Thursday, November 20, 2014


No miracle yet.

Beloved autumn hasn't been too kind to me. Something in my body shifted with the weather, causing the past couple of months to be more eventful than I would like. Particular triggers have increased in intensity, and I have lost four foods in four weeks.

My old friends arthritis, fibromyalgia, and fatigue have come back around. I keep dropping hints they aren't welcome. They aren't getting it.

Fresh waves of grief roll over me, taking me by surprise. One moment, I'm washing dishes, and the next I can't breathe. I'm deeply grateful for my "little infinity" with Jenny, but it's unlikely I'll get over my loss on this side of heaven or even the losses of her husband and kids because loss like that is immeasurable. It's not so much about the things that were as it is about the things that will never be.

And then there have been family struggles, difficult decisions, emergencies, emotionally draining events, and woes of dear friends.

This illness has no respect for church attendance, long-planned weekend visits from deeply missed souls, or my daughter's birthday party. Actually, it seems to take delight in raining on my parade. But with the rain, falls grace.

Even still, an air of sadness hangs about my shoulders because--well--I can't help it. Like most of you, I was hoping my prophesied miracle was on my heels, just inches from taking me over.

It seems God would have me wait a little longer. So I wait.

As I wait, I trust I'm not just twiddling my thumbs here. I trust God is doing something with the waiting. My aim is to cooperate in His doing--to take hold of life and joy today, to engage and pay attention. To learn what He would teach. To hear what He is saying.

Such as--
It's okay to have exhausted all means to help myself.
It's okay to be messy. It's okay if others see the mess.
God works glory in messes.
I'm not my own savior.
I'm not my friends' savior either.
Their welfare is not correlative to the intensity of my prayers.
God's plan does not hinge on my performance. 
I am accepted.
I am accepted as I am.
Not because of what I am or what I do, but because of who Jesus is and what He has done.

Let's allow that word to wash over us for just a moment--


You, me, all who place their faith in Christ--we are accepted by God (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV).

God gave me this word out of Job a couple of weeks ago--

"And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the Lord commanded them; for the Lord had accepted Job." (Chapter 42)

Acceptance is arguably our most basic emotional need. Think of how desperately we seek it. We are willing to compromise our integrity for it. I was willing to lie for it.

The very day God put the word "accepted" in my mouth to chew upon was the day He sought to teach me something about it. I was out and about buying Sara's birthday party supplies with my grandmother when I had a reaction to some chemicals in one of the stores. Attempting to describe the way I felt, I told her I was drunk, "or at least how I imagine being drunk feels."

Every time I have described this type of reaction to my grandmother, I've always tagged it with "or at least how I imagine being drunk feels" because I didn't want her to guess the truth--I know exactly how being drunk feels. Even if it has been a few years.

I didn't want my grandmother to know my drinking history because I didn't want her to think less of me. You see, before my Papaw was a believer, he was a drunk. Nona, my mom, my aunt, and my uncle experienced the devastation of alcoholism firsthand, which made drinking kind of taboo in our family. So I kept my love for red wine and margaritas to myself. And few beyond Brandon knew I sometimes drank too much.

The funny thing is when you offer unnecessary information over and over again, intuitive people notice.

"Melissa, have you ever been drunk?" Nona asked.

Because I was drunk at that very moment, I answered, "Yeah! I've been drunk!" Almost like I was proud of it.

And so we have this long, uncomfortable conversation about drinking and alcohol that I don't entirely recollect (thank God) due to the fact I was inebriated on airborne chemicals at the time, but even I didn't miss the important things which took place that day.

My sin was confronted. In confession, I was freed from the lie. And I was met with acceptance. Not because Nona was thrilled that I know what it is to be drunk or that I had misled her, but because I am her granddaughter. My position as her grandchild--not my moral performance--makes me acceptable to her.

Nona took excellent care of me that day. She drove me home, learned the "woo-woo" acupressure technique we use to treat my reactions, performed said "woo woo" technique without comment, washed my dishes, made sure I was alright, and left me with an "I love you," which loudly translated into "I accept you--even if you have been drunk, have lied to me about it, and do weird stuff I don't understand."

I was relieved to be freed from the lie and still find myself accepted.

So acceptance is important. It was the most important thing to Job--before, during, and after his suffering. He wanted more than anything to be right with God. (Job may not have known as much about God as we do today, but he definitely loved God more than we do today.) 

Before his suffering, Job believed he was in good standing before God because he was blessed with health, wealth, and prosperity. We see him acting as a kind of intercessor for his kids (1:5) and a savior of sorts to the poor and needy who lived near him (25:7-25).

But then the suffering comes and strips it all away, and suddenly he sees he is not enough to save anyone, not even himself (19:9; 40:14). He sees he has nothing to offer the God he loves, and there is nothing he can do to improve his standing with Him.

Job needs a Mediator (Chapter 9). He needs an Advocate (16:20; 17:3). In desperation, he cries out for both and for a meeting with God that he might be absolved. And God answers. But not as Job expects.

God manifests Himself in a whirlwind, an uncontrollable power and the very thing which uprooted his hope in the beginning of the book (Job 1:18-19; 19:10). Instead of questioning God, Job himself is questioned, and he is found wanting. Job finally sees he has no case to make (Job 40:3-5).

But God looks centuries into the future. He sees the Mediator, the Advocate, the Redeemer in whom Job has placed the last of his hope (19:25-27). He sees Him hanging on a cross, experiencing all that Job suffered and infinitely more. God sees His precious Son paying the debt and it is enough.

God says to Job, "I accept you." 

When he had nothing, when he was nothing, and when everyone else had rejected him, Job was accepted in the Beloved. 

It wasn't the loss of all he once had which tormented Job so in the days of suffering; it was lack of assurance he was beloved by God. It wasn't the restoration of his health, wealth, or family Job most prized at the end of it all; it was divine acceptance.                  

Today, we stand on the other side of the cross. We don't have to wonder if God really loves us. He has proven it! Divine acceptance is available to all who place their faith in Christ's work and acknowledge the deficiency of their own, and it is divine acceptance that will get you through any loss. Just look at Job.

The antidote for my sadness isn't happy thoughts. It's gospel. I require, at minimum, a daily dose.

There may be sadness on my shoulders, but there is joy in my heart. There is an anchor for my soul.

Our greatest need has been met. Life's biggest question--how can I be right with God?--has been answered (Job 9:2; 25:4). In Jesus.

Gaze upon the cross with me. Let's bathe in our acceptance.

The acceptance He earned for us is all the health, wealth, and prosperity we will ever need or could ever desire.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sarah's Disaster

Sara is three years old today.


How is she already three? The days, weeks, and months scurry by in a white blur without a proper greeting, and they never stay for tea. Tomorrow is always the most important date. No time to say hello, goodbye. And before I know it, a season's gone.

How is she only three? So much life has been lived. So much new has come into our lives. Surely she is halfway through childhood by now.

But no. She's three--already three, only three.

I tell the kids Micah is the boy I always wanted and Sara is the girl I never knew I needed. But God knew. When I was still a child myself, He whispered her existence into my imagination.

During my homeschool years, I wrote prolifically--for my age, anyway. I followed some kind of curriculum which offered lots of creative writing prompts, and loved every minute. I wrote short stories, sketches, journal entries, plays, and poems. I discovered a few of these assignments when I went through my old keepsake box Dad left for me to go through or toss. Most of the art projects were trashed. I am no artist. But I kept almost everything I wrote. I didn't read it all or even most of it, but one single-paged sketch caught my eye:

It reads:

Sarah, a cute, sweet child of three, loved to help her mother cook. Most of the time she just stirred cake batter and maybe every now and then, her mother would let her crack eggs and drop them in.

Well, one day, when her mother was taking a nap and her father was at work, she decided to make her parents a big [surprise] cake all by herself.

Her mother had always told her to wash her hands before she cooked, so she did. Then, she got out a bowl and the cake mix.

She knew that milk must be put in cake so she dumped 1/4 gallon in the bowl. Then she got out some eggs, cracked them on the side of the bowl, dumped them in, and threw the shells across the room. Last, she put in the chocolate cake batter and then she leaned over and started to stir. Some of her soft, blonde curls got into the chocolate concoction.

She decided the spoon wasn't working [too] well, so she started using her hands and she knocked the bowl over! She put her chocolaty hands to her face and started to cry.

Her mother was awakened, and she got up to see what was wrong. She walked into the kitchen [which] was now covered in chocolate. She looked down at Sarah who was also covered in chocolate. All she could see was Sarah's big brown eyes brimmed with tears. 

She knew this time she would not punish Sarah. 

There is no date on the paper, but judging by the handwriting and style, I wrote it around 1997. I was probably thirteen.

Fourteen years before she was born, I wrote about my daughter.

Guys, it's her! The name is spelled differently, but it's her! Both Saras like to help their mom in the kitchen. Both girls like chocolate, cake, and chocolate cake. Sara is just independent enough to try something like this, and if I wasn't standing over her every moment, real life Sara's baking style would closely resemble shadow Sarah's.

Big brown eyes. Soft, blond curls. I saw her before she was a thought in my mind. She was God's dream before she was mine.

I wanted three boys. Thank God He gave me this extroverted, delightful, hilarious girl!

I'm almost certain the day my immune system shifted was the day I gave birth to her. The labor and delivery was considered to be perfect--no complications--but something went wrong in my body three years ago. I felt it.

 (You can probably see it.)

So it was the day the darkness sniffed me out that God wrote Sara into my story with all the light and laughter she would bring.

God knew I needed her. Our family needed her.

So today, we celebrate our little luminary. We thank God for seeing our need, and sending her to us.

We make chocolate cake! Per her request, of course.

And I ponder the last three years. How full and brief they have been with the little girl I unknowingly penned seventeen years ago.