Dying at 30.

When I was 16 I was horrified at the thought of being 30 one day. For some reason I thought it would be the end of my life. I have to say, I don’t think 16 year old me was so wrong.

In the last three years my life has drastically changed. A lot of the journey along the way, I wasn’t so sure. Was this more of me or more of God? The only constant in it all was the Word of God, and the guide of the Holy Spirit.

Almost getting divorced, almost losing my husband to drugs, that was a thick fight, but these last few weeks might have been the worst. It wasn’t praying those around me through it. It was God calling me out of myself. Will I fully submit to Him for whatever time I have left on this earth? Or will I keep going back to myself and what I’ve known for a lifetime of my own battle and bondage with my idols and my sin?

I didn’t have to think twice to obey the Lord and stay and pray for my marriage when it was time. But I have found myself fighting the Lord here. This isn’t just a season of practice. This is a season of road choices. I don’t want to watch my babies grow and be left with my disobedience. Those seasons and moments where I could have listened to the Lord and chose my own way instead. I’ve had enough of that life.

I decided to follow Jesus at 17, I decided to give Him my marriage at 27, and at 30 I decided to lose my life for the sake of the cross. What could this mean? Anything. With the Lord all things are possible. But I’ve learned His promises are true and I’d rather follow that for a lifetime of uncertainty than my broken vessel of choices.

So it turns out I really will be dying at 30. But in the best way possible.

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Pile of Rocks.

So we are working on our backyard. There’s a lot to learn in getting the soil ready. You have to get the rocks out, till the soil, and make everything level so you can even plant anything…

 

I’ve been looking at this pile of rock grow week by week at my back door and thought to myself… this is totally going to have some life significance.

 

And it did.

 

In the Old Testament there are references to rocks. There is the obvious, stone that the builder rejected–> cornerstone which is Jesus; but over the last few years I have had many rock piles in my life. This is different than 1 stone.

In the Old Testament, Joshua Chapter 4 to be exact, the Israelites were commanded to take 12 rocks and pile them after they had crossed the sea on dry land. Now they did this (pile rocks, not cross the sea on dry land) many times in the OT to show the Lord had done something great. But in this passage the 12 rocks signified the 12 tribes of Israel. God brought them out of slavery, made them great despite their enemies, and this was all done despite the Israelites thanks and obedience. It always went better when they obeyed. They eventually got to the Promised Land, it just took a lot longer.

So this rock pile I have sitting out back. My husband keeps asking me what I want to do with it. Most folks get rid of it. Clearly if you’ve read my blog, known me for any amount of time…you know I am not most folks. So this pile of rocks is going somewhere out back as a tangible reminder of what God has brought us out of in the 11 years of marriage. This dry land we now stand on is not our own doing but the Lords.

Honestly, years ago it would have been so easy to say, look what I’ve made for myself. Look how far we’ve come. But these rocks keep reminding me…I am nothing without the Lord. Every rock moved affords the opportunity to get closer to tilled soil that you can actually work with…and I’d be terribly foolish to think I moved these rocks in my own life and have become my own masterpiece. Fresh tilled soil just means the Lord can actually start working.

So seriously, Merissa…rocks? What is the point of this blog…

I am also studying 1 Peter. I finally plugged in at my church despite 2 years of not doing it, and we are studying 1 Peter. It’s recommended to read it through once a day. From my being in counseling days, we’d re-read things a lot. It’s like the backyard. It moves rocks, tills the soil…

I got some news today and honestly didn’t know what to do. It did not turn out in any way I had hypothesized, and I was mad. [As always Lord, you have provided a situation to add another rock to my pile of glory or yours…]In this situation I realized I had said some things that if I did not follow through with, would make me look like a hypocrite. Make me look more like the world, not less. The weight of that realization as I read through 1 Peter 2 for like the 100th time was so heavy. A million other things came into view, and really, I could have justified it any which way, gone my own way and swallowed the bad feeling over time with dodging glances and arrogant self justifications… but if my focus was for the glory of God, not myself, and my plans, the rock pile wins.

I have made a habit out of doing what costs me the least pain and suffering. And really, looking at 1 Peter I have had this all wrong. I really need to pick the option that makes the cross less hypocritical, and more real to the world. That might mean picking the option that doesn’t give me more and make me wipe my brow and say “whew! really dodged a bullet that time!”

Why’s Merissa talking about this…honestly, I really don’t like talking about these moments in my life. I fear that it will take away from God’s glory and put some on me. So please hear me, this is more accountability to my faith walk. And I am hoping, maybe you, reader, are struggling with something that is causing you to stumble. For me, the stone that was making me stumble was the accountability to my words to an unbeliever. I have to believe those words, and my being an honorable person to those words, is going to have more movement in the heavens than my checkbook. The rest will be provided for being faithful. [And please don’t leave here thinking this was a horrible life or death situation. It was really a plain, everyday occurrence that I struggled heavily with.]

If you’re stumbling on a decision, read 1 Peter 2:1-12. Ask God to open your eyes to what you’re stumbling on and to have enough strength to be a faithful believer and do what will be honorable to everyone. Believers and non-believers. Because you really never know when your actions are a testimony to someone who doesn’t know Jesus.

For this, I prayed.

Some days. Just, some days. And they seem like just some days. You eat right, you work to keep everything in the right order and you still get overwhelmed. Your brain still starts to spin like a top because littlest she just wants to nap on you because as you write he and bigger she are arguing in the next room for the fifteen-thousandth time over who looked at who funny. The laundry needs to be done because dirt and spit up happens and the dishes because there's no spoons… spin, spin, spin.

When you see your life spin sometimes it's hard to see clearly. Our souls forget. When you're life dizzy you're just trying to catch your balance, breath and stomach. Never look back but to give thanks.


For this I prayed.

I used to tell Him that "I can't do this. Can't you hear me? This is not what I've been praying for. Can't you hear me? I can't do this. It's too much God…"

Prayers that felt empty. Prayers that felt silent. Prayers that left me feeling lonely. Years of prayers. Years of marriage struggles. Years of parenting that felt useless, horrifying and heart breaking. "I can't do this God. Can't you hear me?"

It was 1 post on social media a few days ago. A baby dedication and the caption was "for this we prayed."

The story of Hannah in 1Samuel 1 is very brief. She had no children. She was barren and prayed year after year for a child. The grief of her journey is only verses long really, but God remembered her. Samuel, who she bore, she promised to the Lord. If we look over the timeline to her follow through of that commitment it winds up being tied to Jesus because Samuel found David who is from the line of Jesus… the savior of the world.

But Hannah did something remarkable in that chapter. She followed through. When we want what we want, we bargain and promise our lives away. It's selfish human nature. I think as a kid I probably promised I'd keep my room clean for a couple beanie babies I really really needed (eye roll). Little did my mom know at the time that included putting everything in the closet to fall out on her when she opened the doors.

Hannah followed through. She returned Samuel back to the temple to be used for the Lord's purposes. When I get something I pray for my heart overflows and I want to hold on so tight. It's only by God's grace I even see that and start slowly opening my clenched tight fists to trust again.

This verse has stuck in my mind this week. What have I prayed for? And what has God answered?

This life I've inherited…I've started seeing glimpses of answered prayers. Out of a season of big answered prayers, God–what are the little things you've remembered for which I prayed?

A prayer to never be the same may not be me staying holy and perfect, but God opening my eyes to see my kid's struggles are not my failures but opportunities to cling to a holy God for patience and gentle words.

A prayer to keep my marriage growing may not be perfect glances and blissful handholding, but getting my knees dirty to pray that He change my heart to be a better wife to my husband.

A prayer for healing our family may be living in a two bedroom apartment on top of each other to learn that God and family are most important…we do for each other, don't give up on each other, and love each other no matter what.

A prayer for patience may not be instant long suffering maneuvering but many dirty dishes, chaotic hallways, missed bedtimes, late for work, crazy before church, frustrating, flustering, kids mad at me and me mad at them moments to finally see where that patient breath actually fits in.

For this, I prayed.

I may not have asked for this crazy mess… but I'm living in a life of beautifully answered God remembered prayers.

For this I prayed… Wyatt, the remembrance of my prayer to never be the same. Kailyn, the remembrance of give me some light in this darkness to wake me up. Makenzie, the remembrance of years of prayers, and tears, and court dates, and divorce and restriction orders, and barrenness, and relapsed husband finding Jesus and staying clean, a marriage so broken healed… for this I prayed… and God remembered.

Because these answers to prayers…the remembrances? They aren't a moment. They are a lifetime of richly answered prayers from a never forgetting God.

The Messy, Broken Risk of Love.

I feel like in the US we are raised around this idea that brokenness is weak. Like it’s so loud it’s hard to hear any other idea than to just be strong, and proud, and make a name for yourself. The more I try to choose to live in brokenness and choose to follow Jesus the more I realize how hard it is to undo this with your own kids.

I remember as a kid my dad would get furious with me over some of my behaviors. I remember my mom trying to be the middle ground and have both of us see our part. I also remember seeing brokenness in his eyes when he would come back to apologize. As a kid, you think your parent is bi-polar. As a parent, you realize…he was trying to walk in brokenness. She was trying to fight the battle to make it right. Here are these completely human people trying to constantly remember that Jesus already covered this moment…already covered this child’s imperfections…and we react to it and realize we fail and don’t act like that in the moment. Then these humans wind up having to walk back to their child to ask forgiveness, make that relationship right, and risk breaking themselves open and vulnerable to keep that love blood flowing.

It’s becoming not so crazy to me. Those moments of brokenness in my father’s eyes? My mom trying to be the middle ground? They were moments they were fighting to follow Jesus. That battle against the heavens instead of flesh and blood. That Ephesians battle instead of protecting ourselves.

That’s where the battle is in love. It’s not to stay together. It’s not to stand up and pull it all together on our own and re-write our story after every failure….it’s to chose brokenness. It’s to look at ourselves and our brokenness and see our need for Jesus and pour it right back out and start risking it all to love this person all over again.

Choosing love is choosing brokenness because love is a risk. We are not at all guaranteed that loving this person in front of us will ever bring a return. We are promised that God will work. Just not guaranteed it will be the person in front of us, unless we are looking in a mirror. These promises are unseen. Made by an unseen. And only in the moments of brokenness are we really closest to His presence because the lover and creator of our very being is unseen and already traveled this journey we walk.

When we get past the moment of wanting to pick ourselves back up and press into those unseen promises…when we lay out and trust that the Creator will remake us in the brokenness, we may look up through the tears and see the compassionate eyes of the Savior bearing right back into ours and starting to heal our brokenness. I don’t think there is a clearer place to see Jesus because He is the image of love broken out and risked. How could I have thought I would have seen Him more anywhere else but in this broken place?

When I stand here son, and I start to feel that you are breaking me with your sin…I feel my anger rise. But that anger God. Remind me that it’s my resistance to realizing I am just as human. That this is where my own sin is flaring up. God help me remember this anger is passion for his future to be found only in You. Help me to lay this anger down and think clearly because I really just want him to see Jesus. To run past the doors of anger to grace and compassion. To pour it all out and risk being hurt again to chance the moment that he might actually know You and see You in his life. Help me to remember that this love is worth the risk, not me shooting my own arrows back at him. Even if I am left feeling broken and emptied out and completely humiliated for loving that little struggling sinner I birthed in my own brokenness. I don’t want to have to humbly go back and fix my wrong moves with my children. I want to intentionally follow the battle plan in the thick of it. So they can see it. So they can see how it’s lived without me telling them how to live it first.

To live in that perspective that today brings the future hope is the most difficult for our heart and head to connect. To live in the moment remembering it will bring forever results. It makes us realize we need a Savior desperately because we aren’t anywhere close to being omnipresent and omnipotent. The only option it leaves me with is broken surrender to survive. To realize that I have these promises written in front of me, that the battle plan has been written for me and I need to merely obey the orders left by the unseen lover of my soul.

It means this world’s method of things can’t possibly be right. I can’t then pick up and move on. I can’t harden myself to these difficult circumstances. I have to stay and wait. I have to cling to these promises that seem so small at times waiting and hoping that He will one day return for me. There is no way around this but to wait in the broken. To wait and trust.

When all I have is broken.

In the busy constant it can overwhelm. I can catch myself not breathing. I almost have to slow down and remember that practice that has been common to my being since life was breathed into me over 28 years ago.

It’s like we spend our days trying to collect the pieces to make something. Like putting broken shells together on the beach or trying to glue something together that’s shattered. These are the priceless pieces of our life. The things we think we can’t live without. It takes something bigger to shatter our own lives into a million pieces to realize that something isn’t much of anything…and the somethings that are priceless we’ve itemized off as a less than priority.

When these human vessels start not quite working right, it’s like the pieces are slipping from what we thought was perfect. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” That beat beating heart. Those in and out breathing lungs. The parts that were woven to all work together. What then, when they aren’t?

What is holding these broken pieces then when the fearless wonder to starts fading and falling out of synch?

Maybe the question then isn’t why or how…maybe it’s how do I praise from here? What do I do to praise in this broken?

My heart was deceived. It was never in the glue. It was in the breaking. The broken. The parts that feel like they’ve spilled my insides out on the floor and made a horrible mess. That’s where the healing starts. That’s the only place it can start.”I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

When we are spilled out and broken, that’s where He can fill. When I’m not so busy filling myself but when I’m so broken I let Him fill me up. “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Back to the basics of my being. This part we don’t like to see. This is where I want so badly to pick it back up again, but like peeling off a part of myself, I lay it down for Him to sort through. For Him to fix. “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”

What happens in this space isn’t just painful. It’s soul saving. I have to remind myself in the pain, He is saving me. I have to remember I can’t live without this. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

These moments become grace. There is strength here because I cannot do it on my own. But I can do all things when I give this vessel back to the Potter to fix and mold to where it should be. He knows where it all goes and what I can stand. Maybe I should trust Him?

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” How is it possible that in broken, there is life? And not just any life. Life that’s more abundant than before?I’ve stuttered over this process many times and missed it here because I thought I couldn’t bear giving it up to Him. Like I knew my body and soul limitation better than the one who made them. Child birthing proved me wrong. Twice.

As the third comes growing in my very being, You make it so clear in her swelling of growth. In her very movement: This woven and birthing experience is never over. All is grace as You weave and re-form me. My very presence in my mother’s womb just a foreshadowing of your weaving of my being inside the covering of Your grace for my numbered days. My very numbered, un-known, and seemingly imperfect days were gifted to be molded. “If I would count them, they are more than the sand.”

I am daily an amateur Jesus follower. Like a child sorting through the treasures of a parent’s closet… I try on the shoes I can’t fit in, and dressing up in clothes that sweep the floor more than they fit my form. But here there is grace. I dress up believing that one day the clothes, the shoes, will fit. Because in His presence all is made perfect and all is insurmountable joy. Some pieces are missed. Sometimes I don’t even want to dress up in that gifted day. Oh, but the breath in these aging lungs. The beat, beating of this sometimes doesn’t-quite-beat-right heart and He reminds me “I awake, and I am still with you.”

 

Psalm 139:13-18

When marriage kills you.

Most every journey I’ve heard has that one epic moment where everything changed and from that point on, it was cruising or perhaps even just… Easier? Anti-climactic really. Appears the happily ever after phase has begun.

But I’m calling the crap card. Either their life is really short or that long seasoned life was actually rather mundane. How could a life lived have one eye opening, never the same moment?

Or perhaps I’m just a stubborn learner. I find I’ve had many epic moments on my journey where I know life will never be the same. I Could be a slow learner and serve a gracious God.

The most recent “epic moment”was the day I realized I hated marriage.

Nope it’s absolutely not politically correct or “religious” of me to say it. But I do think it needs to be said. An effective story can be nothing if it is not truthful.

I had filed for divorce after 9 years of marriage. Suffice it to say I felt compelled to move on and live at peace (whatever that means after filing divorce). But the underlying feeling of wanting to vomit and defeat overwhelmed me. One dear friend at the time had told me to “just get past that. It’s normal. It eases eventually.”

After a few more days, I just couldn’t. I hated that sentence and even more, I hated marriage. And not just the idea of it created by the Creator of all things good; I realized my part. Why my marriage failed. Why I hated my Marriage.

It was because I am a sinfully horribly selfish person. And for the first time in my life… I was the worst sinner I’d ever met. The day I realized I hated marriage was because I was against it. God wasn’t. It was me.

I was suddenly aware of how terribly normal my own marriage was, and how selfishly arrogant it was of me to think our troubles were so much worse than every other marriage in the present and history of mankind. I suddenly realized the worth of marriage was a lifelong partnership, a lifelong covenant contract to love a sinner… Just like Jesus loved me.

The very thing I was angry at not happening–my spouse seeing the love of Jesus– wasn’t happening on my time and after years that made me sinfully rage filled. So mad I believed this lie that whenever among the years it was whispered that I was somehow better than the one I vowed to love for life. Those lies when we believe them and let them grow choke out the life and joy. It perverts everything good and pure that comes our way with the vision of sin we’ve taken on to look through. No wonder I hated marriage. 

That wasn’t Jesus.

That wasn’t right.

No where near “Christian”.

No. It was rather arrogant. Self-seeking. Hypocritical. These are rather nice words for the realization I had for the war I had allowed and invested myself to fight over the years. 

I absolutely do not know where you are. You’re reading this for whatever reason. I don’t know your journey. Only God does. Simply from my sin of choice, I thought for many years marriage would be the death of me. That was actually very true. God used the failing of my marriage to humble me and repent. And thank God, it was before I officially was the death of my marriage. The death of my own selfish desires was right where God could start redeeming and restoring what I had broken and damaged.

But maybe this story is simply here so you know you’re not alone. Jesus meets us where we are… Not where we’re not. 

God is for you, not against you. His plans for you are for hope and a future. He promises that when you seek him, you will find him (Jeremiah 29:11-12). 

The resolve of my story?
I laid down my sword. God’s grace made me see the war had already been won and that His burden was much lighter than the mess of pride I had chosen to carry(you can find that somehwere between the book of Matthew and also Ephesians 6). Did my husband have his own part in all this? Absolutely. It’s just not my story to tell. (Maybe another time…)

Because real women do carry swords. It just depends if it’s the sword for my battle or His. One wages death… The other brings life and healing.

That’s a real pain in my mess.

Did you ever play the cloud game? My kids and I were driving down a hill home in traffic on a beautiful sunny PNW day and the imaginations flew.
That cloud looks like a dinosaur.

Hm. I see an elephant!

Oh… Wow! Me too! 

That’s loving Jesus. Sometimes when I look at this fragile, crazy, beautiful life God has chosen me to walk on with Him I look at it kind of like the cloud game. What is this! Sometimes it’s more like throw up on your couch, down to your carpet… Like really God? What am I supposed to do with this? It’s gross. It stinks. (Maybe some angry choice words. That would be R rated or bleeped out by the FCC. Like really. I’m just being honest.)

Whether it’s clean and crisp like the clouds…or smelly and cruel like the throw up…what are you supposed to do with this?

The finesse of serving in the crazy,the chaos,the mediocrity or the pain of life… It’s definitely an art. A practice. 

Not many will look at the vomit and weep with tears of joy for the gift of that child in their life (let’s face it, it’s usually kid vomit.) That breath in those tiny lungs. The stains that remind us of the love that was birthed deep. It’s easier to breathe that spring air and close your eyes and fearlessly fly through the clouds like life is just fantastic.

Maybe for you it’s more like a bomb went off. Maybe there’s pieces missing. Maybe there’s damage everywhere. Maybe there’s hot tears and repeated questions and fearful stagnant waiting. Maybe there’s a deep burning ache and an anger at heaven… A wondering of why God? Where God? Is there a God? There’s a longing for days as simple as looking at shapes in the clouds. But they don’t come. You pray over and over hoping desperately for relief. But there’s silence. It pierces like a knife to your already broken heart. You don’t even want to think about what’s in front of you let alone the breath you are seemingly cursed to have in your lungs. Hope? Not really.

But then God.

I assure you. From my once broken and bleeding heart to you wherever you are… But then God.  

This story birthing before your eyes is more than a profound mystery and more than a clotted mess. It is the very life of God weaving and showing you His deep passionate love for you, the very one he made in your mothers belly from His own perfect likeness to be birthed into imperfect and sin scorched humanity to cover, cover you with the love of His own flesh. Did God make the mess? No. I assure you. No. (James 1:17) that’s the mess of sin in our world. But God will absolutely use it. All in good time. His good time.

This messy story was made beautiful and known long before your very existence on this very day. We struggle to slow to see the very gentle and humble existence of the Savior of the world who is much unlike the very prideful arrogant and aggressive life we suit up to try to survive in.

So that silence.

That chaos.

That noise.

That battle.

That war.

That death.

Don’t speed up. 

Merely slow down. 

Slow down to the power of an unfailing and never changing God. Who knows the plans for your life (Jer. 29:11) who never leaves or forgets you(Heb. 13:5)whose power works best when you’re weak…whose grace is enough (2 Cor. 12:9).

And start somewhere. Anywhere. Look for the beauty in that mess you’re in. And you’ll see Him.