Friday, December 7, 2012

A New Low

I am sharing a post from my ewight loss blog, "The Fight to Lose" because today's entry is just as much about my spiritual walk as it is my physical one, if not more so. And I think it's worth sharing, giving God the glory in my successes is key to remembering Who is Lord over my life, because I have learned very well, it isn't me! 

From The Fight to Lose:

Today is day 172 of my lifestyle change/ weight loss efforts. It's a big day for me because I actually find myself LOWER on the scale than I did when I lost so much weight two years ago. I think it's likely that this is the lowest I have been since before my baby girl was born at the end of 2001. I can't say that without absolute certainty because I wasn't one to weight myself for a lot of years because the numbers were so disheartening, but I do know it's the lowest I have been since my 40th birthday.


It's exciting for me because I have so much more balance in my weight loss this time. Taking care of my body has its proper place in my life. When I lost the weight at 40, I honestly think I was teetering on the edge of a midlife crisis. There was an obsessiveness to the process and it wasn't completely for the right reasons, I was very hung up on how I looked, and who might be looking at me than I was about my overall health and well-being and feeling good. This time the looking good (or better) is just a bonus, and not a focus.

When I lost all the weight the first time I was obsessively rolling out of bed every morning, every morning, to work out on the Wii Fit. Morning workouts aren't a problem per se, but I remember a conversation with a friend at one point where I told her, "God will always be there, right now I need to focus on me and my body." Um, what? Hello, danger! Danger! It wasn't very long after that that my weight loss efforts completely fell apart and I began the process of putting back on the 50+ lbs that I gained before this current effort to lose weight and get healthy in God's strength and not my own. I put those 50 lbs on in 2 years. I wonder if my friend wasn't praying for my perspective to get right. If she was, I am grateful because I know I walked right up to and contemplated walking down a very dangerous path.

In that season of my life working out became like an addiction. I remember finding myself in a hotel gym at 6 in the morning on a weekend trip with my husband because I HAD to work out, HAD TO. It was compulsive and unhealthy. I was on a marriage retreat weekend and focusing completely on me. That's a person I don't want to be.

Am I proud of this weight loss? Yes, I am. But I refuse to be PRIDEFUL IN this weight loss. I know it's not about anything other than honoring God in my body. I know it's by HIS power that I am able to have balance and make good choices, work out when I can, but never before or in lieu of spending time with the Lord. The only thing I find myself being regimented in these days is spending time with Him. I don't even roll out of bed without prayer, the Word and or journaling to Him. And every day I pray, "Lord help me lose the weight, but help me keep it in the right perspective. And NEVER let me become full of myself in the process."

I have been open and shared a lot about this weight loss/ lifestyle change process because I want to encourage others. With God's help ANYONE can do it. And if you do it with Him, it is a journey worth taking. All glory to Him!

As of Day 172 I have lost 50.9 lbs; I've lost 3" in each of my arms; 9" in my chest; 13" in my waist; 9" in my hips; and 5" in each of my thighs. That's 62 1/2% way to my weight loss goal and a total of 47 inches. That's less than 6 months, only 24 1/2 weeks, and I feel like a new person. It took two things, saying "Yes" to God and allowing Him to be Lord of my body, the food I eat, and how I care for myself, and then taking the first step with my hand in His. It's totally worth it, and again, ALL glory to Him!!!




Saturday, December 1, 2012

Philippians 4:8

Sometimes I wish that the human brain came with a format feature like a computer hard drive or a camera disc.  There are so many days I feel like I would give anything to just create a "clean slate" for my mind.  Too many old habits, hurts and heartaches filter in and sully the current day.  It's like bad "swype."  Misspellings from my past pop up automatically even though I know what's right now.

Sometimes I wish I were a different kind of person.  I wish I wasn't so vocal and open.  I wish I didn't wear my heart on my sleeve and I wasn't so "out there" on so many levels.  Sometimes I wish I could go back and be different especially with the newer people in my life.  I feel like the "new slate" opportunity slipped past me, and I find myself cringing with regret.

Sometimes I wish I could just fade back into anonymity, and that my big mouth personality hadn't already created first, second and fifteenth impressions that I always feel like I am trying to overcome.  And sometimes I wonder if the sense of rejection I feel in most areas of my life is really rejection from others or just an issue in my own heart.

Sometimes I wish I wasn't just a thinker.  I wish I wasn't someone who over-analyzed EVERYTHING. "Did they mean that?"  "What did they mean by that?" "What were they really trying to say?" "What did their tone, body language, countenance indicate?"  I wish I was the kind of person who easily assumed the best, never looked for the hidden agenda and didn't spend hours trying to exercise by jumping... to conclusions.  I wish for innocence and naivete.

Sometimes I wish I could easily assume that people like me, that my confident fear that most people are just tolerating me, or worse suffering through me didn't feel so true.  An unanswered message, an ignored phone call, a cut-short conversation-- they all have the power to send me down a rabbit trail of assumption and rejection that I just wish I didn't feel.

Sometimes I wish past hurts and offenses didn't have such a huge bearing on how I respond and relate to people today.  I wish old hurts and offenses didn't make me suspicious of people that held no part in it.  I wish I didn't assume that most people in authority over me didn't approve of me.  I wish I didn't feel like "I'm sorry," had to constantly be on my lips even when I'm just sorry that I am, and not for anything I have done.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to take it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Am I the only one who finds the practice of that verse to feel like a full time job? Because I swear it is more than a nine to five for me and it is exhausting.  Truth be told I feel like I am failing at it most days, and I worry whether the crack in my thought process runs all the way down deep into my very psyche.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure , whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things. Philippians 4:8

I think this verse is the best hope for the "format" that I am hoping for.  It falls short, because it does not clear the brain, the memory or the emotions, but it is a form of reprogramming that has the hope of the "sometimes I wish's" of life today becoming new experiences tomorrow.  And maybe, just maybe, the other negatives will fade enough with time and experience, that I won't spend so much time struggling under it all. 

What is true? God created me to be the thinker that I am, so there must be some good purpose in it, and if I let Him direct my thoughts, and the way that I process it is meant to be a blessing and not a curse. 

What is noble? I am the adopted daughter of the most High King, chosen and set apart, fully accepted in His Beloved Son. God has plans and purposes for my life that cannot be thwarted and I don't have to be fearful so long as I am under His favor. 

What is right?  God is sovereign, and whatever I have or will face in my life has not and will not touch me apart from his permission.  And whatever another might intend for evil, God intends for good. And He has promised to work all things, ALL THINGS, together for my good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose.  And in the end, he's going to use it to make me more like His Son.

What is pure?  Christ's love for me is pure.  Whatever rejection I may suffer in my life, real or imagined, God does not reject me, He loves me, He gave Himself up for me.  I matter to God. 

What is lovely? I can take my eyes off of these self-loathing thoughts and find truth to meditate upon in God's word.  I can "retrain my brain" to think God thoughts instead of the thoughts of my own corruptible flesh. 

What is admirable? It isn't all about me.  My sole purpose in life is to bring glory to God.  Do I serve others? Yes, but even in that the purpose is to honor and direct others to Him.  And even in my broken state I have the ability to be a vessel of honor if I will am submitted to be used by Him. 

What is excellent?  That these struggles and troubles are "light and momentary" and do not compare to the eternal glory which is to come.  Life is hard, but Christ IS worth it. If my own battles bring one moment of opportunity to minister to someone suffering in a similar way, they are worth it.  God enables us to comfort others with the comfort "which we ourselves have been given."  I have learned fr more about how to love when I have felt unloved.  I have learned far more about how to lead by the times I was mislead.  I have learned the importance to show I care in the many times I felt no one cared for me. 

What is praiseworthy? Christ. No one and nothing else is worthy of our praise.  All that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent-- every bit of it, is rooted in Him.  

Oh what a messed up broken vessel I am, but I belong to the Lord and HE has purpose for me.  Come what may, my victory is assured because it is rooted in Him.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fallout

I have in my hands the proof of my second book.  I wrote and (self) published two books this year. Part of me thinks, "That's quite an accomplishment." But another part of me feels silly and foolish, and struggles through the whole process. I feel exposed, writing a book (or creating any work of art) is like taking a part of your soul and laying it out for all to see, and for any to judge. 

Self-publishing adds to the vulnerability. It means there is no "professional" involved in any step of the process.  I'm good with transparency, but vulnerability is far more challenging for me.  Laying out both my writing skills and my editing skills to the scrutiny of others is hard, not to mention the story and imagination that are behind them.  Ugh.

If I had a friend who wrote a book, I'd like to think I would support them and read it.  Maybe I wouldn't, but I like to think I would.  I know if I did I would be gentle with my criticism.  These two published works are actually my 3rd and 4th endeavor.  My first attempt at writing a book was thrown by the wayside when a trusted friend, someone whose opinion I valued and respected annihilated my with harsh criticism that in my heart of hearts I know was not related to the book itself, but it was a personal attack at me because of comparisons some else made between us and our teaching/ speaking styles.  I tried to be gracious, and dismiss the hurt. I didn't let it affect the friendship, but I never put pen to page again in that book.  It has four chapters that I never got past.

Homecoming, my first published work, has received some criticism for technical problems.  I'm no English professor.  But out of the same critical mouths, the story has been praised and I've been asked for the sequel.  It's there now, but I don't know if they'll read it.  I know there is one particular critic who will have to hear about the book from someone else, because she won't hear about it from me.  I already know that Fallout (the sequel) isn't perfect either, but I think hope the story is still important enough to tell.

I know because of changes we made in our personal lives (specifically our church lives) over the last couple years that there are people in my life who if we hadn't made those changes, would absolutely read the books and support my writing.  Those same people will now refuse  to read them for those exact same choices.  Of course, part of me feels very certain that if we hadn't made those choices, the books might never have been written in the first place. 

Just as much as there are many who fall into that category, there are a solid few who have loved me and supported me through those same decisions and these same new endeavors, and for the few, I am eternally grateful.  But the practical side of me looks and wonders, is "success" hindered by those who still resent me for being gone?  I can only speculate, and what a dangerous place that is to be.

It brings up a lot of hurt about the loss and changes in so many, many relationships.  Even though God has moved me to a better and healthier place for ME (and my family) it doesn't mean all that was lost has magically been replaced.  As I type that it makes me think of Job.  He lost his home and his children and after a long and difficult season he came out on the other side and God "restored to him" a new family and a new home.  But I can't help but wonder, didn't he still grieve and mourn for the family he lost?  Even if life went on, even if life got good again, he had to have missed those that were lost.

It's different. I didn't lose anyone in death, but there was much loss, and relationships died.  As I wonder about those who have been lost to me, I wonder if they ever think of me too.  Then I wonder if they think anything good.  It makes my heart ache.

It's funny (in a completely un-funny way) that the title of this book is "Fallout," because in essence, that's what I find myself faced with yet again, the fallout of decisions-- my own and those of others. 

I hold my book and find it attached to a plethora of emotion and struggle that it is attached to, and I wonder when whole and healed comes, or if it ever comes.  We are the sum total of our lives and experiences (but God), and even Christians have regret.  Even when we stand and proclaim over it scripture "all things together for good," or "what one intended for evil, God intended for good," we are not absolved from wondering what if or what might be.  And we still find ourselves grieving much of the losses along the way, even when God brings beauty from ashes.... or even as we wait in anticipation of the beauty to come while we stand amidst the ashes.

All I can do is take myself back to God's sovereignty.  He knew. He planned. He filtered. He approved.  Nothing happens, nothing touches us apart from His allowance, and even when it hurts or it is hard, He is still good-- all knowing, and understanding what I cannot-- the truth that EVEN this, He will work for my good.  And even harm that others intended for evil, God intends for good, and for His good purpose, which is so much bigger than anything I can even think or imagine-- His ways are not my ways, His thoughts not my thoughts, so high I cannot attain them.

But still the reality, the struggle, the pain and the loss are here. But I wait, and hope in expectation, for the Fallout that is the ashes I find myself standing amidst, are the ones God promises to some how bring beauty from.  I cannot understand, but I wait and trust in the One who promised it. 

In Jesus' name....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

National Adoption Day

When the phone rang at 4 am that February morning, I knew before I picked up the line who was on the other end. "No God, we're not ready!" I cried out into the pitch black room.

It didn't matter whether we were ready or not. "My water broke," she said. There would be no putting things off, our baby was on its way.

I spent the morning rushing to make arrangements, trying to find the cheapest flight I could for Neal and I to make our way to Oklahoma. Jacob, home on a school holiday played nearby while we both waited for news of the baby's birth.

I was just sitting Jacob down to lunch when the call finally came. "It's a boy!" she told me, and even though we had waited to hear, it came as no surprise at all, the Lord had already given me his name after all. Ethan Mitchell was here!

The tired voice on the other end of the line began to share with me the list of complications, medical concerns and deformities. "Do you still want him?" she asked, the fear in her voice unmistakable.

Maybe because God had made it so clear to us that this was His plan was the reason for my lack of hesitation. It certainly wasn't more altruistic than that. Honestly, the problems were concerning, but the certainty of God's providence won out in that moment.

By then we had our flight, "I'll see you tonight," I assured her.

After our plane landed in Oklahoma City we got our rental car and began the long dark drive across the state. I prayed as Neal drove. This baby with all his challenges, I felt no personal connection to him yet. My thinker over feeler personality had a thousand different thoughts, feelings and concerns rushing through her brain.

It was after midnight when we finally arrived at the hospital. Special arrangements had been made and we were allowed onto the maternity ward to meet our son. Birth mom and her mother were watching TV while the baby slept in a bassinet at her feet.

We have our hugs and hellos before they finally placed the sleeping baby in my arms. He was an ugly, ruddy, broken little mess, the kind of baby you struggle to compliment to a new mother. I smiled, "He's beautiful," I lied.

They moved us into another private room down the hall, Neal, Ethan and me.  Ethan continued to slumber through the move, no apparent interest in meeting his parents.  Neal and I, exhausted, each laid down in a hospital bed, Ethan in his bassinet between us.

It wasn't long after I dozed off when I heard what sounded like the pitiful bleat of a wounded little lamb. Neal slept as I rose to pick up the crying baby. That was the moment, I picked him up in my arms and he, in return, captured my heart.

As I held the boy against my chest, soothing his cry, God busied himself with knitting our hearts together. That was the moment I became Ethan's mother.

That miraculous moment would be what carried me through many difficult days, months and years ahead before I was legally recognized as Ethan's mama. In fact it would be another three years, two months plus a day before we were official.

I had no idea in that moment that I fell in love about all the hard times and heartaches we still had to face. But God knew, and He had a plan and purpose so much greater than I could ever have wrapped my mind around that night.

But as much as I could never have comprehended the challenges and difficulties, it did not compare to my inability to fathom the mercy, grace and blessings that were mine to be through the miracle of adoption.

There is so much more to the story of our adoption and all the things God granted and taught, but it all began that fateful night in that little hospital room in Oklahoma where God forever changed my heart and my life.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Not Alone

I've been battling with my blogging here at My Walk of Faith. I've been trying hard to get a blog written-- in large part out of commitment to my advertisers, but not only for that reason. God has been teaching me so much, and I feel like I am in such a good season. Being in the word every morning has such a powerful impact. The fact that study has been on the book of James only intensifies the matter. "Live what you believe is the message," and it has just reinforced my desire to live my life of faith openly and transparently. And yes several times I have tried to (metaphorically) put the pen to paper here, but to no avail.

I have several blogs, one about my family, another about my struggles with weight loss, another where I show some of my creative works-- but each of these feel more like a hobby. The one dearest to my heart is this blog, it feels like a mission. The other blogs are glimpses into aspects of my life, this blog is the exposure of my very soul.

One thing that has happened for me as I've gone through Beth Moore's study on the book of James (which I sadly completed this morning) has been a sense of reassurance. It's been in the mix of the little off hand remarks she made through her video teachings that have ministered deeply to my soul. It's good to know I'm not the only one who struggles with certain issues for those inclined to share and to teach. To know that someone I admire as much as I do her (without actually putting her on any sort of pedestal) makes me feel a little less badly about my own battles and shortcomings. Even the typos in her book make me feel a little better about my own novel and its errors. It's funny how much just the sense of camaraderie can be an encouragement.

I think that's always been my heart behind this blog, to expose a little of the "warts and all" of life to maybe help others realize they aren't the "only ones." They aren't the only ones who struggle with a short temper, or yelling at their kids. They aren't the one who have to battle through bitterness and unforgiveness. They aren't the only ones who struggle with a tongue to sharp or words too caustic at times. They aren't the only ones who struggle with trusting God when things get tough even in the little things. They aren't the only ones who sometimes get off track and lose their way. That's why I write this blog-- in hopes that somebody out there will maybe stumble across it and realize they aren't the only ones.

The other reason I write this blog is because I know Jesus is the answer to all of those things. He is the one who can change us from the inside out, makes us braver, wiser, stronger, better tempered. He is the one who can grow fruit in our lives that all amounts of effort and intention will never accomplish. He is the One who will gives us the faith we need in hard times, and will show up just to prove we were right to trust Him. And He is the One who pours out the grace upon us when we still fumble, falter and fail-- miserably.

This Walk of Faith we Christians are called to walk isn't easy. It's not simple or uncomplicated. It's like a three-legged race with our flesh and our spirit and both members of the "team" are running for two different goal lines. Some days my spirit is weak and I move miserably to the goal line that my flesh is seeking after. Other days my spirit is strong, abiding in Christ, drawing power from the One who came to give me abundant life, and the spirit moves mightily toward its victory. It makes me realize that only one side of the tethered pair can actually "win the race." And it's all about one side forcing the other into absolute submission. They can't both be strong, one has to steal the other of its power if they want to get to their goal.

This blog is about encouraging the spirit side in each and every reader who stops to read what I have to say. I hope that I have accomplished that.

I don't know what the future holds for this blog. I'm praying to God and asking Him for His direction. I know that things are often (usually) seasonal in life, and I just don't know if the season for this blog has come to an end. Part of me really hopes not, but another part of me thinks perhaps it is time for change. I just don't know yet exactly what that means. But as long as I am still here and able to blog, I hope that you know, you are not alone in your struggles-- there are others of us like you who find the Walk of Faith a challenging one. And no matter how hard it gets, Jesus is there to see us through-- in that, find the greatest comfort of all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Growing Grayer

I like to tease my husband about his many, many, many gray hairs. At this point if the "salt" doesn't outweigh the "pepper," the race is certainly neck and neck.  As for me I am still at the age and stage that I can stay ahead of my grays with a pluck here and a pluck there.  Sometimes I tease about being able to trace back a sly new silver visitor to a specific action of one or another of my children.

But the Bible says that "gray hair is a crown of glory, obtained by living a righteous life." (Proverbs 16:31)  I often think of "gray hair" as a sign of wisdom.  Granted this is metaphorical, for there are certainly many who have many gray hairs on their head but no wisdom to show for it.  But I have been thinking a lot about "being gray" and being wise.

I have spent as many of my 42 plus years as I can remember as a completely "black and white" person, a rule follower to the core.  I have always been a firm believer in there being an absolute "right," and the "wrongs being far broader and defined by it. 

The truth is, my rule follower tendencies haven't really changed, and my belief in absolute truth remains strong, but what HAS changed in me is my certainty that I actually know what that truth is.  More importantly I have relaxed considerably in my NEED to be right-- my NEED to convince others to see things MY way, and the NEED to win the argument in order to be at peace with myself.

I've decided that "at peace with me" does not compare to what it is to be (and feel) at peace with God-- a large part of which comes from being at peace with others. What I am NOT talking about here is compromise, I am not talking about sullying biblical truth with worldly values or ways.  I'm not talking about taking a soft stand on obedience to God's word, but what I AM talking about is realizing that the only obedience I can truly concern myself with is my own.  As for those around me, I have to love them, even in their disobedience.

That doesn't mean I shy away from speaking the truth, or rather The Truth, but it means doing so with a humility that understands that I, like very other Christian on the planet will NOT get it all right.  Perhaps that's why the Bible tells us to to "work out" our salvation "with fear and trembling."

It occurs to me that the unbelievers, moreover those who are actually hostile toward the gospel like to attack the differences in Christian doctrine, (safe for example, post- or pre-trib rapture of the church in the last days). They pick at the details and debate what they interpret as our confusion-- raising hands, not raising hands, dancing or no dancing, silly little non-essentials that are an excuse to disregard the giant critical unchangeable truth we all know, salvation comes in Christ alone.

St. Francis of Assisi said "Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary use words."  I wonder if better advice wouldn't be, "If you can't speak in love, don't speak for God." (1 Corinthians 13) It's a fine line, because the message of the gospel itself IS offensive, but we need to figure out how to let the message be the only offensive thing, and as the messenger not be offensive at all.

It's all very gray, and like the fog that it feels to be, I find myself wandering a little aimlessly in it.  I want desperately to get it right, but I am realizing all the more, that I probably never will completely.  An excuse not to try? No, but a humility realizing I need God's help desperately to muddle through. 

I have regret for the many in my life I have offended or put off in the need to be SEEN or understood as right.  I am realizing that even if and when I might actually be on point, that the love for the listener has to trump their instruction or correction.  Because if I am sharing it out of that kind of love, it doesn't have any value anyway, because without the love, they'll never receive it. 

As a follower of Christ, I have this beautiful gift, the message of the gospel that I have been commanded to bring forth to a dying world, but His intention has always been that I do it wrapped up in love, kindness, humility, out of a sincerity of heart that I cannot even muster for myself, that I can only accomplish by His grace and the power of His Holy Spirit. 

I am rambling, I suppose-- but I am just realizing that what God spoke to my heart a couple of months ago indeed needs to remain my focus-- "Love and Worship." They are the marks I must bear in order to bring Christ to the world.  The Truth isn't gray, but I must be grayer-- wiser in every way, thinking not highly of myself (or my perspective) but loving people just as Christ does. By Your Spirit, Lord, by Your Spirit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Living Unsatisfied

I was having a conversation with a new friend this morning. I don't know her well, but I can see that she is thin and beautiful. I know as a runner she is athletic and strong. None of these are the things that are what make me glad to be getting to know her, but these are the observations that are related to what I want to share.
As we were talking her toddler was there with us, and amidst some silliness and play amidst the three of us, her child pinched at her middle. In the moment she made herself vulnerable and looked at me and made comment about "of course that was where the child grabbed." Experience told me she meant on her "fat." 
Now I have to be honest, when I look at this woman, I envy her condition, she is slim (because she works at it), and it was as I was in the shower tonight as I looked down on my own naked rolls, that I thought about our previous interaction.
Now most of us has had the obnoxious experience of hearing a thin person call themselves fat (but not truly wanting to improve, rather just seeking a compliment), but that was NOT what my friend was doing. Her child grabbed her in a place where she sincerely felt "less" (or more, perhaps) than what she considers ideal.  She, it seemed to me, was unsatisfied.
Please do not confuse unsatisfied with dissatisfied, because what occurred to me tonight is that the two words are NOT synonymous. I did not sense the lack of contentment in my friend that comes with DISsatisfaction.
Being dissatisfied has a lot to do with being unhappy, having no joy or contentment ones circumstance or state of being. Whereas being UNsatisfied speaks more to of an unfinished accomplishment, an aspiration not yet achieved.
As I considered this tonight (yes, naked in the shower) it occurred to me that living unsatisfied is a very good place to be.
It is living unsatisfied that keeps a victorious dieter continuing to make good choices in diet and exercise even after one has reached a weight loss goal. And in the far more critical sense of a person's spiritual life, their walk of faith, if you will, it is this "living unsatisfied" that keeps a Christian "pressing on on the upward call of Jesus Christ."
As dangerous as living DISsatisfied in the Christian walk can be, I think living SATISFIED is the most dangerous risk of all.
Satisfied does not equal contentment. Contentment is finding joy and peace where you are, but satisfaction is losing the desire to ever move any further. That is never God's will for us. The Bible says that God is working on us continually "until the day of Christ." Living unsatisfied is signing on and affirming "Yes Lord, continue working on and growing me."
It's living unsatisfied that keeps seeking God, heart, soul, mind and strength. It's what keeps us praying, learning, reading the Word, going to church.
The unsatisfied life is the life that's really living. The unsatisfied life is the life I want to live, seeking God, wanting more, more of Him and more of what He has for me.
Live unsatisfied!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pigpen

Going to reveal a little truth about myself.  Shocking, I know.  I never do that! (I speak sarcasm fluently.)

Anyway, here goes.  Do you remember the little Pigpen character from the Peanuts comics?  He's the one who wanders around with the little dust cloud following him.  Everywhere he goes, that dingy (din-jee) cloud is his constant companion.  Most days, I feel a lot like him.  I'm walking around in the midst of my own dark little cloud that I can't seem to shake.  No, mine isn't dirt, in the physical sense, but it's spiritual filth, and it is the constant cloud of rejection. 

Almost anywhere I go in my life, I walk in with the anticipation of rejection.  There is a very small list of people in my life who I truly and completely feel loved AND ACCEPTED by.  The caps are to indicate that it's not just the love, because there are actually a lot of people who I think love me-- or I at least think they think they love me, which for me is almost as good, but very few who I feel like ACCEPT me as I am.  I could probably count on one hand (with 2 or 3 fingers to spare) the friends in my life who I really feel genuinely like AND ACCEPT me just as I am.  With most people I sense more tolerance than acceptance, and it hurts.

I'm not telling you this (to anyone who might actually be reading it) to feel sorry for me, I'm just sharing a struggle.  See, the way I see it, too often as Christians, we aren't willing to be open and honest about the things we struggle with, and rather than hoping for the victory that comes by having things in the open where Light can shine on them, we keep them hidden behind a happy face where they fester and rot, and sometimes the struggle gets stronger than our faith to be free of it.

I think I have felt this way for a long time.  Maybe I have always felt this way-- a sense of guilt, of not being good enough, a fear of not measuring up.  You might guess it's birthed out of my own dislike for myself, but that isn't true, I do like myself.  Or should I ACCEPT myself, even with my faults. No, that's not the same thing as accepting my faults, I actually strive to be a better person all the time, but it is just to say, I am OK with who I am-- I just really don't believe that most other people are.

Sometimes this sense of rejection manifests itself as a sense of loneliness.  That has definitely been the case in the last year with the magnitude of loss I have experienced in relationship. Thankfully it isn't something I experience in my own home.  I really do believe my husband (mostly) accepts me for who I am, even though I know it drives him a little crazy at times.  And I do not struggle with God's love and ACCEPTANCE.  I know He meant it when He said that "He who began a good work in me will complete until the day of Christ."  I know he is infinitely patient with me, and that I'm a work in process He will not give up on until I am the Masterpiece He intended for me to be. 

That root of confidence in God's love and ACCEPTANCE of me (as a person, not what I do, but who I am) and the love and ACCEPTANCE of my husband helps me get through the constant pain I feel from not really feeling like I am wanted/ loved/ ACCEPTED/ belonging in any other area of my life.  It's a lot like riding in waves of surf on the beach.  There is no logical rhythm to the highs and lows I experience.  Many days I manage fine, the "tide is out" and the cloud of rejection I feel is at a minimum.  Other times it will come up unexpectedly and knock be down into the sand, I'll feel beaten and bruised.  And other times it sucks me out where the sense of rejection is deep.  I have a very hard time getting my bearings there and I cannot often swim back to shore without help. God usually has to pull His lifeguard move when things get that dark, but thankfully He is faithful not to leave me in that place. 

I share all this to say that being a believer in Christ doesn't make us immune to the emotional difficulties of life.  So often we look around at one another and think everyone else has it so together, and we alone have our secret struggles.  The truth is, everybody has a little cloud in their life, yes some people may truly have a better handle on it, but none of us is without a battle.  But better yet, whatever battle you might be facing, you can be confident of this, if you are a follower of Christ, God won't leave you there.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Crisis of Faith

Shame on any of us who would dare to speak as though we have God all figured out, or act as though we can anticipate Him. I know I myself have had times where I have walked in this kind of confidence. I think it's large groups of people walking around in exactly this kind of confidence that might be dividing the church.

The Bible says that God's ways are not our ways, and His knowledge is so high that we can never attain it.  And yet how many of us dare to speak for Him?  As if somehow we know exactly what He is thinking, or exactly how He will respond to us, or worse, to someone else.

I come from a somewhat charismatic background, though the "Holy Spirit driven" atmosphere that I started my walk of faith in greatly waned over the years.  God has moved us somewhere now where I see much less of the "charismatic" than what I grew in, and yet, where we are now is solidly and completely scripturally sound. Or at least, I think it is... And yet I know many who are much farther down the "charismatic scale, and they are in (seemingly) good strong churches where God seems to be moving as well. 

Someone grabbed hold of my husband's arm last night and "read" him according to his personal Holy Spirit meter, "You're pretty light," he said, as if he carried some sort of spiritual authority.  The bible says out words are to "build up" and my thought was that his comment was completely contrary to that, so is that the marker of "not of God" that I saw?  He told us story after story before that about a "deliverance ministry" of sorts, casting demons off people. I know that is possible-- Jesus did it, and before He ascended He told the disciples they would do "greater works" than He with the help of the Holy Spirit. So is it possible for those things to happen?  Yes. But through out our whole conversation the word that I heard most out of his mouth, was "I"... I, I, I....

Finally I said, "you know it's not you, right?"  He said, "The Bible says I will have power."  I said, "The Bible says apart from Christ you can do NOTHING."  People thinking that God using them makes them special, it's dangerous ground.  If they begin to believe the power is their own? To prophesy, to heal, even to minister... I don't want that from any MAN (or woman) I want it only from the Lord.  And yes God uses broken (sinful, prideful, WRONG) vessels, but there has to be room for Him to pour through, and that's not possible when someone is full of SELF.

I have times in my life where I know God has spoken to me-- promises made, directions given, encouragement bestowed-- and I think of the scripture that says "Wisdom is justified by her children."  A secular equivalent might be "The proof is in the pudding."  I can tell you that God promised me a daughter long before she came, but if she never came, then he didn't promise. But if I can point to her and show you she's here, can I claim I truly heard Him, or would you call it a coincidence.

"The Church."  Jesus wasn't referring to a small group of people who met in a single building, but that's how we have redefined it. "My church..." and we are speaking of the small congregation of people coming together under one roof.  But Jesus was talking about all who followed Him.  Even pastors can become guilty of felling competitive instead of camaraderie.  They won't partner or interact with another body outside their denomination or even outside their walls for fear of losing some tithing congregant to another "church."  (They're not all like that, but some are.)

There is such a wide berth of belief and practice-- The extreme charismatic of a proclaimed "flow" all the way to the driest most ritualistic of beliefs.  The gift of tongues- some believe, some do not.  They either exist or they don't. Prophesy? Some walk around spouting it at will, can they actually do that? (Since it has to be of God to be real, and not of themselves) to those who believe the "time of prophecy" was only in the early days of the church. But why would God do that?  Would He do that?

I am asking.  I am asking for wisdom.  The Bible says if I lack wisdom I should ask of God because He GIVES it liberally and without finding fault.  What does that look like?  How do I know it's him.  Oh yes, wisdom is justified by her children.  But how do I know when I am listening?  Does He speak?  The Bible says He is the Good Shepherd and His sheep know his voice.  He must have a voice.

This I know: Christ and Him crucified. My "crisis" of faith is not in my salvation.  I have absolutely no doubt who Jesus was, or what He did, and what it means for me.  But I feel like, in this moment, it's the only thing I am absolutely positive and certain of.  That and the times in the past that He has given me wisdom and direction, and it has already proven true.  Though some might call it coincidence.

That basis of faith is so simple, but nothing else about following Christ is uncomplicated. If I am this overwhelmed and caught in the cross hairs of the diversified practices and beliefs of "churches" then how much more confusing must it be for the unbeliever?

I feel like my foundation is being shaken.  I feel like I really don't know anything.  And the many or any who might want to come along and "tell me" what they know to try to bring me the clarity they feel so confident they have, and are so certain they can offer me... I want to say, "Show me where the Word of God says that." I have had seasons where I felt like I knew where God wanted me, or I at least I knew I was on the right track.  Right now I have no sense of that at all.

Am I at the right church?  I feel like if I told them some of my story they would think me crazy, dangerous even.  But when I think of them I think of their love.  The Bible says that His people will be known by their love.  That's good.  But is that God reminding me of that scripture?  Is He "speaking" to me?   I don't have a sense of belonging there, and yet, it is a good place to be.

I look at my life and I feel like poor decisions up to this point have stuck me in a very precarious position, and I can look back and see things I wish I would have done differently.  But if I had taken some other path, the good things in my life would be different too, right?  So can it have been a mistake?  I don't know.  I DON'T KNOW!!!

Love and worship... love and worship... it's the last thing I THINK I felt confident I heard from the Lord.  It comes back to that.  But did I hear Him? Can I?  I don't know, because right now, He seems quiet. But did He ever speak.  The proof has been in the pudding at times, but in one "church" may would see it, and others might question my sanity... I feel a little crazy, I might side with those.

Christ and Him crucified.  It's like looking into a huge mosaic of broken pieces of misguided, well-intended, confused and confident people, beliefs and practices, and all I can make out of the picture is a cross in the middle.  The Cross of Christ, it is the only anchor to which I feel I can hold to with confidence.

Lord speak, Your servant is listening desperately. But will You?  Do You?  I do not know.  And yet you have... or was it coincidence?

For I determined to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2


Monday, September 17, 2012

Bitter Dandelions

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I was constantly in conversation with others inside my own head.  I would imagine the things they would say to me, and I would formulate the perfect replies, stinging and direct.  You see these conversations were never happy conversations, but rather they were rooted in hurts and offenses where I felt in my mind I had received no justice.

I remember the summer before this past when I was actually overwhelmed with them.  When at Bible study we scribbled down our private prayer requests for someone else to pray for over our summer together, mine may have seemed strange.  "Please pray for the imaginary conversations going on inside my head." My friend, however, understood and knew I was not fighting and kind of mental disease, but rather a spiritual one.  For it was in those imagined conversations in my mind that I was pouring Miracle Grow on seeds of bitterness.

Sadly those relationships were never righted, though not all fault is mine.  And I found that even after I left the relationships where I was, in fact, fostering bitterness, it took a very long time just to get even a little progress away from the bitterness that had become full grown in my heart.  Then one day I was driving along and I suddenly realized, I hadn't had a single thought of bitterness about those relationships in several days.  It may not seem like much, but when you're having them all day long for months, maybe even years, a few days can seem like a very long time.  I realized that in moving away from the relationships that had been so hard, I had actually found freedom.  I stopped watering the root, and the bitterness began to die.

Today I was taking a worship walk with the Lord.  It's something I am trying to incorporate  to tend to the health of mind, body and spirit.  I was talking to the Lord, listening to a worship song, praying for the people that He brought to my mind. And then suddenly a thought passed through my mind, as if it had drifted in on the wind.  An awkward conversation from days before that made me feel defensive, and suddenly I began to think about the follow up conversation I'd like to have. I imagined both parts, my own, and the other person, even though I had no certainty 6that any of my embarrassment or discomfort was rooted in any truth.  But I felt my mind began to judge the other to make me feel better about myself.


Thankfully, I recognized quickly this seed that had drifted into my mind.  Like dandelion dust, it drifted in without my intent or expectation, and it distracted me from thinking on the many good things there are to consider and rather creating in my own mind a scenario that might not even exist.  Like the large shadow of a small child, the light was obscured in such a way that it looked like something much bigger than the reality. Or perhaps it wasn't even a child causing the shadow, perhaps it was a complete illusion from nothing alive or true at all.


It occurred to me then that that is exactly how bitterness grows.  No one plants that seed in their own heart with intent.  Something in the wind drifts it towards us, and without any knowledge of it all, it begins to take root. The thing about a dandelion is this, it can look beautiful, even harmless in its growing form. A harmless little yellow flower, one might even find beauty in it, like we find justification in our offense.  But as it grows, it changes.  The yellow flower turns to the white puff children are so fond of picking from the grass to blow upon it.  A child has no idea of the havoc he may wreak as he blows on this kind of weed, but when Satan blows upon the similar weed within our hearts, he knows exactly the havoc he will wreak in our hearts and lives if he can just get the weed of bitterness to spread.


I looked up how you get rid of dandelions, and there is no way around it, the weeds have to be destroyed, and the sooner the better.  So is the same truth for the bitter seeds that drift into our hearts.  We have to pluck them out and destroy them swiftly.  We cannot allow them to grow or spread. I know this to be true, not from a conversation in my mind, but a word of Truth being spoken to my heart.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God 
and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Hebrews 12:15


Monday, September 10, 2012

Like Crickets

There is a LOT going on around here, and it's pretty stressful stuff. The current state of circumstances can at times be overwhelming, and they lead me on a rather unhealthy trail down the road of "if only" and "what if." When I go there I find myself stuck at the "mountain of regret."

If only I had stayed in school, furthered my education, taken life more seriously-- then now perhaps we wouldn't be in the precarious position we're in now.  I've thought several times over about how much I'd like to travel back in time and slap around 19-year-old me.  I'd give her speeches similar to the ones I have given to many young people in my own life, including my own kids. They are speeches I am pretty sure I heard back in the day and completely disregarded. 

The other night I was wallowing in these kinds of thoughts, not only full of regret about the past, but running into doubt and hopelessness about the future.  I don't feel optimistic very much lately about big chunks of life like jobs and provision.  As I sat on my couch, my husband beside me oblivious to and watching a ball game, I got more and more anxious until I felt like I just couldn't even breathe anymore. So I decided to go for a walk and talk to the Lord.

As I began to walk down the street of my neighborhood, two little crickets jumped before my feet.  Roaches and spiders don't miff me, but I can't stand a cricket, and out neighborhood is FULL of them.  I don't think it's a coincidence that they fall in the same order of insects as the locusts God sent on Egypt as a plague.  Jiminy or not, I am just not a fan of any cricket not drawn in a cartoon. (I don't want to find roaches in my house, but on the block, I'd smash it without thinking, and spiders don't bother me at all, but I digress...)

You can't step on a cricket with the ease you can smoosh a spider or a roach, they're quick and in constant motion, one might look like a dancing fool trying to step on one.  As I continued down the street, I realized how many of them I could hear.  There is no silence in my neighborhood, there is a huge chorus of these critters calling out to one another from all over everywhere, even when you can't put your finger on a single one.  And nothing is worse than one has your attention, and you can't track him down to save your life.

I've had that happen before, laying in bed at night trying to go to sleep, and a cricket has made his way into the house, and there is nothing muffled about his sound.  I remember one night in particular when there was a loud cricket in our master bathroom and it kept Neal and I both lying awake in our bed.  It was somewhere in the bathroom and frustration and sleeplessness kept us both up and down most of the night trying to track the little booger down.  We could hear him, but we could not see him, and whenever we went into the bathroom and turned on the light he would silence his cries.

As I was walking down the street Friday night, it occurred to me that the thoughts and worries I'd been nursing in the house were a lot like crickets.  As I gave them my attention, there was nothing else I could hear.  They overwhelmed me to the point of distraction, just like the crickets did.  They robbed me of peace and rest just like the little villain in the bathroom that night. 

As I walked I put my focus on the Lord and I began to pray.  I talked to Him about my worries and concerns, and as I prayed, different scriptures and verses were coming to mind-- promises from God about the care of His people.  Suddenly I realized that the sound of the actual crickets had lost my attention, to the point they seemed to not be there anymore, but as soon as I let my focus drift their way again, they were all I could here.  I felt the Lord speak to my heart, "just like your worries." When I focus on them, they too are all I can hear.  When I focus on Him, however, the disruptive cries they make drift into the background. It was a powerful revelation.

The Holy Spirit brought to my memory many of the promises of God, about His care and kindness for those who love Him.  I was grateful for the wealth of scripture hidden in my heart that He was able to draw to the surface to reassure me that God is greater than my circumstance. It makes it easier to know I've heard Him when God is speaking His own words to my heart. 

As I continued walking through the dark street I thought of a song that I used to hold to a lot when we went through the most dificult days of Ethan's adoption and thought we might actually lose him.  It was like an anthem during that scary season of my life.  And I felt compelled to focus on it again.  "I will bless the Lord forever," it begins, "I will trust Him at all times.  I will not be moved, I'll say of the Lord, You are my shield, my strength, my portion, delivered, my shelter, strong tower, my very present help in time of need."  They are not just lyrics to a song, but they are words of Truth from the Bible, and I began to play it on my phone as I walked on.  I noticed something as I turned it up. As I put my focus on it, it was as though all the crickets in the street were completely silent, I could hear nothing but the song.

Now the crickets were NOT silent mind you.  If I put my focus on them, I could hear them at any moment.  That's the way it is walking in dark times.  But when I fixed my eyes, or rather my ears on the "voice of truth" from the song, it drowned them out.  Like the little villian in the shower, flipping on the light silenced him.  Turning on the Light against the fears, anxieties and lies chirping at us will silence them as well, and if they cannot be silenced completely, I know if I right my focus, I can at least drown out their sounds.

What's chirping at you?  Where do you need to right your focus? Here's the song of Truth that helped me right my focus, I hope it encourages you as well.






Friday, September 7, 2012

I am trying

I have been trying so hard.

I have been trying so hard to focus and draw near to the Lord.  I've woken up some days, and instead of thinking about Him first thing the way I have for so long, I find myself halfway through my morning or even into my day and I realize I haven't thought about Him.  So I have tried, to focus, reach out, draw near, believing He would keep His promise and draw right back.

It has been a point of distraction, feeling like I need to go deeper, and feeling instead like I'm drifting.  It's like trying to swim into the ocean.  I want to go out past the wave where the water is deep, but I can't get past where they are crashing on the shore, or worse, they toss me back and knock me down hard.  Not only am I not making any progress but I even feel worse for the wear. 

But I have not given up.

Love & worship - I know that's the last thing I heard the Lord say. 

Worship is hard for me.  I try to focus and there are lists and questions running through my mind, or worse I get completely distracted by the sound of my own voice.  I long to look at the Lord, to seek His face (and not His hand) and I feel like I spiritual ADD. 

Love is hard for me.  I am easily frustrated.  I get annoyed by the masses, and all the individuals who are counted among them.  I get bugged by the guy who is driving too slow, or the woman who is standing too close.  I don't like sassy children and even my own irritate me when they demand too much of my time.  Sometimes I feel like there might not be a heart inside me at all.

I do love God, I love my Savior, I am grateful for what He has done for me, and yet constantly I forget.  I live my life like fool. 

I am trying to practice the "conscious presence of God."  He's here, with me now, even as I am typing.  He's with me when I'm stuck in traffic, running late, arguing with a loved one, losing my temper with my children- in every circumstance He is with me, present, VERY PRESENT. And yet I constantly forget.  No matter how much I don't want to or how desperately I try to keep my heart and mind set, I become completely distracted.

Bitterness.

Hurt.

Anxiety.

Confusion.

Lack of awareness.

These are the shadows that circle about trying to obscure the Light I am so desperately seeking.

These demons do not consume me, they are not where I lie my days, but they feel like they are ever chasing me, trying to bring me down.  Running from them is exhausting, even when I am trying so hard to run into the arms of my loving Father-- the One who I know is there, who I know loves me, of whose promises I am aware. 

Sometimes it feels like I run two steps further and He takes three steps back.  I know it's not teasing but rather stretching me to see I can go further than I know, but I so desperately long to fall into His embrace, and have Him whisper gently that everything is going to be ok.  Or better, that he would lift me up and move me into the place of security and peace.  I just want things to be better.

I know I'm not alone.  So many of us are struggling financially, people are out of work, families are falling apart, people are dying. How I long for God to just scoop us all up and take us home.  I want to live the life He intended to give us-- no sickness, no darkness, so sadness or death.  But it's not time.  It's not now.  But I wish He would move, move something, maybe move anything.  I wish He would change a circumstance, or change many circumstances, but that's not His concern.  He's more concerned with changing me.  Do you know how that feels? 

All I can do is keep going. Remember what He said, "Love and worship."  I don't fully understand what that means, but I know I haven't accomplished it, so I can't quit.  I am determined that I'm not going to settle for seeking to see God move.  I have to press on until I see God, because only then will any of this even make sense. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Holy Anticipation

Almost a year ago our family came to a new church. Not long after our arrival we heard about a missions trip that a team from there would be taking. There was a stir in my heart but I kept it quietly to myself.
It was just a few weeks later that I found out Jacob had been doing research at school. God had stirred a desire in his heart. He knew after graduation he wanted to take a missions trip. It was confirmation of the sense I had that day in our new church. Jake was supposed to go.
He wasn't convinced that Guatemala was the place or that CrossPointe was the team, but he considered it. Slowly God directed and the pathway was clear, he soon agreed, Guatemala WAS the place and CrossPointe was the team.
Support was raised quickly, months ahead of schedule, half the goal in a single day. God makes a way.
Weekly team meetings have lined the path through the summer to the day. Tomorrow is that day.  I have so much peace and his giddy excitement today was contagious. He's excited, I'm excited for him. I can feel God moving, in his heart, in his life.
A few days ago Neal said he could see his son as a missionary, knowing his attachment to his children, I couldn't help but wonder, was it Neal speaking or the Holy Spirit?
Today my husband and I stood with others before our church, laying hands and praying for our loved ones, commissioning them. Later the pastor and team leader was speaking with Neal in the parking lot. He said, "I can see Jake has a heart for missions." I wondered again, who was speaking, this man or the Holy Spirit?
I wonder, this peace, this willingness to send him out, this faith I feel, has the Lord given me the mother's heart of a missionary?
I don't know. I wonder. But I have this sense, this Holy Anticipation that God is going to do something great in my son in these next 8 days, maybe even life changing. I'm starting to miss him a little already, even as he's asleep in his room. I already find myself anxious to hear the stories that have not even been written yet.
Vaya con Dios, they might say in Guatemala. Go with God, my son. My prayers go with you.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Spinning Plates

Have you ever seen that novelty act where a person spins plates on top of long sticks? Typically there is a line of at least 4 or 5 sticks and the performer sets a plate atop one at a time and as they all get to spinning the performer begins running between them in a harried manner to keep them all moving. Turning the plate at one end and the stick and plate at the far end will begin to falter and tip, he'll run to rescue it and not another moment passes before trouble rises for another stick and plate.

Sometimes that picture seems like a perfect metaphor for life. I know I have felt an awful lot like that many times, especially lately. I've only ever seen two endings to that kind of show. The performer either finally removes each plate from its perch, usually with a sweeping bow, or some or all of the plates and sticks come crashing down. And I notice whichever the end result may be, the "performer" is tired and worn.

I've been "spinning plates" lately. I'm working hard at dieting and losing weight, I want to be having a great solid and consistent devotional and prayer time, I'm trying to be a good wife, mom, homemaker, spending time with my husband, each of my kids, keeping house, cooking meals, doing a good job at work, oh and those writing aspirations which include my books and my blogs... spin, spin, spin.

I'm exhausted, and plates are tipping and crashing all around.

I feel like the Lord has been talking about needing to focus. Think of it, if there was only one stick, one plate, a person could stand there and keep it spinning for quite a long time, and with not much effort at all.

One plate, one stick. And I feel like the Lord has even directed what each one is: love and worship. That's where my focus needs to be. Honestly the two are so closely related, I'm not sure which is the plate and which is the stick. But maybe that's the point, maybe they are so connected they will work like a single unit, moving at my will.

This is what I know: the Bible says that Love alone is the most definitive mark of a Christ follower. Jesus said we would be known by our love, our love for Him and our love for others. Worship is an overflow and an outward expression of our love for God, not only when we express it directly toward Him, but also when we express it toward others, in any number of ways: service, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, just to name a few.

I am tired from the running between self-imposed standards and expectations, duties and demands, effort and ideals. It's time to focus solely on love and worship. The one question to ask, "Am I loving?" I must remember love is an action not a feeling and continually choose to love, doing that is in itself an act of worship. Beyond that I need to look and remember at Jesus and His cross, take in again the expression of love there.  When my eyes are fixed there I cannot help but worship, and when I truly worship, I cannot help but love.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Embrace the Journey

The nature of my personality is extremely "goal-oriented." I like to set a specific goal and accomplish it, whatever task is at hand, whatever job needs to be done, I like to see the beginning and the end. It's the reason chores like laundry drive me crazy. There is no satisfaction in a "job well done," simply because it's never "done." There is always more to do.

This personality trait is one that I struggle with greatly, because if I am honest with myself and look honestly at my life, I have very few life goals that I have both set and accomplished for myself. I can't look, like many can, and say "See, I earned this degree," or "I rose to this level in my career," or "I have created this ministry." Truth be told, I have a job, not a career, because at an age when I thought life would unfold differently, I never set a clear enough goal, and those I loosely defined, I never worked hard enough to attain. No college education, no degree, no career-- I just let life happen. My ministry aspirations have always been elusive, because those are not goals that you can set, for me at least I have found them to be just dreams.

Now let me clarify, I do not regret my life. I am happily married, maybe more than most, to my best friend. I have three children who drive me crazy, but who I love more than words can express. So when I look back at the goals I didn't set and the things I did not accomplish, I don't suffer much regret because I know the reality is, if I had, my other life choices would probably have been far different, and I wouldn't likely have the husband and kids I do. So though I am neither secure in my job or my future because of the choices I made, I am content in my family and the relationships with Neal and my kids. If I weight it on a "scale" it tips in a better direction.

And yet...

I find myself often still feeling like there is much to be accomplished-- at least something to be accomplished. I feel certain, I was made for "more than this." And yet, it seems, this is all there is. I struggle often to line up the storm of conflicting emotions these two... ideas? thoughts? realities? create.

I often find myself longing to be "somewhere." I don't know exactly where this "somewhere" is, I just know it is somewhere else. I don't necessarily mean geographically, though perhaps that's the case. I do not mean in a relational sense, but something, somewhere seems undone, and long to figure the what, where and how of it. But I find myself at a loss.

"Embrace the journey." That's the thought floating through my mind. Even the title of this blog occurs to me "My Walk of Faith," it is ongoing, unending, lifelong.

In the Bible it talks about how all our works will be tested by fire, and in the end, much will burn, and only some will remain. That which is done in His name, for His glory, that will remain. The problem is, how can we ever be certain in this life which of those things it will be? I have invested, in people, in God's purposes, and to my eyes, so much of it seems to have only burned. Years of relationships, support, words spoken, time listening, prayers said, but as I look around, I do not even see a remnant of their effect. I wonder, did I? Did I touch life? Did I make an impact? Did I make a difference? I honestly do not know.

I confess a morbid streak that sometimes leads me to wonder, if I died tomorrow, who would mourn? Who would stand beside my grave and remember that I had somehow touched their life? Somehow made a difference? Would anyone? In the end even the relationships that I consider successful, is that only my perspective? Would Neal think of me a good wife? My children, would they lovingly remember a mother who made a difference? Or would my faults and failures overshadow them?

What of the other relationships in my life? This I do not know. So many who I thought I would walk alongside for a lifetime have disappeared from my life. Would they even come? Would they regret we'd lost touch or would they not even know I was gone? Did I impact these lives at all? If I did, then why do we no longer walk together?

"Embrace the journey." A journey is an act of travel, motion that means nothing is static or steady, everything and everyone, when they walk alongside it is for but a season-- granted the length of the season is different for each one, but no two will ever walk an entire journey together, not two at all. All we can do is make the best of the time that we travel with another, whether it be as a spouse, a child, a parent or friend. The relationship is limited to earthly restraints. And sometimes their ends come with no warning, and are never undone.

I know the Bible says that God "created good works in advance" that I should walk in them. But I honestly do not know what they are. I do not know where they are either. There was a time when I thought I knew, that I had caught a glimpse, but now as I get older I'm just not so sure. Then I wonder if perhaps I missed them, if I took a misstep somewhere along the way and wandered away from the path He had laid out. I can never know, and this sense of not being where I belong weighs heavy.

To in fact embrace the journey is all I can do. I think I have been so focused on some destination, but it's one I cannot recognize unless I am there, so I honestly don't know if I will ever get there at all. It causes me to wonder, in God's eyes, is the journey itself the destination He has in mind? Maybe it's not at all about accomplishing some great task, or having some profound impact, or committing some great act. What if in His eyes, it's just about walking with Him? Wherever I go, whatever I may do... or not do, maybe the only real accomplishment is walking it out with Him.

Embrace the journey, and embrace the only One who will walk it all out with you, because truthfully, it is the only thing any one of us can recognize along the way.

I must embrace the journey, but more importantly, I must embrace the one Who created both the journey an the traveler upon it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Limbo

My blogging has slowed practically to a standstill. Maybe the world is a better place with a little less "talking" from me, but it's very anti-my character, and sort of an unsettling place for me to be. Maybe that means it's growth. Not sure I can really be sure. Even on Facebook, there have been longer stretches where I have less to say.

This morning I was walking to work after dropping my car off with a local mechanic. I had to cross a railroad track to get there and I had sort of a picture in my mind as I was stepping over it. In my mind's eye, I could see myself walking across as the safety guardrail would begin to come down, warning of an oncoming train. It was sort of a metaphor for where I feel like I am right now. Because the thought that occurred to me as I pictured it was "what would I do?" Would I hurry across to the other side, moving forward? Or would I step back behind the guardrail and wait for the train to pass?

My "logic" says I would hurry across, but something in my spirit checked me, because in life, I feel very much like I am stepping back behind the guardrail, in to the familiar, not moving forward at all. I'm just trying to avoid getting hit.

I love our new church, but I still don't feel like I have really found my place there. I have met some lovely women, and even gotten friendly with a few, but I have not moved on far enough to grieve what I've lost. I still miss people from "before." And it's hard.

What I REALLY find myself missing is teaching. It had been a VERY long time since I was allowed to teach in my old church, and when I took it upon myself to teach in my own home (well, my mother's home) last summer, it was the consequences of that choice that were beginning of the end of our time at our church of twenty years. It was an amazing summer, and I leaved sharing and teaching the Word with a wonderful group of ladies, but it came at a cost.

When my husband decided (after a long summer of events) that it was time for us to find a new church, God very quickly moved us into a wonderful new place, but they don't have a women's ministry, and there is still no place to teach. I've been facilitating a growth group this summer with 5 other women and I like it a lot, I love the ladies, but it's not the same. Leading discussion over a video curriculum isn't the same as digging into the Word and teaching it. It's the heart of discipleship, and one of my greatest passions.

I've been praying for God to take away the desire to teach, but He hasn't. I have tried to translate it into teaching my children, but it's not the same. Even the desire to share insight here at the blog has waned. My heart aches. Last week at our growth group I slipped into "teacher mode," but I wasn't supposed to be there. And as a rule follower, it kills me to have stepped outside of the role I'm supposed to play. (I don't like that terminology... perhaps better said, "in the capacity I'm supposed to serve.")

I find myself standing on the tracks. The train coming at me is the heartbreak of spending another decade not serving in the capacity I believe I was called. I know God has given me gifts for His good purpose, and His glory-- and that even the desire to do so is from Him, but again I find myself in a place where there is no room for them. Unlike the past though, I don't feel like there is no room for ME, which is an improvement, but the gifts I bring-- the suitcases that carry what defines me-- there is no room for them. And even in my own life, I seem to have lost the outlets I once had that at least gave the pressure system a release.

I've been praying for the want to go away, but it hasn't yet. I suppose that's a good thing. I KNOW it's a God thing, because He said Himself (in the bible) "the gifts and calling of the Lord are irrevocable." But I don't like standing here on the tracks not knowing where to go. Should I push forward (in hope) and try to find somewhere to participate? A community Bible study? A women's group at another church? I doubt opportunity is going to be found there either. Do I step backwards and just stand and watch the train go by? Exchanging the discouragement and heartache of standing still knowing my husband and kids at least are in a good place? Or do I stand on the track and let the train take me down? Perhaps (like the Bible says) that if I do that, life will be found in death. I can "lay myself down" for the good of my family, and die to the gifts and desires and just let go.

I thought I had done that before, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I didn't "die" well enough or long enough for the new life to be created. Maybe where I am is that planted seed waiting under the earth for God to bring the rain and produce new growth. Maybe that's it. Maybe this "limbo" is really the grave, because the train has already come, but rather than letting it consume and destroy, I am still holding on to my desire? I don't know. But I do know I feel stuck. I do know I don't know which way to move. I do know that "limbo" is my least favorite place to be, and yet here I remain.

It makes me think of a lyric to a sing I have held to for many years. It says, "Lord, move in the way that I've never seen before, there's a mountain in the way and a lock on the door, I'm drifting away, waves are crashing on the shore
So Lord move (move), or move me."

I don't know how much longer I can take this Limbo, Lord-- please move something. IJN.



Monday, July 9, 2012

Silence and darkness

Alone late at night when sleep won't come, it's then that my mind becomes my enemy. Pondering over the hurts that I carry, it makes my soul weary.
I ache for the loss of friendships. The way they've disappeared, I question if they ever existed. Part of me wishes they'd never been because then there'd be no hole where they once were. "It's better to have loved and lost," may be the saying, but my heart rejects it and denies it as truth.
I know there is bitterness in my soul, I can taste it, like acid rising in my throat. The past returns, but only I am burned.
Sometimes I want to lash out, to pass on the pain, but more often I swallow it down where it burns my core. Mostly I withdraw, where the pain is the greatest, I just trust, like cutting off a limb that bleeds to severely, I just amputate to stop the bleeding and pray healing will come, all the while denying the inevitable sense of being "crippled" that lies ahead. I may learn to operate without the "limb," but it does not mean I will ever recover from what's lost.
So many I tried to invest in who've just forgotten me, or worse redefined what I meant to them. I ache. Maybe it's wrong to look for the "return," but it hurts to believe that nothing I've done has mattered. I wanted nothing in return at the time, and yet now that there really is nothing, no connection, no relationship, no remembrance, I have to question if my motives were ever pure, because it hurts that nothing remains.
I am forgotten at best, or worse, history has been rewritten, and I am now the villain. I may never truly know which is the case which makes the ache all the greater.
I feel very alone. As I lay in the dark and the silence surrounds me, it screams of the loneliness I find myself in. The silence is defeaning, and broken only by the voice inside my own head, one voice that would be better kept truly silent.
But no matter what I might feel, I'm not alone in the silence, in the darkness. The Lord is here, even if I cannot sense Him, even when He too is silent. I imagine, is He sitting quietly in the dark, in a corner? I picture Him there, and I strain to see the look on His face. Disappointment? Disgust? Disconnection? Those are not in His nature, but in His silence, it's where my mind goes. I cannot bring myself to pray. I am accustomed to His silence, but I fear what He might say. So I hide, hoping He will come for me, even though I know His Word says that I am the one who must seek.
But I've lost so much, what if I look, and He is not to be found? What if only the darkness and silence remain? I know He's in it, but sometimes there is no place as lonely as in the presence of one who does not speak, the One who is not speaking.
I long to flee, to forget, surely it is better than feeling forgotten. But it is not to be. So in the darkness and silence I remain, begging for my own voice inside my head to cease, and yet, I do not pray.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tunnels, bridges, paths and roads.

Last night I had a very vivid dream. I was talking to someone about ministry to children. It's hard to explain the dream, I was talking to someone as God was talking to me.

We talked about the different ways to disciple children at the ages and stages of childhood. The pattern was simple, though I think I understood it more completely in my dream: tunnels, bridges, paths and roads.

With little ones it seems, that the point is to go deep. It makes me think about how when our children are too little to understand, we just pour into them the Truth. Like in a tunnel they can't really see clearly, but it's a movement in the foundation.

As our children grow, we bring their instruction to the surface. Like a bridge, boundaries are clear, the destination is obvious. In the toddler and early school years, our instruction is very intentional, (years of saying "no" over and over again.) It's point A to point B teaching, expectations and consequences, very little gray areas.

As our children grow, depending on their maturity, but in and around the middle school years is when our children venture out to explore paths for themselves. We don't monitor their every move and decision anymore. It's as though we've given them their compass and let them out on their own, but within a defined boundary. They may get lost, but we still know where they are and how to quickly find them. They feel a little freedom seeking out their own path, but they aren't traveling far enough to get lost.

Then eventually the time comes that we let go and they head out on the road for themselves, determining on their own where that road is headed. It's their own "road to hoe," and each child will decide for themselves when they go and where they'll head, some will tarry and others will blaze a trail, but each one will go down that road.

These are my first thoughts from the dream. I've been pondering this phrase all day: tunnels, bridges, paths and roads. I don't think the pattern is restricted to rearing children, I think it can refer to our own spiritual growth as well, and perhaps might even be seasonal or vary with circumstance. Sometimes we have to go back to tunnels, taking the Truth deep within, then onto simple obedience, then slowly testing it out before we get on the road, of growth, change, forgiveness, reconciliation, recovery... whichever road we need to head down.

I'm still chewing on it, still praying for more revelation, but I do feel like God was offering wisdom in my dream. It is good to serve a God who speaks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Altars

I've been having a lot of parenting struggles lately, particularly with my youngest. 

I am a very specific mom, and I have always handled certain issues in a very specific way-- a zero tolerance manner and with my boys it always seemed to have at least some level of effect.  With my daughter as we have been struggling through this season, my "mode of operation" was completely ineffective. And my pride and personality wasn't responding very well.

I found myself in a very painful place of frustration, and even hopelessness. As I sat lamenting the struggle I was facing the verse from James came to my mind.  "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask for God who gives to all liberally and without finding fault." With that vere as my direction, I snuck quietly into her room as she was sleeping and prayed over her.

More verses came, as well as memories, I picked up a stuffed animal of hers that is very dear to both of us.  It reminded me that the story of my daughter is a remarkable one.  The first time I ever "heard" the voice of God (and without question the only time it was so clear it seemed audible,) was long before any of my children were born, even her oldest brother, and it was when God promised her to me.  It was a beginning of a remarkable testimony of the ten year journey until she then came to be.  He reminded me of many things as I sat beside her bed and prayed.

The next morning was a new beginning.  He had also given me much direction about how to parent her through this season.  It was by no means the manner in which I was accustomed to, and it was completely contrary to my naure, but it's been several days and already I see such a significant change.  It makes me think of another Bible verse, "Train up a child in the way HE should go."  Kids aren't cookie cutters and how we parent them can't be either.  God's wisdom is Truth, my own "earthly wisdom" is severely limited. What God spoke to my heart as I prayed over her (keeping His word to give me wisdom if I asked) came out of a knowledge He has of my daughter that I never could.

Sunday we went to the beach, just the two of us to talk and hang out.  We had some girl time together which is actually pretty rare.  I got her to lay beside me on the beach and place her hand in the sand.  I took just a large pinch of it and asked her to tell me how much sand was there. She looked at me and laughed, even a pinch of sand has too many tiny granules to count.

I read to her from Psalm 139.
God, your thoughts are precious to me.
They are so many!
If I could count them,
they would be more than all the grains of sand.
When I wake up,
I am still with you.
Psalm 139: 17-18




I watched as her eyes grew big, and I talked about how what the Bible was speaking about was all the sand, not just the pinch in her hand; not just the strip of beach we were laying on, not even just the sand lying beneaththe ocean waters we could see, but ALL the sand. That's how much God thinks about her, and about me, and you for that matter. When you actually find yourself lying on a beachand you think on that scripture, it's powerful.



Tomorrow I am taking my kids to the beach for the day. I am happy that that Truth has been planted in my daughter's heart, and I know as she puts her hands in the sand again, the Truth will resonate in her heart. She will have a place now that reminds her of how important she is to God. It will hopefully be an altar for her. A place that immediately draws her focus to heaven.

It's important that we have those altars in our lives. That little stuffed animal was an altar of sorts to me, reminding me of God's care and provision. There is a cross in my yard that is also an altar of sorts to me, I didn't know what it would mean when I placed it there, but the message has become one that I must hold to. It's so important that we have those altars built in our lives that in the mids of the chaos of life, we can look upon them, stop and remember Who God is-- not just in the greater sense, but Who God is to each one of us. Who God is to me.
 

That little stuffed dog has become an altar again, and a reminder that He is faithful, and always on my side.  He is faithful to keep His word, and I can trust in Him.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Busy is a mindset

That's the thought that went running through my mind this morning as I was driving to work.  It didn't feel like my own thought though.  It felt like someone was speaking it to my soul.  It felt like truth.

This is what I know.  Often my husband and I are getting in the car and heading somewhere together.  ONE of us is usually in a hurry, and the other is not.  We are on the same time schedule, we share the same destination, and yet, one of us feels busy and the other does not.

Interestingly, we both have very full calendars, and if you asked either of us, we would describe life as "busy."  He is too busy to read a book, and I am too busy to slow down and take a moment to enjoy the things around me.  I on the other hand often find time to read and he constantly makes the best of life going on around him.

Busy is a mindset.

Lately I have been too busy to get up and read my Bible in the mornings.  I have not been too busy to catch up on Facebook or to check my email, I'm not too busy to keep my Words With Friends games up to date, as well as my Draw Free interactions, but lately, I've struggles to find the time to read my Bible and pray. But I know many people who are too busy to have a Facebook page, (I'm just too busy to play games there) or too busy to take their turn on Words With Friends.

Lately I am also too busy to edit my second novel.  I'm not too busy to watch TV or rent a movie, but I am too busy to edit my book (much to the dismay of many of my friends.) Sometimes I am too busy to answer the phone when it rings, but not too busy to send out a text.  Sometimes I am too busy to listen to a sotry my children want to tell me, but not too busy to give a ten minute lecture about why they should clean their room or treat each other better.

Sometimes I am too busy to tolerate traffic or wait behind someone who has to run back up the aisle for something in the grocery store, but I'm not too busy to post tweet a complaint about the behavior of another on the world wide web. I might be too busy to have dinner with a friend, but not too busy for an afternoon nap.

Busy is a mindset-- because we are never really too busy to make time for the things that are important to us.  There is always room somewhere to "make time" for the things that matter, IF they truly matter.  I suppose that is the key.  Busyness is a mindset but priorities are a personal preference.

I think I want to stop being busy.  That's no easy aspiration as the mother of three who works and is trying to create a writing career.  It's not easy, but I suspect it might be simpler than I think. 

(1) I've got to decide what my priorities are.  At the end of my days what will I wish I had done more of?  Watching TV probably isn't as important a priority as I make it.  There may be days in my future when I wish I was listening to my children tell me stories.

(2) I need to BE in the moment I'm in.  I think I have a bad habit of rushing toward what's next rather than enjoying where I am. This refers not only to the season of my life, but the moment of it.  If I'm ten minutes late home, or I have to call a friend and ask for grace because I didn't get out the door when I wanted to, so be it.  I need to stop taking on the stress of being "behind." Because one reason or another, I am where I am for a reason.  And as far as seasons go, how I wish I hadn't been in a hurry to teach my children to walk, talk, be potty trained, etc.  And right now I write because I enjoy it.  It may NEVER be more than that, and I need to be okay with it, and enjoy my writing while I do it and if nothing ever comes of it, enjoy the fact that I did it-- for me and for God.

(3) I need to cultivate gratitude. There's not a lot of explanation required here.  If nothing else, I have a Savior who loves me, a Heavenly Father who is for me.  But I have so much more than that, and I need to remember to be grateful.

(4) I need to control my emotions rather than letting them control me. Angst, hurry, anxiety-- all part of the "busyness mindset" for me, and they rob me of things that are mine-- abundant life and abiding joy.  You see as a believer those things are mine, the bible says so.  And too often I hurry through life like I don't even know what they are.  It's like living like a millionaire pauper.  My "bank account" in Christ is FULL, and constantly being filled and I walk around like I have nothing.  Shame on me.

(5) God has to be first.  I need to remember He is here and with me in every moment.  When I don't read my Bible or pray, I'm only robbing myself of the "sustenance" and strength that I need.  But when I tear myself down for not doing those things, I alone am my accuser (though I may have help from the darkside). I need to remember that the Lord doesn't turn His back on me, and if I would just turn my heart towards Him I would find that His "face shines upon me."

Yeah, I don't want to be busy anymore-- I may have a woman with a lot of things to tend to, but I can be that woman without being busy.  I want to be a woman who remembers that God is with her (and for her) and that I am abundantly blessed and am grateful for it.  I want the core of my emotions and "feelings" to be rooted in these truths and learn to "let go and let God" when things are not only good, but when they are not so good and not going my way.  I want to live this moment right now with all of these things in the forefront of my mind and heart. I want these things to be my priorities.

I suspect somewhere in this "No more busyness mindset," is the life God has for me.

Teach us to number our days,

that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 
Psalm 90:12