Jesus Never Promised I’d be Pretty

stone of helpJesus never promised I’d be pretty. This I said to my husband as I looked at the gash on my face from a relatively minor skin cancer op. Then I put on my running shoes and headed out to run and think.

I thought of all the things God never promised. He did not promise Adam and Eve they could do their own thing with no consequences.   He did not tell Job there would be no trials in his life. He didn’t tell the Psalmist there would be no valley of the shadow of death. He did not promise the NT believers that they would not suffer tribulation. He did not tell the martyrs throughout the ages that they would not suffer for the gospel. He did not tell Corrie Ten Boom that her life would be persecution free. He did not promise Nate Saint that his mission to the Auca Indians would bear fruit in his lifetime. He did not promise us a hassle free, easy, perfect life.

But He did promise to be with us- in the valley, on the mountain top, on the level path, even unto the end of the age. He promised to save us to the uttermost, completely and forever. He promised to always intercede for us; in fact, he ever lives to do this. He promised peace that passes all understanding. And he promised that when all is said and done our tears will be wiped away and we will live with Him forever. I love all the superlatives – the most, the best, the highest. Extreme promises.

All the promises of God are yes, says the Bible. I like that. To which we say, amen . That means, by the way, another yes. A resounding unqualified yes……..

As is often the case when I run a song kept coming to my mind.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
Samuel, after a God given, miraculous victory, placed a stone as a reminder that God gave victory, salvation and help. He called it

ebenezer

Ebenezer, the stone of help, and said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

.Ayuh, I thought as I finished my run. I think I’ll go find a stone or better yet many stones and emblazon upon them the promises of God. I could put them on my windowsills, bookcases, bedside stands, places where I can see them every day.

But then I remember that God’s very words are already written on my heart.

And that, my own personal Ebenezer, I raise.

Seven Years of Sorrow, Seven Years of Hope

me and livThis is the day. Seven years ago today our daughter Olivia went to be with Jesus.  Each year I spend this season thinking about our lovely, happy brave girl. She was a gift from God. This is where my thoughts have been.

There is a time after losing a loved one when panic sets in. I read about this in CS Lewis’  A Grief Observed and I have felt it myself. It is the time when you realize you are moving inexorably away from when you were together. First it is a small gap of hours or days and then one day you realize it has become a chasm larger than the Grand Canyon which, by the way,  was crossed by a Wallenda. There is no crossing this. Not in this life.  And you want to go back to the time when it was only a day or a week since being with your dear loved one, or back farther when even though she was ill, she was there and breathing and a smile might come now and then and the loss was not so permanent.

I was sitting by the grave of our daughter a few years back when I felt this selfsame panic, the feeling of leaving behind the dear presence of Olivia. And I do think it was God who comforted me with His truth. This is not the end. This isn’t all there is. Remember the future. Look ahead.  You are moving away but you are also moving toward – toward the kingdom that shall not be shaken where God will wipe away your tears. Forever.

I thank God for making us with imaginations.  Sometimes when I run I am filled with thoughts of heaven and God and grace and majesty and my hands go up in happiness and worship. I picture Olivia in heaven. She is sitting at the feet of Jesus with her hands on the ground behind her as she looks up into his face.  She is having a marvelous time, love and laughter and light abound. And I imagine that with my hands outstretched and hers on the floor of the heavens as she listens to Jesus …..almost our fingers touch.

One day they will. In that unshakable kingdom where tears are wiped away, the chasm dividing us will be no more. My morning run today mirrored my thoughts. It is a cold, bleak day. The tears flow, but the comfort and hope God gives is present too. The winter sun shines. I know spring is coming.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Vivian Walden

Pure Joy

923292_10151389054511640_1574856398_nThis week is full of joy, pure joy. I am writing simply to share it. Sometimes our joy comes  quietly  and we are content to treasure it silently, and contemplate its beauty. At other times, we are ready to shout our happiness from the rooftops and share it with the world. This week I’m experiencing BOTH of these joys. This week, as I count down to the arrival of our firstborn and her family, my heart is full and I find myself swallowing lumps in my throat and wiping overflowing eyes when I least expect it.

Can this be real? Can my girl be coming home at last? How well I remember that time ten years ago, when we said goodbye.  Her journey would take her to Moscow, and then, on to Siberia (via the Trans Siberian RR) , to a little Buryat village to teach English…the only English speaker in that area. This was total immersion at it best (and worst). She experienced it all….the lack of indoor plumbing, the severely cold Siberian winters, carrying wood in to keep the stove going, needing no refrigeration because the window sill was a sufficient icebox.

Our little girl had grown up loving Russia and all things Russian, writing to and praying for Russian Christians while the country was still closed. And then it happened! Perestroika (restructuring) began in the mid-80s under Gorbachev and by 1991 Russia was open to visitors and all things American. Our daughter was twelve; ten years later she left for Russia. Her dreams were to open an orphanage, which didn’t work out. But she met a handsome young Russian and that DID work out.

She  embraced Russian culture and language with a vengeance. In so many ways, these were her people. And soon, she had a lovely little Russian princess of her own. Someone else to love and enjoy. I knew the feeling, I had had a firstborn too. I knew the joy of having a little girl.

What I did NOT know was the pain of loss she would  experience over the next few years. My heart broke as I prayed for her from afar. I longed to hold her and yet I knew that her grief was a personal grief, too personal for me to fully understand. I had never experienced the loss of a child. My daughter had entered uncharted territory.  I felt ill equipped.  This is indeed, one of the hardest things for a parent to deal with…longing to comfort, yet knowing that, for a certain time, there is no comfort. There is only a deep, dark, tunnel of grief.  The child we rescued from skinned knees is the adult we cannot rescue from life’s very darkest journeys.

She returns to us a different person than the young 20-something who left over ten years ago. She will bring her darling daughter, our granddaughter, and her sweet, gentle husband. He will begin the journey she started long ago. He will take over the cultural immersion as he learns English, as will their little girl. He will experience all things American, as his wife experienced his homeland  all those years ago. Our world is a little bigger and a little smaller—– and the circle continues. 998253_10151440812171640_1447367830_n A little Russian girl will come to America. She will come marching  down the entryway  at the airport and she will march straight into our hearts. And here it comes again….that lump is building. I am swallowing hard and there is a familiar wetness  coming from my eyes.  My heart is full and this is life at its best. They are coming home, and this must surely be what they call….pure joy!