Friday, December 31, 2010

Today's Lesson

I don't know who needs to hear this, but someone does; so I will be obedient to what I feel.

I went for a bike ride this afternoon. I wasn't sure if I even really wanted to, but I knew that if I didn't and the weather was bad for the next few days, I would be really mad at myself for not going riding. The ride out was really hard; the wind was blowing so hard against me as I rode. I could only go about 10 miles an hour (I am usually going about 20 to 22 on average). So, my pace was half what I am used to. Also, it takes a lot more work and hurts more to ride into to wind. I just kept reminding myself that the same wind that was blowing against me was going to blow behind me on the way back. The wind serves to make you stronger. It was a metaphor that God was painting for me. Sometimes in life that wind seems to blow so strong against us. It seems like we are making no progress at all and could possibly being blown backward. It seems like we aren't going to make it. I can be so frustrating, exhausting and seem hopeless. As I got to the end of the trail and turned to come back home, I felt exhilarated. I felt re-energized knowing that the wind was about to be my friend. I began to pedal and I could feel the wind behind me blowing. After pushing so hard to make such slow progress the ride home seemed so amazing. I just kept feeling like saying "blow me home, Lord." I was almost in tears with joy thinking about how the same wind that blows against us to make us strong, can turn, blow behind us and make the progress seem unreal and so effortless. It was as if I was flying (22 or 23 miles an hour).

So hear is the message, though I don't know who it's for. The wind is there to make you strong. Hang on, keep pushing. You can make it; He will make sure you make it. And when the wind has done it's job and you have build the strength you need to build during this season, the wind will turn. It will blow behind you and you will get to fly. The wind is not forever. That same wind will blow you right home. The wind is good. The wind is your friend. Just hang tight; it's turning soon. The ride home is worth the ride out!!!

Seems so trivial and silly now in print. But I have decided to obey Him even when I feel like it could make me look foolish, b/c I value His opinion more than the opinion of anyone else. It seemed really silly to be tickled to tears over the wind blowing behind me so I could feel like I was flying, but it was cool. Only a cyclist can probably appreciate that feeling of a tail wind, but it is amazing and fun.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Everywhere I turn the message to me seems to be "stay in the moment, be present". I have never been very good at that and I am not sure that I even totally understand what that means. I do know that I have a loving, gracious heavenly Father who is willing and in the process of teaching me what that means and how to do it. Jesus was always in the moment, fully engaged and available. Now, being in the moment is not something that we, as Americans, are very good at. To further complicate that matter for me is the survival mechanism I learned from a very early age to keep myself alive. I spend the first 20 years of my life escaping in my mind, detaching myself from whatever abuse I might be experiencing at the moment. I lived most of my life in a very compartmentalized manner. I would keep things in boxes and closets in my mind. It has taken the last 18 years of my life to learn not to disassociate from what was going on around me. But, for the majority of my life I felt like I lived inside a plexiglass box that no one else could see. I could see and be seen, communicate and appear to be involved, but there was a thick sheet of plexiglass between me and everyone else. This left me feeling isolated and alone. Now this compartmentalization and detachment served me well in my early years. Without that coping strategy I am not sure I would have been able to survive the things I have survived, however, I cannot keep living my life that way, nor can I use the abuse as an excuse to stay disconnected. For one thing, that kind of live is not truly alive; it is a hollow, empty, dead existence. We are called out of death and into life. We are called to depth, abundance and richness. In the last 18 months I have learned, for the first time in my life to connect with people. I have learned to allow people into my space and let them become important enough to me that they aren't dispensable. I have learned to feel empathy for others, to feel their pain and joy, to share in the experience of humanity. I have learned to not shut down when I feel emotions for myself or for others. I have learned to show people how broken I am; I have learned to expose my weaknesses and struggles, to trust people with the holes in my armor and even begin to tear down the fortress that has kept me safe, but isolated. This process has been a learning process and a healing process. It has been allowing God to talk to me and expose the roots and then give me the courage to reach out and open up. It has been such a tremendous and amazing experience. I have so many really wonderful people in my life. I have so many deep connections.

Now I feel like God is saying it's time to take it a step further. I don't really live too much in the past. The past is over; God has forgiven me and healed me of so much. What I did not realize was that I have been living in the future more than that presence. I am realizing that I have missed out on the fullness of so many experiences and so much love and beauty in my life b/c I was always striving to make things better. I have been so driven for so many years to get us in a "better financial situation". I have always wanted my children to have more than we did. I wanted to take them on vacations, pay for them to go to college. I wanted to be able to give them lessons/sports/or whatever they wanted to participate in. I wanted to be able to give them braces, buy them a car when they were old enough to drive. I didn't want them to feel like we were poor. (Not that we are poor in comparison to the rest of the world.) I am not talking filthy rich just comfortable. What I am now realizing is that we are still pretty much in the same financial situation that we have been in for the last decade, so that striving and discontentment have not moved us forward at all. What it has done is make me miss out on really being present for the life we have lived in the moments we have lived it. It's not like I am saying that I wasn't around. I just missed out on really just enjoying the moments and resting in exactly the place we were in. I was discontent and striving, obsessed with this idea that if we had more, if I could give the kids what I didn't have that they would be happier and turn out better. I realize now that I could have taught them the beauty of contentment in the Lord. I could have taught them the beauty of God's provision and delighting in unexpected blessings instead of teaching them that "tomorrow when we have more then we can really live." I have not taught them to rest and be thankful for the little things. I have not stopped to smell the roses, or taste the sweetness of the fruit, or look at the beauty all around us, b/c I was in too big a hurry to get to some "ideal destination". Who needs Disneyland when you have woods and bugs, creeks and fish, stars and lightning bugs?

I guess my point is (I hope I have conveyed my heart) that the moments and experiences I could have had with my children and husband were not fully experienced as they could have been b/c I was too busy being discontent and thinking that I would enjoy life when I "arrived" at the "destination". I have heard a lot that life is a journey not a destination, but I think I just now really understand what that means. The bumps, struggles, and tests are part of the beauty as are the moments of laughter, good food and just sitting under the stars.

That being said, I cannot go back and change any of that. I also cannot live in regret or condemnation. What I can do is start today learning to be present. I can start to be aware of things around me and in me. I can begin to indulge the senses that God gave me and enjoy all that is around me. I can be in the moments I am given and trust the the next moments will come by God's grace without me having to fret or help them along. I can take moment to kiss my husband and tell him every day several times a day how much I love him and how grateful I am that he loves me and that I get to share life with him. I can stop and listen to Chloe's stories about her day. I can allow my children to help me cook and sew or whatever they are interested in participating with me. I can listen to the music Stephen wants to share with me. I can gaze at the incredible beauty that Ally has grown into. I can experience the smell of the coffee at work and connect with each of my customers with genuine appreciation that they have come to see me. I can stop and slowly chew and taste my food. I can be aware of how songs move me or art inspires me. I can be aware of my breath going in and out as I run. I can smell the food cooking and anticipate the taste in my mouth. I can let myself touch the textures all around me. I can stop to feel the wind and smell the scents it carries to me. I can walk in the grass barefoot, jump on the trampoline, listen to my husband breath as he sleeps. I can allow myself time to create just for the sake of creating. The list is endless. I will live in this moment. It will take practice. I am sure there is so much more to this that God will need to teach me, but today I will begin the journey of embracing the journey. I will let the destination take care of itself. I have ended up in so many places different from where I thought I would be. I don't know exactly all the places this path God has me one will lead to, but I do know that I can enjoy the walk and experience it deeply instead of trying to get to where I am going "quickly".

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rest for the Soul

As I talked about on my last post, I took a class that recently ended called "Renovation of the Heart." It has a tremendous impact on me and is continuing to have an impact on my as I attempt to continue walking in the spiritual disciplines that I developed through the class. The last couple weeks of the class ended up being very, very busy for me, so I have taken the couple weeks since it ended to slowly go through the last 3 chapters. One of the exercises that I went back and did from chapter 11 in the book had really impacted me the last couple weeks. I didn't really think it impacted me so much at the time I did it; I undertook the exercise b/c I wanted to be faithful to finish the class strong and not skimp out on the end of it. I have realized over the last couple weeks that it did impact my thinking.

I was to have Psalm 23 read out loud to me once through, then read again slowly pausing between each verse. ( I read it to myself). The I was to ask the Lord these two questions: 1)What needed to happen for my soul to be restored? 2) What is the first thing I need to do to find rest in you? I sat for quite a while asking and trying to be quiet and listen for the answers. Quite honestly, I was also dozing off a bit b/c I was really tired that day. I felt very impressed that the area of my life that I did not have rest in my soul was my children. I feel pretty much at peace, trusting and restful in most other areas of my life. I was not at rest in regard to my children. My lack of rest is a little different than one might think.

I trust the Lord with my children, or so I think. I do not trust myself, though, with my children. I feel like I have made so many mistakes raising them. I feel like I will realize later that I have continued to make mistakes with them. I try to do right by them. I try to make wise decision in regard to them, but, if I am being brutally honest, I feel like a failure in the area of parenting so much of the time. I didn't have much a role model growing up, and my role models when I started having children were extremely imbalanced. I am old enough to have seen the kids of the church I attended when I first met the Lord and had Ally grow to adults. There was a lot of hurt and mess they all had to work through due to the disciplinary measures and environments they grew up in. So I have tried to strike a balance between the uber discipline of that system and the lack of discipline I grew up in. I sure don't have it figured out and I am so grateful for God's grace and mercy. I have tried to be honest with my children about my weaknesses and struggles. I have tried to keep open communication and not be so dogmatic about what I thought that they wouldn't feel like they could talk to me. I try to apologize when I am wrong and take responsibility. I try to see things from their perspective and not see "different" as "wrong". I never wanted to be one of those moms who put down the kids music and acted like the music from my childhood was so much better. I try to remember how frustrating it was when my parents hated my music, so I listen to their music with them and find that I actually end up like a lot of it. I try not to get overly wrapped up in how they dress, what they do to their hair, etc; I try to encourage the dreams or interests they have and not force my expectations or dreams for their lives on them. I have tried to do the best I can...

But I know that I am not always easy to deal with. I can be irritable. I put way too much pressure on poor Alexandra when she was younger. I have drug them from church to church and only in the last year have put down roots. I have not raised them in an environment to really learn what the Word of God says or how to walk with Jesus. We don't eat dinner as a family and never have. We don't pray together like we should or read the bible as a family. They watched me struggle and lose the battle with alcohol for quite a while. They have grown up in an environment where we have struggled with money their whole lives. Things could definitely be worse, but they haven't gotten to travel or go on vacations. They don't get a lot of extra stuff. They have had to wear worn out clothes or what ever we were given. All this material stuff may sound silly to most, but I just always wanted them to be able to do more than I was able to do. I wanted them to see other parts of the world. I wanted them to be able to do sports, or art, or dance, or whatever. We just have not really been able to do that very much. I was always so busy when they were babies. I didn't learn how to play as a child, so I wasn't very good at just sitting down to play games with them or pretend. I didn't do crafts and fun stuff. Sometimes I wish that I could have them as children now b/c I didn't really appreciate the time I had with them. I wasn't good at being silly with them.

Anyway, enough of that. The point is... I am very aware of the mistakes that I have made. I know that no one is perfect, but I don't really feel like I did as good of a job as I could have. Not that it is all over. I still have years to invest, love and impact them. I just feel like some of the more formative years could have been better. So, I have really struggled with fear that I have messed up my children. I have been afraid that I have damaged them and that they will have a harder life b/c of me or maybe even not serve God b/c of me. Like I said, I trust God, but I have not trusted myself. I have felt like maybe someone else could have done better or maybe I could have done a better job if I had started later in life. What God showed me is that the root of not trusting myself really boils down to not trusting Him.

He gently, over the weeks after asking Him to show me what needed to happen for me to find "soul rest" in Him in regard to my children, started to peel back layers and give me a realistic picture of the truth. I have peace in my life over every thing that happened to me growing up and all the pain. I am at peace with that fact that His grace has carried me throughout my entire life. He knew everything that would happen and how I would react to it and the outcome of it all. He knew when I would walk into that church where I accepted Him as my Creator and Savior. He prepared my heart so that the words of David Fees would penetrate my heart and bring me to my knees. He opened my heart and eyes to set me on the path of the Kingdom. He even chose my parents to be who they are knowing how broken and incapable they were.....

Now, if that is the case for me. If He loves me and His grace carried me and brought me to exactly the place to have my whole world turned upside down and put me on the path of serving Him. Then the same is the case for each of my children. He loves them more than I will ever be able to comprehend. He chose me as their mother. He chose the timing that each of them would be conceived and born. He chose Ally's genetic father. He chose Larry as Stephens father and chose the timing that he would be conceived. He chose Larry to be Ally's father and ordained that they would love each other beyond any genetic differences. God chose me to be mother to each of the three, Ally, Stephen, and Chloe knowing every struggle I have, knowing every mistake I would make raising them, and knowing the outcome of it all. Nothing I have done has been a surprise to Him or thrown a kink into His plan for them. A friend wisely said to me, "Do you think you are powerful enough to mess up God's plan?" Even after that I still struggled with really resting in God's grace for me and my children. But, when God broke it down so intricately, I finally got it. He chose me, knowing how hard it would be for me to raise them and how many mistakes I would make and He actually wove into the fabric of each of their lives and His plan for them all of those variables. It all comes together for good. It all works out. Just as my temperament and environment would shape me into exactly what would balance my husband and how his temperament and environment would shape him to bring about one beautiful union and person out of two.

I have found soul rest. I pray for my children every day and ask God to be merciful and call them to himself. I ask him to set into motion those things that need to be to bring them to where he wants them to be and to do whatever it takes to bring about the most eternal significance and the most authentic and sincere relationship possible. I trust Him to bring that to pass. Salvation belongs to the Lord. I cannot save my children; I cannot make them serve God. I cannot control or protect them enough to guarantee they will have not pain or turn their hearts to God. We all need God's grace and mercy to come to know Him and all we can call upon in regard to our children is His grace and mercy. They will only serve Him if He opens their hearts to serve Him. We can plant seeds, put the kindling around their hearts and model the kingdom, but only God can light the fire. I will continue to seek to be faithful to my children, pray for my children and love them, but I won't fret and worry anymore, b/c He knows all and took all into account.

Below is a really neat scene from a movie I saw a while back that I think illustrates so beautifully how God can set into motion a chain of events that will place us where we need to be when we need to be there.

Stop the Flow

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A lesson in cleaning toilets

This is a post that has been simmering in my head for a few weeks. It is another from the Fright Fest month; I have just been waiting for the time to type it.

Just a little background. I have been taking a class over the last 3 months or so called Renovation of the Heart; the book is written by Dallas Willard. It is about building spiritual disciplines into your life and allowing Christ to reshape you into His image. That has been a theme in my life over the last few months anyway. Everywhere I look God sends some situation, person or resource to point me in that direction. I highly recommend the book. It is not an easy process to begin; the digging can be uncomfortable if not painful, but as Christians that is what we are called to. We are not called to pray a prayer and then live however we want. That is not what the Gospel is about. It is about being totally and radically changed from the inside out. We are called to be disciples (apprentices) of Christ and to live our lives the way He lived. He left us His example to follow. The trick is that it is totally impossible to do on our own and in our own power. Only in total surrender to Christ and His will, Spirit and power can we be remade in His image. The equally tricky side of the coin is that He will not force us to change. He will empower us and even do the work in us, but not if we don't desire it. So it becomes what has been coined grace driven effort. While we cannot do it without Him, He will not force it upon us if we don't desire it. Now we could go really deep and say that really the desire comes from Him as well. If you don't have the desire to have your life renovated and become like Christ, ask Him for the desire and He will be faithful to give it to you. Believe me I have seen it in my life so many times. I knew that I should desire something, but I did not desire it so I would ask Him and He has always been faithful to answer those kind of prayers. The biggest example of that in my life lately has been dealing with my alcohol addiction (read about that here Alcoholic and More on Alcoholism ) So this book is really great about digging really deep and breaking down all the different areas that need to be renovated. It will change your life for the better, but it won't be comfortable.

Because of this class, I was spending a lot of time praying and digging into my junk. I have so much ugliness still inside of me. If I'm not careful it can be disheartening. I have to remember to look backwards at how far I have come on this journey because when I just look forward it seems like I am making no progress. God is so gracious to remind me all the time that I have not "made it"; there is still so far to go; I don't look like Christ even 10% of the time. I am grateful that God uses situation in my life every day to remind me that I can't do this on my own; I cannot boast about the progress that has been made in my life. It is Christ and Christ alone that justifies and sanctifies me.

On to my point in this post. This season at Fright Fest the Saloon (where we handle costumes and makeup for the characters) toilet was on the fritz. It ended up needing the plumbers out every weekend if not all three days of the weekend. After the plumbers would come, then the cleaning crew would come to make sure the bathroom was clean for us to use. The majority of the time it was this same young man who would come to clean. I didn't really pay much mind to what was going on b/c usually I was doing makeup or on my way out to go check out how everyone looked at their posts. One particular day near the end of the season, I needed to use the restroom before I went out so I was waiting on the guy to clean it. I was standing near the door and ended up having a conversation with the young man. When I say young man, I mean he was probably under 25. He was cleaning the bathroom with a smile on his face and talking to me. I mentioned that he must be tired of having to come and clean our bathroom for us. He stated that it wasn't a big deal; the restrooms in the whole park are really old so he is always having to go all over the park cleaning up after the plumber. I was struck by how much pride he took in his job. He really did a good job; he didn't slop through. He was not grumbling or ashamed. He looked me in the face and talked about how it was his job to make sure the bathrooms were in clean condition after plumbing problems. This was a normal, very intelligent, well mannered, nice looking young man. As I waited I was cut so deep in my heart. I don't think that I could take so much pride in being the person who cleans the toilets. I felt so ashamed of my arrogance and ego. I felt the Holy Spirit speak so clearly that Jesus would clean the toilets with nothing but love in His heart for the person who was going to use it. He would not have felt like it was below Him; He would do it with such humility, beauty and love. If I am called to be like Christ, then that is what He calls me to do. I had to ask myself, "If that was my job, could I do it 'heartily unto the Lord' could I take pride in being the person who makes sure that the toilets are lovingly clean for people to sit on?" If I was like Christ, the answer to those questions would be yes; I could not honestly say that I could do that. Honestly, I am still sometimes ashamed to admit I work at Starbucks. That is not meant to put anyone down or make anyone feel bad. That statement is an honest assessment of how far off my heart is from where Christ wants it to be. I know that I could not look at someone in the eyes and say that I clean toilets and do it with pride in my work and worship in my heart. That is a glaring reflection of the pride, arrogance and ego that still lives in my heart. Oh, how ugly I can be on the inside.

I was so convicted. I have since begun praying that God would change my heart and perspective on my job. He gave me the job; He calls me to work at Starbucks and expects me to do it "heartily unto Him". He expects me to make coffee and take orders with love and humility in my heart. I am the one who has taken the gift God has given me in putting me in my job and minimized it to "just coffee". There are no jobs that are meaningless. Every job that every follower of Christ has should be infused with worship. Every job is a solemn and beautiful call to worship our Creator and Savior with our hands. Every moment of our lives is meant to be infused with worship. This is something that was and is very important in a practicing Jewish persons life. A Jewish person sees worship of the Creator God is woven into the fabric of life. In Jesus time that would have been a very prevalent way of life. We seem to have lost this idea. We so compartmentalize life that we cannot see that every thing we do is worship. We aren't called to do God things on Sunday and non God things the rest of the time. Every moment of our lives should be infused with and driven by worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants everything, every moment, thought, and little piece of our hearts. If I could just get my heart wrapped around that idea the toilet guy would not have struck me so strongly. I would have understood that it is just as it should be that he takes such pride in his work and feels so positively about what he does.

Ugh!! I still am filled with so much ego and entitlement. Thank God that His love for me is not dependent on my heart or actions. Thank God that I am saved by grace and grace alone. Thank Jesus that I don't have to clean up my heart. He does it for me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baby Boy

Yes, again it has been a very long time since I wrote. October was a very long month. I was intending to only work my yearly Fright Fest job doing makeup out at Six Flags, but things did not go quite as planned. I ended up needing to have a surgical biopsy done which meant that I needed to keep my Starbucks job and insurance. That complication led to me working two jobs; it was a pretty exhausting run. Then in the midst of that I had surgery to have lymph node removed and biopsied. Praise God, the lymph node ended up not being cancerous. Oddly enough, it was filled with blue black tattoo pigment. I didn't even know that was possible. Google it if you are skeptical. I was and I did and it does happen. It is not harmful; it just mimics cancer b/c it causes a very suspicious looking calcification. It was a day surgery which I thought I would quickly recover from, but, as it turned out, now three weeks later, it still hurts. The combination of the above really kind of kept me in survival mode leaving no time to blog. Not that I needed all that as an excuse b/c sometimes I go longer for no good reason. This post, though, has been rolling around in my mind for literally 3 or 4 weeks.

I love working Fright Fest. It is my favorite job of the year. I begin to get excited about July knowing that as we head into fall we will begin planning for the season to begin. I have so much fun working Fright Fest. There are a lot of reason for this. I love Halloween. I love zombies and gore. I love the creativity I get to exhibit making different characters and wounds. Most of all, though, I love the kids and people I get to work with. I become very attached to them over the month of October. However, I realized coming home the second weekend of Fright Fest that I wasn't having nearly as much fun as I usually do. I began to think and wonder, "what is going on with me?" "Why is this just not as fun as it usually is?" I have had to work Fright Fest and another job before, so that wasn't it. As I thought about it and analyzed myself, it hit me what it was. My son, Stephen, had not been coming out. He was what was missing. He made Fright Fest fun for me. I didn't even realize how much joy he brought to the job. It wasn't until he wasn't around that I realized that he was a major part of what Fright Fest was to me. Fright Fest was, "our thing". Because I home schooled him for 2 and half years, he was basically with me every day around the clock for those almost 3 years. We would begin to get excited together and count down the months prior to Fright Fest starting. As it would get closer the excitement would build and even make it hard for him to focus on school. He would stop about every 5 minutes to ask about something or talk about some aspect of the upcoming season. Then it would start and we would begin planning and getting ready every Thursday. We would try to get ahead on school so that Fridays work would be light. We would get up on Friday morning and start packing and prepare to leave. We would drive together in the car, most of the time just him and me. We would listen to music really loud and drive the 45 minute drive into Arlington. The weekend would be exhausting and exhilarating. Friday, Saturday and Sunday I would do makeup and he would watch and wait for time to go to the haunted house to scare the patrons. He would scare from open to close with no break; he would often go without eating all day long and he did all this for free (no pay, just for the joy of doing it). He would come even if he was sick; he never wanted to miss a moment of it. So, it was Stephen; he made Fright Fest so much fun; his excitement was contagious. It was not the same without him.

Over the last few weeks being at work at Fright Fest and especially driving home, I would think about how much I was missing Stephen being with me. Everyone else missed him as well. He is such a fun and energetic force to be around. I began to realize that I was grieving over the loss of that experience. I would sometimes come close to crying as I realize that my little boy is very quickly growing up. He is becoming more independent and needing me less. This year it has really hit me that the time we get to spend with our children is so short. It is over before we know it. They will always be our children, but it changes. When your in the middle of the day to day living, day to day fun, day to day fighting, you think it will last forever. It did not occur to me last year to cling to those moments with Stephen; I did not take time to relish the energy and excitement that we had together. When it ended, I just thought, "we'll do this again next year." last year was really the last year for that. I never get to go back to that. I have the memories, but that season will never be again. People always told me to cherish those moments you get, b/c they are gone before you know it, but I didn't believe them. Now I get to be the one telling people who won't listen to beware b/c in a flash it is over. This year I went from spending every day with Stephen (more time than I thought I really wanted to spend with him) to him going back to school, not attending Fright Fest with me, and pretty much pulling away from me very quickly. He doesn't have much time for me and for the most part finds me to be pretty annoying. I just figured he would always be my little boy. I realize now that I did not stop nearly enough to "nuggle" with him when he asked. He won't even hug me right now. There has always been so many other things I needed to do when the kids were wanting my attention. Those things seem so stupid and unimportant now.

Now, I am absolutely stupid about getting his attention. If I have a moment that he will give me the time of day I will do almost anything from enduring wrestling and arm punching to listening to any and every song that he wants to share with me. If he stops to tell me something or says hey listen to this song mom, I am there b/c I know that those moments will continue to become less and less at least for the next couple years. His latest obsession is Kid Cudi so guess who is newly a fan of Kid Cudi. I don't always appreciate the language, but I do appreciate the opportunity to share something with my son. Stephen also introduced me to T.I. (talk about language). When I hear those songs, though, they remind me of the moments I get to share with Stephen.

Maybe what I really want to share with everyone is take the moments when you can get them. There are so many more when they are young, but remember they don't last forever. Grab up every moment they will give you. When they get older, you may have to share moments in a way different than you may want to or think about. I may not appreciate all the music Stephen appreciates, but if I just forbid it then he will listen to it elsewhere without me. At least if we are listening to it together, we get to share it and I have to opportunity to talk to him about it and maybe give him some perspective on what is being talked about. Just remember there comes a time that you don't get as much control over the moments; you can either try to be picky and miss moments or you can relax a bit and have more moments; they may be different moments than you would choose, but they will be moments none-the-less.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Our Gifts are a grace from God

As anyone who knows me or follows my blog knows I grew up in a pretty hard situation. Growing up was not pleasant, easy, or fun. There was a lot of abuse, disappointment, and massive amounts of confusion. What I did come to understand at a very early age was that the more independent I was the better off I would be. I learned pretty early to take care of what needed to be taken care of myself and to have no need for anyone. I learned to be very responsible at a very early age and to even take care of many other people in my life including the adults who were "theoretically" supposed to care for me. My point in all of that is to say that one of the biggest struggles in my life is independence and a sense of self sufficiency.

On a side note, I can see that I have raised my oldest daughter to be the same way. She is such a tremendous blessing; she is beautiful and strong and very capable of doing what she needs to do and not really needing anyone to help her. The self sufficient part of me is so proud; then there is the part of me that is being restored and changed that knows I have done her a disservice. She will have to come to the realization that she is totally dependent on God and that we are all created to need people and be dependent. I can only repent of my sinful mistakes and pray that God will be gentle and gracious as He brings her to the realization of her need and true dependence.

Anyway, if something needs to be done, I just do it. If I don't really want to do something that needs to be done, I am very capable of making myself do it anyway. Many times I can and do push myself further than is healthy. I put unreasonable expectations on myself and make myself take care of things on my own. (To be fair, I am getting better about this as God heals me.)

The strength, independence and sufficiency in me that many people admire and think of in a positive manner is truly my Achilles heal, the weak spot in my armor. I have such a hard time asking for help or allowing people to come along side me because I don't want to be weak. The funny thing is that very tendency is the weakest spot in me. It's like the wondering sheep; I am "strong" and stand up, but it isolates me from the fold and allows the enemy to attack without having to contend with my fellow sheep. Now, I do in a sense realize my dependence on God, but that is not so hard for me because I trust Him. I don't, on the other hand so much trust people. That, though, also stems back to not truly trusting God. If I truly trust God, then I trust Him to put those people in my life that need to be there as well as trusting Him inside of them.

As I was reading this morning I came across a verse that really stuck out to me. I began to meditate upon it and ask God to speak to me. It struck the nerve of this very tendency in me.

I Corinthians 4:7
For who makes you differ from one another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

I began to think of my attitude about where I am compared to where I started out. I have this attitude (which is a very prevalent American attitude) that I have picked myself up by my boot straps. I have said out of my mouth, "I started out this life in a gutter and have clawed and fought to get to where I am today." I have used this especially in dealing with other people who have not had to start out as far below ground zero as I did. "Don't compare my progress in life to someone who has started out in a loving family, who got to have enough resources to survive, go to college, etc." While there is some truth to that statement, I cannot even take credit for the progress. Coming from being a homeless drug addict, with nothing and eating my dinner out of dumpsters does give somewhat of a disadvantage over a supportive home, encouragement, a church background, college, etc. The problem in this whole line of thinking is that "I" have brought myself this far.

What do I have that I was not given? Do I have room to boast of my progress? God called me out of darkness. God has given me to grace to take each step I took out of the gutter and each step I continue to take away from that gutter. Not only did He give me the grace, but He took the steps inside me. Even having started out in the gutter is a gift that God has given me. He has allowed me to know Him in a very special way and to have a very deep sense of appreciation for what I have. That is a gift. When you have always had a bed to sleep in, you might not stop to consider what a blessing it is each day to wake up in a bed. I once owned 1 pair of underwear, 1 shirt, 1 pair of jeans, 1 skirt, 1 pair of Doc Martins, and a leather jacket. Man, am I grateful for my closet full of clothes. I only have to wear my underwear one time in between washings; I could even change them mid day if I should so feel inclined. That is a gift. Most people might not stop to be grateful for their underwear. I didn't teach myself to be grateful for these things. God, in His beautiful grace and mercy, allowed me to have the environment to foster that kind of gratitude. When asked how my day is, I will often respond with ,"It is a good day because I woke up with air in my lungs today." I really mean that. I am not saying I don't ever struggle with my attitude because I do at times. But, there were many days before Christ that I did not want to wake up; there were many days that I should not have woken up (I am sure there are more of those than I am even close to realizing). No one promises me tomorrow, so when I roll over in bed awake, it is a gift I have been given. It is another day to walk this earth and serve my Lord who created me, died to redeem me, kept me alive when I should have died over and over, called me out of darkness, and graciously leads me, heals me, changes me, and uses me each day.

My life mantra, the phrase that usually passed into my mind and heart at least once a day is...

Everything I have You gave me; everything I am You made me; Everything I ever hope to be is tied up in You!!

What do I have that I did not receive? How can I boast about anything? He has graciously given me everything. I did not carry myself out of the gutter. He carried me out of the gutter. I cannot take credit; I cannot boast. I have been dependent on Him for every breath I have taken since me first.

Psalm 71:6
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you.

That was my scripture reading on Northumbria Community for the day.

It goes right along with the theme for the day. God continues to faithfully chip away at that self sufficiency, independence and pride. He reminds me that I did not give myself anything; I daily borrow life from Him. I am so glad that He does not hold my pride and arrogance against me; He just gently reminds me, loves me, and graciously teaches me more about my dependence on Him. I have come light years from where I started out, but it has been Him bringing me, not me bringing myself.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, creator of the universe, redeemer of man kind and lover of my soul.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughts on Grace

I have so many thoughts on grace. My understanding of grace has changed and grown more than can even be measured over the years. For me, learning about grace has taken so long. I have a feeling, that stems from experience, that I will look back in ten years and see how little I really understood this mystery of grace today. I certainly had no understanding of grace in the years I first began to walk with Christ. I heard a lot about grace and I knew we were saved by grace, but I didn't really have any understanding of what that meant. When I look back to 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 1 year ago, I can see how far I have come in my understanding of God's immeasurable, consuming grace.

This post is in response to an opportunity to share thoughts in grace that my friend and author, Hillary McFarland (Quivering Daughters Hope and Healing for the Daughters of patriarchy), posted on her blog,

To talk about my experience with grace, first I must give some history. Those who already follow my blog know much of this history, but for new explorers I will give the short version. For the more extensive version look back to; then look for part 2, 3, etc.

I began my life in a very dysfunctional and abusive house which was pretty non religious. My mother was clinically depressed and estranged from her mother. My grandfather (mom's father) had sexually abused all the children in the family from the time of my mother's childhood up to when we completely separated ourselves from the family when I was 15. There some strange religious undertones relating to the grandparents, but there is not enough time to breach that subject today. I began to do drugs pretty heavily at 13, spent many years locked up in rehabs and psychiatric hospitals, and repeatedly ran away, attempted suicide, and practiced self mutilation. I finally ended up living on the streets. At 19 years old I became pregnant; I continued to do drugs and attempted to procure an abortion (thankfully that did not work out). At about 4 months gestation, while very high on LSD and inhalants, I had the experience of going to hell. My mother had previously met Jesus and had been praying for me for several years. When the hell experience happened, I called her. I told her what had happened and asked her what I should do about it. I didn't think I believed in God, but, when I came back from "Hell", I had a sense that I did not ever want to go to that place again and that if I ever did find myself there again, I would not be allowed to leave again. God, being the amazing, gracious Father that He is, put the perfect answer in my mother's mouth. She said to me, "This is what I would say to do; pray and say, 'God if you are real, reveal yourself to me,' if He does then you will know, and if He doesn't then you haven't lost anything and no one even has to know that you prayed that prayer." So I secretly started praying that prayer. About 3 months later I called my mother and asked to go to a Friday night church service with her. She was very surprised, but of course, picked me up and took me. That night, as I stood in the service, I felt the presence of God, but I did not know what it was. I kept having tears flow down my face (which I kept wiping away in frustration). I met Jesus that night and was never the same. I had never felt loved; when I was told that Jesus loved me as I was enough to die for me, it transformed me forever.

What I did not realize was that as I began to learn about Jesus in the church I met Him in, I was taught about rules and striving to please Him. I very quickly learned that He did not love me as I was. I needed to clean up or at least put the ugly broken parts of me away so that I could make the church look good. I was a "trophy". "Look at what we did in her life." I loved Him so much and wanted to please Him however I could. I wanted to be clean and right for Him, but there were so many parts of me that were so broken. Broken is an understatement. There were parts of me that were crushed into finely ground powder. I didn't even know what wholeness was supposed to look like. I wanted to not struggle and walk in habitual sin. I wanted to be free. I was taught that if I just had enough faith, I wouldn't struggle with the pain and sin anymore. I prayed so hard for more faith. I tried to figure out the rules and to be good girl.

I have to interject that I have one of those really structured temperaments that was also conditioned toward a pretty severe Obsessive Compulsive tendency by my childhood environment. I still tend to put things into my life and brain in the framework of boxes and rules. So the legalistic environment fit into the way I tended to experience the world. I wanted rules about how long I was supposed to pray, how many chapters to read in my Bible; if the church doors were open I had to be there. There were a lot of do's and don't in my mind and world. I still tend to be one of those people that others say is "disciplined". What that really equates is my compulsive structure habits. I can get caught in what I call "loops" of behavior; it may be how long I have to work out, or eating habits, or binge drinking. Once I hit a "loop" it can be hard to find my way out of it. It gets easier the longer I walk with Christ and learn to walk in his "unforced rhythms of grace". There were lots of those "loops" in the beginning of my walk.

The Compulsive tendencies of my personality combined with the "charismatic legalism" that I was spiritually developing in did not equal much understanding of grace. I never felt good enough; I felt driven to pray more, read more, do more and compare myself to others. I would judge and condemn constantly. I had no concept of grace or mercy. I was not kind or loving, b/c I did not really feel loved. I had to hide the black sin that still strangled me like an orangutan on my back. Some of those deep wounds inside of me have just begun to stop bleeding 18 years after meeting Jesus. I was not in an environment in the first years that I could be honest about the devastation and brokenness inside of me so that I could have help baring those burdens and find healing.

My first real brush with the grace of God came out of a pretty big situation of sin.

The church I was in did not believe in dating; we practiced courtship. The courtship, though, really needed "elder approval" to be smiled upon. I had learned that if I rebelled against church leadership, i was rebelling against God b/c He had put them in authority over me. I was supposed to follow what the leadership of the church said, "the Lord wanted." Prophecy was a means of controlling those who would allow themselves to be controlled (my mother and I were very much willing to be controlled). I was engaged to a young man when I had been walking with God about 2 years. We were very careful not to be alone (in the beginning at least). We did not even kiss one another. He was not, however, one that would be controlled. He had many questions about the way the church was being run and the control I was allowing them to have over me. We met in the church through a singles group. He started attending the church, but did not buy into many aspects of the church. This led to many arguments between us, b/c I just wanted him to be "submissive" to the leadership. I was afraid he and I would fall out of favor with God if he wouldn't submit. All of this finally culminated in one of the elders telling me that God said I had to break up the relationship (this was 9 months into courtship and 3 months before the wedding was to be). This broke my heart. I was told, though, that "the heart was deceitfully wicked above all things" and "that he would be a weight to me and would keep me from fulfilling the call of God on my life". When it was presented to me that way, I felt like I had no choice but to submit. I loved Jesus with all my heart and would not choose a man over my Savior. I cried every day for 6 months; sometimes I cried to the point of almost throwing up. I would beg God to help me not love Larry. I wanted to obey God, but it hurt so bad and I could not stop loving him. He was my best friend. He loved me even though he knew about all of the ugly scarred devastated parts of me. I had never loved anyone or been loved by anyone the way he loved me. It ripped both of our hearts out.

After six months of grieving and trying to forget, in a moment of weakness, I went back to him. Being with around him was like being home. At that point, we crossed to line of being involved physically. In the three days we were back together, I conceived my son. Then I was drawn back into the church where I was told to cut ties with him. When I realized, 6 weeks later, that I was pregnant, I was told that God still did not want me to marry him. I also stood before the church to confess my sin. I felt so ashamed; I had let the church down; God was disappointed in me.

As a result, of my perception of God, I thought that God was going to punish me. I was so excited to be pregnant. I wanted another baby. Certain leaders in the church tried to pressure me to put the baby up for adoption and to go as far as lying to Larry about losing the baby so I could leave for the rest of my pregnancy and give the baby up with his permission. I refused. B/c of my sin and my refusal to cave to the pressure to give up the baby, I waited daily to lose the baby. I thought that was how God was going to punish me for me sin of fornication. I would go into the bathroom every time expecting to see signs of miscarriage. I really thought that God allowed me to get pregnant so He could take the baby away to hurt me and punish me. I think I was pretty detached from the baby for most of my pregnancy b/c I was waiting to have him taken away from me. It wasn't until I held him in my arms that I believed that God wasn't going to take him away from me. Through the pregnancy and birth God showed me about grace. As I held him in my arms it was as if God whispered in my ear, "look I gave this treasure to you in spite of your choice". He didn't give me the baby so He could take it away from me. He gave me the pregnancy to show me His grace and mercy. He blessed me with an amazing gift in spite of my sin. That was the beginning of seeing God loves me just b/c He chooses to. I cannot get Him to love me any more or any less. He loves me apart from my behavior and in spite of my wicked heart. B/c He first loved me, I can love Him. That baby is now my amazing and handsome 14 year old son, Stephen. Stephen Isaac (meaning crowned with laughter) is my baby of grace. God used him to teach me about His amazing grace. God would also used baby Stephen to keep me connected to the young man who would eventually ( 3 or so years later) become my husband in spite of the manipulation of the church. Today, September 2, 2010, we celebrated 11 years of beautiful marriage. He is still my best friend and I love him more today than the day I married him. We have an amazing commitment and resilience to our marriage b/c of the path we had to walk to end up together. There are more details on how we ended up together at these posts , ,

I have so many more thoughts on grace, but I have taken up enough time today. I will share more another time. I just wanted to start with the first major brush with grace in my walk.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just some random thoughts on food

I was listening to a sermon this morning while I rode my bike; he was talking about the fact that God created everything to bring Himself glory. He created food, sex, marriage, the seas, the mountains, man, everything to bring Him glory. He talked about how the food we eat should cause us to take pause and worship the Creator who gave all the different tastes and textures of food. We eat so fast that I don't think we really stop to taste and eat with gratitude. Do we really think about the flavors of the foods we eat? When we take it in do we consider the creativity of God that He would give so many different flavors of food that would grow out of the earth?

Then I began to think about what this means to food and to food bringing forth worship from us when we have dramatically changed the way that food tastes. We have genetically modified so many foods; we add sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup, coloring and so many chemicals to our food. First, when food does not taste the way God created it to taste, how does that effect our response to the food. Do we stop and thank God for what we are eating? Do we experience the beauty that He intended when he brought forth the trees and plants from the soil? I know that I have read about how lifeless most of our food is. Our fruits and vegetables don't have nearly the vitamins and minerals that they are supposed to have. We pick them before they are ripe (much of the vitamin content happens during the ripening process). Our soil is completely depleted of minerals b/c of the way that we grow crops without rotating or resting the soil. The earth is filled with chemicals that end up in our foods. We have genetically modified foods so that they will grow in places there weren't intended to grow. We have done away with the biodiversity of food. Many of the types of potatoes and grains are extinct b/c we just grow certain strains. Much of our seed supply is not even pure anymore. Seeds are now being patented and then cross pollinated with genetically modified strains. It's no wonder food does not cause us to stop and worship the Creator; it is no longer what He created. We worship man for changing the food supply and giving us lifeless food to eat. Disease related to food is rampant; We are overweight, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and any number of other diseases that are related to food. We have more food than we know what to do with only we are nutrient deficient b/c we eat lifeless food.

I have read that all matter gives off vibrations. Living beings give off these vibrations. Living food grown from the earth takes in the vibrations of the earth and materials surrounding it. If we take living food and process it so that it is no longer living, what does that do to us? We are not getting the life that was intended to be in our food. Food does not give us life and does not taste like the creator intended it to taste. Everything is related to everything else. God intended the earth to be in rhythm. There was a rhythm that was fractured at the fall. We have gone so so far from what was originally intended. The rhythm and chain is broken. Maybe we should think about getting back to the simplicity of things. We don't even walk on the earth most of the time. Concrete is everywhere. Trees are few. We seem to have become completely disconnected from creation. What are the consequences of that? Most of us only experience the sterility of what man has created, not the beauty, simplicity and complexity of what God created. We can be grateful for our food, but does it bring forth worship in us for is beauty, simplicity and deliciousness? Are we missing out on much of what food was intended to be? We want sweets; we want rich fattening food.

Food was originally so much more than it is now. There was so much to growing it and the culture that growing food involved. There was the cooking of the meal, the combination of ingredients, the enjoying of eating what was labored over with love.

Just a little food for thought. (hahaha.) I made a funny.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This post took me a week to finish b/c things have been so crazy; it was written in 3 different sittings. Hopefully it is not too discombobulated.

As I celebrate and give thanks to God today for a full year without drinking, it has led me to think back to the place I was a year ago. Thinking on the last year causes me to take pause in awe of all that God has been so good to do for me. It seems like in the last 2 years He has grown me more than in the previous ten years. Probably the previous ten years were really building up to and laying groundwork for the seeds that have been germinating in my life to break forth in fruitfulness now.

In the months previous to finally getting sober, we had begun attending church after about a 2 year absence. I was a Christian and I definitely loved God during those two years, but I was in a desert for those two years. Things were so dry. I felt so isolated. It also seems like, looking back, I was in a sort of eclipse. The Light was shining on me, but it was veiled by darkness. I prayed and talked to God, but the vibrancy was not there. He was so distant to me. I think during those years the darkness inside of me that I had hidden and tried to clean up myself really began to bubble up inside of me. The parts of me that I was so ashamed of and the deep wounds inside of me began to hemorrhage. I began to bleed out internally. I think that darkness so overwhelmed me and the hemorrhaging reach a point that I was desperate to find freedom and wholeness. I realized that I could not fix it myself and that God was not going to just come in and fix it. You see, He has designed us to be in community. He has designed us to help one another to bear burdens, to pray for one another, to need accountability, and to bring healing to one another. For years I had cried out and asked for God to fix me and make everything right, but I wanted it my way. I wanted to be able to deal with it just Him and me. I didn't want to have to open up and show people the black rotting parts of my soul; I was afraid of what would happen if I really showed people the darkness inside of me that I struggled so intensely to defeat. I just knew I was the only one with so much ugliness and knew that I would be cast aside and rejected for it; so I pretended it wasn't there. I didn't hide it from God, but I hid it from everyone else. I wanted to have Him and not need anyone else. And He refused to do it that way. He had healed many things in me, but He would not let me get completely free and healed on my own. He let me bleed out until I was willing to allow others to help me along the journey. He let me get desperate enough that I would do whatever it took. At that point of bleeding out and desperation, we began to attend a church. I also began to attend Celebrate Recovery, a Christ centered 12 step program. I did a lot of crying out to God to help me and draw me back into His presence and His light. I knew what it was like to walk deeply with Jesus, and I knew that I had wondered far from that place. I desperately wanted to love Him more than anything else and I desperately wanted the deep intimacy that I had previously walked in. I knew that, if I cried out to Him, He would meet me in my desperation. I knew that He wanted to walk with me and envelop my being even more than I wanted it. I also knew that He would only answer sincere cries and not pretense. I also knew that sometimes He makes us keep crying out and waiting for Him before He comes to us, even though He desires to be close to us. And, as a matter of fact, He is always close to us, but we do not always feel Him. Sometimes He lets us feel distant from Him. I cried out every day, "Lord, please draw me near to you. Bring me back to the place where you are my best friend." I clung to the verse Jeremiah 29:12-14 "Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity..." "I would pray I am seeking you with all my heart, Lord please help me to seek you with all my heart." I would go to church and sing the worship songs, but they felt so hollow to me. I do not like to be a hypocrite. I do not like to put on pretense. I try very hard to be real and not put on a show or a face. I didn't want to sing, "Lord I need you more than the air I breathe", or "I want you more than anything else," when it was not the truth inside of me. I don't like to lie to anyone, but I sure don't want to lie to the Lord b/c he knows it all anyway. So as I would sing, I would cry out to Him please make this the truth. And every day I would cry out to Him please draw me near to you and take me out of the dryness and make the words to the songs I sing really how I feel. I knew from years of walking with Him and seasons of dryness that if I kept crying out He would answer me. (We all go through dry periods and times when He pulls away so we won't take Him for granted to make us seek Him harder.) I had not been this far from Him or so dry since the day He introduced Himself to me, but I knew He would come. Then I realized a couple months later, that I really meant the words I was singing and that I had fallen back in love with my Lord. I was daily walking with Him as my best friend. I still struggled with drinking for about six more months. Most of the people who knew me would not have had any idea that I was struggling like I was or that I even had a problem. My family knew very well, though. My husband just prayed for me and asked God to help me find my way out of the darkness.

That was the beginning of coming out of the eclipse. It wasn't like full darkness; it was more like an eclipse. There was a huge battle to come to the realization that I really was powerless; the denial had a pretty tight grip on me. There was a part of me that knew that I was powerless over my drinking, but a stronger part of me tried to pretend like I was in control; I just didn't want to quit. (If you want to read more about why I drank and the lies I told myself about it, go to the post I came out of the eclipse in so much a better place than I was before the time of eclipse. It was not wasted time. It was a very important part of my walk. I learned so much and had so much broken out of me; the Lord really taught me about mercy and grace. He really taught me compassion b/c the struggle was so intense. I really was powerless. I really and truly could not get free or even muster the desire to want to quit drinking. I am an extremely type A individual. I decide I am going to do something and I do it, or I decide I want to stop doing something and I just stop. Most of my close friends talk about how disciplined I am and how driven I can be if I have an end in mind. What that strength leads to, though, is that I can be a very proud, self sufficient, sometimes arrogant individual with very little compassion or mercy. Well, really, I am less of that, but it is still inside me. Thankfully, much of it has been broken out of me; judging by how much of it is still inside of me, there must have been tons of it. Becoming an alcoholic that was truly powerless to find freedom was so so so good for me. So much of that pride and self sufficiency was broken out of me and so much humility and compassion was worked into my soul. I can not take one iota of credit for my sobriety. I did not want to quit. I had to ask God to even give me the desire to quit. I know what it is like to really struggle so I do not put myself above those who would struggle and I can walk along beside them and love them now.

My walk is back to what it was when I first met Jesus, only better. I get to ponder His words and walk with him daily. I get to have Him as my closest friend, only I am more humble and wiser now. (Don't get me wrong I am not humble, just a little less proud). I also get to share this beautiful walk with a huge family. I have brothers and sisters all over the world and I have a close community who knows my struggles and my darkness and loves me through anyway. They challenge me and pray for me and question me when I need it.

I am so grateful that He is so good to me. I am so glad that He loves us enough to let the dryness into our lives so that we can deal with more of our baggage. I am so glad that He loves me enough to let me bleed out internally so that I can see that I need others in my life and I cannot handle it on my own. I am grateful that He does not love me the way I love my children. I want to shelter them from pain and keep all the bad away so they don't hurt, but that is not always the best thing. I would choose the easy path for them and thereby rob them of the blessing that the desert and the darkness and suffering would bring to them. I am also glad that He loves them better than me so that He won't let me protect them from the suffering that is good for them and that will bring about His plans for their lives.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

God never ceases to amaze me

I had a really amazing and surreal moment this morning that I wanted to blog about. I am not sure this will even make sense to anyone reading it, but I have to get over letting what people may or may not think about my writing influence my posts. I need to be faithful to write what is on my heart, and trust that God will do whatever he wants with it.

I was riding my bike this morning and listening to a Matt Chandler sermon as has become my habit when I ride. I actually haven't ridden in about 3 weeks and I actually enjoyed the ride tremendously. I have been listening to a really old sermon series from 2006 called Beyond the Sun: A study of Ecclesiastes. I am really enjoying it. It is helping me to really get some perspective on life and try to live as God would have me live which is really actually the point in all sermons. The premise of the series is that everything under the sun is meaningless. Everything we do and seek after is empty, a chasing after the wind. That is unless we get beyond the sun. If we can get the real point and live the lives we have been given in light of the Cross of Christ and what it means. When we can see everything in the framework of the cross then hard times are easier to deal with, we can enjoy what we are given b/c they are gifts and not the point and end to it all, we can make choices more based on what God wants not what we want or what the world system says we should want.

So as I rode, I was listening to sermon about the middle of the series and I remembered the sermon so I looked at the date on the podcast. We were attending the Village when this series was being preached and I was in the service when he preached it. The moment came when I realized this is one of last sermons we heard before we left the village. As a matter of fact, I am 90% sure that this is the last sermon we heard him preach before we left. He was addressing Eccl 7:6 "For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool. This is also vanity. " He was talking about how pride is the most destructive force in the universe. In pride we look at ourselves on fire and laugh and pretend like we are not burning up. The church runs around wreaking of smoke and pretending like everything is okay. Marriages fall apart b/c instead of screaming help we are on fire as things get bad, we hide it and laugh and pretend like everything is okay. We struggle with debilitating sin, addictions or wounds that cause us to hemorrhage the life out of ourselves, but instead of screaming HELP!! I am on fire and burning to death, we put on a face and pretend all is well partially b/c we assume we must be the only ones who are on fire and so we can't open up and ask for help. The "church" instead of being a burn unit, like it was originally, where fire is put out, bandages are applied and healing happens, has become a place where we are all completely deformed by the fires we are hiding. We aren't real and we can't help the people who don't know God and are on fire b/c we won't be honest about our fire and get help. Marriages don't fall apart over night; they fall apart as two take one step at time away from each other and refuse to acknowledge the reality that things are not going well and that the marriage desperately needs help. We don't get trapped in deep sin or addiction over night, we slowly choose to give more control to whatever, and the more we hide it the tighter the grip it has on us becomes.

The reason this was so striking to me was the place we were at back then and what we would walk through over the 2 years after we left the Village. We really were on fire. We went through a really, really dark period in our lives and in our marriage after we left the Village. Things got very dark and very desert like. I do believe that God brought us to the desert to pound some things out in us (especially in me), to get rid of some religious baggage I was still carrying and to reveal some really bad stuff buried in the basement of my soul. It was a necessary part of my walk and I am grateful for it. Anyone watching from the outside would have seen us as "back slidden" and I guess in a sense that was true, but I was also still totally in love with God and crying out to Him daily. We were kind of smoking (figuratively speaking) when we left, but we would erupt into full blown flames shortly after. Over those two or three years after leaving, I really got kind of lost. I got lost in the world of makeup and hair; I got lost in pursuing "success", "money", "things". I became completely consumed with becoming "something" so I could prove I was worth something. Larry and I went through about a year and half or 2 years that we pretty much just coexisted in the same house. We were cold and not really happy. We didn't talk about divorce or anything like that, but my heart was very far from him. It is probably only God's grace that I didn't have an affair, b/c I think I was dangerously capable at that point. I would begin to really battle alcoholism at the latter part of that couple years. I loved God, but I did not love His church. I had become so disillusioned. Part of that may have been things people did, but the bigger part of that was that I felt completely isolated and alone b/c I was hiding so much of myself. I was trying to be the person I had forced and molded myself to be instead of letting God define me, tell me who I was and allow me to embrace the me He intended when He created me. I was so protected internally and so with drawn emotionally from everyone. I did not know how to have a truly open, not dispensable relationship. So my disillusionment had more to do me hiding and feeling totally disconnected than it had to do with anything Christians did. We would go through a long season of being even more isolated, having friends that did not have the moral or spiritual beliefs we did, being so so dry. As I said, it was such a good season for us. It was difficult, but when I did come back around to knowing that we really needed to be in a church where we were accountable, being taught and trying to build authentic relationships, I came back a different person. So much of the really religious, somewhat legalistic, proud, and self righteous ideas had been stripped away. I reached the place where I didn't want to hide anymore. I wanted to lay out the truth of who I was and what I struggle with on the table knowing that the one's who couldn't take it weren't true friends and the one's that chose to be in relationship with me anyway were the kind of friends God wanted me to have. So actually, the fire was good for us. It was purging; it was destructive only to those things that were corruptible, but it worked an eternal weight of glory, it left the true faith purified by fire that God wants us to have. God led us into the desert and let the smoldering sinfulness of our flesh erupt into purgatory flames of purification. We came out of that desert place ready to move forward with less baggage, less secrets, and a desire to do whatever was necessary to go where God was calling us so we could do the works He prepared beforehand for us to do.

It was just such a surreal experience to hear that message 4 years later almost exactly and look back at where we walked soon after and where we are now. I had no idea sitting in that church what was in store for us over the next few years. I also had no hope or inkling that I could be as healed and free as I am at this point in my life. I know that He is no where near finished with me either. I will look back in 2 years and think boy I thought I was healed back then, look at where I am now. I feel like my whole walk has been such an amazing and wonderful adventure. It has been such a beautiful picture of His grace and redemption. Parts of me that I despaired could ever be whole are so beautifully restored. God is a great and amazing God. He has been so so so good to me. I could never enumerate or even realize how great His grace has been to me and how much he has done in my life. I have no idea how many times He snatched me from death's grip b/c He wasn't through with me. If I were to praise and thank Him every minute of every day for the rest of my life it would not be enough. He is so great and His grace so so much greater than we can comprehend. To know that He chooses to let me be a part of His plan and see how blessed I am, is so overwhelming to me. He is good!!! I stand in awe of the fact the He made me exactly how He wanted me to be and that I have arrived at a place in my life that I like me and appreciate who I am in Him is awesome to me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Questioning the Norm

I have been struck so many times lately with the oddity of our way of life. I have to know if the way our society ever strikes anyone else as odd. Surely I am not the only one who stops to question what we call "normal". I know that most people just take for granted that the way things are is just how they are. I cannot look at things and practices and not question. Maybe it is the influence of the mountains of books I have read and the hours of documentaries I have watched. I do acknowledge that I am kind of an odd bird. I don't really enjoy reading fiction. I do like a good movie, but I am much more inclined to watch a couple of good documentaries. I am not so much interested in historical documentaries either unless they are tied to some current event and used to explain why something is the way it is. I am not interested in history just for the sake of history. I am interested in the path that has lead up to some current event. I have some friends that think it is really quite strange. When I asked my husband about it, he said, "It really pretty much matches your temperament and way of thinking." I am a very literal and concrete individual. I want to know what the benefit of something is before I will consider it. For example, I am not inclined to take a day of rest just for the sake of taking a day of rest. I have, however, begun to take one b/c it makes me more productive and able to function better during the rest of the days. Increased productivity and efficiency is a good reason to take a day to rest.
Anyway, so my husband and I took a day to hang out yesterday for his birthday. We ate lunch, saw a movie and walked around the mall. As we walked around the mall which was incredibly packed with people, I was just struck with how odd our lifestyle in America is. If we take the "norm" out of the framework of "America", it is odd. How strange is it that we have buildings that are blocks long full of rows and rows of things to buy. There is store after store of merchandise competing for our our dollar. Generally, we don't make or produce anything. We go into a store and buy off the rack one of dozens of the exact same versions of shirts, skirts, pants, shoes, whatever. We have lost the sense of accomplishment of making something with our hands. We don't exercise the creativity that God breathed into us when He created us. Our whole economy is built on getting the consumer to consume. It is all about getting my dollar from me. If we don't spend, we go into a recession. Millions of people have a job that is totally motivated by getting the consumer to spend. They don't make anything, repair anything, grow anything. Their sole responsibility is selling. Eventually this has to lead to an economic collapse. Surely we cannot continue to function in this manner. And the producers of products have to keep us thinking that we must have these things or we won't spend money. If there were to be a shift in giving to those in need, funneling the resources to those who really need them, it would cause a collapse. If we wake up and start seeing that we don't need the newest gadget or this seasons clothing as bad as the orphans in Africa need to be cared for, or the widows need food, or the slaves need us to fight for their freedom, or the millions who have no access to clean water need water, then what would happen. The country goes into a recession and we lose our jobs, then we have no resources. It's like this huge never ending cycle of the "haves" consuming and the "have nots" continuing to suffer. Maybe we need a total economic collapse so we can start over and try it differently. Greed, covetousness and idol worship riddle our land. We don't bow to golden calves anymore; we bow to Apple, Coach, MAC, Prada, "big house", nice car..... we bow to the God of self. We grab at whatever we desire with no thought about what we really need and how we could use our excess to impact the desperate and dying. We consume and consume and consume. Everything we buy is individually packaged for convenience. So we throw billions of pounds of waste into the world so we don't have to work quite as hard to feed ourselves. We use billions of gallons a year at water parks so we can be entertained. We use who knows how much electricity at theme parks, movie theaters, bars, and gaming venues. Why? So we can be entertained. So we can keep ourselves from thinking about the emptiness inside of us. So we don't have time to stop and think about the fact that we are chasing a vapor that we will never be able to get our hands on. We don't want to question the way we live or whether we should be a little less extravagant so that we could use the resources God has given us a little wiser. I have not even touched on the fact that the rows and rows of products on display for us to buy are made elsewhere in the world and shipped in for us to buy. And to make that even worse those laborers who produce the merchandise do not even really benefit from the production. If they get paid at all, it is not a fair wage. Many times our merchandise is being manufactured using slave labor, but we don't want to know that. As long as we don't ask where it comes from, then we don't have to feel guilty for the part we play in the whole mess.
I am sorry if this was not a chipper or easy post to read, but I cannot keep quiet any more. It blows my mind to really think about how we operate and further blows my mind that so few people even stop to question or see it as odd. We don't grow our food anymore, we go to the store where rows and rows of packages food competes for our dollar. There are men and women who are paid huge salaries to develop marketing strategies to get us to buy certain products. They are using the same techniques that the serpent used on Eve. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Read it 1 John 2:16

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (New King James)

1Jonn 2:15-17
Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (the Message)

Genesis 3:6 (New King James)
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Just a little extra food for thought when you are being marketed to. Remember where it comes from. They have learned from the father of lies himself. He was the first marketing agent.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Waiting for God

I love God with all my heart and desire to serve Him faithfully; I do not, however, long for His coming. That is the honest truth. I strive to be honest and not put on pretense about my struggle or how I really am. So I have never felt a longing like I just wanted Him to come back. I know the famous Paulian scriptures, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain," and others. I just could not honestly say that my heart was longing for His return. I want to walk with Him and talk with Him; I want to follow Him, but there is much work to do here on the earth. I have heard people saying they long for His return. It just always seemed like some sort of suicidal discontentment with life. Romans says that creation eagerly awaits the revealing of the sons of God, and groans to be delivered from the bondage of corruption. So I do long to see creation delivered from the bondage of sin and long to see the restoration of God's original perfection. I don't sit and groan for Him to come back. I usually don't really get the people who say they do. There are so many lost still in the world. I am not ready to leave yet, b/c I feel like there is work for me to do and more preparation needed to get me ready to do more work. I have children to raise, things to learn and I want to continue to be changed into His image b/c I sure have not arrived at the place where I resemble Christ.

That being said, now I get to my point.

I am a documentary junky. I am totally a dork about it. I watch them and watch them. I find them far more entertaining than regular movies. I like to learn and see other perspectives. I also like to be reminded of the evil and suffering in the world. It is so easy to close a deaf ear to suffering in our society b/c we are so blessed. We forget the so many in the world are desperately poor and oppressed. I feel like if I keep it fresh in my mind that, hopefully, it will influence decisions I make and effect how I spend my money. I watched a couple of really good ones in the last couple weeks that impacted me. I watched "The End of Poverty," and "Blue God: The World Water Wars." I was so sad and angry to see how our lifestyles feed into the poverty of the world. I was angry about big industry and how they get to operate without having to answer for the evil practices the continue in. The thought that a huge water conglomerate can make agreements with a government and buy a water source then charge so much for the water that the poor cannot afford to buy it sickens me. I also felt so helpless to do anything about the evils that I continue to remind myself are in the world. What can I do against a huge water monster to help give water back to the people who should have ownership of it anyway? What can I do to fight the agricultural practices that keep the poor in other countries from being able to feed themselves.

As I walked into church last week pondering these things and the apparent lack of solutions, I was struck for the first time in my walk with a longing for the return of Christ. I do not have an answer for the water crisis or the evil of extreme poverty, but when He comes back there will be no more water crisis, food crisis, or any suffering. I felt a longing to end the suffering. I do not suffer. I do not long for His return so that my situation will change. I did long for Him to come and end the suffering of so many who are totally powerless to make their situations better. I long for them to no longer be hungry and thirsty. I can do what I can for it, but what I have to offer is so small and can only impact such a small little corner of the problem. He, on the other hand, can end it all and bring peace, perfection, beauty and restoration. So, in my heart, I do long for Him to come and set things right, to fight for those who are oppressed and enslaved.

I don't know if I even articulated this in a manner which can be understood, but here it is. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reversing Roles

And again, it has been a bit since I had anything to say. I have been in the process of de-cluttering my life. Getting the clutter out will allow time to write and to create. I am finally reaching a place in my life that I really get it that doing more doesn't make me important. Being busy doesn't necessarily mean we are productive and being productive is not the point in this life. It is not productive to have a long lingering dinner with friends enjoying food and fellowship, but it is more the point than running ourselves crazy building a kingdom for ourselves that will be burning up in the end and amount to nothing. I am learning to stop and take time to take in the moments, enjoy friends, laugh with my family, taste the flavor of the food God provides for me, sit in His presence and enjoy just being there with no agenda but to enjoy my Creator. How much we could learn if we would stop and take life in like a child. Children are content to just sit with us (sometimes) with no agenda or need to be productive. They just want to be where we are. They enjoy the silly simple pleasures of life like running barefoot through the grass, or playing in the rain; they enjoy the flavor of food and don't worry about how many calories or fat is has. If we could just simplify our life and be more intentional about not letting the world squeeze into a mold, give us an identity or tell us what to value. I am hoping as I continue to make space in my life that I will write and create more. I want to use the gifts God gave me and not waste them b/c my life is too busy to develop them.

The bike ride was one of the things that needed to go. There was a such a process in getting me to the place that I could give it up. I am such a driven person and really wired to finish what I start. It is very hard for me to walk away from a task until it is finished. So giving up the ride was kind of a wrestling match for me. I was pretty consumed with riding for a few months. I spent a great deal of time on my bike and a another good chunk of energy focused on planning how to get my miles in. I didn't really realize who much pressure was on me until it was removed. I don't necessarily thing that the cycling was a bad thing innately; I don't even think it was an idol. It just took too much of the little bit of time I have and didn't allow me to focus enough on the things that should be my priority right now. I am reading a Oswald Chambers book on the Sermon on the Mount. One of the things it said was that giving up sin is one thing, but the challenge comes when we are asked to give up good things for Him. Cycling is not a bad thing, but, when asked to give it up then I reach a cross road. If I choose not to give it up, then it becomes bad b/c it is an idol b/c I choose it over obedience.

Over the last few weeks, my husband and I have been listening to a lot more sermons on our Ipods. We were listening to a series by Matt Chandler of the Village Church called The Path. We were both challenged in many different ways. It was a tremendous series which caused us to evaluate things and see the need for some changes. One of the main changes that we really as a couple agreed on was a reversal of roles. As most anyone can see, in our marriage, I pretty much run the shop. I do what I want to do and he backs me up. He doesn't really challenge me much and he doesn't really lead or make many decisions. We both see and take our responsibility in this situation. (This situation seems to be pretty common place in our society, but God will have to deal with everyone else; it's not my place.) As I have shared this story with my different circles of friends, the sentiment has been almost unanimous, "Us too." I take responsibility for taking charge and he takes responsibility for being passive and not leading or challenging me. We are moving toward reversing things, but it will probably be a journey for both of us. We may fall back into the pattern at times as it is the norm and comfortable for us, but God will be faithful to challenge us when we are falling back into comfort. Soon after this discussion my husband and I had, we got to put feet to our words. He told me that he did not think I should do the ride. Right at that moment, I had a choice to makes; I believe that it was a defining moment for me. Would we move toward the new order of things or would I be willful and push us back into the old way of functioning. I made the right choice. This choice was not too hard for me, but I am sure the tests and choices will get more challenging. I feel so much peace in my decision. I don't feel the need to analyze and second guess my choice. I didn't make the decision to drop the ride. I made the decision to defer to the wisdom of my husband and obey him. I believe in God's order of things, I will never be wrong for choosing to submit to my husband. God will always honor that choice and the gentle heart of obedience. I also feel more peaceful because I don't feel the pressure to make all the decisions and make everything work out. While my husband and I are partners in this life and equal, ultimately the responsibility falls on his shoulders. That is a wonderful relief to me. I guess it's b/c I have been shouldering responsibility that is not mine to shoulder. I I used to it liberated me to take charge b/c I can be in charge and make my own decisions, but that is not true liberation. It is bondage to pressure that God did not create me to carry. True liberation is being able to trust my husband to lead and have our families best interest at heart and being able to trust that God is able to speak to my husband and guide him and redeem any mistakes. The opposite of faith and trust is control and manipulation. Faith and trust lead to life and peace; control and manipulation lead to stress, fear and contentions. The word says that perfect love casts out all fear. That can be applied to receiving and believing in God's love for me and in my husbands love for me. Neither of them would want to harm me. When I am tempted to doubt my husband and be afraid he won't make the right decision, I need to remind myself to trust God in my husband; I need to trust that as God can speak to me and redirect me, He can do the same for me husband. In that is peace. To be honest, though, much of my controlling the house has less to do with not trusting Larry to make the right decision and more to do with me just wanting to have my way. I have been a pretty willful person my whole life and so that will not die easily, but one day at a time I will choose to commit my will to God and ask Him to give me that ability to be gentle, trusting and submissive. I was watching a documentary about the widows in Afghanistan one day and one of the women made a profound statement that I have never forgotten and have meditated upon every since. She said they had a saying in Afghanistan which says, "A husband is shade." She said, "He is a covering to keep out the sun and protect." I think that is something that we, in our society have missed. Our husbands are our protectors, and shade to us, if we will let them be. Without shade we are subject to the elements and predators. I want to lean upon my husband and let him be my shade.

We have always had a really great marriage. He is absolutely my favorite person on the face of this planet. He is my best friend and there is literally no one I would rather spend time with. There is commitment, passion, and stability between us. I have a feeling, though, that this leg of the journey we are embarking on is going to give us depth like we never thought possible. I think that things are just going to be even better. It is a great thing to be on the same page about life, where we are going and how we intend to get there.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I know... I have been so bad about writing

I really have so much to say and I want to say it so badly. It just took longer than I thought it would to settle into a rhythm of life after starting my job. I moved; then I started my job and I started training for my 100 mile ride. It just took me the last 3 months to develop a rhythm to this new schedule. I wanted it to happen faster, but it really took this long. I guess in retrospect, 3 months is not so long to settle after having a couple of major life changes. I have had so many things rattling around in me, but I just haven't been able to find time to let them out. I not only need the time, I also need the right environment with which to release it. I can't really get in the writing mind set of there is chaos around me. I am going to try to set some time at least once a week to write during the summer. I hope that once the children go back to school in the fall I can devote more time to writing during their school day. I also hope to be able to spend more time creating things.

That being said, I am also hoping to slow my pace of life. I find myself always in a hurry, always over committed, never able to just slow down and enjoy the moment. I have always been that way. My brain is always going ninety to nothing; I am onto the next task before I am even done with the task I am currently tending to. I see life as a never ending task list. Even those things that I should enjoy are just tasks to be checked off. Busy, busy, busy!! I have known this is a problem for a long time and have attempted at times to slow down, but never with success. I know part of it is our culture; if you free up time it immediately creates a time vacuum and something else takes its place. That is not an excuse, though. We are supposed to go against the current of society. Jesus calls us to a different kind of life. He was never in a hurry! Fortunately, those things He calls us to, he also helps us to do. I am praying over it and reading and meditating about scriptures that encourage me to slow down, be at peace, and rest.

"What has prompted this new found desire to slow down?" you may ask. Our pastor preached this weekend on this very thing and I felt like he was preaching directly at me. I am so tired; I am so rushed. I felt a sigh within my soul listening to the sermon. It's like inside I was saying, "yes, this is what I need." Almost like I needed permission to realize that I needed to slow down. I don't even take time to enjoy the days and the moments that I am given. I almost think the only way to do that would be to take my family totally out of the race, move to some other country and be missionaries. No, I am not planning to move off right now, but I am seeking God's hand, wisdom and the ability to slow down and not cave under the pressure to continue pushing so hard. Mark said that we all live daily in the fight or flight state of being. This is so true for me and I have made tremendous progress. I am in fight or flight now, so I don't know what you would call where I used to be. I was in a constant state of panicked motion. It was as if a bull dozier was behind me going 90 miles an hour and if I slowed down it would run me over. At one point during the sermon I said to my brother, "I never sit still b/c when I sit still I fall asleep." To which he replied, "Maybe if you sat still a little more often, you would get to the point that you did not fall asleep." Meaning if I could slow down over all, I wouldn't be so exhausted that sitting still induced sleep. I think for the first time in my life I am in the place where I can agree with him about that. He has tried many times to get me to see this point and I have never been in the place to be able to say, "you know, I think you may be right."

I have recently been trying to think about life from this perspective, "If I found out I had cancer, (something that I seem to be seeing a lot around me right now), what would I cut out? What would I want to spend my time doing?"

I put more pressure on myself than I would ever put on anyone else. I feel like I have to make the most of every moment that I have. Part of that is that I wasted so many years being destructive and doing drugs. I have so many things I want to experience. I feel bad if I take a whole day and do nothing, but watch movies and nap. I hate to feel like I have wasted a whole day. That is why I resent having to sleep. I feel like it is such a huge waste of time. There are so many other things I would rather be doing. That time could be used to accomplish so much more. That might be exactly the place I need to look at first. What is the root of the belief that sleeping is a waste of time? God says that rest is good; that we should rest in peace. I need to reprogram myself to believe that rest and sleep are good. I think that we are probably so much more productive when we don't cram every moment with tasks and activities. When we can disengage and relax there is probably better focus and passion to the things we do. I am only guessing b/c I don't disengage very well. I hope that I can learn to disengage and then be able to confirm that theory is in fact true.

It just seems the older I get that faster my life goes by. I don't stop to savor any of it. I don't savor meals, time with friends, time with my family, opportunities to play games. I don't really stop to think about the moments with my children that are passing me by. I only get to live this day one time. I only get to see them in this moment from this perspective one time. Do I stop and take time to breath in the moment? NO!! Ally will only be in our house a few more years, then she will move out and start her own family. Experience tells me that it is at that point we learn to slow down and enjoy the moments. Why do we have to get grand children to be able to embrace the moments children give us? We miss those moments with our children and grand children get the best of us. Stephen is a young man and quickly growing into man hood. When these moments are over, I will long for the day that he leans over and licks my face or punches my arm. Why do I find it so infuriating right now. He loves me and wants to show me affection in his way. Chloe is quickly approaching the awkward teenage years. If I don't learn to love her, speak softly to her and experience her on her terms, then I won't even be able to help her through the awkward years b/c she will have shut me out by then. Chloe is my baby. I don't have another one after her. As she grows up, I am experiencing some of these things for the last time. I pray that this time, I can take this wake up call to slow down serious enough that I can actually reorient my life and apply some breaks.

It seems like life is going by really so slow at some point then without you realizing it life begins to fly by at a dizzying warp speed. Years pass and they seem like days.