Rest for the weary

I am weary. It is, partly, the usual Monday morning weariness that follows a full weekend. It is also a cumulative weariness resulting from not only a full weekend but a full couple of weeks.

I am weary too from a migraine I’ve had off and on since Thursday, the longest and worst sort of headache I’ve had in quite some time. It is a bad thing to have the pain of a headache wake you in the middle of the night but such has been my experience three times over the last few days. I have meds that work and usually alleviate the pain but they also usually leave me tired and a little woozy. Weary.

In my weary and woozy state, finding proper preparation of a lesson on Jesus as a priest from the order of Melchizedek to be a little beyond me, I paused my Sunday school series on Hebrews and instead revisited a devotion on weariness. As we discussed Jesus’ offer for the heavy laden and the weary and the broken and the overwhelmed to come to Him and find rest, I made the point that we come to Christ by grace and we follow Him by grace. Trying harder in our own strength only fuels our weariness because we are inadequate and insufficient in ourselves. We need Him.

I was thinking of that truth this morning in my weariness. As I said, I had a full and fabulous weekend in the company of a group of godly women. It was my privilege to serve them in a teaching capacity at their retreat and I loved every minute of it.

But today I worry. I fret. I think of all I said that was dumb or stupid or unclear. I’ve come up with a hundred points and illustrations I could have made that would have been way better than whatever it was I said. Did they think me worthy of their investment of time and money? Were they disappointed I really am just a humble Bible teacher and not a suave, skilled orator? I’m driving myself crazy. I’m wearing myself out. No wonder I’m exhausted!

“Good grief, Lisa!” I finally told myself, rather sternly too. “It is not about you!”

Ah, the weariness of self-preoccupation. The fatigue of self-sufficiency. The exhaustion of self-conscious over-analysis. I love the honest truth of Isaiah 40:30, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.” Even those in top physical condition will be weary because human strength will inevitably fail. Newsflash: I am not enough. Looking to myself doesn’t make me feel better, only worse! Nothing saps my energy like self-reliance. I am falling exhausted in all my attempts at self-justification.

My offering before the sweet women at the retreat this weekend is over and done. It is now for me to trust the Lord and to rest in Him, to bring before Him my insecurity and my desperation. As I turn to Him in repentance, I know the sweet rest of grace, the only true rest for the weary, found in Jesus alone.

The Lord God Saves His People

I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago. I post it now, well, for a couple of reasons. Some days it feels as if the world has gone crazy and everywhere I turn the news is either sad or bad. I find the book of Judges to be, strangely enough, a comfort.  Though times were certainly sad and bad–and crazy!–the Lord did not and would not abandon His people. Then and now true hope is only found in the mercy of the Lord.

And I don’t speak only of the global news cycle. For my church, it is our privilege to bear one another’s burdens through difficult and devastating circumstances. The book of Judges reminds us the Lord will be faithful; we trust His continued mercy and grace. 

I am currently teaching the book of Judges in the Bible study I lead on Tuesdays. What a fascinating—and sad—book! A few weeks ago we discussed chapters four and five and the two women featured there: Deborah and Jael.

And who can’t be fascinated by Jael? The evil commander Sisera is fleeing the battle and happens by her tent. She beckons him inside and he, knowing her husband to be a sympathizer, accepts her offer of refuge. She, however, has other loyalties, and drives a tent peg through his forehead, thus killing him while he sleeps. Talk about a strong woman of valor!

We discussed why some might find Jael a troubling savior. She lied, for one, and committed murder in cold blood, for two. What do we make of that? I asserted that we must recall the point of this narrative and of the book of Judges as a whole: that the Lord God saves His people. Thus Deborah’s song can exalt Jael as most blessed among women because she was the instrument of the Lord’s deliverance.

We must also trust the Lord when we encounter these seemingly ethical and moral quandaries, Jael not being the only example. As careful Bible students, we must distinguish between what the Bible is reporting and what it is commanding. Not all passages are meant to be prescriptive.

And finally I made the point that in Sisera’s death we see the awful but certain truth that the Lord will defeat His enemies. His wrath is sure. This a terrible truth taught to us in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is clear: the wages of sin is death and all who reject the Lord and persist in rebelling against Him will suffer His punishment.

But there is good news for those who are in Christ Jesus! He bore the punishment for our sins on the cross and we who repent and believe Him are now free! Not only that but we can trust Him with justice against those who have hurt us. I said yesterday that I didn’t know how those in class with me may have suffered at the hands of another—and I didn’t—but that the Lord is faithful and He will repay.

After class I learned that one of the ladies new to our group had indeed suffered horribly and tragically. Her story is hers to tell and I won’t share the details here; it is enough to know that she has endured a tragic loss. It was a difficult lesson for her, she admitted. “Finally, ultimately, I have to trust the sovereignty of God,” she said. “And I love Him more today, I trust Him more, and I know Him better.”

I left Bible study with a sober and heavy heart, saddened by the evil that seeks to devour. I thought over my lesson with its confident assertions; were they merely pat answers, full of the easy, empty ignorance that knows nothing of true suffering? My friend’s faith humbles me. Her story pierces through our (my) comfortable, unchallenged best life now to remind us (me) that evil is real, belief is hard, questions remain, but the Lord is trustworthy and His grace is sufficient.

My friend’s testimony is that of the book of Judges: the Lord God saves His people. This is not only the truth of Judges, but of the whole Bible and of the gospel message. He will have victory over His enemies, among whom we all once were apart from the grace of God. His mercy is our only hope, our only salvation, our only security, our only lasting joy.

 

Where I am now

Why, hello there. I spent the last twenty minutes or so rummaging around the pages of this blog and changing my avatar and whatnot (can anyone say “PROCRASTINATION”?) and thought what’s the point of updating the minor details and neglecting the major, you know, like a real live blog post since this is in fact a blog.

Or so it was at one time if anyone can remember that long ago.

Yes, I am procrastinating. It was a full weekend coming on the heels of a somewhat busy spring break with another busy week to follow this week. So on the one hand it may well be procrastination; on the other it may be a deep breath, a pause, a chance to collect and compose oneself as one transitions from one set of obligations to another.

Or maybe it is just plain old procrastination now that I think on it.

Since I’m procrastinating,  by way of an update on where we are now, my boys are 22, 20, 18, and 16. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? May will bring us two graduations, my oldest from Auburn and my third from high school. This summer will be a whirlwind of wedding (we are finally getting a daughter this July!) and college registration and packing up kids to send them off to school and to married bliss, not to mention my husband and my twenty fifth wedding anniversary! It’s all good. So good.

I am still teaching Bible study on Tuesdays. I just updated the “Teaching” tab above in case you’re interested in following along. I’m also teaching a ladies’ Sunday school class at my church which has been a dream of mine for so long I sometimes forget it is now reality 😉 I continue to volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center on Wednesdays and remain passionate about serving the poor and desperate in our community not only with material items but with the hope of the gospel.

And, for you longtime readers familiar with my laments, the laundry also continues, always and forever, though slightly less so with fewer children at home. We (me) don’t even like to think about the implications of being a family of three this fall. I am beginning to realize my days of referring to myself as a stay at home mom are numbered.

As far as where I am this very minute, I am teaching a retreat this coming weekend and I am super excited about it. Nervous too and if I’m honest, a little overwhelmed. I cannot tell you how way out of my comfort zone I am when I teach. Really. It is only and wholly the Lord. That I would even want the gift or the privilege is mind blowing to me and shows me that not only does the Lord choose the foolish but He also is sufficient for the weak. Who but God?

Anyway, my topic is having a love for God’s Word, yes and amen. There’s so much I want to say that I can’t hardly begin to say it! Which may or may not result in the aforementioned procrastination…

Speaking of procrastination, I really must hit the books. The sun is shining so I’m thinking I may take my prep outside with a cup of coffee. Ten of years of blogging, and some things never change!

So this is my life in a nutshell: teaching and volunteering and transitioning my mommy role. It’s weird. It’s good. It’s bittersweet. It’s full. I’m learning a lot about myself and what I thought I wanted and who I really am. My testimony continues to be: the Lord is indeed faithful.

 

 

The happy and the sad

Prior to my family and I seeing the movie “Inside Out,” my husband remarked to our guys that their mama–me–might be moved to tears because the film features a young girl moving with her family several states away.

“Me, cry?” I scoffed at the thought. It’s an animated movie, for crying out loud, no pun intended.

Yeah. So. Okay, I cried.

In the movie, eleven-year-old Riley moves from Minnesota to California and it is an emotional upheaval, which is, as you know, the premise of the movie.

In real life, thirteen-year-old me moved from Alabama to Texas and, like Riley, I found the transition difficult.

Also like Riley I experienced the horror and embarrassment of crying at school.

It was in Mr. Whitlow’s eighth grade history class. Mr. Whitlow was giving a test that day and having joined the class mid-year I was not only ignorant of most of the test material but also overwrought and overwhelmed and I cried.

Interestingly the only student in the class to pay me any mind, to even notice my tears much less offer any sort of comfort, was a boy of brashness and bravado, the kind of guy who seemed destined to be a drop out statistic. “Hey, it will be okay,” he told me. “Don’t cry. You’ll be fine.”

I’m ashamed to admit it but we probably never spoke again. You know as well as I do how the middle school social structure works. Though I have long forgotten his name, his kindness to me I will remember.

However ignorant my classmates may have wanted to appear, Mr. Whitlow noticed my tears and called me outside. He too assured me that I would be fine. Is it the test? Do you miss your friends? Are you okay? Yes, yes, and I didn’t know. He told me I didn’t have to take the test after all. He told me to come by and talk to him anytime. I didn’t but I knew I could.

Call me a martyr but I did take the exam and out of sheer grace Mr. Whitlow gave me a twenty-point bonus so I could have a B. Mr. Whitlow, I do not know where you are now but your kindness to me I will also remember.

Transition is hard. Moving away from friends and all that is familiar is heartbreaking and sad. But, as “Inside Out” attempts to portray, sadness gives weight and perspective to joy. The movie character Joy tries to preserve the happy core memories, not realizing that the sad ones are equally as critical. And this is Biblical, is it not? Paul discovers grace through his thorn in the flesh. Not only that but he reminds us that it is the light and momentary struggles that achieve an eternal weight of glory.

We see this most starkly in the death of Jesus. What greater heartbreak than the cross? But what greater joy than the Resurrection three days later? Sadness may endure for a night, the Psalmist writes, but joy comes in the morning. This is the tension of life as we know it: sadness and joy, heartbreak and hope, struggle and glory.

Though thirteen-year old me surely doubted, I did survive. Forty-seven year old me can see the Lord’s hand at work then and since, weaving a story, yes, a story of both loss and gain, but ultimately a story of grace and redemption. The sad times become as precious to me as the happy because there I see and know the provision and providence of my good and gracious God.

A lament

I live in the United States of America. Not only that but I live in the city limits. Houses a mere 100 yards or so from ours have unlimited access to the Internet. We, however, do not. This may be the ultimate in first world problems about which to lament over but I have to tell you the lament, warranted or not, is real.

We do have Internet but it is linked to data usage of which we have only a certain allotment each month. Certainly not enough to stream anything. Between the four of us we blow through our data well before the month is over, leaving us with Internet access, thank goodness, but at dial up speed. Yeah. For real.

So no Netflix for us. No streaming podcasts. These privileges eat up copious amounts of data very quickly. We have learned to disconnect Wi-Fi before closing out all devices. We update our apps at church. Any blog posts I write, I write first in Word and then connect to the Internet to copy and paste into WordPress and publish as quickly as possible. We cram as much Internet usage as we can into the bonus data time period before 8am. We love Chick-Fil-A and other places of business that offer free Wi-Fi.

We hate it.

As I said, I know quite well that this is a first world problem but can I just say how difficult it is to have had unlimited Wi-Fi only to not? It’s been a year, a long year. We had hopes that with the new year would come trucks and equipment and cable and a team of workers ready and able to make all our Internet woes disappear. Not so fast, my friend. Today my husband forwarded an email to me from his contact at the cable provider. Quite succinctly he stated he hadn’t seen our neighborhood on the list for 2016.

I know it’s dumb but I wanted to cry.

Is the Internet such an idol? Maybe so. I will say I’ve realized a few things about myself over the past year of learning to live without unlimited access. For one thing, I see how often I am bored and how tempting it is to distract myself with Pinterest or Twitter or the like. In other words, the Internet can be a great time waster. Hello, no big news flash, but I have been surprised by just how true it is in my life.

I’d like to tell you I am free of the big, bad evil trap that is the Internet, that I’ve embraced my inner Luddite, that I have no need of such trivialities such as the Internet provides, that I now read more and write more and do crafts and exercise and pursue all sorts of other non-web-based noble ventures, but none of that would be true. Every day—and this despite that nefarious email my husband received—I will still be on the lookout for the cable truck and I will hope that someday soon, maybe today even, I can once again watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

Soon, maybe? Hope, it springs eternal.

A prayer for the New Year

Thy goodness has been with me during another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead…

See the rest of the post at Out of the Ordinary.

Happy New Year, friends!

P.S. I also wrote a Christmas reflection for Out of the Ordinary a couple of weeks ago. If you’re still in the Christmas spirit, you can check it out here.

New Year’s 2016

Y’all. Tomorrow, it will be 2016. Can you believe it? Not too long ago, I was rummaging through some past posts here at the blog and I ran across a post from New Year’s 2010 in which I expressed my very great surprise at that particular turn of events. And here it is suddenly six years later. How do these things happen?

I love New Year’s. I think maybe it’s my favorite holiday and not for the reasons you might expect. We don’t get all dressed up and go to fancy parties. In fact we don’t really party at all. I don’t do resolutions and the attempt to reinvent and reorganize and remake myself isn’t what I find appealing.

No, I love New Year’s because it’s a holiday free of expectations and obligations. I have nowhere I have to be, nothing I have to cook or buy, no plans I need to make. It is usually a day spent with the family sprawled out on the sofa watching a lot of football. Just the way I like it.

I love New Year’s because it comes at the end of the deep exhale that is the week after Christmas. After the frantic pace of hurrying and scurrying through Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year’s comes as a pause, a sweet respite, a chance to finally be still and to rest.

And when I said I don’t do resolutions, I didn’t mean I don’t take the opportunity these slower days afford to reevaluate the old and to ponder the new. The transition from December 31 to January 1 is, really, a day like any other. There is nothing inherently magical about one day over the other. But I cannot escape the weighty reminder of the old being past, the new having come, forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.

2015 was a good year for us. So many big, wonderful life changes. A new home. A new church building. An engagement and the promise of a wedding this coming summer. So many blessings, both large and small, too numerous to count, all gifts purely of grace from the hand of a good God. And had none of these things been ours, He would still be the good God who gives good gifts. As I reflect on the old, I am grateful.

2015 has its regrets too. Much to confess and to grieve and to repent. As I turn the page to 2016 tomorrow I will know that I cannot resolve myself better. My only hope is Christ and His righteousness that is mine because of His life and death. I am nothing without His grace.

So I love New Year’s. I love the reflection it prompts and I love its slow and easy celebration. Though I will be missing my husband and two sons who are on the other side of the world sharing the hope of the gospel, tomorrow, New Year’s 2016, as crazy as that is, will be a good day. Not only that, but I have great hope that 2016 will be a good year. I pray that you and I both will see the Lord’s faithfulness in ways yet unimagined and that we will grow in the grace and knowledge of Him who loves us so. Yes and amen.

More thoughts on blogging in the middle years

Well. It seems I struck a chord with my post on blogging in the middle years and while I haven’t been able to keep up with all the conversations it spawned, I am grateful I do not lament alone.

Here are some of the follow up posts I do know about and if I have overlooked any, please let me know and I will be sure to include them here.

Aimee Byrd, Where are the Mature Women Writers? and Platform, Blogs, and Why We Write

Persis, What are the Expectations of Women’s Ministry?

Deb Welch, The Blogging Chronicles, My Take On Where the Mature Bloggers Went

I am thankful for the wise input of these women and the others of you who commented on Facebook and Twitter and here at the blog. You’ve all given me much to think about and, as I said, I am grateful that I am not alone in asking these questions.

Speaking of comments, my sweet friend Jessalyn posted my favorite. Actually my two favorite. You’ll have to click over to the post and read them to see why. 🙂

As I continue to think on the void of mature women’s voices in blogs and books and social media, I agree with what most of us have concluded: it’s complicated. There are, I think, certain mitigating factors of this stage of life that contribute to our reticence…

Our circumstances. As I attempted to highlight in my post, a lot of us are finding ourselves in situations and struggles for which we are totally unprepared and inadequate. Life is just hard, whether we are dealing with aging parents or rebellious teenagers. Along with these new challenges comes new uncertainty of what is appropriate to share in terms of the privacy both of our situation and those we love. And we are busy. We’ve transitioned out of the mommy years and our time is less our own. Many of us have returned to work full time and no longer have the freedom to write and comment.

The medium. Those of us who began blogging ten years ago or more fondly recall when blogs were places of conversation and community. As Twitter and Facebook have taken over the community aspect, blogs have become less dialogue and more monologue. Blogging itself has become more professionalized both in terms of monetization and publication and thus increasingly intimidating and isolating.

The industry. Some of you mentioned other possible reasons; for instance, how the publishing market seems to be geared toward younger women. Youth does sell, that is true. Maybe I’m naïve but I’m not certain publishers are actively discriminating against the older woman in favor of the younger. I just think there are a greater number of younger women writing.

“Women’s ministry.” I do agree that another possible factor may be how women’s ministry has been modeled in the local church over the past couple of decades, particularly in churches that hold to a complementarian position in terms of women’s roles in the church. As I’ve observed before, in a small complementarian church often the only places open for a woman to serve is in the nursery and children’s ministry. It’s not discrimination against the woman teacher; it’s the need and size of the church defining her opportunities. In that scenario it is difficult for a woman’s active pursuit of theological training to be modeled. Not impossible, but difficult. Added to this is the prevalence of video based studies forming the sum of theological dialogue among women. I’ve talked to many women who think they have nothing to offer the conversation because they don’t fit the mold of the dynamic, skilled orator.

Pushback against the egalitarian position has also resulted in a lack of investment in a strong theological foundation for women which in turn leads to less women writing and talking of theological matters. I once read an article, years ago, that advocated all Biblical instruction for women be taught through Titus 2. As if that were the only passage of Scripture relevant and necessary for the woman of God!

As I said, it’s complicated. We could offer up reason after reason and personal story after personal story—and I would seriously love to hear your story if you’d share it!—but my hope is not that we would merely have forum to complain and commiserate but that as we reason through our silence, we would find our voice. How I hope more women will be thinking and talking–and yes, writing–about theology and real life! Young or old, I pray that we will all use whatever sphere of influence the Lord grants us to joyfully assert the hope we have in Christ.

So many of use are eager for more mature voices! I love that. Maybe more of us will blog; maybe some of us will write a book; maybe there will be more honest, deep conversations between friends and across generations. You have a voice. You have a story. Go. Tell. Speak. We want to hear from you!

The Lord who fights

I don’t know what your battle is. I don’t know where the enemy is coming against you. I do know this: the Lord’s words of comfort to Joshua are for you too. You need not fear. If you belong to Jesus, the Lord Himself fights for you. And your enemy? His doom is sure and his time is short.

Read the rest of my post at Out of the Ordinary here.

Writing from the middle years. Or, not.

The summer before this last, I attended The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Orlando. It was reported then that half the conference attendees were under the age of 40. In my own group of real life friends who made the trip together, of the four of us I was the only one above that age marker. Not only that but of the authors and bloggers I had the privilege to meet in real life there at the conference, all appeared to me younger than their profile pics might indicate. In fact I finally admitted as much to my friend and fellow blogger Staci, exclaiming “Everyone is so young! They all look so much younger than they do online! Wait, it’s the same for me too, right!??!?”

She said so but then again she is my friend and she loves me and thus she may be somewhat prejudiced or at the very least unwilling to hurt my vanity.

My vanity and youthful (or, not) appearance aside, I’ve observed that much that is currently being written to and for and by women seems to be written by the younger generation, those under that 40 year marker. My experience at the conference bore that out as I sought to get a book signed as a gift. “She’s adorable, isn’t she?” my friends and I remarked as the author walked away. And she is. And young. Young and adorable she may be but she is also serious about her craft and using it for kingdom work.

I am excited. I love that there is a generation of young women the Lord is using to reach the world with their words. I applaud their efforts, I seek their wisdom, I buy their books. I have such respect for these young thinkers and theologians, young women earnest about their faith, hungry for the Word, passionate about reaching the world for Christ.

My desire is for women to know and love the Word of God, that knowledge and affection fueling a knowledge and affection for the Lord God Himself. I see that in these young women, in their words, in their blogs, in their determination to spend a weekend in Florida to attend a conference about the gospel.

That being said, I feel keenly the void of the older voices among them. Where are those of us writing from the middle and late years or from grandmotherhood? Be it books, blogs, or tweets, it seems to me we are underrepresented in the world of words and ideas.

Awhile back blogger Tim Challies observed there are more and more women neglecting and even abandoning their blogs (present company included, ahem). I think of his comment often and I wonder if the real question may be where are the older, more “mature” women bloggers?

Tim published a follow up post in which three women offered their explanations for the falling number of women bloggers. Interestingly, all were of the younger set.

I have one friend who recently had her mother to move in with her and her husband and daughter. She purchased a hospital bed as well as renovated a bathroom in order to be able to care for her mom. I have another friend enduring the heartache of a rebellious son, another who hasn’t spoken to her daughter in months. One friend suffers ongoing health problems, nothing life threatening, but the kind of difficulty that is both annoying and debilitating in its own way. Another friend is looking for a job for the first time in many years in order to help with college expenses for her child. Just last week I met a woman whose family has sold everything they own to pay for their son’s drug rehabilitation program.

I offer their examples to say this: a lot of us aren’t writing not because we don’t have anything to say but because we can’t say what we have to say. Not on a public forum. It’s one thing for a mommy blogger to write a post about a two year old’s tantrum at the grocery store; it’s another thing entirely when it’s the rebellion of your twenty something year old, not to mention the heartache and confusion therein.

So to my young writer friends: please, keep writing! Use your words and your platform for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, yes and amen. As you do so, do not forget the wisdom or experience of the older woman in your life. Maybe she isn’t on Twitter but she may be in your church or your Bible study. Seek her out and be her friend. She needs you and you need her.

To my sisters in the middle and late stages of life: let’s support our younger sisters! And as the Lord may grant us freedom and grace, yes and words, let’s use our voices to fill this void with encouragement and edification. We are not alone in this journey, no matter how heavy our burden or unique our circumstance. Whether our conversation happens online or in real life, we can speak up and speak out in friendship and fellowship.