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Train up

May is for mother’s and graduations, seedlings and birds frantically feeding and nesting, all things pointing to life.

Train up a child…
Proverbs 22:6

And yet for many, in the midst of emerging, emerald green foliage is the heavy weight of ambivalence. For many the life changes and celebrations just plain hurt.

As an empty nester, the sting of mama-release was worst when our oldest graduated high school. The transition from having him home to not home felt awkward at best. The happy orbit I’d been traveling around him for 18 years was suddenly off track, and I felt it bone deep in the echo of his empty bedroom, in the Saturdays void of his athletic events, in the favorite snacks I reached for at the grocery, then set back on the shelf realizing they’d go uneaten. 

Back then, a mother of one of his friends scolded me for my grief. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. Sheesh.” 

Sheesh, indeed. 

I wish I would’ve known then what I know now–and told her so–that grieving a massive life shift is quite all right to do. 

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted…
Psalm 34:18

We’ve been studying the parable of the seeds and the sower in depth at church the last few weeks, and the garden-lover that I am has been reveling in the new, living-word perspectives. 

One thing I’ve been thinking about as I have been starting  seedlings and edging garden beds and cutting back weeds is that seeds only break open in darkness.

This past weekend I pressed papery seeds into peat-filled starters, and I envisioned the zinnias I will some day be able to snip and enjoy in a Ball jar vase. But as I folded the soil over the seeds, I thought about how impossible that day seemed. Could sunshine, water, and soil really grow up to be the same vivid plant in the photo on the seed packet? 

Did I give my boy enough sunshine?

Should I have given my girl more fertilizer?

What if he was a shade plant I forced to be in the sun?

What if she was a succulent I watered too much?

Will the sun ever lift my tender heart-leaves above the black soil of my past?

More than that, how many times have I felt like a seed, tiny and lifeless, buried in a cold, dark, lonely place? 

How many times has the watering word of God, the light of Jesus, and the soil of the Spirit worked together to bring beautiful things to the surface, things that bloom into blessings? 

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…
Phil 1:6

May is for celebrating, even if the seeds we planted in our children don’t seem to be stirring, even if the chaff of our own painful childhoods feel wasted, even if the prospect of soon-empty bedrooms causes an ache in your heart-roots, even if your family tree looks more like a weeping willow that’s lost too many branches.

Whatever season you find yourself in, whether you have a graduate, are a mama, are facing another broken holiday, or are basking in the full sun of celebration, know this: May is for celebrating, because we follow a farmer-God who plants with purpose, who waits to harvest so not one will be lost, who wept blood-tears in a garden to save us all.

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“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
John 12:24-25 TMV

On nursing, and why I wrote 40 Days of Hope for Healthcare Heroes

Our oldest son has been working as an RN in a designated COVID-19 intensive care unit since the first days of the pandemic. I have been working with cancer patients and as a hospital-based case manager. Most of my dearest friends are healthcare workers. None of us signed up to work during a pandemic, but we take the assignments we are given and we do the work. We don’t stop. And we don’t ever quit

Sometimes willpower leads to words. Other times, it’s passion and heartache and brokenness. When I found this opinion piece published by the New York Times on February 24th, I realized where my newfound words came from: ambivalence and despair. Viruses come and go, but the post-traumatic stress in healthcare workers will remain for a long, long timeThis video shows why. My upcoming book is a small, loaves-and-fishes attempt to offer words of hope hope to my colleagues in these trying times. (Matthew 14:13-21)

I wanted to link up to this New York Times piece so that others can see firsthand what we go through every day as nurses. Forewarning: this is not an easy piece to watch; in fact, you may not be able to watch it all the way through. It’s awful. It’s devastating. But it’s real. And it’s important.
Click here or any of the other links to go directly to the page. 

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Death, Through a Nurse’s Eyes

A short film offering a firsthand perspective of the brutality of the pandemic inside a Covid-19 I.C.U.Video by Alexander Stockton and Lucy King

“The short film allows you to experience the brutality of the pandemic from the perspective of nurses inside a Covid-19 intensive care unit.

“Opinion Video producer Alexander Stockton spent several days reporting at the Valleywise Medical Center in Phoenix. Two I.C.U. nurses wore cameras to show what it’s like to care for the sickest Covid patients a year into the pandemic.

“So many Americans have died in hospitals without family by their side, but they were not alone. Nurses brush patients’ teeth, change their catheters and hold their hands in their final moments.

“In just a year, we’ve lost half a million Americans to Covid-19. Vaccinations may be offering some relief, but inside I.C.U.s, nurses continue to contend with the trauma and grief of America’s carousel of death.”
 

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Again, watch with caution. And please pray for healthcare workers today. 

Bring us Easter.


“Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, ‘Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?’

Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone…”


*****


Has there ever been a time in our generation when we’ve needed Easter more?

Most of us have spent over a year now falling asleep to our own prayers for mercy, and waking up wondering what new headlines or social unrest or family tragedy awaits us. It should come as no surprise that statistics show we’ve as a society grown more addicted, more overweight, more depressed, and more anxious.

Lord Jesus, bring us Easter.

Vaccines are helping, but people are still fighting, numbers are still spiking, and masks are still hiding the worn down frowns of our fatigue.

God Almighty, bring us Easter.

The stones we carried before the pandemic were heavy enough. Now with twelve months more worry and grief, we’ve no margin left.

Precious Savior, bring us Easter.

Bring us the rugged cross, the plumb line of your beaten body hanging for our freedom.

Bring us the cool damp tomb, light eclipsed by the huge stone of our sin and shame and fear.

Bring us the three days of silence, of questions, of doubt.

And then, Lord, bring us.

Bring us the morning.

Bring us a dew on the roses daybreak, a stone rolling, shame shattering, death defying

resurrection

Lord.

Bring us.

To our knees. To our senses. To

YOU.

Today and every day.

Take our stones away.