broad strokes of the painting I am living inside

I am starting to think the 60 and 70 degree temps are not exceptions, finally. It is spring… or maybe it is summer. The changes in this season are all melting together and I guess I needed some time to process all the changes, apart from public reflection. Let me give you some updates, to paint some broad strokes of the painting I am living inside.

>We have a rosemary plant hanging in our living room now. The pleasure we get from throwing fresh rosemary into recipes is perfectly silly.

>I like to sleep when I’m overwhelmed. I remember feeling like this sometimes in Honduras – after leaving work at 3 pm, I would crash on my bed and not wake up until morning. It sounds strange because I spend so much of my time chasing activity. But sometimes, like I told Tam recently, “Sometimes, I want to go to sleep because I don’t want to be awake anymore.” I think my body makes a bold ask for a recharge. I have been indulging lately. But, more sleep does not addressed envelopes make, so I will have to do some finagling this week.

>The park is green and crowded with activity! Runners and bikers and farmers markets and frisbee and pee wee baseball games – spring activity exploded in Prospect Park and it looks like a permanent smile on my face as I ride my bike Betty through it all. I went on an errand run yesterday with a very roundabout route, but the day was so glorious it didn’t matter that I took the long way.

>Yep, I am still engaged and still swirling in the post-proposal, full planning mode whirlwind. I’ve learned some things, already. First, I learned that NOT dreaming about specific wedding details for the past 20 years means this wedding has the potential to be as good as my Grandmother’s spontaneous recipes in the kitchen (with whatever is in the cupboard). I’ve also decided to actually take the advice everyone is giving me (in view of their wedding day), “At the end of the day, you will be married and that is what is most important.” True. So, I’m willing to let go of everything else (traditions, pinterest, etc). As long as those vows happen at some point in front of God and witnesses, we will be glad to host a party for all of our favorite people to celebrate the meaning of marriage.

>Lucky is not the right word and blessed is too cliche. I will tell you a story instead about the man I am going to marry. I was biking all over Brooklyn last week because I had convinced myself that I needed envelopes… instantly. It was pretty much the only detail I could move forward on and I wanted desperately to feel like I was productively moving forward with wedding planning. I looked for something practical and creative… but by the third store, I ended up with the plainest white envelopes you could find (something you might get your water bill in). I let go of all my expectations of what it would feel like to invite people to this celebration, because I knew it didn’t really matter anyway. Then, the next day I talked to Patrick on facetime (he’s working in Spain) and he reminded me that we don’t have the guest list done, the invitations are not printed, and there is no reason to give up all my hopes for an envelope that invites our guests in a creative way. He won’t let me be irrational and I love him for it. I ordered envelopes today and we both like them. They cost way more than plain, white bulk envelopes and that is okay. Hopefully, I will have invites to stuff into them soon, but I read somewhere that etiquette is 6 weeks before so I’m still in the clear (and so concerned about etiquette).

>I started a journal, with pen and paper. My friend Barb sent it to me in the mail and it could not have come at a better time. I don’t need more electronics or reminders or advice or schedules or dates or plans. I need more Jesus. I need to sit and get quiet, to enjoy late Sunday night moments and early mornings. I need to breathe deeply and remember that no phase in life is about getting through to something else. Every phase in life is brimming with abundance because God said so. There are plenty of joy thieves out there, but they don’t stand a chance against God’s promises. Not a chance.

>This is still Easter. And I am going to practice the resurrection with the green buds on trees and the magnolia blooms. I am going to practice the resurrection because something so transformational is worth repeating.

never stranded inside a miracle

They went to the tomb with good intentions. Even though Jesus had prepared them in every way for His death and resurrection, they still thought they would find his dead body three days old as if it was any other body. They went to the tomb with good intentions in their hearts and this is what the angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7 ESV)

No need to fear, he says, for you are looking for the right thing. You are seeking Jesus and He will never leave you stranded in a miracle. You are headed in the right direction and God will honor your search! The angel was God’s grace to these ladies just like we experience God’s graces to us as we seek to worship, serve, and love well. He doesn’t leave us stranded at the empty tomb. He points us toward the person of Jesus, toward reunion and delight in His presence.

This is God’s grace – that He never leaves us stranded inside a miracle.

This is the truth I am believing today. I am inside the miracle of love and I believe God will be glorified in spite of all the crazy. He does not leave us stranded at the empty tomb, but points us to His presence. He is always faithfully walking ahead of us, preparing the way for our joy and proclaiming our resurrection.

He rose, just as He said.

He is a promise keeper, our God. And we are so excited to invite people to celebrate His promises while Patrick and I make promises to each other. His promises empower our promises!

I get to marry this man!
I get to marry this man!

this is the first day

“This is the first day.”

Sure, Sunday was the beginning of a new week and the beginning of the Easter season and the beginning of Spring. But it was not just that, not at all just that.

“This is the first day,” our pastor said at least five times in his sermon Sunday.

He said it like he was announcing a baby’s first breath or a rocket’s first flight, like there was a definite and precise time of origin and there was not anything like day before that day. Like, perhaps, when the first dawn broke the first day as God breathed life out of nothing.

When Christ rose from the dead, everything changed… forever. Everything, forever changed. History and future and eternity and the way the sunlight presently stretches across my morning routine. Sunday would have been the first day of a new work week for the Jewish people, but all work was different on this new “first” day, in light of the resurrection.

We are living in the light of an empty tomb – on the sky side of a conquered grave.

That is why we spread the feast table in Prospect Park on Sunday and gathered friends and broke bread and said grace and joyfully remembered together our redemption. We are on the sky side of a conquered grave with Jesus.

As if that wasn’t reason enough to celebrate on Sunday, Patrick decided it would be another first. He thought that Easter was the most appropriate time to make this special invitation because of the way every feast and marriage and celebration is wrapped up inside the immeasurable blessing of salvation.

At the end of a long day of celebrating, Patrick asked me to be his bride and it is making me the happiest little Midwestern Brooklyn girl you have ever seen.

It took a while for the shock to wear off (when I say I had no idea it was coming, I mean like you would be surprised if those big check people showed up at your door). Of course, I was hoping it would happen in the future, but I was not expecting it Sunday when we could share the joy with my brother and sister-in-law who were visiting… which is probably why our excitement turned into silly dancing in my living room.

And now, this.
I am engaged! I have a fiance! I am going to marry my best friend!

The sweet beauty of Easter just claimed a whole new piece of my heart. It’s like knowing the best secret that I can tell everyone and like my rib cage is warm like the best whiskey. It’s… sorry, words won’t do at all here. Words just won’t do to explain how wonderful it feels to step into love like this.

I’ll spare you my mushy babble for now. I will just say that it seemed the best way to start this part of the journey – remembering the Bridegroom we anticipate together and the marriage feast He has prepared.

For now, we will enjoy “every good gift” the Lord pours out and we will enjoy it with all the zany delight those gifts deserve.

 

a perfect and wonderful surprise

At 6:37 am this morning, my hands were already covered in lamb juice, worcestershire sauce, wine, tomato, onion, and a mix of blurry other things. I forgot for a moment why I was preparing lamb and why the sunlight on this day breaks open the most precious gift in all creation.

Resurrection Sunday.

There is something more final than death and sunlight is singing it over all the darkness today. There is something more final than death and His name is Jesus. I opened my window and gloried with the birds in the breaking day. I whispered, “Happy Easter, world!” and threw my smiles up and down Hawthorne Street.

Today, we celebrate how completely He conquered the grave. I can finally shake off the Lenten despair because God planned such a perfect and wonderful surprise.

the sun will rise

Love as Christ loved.

That is the message of Maundy Thursday, the new commandment Christ gave to the disciples in his final, informal sermon. Love one another. He commands it because He knows it can be done, though it is impossible.

We are not naturally lovely people – not naturally kind or caring. We are selfish and proud and have been since that forbidden fruit. We guard our independence and vacation time and personal freedom and charity, considering others sparingly and only when we feel like it. To “love one another” is an impossible command, but Jesus commands it because He knows it is possible. His is a love that can swallow up every force that opposes it, even death.

His is a love that empowers love when the network of human nature fights against it.

Christ shows us love and then commands us to do what only He can make possible in our lives. “Love one another” is not a reason for Easter resolutions or a slogan for social justice. “Love one another” is an impossible command that Jesus obeyed perfectly on the cross, a command that we can obey by way of His righteousness.

Jesus commands us to love one another and then He shows us what love looks like as he lives out the prophecy spoken in Isaiah.

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
[ISAIAH 53:1-6]

I still do not understand it, but I read myself in these words. I hid my face, esteemed him not, and threw my grief on his bloody back. And today we remember that He was crushed. He was pierced and wounded because of our black hearts and secret sins. Today, we remember the sky went black when death killed the healer.

This is the darkest day, but there is hope on the horizon. There are rays hiding behind the dark sky, lit by the glory of the Creator – our God who knew all along that there would be a resurrection. And the resurrection lights the way for our love of one another.

hot pressure heartburn

It felt like heartburn, but I am sure it wasn’t.

The hot pressure pushing against my rib cage on Monday might be as close as I have ever felt to groaning with creation for the coming of the Lord (Romans 8:19). My body craves Jesus’ return as much as my spirit, and together (I think) they press up against my bones to remind me of my true home.

This week is about death.

Even in the triumphal entry on Sunday, we know it is death toward which we process. Even as we sing “Hosanna!” on the road into Jerusalem with the redeemed, we save our breath for the “Crucify!” in the center of the city with the masses. The true drama of the scene churns up this hot pressure heartburn behind my rib cage.

It is frightening, unless you believe in the God who keeps promises. This God, who loved the world so much that He threw His seed to the earth to be sown in death. The evidence is in the palms of His hands and the scars on His sides.

The resurrection is waiting on the other side like the buds breaking through dead branches and the sprouts peeking out from dry ground. Resurrection is hiding, buried safe in God’s plan for redemption.

This week is about death, but it was always about life to God.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called  children of God; and so we are. In this the love of God was made manifest  among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live  through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us  and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 3:1, 4:9-10).

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For  one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person  one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we  were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be  slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

Passages from the Journey to the Cross devotional.

truth is the best comfort

The wind squealed through deserted school windows today, pushing raindrops against the panes. It is Spring Break and the 14 foot creamy white office ceilings felt cavernous above my head. I wrote some proposals and planned some programs and printed some decorations for bulletin boards. I pushed play on my rainy day Spotify mix and wished the Jewish Passover holiday meant seven days of job-free preparation for Protestants, too. My heart is not in the office because my heart is racing toward the Resurrection.

It might have been this passage from Isaiah 25 that swelled the ache in me, but I’m pretty sure the ache was already there. This is one of those rare situations where the word “epic” is actually appropriate. A mountaintop, a feast of rich food, an abundance of well-aged wine… and the main event where death is swallowed up forever. Forever death is swallowed up and forever the reproach of God’s people is taken away.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” [ISAIAH 25:6-9]

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.” There is brilliant, unmatched weight in these words. The mass of the Milky Way and the heaviest mountains are pebbles to these words. I imagine whispering them at the table the Lord will prepare, for the crushing joy will have stolen my voice.

“Behold,” I’ll whisper with the widest eyes, “It is all true and you are God. I have waited for you and believed that you are my salvation. You are the Lord!”

Truth is the best comfort.

Truth is not easy or cheap or immediate or luxurious, but it is really the best comfort. And I guess comfort is what I needed on this rainy day when my heart is preoccupied with the Resurrection celebration. In my impatience, I started to wonder if I am secretly hoping Easter weekend will naturally reorder my joy. Maybe I let the ruts of the Lenten road sink too deep in my soul and maybe I have hung all my hope on this weekend to pull me out.

You all probably just think I need to take a break from introspection, which is probably (always) true. I regret the mazes of my mind, too, but they are there still, haunting me regardless.

Honest? I want hot chocolate and blankets and movies and sleep all day. Because that sounds like the kind of comfort I can taste and feel.

But, when I read this passage from the pages of Isaiah, I know that Truth is best. When I read the word, “Behold” I realize the rain is temporary, the career questions are temporary, the sunshine weekends are temporary, the personal struggles are temporary, and the best joys on earth are temporary.

Truth is the best comfort because there is a day when I will say, “Behold,” when I stand in front of the One who prepared a feast.