Now What?

Now What?

“Now what?” is a question I have asked myself often in these early days of grief. As Ray and I have tried to process what has been the greatest emotional roller coaster of our lives thus far, as the reality sinks in more at the most unexpected times, and as life around us continues to move at a very busy pace as always, it is a question that has gone mostly unanswered beyond addressing those daily necessities. In so many ways, Sam has kept me grounded in a routine, and subsequently grounded in my own body.

I’ve sat down with my bible at a complete loss as to what to read; driven by an intense need to be in God’s presence. Beyond the wealth of emotions and questions I bring with me, there is an urgent feeling that if sense is to be made from losing Dylan then it is to be made at the feet of Jesus. I am so thankful for the very real people within the Scriptures that grieved openly.  They have given me the freedom in many ways to grieve honestly with Jesus, trusting that He is big enough to handle the weight of it, believing that He grieves with me.

Psalm 95: 4-5 says, “In His hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.”

This is my strength for today: that God holds the highest, the lowest, the most uncertain, and the most stable points of my life and experiences in His hands. Whether I feel as though I am drowning in the sea, secure on dry land, lost in the depths of the valley, slugging it out on the climb, or celebrating on the summit, He holds me. Furthermore, He has promised that I will not be overwhelmed by these things. Isaiah 43 is full of beautiful promises and reminders of God’s faithfulness to us, especially in moments where we feel overwhelmed by the waters, fire, depths or desert. Reminding me that, though I may feel overwhelmed, God reigns over His creation, makes a way where there does not seem to be a way, and is faithful to His promise to keep me securely in His hand.

Let me be clear: the truth of God’s sovereignty does not negate my grief. None of this is meant to gloss over the very real pain of all of this. There are no religious cliches that can suddenly make the loss of my child okay. Not to wade into murky theological waters, but I am unconvinced that God willed this loss, or any loss of life. I believe it breaks His heart; everything within His character works for life, redemption, and restoration. However, the truth of God’s sovereignty, the reality that He holds the heights and depths in His hands, gives me a safe place to grieve, to question, to weep, even to rage. The truth of God’s sovereignty empowers me to grieve; giving me the authority in Christ to reign over the emotions and thoughts that threaten to overwhelm me, so that I can process them, appropriate them, and communicate them.

Thank you for bearing with me as the blog has become an outlet to process. As always, please be reminded that I’m no authority on theology or biblical studies. Take this, hold it up to Scripture, seek counsel, and then, as one of my favorite pastors says, “Take the meat and leave the bones.”

-a

Dylan’s Story

I realize I have been MIA for quite some time on the blog. Life has a way of getting crazy when you decide to go back to graduate school and keep up with an active toddler who is all boy. The last two months in particular have been an extra special kind of chaos. As the semester was wrapping up, I realized that something had to give. The lack of sleep, the extra coffee, the anxiety, the exhaustion all caught up to me and kicked me in the butt. Despite sleeping more, studying less, and even kicking the caffeine, I couldn’t get a handle on my body. My sweet husband cautiously asked me a few times if I might be pregnant, but I was resolute in being 95% sure that was a negative. I just needed to get through finals, and then I would have a week off to rest, adventure with Sam, and be refreshed for summer classes. Plus, last minute changes in my degree plan had caused a lot of extra frustration and now that I had a settled schedule, my summer was looking a bit easier to handle.

The weekend of finals also came with two positive pregnancy tests, overwhelming nausea, and a lot of emotions. My immediate response to both of our pregnancies has been one of excitement and instantaneous, sheer terror. Since I had been so confident my body was going crazy because of stress related to school, I found myself caught off guard to say the least. Suddenly my week of rest, relaxation, and adventuring with Sam turned into a week of debilitating nausea and fatigue. I confessed to my counselor that though I was excited, somewhere deep deep down, I was mostly overwhelmed in every part of my being.

It’s amazing how tackling morning sickness can make you feel ten times more optimistic about growing a human. I stopped beating myself up for resting or letting Sam watch a lot of TV or letting chores slide so I could nap when Sam napped. Little one proved to be extremely different than my pregnancy with Sam, keeping me on my toes for sure. The Thursday before Mother’s Day, when I was finally coming out of the fog of first trimester symptoms, it occurred to me that I had forgotten to get my own mother and mother in law something for the holiday. Sam and I packed up and headed to Target. I felt like what I imagine Olympian’s feel like tackling errands with Sam and baby in utero. As Elevation Worship played on our way home, I felt the Holy Spirit gently and powerfully convict me of my fear concerning raising two babies. I had been so consumed with my insecurities and inadequacies, so overwhelmed by how all of this was going to work with Sam, school, etc. that I had completely forgotten the world changer I was carrying and the One who was shaping him or her. Tears flowed as I prayed for a shift of faith in my heart and my mind. In that moment, I felt at peace for the first time in a long time.

A few hours later, after settling into study, I felt a sharp pain followed by a flow of blood. I wept helplessly as the life inside of me felt so fragile. A dear friend came to watch Sam while Ray and I went to the midwives. I held my breath as she began the ultrasound, never more happy to hear that strong, beautiful heartbeat. Baby looked great, but we were encouraged to be “reassured but cautiously optimistic.” The bleeding continued into the night, filling my spirit with more caution than optimism, but we hoped and pleaded for life.

On Tuesday we went for a follow up ultrasound that would check on baby and tell us our due date. Mom tagged along to hang with Sam and I while Ray headed to work. The sonographer looked grim as she looked at the screen, with a calm, clinical voice she told me she had bad news. We had lost baby’s heartbeat.

What followed was a blur of meeting a new doctor, discussing my options, calling Ray with the worst news of our marriage thus far, and thousands of thoughts and emotions flooding my brain simultaneously. I had to email my professor, I had to finish my homework, I had to pick up milk for Sam from the local grocer because it was Tuesday. I forgot to get a picture of the ultrasound; why didn’t I get the damn picture. I clutched the steering wheel and bawled, while Mom sat nervously in the passenger seat and asked me if she should drive. I didn’t know how to tell her that I felt an intense need to be in control of something, anything, otherwise I might spin completely out of control.

We stopped by the grocer and splurged on fresh, local strawberries, treats from the bakery, and my favorite pint of Jeni’s ice cream…and Sam’s milk. Sam danced to the music in the attached café, stuffed his face with strawberries until his fingers were stained pink, and serenaded us on the way home. He is such a precious gift.

On Thursday, we headed to the hospital for surgery. I was nervous, it took all within me not to let death have the final say in all of this. The first nurse we met in pre-op held me close, looked me in the eye, and with all compassion told me she had experienced an early loss and this surgery herself. She settled us into our room and told us she was praying for us as she left. Everyone was kind, and clearly treaded carefully into our room, unsure of what to say beyond anything clinical. Our nurse at discharge gave us a bereavement folder and warned us about a poem; Ray glanced at the poem, his eyes filled with tears, and he quickly pulled the sheet out and gave it to the nurse so I wouldn’t have to see it. I was thankful she had our back. I was also thankful she had Toradol. My coping skills were shot, so even the mildest cramping felt unbearable.

It has been perhaps the most hellish week of my life. Without question, it has been the most insane emotional roller coaster of a week I have ever experienced. We have been surrounded by the best support system, felt sustained by the prayers of those around us, soaked up all the snuggles Sam will allow us, and felt overwhelmed by waves of intense grief. To say that this part of our story hurts is an understatement, but we know this is not the end. We decided to name the baby Dylan, a name we liked for either a boy or girl since it was too early to determine gender, a name after the author of one of our favorite poems.

Though we grieve, we are not without hope. Though sadness sits like an elephant on my chest, making breathing feel impossible at times, we are not without joy. We have no idea what is next, nor do we know how to navigate this, but we trust that God wastes nothing. Somehow, in all of the ugliness and heartbreak, He’ll bring beauty and redemption out of this…. He always does. I have never been more thankful for the reality of the Gospel, nor have I hastened heaven as I have in this past week.

I don’t say these things to gloss over what feels like a nightmare we are walking through. I say these things because, though it feels as though death has won, it has been defeated. Love won on the cross of Christ. We trust that love will win in Dylan’s story and in our own.

-a

Nuggets.

This season has been full and yet I have never felt more spread thin. Honestly, I have been vividly aware of how beautiful my life is while simultaneously being terrified I will inevitably screw it all up. I feel like a puzzle scattered on my living room floor, with plenty of pieces to go around but only a fragmented woman to offer. Sound familiar to anyone else?

Clearly this area of my life has suffered as I have been MIA from writing. For those kind, sweet and faithful friends who keep checking in – I am sorry for this insanely overdue update!

I am halfway through my first semester of graduate school, and though there is no break in my near future, I finally feel as though I am back in school-mode. My inner hippy has become out of control as I have started experimenting with making crunchy, homemade soaps, cleaners, and dreaming of owning chickens and goats when I graduate. Ray and I have been dreaming of getting some land, fixing up a farmhouse, and I believe the more I send him to buy goat milk the more I am convincing him goats are a good investment. These dreams are fueled by no small amount of Ray binge-watching Fixer Upper while I “study” next to him. Let’s just say the best compliment I gave my husband this week was a text that read, “You are the Chip to my JoJo.” Obsessed with shiplap much?

Sam is 20 months going on 20 years old. For real, the kid picked out a fedora and plaid this past weekend at Target. He is talking more and more, and he has the BEST belly laugh. My heart melts every time he comes up to me and says, “Hand! Hand!” while he takes me by the hand and leads me into a new adventure. To say that this stage of life has been full of difficulties as a parent would be an understatement, but getting to witness Sam grow and experience life as a toddler has been the greatest joy. Ray and I are constantly wondering how such a cool kid could come from us, until his little sinner side comes out and it’s obvious he has our DNA.

The past few weeks have been a battle against fear within my heart and my mind; for every display of grace and faithfulness, there has been a counter attack of whispered lies and exposed insecurities. Thankfully, the truth of God’s word and the grace and kindness of His character always have the last word. This is the hope to which I am clinging. In the midst of unparalleled exhaustion, toddler tantrums, marital ish, insecurity and doubt, it has been so easy to slip into a frantic state and feel overwhelmed by pressure that was never meant to be placed on me. One of the sweetest reminders from the Lord met me in that pressure cooker this past weekend, and I want to leave you with this gracious nugget of freedom:

The Lie: The belief that I am only worth what I can generate or contribute; that I have to bring something awesome and revolutionary to the table.

The Nugget: I’ve not called you to be a generator. I do the generating. I am already working and moving in each and every person and circumstance. When you accept my invitation to partner with me, I’ll show you where I am working; I’ll lead you and guide you by the Holy Spirit.

As always, hold this nugget up to Scripture; take the meat and leave the bones.

-a

Hustle & Hypocrisy: An Update

I opened up the blog today, the poor long lost and forgotten blog, and took a deep breath as I settled into my chair. There has not been nearly enough coffee, or sleep, or chocolate in these past few weeks to both tackle toddlerhood, graduate school, everyday life functioning, and writing, but I have missed you.

Sam is officially an 18 month old – WHHAATT? His new hobbies include locking doors, pulling things down from the countertops, attempting to put on shoes, talking about shoes, attempting to ride the dog like a horse, talking about the dog, eating like a dinosaur, talking like a dinosaur, and running laps down the hallway. He is basically the greatest. This week he said, “I wub you mah” (Sammy version for “I love you, mom.”) for the first time and I told him he could have a pony.

Graduate school started 20 days ago – WHHAATT? Two thoughts enter my head often: “Get your masters, it will be fun!” said no one ever.” and “How did I pass nursing school the first time, again?” In all seriousness, “Every day I’m hustlin’,” plays in my head every morning around 5:30am; it’s my new theme song.

School has taught me two things so far that, should I bust it in this program, will forever impact my life. The first has been the reminder that I have an epic husband. Really, I do. I hated him a little at first for pushing me to go back to school, but I hated a lot of things in the wee hours of the morning these past three weeks. He has been the best cheerleader, the best dad, the best baker of frozen pizza, and the best maid. He knows the dreams I have for my life and he also knows that I’m a scaredy cat who will talk herself out of pursuing those dreams; not on his watch. He knows the calling God’s placed on my life and the anthem of excuses I have for why I am inadequate, and he pushes me out of the nest with a kiss and nuggets of truth. If husbands are to be a reflection of Christ’s love for us, then I know that I am loved with a gentle, butt kicking, grace-filled frozen pizza kind of love.

The second thing I’ve gleaned is that the grunt work is hard. Taking the next step can be hard, especially in the midst of tremendous brokenness, need, and weight. I look around at my country and I am grief-stricken. I look at my overwhelmed schedule and barely-in-the-black bank account and feel helpless to do anything but intercede in prayer and advocate for with words. I am reminded that there is a great responsibility in faithfully taking the next step God puts in front of me. You don’t change the world because you set out to do so, you change the world by being faithful in following Jesus one step at a time. One test at a time, one project at a time, one meal, story, cuddle, bath, bedtime prayer at a time. Each step that I take in love is a step further from fear, and that is how we change the world. Each step that I take in truth is a step further into freedom, and that is how we change the world. Each step that I take in grace and mercy is a step further into justice, and that is how we change the world.

**You can stop here to avoid political opinion.** 

My heart is heavy with the president’s latest executive order concerning refugees. Images of Syrian refugees fleeing to safety have flooded my mind and heart, specifically the one of a toddler’s tiny body washed ashore. In my mind, I wondered what the world has come to when we stare at our own children, when we nurse them at our breast, when we rock them at night, when we dress them in the morning, and then so easily turn our backs on those in need of refuge. Those children, whose parents’ hearts for them are so closely aligned with our hearts for our own children. Those children who carry the God-given capacity to change the world just as ours do. I am convicted by my complacency, by my privilege that affords me the ability to go about my days without the discomfort of discrimination, war, famine, and injustice. I am reminded of the ugliness of fear and the incredible capacity for foolishness that we bear when we operate out of fear. I am compelled to live better.

We have dressed up fear-driven self-preservation with a bow and called it patriotism. We have thrown the full weight of the White House behind a pro-life banner merely to spit in the face of life days later. The hypocrisy of men who have proclaimed Christ as Savior yet directly contradict the words of Jesus for professional policy and national security is one for which words fall short. The silence of many representatives and senators who call themselves Christians on this issue is cowardice of the most deafening decibel.

God have mercy on us in these days if we claim Christ crucified and risen, and yet love our comfortable, privileged, ostrich-like lives more than faithfully, fearlessly welcoming, loving, and serving the least of those among us. There is no fear in love, and there is no faith in disobedience, but there is a heck of a lot of power to change the world one beautiful step at a time.

-a

 

PS: Find out how you can contact your state and federal representatives here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Storms of Emotion: Waves of Provision

Storms of Emotion: Waves of Provision

This morning was one of those that seemed naptime could not come quickly enough. The undulating emotions of my toddler had me feeling quite apologetic for every one of my own emotional episodes during my teenage years. The energy and passion encompassed in such a tiny body is bewildering to this exhausted mama. I realize as I sip my tea that no caffeine could give me a rival boost, and that makes me a little jealous.

The word “tantrum” has been recently introduced into our parenting vocabulary in the past few weeks. Sam seemed to test the waters before, not quite committing to a full breakdown, but experimenting with tactical outbursts to see what might garner our attention. I suppose we did not give him the desired reaction, as he has been escalating in dramatics. Say anything close to “no” and the back arches, the knees buckle, and the tears stolen from a crocodile roll. Most days it is difficult not to laugh at him, still there are more days where it is difficult to extend compassion and grace to him. It is difficult to remember, in the midst of my own frayed nerves and worn emotions, that my toddler has no frame of reference or method of communicating what he is feeling, what he is needing, and what he is desiring. My fiercely independent son is easily frustrated when he cannot communicate all that he wants, to the point that he forgets how to communicate what he can in the midst of intense emotions.

Sam knows how to sign for help, and other specific key words that help us address his needs more efficiently, but he often tries to tackle a challenge on his own. I think this is beautiful most days, until those breakdown moments occur. Sam throws his body and cries or screams while I try to figure out what the heck is going on. I ask him if he can tell Mommy what he needs. “Do you need help?” “Are you hungry?” Ninety-nine percent of this kids problems are rooted in “hangry.” After a few minutes and a few questions using key words, something generally clicks in Sam’s mind and he can connect his thoughts with words or signs that help us address his concerns. The thing is, Ray and I love Sam and want to meet his needs. We want him to feel comfortable communicating his needs and wants with us. We do not need him to know the specific, detailed words, we just want him to come to us with “help” or “eat” or “please” so we can help, feed, and give more readily, without the distress.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving followed an intense stomach bug and a week of heightened anxiety for me. As I watched church online from my couch, I began to sob during worship. I wondered how someone could be so faithless, fearful and fragile and yet claim Christ as Lord and Savior. How someone so quick to place their weak eyes on the waves of circumstance and forget their God has the authority to calm the seas could be used to help others navigate storms of their own? As I sat there, tears welling up, I heard a gentle whisper, “You are not so different from Sam.” I looked down at my little man playing on the rug in front of me, worship music hanging in the air, and watched as the Lord placed image after image before my mind’s eye.

Alex, you do not need to know all of the specifics, all of the details, all of the what ifs of what you need or are experiencing. I know those things. I hold those things. I stand ready to help you. I love meeting your needs. I love you. I love it when you come to me and tell me what you need. I love it when you come to me and ask for my help. My heart for you is not one of frustration or flailing. I want you to feel comfortable coming to me as you are, where you are. You do not have to know it all, hold it all, or have it all…you just have to trust that I do.

In the ninth chapter of Luke, Jesus sends the twelve disciples out for ministry with nothing. As they return and debrief, they are met with a great need: a hungry crowd. Their response is practical, utilitarian, and republican as they call for the crowd to be sent home to find their own food, but Jesus challenges them. The disciples had experienced God’s generosity and provision for their own needs during their time of ministry, and now they were being called to extend the same generosity and provision to meet the needs of others. In this interaction, Jesus redirects their focus from the great need of the crowd to the resources they have to place in Jesus’ hands. Jesus uses what they have as they have it, which means He did not call them to go into debt. He then uses the disciples to distribute that which He had blessed and multiplied. As a sign of His radical provision and the complete satisfaction of an overwhelming need, the disciples are then called to gather a total of twelve basketfuls of leftovers.

The disciples experienced a greater fullness when they trusted Jesus with what they had in the face of a need they could never meet on their own. The same Jesus who satisfied the hunger of the multitudes with a kid’s meal is the same Jesus who sits enthroned in heaven today, who whispers peace in the midst of our overwhelming emotions and circumstances, who stands ready to help us and who delights in using us to help others experience His radical generosity, compassion and provision.

As we enter into this holiday season, may we trust God’s heart and His promises towards us. May we come to rest in His help as we boldly entrust our every resource into His capable and wise hands. May we be faithful to extend the same compassion and provision we have received from the Father to those around us, especially our little ones.

-a

A Perfectionist, a President & a Preschooler: Perspective

A Perfectionist, a President & a Preschooler: Perspective

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like superwoman. Really, I thought I was rocking it. I bragged about how much I had accomplished to my husband. I bragged about the success of my toddler practically licking his plate clean at dinner on Facebook. I went to bed completely exhausted but super proud of myself. And then I woke up this morning and started cooking the pancakes I had sleepily put together and realized something was not right. The day before, the day where I was owning life, I forgot to put powdered buttermilk into the dry mix I proudly prepared. Which means this morning the tasty, tried and true, never fail pancakes I make each week were really ground oats and water. Nothing like cakes of gruel to usher some humility into your life!

Days like yesterday do not happen often in my life, and I am thankful because clearly I handle them so graciously! While I can take some pride in productivity and rejoice when my fickle offspring actually likes a homemade meal over a packet of mush, those victories do not increase my worthiness. Yesterday I felt worthy of any compliment given to me because I felt I had lived up to them. Today, as toys lay strewn across my living room floor, muddy paw prints cover my kitchen, and every meal has been a small battle lost to a squeezy packet, my worth as a daughter, mother, wife, and human is still the same as it was yesterday. I am beloved, held by God Himself with greater security than I can imagine in every moment on every day.

The aforementioned truth is one I struggle to believe and establish my foundation upon. If I am not careful, I will quickly find myself functioning as an agnostic, operating under the belief that God has somehow removed His hands from my life and the responsibility of maintaining this delicate house of cards is now entirely mine. In this mindset, the unimportant things are blown out of proportion, and the important, true things are minimized, increasing my propensity to panic and perform. The antidote to this neurotic trap may be working with two year-olds. You heard me: two year-olds.

The days following this election have been wrought with fear, grief or joy depending, and uncertainty for many across the country. This tends to be true after every election cycle, but the tension seems to have risen a degree or two this time around. I highly doubt I will ever stay up as late as I did on an election night again if the following morning promises a day spent with energetic pint size humans. However, my time with these littles this week has provided vital perspective in the midst of our current state of affairs. The office of the Presidency, the state of the economy, or the loss Clemson suffered from Pittsburg this weekend, has not stopped them from living up their second year of life.

It has not stopped them from playing their hearts out with one another, sharing their beloved dolls, trucks and balls with one another, and courageously extending offers of friendship to others. It has not stopped them from recognizing and meeting the needs of others without hesitation or discrimination. It has not stopped them from expressing themselves freely, emotionally, and without shame when they are feeling and thinking anything and everything. They do not care who you voted for, what neighborhood you live in, or whether or not you look, live, and think differently than they do, they just want to engage with you and have you engage with them. They know who they are, they know that they are loved, and in so very many ways they are the greatest kind of fearless. I believe it is because they know who they are, whose they are, and rest secure in those truths that they can live with bold optimism and precocious courage.

What if this is what Jesus meant when he pointed to the little children and told the crowds that to inherit the kingdom one would have to become like a child? What if the kingdom belongs to little ones such as these because, before they see anything in anyone, they see the Imago Dei? What if the kingdom exists in the fearless love we extend to those around us regardless of who they are, where they come from, and how they worship? What if we stopped worrying so much about what others might think of us, of whether or not our actions may betray an idolatrous allegiance to party, denomination, ethnic or socioeconomic group? What if we shared generously, played joyfully, served willingly, loved fearlessly, and lived abundantly because we hold on to a hope that stands secure for eternity? What if we began to behave more childlike rather than childish in our relationships? What if we began to take Jesus and his words seriously and sought to discover what a life of childlike faith looks like? What if we could take the good day and the not so good days as they come, resting secure in our identity, eyes fixed on the Kingdom?

What if we have much more to learn from our little ones than we have to teach them?

-a

The Beauty In The Giver

The Beauty In The Giver

I have been sitting at my desk for a solid fifteen minutes at a complete loss for how to start writing. Sam is at school, Ray is at work, and I am living my first day off in a very long time. My brain feels like an indecisive squirrel trying to get across a four-lane highway. Do I do chores first? Do I write for self-care? Do I run errands? Do I have coffee or tea? Do I shave my legs? So many possibilities, and yet sitting like a vegetable at my desk was not on my dreamy to-do list today.

I cannot shake the feeling that this pseudo-vegetable state is becoming more of a norm and less of an exception for me the more I add to my plate. When I was single, pre-husband and definitely pre-kid, my brain operated with greater clarity and efficiency that fueled my propensity for perfectionism quite well. Add one part husband, one part toddler, a few cups of exhaustion and a dash of the ever-sanctifying Holy Spirit, and my engine of a brain is firing nowhere near the level of perfection I would like. I realize that I have never been, nor ever will be perfect. The trap of perfectionism is not the belief that you are perfect but that you can, with great effort and performance, get as close to perfect as possible someday. I also realize that sounds irrational, insane, and a myriad of other hyperbolic adjectives that could be summed as “stupid,” but when you wrestle with perfectionism it is not always so obvious.

Yesterday, Ray and I sat in our parked car in our driveway after church. You do things like this when your kid falls asleep on the way home and moving him risks waking a potential cranky, hangry monster. We were talking about me going back to graduate school, something that Ray has championed and cheered for since we got married because he takes my dreams more seriously than I do sometimes. I wanted to crumple (and still do) under the looming workload, debt, life change, and increasing risk of failure, whereas he was trying to elevate my vision on the presence of the Lord, God’s faithfulness towards us, and the end result of getting to break down barriers to quality mental health care. Finally (since he was making so much sense), I admitted, “I know they cannot and never will be, but I would like to think that I can have things close to perfect! Adding one more thing definitely nixes that!” Insert an eye roll from my sweet husband, an embarrassed laugh from me, and my husband’s encouraging reminder that life would still go on.

As encouraging and truth-speaking as Ray has been in this area of my life, it is always that much sweeter when the truth comes from Jesus Himself. In Mark 14:3-9, Jesus is anointed with incredibly valuable perfume by a woman (most likely of poor repute) as he eats dinner in Bethany. The woman’s action immediately draws the sharp criticisms of those around her, but Jesus stands in her defense:

Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. {Mark 14:6-9 ESV}

Notice that Jesus said she had done a beautiful thing TO Him and not FOR Him. Her offering was not to earn Jesus’ affection or favor, nor was it to give Him something that He lacked or needed; she gave in a heartfelt response to who Jesus was. The beauty was offering what she could; no more and no less.

Some days in some seasons, I may have more to give than on other days in other seasons. The quantity is not what matters to Jesus. Jesus was not impressed by the gift; He was in love with the giver. Whether my offering looks like the widow with her two mites, or the woman with obscenely expensive perfume, the heart behind the offering is what makes it beautiful. Both women gave what they could in a gesture of complete trust and unhindered worship which blessed Jesus’ heart.

Jesus has no need or lack, nor is He impressed by anything we have to give Him for giving’s sake.  He simply loves us with a radically freeing love and all-sufficient, gracious compassion in every season, on every day.

-a