the second day: when we don’t know what’s ahead

We walked the woods and I wandered to the spot where we buried someone precious a few years ago.

the second day

The piece of bark was just laying there, right over the grave. This skin torn off of a living thing, leaving it exposed, vulnerable, and in pain.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

I think often about this “second day” space: this time between heartbreak and victory, between the bloody cross and the empty grave, when we don’t know what’s ahead.

We hoped for something huge and desperately longed-for, but it was thrown in our face and spat on. We didn’t know what was coming.

We tried to build a fire for warmth and light, but we’re still freezing, the smoke is getting in our eyes and we can’t see anything else.

We thought those contractions meant we were close to delivery, but found out we were only dilated to one and a half centimeters.

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

The Kingdom is on the cusp of something amazing and huge. He is waking up His people in a way we haven’t seen in our generation, and maybe in a way He hasn’t done in many generations. This is a great time to be His people, but we have to endure the hard work of waiting.

We walk a tense line between faith and not moving ahead of God to push fruit, forcing something to work on our own. We don’t want to miss His move of certainty by stepping without Him, tired of waiting for the prophets and giving the sacrifice on our own. We don’t want to build the golden calf in our impatience for God’s answer, as the Israelites did when they squandered their loot from Egypt in making a work of their own hands to worship.

For weeks now, God has been reminding me that He restores, redeems, and refines us in our encounters with Him. And we often encounter Him in our need, in the quiet, dark place of the second day where we hurt and have no answers and are brought face to face with our need for His light, His answers, and His comfort.

In this second day space He is putting things back together for His people, as though He was working in the dark soil of our very foundation and identity, and making things right in ways they have never been before.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

– John 16:20-22, ESV

The second day is a day of smoldering ashes. Our woodstove is the grave of that tree. We lay on more kindling and push things around a little closer to the coals.

We shut the door. We watch.

The smoke starts spinning in there, the coals start glowing and flickering. It’s only a matter of time before you hear it – the deep whoof, the sound of ebullition — all is bright and burning.

It is the second day. We’ve been waiting for a long time and the momentum is increasing, and God is about to ignite something ferocious, contagious, and powerful for the Kingdom.

“Does bark always come off in the shape of a heart?” Cham asked.

No, I told her. Only God does that.

for us

Friendship is a funny, many-layered thing. Some friends are the kind we wave to in the grocery store, though we might not even know the names of their spouse or children. Other friends are a little closer – we loan books back and forth, we talk about how we chose the names of our children, we share surplus eggs, bread, or garden produce.

And then there is another kind altogether — the friends who were the first to bring a meal, the first to feel your baby kick. The friends who have seen you in a temper, in tears, or in the hospital. They have even – brace yourself – seen you without mascara.

Those friends. They are the ones who really know us.

for us: the deepest love, shown by the highest personal cost

They are the ones who are at home in your kitchen, putting condiments and leftovers away in your fridge while you’re finding extra clothes for their toddler who had an accident after drinking too much water. They are the ones who are unafraid to put dirty dishes in your dishwasher, and an hour later when you’re putting kids in their jammies and the decaf is brewing, they are the ones who help themselves to unloading the dishwasher and manage it without rearranging your kitchen too much.

for us: the sacrificial friendship

This is intimate. But it isn’t as deep as friendship can go.

Friendship goes farther when partnered with sacrifice: The husband who gives his jacket to his wife in the wind. The couple who knows the needs of a single mom and quietly slips a check into her hand. The family who gives up their vacation to help a friend in crisis. Intimacy is felt by provision, bonding is shown by sacrifice, and the closeness of the friendship is revealed by knowledge and understanding details about each other.

And yet, that’s still not as close as it gets. Because there’s also the kind who takes a beating, or a hanging, or a crucifixion, for someone he loves.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

– John 15:13

That is the deepest intimacy.

For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing. ….think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!

Provision. Sacrifice. Knowledge of need, and willingness to act on it. For us.

for us: the sacrificial friendship

“Draw on these boots of mine. Put your hands to them; put your will to them. Quick!….Change that cravat for this of mine. That coat for this of mine. While you do it, let me take this ribbon from your hair and shake out your hair like this of mine!”

With wonderful quickness, and with a strength both of will and action that appeared quite supernatural, he forced all these changes upon him. The prisoner was like a young child in his hands.

The deepest love, shown by the highest personal cost.

“I heard you were released…I hoped it was true?”

“It was. But, I was again taken and condemned.”

A choice made, no turning back. For us.

As the patient eyes were lifted to his face, he saw a sudden doubt in them, and then astonishment. He pressed the work-worn, hunger-worn young fingers, and touched his lips.

“Are you dying for him?” she whispered.

“And his wife and child. Hush! Yes.”

― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

It has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with the Friend and what He does for us. Take mine as yours. I will do this for you. Being known by Him, loved by Him so much – arms extended and held there by nails, that much – enduring bleeding and pain. For us.

The tears that fell in the garden for us. A man who is so familiar with us, every hidden shadow of our hearts is known to Him. Loved by Him. Worth saving by Him.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

– John 20:11-15a

And after all He’d been through, He just stood there, watching her. She had no idea.

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

– John 20:15b

He knew her heart. He also knew how to get her attention.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

– John 20:16a

He says our name before we even recognize Him. While we’re caught up in our own griefs, He’s watching us, just waiting for eye contact.



us, concentrate: the white egg is only prologue

us, concentrate

us, concentrate: the white egg is only prologue (easter at Copperlight Wood)
This is the first year in a while that we dyed eggs for Easter. I have either forgotten to buy eggs, boil eggs, or buy dye for the last several years, and we’ve suffered through the holiday by merely binging on peanut butter and chocolate eggs for breakfast. (sigh) My beautiful grandma is in her eighties, and she told me the other night that she had dyed eggs every Easter until just a few years ago, all by herself, just because she loves to. When I grow up I hope to be like her.

We went au naturel this time and had bowls of eggs all over the counter soaking in hot water and vinegar mixed with coffee grounds, red cabbage, tomato paste, crushed blueberries, beets, turmeric, turmeric with paprika, turmeric with tea. Lots of turmeric. White eggs go in, colored eggs come out. That’s the plan.

We found that some colors dye quicker. Turmeric, for example, is so effective that it will not only dye eggs, but also the surrounding counter and anything else it touches, and beets will dye your fingers fuchsia the moment you start to peel them. Nice.

Others take a long time to soak in and make a change. And as they dry, sometimes the color changes. They go in white, come out red,and change to green as they oxidize…or come out light blue, and darken to a beautiful turquoise.

Some of the eggs we soaked in one color and re-soaked in another. The colors are deep and the patterns are intricate, unknown galaxies.

And some just don’t change at all. Apparently tomato paste won’t dye diddly, and the eggs come out for a rinse, unchanged after hours except for a nasty film that is scrubbed off, only to take another bath in a different color.

 But usually, the egg goes in and comes out changed.

We do, too. We dye, or die, often. How many times do you feel like you’ve been buried over the past year?

We go through something that changes us, and walk through pain that alters our perspective. We experience something huge – for better or worse – and are washed into something that doesn’t change who we are, but how we look at things. Our essence and identity are still the same – the egg is still an egg – but we know ourselves better because of it.

Sometimes the change is fast, and other times it is a slow process as we heal and make sense of things. Sometimes we go through a series of dunkings that leave us wishing we could hold someone else under the water for a change, just long enough to make them uncomfortable.

No? Maybe it’s just me.

Every time we go through a life-changing event, our colors deepen, we mature, and the baptism makes us more…us.

We’re us, concentrated. Stronger.

con·cen·trate (verb): 

  • to unify, converge, focus; 
  • to intensify or make more pure
  • to separate so as to improve the quality of the valuable portion
Even knowing this, it is still an awful, awe-full feeling to know that someone you love is about to walk through a pain that they have no idea is coming. You know it will make them stronger, but you also know that the strength is birthed through anguish.

To deliver an announcement that will bring pain. To bear news that will bring heartache. To know from experience the natural outcome or consequences of a choice that a loved one is just starting to step into themselves, for better or worse.

(But this calls for a warning: those who flaunt their ego with a cursing, know-it-all, just-you-wait, it-only-gets-worse attitude leave nothing but a nasty film on those who are hurting. We must lead loved ones with maturity and grace.)

 During the week leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus knew His disciples were going to misunderstand it entirely. Before this Sunday I never realized that they would also misunderstand His words, “It is finished.” He knew they would dye, and die, as they walked through pain and terror for two days, soaking in hot, vinegary water. He knew what was coming for Himself and still had deep empathy for His friends, who would not realize that the third day would bring resolution and answers. Color. They went in weak and scared, and came out fearless, bold, ready to die for truth – and the world was changed.

The eggs go in, white. Beautiful and uniform, but all pretty much the same.

They all get buried…bathed…baptized…in a new color. No one would ever describe them as “common” again.

 He knew the joy that was coming for them. He knew they would be stronger.

The white egg is only prologue. Life happens and we soak in the dye as we die to self, sometimes again and again and again. You are the valuable portion being set apart, made more pure. And suddenly, there is…revelation. Joy and life. Color and complexity.

And we are us, concentrated.