dust and ashes made good (lent/easter 2014)

[A regular round of links seems a little out of place for Good Friday, but I’ll have plenty of those for you next week!]

We’re living in a state of liturgical disorder. Sometimes we joke that our whole marriage feels like a long season of Advent, always waiting for something without really arriving. Our new church doesn’t seem to acknowledge the church year (which is hard for me, but not a deal-breaker) and with everything else going on, the season of Lent has been almost a non-issue. We’re feeling pretty stretched and deprived already, saying “no” to desires and wants all the time — which probably tells you that we’re more spoiled than spiritual. I also feel like I’m in a 9-month-long Ash Wednesday, constantly aware of my child’s mortality as much as her life.

Normally I love Spring’s rebirth, which feels like nature telling the Easter story, with beautiful life pushing up from dead cold ground. The Minnesota Polar Vortex of 2014 declares this year it will not be so. (I told Max I won’t take him out for a walk until it’s above freezing outside so we don’t slide to our deaths on all the re-frozen melted snow, but he doesn’t understand the delay.)
image (12)As much as I’d love to see grass and flowers right now (which… I REALLY WOULD…) I think this is appropriate weather for contemplating death and what a mighty thing it is that God killed death. The entire Christian faith hinges on the validity of the Resurrection of Christ, and even though it’s backwards and seems a little “spooky,” I think this deserves more press time than we usually give it. (Should other people be quicker to say, “Those Christians! Psychos! They are so anti-whatever-hot-button-moral/political-issue-comes-to-mind!” or, “Those Christians! Psychos! They believe someone rose from the dead!”?)

Like Christmas, Holy Week is about things being backwards. He uses ugly things like betrayals and unfair trials, beatings and mobs and lynchings, and three-day-old tombs, to display what redemption really looks like. It’s about God becoming a dust-and-ashes man to fully taste the very worst of the Fall to overcome death and rise again. It’s about God turning things around, so the sinless man takes on the full weight of sin and is victorious over it forever. It’s paradoxical beauty, for sure – death trampling death, resurrection, reconciliation between sinners and a holy God, eternal life. In turning these things around, God embraces us, full of dust and ashes, and calls us into his goodness, which is so powerful we can look at the most horrific, unfair death …and call it “Good Friday.” We celebrate that all this weekend, and with it consider the mini-Easters we see every day with the marvelous goodness God creates through our lives in so many backwards ways.

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so we will also bear the image of the man of heaven!” – I Corinthians 15

Reading round-up (3.14.14)

I did a little painting this morning and ended up with more help than I bargained for…

… I suppose I’ll be saving big projects for kennel time in the future!
There will be looooong-awaited house updates coming soon, but I wanted to say a quick thanks for all the love & prayers from the past few weeks and offer some reading and laughs for your weekend.

Since there’s been an upswing in talk about pregnancy and babyloss around here, I’ll recommend Why Miscarriage Matters if You’re Pro-Life and Pregnancy After a Miscarriage for further reading on the subject. I appreciate how the first article calls out a lot of hypocrisy in the way most people talk about miscarriage, and the second highlights some of the special challenges for women who are blessed with a pregnancy after losing a baby. Good thoughts in both!

I discovered the wonderful world of exercise videos on YouTube and it’s been a great way to stave off insanity while indoors for months at a time. My sisters and I have been long-time fans of the 10-Minute Pilates series, so I was excited to find the model (mix-and-match 10 minute segments for your own custom workout that is as long or short as you want) had branched into some pregnancy yoga sessions available for free online. Max was not cooperative during my warm-up attempt this morning. Apparently “namaste” has too many syllables for a puppy to understand.

Tsh Oxenrider (can I just say for a minute how cool her last name is? So Oregon Trail hip!) has a great blog called The Art of Simple, and she wrote a post about our new theme-word, Risk, which I found very encouraging. “Living a good story means risk.”

Tsh also had a great post about saying “no” to yourself, which is exactly what we do during Lent. Ann Voskamp has a great one about hearing “no” and how we respond — good stuff all around.

Though we don’t have a dishwasher right now –the internet does not have the space to deal with my first-world whining on this topic– and I don’t feel bad about how hard it is for this lady to load and unload her dishes, I really needed the main idea she talks about: adjusting everything to make your dreaded chore easier to improve performance. As silly as it seems…. switching the side of the sink where I set the drying dishes makes it seem a lot easier to get the job done! Baby steps, people.

Finally, speaking of baby steps, I’m a little bit in love with this adorable video…


Happy weekend!

love is the lesson

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrowed hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou didst die
Being with thy dear blood clean washed from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

-edmund spenser.

holy week and the death of dreams

A few weeks ago, I was really starting to feel like I had it made in life. Not that things are perfect or how I would plan them! You know, I had to work for years in a job I didn’t like, but I was delightfully strategizing about increasing my teaching load, coordinating to tutor homeschoolers in the fall, and preparing for more ministry endeavors with my flexible schedule. While I’m not particularly happy about turning another year older without any accompanying littler birthdays to celebrate, I have a deep appreciation for many things I can do now that would be nearly impossible if we had children to care for. And we’re managing on a very tight budget, but we love our little house and someday Aaron will graduate, and even now we have a lot more than most people around the world. I want you to know that my gracious acceptance and good attitude here was not easily won. It took a lot of work to get there! But for a short, short time I was able to rest in the comfortable beauty of surrender and acceptance. And then, it crashed down when I got one of those heart-stopping calls that you never expect to get, the kind that makes you look at the phone afterwards and say “Did that just happen? Really?”

I suppose the story starts, quite innocently, the week before the phone call when Aaron mentioned he had a special one-on-one meeting with his advisor. He wasn’t particularly worried, but noted that this seemed very unusual. There were hours of conversation while we were tiling the kitchen, otherwise he probably wouldn’t have said anything in the first place. I forgot about this until he said something before leaving on Monday morning, and I wasn’t very alert because I’d barely slept from excitement about the kitchen progress and Aaron’s recent “75% commitment” to redoing the bathroom this fall. So I said a quick prayer and forgot about it until I got a text message later. While I would love to pretend we are a syrupy couple who constantly express our mutual undying affection in 160-character snippets, Aaron does not text me during the day. So even seeing that was a little unsettling, and then I read “…wanna move to Ithaca NY?” Um, what? I was confused and asked him to call me, and he did. Aaron also does not call me during the day. And I knew the news was big because he called and then he unfolded the story of his professor moving their lab across the country, telling me we were invited but not required to come, that he would get a raise and potentially an Ivy-league doctoral degree if we left…and I can’t even remember what else he said, but I knew we were thinking very seriously about moving right away. (When I prayed that I wouldn’t have to keep the deer head in my living room, I meant that the deer head should move, not the living room.) The next few weeks of our life became a massive blur of questions about selling our house, sacrificing all the music and job stuff I have worked for, and figuring out what else we should consider to make a decision about the whole thing. And because this move would mean we’d want our house sold by August, we gave ourselves a deadline of less than two weeks to make a final decision.

It would be far too laborious to go over all the aspects of this huge decision-making process here, but I will say that, miraculously, we concluded that it is best to stay where we are for now. We made the choice pretty quickly and it seems like the answer is the “easy” one, but this was not a “snap” decision. I’m grateful that this was a very short trial, but it was a time when it seemed like everything we worked for in the past few years might be given up quickly and the future looked like one big, giant, and possibly scary mess.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” –yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4, esv)

Yes, in the chastening lesson of this all we must remember we are a mist, we are vapor, we are dust. And if we who have eternal souls can be compared to dust and ashes, how much more transient are the products of our striving – our dreams, our plans, our business, …our tiled floors? I find profound connections here to ponder this week when we Christians especially contemplate the mystery of Jesus’ passion. It is overly dramatic to say this, I admit, but in the midst of that confusion and anxiety I really felt like I had grabbed onto a bit of what massive heartache the first “Holy Week” must have been – the political and religious landscape was in uproar, Jesus had to dread the cross before him, and for the disciples it looked like their hopes and dreams were destroyed. We miss a lot of the compassion and beauty in the Resurrection if we forget that emotional turmoil.

And I know this sounds crazy, but in deciding to stay we also had to give up the new dream of the life we would have after moving. We planned on becoming kayak bums in beautiful upstate New York and spending a few years exploring the East coast. It’s hard to lay that dream aside, even when I know there is no way to have both things I want. In articulating the confession, this reminds me of the time I was watching a friend’s baby who had a pacifier in her mouth and found another one on the floor. At a certain point, she was hanging on to the second pacifier and realized she would have to take out the first one if she wanted to suck on the second from her hand. She found the dilemma so distressing that she cried too hard to have either one in her mouth at all. And I don’t want to spend my whole life like that, but I’m sure that’s what I must look like to God right now.

(I think our awesome patio is my favorite part about living in this house, so I am consoling myself by focusing on how much I like it out here. And if the background is blurry, I can forget  how much work there is left to do in the yard.)