On the drive to church this morning, I was praying for my children and for the children of several friends of mine. My greatest desire for these young people is for God to capture their hearts.
For my children to be made spiritually alive...only God can do that. My children can't do that for themselves. I can't do it for them. God, only God, gives life. And so I pray to God, day after day, week after week, pleading with him to do just that.
But sometimes, I grow discouraged. Like the weary prophet, I find myself praying, "Oh, Lord, how long?!" This morning, my heart felt so heavy.
* * * Sunday school this morning, our lesson topic: GRACE. Salvation is a gift from God. He plans, purposes, initiates, and accomplishes my salvation. It is God's work, from beginning to end, and not my own (nor my kids').
And then worship...
Our Call to Worship this Sunday morning: "For I will pour out water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your offspring; and my blessing on your descendants." - Isaiah 44:3
And then our Responsive Reading, which included this passage: "And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit..." - from the prophet Joel
* * *
It's like God knows the cares of my heart, and He speaks directly to them. Oh, how tender and compassionate God's love toward this frail woman!
God is faithful, and He is so very good.
In the face of this kind of love, I am undone. Care gives way to worship and praise.
According to my email junk box, the most pressing concerns occupying the thoughts of internet users today are:
how to hook up with hot, easy women
how to win the next mega lottery (so I can pay to get my 20-something body, libido and stamina back and then set up a meeting with an international date at some exotic location)
In fact, these are such BIG concerns that I receive several messages EVERY SINGLE DAY in my email junk box.
(URGENT! Toe Nail Fungus Cure Discovered!Seriously, people? Toe nail fungus...urgent?! A ruptured artery, now THAT'S urgent. Toe nail fungus, I don't think so.)
My email junk box is a sad commentary on the state of the American male psyche. And I write "male psyche" because these emails are clearly targeted at men.
But that's not my point.
My point is: how does this junk mail get targeted to MY email account? And WHY?
I am female, and lack the necessary hardware to suffer from ED. I have a thick head of hair. Objectification of women makes me want to puke. My toenails are healthy. I don't play the lottery.
I have never, ever, ever done any kind of internet search on any of these topics. I have never even opened one of said emails, although I'd sure love to send a reply that blew up the original sender's mainframe.
We live in weird times, people. Weird times.
* * * Now that I'm thinking about it, you guys out there, are your email junk boxes inundated with URGENT! messages about pressing concerns like how to get your children to put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket instead of on the floor, how to help the guys in your family actually hit the toilet when they pee (or clean up after themselves when they don't), and home remedies for hot flashes and memory loss? Just curious. It occurred to me: maybe I'm on the wrong mailing lists.
Something I have learned in my brief time at the lab: our blood is an inescapable, irrefutable, living testimony to our brokenness.
We are all sinners living in a sinful world. Anyone who would assert otherwise has not worked with blood or is terribly self-deceived.
Partied too hard last weekend? It's in the blood.
Been sleeping around? It's in the blood.
Overindulging in food? It's in the blood.
Not eating enough? It's in the blood.
Harboring bitterness? It's in the blood.
Chronically fearful and anxious? It's in the blood.
Sometimes, the brokenness of our parents and grandparents even shows up in our blood, passed down like a family heirloom. How it grieves me to realize that my own brokenness has most likely been passed on to the people I love most!
Our blood is with us our whole lives -from before we are born until we die - testifying against us, even as it sustains life. Even if our lives look pretty and like we have everything together, even if we look morally and socially competent, even if we truly believe we are "enough" - our blood screams that we are fallen, guilty, broken, lacking.
Our blood, so essential and so dear to us, testifies against us. Like Lady Macbeth, wringing our hands, we cry: "Out, damn'd spot!" But to no avail.
* * *
All those bloody passages in the Old Testament...the human carnage, the animal sacrifices, the sprinkling and pouring of blood ALL OVER EVERYTHING...these passages have long been difficult for me.
And the cross...SO MUCH BLOOD.
Grieved by the bloodshed, I have wondered, "Why, God? Why so much blood?! Couldn't there have been a less traumatic way to save your people?"
But since I began working in the lab, I see blood - and all the bloody Scripture - in a completely different light.
Since the Fall, the blood of every single person has testified: Guilty!
Every single person but one.
One man lived and walked on this earth with perfectly clean, healthy, righteous, holy blood. ONE man.
That one man, knowing that one day I would stand before a holy, righteous, perfect God, to whom I must give an account...that one man understood that no matter how good I looked on the outside, no matter how good I talked game, no matter what glowing testimony others gave in my defense, my blood would give irrefutable evidence of my unholiness, and I would be condemned.
That one man poured out his perfect blood, opened his veins and said to me, "I will take your blood. Here, you take mine."
And that blood - his blood - testifies on my behalf, now and forever:
Redeemed. Righteous. Beloved.
Why so much blood? Because sin is in our blood, and only sinless blood can save us.
I get that now, with every needle stick and every tube I draw. I get that now in a way I never did before.
* * *
"...you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ..." 1 Peter 1:18-19
My kids are all grown up. They are kind, wonderful, beautiful people. They really are the coolest, most interesting people I know.
But I don't get to spend as much time with my kids as I once did. We no longer share living space 24/7. More and more, I am just Camille...no kids in tow.
Things I am learning, things I am un-learning in this strange new season of life:
I do not have to eat garbage. Used to, I'd make a meal off half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches, half-eaten containers of yogurt, the most burned grilled cheese (because, to tell the truth, I burned them all!), and the leftovers from last week that, obviously, no one else wanted to eat.
Where did I get the idea that "Mom" = "garbage disposal"? Probably sprouted from some distortion of the importance of not wasting food (because food costs money). Reduce-Reuse-Recycle is a great strategy for reducing household waste, but it does not mean Mom has to eat what would otherwise go into the trash can.
It is okay for me to eat things I enjoy; it's okay for other people at my table to eat these things, too, even if these foods are not their personal favorites. It is reasonable, as a wife and mother, to want to cook food my family enjoys. But over the years, I let "Umm, it's okay, I guess, but it's not my favorite" become a death-sentence for some of my favorite recipes.
How long has it been since I made linguine with clam sauce? Picadillo with cornbread? Fried chicken livers? (Yes, I am a fan of fried chicken livers.)
I am learning that it is okay to prepare foods I personallyenjoy, even if others do not, and it is reasonable to expect others at the table to receive these foods graciously.
How clean my house is...is only as big a deal to me as I make it. I really do prefer a clean, tidy space to live in. But sometimes, other things in life are more important to me than housework, and those things get time priority. When the floors get so nasty that I hate to walk on them, then I will knock something off the calendar so I can sweep and mop.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: if the clutter and dirt don't bother me, they are not a problem; if they do, I can do something about it. I don't "keep house" for other people. This is my home, not theirs. Visitors are always welcome, but they are visitors...not home inspectors. Welcome to the mess!
How clean my house is...is actually not that big of a deal to other people. And if it is, they are more than welcome to pick up a dust cloth or broom and get to work. Won't hurt my feelings at all!
I am under no obligation to conform to the fantastic expectations other people have of me. Wife, homeschool mom, homemaker, writer...people conjure up cozy, romantic, completely out-of-touch-with-reality ideas of what my life looks like, then I get this crazy notion that it would be wrong for me to disappoint them.
Yes, I love home-baked bread and vegetables fresh from the garden; but I also love Cheetos and Diet Coke. I love Austen, Tolkien, and Rowling...and The Princess Bride, Napoleon Dynamite, and Nacho Libre. I lament the immodesty of our culture; I wear jeggings and yoga pants. I am transported by hymns and praise songs; I dance to Bruno Mars and Meghan Trainor.
I am learning to be comfortable with the idea that people can like me for who I really am, or they can not like me. At any rate, I am no longer preoccupied with people liking me for someone I am not.
I do not have to conform to my own unrealistic expectations, either. Somewhere over the years, I got the crazy notion that, if I wanted to be a good wife and mother, I should not get angry, feel pain deeply, express strong opinions or preferences, pursue personal goals, care for my own emotional needs, etc. I thought these things were expressions of selfishness. Instead, I should always be strong, be patient, sacrifice, hold it all together, persevere, be grateful, be content...even if I really wasn't.
The very worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves...and then believe.
In this new season, instead of thinking in terms of "should" and "ought" and crazy ideals, I am more prone to think: "Where am/who am I right now? How do I want to grow?"
I do not shop for clothes for myself. Shopping involves two things I dislike: spending money (always a no-no) - and - trying on clothes and looking at myself in a mirror. I HATE clothes shopping. Instead of shopping, I wear clothes that come out of black bags, clothes passed on by an older lady at church or by a friend of a friend of a neighbor.
Let me say right here: I am so grateful for black bags! Without them, I'd have gone naked the past couple of decades, and trust me, NOBODY would have wanted that.
With the recent onset of cooler weather, I realized I needed some warmer clothes. Normally at this point, I would have started hoping for a black bag to show up on my front porch. But instead, I asked the youngest, who possesses ninja shopping skills, to meet me after school to go shopping. For me.
And I bought clothes.
That I picked out.
And I like them.
Shopping wasn't painful at all, not even writing the check.
It's been a long day. For me: work, grocery shopping, laundry, dinner. For my youngest: school, work, and now homework.
I love a quiet evening at home, just me and this chicken. Upstairs in the office (aka "the boys' room"), she is working on a speech for Friday's Public Speaking class, while I catch up on emails, book-keeping, and writing assignments. She's drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows (more marshmallows than chocolate, BTW - nom, nom, nom); for me, wine.
As we sit across the table from each other in the glow of our respective laptops, work is interrupted frequently by short bursts of conversation and laughter.
"What do you think about...?"
"Hey, listen to this..."
This moment is precious not because it is extraordinary, but because it is ordinary...and it will soon be gone.
Because He's still here and still listening...
(and because I haven't had time or brain energy to do much writing lately!) UNDONE
(originally posted June 3, 2015)
Two thirty a.m. and I'm lying awake (something related to menopause, I think), looking out the window at the night sky and the fireflies blinking on and off in the hay field. The house is quiet and the bed is oh-so-comfortable. This is one of my very favorite times to pray...
I am grateful that God is awake and listening at 2:30 in the morning. I am touched that He makes a quiet, dark, beautiful place to meet with me. I am astounded that the same God who holds the enormous, flaming, far-away stars in the night sky condescends to slip into a messy bedroom in a rural farmhouse for an hour of intimate conversation.
I pray for my kids, and my grandkids. For my church and my church family (King and Virginia, you are my special people today!) and for folks on the other side of the sea. For things heavy on my heart and my mind. Eventually, I drift off to sleep again, encouraged and strengthened with the confidence that God is near, and that He is sovereign and good and He loves me very much.
A few hours later, I am sitting down at the kitchen counter with my first cup of coffee. No one else is up and stirring about yet, and the house is still and quiet. Let's see, where was I...flip, flip, flip...2 Chronicles. NOT my favorite book of the Bible, and yet, reading through a tedious list of names I can't begin to pronounce, I am once again reminded of God's faithfulness to his faithless children. Reminded of God's big, scary, dangerous, life-altering, never-tiring, ever-pursuing love. And I pray for my kids, and my grandkids...
Much later in the day, I am driving to town for a meeting, alone in a funky-smelling green mini-van that badly needs to be vacuumed, soaking up the warm sunshine that beams through the windshield. My thoughts turn to a young man - someone dear to me - who seemingly has no desire to know God, no interest in Jesus's great love for broken, sinful people like us, and I am saddened. "Father..." I need someone to talk to, someone to share this burden.
And then it occurs to me...
Lying in bed at two-dark-thirty in the morning, at the kitchen counter with a steaming cup of coffee, and now, driving down the four-lane toward Union City, this has all been one long on-going conversation. Interrupted by sleep and exercise class and cooking breakfast for the gang at home...interrupted, but never broken.
"God, you are still here! You are still listening!" We were picking up right where we had left off, before the pause to review Helen's math lesson and the conversation with Tom about what he is working on on the Ranchero, and my rush to get out the door on time.
Nobody on Earth meets me like that. Nobody on Earth listens like that. Nobody on Earth loves me like that.
Wish You Were Here: Letters From the Foot of the Cross
It is difficult to imagine that someone with an ideal family, a Ninja body, and a six-digit income can relate to my messy life in the middle of a hay field: my pants are too tight, my marriage is stressed, and my closets are a disaster.
But the truth is, life is messy...whether you look like you have your act together or not. If you are struggling in the trenches of life with muck up to your eyeballs, then you and I have something in common. Welcome!
This collection of "letters" explores the practical implications of the gospel for the nitty-gritty business of everyday life. Join me on a journey to discover strength for the day, encouragement to persevere, and flashes of joy to brighten the way.