Fearfully, Wonderfully Snowed In: God in the Blizzard

snowfallAs a Florida girl living in Virginia, right in the bullseye of Jonas, I keep looking out my window utterly amazed. The snow is up to the roof of my children’s playhouse. I see the little chimney of it poking out with a pile of snow on top, a little frozen smoke puff. I know friends further north have seen more, but for this girl, this is the most snow I’ve seen in my entire life. And I keep having two simultaneous thoughts: how beautiful and how terrifying. As these thoughts keep colliding in my mind, I can’t help but think that all this snow has something to teach us.

The snow has made a new world out there. Everything is pristine, blanketed in purity. The trees are bedecked as brides. The limbs shimmer with powdered diamonds. Even the wind is in on the party, tossing sparkling confetti on the festal firs. As far as the eye can see there is the blinding brilliance of white. And just as when a bride enters the room, there is that reverent hush of a world watching in stillness and in awe.

snow in trees

And yet even as I stand back admiring this lovely world, there is another part of me that is afraid. The snow is so high; it’ll be days before we carve our way out. It is so soft and comes so lightly and yet it has the power to smother, to break, to bend, to bury. Even our toughest machines get caught in its drifts. Even our might is no match for this light beauty, should it continue to fall from heaven.

And as I feel the weight of wonder, I’m moved to remember a God who is simultaneously all-loving, all-good, all-beautiful and yet all-powerful, almighty, a force with which no man can reckon. Love the Lord. Fear the Lord. The burning brilliance of holiness is both something which compels our eyes and causes us to fall on our faces.

Like the awesome Aslan of Lewis’ Narnia, we might wonder with Lucy, is this lion safe? “’Safe?… Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” This world blanketed in white is a reminder of both aspects of our good and mighty God.

So what are we to do with this beautiful and yet fearful God? Like the snow, we better be prepared. For those well prepared, the snow holds no terror. But for those who have shirked its power, there is fear. God is good; but God is also coming and He is a mighty, beautiful force with which to be reckoned.

So how do we prepare for His coming? By confessing that we are utterly unprepared. By falling at the feet of this terrifying, beautiful God and pleading for His mercy. Repentance: I am undone by your holiness, Oh God. Belief: You alone can save me.

And here’s the wonder, He has and He does. God has turned that whole crushing weight of His wrath on His own Son, Jesus, on the cross. He was smothered, crushed, buried, that I might not be. The weight of this heavy load fell on Jesus that I might only feel the light cloak of righteousness on my shoulders. Oh weighty wonder. Oh heavy lightness! Let me remember both as I stare out my frosted window.

 

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Accustomed to Him

“Some of the greatest beauties [of this world], are its briefest.”—Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

shelter-from-the-storm-

I’m in those hazy days of night-waking to feed a 3 month old. On the night stand, I’ve got size 2 diapers, baby wipes, a water bottle, tissues, and a well-marked book of poetry, Rainier Marie Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. I know: one of these things is not like the other. But as mother of four boys under the age of six in the midst of diapers, dishes, fights, and fits, I find myself hungry for beauty. And while I can’t feast on beauty like I’d like to, I snack on it when I can.

There’s not enough solitude in my life right now. Not enough quiet. Not enough alone time for this introvert. My soul longs for quiet walks in the woods, for a morning to sip tea, to read or write and stare out the window at a blanket of snow-covered ground. But these days, there is rowdy bustle, clamoring for mommy, there is a broken dishwasher, and a pile of unfolded laundry.

So I’m learning and leaning and listening in for beauty like I haven’t before. I’m parched. One of the little snippets, I stretched for in the middle of the night, with the lights dim, to keep baby in that sleepy state as I nursed him, was this line from Rilke’s Book of Hours, it reads:

“We become so accustomed to you,
we no longer look up
when your shadow falls over the book we are reading
and makes it glow. For all things
sing you: at times we just hear them more clearly.”

The “you” here is God. We become so accustomed to Him, that we no longer look up. We become so accustomed to His beauty, to His goodness, to His faithfulness that we no longer look up. When the ordinary things around me glow with His shadow, how rarely I see them. How rarely I acknowledge them. For all things, sing His praises, at times we just hear the melody more clearly.

I close the book and let the words sink in. I realize His shadow has just fallen across the page I’ve been reading, my page on this night and I look up. I acknowledge Him. I acknowledge this moment of beauty and then I turn my gaze to my sweet baby. He’s dimly lit. His cheeks are filling out. His hair is coming in finally, perhaps a quarter of an inch. And his face, his sweet perfect face. When the feeding is done, I gaze at him asleep for several moments longer than any sleep-deprived person in her right mind should. I drink Him in. He’s a masterpiece in the middle of my mundane. He’s a stunning work of art from God to me that I alone get to gaze upon and enjoy in this way, for this moment. Sure, I trust and pray that he will grow and bless others in manifold ways, but on this night I am the only one awake to witness this shooting star glimpse of the glory of God displayed in a baby, my baby.

Beau sleep

I must remember this. I must acknowledge the glow of God on this page, on this day, on this life.

A few days later, the dinner was done and the dishes finished. We were enjoying some of those alternatingly sweet and cringe-inducing moments with our boys before bedtime. There was the clamoring for firsts, and turns and mine, and there were the “play with me, mommy” and the child who crawls on the lap eager for just your presence. In other words, there was the simultaneous sweetness and senseless stuff of parenthood.

My husband had built a roaring fire and the big boys were for a moment enthralled in its warmth and glow. I had put on my favorite cd of George Winston’s Winter and had checked out for a moment to lay beside our sweet littlest one on his playmat. As I lay there watching his face, the song Joy came on. It is an arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and I love it so much, I chose it for our wedding march. Somehow the arrangement seems to accentuate the joy in that beautiful piece of music, the joy in the heart of one who desires Jesus. So as I was laying there, listening and watching, my sweet baby smiled with one of his brand-new grins and then began to coo at me.

Beau fire Beau Grin Beau Smile

The moment was so brief, so brief, but it was so beautiful it literally brought tears to my eyes. The music reminded me of God’s faithfulness to me on my wedding day; the smile reminded me of God’s faithfulness in giving us children. A moment later there was fighting and fussing. Ten minutes later there was the blur of bedtime routines and teeth-brushing and one-more-story-please-mommy.

Later, I scribbled down in my journal, “sometimes life’s greatest beauties are its briefest. We dismiss these because they are here one moment and gone the next, interrupted. Why don’t we instead treasure them for what they are? Why don’t we string them together in our minds like the beautiful pearls they are? Each glimpse deserves reverence for what it is: a glimpse of ultimate joy and beauty, a glimpse of the One who created and authored beauty, the One who is all-beautiful and all-good. The fleeting nature of these moments shouldn’t rob from them, but instead remind us that that which we long for is not of this world, it is eternal. We are thirsty for more because there is indeed more and because we are made for more. We are not satiated with interrupted grace because there is a source of unending grace.”

So I’m learning to not begrudge these little glimpses of grace and sips of beauty because they are fleeting. I’m learning to take them, accept them as the shadow that falls across the page I’m reading, as the feeling of a presence which makes me look up. They come in so many moments: in the sunrise of a smile, in the nestling head upon my shoulder as I read just one more story, in the whispered “Amen” of my two-year old, in the roar of a fire, and the first-fall of snow. Let me treasure these, string them together, lay them at His feet in praise. Let me not become so accustomed to grace that I no longer look up.

 

I couldn’t give you pictures of the exact nights that these happened–I try to be in my moments rather than behind a camera– and I’m not a great photographer, but I still wanted to give you a few of my beautiful Beau. I’m learning to treasure the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary and offer these moments back to God in praise. If you are new here and interested in reading more, sign up to the left to have these posts delivered straight to your inbox and check out my devotional journal for expectant mothers, Waiting in Wonder.

This Child of Mine: The Weight of Carrying a Soul

child of mine

Luminous mystery—in my clearer moments, I see you, child of mine. You are dazzling. You take my breath away. You embrace me with nothing held back, with no pretense, no ulterior motives. You are a possibility I have not yet come to know. Sometimes at night, I watch you sleep: your chin tucked to chest on your pillow, your knees pulled in, your slim frame curls into a question mark. Who will you become? What will you teach us? What shores will be changed by the ripple of your life?

But your worth is not in your possibility, but in your present. The world does not wait to be changed by you. This light one whose fingers clasp around my neck, and whose head lies so softly on my shoulder, you who I lift almost effortlessly have a weightiness, a heft, because you are more than possibility, you are a person. You are a person who is changing me. You are a person, created in the very image of God.

Jesus, said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:4). He knew we had something to learn from your dependence, from your abandon, from your wonder, from your joy, and from your trust. Hear the way He speaks of you. He held you on his knee as ones who possessed dignity, as ones made in the very image of His Father, as ones who had something to teach the so-called “wise.”

Do I treat you this way? Do I revere you as a splendid person of infinite value, not because of your possibility or your capability, but because of your essence? Do I remember that I did not create you, nor do I own you? You are not my child, as I would talk about my car or my house. You are on loan to me. You are entrusted to me, not simply for what I can do for you, but for what He wants to do in my life through you. So thank you.

I do not mistake you as perfect, dear child. Oh no, of all people, I have a front row seat to your sin-soaked moments (as you do for mine as well). I know we are both desperately flawed and desperately in need of the One who called us both to come. But neither should I mistake you as ordinary. We should both remember that as Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. “

As I teach you right from wrong, let me remember that you possess an everlasting soul, and that I struggle along with you in bending my spirit to do that which I know I should. As I explain to you things which seem simple to me, like 5+5=10, may I remember that while you may lack knowledge, your mind is a dazzling wonder, assimilating information at a rate which far surpasses my own. While I dress you, may I remember that you are an individual, unique in your tastes and personality. When you ask me to play with you, when you cuddle up next to me with a book, when you instinctively reach for my hand, may I remember that I have a friend in you who perhaps surpasses any I have ever or will ever know. When you speak, may I listen with expectation for how you will challenge and change me. As I lead you, may I do it with a trembling heart, knowing what a treasure God has entrusted me.

Little one, may I always remember and respect that you are a distinct and splendid person. May I hold the lightness of you in my arms with the weight of wonder your soul deserves.

 

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A Thank You Note to My Unborn Child

The miracle of youLittle One, you aren’t even here yet, but I just wanted to take a time-out tonight as I round the 27 week mark (and keep getting rounder) to tell you, “thank you.” God has always used the littlest ones—the weak and frail—to open eyes the eyes of the strong. You are so small; not even 2 pounds, but the weight of glory you reveal is astonishing. You do not yet know that you are a catalyst of wonder in my life, a catalyst of worship. With your kicks, somersaults, and barrel rolls you constantly nudge me deeper into the heart of wonder, deeper into the heart of God.

It won’t be long before you will be here. And you will soon see that when you are young the whole world is a marvelous discovery—“Look mama, look! The moon!” or “Look, mama, look—a ladybug!” But when you get older, sometimes it gets hard to see the world with new eyes. All you see are the thorns and thistles, the smudge and the smear. And as strange as it may sound, you forget to marvel at the moon or stand amazed at the dainty flittering of a bug’s wings. You forget that the whole world is “charged with the grandeur of God,” aflame with His beauty, oozing with His wisdom, alive with His fierce power. And when you fail to marvel, it’s not long before you find your heart growing cold and ungrateful.

But you, my precious unborn child, how you lead me back to the heart of wonder, back to the heart of praise. You see, with your every nudge I’m reminded of something so strange and marvelous, I can’t help but worship. This is it: God is at work forming a life—a human being—inside of me. I’ve been chosen to be a vessel to a miracle. You are that miracle.

At just over two weeks, your tiny heart began to beat. It was a spontaneous mystery—the kind that is still baffling scientists—how within a poppy-seed sized embryo, a cell spontaneously jolts awake and begins to beat and how the other cells nearby join in the dance of its rhythm. I like to think of God hovering over you then, the way He did at the very beginning when He brought the first life miracle. I like to think of the Trinity’s overflowing joy flowing down into that single primordial heart cell with such joy that it just can’t help but dance and teach the other cells to dance too. I pray that your life would be like that first beat, a spontaneous overflow of  God’s joy that can’t help but affect everyone else around you.

I stand amazed at how from a microscopic twisted spiral of DNA, you are becoming you, unfolding and unfurling inside me with each passing day. Your fingers budded, and then your toes, your nails, and your eyelashes. And somehow from this twisting staircase of God’s words for your life, you are coming to be. Already, the experts say, you can suck your thumb, dream, grimace, taste, and hear. You spend your days adding brain cells at a dizzying rate and practicing for your first breaths. All the while, you are taking my breath away. Every nerve and sinew, every twitch and tendon is an astonishing mystery.

But still—all of that is merely matter. Beyond the wonder of flesh and bone, the wonder yes, of being flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, is the miracle of your soul.

You, Little One, possess an eternal soul. I don’t even understand the words, but there is something in you, something that will not perish. Though your body will fade, your soul will remain. You are a person, made in the very image of God, distinct from me and accountable to Him. I tremble at the weight of this glory and at the weight of the responsibility of shepherding you.

But for now, I just marvel. You lead me to worship because you are doing the very thing you were made to do—you are reflecting the image and mystery of God. What a vast, creative, generous, wise God! What a kindness that He would allow you into my life! What a joy it is to carry you!

Thank you, Little Glorious One, you are a catalyst to praise. May you always be so, all your days.

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