Thursday, April 10, 2014

the lake: poem & song



the waves crest white with foam
not ice
the thaw has settled in

my fingertips test the lake's shallowest place

recoil
though thawed still frigid

breathe in deeply, the wind races by

skyline
cuts across bike path and sand

first time by the water, sun's warmth

her face
she smiles and laughs, eyes full with wonder

we will return, not this week but maybe next

summer
is coming and the waiting won't be long

one last look as we return to the car, not goodbye

good day
we'll see you again soon

____________________


Poem & song inspired by our daughter's first trip to the Lakeshore.

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Speak Lord, Your servant is listening."

I tune things out.  Tim alerted me to this one day a few years ago at my parents' house.  I was having a nice conversation when Tim interrupted, "Do you realize two of your sisters are trying to talk to you and one is crying in the next room?"

Embarrassed I defended myself by saying that if you grow up in a house with 13 people, you'll have to tune some things out if you want to get anything done.  There is a little truth to my defense, but it was indefensible to let my sister cry while I chatted away.

Since having a baby of my own, I've noticed that I still tune out most things, but I'm always ready to hear her voice.

When she is laying down for a nap, I quietly catch up on tasks, listening intently all the while for the first whimper that signals nap time is over.  I check regularly whether I hear a sound or not to make sure I haven't missed her cry.  But when I do hear her, it is unmistakable.  I know her voice so well; the voice of my baby. Five months of intensive one-on-one time has attuned me to her voice, even when we are in a large crowd of people.

My sensitivity to my baby's voice is a sensitivity I long to have to the voice of God.

In our daily devotional, we have been going through 1st Samuel.  At the beginning of the book, Samuel, the child of Hannah's prayers, is called by name in the middle of the night.  He mistakes it for the voice of the old prophet Eli.  Eli, groggy with sleep, tells him to go back to bed.  This happens three times before Eli "realized that the Lord was calling the boy." (1 Sam. 3:8)  Eli then instructs Samuel to go back to bed, "and if He calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.'" (1 Sam. 3:9)

The Lord then speaks to Samuel, telling of the downfall of the house of Eli.  Samuel shares the word of the Lord with Eli, which Eli accepts as the Lord's will.  Samuel continues serving the Lord, and the Scripture says that "the Lord was with Samuel as he grew up and He let none of his words fall to the ground." (1 Sam. 3:19)

Eli is a tragic figure in the book of Samuel. He knew the Lord, but he has raised worthless sons that have been leading the people away from God with their wickedness.  Eli is rarely, if ever, hearing the voice of God anymore. It says earlier in the passage that "in those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions." (1 Sam. 3:1)

I often identify with Samuel in this passage, wanting the simplicity of the words, "Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening," to be the theme of my life, the story of my days, the echoing cry of each minute I breathe.  I want ears that not only hear the voice of God, but listen to it, and obey it.

Though I have long identified with Samuel, I fear becoming like Eli.  I'm afraid that years of disobedience, or half-obedience may deaden my ears to the voice of the Lord, the voice calling my name in the quiet hours of the night.  I'm afraid that I won't be ready to hear His voice, afraid that I will become complacent and miss it.  Like Eli, I might miss the voice of God because I am out of practice and no longer attentive, instead of waiting to hear His voice at all times like I wait to hear my baby's voice.

I am not young Samuel anymore, hearing the voice of God for the first time.  I have heard the voice of God in my life and responded to it.  God has been with me. But mine is not a story of perfect obedience, and there are days that feel like the word of the Lord is rare.  Times that I'm in danger of becoming the house of Eli, instead of the faithful Samuel.

Why don't I always listen?  I'm afraid to listen because I'm afraid of the call to repentance, the voice calling me to smash an idol, to give more, to love more sacrificially, to stop living like my life is about me and my plans, to start losing this life to Jesus instead of scrambling to save it for myself.

What I forget though, is that every time I listen, God reminds of this first: "I love you Abby."  The words that I so desperately need to hear always precede the words I'm afraid to hear.  I am loved by God, and His kindness leads to me to repentance. (Romans 2:4)  I repent because of God's love for me, out of love for Him.

Dallas Willard writes, "Our failure to hear His voice when we want to is due to the fact that we do not in general want to hear it, that we want it only when we think we need it."  I want my desire to hear the voice of God to supersede my fear about what He might say, or what I hope to hear Him say.

The reason I can hear my baby's voice above all others is I practice listening to it.  I strain to hear it. Sometimes I even imagine I have heard it and then check and find she is still sleeping quietly in the bedroom.  I am ready at any given moment to hear her voice and drop whatever else I am doing immediately.  I know her voice from practice and I hear it out of attentiveness.

I don't want to just listen to God when I have an important decision to make and need direction.  I want to hear Him calling me to a better attitude as I wash the dishes, I want to hear Him speak of His love for my neighbors as I walk down our block, I want to hear Him when He calls me to little acts of faithfulness throughout the day.  I want to hear the call to repentance, the call of mercy bringing me back from my sin.  I want to hear the voice that says I love you not because of the things you do, but because I am love, and you are my beloved daughter.  I want to practice attentiveness to the voice of God so I'm ready whenever He calls, not just when I want to hear Him.

Relationships collapse when the lines of communication are broken.  We all want to be heard, but it's much harder to listen.  I'm ready to stop talking at God and start listening.

"A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking.  But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening." -Søren Kierkegaard.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

this child in His hands

Less than a year ago I was crying out to the Lord asking Him to give us a Samuel that we could give back to Him.

A few months later I was crying in the bathroom, holding a positive pregnancy test.

Today, we are a month and half from our due date, and I'm still having a hard time grasping the fact that our daughter is moving around inside me and we will soon, Lord willing, be holding her in our arms.

I've learned so much about how God really is the One holding all things together over this past year, and how little I'm in control.

When we got pregnant, it was so easy to worry.  At the beginning you have little assurance that everything is going okay with your little lentil-sized baby.  You can't hear the heartbeat, you can't feel her kicking, and the doctor has very little to say to you other than "I hope your nausea and vomiting subsides soon."

There is so much fear that you will do something, eat something, or that something else you can't control will happen to you that will cause you to lose this baby you have waited for, this baby that you prayed for.

And I found myself right where I was in November, on my knees, asking God to do what I could not.  This time it was begging Him to sustain the life that He created inside me.

As I gave Him control over our baby's life, I realized that this wasn't something I was just going to do while I was pregnant, but something I'm going to need to do for the rest of our daughter's life, no matter how long or how short it is, for each day that God gives her. He must be the one sustaining her and giving her life.

There are so many things in this world that can cause her harm, and I won't have the power to protect her from them.  Even if I kept her cooped up in the apartment with me for the rest of my life like a Miss Haversham she could still get hurt, still get burned by a broken world.

And the more effort I expend trying to control her life, that will only give her reason to hate me and the unreasonable constraints I try to impose on her for her safety.

God does use parents as a means of provision and protection for the little ones of creation.  But He never intended that we try to become the gods of their lives by controlling them and protecting them from all harm.  We couldn't do it even if we tried.  We are helpless to give them all that they need, but God can and will be the everything for them that we could never be.

It's comforting to me to remember that the deep and overwhelming love I feel for this little one inside me is not even a fraction of the love that God has for her.  He loves her more than I ever can, and that is someone I can trust with taking care of her when I am powerless and weak.

"Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them.  And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to Him, saying, 'Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.'"  Luke 18:15-17

I pray that God would protect me from ever hindering His little one from coming to Him, and I hope that everyday will be a chance for me to bring our baby girl to Him that He might touch her and make her whole.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

spring

my shoulders relax as the sun defrosts my body,
the stress, the cold that made me ache melts away.
my mood lifts as the temperature rises
and I feel that I'm alive again, I'm being renewed.

the sky is bluer, the air is warmer.
I can hear the birds once again, the breeze is fragrant.
the wind doesn't cut through to my bone, down to the marrow.
I welcome the rush round my face and through my hair.

the clouds are golden as the sun sets after dinner.
I don't mourn its departure, for I know tomorrow,
tomorrow it will rise before I do and wake me with its brightness,
and the day will be new, fresh, and light.

once again death is held at bay, the cold is banished.
for a time we will revel in the sun and heat
and remember that no cold will ever stay forever
and death will never win.

Monday, January 28, 2013

on passing, love, and regret.

Great Grandma Smit passed away a few months ago.

It was hard not to feel pangs of guilt, the aftermath after she took her last breath.  Grandma was always quiet.  She said very little and usually just sat watching you play and chatter away with your cousins.

As I heard the stories and the memories about Grandma, I felt not just, "I miss Grandma," but "I missed Grandma."  I missed her while she was here, I missed out on getting to know her.

Even though I didn't see Grandma that much growing up, over the course of my life there were many parties that I could have sat next to her, asked her about her childhood, what it was like having eight children, what she missed most about Grandpa, why she loved Jesus, and so on.

But I didn't.  I was young enough to care more about presents, care more about me.  And the older I got, I didn't always know where to start.  So being with Grandma meant giving her a hug and telling her it was good to see her, but that was all.

Despite the regret, there are memories.  Touches of Grandma that thread through my childhood and my sibling's childhood too.  The receiving blankets that she crocheted borders to, wrapped around all of my brothers and sisters as infants.  The washcloths she made that wiped off sticky hands and counter tops   The handmade caramels that were the most important part of the Smit Family Christmas to my brother Isaac and I.  We would stuff our dress clothes pockets with them and savor them for days.

And one day, when I was small, she knelt down on the floor with me and helped me make a puzzle that was too difficult for me to do on my own.  Grandma was a master when it came to puzzles.  I never would have finished that Little Mermaid puzzle without her help.

As I reflected over the passing of Grandma, I wondered if regret was unavoidable.  Whether we don't spend enough time with our loved ones, don't listen enough, don't say I love you enough, or the last thing we said isn't what we wanted it to be... our lives are tinged with regret.  We just aren't as perfect as we want to be, and that unavoidably affects our relationships, especially with those who are closest to us.

A fallen world means fallen relationships, and we feel the sting most bitterly at the passing of loved ones.  What hope is there, when hurt is unavoidable?

As we sat in Grandma's funeral service, I was struck with the depth of her spirit and her love as I heard stories from the pastor and family members.  When Grandma died she left a legacy of love for Jesus and her family, and that legacy lives on today.  I experience it in my family and my extended family... and it is getting passed onto to the next generation already, to our cousins' children and my brother's newborn son Ezra.

This legacy is bigger than the regret in my own heart.  Through the very act of fellowship with family, through loving them and being present with them, we pass on their legacy of love to the ones they loved so dearly.  And one day, we too shall pass away and be reunited with Christ, our loved ones, and there will be no more tears.  The regret is soothed by being with family and making right what was wrong in the past through neglect or selfishness.

Not all families though have a legacy of Christ, or some parts of your family may be more broken than others.  The amazing thing is that the love, the legacy can start with you.  Anyone of us can choose to be the ones to break cycles of dysfunction and familial pain and be that Grandma or Grandpa.... the one that generations from now your children's children will remember and say, we are where we are because Great Grandma loved Jesus.

Abraham was a man like that.  He responded to the call of God and left a history of paganism to become a spiritual father to thousands of generations who love God.

Let the love of Christ take root in your own heart and share it with those you love.  You can change your family's story by letting the legacy begin with you. 

I am learning through all of this, to work on being present with those I love.  To focus, cut down distractions and cherish the moments because young or old, none of us are guaranteed to live tomorrow, next week, or next year.  I want to share the love of Christ everyday through word and deed.

 I  am thankful for Grandma.  I will remember her love for Jesus and her family.  And I look forward to giving her a hug again one day in heaven.

Monday, November 5, 2012

praying for samuel

 "She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.  And she vowed a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your servant and remember me and not forget Your servant, but will give Your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life."  1 Samuel 1:10-11

Yesterday in church, as I watched families walk in and the worship team sang... my eyes filled with tears.  I stood there crying and prayed silently in my heart.

"Even if You just give us one Lord, I will be satisfied.  Please give us our Samuel and I will give him back to You."

As Sarah sang about the extravagant love of Jesus, I wiped away the tears and prayed again.

"Lord, even if You do not give us any children, I will still praise You.  Blessed be Your name."

Waiting for our Samuel has been an emotional roller-coaster over the past couple years.  There are times when I'm more okay with it then others, times where it stings a little more and times where I am soothed.  Times that I remember the things God has done while we wait, and times that I feel hurt and bitter.  Times that I'm excited still for opportunities we may have while we are still childless and times that I simply wonder why?  Times that I feel like it will happen and times that I feel like it never will.

I haven't often prayed specifically for a baby because I have been afraid to.  It's hard to sort through the emotions that keep me from praying for a child but they seem to fall into two categories.

Sometimes I'm afraid to pray for a baby because I know it may not be God's timing yet and that there are more things for us to do.  I know things will change a lot and maybe I'm not ready.  Maybe there are a few more adventures that are planned for Tim and I without children.  I worry that I will pray for a baby and then will see that God gave me what I wanted but it wasn't what He wanted.

And other times I'm afraid to pray because I'm afraid of the answer being no.  It's almost like if I hold back on that prayer, there's still a chance that we will have a baby.  There's a chance that I haven't tried everything yet, and I want that answer to be yes so I'll wait.

It's all very emotionally convoluted and I realize it doesn't make much sense because it doesn't make sense to me.  I also realize that there are many couples who have waited much longer than we have.  This struggle is widespread and painful for many.   It is difficult because you are reminded of it every month you aren't pregnant.  Some months are better than others, but the disappointment remains.

I often think about the women in the Bible that were barren.  Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth.  Many of them waited many years, some of them until they were very old (Sarah & Elizabeth) to bear a child.

I love how in those stories it isn't punishment that is causing them to be barren, but for God's glory He chooses to wait sometimes.  Sometimes the answer is not yet, and sometimes it is never, but God always works things for good to those that love Him.

I didn't want to post this.  I cried about it in the car yesterday because I felt like it was what I needed to write and I didn't want to share.  I didn't want to let anyone in to my pain, I wanted to lick my wounds alone.  But I know that often it is through the sharing of our suffering that we are healed.

While we drove to my parents house and talked about praying for a baby, "Casimir Pulaski Day" played in the background through our speakers.

As I shoved the tears off my cheeks the last lines repeated in my ears.

"And He takes, and He takes, and He takes."

In my mind I heard the words to "Blessed Be Your Name" as an echo.

"You give and take away, You give and take away.  My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be Your name."

I will pray and wait patiently for our Samuel.  Whether he comes from my womb or the womb of another, I will pray for him.  And I know that barren or fruitful, children or no children, the Lord is good, the Lord is love, and His mercies endure forever.  I will praise Him as long as I have breath.  My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be Your name.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

corner-cutting, a looking-glass, and true love

Friday morning last week I hit the snooze button.  Then I hit it again.  And then maybe once more.  I woke up a little flustered and hurried through my quiet time with God.  Checked my email.  Showered.  Dressed.  Facial routine.  Blow-dried my hair.  Ate breakfast.  And so on.

As I turned over the morning in my mind on the way to work, I got to thinking.  "How come the only thing that gets shortened or cut out of my routine in the morning when I oversleep is God?"

That made me uneasy.  How does blow-drying my hair somehow have greater importance than the One who knows how many hairs are on my head?

Where I cut corners shows where my heart lies.

I'm ashamed to say, my desire on Friday morning was to look presentable and not stink like a greasy animal.  I'm not saying that isn't a worthy goal that we all should strive for in the morning, but maybe there is something more, much more.

What if Jesus (our time with Him and just Him Himself) really was more important than anything?  I want that so badly and yet I have to keep working at it and remind myself to work at it.

When I was in high school my parents sent my brother and I on wilderness backpacking trips with a camp in the North Woods.  Their goal was to toughen us up, I think.  For nine days we didn't have deodorant, soap, or toilet paper.  We didn't have phones or watches, and the counselors only let us see enough map to get where we were going each day.

On the last evening of the trip, my group camped close to the main camp.  We were next to this old, abandoned looking cabin-shack.  It had a dirty glass window and as I passed by it with my handful of sticks for the fire I saw my reflection.  And for the first time in my life (since I was an infant I guess), I didn't recognize myself.  I hadn't seen myself for days and the faces that I really knew well were the faces of my counselors and the other girls in my group.

I think about that whenever I think deeply about the face of Jesus and what it would be like if I truly lost myself in Him.  Wouldn't it be amazing if we were in the Word and prayer so much all we could think of was the face of Jesus?  What if we forgot ourselves in our love for Him?

Love is like that.  When you fall in love with someone you lose your mind.  You stay up later than you should just to spend more time with them or one more minute on the phone.  You spend all your extra money buying them presents or saving up for cool dates.  You think about them every minute of the day... writing their name everywhere and counting down the minutes until you get to be with them again.

And it's awesome.  You wouldn't change it. You are in love.

What if Jesus really consumed us, what if we fell in love with Him?

"May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ."  2 Thessalonians 3:5

God is love.  Deep, strong, passionate, jealous, tender, holy, perfect, forgiving, unending love.  Are we willing to say yes to it?  Are we willing to lose ourselves in His love?

Can we commit to this love even when it is difficult?  When it calls for an early morning, a stressful day, or a lifetime of sacrifice?

I guess you could ask the same question to a young couple as they say their wedding vows.  Do you think this is worth it?  Do you think it's worth the imperfections, trials, and heartaches?  And as they look their loved one in the eye, they say "I do."

I'm saying yes to Jesus and I'm choosing to say yes everyday to His love.