Giveaway Winner, #4!!

Like the rest of life, even things like online giveaways don’t always go as you plan or expect! Right after I discovered the winning comment, our power went out… which means no internet (nor lights nor water, etc)… and it did not come back on for over thirteen hours. So, please forgive my tardy post & announcement. We are very joyful to have our power returned today.

Back to the point though!
Yesterday, the day I was supposed to announce the giveaway winner, I realized I had six entries.
And in our game cupboard we happen to have six sided dice (who doesn’t?). 🙂

So a little roll of the dice, and up came:

Number Four!

Comment number four came from Samantha,
who will soon be receiving a copy of The Loveliness of Christ!

Congratulations, Samantha!

For everyone else, don’t be dismayed ~
I plan to have another giveaway during the Advent season,
which will probably be upon us a lot sooner than we think!

Thanks for participating in Joyful Domesticity’s first giveaway,
and please keep reading & commenting.
May God receive glory for our conversations here.

Grief Has Become Part of Me

Living through grief takes courage.
Looking back at the darkest parts of grief takes courage.
Living life after grief takes courage.
Looking ahead to see that the darkness isn’t always so thick takes courage.

Isaiah 61:3
…to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

I am amazed to look back over the last eight years since my first baby died and see how far God has brought me, even though that grief has been compounded eight times since then.

  • I smile and laugh. Daily.
  • I have children. Even some here on earth. Wow.
  • I can see others’ babies & stairstep children without feeling like my heart is going to implode. Sometimes I can even hold someone else’s baby. Even marker babies.
  • I often see those maker babies (who are turning into marker children) as joyful ~rather than painful~ reminders.
  • I can buy baby gifts or maybe even attend a baby shower without weeping.
  • I don’t have daily anxiety attacks that my husband or one of my living children is going to die.
  • I see all the reminders and memorial items in my home as comforts.
  • I speak of all of thirteen of my children, including my nine in heaven, with gladness and thanksgiving. There might be twinges of sadness and what-if, but there is no despair.
  • I can write about my grief, my miscarriages, my emotional or mental or spiritual struggles, with honest humility rather than humiliation.
  • I find immense joy in Christ my King, to whom I belong ~and to whom my children each belong~ and find ever growing trust in His sovereign goodness.
  • I have a marriage that has been tested by the fire of grief ~including our own version of infertility called uRPL~ which is stronger and deeper and richer than I knew it could be at only 8 years into our covenantal union.
  • I can give of myself ~including my heart, my tears, my experiences, my prayers~ and no longer have to be primarily on the receiving end of comfort or encouragement.

(for similar perspectives from a dear friend of mine on the “then” and “now” relating to miscarriage’s grief, see what she shared here & here)


I can look ahead to the future with hope and joy… and that happens to include looking ahead to my eternity in heaven, where I trust the Lord will reunite me with the covenant children I continue to miss, right through my new normal and through my embracing of life as it is. I have hope. I have joy. Not only for eternity, but for now. Because of Christ. And His work in me.

Grief changes so slowly most of the time, that it can be hard to notice the changes.
And then maybe after a big chunk of time, suddenly you turn around and see it:
the darkness is not as thick, perhaps the darkness has even lifted.

Sometimes I have felt guilty for those moments when I realize the grief is not as thick.
As though I am not adequately marking the lives of the children who I have lost to heaven.
As though working through the grief and assimilating it into my life is a negative thing.
As though grief is more of an eternal roadblock than a continuing road through my life.

But it is okay… in fact, it is not only okay and normal, but it is truly good… that life continues going on, moving forward, taking new shape. It is good that our grief does not cement our feet in one solid place for the rest of our lives. It is good that someday, somehow, the Lord brings us down the road again. He continues to shape us and mold us, recreating us to some extent, incorporating our past ~including our grief~ into our new normal now & for the future.

I am not the same person I was before I suffered the grief of miscarriage.
Part of who I am is the mother of children in heaven.
My grief, my fertility struggles, my suffering ~ it does not define who I am, but it is part of who I am.

So if you are in the thickest parts of grief’s darkness ~ it may well feel like the clouds will never lift, but someday you will see the sun shining again. You will have new shades & shadows to yourself, you will see through new lenses, and nothing will be exactly the same. And because of our God who is the God of grace & redemption, that’s actually a good thing.

July 4th Meditation

Courtesy of our pastor-friend Toby Sumpter, be exhorted and encouraged on this July 4th.

…Here’s the deal: the peace of God was announced by an army of angels that came down and woke up a field full of shepherds at night. The peace of God filled an old man in a temple with a song and a prophecy about a sword that would divide and pierce. The peace of God calmed a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee and then drove several thousand pigs into the same sea to drown and rot, while a man with self-inflicted cuts all over his body sat for the first time, clothed and in his right mind. The peace of God comes like this. The joy of God comes like this. Jesus’ own family thought He was out of His mind, thought He was insane. He was accused of drunkenness, being demon possessed, and He made rulers nervous and mad. But everywhere He went, He brought peace and healing and joy.

So this is my Fourth of July charge to you. Embrace this tension. Embrace this cross. Let your arms be stretched out like this, like the arms of your Savior. Sing a psalm louder than ever before. Laugh longer, have one more helping of potato salad, and give one more toast. Tickle your children, kiss your wife, invite another neighbor to the party, say an extra blessing of gratitude over it all, and send fifteen more fireworks into the sky tonight. Do it all with a profound and certain and unshakeable joy in your heart. Our Jesus reigns and all will be well.

Click here for his full meditation.


We have a great deal to learn from David.
Although we might be tempted to see him as little better than a barbarian king,
we should actually be studying him with a far greater humility of mind.
From him, we learn how to fight,
how to trust,
how to cry,
how to pray,
how to repent,
how to sing,
how to write poetry,
how to marry,
how to reform the church,
how to curse,
how to submit to God’s rebukes and providences,
and how to worship.
What a man! What a man of God!
~Douglas Wilson, blog~

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This is what it means to have hands laid on you.
It means you are set apart to suffer and die for your people.
This is what it means to be a pastor, a shepherd:
it means walking toward the danger,
toward the threat,
toward the lions, the wolves, the swords, the flames.
~Toby Sumpter, blog~

Chronic Needs Series Coming Soon…

Coming soon… up close & personal…

a little blog series on the subject of serving those in The Church who have chronic needs
{chronic pain} &or {chronic illness} of {any&all types}

Please stay tuned, please prepare to participate in the conversation, please let me know if you have experience…
if you are a blog lurker & would like to participate by being interviewed
either as a pastor/church leader or as someone with chronic suffering,
please please please let me know asap!

… … … … …

~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~

… … … … …

Easter Lessons

This year, we went out of our way to do a few more hands-on lessons and Easter preparations with the children. The older they get, of course the more they grasp ~ and it is delightful to hear their own 6, 3, and 2 year old sized insights into why we do the things we do.

On Good Friday, rather than doing our normal homeschooling routine, while the little ones had individual room time (learning to play on their own for a solid hour is a good skill to learn), Gabriel helped me clean the house. We washed windows, cleaned bathrooms, swept floors, mopped floors, did laundry, washed dishes, wiped down cupboards. And while we worked together, we talked about why we were working so hard, and why is this what we chose to do on Good Friday. When I asked Gabriel what he thought, he paused in thought, then profoundly said, “Well, today is the day we remember the whole reason why Jesus came. He came to clean our hearts. So I guess that’s why we should clean our home.” I wanted to just stop the conversation right there, and leave it at that ~ because my kid gets SO much of the Gospel story, and I love hearing his perspective on it. It’s beautiful. But we went on to talk about how Jesus served others, even though He was King of all. We talked about “our people” ~ and who are our neighbors. Gabriel even asked if he could wash my feet when we were done cleaning, because he wanted to bless me and serve me like Jesus.

But I hate to admit, I forgot about the feet-washing, because by the time we were done cleaning the house, the little ones were ready to be done with solitary playtime, and we needed to move on to the phase of dirtying things back up again. Funny how we do that in my line of work: we clean things up so we can make them dirty again!

So after a little lunch, Evangeline was ready for a nap, and the boys & I got out supplies for some crafts that would hold more lessons.

We had already dyed Easter eggs with Grandmama, Auntie, and cousins, complete with super sweet and thoughtful conversations about the metaphors, symbolism, and just plain fun of the tradition. My children and I have talked numerous times this week about the symbolism we can see in the eggs… how they symbolize the rock which closed the tomb, but new life can spring forth from it… how we can take plain eggs and give them new clothing, as we do when we take on new life in Christ… how the yolk in a cracked egg can symbolize the glorious light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dark tomb when He burst forth in glorious array…
Click here to read about Easter Egg traditions throughout the life of the Church, following the Lenten season. Even plain old Wikipedia had some great thought-provoking things about Easter Eggs, or Paschal Eggs. And for some fun nuances on Easter Egg traditions, click here and have some fun with the kids in your life.

Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death,
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life.

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Thanks to Ann Voskamp’s diligent sharing each and every year, I finally felt like my boys were old enough this year to really grasp & enjoy a couple more unique & detailed hands-on projects.

First we had a snack of nuts and figs, while we made a crown of thorns (using a small grapevine wreath and a few dozen coffee-stained toothpicks) and talked a lot about the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Three year old Asher was nearly in tears (I love how his forehead crinkles and his chin quivers when he feels genuine sorrow), talking about Jesus being tortured, bleeding, and dying. He finally smiled again when I reminded Him that this was why Jesus came, and this is how He worked to save US from OUR sins. And in his sweet little voice, Asher proclaimed, “I sure love Jesus, Mommy.”

Matthew 27:29
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head…

Mark 15:17
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him.

John 19:2, 5
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in a purple robe. So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.

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Next we went out on to the back porch and put together our own little Gethsemane. Using a small moss planter (I used this, and don’t let the word “large” fool you!), we filled it with soil. Then we set our tomb carved in the rock in the corner of the garden (I found that aquarium accessories could offer some neat options, like this cichlid stone), before filling the rest of the garden with plants. We used some little succulents we got at a local store along with some pretty decorative moss, and then Gabriel used small smooth stones to make a little pathway through the garden to the tomb. Last of all, the boys went on a stone hunt outside to find something that would serve as a tomb cover.

John 19:41
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

Luke 23:55-56
The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid.Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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On Good Friday, we used last week’s palm branches and our homemade crown of thorns to decorate our dinner table, when we ate lamb and roasted vegetables and matzo ball soup, along with the Seder plate with all  its elements and plenty of wine.

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Our kitchen island was cleared of all other decorations, and that is where we laid our own little Gethsemane. On Friday evening we closed up the tomb. On Saturday morning we found a little soldier to keep guard outside the tomb. And the children looked forward to seeing what would come of it on Sunday morning.

Matthew 27:59-60, 66
And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. … So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

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Come Sunday morning, the children came downstairs to find the guard fallen down, the stone moved away, and a piece of linen folded inside the tomb.

Matthew 28:2-8
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.But the angel said to the women, “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.”So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.

Luke 24:1-12
…On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee,that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”And they remembered His words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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They found a table set for a beautiful little breakfast. Fruit salad, hard boiled eggs with sea salt, mimosas, Easter story cookies, and Easter tomb rolls (the kids had helped me make those all on Saturday, which was really wonderful). Candles and music and the excited rush of gathering and eating and praising God together, singing Christ The Lord Is Risen Today. Gifts for each one at their place ~ books and chocolates.

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Once the morning feasting was done, it came time to don our Easter clothing (clothing is hugely metaphorical and meaningful in Scripture and the history of the Church) ~ even the Easter sermon mentioned this, because we had three baptisms during the service and these Scriptures were emphasized.

Ephesians 4:17-24
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus,to put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:12-17
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Galatians 3:27
 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.


And so we got dressed in new matchy-matchy clothes (and my heart ached in all the heaviest and bestest of ways, because I have been given a family to clothe, and children who can wear sickeningly matchy outfits!), and talked about putting on Christ, putting off our old selves, putting on the new self in newness of life and the beauty of holiness, putting on love above all other things.

And then? Then the party really started. Gabriel pointed out, “there sure is a lot of joy around church and everywhere today!” and I couldn’t help but laugh. Because isn’t that just exactly, precisely the way it should be?! May the joy of the gospel, and of the Resurrected Christ, and of the hope He has given His people, shed forth from your homes, your families, your churches, and your wanderings until He comes again and everything is made new and all is set right.

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To the glory of the Father, amen. Allelulia!

Saturday… Waiting… Where is My Hope?

Job 30:26
But when I hoped for good, evil came,
and when I waited for light, darkness came.

Hope is a double edged sword. Walking through Holy Week, we think along the lines of so many events… It’s so busy! Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem while His people worshipped and called hosanna, He cleansed the temple and taught His people, He is betrayed by one who is unfaithful, He is perfumed by one who is faithful, He gives thanks even in the presence of His betrayer, He hands out bread and wine to His followers, He prays in solitude, He is captured and taken away, He is scrutinized and condemned, He is taken before leaders and stood before multitudes, He is burdened in every imaginable way, He is stripped and scourged, He is hung and nailed through, He cries out, He is forsaken, He bleeds, He dies, He is taken away, He is buried in the dark tomb…

Now what?

The time between death and resurrection feels so dark, so empty, so long. What is happening in this day between Friday and Sunday? What are we to do as we sit outside the tomb? And what is our Lord doing in the darkness, the cold grips of death?

I was asked to guest post for Olive Tree Bible Software’s blog this weekend, so to continue reading, click here

And click here to see what my husband wrote a couple days ago as he shared with us a remembrance that the Lord’s rejection ultimately lead to our acceptance in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-10
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The Lord’s People on His Day

This morning we have the joy and privilege of worshiping at Trinity Reformed Church, where a longtime dear friend of my family is pastor. It is the liturgical church that has continued to deepen our love of and desire for beautiful old church liturgy. While we were looking for a new church home a year+ ago, we were able to visit Trinity Reformed Church a little more regularly (it’s a 2 1/2 hour drive each way, so not exactly a place we could call our own church home unless we moved), but we have been settled at Christ The King Church now (and it’s only 50 minutes away, so very reasonable for being our church home) for so long that we have not visited our friends at Trinity since July! Until today. What a joy and blessing. The Lord is good.

And just because these two blog snippets from Pastor Sumpter were so liturgically pertinent, I have to share them.

You have not been summonsed here to make a respectable appearance in a religious assembly. You have not been summonsed here to go through the motions of some ritual. You have not been summonsed here to mechanically repeat your lessons. You have not been summonsed here to compete with others, to gossip, to envy, or to worry. You have been summonsed here this morning to worship. You have been summonsed here to make a joyful noise to the Lord. You have been summonsed here to serve the Lord with gladness, so sing to Him with all your heart and mind and soul. You have been summonsed here so that you might remember and know that the Lord Jesus, He is God. He made us: we are His sheep. You have been summonsed here to thank Him, to bless Him because He is good.


…in Ephesians, [Paul] says that our inheritance is in Him, and in Him we have forgiveness, and in Him we have the Holy Spirit, and in Him God is uniting all things. In other words, we can’t move or think or breathe or eat or drink apart from Him. Our identities are completely bound up in Him. This is what it means to be a Christian: that we no longer live for ourselves but now we live for Him because we live in Him. But this means that all of our human interaction is also in Him. We talk together in Him, we walk together in Him, we eat together in Him, we work together in Him. This is why Christian friendship, Christian marriage, Christian family, Christian business, Christian community is all about sharing Christ in and through the various activities we engage in. And this is not just a way of speaking; we are confessing fundamentally that God is here with us. God is present in us and around us. He is here.

So, on this Lord’s Day, worship the Lord because He is good, and may the Lord be with you all. Amen.

Sipping Light

This is a praiseful realization:
love is bit and bridle, despair, the beast.
To live well is to learn how to ride,
how to lean into grief.

That is how one of the opening pages in A Small Cup of Light first introduces you to the author, Ben Palpant, as he opens a window into his life for you to peer into some of the work the Lord has done. Speaking of his wife early in the book, he says, “she set aside her fears to speak into my own” (p25), and that is what A Small Cup of Light is all about—setting aside personal fear to step into pain with someone else—bearing burdens together as one way to share the light of Christ.

God. Help. Me.
Nothing but me and my need stated frankly and simply. I have since wondered if, perhaps, this prayer is the most elemental of all prayers. Perhaps this is the most indispensable form of any petition. (p93) Now I know that God is always present. I’ve known that since I was a little boy. But I do not think we feel His presence very often. I certainly had not until that moment. (p95)

My family has the sweet privilege of personally knowing the author, of having worshipped alongside his family for nearly a decade, and while we knew he was suffering in some ways, we had very little information about it at the time, mostly just knowing that he was in a place of pain & vulnerability—and it made him one of the most empathetic people we bumped into on a weekly basis. One of the most personal ways Mr. Palpant has blessed my family is through prayer. Through the years—particularly during six of my recurrent miscarriages—he has encouraged us to pray along with him, in church and in less official places—and I have long thought that his prayers have even helped shape my Gabriel’s prayer life specifically when he was a toddler—the most stunning example being a prayer vigil that Mr. Palpant organized in our front yard when I had just delivered our tiny son Hosanna back in 2010.

She had invited herself into my suffering so she could empathize with me, walk with me, and speak to God on my behalf. (p99) Many such moments, unexpected cups of light, made my heart weep for joy and glimpse the sun again. Each moment reminded me that my weakness, my perceived failure, was bringing about a new birth not only in me, but in those around me. (p99) I am learning slowly to see life as God sees it. God is giving me new eyes. (p101)
I am an arrow shot from a bow string. I am a bird in flight. I am a falling leaf. (p122)

Though night may again fall upon me suddenly, You, O God, will be my refuge. Though I find myself in a desert, stumbling beneath a starless sky, still, I will listen for the shy song of that small bird, Hope. I will follow it, weeping and singing. So it is and so it will be. Weep and sing. (p126) Despair is not the only viable response to suffering. I offer a different one: celebration. (p126) Suffering is a night, a brooding blank on the soul’s staring eye. Those who have suffered deeply remember the constriction, the immobilizing fear and doubt. A million moments of laughter and pleasure in life may slip from memory, but we recall the pain with ease. (p129) Joy sometimes saddles despair’s back. (p129)

After having only occasionally run into him over the last year—one time being able to snatch his autograph on our copy of A Small Cup Of Light—we were overjoyed when we found out that Mr. Palpant was going to be coming to our church for weekly Lenten lectures this year between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, to share some of the dark corners and deep honesty from his book, from his life, from how the Lord has brought beauty from his suffering.

Most of what he shared at the weekly Wednesday night gatherings are things with which I am (and perhaps you are too) familiar—whether it is the emotional, the physical, or the spiritual side of suffering. He does tell snippets of his personal story, but I think he knows that most of us had already gotten our hands on his book & the majority of us had read through it rather quickly, so he mostly has gone less from him and more to the journey. Rather than telling us again all about his particular story of suffering, and all the paths the Lord prepared for him and how He has carried out this story of life through this one man & his family—he gives us lessons that he has gleaned by God’s grace through his own story, which apply to all thirty or fifty of the other stories gathered in the room where he is speaking.

No child in the history of mankind, when asked what he would like to do when he grows up, has ever responded, “I want to suffer.” (p29) What really terrified me was that divine hands, against which I was simply powerless, had created that fissure into which I felt myself sliding. (p36) …The dilemma that kept barking at the back door of my mind was this: A good God is fine when life is tropically blissful, but what when the hurricane comes? Where is the safe haven then? What are we to do when chaos bangs against the windows and when the roof of reliability is ripped off? What to do with all this suffering? C.S. Lewis called pain God’s megaphone. John Piper has called pain God’s pedagogy. “God, I am listening. Teach me. Speak into this bewilderment.” (p43) Hawk and hen, God made them both. (p47)

We converse with one another—other image bearers of God the Father, Creator of us all—over bowls of soup and fists full of bread. Often, it seems that these are opportunities to get beyond the normally casual conversations between mere acquaintances, allowing us to delve into new corners of companionship, comradery, actual fellowship (which isn’t just talking, but spurring one another on to love and good works, in the spirit of Hebrews 10:24-25). And then someone serves us by donning an apron (and let me tell you, when our pastor dons an apron, and washes the feet of Christ’s disciples by cleaning up after our messes, it serves as a truly wonderful embodiment of a shepherd caring for his sheep by humbling himself & laying down his life—when I was personally blessed by that for the very first time a couple weeks ago, it struck me with so much grace and joy) to clean up the messes we have made, and we shuffle our chairs until we can look at Ben Palpant, and all listen with our ears & our hearts—because every single one of us suffers. We have different stories: we are an entire library of biographies gathered in one room, each story being unique and enthralling in its own way, with its own climaxes and culminations. But we have common threads. And the Lord’s working in our lives takes the shape of suffering at various points and in various ways—but none of us is spared from it. Oh! Lest we grow haughty or callous, none of us can escape the hand of the Lord. If you haven’t felt it yet, you will yet someday. Some way.

Humor became a kind of relief valve in our home, momentarily warding off mountain fears. Tenderness coupled with laughter became a balm even to me. (p79) I thought of the fatigue that came from trying to live and the fear that came from not trying. (p85) How easily we forget how much mental strength is required to argue, to complain, to kick against God. (p91) Suffering is personal. Although a community, a family, an entire people group might face the same loss, each member must taste the wormwood on his own tongue. The bitterness is individualized, tailored for each of us. A mystery. (p92)

And so with one common storyline being emphasized, that of suffering, we listen to Mr. Palpant offer encouragement, exhortation, observation, challenge, comfort, grace. And it is a time of souls and stories mixing together, hearts softening, sometimes theologies bumping into one another. It has been a time of great conversation starters too—questions about God’s ordaining, allowing, creating (or lack thereof) of suffering, devastation, catastrophe, calamity, even evil. I have had really great conversations about these things over the last couple of weeks with my husband, a few people from church, a friend online, and my sister-in-law.

God does not look at our suffering from afar. It is an intimate event to Him. (p48) [Jesus] is after much more than happiness in our lives. He is after a sustaining joy and He will give us that joy by giving us Himself, whether through the small gifts of life that bring us gladness or through the dark night of suffering. Sweeping affliction under the rug of our heart, therefore, is simple denial, an act of cowardice, and an act of ungratefulness. We must dare to look it square in the eyes. (p50) If we try to comfort ourselves in our need instead of leaning fully on our God and Savior, God promises to make us taste that need full force. (p78)

Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi, in Scripture, plainly believed that the Lord Himself brought the calamity of multiple bereavements upon her (Ruth 1:20-21). Isaiah, inspired from the mouth of the Lord to speak on His behalf, proclaimed that there is no god but Yahweh, and that He forms light and creates darkness, makes well-being and creates calamity—it is the Lord alone who does all these things (Isaiah 45:5-7). In some translations, verse 7 even says “I make peace and create evil”—try that on for size for a conversation starter in a Christian church setting. 🙂 Pair it with Amos 3:6 which says,

Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster come to a city,
unless the Lord has done it?

Clearly the Lord does all these things, even calamity and disaster… yet Christians are pretty diverse, I’ve noticed, on the interpretation of the Lord’s involvement here. As though we are not to take Scripture for what it plainly says! But following that up with reading Psalm 135:5-7 (and the examples that follow, through verse 13) is pretty great:

For I know that the Lord is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from His storehouses.

Mr. Palpant reminds us that, to put it bluntly, we are not the center of the universe—our entire point of life is to glorify God. Like Isaiah 48:10-11 says,

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For My own sake, for My own sake, I do it,
for how should My name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.

So for the last five weeks, we have been weekly blessed to share fellowship with people on a level that has been intimate—discussing the vulnerable, sacred places of our lives that are, well, terrible. And it has been good to enter into the terrible things with one another, to get past the shallow and the superficial, to encourage one another to see Christ in the darkness and sip His light!

How long must I learn to carry this grief in faith? How lasting is suffering’s effect on the soul? Heaven promises to be a place without grief, without tears. Does that mean that I forget my story in Heaven? I don’t think so. (p134) I have a hunch that we’ll spend eternity remembering our own suffering also, learning how to wear it well, remembering that Christ’s suffering redeemed our own, and realizing how our trials worked to glorify God, the great Story-Teller. All our singing will be prompted not by forgetfulness, but by thankfulness. (p134) Suffering in every form is meaningless and hopeless unless God is in control of it. (p148)

This book is good drinking, er um, reading. Steven read the whole thing one long, restful Sunday afternoon. I read it in snippets over numerous evenings, because I could only swallow so much at a time. But take a sip, a gulp, drink it up—you won’t be sorry you savored it, because in the drinking, You will taste the sweetness that comes from bitterness shared, and the blessings that God intends for us even as He glorifies Himself in the darkness when we see His light.

 As though I made it to the other side of the trial and can now move on. At some deep place inside, we’d like to simply get through our suffering and move on, but this does not accurately picture reality. (p130) It is a mistake to think that I can just get through my trials. We are the accumulation of our experiences and we do ourselves a disservice if we embrace only the happy parts of our story. The dark moments of our existence are also worth valuing because they are an essential part of the story that a good God is telling. They are not an accident of existence. (p131)

Anticipating death and calling it gain, Christians are evangelists of the grotesque. The very hope of the Gospel rests directly upon our ability to imagine a world in which suffering serves as the soil from which resurrection springs. (p133) I think another lesson I learned is that life is not so much about what I’m doing for God as much as it is about how I’m learning to see what God is up to in my life. I try too hard to please God by my efforts instead of letting my efforts spring naturally from a kind of thankfulness for what He has done is doing in my life. Perhaps the hardest prayer I’ve learned to pray is this one: “Lord, I’m ready for You to do whatever You must to draw me close to You.” It’s a terrifying prayer for some reason, but it’s also very liberating to vocalize. (p150)