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Posts from the ‘memories’ Category

Thank you, J.I. Packer.

Among the top five most influential books in my life is J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. I read it during college 15-ish years ago.  Among many other things, it gave me a deeper understanding of who God is, especially His sovereign care, and gospel light to the morbid introspection that would regularly spiral me into a dark depression.

When I heard he passed away today, I went downstairs to our little library and searched the shelves, feeling like I went 15 years back as I handled my worn, much-underlined copy of Knowing God. It was like greeting an old friend, and I found some gems that I underlined in years past:

“The width of our knowledge about him is no gauge of the depth of our knowledge of him.” (p. 39)

“His love for me is utterly realistic, based at every point in prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me…and quench his determination to bless me.” (p. 42)

“In God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes him utterly worthy of our fullest trust.” (p. 91)

“‘He knows the way he taketh,’ even if for the moment we do not.” (p. 98)

“God makes not only the wrath of man to turn to his praise but the misadventures of Christians too.” (p. 241)

“Think of what you know of God through the gospel, says Paul, and apply it. Think against your feelings; argue yourself out of the gloom they have spread; unmask the unbelief they have nourished; take yourself in hand, talk to yourself, make yourself look up from your problems to the God of the gospel; let evangelical thinking correct emotional thinking.” (p. 260)

“For God justified you with (so to speak) his eyes open. He knew the worst about you at the time when he accepted you for Jesus’ sake; and the verdict which he passed then was, and is, final.” (p. 273)

“Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.” (p. 275)

I trust God held him fast as both physical blindness and faith finally became glorious sight in the face of his Savior.

Patricia Ector.

If the most telling test of a woman’s faith is her response to the “untimely” loss of those dearest to her, I may not have known a more faithful woman than Pat Ector.  She lost her husband suddenly around 10 years ago, and that grief was unmatched except for the tragic death of her only child one year later.

She spent her last years on earth as a widow in the truest sense, and in my life, one of God’s greatest examples of faith and fortitude after loss is that of Pat, a modern-day Job.  Her response, too, was worship in grief, and she bore so patiently and graciously the clumsy condolences of her friends, family, and church family.  Sometimes the greatest trial after tragedy is listening to what people have to say to you about it, and her response was always genuinely thank you, accepting the stumbling words — and sometimes, the stumbling theology, too.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

(Isaiah 43:2)

I’ll never forget her grace as she walked through the fire.

I’ll miss her singing voice.  For years, I served with her husband Robert on the praise team.  Not long after he left to join Heaven’s chorus, she joined our church’s praise team.  I count it an honor to have heard this faithful widow praising God after the death of her earthly bests.

I’ll miss her arm squeezes, her eyes glistening with tears as she called me “dear Tia” (never just Tia but always “dear” Tia), and her encouraging notes to me, even years after I moved away.  She was one of the first cheerleaders in my life to encourage me to write for God’s glory and the comfort of His people.

She wasn’t just “Pat” to me either.  For many years, she was “Sister Pat” in our correspondences … and then when I had my own children, she signed her name “Grandma Pat.”  And she was.

I’ll miss you, Pat.  I can’t imagine what your face looked like when you finally saw Jesus face to face.  I can’t imagine the reunion that happened between you and Robert and Michael.  I can’t wait to see you again soon one glorious day.  Until then, I’ll remember you, your love, your example.

Unexpected providence.

A few weeks ago, I saw an old friend at a first birthday party.  We attended high school and college together but hadn’t really seen each other since college graduation.  She mentioned that she read my article for Desiring God, where I wrote a little about my grandpa’s journey through Alzheimer’s and to salvation.

Then she lowered her voice a little, “I never told you this, but I had rotations at your grandpa’s skilled nursing facility during my nursing program.”  She and another friend from our high school both worked a few months at the facility where my grandpa stayed, but because of privacy laws, she wasn’t sure if she could share that information with me at the time.

“I didn’t realize he was your grandpa until I saw your photo by his bed.”  And she shared with me how agitated he was back then, how she tried to help translate for the other nurses since his English was limited, and how she prayed for him.

By then, we both had tears streaming down our cheeks.

She didn’t know until she read my article that he had come to know Christ about a year after she had cared for him.  And I never realized God had provided for my grandpa in such an incredible way — a nurse who, unbeknownst to my family or me, joined us in petitioning God for his soul.

In how many more unseen ways did God work in my grandpa’s life back then?  Stories I don’t even know about?

And in how many more unseen ways is He working now in the lives of those for whom I am praying but not seeing fruit for yet?

His ways are higher.  Unsearchable.  Perfect.

Muffin tops.

Over four years ago, I was asked to describe my relationship with JE as if describing it to our children, and I summed it up with this story:

We ate dinner at Sweet Tomatoes one evening in 2011.  A transcript of our conversation would have read like playful children dined together, as well as two very serious adults.  At one point, we talked about how the muffin top was the best part of the muffin.

Later, your appa picked up a blueberry muffin for us to share.  I thought he would use his knife to cut the muffin in half, but with one swift motion he popped off the entire muffin top and handed it to me.

I didn’t know what to do, so I took it, a little stunned.  Thoughts like, Oh, shouldn’t we share this?  Do you want half of this?  Didn’t you just say this was your favorite part, too? came to mind.  But I just watched as he quietly and happily ate the bottom part of the muffin.

What is our relationship like?

Your dad giving me the muffin top.  Me, melting.

Which is why this next recent story is especially dear to me.

Last Saturday, JE was gone for men’s retreat, so the kids and I had a special morning at Starbucks.  We split a blueberry muffin three ways, and in his haste and excitement, Pup took a bite and then dropped the rest on the floor.

His face crinkled into a cry.

Then Cub popped off the top of his muffin — the best part with all the blueberries and sugar crystals — and handed it to Pup.  The piece he gave Pup was almost his entire portion, and he happily started eating the little he had left without a word.

I think I almost cried myself.  As if I didn’t already think he was so much like his dad, he repeated history in almost the same, unassuming way.

Obay.

Just wanted to record the sweetest rebuke I ever received — from my firstborn a couple weeks ago.

Pup had been wetting his pants again and again for a few weeks, making for some really inconvenient clean-up situations.  I lost my patience with him, and I yelled at him for an accident.  And as he cowered under my shouting, Cub quietly left the room and then returned shortly after with a little note in his hand.  He shyly handed it to me:

YOU MUST OBAY THE LORD.

Kapow.  God’s grace.

Little apple of my eye.

This morning, Pup came to snuggle with me and fell asleep as I patted his head. When he woke up, I stroked his cheek and looked at his little face for a long time. He looked straight back at me. Then he said, “Umma, I can see my face in your eyes.”

3.

Pup turned 3 a little over a week ago, and I’ve been savoring all the snuggles and kisses and “hold me”s I can.  He’s been crawling into my lap and just asking me to hold him lately.  Savoring it while I can — along with his chubby wrists and dimpled knuckles — while he’s still the baby of the family.

Focus.

It’d been a rough week with Cub, and I felt like I had been talking to him all week about foolish decisions, the way of fools, everything fool related.

So this morning, I pulled him onto my lap and began to tell him also of the beautiful things I saw in his life.  Wise decisions he had made, kindness, thoughtfulness, his love for music and beauty.

And looking into my eyes, he smiled, and said,

“I want to touch your eyeballs.”

#fourgoingonfive

Passionate Pup.

I’m learning Pup is a kid of passions.  He’s fire and grit and kisses and snuggles.  He feels things deeply and I love that, but I pray for his passions to be guided, directed, and confined by the Word of God.  By the Spirit of God.  He still runs at those he loves and grabs them in an I-LOVE-YOU-BOOM! kind of hug. (Maybe my kid after all?)

Yesterday, during our church’s evening service, he gave so many kisses to a friend’s dog.  And he was so delighted when she gave him a lick back on the forehead.  So gentle, so affectionate with dogs.  And so gentle and affectionate with babies.  (Next to trucks, puppies and babies are his favorite.)

Yet with those who bully him or those who have something he wants, he can be pretty pugnacious.  Last night, as I was falling asleep, I heard him screaming, “No! NO!” in his room, the same way he would if he were being bullied or fighting with someone.  I went in and he tossed and turned, but his eyes were still closed.  He was dreaming.

Baby of mine who loves snuggles yet throws punches, did I give you the middle name James only to find that you’re a boy much like the son of thunder I named you for?

Yet that son of thunder was transformed by the gospel of the grace of God.  And his ruling passion became Jesus, no longer his own tempestuous, self-seeking heart.  And according to tradition, he became the first apostle to be martyred for Jesus’ sake.

May God do the same work in your heart, little boy.

Love protects.

Cub and I were walking to the store today on a busy street, cars zipping by.  And I put him on the inner half of the sidewalk so I’d be closer to the cars.  In the past, I had explained to him that umma and appa walk on the outside closer to the cars to protect him because we love him.

As I did that, he said to me, “Umma, when I become a man, I’m going to walk on the outside and you’re going to walk on the inside.”

“Aww, you’re going to protect umma?”

“Yes.” And he pulled his shoulders back and walked a little straighter. “See, I’m almost a man.”