I’ve absolutely fallen in love with a new Christmas song–You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli.  The song is so beautiful and the lyrics are so tender and true.  It’s written from Mary’s perspective, and I dare you not to cry!  Every time I hear the last verse that starts:

Someday, I’m gonna look back on this/The night that God became a baby boy. . .

I’m staggered by the truth that God did become a baby boy, and it just doesn’t seem right that he condescended and humbled himself in that way.  Behold, what manner of love the father has lavished on us. . .

Since my husband still doesn’t have a job, I’ve been trying to be purposeful to recall the many ways that God has been so faithful to me and my family.

One memory that is especially dear to me happened when Iris was about to turn three.  I had taken her to Target to get a cake mix and paper plates for her small birthday party.  Money was really, really tight, and just picking up these few items was stretching our budget.  As we were leaving the store, Iris spotted the little food bar and asked if she could have a cookie.  I had to tell her, no, Mommy could not spend the money.  I distinctly remember feeling almost grieved that I couldn’t spend just fifty cents to buy my daughter a cookie.

After Target, I had to run to the bank.  When the glass doors slid open, Iris and I were met with an unusual sight.  There were multiple tables that had been set up in the lobby, and, on the tables were tray after tray of cookies–every imaginable variety.  We had visited the bank on Customer Appreciation Day, and Iris was able to pick out, not just one, but several cookies.

When we got back to the car, I pointed Iris to the fact that it was God who had blessed her with those cookies when Mommy could not afford them.  I asked, “Isn’t God good to us, Iris?”

He is good.  God has the heart of a loving Father, and He lives to bless his children.  What we lack–our poor, meager resources–God abundantly supplies in ways that we don’t expect.  “He giveth and giveth and giveth again.”

Today, I actually got a note in the mail.  Usually, the only things I get are bills or junk mail; getting a personal, hand-written note was a real treat!  My friend, Lydia, who has a gift for writing encouraging notes, sent me the following poem.  In God’s providence and kindness, it came at just the right time.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;

To added afflictions He addeth His mercy

To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,

Our God ever yearns His resources to share;

Lean hard on the arm, everlasting, availing;

The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

–Annie J. Flint

Just what I needed to remember.  Thank you, Lydia!

My husband and I are waiting on a job.  At the end of August, Chris will be unemployed.  I’m counting the days, wondering what is going to happen.  There are so many decisions based on this one, three-letter word:  J-O-B.

I came across this quote from D.A. Carson’s book Scandalous:  The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. It has served me so well.

“Sadly, many of us act like very young and immature children when we deal with God.  We, too, want specific blessings now, now, now. But God takes the long view, and he understands that sometimes delay is what is best for us.” (p. 121)

“God is sovereign.  He is wise.  He is unqualifiedly good.  Part of Christian maturation is understanding that even his delays are not foolish or stupid or mistakes or exercises in whimsy.  He is to be trusted, and even the delays are to be improved upon by the way we respond to them.” (p. 124)

I’m sure that there are many reading this who, like me, are in a season of delay.  I pray that, together, we respond in a way that magnifies the sovereignty, the wisdom, and the goodness of God.

Today, I took my son for his first dental appointment.  Good report, by the way, but, oh, if the dentist only knew. . . . I dropped Iris off to spend time with my grandmother and aunt.  When I returned, she read something she had written on a piece of paper.  So here it is:

Joy!  The Lord has come.  Let the earth praise him.  We shall say his name.  We will bow on our hands and knees when he comes.  We will all praise him.  The people that don’t believe in him will be forced to bow.

I literally thought that she had been copying a portion of a Psalm from the Bible.  What a blessing to know that the Holy Spirit is at work in her heart and that she is listening to God’s Word and truth.

I’m celebrating an anniversary–of sorts–today.  Five years ago today, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  I remember sitting in an exam room at Johns Hopkins as my doctor informed me of the results of my lumbar puncture.  My husband, of course, was with me, and I remember him holding my hand as the tears started to roll down my face.  There was total silence in the room as the doctor kindly handed me a box of tissues.  I don’t remember much else about that appointment, but I remember that silence.  It was a somber moment but, because of God’s presence, a holy one, too.

I only know the exact date of my diagnosis because I recorded it in my Bible; next to Psalm 3 it says “April 26, 2005”.

O Lord, how many are my foes!  Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.  I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord!  Save me, O my God!  For you strike my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people!

At the time and to this day, the warfare imagery seemed to speak so clearly to my situation.  Dealing with a chronic disease is a real battle.  For me, the battle has primarily taken place in the arena of my thoughts.  All the “what if” questions can quickly lead my soul to a place of disquiet and fear, but, over the past five years, God has led me beside the still waters of faith, joy, and peace.

You may be surprised by the phrase that I’ve held onto from this passage:  you break the teeth of the wicked. Make no mistake about it, MS is a wicked foe.  It is an aberration of God’s design for my body, the result of the brokenness of sin that has warped and distorted his creation.  But on that day five years ago, I knew–as I know now–that no matter how this disease would affect me, the power of MS to bite and devour me had been shattered in Jesus Christ.  The same Jesus who bore my sins on the cross and crushed the power of sin and death would shatter the power of MS to destroy my life.  So, I hold onto the hope that no matter what direction this disease takes–best or worst case scenario–my life and joy and peace are secure in Jesus, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I love a new year!  It’s like a clean slate, a fresh start, the possibility for new growth and change.  Every year, I write down a list of resolutions or “goals” as my husband likes to call them.  I also take stock of how well I did on the goals from the past year.  I realized 2009–not so hot.  I could get discouraged or not even bother to formulate new resolutions, but instead I want to keep the following in mind:

We wander like lost sheep, true; but God is a faithful shepherd who pursues us relentlessly.  We have our ups and downs, zealously believing one day and gloomily doubting the next, but He is faithful.  We break our promises, but He doesn’t break His.  Discipleship is not a contract in which if we break our part of the agreement He is free to break His; it is a covenant in which He established the conditions and guarantees the results. . . . (Eugene Peterson)

Resolved to be thankful for a faithful Shepherd in 2010.