Ever-fixed thanks.

I would like to say that “in everything, I give thanks.”

But both heaven and my husband know that’s not true.

I’m the solve-a-problem-by-preventing-it type… which means you actually have to pre-think problems in your head to solve them before they start. I am fairly decent at doing this for the day-in, day-out stuff.  Packed diaper bags.  Pre-snacked children.  Plenty of gas in the car.  Electronic tickets screen-shot vs. trusting wifi to open the email when I need them.

I’ve saved myself a lot of angst with this pre-thinking thing I do.

But you see, this Forethought Super-power comes at a price.

It requires I focus on the “bad” more than the “good.” The negative “what-if.”

And often, it’s hard to be thankful for bad.

This labeling of something “bad” assumes, of course, that you actually know what “bad” is… but can we all admit that we have a hard time knowing which is which sometimes?  Things that look bad on the surface can actually be good… and the assumed good can sometimes be bad.  And then there’s a whole bunch of morally gray areas in life that no one can really pin down this side of heaven.

It’s confusing.

But in this verse?  There is no question.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.

What He does is good.

We agree with that in the pews on Sunday and some people give a hardy “amen,” but can we all also admit that it’s hard to reconcile that with junkie stuff that happens?  When tragedy strikes?  When betrayals hit close to home?  When sickness sweeps in?  When fear takes hold?  When loved ones die?

I’ve never been one to question God’s power.  

But I’ll fully confess to questioning His Goodness.  More times than I care to admit.

But last night, as I read this verse, something struck me.

It’s easy to read the phrases of this passage all disjointed and disconnected… like David was just sitting there going, “this truth sounds good.  Oh, and this truth sounds good.  I’ll just smoosh them together in a verse, I think.”

That’s not the way poetry— specifically Hebrew poetry— works.  There is parallelism and cause and effect.  We see that all over the psalms.

So here we go.  

Give thanks to the Lord.

Why?

Because He is good.

Why?

Because *His love endures forever.*

We like to believe that the love on this earth is eternal, don’t we?  I say to my husband and my children “I will always love you” and I mean it more than I mean anything.  I can’t imagine the love I feel for them breaking.  My heart may break in the loving, but my love?  Surely, that will be steadfast.

We want that to be true with every fiber of our beings; but there are no guarantees with love or life.  Whereas I believe that love is a choice, and we need to choose it every day, and we will always keep choosing it… the fact of the matter is, we do stop loving sometimes.  We claim to love people, but hurt them.  We choose ourselves over the object of our love, and harm the bonds between us.  We break promises.  We break vows.  We break hearts.

But not Him.

We can always give thanks, not because He does good (He does).  Not because He is good (He is).

But because He, as Love, endures FOREVER. And forever, loves us perfectly.

With Jesus, there is no altering, when alteration finds.

There is no bending with the remover to remove.

He, as Love, is ever-fixed…

Courage required.

I have broken places.
⠀⠀
And since you are a fellow inhabitant of earth alongside me, I can pretty much guarantee that you have broken places, too. 
⠀⠀
I can pinpoint to several places as a child, as a young adult, as a wife and mother, where I felt myself snap. Felt the break in my soul. Experienced moments where I knew I wasn’t going to be the same once the acuteness of the pain subsided to an ever-present ache.
⠀⠀
God doesn’t ask us to not break. He doesn’t ask us to be self-sufficient. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “thou shalt pull up thyself with thine bootstraps.”
⠀⠀
It is the opposite. He says He will be our strength. He says He will make beauty from ashes, because He knows we will not walk this planet unscathed. At times, our hopes will burn. Our dreams will go up in smoke. Life in this fallen world will set our expectations up in flames.
⠀⠀
But our Father promises Beauty.
⠀⠀
Not just in spite of the destruction, but He will take those cinders themselves and repurpose them into an amazing gallery of Redemption and YOU will be His Masterpiece.
⠀⠀
Here is to you. Here is to me.
⠀⠀
Here’s to courage to rise from our broken places today…
⠀⠀
and everyday.

(Originally posted on social media, 1.31.19)

Tomato Theology

I’m having a fun event at my house tonight… I really planned it because I’ve been wanting to learn how to make homemade cheese and realized I would never do it unless I gave myself some external pressure. (Thanks grad school.)

Anyway, I am making a tomato basil salad to go with the mozzarella and thought that the variety of small tomatoes would be a good opportunity to teach my almost six year old some knife skills.

She’s doing great. I’m right beside her, giving her instruction. She’s enjoying herself, and begins talking about the different tomatoes.

“This one is long and skinny and yellow,” she says. She cuts it and puts it in the bowl.

“This one is red. And it is really round,” she says. She puts it in the bowl. “It is like you. You are round, too.”

Enter that wave of shame.

Those of you who have always struggled with your weight are familiar with this feeling. It’s a horrible companion. It was the bully that tapped on my shoulder and called me fat before my kindergarten pictures when I was barely five. The shame made me suck in my stomach.

And I haven’t stopped feeling like I have had to suck it in and be small ever since.

With my shame present, I don’t say anything, except to place another handful of tomatoes on the cutting board.

My daughter chatters on.

“Mommy, do you ever wish you were skinny?”

I’m beginning to regret this impromptu chopping class. I was thinking the produce would be cut, not me.

I understand it is an opportunity. But it is definitely one I’m not sure how to take.

I use a cross examination tactic to buy myself a few extra seconds for my brain to process.

“That’s a really good question…” I say slowly, looking down and feeling sympathy for those slashed cherry tomatoes sitting in the bowl.

And then, words. Maybe grace.

“You see how pretty that bowl of tomatoes is? All different shapes and sizes and colors?”

“Yes.”

I pick up an uncut round red tomato and a long skinny yellow tomato and hold them in my hands.

“These tomatoes look different, and they taste different. But God made them both beautiful and good, with their unique taste. Is the round, red tomato better than the yellow, skinny tomato?”

“No mommy. They are both tasty.”

“Right. They are both good. And then, we put all the kinds of tomatoes in the same bowl and they are even prettier and better together, aren’t they?”

“Yes.”

“That’s how God made people. All different shapes and sizes.”

“And colors!” She interrupted.

“Yes, and colors. And He put us all together in this world, just like we put all the tomatoes together in this bowl. And all together, in all our variety, we are even more beautiful. Remember when God made us… what did He call us?”

“Good!”

She reaches for another tomato and cuts it and begins humming.

I place a few more tomatoes in front of her, not sure if I actually believe my impromptu tomato theology. 

But in the moment, I know I have stumbled on truth.

And I hope that I will gradually come to this faith… and that my daughter will always be a believer in the beauty she was created with and in.

(Originally published 11.02.18 on social media.)