8.25.2015

the one who suffered well.

One of my favorite sermons: from Kevin Cawley at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City. It was about Psalm 73:1-28 and suffering. If you don't have 40 minutes, listen to the 3 short minutes between 37:0040:16 after which Kevin pointed out that our hope should not be in doing ______ better. Fill in the blank. Put your hope in Christ. This is such good news.

Let me tell you about a friend of ours in our church network. Because I want us to hear not only is hope for us, and God’s good for us not in the absence of suffering but in the presence of God, but what we need to realize as a church is your hope will never be in suffering well. Like I don’t want us to hear this psalm and go, “Oh, man. What I need to do is just kind of be satisfied in God; I just need to have a stiff upper lip. I just need to suffer well.” Because that will kill you too.

This is a guy in our network who has planted a church just like this one. And the last couple years of his life have been hell. Absolute hell. He’s had health problems. His wife had insomnia to the point that she literally went insane and he had to instituationalize her against her wishes, with her pleading for him not to do it. He institutionalized his wife, and now he’s got to deal with his kids who are sick, and he’s sick, and a growing church. And he said, “I got to the point where like, I just realized I wasn’t suffering well. Like what had been pitched at me was, aren’t we just supposed to say, ‘Oh God, You’re my strength and you’re my portion forever’?” And he said, “That was a fa├žade to me; I couldn’t say it anymore.”

And he hit the second round of doubt. And so he said, “I wasn’t suffering well. I’m supposed to be a pastor. I’m going to stand on the stage a preach this; if I can’t do it, what should I do?” And so he resolved to kill himself. He said, “I’m not stupid. I found a way that I could end my own life and maintain life insurance for my family.” And so he drives out in his truck on his way to do it—cleaned his house, did everything appropriate, had called his assistance and said he wouldn’t be in for the rest of the day. He’s on his way to kill himself, saying, “Why should I go on? I’m not suffering well. God, I’m not saying that you’re my portion well enough; something’s broken in me.”

And as he drives to end his life, he says God literally—in his truck—spoke to him. And said, “Dude, call somebody. Why don’t you just call and ask for help?” And he’s like, “God, I can’t. I’m ashamed.” “Just call somebody! Ask for help! Why don’t you tell them what you’re dealing with?” “I can’t, God! I’m ashamed! I’m not suffering well!”

And he said at that moment, the Spirit of God just spoke to him and said, “Don’t you understand? That’s why I sent my Son. Nobody suffers well. Your hope cannot be in you suffering well. Your hope can only be in Me suffering well on your behalf. That’s the gospel!”

So we hear this and we say, “God, you are my portion! You’re enough for me! And even when I don’t do that well, I find hope in the fact that you sent your Son because I don’t do it well. You’re enough.” I find my hope—not in how well I suffer, so that people look at me and go, “Man, how does Cawley do that? He must be really holy.”

No, the point is that none of us have anything. We don’t suffer well. Ashap didn’t suffer well, you don’t suffer well, no one suffers well. Our only hope is in finding our identity in the One who suffered well on our behalf. That is the gospel message.

Originally posted on 3/27/11

8.14.2015

not shy; intentionally unobtrusive.

Little E (16 months!) was running around the office at the end of the day yesterday. Nate dropped him by on his way to work. He does great with strangers when he's in familiar settings (like our house) but like most toddlers, if you drop him in a new place with new people, he takes awhile to warm up. He's feeling it out. Making sure it's safe.

So I was maybe a little surprised when a (well-intentioned, I'm sure) coworker said, "Is he going to be shy like his Mama?"

I'm not sure why, but I blurted out, "I hope not!"

I wanted to take it back and defend myself: "I'm not shy." Or even defend Elijah. Who knows how his personality will shape over the next decade or two? What if he is like me? Is that such a bad thing?

I'll admit, I did use to be shy—"having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people." That accurately describes middle school and much of high school and college. I was nervous. I was unsure of myself. I lacked confidence. Shyness was a problem because it hindered me. It held me back. It paralyzed me. For me, shyness is negative, but I think what a lot of people recognize as shyness isn't shyness at all.

The synonyms of the word shy—bashful, timid, sheepish, insecure, mousy, unconfident, self-conscious, embarrassed—do not describe who I am now.

In the years of growing up—the last 6 or 7 years—of becoming an adult and moving to a new city and getting married, becoming a mother, and through that all learning about and treasuring and being changed by Jesus—the shyness dissipated. I learned to avoid unhelpful quietness. I learned to contribute as needed. I learned to fake confidence until I actually was confident.

So to set the record straight, I am discreet. Reserved, but not in an anti-social way. It's not shyness. It's not anger or sadness or stuck-upness. It's a sitting back and observing. Deep thinking. Analyzing. Contentedness. Ever since Jesus saved me, I have had nothing to prove. It is a careful attentiveness, intentionally unobtrusive. I am usually careful about the words I choose to speak. I am confident and unembarrassed.

Will E be like his Mama? Maybe. I'll love him and encourage him and give him a safe place to be himself. And if he's loud and talkative, I'll love him and encourage him and give him a safe place to be himself. No matter what.


4.13.2015

Elijah Ray: 1 year old.

Today is Elijah's first birthday! We went up to St. Louis to visit Uncle Andy, Aunt Caitlin, and cousin Daniel. Aunt Erica and Uncle JR drove over from Columbia, and we were totally surprised by Nate's parents who came too!

Saturday morning, we went out to Castlewood State Park and walked/hiked with the boys. Then we ate at Pi, which is one of my favorite St. Louis eateries. Especially after hiking.

After lunch, we went to Forest Park. Lyle had two inflatable kayaks that we put out on the water. You can rent paddle boats (which we did last summer) so we weren't sure if bring-your-own-watercraft was allowed, but a police officer on a bike passed us a few times and didn't say anything.

Daniel and Elijah lounged on a blanket, and climbed all over Erica. Then Elijah kissed Daniel. I almost melted. So sweet.

Kisses for cousin Daniel
On Sunday, Caitlin hosted an awesome birthday party for Elijah at Shaw Park. Elijah did not want to eat cake, but Daniel was glad to step in for cleanup. These boys! Elijah is a bit cautious and Daniel has no reservations. So we joke, "Give it to Daniel; he'll eat anything!" or "Let Daniel try. He'll do anything!"

Birthday boy sporting a forehead bruise from falling into a chair leg the night before.

Elijah's party was themed after one of his favorite books, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
(which might be second only to Where's My Nose?)

Elijah loves balloons!

On the drive home, Elijah read one of his new books.
Elijah did really well on the way home. He slept some, only cried when he needed a diaper change, and was generally happy—which makes driving 5 to 6 hours a lot less stressful for Mom. I really want to make time to put together a book of photos from his first year and reflect a little more in writing. First birthday feels somewhat like a celebration that Nate and I did it. We survived! By the grace of God. It's been a blast. Love you, Elijah-boo.

3.31.2015

almost one.

We are less than two weeks away from being parents to a 1-year-old. I was telling Nate over lunch on Sunday that if I had to pick one word to describe the past year besides "awesome," it would be "exhausting." Nate said, "Yeah, but you wouldn't have it any other way."

He's right. I would take exhausted with Elijah over well-rested and no baby any day. He is so, so fun. And most of the time, he is a happy little guy. Even when he's not, it is never a burden. Never an inconvenience. We have no regrets of receiving this gift from the Lord. When Elijah was born, Nate said, "I don't ever want to go back to life-without-Elijah." I whole-heartedly agree.

Caught ya!
In the last week, Elijah has taken up walking—and he is pretty good at it! He still crawls mostly because it is so much faster, but it's super cute to see him pull up on the wall and let go and then proceed across the room in what our friend describes as "the drunken zombie." Of course walking comes with falling, and falling with tears and bruised leggies and sometimes a bruised face. But we help him up and he's back at it again.

Our house has been on the market for a few days, so we have been trying to stay out of the way while people come through for showings. We were out of the house all weekend, so Saturday I took Elijah to the downtown library for a puppet show. It was great! The show was definitely better for older kids who can sit still for 15–20 minutes, but Elijah did fine. We made friends with a 10-month-old named Harley and caught up with our friends Molly and Eli.

I like taking Elijah to places with other kids. He usually loves being around other people and watching them or interacting, and I'm loving and appreciating that other parents are almost always so nice. Like in an "we're-all-in-this-together" kind of way. We're all tired and challenged and loving it.

In the beginning, I think I wasn't sure how it would be nursing Elijah to 1 year. That was my goal. And well, we are still going strong with no sign of stopping. Mostly this is because Elijah doesn't self feed. He doesn't want to put things in his mouth. (So teaching a sippy cup has been a flop. He just throws it on the floor.) He eats purees fine, as long as they aren't too thick. Otherwise he gags or gets this terrible look on his face and pushes it out with his tongue.

So we are working on it, trying and introducing new textures and thicknesses. His sitter is on board with helping him practice every day. We will address it with his pediatrician at his 12-month appt., but our friend who is an occupational therapist says it's a bit too early to worry too much about it. I've still been worrying since about 8 months, but I told Nate that someday we will say, "Remember when we thought Elijah would never eat?"

We aren't exactly sure how we will celebrate Elijah's first birthday. He probably won't eat cake, but from the couple of licks I've shared, I know he loves ice cream. :-) We might be able to make the trip up to STL that for another Cousin Camp and to see my sister and brother-in-law. Elijah and Daniel haven't been together since Christmas, so a visit is long overdue!

3.26.2015

Elijah: 11 months

I am totally unprepared for our baby to turn 1 year old! He is getting so big, so fast. It is so fun to watch him learn new things. He is on the verge of walking and talking. So exciting! Here are a few of my favorite pictures of Elijah at 11 months old.

He is learning how to high-five. Also, I made some blueberries+pears+banana for him. Yum.

Elijah LOVES Otis. He loves wrestling him. Otis is very tolerant.

Elijah used to cry when I put him in the cart, but now he's getting the hang of it. Love running errands with this guy.

Loves "typing" (pounding, banging, grabbing). Silly boy.

flight out.

A note I typed into my phone as I sat on the plane to KC. Elijah and I went back to Kansas at the end of February to attend my grandpa's funeral. I haven't had much time to write, but Elijah is almost one now and I'd like to get back to it, even if it's just journal-style.
I took Lyft to the airport. $14, including tip. My driver (Dustin) was a former Marine. Grew up in Nashville. Married, no kids. Recently returned from 2 years overseas. I told him I work at LifeWay. His Sunday School teacher is Lynn Prior. Small world. He goes to Lipscomb and is reading McClaren, skeptically. He gave me his card so I can contact him to get a ride when I fly home. I was his last trip of the day. He helped install the car seat. A good Lyft experience.
Airport went smoothly. Hardest part was lugging the 25-lb. car seat all the way to the gate. Note to self: get wheels for that thing! I am going to be so sore tomorrow. I need a good body massage!
E has given everyone—counter agents, TSA, other fliers, and flight attendants—the biggest, cutest smiles when they talk to him. TSA carried the car seat through security, and a dad carried it down the jetway for me. (He said he had two little ones and his wife would be angry if he didn't offer to help another parent.)
Next to our gate (C-18) I found a family restroom/lactation room and we camped there for 20 min. E got a fresh diaper. A good find.
A couple people asked me about my red gate check bag. A grandma whose daughter was nervous about traveling alone with a 2 year old asked me about my experience. I told her most people are helpful or probably would be if you just ask.
E was the biggest wiggle worm while we took off. It was past his bedtime though and they dimmed the cabin lights so I finally got him to nurse and by 8:20 he is out. A strain on my right arm but he sure is precious when he sleeps.

2.23.2015

funeral for yesterday.

We gathered in the garden where the morning glories popped their blameless faces into the early sun—blanched white, streaked with tears of blue.

When the people stopped looking at their shoes and digging trenches in the grass with their toes, I picked up my guitar and began to sing.

              We’ll dress in black and hail the rain,
              and when it falls, we’ll mourn and pray.
              Time shows no mercy to those who wait.
              A funeral for yesterday.

The people here are sheep, a congregation of uncomfortable nervousness. Their big eyes are watching for something they do not know. Each one’s instinct suggests that all is lost. They bleat, unaware of what exactly for.

I cry for them. Then I hold tight to my guitar and sing.

              Here is the spot we will surround
              as daylight fades into the ground.
              Our candles light the solemn shroud.
              A funeral for yesterday.

Six years ago I stood in this very place. It was different then. I knew nothing of the dulling ache when seconds, minutes made things change. The man-made pond held its breath when it slept. I might have mistaken it for fresh plot of fertile earth. The stars were loyal companions for a time.

The message came through a solitary beep. Quiet, but deafening. I couldn't take it back, even though I wanted to. After that night, I picked up the guitar and sang.

              What’s gone is gone and we’ll survive.
              This gathering’s for those alive.
              We leave it there and go inside.
              A funeral for yesterday.

We gathered in the garden where the flowers did not grieve. Here the people missed the past and dwelled, determined to pull a lesson from the forgotten and futile incidents of their grade school years. In vain. They all looked up when I paused the melody. I slowly sipped the water from my cup and thought on what had still remained.

I cannot play guitar at all. My fingers fear the nylon string. But without it I’d feel too alone, so I just hold it here and sing.

              The dawn’s a shaky lullaby
              that no strong will can yet defy.
              We’ll make amends to the infant sky.
              A funeral for yesterday.
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