I bought some readers and would sneak them out in church or wear them in the privacy of my home. I wasn’t necessarily embarrassed of them, and I don’t mind looking obviously in my forties, but they were kind of annoying. Finding them, keeping them in my purse or near my bedside or in my office. Just not ideal. The past few months my eye sight has gotten worse, for sure. I would hold my phone out, then back closer, then back out some more—unsure of what distance away from my eyes allowed for the best sight. 

I scheduled an appointment at the cutest and most savvy spec shop in town. I have loved getting to know the young optomologist and her lovely and knowledgable staff. She told me, again, that my near-sight vision was failing me and assured me this is completely normal—inevitable even. As one ages, the lenses of the eye get more rigid and less flexible, causing vision challenges. She told me “my type” were the most challenged by wearing glasses, seeing how we have lived four decades without a thought of them. Eye sight being awesome when you’re younger just makes the adjustment later a bit more difficult. But I told her I was ready to do something to help my vision. I read books often, and I am on my phone and laptop frequently. I was tired of the readers, but more tired of not being able to see what I wanted to see!

She presented me with another option—one contact lens. She said I could have monovision. My dominant eye would be used for seeing in the distance, and my non-dominant eye would be used for upclose things. Over time, my brain would adjust and allow my eyes to work together to give me a cohesive realm of vision, but each eye would be doing different things. The body is amazing.

So out of the office I went with my sample of contact lenses to try. It was a little wonky at first. Each day got slightly better. Seeing while reading books is totally back to normal. Seeing well while driving has been the most challenging to get used to—especially at night (I never feel more like my Meme than when I complain about not being able to drive past dark. Well, also when I drink coffee after 2:00 in the afternoon).

I’ve thought about this monovision a lot lately, obviously. Marveling at seeing upclose and seeing in the distance, grappling with the process, and thinking about how my brain is processing this change. The Christian life is a lot like wearing one contact. I have all kinds of every day, up close things to do. As simple as waking up in the morning and as complicated as getting my dog to quit barking at my neighbor’s dog through the fence. There are clothes to wash and there is dinner to cook, emails to send, workouts to complete, teeth to brush. Upclose, everyday decisions that have to be made. Some of these upclose decisions require a little extra thought, but for the most part, I am making the decisions or going through the motions pretty effortlessly. Day after day after day. There is also the layer of near sightedness that narrows my view to me, myself, and I. This is an exhausting way of looking at life. And just like after I have been using my left eye to focus on things near my face and then change to focus on something farther away, life gets blurry and it takes a good bit of time to reacclamate to the larger world around me after a season of being self-absorbed.

It’s a challenge to keep the long-view in mind as we walk this broken planet. I Peter 4 says “The end is near…” This little phrase caught my attention as my left eye focused on the words one morning in my time with the Lord. The end seems like it’s a far distance away, but God’s Word says it’s near.  As a believer we have to consider the “end”—ultimately heaven and Jesus—in light of what is actually “near,” our every day, in-your-face life. We must live like the end is near.

How do we stay balanced? How do we train our brain to keep both distances in mind? How do we zoom in on the day-to-day living AND zoom out to see God’s bigger picture of what truly matters for all of eternity? Zoom in on our own hearts AND zoom out to see how we can love others and grow God’s Kingdom? Zoom in on the dishes while at the same time zooming out to see how God is using my mundane mom-tasks to draw me closer to Him? Zoom in on our kid’s bad grade AND zoom out to remember that God has a bigger plan and purpose for their lives that reaches way beyong a number on a paper? Zoom in on a communication issue in our marriage AND at the same time zoom out to see that God wants to help us get through this season and allow our marriage to go the distance? Zoom in on our errands for the day and be productive AND at the same time zoom out to look people in the eyes, speak an encouraging word, hold the door open for a mom who has her hands full, or smile at a stranger who needs to know someone sees them? 

The answer is found in Hebrews 12:2 “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

He is our perfect example of taking the long view and the One who gives us the spiritual vision we need for our daily lives.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” {2 Peter 1:5-9}

G. Campbell Morgan says about verse 9 and the man who is near sighted, “Such a man sees the things of time and fails to discern those of eternity; he sees the material facts, but not the facts of which they are but passing expression; in short, he sees himself and his fellow men, but not God…making spiritual advancement impossible…That is to say, he has failed to respond to all the enlargement of life and vision which came to him when he received the cleansing of his nature at the very beginning of the Christian life.”

LORD, Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. {Psalm 119:18}

Sanctification — who rides in the front seat?

“What the crap??….Jerk face.”

I thought we had started out well this morning. Thursdays are chapel days, so the girls have to be at school earlier than normal to practice. Mack gets to spend some quality time with his math teacher (a little extra help never hurt anyone).

Everyone was up and dressed and out the door, seemingly happy, at 7:00am. The mumbling and commotion at the car threw me off. “What in the world is going on out here?”

“She knew I called the front seat.” 

“No I didn’t!! I didn’t hear you say anything about it, so I got up here.”

“Well, Molly heard me. I know she did. (Turns to stare at Molly) Didn’t you hear me??” (Silence from Molly) “UUUGH. Well, fine. Just sit up there every time. You know you sit up there every time. Just act like you didn’t hear me. That is fine. I don’t care.”

After trying to keep the peace, I just started driving. And praying. That is what I do most of the time these days—-drive and pray. 

Just this morning I read I Peter and was reminded of sanctification—this process of becoming holy. ( “Be holy for I am holy.” … “Allow yourselves to be built up as a spiritual house” …“Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit”… “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” ) It sounds daunting, and it is. It’s dying to my flesh. It’s cooperating, staying in step with the Lord in my daily life…all of those steps in a day add up to a life, so I must mind my steps.

A Desiring God article by Scott Hubbard on the subject of sanctification was in my inbox this morning as well. He quotes Gustaf Wingren from Luther on Vocation, 73: “Sanctification is hidden in offensively ordinary tasks.” (like giving up your right to the front seat, maybe?) Hubbard goes on to write that “very often, holiness hides in small things.”

Small things like unloading the dishwasher. Small things like being patient with my kids during homework time. Small things like picking up drycleaning, taking out the garbage, opening the door for someone, making a phone call to check on a friend, or giving preference to someone else for the front seat on the way to school.

Ruby wanted to practice her song for chapel, so we played it. 

“Jesus, You’re all the world to me. My song, My life, My everything. These riches are dust beneath my feet cause Jesus, You’re all the world to me. Set my eyes upon the hope that never fades. Place my feet upon the Rock that will not shake. Turn my heart from all the things I think I need. Oh Jesus, You’re all the world to me. Oh Jesus, You’re all the world to me.”

Big words to sing. How do we get from fighting over the front seat and name-calling to Jesus being all the world to us? Well, for this mama, I started by sharing about my time with the Lord with my kids. I explained to them that I am much like them. I often want my way, my timing, my comforts, my advancement over God’s way. I am frustrated by my daily tasks and think, “Is this it? Is this what I am good for—cleaning and cooking and driving and mostly for other people???” And I went on to tell them how saints are made at the sink of dirty dishes. I grow to be more like Christ as I give preference to someone else, die to my self. I rest in His goodness when I stop fighting for the limelight. I asked them how old they would be in ten years: “25.”  “24.”  “22.”

“Ten years down the road I am sure you want to be more mature, more godly, more like Jesus, and living out His purposes for your life. Well, those ten years are made up of little steps of sanctification. Seemingly little decisions that will make up a life. It matters what we do in the small, mundane things of life. I can’t be selfish and at the same time say that Jesus is all the world to me.” 

I challenged all of us to let Jesus fill the chasm between our selfishness and His holiness.

Between fighting over the front seat and seeing Jesus as all the world to us. 

Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

Wonder.

It’s been a little over three months since that dreadful morning my sister rushed into the room I was sleeping in upstairs at her house and told me my mom was dead—the how of it all too much to bear and sometimes too hurtful to speak outloud or type in black letters to stare back at me. 

I was at my sister’s house because I hadn’t visited my family in quite a while. Finally school was over, end of the year testing was complete, and Mack’s last football game of the season had just happened on Saturday. I drove to my sister’s house on Sunday, arriving in the afternoon. My mom had said about a week earlier that she wasn’t sure how she would be feeling and wasn’t sure she was up for a visit from me—which was totally unlike her. She cried when I told her I was going to stay with Marcy and that we could talk closer to time to see how she was feeling. She said she hated that she was not in a good place and couldn’t imagine us being so close but not seeing us. I reiterated with much kindness and understanding that the last thing I wanted to do was cause more anxiety. I told her I really wanted her to get better and keep withdrawing from the medicine. I understood that she wasn’t in a good place.  And though I knew she was withdrawing from a medicine, and I knew it was not pleasant, I had no idea the extent of her condition.

And even though she preferred I not come to her house, I felt like I needed to lay my eyes on her to see if I could help or encourage her in some way. I decided that I was going to sleep at Marcy’s house and then wake up and head to my parents house alone and without telling her since I didn’t want to overwhelm her with any thoughts about it beforehand. 

That visit never happened. I never got the chance to see her or hug her or encourage her.

I had a choice in the days following my mom’s death. I could be overwhelmed with thoughts like, “Why didn’t I get a chance to see my mom?”  “Why didn’t I just drive straight to her house Saturday?” “Why wouldn’t she have wanted to see me?” “Did she plan it this way?” I wondered if me being able to see her would have somehow changed this horrible outcome.

Or I could choose to rest in the fact that God is sovereign and good. He led me to my sister’s house to be there in the aftermath. I didn’t have a two and a half hour drive before me. I was with my sisters and dad right when I needed to be. God is trustworthy.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to hammer this out with God over the following weeks as grief was unfolding. But I can say I am resting in the truth of God’s goodness and sovereignty over the timing. 

God sees all and knows all. And I took some time this past week to go through the journal I was using from March through the date of my mom’s death. I was greatly encouraged to read the many ways God prepared me for this awful day in my life. 

I wrote about where we were in life at the beginning of the journal, as I always do with a new journal, on March 9, 2019:   “The kids got accepted to Carmel Christian School, and I will soon be wrapping up a decade of home schooling.” {Only God knew how bad this change at this time needed to happen. I am spent of energy and creativity that would be needed to home school! Thank you, Lord, for Your provision.} I ended with, “So here’s to filling another journal…ups and downs and everything in between. Thankful for the journey.”

“We have to maintain a venturing attitude toward Jesus all the time.” (from My Utmost)

March 11, 2019 after reading Psalm 16: “I am not afraid of what life may bring because of Your faithfulness.”

March 13, 2019 after a Jen Pollock Michel podcast: “Jesus doesn’t always anwer our questions.” Psalm 131. “The future is safely in God’s hand and sight. There is nothing to worry about.”

March 14, 2019 after reading Psalm 18 that proclaims the Lord is my strength and girds me with strength and trains my hands for battle SO THAT I can do hard things, I wrote, “Action in the future—I don’t know what that might mean, but I pray that You would be preparing me for what will come in the future.” 

And God did prepare me. Not by snapping His fingers. Not by pouring magic pixie dust on my head that morning. He prepared me by His grace and through His Word. And might I add that His Word doesn’t come into my mind by osmosis. I wake up earlier than my family just about every morning and open my Bible. I read His Word. I pray that He will shape me into the woman He wants me to be. It is a process and there is no perfection to be found in me, but I want to cooperate with God in the sanctification process and a HUGE part of it is listening to Him and obeying Him! 

March 21, 2019 I studied Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd” and G. Campbell Morgan says “When this is said, all is said.” And I can see how the Lord has guided me like a loving Shepherd. Guided me right to my sister’s house that evening knowing I would be walking through the valley of deep darkness. I can almost envision goodness and lovingkindness following my car all along the interstate from Charlotte, NC to Georgia. 

March 25, 2019 I read Psalm 26, “I have trusted in the Lord without wavering….my foot stands on a level place….” I prayed, “Lord, please give me an unwavering trust in You and Your ways! And plant my feet firmly on a level place.” G. Campbell Morgan says that “Prayer on the grounds of trusting God will ever guard the heart against panic.” Amen.

March 26, 2019 I read Psalm 28 and prayed more about God being my strength and girding me with His strength and making my hands strong for battle. I confessed that I needed His divine protection and closed the prayer with, “Thank You also for giving peace to me even while walking this earth that is not very peaceful.”

March 28, 2019. Psalm 31 “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord. I say, ‘YOU ARE MY GOD.’ My times are in Your hand.” {even May 20, 2019}

March 29, 2019. Psalm 32 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go. I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”

March 30, 2019 (my 42nd birthday) I wrote, “Lord Jesus, Thank you for so many years. There have been so many wonderful days, so many challenging days, so many boring days, so many sad days, floundering days, celebratory days, disappointing days—and you have never changed through any of those days. You are the faithful, trustworthy One. Thank you for forming me and shaping me and loving me perfectly. There is no other who has been who You are to me, and I am deeply grateful for Your love, Your understanding, Your longsuffering, Your sacrifice, Your pursuit, Your protection, Your mercy, grace and kindness. I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for Your hand on my life. I love you, Jesus. You are my God, and I need You still every moment of every day.”

April 1, 2019. Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” {Such a comfort to me.}

April 3, 2019. I was riveted by the thought of God holding my hand. Psalm 37 says “The Lord sustains the righteous….The steps of a man are established by the Lord. When he falls he will not be hurled headlong because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” Wow. That verse would mean more and more to me in the days to come than I could have realized that morning.

April 8, 2019. Psalm 44. My prayer, “…and I know there will always be some sort of troubles, but You, God, will always be near.”

April 9, 2019. Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. God is our refuge and strength, Abundantly available for help in tight places.” I filled in the blank of this sentence with some of my current concerns: Therefore, we will not fear though “I’m unsure of what the next season looks like.”

I read Elisabeth Elliot’s book on Suffering. She gives wisdom on how to deal with suffering of any kind: 1)Recognize it, 2)Accept it, 3)Offer it to God as a sacrifice. And she says, “Lord, deliver me from making a career out of my troubles.” Good, good word.

April 10, 2019. Psam 47 and 48. “Lord, I can find complete resource in You! Thank You for this truth!! There is not a day or a single second I have to be afraid of Your good and perfect rule and ability to provide all I need.”

April 12, 2019 “I pray for humility and kindness to mark my day. It didn’t mark yesterday.”

April 15, 2019. Psam 52-55 “Lord, I am reminded that You are always at work. You always see our circumstances perfectly. I need godly perspective and I am thankful that You have faithfully taught me that You are good and trustworthy.” 

April 16, 2019. Psalm 56. “This I know, that God is for me.”

April 19, 2019. Listening to a song by City Alight “Come and find your hope now in Jesus, He is all He said He would be. Grace is overflowing from the Savior’s heart, rest here in His wondrous peace.”

April 23, 2019. Psalm 61. “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I for You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.”

April 24, 2019. Psalm 62. God is the only sure thing, only solid ground. Lament—pour out your heart to Him.

April 25, 2019 in my prayer I wrote, “Your will is good and best and right. Some things I just need to be ok with not understanding.”

April 26, 2019. Psalm 65, “You have crowned the year with Your goodness and Your wagon tracks/paths drip with fatness.” I wrote, “ I have 5/2013, 2/2015, 6/2018, 11/2018, and 4/2019 written in the margin of this chapter of Psalms. Thank You, Lord, for helping me walk in the tracks You’ve given me, walking after You and Your ways and Your will for me…..Every date of my life has been under Your eye, under Your care….YOU CAN BE TRUSTED.”

April 27, 2019. Psalm 66. Verses 10-12 “Difficulties of life are real,” I wrote.

May 1, 2019. Psalm 107. I remembered a time about nine years ago that God used this chapter to speak so personally to me. “I have been stripped of many things and ideas and comforts and all for my good and Your glory, Lord. Keep searching and knowing me, Lord. I am desperate for You.”

May 5, 2019. Matthew 6. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

May 6, 2019. Matthew 7. Build your life on Jesus alone! I prayed, “Father, I want to build my life on You alone. All other things—no matter how wonderful—will fail me, will pass, are temporary. Only You are worthy of my all….Help me think clearly, see clearly, hear clearly, and act on anything you say, Lord.”

May 8, 2019. Luke 9. “When things are good, we want it to stay that way forever, but God changes things up on us at times. Go with God.”  I wrote in my prayer, “Lord, I pray for my mom’s mind. She is in a dark place withdrawing from the medicine. Please help her through this. Your good, gracious will be done.”

May 10, 2019. Matthew 11. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humbe in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  I was reminded by Jen Michel that this yoke is something to carry nonetheless. “Lord Jesus, I am weary and somewhat heavy-laden and I need rest. I want to learn from You—to be like You, gentle and humble in heart and find rest for my soul as I walk with You. With You as my leader, I pray I would experience the easy yoke and the light burden. On my own it is unbearable. Keep me in step with You.”

May 11, 2019. At the top of the page all alone are the words, “Should I schedule Diane?” Diane is my counselor I saw a few months after we moved here to Charlotte. She was a huge help and less than ten days before my mom died, this thought came to my mind. God was preparing me.

I read an article by Scott Hubbard about emotions. It was amazing. In my notes I wrote, “Occassionally ask the question, ‘What if God takes it away?’ The test is: Will we, as far as we know ourselves, resolve to bless the Lord rather than curse Him, even if the worst comes? Job 1:21, Lamentations 3:22-23, Philippians 1:21”

From Scott Hubbard’s article I also wrote, “For the sake of our souls, we must seek Him. No matter how long ago we heard His ‘Follow Me’ there is more of Christ to be had. More of His beauty to be seen. More of His wisdom to be admired. More of his power to be feared. More of His friendship to be enjoyed. More of His grace to be treasured. More of his comfort to be felt. More of His authority to be hailed. More of His worth to be confessed.” 

May 13, 2019. Listened to a song during my quiet time, “He Will Hold Me Fast.”

May 16, 2019. “I prayed for my mama when I woke up at 1am, 2am, and couldn’t sleep til 4am. I trust You with my mom.” Psalm 121. “I am resting in this psalm.” This is no small thing as I read the psalm again. It speaks of keeping my eyes on the Lord as my only Help. He never sleeps. He holds me steady. He keeps me. He protects me from all evil and the last verse speaks so much to my questions about why I was so close to my mom but didn’t get to see her, “The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” He misses nothing. This timing was not a mistake on His part.

May 19, 2019. Matthew 18 and Luke 18. In a very emotional prayer I write, “In all circumstances, help me carry Your bag of seed with me and be assured there will be a harvest, there will be fruit—through tears and joy.” I added at the end as I prayed about my trip to see my mom and dad and sisters, “Help me unplug and hear from You on this trip.”

And He did allow me to hear from Him on that trip. I am in awe as I look back over just the three months leading up to my mom’s suicide at how God prepared me in a million ways through His Word and His Presence. I am sure I could go back to the many journals before and see more building blocks He laid. He makes us in our time with Him. There is no magic formula. Every morning isn’t sunshine and rainbows as I read my Bible, but as God holds my hand and teaches me and loves me and reminds me of Who He is to me and how He wants to work through me, I am being prepared. Without the foundation of Christ, what a mess May 20, 2019 would have been for me. Oh, it was a terribly horrific day—don’t hear me say it wasn’t that. But hear me say, time with The Lord isn’t just something to check off your list. It isn’t just something you need in a crisis. It is making you into the person God wants you to be. The crises will come. You don’t know when. I surely didn’t know what was about to happen in my life, but The Lord most certainly knew. And He made me ready with His strength and grace and truth. 

So now three months later I don’t wonder why I didn’t get to see my mom. I don’t spend my days wondering why she chose this timing and this way. Instead, I wonder in amazement that God was so good to prepare me little by little for days and days beforehand. I wonder in amazement that He had me so close to my sisters and dad. I wonder at the way He helped me make difficult decisions and phone calls just minutes after hearing the horrible news. I wonder in amazement at how Josh was able to come and be with me immediately because he had a light week of work, which is super rare.  I wonder in amazement at the help of so many during our dark time. I wonder at how God is using this situation to turn my kids’ hearts more towards His heart and purposes for their lives.

{From Suprised by Paradox, page 190, by Jen Michel}

“Maybe the mystery of suffering isn’t only that this world could be so fragile; maybe it’s also that God could be so close, bending His ear to the earth to let every grieving heart crawl inside and find rest. Not answers, but comfort. Not certainty, but trust. And perhaps this is enough to tide us over till the dawning of a new world when the heavy boots of death are sent straight to hell and everything fragile is made unbreakable again, where falling becomes rising and faith becomes sight. A world where wonder is finally made worship.”