yarn along

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I don’t have a minute to spare but I can’t resist popping in here for a minute to say hello!  I went away for the weekend to a hermitage for some rest + solitude, and I hoped to get more knitting done than I did.  I have finished Philippa’s birthday sweater, and it is blocking now, so it will be done in time for her birthday next week.  I’m debating about casting on a little crown for her, too?  Am I crazy!?

I finished the first sleeve on Phoebe’s birthday sweater, and maybe half way through the second sleeve.  Then the hood, blocking, sewing on buttons and it will be done!  I’m already gauge swatching for Noah’s sweater.  (Both have birthdays the week of Christmas.)  Busy, busy.

I began Hope Heals during my hermitage stay and just read luxuriously for hours on end.  My sister-in-law sent it to me as a gift.  Almost done with it!  Quite the compelling story of a young woman in her late twenties and first years of marriage and motherhood suffering a massive stroke, miraculously surviving, and her journey to recovery.  It’s written by both her and her husband, each telling their parts of the story.  Beautiful and hopeful for me in a season with my own girl and her health issues, our continued battle for answers and hope.  I need to remember that there really is power in hope.

Linking up with Ginny’s weekly yarn along to share our current knits + reads.
Affiliate links included in this post.

settling into winter

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We’ve been happily busy with lots of THIS lately.  My older brother + his sweet family have been in town, and we’re so enjoying having the opportunity to be with them.  I’m loving the chance to get to know my nephew a bit and it is precious to me to see all the cousins play together and build little bonds.  I know from my own childhood years how special cousin relationships can be!  It’s like having extra siblings.  And I’m thankful for more time getting to know my sister-in-law and reconnecting.  Our hearts are full!

The leaves are mostly off the trees, a cold front moved in with a wild gust last night, and we’re settling into winter slowly.  Things can begin to look dark + barren, like the black-eyed susan stalks, shooting their bald heads into iron sky.  All can seem lost, empty.  Yet hidden within that flower’s cone are all the seeds for next year’s flower, each cone containing dozens of potentially viable seeds.  All this glory and beauty and light bottled up in that dark little bumpy-looking ball, just waiting for the right conditions in which to burst forth.  The same stalks that wave cheery yellow wildflowers in the summer, we pass by, or even trample underfoot in these winter months, assuming it’s all dead anyway.  Winter is full of promise and waiting and hope in small, hidden places.  There is all manner of beauty in those barren places, if we’ll look.  There is all manner of potential.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

When Your Faith Survives

The house is quiet.  Oh, glorious quiet.  The first hints of light are streaking across the sky, the earliest birds beginning their song.  Bleary-eyed, I try to gather my wits, my scattered thoughts.  I try to focus my mind on the words I’m reading instead of letting them run in and out of my brain like a stream of water while I keep fretting over the days’ concerns.

I hear the faint creak of their door open, the hushed padding of feet over the floor.  She always runs when she turns the corner and sees me in that chair, sucking her fingers, hair wild in every direction.  Warm legs as soft as silk, long and scrawny, slide under the blanket next to mine.  We sit there like that for a long time, me reading quietly (or aloud if she asks) and sipping coffee slow, her sucking fingers and cozied up, skin warming skin.

It’s one of my favorite times of the day, I think it is hers, too.

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When I held her for the first time 4 1/2 years ago, my heart burst wide open in love.  I know I’ve probably always struggled with fear, but a whole new world of fear opened up to me when I held that impossibly tiny, wrinkly warm little bundle.  This kind of love–it’s painful.  To love this much is be wide open to a world of unknown hurts.

We had perplexing growth/feeding issues with her from the start.  She always seemed okay, never titled “failure to thrive,” but never really thriving either.  Since she was my first, I figured a lot of it was normal.  Still, the niggling fear that something could be wrong, that something wasn’t quite right kept nagging me.  We pursued every medical option that could have been a possibility, never finding anything.  I would push the feeling down.

In the dark of night, fears would loom heavy.  Please don’t allow any harm to come to her, Lord.  Please keep her healthy, help her to grow.  Please help her to eat, to have an appetite.  (It’s funny how in parenting, you have no idea the battles you will face.  Never did I expect to pray so much over a child to eat and have an appetite and to grow.)  The desperate and anxious prayers of a mother over her child would roll over and over in my mind as I would try to quell them and get back to sleep.

The feeling that something wasn’t right has never really gone away.  My second and third born children have not had any similarities to her eating/vomiting/growth issues.  Finally, at her 4 year check-up, we pursued some testing again.

It’s been a little over two weeks since we received her diagnosis:  Celiacs disease.  Finally it all makes sense.  Relief flooded in at the same time as a whole new level of fear.  I hung up the phone after receiving the phone call and my fingers flipped through pages desperate:

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Sure, in our day, we hear a lot about Celiacs, and the gluten-free diet is a current fad diet.  But to hear that my “perfect” little girl has an autoimmune disease–it shook me.  That trippy weird slow-realization that falls over you that nothing will ever quite be the same again.  A new normal will be found, but life as you knew it is over.  Part of me wanted to tell myself I was being a big baby.  This is awesome news, this is SO MUCH better than it could have been, there is so much to be thankful for.  And all of that is true!  Still, we are not ever helped when we push down our true feelings and scold ourselves for feeling that way.  No, we are to run to the mercy seat with those feelings.  We run to our God, who is a refuge for us and who urges us to come and pour out our hearts to Him, cast all our cares on Him, find mercy + grace in our time of need.  We let ourselves feel what we are really feeling about this news/trial/difficulty and we tell Him.  We pour it out in the safety of His company, the privacy of His all-knowing, already-knowing presence.  We let Him get to our hearts, tend to them.  If we don’t do this from the beginning, I think we risk hardening our hearts, cutting them off, and that is ripe ground for the seeds of apathy + bitterness to grow.

So when I was honest with myself, I felt betrayed.  We had prayed and prayed that God would work in her body, heal her body.  We had pursued multiple tests over the years.  We had fought the issue when friends + family were all saying to let it go, that she was fine, just quirky.

What do you do when God allows the thing you have plead with Him never to do?  

What do you do with that?

A few days after the diagnosis, we were driving in the quiet rain on our way to church.  A flood of words came to me, and I scribbled them as fast as I could into my journal:

Sometimes the greatest gift God can give us is the gift of betraying us.  The gift of the bad news.  The unsettling, scary diagnosis.  Because when our faith survives what we thought our souls could never survive–that is a gift worth more than gold.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

We are afraid of deep waters, resistant, and of course we would be.  But our God is a perfect parent–our parent who is more about perfecting us than pampering us.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.  (Isaiah 43:2)

He will at various times in our lives lead us through deep waters.  How else can He teach us, how else can He allow us to experience His everlasting arms underneath that keep us afloat?

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
    and underneath are the everlasting arms.  (Deuteronomy 33:27)

We resist the fiery trial–but it is only in the fire that our faith is really tested, proved, purified.  It’s only when we come through the fire that we can know: this ground we stand on is solid.  Real.  Firm.  Unshakeable.  The mountains may move and tremble; He remains the same.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  (Psalm 46:1-3)

We cannot hope to be unaffected by the brokenness of this world.  We cannot expect not to suffer as His children the same afflictions and hardships common to man.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt. 5:45)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

But He will carry us.  He will not change.  He is good, unfailing.

Let’s not measure His love for us by the hand He deals us.  Look at Christ:  what hand did His Father deal Him?  He was perfect, sinless.  Yet He had nowhere to lay His head.  He obeyed perfectly, was perfectly upright; yet He was despised, rejected by men.  The very ones He created, the ones He came to rescue hated + betrayed Him, cried out for His blood.  He plead with His Father to deny Him the cross, to take away that cup, but the Father did not.  And Jesus surrendered to His Father’s will.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)

Let’s not measure His love for us by the hand He deals us.  Let’s measure His (immeasurable) love for us in the way He gives Himself to us unfailingly, continually–the way He remains with us.  The way He carries us.  The way He gives more grace.  The way He gives us JESUS–and all the rich inheritance of promises found in Him.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

No matter what comes–our lives are hidden in Christ.  Our future is secure.  And it strikes me: this is the bi-focus of the Christian faith.  What are bifocals?  A pair of glasses containing lenses with two parts with different focal lengths.  Our focus in the Christian life must always be bi-focal: at once seeing the present and also looking beyond the present, through it really, to the future.  Let us look to our eternal future, our future grace and find strength in this moment of need.

“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.”  (Hebrews 12:2)

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, How I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust Him more.

when the promise waits

I grew up in a home so full of love and sweet memories.  And yet, like so many others of you have experienced, the darkness was there.  Early on, darkness invaded our home and although one of my siblings was horribly victimized, all of us fell victim in our own ways to that darkness.  All of us were affected, broken.  When someone you love just as much as your own flesh is suffering in horrendous pain, you suffer too.  You can’t be okay in some ways until they are okay.  Your healing waits for theirs.

And so the question of “why pain, why suffering,” the question the world wields like a certain sword to the existence of a good God, often has haunted me.  Although it has never pushed me away from God, I have always felt His understanding in my need to ask those questions.  And so graciously, sometimes in the quiet and over the years, He has given glimpses.  There will never be a satisfactory answer to that question, as centuries of men far wiser than me have sought and found it unanswered.  Some things you have to choose to believe even in the face of difficulty.  Some things you just have to surrender.

Last night we all went out for ice cream, my husband and our two kids and I.  All week, in my study time with the kids, we’ve been learning about Abraham and Sarah and how they waited for the child God had promised them.  As part of teaching our daughter about waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, I promised her at the beginning of the week an ice cream treat, but she would have to wait until the end of the week for it.  Every day we talked about it, I reminded her of my promise, that I would fulfill it.  And she learned to wait and to anticipate.  And so, last night, she got her chocolate ice cream, and her excitement was unparalleled.

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And so my mind has been thinking over Abraham and Sarah and their story.  Maybe you’re familiar with it {Genesis 12-23}.  I imagine that early on in Abraham and Sarah’s marriage, they dreamed about children, as so many of us do.  Of course, the pressures of their society were entirely different than ours.  For them, children were essential.  A woman who was barren was worthless, and could easily be dismissed and divorced by her husband.  What’s worse, barrenness was seen as a sign of divine judgement.  It was essential for a family’s name to be passed down and for the family line to continue through sons.

For many years Abraham and Sarah would have longed for a child, tried for a child.  But one day, the window of opportunity would have begun to close on Sarah’s natural ability.  She would have known that, although she had hoped against hope, although she had told herself to stop hoping, now all hope surely was gone.  It was time to let this dream die, as her own womb grew silent and dormant forever.

And the years continued to pass.  Now the ache was still there, but the sting had lessened a bit.  She was an old woman now, and she had a husband who loved her enough to stay with her, even in this shame she had brought on him.  She had chosen to let this be enough.

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(photo credit here)

And then, the word of the Lord came to Abram.  That night came when the Lord told Abram to count the stars if he was able.  So would his descendants be: innumerable {Gen. 15:1-6}.  And the incredulous hope began to stir again.  Descendants?  This means children.  But how can this be?  And Sarah, maybe in impatience for this promise, maybe because she simply couldn’t fathom the miracle God had planned, figured it must not be through her own body that God would do this work, but through her handmaiden.  And so she suggests Abraham father a child through her maid, Hagar.  Ishmael is born, Abraham’s first son.

But this was not God’s plan for the family He was planning to generate through Abraham.  He was going to begin through Abraham and Sarah the line of Israel, a people He had chosen for Himself, to set apart for Himself as His own special portion.  A family which would be inordinately blessed, upon which His favor would forever rest.  And this family line would begin with an undeniable, miraculous work of God, not the scheming and devising of man.

Then when Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him.  God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, Sarai’s name to Sarah.  And He reveals that His plan was for the family line to come through Abraham and Sarah, and that Ishmael was not the chosen son. He tells Abraham that Sarah will have a son, and they will name him Isaac {Gen. 17}.  And yet still, the promise waited.  Still some years passed before this son Isaac was conceived in Sarah’s womb.

Why was this God’s way?  Why does the promise wait?

It isn’t what comes easily to us, what comes in abundance to us, that we treasure.  It’s what we have to fight for, what we have to long for, what we have to work for, what is rare, that we most treasure and appreciate.  Our dependency, our helplessness to secure it for ourselves — this makes us all the more aware of what a treasure it is when it comes.

It’s how we see.  When we see things as widely available, or easily attainable, we are often careless with it.  But when it’s hard to come by, we are careful with it.  We hold it close.  We enjoy it more.

When a snow storm is predicted in NC, where I live, the aisles at the grocery store are completely emptied of bread and milk.  Suddenly we perceive the value of having enough food when the threat comes that we may not easily be able to get to the store.

We see it with money.  When we have enough, we spend easily and carelessly.  When we know we don’t have enough, suddenly every expense is calculated and measured.  We are thankful for anything we can afford to feed our family, instead of worrying about whether it’s organic or locally sourced.  Suddenly the priorities change and the thanks increase for whatever we have.

We see it in a culture of abortion.  Children?  An inconvenience, easy to come by when I am ready.  Easy to dispose of when I’m not.

When my husband and I had our first daughter, the pregnancy came as as surprise and went along easily.  She was born in six hours and without any complications.  I cannot even begin to tell you the explosion of joy it was to have her and to hold her for the first time.  It’s unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  It’s indescribable.

But I think about Sarah.  What was her joy like?  I can’t measure it, but I imagine that it was infinitely greater than mine.

See, there’s an innocent joy that I experienced when my daughter was born, the joy unmixed with sorrow.  An innocent, untried joy.  A beautiful kind of joy.  But the joy that Sarah had?  The joy that comes after waiting and longing for probably 60-80 years to be a mother?  And then at nearly 100 years old, to hold her first child.  Her miracle child.  Her divine child.

And it makes me think.  God gave me the gift of a child when I had a firstborn, and of course, joy.  But for someone who has waited, for someone like Sarah, God gave the gift AND the fullest measure of joy possible along with the gift.  The greatest gift, with inestimable value in and of itself, along with the greatest possible ability to receive and enjoy the preciousness of the gift.

God stirred up their longing for a child, a longing they had surrendered, and then allowed more waiting and disappointment.  We see this and think God mean, manipulative.  A loving parent would give the desired gift immediately, we think.  But what if a parent who is perfect in love, who is full of light and in Him is no darkness whatsoever, no hint of malevolence–what if He deferred hope so that He could fulfill it with greater joy?

Abraham and Sarah grasped the weight of it.  The heaviness of glory in the miraculous holding of their very own child, their very own flesh and blood, in their wrinkled, aged hands.

Thus, Isaac.. “the son of laughter” or “he will laugh.”

The son of immeasurable joy.

And so maybe this is why sometimes, the promise waits.  Maybe this is why there are the years and years of praying for the lost family member, the prodigal child, the infertility, the healing of a disease.  Sometimes we know, in God’s higher ways that are beyond our conceiving, His most loving answer is “No.”  But sometimes, He waits so that when the “yes” comes, our joy is beyond the ordinary joy.  So that we treasure that “yes” to fullest measure.

 

When you’re helpless: My story of Rescue

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Thirteen years ago today, at this exact time, 8:30 am on a Monday morning, I was freezing.  Literally.  I was huddled in the snow in the rugged backcountry wilderness of Colorado.  I was sixteen years old at the time, and I was alone with my sister, who was twenty.  We had spent the night stranded in the frigid conditions, lost.  Helpless.  The previous day, February 11, 2001, had been a gorgeous windy day in the backcountry.  We had driven up from Denver with our brother and good friend Chris, and we were all planning on a fun day of snowboarding at Loveland Pass.  My sister and I broke off from the guys, who were going to build a jump and play on that, to hike farther around the bowl and do laps.  The wind was insane that day on the ridge, and as we hiked farther around the bowl, Jennie and I set our sights on a peak on the backside of the bowl.  We had never ventured over there before, but from where we were standing, it looked entirely feasible.  And fun.  So we set off to hike the next peak.  And thus began what would become an incredible story of survival.

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We were young and foolish.  We didn’t think about the fact that we were going far beyond where we had told everyone we would be.  We didn’t account for snow conditions, or even cared (read: 16 years old).  Or for the fact that it was late in the afternoon.  It was incredibly deep snow and soon we were slogging waist deep, post-holing and fighting to just make forward progress.  Long story short, we were soon exhausted and thirsty.  And we were losing daylight.  It was an extrememly vulnerable feeling.  We knew how to get back where we had come from, but we couldn’t physically hike back up the mountain we had ridden down because of the deep heavy snow.  We had decided to head a different way, hoping to circle around and meet up with the pass road on the other side of the pass.  But the farther we ventured down into treeline, the less visibility we had, the sooner we realized we were lost.

The sun sank behind the towering peaks behind us.  The shadows were lengthening.  The temperature was immediately dropping.  We had been hiking now for hours without water or food.  We found a clearing in the trees where we could get a view of the valley below us, expecting to see the pass road.  Instead we saw a mountain.  My heart fell in that moment.  We would never get over that in the couple of hours of daylight we had left.  And with our level of exhaustion, I was skeptical that we would ever make it that far.  It was an incredibly sobering and terrifying moment. 

We changed plans.  Instead of it becoming about getting out of the backcountry, we realized we were in a survival situation.  It became about preparing to spend the night here, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of snow, in the middle of February, with no supplies, no water, no shelter, no cell phone.  What’s worse, no one had a clue we were here. 

We trudged out a huge S.O.S. in the clearing, we dug a hole down into the snow pack just big enough for the two of us to crawl inside, we set our brightly colored snowboards out where we hoped they’d be visible.  We crawled headfirst into the dark, freezing hole.  We grabbed some branches and packed the sugary-like snow desperately into the branches, trying to cover the opening.  It was dark in the snow cave.  It was silent.  It was growing dark outside, as we saw the light growing dim through the patched-over opening of the snow cave.  It was insanity.  Both Jennie and I had these desperate urges to just jump back out of this hellish hole and keep trudging.  But instinctively we knew we would die if we did that.  We knew the temps were going to be freezing that night and we would freeze, in our wet gear, traveling in the woods with no light.  We didn’t know if we were making the best decision.  But we had made it and we committed to stick to it.  When light came in the morning, we would start hiking again.

So we thought.  Thus ensued one of the most insane nights of survival I could ever have imagined.  Temperatures that night, we later learned, dropped to -11 degrees, -21 with windchill.  Negative 21!  Thankfully we were protected from the wind in our makeshift shelter.  We were not warm, however.  We were shivering convulsively.  We were wet and laying on wet snow in total darkness.  We were thirsty.

There is so much that happened in that dark hole alone together that evening.  There are a whole host of miracles that happened, people who were working and searching and sacrificing out in the dark cold, hundreds searching for us, due to my quick-thinking brother and friend, Chris, who called in search and rescue.  But it’s not the purpose for which I write to you today.  A story for another time.  But as morning began to dawn, we couldn’t have guessed that our energy would be vastly depleted just from trying to survive and keep warm through the night.  Our muscles were so tired from convulsing and shivering that we couldn’t imagine even walking.  We realized that having gone almost a full 24 hours without water or food and yet expending all the physical strength we could muster to hike and to stay warm had left us completely depleted.  Helpless.

We realized we were waiting now to be found.  We realized there would be no way to hike out.  We realized we were so cold, so weak, so lost.  We were utterly dependent on the reckless hope that someone would be searching for us.  That someone would find us, and soon.

And this morning, thirteen years later, I sit here as snow softly falls in the mountains of North Carolina.  I sit here cozy in my bed tapping away on these keys, while my husband plays with and feeds our two precious children.  I sit here almost 30 years old.  I sit here, having been RESCUED.  I sit here as one who received grace on that fateful day, February 12th, 2001.

As God would have it, I was studying Genesis chapter 15 and Romans chapter 4 this morning.  My mind is reeling with what God was speaking to me, so bear with me, as I try to give words to it here.

I know what its like to be helpless.  I know what its like to be desperate.  I know what its like to realize you are about to face death soon unless someone comes through for you.  To know that you have reached the end of yourself and you cannot save yourself.  There is nothing you can do.  It is the most vulnerable and terrifying position to be in. 

It is the place where all pride and self-sufficiency falls away and grace alone can save.

But I’m all about pride and self-sufficiency.  You see, I grew up with a faulty and broken understanding of righteousness.  I grew up thinking that if I could be good enough, God would be pleased with me.  I grew up thinking somehow that I had to earn my way into His favor, and that when I sinned, I lost His love and favor.  And all my days, I have strived.

And then there’s Romans 4.  There’s Abraham.  A man who “believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3, Gen. 15:6).

“If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the Scripture say?  Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.  But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:2-5).

If our standing with God is based on our good works, if we can be good enough, then God owes us our wage, which is salvation, heaven.  We are good people who generally stay out of trouble so God is obligated to save us.  But what about those of us who know we are helplessly flawed??  What about those of us who cannot see inherent goodness in ourselves?  What about those of us who see that every inclination of our hearts is only evil continually?  That our pride, our selfishness, our self-protectiveness runs deep?  What about those of us who return over and over and over to our sin, like a dog to vomit?  What is the hope of salvation for us?  We need to be rescued.

If our standing with God is based on what GOD Himself has done, because God Himself knew that we would never be able to be good enough to stand before Him, then we would know that it is by faith.  It is by believing this truth and resting all our hope upon it that we will be saved.

“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all…in the presence of Him whom He believed–God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who contrary to hope, in hope believed…He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised, He was also able to perform” (Rom.4:16,17-18,20-21).

What had God promised, that Abraham was convinced He would be able to perform?  Head back to Gen.15 and remember that God covenanted with Abraham to make a great nation from Abraham’s line, even though Abraham and Sarai, his wife, were old in age and barren.  God promised they would in fact have a son, an heir, through whom God would bring the Promised One, the Savior, who had been promised back in the Garden of Eden (Gen.3:15), whom all humanity had been waiting for and looking for since the fall of the first parents, Adam and Eve.  God covenanted with Abraham, He promised that He would rescue mankind, He promised that He would do it through Abraham’s family, and He alone took on both sides of the covenant agreement (see Gen.15:17).  God did not require Abraham to make covenant with Him, because God knew Abraham would never be able to hold up his end of the deal.  God made covenant with Abraham and covenanted to uphold both parties’ commitments.  He alone would do this.  Would Abraham believe?  God then told Abraham what would happen to His people, those descendants of Abraham, for the next 400 years (all of which was perfectly historically accurate), and foretold to Abraham that His plan would be to rescue the people once they were desperate and hopelessly in bondage/slavery to Egypt.  God’s plan was for Israel to inherit Canaan through God’s supernatural act of redemption from slavery.

You see, He knows we are helpless.  He knows we cannot be good.  But He allows us to experience that truth for ourselves physically in our lives, often to get into a place of physical helplessness, so that we make the connection to our spiritually helpless, lost state, apart from Christ.  We can do some good things in our lives, sure, but if we can be honest, we are prone to serve ourselves.  We are prone to greed, selfishness, hatred, bitterness, jealousy, sexual immorality, and on and on.  We are bent away from God, away from holiness.  We can try and be good some days, but we are never perfect.

And it hits me fresh, and it hits me hard this morning.

It isn’t the good-enough who inherit the kingdom of God.  It isn’t the people who do it all right who get to go to heaven.  It is those who believe.  It is those who hang all of their hope on Jesus. As Romans 4 says, “it is of faith that it might be according to grace” (vs. 16).  God wanted to show off the sufficiency of His GRACE.  If it were works, I could earn it.  I could lose it.  And God would be my debtor.  But as it stands, it is all of faith.  It is given to me, its a gift.  But I have to receive it.  I have to believe it in order to appropriate it.  And because of that truth, I am forever God’s gladdest debtor.

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So back to that freezing cold, blinding cold morning, thirteen years ago.  The first sound of hope that we heard was the blurry, distant chop-chop-chop of helicopter blades.  It barely pulled me out of the fog that I was in.  I could barely put two thoughts together to figure out what that vaguely familiar sound was.

It got closer.  And closer.  And closer until it was like a thunder roaring right over us.  Jennie burst through the roof of snow above us, screaming and waving wildly at the smiling faces of two men above us, circling over and over above us, just barely above the trees.  Soon, two men hiked down to us, two rescuers, who offered us snickers bars and some warm layers and helped us to hike to another clearling where we were able to board that helicopter and be rushed to Summit County hospital for treatment.  We exited that helicopter to be greeted by our dearest loved ones, whom we clung to.  We were greeted by several news stations.  And in the coming days we were interviewed over and over again, on the Today Show, in Teen People Magazine, in newspapers and women’s magazines.  It was incredible.

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What if we had said no to it all?  What if when those two rescuers showed up, we had said, “No I don’t believe you’re really here.  I don’t believe you really have my best interest at heart.  I don’t think you care to rescue me, I don’t believe you that right below this clearing is a large clearing where a helicopter is waiting for me.  I don’t believe that if I stay here in this dark hole, death is certain.  I think I can do it on my own.  I think I can be strong enough to get out of here.”  What if the gift that was offered, what if we refused it?  We had the FREEDOM to do that.  Those men could not have forced us to come to safety.  They could have given us many convincing proofs and arguments.  They could have pled with us.  But ultimately, we had to trust them, total strangers, we had to believe their word.  We had to place our lives in their hands.

We had to let them rescue us.

Because “rescue” implies submission, weakness, trust, dependency, helplessness.

Whoever you are, reading this today… that is the Good News of Jesus Christ.  He came for us.  He is God, who came from God, to make a way for humanity to get back to God, when we used our freedom to flee from Him.  But you must let Him rescue you.  You must believe that He is good, that He has a plan to redeem you, and you must put your hand in His and let Him lead you to safety.

The Christian life is not about being a good person.  NO!!!!  The Christian life is about placing your trust in Jesus, who was perfect, and believing He is the Savior of the world, and letting Him rescue you.

Will you do that today?  Will you believe?

“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”  (Rom.5:1-2 MSG)

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A special word of thanks goes out to all those who worked and sacrificed and prayed that night on our behalf.  To my parents, my brother Andrew and Chris Harrison, Bill & Cindy Scott, Littleton Bible Chapel, Dan Burnett {our burliest mountain man}, Pat Mahaney {the pilot}, Mike Everest {the scout who found our tracks on a whim}, Bill Barwick, Loveland Ski Patrol, Alpine Search & Rescue team.  Because of what you did, I am here today with my precious children and husband.  I am forever indebted and “thank you” is simply not enough.  You all are my heroes forever!

winter: looking hard for hope

Sometimes the barrenness and deadness of winter gets to me.  In the gray and brown bleakness it can seem that all beauty and life has faded from the world.  The daylight shortens, the cold sets in, the life and bounty of summer shrivel into shades of brown, crisp papers carrying forgotten stories.  And the winds blow the weightless shreds away.

And what is underneath are the skeletons.  They have their own stories to tell.  They have their own beauty to proclaim.  From a distance and from a quick scan, it all looks like death.  You have to look harder, listen closer.  Slow down and draw near to really see.

Sometimes it’s good to just go out and search for it, to see in order to remember:

There is beauty here.  There is life here, contained, ready to combust.  There is hope here.

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for the hard days

The hard days just come.  Suddenly, you realize you’re going to have one, when you thought everything was going just fine.  When what was going along suddenly careens off course.

And the soup you made tastes like fish, and sour.
And the bread in the breadmaker is a flop, something went horribly wrong, and its barely cooked or edible (and how can you mess that up?)
And its a small failure but it wipes you out.
And you cry and your husband holds and says he’ll make dinner.
And you hear the news that the car is dead.
And the numbers in the budget won’t crunch down any further.
And you’re clinging hard to Jesus, to that simple sentence that is packed with power, that “perfect love casts out fear” {1 Jn. 4:18}
And you’re not feeling power at all.  And it doesn’t feel like perfect love at all.
And you realize for all your clinging, you are not so much holding on as you are held.

And there comes rushing in the hope: nothing can shake this one truth.  Nothing can change it.  The mountains might crumble and fall into the sea, but this one truth will remain:  I am His, and He is mine.
Forever and for all eternity.
And if by faith, and by quiet surrender, I let it be, it can be, enough.

In this life I will have trouble… but He has overcome the world.

I will suffer, but I don’t have to fear suffering, because I will survive it to glory and I know the sure end.
I know my sure end.
And it can be enough.

There’s nothing as effective as pain and need to wake one up, and I want to live awake.

I want to live awake to the reality that my tight-fisted grasping for control isn’t possible.  And in knowing that comes rest because I cannot hold onto my life, but I am HELD.  My life and all that concerns me is held in the hands of another–and He is good.  He is love.  He is out to give me ultimate joy and life.  And He says, “Do not fear for I am with you” (Isa.41:10) and He promises that His presence with me is enough.