Darkness

The southern Minnesota leaves have all but turned. Their red, orange, and yellow glory now lies on the ground, blown by brisk winds to crunch under the feet of hearty northerners. The children rake and rake, piling leaves high, hoping for a mountain tall enough to fall into without touching the bottom of the pile. They jump from the maple tree with shouts of victory.

Their laughter brings a smile to my face, but my heart feels a bit like the leaves on the ground: dry and disconnected from their life source. For weeks I have struggled, feeling “down.” Part of it is due to seasonal affect disorder; dark mornings, gray skies, rain, and lack of sunlight. Part of it is due to grief, missing Matt, and part is due to physical pain from dealing with sciatic nerve issues in my right leg and foot for almost two months.

Pain wears you out. Darkness hems you in. And grief swallows you.

How does one find their way out when the way is dark, when light fails to shine? This is the question I have asked myself day after day. Sometimes you end up in dark places without even knowing how you got there. I wondered how I had gotten to this deserted place.

Then, after a few weeks, I finally realized it didn’t matter how I had gotten here. What mattered was answering the question, “How do I get out of this place?” Truth be told, part of “it” (feeling down) is also this: I had stopped giving thanks. Like Peter, I saw only the storm swirling around me. (Matthew 14) My eyes locked on the overwhelming circumstances around me. I began to see that which was without rather than seeing who was within. 

Oftentimes, our circumstances don’t change. What do we do then? My grief is lifelong. I will miss my son and cry for him the rest of my life. Yet this remains: love. Love is forever. Some day there will be an end to grief because there will be an end to death.

Revelation 21: 4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

When circumstances don’t change, we are to remember the truth. The truth is that God loves us with an everlasting love. When we are in darkness, He is beside us.

Psalm 139:7-12

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

When we are hemmed in with no way of escape, do we curse the darkness or cling to Him in whom there is no darkness? Friend, do you blame God for your troubles or do you give Him glory, knowing that He can and will bring good out of them?

The October leaves fall from the trees, leaving them barren. The trees, like our circumstances, may appear stark and lifeless. But their life isn’t in what we see above the ground. Their life draws from the deep, from the roots. It is in the dark places that life grows. When we find ourselves deep in the dark, the way out is up. Up to the Light.

When you are buried beneath your circumstances, Friend, remember this: the very decaying soil of your hardships is the very same soil in which you will bear bountiful fruit, fruit that is cultivated only through thanksgiving and trust.

TRUST IN YOU by Lauren Daigle

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!

I may feel disconnected of late, but I will trust in Him. I thank Him that even in the darkness, He is near. I praise Him that He purposes good from everything. Amid the changing seasons, He remains the same. When things look barren and the season of my life looks anything but delightful, I know and trust in this: I am rooted in Him. He is my source of life and, therefore, I will rejoice in His unfailing love. I will trust in Him.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Finding my way back to worship

Before our son died, I participated wholeheartedly in worship. It was heartfelt, genuine, and an outward expression of my love and adoration for God. After Matt died, I had no words, no voice to express worship. It wasn’t that I no longer worshiped God. I did, but the act of singing and participating in worship was buried deep under layers of grief.

I’ve often said that before the loss of our son, my faith, though genuine, was passive. And after our loss, my faith kicked into high gear, active, alive, and clearer than before. Yet I could not sing with my mouth. The words to worship songs echoed in my heart, but my lips remained immobile.

I didn’t know if I would ever sing again. 

This past year has been a slow re-awakening to worship. Little by little, I began to sing again. Perhaps just a line or two of a chorus, but words exhaled. The rehabilitation to worship with my mouth has been a long and hard road.

See, I don’t sing songs for the sake of singing. Trust me, I’m not a singer. I wasn’t blessed with natural talent in the singing department. Even with all my babies I only reluctantly hummed to them! Music, for me, goes beyond voice. It is powerful. The lyrics speak truth. They often speak the words I cannot.

Music is a gift. It can inspire and move us in spirit. It can give a voice to those who have no voice. It can pierce darkness and comfort the shattered soul. It can plumb the depths of grief and joy. Music can communicate and connect.

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music. -Billy Joel

The song below was (and is) one of great comfort for me when I cannot find words to express what my heart longs to speak. I am incredibly thankful for those, like Matt Maher, who give words to my worship when I have no strength.

The faith of your friends

I read Joni Eareckson Tada’s book “A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty” over a year ago. It was an excellent read, and I often refer back to many of the pages I highlighted.

One of the sections I marked is the passage about the paralytic man whose friends bring him to Jesus.

Luke 5:18-20

And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

The passage struck me because Joni pointed out the fact that it wasn’t the paralytic’s faith that healed him. It was the faith of his friends that healed him. When Jesus saw their faith, He healed the paralytic.

Friends, may I be honest? I need your faith.

I’ve been struggling with a flare-up of my herniated disk for over a month now. I have done two rounds of Prednisone and been faithful in doing my PT exercises daily, but haven’t seen much improvement. I have asked God for healing, but truthfully?

I’m not sure I have the faith to believe in healing.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe God heals. I believe He still does miracles. I know God can do miracles. I know He can heal. I’m just not sure He will. I’m just not so sure He’ll do one for me.

See, the reality is that we don’t always get our prayers for healing answered. Many times the answer is no. It’s hard for me because I prayed for my child’s safety, especially as he drove, but he died. In a car accident.

So miracles and healing? Yeah, I’m a little shaky on those.

In fact, I’m feeling a bit hopeless right now.

Friends, will you pray for me, please? Not even necessarily for miraculous healing in my back, but for my faith and trust in the LORD to be strong, that I would not waiver, that I would be steadfast. I am tired of back pain (and it’s really not even back pain, but the sciatic nerve issues in my right leg and foot that are most distressing). My faith, like the paralytic, lies helpless at the moment.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Yawning into Thursday

How funny that several of my kids remarked how fast the week has flown by for them. Yay for them! As for me, I was thinking, “It’s only Thursday?!” However, I have to say that though the week has been overflowing with appointments, we’ve managed to get school done by 1pm each day. That alone is reason enough to celebrate. Not to mention, for the most part, my “students” had have good attitudes. That alone is half the battle.

This Thursday morning I am tired, but thankful. Three of the kids are currently sitting at the dining room table coloring. Conversation sounds like this: “I’m going to put warts on her face to make her uglier.” “I’m going to color her teeth yellow.” “Eeeehehee, eeeheehhe.” (Cackling witch sound)

coloring-contest

I call this art class. They call it fun and a break. (Two of them call it competition.) Whatever. It’s the quietest my dining room has been in a while. Perhaps I should find some more coloring contests in the area.

Blessings,

Angie signature

The 30-year prayer I stopped praying

For thirty years I have prayed a private prayer for a precious individual in my life. Year after year my prayer remained unanswered. My prayer grew old, and the subject of my prayer grew older, as well.

Still, no answer from God.

Nonetheless, I kept praying.

In time, I learned that God’s answers are not always a black and white yes or no.

Oftentimes, they are a gray yes, now wait.

Do you wonder, friend, what I mean by that? Think David, sheep-herder turned king. Think Elizabeth and Zechariah, barren and elderly turned proud new parents. Think Hannah, childless and weeping turned joyful mother. Think Israelites begging deliverance turned released-captives carrying plunder. Think Joseph imprisoned turned second-in-command of Egypt.

Do you know why I love these stories? Not because they are full of drama and heartache. No, I love them because they show me how to respond when prayers are gray. They comfort me in knowing that I am not the only one who has ushered an umpteenth-year old prayer. David, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and others paint a picture of a God who seemingly appeared deaf, but in fact heard the very soul-cry of the one who whispered their plea.

These stories remind me that God is sovereign. They remind me no prayer is too old to keep on praying. No prayer of ours can wear out God – not even a 30 year old one. They reveal a God who is perfect in all His ways. They inspired me to keep praying my prayer for this loved one. They exhorted and encouraged me to remember God’s character: He is love. He is good.

Friends, like many in the Bible I prayed repeatedly with no answer.

And, like many, I kept asking. I kept praying. 

Then, two weeks ago, God answered my prayer.

Are you ready? Allow me to share my 30 year old prayer:

“Father, I pray you would provide a godly husband for my mom.”

My mom is single. My dad died when I was twelve years old. My mom has never dated. She is 71.

And she’s getting married! 

Yeah. Amazing, isn’t it? For 30 years I have prayed the same prayer. Just two months ago, I had prayed that very same prayer yet again.

Do you have an “old” prayer, friend? Keep praying. I don’t know what God’s answer to your prayer will be, but I know this: He is closer than you think. He hears you. He loves you.

I have a new prayer to pray: Father, thank you for your goodness. Thank you for the blessings of new relationships. Thank you for marriage, and especially bless my mom’s upcoming marriage!

Blessings,

Angie signature