Too Much

I sat there

My heart laid bare

My life story told

Not even in entirety

No one said a word

Out of the silence

I received no comfort

The only voice

Came from inside, saying,

“Your pain is too much for them”

I learned to take my grief

To the Man of Sorrows

Who bore my grief

Catches my tears in bottle

And wipes them away

My pain is not too much for Him

This is Love

She reads him a story

He picks her a dandelion

He naps on her shoulder

As she pushes the cart

She wants to protect him

From the pain of this world

He grows and offers

To protect her

The fifth time that night

She holds crying toddler

Lays by her side

Soothes her to sleep

Small moments each day

Given to each other

From the life giving well

Of the one who loves them

The New Birth

Why don’t they understand?
I remember Nicodemus

We must have eyes to see
We must have ears to hear

Hearts captivated by idols
Become stone

The heart of flesh hurts
But the pain is living

The perfect one wept blood
The God-man felt forsaken

Battling deception
Betrayed

Why would I expect following him
To lead anywhere else?

We are poor royalty
Comforted mourners
Humble inheritors

Our parched mouths always
Find deep wells and flowing streams
Our rumbling stomachs
Will be satiated

Mercy and peace are ours
In the midst of oppression

The road to Golgotha
Leads to a cross
But the cross leads
To an empty tomb

Numbers

Am I the only one
Who looks at numbers and cries?

The number of children without parents
The number of people in poverty
The number of children starving
The number of babies murdered

Because I know that behind every number
Is a person
Made in God’s image

When I feel alone I am so thankful
He counts every hair
He counts every tear
And one day, he will wipe them all away.

Come, Lord Jesus!

I Choose Love

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Sharon, Aaron, and Joy Naik went to be with their Lord and Savior the evening of December 23. This free verse poem is written in their memory.

 

I want to be alone.
But I don’t want to be lonely.
Is there a way to make the pain go away without giving in?
The world of numbness is already overpopulated.
In the world of the hard,
We soft ones stand out as targets to be trampled.

We are soft but not weak.
They entice us when we hurt,
But they are envious in our joyous moments.
Today that joy is far away.
I must remember lest I crumble
That a life without pain is barely living,
This life lives in the shallows
It abandons the depths of joy, hope, and love.

If I did not feel this sorrow, it would be because I had not loved.
Would I trade it?
For one moment would I forsake the beauty of lives intertwined?
Would I give up laughter?

I would not.

Neither will I give up crying now.
The salt in my tears will escape and bring healing in time.

I choose love.

Advent: A Time of Expectant Waiting

Advent is a time of waiting. As an adult thinking of Christmas, it doesn’t feel like it’s that far away. I have seen it come and go each year, and I fully expect it to come shortly this year as well.

For a child, it may seem longer, but often the entire season of lights and songs and the knowledge that Christmas is coming is lovely enough. In the Chronicles of Narnia, we see the concept of a time of expectancy beautifully described. The snow starts melting and Spring finally arrives after years of only winter and never Christmas. This is a sign to the children that they will see Aslan soon.

When I think back to Jesus’ arrival in this world, I wonder how many people were in this frame of mind. How many knew that he would be there shortly?

As I wrote about in my last post, The World Jesus Enters, things looked a bit bleak. The people were expecting a savior, but I wonder how expectant many of them really were.

Years ago, I was a part of a Bible study and going through an incredibly difficult time in my life. The difficulty in my life in that period was so real that I do not even remember what book I was studying at the time, but I do remember the author mentioning that as a Christian waiting was to be with an expectant attitude.

As I sat in the Bible study and we discussed the author’s definition of hope, I remembered that the word for waiting in Spanish is “esperar” and it is the same word used for hope. I thought about the loveliness of a culture in which waiting was equivalent to hoping. At that time in my life, waiting and hoping were nowhere near the same thing. But, as I began thinking through the concept during my Bible study and afterwards, I realized that this is the Christian culture.

We can certainly wait or hope for the wrong things, and if we do we can be disappointed. But if we are living out the faith of the Bible, then we are supposed to be expectantly waiting for the right things—things we are promised in his word.

So, going back in time to the world Jesus entered, I wonder about the different people during that day. How expectant were they? We know Simeon was expecting him to come soon as it says in Luke 2:26 that, “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Perhaps Anna knew, too. But I must deduce from the way the Bible points to this special revelation, that most people probably did not know.

I imagine most people were going about their daily business in a broken world, some with hopeful expectancy of God fulfilling his promise of the coming Messiah, but many less expectant. Many, after centuries of waiting might have had only a smidgen of hope left. They may not have seen waiting as synonymous with hoping. While a part of them may have believed and trusted God was sending a savior, another part may have been a bit numb to the idea—a bit callous after long years of waiting.

The counting down of advent can be comforting to us, because it points to a certain day when we can celebrate reality. Each year it follows the pattern of the calendar with certainty.

From a human perspective, the first and second advent are not like this. From God’s perspective, these events happen with absolute certainty. But as we anticipate the second advent of Christ, we know that “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)

The celebration of advent is a comfort to us, a reminder of the period of waiting mankind experienced before Jesus’ first coming. It is a reminder that this period of dark waiting had a hopeful and celebratory end.

Now, we follow suit. As we experience this time each year, we remember that Christ came, and our hopes have been fulfilled. At the same time, we are also pointed forward to his second coming, because in some sense we are still waiting.

Some are not joyfully celebrating advent right now. Some may not be in a place of recognizing that we can wait expectantly, because it seems so dreary. Some may be in a dark pit like I was several years ago when the idea of tethering waiting and hoping together seemed odd.

I want to encourage you today, to rest in God’s word. As we await Christ’s second coming, we have more to look forward to than children awaiting Christmas day. We know that after the presents are opened and the lights are taken down and the feasts are digested that many people will enter post-Christmas blues as they see that what they have been anticipating is now over.

We who await the second coming of Christ are awaiting a celebration of perfection that will never be over. We are awaiting Christ making all things new. We are awaiting a time of no more sorrows or tears. We are awaiting the never-ending Christmas feast that will satisfy every longing of our hearts for eternity.

Enough

I won’t ever forget standing in the darkness of the catacombs in Kiev, Ukraine, my thin wax candle flickering. I felt something in my coat pocket. Looking down, a child of 3 or 4 stood with a jacket several sizes too big. I barely caught sight of the dirty face under the toboggan and am still uncertain whether the child was a boy or girl.

Asking questions, I learned this child lived in the streets and was probably looking for food or something of value. A junior in high school at the time, I had relegated situations like this to Charles Dickens’ novels of long past.

In the United States, my family was not well off. At the time, I was living in a second-hand single wide trailer in Mississippi. Neighborhood families had often brought us their cast-off clothing, and to me this was just normal life. I had my first steak at age 18 when I visited my aunt, and she was appalled when I tried to slather ketchup on it because that is just what we did to make meat palatable.

But I had never faced starvation. I certainly knew that if you did not eat the food you had you would not get more, and I had forced down my share of canned vegetables to get better things. Leftovers were to be eaten until they were gone, and nothing was to be wasted.

But this small child had no one to provide meals. Scrounging on your own as a toddler? How could that be?

At that moment, my heart for orphans took root. Whether girl or boy, that face will forever be etched in my memory.

In college, I studied International Business and Economics. At the time I was learning the GDPs of countries worldwide I ended up in an expensive formal shop on the coast. I couldn’t help but notice that the dresses cost more than an average person made a year in many of these places.

When I think about things like this, it’s tempting for me to numb myself to it. It’s tempting to turn back to the world around me and deal with the things I can handle, knowing that I can’t fix this.

But I hope I never do.

Yes, it’s painful to look at the brokenness in this world head-on. This weekend, I feel assaulted by it. Reminded of the plight of orphans, the poverty in the world, the wars our veterans have fought, the incivility of politics, not to mention the hurts of those near me it can be tempting to harden yourself from it all.

But I refuse to do it.

I keep reading the messages online from various places that, “I am enough.” I look at all that I just mentioned, and I admit quite honestly, “I am not enough. I will never be enough.”

So, how do I keep standing, keep walking, keep eating, keep breathing each day? How do I keep going seeing the deep need of our world?

I take it all—all the pains near and far to the God who is enough. I don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I don’t look away. I don’t pretend I can handle it. I look at it and I let it drive me to Him.

I cry on my bed and I intercede for the orphans, those treated unjustly, those who are persecuted, and the persecutors.

I put my trust in God, and believe he is at work.

I don’t always understand his timing. Why does he sometimes answer quickly, and at other times help seems so slow? His ways are beyond me, but he is at work.

I saw babies packed in cribs, but I have also seen some brought into a loving home.

I have seen girls left unattended in an orphanage, but I have also heard reports of 70 being adopted by their heavenly father.

Joseph never knew why he was hurt and abandoned by his family, enslaved, betrayed and imprisoned—until years later when he could say:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

I am so thankful I am not in charge, and that I can confess my own inadequacy. It leaves me free to be used in the hands of my maker in the capacity he has for me. The burden of the world is not on my shoulders—in fact my own burden has been lifted by the one who can bear it all.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something. I can give, write, encourage, teach, love. Not everyone. Not as well as I would like to. But when the needs of the world and the people of my own home face me, I am so glad that I haven’t left them thinking I am the one who can satisfy all their needs. I can give a drink of water, but you will be thirsty again. Thankfully, I know where you can find the never-ending spring of life.

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In addition to blogging, Stefani Carmichael is an author, counselor, daughter, wife, mom, and houseparent to teenage girls.