On Lasts: The Countdown Begins

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Lying on my side, snuggled underneath blankets, I listen to morning news on the television with eyes closed, one ear pushed into the pillow. I’m waiting to hear the extended forecast. On Friday, it matters if clouds spit from the sky or pour buckets. We’ll load a container with our possessions to set sail on the Atlantic and dock in London next month.

Two hours. That’s the amount of time allotted to arrange boxes and furniture like puzzle pieces into the hollow space of a steel box. Taking our time costs $100 an hour. We’ve thought long and hard about how we’ll use 120 minutes of grace.

Who puts a price on time and determines value and usefulness?

How do we know we have lived well if the sum of a life well-lived is priceless?

I want to pull blankets over my head and linger long in the warm comfort of predictable. But my eyes push past resistance and peel open to sunrise glowing through slats in the shutters. It’s my last Sunday waking up to this view so I memorize it, frozen in the reality.

Analyze the hue of blue paint on the wall of the master bedroom that was never quite right, silk curtains cascading in a puddle on the carpet. Scour the marble top of nightstand cluttered by a collection of reading material. Trace wood inlay of antique headboard and dresser; pieces in our bedroom since the day we married but will stay behind in a storage space during this next season.

We’re on a countdown to London; taking account of lasts; accounting for God’s faithfulness throughout the rooms of our house.

Disruption, it has a way of doing this to people.

Disruption breaks into your comfortable life exposing cracks in your foundation. Revealing where you’ve taken the time God has given and been careless with stewarding it.

Lent is a disruption from life as we know it; a choice to be uncomfortable with how we use the minutes God is giving us.

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In the final analysis, the measure of man’s worth isn’t the culmination of days adding up to a comfortable life but the times in which a man surrenders to divine disruption and allows himself to be schooled by it. Not for selfish gain but in order to be useful for others and fulfill God’s purposes.

Eugene Peterson calls this the Great Reversal.

“And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields –whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first end up last, and the last first.” Matthew 19: 28-30, MSG

Closing my eyes, Ising the Lord’s Prayer in church and a photograph of my daughter on her ninth birthday pushes to the forefront of my thoughts. Dressed in Catholic school uniform, she smiles at me with contentment while holding a plushy horse next to her cheek, a thoughtful gift from her bestie.

It was one image among hundreds I recalled as I sat cross-legged on the floor of my empty living room days ago, surrounded by envelopes of pictures pulled from a closet. Flipping through decades of family memories, nostalgia transforms into a left brain trance, as if my life depends upon selecting the best ones to pack on that container.

Suddenly, I am texting friends from all over the country with snapshots of happy moments we shared together.

But this one of my daughter that comes back to memory in church? It seems random but God knows it is priceless.

I’m leaving my beautiful daughter behind in college but I’m taking her to London in my heart. When she was nine, I worried about how I was parenting her, if my time was useful for His purposes.

Now, when she smiles back at me, He reminds me that a well-lived life is one that welcomes disruption instead of running from it. Why, you ask?

Holy disruption shapes us into people of purpose who live priceless lives of promise.

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One last time, I stand at the altar in my small town church, hands cupped and waiting. Tears blur vision as I attempt to memorize the carpet, people, and sound of the deacon’s voice reciting, “His blood shed for you,” with gold chalice propped in front of me.

Two hours of grace will soon be distorted by the spending of minutes.

We’re all on a countdown toward resurrection, aren’t we? Taking account and accounting God’s faithfulness through the Great Reversal, as time ticks with Lent in the heart.

Have you ever pondered the upside down nature of Christ from what the world dictates as normal?

This post is inspired by H’s sermon last week, Seasons of Disruption. You can listen to it here.

LentChallenge

I’ll be publishing stories here once a week inspired by the Gospel readings fromMargaret Feinberg’s Lent Challenge. Over 50,000 people are reading the Gospels together during the forty days of Lent. I would love for you to join us.

For conversation and accountability, I’ll check in with those of you who join me on my Redemptions Beauty Book Club page. If you aren’t already a member, just request to be added to the group. Find out more about the Lent Challenge here anddownload a reading plan or the YouVersion reading guide. I look forward to sharing more about our move to London through the lens of the Gospels over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

On Quiet Hospitality: Sacred Portals to Secret Places

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Rain falls in buckets as I sit at my writing desk. The walls are empty save a few nails where pictures once hung collecting glances. Boxes with “UK” written in bold black marker replace couches, chairs and tables that now don price tags at consignment shops.

Starkness in our home means our long awaited transition to London is becoming a reality and I have little time to write or think.

But today, I’m sharing a story I haven’t told you about yet. How all this extra time on the calendar while we wait has opened up sacred portals to secret places of the heart.

Join me at Grace Table where we are talking about the riches of quiet hospitality this month. Sometimes your painful wilderness comes with redemption when you least expect it.

 

 

In Case You Need Reminding, You Matter Most

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Across the table, I listen to her talk; this daughter of mine who has grown into a beautiful rendering of God’s lovingkindness.  Laurel green eyes shining through porcelain skin and hair cascading over one shoulder; she captivates my mother’s heart, not because she is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, but because she illustrates what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator.

And sometimes I need reminding that this is how Jesus looks at you and me across the kitchen table.

After pancakes and coffee, our stomachs are satiated and hearts full of meaningful connection. At the kitchen sink, I scrape plates while she stands opposite, continuing our grown up conversation. When I suggest a shopping excursion, she replies with typical thoughtfulness toward others.

“I don’t want to mess up your plans today.”

“There isn’t anything more important to me today than being with you,” I tell her with hands soaking in dishwater.

This is how Jesus feels about you and me when we are hesitant to ask Him for what we want.

While I prep her favorite meal for dinner so we can be free of work by sundown, I think about how she expresses longings for my cooking when distance separates us. A gift every parent hopes for in her children, a taste for what Mother dishes out. My faith waned in realizing that when she was a picky eater as an adolescent.

“I should have asked you to make cauliflower for me,” she admits an hour after walking through the door from college.

Unaware that moments earlier, I was flipping through the pages of an old journal among a stack of books; reading her first year of life in my handwriting. In 1998, I marveled about the way she ate cauliflower like it was chocolate.

Of course I’d forgotten about that little fact. God knew the detail would matter to me almost two decades later.

This is how Jesus knows you and me better than we know ourselves. He accounts for every detail in the Book of Life.

The moment H and I have been waiting for, for eight long months, came in an email this morning from the diocese of London. We should be on our computers applying for visas but instead we are spending the day with the girl who made us parents nearly nineteen years ago.

The sacrament of presence is more valuable and fulfilling than anything else we can hope for. This is how Jesus loves you and I wholeheartedly.  Rest in the truth of that.

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Happy Sabbath Friends!

 Want to make rest a routine, not just something you fill in between the cracks of your busyness? Join the Sabbath Society. Follow Sabbath-keepers in community with the hashtag #sabbathsociety on Twitter and Instagram and our Pinterest board, Surrendering to Sabbath.