To the Weary Momma

*This was written to one of my dear friends. I was going to write this just to her, but the truths are needed for most parents who are in the trenches, so I made some details more generic for the sake of the blog and sharing with all of you.

My sweet, weary friend,

You opened up yesterday about how you’ve been feeling like you’re failing as a wife, failing as a mother, and failing as a friend since your family changed a few months ago. I woke up this morning feeling the weight of your words, crying out to Jesus for you, and I hope to build you up with this letter.

Love feels like failure. Real love isn’t the yummy feelings we have toward our husbands, though that can certainly be a side effect. Real love gives up the things we once loved for the sake of others. We work our whole lives toward something we dreamed would bring us joy. It might be a brochure-worthy family who is peaceful, happy, and together. It might be a job. It might be a creative endeavor. It might be a financial status. It might be respect from others. Then an opportunity to love comes along, and the only way to do it well is to give up our dreams. It feels like a part of us has to die, and the grief is fierce.

It must have felt that way 2,000 years ago, too. Jesus wanted to be with his Daddy. But for the sake of love for his father and his people, he became the biggest failure ever in the eyes of those around him. That fool died for the ones who hated him. He had a good thing going for him, too, with fame and followers. And he gave it all up for love. All the people watching laughed or shook their heads in disappointment or mocked him. They thought he’d actually be something in this life, but instead he died the most humiliating death of all, just a nobody.

But that was only the earthly perspective. In heaven there was a much different scene taking place. They knew what that death meant. They knew it meant victory, not failure. And there was a party as the serpent got his head crushed. His “failure” was the very thing that exalted him to the highest place, and it made failure impossible for you.

You have a picture in your head of love. It’s been shaped by society, articles, magazines, things your friends say. Probably even things I say. But our definition of love is so small. God wants much more for us.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11)

I watch you almost every day, and you’re my hero. I see how hard everything is, and I see you continue to fight the fight. I see you take time out for every kid and adult around you, often overwhelmed but always dropping what you’re doing for their sake, especially when you don’t feel like it. I see you pour into your family, doing the mundane day after day. I hear the hours of conversations you have about your children, trying to make the most faithful decisions for them. I see how passionate you are for justice for your friends, and how you can’t just sit and do nothing. I see how weary you are. And it’s pretty much the best view I have.

The most beautiful sunset doesn’t even compare.

But you don’t see yourself that way. You focus on the details that show you in the worst light while the deceiver whispers in your ear, distorting and inflating those details. You’re tempted to see the moments instead of the full picture. You get weighed down with how hard everything is, and you see all that as failure.

You forget that when you sin, when you get selfish, when you choose the wrong thing, when everything comes crashing down, that’s exactly where God meets you. He wants you where you can’t rely on your own strength. He wants you to be reminded you can’t fail, not because you’ve been a good wife, mom, and friend, but because of the One who lives in you. You’re now a success no matter what because he himself is your new identity, and his earthly “failures” are eternal glory.

Even as you read this, I’m sure you’re still not seeing yourself rightly. None of us ever do. We’re at war with the spiritual forces of evil, and it’s hard to block all his flaming arrows. As we stand side by side in this battle, this letter is my attempt to help pick you up to get you safely behind your shield again, as you have done for me countless times. Praise God we don’t fight this battle alone!

Your sacrifice here on this earth, your mundane tasks, the decisions you have to constantly make, the dreams you’ve given up–they all point me, your children, your husband, your friends, your neighbors, your church, the people at the grocery store, to the Savior. It feels so small, so insignificant, so pointless. But it shines God’s glory far brighter than any humanly thing we could do. It makes you the most successful wife, mom, and friend in the world. A success based on your weakness but his strength. And your kids get front row tickets to it every day. How blessed they are!!!

I long for the final day with you. You’ll enter the presence of Jesus to hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And you’ll hear cheering from the rest of us as we agree and laugh in joy. And your family will be in the front cheering loudest of all.

Come, weary saints, though tired and weak
Your strength will return by His quiet streams

Come, wandering souls, and find your home
He offers the rest that you yearn to know

Come, guilty ones weighed down with sin
The freedom you long for is found in Him

Come, hopeless hearts, do not despair

For ten thousand joys await you there

Hear Him calling your name
See the depths of His love
In the wounds of His grace
Hide away in the love of Jesus

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Sleeping with Grief

Bill and I have been talking about sleep lately–an area of our lives that either gets too much priority or not enough. We obsess over it, giving up good things in order to get the amount we need to “feel good,” or we pridefully think we can go without. So we committed yesterday morning to hold each other accountable to have a gospel-centered view of sleep.

Less than an hour after we made that commitment, my mother called choking out unbelievable words: “Before you hear it on social media, I wanted to tell you that Michael, Monica, Joshua, and Caleb were killed in a car accident last night.”

A commitment to sleep suddenly felt very stupid.

Cruce_FamilyMichael was the youth director of the church I grew up in. My parents have now been part of that church for 31 years. It’s the kind of church I still call “mine,” the family I still keep in close contact with because I just can’t quite let them go (21 years there, yo), the people I still rejoice and weep with, the ones I still love watching grow in maturity and wisdom and grace.

Bill was part of that church, too, for a couple of years. 15 months of his time, he was the interim music director. Michael was hired on during our last 5 months there before we left for Louisville.

Too short of a time to be around this beautiful family.

Michael always smiled. Always. He bled Jesus. Like you couldn’t get Michael to have a casual conversation without him bringing Christ’s name up. He made you believe Jesus was worth worshiping, and he unintentionally made you realize how you worship everything but.

Monica was quiet, soft spoken, sweet. Everything I’m not. So obviously, I really liked her. I hadn’t had nearly enough conversations with her, but over the past couple of months, God graciously brought her back in my life. They were foster-to-adopt parents. At the times I’ve been most overwhelmed, she’s been there to encourage me and give me wisdom. A woman who barely knows me except through my parents and brief encounters once a year, taking time to build a sister up.

Then the call.

No more. No more conversations with Monica. No more Instagram pictures of eternity-focused verses from Michael. No more youth pictures with him lying on the ground in front of the group, probably covered in mud. No more watching two CRAZY little boys growing into mature, godly men. No more.

Sleep wanted to come, but only tears. Endless, burning, choking tears. Tears that pushed me to obsessively check social media just to feel others’ tears, too, to be back with my family, holding each other up.

Sleep felt wrong. I wanted to feel. But eventually, much earlier than usual, it came. The body can only take so much.

And now, new mercies. A rested body that’s grace from God. And the reminder that the Cruces are sleeping, too.

It is not death for the believer to die. “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14) They’re all four with Jesus, in the most peaceful sleep in the history of ever. And their rising up won’t be just for a day, but for eternity.

They’re not dead, only sleeping.

So tonight, I accept sleep joyfully, reminded my body isn’t strong enough on its own. It has to be recharged, held up only by the love of Christ. And one day, I’ll be alongside the Cruces with the same Christ who energized my body for him all these years. The one in whom my soul rests, waiting for the last sleep and the eternal morning.