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We are a family of fifteen: eight already with Jesus and seven in desperate need of Him. This is the story God is writing in our lives. Proverbs 16:9

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It Is Well

When law and life press in, I find the words I have sung so boldly meet the question, “Is this still true?” The gift of faith through grace affirms, yes. The theologian in me asks, “How can this be?” The Spirit leads again to Gospel, to the old road, to the Good News. It is the thing I quickly forget when flesh and heart fail. It is the most fleeting thought when I am sinking in sin or circumstance.

Day by day, new mercy by new mercy, the Lord continues to teach me. By word, sacrament, sermon, suffering, in holy community, my Father continues to gently remind that He is the One singing to me, in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

When peace like a river, attendeth your way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever your lot, I continue to say
It is well, it is well with your soul. 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded your helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for your soul. 

Your sin, oh, the bliss, of this glorious thought
Your sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and you bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o your soul With your soul

It is well, it is well
With your soul. 

It is well, it is well
With my soul. 

Original lyrics: Horatio Spafford

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Year So Far in (Very) Quick Review

This has been quite the year so far. We traveled out-of-state twice in December, one in January, twice in February, Micah out of the country in March, and then he and I celebrated our anniversary this past weekend in east Tennessee. Writing has been something I have been planning in my head, as the days continue to roll along, amid the bustle of moving around constantly. I can't wait to share some of what has been ruminating on paper! I shall soon. I did want to give a quick, mostly-pictorial, update and share some of my favorite moments over the past three months. Enjoy!

Andrew--- strong, intentional, kind, competitive, intelligent.
Elijah--- passionate, reflective, compassionate, hilarious, imaginative.
Isaac --- curious, energetic, joyful, creative, agile.
Eliana--- affectionate, nurturing, observant, determined, tender.
Isabella--- independent, fun-loving, comedian, helper, genuine.

Elijah, the adventurer


This is why I can't get through my email...
The cat that we thought was Lexie, but is actually Leo! The vet made a gender mistake!
Five-year-old cuties
The triplets birthday celebration in Gatlinburg


With GG in Gatlinburg
With Parker and Chelsea, before braving the Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge
Home base, best rest
In Dallas, TX at Chick-fil-a Seminar
Enjoying a warmer day
Maple Syrup Festival, Salem, IN
Our outside pet, who visits every morning around 7
Cardinals vs Pittsburg
13th Birthday for Andrew (and one little girl who loves him very much)
Lake Tahoe under many feet of snow

Boy, have I been feeling the winter this year. The frozen ground, colors-sleeping, bone-piercing cold makes things more difficult for me. It makes my soul still and draws out the longing, the desperation, the unmistakable humanity. So much hard here. So much pain. Even my body has been determined to force the acknowledgment of weakness. Lent is the culmination of a season of feeling deeply my limitations. Then comes Spring. We have had a few, warm, teaser days but I feel so much anticipation as I keep peeking around the corner for the first hints of the bright display of intricate, interconnected art in Creation. I need the visceral reminders that what I experience today, while real and true, is not all there is. The hope of resurrection in Easter speaks into my still soul in a way that reminds me that in Christ, all things will be new. I wait to see it in my favorite flowers, taste it from the garden, emerge in soft grass, be whispered in warm wind, and all the while, pray to be encouraged by it once again.

It is also a change in season for our family. More to come;)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmastime in the Hope of Immanuel: Part Two

The miracle of Immanuel always leaves room for deep reflection. From the time of nativity until the moment Jesus ascended into heaven, He fulfilled a mission. He was the promised one. He was the awaited one. His mission was to address mankind's biggest problem. He lived a perfect life imputed to those who, from centuries past and for centuries to come, find life in His name. He suffered on behalf of sinners the fate all those bound in flesh and blood are bound, enduring the wrath of God. He descended to the depths and on the third day, emerged victorious over death and the grave, giving us a glimpse of what is to come.
The incarnation is pivotal to it. The sinless became sin for the sinful so we might be saved. There is no greater love than this. There is no greater Love than His. If this was all that could be said of the work of Christ Jesus, it would be enough.
Yet beyond taking care of my biggest problem, Jesus, both God and man, had a ministry - to love and serve in human form. He is not only the Perfect Priest offering a sacrifice once for all, but an intercessing one. This is most distinct from both past and contemporary religious leaders. I am painting with a large brush stroke here, but from what I know of those worshiped or followed in other religions, they either lead with authority or in compassion. Some offer "saving" (most often, save yourself) and others "loving" as the way to higher living. The triune God of the Bible offers both saving and serving.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb. 4
After Jesus came in flesh, He continued His mission and at the same time, met humanity in service. In the gospels, I am in awe of His response when met by sinners, poor and needy. He did not pass them by. In some accounts, it is said that He indiscriminately healed everyone He encountered (see Matthew 4 & 8, Luke 4 & 6). He wept with those who wept. He rejoiced with those who rejoiced. He felt hunger. He enjoyed fellowship. He entered in to all kinds of human suffering and frailty--- casting out demons, healing, and providing for physical needs--- to both fulfill the prophecies and moved with compassion. He did not only see needs, he felt them in His skin, and He did not leave those who came to Him as they once were.
He loved His neighbors like no other--- both for His people as substitute and as a servant.
This gives me hope today as I think about the flesh and blood babe in the manger. The ones most aware of our neediness ~those abandoned, betrayed, exhausted, childless, sick, lonely, rejected, widowed, orphaned, suffering in every other kind of way~ our Savior also sympathizes with us because He walked among us. When it seems like no one sees us and no one understands, Immanuel does.
This Christmas, I want to sit with you vomit-covered or (hopefully) not, as a person in need of everything God has done and still promises. I wish to marvel at these things, sit with their weight in my chest, and wonder at the curious, compassionate nature of His ways.
God, in the person and work of Christ Jesus, has demolished our biggest problem and proves that He cares deeply about all our smaller ones. Our cries for help, when confronted with our biggest problem, sin, and all the myriad of others, suffering, reach the heavens into the ears of our Great High Priest. The God who has and will intervene. The One who came to save will come again to redeem. In the meantime, I pray for an increased awareness that I do not have a Savior who is unaware or indifferent toward joys and pains of life even now. He is Immanuel--- God with us.
Lord I believe, help my unbelief.

Christmastime, in the Hope of Immanuel: Part One

Wrapped in the close and distant memory and not leaving much to be desired highlighting the expanse of human experience,  I feel the most deep, complex nostalgia in this holiday. I have read several written pieces that speak to the profound implications of the incarnation and its anticipation in advent. The ones I have enjoyed the most resonate the deepest, not necessarily because of their articulation of fact (which is always appreciated), but because they understand our ~my~ need. This has been the busiest year and I have felt my limitations more over the past several months than in years past. Who knew the pre-teen years could be so volatile;)! When someone, somewhere hints that I am not alone as I sit here, feeling so much mix of deep joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, remembering Christmases past trying to feel something of the present, as the holy season is whirling by, I take a breath.

In another attempt to thwart the holiday bustle, my husband and I took the kids to Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God concert at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It was quite the trip. I honestly felt like I was escaping the less desirable parts of the holiday--- the ridiculous traffic, long to do lists, short tempers (including my own), the pressures, and all that is between--- as we headed out. But the craziness went with me! I was overwhelmed as we hauled the luggage to the van, hurried as we traveled down the highway, anxious as we tossed our belongings in our hotel room and searched for a quick dinner, and exhausted as we landed in a clump in our seats before the concert. Literally covered in vomit, as one of my sweet gals had a bit of first-concert-jitters that spilled right out of her soon after our arrival, I listened, viscerally aware of human plight. (I just want to take this opportunity to apologize to those who sat around me with sensitive olfactory senses. So sorry people.) I don't know about you, but this year for me has been so full. Not only was I spent physically, mentally, and emotionally from the trip down, but I am spent physically, mentally, and emotionally, from the year. I feel my humanity more and more as years progress and I wasn't sure that anyone around me understood.



The kids getting their first glimpses of real life Nashville Honkey Tonks.


Sally Loyd Jones reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible.
Tired mama and sweet child, hearts full.  
From the sound of the first guitar strum, I was enamored again at the thematic sounds of the season. I have always loved music and once again, found it to be a balm. The experience was fantastic. The artistry, benevolent and beautiful.


The triplets fell asleep right as the Behold the Lamb portion began. This was why we made the trip, as the music tells the story of the birth of Jesus through Old Testament history and the prophets. It is well-loved in our house. It is always ironic to me that even though I work so hard to make something work out, as the point of what we have planned to do arrises, someone misses it somehow! With my big kids self-sufficient, their rest was actually a mercy to me in a way. Four year olds move some part of their bodies constantly and their stillness allowed me to also be still. All the pieces well crafted with unique yet cohesive melodies. There is a song right toward the end where several vocalists echo lines from previous songs. It always seems appropriate to hear echoes of the past in present, like this Theme song. It is a lovely, chaotic, melodious sound, mixing past with present. The lyrics were so moving, I felt a collective sigh rising up, as the cries of the phrases, "pass over us", "deliver us" and "glory to Jesus, ancient and strong,  come to your people, carry us home"  moved from my overwhelmed heart to my lips.
The end of the concert. 
In my experience, echoes of the past live simultaneously in the present. I remember joyful gatherings with families intact, the ones that follow with dear ones missing, first Christmases with Micah as newlyweds, those waiting and aching for children, first celebrations with my big boys, miscarriages, realizing I have far more than I deserve, feeling anxiety over not enough, three babies in-womb, relationships gained, relationships lost, seasons of sickness and isolation, times of wellness and celebration--- the list goes on. My life story reprise plays on and on. Regardless of experiential joys or pain, there lives beneath the surface a cry for intervention. A stubborn neediness. Who knows this song better than I? Who knows all the parts that make up the whole? When I cry for deliverance, Who knows the references of experiences past? Who is outside the bounds of my limited understanding creating the even larger theme? The Creator and Center of remembrance and the One who has intervened, the God who came to be us---Immanuel.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

The God of Judges and Kings


There is nothing new under the sun. For as long as humanity has walked the earth, we, collectively and individually, have had an unsatisfied longing. For those who have the privilege, we raise up and elect officials to make the way better. For most of the Old Testament years, the leaders for whom Israel so adamantly plead ended up being evil. Some were God-fearing. "He did what was evil" and "He did what was right" in the sight of the Lord is many times the summations of entire legacies of the judges and kings of Israel.

Beyond the reaches of law and policy, culture and society, with various affect throughout centuries, the Bible affirms that regardless of the circumstances, God has been for His people. He has remained faithful to His promises. Even while the Psalmist laments in his current circumstances facing death, famine, and sometimes silence, God was always working. Psalm 136 is a beautiful song with the lyric, "His steadfast love endures forever" because for the author, it did, and it does.

It is so fitting that the hope of the nativity is right around the corner. God is with us. He doesn't usually work in the ways we think He should. At a time when people wanted a dictator or king, He sent a baby to a stable. When the proud were perpetuating religion for the sake of god made in the image of man, He was living life on the behalf of His people for the sake of their righteousness. When they wanted someone to overthrow the government, He used its constructs to satisfy the wrath of God and the penalty of death to guarantee salvation for those who believe. And when some bent to prove His demise with a sealed and guarded tomb, He defeated death so we may have the hope of heaven. It is in the quiet of history that the most profound works of the Maker and Savior of men produce lasting effects.

We want leaders--- people who will stand beyond the fray, tell us the truth, and bring safety and fulfillment to our generation, and for good reason. Sometimes, we try and fill the space with ourselves, thinking that if we only had the influence, voice, and resources, we could do what should be done for the sake of our cultures and our communities. There are times heaven breaks through and we enjoy gracious gifts. Sometimes, we feel the weight of the world. Through it all, the longing remains.

One thing is sure: the One upon whom all authority, justice, and mercy has come to make our future sure and will come again to judge equitably. Until then, our hearts will cry out for the land of truth, rest, and peace. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Lord, help me to hold loosely to the things of this world and keep my eyes focused on the world to come, loving my neighbors along the way. For the days of *pointing* peace, I praise you. For the days of want, I petition you. For all the days in between, give me an awareness of Your presence.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Pet History

My first pet was a cat named Wally. He was orange and white and lived life with three legs. I was terribly allergic to him but dealt with it okay since he lived outside. I would pet him until my eyes itched and swelled. One day, he just disappeared.

When I was a little older, my family and I were given a yellow-headed, white-bodied cockatiel. His name was cotton. His wings were not clipped so I often let him out of his cage to fly around the house. I remember the panic of letting him excitedly exit his cage then realizing the ceiling fan was on. He dodged that bullet several times (whew!). On a summer afternoon, I discovered that cotton was not a he--- but a she! Thankfully Cotton is a name that moves from male to female rather easily. When I was in middle school, Cotton and I became less compatible. I was terribly asthmatic and struggled with her too. She was given to a new family who loved her very much. I missed her "tweet" when she was gone. When I watch home videos of that time in life, I hear her in the background. She had such a sweet, happy chirp.

Micah and I have had our share of animals through the years. I didn't grow up with dogs and didn't quite know how to care for our first. She was part lab, part dalmatian and had a lot of playful energy which we appreciated until she out literally grew our first apartment. Our tight, one bedroom space in an older home with crazy good acoustics shared with three other neighbors, in Statesville, NC was just too small for her. I will never forget the day she skipped off with another family, happy to be out of such confinement.

About a year later, we adopted a cat who we named Phoebe. She traveled to Louisville with us. We loved her as well. Phoebe was content and independent. She loved to curl up with me sometimes and occasionally tolerated being held like a baby... until she hated it and expeditiously let me know it. She was several years old when I realized I was taking four asthma medications and she might be the cause. I was so sad. I cried when she left us. We found a great home for her with a family who lived surrounded by thick woods in a home with large windows. It was a cat mecca. We used to hear from her new owner until the season completely shifted.

Fast forward to Elijah's 6th birthday. After much discussion, we got him a Carin Terrier. Elijah named him Anakin Skywalker. Anakin was a smart, beautiful dog, however, he just had a bit of a small dog complex. I tried to deal as best I could and become the alpha in that situation. It didn't help that Elijah had been attacked by a dog with a similar temperament about a year before... and I was on the embryo adoption roller coaster then pregnant with triplets. Despite months of obedience training and even time away, he had to be re-homed. Thankfully, we had willing folks who loved him and appreciated his spunk. We gave Elijah a guinea pig to soften the blow but the first time we left her to be cared for by a friend, she died.

This past year, we took in two dogs born on Micah's parents farm. Two beagle mixes, they were everything we had prayed for in doggy friends. We named them Sam and Rosie. They were so sweet and obedient. I immediately saw an intuitive nature in them, especially Sam. They were fantastic with the kids. They were easy to train and easy to love. Then, the asthma symptoms began again. After a lot of hand wringing, I realized they couldn't stay. It is amazing how sick a person can get in a short time. Within a week, God gave us a solution for these dogs. They are now helper dogs and seem so fulfilled. I had the pleasure of watching Rosie in action after running in to her with her trainer and new owner at a retail store. She was a champ at her job. The same can be said for Sam. I have treasured updates about how well the two of them are doing.

All this time, our kids have wanted a pet to love. And I have wanted that for them too! It has been such a roller coaster for me!

I have been doing some research about less-allergen producing pets online in hopes of finding some solution and came across the Siberian Forest Cat. Originally from Russia, they are said to have far less of the protein in their saliva that cause allergic reactions. There are mixed review about whether or not folks with allergies have an easier time with this breed over another--- however, we are giving it a go. I am hopeful and sober about the whole thing. We ended up finding a little gal kitten right down the road from us. Our plan is to pick her up in less than a couple of weeks! I am so excited. I am praying the breed's dog-like playfulness has made its way to her and she will enjoy the business of our household. We were first told she was a he (funny how that worked out once again!) and so we named him Leo Tolstoy--- 'cause Russia... famous Christian author... Now that he is a she, we have settled on Lexie Blue. Her eyes are beautiful blue and Lexie, because... I don't know. It's cute and we kept the "L";)

Coming soon... Lexie Blue. Here's hoping this works. I am tired of being the re-homing expert.



Friday, September 23, 2016

Braving the Truth

This is a new season, engaging in parenting big kids-almost teens. I am taking a risk here and I know it. Recently, a new dad asked my best parenting advice and before piping up, I realized that what I believe to be true now is quite different than what I may have shared back when I was in the thick of the newborn-toddler phase for the first time. The big things still hold true, but there is wisdom in the experience of it all.
While risky, I do know and am aware that life is a process. Hopefully, you don't mind being in the middle of it all with me, thinking through this with sober confidence.
There is a phrase that I say to my bigger boys almost every single day. It isn't just for them. It always meets me too as a most clear example of  ~point at someone with one finger, there are three pointing back at me~  admonitions. I say it when something has happened that condemns, when fear of being found out looms, the evidence is against us, and one might run and hide or try to cover something up in some way.
Parenting these more complex thinkers takes a different skill. So often what we begin addressing moves several times as emotions and the threat of wrongdoing rises. In the middle of the usually circular, consequence evading, confrontational conversation I sometimes have the wherewithal to say something like, "Let's be brave and head toward the truth as closely as we dare and see what finds us there."
The farther from the truth we go, the more difficult the conversation becomes. There is more room for something false. I know what kids are thinking--- they believe the truth gets them in trouble. And often it does. They fear being rejected. They fear being embarrassed. Though deeper within is a core fear that the truth will make them un-lovable. I know this is true, as it is the same way I feel when confronted with my own failures.
So much of life is defensive. So much of it is convoluted. We get mixed up in what I should have done and what I actually did. It is the latter part that scares us.
I am not speaking of parenting strategies here--- I am talking about an environment for parenting where, while a parent and child have different roles, they are equal in sharing a need for safety, love, and something outside rules, discipline, and behaviors. I am talking about the environment where strategies operate.
When truth about me or about them is at hand, regardless of how bad it may be, the hope is that something (or SomeOne) else waits for us there.
There are clear consequences of living life evading the truth--- and relationally, they are a prison. In short, they damage my relationship with my children. They damage their relationship with me. We hope for reconciliation. But what governs the environment? Where is the hope?
If there is a time when this is relentlessly tested, I am sure these more hands-off parenting years feel like it so far. *Spoiler Waring* The truth about them~the truth about me is the place where the Gospel moves in and completely undermines the worst that could be. When all that that is done and left undone threatens to undo us, grace reaches in and pulls us out. Even if natural consequences are difficult to swallow, mercy meets us.
John 8 says, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
I started this blog months ago. A couple of week ago, it dawned on me how to finish it (and it has taken longer to actually sit down and type!). Micah and I are attending a class with our church family. The title of the introductory talk was, "Who is Jesus?" You may listen in here. The answer is found in scripture and answered by Jesus Himself.  Many of the points made were directly from the gospels.
It prompted my own further study. In John 8 alone, Jesus has this to say about Himself:
He is the light of the world (vs. 11), from above, not of this world (vs. 23), sent by the Father (vs. 26-27), spoke to the world what He heard from the Father (vs. 26), He does what is pleasing to the Father (vs. 29), He speaks of what He had seen with His Father (vs. 38), He came from and was sent by God (vs. 42), He tells the truth (vs. 45), He honors His Father (vs. 49), He does not seek His own glory (vs. 50), the Father glorifies Him (vs. 54), He knows the Father and keeps His word (vs. 55), and before Abraham was, "I am" (vs. 58).
This is only one chapter! The main idea here, as well as in His ministry on the whole, is Jesus was sent by God and is God. For those looking for the Messiah, this was pertinent information. The call given then and now is to believe. For us today, believing He is the Christ ---who He said He was and is--- is the truth that sets us free.
In John 14:6, Jesus says He is the way, truth, and life.
We move close to the truth of who we are in the hope of the Person He is. He, who is the Truth, comes close to us first, as the Helper bears witness about Him (John 15:26).
What does that mean for me? And for my kids? If Jesus is who He says He is, we are who He says we are. I will spend my lifetime learning all of what that means! One place to start, especially when the truth about us makes us feel unlovable, is John 17, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
There is no hard truth about us that will move the Father to crush us. There is no truth that will undo who He is and what He has done. There is no sin we will encounter left un-exchanged for the righteousness of Jesus. Because He has already crushed His Son for our sake, the supreme weight of the consequence has been paid. The environment for faith and repentance is love--- the love of God demonstrated by the Son, made known by the power of the Holy Spirit. Day by day, conversation by conversation, parent/child alike, I pray this makes its way deeper into all our hearts and sustains us in hope.
"Let's be brave and head toward the truth as closely was we dare and see that the Truth is there."
Lord I believe, help my unbelief.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Renovation or Resurrection?

I love ~before and after~ projects. Through the years, I have been given pieces of furniture from family members I absolutely love, except for the finish. I will never forget the appearance of my grandmother's beverage cabinet when it first entered my home, dark-kelly green flecked with black spots. Bleh. A robin's egg blue against the copper top decorated with new hardware turned it into something lovely. It is so much fun to see the beauty in something emerge from under the surface in materials, lines, and shapes with a coat or two of paint.
I also love remodeling programs on TV that take a much older house and make it entirely up to date. The foundation remains but the aesthetics change dramatically and the "they don't make 'em like they use to"'s are all over the place.
Once I bought a small table for five dollars. I was so excited! It was kind of terrible looking but solid wood nonetheless and a perfect candidate for a shabby chic makeover. I remember putting a paint brush to it, a deep shade of turquoise, and the pressure caused the legs to disassemble and most of the supporting wood to crumble. There was no amount of paint or hardware that could put that thing together again.
I think my life has been a series of projects in renovation. I know I feel all the time that I should be better. It is subtly (sometimes blatantly) suggested within every "encouraging" statement, on plaques on the walls, even in the Bible... yet, like my table, my results aren't always successful. Sometimes the project crumbles. Sometimes the finish I try and give myself isn't long-lasting. Of one thing I am growing increasingly sure, I cannot be the contractor of my own project. I would always keep it low-maintenance, appealing, and without real elbow grease. I would also operate under the presupposition that what is underneath is okay and I only just need an aesthetic change. It is easier that way and absolutely not as painful. It might require work, sure. But nothing too difficult.
The problem isn't that I, as a human being, made in the image of God, born under the fall, then saved by the grace and mercy of God, need a renovation.
I need resurrection.
Death to life language is all over the Bible. What does that look like? What does it feel like? I would argue that while Jesus' pronouncement of "It is finished" has begun the work in me, dying to live is the continuation of it. And if it is lasting, it hurts.
There are so many times in life when I realize my lot is different than the one I expected. I don't even necessarily consider it until I find myself trying to give something a desperate renovation. Instead, what I am learning, is that my thoughts and even my desires may need to be entirely dismantled. Then it hits me, I am dying to *some* of the things I thought would be true. I know... I know... death... that seems terrible. Who likes to talk about death anyway? I don't wake up each morning proclaiming, "Let's see how I can die today!" (Side note:  If I do , I am pretty sure isn't really happening). We all know when it happens, it hurts.
Bind up these broken bones ~ Mercy bend and bring me back to life ~                                                     But not before you show me how to die (Show Me, Audrey Assad)
There is a process to this, mysterious and omnipotently prescribed by the Author and Perfector of faith. No amount of paint or nails will patch me up. The problem isn't with the finish--- it is what is within, what is underneath. I might try and clean it up, but it needs to be made entirely new. It (whatever it may be at different times) needs to be laid in the grave.
After so many years of sensitivity toward what should be, what is underneath begins to show through. If I am brave for a second and move as close to the truth as my inward eye can bear, I might look at the reality of what it is or of who I really am. The process brings pain and, yes, I grieve. Sometimes, a situation is different that I would like. The same happens when coming face to face with hard realities. Relinquishing control is hard.
This sounds terrible, doesn't it? Yet it is the prescription for this life, moving from what is already and what is not yet as Ephesians describes. I have died with Christ, been raised with Him, and am seated with Him at the right hand of God. But clearly, my flesh still resides here. I look forward in hope to the completion of "It is finished" in both my body and soul in entirely new circumstances. Paul writes that until then, he does what he doesn't want to do, and doesn't do what he wants to do (Romans 7).
John Newton puts it this way in regard to this tension, "The knowledge of our acceptance with God, and of our everlasting security in Christ, has in itself the same tendency upon earth as it will have in heaven, and would, in proportion to the degree of evidence and clearness, produce the same effects of continual love, joy, peace, gratitude, and praise, if there was nothing to counteract it. But (I am) not all spirit." Until my spirit matches that of my flesh fully, there is struggle. There is suffering. There is death at work in my body in all that is attached to it. In a letter to a friend, Newton writes about the mixture of pain and joy in this life and our experience in the hands of the Sanctifier:
...though we change, the Saviour changes not. All our concerns are in his hands, and therefore safe. His path is in the deep waters, his thoughts and methods of conduct are as high above ours, as the heavens are high above the earth; and he often takes a course for accomplishing his purposes directly contrary to what our narrow views would prescribe. He wounds in order to heal, kills that he may make alive, casts down when he designs to raise, brings a death upon our feelings, wishes, and prospects, when he is about to give us the desire of our hearts. These things he does to prove us; but he himself knows, and has determined beforehand, what he will do. The proof indeed usually turns out to our shame. Impatience and unbelief show their heads, and prompt us to suppose this and the other thing, yea, perhaps, all things are against us; to question whether he be with us and for us, or not. But it issues likewise the praise of his goodness, when we find that, maugre all our unkind complaints and suspicions, he is still working wonderfully for us, causing light to shine out of darkness, and doing us good in defiance of ourselves. ~The Works of John Newton, Vol. 1, Banner of Truth
This is my experience. Can you relate? As curious the sufferings of those being swept toward God our Father in the current of salvation, we are all in the process of being remade. And most of the time, if real dying is happening, it feels terrible. Maybe if I remember how hard it is and how terrible it feels , I will have more love for those feeling it too.

Yet for those resurrected with Christ, it is not death to die.
Resurrection happens after we die. Not before, not instead of, but after. Sometimes it is abrupt. Beauty arrises from ashes--- not from nice-looking parts and pieces but instead burned up, unrecognizable, inharmonious heaps of soot. The result is not better looking and hopefully functional--- but true beauty. Sometimes--- most often, it happens slowly. Regardless, it is the prerequisite to life in His name. It is the way of the cross.
I keep trying to convince myself that I'm not really that bad. I keep trying to manipulate and gain control. But in the depths of me, I know. My brain needs rewiring. My thoughts need a complete overhaul. My motivations need more than en example to follow. And I cannot do it for myself. I do not need a renovation. I need resurrection.
Maybe if I have some idea that this is what it is going to be like and I can hold on long enough, something beautiful can be born. Even a small glimpse of resurrection whispers exponential possibilities. If you know the story of my family, it is a good example. The remembering and the reality now bring hope. Here, the glimpses aren't perfect or without hardship, but they give encouragements that what He designs is far better than I could dream. The promise is that even if I don't see it here, it is coming.
The only person in human history with the innate power to go from death to life is Jesus. No other religious leader can claim it. Our suffering Savior looked quite different after He conquered death on the cross. He was unrecognizable to Mary Magdelene then later his disciples on the road to Emmaus after His body broke. This is the hope of resurrection. Our lives, hidden with Christ in God, will be made new.
As much as I hate it and as painful as it is, dying is the prescription for receiving life. I need it in my life. I need it in my relationships. I need it in my body. May God give mercy as I feel it and as it follows me. In the midst, He promises to never leave or forsake, remember my frame, and not allow me to be consumed. When a glimpse of resurrection shines above the fray, may it give lasting hope and focus my eyes again on the One in whom it is secured.
Lord I believe, help my unbelief.