It’s been a while. Seven months or so, in fact. I’ve missed writing here, I’ve missed the process of sitting with a text and ruminating over it and writing my thoughts and putting them out there to share with you. It’s one of the many things I miss about my life BK (before kids). However, while there are many things I miss about my life before, I would not give up this season for anything. The work I’m doing as a foster mom is the most meaningful, challenging, rewarding, and difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’m still trying to get my head around it in some ways, but this much I know: the things I miss, the things I’ve given up to do this, are nothing compared with the joy of witnessing transformation and growth and flourishing in two little people day by day. It’s amazing.
With that said, I’m back! My husband pointed out recently that, for the past eight months or so, we’ve operated in “crisis mode.” We have been all hands on deck as we have worked on behalf of our two foster kids, giving them a life that, we hope, will help them to have a happy and healthy and wonderful childhood in spite of the circumstances that brought them to us. I’m blogging more about that journey over at my new blog, A Fostered Life. I hope you’ll join me there too!
But here is where I will continue to write my Bible study and meditations. I love studying scripture. And when I make time for it, it is truly the difference between flourishing in the fullness of life and wilting on a withering vine.
Thanks for joining me here. I’ve missed you!
Now, let’s get started…
Lord, I take a deep breath and become so acutely aware of how tired, stressed, and burdened I feel these days. Finding time—no, making time—for prayer and Bible meditation is more than difficult for me these days; it’s all out war. In the few minutes I have right now, while the baby naps and it’s not yet time to pick my son up from school, help me to soak up the nourishment of your word and your spirit. Fill and refresh me, I pray. In Christ’s name.
We’re looking at Psalm 46 today—a well known, beloved text that makes me feel more relaxed just thinking about it reading it.
Below, I have broken it into three sections, each of which ends (in the actual text) with the word “Selah.” While Bible scholars differ on what the word “selah” actually means, I tend to go with the ones who think it is a variation of “salah,” which, in Hebrew, means “to pause.” With that in mind, reach each section, pause for a moment, read it again, pause again, and then move on.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Selah (Pause. Wait. Breathe. Repeat.)
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah (Pause. Wait. Breathe. Repeat.)
Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah (Pause. Wait. Breathe. Repeat.)
As I read this passage today, I just wanted to start weeping. I don’t know where you’re at in life right now, but here’s where I’m at: eight months in to the hardest and most wonderful season I’ve ever lived through.
Let me start with the most wonderful: eight months ago, two children came to live with my husband and me, and it appears they will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Now for the hardest part: eight months ago, two children came to live with my husband and me, and it appears they will be with us for the foreseeable future.
My husband and I have loved—LOVED—having these two little ones in our lives. Everything changed when they came, and we will never be the same again. But we were talking this week and it occurred to us that we have been operating in crisis mode for eight months. Which is not sustainable. I have been running on adrenaline through months of meetings with social workers and therapists, teachers and principals, doctors and dentists, on top of the occasional sleepwalking incidents and the frequent midnight feedings. We have taken courses in order to get training in order to be able to handle some of our foster son’s unique challenges. I have become a soccer coach (having never played soccer before in my life). I have made a whole community of new friends through my son’s school and my daughter’s swim lessons. We have traveled to Arizona and Virginia to introduce the kids to our families. And all the while, my husband has remained an elder at our church and I have remained music director, and I have continued to accept opportunities to preach at our church and elsewhere, which means that Sundays got a lot more complicated as well.
Life has been moving at such a breakneck speed, with no room to stop and breathe.
And this week, finally, I was able to put something very important into words: This. Can. Not. Go. On.
# # #
In the midst of this “crisis mode season,” one of my best friends in Seattle did the unthinkable: she moved. It was not entirely shocking when it happened. She had been talking about it for some time, and the move is great for her and her family, and I am genuinely happy for her.
But I miss her so much. She was someone I felt safe with, who I could talk with about everything, and who always, always cheered me up. I left every time with her feeling lighter. She made me laugh. She commiserated. She helped me to feel like I was not alone. She had a lot of great parenting and marriage advice, and she had the wisdom to know when to share it (and when to just let me vent). She was becoming my best friend in Seattle, and then she left. Sniff, sniff.
Before she moved, though, she had a birthday dinner and, in a fashion that was true to her character, she gave everyone who came to her dinner hand-made gifts. The gift she gave my husband and me was a painting she did. In beautiful, bold, black script on a white background, she painted, “Be still and know.”
However, a funny thing happened after she finished our painting: she realized that she had accidentally painted on the canvas upside down. So in order for it to read upright, I would need to remove the hooks and reinstall them on the other end of the canvas. She gave us the gift with apologies and instructions for how to reinstall the hooks in order for the painting to hang correctly.
But who has time for that in crisis mode? So I hung the painting in our bathroom upside down, and it has been there for months now.
# # #
One of the only times I am still these days, when I’m not asleep, is when I’m sitting on the john. In other words, in this season, my bathroom has become my meditation room. In light of that, it’s fitting that my upside down reminder to “be still and know” is hanging in my meditation room, on the wall directly across from the toilet. A few times a day, I see that painting and, assuming no one is knocking on the door or calling for me (in other words, when our boy is in school and the baby is napping), I am able to take a moment.
To take a breath.
To take a beat.
To be still.
To remember to be confident that he who began this good work will be faithful to bring it to completion. To remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. To remember that, even in the shadow of the valley of death, I don’t need to fear, because God is with me, comforting me with his rod and his staff.
To consider how “upside down” it is to be still and know that God is GOD. Totally counter-intuitive. Totally against my grain.
The walk of faith is not glamorous. It is the choice to surrender our will to God and trust that God knows better than we do what is best, that God sees the whole picture while we see only in part, and that God can always, always, do more than we could ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.
It’s the un-snazzy, un-shiny choice to take the moments we can grab to place our hope in God, as feeble and frayed as that hope may be.
Even if those moments happen during a 60-second trip to the “meditation room.”
I pray you will be able to snatch at least a brief moment today to be still and fix your mind on Christ. When you do, consider these words of application from the apostle Paul:
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. (Colossians 3:12-17 ESV)