Thursday, April 11, 2013

on exercising that faith muscle

"If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark. In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.

...Trust completely in God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis -- only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God."
- Oswald Chamber, My Utmost for His Highest

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pilot Me

because none of us know what we're doing here, really.
we find ourselves billowed in open seas, sometimes in still waters stranded,
and on those few glorious days, belly up soaking in sun - our cares floating with us down quiet stream.

but everyday, pilot me.
because we are headed to a very real somewhere. its just beyond the horizon of our vision.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To Selah, on her first birthday

There is great power in remembering. I grow more convinced of this truth with each passing day. We call forth the assurance of God's character into our now by the telling of his faithfulness in our then. There is power, yes, but also, there is joy. Deep, shining joy in digging up the treasures of moments passed, dusting them off and gazing at them in wonder.
I penned these words the night you were born, as I sat alone in our quiet hospital room, waiting for your daddy to return from settling your siblings in at home.
"Its so surreal to process that not even 12 hours ago she was still a hidden gift folded within. Now she breathes the air that fills my lungs and her heartbeat sustains her. Labor drew the words, "Mercy..." from my lips more times than I could count, but now I say them with an altogether different tone. It is all His mercy. Her unfolding and her sustaining."

Ah, little one, how could I have known? I spoke of his mercy and your sustaining, and how could I have known the weight and the glory in those words? That just five weeks later we would sit in another hospital room in the black of night, knowing it is all his mercy that sustains our breaking hearts nearly crushed from the news of a very sick you. Or that hours later after an army of the saints called out to God on your behalf that a fourth ultrasound would reveal a mass three times seen was no more? I couldn't have known it then, but now, I can never forget. The days and weeks that followed were still so scary, your blood counts so very very low and struggling to rise. But God. Those two words change everything. He was thick in our thin, and He healed you right pink, this time more slowly, but never leaving us.
I wonder what it is that He has for you, your Creator. I said that when you were born your cry was so different from your siblings, it was strong and resolute - those were my exact words. How could I have known how you would need that internal resolve to endure what you did the first few months of your life? You were poked and stuck so many times, poor Judah always hiding his eyes as he couldn't stand to watch you hurt. I'll never forget the way you'd lock those pleading eyes with mine, only a few months old, but they understood that I was safe and I could make the hurt stop. Those moments nearly broke me in two.
The months have revealed you, and we stand in awe. Already, we see your free spirit, how you giggle at the blinding sun and laugh at the cold wind in your face. How you can't help but dance to the music and oh, how you enjoy food. You devour life in full enjoyment, and only just one year. I believe I will learn from you my whole life long.

You are our vivavious one, Selah Joy, and I pray that spirit is never quenched. That you stay hungry and you keep curious and you devour this life like you enjoy your food even now. But even more, I pray that hunger leads you straight to the Bread of Life and that you feed on Him, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus welling up in you giving you life abundant all your days. There will come moments when the shadow of darkness looms so thick and so heavy that you will wonder if the sun will ever shine for you again, this life both mountaintop and valley low, to be sure, and many a moment in between. But He will be with you each and every step of the journey, His strength made perfect in your weakness, and you will find true the words of scripture, that He himself is our peace. And my precious baby girl, it will be His mercy, all His mercy. Every tear and every triumph, He holds it all together, holds us together in love that cannot be seperated.
Only one year old, and already such a story to tell. You keep telling His story, of the God who is faithful and strong like the mountains with a love bigger than the oceans. And His joy and His glory will bubble up and overflow in and all around you. Sweet girl, you will truly find yourself when you get lost in the great pursuit of Him, there your story finding its purpose and place. Nothing, not our pain nor our mistakes, is out of reach of Redemption. He wastes nothing, and He is ever breathing life into us, from our first breaths to our many heart deaths, He is making all things new. I pray you are resurrected again and again as he awakens the pieces of your heart which the enemy of your soul has tried to kill. God always gets the last word, my daughter, and rest assured, His words are good and true.
My Selah Joy, I couldn't have known how you would change me or how my heart would love you. I only pray God grants me the days and words to someday help you understand. But for today, I'll treasure you in your one year old preciousness. And today, we will celebrate and remember all that God has done for us in you.
I love you with my whole heart and soul,

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Closing In

Somehow the hours are closing in on March 12th, halfway to April, and I must have lost two weeks of my life. Its funny how in the midst of the tragic situations life brings, time stands frozen. You blink, and though the moments tick at a turtle's pace, you startle a month later like a day dreamer snapped back to reality. The coma of our circumstances insulate, just long enough to get us through, but the world keeps on spinning. The merry-go-rounds a twirlin' and I'm trying to jump back on without getting thrown flat on my rear.

We found out we had lost a baby, learned we'd need surgery to remove what was left, our baby gone and with Jesus. The surgery came and went, but in my gut I knew something wasn't right. My body wasn't responding like I knew it should. It was almost a week later when I began to hemorrhage - I've never seen my husband ever before so afraid. I spent the next day in and out of the lab and doctor's office, pleading my case that something had to be wrong. A second surgery ensued and removed what was left of the baby's placenta, and within hours I knew this time was different. Healing could begin. A weekend of rest and taking it easy before sending my husband down to Georgia, and somehow here we are. Match 12th, creeping right on into the 13th by the time I finish with these thoughts.

Next Friday we move. Again. Our internship complete, I can't even fully form into words the rush of emotions that thought provokes for both Aron and I. Wonderment at what God has done to bring us to this point, gut wrenching fear at the enormous task that lies ahead, a rush of excitement for the way we know God will show up in spite of our shaking, a quiet sadness to leave the wonderful coaches here at New Hope, pure joy over the chance to share life with our family and friends again, trepidation over just how we will "fit in" to their world after living away most of the eight years of our married life, squealing giddiness over choosing paint colors for our home (something so small but I have dreamed of this for so long now), I could go on...

I find myself with an urgency to live, really live, fully awake, not missing the moment or the day. How many moments I have slept right through, dozing to worry or repetition and missing the joy of it all? I repent a thousand times for my missing Him, for the idolatry of my heart, so full of all He has given and so mindlessly wandering for more. And all I want and all I need I already have.

We are winding up our New Testament in 90 days, and I am drinking these latter letters like a parched desert wanderer having found oasis; I can't get enough of them, falling behind on the daily plan for rereading and praying these words for myself and my friends. The gems are buried right there in the pages of Ephesians, and they are unearthed in me.

"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." 1:22-23
And so I invite him to fill me in every way, the whole earth full of his glory, why not me? Spirit yielding is all that stands between my present reality and His fullness filling; what more is there? And the church, He who is the very real and present Head, is filling me with love for her. That mystical entity, likened to beautiful bride, which in its many parts - souls woven together as one body - possesses the fullness of Christ. Christ who fills everything in every way.
One week more and we launch into this birthing of a Church, growing so safely within our hearts for years now. Its time for this baby to drink air and taste the light of day, so that she may be the fullness of Christ for those who have yet to be raised from death to life. The labor is love, but it is God who beats the heart and causes all the parts to work together. He is the miracle maker, and so we do in the flesh what flesh can do, but we trust in the Spirit for what only God can accomplish. The days are closing in, but new life is crowning.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

On Loss and Hope

The sky was dripping ice and it froze my car a solid cube, me all hunched over chipping away at it all with a cd. We are five year veterans of Michigan winters and somehow we do not own an ice scraper. This day would hold all kinds of bittersweet, and how could I have known how desires fulfilled and desires stripped would all collide in these frozen hours?

If you know us much at all, you know we have long desired a home for our ever growing family. Its been almost 8 years in the making now, but we've come to a season where this dream is finally become reality. God has blown us away with his presence in this process, his hand in so many details. I could cry over it, the ways he spoken directly to our hearts in this. He is good, and more faithful than I could ever hope to wrap my words around.

This frozen Friday was the final negotiation, and much to our surprise, the owner dropped his price again to exactly what we had offered. Exactly the number God gave me when we first walked through the house, very much swept away by its charm but holding on to our good sense. Only God. And precisely in his perfect timing. It was all said and done Friday. We would have been floating on cloud nine, probably celebrating at some artsy fartsy local eatery downtown (the Woo has boutique restaurants aplenty, and oh how we love our 'one of kind' eats), had it not been for our breaking hearts. You just never know what a day may hold.

We were 12 weeks swollen with love for a son. A son we had thrice been told in distinctively different ways by three unrelated parties, was on the way. Except we weren't trying to grow our family; in fact, we were doing our best at keeping our numbers to five. Yet shortly after our move in January we learned that despite our efforts to the contrary, come September, our five would blossom into six.

I won't lie to you, the news downright scared us straight. We feared the timing, we feared the demand of two so close in age, we feared what people would say.  And yet, because we felt we had a "head's up" that this child was coming, we found peace in God's timing. This baby, afterall, was foretold. Our love and excitement for this child grew with the weeks, and we began making all kinds of plans for the ways we needed to prepare for a fourth little Kirk, a man-child, so close in age to our Selah. Belle and Judah would move to the third row of the Mounty, Selah and the son would hold tight the second. Bunkbeds in the new house, a nursery, and a bassinet would work just right. Six months of learning how to do life with four children before public launch of this newborn-church we're concurrently growing. It was beginning to feel do-able and even exciting.

So Friday we just never even considered that my quick little OB appointment would deliver  such painful news. I'd just met the beautiful, young doctor, but I loved her already. So excited for us, so genuine and kind. "Let's take a peek at this peanut!" but those were her last happy words. I've seen that screen dance with the colors of flowing lifeblood and watched the flailing arms and legs of my babies 12 weeks along. But this time the screen was quiet, black. No swooshing of beating heart, no pulsing of ventricles. I knew. Before she could even say it, I knew our fourth child had died in my womb.

She told me, "Erica. I am so very sorry. I believe we've lost the baby."

I tried not to cry as I sat in a waiting room full of other mothers to be, waiting for my blood to be drawn, tests to confirm what they suspected. I heard the nurses saying my name from the behind the station. I didn't like to be spoken of in hushed tones, I knew what they were saying.

That stupid freezing sky-ice glazed my just-scraped car right over, and so I grabbed the broken cd and chipped away again, this time in desperation just wanting to get home to my husband. I walked in to him at the table sipping coffee in his happy morning place. He took one look at me, "What's wrong? Are you okay? Honey, tell me what happened." He said his first thought was twins, then Down's Syndrome, but my silence grew deafening, and he pleaded for me to tell him what was going on.

I choked out, "I think we've lost the baby." And my strong husband fell to pieces.

I no sooner spoke the words, and the Holy Spirit responded, "Erica. In Christ, nothing is lost." Our baby is not lost. He is not missing. If he is gone from us, he is with his Maker, and he is altogether found.

Peace in the puddles of tears.

They say the body and the soul and the mind are all strands of a woven cord, each affecting the other in ways we don't understand. My body must have joined up with my soul, refusing to let this child go, because though the baby was gone for weeks they suspected, my body refused to miscarry naturally. It held tight to what remained, and my mind found comfort in knowing at least a part of the baby was still with me. I'll spare you details unfit for reading, but after medicinal attempts to throw my body into labor, I was too far along to pass it naturally, so it required an outpatient surgery to remove the remains of this pregnancy already gone.

Perhaps the most painful moment in the process was the moment I sat, four pills in hand, knowing that the taking of them began the separation of all that I had left of this precious life. While my head knew the rational, medical sense of it, my heart felt as I were chosing this child's end. In his amazingly perfect tenderness, God had a sister text me a message from him: that He was holding my child right then and that I didn't have to be afraid or feel guilty to take the pills because the child is safe with him and this process will help my body heal. And then, in my daily Bible reading, this is the passage for this heartwrenching day, from 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
"So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body."
Our baby, for reasons known only to God, this seed of a man, had a physical body too weak to draw his first breaths in this world, but what is sown in perishable weakness will be in raised in glory and in power, imperishable. And while our hearts ache and our arms cry out to hold and wrap this child in love this side of forever, we know that we will indeed love and know this child face to face someday. And until then, our God will care for him well, fully known and found in his presence.

This grieving is a process, and I know we will find healing. I'm already finding myself surprised by joy and yet hours later, collapsed in tears. I know the tears will come less and less, but I wonder if I will ever get over the profound sense of loss. The knowing that someone is missing. A very real 'one of us', a brother Judah had already named "Gordon Gotfree" whom he planned to 'carry around' and share a bunk bed with (he would get top bunk, of course), will never be here with us. The kids still kiss my belly...for baby brother. I can't bear to make them stop.

I love this child with my whole soul and with his dying some of my heart goes with him. Jesus is ever resurrecting death to life, and so I don't grieve as one without hope. I know he will heal and raise my heart to life in ways I can't yet understand.

And yet, here is where I am, and it is okay to feel the depth of this loss. In the midst of it, I have had profound trust in God's goodness and love, not once questioning his heart toward us. I don't know if I have ever worshipped so purely before, my tears over his love and beauty mixing with soapy dishes and a broken voice lifting a bruised "Hallelujah" never more sincere. I trust him with my whole heart, and I trust he will work even this earthly loss together for our good.

And I will see my son face to face. I wish it could be in September sun with his brother and sisters peeking over. But His ways are higher than ours, and his understanding deeper than mine.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Monday, February 18, 2013

grace song

"But where sin increased, grace increased all the more..." Romans 5:20
The farther I walk this journey, often, the more brutal it grows. Somewhere along the way, often during times of green pasture and still water where beauty captivates, you forget there is yet ... the war.

But as the good shepherd, always and ever restoring, leads you out of rest for your weary soul and back along the treacherous paths of the straight and narrow, there you see it. The ugly and the broken, the war torn and the wounded. Casualities of an enemy many deny exist, lay bleeding out, barely living. You work to heal, bind up wounds, speak life. You call others to break from the trance, lulled to sleep by the charms of their enemy, their master. You plead with them, to stand up, to walk along with you. To chose life and follow this shepherd, can't you see he his good and you are waiting here to be devoured?

You wonder why you have to travel these roads, why the good shepherd would lead you here? He explains how his love compells him to seek and save these lost. And he has made you to join him in this war. He calls forth courage within you, calls you 'Mighty Warrior' though he knows how you quake within. In his calling you become, and there is more, a new name he has yet to bestow. A name that will only be understood between he and you, when the war is over and your journey complete in the Great City, there with the King.

It takes me remembering the truth of the big picture to get over myself, get over the trivial hurts of my small story so that I can live out the bigger story he is calling me, calling us, to embody. And as I see us all, so fragile, so desperate for our Good Shepherd and hungry for love and so continually wounding one another in our insecurity, I become a grace addict. I need it, you need it. And I'll never keep to this straight and narrow without it. The bitterness of pain and the aching of wounds would tangle me up keeping me captive in its thorny hold. You can't live free holding onto hurt, holding onto wrongs.

So where sin increases, Lord Jesus, make your grace increase all the more. In me, in others. Let us be the people of grace. Let it be the banner that waves above us and the song on our lips. We who have been forgiven much, love much. And how we have been forgiven.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


i've got words, but the tongue is a wildfire.
so i hold them close and lay them down.
death of self for life of heart.

i've got feelings, but they paint a wounded heart.
so i bleed them out and let them puddle.
trust in Him over trust in perception.

i've got a choice, but the holy is so hard.
and some days, the bitter just tastes so sweet.
chewing on hurt like a glutton, i know it will choke me dead.
so i cast down rights and chose this day life,
forgiveness seventy times seven.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Courage to Paint

You and I, we are walking together, each of us in all postures of joy and pain, beauty and suffering, often intermingling, flowing simultaneously through our lives. The current sweeps us through our moments flowing into days, carrying us somewhere, we are certain, even if we cannot dictate our destination

"But awakening to joy awakens to pain. Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living."
                   - Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts

The realization of this fact has paralyzed me in this space. I have grown so accustomed to needing to keep many things quiet until God brought about the proper time, that I found I no longer knew just quite how to share. Afraid to share joy, for fear of wounding a hurting heart; afraid to share pain, so much in ministry must be kept between one's own heart and God.

And so I just stopped writing.

But I have been praying for God to show me what he would have me do with this space, this voice, this megaphone to share with a few the story God has given us, for His glory. I began blogging here mostly as a way to share life with our family, who though separated by distance and quality time, might still know our kids and see them grow. But as time went on, I found I had more to share than cute pictures, and that God, for some reason, chose to use my feeble words to encourage and inspire.

He has been pouring out His Holy Spirit in ways I have only dreamed. But I read it here:

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:13
And how I have asked. He is rocking our world and blowing our minds with His faithfulness, pouring on us his love in so many ways. When you tip toe to the edge of a leap of faith in life, the "what if's" race wild in your mind. The "losing your life", the losing control, so counter intuitive to everything this culture teaches. But in the closing of eyes, heart pounding and fear racing even still, the holding of breath, and in the trembling wild jump, you can only hope that the fall you experience is one right into the net of his love. That no matter height or depth nothing will separate you from Him, and that is enough.

God has been gently pointing out in my heart the ways I so desperately desire the approval of others. The thought of being misunderstood or misjudged plagues me, and so I've coiled back, to self protect and self insulate. He is calling my bluff, showing me that a hidden life smothers the light within. I often fear in this wide wide web of egos and self worship, people will read about our 2-d world on this screen and make assumptions about our life that are simply unrealistic. In order to avoid painting an inauthentic portrait, I've stopped painting all together. It seemed better to say nothing at all than to cause anyone heartache or longing or frustration if somehow in my sharing, desires unfilled were stirred. There are so many who ache so.

God has reminded me, though, of my own aching. The moments when others' words, completely innocent in intent, but enemy shot right to the heart, bleeding out longing, sending me to a pile of broken tears in the unguardedness of home. We are all so fragile, so beautifully fragile. And you know what, God made us tender that way. And he is showing me that despite any circumstance, He is faithful, even in and especially in our longing. We just have to hold on long enough to see him work the promise of our good through it all. And his faithful love is a story worth sharing.

So I lift up hand now, and begin to paint. The words my brush and our story the canvas. But the art - it is all God. His story. His glory.

He is pouring out too much not to share.

Deep breath, brush to palette,

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Of Late

Whoa! What is this thing I'm doing? Sitting down to...write?!

Tides have been all kinds of changing, and I suppose I've done well to stay afloat in all the going out and coming in. With the help of some pretty amazing people, we packed up five years of Michylife, stategically squeezed it into a 26 foot moving truck, drove 4 hours through the Heart of it All to the edge of Amish country, and were greeted by a handful of smiling 'stranger'friends who unloaded us into a home we'd only then first laid eyes on. And thus began this journey of 'churchplanting'.

We are as unpacked as we will get for twelve weeks, two of which are now in the books. We survived our first three days of online virtual academy, a hybrid of public school and homeschool. I am truly enjoying teaching Belle, but my heart is torn as Judah and Selah are forced to just mil around a good bit of the day. I try to involve Judah, but I find it requires so much energy to corral his three year old attention span to a task that I am only dragging out the process of our school day. And for Selah's sake, I need to be as concise as possible.

We are working out a rhythm to our days, even as transient as this season is. Rhythm is so important, guiding our moments building hours, the story of our days. Each year the leadership of New Hope (where we are interning) sets aside 21 days at the start of the year for the entire church to fast together as they align themselves with God. Its become part of their "rhythm". Though an emotionally vulnerable time for us on the heels of big change, Aron and I really wanted to experience this time with them.

If you've ever fasted before (no guilt if you haven't, no pride if you have) its a very humbling, stripping experience. To pull away from the tangible things that we often run to for comfort in order to draw near to God, making room for His presence to fill our empty places. I often find myself in a meek, contemplative place, humbled at how little I truly hunger and thirst for God and run after soul filling in so many other places.

Today, people watching this strange new demographic of souls in the middle of the public library, I found myself just longing for comfort. We have just embarked upon a journey that has pushed away from the shore of Stable and Secure, moved to a town almost completely unknown, I haven't had a cup of coffee in a week (that's a big comfort trigger for me, okay?!) and I am yet raw. Yet I find God speaking to me again and again, "Child, you are so quick to bestow this label of "secure" on the systems of man, but is there any more trustworthy than me?" Its the woman in me, the craver of "settle down and make a life". And he knows this, knows how I am dust.

But God showed up in comfort tonight; in a husband who stood beside me to make dinner, complimenting me on my John Mark Pandora playlist. In golden light bowed in horizontal beams illuminating our dinner and warming us through. In the pages of Luke, how Jesus' heart when out to the widow who had lost her son, saying "Don't cry," then raising him to life. And later, to Jarius who had just heard the news his only daughter, only twelve, had died. "Don't be afraid. Just believe, and she will be healed." Only allowing Peter, James, and John to accompany him, along with the child's mother and father, he went in to the room where she lay, dead, and spoke "My child, get up!" Her spirit returned, and Jesus instructed them to get her something to eat.

Those details, they don't escape me; Jesus' tender words to a woman who had lost not only her husband, but now her only son, the way her tears moved him. How Jesus assured Jarius, how he knew the mother and father's grief, allowed them in to see what He was about to do for them. In raising their daughter, he was handing back to them their own lives, their complete devastation only a brief memory. How he knew her physical needs, even just brought from death to life, yet she needed nourishment, and he cared for her. My mind returned us to a room in Children's Hospital when an ultrasound technologist left the room and came back with the head Radiologist who preformed the test for fifth time. How he announced there was nothing there, no mass to be seen, and I wondered, Jesus, how you came near and handed us our hearts back.

Comfort. He brought comfort, even deeper than the familiar or the filling.

This life of faith, I am ever learning, is one of seeking. The treasure of Christ awaits, but the thorns of this life - worry, riches, and pleasures (Jesus' words, not mine) - threaten to choke the faith right out of us. But He...He is our very Great Reward, as he spoke to Abraham. And there is nothing this side of eternity that can compare.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our Star Dalmatian

oh these still waters are running deep, and i have more to say than time to say it. i am praying all He is teaching, that I can find time to to write it out. so we can grow together.

but, for tonight, the most important thing is to share a little piece of my heart. my isabelle. her debut performance in her first grade play was just the sweetest thing. the sweetest. i wished so desperately some of our family could have been there, to see the twinkle in her eyes and the excitement on her face and her expressions as she sang. it melted us.

so here is the next best thing: a few pictures and clips from the night.

The Unity Tree from Aron Kirk on Vimeo.

The Unity Tree from Aron Kirk on Vimeo.
Isabelle's 1st grade Musical, starring Isabelle as "Dalmatian"