before all that: exploring a life of desperate dependence

Before the breakdown and before the last straw that falls on the camel’s back.

Before all that.

What if we got desperate and dependent before anxiety wrapped its cold, stubborn fingers around our hearts?

I’ve learned dependence before, many times. While boarding with  a leaky car in Austin and while bumming on a co-worker’s couch I learned some important things about dependence. But we have a tendency to label lessons like mile markers – things we’ve passed along the way. Once we’ve learned a lesson, we move on with a forward gaze, assuming the lesson is added to our lives like a scout badge on a vest.

Well, maybe it’s just me that does that – but I’m only cheating myself out of joy if I live treating lessons like mile markers or scout badges.

Oh, how I love my patient and faithful Savior! He is reminding me that “casting all your cares on the Lord because He cares for you” is not merely for the SOS moments. Maybe let me rephrase: our lives are a string of SOS moments.

This is what I am learning and living.

We are made to be desperate, but not the kind of desperate that builds up to a breaking point and then explodes out of control. Not that kind of desperate.

We are made to depend desperately on the One who will trade our need for His provision.

That is His good design. Our dependence is deeper than bread and water, but our needs are all in the same well that His grace is sufficient to fill. That is His good design – desperate dependence, all the time.

We cast our cares on Him because He cares for us – because He has been faithful and promises to be faithful in the future. Our God has never broken a promise, not ever. My desperate dependence is evidence that I believe Him to be just that.

So, when a string of days fills with SOS moments, there is not less joy available. It is not a lesson of dependence that marks another mile walked on the faith road. Desperate dependence is the road we walk, the path we tread as we daily rejoice in His provision for us. He provides all that we need, according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) – and there is no bank with better credit. Our provision comes from the source of all things.

The deep well of His sufficient grace offers peace (Philippians 4:6) when we cast our cares (1 Peter 5:7), believing that God is the strength for our hearts and portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

Before the breakdown and before the last straw (but of course, in those times too), we are invited to desperately depend on the One who can sufficiently provide for our needs and overwhelm our lives with joy.

I could tell you about the past two days – about the car trouble and the appointments and the millions of ways that God gave me good gifts. I could tell you about the near disasters (averted, I know, by the grace of God) and the very friendly repair shop on SE 14th Street. I could tell you about the songs I sang in my car with littles in the backseat and the way they explained the songs to their parent. I could tell you about sitting around a coffee table in community and laughter.

I could tell you just a few of the millions of ways God is providing in the desperately dependent state, but then it might seem like this is something I “learned” in the past two days.

And I didn’t learn it, in the past tense way.

This desperate dependence is meant to be a lifestyle that flows like the lifeblood in my veins, keeping me existing here on earth. So, I’m exploring a life of desperate dependence, walking that road with eternity hidden in my heart.

God is glorified in our love for one another

She wandered in to the kitchen, shrugged her shoulders and said, “What can I do?”

Twenty years of provision fell heavy on my heart and I brimmed with thanksgiving. My grandma, who had hosted countless Easter gatherings at her home and provided the homemade bread and deviled eggs for too many Easter gatherings at my parents’ to count. Her knobby fingers have kneaded more dough and cleared more dining room tables than mine can dream about.

And she wandered into my little kitchen after our ragamuffin Easter dinner to offer her help. But, not just to wash the dishes and de-bone the chicken… because as we scrubbed the carmelized onions out of the bottom of the stew pot, she asked how she could pray for me. We chatted about how to make the best beef stew from roast leftovers and about how to make creative meals out of de-boned lemon sage chicken. And she said she was praying about my job constantly. She put her hand on my arm and looked at me with a steady gaze and assured me she was praying.

This was the first Easter my sister and I hosted at our humble rental home in our little Des Moines neighborhood. We invited our neighbors, our grandparents, and a few friends. We conquered Lemon Sage Chicken and Chuck Roast Dinner with (surprisingly) very few catastrophes or disastrous substitutions. The sunshine started early and was still proclaiming resurrection joy when we arrived at our house after church.

I’ll admit, no amount of Febreze in any scent can compare to a house with a roast in the oven. The smell was coming out the windows when I invited my grandparents inside, where they spread out the deviled eggs and fresh baked french loaf. Just before our celebration began, our neighbor Louie came over to bring a jello salad and his regrets that he wouldn’t be able to make it with his wife. We made plans to have them over for dinner soon (and vice versa) and I introduced Louie to my Grandpa.

Our guests around the table ranged in age from 15 to 80, but the laughter was all the same level after my Grandpa said grace. We enjoyed elderberry jelly and lemon-buttery potatoes and conversation and laughter. We enjoyed it all and we enjoyed each other and our laughter lingered long after enjoying my Gram’s puff pastry dessert with coffee.

But, it was that moment when my Grandma wandered into the kitchen to offer her help (and more than just her help), that I breathed a sigh of gratitude for the way we are designed for relationship.

Our front doors are meant to swing open to family and friends and strangers – to break bread with one another, delight in the gathering and the eating and the laughing and the conversing. We are made to live together in relationship and our hearts are glad when we live as we were made to live.

My heart was full today as we broke bread together, as we laughed together, as we prayed together, as we washed dishes together, and as my Grandma looked me in the eyes and told me she prays for me constantly.

Because I know she does.

God has woven our hearts together intentionally to reveal His glory. He is glorified as we benefit by loving one another, sharing with one another, bearing each others’ burdens, and wandering into the kitchen to say, “How can I help?”

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

counting blessings, and what to do when there are too many

We sang, crowded in concentric circles around the basement with my mom pounding out the hymn on the piano. We sang the familiar song that has accompanied every Thanksgiving I can remember – even the Thanksgivings where I have been far from this little countryside gathering. It seems that counting blessings got into my bloodstream real early and has never left.

When we had little, we counted. When we had much, we counted. When we struggled, we counted. When we prevailed, we counted.

The blessings always seemed to outnumber our math, so we counted by song and we’re still counting.

I can’t put my finger on the emotion hanging in that long skinny room this past Thursday, but every year it seems to swell for the new little ones and the ones married in. The emotion is heavier than the scent of turkey and stuffing and Aunt Jane’s coconut pecan pie. The emotion of counting blessings is a heavy one.

I wonder if we count our blessings like someone counts a harvest… and we’re accountable for what happens after it’s been stored away.

Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in the counting, overwhelmed by what I’ve been given. I’m drawn into thanks and into joy as I reflect on these gifts – as I look on the storehouses of blessings that are bent to bursting. And as I get caught up, I get stuck.

I stop at counting and thanking.

This year, I’m feeling the Lord asking me to count my blessings so that I know exactly what I am giving back to Him. It is not enough to be thankful. It is not enough to get overwhelmed and weepy at the Lord’s provision. It is not enough.

Thanksgiving and joy are part of the journey into greater joy and greater thanksgiving as we count the blessings as they go out from our possession. In the same way that we count the blessings we’ve been given, we must also count the blessings as we give. Because we were never meant to hold fast to anything but Christ.

I have so many blessings to count, but having many blessings is never the problem. The problem is my hoarding what has been counted.

As I read through Kevin DeYoung‘s Hole in Our Holiness, I came to his reflection on this passage from Timothy 4 and specifically verse 15, “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.”

I thought of all the ways I make excuses for my slow progress on the holiness road and the excuses I allow others to make for me. I thought of the conversations in my head where I’ve said, “But you aren’t making hardly any money right now…” and “No one really expects you to give…” and “No one really knows your schedule, anyway…”

And I thought about how my beliefs about blessings sometimes stretch a great distance from my behavior with blessings.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV (emphasis mine)

Counting blessings is only the first of a two-part transfer. The second part is the way you transfer the blessings to others. This I must practice in a way that my progress is noticeable. I must make my behavior – my speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity – match my beliefs in a way that transfers blessings into the lives of others.

I’m not discounting the ways I have succeeded in blessing others – by God’s grace I hope it does happen. But, we have never arrived at a final destination on the holiness road, so we must keep journeying.

And when my pack gets full of blessings, I know I must transfer the joyful load so I may travel light.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy