First Presbyterian church with Grandma and Grandpa Halversen (Lisa's parents) and Cole's girlfriend, Zoe, with us. As the service began, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. With a giant smile on her face, Emily Luker (our middle school girls leader) lead our youth group down the side aisle of the sanctuary. Within a minute, our youth staff and students filled the side aisle and wound around the back of the sanctuary. My heart swiftly moved into my throat. I could barely sing our opening song my emotions were so full. Our church community is stunning.
Our pastor, David Swanson, invited Mez, Dennis and me up to the front of the sanctuary. He spoke about Mez and Kamise's history, adoption into our family, and that Mez has placed her trust in Christ alone for eternal life. As she stepped into the baptismal waters contained in the portable tub, which Dr. Swanson assurred wasn't a horse trough, she gasped from the cool of the water. Giggling, she sat down.
It happened like this...
Mez and Kamise have been with us five years now. I think we are all finally settling into family as it now is in a new way. We find ourselves jaw-dropped by interactions which show that bonding is occurring. Trust is being offered us. We have warred for connection and had surrendered through blood, sweat and tears that it may never be a reality we would enjoy this side of Heaven. Yet we were designed to fight for their hearts and called to it and have stumbled along this mysterious, heart-wrenching path. And we are encountering "morning."
Psalm 30:5b captures life so well. "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning."
The night has felt long to us all. But a moment of morning makes all the stinking long night worth it! This morning was an amazing morning.
April 24, 2017
It was just the two of us home tonight. The college kids haven't yet returned for the summer break. Her sister was eating dinner with at a friend's house. And here we were. She walked toward the kitchen as I put something quick together for dinner.
"Mom, I'm nervous....well...not nervous...well...maybe I am nervous about my test tomorrow."
Her end-of-course math exam will greet her early tomorrow morning. She offered her fear to me.
For almost five years, I have pursued and wooed and been met with a hard, cold heart. Lips tight, holding inside the tender things. Her fears, her delights, her dreams, her crushes. Offering those to me didn't seem to be a thought. They were vaulted tightly away. I'd come to a place of surrender through these years. Surrender to the possibility that she might never open; that her soul might never come to a place where she could see me as a safe mom rather than boxed-in with her step-moms from her past. Not the tender kind. Not the nurturing kind. They were all surviving the best they could. I really believe that. But our girl came to us all fearful and vaulted-up and detached because this was survival. And she is a survivor.
I have thought through the years if I'd been different, if I'd mothered her differently, if I wasn't me--she would open. Eighteen months ago a counselor let me know that it wasn't about me as much about her view of women. Through play therapy, her sister had shown that women are in power and they are all evil and wicked. I exhaled. It wasn't just me and my inability to love them well. We were all part of this drama. My inner critic struggles to remember and see that in the storm.
We took our dinner onto the back patio and talked. When disconnection has marked our relationship for so many years, I'm amazed at how acutely aware my mind and senses are to the most minute details of our relating. Before the past few months, a night with just the two of us would have felt like a lead blanket covering me, suffocating me. Heavy. Exhausting. Longing for relief or escape or something to ease the ache filling my soul and the untouchable child on the other side of the chasm. Home no longer offered comfort, but felt like exile.Tonight, we were comfortable and we were home.
We bantered about life. She offered some more and I shared stories. Her face lit up with laughter at times. Genuine uncontained joy filling her and overflowing. It was a year ago, this June, that I showed her a picture of a heart made of stone. Dennis and I shared with her that that is how we experienced her as she related to us. We saw that almost everyone in her life but us she blessed with her soft heart which embraced them.
But not us.
We then showed her the stony heart with red peeking through cracks and fissures. We shared with her that this was our vision for her in relationship with us. We told her that we are fighting for her heart and won't stop until we die. She has the option to choose to allow God to open it to us or not. But that we will fight with everything we have in us for her heart to grow permeable to us. Then we made her world very small so that we were all she had. She fought hard for months. And more months. And we knew she could do that until she left home in seven years. She is a fierce survivor and her heartened heart was "life" to her. We were asking her to open to us. To her, that was "death."
The past two months, her hard edges are becoming soft. Her soul is growing permeable. She's no longer fighting her invitational design. And I am diving in. Drinking in every opportunity to know her, explore her, delight in her, comfort her.
She's getting baptized on June 4th. As I was asking her about what baptism means to her and her relationship with Jesus, she said,
"Mom, I don't know how to explain it. I have a relationship with him. I know that. But it's not like yours and dads."
"Do you mean you don't experience the intimacy dad and I enjoy with God?" I asked.
"Yes, that's it."
"Do you want that?" I asked her.
"Yes, I do, but I don't know how to get that."
I told her that it's our job to teach her how to develop a relationship with him, and that I am so excited about her longing to know her Father. That was a few weeks ago. We haven't begun our bible study yet. Tonight she asked when we were starting because she really wants to get to know God better.
I'm in awe. When God was wooing us to adoption, something He clearly whispered to me was that nobody but He could pull this off. The entire journey from adoption to our last breaths--only He could do it. This I know to be true.
"For He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24
April 02, 2017
This Lenten journey... it is a doozie. I penned my last blog entry about God inviting me to release my young adult children in a deeper way to HIs care on March 1st. Fibromyalgia was ravaging Madison's body. She was on edge, feeling like she could no longer persevere at college. Then I got a phone call from Dennis on March 3rd.
"Madison's been in an accident." My fists clenched, my chest tightened again. To keep hands open to the Father when everything in me wants to hold them tight—it's war. He had just unfurled my fingers two days earlier, peeled them off my older two. With gentle force. In the blink of an eye, I was off my axis. Ungrounded. Clenching and tight again.
"Grace to trust you this moment, Father," had been my moment by moment mantra the previous two days. Feeling like I was just learning to walk after all these years of spiritual journeying. Then the crash.
Madison was driving home for spring break in her newly purchased 2007 Prius. As she was on a 360-degree exit ramp, she felt something shift in her car. She and her friend both commented about it. Then her car seemed to take on a mind of its own. Suddenly, they were hydroplaning on dry ground into a 180-degree spin, landing them head-on into the guardrail. They were going too slow for airbags to deploy. The accident was full of mystery.
So Madison's much-anticipated spring break was full of more doctor appointments and MRI scans. She has added some bulging discs and a herniation to her fibromyalgia and is racked with muscle spasms, swelling, pain, and fatigue.
As I climbed into bed that night, reciting my eucharisteo, my thanksgiving for the day...
"I can't yet genuinely even by faith thank you for this, Father. Not today! What the heck?!? I can say the words, but they will mean nothing, so I won't bother."
How I wrestled with my God, my breaking heart, my fatigue over more doctor appointments, and my battle to live in "unforced rhythms of grace" while watching my child suffer more. I'm finding nothing more unnatural than attempting to embrace this reality. I can finally "be" in my own suffering, for I resonate with Job's stunning confession after unfathomable suffering,
"Then Job replied to the Lord:
I know that you can do all things;
No purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
"You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you." Job 42: 1-5
Through suffering, my clouded vision grows clearer. My intimacy with my Maker grows deeper. Mysteriously, my love for Him is kindled through the ache and emptiness because I can see Him more clearly. But when it's my child suffering...clarity is but a vapor. And God was so close, so with us. Nicholas Wolterstorff said,
"Suffering is at the burning core of everything because love is. We need not feel alone in suffering because God is a suffering God who pulls close at our call. We can receive it if we want--there is always more God. In tears is intimacy. God understands because He stands with us."
On day five of her break, she laid her head in my hands. I held her head, massaging lightly, hoping to infuse some life into her weary, banged up body. To my surprise, a guttural laugh, on the edge of crazy burst out of me.
"This all feels like some cosmic joke."
She echoed my laughter.
"At this point it's either I scream or howl laughter." And laughter was more healing at the moment.
We laughed out our grief, our pain, our ache, our frustration, our sadness...until there was no more laughter.
And then we talked about God. I told her I'd noticed how active she'd become this year on our Bible app. We are "friends" on the app and can view each other's activity. I told her how it looks like Job and the Psalms had become her friends. She exclaimed how she loves them.
"Mom, I love the Bible," Madison said.
"When did your love for the Bible happen?" I asked, cradling her tender head.
"When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and in bed for five months."
Through her suffering, she is falling in love with Him. I drank in her words.
"Then it has all been worth it, hasn't it?" I whispered.
"Yes, it has." She said.
At 21, she's embracing theology that I wrestled with at 35. I'm watching my girl stay tender amidst growing chronic pain and fatigue. She is falling in love with her Lord, while she suffers. This mysterious way of the cross. Death and life always intertwined, holding hands, co-existing.
My Father is so tenderly de-tarring my vision of Him once again. "He is love. There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear." I say it again and again, a mantra needing to go deeper into me. Rooting me more deeply in His love. This Lenten path...it's hard. And it is good.
We hit Cocoa Beach for her last day of spring break. Almost had to carry her out there, but it was worth it for the much needed ocean air and vitamin D.
March 05, 2017
This came onto my phone screen at 12:53 pm last Friday...
The ball dropped. My chest tightened. Text messages that followed questioned if she'd ever be able to graduate from college, and informed that she was declining to the place we had encountered her when we brought her home last May...bedridden. I couldn't hop in the car and head to Palm Beach to care for her because we were blessed with family in-town over the weekend. The tension within me mounted and invaded every corner of my heart, mind, and body. It's been one of those weeks when I forget how powerless I am to bring peace to our reality. Fear of Madison bottoming out gripped me and I clamored inside, thinking there must be something I can do to prevent it.
Why does it feel like torture to watch my child suffer?
Why does everything in me want to prevent it from happening?
...Even when I have seen the God of the universe grow so real to me through my own suffering.
Sleep became shallow. The dark circles beneath my 47 year-old eyes grew darker. People even told me I looked tired.
Years ago, as I read this in the Bible,
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
The intimacy the Father enjoyed with the Son and the Son with the Father was the source of living freely and lightly...unforced rhythms of grace. And He was inviting me into that intimacy. I began to realize that perhaps God had so much more of Him He was anxious to reveal to me. And I became hungry to receive a deeper knowing of Him. I was more than willing to listen. Deep tracks in earth made that obvious. The earth of my soul was parched and deeply imprinted, and so thirsty for this reality.
He has infused His grace into my soul these past 12 years, through a great deal of suffering and struggle. Seems like in the suffering, my eyes are de-scaled so I can glimpse Him more clearly. In the suffering and discomfort, I am softened to Him. In the suffering, space opens within my soul to contain more of Him. If I lean into it. Open myself to it. Not fill the space with other stuff. In His suffering, He created space for us to enter into the intimacy He enjoyed with the Father. Because of so much grace, unforced rhythms of grace are becoming my real.
Then Madison sent that text, and I was like a train derailed. Before I was aware, I had taken up a burden "heavy and ill-fitting." After many restless nights, I became aware of how I want to prevent Madison from unravelling. Ann Voskamp captured it for me this morning in her book, The Broken Way:
"Our strained and knotted shoulders can feel wind beaten, trying to hold bits of our broken world together. But I keep telling my chronic soul amnesia to surrender the idea of being the mortar that holds all our mortal lives together and simply let go, believing that the broken bits of a heart are sand in His wind to carve a better life."
Because a good part of my days, I trust in my God's love, seasons like this whiplash me. Soul amnesia...how perfectly those two words capture the root of my clamoring heart.
My shoulders are literally strained and knotted. Jesus carried that cross and was the only one fit to do it. Receive--I inhale. Receive--I exhale. God is inviting me to a deeper place of surrendering my children to Him in this season of young adulthood. Argh. How I resist in fear.
Madison shared with Dennis on Saturday that a classmate had approached her on Friday after class, after she'd sent me that text message above. He's someone she didn't know. He asked her how she was doing. She shared honestly about her health struggles. He shared with her that God had told him to ask her how she was doing. He didn't know her. He told her he wanted to pray for her and they met in a prayer room. He brought with him another guy and two female students. The four of them, people she'd never met before, prayed over her for 90 minutes.
Ninety minutes. A random student who didn't know her. Gathering an army to lift my girl up to the Father, Son and Spirit. I had gathered my army of people to pray from a distance, which was all I could do. Then the God of the universe calls forth his army of four college students, strangers to Madison, to physically enfold her, cover her in their prayers. His hands, his body, his heart, his love all around her. They carried her fearful, broken heart to the throne of grace.
Another friend brought her dinner on Sunday.
Madison is seeing her Father's kindness toward her and experiencing His care in my absence. Had I been there, I would have filled the space He so ached to fill.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent. A season to prepare to celebrate Jesus's death and resurrection. So timely. As I take my first steps into this season, I will give up more of myself, to create more space in my soul for more of Him. It's what I hunger for most.
Lent comes from the Old English word Lencten, which means Springtime. In this season, we begin to see something new spring up from winter’s cold earth. We begin the journey to death, the cross and resurrection."
An upside down gospel...the dying makes space for the living. The wonder of Christ is that a resurrection always follows a crucifixion. I die, in a deeper way, to my desire to be the brick and mortar to my children. Slowly, I open my hands and offer all five to Him. Again. Still a little tentatively. I've done this so many times before. But this time, it feels deeper. Grace to journey this Lenten path. Grace to keep my eyes fixed on the Cross and resurrection.
Grace to "surrender the idea of being the mortar that holds all our mortal lives together and simply let go, believing that the broken bits of a heart are sand in His wind to carve a better life." Unforced rhythms of grace weaving their way more deeply into my soul.
JANUARY 08, 2017
In May when we brought our sophomore home we did not know that it would take her two months before she would get out of bed for even normal things. We had to engage in a learning process that included doctors, labs, test and therapies. It also was a time to lament over losses and give way to a process and a timing not of our own choosing.
It was not and today it is not easy. Madison has fibromyalgia and there are days when it wipes her out as she manages the pain and deals with the loss of energy, but she is learning to lean into it.
She has learned much since May and this Monday we leave for West Palm Beach where Madison will continue her studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
We all are excited but sobered by the road ahead. Madison will have to be vigilant with her diet, exercise, rest and work. Upsets in any of these areas and/or a dose of crazy stress can trigger the pain in her system. There will no doubt be some challenges, but we have seen Madison push into it and make good choices to bring her body back to more manageable places. She has learned and continues to learn the truth Paul wrote about in Philippians, "Know this: my God will also fill every need you have according to His glorious riches in Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King."
Many of you have prayed for Madison. We are grateful. Thank you for your concern, support and love. We love you too.
Here we go!
December 12, 2016
Whew...I just completed, I mean Kamise and I just completed her science fair project. Someone shout hallelujah. I will never understand why the school system keeps forcing us to repeat parts of grade levels we graduated from a really long time ago...or if we choose not to do the work...I mean assist our kids in the arduous science fair process, then our kid's board looks like a fifth grader made the board while her competitor's look like an adult-polished, elaborate scrapbook project.
So, for this assignment, I took one for the team and found a project we would both enjoy executing (at least for the first several hours), edited her spelling/grammar challenged work for hours, then spent an eternity making sure we have all of the parts for the board and making it look "professional and not cutesy because real live engineers and scientists will be judging it." Yeah, those really were the words in that email. While I wrote the title on the massive tri-fold my girl sighed,
"I wish we could make it cutesy."
I told her I wish she could, too. Because she's in fifth grade and most fifth grade girls like cutesy. Nonetheless, the 10-week long process has been executed and completed! Did I say someone shout hallelujah yet? I'm pretty sure that whatever the intention the administration has for putting a child and parent through this process, mostly is never realized. Because in our household, it only makes us dislike the scientific process even more than we did when the previous child finished their project, and my kids feel a certain emotion from their deepest parts, as Kamise so eloquently put it tonight,
"I hate science!"
After enduring the hardship of this day, I've got nothing left over for this post.
Besides, I don't think I could add anything original to the amazing advent devotionals circulating around this advent season. My personal favorite is Ann Voskamp's book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. In it, she starts at the beginning of God's love story to us, in the book of Genesis and weaves the truths of the reality of the insanely reckless love and incarnation of our Creator throughout each page. Even though we're three weeks into advent, it's not too late for the richness of Ann's spiritual direction.
Because I don't have a deep thought in me tonight, I think it would be fruitful to give you a window into a mid-life blooper of Dennis. A few months ago, Dennis arrived home from a long day of work after we had all gone to bed. He and our team were in the thick of creating the design and materials for our global briefing and thoroughly exhausted. Seeking out a little comfort in a homemade chocolate chip cookie dough ball, he headed to the freezer where I keep a gallon ziploc bag full of homemade cookie dough balls. Unfortunately for Dennis, he went to the wrong freezer. In the dim light, he found a ziploc bag with balls in it, reached inside and took one out. Salivating, and with great anticipation, sunk his teeth into that ball of goodness.
But something didn't taste quite right. He sniffed the ball with his sniffer. After one more bite, gagging, he knew something wasn't right with the dough ball.
The next morning, Dennis shared with me his story. I buckled over instantly, howling at the top of my lungs...for the following week. Because the light was dim, he missed the label I'd written on the bag which said Italian Meatballs. RAW meatballs.
So I could be really obnoxious at this point and Jesus juke you all with a line like,
"Isn't that just like life? We hunger for the comforts and most of the time, end up with raw meatballs?"
I really did not premeditated that Jesus juke. Promise.
But it's a bit too true. My greatest comfort is believing that because of the incarnation, we are never alone while consuming raw meatballs. God. With. Us. With us in the mess, the brokenness, the goodness, the hopelessness, and the wonder. Ann Voskamp captures this reality in The Greatest Gift,
October 30, 2016
Her trauma seems to have found its way from inside of her and wraps itself tightly around her. It's not the gentle covering of a soft blanket. It's the kind which pierces her deep, causing leaps and jolts at unexpected moments. It's the kind of covering which pierces her to panic when she hears me open the bedroom door in the morning to gently awaken her for the new day. That whips covers hard and jerks her body fiercely when I lightly touch the top of her head and tell her it's time to get ready for school. It's the kind of wicked covering which makes me wonder what ungodly harm had been inflicted upon her so young in life. It is always with her. It is always with us.
We had made progress in being able to show her affection over her first three years in our family. We fought hard, wrestled 'til the fatigue consumed us. And then kept on wrestling. The stiff embrace sometimes softened. Our safe touches sometimes received. Her self-protective walls formed fissures and cracks through which our love could enter. And then...
A year ago, circumstances triggered her trauma and it took us back. Back beyond square one. Back to a place where she'd paste herself against the wall as we tucked her into bed.
"Don't touch me!" she'd command with ferocity. Like her life depended on the isolation to survive. Like we are the source of her trauma. Like letting us near would destroy her.
We've learned that trauma has no timeline. It is ever-present. Sometimes it sits beneath the skin, content to simmer there quietly. But when it is triggered, it fights to survive at whatever cost. And the cost has been high the past ten months. As days turn into years, we have to fight hard to gaze on the "bigger story." And hope that the bigger story which we are co-authoring with our God will somehow keep on releasing love out of us.
On the nights we aren't able to get to our girls' room to tuck them in, we've asked them to seek us out. Tell us Goodnight. I see the war within them to move toward connection. To be asked to move toward us causes one to rage beneath the surface. A rumbling anger oozing toward us. The other obediently comes with a stiff arm extended. A swift touch is all she can handle.
And then two nights ago happened. I sat on the couch writing a blog post. Suddenly she was standing behind me. She bent over me, arms draping mine. My entire body was shockingly present. Aware of life breaking through her broken heart. Aware of the stiff becoming soft. Then her cheek was next to my cheek. And hope washed over me. Gave me grace to keep pursuing her broken heart, hidden deeply away.
Then the unexpected grew more so. She didn't pull away. Her cheek remained, resting against mine. Her warm breath on my face. And then she let her whole being cover me. She stopped resisting... and rested as I was wrapped up in her. Every one of my senses was on high alert. Tasting, feeling, listening, receiving. My daughter enjoyed a few moments of freedom and she lavished me with her affection. I think she "saw" me as I am, not through the tainted lens of her traumatic past. And she drew so near.
Throughout the few days since, I can't help but think about the Garden. And Adam and Eve. And how they related to God so freely and shamelessly. Because they saw Him as He truly is. They allowed Him to satisfy their hungers and thirsts, so His love was able to flow freely through them and back to Him and into one another. Because they saw Him as He is, they were open to Him and His love filled them and covered them.
But then they hungered for the one thing God was protecting them from because He knew it would bring their self-destruction. With one indulgence, their vision of Him became skewed. "They dipped their paintbrush into the cesspool of sin and tarred the face of God," is how one of my favorite authors captures that moment.
And they were full of shame...because they no longer saw Him as He is.
And they hid...because they no longer saw Him as He is.
And He tenderly and graciously covered them and moved toward them. How He ached for them to see Him as He truly is. How He aches for us to see Him as He is. For when we do....we are never the same. One glimpse into His face and we are changed. For His face is love. The kind of love the world can't comprehend. A love that woos us to Him. Patiently. Tenderly. Fiercely. Unconditionally.
I am a weak image of Him. Yet in spite of this reality, it seems like love is entering our daughter's soul, invading spaces which trauma has held captive for so many years. Only this God could open my daughter's eyes to see me as I am and not as who her traumatic experiences destined me to be. She is such a delightful lover when she's living out of who she really is. He allowed me to feel that all throughout my body this past week as she covered me and rested.
Learning to truly love another is the fiercest battle in which I've ever engaged. It is bloody and requires everything I have to give. And then more. But I'm glimpsing that as she and I continue to fight for love, she will not only see me as I am, but we will both see our God as He truly is...and be released to love and be loved as never before.
Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it--because it does.
I’ve got mail
October 23, 2016
This certificate came in the mail at the end of July. This piece of paper represents a twelve-year journey, which began with the intention of just attending Larry Crabb's School of Spiritual Direction (SSD). I didn't even know what that meant, but knew I wanted to attend one because of the impact it had had nine months earlier on my dear friend's soul. Let's just say...
Dr. Larry Crabb rocked my world, my theology, my heart, my mind, and my soul.
He painted a picture of Trinitarian theology which wooed me to desire God more than I'd ever desired to know or love him previously. And that picture stirred me to want to relate to others as He designed me to relate as His female image-bearer.
This is the description of the SSD on Larry's New Way Ministries website,
This week-long intensive for 30 students in a retreat setting is an opportunity to understand and experience how the Spirit works deep in our souls to spiritually form us: and learn and practice a way of following the Spirit in others to arouse and direct their hunger for God.
This week long intensive turned into three week long intensives over the following two years. These stirred a longing in me to journey with people into the heart of God. Twelve years later, I completed all of my education and now have this certificate. This certificate represents the blood, sweat, tears, toils and triumphs of my personal spiritual formation. It has been marked by my own brokenness which has grown my hunger to love God and others with greater abandon.
The certificate arrived folded up so it had this crease through it. I thought about requesting another one. But then I thought how perfectly it represents my pilgrimage into being broken, so that I can be poured out for the sake of another.
Just wanted to celebrate with others.
October 16, 2016
Last May, I fell very sick, and ended up pretty bedridden for four and a half months. I went to doctor after doctor all summer, and it wasn't till August 1st that I finally got diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Now three months later, I'm back in this pose :) and so happy to be strong enough to finally be up and at 'em again. I'm so thankful for my Healer who loves me enough to use this illness to also heal my soul. And He provided abundantly throughout this healing journey. He gave me an internship on my dad's team at Cru, thanks to my lovely dad. I got to spend a week with my best friend in Canada for his wedding. I've been able to eat my mom's amazing food everyday like I used to before university, and that's a huge bonus, as many others understand. On top of that, I also have the full support of my professors and president at university, excited for my return in the spring. And lastly, speaking of supporters, I've had more people than I could have imagined supporting me so magnificently the entire way, and continue to feel their support as I keep working towards greater health. It's true—God can use anything for His good, especially fibromyalgia.
With love, Madison
Launching our son
August 21, 2016
The first moment it took my breath away was while reading a friend's Facebook post Monday night. She'd just dropped her son at college and posted an article titled "6 Reasons Why Moms Cry When They Leave Their Kids at College." Like a punch in the gut, reality hit me hard. The next morning we would pack up the cars and drive Keegan to Gainesville. While I read the article, I sat in the dining room while Keegan was around the corner in the kitchen pantry packing up his supplements (with his strength training regimen this took some time). I read, or kind of yelled, the words on the page loud enough for him to hear...
"1. My heart is so full of love for you that it aches like a physical pain and it's that almost unbearable fullness that brings tears to my eyes.
2. I will miss the way we were. Things will change between us now We will always be mother and son but I will become an increasingly less important person to you, as it should be.".......
And I choked over words, swallowing the lump in my throat back every fourth word. Wanting to share my mother's heart with him and his impact on me over these 18 years. Keegan bantered with me from the pantry as I barely made it through the article.
And that was just the beginning.
Transitions like this are like that. I never know when the next moment will come that steals my breath. Constantly in the space of unknowing, doing the next thing and then like a blast of cold wind down my lungs....
He'd been finishing his packing Tuesday morning. I'd gone to the gym, rushed home and readied myself for the day. I walked into Keeg's room and bam. Breath sucked right out of me. Involuntarily. And tears spilled forth. His room was almost empty. No more boxes. No more suitcases. No more Keegan. Only the memory of him in the bed and futon and fish tank and clothes which remained. I yelled through the house to him (one of our common playful bantering practices),
"I'm crying again. Your room is empty. I'm going to miss you so much!"
He yelled back,
"Oh that's so sad. It's ok, Mom."
It would be ok. But this moment of ache and hopeful expectancy all interwoven in me didn't feel ok. I knew it was good. And right. And just as it should be. Yet the ache of the closing of the part of our story where he's always under my roof and my care cuts to the core of my soul.
As we were close to walking out the door, my dear friend surprised Keegan with one last good-bye visit. As Sus spoke words of life into my son's soul, exhorting him to cling to his Lord, and pouring her love into him, I was filled and the filling spilt forth. Keegan has wooed the women in my life and brought joy to them. He has delighted in them and they have felt his delight. They have tasted the joy and delight I have marinated in so much of his 18 years.
I was spoiled to ride with Keegan for the two-hour drive to Gainesville. Both of us so excited for this next chapter in his story. Both of us knowing this day would be the final script of the chapters before. We bantered playfully as we've done for so many years, our inside jokes and phrases which no one else would appreciate filled our conversation. And I shared with him a part of my story he had not yet been entrusted to hold. But the day seemed right to offer that to him.
After meeting up with Dennis at Red Robin for ridiculous amounts of bottomless fries and our favorite burger ever, we headed to the Southern Scholarship Foundation house where he will likely reside over the next four years of his undergrad career.
After unpacking, shopping for essentials and setting up his space, we looked at each other. I told him again how he's made his momma proud. I told him how he brings me such deep delight and joy. I told him how glad I was for all our homeschool years together (even though he drove me to the edge of insanity for several years). I told him that I'm crazy about him and adore him and as I told him all of this....
Tears streamed down my face. He rose from his bed and wrapped his arm around me and leaned in, head to head. And I told him that the tears were the fruit of deep love and connectivity. The fruit of hearts intertwined from the good, the bad, the ugly, and the grace of God. The fruit of the delight I find in him. And how I would miss him. He is the source of so much light in our home.
For a long few minutes he and I stood there, me crying in his embrace. It was a moment to taste the fullness of all I'd hoped for in my relationship with my son, and God's grace had granted us that.
After Dennis took his turn embracing Keegan, speaking love into him, and losing it too, it was time for Keegan to join other housemates for a dinner. We stood in his room as he walked down the hall into new relationships and community.
And I decided that dropping the second child at college isn't any easier than dropping the first.