March 23, 2014

What Is the Soundtrack to Your Faith
{aka, I got to shake Ron Luce's hand this morning}

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I got to shake Ron Luce's hand this morning.

"Ron Luce and his wife Katie started Teen Mania Ministries in 1986 with a dream to raise up young people who would change the world. The ministry has expanded greatly and has become very influential within today’s Christian youth culture."

They are responsible for the Acquire the Fire weekend youth rallies that tour all over the country, Global Expeditions that trains and sends youth all over the world to proclaim the name of Christ through missions, they offer Extreme (summer) Camps, the Honor academy to cultivate and develop the leadership potential in young adults directly following high school, plus advanced education opportunities in their School of Worship and their Center for Creative Media.

I got to shake Ron Luce's hand this morning.

I got to tell him that 16 years ago I attended my first Acquire The Fire youth conference, around the time my daddy was in rehab and my parents had separated and I had just started cutting.

I was 13.

No one knew how depressed I was and scared to be myself in our youth group or how I believed that I didn't fit in or that they didn't even want me there because I was just an annoying 7th grader who was unknowingly going through hell.

It was at that ATF conference that I learned for the first time that God saw me, up close.  He totally showed up when I did the whole, open-up-the-Word-at-a-random-place-and-point-with-your-finger-at-random-on-the-page-and-see-if-it-means-anything-to-you... thing.  Thrice.

It was at that ATF conference that I silently balled my eyes out in my auditorium seat with my face covered so my "friends" wouldn't see me as Ron's words penetrated straight into my soul and rocked my world.  And GOD met me right where I was.

Ron likes to say, "When you fall in love with Jesus, you fall out of love with the world," and I walked away from that weekend never to cut again. God used that conference in March of '98 to change. my. life. I can still hear him yelling in the mic, "HOW do YOU know God is real?" and the whole auditorium screaming back, "Because He changed my life!!!"

This morning he was a guest speaker at the church fellowship our family is apart of.  He spoke on Daniel 3:16-18. Just 3 verses out of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
He talked about this "feel good" world, and how it has easily crafted a new normal for Christians to have "feel good" faith too; "only if" faith. Only if He does this or answers this prayer or protects this person, etc. We put conditions on our following of Christ. "Lord, I will follow You but first let me..." {Luke 9:61} There's no "backroom deals" with God. There's no deal we can make that will allow us the pleasure of riding above the storms in life.

I don't want to be that kid who throws a fit on Christmas morning because I didn't get the present that I wanted. i.e. - He didn't protect my baby and keep her healthy, so... the centrality of my faith is shaken? Or how about when we see something bad happen to good people, or they even die, or get diagnosed, or children are abused, etc, and we say silently in our hearts, "Hold up! This does NOT line up with my theology." It's at this point that "feel good faith" becomes disillusioned. Scripture says, "We see through a glass dimly..."

Will I trust Him when it hurts really bad? Or how about how we all believe that He CAN do something, but that He MAY NOT choose to... so I'm afraid to even ask in faith in the first place because I could be disappointed? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not only believed God COULD, but also that He WOULD... and yet they added, "Even if He doesn't..."
"Even if" faith allows for the majesty of God.  -Ron Luce
Jesus said that those who ENDURE to the end will be saved. Endure is not a word we use to describe something pleasant or enjoyable. ("Hey, do you think you could endure this ice cream?")

"BE STRONG IN THE LORD!" we say. Yeah, for like a minute. Because as Christians, we usually only train for strength but not for endurance. Endure through the difficult.  Like running with with an injury to finish the race, or a military person miraculously rescuing someone even though their own wounds might eventually overtake them: choosing to endure even when it FEELS unpleasant. Or even simply choosing to worship or pray or dig deep in Him "even if" we don't FEEL His presence currently.
Brook Fraser wrote a song called faithful that says, "When I can't feel you I have learned to reach out just the same. When I can't hear you I know you still hear every word I say.  Lord, I want you more than I want to live another day. So as I wait for you maybe I'm made more...faithful."
Made more faithful.  Trained for endurance.

He shared the back-story of the beloved hymn, "It Is Well," which I already knew, but haven't heard directly after my own loss before. After the loss of all four of his daughters in a shipwreck the hymnist Horatio Spafford penned these words, "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul."

Jesus asked His disciples when the going got tough, "Will you leave me too?" They responded so matter of fact with, "Lord, where would we go?" 

Ron left us with this question posed:
"What is the soundtrack to your faith? Only if or even if?"
Sixteen years ago God used this man, this imperfect soul that just wants to live for God to his fullest and impact as many youth for Christ like he was... to reach me right where I was at the time. We were just another stop on that year's ATF tour. There have been decades and thousand more tour stops along the way, and millions of youth reached like I was.

And God did that again for me today. What a pleasure to get to tell Ron my God-story that he had no idea included him. Also, at the end of the conversation he remembered both our names from the beginning of it, and thanked us. Our pleasure. :)

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February 28, 2014

Grief Is Grief

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We met her last autumn in that tiny Goodwill, among the shelves of books that no one had a use for any longer.  She began silently passing books to our girls that she thought they'd like.  She noticed our nine year old's current fascination with weather, and located a few on hurricanes.

I left my husband with the girls as I browsed past the books and into the clothing racks.  I found a few peasant skirts I fancied with elastic waistbands I could alter to fit.

Within a few minutes he came over to me with eyes intense.  "Come here.  We need to pray for this woman, together."

She shared with us that just a few months earlier her only child, a son only a few months old, had died tragically in an accident.  He had choked on something at day care while she was at work.  Her tired face and eyes said that it felt like yesterday.  Still so fresh and raw.

We listened.  We grieved with her.  We encouraged.  And we lifted her up.  We prayed together, there in the private back corner of a Goodwill.

We exchanged information, that I regretfully lost pretty quickly, and we haven't seen her again.

Until tonight.

One week and four days since our fifth daughter, Jane Malise, was born to heaven.
And on the very day that marked the one year anniversary of the death of her baby boy.

This was beyond coincidence.  This was Providence.

She started out the conversation in the cold grocery parking lot.  "Aren't you the woman from Goodwill?"

I laughed yes.  We hugged.  She smiled through tears and blurted out the significance of today.  I said I was so glad to see her today then.  I didn't hesitate and vomited out more words to add to the grief pot.

"We lost a baby less than two weeks ago. Her name was Jane."

We hugged again.  And this time she said how glad she was to see me today.


I explained that I couldn't have looked at her today with the heart I have now if this hadn't happened.  She said she understood.  Which was so dern good to hear and know that she meant it.  She did understand.

I told her how angry and hurt I am today.  Yes, terribly missing my baby.  But more angry at ignorant people.  I'm angry that people expect me to just move on.

I'm angry that out of the true goodness of their hearts they say things so extremely ridiculous and unknowingly hurtful to mothers who have lost a child to miscarriage.  Things like this:

"It was God's plan... she obviously fulfilled her purpose... God was merciful to your family in protecting you from the burden of caring for a disabled child... at least you know she's in heaven and you'll see her again... at least you have kids already, you should be thankful for them... buck up, don't worry, y'all got a good track record, you'll have another... at least it wasn't one of your other children... at least you weren't much further along because that would have been harder... at least... at least... at least..."

I was shivering in the the parking lot tonight as we talked, but neither one of us wanted our conversation to end.  We needed each other.  We needed each other TODAY.

[image source]
[image source]

She held me as I sobbed my first real good sob since the day I saw Jane's precious little, lifeless body on the ultrasound screen.  One week and four days ago since I lay there on the exam table bleeding my littlest one out on a sheet.  One week and four days since no one thought to pass along that information to the lab tech in the next room who took my blood and asked happily, "Oh, you're pregnant! How far along are you? Is this your first?"  I just looked at her a few seconds not knowing what to say, then said just louder than a whisper, "No mam, she's our fifth daughter."  Because she was.

"I'll always wonder who she would have been!" I heard myself saying through broken sobs as this woman in the parking lot held me tighter.

She said simply, "Me too."

"I know it would have been different if I held her alive and knew her like you did your son..." I apologized.

"Grief is grief," she said.

Grief. Is. Grief.

She, this woman who held her living son, who fed him, played with him, laughed with him, soothed his tears, wiped his nose, video taped his first crawl...

She saw no difference in the devastation.  She saw lives lost.  She saw a mother's grief.
"What if you held the hand of a grieving mom who miscarried at 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 18 weeks or more?  What if you never compared the loss of a 4-weeker to a 20-weeker?  What if you never said anything that started with, "At least . . . "  What if you didn't try to stifle her tears? What if you welcomed them? And matched her tears with your own?  What if you held back any trite, easy answers that promised God's will and promised easy comfort? What if you just wrapped your arms around her the way Christ would?  What if you made that meal, bought those flowers and wrote that card?  What if you went to the hospital and sat in the waiting room for her, even if you wouldn't see her? Just because she is your friend. Just because that's what you do when someone is sick in the hospital or their child is dying.  What if you called her child by name?  What if you went to the service if they planned one? What if you helped her find a support group? What if you offered to go with her?  What if you prayed constantly for that hole in her heart that will one day scab, one day scar, but will never fully heal?  What if all your actions when dealing with loss of any kind, affirmed that fact that all life -- ALL LIFE -- is good, worthy of recognition and worthy of grief.  What if you didn't just affirm to the world that all babies are valuable -- but you also affirmed to a bereaved mom that HER baby was irreplaceable, and would forever be missed?
'A person is a person, no matter how small.'"
"We have to fall together," she said as she brought her hands toward one another, "or we'll fall apart."

Suffering transcends difference.  The art of solidarity.  Providence.

"There is a support group that a woman leads that I go to sometimes," she said.  "She lost her 6 week old baby now 30 years ago, and she uses writing to heal; uses writing prompts to lead us, guide us, and help us through where we are at and so we can help others.  Would you like to go with me?"

This woman in the parking lot?  The same one from Goodwill?  Yeah, she didn't know that I write.  That I feel the most honest me when I write.  That God pricks and heals my soul when I write.  And that sometimes He graciously uses my writing to encourage others.

"I'd love to," I said, and smiled a good smile.

My husband had loaded all the groceries in the back of our van while we spoke.  As we began to drive away she motioned for him to roll down his driver's window.

"Take care of her," my new friend said smiling, but with eyes that ran it deep.

He always does.  Jane was his girl too.

You, mama-friend, you who have this wound similar,
Give yourself time.  Allow yourself the sobs, and if you have other children, let them see you cry.  Pray with them in that moment together.  You have nothing to explain to people that don't understand.  That's not your job.  They don't have to understand or be okay with what you need.  It doesn't matter if they seem irritated that you had to cancel that luncheon or lesson again.  Or maybe they might.  Maybe they'll be tender and say things like my husband was told tonight on the phone when he made calls for me, "Tell her to take all the time she needs; we'll be here."  But either way-  Just. Take. Time.  And find someone or someones to "fall together" with.  We must know we are not alone, that how we feel is not abnormal, and that there is hope in tomorrow.

Dear mama-friend who needs a voice today to bring a light of validation to your grief after miscarriage,
The truth of this life lost has been ascertained.  Your story as that life's mother has been corroborated.  Your grief has been found as something substantial and authentic.  Your soul and body has been given the stamp of approval, the go ahead, the green light...  to rest. and to bear. this. out.  You are not alone.

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February 24, 2014

Escaping the Mundane
{moms against manic mondays}

Truth is, we can't.  We cannot, as hard as we try or strive or feel discontent doing the same old or ordinary or usual, live a life apart from it.  And as long as we are focused on the irritation of the mundane, that is all you and I will see, sweet friend.

This past weekend I heard a recount of the story of Moses and the burning bush, for quite possibly the thousandth time in my life so far.  But this time it was different.

I heard something I've never heard before.  A revelation of the simplest magnitude.

Burning bushes in the desert were normal.


That was it!  Rain doesn't come, bushes and other growing things get dry and withered, and due to the sun's constant rays, sometimes combust.

The miracle in this story was not at all that the bush was burning, it was that Moses turned aside to look at it.

He turned aside to notice the usual.  The mundane.

When he saw the miracle in the mundane, that it was not consumed by the fire, that is when God spoke.

God placed a miracle in the normal and spoke through it.  But Moses had to notice.
He had to turn aside.  To change position.  To alter his posture.
"No matter how much we are walking in our calling, we cannot escape the mundane... so look at things that have no linear connection to one another, and then from a heart that says, 'Okay, I'll come and see, even though nothing good comes out of Nazareth...' (John 1:35-50), and God. Pours. Out."

--Stephen Roach, on developing the poetic eye
So let us raise our mugs of coffee together, that I sometimes feel I need intravenously, and say here's to being intentional in this day to alter our posture to see the countless eucharisteo moments He places in our every day; His joy dares.  Let us ask the Lord to give us eyes for the miracle in the mundane.

Where are you today, my friend?  How might I lift you up to the One who knows you through and through, and sees you up close?  Let me know.

There are so many beautiful things about Mondays.  Here at From My Mountain View, every Monday, we band together to renounce/reject Manic Mondays.  Right here is a great place to encourage one another and be encouraged!

Moms Against Manic Mondays is a place you can share your posts about:
Mondays - Encouragement - Joy - Pressing On - Etc.
  • Share a link to your post using the widget at the end of this post, it's easy!
  • Remember to link your blog post back here by adding our adorable button using the code found below, courtesy of Plumrose Lane.
  • Most importantly, visit the person that linked up before you and encourage them in their comments!  (Which is the heart of this community.)
I bless you today with eyes to see them and the heart to recognize them - the blessings in disguise.  Eucharisteo!
Psalm 118:24
"This is the day which the Lord has brought about; I will rejoice and be glad in it!"
  1. I desire to recognize what is my part of the "manic" in Mondays, and do what I can to change it.
  2. I desire to live abundantly in the Mondays.
  3. I desire to thrive in each day, to dance them in along with the sun.

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February 23, 2014

an invitaion to all who suffer loss

We're all there, unknowingly together there.  Spread out.  Feeling alone.
Our wombs bare too soon like those trees whose limbs are stripped by a harsh, early winter.

We're all there, unknowingly together there.  But the road tapers down, drawing us closer together as we search for solidarity.

We're all cupped there, His hands cup us together there.  Because suffering transcends difference.

The invitation chimes in the dark - to see a different reality.  We are not in the wallows, the crevices between pains that no one sees as they walk by in the market unaware of our wounds.

No, we are high and lifted up with You.  You see us up close and lift us up high.

You call us there, You call us together there.  To under-gird one another ...because suffering transcends difference.

The invitation chimes in the dark - to see a different reality.  We are not passed over.  Wear His favor on your head as a crown, sister friend.  We are His and the hope of life is in our wombs.

Art and life will continue to pour forth again.

{dedicated to all who have walked through miscarriage or any other kind of loss,
and to our sweet Jane Malise, born to heaven 2/17/14}

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January 26, 2014

When Choosing Joy Takes Courage
{Moms Against Manic Mondays}

It's easy for me to choose joy when it's like, no biggie.  But when it takes actual courage?  To dare to joy.  That's when it's the most difficult.  But hard-joy, hard-eucharisteo, turns out to be greater, more deeply rooted, preparing me for the next trial (or even the next day).

Courage isn't always about being brave - to do or accomplish something.

Sometimes courage just means being present.

And you, darlin', have the courage of Christ dwelling in you.

January 19, 2014

When the Love is There, But Not the "Like"
{Moms Against Manic Mondays}

Itexted her a plea for prayer support last Friday.  The three year old was having an especially rough day, screaming at each and every juncture her will was not satisfied.  I stuck to my guns, determined.  I am going to show her grace in my response, yet teach her that she is not in charge.  But I was barely hanging on as I allowed her quest to exert her will chip away at me.  It tired my soul.  I love her more than breath.

It grew in me until there was a shroud all around my head.  I couldn't hear or see His gifts in the moment, His joy dares, graces in the mundane.  

No, only this, gut-wrenchingly honest text:

January 15, 2014

Coming Out of Quiet, Confessions, & New Statement of Purpose

I am ready to write again.
I need to write again.
I need to bleed a bit of myself out on paper with the stroke of a pen.

It helps me be real.
It reminds me of who I am in the throws of all I am doing.

January 7, 2014

A One Word Resolution

2 013 was a year of choosing joy beyond circumstance and trial, a year of hard eucharisteo.

Year of location change, re-homing, injury and long-term pain.  One of temper tantrum-ed child I struggled to understand, even like, and humble parenthood.  Of financial hardship after employment and economic change, and learning how to receive.

I wrote of my One Word 2013 :: Joyful.

Scripture 2013, given before understanding its depth or why :: Psalm 68:19.

November 18, 2013

One Year Post Natural Birth

O ne year ago, in the dark hours of the morning, I walked.

The three of us walked together.  He and I, hand in hand, and she swaying in my low, swollen belly.

I walked.  Sometimes stomped.  Definitely moaned.  And I leaned my sweaty, pinched brow on his chest as he reminded me to breathe and told me I am his hero.

The Helser songs played and I worshiped through each transition.  Fully realizing this amazing, selfless, painful act of worship.  Every contraction and movement and breath, worship.  An ode to the Creator of Life.

The waters rushed, and she and I worked together.

June 3, 2013

God-Sized Dreams and a Goodbye

I wrote you, friends, two months ago about taking a break from blogging.  I wrote you of my struggle in letting it go.  I wrote you of the joy God had already begun to grant me in the process of being fully (in stead of partially) obedient to Him.

{to read, "Obedience, Taking a Needed Break," click here}

I used to get online every day.  I did a lot with social networking.  I love to write and blog.  I love to encourage and (in)courage.

Being online every day was fine for me then, and even needed while I was an (in)courage community leader. But since taking a needed break from blogging here, stepping down from my position with (in)courage, and social networking in general, I have been able to fully dive into my God-Sized dreams --