Monday, September 28, 2009

Messy, Stinky Girls

Well, here is the update you've all been dying for. I survived last night! I know you're relieved to know that I didn't fall over with a heart attack brought on by stress, and I'm pretty relieved about it, too. It's always the funniest thing. I stress and get so nervous about teaching/leading a group, but when the time comes, I'm fine. If I could just skip the whole week before, things would be great!

I just have to say that I love women. Not in the weird, inappropriate way, but in a God-fearing way. I was just saying to someone that I didn't have a lot of girl friends in school. I preferred to hang out with guys. But I think that's because women can get messy. I am one, so I can say that. And I should know...I'm pretty messy on the inside. Really, though, we are complicated emotional creatures and things can get crazy if you can actually get another woman to open up and be herself. But I think there's comfort in that. I love knowing that I'm not the only one dealing with crazy, hard, messy stuff. So thanks to all you crazy people I know. :)

For some reason, God has made me a person who is just an open book with other women. (Not so much with my husband, but that's another post.) I will just spill my guts on another woman the second she gives me the opportunity. I usually end up hating myself for it because I feel like an idiot when I'm done, but I continue to do it anyway. There are times when I should just keep my mouth closed, but there are also times when it just helps me so much to get my thoughts and emotions out on the table. Hmmm, it's no wonder most of my posts are boring ramblings of my thoughts instead of cute pictures of my kids. (But most of you have your own cute kids to look at. You don't need to see mine.)

Okay, I'm trying to get to my point. My point is this: God has given us such a great resource in other Christian women, but we do not take full advantage of it. He has given us other beings who can sympathize, understand, show concern, advise, and pray for us, but we are unwilling to be real with one another so all that stuff can happen. We hold in our sinful struggles, our feelings of loneliness, our battles with Satan's lies, our hopes and dreams for whatever reason (pride, maybe???) and we just let it simmer. Before we know it, we've either shut down completely or we boil over and burn everyone around us. My heart's desire is to see and be a part of a sisterhood in Christ that encourages, challenges, and prays for one another constantly. I just want us all to spill our guts all over each other and then help one another clean up the mess. There, how is that for a beautiful and poetic word picture?

And, one more teensy weensy thing. Thanks to all of you who have let me do that spilling of the guts thing on you (that would be everyone who reads this blog), and have in turn opened yourselves up to me. I am privileged to share in this journey with you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

Last week as I was walking out of our Young Adult Ministries Sunday night worship (I think there may be an official name for it, but I have no idea what it is), I was asked to address the ladies the next time we meet. What I forgot at this point is you're always supposed to answer those type of questions with, "Well, I'd love to, but let me pray about that." That way, you sound really holy AND you have time to really think it over (and pray, OF COURSE) and realize that there is no way you want to address the ladies next week becuase that would cause tons of unnecessary stress and, eventually, humiliation in your life. You would have to spend days begging God to speak to you and then, when the week nears its end and you're still not sure He has, you would start to get worried that Sunday will dawn and you will have no idea what you're going to say to all the people who will show up expecting to be taught something profound, convicting, or at least slightly important. How could I forget such a simple thing? Yet, I did...forget, that is. And instead of "Let me pray about that," I said, "Okay."

So now I find myself in the aforementioned (I like that word, by the way) dire situation. What's a forgetful girl to do? Now I'm stuck and slightly stressed. I'm really still in denial that it's really going to happen, or maybe I am still truly hoping for a revelation from God. I'll keep you all updated as to whether or not that actually happens, unless, of course, you're one of the poor souls who shows up on Sunday night to be either bored or amazed that anyone would ever ask me to speak. Then you will need no update, since you will witness either my stumbling, bumbling words or a great work of the Holy Spirit through an undeserving and incapable girl who just wants to glorify Him.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Harder to See than Ever

I'm going to try to make this quick. (Ha! As if that's possible.) Chris and Maddie are on their way home, and things usually get CRAZY around here once all 5 of us are together. But, I just wanted to add a new post about a great "Hard to See" blessing. (See previous post here.)



So, in the midst of my not so fun week last week, I really had trouble seeing or being thankful for any blessings. I know they were still there, but my view was very clouded. But God is good and just a few days later, I have been blessed. "What's this blessing?" you're dying to know. Well, it is.......(Enjoy the build-up. Don't peek ahead!).......YOU! Okay, I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, (and I'm NOT a fan of cheesy) but it's just true. This time last week I felt so isolated and alone. But just a mere 7 days later, I have been showered with encouragement and love. I am still struggling to keep my eyes on Jesus and the truth of His Word, but the hugs, concern, emails, comments, etc. from my friends have been a bright light in the midst of my struggle this week.



I just ask one tiny thing of you. If, someday, I happen to be struggling with all this stuff from a location many miles away from you all, promise you won't forget me. :)



Sunday, September 20, 2009

Speechless

I realize I've been absent from my ever-inspiring blog for over a week now, but I've just been speechless. I even started a post a few days ago and just couldn't figure out how to say what I needed to say. Basically, last week was one of the worst weeks I have had in a very long time. Between my grandfather's death, a sick little girl, being cooped up in the house for days on end with three bored kids, so much rain I thought we'd float away, and the hard reality of what our future might hold, I've pretty much been in a pit of despair. I realize that sounds a bit melodramatic, but that's really the way I've felt. Tears at every turn, horrible impatience with my kids, uncontrollable irratibility, and the desire to dig a hole and crawl in pretty much sums it up.

Of course, being the mature, faithful believer that I am (please note the sarcasm), I have spent hours poring over Scripture and on my knees in prayer. Oh, wait. That's what I was supposed to do. My actual approach has been more along the lines of cry, pout, pitch a fit, cry some more, and totally ignore God's Word. You'd think I would know better. And I do. But am I the only one who just has those moments when, just like a child, I know what I SHOULD do, but I don't do it just because...well, I don't feel like it? (Please don't tell me I'm the only one.) And, honestly, I'm still not where I need to be. But I haven't cried in two days, so I think I'm headed in the right direction.

I think it all comes down to this. Can I live out this verse?

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

Can I really choose Jesus and whatever He asks me to do if it means not only leaving our parents behind, but making them really sad in the process? If it means taking my children away from the family, friends, and schools that they love? Those are the hardest questions to me. I can give up the material possessions and even the financial security, but can I make a decision that will have very hard consequences for the people I love the most? I just don't know if I can. And, to be quite honest, I've just been a little miffed at God this week for even asking me to.

So this is where I now stand. Saddened by the death of a loved one who most likely is not in the presence of Christ, saddened for my dad and aunt and uncle who are now orphans, saddened at the thought of separating those who are still mourning the loss of parents (on both sides of our family) from the grandchildren they adore, and saddened at the thought of causing great hurt (and worse - resentment) for my children. And, selfishly, I'm angry and depressed at the thought of being isolated on a 36 square mile island with three children, who love to be social, at home all day while I homeschool them. (Disclaimer: I think homeschooling is awesome, just not for me or my kids. Believe me, I want desperately to feel differently about that.)

Okay, I will spare anyone who has been unfortunate to read all of this lovely entry from anymore melancholy rambling. I suppose I am hoping that by dumping all of these depressing thoughts, they will leave my head for good and allow me to move forward with the eternal perspective I had not so very long ago. This week's gotta be better...right??

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Object of My Desire

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26

It's a little embarrassing to admit to other believers, but I think now, after over 20 years of being a follower of Christ, I'm finally getting the point of this whole thing. (I suppose that makes me a slow learner, which means the title of valedictorian is pretty much meaningless, but I think I already knew that.) I'm finally seeing that all of His commands are to lead me away from the empty idols of this life and toward knowing and glorifying the only One who is worth my time, energy, and desire.

I have lived most of my Christian life with the mentality that God takes away what I want to give me what He wants me to have, which is really just boring or scary stuff. I've heard and said phrases such as, "God is more interested in your holiness than your happiness" many times over. And I get what that means. I really do. But what I think many of us miss (or maybe it's just me), is that in holiness lies true happiness, otherwise known as joy. How has the world, even the Christian world, gotten into the misconception that to look like God, our life must be devoid of any pleasure? Okay, okay. I'll admit that I'm actually getting something out of this stinkin' Desiring God book. But really, it has just solidified what God has been teaching me slowly but surely the past several years.

I love the following quote from C.S. Lewis: "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

We think that by following Christ, we will be giving up all the things of the world that bring us pleasure. And for me, those things aren't "bad things" like partying or sleeping around. They are things I think, "God should WANT me to have this," like physical health and material comfort, living close to my family and my friends. Of course, he doesn't always ask us to give those things up, but He very well might decide to. And that is what I feared. The things I would have to sacrifice. But, finally the light bulb has gone off for me. God asks us to give up those things so that we can grow closer to Him, which is the only thing that really satisfies.

Okay, so I kind of had that concept a while back. (Deep, I know. :) ) But here's the thing I just didn't believe. I did not truly believe that knowing Christ is worth forfeiting anything and everything in this world. I did not truly believe that I would find more joy and fulfillment in an intimate relationship with my Creator and living in obedience to Him than in the pleasures of this world. But, thanks be to God, the more I "taste and see that He is good," the more of Him I want. And the more I'm willing to do away with to get more of Him. I'm no longer content with mud pies, with things that are only a shadow of the pleasure I get from Jesus.

So many times, all we can see is, "This is hard. Surely God wouldn't want me to be miserable." And then someone says, "He's more interested in your holiness than your happiness," and you go away feeling defeated because you serve a God who doesn't truly care about your pain. Oh, if only the statement went like this: "He's more interested in your holiness, which leads to true and eternal joy and satisfaction, than your fleeting, earthly, carnal pleasure, which only leads to brokeness, emptiness and pain." (Okay, that may be a little long to be a catchy phrase, but you know what I mean.) Holiness comes by knowing God and allowing Him to transform you. And when we know Him and He transforms us, we find a joy that cannot be touched by earthly circumstances, whether that be the death of someone we love, the seeming hopelessness of being stuck in a miserable relationship, a devastating diagnosis, or the waywardness of our children.

If we could only see that we have the most valuable treasure we could possibly hope for and stop living for trash masquerading as something valuable. My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Jeremiah 2:13

And so, as my husband works on filling out an application that could mean giving up everything I've held onto for so long (other than my immediate family), I must say that "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." After all, who wouldn't pick a holiday at the sea over a mud pie feast any day?

Bubblicious

A picture I never could have taken had I been trying to...

Look closely...

Closer...A little closer...

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Quick Jack Attack

Yesterday as we waited, and waited, and waited for the doctor, Jack gave me a performance of his rendition of the old favorite, "Deep and Wide." It goes like this: "Deep and wide. Deep and wide. There's a mountain floating deep and wide."

Then he proceeded to cry that he was "so tired, my eyebrows hurt." Good thing I wasn't bored while we waited. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Friends (And I Don't Mean the TV Show I Used to Love)

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a friend funk. What's a friend funk? It's when you feel lonely and sorry for yourself because you don't have any friends. Pretty pathetic, huh? And pretty ridiculous considering the fact that God has blessed me abundantly with friends. When I say abundantly, I don't mean that I am super popular and have gobs of friends lining up to spend time with me. I really mean that the Lord has blessed me with a smallish, yet perfect, number of true friends.

When I use the word "friend," I am referring to those special people in your life that you just connect with. People that just "get you" and you can be yourself with. The ones in your life that you can run to when you're ready to celebrate or needing to unload your troubles. The people that you don't have to put on a show for or try to impress. Those who will still stick around when they find out all the ugly things about you, like you don't really like kids or don't have a huge heart for the lost. (Not that I know anyone like that.) Maybe I'm the only one that can't be completely comfortable being the real me with just anybody, yet isn't good at pretending when things are going awry. I am truly blessed to have several true friends, which the Lord has gently reminded me of since my pity party I referred to earlier.

As I've been reminded of all my bosom buddies, I have realized what a beautiful mixture of people they really are. And they all bring out different sides of the real me. (I should quit saying "they" because most of the people I'm referring to are my dedicated and adoring blog readers - YOU.)

So, who are you?

Well, there's the always there friend, K. The one I can call up and blab to for 45 minutes for no reason. The one who I see frequently as we share many parts of our lives and love hanging out together - husbands, kids, and all. The one I once thought would never speak more than 3 words to me because she can be so quiet...but who, once the gap was bridged, has been a great and true friend. (I still do a lot of the talking, though. Sorry!)

Then we have the quirky, totally different than me (but not really) friend, D. She's the one who I immediately labeled a snob and was then horrified to find would be a coworker. Little did I know, she was nothing like what I expected, or could ever have imagined. She's my unique friend who seems so unlike me at first, but who can bring out my wild and weird side. (Wild is a relative term when referring to one of the most boring goody-two-shoes on earth, which I am.) D is probably the only person who can cuss at me for all the world to see and I just laugh. Beneath that somewhat sarcastic, "heathenish" exterior is someone who perseveres in love and faithfulness like few would. Someone who loves Jesus, though she calls me the "holy" one. Someone who gets me out of my normal, boring little shell and makes me think differently.

Next is the long-lost friend who is back in my life, J. Who would have ever thought after losing touch for so many years, that we would be hanging out together last weekend? And loving it? (Well, I loved it, and she SAYS she enjoyed it, so I'll leave it at that.) I just marvel at how God weaves our lives with others, and how two roads that were so close for a time could completely diverge yet meet up at the same sweet spot years later. We've always seemed very different in a lot of ways, J and I, but I don't really think we are. She has such a thankful and caring heart, such a peaceful and quiet spirit, such a contentment about her. Oh, to be like that someday.

Being fresh off an hour and a half conversation with this next friend, E, I am feeling very grateful for our relationship. And the fabulous bonus of this friendship is - we're family, too. So, there's no escaping me. You're my friend for life, whether you like it or not! Since E is several years younger than me, we're not at exactly the same stage of life (meaning I have 3 crazy kids and she doesn't - yet). But God is taking us down a very similar road in life, and we're facing many of the same struggles. We don't talk as often as I'd like, but when we do, it's going to be a late night. When I feel the most isolated from the world around me, E always understands. And she's the one friend who I know will come visit me at the uttermost parts of the earth.

I could go on and on. That's just how blessed I am. I could mention the new friends who I don't spend tons of time with, but who greatly challenge me in my walk with Christ, whether they know it or not - C, L and R. I'd love to talk about our couple friends, T and D, who we have been friends with for ten years, can go months without seeing, and then pick up like we were never apart. And A, my new friend who alternates between cracking me up and bringing me to tears with her honesty. And still there are several others, but I doubt anyone is still reading since I've been so long-winded. The point is - isn't it amazing how God uses so many beautifully different people at different times of our lives to love us, encourage us, challenge us, comfort us, make us laugh, and shape us into the person He wants us to be? And who each reflect Christ - our ultimate friend.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-6