Broken

Can I just say that I feel broken? Broken, as in incapacitated. Not “together.”

Plenty of times since Olivia’s medical diagnosis, bad news has hit with gale force winds. Mostly, I’ve come up fists swinging. Or at least standing.

But at the end of today, I called myself broken, and I wasn’t wrong.

It was one of those appointments that you dread but know is necessary. For the swallow study, they mixed Olivia’s milk with barium and pointed a mammoth x-ray machine at her tiny, 4-year-old body. She laughed and kicked at the lead apron, and I watched the screen as liquid intended for the stomach escaped into her airway.

My mind had already spun through (and quickly rejected) a half-dozen “easy fix” solutions when I heard two words I’d been hoping never to hear.

I know that a feeding tube is not the end of the world. And, our pediatrician hasn’t yet said whether one is recommended.

But at the beginning of all of this, when we were only starting to understand the scope of what is meant by Peroxisomal Biogenesis Disorder, “feeding tube” got thrown around with other words like “degenerative” and “liver transplant.” Somewhere back there, I shelved all of those words–probably out of sheer need, I don’t know. But I think my mind wanted to put them all away–out of sight, out of mind. Somewhere different than right here and right now.

Today felt like someone reached up and swept a broom over a wall of shelves I’d tried to forget about. I found myself sitting among the rubble, trying to make sense of it all, helpless to put any of the pieces back together.

The technician was finishing the procedure. I busied myself gathering Olivia’s things and struggled to listen as the test results were relayed. Clasping my hands to hide the shaking, I tried to ask all of the right questions and then turned roboticly to follow the green arrows toward the hospital’s main exit.

Driving home with a smiling Olivia in the backseat, I cried for awhile and tried to pray but couldn’t come up with much. At home, I knew my husband was struggling too and that we needed each other badly. Instead of reaching out for him, I turned away and immediately hated myself for it.

Robert prayed, and then he made me get up off the couch and go to church. I sat in the parking lot until the last possible moment. Smiling half-heartedly at a few people, I found my seat and tried not to make eye contact with anyone.

Olivia made it through half of the sermon before she started to whimper. I had known she would be hungry soon. Still, my mind kept going back to the x-ray monitor and the fear that gripped my heart as I watched her food go down the wrong passage. The speech pathologist used the term “silent aspiration,” saying it could cause pneumonia. 

In the church nursery, tears spilled down my face as I held onto Olivia and tried to listen to the end of the sermon over an intercom. I wanted, needed, to do something, so I tried again to pray:

“God, can you please send someone to stand strong for me, because I just can’t right now.”

My heart settled some, and I heard the Pastor’s closing question:

“What do you want this church to be known for?”

He began to talk about a God who is big enough, real enough and who cares enough to work miracles. Then he answered his own question by saying:

“When people need a miracle, I want them to know that they can find one here.”

I heard the pastor ask Robert to bring Olivia up for prayer, so I carried her through the foyer and met my husband at the door.

The prayer, along with a realization of God’s perfectly timed answer to my heart’s cry, washed over me. Peace came again, and I met the eyes of a church family of people who had gathered to stand in faith and offer strength.

Like a bone that must be reset, brokeness opens the door to wholeness.

The God who did not cause my pain is still wise enough to use it for His glory and my good. Only in the emptying of me can I find all the fullness of who He is.

Broken. Incapacitated. Falling apart.

Offensive words, all of them. Unless we consider what Jesus has always able to do with broken things.

The blind see and deaf ears hear.
Ragged relationships are restored.
Hearts too far gone are raised to new life.

When I have nothing to offer, He offers all that is needed. When I am incapacitated (void of strength), His power is working at full capacity. Even if I am faithless, He is still faithful (2 Cor. 12:9; 2 Tim. 2:13).

Jesus Himself modeled for us a pattern of emptying and brokeness, followed by victorious wholeness.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”–Philippians 2:5‭-‬11 ESV

Sometimes, we don’t need to break ourselves or even to pray for brokeness. We only need to admit that we ARE broken and in need of something we cannot get for ourselves.

Know that Jesus’ body broke so that we can have healing. He emptied Himself so we might invite Him to fill every broken place.

The Taste of Cotton Balls

In a kindergarten classroom, a science experiment can be as simple as handing out a few cotton balls.

Not so simple is trying to hold the attention of a room full of 5-year-olds after those cotton balls have been passed out. I saw my mistake just as a flurry of white orbs flew through the air.

Me:  “If you want to keep your cotton ball, hide it in your hands.”

Child #1 swan dives to cover his cotton ball. 

Child #2 twirls as she continues to toss, watching the dwindling snowstorm with dizzy eyes.

Child #3 chants in a sing-song voice, “Cuh – Cuh – cat … Cuh – Cuh – cotton!”

Meanwhile, I temporarily confiscate cotton balls until the room comes back to order. At least I can say that I taught the letter “C” successfully. We’ve got that covered.

It took me awhile to rein my students in and turn their focus toward the five senses. Stopping to point at eyes, ears, mouths, noses, and fingers, we talked about using our senses to discover more about an object.

I was supposed to be teaching about texture, so I asked:

“Which one of your five senses can tell you the most about the cotton ball?”

“TASTE!” one kid shouted with exuberance.

While not exactly wrong, it wasn’t the answer I expected. (Since switching from 4th grade to kindergarten, MOST things have turned my expectations upside down.)

I’d rather not be sued, so I didn’t let them taste the cotton balls. The prospect is interesting, though. Tasting often reveals the true nature of a thing faster than any other sense.

Human eyes can lie. Have you ever been drawn to a beautiful plate of food only to take a bite and put your fork down in disappointment? Ears can deceive as well. (Just consider the language in a 30-second advertisement, and you’ll find this to be true.) But I know immediately after putting something in my mouth whether it is “good” or not.

Kindergarten is teaching me something of what Jesus meant when He told us to “become like children” (Matthew 18:3), because kindergarteners are great at cutting through to the heart of things.

Here’s an excerpt from my conversation with a five-year-old little girl just last week:

*Sally:  Hey teacher?

Me:  (smiling) What’s my name?

*Sally:  Mrs. Chapman?

Me:  Yes, what’s going on?

*Sally:  Me and *Susie were just talking about if you like us or not.

Me:  Of course I like you sweetheart!

*Sally:  I knew you like us! That’s what I told her!

She bounced away with a bright smile on her face, and I stood there for a minute thinking, “If only we were all so willing to ask outright … and so accepting of the truth when the answer comes.”

When it comes to the things of God, “tasting” requires that we come with an open and unjaded heart (or that we are at least willing to place a hardened heart in the hands of the Master Potter.)

Too many times, our spiritual mouths have long been clamped shut. Like a person on the brink of death and no longer willing to take in the sustenance that is needed for life, we refuse to “open up.”

Still, our God beckons us to simply TASTE!:

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!–Psalms 34:8 NLT

We miss out when we allow fear or the bitter residue left by past disappointment to keep us from coming to God with all the eagerness of a child.

An open and trusting heart makes all the difference. Being willing to relish the goodness of God makes the rest of our senses more reliable. 

We can see the hand of God moving, even in the middle of challenging circumstances. We can listen and discern the truth, because we have tasted of God’s character and know that He is always only good.

How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life.–Psalms 119:103‭-‬104 NLT

The finest cuisine is wasted if you never open your mouth. So, open wide! You’ll find that God is undeniably good. His peace is sweet. God’s joy is a delight, and His ways–His commands–are exactly what our tastebuds need.

The Cows in Front of Me

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We were driving home late last night, and mom nearly plowed through a herd of cows that had escaped their fence and were holding a cattle convention in the middle of the highway.

It reminded me of a story I’d heard my dad tell about the time he killed 7 black cows on a country road in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently it was too dark to see them until one of the beasts came crashing through the windshield of his light blue Buick Regal. The following Christmas, my uncle took some black cattle from his sons’ toy farm set and glued them to a blue Hot Wheels car as a gag gift.

Thankfully, OUR loitering livestock were headed up by a heifer of the white variety–allowing mom to swerve just as her headlights illuminated the ghostly, four-legged figure. She then performed a few evasive driving techniques that I’d never have guessed were part of her repertoire and slammed on the brakes. We came to a stop just inches from the nose of another cow.

I called 911 in hopes of averting a bovine disaster, and we got home no worse for wear and with a story to tell. I was impressed with mom’s steering prowess (how’s that for a double entendre? ..), and I cannot emphasize how glad I am to have been sitting in the passenger’s seat. I’m sure the cows are grateful too. If I’d been behind the wheel, I would’ve barreled through those poor animals like a runaway train headed for the zoo. (See Jesus, take Every Wheel for more on my inadequacies as a driver.)

As relief over safe cows flooded my mind last night, a fresh awareness of the trust and security that I’ve found in Jesus filled my heart. I don’t mean salvation; I’ve long known what it is to be rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). But when God saves us, He doesn’t remove the steering wheel from our lives. We still have a will. We still get to choose. Daily, we decide to trust Him with all or only part of our lives.

Our family is in transition, and I don’t currently have a job. Or a house. What I do have is a house on the market that needs to sell, an adoption process that is halted until we find a home, and a husband who is entering the busiest season of a brand-new field of work.

I keep thinking that I need to do something about all of that, but God reminded me of the story of Moses from Exodus 2 and whispered, “Will you go in the basket?”

You know the story … Pharaoh sees the Hebrews growing in strength and number and orders every Hebrew boy to be thrown into the river and drowned. Moses’ mother puts him in a basket and floats him down the Nile–not knowing the outcome but hoping for a better future in the water than could be found on the shore. Baby Moses is found and raised
 by an Egyptian princess. He eventually helps to free the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery.

When I apply the story to my own life, my first thought is whether I–like Moses’ mother–trust God enough to put my child in a basket and let go. This question has been walked out over the last three years of my life, with every diagnosis, symptom, and decision that concerns my sweet little 4-year-old. It’s a question that gets asked again and again, and the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” I choose to put her in the basket, because that’s where the hope is. That’s where my God is.

But this time God didn’t ask about Olivia, He asked about me. My Father nudged my heart and asked if I trust Him enough to be placed in a basket and launched into the water.

Will I allow myself to be sent into the river with all of its currents and bends and uncertainty?

I think the answer is yes. It’s taken me way too long to arrive here, but I’ve finally come to the place where I’d rather have God steer for me–the car, the basket, and my life. Like a father arranging a marriage or making a place for his kids in the family business–I want God to choose, and I realize that He doesn’t need my help. He just needs my heart.

I think that as we follow Jesus, growing in maturity so often means learning to become like a child again.

As a little girl, I entrusted my whole future to God without a second thought, because I saw Him as full of wonder and adventure.

In my teens, I viewed present circumstances as something to move beyond and began to hold stock in my own ability–willing myself up ladders of my own choosing.

Throughout my twenties, I’ve encountered circumstances and questions that couldn’t be answered by any amount of talent, intellect, or willpower. I’ve been humbled. Oh, so very humbled.

As I approach 30 years old, I think I’d like to be a child again. Because a future full of wonder and undiscovered adventure sounds better than one I dream up and check off as I haul myself up each rung of a ladder. Because there is so much more hope in the river than on the shore. Because the cows in front of me are too big and too many, and I know down deep inside that I don’t have what it takes to make it to the other side unscathed.

Even saying that seems wrong–so contrary to the “believe you have what it takes” mantra that we’ve all become so accustomed to. Still, I’d rather believe that God in me has what it takes.

For every part of me that would kneel to admit that I’m actually not enough, the One who is and will always be enough rises to fill the void.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”–John 3:30

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.”–I Corinthians 1:27

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”–II Corinthians 12:9

” I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”–Mark 10:15

Ogres are Like Onions: Life with all of its Layers

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It’s been one of those weeks, and it’s only Wednesday.

When I write, it’s usually an expression of my own faith or an effort to encourage someone else. Other times, I just need to spill out in ink whatever has been sloshing around in my heart.
Today, I’m writing because I need words of life and hope like I need to breath.

I’m missing family and aching for rest.

That test they call STAAR isn’t at all bright and shining.

Then there’s the unexpected hospital visit and the people that, well … say what they say and do what they do.

It’s the threat of failure. A cough that irritates like an incessant woodpecker. A lengthy to-do list and no energy to attack it.

But life has layers, and these are just surface situations. It’s hard NOT to look at the obnoxious stuff right under your nose, but there is more to be uncovered if you’re willing to peel.

Today, in totally un-Mrs.-Chapman-like fashion, I went to school slightly unprepared.

Nagging cold + 2 practice STAAR tests + baby in hospital = teacher who can’t bring herself to stay the extra hour after school.

I say slightly unprepared, because I did find a few minutes yesterday to scroll through the section of Pintrest that teachers call home. I found a strategy called “close reading” that I thought would benefit my students, so I emailed myself a few links and made mental notes of what would normally end up in my lesson plans.

Close reading is a technique that teaches kids to dig deeper–past surface-level details, in order to discover layers of meaning.

This morning, I wrote the definition on some chart paper and asked my 4th graders to tell me what is meant by “multiple layers of meaning.”

After a few answers like …

“It’s reading more than one book!”

OR

“Oh, that’s when you read something three times instead of just once.”

… I had an epiphany and decided to turn to the movie “Shrek” for help. 

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We started to talk about how Ogres and onions have layers, and fifteen minutes later we were getting somewhere.

“Like … how you can’t judge a book by its cover!” one student shouted, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

“YES! I replied … and you have to dig deeper to understand what an author is really saying.”

A week like mine can have me thinking about life the way my students were talking about Ogres:

Stinky … ugly … rude … bald … green … with nasty teeth and earwax that sticks out (LOL!)

But Ogres have layers, and so does life. Sometimes you have to dig for what’s meaningful.

Onions can make you cry. Life too! But if you just begin to peel, you’ll find sustenance and something to hope in.

My family that lives far away? They know how to pray, and they do it faithfully. The people that live closer have become nearer to my heart, even as I’ve learned to lean on them in new ways.

When I feel like I can’t DO another thing, my sweet husband rushes in like Lancelot to save the day. And STAAR tests aside–one Shrek “light bulb moment” brightens my day faster than a thousand correct test questions.

My little Olivia–home from the hospital and sounding more like herself–she’s enough to pull anyone’s head out of the sand. She reminds me that a cough and a worry are nothing my Jesus can’t handle.

He is, after all, the only layer that matters.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”–John 16:33

Where words fail

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*It isn’t often that I write directly to a single person, but mom this is for you. I’m letting the  rest of the world read too, because I think that you and I share the belief that pain is somehow easier to bear in the moment that you realize it has served some kind of purpose. Even the worst kind of heartache begins to heal a little when our story becomes a rope for someone else to hold onto. So, this is for anyone who has suffered a loss. I suppose that means it’s for all of us.

It’s been a month since he died, and the days and the hours are full of empty space–bursting at the seams with all of the words I haven’t found to say.

You and I just hung up the phone, but my ears are ringing in the silence. If Tommy were here, he’d have cracked a joke by now. But he’s not, and I don’t even know how to begin to fill the void.

My words feel paltry against such loss. So I say the most honest thing I can manage …

I love you.

I love you, and my heart is like that sweater that began to unravel after I pulled the loose thread you had told me to leave alone. You’ve never claimed to be a seamstress, but you found a way to sew it all back together. I’d give anything if I could do the same for you now.

279 miles separate us, and each stretch of highway hurts more than it ever did before. I ache to bridge the canyon with a hug or the squeeze of a hand–anything to let you know that I’m there, even when I’m not.

My attempts at comfort seem trifling against such distance. So I offer the most truthful thing I know …

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.”–Dueteronomy 31:8

Thank God that though my words fail, His never will. When all human sympathy and consolation–however heartfelt–seem to fly with the wind, Jesus speaks the Words that don’t return empty.

His Word will not fail.

His love will not end.

No number of mile markers could separate you from the perfect love that knows no distance. He is closer than your breath.

Even when it seems as if the last thread of hope has been pulled loose, our God remains faithful–stitching broken hearts and weaving a story of redemption into every loss, like only He can.

Kept in You
by Holly Chapman

*For you, mom

Let us hold to our hope
Our God can be trusted
Wait patiently, unwavering
Let us be brave
Strong and courageous

Strength made perfect in this weakness
Grace intended for this moment

Father, You are the arms that hold me when
This world is more than I can face alone
Abba, Your love sustains me even then
Kept for eternity am I in you

When tears fall down my face like rain
Yours are mixed with mine
I know You feel my pain
And when the ground is sinking sand
Softly, You remind
My life is in Your hands

Your joy is real
Your peace is overwhelming
Your strength is now
In You I overcome

“Where words fail, music speaks.”–Hans Christian Andersen

Remembering Tommy

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Tommy thought my mom hung the moon, and I loved him for that. In his mind, she should have won American Idol, the presidency, and every other office a person can hold. (He was right.)

Tommy cherished his daughters more than I knew one human could cherish another human being. The expression of his love couldn’t be overlooked or bypassed. It was in the sound of his voice, the way his face lit up in conversation, and the fact that he wouldn’t think twice before giving what was his.

The times he made me (and everyone else) laugh can’t be counted, and the value of that joy can’t be measured. His antics roll through my mind like a string of sound bytes. I can’t imagine that there will come a day when a bottle of ketchup or an interstate exit lane won’t trigger fond and funny memories.

Like the time we were searching for a birthday gift for mom on Sundance Square in Fort Worth. He took me to a fancy restaurant, ordered the most expensive steak I’d ever seen, set aside the gourmet sauce, and slathered his New York Strip with ketchup that it pained the chef to provide.

That one time–not too long after Tommy and I first met–when we were driving back home from somewhere and got into a serious conversation. I asked Tommy if he believed in Jesus. He said that He did, because he’d seen Jesus in my mom. We continued to discuss life and faith until Tommy decided to pass the car in front of us and nearly hit an oncoming Volkswagen beatle. He laughed and I nearly cried.

Then there was the time I insisted on buying used baby furniture on Craig’s list, and Tommy went with me to make sure I didn’t get kidnapped. When he missed the exit, he just put the truck in reverse and backed it up. Nevermind that we were speeding down I-30 at the time. Later, he missed a turn and hopped the median. The baby’s crib was OK, but I weighed my options before climbing into a vehicle with him again.

Then roles reversed one morning and I drove him to dialysis.We listened to the song “Hello” the entire way, because “Adela,” as he called her, was his favorite. Besides mom, of course.

For all of these reasons, Tommy will always hold a special place in my memory. But the quickest way to win over a mother-heart is by loving her child well. Tommy did that better than almost anyone.

When I think about the fact that my sweet Olivia will never again experience the strength of his embrace or the voice that sent her into a fit of giggles every time–my heart grieves.

I wish that he’d be here to tell me to “put some socks on that baby”–even in the middle of summer and despite the fact that it’s blazing hot. After all, opening the windows instead of turning on the air conditioner saves money.

He loved my Olivia so much, and my heart aches to think that there will be no more phone conversations about whether she’s gaining weight. What I wouldn’t give to hear, “How’s that baby?” just one more time.

Mothers always think that their kids are special, but when Tommy looked at Olivia, he beamed like he’d just won an Oscar. In my book, he deserved an award every time he occupied the same room with my baby girl. I always knew that his presence meant that my little one was adored. The amazing thing is that he did no less for each of his other grandchildren.

The Bible says:

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”–John 13:35

Tommy loved, and he was loved. He will be greatly missed.

A Letter to my Teenage Self

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It’s interesting coming back to the place of my youth.

I drive past the house on Flint, remembering with a smirk and a twinge of regret how I used to refuse to walk to school. I can’t even count how many left turns I made around the practice track every day before dialing my mom’s number to ask for a ride home.

Nevermind that my house backed right up to the field. And that I had just run miles. A simple right turn and a few extra strides would’ve easily carried me through our rickety alley gate, but I still insisted on being picked up. Gotta save face you know.

Fourteen years later, I walk past my car and across the street to a different school, where an empty classroom waits for the shuffle of fourth-grader feet and a new day’s lessons.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to teach my teenage self a few things.

Like the value of a tank of gas and a mother’s time. Or how the chill on a winter morning isn’t so bad after all. It wakes the mind to creativity and the heart to new mercies. It prompts a prayer for the student who walks further still–maybe without a jacket.

If I could say anything to my fourteen, fifteen, sixteen-year-old self, I think it would be that life looks a lot different after you realize you’re not the center of it and were never intended to be.

Like Ptolemy and Aristotle, it is far too easy to mistakenly believe ourselves to be the point around which everything revolves. Maybe we all need a Copernicus to show us the rightful position of the sun.

Or the Son.

One thing I know for sure is that Jesus at the center of my universe is the only perspective I can handle. Anything else is chaos of the cosmic variety.

Piddly words cannot describe how hard I have tried to be the center. I’ve spun plates like planets, striving to orchestrate the orbits of a dozen endeavors at once …

“Be the smartest,
the sweetest,
the strongest,
no less.

Perform
Produce
Persevere
Be the best.

Please the masses.
Remember to smile.
Leave an impression.
Be worthwhile.”

I was always jockeying for control, but the force of my gravity wasn’t enough. I can’t pinpoint the moment everything went careening into nothingness, but I do know that I eventually came to this conclusion:

I am not enough.

Really, I am nothing at all.

From that vantage point, I finally saw something worth looking at.

In all of His glory, Jesus. Seated on a throne that had been occupied by another for far too long–reigning over the kingdom of my heart at last. Not just Savior. Also Lord.

Jesus and no other.

I wasn’t made for center stage, but He sure was. And the crazy thing is …

When I look to Jesus instead of me, I find myself in His eyes. I discover that I am dearly loved.

Caught in the gaze of the all-seeing One, I stumble upon the soul-trembling truth that I am not nothing.

I am all that was needed to make the agony of the cross worth it to Him, and that is more than enough to satisfy my heart’s deepest longing.

Jesus only.

His plan is perfect, His performance complete. If I produce, it is only by virtue of being planted by Him and in Him. When I persevere, it is through His strength and not my own.

Christ alone.

Piddly words cannot describe the unfathomable peace and joy that come with that confession.

So …

Dear Teenage Self,

Life is so beautiful when Jesus is the center. Sometimes a single veer to the right is better than a thousand left turns. It’s worth listening to Copernicus.

Love,

28-year-old You

P.S. I needed this reminder too.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.–Colossians 1:15-17

Here in this Hospital Room

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I hesitate to type this, thinking, “How many blog posts am I going to have to write from a hospital room?”

I suppose the answer is:  “As many as it takes.” Because giving up is inconceivable, and letting go is synonymous with trust.

Writing these posts helps me to focus on Jesus. Looking at Him makes it possible to release the things I can’t control (the symptoms and the accompanying waves of fear that try to crash over me) into the most capable of hands.

Surrender.

It’s the theme of this blog and the often underestimated victor over fear’s taunting attack. My brother Chris recently preached a sermon over it that brought me to tears and to the feet of Jesus to ask for the grace to wholly believe. “When fear and surrender collide,” he said, “We can choose to surrender to God’s perfect love as it casts out all fear.” (At least that’s what my heart heard.)

And God’s love is perfect. His love is flawless and without error. It is a matchless love that drives out fear, leaving nothing to doubt. (I John 4:18)

His thoughts and ways and plans are perfect too. Our God is incapable of thinking anything less than infinitely beyond our highest human thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)

God watches over His own Words to perform without fault all that He has sent them to accomplish. (Jeremiah 1:11)

He perfects, completes, and brings to an end the things that concern me. (Psalms 138:8)

Until recently, I never really understood the beattitudes (from Matthew chapter 5) and would sometimes puzzle over them.

“Blessed are those who mourn …” (vs 4)

It’s a paradox. An oxymoron.

Then I began to see the context for this, one of Jesus’ most famous sermons. With His words and His life, with parables and miracles–Jesus was announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven had come to earth.

This message of hope came to a world at its wits’ end. The physically blind, deaf, and lame. The dead and spiritually deceased. Those hurt by persecution or purposelessness or painful circumstances. People disheartened by religion and its ritualistic tradition. All of humanity grimacing under the weight of trying to reach God, to find life and meaning, by mortal methods.

If you are a blind man standing in front of Jesus, the Son of God and Word made Flesh, you are blessed. You are blessed, not because you are blind, but because the Answer to your greatest need has arrived.

The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Suddenly the mourner, shrunken under the weight of loss, glances up from her brokeness and catches the eye of the Savior. She is blessed–not because of her grief or pain–but because indescribable and uncontainable comfort has stepped onto the scene in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Kingdom of God is here. Not in the distant future, a million light years away. Here. Now.

The mother spending another night in a cold, sterile room is blessed. Not because of the disease or the struggle. She is blessed because The Kingdom of God–His rule, His reign, His sovereignty, peace, and power to work miracles–is right here in this hospital room. Right now.

I’m pretty sure the sweet girl in the crib next to me is somehow more aware of this Kingdom truth than most. I can tell by the way she smiles knowingly and laughs at things you and I can’t see.