an unfading glory

We’ve rounded that sharp bend in the calendar, barreling straight into 2015 with images of 2014 quickly receding in the rearview of the mind. It’s been an unrealistically amazing year in my world with so many things I can point to and know:

THERE…those moments    right   there… they shaped my life.
Changed me deeply.
I’m marked and branded more eternally by them.

Although markings include the painful news regarding a loved one, a ministry opportunity taking me half way around the world and back— and the exciting addition of a new family member, one person has had more shaping influence on my life than most any other in this last year.

an unfading glory 2

She wouldn’t know me from Adam’s house cat.

We’ve never met and it’s doubtful….very doubtful, we will ever meet on this side of heaven.  Yet, without a smidge of exaggeration, I can tell you this woman has made an eternal impact on my life in ways I pray I’ll never forget.

Since discovering her story online, pieces of the Jesus in her have met me in my moments all throughout this past year, carrying me through many things frustrating and fantastic. They’ve met me in the months leading up to the holidays and all the typical calendar crazy, combined with the preparation for an out-of-state wedding. 

Additional pieces were gifted during quieter moments of recent holiday celebrations and I thought about her often while I worked through the final week leading up to my daughter’s wedding day. When that day came,  I smiled w i d e r.  I loved harder  and I danced in slow circles with my husband— all while her Jesus whispers settled in my soul.

I thought of her— and her daughters— a lot that night.  I was humbled.

She didn’t ask to be there in the ways she was there. I mean, I’d gladly have invited her to come,  but the way it has happened…the way it seems that it has to happen…. Well, I know I’m one of so many who wish …..  it could be different.

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I’d want to be her friend in real life.

I want to imagine we could share all the things: flowers and tomatoes from our gardens, recipes and accessories. We’d swap stories and all those grubby nuggets and precious pearls of hard-won wisdom about how to live and love well.

We’d argue sometimes but make up easily. We’d cry a little and we’d pray and laugh a lot. I’d like a friend like that. She seems so real in these ways…even in her earnest and honest struggle with life, love, cancer and now dying— God’s love through her is so evident and real.

Without even trying, she causes me to ask myself the hard questions:

Could I do this?
What do I have to complain about?
Can I live the remainder of my life with this kind of love for others?
Apologize?
Forgive?
Serve selflessly?
Point always to Jesus?

Her real life friends are struggling too. 

They’ve sat by her in the long dark hours of chemo. They’ve held her hand, made her smoothies and loved her husband and children. They’ve laughed and listened and have possibly argued a little along the way. They supported her while she wrote and released her second book. They’ve watched her make up her mind to fight and live. They’ve stood by her decision now to love well and die with grace. 

With grace…. IN Grace.

The cup of life

I so grateful to know her in this pathetically small way I do.

It’s been her gift to us all— teaching us, leading us and guiding us as she is taught led and guided along the Isaiah 42:16 paths we can barely understand or know. She’s done her best to show us that God is here… now. With her husband right beside her, she’s given us the greatest gift:

the courage to live and die… well.

She’s also given the gift of perspective. Last night I read how she clearly remembers driving for the last time although then she didn’t realize it would be the last time. I thought of this tonight, as I drove myself to the grocery store and exercise class with my hands about frozen to the steering wheel from the bitter cold.

And I thanked God for the van and the cold and the privilege…the health I have to simply drive. Her legacy is a life of chosen gratitude. I want that to be mine too.

Not long ago, she also wrote about how she’s not a hero. I won’t argue with her. I understand. All the world loves a hero and there are plenty of media outlets willing to exploit and make a hero’s story out of many. But this woman– she’s not trying to be anyone’s hero.

As the most Pro-Life and Pro-Love person I’ve ever witnessed, she’s simply courageously spending her last days pointing us to the One who is THE Hero: Jesus. She’s invited us to draw closer to her story and as a result, she’s invited us to draw nearer with her to God, allowing Him to use her journey to teach us how to love Him and one another better and trust Him more.

Rekindling the fire

She knows time here is shortfor all of us really,  and though her story here on earth will soon come to a close, it  continues— on another page and in an unending chapter at Home in heaven.

Where someday, we will most definitely meet. I don’t know if there will be chairs in heaven but I’d like to think there are many. If so, then I’ll draw one up close beside her and there I’ll say,

“Thank you, Kara. Thank you for being my friend.”

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” John 12:24-26

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when the soul feels its worth

Recently, I sat on the front porch with my man, cup of coffee in hand, as together we watched the sun set on the first day of my 46th year of life.

Good and quiet, it was a simple day of serving in ways I can right now. Today, I find myself typing these words feeling thankful for all I’ve learned this past year..  especially for the good gift of perspective.

Soul Worth

Perspective is what’s always been needed to enrich these seasons and it kinda stinks that you can only gain it as you go.  As a result,  Christmas feels so much richer to me than in years past. There’s a gravity… a solidifying of sorts. I feel the weight and the wonder of it all…. owning it— not as a more colorful square on the common calendar, or a time of extra revelry, but the way of life Christmas represents and offers is so valuable for my  24-7-365. 

Perspective.

Perspective anchors me when I’m weary. When I’m standing in the middle of a moment coming completely unhinged inside as my list threatens “to-do me in” and choke life and joy from my heart. It helps me hold the difficult moments loosely enough to push through and remember…. Sometimes remembering only not to forget how this particular moment is not the end of my story —not the end of the story at all.

Perspective is what makes the litany of Christmas so precious to me. The words, the Scriptures and the stories we tell and retell about that O’ holiest of nights are part of my story—my genealogy and my family history which is deepening as the years go by.

So I’m hearing these words with sharpened senses keen to understand how it all fits together and where I fit in to that story, which began long before that little town of Bethlehem and continues on far past the empty tomb in the garden.

God's Straight Eternal Plan

The Prophet Isaiah gets a lot of air time at this time of year— almost as much as Luke does in the telling of Jesus’s birth. Rightly so, as Isaiah foretold the coming, birth and death of the Messiah in ways and details which assure us that he not only had heard from God on the matter but was pointing to Jesus of Nazareth born some 600 years later. It truly is amazing, that perspective.

One such passage of Isaiah finds it’s way into the back story of Christmas every year as we encounter the reasons why we need a Messiah in the first place. No matter how many times it’s read,  it seems odd and a bit out of place — off balance and hard to fit into the puzzle. The moment you press down on one edge, the other side pops slightly askew and you know it doesn’t quite fit…. Yet.

The very fact that it doesn’t fit— seems so odd, out of place and foreign to our understanding points to the problem we have of living in a fallen world. Points, then guides us beyond ourselves and our known reality of this life of constant struggle. Beyond, to the place of creation restored.

In this place wolves share homes with lambs while leopards rest amongst plump goats. Calves and lions share a common meal and everyone is using good table manners. No one feels threatened for fear of being devoured and there’s enough for everyone.  Defenseless babies play amongst snakes and there no fear of wounding, poisoning or exploitation.

There is peace.
There is safety.
There is communion.

And a little Child….shall lead them.

It’s weird. Unimaginable. Yet God, through the Prophet Isaiah says this is what we have to look forward to…and now, I’m beginning to get it.

Obviously, it’s more than a future filled with instinct-resistant snakes and livestock modeling a vegan lifestyle. Isaiah paints a picture of complete restoration within and without.  Natural and unnatural enemies will be restored to relationship. The ones who’d normally abuse, devour and exploit the other will have no such inclination.  Desires and hungers will be completely realigned —as in restored to their original state and reoriented with God at the center.

All because a “little Child”…born one night in the City of David and wrapped in swaddling clothes…shall be their leader.

Leading from within them.  Inside them…from inside us.  Christ, shall lead us Home.

This Child is not distracted nor does He  judge by what His eyes see or His ears hear in the world around  because the Spirit of the Lord, of wisdom, understanding, counsel and might guides Him to lead in perfect justice.

And He can guide us too.

Devastating Humility

Complete.
Restoration.
Justice.
Peace.

No matter how many times we say those words, they’re as unimaginable as the scene this passage depicts.

Because for now, we must cautiously live in the midst of prowling lions looking to feast upon lamed or fat, sleepy sheep. 

Because, cunning wolves, some masquerading as shepherds, seek lambs to exploit or devour, while others wreak havoc and violence throughout the world.

Because serpents slither in and out of every crevice wounding and poisoning hearts and minds as they go.

Nevertheless, we can be led and guided through.

Guided through this world that  Christ came to and became for, wrapping Himself  in it’s dirty flesh to dwell among us and to conquer the violence, as Ravi Zacharius says, not in spite of it — but through it. 

For, in that moment, on that night, fracturing time and space, God so loved that He turned Himself inside out to turn us right side in again with Him— for Him…and for this relationship with creation restored.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining… til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.  A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”

Do you hear?
Do you see?
Do you know?

Joy to the World!  The Lord has come! And He is coming again.

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an invitation to transfiguration

The radar was blanknot even a blip on the screen.

True, I’ve been distracted. There’s been so much action and activity surrounding my life recently— the usual busy-ness of our business’ seasonal work, planning for a wedding (here in 4 weeks!), getting a son into college, homeschool finals for the other, ministry commitments….laundry issues (now resolved!)— nothing major you know, just the common chaos.

Add to this, the holiday season on the horizon and how our usual plans for Thanksgiving were also nearly turned inside out by the discovery of water damage in our usual location. However, thanks to the willing work of an able family member, most of us were gathered in from various parts of 4 states, eating, visiting and goofing around under the same roof. As usual, it was different but we were thankful to be together again.

Similar is our goal and different is our family’s accepted “normal”!

Invitation to transfiguration Let me tell you more…