happy returns

I don’t remember what it felt like to wake up that morning, the one rainy Saturday of the entire fall.

How do people live through such days? Days that you enter knowing they are going to change only everything?

How does an indecisive, usually fearful girl keep on, one step and then the next, toward voluntarily making a forever promise? How does she still have an appetite?

It must be grace, must it not?

Grace that on a morning when I might have felt panicked, rushed, and full of tears, I felt an immense calm.

Under the raining, we were wrapped in a warm glory, and I remember being amazed by how many people were there, and I remember that my face hurt from smiling.

I haven’t the words to write the meaning of a year of marriage, even if I knew the meaning, which I’m not sure I do. But the same grace that gilded that very first day has touched every day since.

I remember that my hand trembled in his, and that I laughed and cried through the vows. And that we were so very glad.

We remain so.

 

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

October

eyes

The last three years, ’13, ’14, and ’15, I participated in 31 Days of blogging challenges during the month of October. I had this idea that I would do it this year, too, but do you know what happened instead? I went the entire month of October without publishing one blog post. Not one.

And I love writing October: the way the light comes more golden and the sky comes more blue. The gradual giving way of green to shades of gold and brown. The way that I seem to find my footing in whatever new rhythms have begun in August and September. The inevitable nostalgia of fall, making me yearn for the things that are past and binding my heart to the things that are passing.

But now it is November, and I’m typing with eleven weeks of wonder asleep across my lap. He’s added five or six inches and seven or eight pounds since his arrival back in August, and I feel them in the ache of my shoulder blades and the small of my back, and in the ache of tiny clothes — was he ever that small? — which were put away under the bed yesterday.

I’m learning the rhythms of wee-hour wakings, of diapers to be changed and laundered, of housework and errands done in the intervals between the every-two-hours meals which he continues to need. I’m learning the joy and the cost of being needed 24/7.

And I’m writing: not with pen or keyboard, but all over a human soul who can’t yet say the simplest word, filling these first pages of his life, and living definitions that will haunt his later years. It terrifies me.

As he comes to fuller understanding, will he see Christ in me? Is it gospel which I’m living, life laid down for him? Will he see that the things I say are true by my doing?

He is too young to make allowances for moods and weariness in me, but old enough to feel if I am grumpy or impatient. And it doesn’t lie with me to summon joy when, lulled to sleep for the fifth time, he wakes again just as I’m settling to sleep myself, urgent in his cry to know he’s not alone. I love him excruciatingly, but I. Can’t. Do. It.

And yet I am mightily helped, daily thrown upon the grace of my gracious Father. There is never enough of me, yet He multiplies my meager loaves and fishes, keeps my oil jar supplied, spreads manna — morning by morning — on the ground around my tent.

My baby opens blue-gray eyes with a smile in them for me. This also is grace.

My Shepherd is the Lord. I shall not want.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: listen

listen

Beside this window there’s the occasional drip from the rained-on roof to the air conditioning unit. Jays in a tree somewhere close by. A baby breathing. Clicks of the computer keyboard. My husband tapping a rhythm while he studies in the other room.

 

I’m still learning the sounds of this new house — the dogs that bark in the early mornings, the school buses and garbage trucks. Wheels on our gravel drive rather than next door. Car doors in our driveway rather than across the street. Ice falling in the freezer. The hot water heater cycling on and off. Light switches and door latches. The hurricane of our bedroom fan. The noisy quiet of the air conditioner running. Trains passing. Sirens on the highway. Our doorbell. The flame under my teapot on the stove. Canada geese passing overhead.

And the baby’s voice. He doesn’t talk yet, but his voice is behind his contented sighs and behind all his crying: hungry or hurting or angry at being alone in his crib. I love his voice.

Quiet is my natural habitat: I love to listen and to see. And I love that this little person is going to break through all my quiet habits with noises of his own.

listen

Linking up with Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday to listen today.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday (on Sunday): heal

heal

He kicks and pushes with his legs, but the soles of his feet are as soft as any other part of him: I touch them and marvel to think he will one day be man-grown with calloused soles.

Before we brought him home they pricked his heel, collecting spots of blood to screen for various diseases. He screamed and screamed: offspring of woman, heel already bruised by the serpent whose lie begins the sad chapter by which disease entered the world.

In pain I brought him forth, and though I want him to grow to be a man with calloused heels one day, I pray that his soul may not also become calloused — neither to the bruises of his enemy nor to the piercing of his Healer.

HE was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, bore the chastisement that brought us peace; He heals us by His stripes. And then: He has bruised the serpent’s head: immortal God, raised from the tomb, inflicting a mortal wound upon His foe and ours.

Tiny son, know this, though you know nothing else besides; callous those beautiful feet proclaiming this good news: healing for souls.

heal

Linking up with Kate Motaung to write on her prompt, heal.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

 

No God but One: review

I don’t tend to think of Christian apologetics and advanced stomach cancer as particularly related. I enjoy plunging into the big questions, learning the arguments and evidence which show my faith to be a most reasonable thing. I don’t enjoy the hygienic medical terminology in which we drape grim prognoses, shielding ourselves from what we know even without state-of-the-art equipment: it is appointed for man to die once.

But the truth is, cancers and all their ilk — so vividly pointing to the death that is inevitable — are what make Christian apologetics so urgent. Seeking the Truth is no mere intellectual exercise; what we believe to be true has direct implications on how we live and how we die, particularly on how we live in light of the fact that we must die.

The closing section of Nabeel Qureshi’s latest book, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, queries, “Is the Truth Worth Dying For?” and answers the question with a resounding Yes: “God is more beautiful than this life itself, and the one who loves Him is ready to die when death comes, not just to glorify Him but to hasten to His arms. Though we die, we will live.”

The context? A discussion of the rival truth-claims of Islam and Christianity, highlighting the two religions’ differences, delving into their histories, and examining the evidence for each religion’s positions. Qureshi seeks to evaluate the evidence as an objective observer would, drawing on the most reliable sources, on expert scholarship, and on his own journey from passionate defender of Islam to passionate follower of Christ.

Since first hearing him share his testimony at a conference in 2013, I’ve thought of Nabeel Qureshi as a strong person in the world of apologetics — not just intellectually, but also physically. Tall enough to be intimidating, square-shouldered, young and confident — when, returned to the same conference the next year, he told me in passing that I “didn’t want to miss Michael Ramsden,” I got up and went to the session which I had intended to skip.

His first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, presented his testimony in long-form, with many of the arguments and struggles that finally led him to Christianity. No God but One majors on the arguments and evidence, revisiting his story for support, but not majoring on story. With carefully-organized, conveniently-titled chapters, this is a book you can use for targeted research into one specific question — like, how reliable is the Quran? — but it is also excellent for cover-to-cover consumption. Read front-to-back, Qureshi’s argument for the truth lands weightily on that last section and question, Is it worth dying for?

The day the book released — August 30 — Qureshi made an announcement which lends even more weight to the conclusion: he has been diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer and faces a grim prognosis. In his early thirties, husband to a young wife, father to a baby girl, working on an Oxford PhD, writing books, maintaining a rigorous speaking schedule, and having a far-reaching gospel influence: adding cancer to that equation seems silly at best.

But in the economy of a God whose very foolishness is wiser than our wisdom, whose ways are heavens-higher than our ways, this is the path by which He has chosen to be glorified: in physical weakness,  in pain, and in difficult treatments with an uncertain outcome. And already He is receiving glory. Because it is one thing for a strong and successful man to say a thing is true, but when he is facing a potential death sentence, if he has any doubt of that truth, it will show.

Qureshi’s testimony? “. . . never once have I doubted this: that Jesus is Lord, His blood has paid my ransom, and by His wounds I am healed. I have firm faith that my soul is saved by the grace and mercy of the Triune God, and not by any accomplishment or merit of my own. I am so thankful that I am a child of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Spirit. No, in the midst of the storm, I do not have to worry about my salvation, and for that I praise you, God.”

While faith only comes by the work of the Holy Spirit, the evidence presented in No God but One can lend confidence to those inclined to doubt. This book is not simply a tool for reaching Muslims, it may also be a strengthening tonic for Christians, helping us to live –and to die — with certainty in the things we hold True.

ngbo

I had the opportunity to be part of the launch team for this book — which means I received an advance copy in order to review and promote it. Since I had a baby in the middle of the pre-release promotion month, I kind of dropped the ball on that, but there is still a special offer of bonus content — including a workbook, and audio and video material — if you order the book before September 16, 2016. Click the above image to read about that. 

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: team

Somehow, despite the spelling difference, my mind goes to Genesis 1:

Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures . . . 

And it was so.

We don’t tend to use teem very often any more. It means to be full or swarming with, but, according to my computer dictionary, the original Old English root also denoted being or becoming pregnant with, or giving birth to.

This week, we added to our team, a perfect, beautiful boy. And I rejoice that the God who made the waters teem also made this boy, writing every day ordained for him when as yet there was not one of them.

And behold, that is very good.

team

Linking up with Kate Motaung for her Five Minute Friday — on Friday, for once! — writing on her prompt, team.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): lift

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help?
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

I started my morning with this Psalm, and it’s a good Psalm for the morning before the morning before the morning when you have a scheduled induction of labor — a good Psalm for two days before you expect to meet your baby boy.

Look at the hills: steady, seemingly immovable. They were created; they had a beginning and will have an end. But the One who made them is the One who helps you.

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

Because He doesn’t sleep, you can sleep. Because He keeps you, you are certain of being kept — as certain as the hills.

The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.

The hills cannot shade you perfectly. But the Lord: He keeps you day and night.

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

And these are the things that are true: even in the deepest places of pain, even when it seems that we look in vain for help, we are kept by this Lord who made heaven and earth. His promise to preserve us is no mean promise, and, though we finite beings cannot truthfully promise forever, our infinite God can promise infinitely — and keep that promise.

Lift up your eyes. He helps you.

lift

Today I join Kate Motaung and write on her Five Minute Friday prompt, lift.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch