For all Her Hands Have Done

 

I got dressed up for a wedding last weekend.  I painted a bright pink on my nails, donned my pearls and heels, and even curled my hair.  It was a lovely spring wedding and we were able to reunite with old friends and celebrate a really beautiful couple.

It was an outdoor wedding and despite what the weather app had said, it was chillier than expected.  I sat down for the ceremony and snuggled in closely to Randall, crossing my legs and hands in attempt to keep as much warmth in my body as possible.

As the pastor prayed, I looked down at my hands turning purple under the clouds.  My skin was rough and in desperate need of moisture.  My pink nails were already chipped from whatever menial tasks I had done in the last 24 hours.  I had burns healing on both wrists from baking bread over a week before. Honestly, I was embarrassed at the sight of them.

I rarely paint my nails for fear that I’ll draw attention to what I’ve always felt are my “man hands.”  They’re big, rough, and scarred.  When I was the maid of honor and in charge of my brother-in-law’s wedding ring 15 years ago, I had to wear it on the tip of my pinky so it wouldn’t get stuck on my fat fingers.

Ugh and sigh… I don’t want to talk about this anymore… 

No. I do.

In honor of International Women’s Day today, someone posted the verses from Proverbs 31:10-31 describing a woman who wakes up early and stays up late working to provide for her family’s physical needs.  She is talented, wise, caring, confident, and selfless.  She makes her husband and children better people. These verses are written as a poem about a fictional wise woman.  It is not a back breaking command for women to strive to emulate. In fact, the only thing this passage commands is that men praise women for all they are.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done…”

-Proverbs 31:31

I sat in a room of women this morning, next to my own mother.  The woman in front of me had a bandaid on her translucent, aged hands.  I looked down at my mom’s hands who, at one point in my life, were more familiar to me than my own. How blessed are we to be able to use our hands to love others well?

My hands bear the proof of my love for my family and devotion to them. My hands are scarred from making their bread, dirty from playing with them, worn from cleaning up after them, strong from holding them up and so, so happy to bear these marks of love.

 

The Curse

I have not been able to put my thoughts on the Women’s March in writing yet.  I’ll get there but it is taking time.  In the meantime, I keep coming back to this piece I wrote years ago about Genesis 3:16-19 and my experience of being a woman…

It all seemed so exciting.
I prayed.
I practiced.
I waited.
The test was positive, I made the call.
He was dumbfounded but this is what we had been waiting for.

I was tired.
I was hungry yet nauseated.
Then it kicked.
Like the thrill of a first kiss
It did flips inside of me.

Suddenly, it was no longer an “it“ but a he.
I could not hide the smile on my face.
My growing belly contained a name, a human, a separate being.

Nine months I waited.
He grew.
I grew.
Stretch marks…
My body was bursting at the seams.

Then the day came.
It was time.
I was well prepared for this.
You are told to have a plan.
My plan included drugs.

I labored.
I felt pain.
My pain was relieved.
But in doing so, this stopped my labor.

The doctor pumped my body full of meds to try to move the process along.
It didn’t work.
The nurse stopped the flow of all medication to my veins.

Then I felt pain.
Like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

The curse.

I felt the pain, but in some odd way
I was thankful for it.
It was my action that resulted in a curse.
Experiencing it first hand made me feel like
In some way,
I was paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

Hours later, the curse,
The pain
Was overshadowed
By the perfect being I held in my arms.
The miracle of birth, of life, of this boy.

My awareness of the curse did not last very long.
That time.

Still, every spring
I am reminded.

I plan and shop.
I till and weed.
I fill, and plant, and water, and feed.
Why do I not reap what I sow?

The sun beats down.
The weeds grow tall and numerous.
My hands are blistered.
My neck is browned.
The only thing that flourishes is poison on my land.

My miracle son comes inside at night
Filthy, from dirt and sweat, and heat.
His body is torn and bruised and the poison has found it’s way inside.
Bumps form, up and down his legs.
His arms.
His face.

And my fruit withers and dies.
The unripe growths that do form
Nourish the bugs, the deer, not my family.

There is no need for me to toil and sweat
In the dirt, with the weeds.
For I can purchase any and all food that
My heart would desire.

Still pulling the roots that run deep
Through my soil,
I feel as though I am experiencing the curse
And in some small way,
I am paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

Even still I am aware every now and then
When I think about my future.
When I think about my gifts
Of this curse.

I’ve been told since childhood
That my dreams would be limited.

“And he will rule over you.”
Period.

The curse.

Still, I take my sentence.
Dutifully. Like a man…
With my hands in a fist as I experience this side of the curse
In some small way,
I feel that I am paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

As I sit now and curse my nature
And curse this world
And curse this blasted curse
I am reminded that

An hour of pain,
A season of sweat,
And a lifetime of wanting more
Does NOT pay the price for what my sins have incurred.

My
Sins
Incurred
Death.

There is nothing I can do
To
Make
Things
Right.

Between me and the ground.
Between me and this world.
Between me and my God.

Because it was already done for me.
The price —
Death
has already been paid.

For me.

Santa Update

Here’s a quick update on how life has been since the Santa Reveal of 2012.

I’ve had some positive feedback from people saying that their kids found out early too.  I’ve had some other feedback where most people are confirming my fears that it’s just way too early for my boys not to believe in Santa anymore.

I’ve tried not to get depressed about it.

Today our neighbor boys walked in the house, saw our Christmas tree and blurted out, “There is no Santa, YOU put the gifts under the tree!”  To which Randall replied, “I don’t come in your house and put gifts under your tree.”

Turns out they don’t have a tree. Their religion doesn’t allow them to celebrate Christmas at all.  That makes sense that his parents would tell him young that there is no Santa.  But I made sure to let them know that SOME people still believe in Santa and they can’t go around telling people he’s not real.

I asked my boys how they were feeling after The Talk the other night.  I made sure that they knew that sometimes adults tell stories about Santa, and not all of them are true, but when we tell you anything about Jesus, it’s always true.  “There are some things in life that you have to just believe in, even if you can’t see it.  Santa’s not one of those things, but God is.  I promise you, I’ve never told you a lie about God.  Every thing I’ve ever said about Jesus is absolutely true. And you can trust that.”

Isaac said quietly, “I still believe in Santa.”  That’s my boy.  Asher said, “I don’t,” loud and clear.  I told them they could believe whatever they wanted about Santa, but I was a firm believer.

And for the record:

This boy is on Santa’s nice list.

This boy is still to be determined.

 

Imagine

Well, Christmas season is over.  I took down all of the Christmas decorations this week.  I sent my boys back to school today.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with my family this season.  I intentionally made my schedule less hectic and planned for time to just be with my family while they were in town.  Still, we kept busy.  We hit the Magic House and the Science Center and two Christmas Eve services, we celebrated Christmas three times in one day and hit the road 12 hours later for Oklahoma City to do it all again.

Oklahoma-city-memorial-1

In OKC we hit a lego exhibit and the lego store.  We shopped, we visited the Oklahoma City Memorial and museum, we played a lot of games and celebrated some more.  I stayed up way too late reading but slept in longer than I have in years. Over the break, I finished reading the book Havah: the story of Eve by Tosca Lee.  The fictional book is written in the voice of Eve, the first woman.  It was beautiful and poetic and haunting.  Though I’m not sure I agree with a few small points of the book’s theology, it gives imagination to a short story in the Bible and brings it to life as the reality it may have been.  It imagines the relationship between the first man and woman and their Creator.  But the part that haunted me most was the description of the DEPTH of the fall. We don’t even realize how far we now stand from how we were created to be.

That’s our problem with every Bible story.  We read the words and we commit them to memory, but we don’t give life to them by imagining the reality of the story.  That’s the problem with the Christmas story.  We’ve heard it so many times.  We know it backward and forward.  We can recite it in our heads in Linus’ voice “And the glory of the Lord shown round about them and they were sore afraid.”  This year, I got out four different nativity sets and played with them with my boys over the holdiay.  We told the story of Jesus’ birth in our own voices just like we’ve read it in Luke chapter 2.  It was fun.

Nativity

But can we imagine how it really must have been?  More than the words, but the sights, the sounds, the feelings?  I’m sure we have the nativity picture in our heads of a bright star over a stable and angels singing over shepherds but here’s the deal:  God promised centuries before that he would send a savior; a king to save his people.  Prophets spoke about him and gave very specific instructions about who this king would be.  I’m sure for years and years, people waited in eager expectation of their savior.  They probably had high hopes for every son born in the city of David for years and years, but the reality of the situation was this:  He did not come and God and his prophets were silent for 400 years.   People probably lost hope over the centuries.  They probably stopped expecting each new boy to be Him long ago.

Then one day God approached an angel.  “Gabriel,” He said, “it’s time.” Gabriel’s heart started pounding.  Did He really mean that NOW was the time that he would send his son to save the world?!  This was the moment the universe had been waiting for for thousands of years.  Since the day that Eve gave the fruit to Adam and they both disobeyed their Adonai.

Gabriel was sent to visit a teenage girl and she was given the shocking and exciting news.  Still they had to wait another 9 months.  The angels in heaven were taking polls and guessing when the baby would come.  They knew it wouldn’t be until Mary and her betrothed took their trip to Bethlehem.  But the wheels were set in motion.  Joseph and Mary set off on their journey.  They took their time and arrived about seven days later.  There was no room in the inn, but they found room for this couple.

Sometime while they were there Mary had her first painful contraction.  The angels waited with eager expectation.  They timed her contractions and as they became closer and closer together, from the heights of Heaven they cheered her on.  “Breathe,” they chanted.  “Push!” they yelled. It was about time to celebrate!!!

After much labor, He was born.  He was here.  God was on earth.  It was done.  Jesus gave up his crown and came to earth to be born of a poor carpenter’s young wife.  He would be beaten and bruised.  Mocked and tempted. He would have acne and colds and the stomach virus.  He would have to work hard and study harder.  He would have to feast and fast.  He would have to suffer in this life like we all do, and suffer like no one in all of eternity has or will with the weight of all of our sin on his shoulders.  But first, he would have to eat, sleep, cry and get dirty like every other human born on this earth as a baby.  As he entered the light, the tiny baby, God himself, took his first breath and let out a gurgling wail.

The angels cheered!  God, in heaven wept over the beauty that is new life.  Over the knowledge of how his son will live and die.  Over the pride he had in his newborn son.

Suddenly a bright star appeared in the night.  Even the rocks and gases of this universe exploded in celebration.  Wise men hundreds of miles away saw the star and knew that this was huge.  Something big just happened.  The One that people had prophesied for years about was here.  The new King.  And they set off for years on a journey to find that king.

Shepherds who were watching their flock at night were startled as a light shone above them.  It was a being of some sort.  Too bright to see clearly but speaking to them.  They were terrified!  What was going on?  The sheep were probably terrified as well and there was a second where everyone was running around trying to make sense out of what was happening when the angel spoke.  He could hardly keep his cool he was so excited.  He had to spread the good news!!!

“Calm down, don’t be afraid.  Shh, shh.  Listen up!  I just have some great news I HAVE to share with you!  You’ll want to hear this it will bring you great joy. Everybody, PEACE!”  The shepherds stopped, stunned.  The sheep calmed, too.  They all listened intently to what this being had to say.  “Today, just now… He’s here!!!”  The angel grabbed his head still in disbelief.  “The baby, The Savior was born tonight in Bethlehem!  He’s the One we’ve all been waiting for.  He’s the Messiah, the LORD!  Go, find him!  He’s lying in a manger and wrapped in cloths.  GO!”

ANGELS-IN-PRAISE

An army of angels were watching the whole conversation but they couldn’t contain themselves any longer.  They appeared and rejoiced and whooped and hollered and started singing and dancing.  I assure you they did not stand still like a choir.  The shepherds, still dumbfounded started laughing at the excitement in the angels.  They watched in awe as the angels continued the celebration.  Then as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone; off to celebrate somewhere that smelled better than the sheep stenched fields.

The shepherds stood in silence.  They looked at each other, not sure if they had just awoken from a dream.  “What just happened?” they asked each other.  “Apparently the Messiah was born tonight in Bethlehem,” the smart one said.  They decided they should check it out just to reassure themselves that they weren’t going crazy.  They left the sheep where they were and started running towards town.

Then they found it.  I don’t know how they found the place where a baby was lying in cloths in a manger, and I don’t think they knew how they found it either, but there they were.  And there He was.  “So, it’s true?  This is the One?  This is the Messiah, here to save us all?”

Mary looked down at her precious baby, “Yes, this is Him.  This is God’s son.  He will save us all”

The shepherds could hardly believe their eyes.  What an amazing night.  Centuries they had been waiting for this moment and it was here!!!  They ran out of the house and told everyone they saw on the streets.  They went home and told their mothers who asked where the sheep were and who was watching them.  They spread the news until there was no one left to tell and they went back to the room where the Messiah was sleeping.  They fell to their knees and started crying.  “Adonai, God, you have fulfilled your promise.  You said that He would come and he is here.  You sent angels to announce his birth and they told us where to find him and it’s just as they said.  You told me.  You let me be a part of this night.  I will never forget this.  I will tell my children and they will tell their children and my family will be blessed because you invited me into your story.  May this baby boy grow up to be strong enough to save us all.  May it be as you said.  Thank you!”

Baby-Jesus-mary

And Mary, the mother of God’s son, just took it all in.  She didn’t get any sleep that night.  The shepherds were there and people from the street started peeking in to see if what the shepherds had said was true.  She dried her eyes and prayed with the shepherds, “Thank you,” and took it all in and kept it in her heart.  For thirty three years, and even longer, every year on this day she told her son the story of his birth, unlike any other birth in history.  A long anticipated night, celebrated by the heavens and earth.  It was huge.

And we recite the story in Linus’ drone.  It. was. huge. Much bigger than I can even imagine.

 

God, may we be surprised by your story.  May we never grow bored with the miracles that you have performed.  Give us a glimpse into the reality of your story.  You created us with an imagination, help us to remember to use it like children do on a regular basis.  And thank you for inviting US into your story.  Thank you for using regular people to spread your word and good news.  Thank you for giving us hope that we can be used in spectacular ways even though we don’t feel like spectacular people. You are the God of the poor, of the normal, of us.  Thank you for giving up Heaven and coming to earth.  May we never forget your sacrifice.  May Christmas always seem like a huge deal and something to celebrate with whoops and hollers and singing and dancing.