Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Habits

Cultivating a habit of writing, I am finding, is one that thrives on regularity. If forming habits could be compared with regular bowel function, I would say that I am chronically constipated in the habit-forming arena. Ah, the poop joke...so soon into a post 12 days after the deadline of a "project" for which she fell so dismally short? Yes, my friends, yes. I need a dose of writer's Metamucil.

I've had spurts of deep and creative thoughts and even typed furiously with my thumbs into my phone to capture them on-the-go, promising myself a chunk of time later in the evening to flesh out the thoughts only to log in and discover incomplete drafts with half-thought-out musings and schemes. I think we can all follow the poop metaphor for this problem without my saying it...

I can plan one heck of a calendar for myself, complete with time slots for each important task and activity but it's in the execution that I flail about like a cat on a leash. I'm not complaining so much here as I'm trying to make my peace with the truth of the matter that I will write sporadically, sometimes following a prescribed routine and sometimes trailing off like an overgrown, sad little path into a dark wood...

I can't seem to shake the feeling, lately, that I am screwing it all up. This sense of you're-never-going-to-get-it-right seems to pervade the endeavors that I pursue...all the way from scrubbing the toilet to going, therefore, and making disciples. I can't keep up with the laundry; can barely keep up with the dishes; there's piles everywhere: piles of documents needing filed, piles of clothes needing put away, piles of stuff everywhere...and that dumb little quip, "A place for everything and everything in its place" floats irritatingly around my brain. And all that inanimate stuff aside, my grace and patience offerings are generally pretty trim right about now.

I never thought of myself as a perfectionist but I sure do chase perfect like my life depended on it. Why oh why do I feel like I have to live in a museum with pristine corners and every painting hung arrow-straight? Why do I feel like I have to get it all right? That the fruit I'm supposed to be bearing is up to me to make, like I could just bake it and hang it on the tree of my life the way we do ornaments on a Christmas tree?


Wait, whose fruit? Oh, the fruit of the SPIRIT. The Holy Spirit. Part of the triune God. Yes, God. God's fruit. God's fruit in my life cannot be manufactured BY me but only by the work of God IN me and THROUGH me.

I must continue to follow Him; let my roots go down into Him & my life be built on Him. THEN faith will grow strong. And dare I say, so will the other fruit. Follow; grow roots; build my life. None of those things have one scrap to do with living perfect, be it a housekeeper or a Christ-follower. In fact, as far as following Christ is concerned, I am far from perfect. But I follow. I am learning to root deep into the soil of His Word and presence. I choose to build my life on Him.

And my laundry doesn't have to be completed or even caught up. My bloggy endeavors don't have to follow any prescribed method.  Daily goals are good but not when we become a slave to them.

Funny, I've read so much about letting go of perfection; slowing down; experiencing grace...and yet, only in the past few weeks has it become personal. Remembering to offer eucharisteo can STILL happen--SHOULD still happen--even if I don't shout it from the digital rooftop of my blog.

So I'm bad with routine and habit.

I have grace for that and new mercies every morning.

Sometimes I lose my patience; sometimes I hold onto anger for too long; sometimes I am rigid and unforgiving instead of grace-giving.

I have grace for that too. And He massages my heart soft so that I can offer grace and forgiveness as freely and abundant as I'm given them.

Glory be. I will never be perfect. But Jesus is always perfect. And I have Him; He has me. And that is enough.




Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Facebook Game

There's a game going around Facebook.  It starts when you "like" the status of someone who has titled their post, "___ of things you didn't know about me." That person then gives you a number and you are, in turn, expected to share that many previously unknown facts about yourself.  The idea of this game interests me--learning new facts about my friends and family appeals to my interest in biography and history.

But also, I read about this yesterday and felt the triad of conviction, inspiration, and motivation all in one fell swoop:


Oh my. The world? Guilt nags. I should do more. But Jesus said Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Right now, "Jerusalem" is my physical ministry ground. My ministry to the world is limited but I find a vast expanse of opportunity to pray for all followers on all occasions.

A devotion I once read about widening our spiritual viewfinder to include more of the world outside our own little corner of it, offered the perspective that all those awful things in the news that cause us to change the channel could (should?) be viewed as opportunities to pray and to do for those around the world in need of Christ, in need of spiritual, material & emotional support. Even that is a chance to participate in world change as an outpouring of our own thankfulness.

In my own life, I want that very thing. I want my thankfulness to pour out, to change the world. These are my own attempts to do that: 

14 Things You May Not Have Known About Me Concerning My Gratitude & How I Hope To Change The World For Christ Through That Gratitude:

1. I am thankful for my maternal heart and love for nurturing children. I would love to adopt a baby girl from China.

2. I am thankful that there is a spiritually genetic missions-oriented streak (if this is a for-real thing) in my family. I desire to go serve somewhere in the world alongside my family in the short term, at some point in my life.

3. I am thankful for Autism. (ugly-beautiful)  It has opened up my eyes and my heart to the world of disability. I really want to (and am working on) starting a disability ministry at my church that starts with a parent support group.

4. I am thankful for Christmas pageants. I am directing our church's this year and it is a big blessing to be part of taking the message of Christ coming into the world to our community through children acting out that story.

5. I am thankful for my friends and the opportunities I have to encourage them when they are feeling down or hurt or bad.  I am sorry when I don't do this well.

6. I am thankful for my Bible. I long to know it better and live its message to point those with whom I interact to Jesus.

7. I am thankful that God made me to love words. I strive to use mine to build up and encourage and love. I am often unsuccessful. But sometimes I get it right.

8. I feel an itch to move to a totally new place every three years or so. I am thankful for the experience of being a military brat that explains this inclination. Because of it, I find change slightly less daunting than I would otherwise. It's a good thing, too, because life doesn't stay the same for long, no matter what.

9. I am thankful for abundant and overwhelming grace. It is a constant reminder and motivator to give abundant and overwhelming grace--of which I am unable to do without Christ transforming me.

10. I am thankful for all of the things that I've done in my past that have equipped me to be Hayden's mom. I am hopeful that I am changing the world in some small way by being the best mom that I can be to her.

11. I am thankful to be Kelly's wife. I want our marriage to point to Jesus.

12.  I am thankful for having experienced grief with hope, sorrow-filled, though it may be.  I want to grieve with hope when I grieve so that I can demonstrate my faith & hope in Jesus.

13. I am thankful for grandparents who were more apart of my immediate family than my extended. They, as much as my parents, showed me what walking in my faith really looked like. They changed the world for Christ.

14. I am thankful for this community where I live. It's the first place I've lived as an adult that I feel a desire to sink real roots. It is my "Jerusalem." I hope to impact where I live with my life.


Thankfulness abides. May I never forget to use my thankfulness to drive me to good works. May I always remember, though, that I am saved by grace through faith; that I am equipped to do good works because I am in Christ. May those works be born out of love for others, love for Christ and a true thankfulness.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Traditions

Yesterday, Kiddo and I put up our Thanksgiving Tree. This idea has become a Thanksgiving tradition--if traditions can be made in a year. Honestly, thanks-giving should really be a tradition of living and maybe the tree--or a version of the tree--should be out in the open year-round. A thought for a future decorating idea...



I'm afraid that intentional eucharisteo was not on my lips this past week.  Always striving for imperfect progress, however, I will continue to look for beauty and joy and blessings that are often easily overlooked. I will search the way that an eager child combs fields of clover for the one lucky stem with 4 leaves instead of 3.
A special for this Lord's Day:

Observed blessings and joys throughout my day of which I am ever thankful:

*Braids keeping hair mostly tangle-free

*Eager faces beginning Christmas pageant practice

*Lunch with parents and folks willing to be a team with me

*Nap time with kiddo watching cartoons by my side

*Prospect of SNOW on Monday night!!!!!

*Two hour delay on Monday means getting up can happen at 8:30 instead of 6:30 in the AM--YES

*Burger dinner at our table--choicest piece of furniture in my house

*Recycling & trash taken out by Hubbs

*An evening of family togetherness involving computers and iPads and Wii

*Friends and cats

And the continuance of catching up:

37--Three Gifts I Gave Today: Words of Encouragement; Service; Companionship

38--Three Gifts Orange: Delicious mangoes; orange outfits on my Babins; Baby David

39--Three Gifts Funny:  Arrested Development; My Hubband; Sillies my girly says

40--Three Gifts From Today's Conversations: Good laughs at a missing hand; Sharing thoughts on grief; Whispering thanks over a sleeping kiddo

41--Three Gifts Found In Christ: Grace Abundant; Strength in our weakness; Patience in our Stupidity

42--A Gift of Peace, Of Hope, Of Love:  Peace: A night of pizza, cookies, ice cream & breathing together; Hope: God knows; Love: Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go

43--Three Gifts Ugly Beautiful:  My tomato plant; Baby birds; weakness

44--Three Gifts In What You Are Reading:  In my weakness, He is strong; Seek Him first means seeking Him & HIS things; I don't have to choose to dwell on the things that make me mad/upset

45--Three Gifts Empty:  washer & dryer; empty plates after a good meal; empty living room floor

46--Three Gifts That Made Me Really Smile:  My daughter's words; Fantastic vacation; God's Word 

47:  A Gift At 8, At 12, At 2:  8: New mercies in the new sunshine; Midday meal date w/ Hubbs; 2: Naptime

48--Three Gifts Painted--Toy Box Coffee Table; Kiddo Toes; A Good Morning Sky

49--Three Gifts Full: Full cup of iced tea; My heart for my family; A Fridge-full of food

50--Three Gifts Smelled: An old perfume, well-loved; Kiddo's kiddo smell; Hubbs neck

51--A Gift Unexpected, Unwanted, Unlikely: Hubbs doing a chore for me; Boxes of sundry weirdness from Great Grandma; Obstacles that grow & challenge

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On A Day Like Today...

Full disclosure:  I've about had it with this week. I don't think I can face another wrench in the works regarding any of my responsibilities. I won't go into the details of the itemized list...it's not so much the details anyway, as it's my attitude regarding them.

And don't think that it's lost on me that the troubles of this week coincide with my firm resolve to thank deeply and daily...or, mostly daily.  It's always the way of the enemy to prey upon our penchant for giving into self but when we become resolve to set self aside in exchange for more of Him, our nemesis bears down hard.

It's always far easier to complain about my injuries--justified & unjustified--than it is to be thankful for them; or even be thankful for the good things surrounding them. I need the soothing salve of true gratitude to set my mind at peace--on things above.

I will thank...I will thank.

27--A Gift Sweet, Sour, Salty: Pumpkin-flavored coffee; Leftover Halloween Gummies; Herbed Zucchini
28--Three Gifts Found In Little People: Hugs & Snuggles at Bedtime; That I get to be her Mama; Gangly legs and snaggle-tooths
29--Three Gifts That Make Me Laugh: The Hubbs; Dr. Who Humor; Grumpy Kiddo Talk
30--Three Gifts Found In Community: Service; Acceptance; Fellowship
31--A Gift In A Plate, Pot, Package:  Pork Chops & Mashed Potatoes; Warm Potato Soup; Recipes from a Friend
32--Three Gifts Hard Giving Thanks For:  The Possibility of No More Children; Uncertainty; Weakness
33--A Gift Worn, White, Whispered: Earrings from a Friend; Clean Sheets of Paper; Sweet Nothings from Hubbs
34--Three Gifts In Today's Work: Caught up laundry; Transformative thinking; Cozy Home
35--A Gift at 8am, 12pm, 8pm: Surprise egg; Laundry success; Hot Bath
36--Three Gifts Blue:  Sweatpants; Sky Behind Clouds; Favorite Eyeliner

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Imperfect Progress

Imperfect progress. It's a term I read recently in this book.  And it's a term I really like because so often, my labor at doing life encapsulates one of these two ideas.

Chevrons...nailed it...
I realized last night at 11:54pm that I had not put pen to page, as it were, to thank and share thanks as I had planned. But too often for me the checked boxes of productivity are idols. I talked about this today at Bible study--a clean house, a well-manicured to-do list, all the little ducks in their ordered little row...these things do not make me pure. These things do not make me successful. These things do not mean that I have it all together.

Jesus said, "it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.

Humans use measuring sticks to quantify the good, the bad, the ugly. But it's not about the rules you're supposed to follow to be considered good or the boxes you're supposed to check to  I am, at my heart, corrupt. I am defiled. My words, the product of a murderous, double-edged, soaked-in-poison weapon. I find my remedy only in trusting Jesus. His Spirit tames my tongue; transforms my heart. That is salvation.

And I don't have my act together no matter how many boxes I check. There's too much imperfect in my progress. But it's progress and it's grace-covered and transformation still happens slowly because of Him. That is sanctification.

So I trudge onward, thanking, raising my ebenezers:

17--A Gift Outside, Inside, Upside Down: Golden & Scarlet Autumn Leaves; Warm; Kiddo hanging off the Couch
18--3 Gifts About Your Parents: Faithful to Each Other; Honest; Creative
19--3 Gifts Held In Hand Today: Kiddo Hand; Coffee; the Word
20--3 Gifts Found In Your Mother: Kind; Prayer Warrior; Tenacious
21--A Gift Picked Up, Put Away, Put Back: House Messes; Laundry; More House Messes
22--3 Gifts About Me: Good Listener; Try To Be A Good Mama; Try To Be A Good Wife
23--3 Gifts Found In His Word:  Grace; Mercy; Discipline
24--A Gift In A Box, A Bag, A Book:  New Smelly-Goodies from B&BW; Fresh Groceries; Solidarity & Resonance
25--3 Gifts Unexpected: Birthday Goodies from Friends; Financial Goal Met; Good Days
26--3 Gifts From Your Childhood:  Rectangle Pyrex Pan Cakes; Sparklers & Roman Candles in Grandma's Back Yard; Sitting In Front Of Grandma's Furnace on Cold Mornings




Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Beauty of Slow

I've been after orderly routine since the end of August and frankly, I've grown quite tired of the chase. For whatever reason, the cleaning and cooking and teaching Bible study and helping the Hubbs and exercising and small group and discipleship class and overseeing homework and making lunches will not conform to the shape I've predetermined would be the most advantageous.

I've been sidelined by bronchitis, beset by carpal tunnel syndrome in the less dominant of my two hands, gripped with quirky tendon issues in my right hand, and benched by shoulder/neck pain. I've been to the doctor more in the last two months than in the past two years.  Hubbs has had some rough patches that felt debilitating; we're contemplating some major life-changing choices that need slow, thoughtful answers...there is much. We are not alone, I know. This quandary is as old as the hills.


And it teaches me, stubborn student, though I be. It teaches me things like, I need to stop chasing perfection; there is no routine that will not be interrupted by life; living daily needs to be about thanks and taking time to love and give grace...and blessed be that my success as a mom, wife, Christ-follower is never dependent upon the state of my laundry...



Moments of snuggles and laughter, conversations about spiritual bankruptcy without Christ and the total forgiveness He offers and having faith in who He is, and loving and giving, breaking bread and fellowship and praying and worship...these are the routine that I should be pursuing; gentle and free; not forced or rushed but organic and fluid.






A song runs through my head; heard it this morning. It goes:

Could've come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could've come like a forest fire
With the power of Heaven in Your flame

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Could've swept in like a tidal wave
Or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things we've scarred

But You came like a winter snow, yes, You did
You were quiet, You were soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Ooh no, Your voice wasn't in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
It was still, it was small, it was hidden

Oh, You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Falling, oh yeah, to the earth below
You came falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Give it a listen here. You won't be sorry. :)




Thanks for this day:

11--Three Gifts Before 9am:  Holy Spirit awakenings to prayer; Sunrise!; Newness & freshness of the morning
12--A Gift in a Sign, a Smile, a Snack:  Good days remind that God is near, always; my Kiddo's bright one when she laughs; Pumpkin spice latte
13--Three Gifts Found in Christ: Forgiveness; Transformation; Companionship
14--Three Gifts Found About In My Home:  Cozy; Clean; Safe
15--Three Gifts Inside A Closet:  Handbags!; Warm coats for cold days; Space to store linens
16--Three Gifts Found in the Dark:  Blessed rest; Quiet stillness; Kiddo snuggles & Hubbs holding me close

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Practicing Joy, Giving Thanks

It's been over a year since I set my foot tentatively on the path of daily thanks. It's been a little less than that since I started sharing the lessons I'm learning on that path. I am but a beginner and there are days that the lessons seem really easy and I still muck it all up. And I have, despite my nifty smart phone-computer connected app, days upon days--nay, months--of blanks for joys unthanked; opportunities for worship skipped over. Maybe it's my propensity for checking boxes on to-do lists, but I often go back and fill in the blanks for days past. I find justification in this, for at the end of the day, is it not still continuing the discipline of thanking--of Eucharisteo? I really don't want it to be about just checking a box but about persevering to see the hand of God in my life & to thank Him for being there, for being faithful despite my ridiculous pinball mind, so easily distracted by things. 


I am inspired by this month. At the end of it, we set aside a whole day for thanks. And as much as it has become a day of turkey and pie, it's original purpose--Thanks-giving--remains. I want to purposefully, intentionally give thanks this month--all months, really, but as an spiritual exercise this year, in an effort to fix my mind on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable--on excellence and what is worthy of praise. I want to place my days and weeks of unthanked joys at the feet of Jesus, as an offering of thanks. 


One full day of November is past. This next is nearly there. Five each day, with an extra on God's day and an additional on the Day of Thanks, with maybe some ramblings and lessons I'm learning, starts now:


*************************************************

1--Three Gifts Inherited: Love of Words; Stubbornness Tenacity; Grandma's Dishes
2--Three Gifts Square: Pack of Fat Quarters for a Rag Rug; Enough Parchment for 2 Triangles; White Overflow Basket
3--A Gift Stacked, Stashed, Stilled: Books upon Books; Nut Meal for Cookies; Raging Hormones calmed with quiet
4--Three Gifts Found in Christ: Forgiveness...Grace, always; Patience w/ my stupidity; Holy Perseverance 
5--Three Gifts Found Close: My Husband; My Daughter; My Friends
6--Three Gifts Found Reflecting: Aging Face in my mirror; Being made into His image, one chipped piece at a time; Light reflecting off yellow trees
7--Three Gifts Fragile: Glass scoops, heirlooms from Grandma; Delicate cookies that turned out decently, made for a friend; Quiet in my man's mind
8--Three Gifts Tasted:  Good chocolate cake; hearty spaghetti; blueberry cheesecake ice cream
9--Three Gifts Flat: Stone in my garden, ready for my baby gardenia; Oklahoma; Organized desktop 
10--Three Gifts Found in Difficult People:  Growth in learning patience; complexities & history that paints & taints personality; recognition of my own fallen nature  


Friday, August 9, 2013

We Really Are All Mad Here...

I top this post with a strongly-worded meme/poster because lately, this echoes the thoughts swirling around my mind and my life. And it's also true.

There are so many places I could go with this but I will keep it personal because I can only share my own personal experience. My husband lives with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and mild obsessive compulsive disorder. His thoughts are often unrelenting, boulders of negativity that cause him to lose (a lot of) sleep. And because of the nature of OCD, he fixates on those thoughts. I say this with absolutely no hyperbole: it can be an exhausting existence.

Let me draw my red line here and now concerning this kind of thing, however. This is not a situationally-based depression caused by sin or by disobedience. It is not caused by a host of bad choices or even one bad choice. This depression is physiological. Yes, events of life have deepened the struggle, but not caused it. Too often, the Church gets it mixed up, misdiagnosing symptom for root cause; because while depression and GAD deeply affect spirituality, the origin is not there.  That's not to say that spiritual growth can't be stunted by these issues. It surely can. But let us call a spade a spade.

As the spouse of someone who lives with these raging internal battles, it can be equally exhausting to be the unending (physical) voice of encouragement. It can be discouraging and lonely to know that there will be days in which my generally cheerful disposition feels like an unwanted guest in my home.

But like many other relationships in life, God uses marriage to sanctify us. In fact, marriage may be the one place where sanctification gets real, right quick. So many times, the Word tells me how to do it:

*Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:2-3)
*Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (Prov. 17:14)
*Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)
*Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.(Eph. 5:24)
 *However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph. 5:33)


Today, I confessed to my husband that I  my relatively good mood gets squelched when he's struggling with anxiety and depression. What a thing to say...I mean, really. "Listen, I know you're having a hard time with your thoughts on a day-to-day basis, but your sadness is really killin' my happy buzz..."

But I am human and I falter. And I get selfish. Now, I'm not saying my needs are unimportant. Of course they aren't. But I find, being married gives me opportunity after opportunity to lay my own needs or rights or preferences aside in favor of my husband. Considering this is the entire foundation of my faith, and the God-calling to a life of faith (Romans 8:28-30), I can't ignore a chance to be transformed (Romans 12:1-2) by the kind of love and sacrifice that is only possible with Jesus. And there's the key. With Jesus. When I start thinking about MYself, MY needs, MY desires, I get lost and frustrated and feel the isolation the most. When I let Jesus love through me, I am focused on Him and doing His work.

The struggles my husband lives with are real and they're permeating. It can be so hard for him to see the light and the joy. I mentioned, today, the idea of posting around our home visual reminders of God's provision and sovereignty and love. I likened it to Hayden's need for visual reminders. If you've been in our home and used the restroom here, you won't soon forget the visual schedules posted for "How To Use The Potty" and "How To Wash Your Hands." It's not that she doesn't know how but being so focused in on something else causes her to operate often, only on muscle memory. And she can forget steps. Those visual schedules are there to help her remember.

So why not post scripture and hymn lyrics and even slightly off-color posters emblazoned with an encouraging phrase and perhaps an expletive or two? The idea is to put in front of his face what his mind has a hard time recalling.

God commanded Israel to do this (with only slightly more holiness than what I have in mind...) when He told them, "these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deut. 6:6-8)

So I start with this meme I've posted. My Love, depression IS a lying bastard. Life WILL be brighter again and whether it's bright or gray, I'll be here, holding your hand no matter what. And God will be here, too, holding us both, giving us exactly what we need for this season.












Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Hoping

Two and a half months without publishing any of the handful of posts begun does not a blogger make.  Rock-steady consistency with projects has always been an area of challenge for me.  I would rather think of this blog, however, more as trying to cultivate habit than a "project." I suppose that means that in cultivating a habit of writing, I should, ya know, write.

In my own defense against myself, I wrote things--didn't post them or polish them or really even finish them...Wait, I'm defending myself against myself, here. I digress.


Tumultuous is a neat word. It tastes and feels like of a swath of rough road; hilly, speedy, twisty. And change brings tumult. Life has been tumultuous in the time I've spent not-posting-yet-dabbling-in-writing. Life has changed in certain aspects for my little family. And we're still all mad here--maybe more so than before. But we've spent the last two and a half months chasing hope. And hope is a funny thing; not so much ha-ha funny but funny-funny.

Studied a passage in scripture recently that I really think encapsulates Hope...the kind that exists despite our nasty circumstances; the God-Hope that He means us to have; the kind that abides among Faith & Love. (And my own circumstances are incomparable to those that other families and people have experienced. I do not ever wish to diminish the severity of what others have gone through.) But I'd like to, for just a second, share what I feel God showed me about Hope.


As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:how I would go with the throng    and lead them in procession to the house of Godwith glad shouts and songs of praise,    a multitude keeping festival.Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation[c] and my God.My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember youfrom the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me,    a prayer to the God of my life.I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.


The psalmist speaks of a downcast soul; of a soul-thirst for God. He is desperate for relief. His cry is for relief--not from his circumstances but from his wait for God. And yet he waits. With Hope.  His Hope comes from knowing how God acted on his behalf earlier in his life. He remembers how it was when he could praise openly, with abandon. At one point, maybe his lowest, he wonders if he has been forgotten. But he ends with a directive to himself (and to me), a reminder to HOPE.

The last tumultuous two and a half months have set me and my little family panting for God. And the bitter pill to swallow with parched throats was perseverance rather than deliverance; transformation instead of the safety of complacence. But isn't that how God begins to transform us? By allowing us to endure experiences that give us the opportunity to remember what He promises in His Word; to remember His goodness despite what we can see in front of us?

Oh, these are easy words to say and easy to write. But to live them, that's the horse of a different color.  But oh, to rest in that Hope! Life is hard. There's no way around that. But I choose to live, Hoping in God, praising Him, believing that will He use my circumstances, whatever they are, for His good & His glory.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Baring All My Weakness


I once called my parents from children's camp to come pick me up, two days into the trip. I felt sad and overwhelmed at being apart from them; alone for the first time--it was the first trip my older sister didn't go on, too, since she had graduated to the camp for the next age level. For a long time, looking back, I chalked it up to emotional immaturity--the same kind that led me to spend too many days in my 4th grade year, calling home to be picked up because I "didn't feel good"; calling my parents in the middle of the night from a slumber party to come and get me; having other moments where being away from those closest to me made me feel pressed with unease, deeply longing for a return to the familiar. 

The Hubbs is on a business trip. Sounds simple enough; except that it's his first and his new company is, shall we say, far more of a presence and a force than his old. Not a bad thing. But his days have been 12 hours long and his nights have been punctuated by networking and dinners and our talk time has gotten pushed back and I've gotten impatient and down and then the being apart becomes more than just physical.

There are so many facets to this and it is too easy to label and oversimplify the obvious. For example: Yes, absence makes the heart grow fonder but when you bind yourself to someone for a lifetime, sometimes absence stretches that bond to the point of pain. Yes, what doesn't kill me will only make me stronger…that means very little and comforts nothing when you sit on your bed, unable to sleep and just ache to feel his arms around you. Yes, there are deeper issues of trust and control swirled in like unwelcome guests at a party--but how do you practice and learn discipline when sorting laundry feels like running a 5K?

Don't get me wrong, I can admit that there are some things I need to work through. But it's a tangled rat's nest of logic and reason and emotion and all of it seems both justified and unwarranted.  God uses the circumstances of my life to teach me what it means to draw my comfort from Him; to know that when I feel weak / am weak, then He is strong. I just wish the lesson would sink in. He keeps holding me to the fire, dross stubbornly clinging to my spirit and I wish it would just burn away so I can rest in His peace and move on.

It's funny how you grow up and one day you're in your thirties--how the hell did that happen? And you still feel like an immature 11-year old at being left alone.  I just feel like a weak fool. But it keeps coming back to my heart, this idea of our weakness and God's strength. His strength is perfected in my weakness. I have a weakness. And the remedy is to cling to Him who is strong; who can make me strong because I just need to be real and open about my weakness.  He who knows my heart knows anyway. Why do I feel like I need to put on a brave face?  

I'm not going to stuff how much I hate being apart from my husband. I'm not going to "try to do better." I will admit that I am weak in this. But I trust that God will make me strong because I just can't do it alone. I cannot make it through the day on my own power. I need just enough strength for each step, Jesus. And You have that in abundance--grace, too. Your grace is abundant for me. It's a good thing, too, because without those, I'm a mess. 

None of this is to suggest that I'm just going to curl up in a ball underneath my bedspread and wallow in self-pity until Hubbs is back. I will still take Kiddo to school and therapy and will still do laundry and dishes and cook--well…let's not go too far. :)  I will spend time with friends. I won't feed my sadness and succumb to waves of despair that drag me out into a sea of debilitating depression. I will stand in the waves in the strength of my Savior and my God. Because His strength is firm and strong and can withstand those waves. 

Having "proper perspective" doesn't always make us FEEL better. Sometimes, it's enough to know that He knows that we feel like crap and will hold us through it. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Blessing

Emotions are untrustworthy things. We feel them based on things that are, sometimes, not even real. How is an emotion based on something make-believe even valid? Why do our minds and bodies respond as though something real just happened when, in actuality, all that's occurred is made-up?

But then there are those cases where there is no imagined situation, but a real one and our emotions startle in response. What then? I still hold that they--the emotions--are not to be trusted. They often blind us from the spirit of what's really going on.

So we're left with the work of dissecting our emotions; looking for causes; considering courses of action; throwing away what is not needed. And it is work. It is hard work. Dissecting emotions while in the centrifuge of feeling them would have to be. You're spinning, quite out of your own control, pushed down by the gravity of discouragement, quite literally, depressed.

In addition to hunting origins and making choices, you must also find a fixed point on which to focus so you don't lose yourself in the dizzying force of the uncontrolled spin. And that fixed point can get lost in the blur. So you keep searching and re-searching. And it's.hard.work.

At the end of an emotional day, aren't we all just looking for the spinning to slow; to stop? And there are times when we, ourselves, create the whirl--as in an imagined event. So stopping it is to remember the truth; the reality. When the carousel begins because of real events already outside of our control, stopping it is not necessarily up to us. And that fixed point becomes even more important.

The best fixed points are always centered right in front of us; the truths we base our lives on; the priorities we set for ourselves.  Working through an emotional rough patch causes me to look diligently for God.

So I went back to those fixed points in the past couple of days; the thanking I'd set out to make my habit; the Words I know Christ meant for my heart on hard days; the getting-up and trudging-through because trudging is still moving--even if it's in my sweat pants and Crocs.

There were some extras--some grace-gifts that I credit to my Father because they were tailored to the person that I am: cleaning out my inbox, blog after blog of those I follow, spoke words of encouragement to the discouraged; practical to-do's for when happiness is hard to find; daily verses with the peace of God powering their message.

And I am blessed. I remembered weighty words from a woman who has fast become my favorite author; a sister in Christ for whom I have so much respect: "I am blessed: I can bless: So this is happiness..."

What am I doing to bless? To encourage? Is it pompous to consider myself an encourager? Is it uncharacteristic? It is if I don't make it my daily...no...my moment-by-moment ministry. Less focus on me and more focus on others; isn't that how we love Jesus best? By loving others?

Jesus, help me to pour out so that You may be glorified. Fill me up when I am empty so that I may pour out again and again and again; never empty, never lacking in love, never overlook an opportunity to bless someone else.


The Thanks That Proves The Blessing
1--Valentines; Roses; Hearts

2--Hayden's Letters; Notes to Live By; The Father's Words
3--Expression; Encouragement; Spiritual Discipline
4--Missing baubles; A pot to cook in; A glass of iced tea
5--My heart stitched to his; nails hammered into walls to hold pictures; woven scarves to keep my neck warm
6--Snow; Clear skies; Deer
7--11:30am: A completed work-out; 2:30pm: A happy girl & a good day at school; 6:30pm: A meal to share w/ my family
8--A lamp broken; a Wii balance board fixed; a giant-sized CareBear thrifted
9--Unexpected grace-gifts: an invitation to teach; a friend who loves me; a snuggle-closer without asking
10--Hayden watches The Fox and the Hound; Kelly laughs at my joke; I laugh at Kelly's joke
11--Productivity; A sense of accomplishment when the job is done; the opportunity to do so
12--Learning to be grown-up; the trials I encounter; opportunities to accept God's grace & give it to others--including myself
13--A clean laundry room; a clean bathroom; an organized fridge
14--In the opportunity to parent; in the opportunity to be a wife; in my reconciled relationship with the Father
15--Losing my insecurity; Finding my stability in Jesus; Making gifts for others' 
16--Cool shade; end-of-the-day accomplishment; a longing for the light
17--Being like Christ; helping others; being obedient
18--Valentine's Day cards; daily planner pages; checks in the mail
19--Moving to Wash; Hayden's school; Attending the Wash campus of our church
20--Breakfast: starts the day; Lunch: getting a midday meal; Dinner: enjoying family time
21--My heart after being washed with the blood of the Lamb; clouds; snow
22--New attitude; keeping company with friends; alone time with my man
23--Tin: cans that hold our food; Glass: clean windows with clear view; Wood: my table
24--A brand new day; a work-out at the gym; a good drop-off
25--My old green sweater; a pair of jeans hemmed to size; a lot of little things that are blessings, besides
26--A time of testing to grow our faith in a place we did not like; A time of waiting to learn to trust in a time that I desperately needed it; A time of anticipation in a place we love
27--Saggy breasts-I still have them; long, vertical c-section scar-it gave passage to my daughter; Death of a Follower-ugly separation from us but beautiful reunification with Jesus
28--The gift of growing up in the Word; Parents committed to each other; Hard lessons learned 




Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sometimes It's Just Hard


Today I read an article about Mr. Rogers. His show was, perhaps, my childhood favorite. The Land of Make-Believe was a land that made a big impact on me--I was an avid pretender for longer than I care to admit. His words, his neighborhood adventures, his teaching moments were ones that were marked by the air of a listener. He knew the words to say and when to say them but even through the TV screen, I remember feeling at ease, almost like he and I were having a sit-down conversation. He ended each show with the words, "You've made this day a special day by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are." It was a statement of weighty affirmation. Lately, I've forgotten the truth in that sentiment. I lack the confidence that Mr. Rogers helped instill in me about liking myself just the way I am. 

It is a struggle sometimes to see yourself the way Christ sees you...loved unconditionally. It is a struggle to live according to your new identity. And sometimes, you listen too closely to the lies whispered in ears too eager to believe them. 

I've hit a rough patch. For half a year now, I've worked diligently at trying to tame my body into submission and bring it to a place of better health and a leaner silhouette. And the progress that I expected and held onto hope would happen over the course of painstaking time, has not and I feel defeated. There have been some changes, yes, but not the significant ones on which I set my sights.  It's funny how something as menial as working out with few results can put you in a slump.

Why do I start to chip away at myself over this? A lifetime of struggle with this particular conundrum may be part of that. Or it could be that current life events find me groping for trust in a sea of murky doubt. Whatever the cause, I feel pressed with the weight of the effects. Like dominoes tumbling down, one after the other, body image only begins it.

I can intellectually call to mind all of the "right" answers for this downturn: read scripture, pray, pray scripture, remember who I am in Christ, praise, give thanks. I am trying but I'll admit it is a half-hearted attempt. Sometimes I feel like I just don't have it in me. And I just want to be held. 

I won't even get into how hard it is to give grace; to give love when I feel empty of it. Funnily enough, I attended a women's conference at church a couple of weekends ago on this very topic. It's ironic that the copious notes I took have been put to so little use between then and now.  I am trying to remember. I am trying to be still and know. But trying is hard and right now, I just want to lay myself down and have it poured over me. 

I write honestly and in the middle of it all. I cannot offer a glorious truth that has washed over me and given me a fresh new day. I cling to the hope that that is to come. Reading over this, it smacks of self-deprecation and a pity-party atmosphere. But I put it out there anyway, because weary overwhelms sometimes and maybe I'm not alone. Perhaps this is you right now, too. I will pray for me and for you. I will trudge through the half-hearted attempts of each "right" answer because trudging is sometimes progress, too. 

Cling to these with me: 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  -Matthew 11:28-30

"Forgiven, beloved, hidden-in-Christ, made in the image of the Giver of life, righteous and holy, reborn and remade, accepted and worthy, this is our new name. This is who we are now."  -Jason Gray

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."  -Jeremiah 31:3

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  -Romans 5:8

There are many, many more. Cling to them. I'll cling to mine. Until next time, peace be with you.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Grace & Snow

It's snowing again here. I love the snow. There is something peaceful and redeeming about the snow. It falls quiet and graceful yet it is profound. Flakes pile high; blanket everything with clean white. Graceful they fall, these flakes, cascading, spiraling, curlicue-ing down from the sky.

It is easy for me to find such beauty in such grace and uninterrupted purpose. Perhaps it explains my love for ballet and other kinds of dance and for those who glide through life and make each action look smooth, tranquil, purposeful.

If I had my pick of characteristics, grace would be the one I would choose for myself. On my own, I am messy. I trip, I spill, I jerk and even fall down. Self-deprecation aside, seriously, I am not graceful. There was the time I tripped up stairs and fell, embedding my Eiffel Tower keychain into my hand. Or one of the countless times I was, ya know, walking and turned my ankle. To number the shirts I've retired due to spills, spatters, and drips would be to number the stars…well, nearly number them, anyway.

I yearn for a smooth, tranquil, purposeful life. I want to be one of those people that makes everything look effortless. And I'm just not.

Snowflakes fall grace-filled but it is their landing that fulfills their ultimate purpose. When they land together, they create thick, powdery heaps, good for snowmen and snow ice cream. When they land on salted walks, they quickly dissipate, melting back into the water that formed their crystal bodies. Of course a snowflake doesn't choose where it lands. It is guided fully by the Sender.

Unlike a snowflake, we choose where we land; guided by the self-same Sender.

To live purposeful, banding together with others who live purposeful, creates something that can be used. To to live purposeful, but let purpose be "melted" by circumstance diminishes the potency of the purpose. And there is always a need to restart.

If I clearly have a choice, why would I choose to trade my purpose for the futility of feeling the circumstance? I struggle with temper and rage. And truly Grace-filled people don't rage--they don't need to. Being rage-filled rather than Spirit-filled violates my purpose; bars me from it.

I had a fight with my husband. And though I had a point that mattered and legitimately hurt feelings, there was no grace about my response. Slamming palms against table tops is never a Grace-filled reply. And if I am not Grace-filled how can I, in turn, offer Grace? In that moment, I was filled with hot-blooded rage--Oh, Father, check my rage!

There is nothing effortless about living life. Sometimes it is nothing but effort. And the kind of grace that has become my idol isn't the kind of grace after which I should be following hard. That kind of grace is a shadow and a pretense. The kind of grace that transforms has already been given me. Why am I not following hard after it? Is it because the idol-grace is one that I make? Am I choosing self-made over the ultimate Grace--that which I cannot make?

Jesus, your Grace is grace that overflows in its abundance. It is perfect and whole and filling and never-ending and all the grace I'll ever need is YOUR Grace. And it is Your Grace that can overcome my rage.

Remind me:

"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." 

The Message is never more successfully shared than when I share it with my life. The me I practice privately is the me that will emerge most commonly in public. And if I don't let the Spirit govern my mind and bring life and peace in private, I cannot meaningfully share that Message with others in public.

So let me be Grace-filled. Let me offer Your Grace, knowing that I am in as desperate need as those with whom I share it.

The flakes fall soft from the sky and I watch them, recollect Your Grace and breath Peace.





Finishing January Thanks:

22--Wrinkled prune-fingers from swimming; smoothed out bedspread over a neatly made bed; clothes folded and put away
23--In Christ, I find unconditional love; never-ending forgiveness; abundant grace
24--New blue dishes on my wish list; clear blue sky today; warm blue sweater
25--A grace borrowed--inspiration to write from other Christ-sisters; A grace found--I once was lost but now am found; a grace inherited--a rich spiritual legacy
26--Peace from God before dawn when dreams frighten me awake; deep and glorious sunshine at noon; a warm and cozy home after dark
27--A mixer that mixes cakes and breads and warm yummies; an oven that bakes them; a fridge & pantry stocked with food.
28--Friends who forgive; friends who make time; friends who pray
29--A song heard about waiting; a soft word breathed to me of lifelong love; sunlight glittering the snow 
30--An old Bible study lesson with new meaning; Exercise with new vigor & purpose; the world through God's eyes when there is Jesus within
31--Reminder of a day off of school on a paper; The love and joy in the person of my friend; laughs in a picture of my child and her friends



Monday, January 21, 2013

Life is Hard; God is Good


Last week was grim. Circumstances I found myself in dealt me a heavy blow; I felt immobilized and sad. Everything I had to do felt like weight pushing my feet into thick, gluey mud. And so I muddled through what couldn't be avoided and I did a lot of reading.

I read in Isaiah: 

"I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things." (45:5-7)

And concerning this verse, I read, 

"God ordains whatsoever comes to pass--in an ultimate sense, all things…God says essentially, 'Look no further, the buck stops here.'…So we see two crucial truths here: first, God is the cause of all things; but second, and just as important, God is the final and only ultimate hope we have in all circumstances…"[1]

And also, 

"…When God allows something, he is acting deliberately--he is decreeing that event. God doesn't just watch bad things happen. What is accidental from our perspective was specifically allowed by God. He who holds all things together must sustain the very molecules of the bullet as it flies toward it's mark."[2]

I read in Deuteronomy: 

"See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand." (32:39)

And concerning it:

"It is abhorrent for some that the Judeo-Christian God of the Scriptures might be the one who wounds and in his sovereignty 'afflicts' some with disabilities. However, if there is hardness on one side, there is profound comfort in the other.  He also proclaims himself the one who heals. It would be one thing if he only afflicted. Such a horrific god would certainly engender fear and submission, but not love and devotion. It would be equally horrific if he were a god who only healed, because that would mean he has no control over the afflictions that assail us."[3]

And this excerpt from a favorite blog:

"...But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life. [Ex. 21:5-6]
The edges of my ear, bore through and blatant.
This murmuring with David:
You do not want sacrifices and offerings.
    But you have made a hole in my ear
    to show that my body and life are Yours.” Ps. 40:6-8
I had been sitting in a Bible Study when my ear had tore straight through and here I was with a right opened ear…Sometimes what you think is an open wound needing to heal--is God opening you up like an ear to hear Him and obey...Stand before that door and be bore through — because this is the only way through...What do I need more than His love and what do I want more than His will and when I am my own master, don’t I have a fool for a master?"


I read and I thought and I prayed for God to connect the dots.  These are hard truths and rather than grapple with them, I began to wrap myself in them. I opened my heart to the inevitability I was reading that God decreed and authored these and other difficult events in my life. I was surprised to find that this brought me not the anger and frustration I'd expected but a sense of understanding and of comfort.

Even while I still hurt, I set in motion the closing of my fingers and wrapping of my heart around the truth that my grim week was sanctioned for a purpose that I couldn't see; may never see. It served a purpose--one that I can believe that He allowed to bring good and glory to Himself and is therefore better than I could ever hope for. And wasn't this part and parcel of my belonging to Christ? If I am to be marked His bondslave, wasn't this part of the process? All of this, I felt, should have weighed me down but yet I discovered peace and not discord in my heart; a lessened sense of drowning in my heartache.

Speaking of aching: when we ache, we want it to stop. When we've ached, we never want to feel it again. In fact, a large portion of our energy is spent trying to build a impenetrable force that ensures that we will never ache again. What was it Shakespeare wrote? "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"  

Aching is never without purpose; practically or spiritually. And when we look hard at only the hurting and not at the learning, we miss it. Easy words, though. But, if the reasons behind my hurting have God-purpose that I can abide in without seeing, then letting go of my lost expectations, desires, dreams becomes the next logical step, albeit an arduous one.

I'm far from having this all figured out. Could I think or say the same if events were worse? If violence and trauma marred the loss I felt? If the loss had been complete? Some stand in that place right now and these words seem garish and ugly; far from comfort and peace. 

At the end of the day, I stake my heart on this because it is all I have: God is good. His ultimate purposes (though I cannot comprehend them) are for good. Giving and taking does not change His goodness, no matter how much I might think it does.  

Learning, always learning. 

For now, though, it is a start to say and to begin to believe: 
"This too is from God's hand. I can go nowhere else."[4]



For these and so much more, I give thanks:
1--My daughter singing along with silly songs; hearing my husband say my name; a new worship song
2--Crisp air outside; warm air and cozy smells inside; fresh baked bread on a plate
3--Grace said over me by a mentor; grace said over me by a teacher; grace offered up by my daughter
4--An old appliance still works like new; a new stone loaf pan; new blue shoes
5--Reading about God in wool and honey and wine and disability; making a new scarf; seeing God's work in my life
6--Two new pens from my lover in my bag; two round wheels of brie in my fridge; amplified love of my Savior in my heart
7--Grace from my husband during my week of grim; grace from my friends when I feel lonely on Friday nights; abundant grace from my Savior each and every day
8--Sunset in a dusky sky; my reflection in the mirror when I'm having a good hair day; shadow of my man sitting next to me
9--Held my daughter's hand while we walked; passed by trees sparkling with ice; sat with Jesus-sisters in Bible study
10--Lemon sour to flavor my tea; chocolate pie eaten in fellowship; bowl of soup at just the right temperature
11--Each new rise of the sun is mercy; yellow dreams a friend shares is mercy; a sunrise on the morning of His rise is mercy
12--The starry skies above, the waiting spring below, my Savior and my God beside
13--I am grateful for being made to understand compassion; for beginning to learn patience; for being who God made me to be
14--Grace for my mistakes; grace in the hard truths; grace in my messed-upness
15--New jacket worn; outgrown clothes given away; lunch shared with a friend
16--Witnessed God's blessing of new life given; witnessed friends' work toward a goal completed; witnessed much progress made by my girl in communicating
17--My husband brings me laughter; hard things and thanks bring me prayer; waiting on God brings me quiet
19--My daughter; my husband; but for the love of God, my salvation
20--The joy in serving; the strength in godly relationships; the beauty of marriage
21--Fluffy flakes float from the sky; the cleaning power of water; the memory of sweet communion




[1] Michael S. Beates, Disability and the Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 37.
[2] Joni Eareckson Tada and Dave Draveky, eds., The Encouragement Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 964
[3] Michael S. Beates, Disability and the Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 32.
[4] Michael S. Beates, Disability and the Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 45.