Friday, September 14, 2012

Risky Business

I believe in remembering. I know that it helps us be thankful. I know it helps us avoid multiplied disasters. I believe it gives us perspective and helps us grow. I just don't like to remember. Sometimes memories flood at me. Usually bad ones. They threaten to overwhelm me because I look at the parts that are disaster and fail to look at who brought me through the disaster. I fail in that moment to forget that I made it to the other side. We are going to begin a series at church this week called risky business. So I've been thinking about risk and whether I would take the same risks if I had it to do over again or whether I would be more self-protective. In my thoughts I take more risks. I figure that since I was pretty fearful in life and I still had to go through a lot of nightmares why not risk it all. God has been with me all of the way.  At one point this week I asked God why I refuse to grow closer to Him without the prodding of pain and suffering. I begged Him to show me the way to be close to Him without feeling pain. I think that is the way of life for all of us. But I have also pondered this week the treasures that come out of the pain. I love God so very much and I know I would not have the relationship that I have with Him if I had not suffered calamity or dealt with struggle. I feel closer to my children than I ever have and I believe it is because we have gone through fire together. I am a child of God who is most grateful. I am a child of God who is thankful for risks taken and battles fought.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Roses and Remembering

While looking at Pinterest my eyes caught a picture of some beautiful, pink, cabbage roses. The sight nearly brought me to tears but also allowed God to speak to me. You see, I miss my rose bushes. I miss spraying roses, pruning roses, shopping for roses, picking roses, and most of all I miss having vases full of roses all over my house. When you have upwards of 100 rose bushes your springs and summers are glorious. There is never an end to the beautiful bright beauty and sweet smell that they bring. I miss getting up early and plucking off the dead blooms and bringing in freshly cut blossoms. I didn't need to wait for the blooms to look  ratty,  I had so many. It is a part of my old life that I avoid thinking about. I don't allow myself to go to Flower World anymore. I avoid walking by the roses in grocery stores and the rose plants lined up outside Fred Meyers in the spring. That is what I do. My default plan to avoid change and pain is to avoid. Thinking about life and change today I believe that is how I handle most of the pain in my life. Maybe it is what you do too. If I don't think about it, it's not real...but it is...and the reminders come. God gently shows me that I have to walk through my pain, not avoid it and pretend it isn't present and isn't real. I don't have my rose bushes anymore, and I don't have a husband that brings me flowers (rarely), or listens to me talk about my day, or gives me a man hug (they are different). But I have much. I am rich. After feeling the pain of loss I counted what I have...a house full of girls that love me, a beautiful grandson who lights up when he sees me, meaningful work to do each day, the love of my Father...and so many more. Loss is part of life. I think I may allow myself to remember more the pain as an offering to God and being grateful for what is now.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heart Trouble

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

I have been thinking about the heart today. The above verse keeps showing up in everything I have read today and even on a couple blogs I follow. It is like I cannot get away from it. And it bugs me. That is because I have had to learn the hard way just how true it is. And it seems like I have to keep learning the hard way. The heart cannot be trusted because it is filled with the disease of sin and even with years of walking with God I am still full of my own self and sin. My heart is broken and far from where God wished it to be when He created it. But so often we fall for the falsehood and subscribe to the lie to "follow" my own heart. This feel-good statement replaces the true wisdom that searching after God brings to my lifes many questions. From choosing a career to deciding whether to stay married far too often believers and unbelievers alike choose by their feelings instead of God's Word. We end up doing what we want to do in the short term and then suffer for it in the long term. When I  want to sound righteous while I "follow" my own heart I can always say that it is "God" who is moving my heart or that I can trust my feeling because I have prayed and still "feel" this way. But when I follow my heart...when I go by how I "feel"...I become self-absorbed, shallow, fearful, vain, and I make really bad decisions. And I wallow. Because I am all about me and not about anyone else. But I need to fight against self.  Because my Jesus went to the cross and not to the spa. He did not spend His days or emotions on Himself but upon others. He did not dwell upon being offended but showered upon us His grace and mercy. And He ALWAYS did the will of His Father in heaven and did not yield to His humanity with its feelings. Whenever I have followed my heart I have ended up bruised and crushed. I have felt the pain of offense and the sting of my sinful nature. When I have followed God I am bruised and crushed as well, but it is a bruising and crushing that bears fruit instead of death. It is a bruising and crushing that comes from putting to death the flesh. And it is a crushing that comes with peace.  We have not been called to follow the lie of our hearts or the whims of our emotions. We have been called to follow Jesus.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Lump of Clay

I often say I am fascinated by creativity. I know that each of us is creative but I am rather partial to that type of creativity that I am not. I am not an artist. I don't even hang pictures up in my house or pick colors of paint except when forced. It amazes me how we all have the same hands and brains and mouths and yet some can draw anything; others can sing with beauty; and still others can design. I can't even decide how to arrange my furniture. I love the story about how we are clay in the hands of a potter even though it is hard for me to relate to creating something beautiful and artistic. The first reason I like it is because it uses something incredibly ordinary to create beauty. Clay is simply dirt taken from the ground. In Genesis God says that we were essentially formed by dirt and in the verse about the potter God says that He is still forming us as though we are dirt. Clay also has no power at all. It is a lump of dirt waiting to be dealt with. This reminds me that God holds the power of the universe and that, no matter how much I want to be in control, I am in God's hands. Clay does not have its own plans; it has no aspirations and gives itself wholly to the artist. Clay is most pliable when mixed with water and I am at my best when I yield to the Spirit of God and when I am in fellowship with other lumps of clay. I also like that clay is most often made into something useful. I have a deep desire to be both used and useful. Clay cannot mold itself, but needs the direct contact of the potter’s hands to mold it into what he wants, and what he determines will be most useful. It is shaped by his hands. When a potter begins to make an object, he wraps his hands around the clay as it spins, and then squeezes the clay so it will begin to take shape. The same holds true of us. We are squeezed and molded until we become what He desires. And then comes the  part I would want to skip entirely. Clay must be put through the fire to be of lasting value. I have felt the fire lately; actually for a long time. I have to remember that the fire does good; that I am being worked on by a master creator. The process is painful--but good.  I ask myself, Do I trust the potter with this life I have? Do I trust Him when all is falling down and apart? Do I believe that the finished product will be worth this pain. Some days those questions are harder to answer than others.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday Thoughts

I am not sure why this week started out with me in such a foul state of mind but I decided that today had to be the end of it. I mean I guess I know why it did but I also know that I gave into the mood far too easily and I need to fight back against it. The problem is that I struggle to resolve things. Which is terrible because I get offended very easily. Thankfully if you offend me you will seldom know it. I won't tell you and I rarely will act the part. I will just hurt deep inside and be convinced that the problem is me (which is a good guess because often it is). I don't know if I am making any sense or not. Needless to say, this week started out with a convergance of badness. It was Father's Day and I missed my dad more than I had allowed myself to in years. I am still struggling with making sense out of my husband's passing. I allowed myself to be worried about all sorts of things that will never happen (most worries, statistically speaking, never do), and I managed to get offended. All of this converged on a Monday along with extreme fatigue. But today I fought back. Thankfully God sent me two of my favorite helpers to work and we played and cleaned out the refrigerators and freezer at work and I remembered that accomplishing a task makes everything feel better and young children bring me joy more than the sunshine. Hopefully...just will last.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Today was Father's Day...and we didn't have any least my girls and I didn't. And it felt harder than most years for some reason. I missed my daddy today. For so many years I would rarely allow myself to think about him. He was gone so suddenly and I was not okay with that. If I didn't think about it then I didn't feel the pain. Today was different somehow. When I went to the store yesterday I was reminded that little Elijah's dad was having his first Father's Day and that I wanted to encourage him to be a good father. One of the reasons it was so hard to lose my dad is that he was such a good father...and I am so incredibly thankful that I had a great dad.  So I got Juan a card and a small gift and I told him how glad I was that he was being a good dad. We made a plan to take him to lunch and on an outing with his son...and that was good. It was a bittersweet day...and like a lot of days I am tired and fighting off the temptation to say poor me and instead to say thank you Jesus...I can always think of what I have lost...we all can...but I know God well enough to trust He has always known what is best for me...and while I may no longer have my dad, I have my heavenly Father and that will always be more than enough.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Of Rats and Toilets and Fear

Tonight I felt done. I just wanted everyone to be saved so I could go home, my home. I have felt a little close to the edge but was managing to stay on the ledge. Sometimes it is a small thing that sends you over. And tonight that small thing happened. I went into my bathroom to brush my teeth and finish getting ready for bed. And it was then I noticed that someone had forgotten to flush the toilet. No, that was not the small thing. So I flushed it, mildly annoyed. And then I noticed that it had not flushed. So I flushed it again. And it was then I noticed. Two paws and a little head. Thankfully dead...but still staring up at me. I am deathly afraid of all things rodent. To the point of paralyzed. And I realized I am alone. (Believe me, in this situation my girls are useless). And I just wanted to give up. I felt beaten. And I know it's a small and silly thing. I went to bed and all I could think of was that I have a car that doesn't work, a broken dishwasher, and a rat in the toilet...and it's the rat that is doing me in. The rest doesn't bother me so much, but that rat. It's enough to make me want to throw it all in. I went to bed and talked to Jesus and remembered a song I learned when I was a young Christian. Part of it goes like this, "One day in your presence is far better to me than gold or to live my whole life somewhere else. And I would rather be a doorkeeper in your house, than to take my fate upon myself. You are my sun and my shield. You're my lover from the start. And the highway to your city runs through my heart."....I still have a rat in my toilet and will until I find someone to take pity on me. And I had to get up. Because when I shut my eyes all I see are rats. So I wrote you this story so you can all laugh at me. But I am comforting myself by remembering that I don't mind spiders and snakes. And I am ready to meet Jesus any time. And there are no rats in heaven. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Life Interruption

There are unexpected moments in your life that you wish you could freeze. Moments that teach you that it is good for your heart to be broken and your life to be interrupted. I had a moment this week. A young girl, about the age of my youngest came into the office wanting some help. I had served her dinner the night before at church and for whatever reason I felt a connection to her. She is estranged from her parents, out of money, out of a home, and living on the streets. I know only the part of her story that she gave me, and I know there is probably much more to it than what she did tell me, but that didn't matter. My mama heart wanted to rescue her in that moment. I would have gladly given everything I had in that moment if I could have helped her, really helped her. In that moment I wanted to have a big house or apartment building where I could just love on hurting people and show them that there is a God who loves them and who is a giver of life and hope. But I didn't have any of that. We helped her. And I listened to her and cried with her and hugged her. I gave her my number and told her I would feed her or talk to her anytime. I  told her that I would love for her to come to church and that it would be a safe place where she would be loved. And as she left it felt like I gave her nothing. I felt such grief. It's not like I haven't been asked for help before or heard sad stories before. I have. But this one broke my heart. Probably because she is so young. Probably because I thought about how this girl is just one of so many, so young, who already live such hard lives. Probably because for one of the first times I felt like I don't do very much to make a difference for those who need it most. And I feel so powerless. I don't switch gears very easily; my heart still hurts and I am praying for this lost one. I haven't told my girls about this because it hurts and I know it won't be the same for them as it is me. But they keep asking me if something is wrong.  I am praying that a part of this feeling stays with me. It is good for a heart to be broken with the things that break the heart of God. It is good to feel powerless and cry out to God for the things you cannot fix. I don't think we were created to live "normal" lives. We were made to glorify our creator and serve Him. And she is one of His lost ones. And I want that to least to me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Epic Fail

This past Sunday I was super excited because we were having missionaries visit our church. I love missionaries but I was more excited than normal about these missionaries because they are missionaries I have chosen to support and even though I have never met them I felt a bond with them. The kind of bond that comes when you pray for someone and get connected with their mission. The kind of bond that connects people even when they have never met and never had a conversation. Those bonds that are little known outside of the family of God.  And now I am kicking myself and feeling like an epic failure. You see, I didn't meet them. I have this extreme difficulty in meeting people I have never met. Like almost a phobia. And I hate it. I have become better over the years. I can greet new people at church and I don't struggle with meeting people in my office. But its when I am excited to meet someone and the time comes that they are present that I fail. I was busy and they were pretty well occupied before church so I told myself that after church would be my moment. But the service ended and I froze. I left as fast as I could. I felt all of my insecurities come over me and the moment where I could take the risk and step beyond all of that fear passed. When I think over my life I can see so many moments that have passed because when the challenge came I did not step out from who I was and trust that God could carry me in those uncomfortable spaces. Every year I tell myself that this is the year of taking those risks which must seem ridiculously small to most of you but which loom large in my life. And I do. But there are still the days like Sunday where I freeze and fail and which are followed by the week of regret. Sometimes you cannot go back and get the moment; that is how it is with this. But I am hoping that I learn from it and that I can hold onto and recall this feeling the next time I am faced with going out of my comfort zone. God never meant for us to be limited by our fears but to trust Him and face them as they come. This time I didn't but next time...well, we will see. I have hope.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Choosing Joy

Joy is a choice that I can make. The sad truth is that I often don't want to. I don't want to let go of feeling the misery of my present trials and put on what Christ has for me. This time of year often brings back painful memories for me. It is the anniversary of an extremely difficult period of time I went through in my life. Each year I tell myself it won't be so hard this year and each year I am wrong. But last night Pastor Dale was talking about trials and it helped. He was talking about the daily trials that hit all of us and this is more of a life crisis but it got me thinking. To have joy I must choose it. I must decide that coming out of the darkness is a much better choice than staying there. To be a light in the darkness I have to shine. Seems simple enough but it isn't. Life is hard and when I decide to dwell in the bleakness of it all I cannot be an effective Christian or a Kingdom dweller. I may have a place in the Kingdom but I am living as if I am determined not to dwell in that Kingdom until I have to. For me it is often about trying to make sense of the darkness I have gone through even though there is no sense in it. It is about asking what it was about me that made this bad thing happen and then making sure I am punished for it. It is sometimes about feeling that I don't have a right to be joyful. It is about not wanting to let it go. It is good to remember what God takes us through but it is bad to live continually in things that are already past. I am not sure I fully get what I am writing here but since I truly believe that I serve the God who is enough, and I do believe that, I am going to choose joy each time I catch myself sitting in a dark spot. I will give those dark places that I cling to back to Him. I will offer up my wallowing and choose to believe that life and joy are better and that it is okay for me to take them.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where's Waldo

I have this Waldo game on my new phone. You know, the guy in the stripes that you have to find. Well, I was sitting in church on Sunday and listening to this really good sermon about how believers need to respond to God instead of reacting to people.  And I was thinking in my head  about how that is true of circumstances as well. Instead of reacting to all of the stuff I have to go through in my life I should respond to God in trust. A little like Joseph when he was sold into slavery, worked himself to a fairly high position only to be thrown in prison. He chose to respond to God; to not question Him and to not only remain faithful but to grow in the faith that he had. And God of course had a purpose for all of it. I started thinking about 1 Corinthians 13, the 12th verse; "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. " I only partially see when God sees the entire picture. Responding to God in my circumstances is about trusting Him when I don't understand the situation I am in and when I don't know what to do. Responding to people is a lot like that. It's about knowing that whatever people are saying and doing around you that God is in control and that He will help me walk in His love no matter what. There is this part in the Waldo game where suddenly the screen gets all fuzzy and cloudy. They call it a sandstorm and I can't see Waldo and all of the other stuff I am supposed to find...where I  have to find the magic lantern and click on it in order to keep going. I get lots of sandstorms in my life. My life gets all fuzzy and the people around me make choices I don't like and my circumstances seem impossible...and I find I  react to that...instead of praying in faith and trusting God. I pray...but I lots of times don't believe it will make a difference...I don't have a magic lantern that has starry sparkles around it to show me where it is...but I am indwelt by the Spirit of God. I wish God would just give me a list each day of what He wants me to do, warnings about what I am going to be tested in, and when would be the best time to go home and find everyone in harmony. But instead He leads me and way too often I resist. I want comfort instead of stretching. But I read today that my "anxiety is the outcome of the perception that something is happening God didn't design for our good and His glory." (unknown) I also am pretty sure that I like to be in control  way more than I think I do. I don't play Waldo during church. Just want you to know that. I hardly play at all. It's not like the books and requires way too many skills. I just like to find the hidden objects. Most days I think life requires way too many skills and that I have both failed and am failing. But it's probably not that way at all. I am just in the middle of a sandstorm and can't see clearly. For now I need to believe He is leading me through this storm called life, using me to make some sort of difference, and that the problems that to me look insurmountable, well, I know He knows what He is doing and I will keep praying that I head in His direction.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Thoughts

I have been a bit distracted lately. New babies will do that to you. But I also got sidetracked and maybe went just a little crazy finding this new little life and the resulting upheaval in our home has just plain worn me out. It was nice today to have an Adventure Monday...not work and not home and not busy. While riding home from Seattle today I got to thinking about how many much stuff you can get wrong nowadays. Like, I don't ever remember to bring my own shopping bags to the store...and I still drink bottled water...and sometimes I will just dump something in the garbage that could be recycled because I am lazy or tired or both. These are important things to some people and I don't want to minimize it. I often feel guilty over my inability to understand what is most important and why it is important. And why should I buy organic food anyway?  I sometimes feel that way as a believer in Christ. I spend a lot of time doing stuff at church...many hours planning and preparing the things I do for Christ. But sometimes I struggle wondering if any of it matters...whether it makes a difference or is just me doing stuff. And then when I blow it I wonder if I should even keep going.  I deeply desire my life to matter and, for me anyway, the only thing that really matters in helping people find relationship with God and helping them move forward in that relationship. Each day I try to make those around me feel loved and valued... Each day I try and lift up the name of my Savior and make it known. I don't want to reach the end of my days and find out that my motives stunk so bad that it was all about me and not about Jesus. I don't want to find that none of what I did was of any true value. I have to remember that all Jesus wants is me...and He has me...and that is what will Him and to those around me.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Law

I don't love God or my neighbor nearly enough and I need Jesus. I was thinking about the law this week and reading some of the Old Testament verses about the law and realized that there was no way I could even keep the one, best law. This especially became evident as I came home last night and immediately got after my kids about stuff they had not done...stuff I had not asked them to do...stuff I thought they should just see and do. Crazy. I hate it when people do that to me but here I am doing it to them without so much as a hello and how was your day. We talked later about how overwhelmed I have felt lately and how sick I have been and how I have felt the events of the recent past have hit me once again and they were gracious to forgive me. But I thought about how impossible it all is, to love like Jesus does. And after we get through treating our with love our neighbors and family we are instructed in the New Testament to love our enemies. Now, I don't have the kind of enemies that are out to destroy me, but if I did Jesus would say to love them. You see, the law is a mirror. It reflects to us our problem, our condition, our need, and our death. The law is good because it shows us reality. And the reality is that I cannot keep even the 1 law, let alone the hundreds of laws that make up the Old Testament law. In Mark 10:26 the disciples, upon hearing how difficult it would be for a rich man to be saved ask a question, "Who then can be saved?" And it is in Jesus answer that I is impossible, only God can do it. The point of the law and the gospel and my bad moods is that keeping the law and being saved by keeping it is impossible, but grace, salvation by God alone is what God did for us sacrificing His Son on the cross. Everything is possible with God.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Life Struggles

I have been going through a writing drought. It is not so much that I can't write.  It's more that I want my heart and attitude to be pleasing to the Lord before I write. I have been struggling to let go of some things. It is like if I let them go that it means they never happened and that the whole struggle was meaningless. I know that makes very little sense. One of the difficulties of finding the joy of the Lord and being able to let go of past events and sorrows, at least for me, is that I don't want to give up my hurts, sorrows, struggles. I sometimes nurse them, think about how rough its been. In order to receive joy I have to be willing to let go of all of that and get God's perspective. The past couple weeks I have been working on forgiveness. Every time I catch myself nursing a past hurt or offense I have been stopping and forgiving whoever it was that hurt me. If I catch myself reliving a partcularly bad part of my life I have been consciously stopping and thanking God for whatever good He is working through that circumstance. When I find myself discouraged and depressed by what I see is a struggle in my present circumstances I am stopping to thank God for leading me and asking Him to make things clear in His time. When someone in the present is bugging me in the present I stop to pray God's blessing on them and ask God in the moment to help me see them as He does. I really hate it. I really would like to sometimes just wallow in some self pity. I think I've shared before how prone to it I am. It is such a temptation to live in past disappointments. You think it will guard you against future pain but instead you live in constant pain. I can tell you my plan is working. I feel free when I forgive people. I feel joy when I give up a past hurt. I love better when I pray for others. I hope it soon comes naturally to me. I hope that one day I won't desire to feel sorry for myself. Until that happens I will take the steps I can to discipline my way into the joy of the Lord. I should want that joy more than anything. Someday I know that I will.