Yo-yo July

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Do you make lists? I started to a few years ago. I found myself losing the never ending comparison game and while my list was pretty lame – I will say it served it’s purpose and gave me a good dose of reality I was missing.  I didn’t continue with my lists but then . . . A few years ago I read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. it reminded me of a good habit to keep – REMEMBERING.

There is something that happens when our hearts remember. We know it to be true of heartache.  Sometimes all we need is a scent or a phrase, and that heartache from years ago is felt immediately.  So why can’t the same be true for the “happy” “hopeful” moments our hearts and minds need? I accredit Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”, for giving me a gracious look at what a heart full of thanksgiving can do – not only for a healthy perspective on your life, but also as a tool to help us grow during the yo-yo parts of life.

Yo-yo parts of life? Yes – the highs and lows.  How was your July?  My July, was filled with spots of anxiety and lots of contemplation. . .

  • summer transitions for our little one
  • contemplations on some decisions my husband is making in his life
  • 12 year old discussing how he doesn’t really want to go back to school in about 3 1/2 weeks. . .and the list goes on and on and on. . .

Yet, also somewhere in the middle and towards the end, I got some incredible pockets (as I refer to them) of happiness. . .

  • I got an “I love you” from our precious daughter, and a happy birthday!
  • Reminded of how hard our son worked during the school year improving on a subject
  • Spent time with my missionary friend who is here from Uganda on furlough
  • Hearing all about the amazing, wonderful things God is doing in and through her
  • Saw an amazing Broadway show!
  • Attended a dream concert, sang along and danced with an 8 year old
  • And so many other pocket full of happiness moments!

When I reflect on July, two things specifically come to my mind:

1. I not only dislike the yo-yo parts of my life but I’m also afraid of them. Food for thought right here!

2. How resilient deeply rooted faith can make you feel!!! Totally reignited.

(Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not doing cartwheels or even jumping up and down. No. No. )  I have experienced a boost that is needed every now and then to remember and walk out, live by faith. . .  How?

➢ remembering – He is good!
➢ no matter what – God is with us!

I may not have it altogether, or all planned out and even if I did my heart and mind– still may not be prepared for the end result.   Faith in God provides the footing I need to not be struck down by disappointment or paralyzed by fear and what ifs.

While in my head I know the power that can be found through prayer and faith, when the yo-yo parts of life strike I’m not always found pressing on in my faith, or on my knees trying to cling on. Sometimes I am exhausted because I’ve been trying too hard on my own.  It is in those yo-yo parts that I can wallow or I can try my best to remember. Remembering does require effort, but oh it is so worth it! It not only forces my gaze up but something literally happens and my heart is overwhelmed by His glorious light not just once but again and again and again.  I am renewed. Reignited.

Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that glorious? Isn’t that just like Jesus to remind us that we cannot do it alone because too quickly we forget, He’s holding it all together.

Father, thank you for the yo-yo parts of our lives. It reminds us in the simplest of ways that You do, make all things beautiful and new and that includes our hearts too. I ask that You help us, be less afraid of the yo-yo parts of our lives and more in awe of You! Amen.

Isaiah 43:2

“When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.”

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Week 26 – Even in the Shadows

inaninstantMy 6 month Checkup.  And I’m not ready.

“Surviving vs. Thriving?”

A friend and I used to spend a lot of time on the above.  Because the reality is there are some seasons in our lives when it’s all about survival because we can’t get a hold of what thriving is.  That happens!  Like now.  I am unsure of what thriving means, or what it might look like – really.  I know what it’s looked like in a previous season… Blind hope, choosing to stand on truths versus the limpy legs of what if and fear.  It included the discipline of prayer and a thirsty, vigorous pursuit of God.  Waiting for His lead as opposed a relationship of “just getting by”.animate-run-progress-04I’m going faster than necessary.  My husband said to me the other day “you’ve been standing there looking for something to do, you’ve done it all, sit down”.  You know I found something to do, right?  So this checkup is tough.  My pace is a clear inclination of me running (I should be thinner!) and despite my best illusions of granduer, I am not running to, but running from.  I pretend, think, plan, even sometimes act as if I am actively facing things head on (in being kind, in some instances I am), but my heart isn’t.  My heart shuffles feelings away until another thing comes and tugs at that emotion and bitterness ensues.  My pace, says I need to keep busy because if I don’t all of these shuffled feelings will come crashing down, and I am not ready to bring lay them in the hands of the Refiner.messy heart

My heart is conflicted.  On the one hand there is so much I am grateful for and on the other there is so much that I am so very anxious about.   My heart and mind are not in sync either.  My heart longs for “perfection” and my mind endlessly schemes ways to survive, get ahead of what’s coming.  But my heart longs for more than just running.

Why so anxious?  I don’t question whether or not God will come through.  I know my whole life is dependent on Him and His mercy.  It may sound strange but I worry about how I will manage as I wait for God to come through.  And then I contemplate the what ifs of possible disappointments or answers that I may not like.  Why?  Because both hurt and can deeply affect my heart and walk with God.  Heart-pain, longing, suffering — those often seem harder than the needle for anesthesia.  My mind wants to desperately prepare to combat pain, embrace disappointment, conquer fear … almost in an effort to make light of the process that may be designed to refine me.  Suffering isn’t something I welcome, it is something I try to evade.  And yet God considers refining and suffering to be the tools that mold us and shape us into His image.

Is-He-not-Lord-even-in

My heart and mind aren’t on the big picture, that’s pretty obvious.  Disappointment has cast a dark shadow over the hope that was piercing through my makeshift “big picture” frame, and now all I see are shifting shadows.  And as I write this out, I am overwhelmed by the Truth “is He not Lord, even in the shadows?”   No denying, my thoughts have shifted.  They went from “God is going to see me through” –> “this is far too painful and I don’t know if I can manage”.   Cleary, very different approaches to this season.  From trusting God, an emphasis on God’s might, power and victory to my weakness, myopia and little faith.  Big leaps there, beware of big leaps.

And so what of this 6 month check up?  After all that, seems over-rated right?  Ha!  Let’s be kind.  Need for improvement, always.  But where to from here? Well for starters accepting the loving invitation to go before God and acknowledge where my  heart and mind have wandered.  After?  Just accepting an uneartly invitation to sit with the Refiner for a lifetime.  Nothing better, than Sweet Surrender.

 

 

NOT AN OPTION

“I could just ignore it all.  But isn’t that wrong?  Don’t I have a responsibility to ask the hard questions, even if there aren’t any concrete answers?  Isn’t it better to know, than to not and always wonder?”  Is there ever, a right time to ask the hard questions?

The hard questions are my fruit testers. Will I wait patiently for the Lord to move?  Or will I take matters into my own hands.  The hard questions are my “Oh ye a of little faith” reminders, because the hard questions never fail to remind me of how limited my grasp for God’s big picture is …. darn myopia.

The hard questions are demanding.  They beckon for the fruit of self discipline to come in and say “wait soul, wait on the Lord”.  They remind me of the tug-of-war between my microwave mentality and God’s timing.   And when I’m done confronting that tug-of-war, some bravery is mustered up,  deep breath and face the REAL tug-of-war . . . what I want vs. what God wants.  And I am very necessarily reminded, what I want isn’t always God’s best for me.

If it were left up to me, this journey just wouldn’t – be – at all.  I could try and kid myself, say “I can make it on my own”.  But that’s a lie.  A big fat lie.  Silliness, I deceive myself.  not an optionI tried my own way and still found a deep need for God.  Christ in His mercy saved me.  But it’s so easy – isn’t it?  To think we can chuck it up to trying to make this life work on our own.

The road of “I can do it on my own”,  looks strikingly different than when we submit ourselves and daily make the choice to walk with Christ.  Recently,  my husband and I were faced with some decision making.  Within seconds my heart began to race.  My mind to chasing after what seemed to me “all I’ve been missing“, “this will make everything better”.  As my heart raced, as I madly did research, there was part of me that recognized what I wanted was very different from what our circumstances dictated.  My daydreaming came to a screeching halt, and I was forced to embrace sadness.  My heart sank and then came the frustration.   Bitter, Sweet surrender is still hard.  Eventually we discussed the pros and cons of our potential decisions and a few things were pretty evident.  My husband and I – have two different experiences along this journey.  This decision didn’t affect his heart the same way it did mine, he spoke from a place of certainty and peace.  I don’t have that.  He also very clearly doesn’t suffer with myopia!  And he has resolved to see our current journey through – period.  I think my faith is tried differently on this journey, and my heart wanders.  Two very different heart places to make a united decision from.  We ultimately agreed, “its just not an option and it would be counterproductive”.

The good thing?  Our potential dilemma was resolved within a weekend, making all our “what if” conversations and worrying seemed so futile.  But it wasn’t.  There was stuff in my heart that needed to be fleshed out.  I can’t tell you that I went to Jesus and it’s all been worked out.  NO.  Bitter, Sweet surrender is still a work in progress.  But I can tell you that it brought forth much needed growing pains.  I didn’t enjoy being reminded that “my ways are not His ways”.  I don’t like being reminded that although I think I know what’s best based on my research skills (ha!), that I often delude myself saying “but I can make it work!”.  And I don’t like being reminded that I can’t always see the big picture even when I so desperately want to.  I did exhale a sigh of relief when God led me to a passage inviting me once again to surrender ~ balsam to a soul in need.  Considering that I suffer from myopia, it should bring me great comfort when this journey looks remarkably different from what I envisioned, God not only sees me but sees me and  knows what’s Best, for me.

Here’s a song that has accompanied along the journey. . .

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GpvDzHuS9sE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

READY TO BREW

 

READY TO BREW 2

It is a funny story. Can I share it?

This a church planting related story but boy, oh boy, did it strike some cords along other parts of my life.

It is a Sunday morning nothing out of the ordinary; we are setting up our hospitality table. We recently brought in our semi-old Keurig to ease the cost of buying DD and to try catering to different coffee taste buds.

I should confess right about now that I am NOT a coffee drinker. And I would also like to share that I have probably used the Keurig less than a handful of times, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am never fully paying attention to it either. Ok, now that – that is out in the open, here we go.

My friend and co-laborer comes over and asks, “Hey do you think you can work your magic again on the Keurig? It’s giving me a hard time”. My dear husband over hears and accompanies us over to the Keurig.  I do what I do with my computer at work; I reset, unplug and press buttons. Wait and see.  As I finish doing so, I say, “So I think we have to wait until it says ‘Ready to Brew’.” My dear husband comes over, and does the same exact things  I just did and says “it’s not going to say ‘Ready to Brew’ you just have to wait for all the lights to be off.” I respond, “Really? Because I thought, it says ‘ready to brew’.  Dear husband knowing that I do not use the Keurig, nor do I drink coffee, walks away saying “it doesn’t”.

Please fully take in this scene. Anyone who has labored in a church plant knows the following: Sundays are HARD. You have multiple things to assemble, prepare, etc. In the interim, people are arriving and they want coffee, your machine is not cooperating and your dear husband who is also the lead pastor has 10,000 other things he needs to be doing and the 3 of us are discussing the logistics of the Keurig.  Anxiety is rising and impatience is brewing in each of us.

I fidget with the Keurig one more time, and I tell my co-laborer as the line for coffee get longer, “all the lights are off and it’s still not working. I’m pretty sure we just need to place the k-cup inside, pull the lever and wait for it to say ‘ready to brew’, let’s give it a try”. VIOLA, what does the Keurig say “READY TO BREW“.

Literally leaping with excitement, I ask my co-laborer, what does that say? She says “ready to brew”! As you can see, I even took a picture of it to gloat in my triumph.

I could not wait to show dear husband. I would love to tell you I waited until after the service to gloat over him. I did not. His response was a smirk. He was wrong. I was right. Moreover, how I wish, that were the point of me sharing this story. Sorry to disappoint you, it is not.

Friends there are so many lessons that can be learned from this story.  Why am I so petty?  Why do I feel the need to be right? Why was I even involved, I do not drink coffee. Oh, my pride! Etc.  However, for the sake of brevity and keeping in mind that this is a blog post we will just go with my interpretation of the current lesson I learned – okay?

I confess, first I had to have a little one on one with Jesus about my little ole heart rejoicing too much over being right. Truthfully, it was telling of where my heart had been for some time and it was the perfect opportunity to dig a little deeper. It was not just about me being right.

I shifted a bit from the importance of being right to the whole idea of how routine some of my habits are.  I mean my dear husband who used the Keurig constantly – really – did – think the machine did not say ready to brew. It made me self-reflect.  How many times do I do stuff without thoughtfully or intentionally paying attention. How may time have I done that in different areas of my life – that – then – leave me stagnant and unable to brew anything productive, or better word fruitful.

That thought lingered with me in particularly in the context of relationships. How many times do I respond, react, and act out of routine rather than intentionally thinking it all through? My delight in being right came from a series (yes, a series) of moments were I knew I was right about something but did not have a picture to back it up. My gloating had very little to do with what was happening with the Keurig that morning.  Despite having the privilege of being right and having proof, my victory dance was short lived.

It reminded me of when harsh words are exchanged between spouses, friends, leaders, or co-laborers, when we simply forget to be “quick to listen and slow to speak”.   How might our relationships be different if we honored moments like “ready to brew” with a bit more grace as opposed to haste?  In the moment, I fully recognize it was a race to get the coffee machine going but it was also a good teaching moment about intentionality, grace and teamwork (and yes, yes, yes, my pride).

It may sound oversimplified but I know that I overreact, jump to conclusions and look for my victory.  Opposed to taking a moment to consider all that is being said and attempting to gain perspective from my dear husband, leaders and co-laborers.   If Christ has allowed these gems to grace my life then it is for a reason. And I do not want to pass those moments by because I am too caught up in habit or in a series of old offenses. ready to brewFriends, I love being right. But I do not love being lonely or friendless.  Considering the journey of church planting is a lonely road already, I do not want to lose an exchange of grace with my dear husband or any potential friends over coffee! I much rather forego being right and retain the grace of friendship over coffee (or hot chocolate in my case).

Winter Grey

At my job we refer to the cold dark long days of winter as “the grey”.  And while I am a fan of the snow (yes I am that woman who would live in upstate NY and gaze on the rolling hills of rock hard snow); I still can acknowledge that there is something especially tough about the long grey days of winter.  There are the “better” days when I enamoured by the stillness and the cold, and then there are the other days – where the grey is dull and wintercarouselnumbing,  Where the darkness falls heavy on my heart and I desperately cannot wait for spring.  Not because much awaits me in spring aside from hay fever. But I look forward to the spring thaw and all that was planted will blossom both in nature and hopefully – in you and me.

There’s no escaping the grey.  It’s dark when I rise and it’s dark when I return home, and the next day we all, do it over again – kind of like riding a carousel – except less thrilling.  So, what then?

I struggled with this.  And I want to share with a transparent heart that there were some really great moments during this winter grey, but I was overwhelmed by the cold and I grew numb.  And that’s just part of the story, right?  There are seasons where our hearts are despondent and we have no choice but to wait things out with God.

I journaled.  Short words, sometimes photos or verses. I tried my best to stay in communication with God but that proved to be very difficult when you’re numb. We are also fasting this month and I can’t tell you how strikingly different my experience is from last year.

From my perspective, I could blame it all on starting the new year off rocky, or I can take a closer look and say things were in my heart (and are) weighing heavy.  Things are not going as I would like and there’s a part of me that gets especially upset because I feel like I “deserve” for things to be better or go better. Handling the “I deserve mentality” is enough work on its own.  (Insert disgruntled sigh.)  Despite my best efforts, my hope is waning.  And while I have a bad (good?) tolerance for physical pain,  I’m not as good with heart pain.  I wrestled and lose often.  Hard moments.  Hard truths.  And in the grey sometimes all we can do is do our best to get through it.  I’ve often beaten myself up for not snapping out of it, for not nipping it in the bud, for not getting a head of it – but the reality is that you can’t always do any of those things.

waitingAnd so, it’s here, in the grey valley that I must find Him.  Where my heart must be rendered over and over, and over and over, again and again.  Not only because He’s the only resource but because it is here, where I am broken and poured out to be molded again and again.  It is painful and I would like to pass-go but I don’t.  I sit in the grey and wait.  It has been while and I have longed for spring but I have also come to acknowledge that I need the winter grey as much as nature itself does.  I have often prayed and asked God to “rid me of myself” because that seems the “best prayer”, because I am naturally sinful.  But “ridding me of myself” all at once does nothing for me. I must see my sin; I must confront my pride and acknowledge my need for a Savior again and again.  And  while I would love to stand on the mountain of fasting haven – I must also know the valley of winter grey.  All part of my journey.

I have stuck to my goals, praying, remained fasting and reading.  While I want magical whimsical results, I will patiently wait for God in the hopes that seeds of truth are being planted for my spring thaw.  And so I am praying the same for you. I do not know what season you are walking through right now, but I do know that if you’re tired of waiting, take courage, He will meet you – one way or another. 

A song to listen to while we wait:

 

Roots

Lessons learned.

I think my “lessons learned” sentence may be a crutch I’ve come to rely on. It’s frequent use is telling.  It’s become a default response when I feel as if I just got slapped in the face with something I thought I should have been prepared for—sigh.  So. Not. Cool. 

It’s day 31 of 2018 and the year has given a few surprises, inching me to take some action.   I would like to move from saying “Lessons learned.” to “Whew! Gotta keep practicing, this will get better”.  But that would require action, mental and physical.     
I seem to be running slow on taking action these days.

For the first time, in a long time, I have the green light to follow through on some personal growth opportunities.  I have sought God on them for a long time, waited for the right time – and NOW is the time.  Everyone is in favor, the price is right – and ahhhhh – I’m STALLING.  (Rolling eyes here.)

Absolutely, positively, frustrating .  What is wrong with me?!  How can this be?  What is happening?  No, really, what is happening.  For those of you who know me, yes, I am making that face while saying “what is happening?”.  Ugh.  I can’t believe I am here.  Ready and going nowhere.  All of the logistics are in place, and my heart is like “oh well, you did all that praying about taking the next steps but you didn’t pray about your own darn heart.”   Go ahead, laugh out loud – because I surely have!  I have given it a really good laugh – so please join me.  It’s annoying and ironic.

My heart isn’t ready.  And it’s more than just fear that I won’t cut it or that it will be a total failure.  It’s OH MY LORD, the last time I did this it was a total disaster and the recovery process was oh so painful.  And so I dig a little deeper and what do I come up with, a conversation in my head that reads like this: 

To finally ….

  • Do I have enough Faith to walk with God through this next season?  

— And, that’s what this is really about.

The short answer is, no, I don’t.  I don’t like the unknown, even after seeing how faithful my God is – I still don’t like the unknown.  My flesh is still (stubbornly) waiting for a map (you know, the blue print one, with all the arrows and stuff)  for my life!  I want to know that I am going to take these personal growth steps (that are huge, for me) and that I am going to come out shiny beautiful and whole.  I want to know.  citygroup background photo

The truth is – God’s promises to me say it all will.  But instead of wanting to know, I have to daily choose to believe

Dig a little deeper and I remember, I’ve got roots!  I mean I’ve been sitting in the wilderness for some time, watching, waiting, observing, taking notes, while Jesus is plowing and planting seeds of Faith.  And now it’s time for those seeds of faith to become active.  

—There’s an invitation asking . . .

“Will you go?”. 

I look around and see what is Still, not yet, a garden . . ., and fear cripples me!  

I say “oh no Lord, it hurt so much, it cost so much.  I don’t know if I can do it again.” 

And He gently extends the invitation again, asking  Won’t you come and follow me?” 

I gasp.  Fear’s veiny grip is released.

His roots run deep.  I am His.  And in His glorious mercy, He has shown me His faithfulness even in the darkest and scariest of seasons.  I can move towards what’s ahead.  Will you come with me?  Will you journey on with your Savior’s hand and see what He has in stored for us this 2018?

“It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet, like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to stand upon the heights.”
– Psalm 18:32

 

 

Still, not yet, a garden . . .

not yet a garden

Even in trying to write it all out, there are still so many times when all the words in my heart do not make it on the page. Where all that I long to express, still is not conveyed. The pain runs deep and words are few. Often the joy experienced is experience in that moment and can’t be relived.

In preparing for the year end, I found myself struggling for words to fully encompass all I’d like to express. I wanted it plain, yet full.  2017 with it’s highs and lows has been just that, full and beautiful.   Not the beauty the natural eye likens to.  It was not like rose, or that of a serene beach. I have struggled with how to use words to create a picture so to speak so you can fully “see it”. Then, I came across this passage in a devotional and my heart was both shattered and at peace – isn’t that weird? To experience peace while your heart feels as if it has just been shattered. Yet this passage fits what I’ve desired to say perfectly.

“You say, ‘But I asked God to turn my life into a Garden of the Lord, and there came the ploughshare of sorrow, and instead of a garden I have been given a wilderness.'”
– Prayer, a Holy Occupation by Oswald Chambers

Years ago, I prayed a prayer.  And I want to be wholly transparent and say I had no idea what this prayer was, how it came about and I have since questioned, what on Earth God is doing. You see using Oswald Chambers exceptionally written words, I did “ask God to turn my life into a Garden of the Lord’s” . . . I offered up a meager prayer having no clue what it was going to mean for my heart and life. Truthfully had I known, I would have never uttered it. Because indeed instead of getting a garden, I have been traveling in the wilderness for quite some time.

I’ve written about the journey as it has unfolded. Attempting to truthfully write about what God calls “His Masterpiece”.   It was out right scary in the very beginning. Cold. Dark. And extremely isolating. Towards what I call (and hope) is the middle it got better and then it felt like it was on the verge of getting worse. And then tonight, last night of 2017, I got a peak at what I believe is Glory. I reflected on this year and as the memories flooded, tears falling, I saw it! In between all the highs and lows, struggles ad triumphs, God faithfully sowing seeds of faith, hope, love into the darkest parts and light surfacing from each of those old dark, fearful places. I got a glimpse of purpose. A glimpse at His Glory . . . My life – still, not yet, a garden, but no longer wilderness – either.

That my friends, is the Glory of God on this journey. That He would take our lives, void, and turn them into something for His Glory – is life worth living.

To 2018, A Garden for the Lord.