After These Things


I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the stars.

It started years ago, when I was given a small, plastic telescope that I would drag out across our backyard late into the night. I convinced friends to sleep outside without a tent so we could stare at the stars. I was heartbroken when, after doing renovations to our house, I lost my beloved skylight that enabled me to see the glistening lights of the country sky.

We’ve always had a love affair, the sky and I. But I fell in love with him on the other side of the ocean, where I would climb onto the roof and spend my evenings under the African sky. I fell deeper in love with the stars the night I went back to Senegal, showering under a full moon in a tin shanty with a bucket full of rain water.

But I fell truly, madly in love with the full moon and stars when I realized that they were a symbol, a love letter, between the God that I love and the God who loves me. 

The thing is – I forget. I forget, over and over again, of His faithfulness. I push it aside in the dark times, and I am quick to respond in fear when I long to respond with trust.

But the full moon and the stars keep appearing. They are the thin place, the sacred ground, where He and I meet, and I whisper to Him heart cries and He whispers to me faithfulness.

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The very first words in the story of Abraham and Isaac are three words. After these things. Up until these past few months I had skipped over them, barely noticing their place in the story. Abraham and I, though, we keep meeting. We meet in conversations. We meet in words. We meet in names. And I have spent these past months sitting with those nineteen verses, and they have come alive to me. Some day, maybe, I’ll write the story, but for now, this is what needs to be said:

those three words –

after these things

are so important

They aren’t meant to be stepped over – prodded over – pushed aside.

They tell you what has happened and what is to come.

We can’t fully understand the story of Abraham and Isaac until we know the story that was before. And those words – that idea – is as important to us as readers of Scripture as it is for us as doers of Scripture.

Don’t disdain your story. 

Do not disregard the journey it has been to get you to the place you are. The broken pieces, the heartbreak, the loneliest and darkest of nights. All of those things, summed up in three words – after these things.

Before,

during,

and after –

He is there. It’s the only way we can understand who we are:

when we understand who we have been.

And so I keep going back to the stars, and the full moon, to remind me of His faithfulness. The tears I have let fall before Him. The whispers of faithfulness in return.

And I am ever thankful –

that after these things – 

the moon still rises, the stars still glisten,

and He is in the midst of it all.

 

 

 

When it’s too easy to miss the moon

She tells a story of a moon. (And yes – I know I talk about the moon a lot, but bear with me in this story).

Beside her, six kids are readying for dinner. Dishes are scattered across the counter and food is ready to be played. Behind her her husband comes over, waving to her. “Come here,” he says. “You need to see this.”

But her eyes are on the dishes and the readied food and the hungry babies. “Now?” She asks

“Now.”

“Can’t it wait until after dinner?” Eyes on the clock.

He’s insistent. And so she follows him, to where he stands, and then his hands are on her shoulders and he steers her to where she can see. The moon. Beautifully high in the sky, casting a glow on the fields below. “I thought you’d want to see it,” he says quietly, and after a nod from him, she picks up her camera and is all legs as she hurries out into the field.

And all I can think about as she writes of this moment is how often we miss the moon. 

We fill minutes with things and people so time passes us by. I never want time to pass me by. I never want to fill it so full that I miss what I’m even filling it with.

I pile expectations higher and higher and higher until I am drowning underneath them. And their weight threatens to destroy me. But I keep piling.

And in the process of to do lists and dreams and unwashed dishes and unfinished laundry and a never perfect body … I miss the moon.

I miss the moon.

And I am so afraid I’ve lived 26 years and missed it. I’m so afraid I’ve done big capital L Living I’ve forgotten life is lived in the moments in between. When we see who’s in front of us. When our feet slow even though we’re late but the lilacs wrap their scent around us and stop us in our tracks. When we laugh at the ducks that waddle up to picnic blankets and dance and bellow and wail in the middle of a traffic jam. When we find ourselves in the middle of a mosquito-filled patio, raspberry pie stinging our tongues with it’s sweet tartness.

I’ve longed to press forward these days. To skip tears and heart breaking and be on the other side of the valley.

But I’m afraid if I did I’d miss the moon.

And so I breathe and I ask God for more grace and more days to see Him in the little things. And to trust that those are what make the long days, the hard days, beautiful.

If only we keep stopping to see the moon.

{ps – the Story and all of her other amazing words can be found here and here}

Moons & Shadows

I have to tell you about the moon.

It’s been orange, and white, and somewhere in between. It’s stood prominently against the backdrop of the sky, casting a glow on my skin and the world around me. Bright and true, I’ve been impressed with it’s presence. Profound in it’s beauty, surrounded by darkness. It needs the darkness to stand true.

That’s what I keep thinking about. How the brightness is dependent on the darkness around it.

It’s steady, you know? It’s always there, even when I can’t see it. I watch it as it appears again, slivers until it’s full. And I watch it each night as it disappears for days, until it returns. Prominent again. Full. Breaking up the shadows, showering us in hues of colours that don’t exist outside of the night sky.

And I come back to that thought, that my beloved moon needs the darkness around it. It needs it. Or maybe it is the light that redeems it. It wouldn’t be bright without it. It wouldn’t show the craters, and the crescents, and the glowing flecks of light surrounding it. It wouldn’t be the moon without the dark sky around it. 

And I can’t shake it.

I can’t fathom how we need the darkness in our lives to see the light. 

In this can I thank Him? In this, can I thank Him for the darkness? In Him, can I trust that He can redeem the darkness to reflect the light far greater than the light could shine on its own?

Is it all a part of a grander picture, far greater than I can or will ever see?

Can I find Him in it?

I meet Him there, as I always do, beneath the moon. Blanket around me, words and tears mixed, light sifting through the black of the tree branches. And I need to find Him in it. I need to see Him in it. It’s my prayer, whispered over and over again: Let me see You. I feel as if I am the woman alongside the road, grasping to touch His cloak. My hands are reaching, God. My eyes are straining. It’s a desperation, a grasp, that He’s found even where I least expect Him to be.

Mostly there.

And when I find Him, the robe grasped between my fingers, my sorrow and gratitude mix together. Separate and yet together, light and darkness,

redeemed.

And finally, I breathe, for I know. He is in it. In the trenches beside me, He is there. Although I am surprised by Him, He is not by me. 

And it is in the surprise that joy seeps in. Like my moon, casting shadows, and sending hues to dance across the night sky, so does His presence.

And the darkness is no longer the same. 

 

Half Moons

I’m outside, a half moon before me, wrapped in a fleece blanket. This is my happy place.

I found this place a few dozen moons ago, on a rooftop overlooking Asamankese. Those were a hard few months. I was stretched and sucker punched in ways I don’t know if I’ve even grasped, yet. I talk about those days. Some days I regret leaving. Other days I breathe a prayer of thanks. But mostly, I remember the moon.

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Almost every night, after we’d eaten and the night had dropped quickly, we’d climb up onto the roof with our Bibles and an iPod and maybe a blanket. We’d sit on the scratchy cement roof, the scuffling of lizards making their way away from our spot, and we’d talk. We’d pray. Sometimes we’d sit in silence. Sometimes I would be alone, and other times the three of us would gather together. But consistently, always, there was the night sky, and there was God.

In that place on that roof, with the smell of smoke thick in the air and the sounds of dishes being washed in tin basins around us, I learned a simple lesson: when life seems like it’s the hardest thing to do, my eyes need to turn back to the One who put me here in the first place. When my eyes are on Him – not on what’s around me – it’s then I can finally breathe.

And so when I’m in that place again, when things are falling around me and I’m drowning, I go back to the place I know He’ll be. I sit at His feet and I stare at the moon and I am reminded.

It’s been a sign of His faithfulness in some of the hardest and best of seasons. It was a full moon the night she walked down the aisle and a chapter of our childhood was closed. It was a full moon when I showered in the dark of a Senegalese night on a trip I thought I’d never take. I could whisper to you every night that when I needed the reminder, and looked outside, the reminder was there.

And so tonight, it’s a half moon as I wrap myself in a fleece blanket and ask God why I am still here and she is not.

And He reminds me to breathe.

And He reminds me that I need Him more than I need answers.

That I need presence more than I need words.

And so I thank Him for the adventure, the life ahead of me, the days stretched long and the peace that surrounds me. He is good and He is faithful,

just as He is faithful to let night fall and a small ray of moonlight dance across my face.