Friday, April 29, 2016

Wrestling with God

My faith is a bit messy at times.  My heart gets shaky over new struggles that I can't find the answers to and inside I start fighting a feeling that's pressing up against my chest.   A feeling that the best way to solve my problems is to press through my days not really facing the fears( or the real issues that need resolution) that have come to rest at my side.  I have to admit it looks a lot more like running and less like faith.  I enjoy encouraging others and when I'm wrestling it's hard to see up from down.  Encouragement seems hard to grasp, even harder to give.  

I realize though that faith and life without wrestling seems a little safe and unreasonable in nature.

So here I've been, flailing around and facing fears.  Waking up freer each day(sometimes I can't recognize this till later).  
Doing life with the author of life requires risk, intimacy and trust.  Every time I've wrestled in the past, God's shown up to meet me. 

When I couldn't stop lying and stealing or shake my anger when I first surrendered my life to Jesus.  

When I couldn't hear his voice and I didn't want to keep walking forward without it.  

When my husband got hospitalized and I wasn't sure if I would get him back.  

When I had a particularly alarming bout of postpartum depression.

I've gotten a word that springs hope, brings revelation, inner healing or a shift of focus to the Eternal.  Answers to questions I never formed into prayers. 

So Stop Running.  The stress is just as much in the running as it is in your circumstances.  An infinite, eternal God is not afraid of your flailings.

Lamentations 3: (The Message)
25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.
28-30 When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.
31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
    walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
    His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
    in throwing roadblocks in the way:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keep running/Not alone

Psalm 5:3 In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; In the morning I prepare (a prayer, a sacrifice) for You and watch and wait( for you to speak to my heart).

Give us this day our daily bread, don't look back, don't look too far forward, don't worry, don't fear.  Sometimes contentment seems like a tall order,

I looked up "The Lord's Prayer" in my you version app and to my surprise the first thing that popped up was not the prayer that Jesus taught the disciples but loads and loads of prayers lifted up throughout the Bible.  Prayers with incense, prayers laid flat, prayers of a nation.  I read words like "You hear me" and "because I was bold enough to pray this prayer" and the thing that crosses my mind is that I'm not alone.  I can look into the Bible and view how people throughout history have wrestled with the reality of walking with the Eternal and see that it's not so different from my own path.  Crying out, asking questions.  Thinking God is crazy and at the same time knowing he is faithful.  Please wet the fleece.  Please dry the fleece now too.  Learning to trust a wild and loving God.

I saw that God instructed someone to burn incense as a symbol of prayer.  Incense permeates the area around it filling a room in all in its cracks and crevices.  Our prayers are changing the atmosphere around us(and in us) as well as being heard by and delighting the heart of our father God.  How beautiful is it that God gives us tangible things to grasp the intangible.  Something to taste, touch, smell, see or hear.

So it's one day at a time.  Choosing prayer instead of fear or checking out to my phone or to a project when things arise.  A few months ago a problem surfaced again with one of my boys that had taken me over with worry for him, for his future.  The worry did nothing to bring any change though.  It only served to halt me in any progress while I built imaginative horror stories of his future.  Let's not entertain imaginative fear for too long or he'll show up unexpected(anxiety, panic).  So I'm praying and taking my eyes off the worry-induced pretend future I've made for him to uplift and encourage my real son in the here and now.

God says he has good plans for him anyway.

I've had some answers and acting on them has already begun to bring good fruit but I still need to lean into God for my path.  So thankful for the encouragement of the many who've followed God throughout history that tell us that he hears us, sees us and show us that he moves for us.  If we stepped into the middle of their stories we'd probably see the glorious messes that they were, full of faith, desperation and uncertainty but you look a little further and you get to see the miraculous.  Thank God for their complete stories and God in the midst of them.  Not alone, not alone, not alone.

God I trust you with all the uncertainty and pray that you would take my hand as I run headstrong into the unknown.

Hebrews 12:1-3
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Monday, April 11, 2016

I'll say it for you, "I've got my hands fuuuuuuullllllll."

Lately getting out of my house has been a challenge.  With three boys getting out of the house in a timely manner while remembering where I'm going and what I'm doing is a miracle.  Not a miracle that sounds very awe-inspiring like feeding the 5,000, healing or raising the dead but a miracle involving my own mental capacities of which I am very grateful.

Point is, once I'm out the comments start flowing.

I almost always hear, "You've got your hands full".

Now I understand that this is a natural reaction to seeing a mom out with three lively boys but while I was pregnant with my last I was constantly asked, "Are you having a girl?" or "Did you want a girl/Are you disappointed?"

Which begs the question in my mind, "Do girls fix your problems as a parent?"

The tone of the question changes these conversations drastically.  From the lighthearted and caring stranger to the looks at my kids like they have the plague stranger.  Either way it just leads me to the root of this interaction which is, "Am I ok with my boys, my life, my choices."

The answer is yes.

We have bad days.  We have good days.  When the bad days begin to outnumber the good ones I have to look for the cause because the fact that they are boys is not the reason.  Am I tired, achy/hungry, need a break or do boundaries need to be reestablished, behavior addressed, loving connections made?

I love their energy(really), creativity, joy and laughter.  Most of the time we are laughing.  Some of the time we are wrestling.  Parts of the time we are crying.  None of the time are we resting( ok maybe sometimes).

I love that I have loads of excuses to do "Boy" things that I would love to do anyway.  Introducing them to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, jumping in mud puddles, helping little ones climb up into trees and wrestling on the floor.

I've also introduced them to "Girly" things like the day they sat and watched Anne of Green Gables mostly because the tv was on or all our poetry tea times( although I think poetry and tea time are for everyone anyway).

While homeschooling we took nature walks, had field trips every other week, acted out history lessons and had our hands deep into messy science experiments and dioramas.  We read Shakespeare and the Odyssey( children's versions) and discussed ancient history, God and the Civil rights movement.  I've been missing it so much that I haven't quite known what to do with just my toddler.  It's a new season though and we're growing and learning, searching for our footing in a new place.

So yes my hands are still full.  Full of joy and sometimes dishes or frustration but full none the less.  That's the way I like it.  Hopefully I'll know what to do with my hands when they're free as well.  I think I'll start to practice.

Friday, April 8, 2016

If you wanna sing out, sing out(to cats).

I like to sing.  Sometimes I'm alright at it and sometimes I'm just sing narrating my day( think the more awkward side of Zooey Deschanel).  Or singing out my frustrations or interrupting conversations with close friends to sing songs related to the discussion( always helpful).

You just can never tell( grandmother quote).  

When my husband and I still lived with my in-laws I was caught singing to my cat.  I had picked up my tiny tabby and took him outside to check the mail when being fully immersed in belting out a song to my kitten Tiger I turned and locked eyes with my husband's adult cousin.  I don't even think he reacted.  I felt ridiculous.  I went inside.  I kept singing.  Sometimes you can't keep it in.

                                                British Mobile ad and pretty much what happened

10 ways I know I've been bitten by the creativity bug( in no particular order):

#1 Watching talent based shows of any kind makes me want to get up and do the thing.  "What do you mean I don't sew/do stand up/ balance plates on my head?  I'm going to go practice now."

#2 I begin to tell myself stories inwardly and have to remind myself to interact with humans that day.

#3 I go to the craft table at Mops(Mothers of preschoolers) saying I don't even know what I'm gonna do and end up engrossed in the craft until it's time to go( you mean it's over?).

#4 I look up you tube videos on vocal coaching and sit there and practice.  For what, I'm not sure.

#5 Grab 2 books and 10 magazines at Barnes & Noble, then voraciously try to read everything like Johnny 5 while child plays at train table.

#6 Incessant car drumming.

#7 It feels as though parenting would be much better if crafts were involved.  For every occasion.

#8 The recycling bin is beginning to look like a project to you( ooh plastic).

#9 Laughing at the grocery store from delight of food selection( as opposed to groaning and filling your cart with frozen items because you're so stinkin tired).

#10 When your heart fills with the beauty of......a building, a strangers smile, the light coming thru the trees at dusk, etc.

Your list will be different and perhaps more amazing and hilarious.

Be creative, enjoy stuff and share your enthusiasm because we all need connection and contagious joy.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Waking up to the reality of Hope(and something about Sasquatches)

Do I have to?   

Yesterday I found myself getting up on the wrong side of the bed.  Same side but somehow wrong. With a foggy mind, heavy thoughts and sluggish eyelids I labored through breakfast. My husband tried to band us together to knock out a few chores before beginning our day but I only managed minimal output while groaning like a Sasquatch(apparently sasquatch is a proper noun) all throughout.  Only a few short hours later I crawled into my preschoolers bed to try to calm his difficult emotions and to shut out my day.  As I lay there half in, half out of the land of the living my mind began to sing a worship song about waking up.  I laughed inwardly, barely awake with the song growing in intensity in my mind.

"Awaken my soul, come awake"

I continued to try to sleep as my mind kept singing,  "Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me.  Come wake me from my sleep.  Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow.  To overflow."

"Spirit of the...."

"Alright, God I'm getting up."

Holy Spirit with a sense of humor?  I think so.

I've struggled and thankfully walked through and out of bouts of depression, unexpected intense anxiety and a trauma that at times caused post traumatic stress.  I don't say this to get pity(or to scare you from inviting me over to your house) but because I believe that these things are so common and yet so taboo to speak about.  There are chemical and hormonal changes that our bodies go through because of pregnancy, lack of sleep, improper nutrition, and many other regular, everyday things that can cause our minds some sort of imbalance.  There are also difficult life changes and stress that can overwhelm us causing us to be susceptible to mental imbalance, like a virus.  These things should not be taboo, should not be shameful.  They are all too common and treatable.  Even the scarier imbalances are still a medical condition, an illness where the root of the issue needs to be searched out and taken care of, where there is hope.  The problem may be simple or multifaceted but there is always hope.

It might sound odd out of context of a certain sermon but recently the phrase, "God doesn't negotiate with hopelessness;" has stuck in my mind.  Knowing I cannot do that sermon justice in a few phrases I'll just tell you that the phrase was referencing Gideon.  Pointing out that some of the negative, insecure things that Gideon was believing about himself were not true but that God did not even address that.  He just spoke to Gideon as if he had already overcome, as if he was always the warrior of faith that God was calling him to be.

What I see is that in the Kingdom of God and within God is all Hope.  Hope is the reality, not a chance with a large possibility of doomed failure.  So God is working from a perspective that we cannot always grasp.  Where Hope is tangible and Healing is not out of reach.  And hopelessness is like a tiny, little thought terrorist, stealing our joy, wrecking our trust and ability to move forward.  So God's not going to negotiate with it because hopelessness is just a lie wrapped up in pretty packaging that makes us identify with it, not question it.  So he just speaks truth and it alters our reality and allows us to see more clearly.  To wake up.  Ha, like the Matrix or C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair or that movie where you need bathtubs to help wake you out of dreams.  Except we wake up to see our real enemy and a much better reality where hope is real and heavens resources are endless(no bathtub needed).

Not real.  We're done now.

 In one of my hardest moments I was driving down the highway from my in-laws in what felt like the middle of a nightmare.  I was breaking at the seams and it felt as though my heart couldn't handle one more minute in my current reality.  I have no idea what I prayed but I think I asked, "God where are you?", my voice and thoughts flooded with anger and confusion.  I was clinging to the notion that God was Good because I could point directly back to places in my life where I knew he had come through but I felt myself slipping, grasping.  Then all of a sudden I felt lifted out of the darkness and almost placed on the other side of it.  I could sense there was another side, something I could apprehend past the pain and with that came peace.  No answers yet, just peace.

So here are some awesome verses:

Zephaniah 3:17 

“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

Romans 8:37-39 

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jeremiah 29:11 

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

And.......there's more.  Like this one!  Ba-Bam Scripture!

1 Corinthians 13:6-8

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

All this to say when you hear that whisper of hope listen closer.  Watch out for it, anticipate it because God is in relentless pursuit of our hearts.  Let it wake you from your weariness and let you see more clearly the hope of your calling, your hope in the darkness.  We all need a little waking up sometimes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

5 or 6 barrels of wine

So I don't know if you've ever felt this way but whenever I've read the miracles of Jesus I've felt as if the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine seemed odd or maybe like a side random thing Jesus did.  Not saying I don't see purpose in celebration but this miracle is so different than any of his other miracles.  No healing, no demons driven out, just lavish celebration.  

As I'd read my inner self would scrunch up it's nose and say- "Oh don't worry about that miracle.  His mom made him do it.  Doesn't mean anything." (I'm questioning right now whether or not to get snarkier with my comments.  Just thought you should know)

So I asked God because honestly, it didn't make sense to have an "insignificant miracle" and now I find myself wholly taken up with a word picture of Christs purpose on Earth. 

I haven't been able to get this thought out of my head.  This thought that Jesus Is the water turned to wine.  John 7:37 & Mark 14:23-24  The living water and the wine!  You see as much as I know and have experienced father God/Jesus Christ/Holy Spirit as loving , joyful, wooing me to repentance, Christs blood as wine has reminded me only of the crushing pain Christ went through on the way to the cross not the joy that strengthened him to get there.  

Christs 1st miracle was more than a wine bottle given as a hostess gift though.

This was an extravagant gift, gallons and gallons of the best wine with the host being surprised and remarking at this extravagance.  Without knowing about the miracle the Master of the banquet says in John 2, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.". 

If you were to buy one bottle of aged fine wine, it could cost hundreds of dollars.

Jesus gave gallons.

Six stone water jars each holding from twenty to thirty gallons each!  This was like the feeding of the 5 thousand but with wine.  If it was just the 20 gallons a piece that's still 120 gallons of the best wine!  And for what?  A wedding where they had already been celebrating for awhile.  

I felt a quiet joy welling up inside at this thought that I still can't quite comprehend.  Jesus's blood as an extravagant incomprehensible outpouring that defies logic.  Why this price?  Why so much?  Wine can represent that crushing but it also represents sustenance, joy and celebration.  

And what our we celebrating but the union or marriage between the bride of Christ back to God.  All separations between us and God are removed!

And to top this off what water did Christ turn in wine?

 It says in John 2:6 that they were stone water jars normally used for ceremonial washing.  When Christ died, the curtain in the temple leading into the most holy of holies was torn from top to bottom signifying the removal of boundaries keeping us from entering into Gods presence.  No more trying to clean ourselves up in every way possible to be able have relationship with the most holy .  Christs blood has given us access, has washed us clean. 

He is the celebration and we are his.  He is our extravagant joy and we are his!  This is the joy abiding in him and set before him.  This is some good news.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Money, Marriage, Miracles, Oh my!

So I'm writing this because Travis and I have been complimented on our ability to handle money over the years.  I can honestly say I feel blessed to be in a marriage that can handle hard discussions and keep going.  After ten years of marriage we relate more and more to those vows we spoke out loud in front of friends and loved ones.  For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, crabbiness and joy( I hope that was one of them!).
 Anyways, somehow we've managed to get through a variety of money issues mostly unscathed.
Although it isn't because we haven't made mistakes.  We bought a condo when we didn't really have the money and got stuck with it for 8 years or so( our family growing, our place not).  We've bought bad vehicles that weren't cheap.  We couldn't afford insurance and then had an emergency that made us realize why we couldn't afford not to.  My husband has been downsized twice and we once went five months without income( which in retrospect doesn't seem long but it did then).
 I'm so thankful for where we are now, which is attempting to aggressively pay down my school loan but at times I feel the urge not to be thankful.  To want things that I can't have right now, to splurge, to not pay attention to our budget.  I ignore it though and thank God for all our financial breakthrough and favor( at least that's what I'm doing right now).  Thank him for the courage to use our tax money to fix and sell our condo when we really just wanted to run away from it.
 Our condo that we'd owned had felt like a hopeless weight trapping us in an increasingly uncomfortable situation.  In all actuality we owned next to none of it and I was afraid that costs of selling were going to outweigh what we got for it.  We did it though.  We prayed and put our money into it trusting it to sell.  By the end before we sold it we had 3 boys in the condo and just about all of our belongings in a storage unit so we could fit.  It sold the day before it was on the market officially!
 There have been so many times in our marriage like that financially that if I stop to think about it I can't help but feel blessed.  Bills being payed on time despite no money, a job with perfect timing so there was no lag in pay between the ending of another job which included severance money, large hospital bills being written off, health insurance being back paid, grocery bills staying at $50 no matter how much I got!  Praise God!
 Travis and I do have a heart for saving, budgeting, living within our means and total honesty in our finances.  For some crazy reason we enjoy it and at times staying within our budget feels like a game and the prize is financial freedom.  Every time we feel anxious about money or frustrated I find the best thing to do is look at reality, not how it feels, to talk and to pray.  At times it can feel personal and raw and uncomfortable because it's addressing needs, wants and dreams you may have for yourself and your family but you can trust God.  You can trust him with money and even with all the stuff that goes along with hashing it out.  Numbers are a fact but dealing with them can get messy. I'm so glad that God's held my heart as I've gotten real about this subject again and again.  How I'm scared, how I'm frustrated, how I just want some new clothes and a haircut for goodness sake!
 I'm going to come back and address some practical things because every answered prayer was not a miracle.  Sometimes it was just an urge to keep going and to steward what we had but for now talk and be honest.  Look at reality and don't turn away.  Be thankful when it's hard to be thankful and know that he's a faithful, loving and personal God who see's you.

About 7 years ago, in the midst of no money, mortgages, giant student loans and no jobs I sat in a service where the guest preacher shared a pretty random fact about the meanings of names before going on to preach an entirely different message.  I was reminded of a little laminated card I had been given as a little girl that said, Jessica- "Wealthy" and felt the Lord impressing on my heart that I was wealthy no matter how much I had and that he was taking care of my family.  I went and told the preacher after the service and when she asked me to share people handed me money afterward.  It wasn't my intention but it definitely blessed us( we needed it) and I went home to look up my name meaning.  My name was derived from an ancient Hebrew name and means God see's.  Just what I needed to hear.

He sees.