Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lent & The Hard Thanks

I've never really thought much about Lent. Never really understood what it's all about. Never been good at giving up chocolate or soda, or anything of that sort. I'm thirty one and I'm just starting to think that there might be something more to this season than complaining to others about how I'm so deprived because I'm trying in my own strength to not eat that one piece of chocolate sitting on my kitchen counter staring me in the face each morning. And inevitably I give in. And the season of lent just becomes this season of feeling like a failure and a season of more chocolate than ever.

I know my God though. I know that He doesn't ask things of us simply to make us feel ruined or destroyed inside. So this year I've decided to go on a hunt to really discover what the Lord had for his kids as they prepare their hearts, their minds for Easter. It's a hunt that's just beginning for me.
I've been reading through these devotions on the 40 day road to Easter Sunday. I also find it no coincidence that the Lord has plopped this book in my lap in recent months... A story of one woman's journey to find joy in her everyday. A story of gratitude and discovering that ALL is grace.

These titles have brought me a wonderment of the cross, a wonderment that I have not yet experienced up until now. I have been working through grace... What is grace... Where does God's grace go when the cancer diagnosis comes and when He asks the young mom to give back her first two babies to Him and to His will?
This week Hal has had some strange health things going on. Thus far all they can determine is that she is in desperate need of going #2. And I have caught myself several times this week whispering a grateful thanks to my Jesus for His grace... thanks that it's nothing more serious... thanks for a simple solution.

Last night though, her fever was back and her legs looked limp stretched out long across the couch. Her head resting in my lap as I gently tucked her hair behind her dainty-girl ear. I couldn't help but ponder His grace... What if someday the diagnosis is much more than constipation... what then will I say of His grace? How fervently then will I believe that His will is infinitely better than mine?

Don't we find that it's in the hard thanks that we really see and know our Savior?

It's when He took the bread and the wine and gave thanks to His Father for what He knew was about to happen...
giving thanks for being the crux of the greatest rescue plan that has ever existed...
giving thanks for taking on the sins of the ENTIRE world, talk about horrific...
thanks for the cross...

It's in the hard thanks that we learn to trust, despite our lack of understanding. It's in the hard thanks that we glorify Him with our life. It's in the letting go, in the loss of those we love deep, and trusting that in His sovereignty , He wastes nothing... that in His kindness, He weeps and mourns WITH us... that in His love, He redeems, He restores, He brings hope.

So in this season of Lent... this year is the first year in my entire life that Lent for me is not going to be about the chocolate. It's not about giving up material things so that I can swim in the grossness of my own pride. Instead, It's about soaking up the glorious gift of Him and Him alone. It's about giving thanks for the hard stuff. It's about choosing to bask in His kindness, not forgetting my circumstances and pretending that all is well when it is not, but knowing that in all things, at all times, He is in passionate pursuit of those who love Him... He is in passionate pursuit of me. He constantly has my best interests in mind. In the hard stuff He wants to draw me close, closer than I am to my own heartbeat.

My Jesus took the cup that His Father gave Him... the request was undoubtedly painful, this life is undoubtedly painful... But what a better opportunity then to learn to live the hard thanks... to find the joy that only comes in gratitude for ALL He gives? He himself gave thanks, knowing what was coming next... the cross.

All really is grace. He didn't have to give us one more breath. Today, He didn't have to let me feel her warm skin under my fingers, or let me see her gorgeous smile beam across her porcelain face. He didn't have to allow me the means to stay home with my treasures day in and day out or give me arms to wrap around her when I can think of no other way to bring her comfort in her pain. He didn't have to give a single moment. BUT HE DID! And each moment... whether blissful or burdensome... is pure gift... Each moment is another opportunity to bask in His presence, to hold on tightly to His promises, to discover more of His grace and His goodness. Whether laughing around a dinner table with the greatest of friends, or giving everything of Himself on the cross, He lived thanks.

Lord may I learn to genuinely live the hard thanks.
This season of Lent, of preparing for the glorious day of your resurrection, Can my thoughts constantly drift towards you... towards the example that you gave with your life... towards whole-heartedly believing that you really, truly are, my everything? Lord, please let it be so.

#'s 273-297
Thank you Lord for the living breathing treasures that bring the mess and the worry, and the kind of pain that brings me to my knees. Thank you for the time that we have to be still together on the couch. Thank you for the whispered prayers that are a constant flow from these lips in the times of hard thanksgiving. Thank you for pigtails on the defiant treasure who finds no joy in receiving instruction from anybody. Thank you that her little spirit thrusts me into your Word daily, causes me to stay long and dig deep. Thank you for two sleeping treasures sprawled out and asleep in their beds at 8am on a Saturday morning.

Thanks for the frost that makes the farm beautiful. Thanks for the misunderstandings and the mistakes that cause us to talk and learn to problem solve in this little family of six. Thanks for places to swim and friends to swim with, for dishes that need washing and laundry piled high. Thank you that there's evidence of life constantly filling up this farm house. Thank you for pink toe nails on sisters, and brothers who wanna know why their toe nails can't be pink too. Thank you for lent, for the example of gratitude that You give in the hard stuff. Thank you that all really is grace. Thank you for eyes that are learning to see, and for a heart that is weak enough to be used for your glory. Thank you for shepherd's pie on a cool evening. Thank you that he's a Papa who loves being a Papa. Thank you that he helps and wants to know their hearts just as much as I do. Thank you that they laugh into each other's faces.

Thank you for YOU LORD... You above all else.