Friday, August 31, 2012

Thankful

Coming out of a period of weeks where my body, mind, and life in general has been in turmoil, I've realized something. As people have expressed sympathy and love to me and my family, my overriding emotion and response is...GRATITUDE.

I've realized going through this trial (which is so tiny compared to so much of the suffering in this world), that I have nothing left but gratitude. What other response could I have?

I am thankful, first of all, for a personal, loving Father who gives hope and purpose and peace when no one else could. Imagining my life without Him is nearly impossible for me now. I've realized over the past couple of months that I can no longer separate myself from Him or His existence and still call this thing I do everyday LIFE. My life would truly look totally different without Him, and even the thought of spending each day without His presence is a tragic and suffocating thought. I'm so thankful that I get to know God on such a personal basis. Only by His grace.

I am also so overwhelmed and thankful for the love of Jesus as expressed through His body, the church. I have cried out to the Lord so many times over the last few weeks for an expression of His love. Most of this time I have been discouraged, because I've felt like He didn't deliver that. But He has reminded me that He has chosen His people, His bride, as the vehicle to express His love to each individual in this world. I feel so undeserving of the love so many of our friends and family who are members of the body have shown us through calls, emails, texts, and gestures of kindness. It makes me want to do as much for someone else.

Naturally, this whole experience has made me very thankful for my children who jump and scream and hug and cry and need and smile everyday. Who am I to compain when I have a house overflowing with life? I just wish they wouldn't grow up and leave so quickly. And I really do mean that, whether it might seem like it at any given moment or not. :)

So as we begin to move away from this time of turmoil and emotion, I look back with a thankful heart. And I look forward to all that the Lord will continue to use this for in my life and possibly the lives of others. He has already shown me so much about my heart that needs to change. But the wonderful thing is, He has already begun to make those changes for me. He is good and faithful like that, for which I am very thankful.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

No Burden Here

I love studying the Bible. It's living and active. It changes me.

I love it when something new jumps out at me. Today, as I began my CBS study for the new year, I read this passage from I John 5:

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (Italics added.)

So, verses 2 and 3 just reminded me of that oh so long post I put up yesterday. But I loved the short little sentence that followed them. And his commandments are not burdensome. For some reason, in our selfishness and worldliness, we think doing life God's way will be a pain. We have decided that following God's commandments means we'll miss out on all the fun.

If I don't read the book everyone else is reading (and loving) or see the movie that everyone says is so good or if I skip my "me time" to do something for someone else (that they probably won't even notice) or stop and read my Bible instead of whatever other thing I could be doing or spend time with my husband instead of watching that tv show I've been looking forward to or trade my bikini for my tankini :) or forgo buying that new pair of flip flops so I can give the money away ... I'll miss out. I don't want to give it up!

The funny thing is, though, it seems that most times when I choose God's way, even in these "little things," I end up wondering what was so bad about it in the first place. Before I know it, it becomes a joy to live life his way and I don't even desire to go back to that old stuff. Wait a minute! Maybe God knows what He's talking about!

He is so good, patient, and kind. I still have a long way to go in obeying his commandments, but it's a refreshing reminder to know that when I finally decide to give up my way and go his way, it will actually turn out to be freeing...not a burden at all.

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30








Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Looking to be Light

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know that I'm supposed to be different. I'm supposed to be light in a dark world. I'm supposed to be salt in an otherwise flavorless and rotting place. I'm supposed to be the representation of God walking around in a human body.

I often find myself questioning what that really means. If I asked that question to many church-going people, I can imagine a few of the answers I might get. In fact, they're the good Sunday School answers that would first pop into my mind as well. "Let's see, we should go to church all the time, no matter what. We should be nice. We should pay 10%(ish) of our income to our church. We shouldn't drink alcohol. (That's just for good Southern Baptists. :) ) We should wear modest clothing. We shouldn't say bad words. We should do something nice for a needy person every once in a while. We should work hard and be responsible people with savings accounts and retirement plans so that our family is provided for."

Check!

We love to check things off. It just gives us such a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I've done what I need to do, and now I'm free to enjoy all the fruits of my labor.

But what I often find is that I do most of the good things I'm supposed to do, but I find myself still not standing out from the crowd a whole lot. No, I'm not facing prison time and my kids are well-behaved in school and we keep our grass mostly cut so the neighbors don't think badly of us. But is that all Jesus meant? Does that make me look like He looked? I don't remember him mowing the lawn.

In reading through the Gospels, the chronicles of Jesus' time on earth, this summer, it seems like one thing monopolizes most of the pages. Over and over and over, I see a theme that isn't necessarily what I've always thought about when I read about Jesus' earthly ministry. He is constantly up against those Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus spends a lot of his time sparring with the "good, religious people" of his day. Wouldn't you think that would be who he'd team up with to accomplish his mission on earth? But no. They were his archenemies, it seems.

So we like to point fingers and pride ourselves on not being like those stinky religious, Jesus-hating guys. The funny thing is, though, that sounds an awful lot like what one of them would say. They loved to point fingers at others and pat themselves on the back.

What I've found really interesting, though, is that Jesus doesn't just fuss at the Pharisees for their self-righteous ways. He warns the twelve guys closest to him against becoming like them. (Matthew 16:5-12) It would seem that these twelve (minus one wolf in sheep's clothing, maybe) wouldn't be likely candidates for Pharisee-ish behavior. A bunch of ragtag guys who've seen Jesus' every move. Surely they would never turn into self-righteous, legalistic, totally-missing-the-point people like those dirty religious guys.

Obviously, though, Jesus thinks all of us have that potential. He warns them and us...beware. Don't be like those guys. It can happen before you know it. We think we know him and are like him, but we could be living as his enemies.

So if I'm not supposed to be like the people who are all talk and no love and if I am supposed to be like God in the flesh, Jesus, what does that mean? For me, I've boiled it down to two things.

Love like I've been loved by God.

So much of what the religious elite were missing was love. They hadn't truly experienced the love and grace of God. They were trying to get to him by their good works and fancy reputation. They didn't see their need for forgiveness, so they hadn't realized how amazing God's grace is. I don't think grace was in their vocabulary. It stands to reason that if they hadn't experienced or realized the One who is love, they couldn't then extend that love and grace to others.

But I have experienced the love and grace of God, yet oftentimes, I still don't extend even a fraction of that love and grace to others. Sure, I love when it suits me. I love when it's easy. I love when it doesn't require much from me. But other times?

God's love is boundless, extravagant, unconditional, sacrificial, and not often returned. Do I love like that? Do I love my husband like that? My kids? My neighbor? The orphan? The hungry? The guy who cut me off in traffic? The irritable? The ungrateful? Or do I just love myself?

We are to love like God loves. We are to go out of our way to love those who may never return it. We are to give of ourselves, our time, our money, our comfort for the benefit of others. We are to love when someone wrongs us or irritates us or messes up our schedule. There is never an excuse to withhold love. If anyone ever had a good excuse, it was Jesus. But He loved us with everything He has.

In my life, maybe that looks like this: Quit criticizing others. Love them. Be willing to foster or adopt or never ever redecorate my home so that I can give more to the orphan. Take care of my children while my husband travels the globe helping those in dark find light. Quit thinking about vacations for my family and start thinking about how we can help those who are hurting. Call people who are going through a hard time. Show a little patience with that child who can't help but push every button I have. Encourage my husband. Choose to hold my tongue and think about what is true, lovely, excellent, and admirable instead of giving someone a piece of my mind.

You get the point.

The second thing:

Live like I believe God.

The Pharisees claimed to know God and were supposedly looking for the Messiah. But when he didn't fit their bill, they pitched a fit and decided to kill him. God's agenda didn't match theirs, so they ditched him. They did not believe God's plan could possibly be better than their own.

When God's plans don't match my own, do I whine, complain, worry, fear, and fret? Um, lots of times, YES. That looks an awful lot like the world. I say I trust God. I say my life is in His hands. I say He works all things for good. I say He is Sovereign. But the first speed bump that comes along, I fret. Or maybe I complain.

I worry about money. I worry about my kids. I fear cancer. I am annoyed by certain people in my life. I fret over how hard it would be to adopt. I complain about the endless number of crumbs on my floor. I feel sorry for myself when I'm nauseous and tired for weeks on end with no baby in sight.

If I really believed God, wouldn't I live like I know all these things are for my good? Wouldn't I eagerly dive into the daily trials of life, believing He has ordained them and will use them to make me more like Jesus? Won't I laugh at death because I know it only leads to victory? Won't I pay my bills, praising God because I know he is the one who provides? Won't I be willing to follow him everywhere because I really believe he'll be with me, because that's what he promised?

When the world sees us with joy, peace, a willingness to step out in faith, denying ourselves, living for eternity and not here and now, don't you think they'll take notice? When the world sees us put aside fears and frustrations for joy and patience, don't you think they'll take notice? When our actions don't make any sense in relation to our circumstances, don't you think they'll take notice?

It seems like Jesus never did what people expected. And that got their attention. If I'm truly loving like He loved and trusting the Father like He did, people will notice. They won't notice me. Because none of that is me. That can only happen with Jesus in me.

I know there's a good chance I'll fail at this before I have my coffee tomorrow morning, but I also know there's a good chance that God is faithful. He will finish the work He's begun in me. And hopefully, people will notice.

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. I John 2:5-6




Monday, August 20, 2012

The Big Day

Wow, I so did not mean to be such a Debbie Downer yesterday. I promise I don't need to be on suicide watch or anything. I was just trying to reflect on our summer, but let me assure you it was mostly stupendous and just a little bit not so stupendous.

So I'm back only one day later with a much happier post. Okay, it is a little bittersweet for anyone who's a mama, but I shed nary a tear today. I do feel a little like crying right now because I just got off the phone with my mama who is not feeling at all bitter, but only sweet, as she drives down a road watching palm trees sway in Hawaii. I'd like to claim I want to cry because I'm so happy for my parents, but I'm mostly just depressed to be in my bedroom ironing khaki pants while talking to someone in Hawaii.

All my world-traveling dreams aside, today was a great day. It wasn't just great because I got some quieter time with my two littlest as my two biggest went to fill their little heads with knowledge and dreams, starting another year of school. It was great because my not-so-little girl, whom I sent off this morning with a very long face and some teary eyes (her face and eyes, not mine), got in my minivan this afternoon with a smile across that very same face.

Thank you, Lord! After a few weeks where my prayers didn't seem to be lined up with God's will, today He came through with a big one. Several of my friends and I were praying for this shy girl who was not looking forward to a new year with no friends in her class. I asked the Lord to give her a friend on the very first day, and lo and behold, He did! I am so very thankful that tonight she went to bed content and tomorrow will hopefully be tear-free. I expected this to be a long, hard year, but things are already looking way up. 


Like most moms I know, I was left with a quiet house this morning as I wondered how in the world I have a 2nd grader and a 5th grader! It's so hard to see them growing up so quickly, but such a blessing to see them doing exactly what God made them to do. 



At our house, the first day of school is a big day for Daddy, too. I'll never forget his first day as a teacher. He came home after 6pm and was asleep in the floor by 6:30. Thankfully, he's much more seasoned now, but it's still a big adjustment. He's great at what he does and, though there are hard days, he's making a difference.

(Please disregard the Luvs box below. Babies have to wear diapers and some mamas are too lazy to take the box down to the recycling pile and there's certainly no one else who's going to notice a giant box in the hallway and take it upon themselves to move it downstairs.)


And here is one of those moments I could just kick myself for not having my video camera out. My two little guys waited outside for the three school-bound peeps to drive off. Sam was so excited that he just waved at the neighbor until Daddy finally drove by. I thought he might be upset that two of his favorite people were leaving without him, but he didn't seem to mind one bit.


There they go! One more day in the record books.


Bye, Daddy! Bye, Nannie! Bye, Da! This boy is literally too big for his britches (mainly because his mama won't buy him pj's that fit.) Before I know it he'll be standing alone, waving to that monkey boy behind him. And then, one dreaded day, only Mama will be left to wave and yell goodbyes.

And then she'll go the store by herself and get her workout in and read her Bible and clean the whole house and listen to whatever music she wants until 3:00.  Okay, that doesn't sound so bad.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Well Hello, Life

This summer was a little of what I expected and a lot of what I didn't. We're spoiled around here because not only do the kids get off for summer, but so does Daddy. We still have to keep up with laundry and a little cleaning and there are usually a few projects to do around the house, but we're mostly all about fun. The only bad thing about it is, it ends. And the ending seems brutal, trading in lazy mornings for alarm clocks, afternoons of playing outside for afternoons of homework, and a wonderful oblivion as to what day of the week it is for a structured, hectic schedule every day of the week.

What the Lord always shows me in these times of refreshment, rest, and fun is that we're really made to work, to accomplish, to have a sense of purpose. I see us get a little too selfish at times. A little too lazy. A little too unwilling to work hard. While the Lord so graciously provides times of refreshment, it is often in the busy, the challenging, the difficult, the work of life that we lose ourselves and find Him.

I hope to find Him as I and my family head back into real life tomorrow. I'm puzzled at His ways and decisions. Heartbroken for some and confused about many things in my own life, I just need Jesus. I've asked to see Him in all of this gaining and then losing the unexpected we've been doing. I've asked to see Him as I watch others suffer. I've longed to hear His voice and feel His arms, but it hasn't happened yet. I hope all of that is just around the corner, waiting for me as real life begins again.

But what I have to remember is that when I don't feel or see Him, He is there. He has a purpose, though I cannot fathom it. And my part is to love Him and love others. So as I kiss my sad big girl as she heads to a classroom without friends, and as I hug my son who I struggle with on most days, and as I wave goodbye to my husband who does so much for us and is so overwhelmed by it all right now, and as I leave behind the hope of a new life in our family, and as I hug a little more tightly the two little guys I still have at home, I will just have to trust that He has it all under control. Because my mind is done analyzing and my heart is tired of worrying and my body is still not back to its normal self. All I have is Jesus. And He should be is enough.

So goodbye wonderful, hard, fun, frustrating summer. And hello, life. I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Mouths of Babes

Jack's prayer tonight:

God, thank you for this day. Please help Mama and the baby. Help the baby to have life when Mama goes back to the doctor on Friday and help the doctor know that only you could bring the baby back to life. Help the doctor spread Jesus' love to every baby he looks at after that. Amen.

Yeah, God. Ditto. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I Will Wait

Waiting. Is there anything harder? Okay, maybe coming up with meal plans for six people week after week. That's pretty tough. But so is waiting.

Kids are terrible at waiting. It's so frustrating to be a kid because you really aren't "in chawge" (as Lukey says) of anything. You're at the mercy of these tall, busy, short on money and time people who always say something like, "In just a minute" or "Not for two more weeks" or "I don't know when, we'll have to see." And you have no option but to hang your head in disappointment and go back to playing Legos. Or you could bug the stew out of the tall people until they want to pull their hair out.

But I can understand their frustration. To be totally at the mercy of the "powers that be," unable to see things from their perspective or understand what things like an hour, a week, or five months even mean. To you, they all mean the same thing: Forever.

We're really all in the same boat, though, aren't we? Truthfully, we have such little control over the circumstances of our lives. We have such a limited viewpoint on the whys and hows of life. We have no concept of God's timetable and perspective. And so we're forced to wait, not knowing if or when the thing we're waiting on will arrive.

And it drives us crazy. We have to admit that, though we like to convince ourselves we are, we are NOT in control of this thing called life. Our power and perspective are limited. We just sometimes forget that. We bargain. We question. We speculate. We come up with grand plans. But after all of our efforts, we're still waiting and wondering.

From my silly, puny perspective, I've found myself thinking things such as, "Well, if there's no point to all this, I'm ready to get all the nausea and tiredness over with. I'm ready to be done with this spare tire around my midsection and this craving for nothing but salt and bread and meat. I'm ready to get back to my life."

But the Lord has reminded me that I don't know everything. I don't know when He'll be done with this little life that He began in me. I don't know what He's doing in the inner depths of my body and soul that I just can't see from where I stand. Do I believe that He knows each day of this little life or not? Do I believe (as I've always said I do) that this little thing no one can see is life or not? (Whether it's existing here on earth or in eternity.) If I do, then why am I treating it differently than the other four little people that started inside of me?

I was willing to gain weight, feel like puking, endure terrible tiredness, and all the other fun things that come with pregnancy for them. Because they were valuable to me. They became little snuggly babies that I cuddled and loved and nursed. I could see how important they were. They gave something back to me.

So am I not willing to do the same for a little one I will probably never see on this earth? Am I not willing to do the same for someone who won't be able to return my kisses and love? Do I only value things and people based on what I'm going to get from them? Do I only place worth on things or people that seem to me to be worthy?

Maybe I do.

God has been reminding me, well before this long, long summer of unexpected news, that things are not successful or unsuccessful based on my perception. He is one who decides success. He is the one who has the measuring stick to value the worth of people and situations. He is the one who can see all things clearly.

So I am waiting. Waiting on truth to be revealed. Waiting on Him to decide the beginning and the end. Waiting on Him to use all life and all situations for His glory and our good. I am choosing to believe that He has a purpose and a plan. That He gets to decide what's important and what's not. That I don't know everything and He does. Everything! That's what He knows.

His motives are always pure. Always holy. Always good. Mine are not. Mine are often selfish, prideful, immature. So I will wait on Him, trying, by His grace, to live out these things I say I believe.

I remain confident of this:


I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14

Thursday, August 2, 2012

No Olympics For You!

I feel like the most out of touch person on the planet. No, I didn't miss all the Chick-fil-A hoopla, but apparently our trusty outdoor antenna has decided it's not a fan of the Olympics. We're not big tv watchers anymore, so I kept forgetting about the most exciting international sporting event ever. When I finally remembered and sat down on the couch, excited to turn it on and see all the drama unfold, all I saw was "No Signal." Just dandy. How am I supposed to carry on a conversation with anyone at church on Sunday or update my facebook status with how elated I am at the latest U.S gold medal win? This is the kind of suffering you have to endure when you don't have cable.

In other exciting news, Chris got his wisdom teeth out today, along with about four teenagers. I don't know why, but I find sitting with him while he's waking up from anesthesia really awkard. The door was wide open, and I was a little worried what people walking by would think when they saw me giggling uncontrollably when I had not been sedated. He just stared at me with those half-asleep eyes and said I wasn't saying much, while he giggled constantly and commented over and over that it was so weird that those moments of his life were lost to him forever. I told him I didn't think there was any point in my saying much since he wouldn't remember anything I did say.

Then he suggested I give him the Gettysburg Address.

Unfortunately, my normally sharp mind couldn't recall it today. Normally, I'd be able to recite the whole thing, of course.

His one question for the doctor was, "So does she have to give the kids a bath tonight?" To which the doctor replied, "It'll be at least six months before you're fully recovered." Thankfully, Chris asked me two minutes later if the doctor had been in yet, so I'm thinking he's forgotten the six months remark. I might be generous and give him two days.

It's been a strange few weeks around here, with some unexpected ups and downs. I'll fill you in soon enough. I may wait for the Olympic hoopla to die down, because I wouldn't want my personal drama to be overshadowed by that in any way. The roller coaster may continue for a bit longer, but wherever it ends, the Lord knew the outcome from the foundation of the world. I just don't like being in the dark, but the light may be a little harsh at first when He decides to flip the switch. We shall see.

I can see the end of the summer just around the bend. When your husband's a teacher, you never look forward to the end of summer. Well, I suppose that depends on how much you like your husband. I happen to be rather fond of mine, and his youngest little guy has become quite fond of him as well. Sam isn't going to like giving up his Daddy Time. I'm not going to like Sam giving up his Daddy Time.

Having to wake up early and rush everyone out the door for those first few weeks of school feels like torture. Actually, I think it feels like torture every week, but starting back is particularly rough. The summer has flown by with all of our traveling, but it's been a fun one. Okay, today's not so fun for Chris, but other than that...

My kids are gone right now, so the house is eerily quiet. I think I'll try to get a lazy summer afternoon nap, which ensures that my phone is going to ring in about 7 1/2 minutes. I mean, I would watch the Olympics, but you know...