Sunday, June 25, 2017

May: Break Idols

 In case your keeping track, we are skipping March and April.  
Partly because I don't remember much about those months 
and mostly because I can. 
May was about to leave them in the dust anyway.

When I sat down in January to assign each month's verse, I found myself stuck on May.  I am not so naive to believe I don't have idols, I just wasn't clear on what they were or how to narrow my focus.  I left the card blank, trusting I would have clarity in time.  

May began with a blank card and a full schedule.  I was doing what I love. Pouring myself into people and projects and having a blast.  (You already know I thrive in chaos. It is, quite possibly, my spiritual gift.)

In the midst of all that crazy, I had a brief conversation, like less than 5 minutes, when I verbally committed to step into something I had been wrestling with for about 3 months.  I had known the answer for some time, but this was the first time I was brave enough to speak the words. (We're not talking Africa.  Just an opportunity to serve in a new way.  I'm no Mother Teresa.) The conversation was over as quickly as it started and I was back to my marathon week.  

When the seventh day found me all but curled in the fetal position, eating ice cream from the carton, would be all sorts of accurate to say I was a bit blindsided.  I couldn't place the feelings, I could barely describe them.  Sadness, grief, exhaustion, loneliness, fear,...all possible, none clear.  For the next two days I struggled to find peace with my thoughts.  I battled the feelings and willed myself to shake them off.  In an attempt to clear my mind and take a nap, I picked up a book that had been sitting on my table for 7 months.  Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  That decision would change everything.

Over the course of the next week, that book, a lot of prayer, and some raw conversations with people who love and know me well would begin to strip away emotion to reveal the source of my strife. In pursuit of all the things I had been designed to do, I had worshiped the design over the designer.  As TerKeurst says "I was doing many things with God in mind but not really spending time getting refilled by God and His abundant love at all."

I have been "dating" my husband since we were 15 years old.  For 20 years, he has been my person.  I know him.  I can predict when he will get frustrated with a new situation and what he will order from a menu with impressive accuracy.  I know that he can't sleep in hotels, hates spiders, and knows every word to every Garth Brooks song.  I can tell how his day has been as soon as he answers the phone and I know when he's trying to multitask by the tone of his "uh huh".  But I also know that simply "knowing" him is not enough.

On busy weeks when our schedules run opposite and our days slip by without connecting, the distance comes quick. We can share a house, a bed, and a bank account, but hearts have to follow suit.  Our relationship can't thrive living separate, parallel lives, it requires us to consistently press in. Turns out, the same goes in my relationship with Christ. The best intentions and the greatest of plans leave me empty when they are done without the fullness of Christ.  My calling becomes my idol when I seek it before Him.

"He wants our hearts to be in alignment with Him 
before our hands set about today's assignment for Him."
-Lysa TerKeurst

Remember that quick conversation I had the first week of May?  As I look back, I am more and more certain that God used a perfect storm of vulnerability, exhaustion, and longing to reveal and refine an idol I had been carrying for far too long. After all, He doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.  I believe He has great plans for this coming year and, if I'm honest, I find it both exciting and terrifying. I'm just glad He's taking me along for the ride.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High 
shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty
 [Whose power no foe can withstand]. (Psalm 91:1 AMPC)








Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Feburary: Engage People, Not Screens

"Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." 
1 John 3:18

If being quiet didn't kill me in January, limiting screens was going to give it a go in February.  Who's idea was this anyway??

As I thought through this month, it quickly occurred to me that my use of screens is directly related to my addiction to noise.  This is most obvious when I find myself scrolling through my phone as I listen to the person sitting across from me.  I lie to myself (and everyone else) saying I can do it all, but they know better.  They feel my disconnect.  

Not only have my children spoken the words.....

"She's always on her phone"

but I have begun to feel the disconnect myself. 
I cannot ask of them what I am not will to do myself.

It doesn't matter how boring the playground drama or how little I understand of the Star War theories.  My lack of Minecraft knowledge doesn't excuse my distraction.  Little things become the big things.  If I can't stay present for these simple (though tedious) conversations, they won't trust me to handle the big ones.

They need to know that I am present.  They need to see that they matter.  The world may not revolve around them, but they shouldn't have to chase me around mine.  

So I started putting my phone down.  At the bus stop.  In the kitchen.  When they spoke.
 I just listened.  Looking into their sweet faces, I found a place of connection that I had forgotten.  There eyes said they felt it too.  My actions spoke love.  More than my words ever can.

Suddenly, I noticed the quiet from January creeping back,  A muted phone still makes noise, so it seems.






Sunday, May 7, 2017

January : Embrace Quiet

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him." 
Psalm 62:5

January challenged me to Embrace Quiet.  I'll give you a moment to stifle your laughter.  

Quiet and I don't get along.  My life is not quiet.  My brain is not quiet.  My mouth is certainly not quiet! In college, I avoided the library at all costs.  I studied in the lounge with all the chaos possible.  My grades may or may not have reflected such choices.  

Needless to say, this month tested me. Coming out of Christmas, we enter one of my busiest months at work and two birthdays in our house. I realized quickly that even when my surroundings are finally still, I am anything quiet.  My body can rest, but mind and spirit are always spinning.  Planning, solving, rehashing, digesting.... I don't stop.  Ever.  There are times when the radio is off for most of the day and I drive around completely oblivious.  I can't hear the silence over the noise.

I wish I could say I mastered stillness.  Most days it was just a fleeting attempt.  Deep breaths while I drove,  a quick reciting of this months verse, a choice to limit unnecessary errands or avoid unfruitful conversation.  Even still, I'm going to graciously call it a win.  I still struggle to sit in the silence, but I can say that I found my perspective changed when I gave myself the chance to be still.  When I use the quiet to let God speak, he cuts away the noise that distracts and speaks truth over my lies.  I will most likely forever prefer the noise, but I am learning the value in the quiet.  Beyond that, I was mindful.... and that's something!



Friday, January 13, 2017

Solutions

I don't do resolutions.  I refuse to diet.  In life, I prefer small changes over radical transformations.   I'm not a dreamer. Lofty goals and challenges feel overwhelming to me.  Maybe I'm a pessimist.  Maybe I'm boring.  It's possible I have no drive.

The truth is I avoid the possibility of disappointment at all costs.

So when I stumbled across Ann Voskamp's New Year, New You Solutions, it caught my attention.  This is manageable.  I can do this.  There is no room for disappointment, just growth.




A few years ago, we were attending a party and my daughter noticed a bag of lime tortilla chips.  Her face lit up and she reminded me how we used to eat those chips while watching Say Yes to the Dress after naptime.  I hadn't thought of those quiet afternoons until then, but the memory came quickly.

With big sister at school and her baby brother sleeping, my sweet redhead would finish her rest time and come sneaking out to join me on the couch.  If I'm being honest, I wasn't always excited to see her.  I often mourned the peace of an hour that went by far too fast.  I selfishly resented those tiny hands taking the last of my favorite snack.  I longed for more of me and less of them.

In all of my life, I have never wanted anything more than to be a mother.  In all of my days, no job has required so much of me.  In any given moment, I have never failed so often.  I have given my sinful, selfish, flawed self this these little people and God covered all of that ugly.  In the midst of my humanness, He gave her a memory of love. And I'm so glad he did!



I am sharing this challenge here to hold myself accountable (and to get my father off my back about not writing).  This year won't be perfect, but, like those afternoons on the couch, I pray our memory will be love.  He can do remarkable things in the midst of our ugly.  All that's required is a willing soul.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Overflow of Thanks

I love Thanksgiving.  It marks the beginning of all things "holiday".  I love the lighting of Christmas lights downtown on Wednesday night, the day of family and food on Thursday, and 12 blissful hours of shopping, and just being, with my mom on Friday.  But my favorite part of Thanksgiving has become the counting of blessings.  The focus on gratitude.  The intentional listing of both great and small.  This has become my joy.

The simple act of choosing thanks can transform perspective.  The hardest of thanks can lift a spirit out of the trenches that engulf.  And while I cannot begin to explain this phenomenon as eloquently as Ann Voskamp has in One Thousand Gifts, I have been profoundly changed by it's reach.  For more than five months, I have been marinating in these lessons of gratitude and working to find grace in the hard.  And then yesterday, she spoke straight to my heart.
"If I close these fingers, try to hold, hoard the river - dam up the grace- won't the water grow stagnant? Long the children and I once looked at photos of the dead Dead Sea, and we read how the Jordan River streams into the sea and nothing flows out of the sea and the salt content rises and everything dies.  I think of this.  That fullness grows foul.  Grace is alive, living waters. If I dam up the grace, hold the blessings tight, joy within dies...waters that have no life."
The grace that flows through our blessings is not ours to hoard. That fullness can rot.  In order to live, we must give.  If we stop with thankfulness, we lose our breath.  Like the Dead Sea, we cannot  keep life.  This grace must flow from us.  The blessings stir action.  But here's the catch.  Action is messy.  Service is uncomfortable.  And (gasp) it may not be in your top three spiritual gifts.  Do it anyway!  Rearrange your schedule, buy groceries, change a diaper, go out of your way, wait on someone, get messy.

Opportunities to serve seldom arrive when your fridge is full, your schedule empty, and your patience abounding.  While we are not called to do everything, we are called to do something.  And chances are, if an opportunity falls in your lap, it's yours.  So this Thanksgiving, let's follow gratitude with action.  Let's get a little dirty and slightly uncomfortable.  The reward is bound to outweigh the cost.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Waiting

It's hard to say just how I feel.  After eight months of living in limbo, we are still waiting.  Nearly all of our belongings are in storage, our dog is living with our family, and we have no address to forward our mail.  This is hard.  The waiting.

Even still, I am grateful.  For an affordable furnished apartment.  For a school our daughters love.  For the comforts of "home".  For the time to find our next.  For a God who provides beyond our needs. 

The waiting has left me tired.  The urgency of my prayer is gone.  I cannot will a house to list, so I have thrown my hands up in surrender. 

"Do you know I'm worn out?"  Lately, those are the only words I have to speak.  I have quit asking.  Quit pleading.  Quit hoping.  I just wait.

I know He can.  I believe He will.  But do I matter? 

Maybe this is all part of the waiting.  For a house, for a child, for a spouse, for a job, for a change for healing.  Maybe we all struggle with the asking.  Like our requests fall on deaf ears. 

I believe I am on the verge of another lesson in waiting.  A lesson on the prayer in waiting.  Because if we quit asking, we quit believing. 

Lord, I need to believe.  Give me the words to ask.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jehovah Jira: The God Who Provides

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
 I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

What began as a VBS memory verse has quickly turned into the theme of our summer.  As we walk this road of uncertainty, we cling to the truth that God is with us.  He has gone before us and will provide the strength to finish this adventure. 

Part of that journey is a new school for our girls.  For Brooklyn, this is just a small change.  Kindergarten is a year of new friendships, schedules, and teachers.  For her, the location has changed, but the experience remains the same.  As a third grader, Paige's year is completely different.  New building, teachers, and, most importantly, friends. 

As I drove my nervous girl to school yesterday, we lifted our voices to the Lord and I fought back tears.  I reassured her that she would have friends, that this would be a good year, and that her fears would not become realities.  Pulling into the parking lot, she uttered another "I don't want to go" and I steadied my voice enough to remind her of our verse.  "When your scared, just say Isaiah 41:10 over and over in your head. God will take care of you."  Minutes later I left my brave faced first born standing against the cinder block walls and I prayed that God would not only make good on His promise, but that he would give her friends. 

I would find out that afternoon, that God did us one better.  You see, a friend that Paige had made at church just "happened" to sit down in the desk right next to her.  A little girl who immediately recognized Paige.  A little girl with the last name Black.  In a classroom that is organized alphabetically.  So not only does Paige have a new friend, she has an old friend who sits next to her all day and stands behind her in line.  She is NEVER alone.  And that's true whether or not Reagan is at school.