Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sabbath Calling

It wasn't an audible voice, but He got His point across.

I was thinking as I sipped my steaming chai latte and trying to absorb every single drop of caffeine so that I might stay alert for God's word, that perhaps I needed some more time to rest.  Take a breather.  Not work everyday.  Sloooow down.  As I am sure most of us would do, I simply perished the thought.

And then, I picked up my Bible.  This is a very dangerous thing to do once you have told God that you simply cannot follow one of His commandments.  Apparently, He thinks the whole do-no-work-for-one-day is actually important enough to merit 5th place on The List.

I had no clear destination today in my Bible reading and literally just started reading where it fell open.   And the first little subheading that I read?  What else but OBSERVING THE SABBATH?  This was a Whoa moment (Joey, from Blossom anyone?  Anyone?).  It was whoa like, oh my goodness, God is SPEAKING to me (happy, happy, joy, joy!).  And then, whoa, God means BUSINESS (dun-dun-dun!).

And then, don't you know that I read that part in Jeremiah (chapter 17, verses 19-27) and started to just see all the ways it didn't apply to me.  I mean, it's not like I'm "carrying on my trade at the gates" or bringing "loads of merchandise through the gates of Jerusalem" or anything.  I'm sure that He doesn't mean grocery shopping, right?  Or working on the CHURCH carnival?  Or cleaning my kitchen floor?

And just as I was about to write this off again (because obviously I'm a little thick-skulled), my eyes glanced over to the opposite page.  God was not going to give up.  Apparently since I am not afraid of God setting fire to the gates (verse 27), He thought to try a softer tactic.  Here is a hymn by Horatius Bonar, nestled so sweetly on that page.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, 
"Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, 
lay down
Thy head upon My breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found Him in a resting place,
And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
The living water, thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched,
my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in Him my star, my sun;
And in that light of life I'll walk
Till traveling days are done.

I'll give you a moment to collect yourself.

So there it is -- God just wants me to stop working so darn much so I can rest in Him.  It is a gift.  A gift that I am rejecting because apparently I have more important things to do.  I think it might hurt His feelings, me rejecting this gift.  I'd be hurt if someone looked at my gift and scoffed.

I'm not one to want to hurt God's feelings, but I have NO IDEA how to do this.  Really, a whole day?  Sounds completely impossible to me.  And yet, I just remembered what the preschool memory verse is for Sunday school on Sunday (God just doesn't waste anything, does He?).

Nothing is impossible with God.  Luke 1: 37.

So, I'm just going to tell God (hesitantly) that Yes, I will try to accept His gift of rest if He will help me.  I'll let you know how it goes.  If any of you have ANY suggestions, I have a listening ear and a tender heart.

I'm linking up with Andrea's Caffeinated Randomness and Home Sanctuary!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Light through the Slats

I can’t open the blinds in my bedroom until my bed is made.  I don’t want the world to see my mess.  This is actually a ludicrous thought, as the room is on the second story.

So perhaps, I choose not to let in the light because I know that it will make me deal with the rumpledness sooner than if I just left it in the darkness.

Some days, I choose to leave my room in disarray and shut out the light.  Some days, I crave the light, so I deal with my disorder, one layer at a time.

It’s the same in my spiritual life.  Living my life out loud on this blog has forced me to see my mess.  Writing has uncovered a lot of darkness in my mired heart.  It's not easy to admit my shortcomings, but to write about only the roses doesn't make for such an interesting read.  There you go -- another ulterior motive revealed.  I write about my failings to gain readership.  Have mercy on me, please.

It is fabulous, though, how God can use what I offer, whatever the reason, to pierce through the sin, the ugly places that reside in me.  As I write, I see what God is teaching me, and lest I become a hypocrite, I try to absorb it, understand it, and put it into practice.  To invite this light in, even small rays from the slats of blinds, invites God to take up residence in me, pushing more of the darkness out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

God Sightings

I'm writing this on Wednesday since I'm not sure how up to writing I'll be on Friday.  Anesthesia can do funny things to a person and my "forced rest" may just take a hold of me and I won't know how to automatically go into manic work mode when I'm all better.  Yeah, right.

Here's my random list of amazing God sightings that I've seen over the past few weeks.  I love seeing His hand in my life.

God Sightings in my Husband
This morning, I walked back into my bedroom for the first time since getting up this morning and the bed was made.  Sheets tucked in and everything.  Pillows perfectly arranged.  My husband made the bed so I didn't have to and I didn't even ask.  He has earned a smiley face, hands down.

On Wednesday, he left just the sweetest comment EVER on my blog.  He very rarely comments, but when he does, it always makes me smile.  I married a great man.

God Sightings in my Children
We've been working on the whole "what-does-it-look-like-to-be-selfless-thing?" in our house.  The other day, I was watching a potential altercation unfold.  But instead of becoming a knock-down, drag-out fight over a marker, my youngest turned to her older sister and said, "Sure, Abby, you can have that.  That'd be great!"  Sometimes they really do listen to what I say (and then repeat my exact words -- this could scary at times).  It doesn't matter that this doesn't happen every time (because that would just be perfection and it just doesn't exist here on earth), but that it happened this time.

God Sightings in my Life
Before a particularly hard conversation, God had prepped my heart before I even knew it needed to be prepped.  Someone had spoken some harsh words over me, and even though this person took them back, I had a hard time getting them out of my heart.  But just that morning, eight hours before the conversation took place, He had given me scripture to hide in my heart and pull it out whenever I started to believe what this person had said.  Therefore, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1.   I just love how God knows what we need, and sometimes we don't even have to (or know to!) ask.

My daughter got sick on Monday. I knew it wasn't anything serious, but I also knew that if she had a fever, she wouldn't be able to go to the play date I had arranged for her during my surgery.  Then, there was the lurking fear that someone else, namely her younger sister, would get infected, too.  I had spent some time fervently praying about this and then moved on to look up a verse I had read on Sandy's blog that really had resonated with my heart.  I meant to look up Jeremiah 15:16, but accidentally looked up Jeremiah 29:12, which says, Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  It was one of those glorious moments when I just felt so...loved, so honored that He took the time to tell me that He had it covered and that I did not have to spend anymore time worrying about this.  The rest of the day, anytime fear, worry, or concern came up, I remembered His soft whisper in my ear and I decided He was better to be left in charge than I.

I'm in a flurry as I write this.  We are headed to the circus tonight and then we have an early morning drive to the hospital.  I'll be linking up with Andrea's Caffeinated Randomness and Home Sanctuary (that is, if I am clear enough to remember to do this).

Have a great weekend!

It's Friday now, and while I am super happy that I don't have to write anything today, I am feeling better than I expected. Thank you for all the well wishes and prayers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To Do vs. To Be

I'm having surgery tomorrow.  It's nothing major, but they have to put me out and I won't be moving quickly for about a week.

Needless to say, I'm a little anxious -- not really about my surgery, but about my to-do list.  I'm the type of person who has a really hard time relaxing when there are things hanging over my head.  When my husband or my kids get in my way when I am trying to get things done, I can get, um, a little testy.  When I fear something is not going to get done on time, I am snippy, stressed, and quick-tempered.

This morning in the wee hours (that's 6am for me, folks -- I like my sleep), I talked to God about what I needed to get done today and my desire to spend quality time with the kids (they are a little anxious about my surgery).  The response I got was, well, a bit shocking.  The conversation went somewhat like this:

Me:  How am I going to get everything done until this forced rest time?  Can you tamp down this anxiety I feel about accomplishing everything and being able to spend time with the kids today?

God:  You are not going to accomplish your to-do list today.  You are going to accomplish my to-be list today.

Me:  Whaaaat?  You pick today for this?  Do you realize...??

[Side note:  Lately, God has been teaching me that my to-do list is less important than my to-be list.  I had found myself always seeking God for the answers on what to do and He kept coming back with answers about how to be.  Obviously, I thought He must have misheard the question, so I kept asking over.  And over.  His reply was always the same--

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.  When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12: 12-13]

So today, I'm going to try this new list.  I am going to work only during the kids' rest time.  What gets done, gets done -- I'll let God show me what takes highest priority.  When the kids need something, I will respond and open my heart and arms to them.  I will remain steadfast in my prayers and rejoice in the promises that He has given me. 

The above list looks wwwaaaayyy more daunting than my actual to-do list.  But, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, right?  Right.

Oh, and my daughter just read this over my shoulder.  She said, So, Mommy, whenever I need anything today, I can ask and you'll respond?  Man, it's gonna be a long day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random Acts of Selflessness

Amy Sullivan blogs about what consumes us and gracious giving.  She asked me to write a guest post because of a comment I had left on her post.  I thought I'd link up with her so you could read it, too!  To read the full post, click here.  Here is a little teaser to get you started...

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. “
Phil 2: 3-4
The Random Acts of Selflessness chart was born out of both biblical teaching and sheer frustration. My two daughters seemingly incessant fighting was sending me over the edge and my own selfish behavior was driving me nuts.
Two forces. One edge. I teetered on the precipice. Enter in the selfless chart. An idea inspired by God to keep me sane.
The basic premise is not much different from the ordinary behavior chart – choose to think of someone else’s needs or desires first and you get a smiley face. After I drew out the chart on some construction paper, I called a family meeting. Around the table we sat – my husband, my six year-old, my four year-old, and myself...

Monday, August 16, 2010

As of Late

While having some *quiet time* (which really means attempting to talk to God in between my two daughters trying to get their own two words in), I thought I would try to process a little of my life by participating in Kristen's As of Late meme.

Lately, I have been craving solitude and quiet, hungry to be able to hear God's voice through the chaos.

Lately, I have realized that sometimes not saying anything makes the loudest statement.

Lately, I have been wondering why God made me the way that I am because sometimes I don't seem to the be the perfect match for what I am called to do.

Lately, I have come to the conclusion that the only way I can overcome my usual morning grumpiness is if I get up before everyone else and drink my chai latte with Jesus.

Lately, I've been overcome by the kindness of strangers.

Lately, I've been released from old burdens because I've chosen to forgive.

Lately, I've been reading the same chapter of scripture over and over again, but everytime I read it, God offers new insight.

Lately, I've been missing my grandmothers -- both the one who has just died and the one that is in the nursing home.

Lately, I've been toying with the idea of resting before I get to the state of bone-tired.

Lately, I've been practicing selflessness, but it's really hard and it takes a lot of work. A lot. Of. Work.

Lately, I've found that God gives me the answer sometimes, even before I have asked the question.

Link up with Kristen to see what others have been up to as of late!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Measure of Success

The other night, while having a nice, quiet dinner with friends, my phone dinged.  It happened to be lying innocently beside me and I picked it up, checked the email and promptly exclaimed, "A new record for comments!"

My friends (and husband) just kind of stared at me and I plastered a sheepish grin on my face.  "Well, it's just that it's exciting that people are reading my blog, ya know?"


I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be successful in the writing world.  If you put me up against, well, most anyone, I don't look successful.  I have a record of 14 comments on any one given post.  I have 19 followers.  I've been published online, but not on actual paper.  I would think that most people might look at me and think...mediocre, at best.  

Looking at the numbers, that might be true, but for some reason, I look at the numbers and shrug my shoulders.  Sure, there are days when I am a bit deflated by the lack of responses.  I submit an article and hold my breath, wondering if I'm good enough.  But I have to remind myself, if I am writing for God and His glory, all that matters is He who is greater than me.  I know that I want to be humble, but this does not come naturally to me.  Pride often rears its ugly head and I yearn to take in any accolades.  In reality, though, I know that I can only write these words because He is at work in me.  The truth is, even as hard as it is to swallow, if I only touch ONE person that has to be enough for me.  Over and over again, I must repeat to myself -- This is not about me and my worth.  My worth comes from Jesus.

When I stare out into Blogland and think, Does anyone hear me? (echo, echo, echo), I have to trust that I am just doing what He wants me to do, that I am turning these hands placed precariously on the keyboard over to Him.  And I have to be willing and ready to listen to what others are saying to me, as well.  I continually stand in awe at how amazingly blessed I am to have stumbled onto so many fabulous blogs.  I find Him continually refining me through your stories -- your joys, your heartaches, your lives.  In such the cutthroat field that writing is, I would think my natural reaction would be to view you as competition.  How could I ever stand out in such a rich talent pool?  I can't honestly say that I don't care how many followers I have -- I do.  I can't say that I don't get excited about comments -- I do.  But, I'm not trying to be better than anyone else.  I'm happy with just giving what I can offer and taking in all the other goodies that people offer me.  This is a whole new world for me and I am reveling in it.

Link up with awesome people like Andrea at Caffeinated Randomness and Rachel at Home Sanctuary.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For the Bereaved

My friend's grandmother passed away two days ago.  As someone who has recently felt the devastating loss of losing my own grandmother, I wanted to extend to her my love and support.  Instead of sending it just to her, though, I am posting it here, as I know many of you have dealt with loss recently as well.

My Dear Friend,

The other night when Catherine called me to tell me that your grandmother was off the ventilator, but that the doctors were not very hopeful, I cried for you.  I literally looked to the heavens and asked God if I could just carry the weight of your pain because I know how much it hurts.  I wanted so much for you to not have to grieve, for you to not have to experience the intensity of losing someone who was so precious to you, for you to not have to know what life is like to live without one of the people who championed you the most.

But, as much as I so desperately want to soothe your pain, I cannot.  Instead, all I can offer you is my experience, my love, and my hope.

Society seems to have these unspoken rules about how long you can be sad and how many times you can outwardly process how much you miss someone.  I pray that you do not feel pressured to play by those rules.  Grief comes in waves and there is a certain amount of freedom that comes with just letting them crash over you, to let the sadness overcome you.  Keeping it in and trying to be brave only makes you hurt more.  You have friends that will let you cry your heart out.  Rely on us.  Tell us upfront that our job is not to make you feel better.  You show us what you need and we will follow.  The people that ask you how you are and then wait for the response and love you when you take fifteen minutes to explain how raw you are, those are the people that you need around you now -- people that have no expectations of you, people who will let you be who you are right in the moment.

The cliche phrases will not help.  People will tell you that at least she is in a better place, but in the beginning of grieving, all that matters to you is that she is not here.  You don't have to force yourself to be grateful for that.  At times, it will be comforting to you that she is no longer in pain and that she is in a better place.  At other times, you will just be mad that she had to be in pain in the first place.  Wherever you are, that is okay.  For me, it was better to be honest with myself and God, rather than hide behind all the things I "know."  They call it loss for a reason -- no matter what the circumstances were that surrounded her death, you still suffer from the hole left in your heart and it hurts.

You  may not have all the answers to the questions that your sweet children will have.  Hannah repeatedly asked me questions that I wasn't 100% sure about and I didn't want to mislead her, so there were times when I just said I don't know.  When she asked if Grannie could see her from heaven, I didn't tell her yes until I had done my own seeking.  The important thing for me with my children was for them to know that Grannie was with Jesus, that she was no longer sick, and that in Heaven, she was happy.  Those things I knew to be true and they brought a comfort to my children. That was enough for the moment.

Don't be afraid to do things that make you feel surrounded by her.   After she died, I put one of Grannie's shirts in a ziplock bag and put it on my closet shelf.  Even now, sometimes, I will pull it down, open the bag, and breathe deeply.  For me, the smell of her and her house always made me feel comfort and love.  Even now, I'll surround myself with pictures of her and look through her life, and just...remember.  Sometimes I cry and sometimes I don't, but I love keeping her memory close to me.

I firmly believe now, that the veil between this life and the next is very thin.  I have literally smelled my grandmother when I was out for a run.  She has visited in my dreams.  There have been times when I have seen her face in the expression of someone I was talking to.  Even though I cannot see her physical presence, even though I cannot pick up the phone and call her, I know that she hears me.  I routinely ask God to send her a message for me and tell my children they can do the same.

Know that she loved you, fully and completely.  Know that she knew you loved her, fully and completely.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Little Friday Fun

Andrea did this last week at Under Grace Over Coffee for Caffeinated Randomness and I thought it would be a good break from serious posts.  Here's lots of random stuff you can learn about me!

Maybe I should actually take a day off.  My kids have been at camp since Wednesday and I promised myself that Friday would be a day without work.  I know I won't keep this promise, but I would probably benefit me more than I know.

I love the times that God gives me answers before I even know to ask the questions.

People should know that I'm very focused.  Sometimes this can come across as rude, but I'm really not trying to be.  I'm just efficient.

I don't understand how people cannot watch Friday Night Lights.  It is simply the best TV show there is.

When I wake up in the  morning um...well, I'm just a big grump.  Especially when my 4 year old comes in screaming, MMMMOOOOMMMYYYY at the top of her lungs.  Even when it's said in joy, it just doesn't come across that way first thing in the morning.

I lost my some of my hearing when I was young.  This does help slightly with the screaming in the  morning, but unfortunately, not enough.

Life is full of surprises.  Some good, some bad.  Just gotta roll with the punches.

My past is full of rainbows.  There were lots of storms, but the sun always peeked through the clouds eventually.  God never wastes anything.

I get annoyed when people drive slow in the fast lane.  This always happens when I am late.  Always.

Parties are tiring for us introverts.

I wish I had more ability to sing.  I think it would be so freeing to just belt out a song and have it come out sounding pretty, or at least somewhat decent.

Tomorrow I am repainting  my adirondack chairs -- lime green.  It's good to be bold.

I have low tolerance for whining. 

I am totally terrified of sharks.  And yet, every year I anxiously await for Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  They really are beautiful creatures -- at a distance.  A very far distance. Like me on the couch and them in the ocean kind of distance.

I wonder why I have to have pimples, even when we are 32!

Never in my life have I said "no" to watching a James Bond movie.  I love James.

High school was on the whole, pretty darn fun.

When I'm nervous I sweat.  A lot.

One time at a family gathering I pretended to know everything about The Pogues so I could look cool to my cousins.  The only reason I actually even knew who they were is because my boyfriend (now husband) had one of their CDs.  I didn't actually listen to them.

Take my advice:  It's not worth it to hurt someone just because they hurt you first.

Making my bed makes my bedroom look so much more cozy.

I am almost always listening to what someone is NOT saying.  

I'm addicted to chai lattes.  It used to be Dr. Pepper, but at least tea is a bit healthier.

I want someone to invent a "easy" button for home improvement projects.  Just dream it and it's done!

Have a fabulous weekend and check out Home Sanctuary (Rachel's back!) and Under Grace and Over Coffee for more caffeinated randomness!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Glimpse


Ever since I read Jennifer's blog about A Glimpse, I've been looking to see how God would use even an ordinary sighting to speak to my heart.  I looked outside, I looked inside, I looked in my daughter's words, in my husband's touches.  I started to get frustrated.  I saw great things, but nothing that just sent my soul soaring.

And then, my daughter smiled at me.

I was overcome.  It was the moment, the glimpse of God for which I had been waiting.

Abigayle smiles all the time, but it was the meaning behind the smile that spoke volumes.  We were at the pool and she had wanted me to push her in a float she had borrowed from one of our baby friends.  Abigayle, I said, Your are six years old.  I am NOT going to push you in a baby float.  Besides, we are going to leave -- I don't want to get wet again.  Why don't you practice your swimming until it's time to go?

Back and forth, back and forth.  Stroke, stroke, breathe.  Stroke, stroke, breathe.  While I watched her, though, I noticed she was having a bit of trouble stroking while breathing on the left side.  I walked in the water.  Watch me, Abby!  For ten minutes, I modeled, she swam.  I spoke to her as she perfected the stroke and discarded the poor form.

You did it! I exclaimed.  You got it!

I held her close and wrapped her up in a hug.  She smiled, but somehow, I just knew that it wasn't because she had achieved the goal of swimming properly.

She smiled because I was in the water, because I had stopped worrying about getting wet and the time on the clock, because I weighted teaching her over my own initial desires.

She smiled because she felt loved, because those ten minutes were all about her, and nothing else.

I wondered why this pieced my soul so.

I smile when you abandon yourself and seek Me, God said.

What started as just a glimpse is now an everlasting reminder of how much God wants me to jump in with Him with reckless abandon and abundant joy.