Monday, November 28, 2016

Waiting Roughly

Below are just a few thoughts in this time I've spent waiting for this baby to make it's appearance. It's rough thoughts, not polished writing, but thoughts that have swirled my brain in the sleepless fog of the last week of pregnancy. I know that all too soon the hormones change from this anxious anticipation to the fogginess of that newborn intoxication. But it's here in the sometimes frustrating waiting that the deep deep appreciation of help and surrounding of love and anticipation of the unknown happens.

In the waiting I've learned a few things. In the waiting I've learned transparency and asking for help and receiving way more than I can give.
I've not even done my own laundry in the past month in a half. I've not cooked a full meal for my family but once or twice.
In this waiting and slowing of anticipation of this baby I've been able to concentrate on relationship and connecting rather than the draining mundane of keeping a household together that at 9.5 months pregnant I would not be able to do at all.
Having help of the grandmas and others around us has given me the freedom to continue to be involved with my kids and connect with friends. It's given me the energy to continue ministry on a smaller, but still very important scale. It's shown me humility and patience for this slightly obsessive girl.
I've grown in girth and in appreciation of those that sacrifice their own time and love for others. This receiving of grace and love both tangible and intangible has confirmed the way we live as a village how we need the transparency of doing someone's dirty laundry and not blinking an eye at doing their dishes. It allows a relationship to go deeper and deeper. It allows a give and take that will possibly be reversed at some point but doesn't need to be reciprocated to be appreciated.
It's the love of a family and of growing that family into a deeper understanding of God's love. Of the love shared and not necessarily blood relation, but the gathering of love and bringing together of emotions and food and preparation for this exciting event happens.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Let it be Graceful

I used to be confused about the way God works in our lives. Sometimes I still try to mix this up or ignore His perfect plan because it doesn't match up with my idea of a perfect plan. Below is one of the devotionals I wrote earlier in the autumn. I needed the reminder today how God fortifies us before giving us a challenge. This babe's birth is impending, I'm heavy and tired, and beginning to think the baby would be easier on the outside than the inside (this is never true). God gives us strength before we even know we need it. He's strengthening me with His word, kind actions from friends, reminders of what labor and birth are really like, and all the other ways He knows I need to be lifted before the hard but beautiful time of labor and newborn stage envelopes our lives. I'm just hoping that when this time comes, I will have the strength to respond to all this time holds with grace.

Let it be Graceful (Luke 1:26-38)
When Mary was visited by Gabriel in Luke chapter 1, he gives her so much news- But he starts with “Greetings favored one!” The favored one (gratia plena) can be translated to one who is full of grace.
She had no idea how her life would be turned upside down by the coming news. But Gabriel tried to ground her in God’s grace before he continues with his news. When delivering shocking news we often try to do the same. “I’ve scheduled surgery, but I’ll need to have my hip replaced,” or “I’m picking up dinner, but I’ll be an hour late from work.” We try to pad shocking or often what could be perceived as bad news with the good. Gabriel delivers the fortifying news to Mary before he delivers the life changing.
Luckily, He’s not ever called anyone but Mary to birth and raise his only begotten Son, but God asks us to do all sorts of things outside of our comfort zones.
He asks us to give our time to a prison ministry and we aren’t sure we’re equipped to handle that hurt and uncomfortable situation. He has our husband’s job transferred across the country from any friends and family leaving us without a support system and feeling lonely. He takes away our physical health right when we reach the busiest point of motherhood (isn’t that every stage of motherhood?).
But here’s the good news, God always gives us the grace to endure before we go through change. His grace comes before He calls us or expects us to do something we may find challenging. He never expects us to go through these things alone. He is always there with us. He holds us and carries us along the way. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us to be strong and courageous and that God will never leave or forsake us.
It’s a little vague as to Mary’s feelings of the responsibility when she is given her big news. I know how I would have felt. Overwhelmed, under prepared, to say the least. But maybe even more importantly, what we do have is how she responds to the situation. It is such a graceful response. “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; May it be done to me according you your word.”
Mary, full of grace, submits to the Lord, asking His will be done in her life. She takes her calling and embraces the challenge. May we all have the gracefulness to respond to the Lord’s call on our lives in the same way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Feeding a writer's soul without writing

Over the last year and a half, I have started to be intentional about a few things that I felt were missing out of my life. There were no gaping holes, but a slow drifting and shifting of things that left me feeling unsatisfied and listless. Without the pressure of small children at home running a constant and steady stream of needs, I felt the beginning of a time. Short lived it would be, but who says seasons of life need to be certain lengths of time?

I decided that this was the season for me to plan, plan to be a writer, try to see what would happen with it, pursue it as much as I could. Schedule time for it and keep it.

I've always written, I remember a book about my pet bird when I was four or so. I've kept up numerous blogs over the years, I'm notorious for belated handwritten birthday cards. I couldn't even fully give up a literature degree for an education one, even though I knew I would always be a teacher.

So in this season, I didn't keep a blog, I didn't write many letters, I didn't even keep up writing in a journal on a consistent basis. Instead, I started learning about writing. I started listening to podcasts, I started planning and researching and looking into publications that I thought would be interesting. Instead of jumping in and just doing it as I've always been prone to do, this was slightly more calculating, a little more passive. At first I thought it was because I was so unsure of myself, bruised and not sure about exposing myself. But instead it turns out it was a little more about slowing down the process and allowing myself to enjoy aspects I'd never considered before. To consider an audience, to look at varying lenses or avenues of what message I may even have to share, to plan and plot goals instead of setting deadlines for myself. In short, it was weird.

It's totally not what writers will tell you to do. I know because I listened to all their podcasts, I watched their webinars. A writer should write, no matter if it's good, no matter if anyone ever sees it. But I didn't. I made lists and Trello boards of options, I talked to mentors about needs, I brain mapped audiences where I'd have influence.

Finally I broke down and started. I prayer journaled. I started with thoughts on a book with a long distance friend. Literature analysis is easy and comforting to me. I interspersed it with a post or two on here.All the while dropping "Oh I'm writing" on acquaintances in the coffee shop to judge reactions.

Then one day I sat down and did it. I knew of a devotional publication looking for open submissions. I'd never even used their devotionals, but I knew the deadline loomed. I set myself a goal. I would not get up until I'd submitted two for publication (go big or go home). I did it and waited. I found it not as hard to wait as I thought it would be. There was a release in the waiting, no pressure no sacrifice.

The rejection wasn't as hard as I'd anticipated also. I had no grand delusions of being heralded as a huge writing success right away, so anticipating this wasn't hard. But ultimately my goal was to submit. I'd submitted and given this endeavor over to the Lord. I had discovered that for once my writing should be devoted to Him. And there's the thick of it, it was His. It was submitted to Him not to a company, not for myself, but for Him.

I'm not sure where this goes from here, this season. It will look different soon. It will be less scheduled, less concentrated, I will be pulled away in different places. But this time has set up a framework for me, reawakened a desire and fueled a purpose.

Monday, September 12, 2016

learning in the quiet

It's pretty quiet around my house. Sometimes. Like at 8:05 in the morning when the kids are finally on the bus, and Adam is off to work and my mom (who lives with us occasionally) is out or still asleep. And I realize that what used to terrify me as silence isn't considered that anymore. I don't need talk radio or the Today Show on to keep my mind from racing. This was the case less than a year ago. I would have on podcasts or local radio stations or sometimes both in different rooms to keep myself occupied as I went about daily chores or checking off my to do list. I was uncomfortable with the silence because it seemed to scream at me about the absence of God.
Here's the thing though, God was there all along.  I was choosing blatantly to not notice, to turn away from His truths and spiral into lies instead. I was unsatisfied with where my life was for a number of reasons and instead of crawling into the hand of the One who knows all things, I tried to take control of uncontrollable situations. I fell into the trap that if I tried harder, took more effort and time, read a little more about the topic, ran a little longer, gave one more smile, that my multitude of varying problems could be fixed. Then, then I would feel whole and well rounded and happy. So by taking control of these things I was taking the control away from God. And getting myself nowhere.
Part of breaking that silence (just as with most people and secrets, or addictions or deep pain) was admitting the fault and brokenness. There was a specific breaking point where I remember the turn from darkness back towards the light. It was when I decided to ponder on scripture. Something I've done in the past, not anything revolutionary, not even specifically memorizing or anything intensive, but just pondering, reflecting, leaving certain scriptures out where I would see them often. Although I wanted to pick a catchy, lesser known, "cool" scripture, scriptures often choose our hearts. In the course of a week I had been told Psalm 139 over and over. My counselor had gently reminded me of it during the course of a session, a friend mentioned part of it in her post on Instagram, and it was discussed in a book I had been reading. I know well enough that once a scripture pops up in a number of ways over a short period of time that I need to pay attention. 

He was in that silence and He broke through that noise. With His very own Words. Through that well known Psalm He reached down to me and reminded me that I was not alone, that He knows when I wake and when I sleep. He gently reminded me that He also knows when I am avoiding Him and corrected my heart. He had never left me, He is always there. He knows me and my struggles (and my JOYS!) even better than I could know them myself. He is good. Always good.

Psalm 139
You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

the year of pause

I've left a year of pause, of quiet, of this weird in between where I've journeyed. I feel like there are portions of my life where I sit back and watch how things unfold, this slow releasing of the path in front of me, the looking of all directions before each step, seasons of pausing and seeing what each thing will take before making decisions. And then there are other portions of my life where I'm tripping over my own feet, rushing head first into an unknown without cause or care and just taking a whim on chances.
One of these is a calmer, introspective, maybe laid back approach. The other is adventurous, exciting, maybe more productive.
I'm not sure which I prefer, or which draws me more, it's the dichotomy of my personality. I love both and hate both. I see the other and want the calmness of pause, or the excitement of rashness.
But this year of pause, I've learned to lean into Jesus. I've learned that He is my truth and my guide. My reason and purpose. He's brought me through and taught me the importance of treating myself like I treat others. With much grace and much love. I've learned to forgive myself for things that I'd so quickly forgive others for, but rarely would allow myself the peace.
In January I was asked what I thought my purpose was, I had lost track of that in the swirl and shadows of the last half of 2015 and even the rush and tripping of the previous two or so years.
The question challenged me to my core. I had an answer. It was an old answer that I had cultivated pre-motherhood, pre-Illinois life. But I realized that maybe that answer wasn't the answer anymore. I'd strayed so much from my vision of what I thought God expected from me. I took inventory of me, my ministries, my relationships, and realized that I'd floated along. I wasn't sure what my next step was. God had closed so many doors.
Such started a journey that was unexpected, and as we are often surprised by, much sweeter and also harder than we think it might be.
God started stripping. Literally, stripping things away from me. He took so many figurative and physical things from me that at first I clung to with stubborn tenacity, and then deep hurt. But then came the sweetness. The alone times with Jesus where he showed me and opened my eyes to the community that starts with Him and flows out to others.
I was studying John 2 this week. And was drawn to the portion of Jesus first clearing out the Temple. A few things struck me in this as He went.
This was a public display. The temple was filled with Jews for Passover. When Jesus turned the tables of the coin exchangers He was making a very public display of the corruption He found going on around Him. He didn’t quietly ask them to pack up and leave. He was public and brave in His turning things around.
When questioned about His authority to do such a thing. He claims His power to overcome and how once the “temple” (Himself) is destroyed He will be raised. Often times God needs to destroy something to rebuild it better. Just as we break down muscles at the gym in order to have them heal stronger in rest, sometime our very lives or ideals or bodies need to be broken in order to come back and be better and stronger and to fulfill the purposes of God.
Lastly, the thing that struck me the most is that not even the disciples understand Jesus' reference at the time. Verse 22 says, "22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken." It takes the realization of the Resurrection for even those closest to Jesus to understand what He is talking about. Sometimes God asks, or takes, or gives us things that we don't understand. But just like the promises that the Resurrection holds of grace and salvation, God promises that these things will all work together for His glory and good. (Romans 8:28) We may not understand everything all at once. We may not understand how something that seems terrible can even be moved around to be good, but that's where faith comes in. I'm choosing in my faith to believe the Bible and see where God has me go. 
The verse I fall back on time and again is Isaiah 43:18-19
18 “Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
19 “Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
It makes me excited for the new things. Excited to see how God will use me when I choose to serve Him.