Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sometimes, the driveway declares the glory of God...

***
Our older four children are away on a trip, so this week, driving the weekly trash to the corner fell to me. And since the oldest three boys home were helping me with the task, I couldn't leave the youngest four alone in the house. We all piled into the van. Adventure ensued as the kids, gloriously free from seat belts on our own long driveway, huddled in the back to make sure the two bungee-corded, wheeled-trash-bins continued to follow the van down to the corner. A minute later, the boys jumped out, set the bins neatly on the side of the road and hopped back in, laughing, and proud of their work. 

It's been good for them to be the "older kids" this week. 

A glorious evening. 

We decided to drive a hundred yards further to visit our 91-year-old neighbor for a few minutes. The long way round to turn the van back to home. 

Our neighbor and I watched the kids play tag, and run shouting around the house, as beams of slanting sun shot long shadows at their feet. Moments like this I always turn to smile at our neighbor and try to imagine him running barefoot in the grass at dusk as well. He was ninth of ten growing up in that house after all. 

On the way back home, I drove, blinded by the sun, back to the west then turned right to go up our long gravel driveway. Trees, and weeds, and all manner of wild have grown up along the left side of the drive and I was struck by the darkness of the path. Here and there a beam of light would break through and shine a patch of shining light upon the ground. But largely, night had claimed the drive. If anything, the few beams of light only intensified the darkness.

I slowed before continuing back home, and thought... "Too bad we have to take this path, with all that sun still filling up the fields." 

Immediately, I thought of the past two years. 

We had to take that path. It was the only road. And although the sun still shone as bright as ever in the fields, sometimes the glimpses of light we saw only accentuated the darkness and the length of the road, curving on ahead to points unknown. And now, once having gotten used to the dimness of the path, it's a little hard to believe we have the freedom to get out again and walk back out into the field and feel the heat of sun, and have even a minute to breathe again. We're shy and uncertain, even in the gentle evening light. 

I had someone send me a note the first year, urging me to write again, besides the CaringBridge reports. A kind note intended to encourage me. But, I just couldn't. I remembered all the promises of God, believed them more than ever in my bones, knew He was Good and True and Eternally Shining like the sun. Like the sun that shines the same whether we are blinded with glory facing West, or resting in the sunny field, or trudging down a dim uncertain road. But it's hard to speak that Praise out loud, or write it down, when hidden in the shade. 

Sometimes, even a driveway declares the glory of God.

                                                                                ~Sara~

The heavens declare the glory of God,
     and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
     and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
     whose voice is not heard.
                 ~Psalm 19:1-3~





Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In hope, believe that peace will come again.


Face to the sea, with sun upon my back.
     I lean into the wind… steady, strong, and chill.
          The stinging spray rouses my numb soul.

I stand, just stand, and look.

Water so vast, so deep.
      Who can grasp the volume of the depths?  
           It scares me… just a bit… to think of all that weight.

Waves crash hard against the shore.
    
        Again.
           
                  Again.
               
                          Again.

Foam escapes, rushing up to grasp at freedom from the pull.
          One gasp of breath and drawn back down
                    to join the clear gray green.

The rhythmic peace,
        untiring sound,
               lulls against the danger of that strength.

Sand and rocks upon the shore,
       as far as I can see.
I crouch to choose among the pebbles.

I’m small as sand beside those waves that crash the shore.

         Yet, I know the joy of the chosen.
                I know this, though all around may seem but cold and fog.

Keep me safe, O my God. Let me not be lost along the shore.
            Forgotten, kicked, and sifted by the sea.
     May I be as one plucked up and held tight in your hand.
            A treasure for a purpose yet unseen.

And, so I stand, a witness to the wild dance of the shore.

The roar of wind and waves demands I listen.
           My weary soul obeys the call to rest.
     The setting sun, a warm wrap on my shoulders.
           The glow of home to come shines in the dusk.

Be still.

Breath deep.

In hope, believe that peace will come again. 

                     ~Sara~

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baby Hannah Irene

On August 15, 2012, we discovered that our youngest daughter–just three and a half months old–has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Her name is Hannah Irene and if you'd like to read about our journey with her and pray with us along the way, you can find our CaringBridge Journal here.

Maybe you will be encouraged, as we were, by the words a friend wrote to me and our whole family.

"In my darkest times of sickness, loss, and grief, the hope to which I clung is that God is Able. I love the story of Daniel's 3 friends, when facing the fiery furnace they said, "Our God is able to deliver us from your hand, even if he does not."

God is able to deliver Hannah from the hands of cancer, even if he doesn't. Every plan he has for her is good. No one but him knows the length of her days, and nothing can take her from this earth until all the purposes for her life have been fulfilled. "Every day ordained for her was written in your book before even one of them came to be."

May each of you find rest and comfort today in the merciful, mighty, and very able hands of Jesus."



We are held in His arms and blessed by the love of Christ expressed through the hands and feet, and prayers, of our dear Brothers and Sisters. Thank you to all of you.

~Sara~

Thursday, April 12, 2012

So Teach Us to Number Our Days

One day, several months after our ninth baby Zac was born, I managed to get my four oldest kids close to tears after starting what seemed to be a happy conversation.

"Do you know that Mr. Friend was the ninth of ten children in his family?  He's just like baby Zac!  They lived right there in that house where he lives now.  They had even numbers, too–five boys and five girls, pretty close to our family."

Oh, everyone thought that was wonderful.  We all looked at Zac and made him laugh.  We thought about 87-year-old Mr. Friend being a happy baby with lots of big brothers and sisters. And they remembered happy and funny stories, too, that he has told us about his growing up time.

We talked about that for a while, and then 6-year-old Ben asked "But, if he's got all those brothers and sisters, why does he live alone?"

"Well, he never got married and he loved farming, so he lived with his mother and father all his life and helped them farm until they died a long time ago, and his brothers and sisters all got married and moved to homes of their own.  He ran that farm by himself for over thirty years.  And now eight of them have died and he has one brother still living, but he (we've met him) hasn't been feeling well lately and can't come over to visit anymore."

Ben took this in matter-of-factly and went on his way, but I looked up to see my older four children standing there wide-eyed and silent.  They were feeling it in their gut for the first time that eventually they too will grow up, their lives will unfold and they will be separated by time and place and circumstance and some way or another all of them would die.  And Mom and Dad, too!

Lydia broke the silence.  "But . . . that's so . . . sad!"

And there they were.  Four children aged 15, 11, 10 and 8, near tears, looking at me and me looking back at them.  Thinking.

It's rare that I sit across the table from my old friend in that quiet house, that tidy house, that bachelor's house, where he lives alone– and not try to imagine that space filled with five young men and five young women talking and laughing while they eat their meals.  Their mother sitting to the side and watching her growing and grown children, catching most of their words while she turns to comment in Swedish to her husband.  In my mind the empty barn is filled again with sixty dairy cows and fifty, or sixty or one-hundred chickens and a dozen pigs are over in the yard.  The diesel tractors parked in his garage are gently replaced by three teams of horses - the six of them the only animals with names on the farm.  Except for the dogs, of course.

My friend grows young before my eyes as I hear stories from his youth–jumping from wood beam to wood beam on the lawn while his older brothers and father and friends built that big red barn in 1929 when he was 7-years-old.  Or later, strong from daily work, when he could carry ten-gallon-pails of water in each hand to the pig pen fifty yards away from the pump. Or back further when he was a small boy, and his sister fell through the soggy land shelf by the stream in the wild area and they thought she'd drown–but they got her out safe and sound after all.  Or when they'd all try to look busy doing something all the time (or at least keep out of sight) lest their dad would find some job for them to do, even the youngest set to work in the yard digging dandelions to get out every root.  Or when four brothers were called up to serve in World War II, but the local draft board decided that my friend should stay at home and help their father farm, so our country would have enough to eat during the war.

Can you imagine the joy around that table the first time they ate together after all four brothers came back home alive from that war?

He tells me where they slept when they were all still living at home - here, there and everywhere in the house depending on the hunting season or the harvest and who needed to get up at 3:00am and who could sleep in until 5:00 or even 6:00.

I look at all the neatly placed cookware on the shelves, and pretty plates set up above, and the place where the pipe went through the wall when they used an old cook stove and wonder if his mother could ever imagine a time when that house would be still, and quiet, and tidy, and chores all finally, finally done and the house–now home to just one aged son–would nearly echo with the lack of busyness.  A dish or two a day now washed in that sink, and one glass used all day long. And though the laundry is no longer done by hand, the machine is only needed once a week or so.

Five sons and five daughters and a man and a wife once occupied these rooms where my friend has lived every day of his life and where he continues to live since he retired from farming but not from life.  Just my friend and one older brother are left from that generation that built that house and farm.  But a patient  stream of nieces, nephews, neighbors and friends pull in and out of the yard through all his days.

And as I think these things, I remember that I really should not talk so long–for my own kids are back in our house around the curve in the road.  A house not quiet, or tidy and with many chores still needing to be done!  This is my time to go home and live it.  I look over at the ninth child born to his house, while I hold the ninth child born to my house in my lap.  Old, sparkling, blue-eyes are bringing laughter into young, blue-eyes from across the table top.  Laughing myself, I rise to go.

It's hard to imagine a moment, let alone day after day when my house could ever be quiet, tidy and chores all finally, finally done.

Yet, it is a certain thing that this life is fleeting.   Kevin helped me realize this from the start.  When we were first left alone with minutes-old, firstborn Grace in the hospital, we were both looking at her sleeping in my arms with tears in our eyes.  Then he quietly said, with his hand on her head, "Tomorrow she will be burying us." It was jarring. At first I couldn't even fit that into that moment, couldn't understand his words.  But I keep that in mind now that the days seem long, and the years seem short.   And as much as I want my children to grow up in the shelter and safe harbor of a happy and loving home, much more do I want their foundation and source of joy and security to rest upon unshakable and eternal realities so that when their life unfolds with its joys and trials and inevitable loss they will rest upon our sure hope in God.

O Lord, teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

                                  ~Sara~

So Teach Us to Number Our Days was included in the Chapel column of The Old Schoolhouse ® Magazine, Summer 2011. My writing agreement stipulated that I had to remove this article from my blog until six months after publication. I'm happy to be able to share it here again with friends and family. 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."  1 Peter 1:3-9

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Irrepressible light on Good Friday...

Recently, I was thinking about the meaning of communion and the symbolism of His body broken for me, and His blood poured out for me, and unexpectedly I had an upwelling of love for our Lord Jesus and His sacrifice for us. It was wonderful for affections for Him to break through the mundane superficiality of my life and the experience was received as a gift. I knew there was nothing in me that had changed. He had opened my heart and I was grateful. Heading into Holy Week and Easter weekend I was hoping that by my own observance of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and then the joyful Resurrection Sunday that I could somehow recapture those feelings I had a few weeks ago, and also, somehow think deeply and dig deeply into my heart to get the whole picture of what He has done for us, for me. Instead–I've been sleep deprived, busy, irritable and distracted and I'm flying up to Easter with only surface attention to the passing days. How like God to give me a gift when it is obviously not of my own work and then let me see what happens when I try to "make" my own experience!

When I was in the middle of my deeper affections a few weeks ago, I found myself reading through the Passion Week scriptures and really noticing the experience of the women who were closest to Jesus. Oh, what love! What darkness they experienced to the core of their being! And finally, what joy! They followed Him to the cross; they watched the horror unfold; they clung together; they watched their last hope fade; they watched Him suffer on the cross; they stayed until He died from crucifixion; they watched as His death was confirmed with a spear thrust to the side; they stayed to see Him taken down; they followed to see Him laid in the tomb; they left to prepare spices and ointment as darkness fell; they observed the Sabbath and left the tomb alone for agonizing hours as He lay alone, His body unprepared; they came again to anoint His body as soon as they could possibly call it dawn; they arrived to find an empty tomb; they were greatly distressed; they received the good news and explanation of the resurrection from angels; one stayed and heard the Lord Himself speak her name; they returned to the disciples to share the news of the angels and with the report of seeing Him alive... only to be received as women speaking idle talk.

But–their story was confirmed–He appeared again, and again, and again.

They loved, they feared, they followed, they watched, they were devastated, they were confused, they grieved, they cared, they waited, they went to care for his body–all dark, dark days. I try to imagine the darkness of their grief, but it is well beyond my experience. Then they were the first to hear the good news from angels, to find the empty tomb on the third day . . . just as He promised. Mary, lingering and thinking that her grief had been compounded by enemies stealing her Lord's body, is instead called by name by the resurrected Jesus. Her joy is well beyond what I can imagine.

Thinking through my impossible plan to try to feel my way through the weekend really experiencing the dark leading up to Easter, and then the joy–I find that I'm never able to get to that place of grief because the joy and light keep poking in. I'm too tired to concentrate on keeping them out and feel the darkness. I know He is alive! I can't forget the Good News because it is the strength and joy of my life. I don't feel separated from my Lord during Good Friday. I am, at times, overwhelmed with what He has done to atone for sin, once for all. But death could not keep Him in the grave. His sacrifice is perfect and He conquered death for Love and His Glory. At the same time He is here with me on my superficial, tired days, leading me and carrying me and taking me where I need to be step-by-step and giving me the gifts of feeling His presence and feeling deep affection for Him when it is best for me.

Let us remember His suffering.  Let us believe in Him and receive His salvation. Let us be transformed into His bride. And if in our weakness, poor affections and pale imagination we can't grieve properly on this Good Friday for our Lord's dark day or for our sins, let us rejoice that we live on this side of Easter and that what He has accomplished is not dependent on what we do at all.

Yes, let us rejoice this Easter and every day, for the Lord is Risen, Indeed!

                                                                               ~Sara~

ps.  I wrote this on Good Friday 2010, but it reflects so much of my feelings this year as well, I decided to repost.  We are weak . . . Rejoice!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Awake in the dark on a full moon night


Awake in the dark on a full moon night.
Tranquil heart to match the even breath of sleep 
       throughout the house.

Peace pours through the window pane
       and makes a lovely pool upon the floor.
Outside all is beauty,
        frozen beauty in the moon’s blue light.

Standing wrapped against the chill,
       but warm in deepest soul,
forehead pressed against the glass to look out on the scene.

           The trees stand sentry in the night,
           Their faithful shadows long upon the snow.
           Bare branched lacy silhouettes against the starry sky.
           The snow a satin gown for all the world.

                            So cold.  So calm.  So quiet.

The hush of holy awe upon my lips,
I whisper to the night . . .

            Praise the Lord, O winter moon,
                        praise Him, all you shining stars!
            Praise Him, too, you highest heavens!
            Let them praise the name of the Lord,
                        for His name alone is exalted;
                        His majesty is above earth and heaven.
            
           O Lord, our Lord,
                        how majestic is your name in all the earth!
            
            Praise the Lord!

                                   ~Sara~

Psalm 148~

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
     praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
     praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon,
     praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
     and you waters above the heavens!



Let them praise the name of the Lord!
   For he commanded and they were 
        created.
And he established them forever and 
        ever;
   he gave a decree, and it shall not pass 
        away.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
     you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
     stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills,
     fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock,
     creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
     princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together,
      old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
     for his name alone is exalted;
     his majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
     praise for all his saints,
     for the people of Israel who are near 
          to him.
Praise the Lord!



















Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash made life by Father's love

Thoughts in the sunshine on Ash Wednesday morning...























Sunlight spills across the floor,
Hot and piercing through the window's chill.
The dark of Winter unremembered in the light, 
Strong rays soak in deep to bones and flesh.

Spring is coming! 
Rejoice, O weary soul!

Look to hints of glory in the thaw, 
And resurrection gleams in melting rivulets. 
Our frames of dust seek mercy by our holy fear, 
And hope in ash made life by Father's love. 

             ~Sara~


As a father shows compassion to his children, 
     so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. 
For He knows our frame; 
     He remembers that we are dust. 
            ~Psalm 103:13-14




* * * 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The teaching of kindness is on her tongue

Proverbs 31...  the one about the excellent wife who is up before dawn, still burning lamp oil while prospering the house at night, and doing amazing things in business, real estate, household management, making fine clothing, helping the poor, and making the heart of her husband trust in her in every way... always makes me a bit nervous.  It helps to remember that she (probably) didn't do all these things every single day.  And also she had those maidens to help her.  I remember thinking when I had four kids, ages seven and under (and no older children), "That's it! I need some maidens around here! Where can I get some maidens?"

That chapter was part of my regular Bible reading today–so I opened the Bible to bookmark number 4, found Proverbs 31 waiting for me and began to read with a little sigh. I read all those things I just talked about and wondered if she was very likable (and yes, I know she is most likely a composite of a person, an ideal) or if she was the type of woman that other women stand back from with envious admiration mixed with a bit of fear of what she would think of them.

Then I came across a verse I don't remember ever seeing before. End of verse 25, and 26.

"...She laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."

The type of woman I always want to spend more time with.

That also reminds me of some other verses that have stuck with me over the past few months. Verses that make me want to have this type of mouth and tongue.  I went back to find them in my journal . . . I have a little note with the prayer, O Lord, grant these to me! before a listing of these verses.

A gentle tongue is a tree of life. 
               ~Prov. 15:4


The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. 
                ~Prov. 10:11


For with you is the fountain of life, in your light do we see light. 
                ~Psalm 36:9


The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.  
                ~Prov. 13:44


The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. 
                ~Prov. 14:27


Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it. 
                ~Prov. 16:22

And reading through those again today, I remembered that I was thinking about these tree of life and fountain of life verses during Thanksgiving weekend. And I found that I had recorded in my journal an image that formed in my mind of the beauty of these verses. An image of gratefulness and thanksgiving dripping from our cupped hands, merely holding up and giving back to God a tiny portion of that very fountain of life that we have scooped up... that He is providing.

And I found a prayer that I had completely forgotten. A prayer I wrote for me and all of us as mothers... the type of mother we want to be, but how can we be? This trait of the Proverbs 31 woman that I admire the most is one we cannot gain except as a gift of His grace. A mother with wisdom, with the teaching of kindness on her tongue, a fountain of life and a tree of life for her children by the mercy of God...

"...with gratefulness and thanksgiving dripping from our cupped hands.  Our feet like roots standing in the stream of the fountain of life. Our arms outstretched against the winds that come, laden with fruit, laden with fruit. Our mouths speaking forth as a fountain of life. Grace held up in our cupped hands, overflowing and dripping back to the stream at our feet.  A fountain of life is a gentle teaching tongue ~ making brave the fearful, making beggars and ragtag children into heirs of the King. O Lord make our desire be for your fountain of life!  May we thrist for it as if death were near for lack of this fountain!  May we not drink to our death, but to Life in You.  By your Spirit, send us your gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Let me laugh at the dawn after sleepless nights. Show my hands and feet and weak knees how to work. And for my children, I ask that their souls be filled with your Spirit - a teacher and helper in all things. Let not one be darkness to your light.  May they see light by your light. True. Piercing joy. Beauty seen and cherished. True beauty as in You. Loving Your glory and desiring to know You, know You, know You. O God, make me a faithful witness to these things ~ may I pour out my life to this task. Renew me though your everlasting living water, a fountain of life welling up and flowing out of my mouth in gentleness - a tree of life to those around me. Make this true of me and my Sisters, too. Show me what to shed and what to put on. In all gentleness, I beg.  Amen."  


                                 ~Sara~

Thursday, January 26, 2012

O, weary soul ~ Rejoice!















Sparkling, frost-dressed trees this morn;
     Sun breaking through the mist.
Winter beauty whispers, "glory..." in this still-life season.
      
          O, weary soul - Rejoice!
                              
                              ~Sara~


Sunday, January 22, 2012

You fill me with joy in Your presence











You make known to me the path of life;
     in your presence there is fullness of
        joy;
     at your right hand are pleasures
          forevermore.
                ~Psalm 16:11~


This is the memory verse I've been pondering this week.  It is one of my favorite verses–reminding me that it is in His presence that there is fullness of joy–even though in my tired flesh and amnesia of spirit, I try to pursue joy in other things again, and again, and again.

This is also one of the few verses that I memorized years ago that I can remember easily word for word.  Back then, it was a different version than the ESV that I have settled on as "my" version of choice for reading and memorizing.

I have a distinct memory of standing in my old, small, cozy kitchen in the house we lived in for seven years in downtown Minneapolis.  At that time, all of the kids were young and it was up to me to copy down the verses each week and I enjoyed decorating them with simple colored pencil designs and scrolling around the edges. Then I would tape them up in the kitchen or the kids' room where a few times a day I could read them over and try to work the memorizing into my day whenever I happened to look at it. This wasn't something that usually led to worship. It was more like brushing my teeth or checking the weather, by habit, to tell the truth. That day I was leaning back against a counter, looking over at the words I had written and taped up on a cabinet, and repeating them a few times. My highly systematic method for learning Bible verses...

But the Word of God is living and active ~ it does not return empty, and as I repeated this verse over and over by routine, I became aware that I was in tears, amazed by the truth in these words. God in his mercy had pierced through my distracted, fuzzy mind with the presence of His love right there with me in my kitchen with the piles of dishes.  Here are those words that went out of my flesh as plain English words and at the same time by the power of the Holy Spirit, rose up in my soul as the living Word of God–indeed filling me with Joy.

You have made known to me the 
       path of Life;
   You fill me with Joy 
          in Your Presence.
With Everlasting Pleasures 
          at Your Right Hand.
                    ~Psalm 16:11

Peter also echoes this verse, quoting it in his sermon as recorded in Acts (verse 2:28).  The Old Testament verses that are quoted in the writings of the Apostles of our Lord Christ Jesus always make me sit up and pay attention.

I thank you Lord that it is You who fills us with Joy in your Presence. For surely, we would not have Your joy any other way.
               
                        ~Sara~
Treasure from the Junk Drawer
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Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)