A Story

You felt it as soon as you walked into the house. Beauty so great that it was tangible. It wasn't just beauty: it was hope, grace, God-bringing-joy-out-of-suffering. The sun made us squint our eyes as we sat and waited for the ceremony to begin. That's the end to this story, but the beginning looks much different...

Two years ago, our pastor's wife died. It was unexpected, sharp, painful. I remember playing the piano at her funeral - people filled the church, and you could hear the rain pounding outside. We grieved her loss and his pain. There are no words for that grief, no answers for the question why. Pastor John clung to his faith in God's sovereignty, that day and in long months then years afterward. And although God's grace was evident, His purpose was not.

Six months ago, someone new came to our church. We're a small church, and newcomers are always noticed (and welcomed rather enthusiastically). Her name was Myrna. She came to lunch at our house, and we heard her story. She was a widow, and her husband had died four years ago. She spoke of God's love and sovereignty, how He gave her strength and hope. You could see her trust and faith, even during that short time. Someone else came to our house. And that was the day that Myrna met Pastor John.

Three days ago, they said "I do" and smiled and kissed under the bright June sun.

It was beautiful, so beautiful. My words fall flat, but it's the story that counts. I love and need stories like this. Even though my life is so different and my pain so much less than theirs, their story gives me hope. You could list Suffering as a main character in this story, and that would hold to the truth. But alongside it stands Hope and a God, a very real, incomprehensible, and marvelous God.


Two New Favorites


On Living

"I know sometimes it seems difficult..." I began.

"Difficult!" All she seemed able to do was echo my words, spitting them out as if they tasted bitter.

"Yes, I know, but we are alive," I argued, "Think how alive we are. It isn't like Southstone where we just went on and on and nothing ever happened. Here I can feel us living. Don't you feel as if you were being stretched?"

"It hurts to be stretched."
Greengage Summer, Rumer Godden

Living right now is just like that quote. The type of Living that stretches and stretches, pulls and pulls. There's just so much. I can't put my thoughts in order, so I'm leaning on quotes.

"We are never more in touch with life than when life is painful, never more in touch with hope than we are then, if only the hope of another human presence to be with us and for us." (Clown in the Belfry, Frederick Buechner)
"The characteristics of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality." (The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis)
If pain makes life real, it also makes hope unmistakably real. Hope becomes something to hold, something to wield. Also, something to lose. But it's there, undeniably there.

Sometimes, I have to pull myself out of my narrow world and just laugh. It's not a cynical laugh or a despairing laugh, but a laugh of pure joy. A laugh that realizes how small I am and how great God truly is.

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 5
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(God's Grandeur, Gerald Manley Hopkins)



"Learn power, the smash of the holy once more, and signed by its name. Be victim to abruptness and seizures, events intercalated, swellings of the heart. You'll climb trees. You won't be able to sleep, or need to, for the joy of it."

Holy the Firm, Annie Dillard

No other quote can describe this month so well. The smash of the holy shattered my plans for June. From the start, I've been bewildered, angry, amazed, through the whole spectrum of emotion. This month feels fragmented and unclear. Nothing fits together (except in some great plan that I cannot see). I hope in that unseen plan. Life now just means unraveled plans and unanswered emails.

Two weeks ago, I planned to fly out to TX and visit two very, very dear friends for the first two weeks of June. But I had to cancel because of more health issues. Apart from the pain of the new illness, I was not happy that first day of June. Southwest kindly sent me an email confirming that my flight was indeed canceled. I tried not to break down crying. Tried being the key word. It sounds silly, but visiting friends really is a huge encouragement, and those girls are two of my best friends. I felt so little and lost.

Last Sunday, I made the whirlwind decision to spend the week with my Ninos in Oceanside. It was one of the best weeks ever. We watched movies, rode bikes, blasted Taylor Swift and Matchbox Twenty, talked about everything under the sun, read Narnia on top of bunk beds, and drank tea. I could feel the swelling of my heart towards joy. This completely unplanned week, this smash of holy, made me want to climb a tree and laugh out loud.

We gathered last Saturday, my Dad's side of the family. Just two months ago, we mourned the death of my Uncle Kenny, this time we mourned another death. Together in dark colors of black and purple, around a grave, tears and hugs. This death was another shock, a complete surprise, a smash of... holy?

Yet I have to believe this is a smash of holy. If this all really is the smash of the holy, then I can only stand back and bite my tongue. Silent, but with something else pulling at my heart. If the mark is of a God who is the holy, holy, holy Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory. This month is part of His glory. And because of His only begotten son, I see part of His glory. And then there's the pull, the pull of joy. It definitely came after the smash, after I cried, whined, and argued. But it's there: a sign of grace, a gift, pure and beautiful joy.

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul...

Smash of holy.


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