Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Another Step: Exemplify Online

Today is an exciting day for me.  I've been published in Exemplify's online magazine.  It is a wonderful magazine, with beautiful layouts and important words that always bring light to my soul.  I have many bloggy friends that are featured in it as well.

So, if you have a few minutes, click on the link here.  It will bring up the whole magazine and my article, called "Renewed Death After Life," begins on page 24.  It is about what I learned from my grandmother as I watched her die from cancer -- things that I had really known all along, but was just a bit too busy to pay attention.
So, sweet Grannie, I know you are bursting with pride in Heaven.  This one is for you.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Attack of the Pruning Shears

Well, I can say this:  God is persistent.  He does not like to be ignored.  He will hammer in His point until I get it.  Which is good because I can be a bit daft at times.

On Monday, I learn at Bible study that just because something is "good," it is not necessarily part of God's plan for my life.  Priscilla Shirer, in her Bible study, Can We Talk?, discussed how a farmer trying to grow the prize tomato will prune away perfectly good fruit in order to allow all the nutrients to flow to the ONE tomato that he desires to cultivate to the best it can possibly be.
Translation:  I do a lot of good things, but they are not necessarily good for my life.  What?!?

On Tuesday, I'm out in my garden where I attempted to actually grow tomatoes this spring.  I notice how the plants are so top-heavy that not even the wire stabilizers can fight against their weight.  I also notice there are lots of flowers but hardly any fruit.  They look like such full, healthy plants, and yet...they are not fulfilling their purpose.
Translation:  I look good on the outside, but my whole being is threatening to topple over with all the activities, stress, and commitments.  I simply cannot hold myself upright any longer.  What do you mean I can't hold it all together?!?

On Wednesday, I read Amy Sullivan's blog.  She asks this question:

What do people see when they look at you? How do you want to be perceived? Are you working to become something different?
I type my response in the comment section.  What I realize at this moment is that people see me as put-together, loyal, "she can do anything" type of girl. While this is nice and all, it means I get asked to do a lot and then feel so guilty if I say no. What I want to say is that I am broken -- that the reason I do all of these things, a lot of the time, is because for some reason, I still feel like I must prove myself. I must be the best. I must never give up.

What I want to be is discerning with my time. I want to give, just to give, with no other hidden agenda. I want to be immune to praise and criticism -- to not live or die by the words that come out of someone's mouth. I want to live as Jesus did and be satisfied with what God puts on my plate instead of heaping spoonfuls on there myself.

Monday and Tuesday must have gotten to me.

Right now, my life consists of running from one thing to the next.  My heart yearns for my Father, and yet, I do not make it into His arms often enough.  I begin my quiet time and the phone rings.  I start to sketch and my child needs something.  I think, After this project, things will be easier but the reality is that I am saying YES to something new before I literally have time to take a deep breath, much less a nap.  I desire to serve. I desire for others to be filled.  I don't want this to be  neglected.  I don't want to turn away that person.  I want to be all things to all people because...

There is a large part of me that takes on all of these things because I want to truly do God's work.  I want to enrich people's lives and help things run smoothly.  And yet, if I am truly honest with  myself, there is an element of pride at work here.

I am worthy if I am busy.
I am worthy if I am indispensible.
I am worthy if I am put together.
I am worthy if I know what is going on.
I am worthy if I can fix the problem.
I am worthy if I can plan ahead.
I am worthy if I can anticipate your need.
I am worthy if...
I am worthy if...
I am worthy if...

I am so in middle of this pruning, editing-my-life process that I have absolutely no tidy endings with which to leave you.  I am struggling to give up things that I have been involved in for years.  I am struggling to find my worth in my Savior and Him alone.  I am struggling to figure out which things He wants me to do and prune off the perfectly good fruit that just doesn't quite make it into His plan.  I am a vine-ridden mess, desperately needing pruning, desperately needing a Savior, desperately needing peace.

My art reflects this heart-wrenching process.  But even through the disorganization and all the roles that I take on right now, there are simple truths which God keeps pouring into my heart.  They are the thirst-quenching words that keep me in His presence, that drown me in grace, and produce blooms.

You make all things new.  (2 Corinthians 4: 16)
I am Yours, you are Mine. (Song of Solomon 2: 16)
You will be my strength. (Exodus 15:2)
I am precious in Your sight. (Isaiah 43: 4)

I am linking up with Michelle at Lost in the Prairies, Jennifer at Studio JRU, and Rachel Anne at Home Sanctuary.  Check out these fabulously wonderful ladies!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jesus is not a Drive-Thru

Sandy Cooper at her fabulously wonderful blog, God Speaks Today, asked me to write a guest post.  It is deliriously fun to be featured on someone else's blog and I would love for you to head over there to check out my post, but also hers.  She wrote an excellent one on Monday that really spoke to me.  She quotes C.S. Lewis, so you know it's gonna be good.

Here is a teaser to lure you into clicking on the link...and yes, it really is called Jesus is Not a Drive-Thru.

Material things.
An orderly, clean house.
Worldly acclamation.
What’s the common denominator?  They are all things I have used to fill the void in my heart.
Seeing the words written out on the page is shocking.  Really? I think.  I put my trust in a twenty year-old boy?  in chocolate chip cookies?  in picture frames from Target?  In the number of followers on my blog?  How desperate does a girl get?
The boy gave me butterflies and made me feel attractive.  The food made me full in the face of emptiness.  The material objects made me feel new and excited.  The order in my house was my way of exerting control over the disorder I felt in my head.  Most recently, the number of comments and followers made me feel worthy.  Explained that way, perhaps you can see how sneaky those traps are, how it easy is to fall for the immediacy of their pleasure, no matter how superficial or cheap. 
I have learned, though, that instant high is exactly that – the opposite of long-lasting, eternal.  It is a quick fix and I am left longing for something so much more...
Okay -- now get over there, already! Click here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Get Moving

Here is this month's article for Blissfully Domestic.  It's the last in the 3 part series about food addiction.  Here's a little teaser to get you to follow me over there!

It’s probably on everyone’s New Year’s Resolution list at least once in their lifetime:  eat healthier (or less) and exercise more.  When it comes time to implement these resolutions, grand plans begin to develop in our heads.  We start planning to work out five days a week for forty-five minutes at a time.  We will do cardio, intervals, and lift weights.  We will lace up our running shoes and hit the pavement, confident that we can run a breezy mile.  We wake up the first day.  We hit the gym or the road.  We start trying to achieve our goals and we realize that it is…hard.  We can run for three minutes, far short of that glorious mile, before our heart rate picks up and our lungs begin to gasp for more air.  We stop.  We fail.  The resolution goes out the window…until next year when we decide to start again.

Read the rest at http://blissfullydomestic.com/2010/food-fights-get-moving

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Grief

It was a casual sentence that rested on the page of my devotional for the morning -- I asked my grandmother to pray for me.

Casual for some, I suppose, but not for me and not on this particular day.

Overwhelmed with the fact that she has been gone since April and has not managed to miraculously return, grief that I had thought already escaped renewed itself with a vengeance I had not felt in quite some time.

I had hunched down in my chair and as I looked out the window, all I could see was clouds.
As I watched the clouds roll by out my window, I thought how my grief played out right before my very eyes.  It seems to me that after some time has passed, I don't live out my grief on a daily basis any longer.  Routine life is white clouds, rolling by, changing shape, morphing as needed, as moved by the wind.  And then, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, in rolls the dark, heavy-laden cloud, threatening to drown whatever lays below it.  It slices through the routine of life, not waiting for a convenient moment, barrelling through, angry, black, alone.

It dumps. I drown.  For a moment, I am awash in tears, my heart aching, threatening to stop beating as the pain stabs me over and over and over again.  Oh, Lord, why did you have to take her?

The movie plays in my head.  She holds me as a little girl.  We play dolls.  I tell her all about the the exciting things that *happened* as we made the long drive from Texas to Florida to visit her.  She teaches me to sew, she paints my nails, puts rollers in my hair, topped with a black, webbed hairnet.  I see her walking down the aisle at my wedding and giving me an old, worn bible, the very one she carried when she  married Howard.  I see her playing with my oldest child, bundled up against the cold as I nurse the new baby inside.  I see her whisper into Hannah's ear and hear the mutual giggles that ensue.  I hear her voice on the phone, not the scratchy voice that crackled out of her mouth in the last months, but the clear, strong voice of her better days. She says, I will pray for you.

The rain cloud passes, but honestly, I'm still a little damp.  The memory of the flood is close and it is difficult to choose to see the abundant life around me.  The white, puffy clouds that represent joy try to penetrate my very soul, soothe my anger, calm my spirit.  They invite me, perhaps tangible representations of my grandmother's very arms, reaching out to me from the sky.

It's so curious:  one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief.  But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses.  ~Colette
Clouds are very difficult for me to draw, especially with charcoal pencils.  Although I don't like this piece at all, it is what I accomplished in my sabbath time this week and wanted to share.

I'm linking up with Jennifer at Studio JRU, Rachel Anne at Home Sanctuary, and Michelle at Lost in the Prairies.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday's Tea

1. I'm having a chai latte in my handmade mug.  My sweet friend, Emily, has her own ceramic painting business.  I took the kids in one day to paint birthday presents for their grandmothers and painted a tea cup for me.  Now, it is very hard to concentrate on my own artwork when a 4 & 6 year old are also painting.  Thus, my mug is not near the perfect piece of art that I wish it would have been, but it reminds me that as a person, I will never be as perfect as I wish I could be either.
2.  I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything that I have going on.  Often I forget that all those little things that I commit to, things that seem no big deal at the time, all add up, increase my stress level, and sometimes seriously deplete my joy. 

3. On my mind is my blog post for tomorrow.  On Tuesday, it seemed that the grief over the loss of my grandmother in April settled into my heart again.  While writing about it will be freeing, it's also a process of feeling the anguish that comes with losing someone I love.

Even hundredfold grief is divisible by love.  ~Terri Guillemets

I've linked up with Ruth at Celebrate Friendship.  Stop in with a cup of tea and join in the friendship.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Giving Up

Tuesday my youngest started preschool again.

Halleluiah!  (Did you hear the angels singing?  I sure did.)

On Monday, aptly named Labor Day because that is what I did...labored...all around the house, cleaning, organizing, checking things off my to do list.  My plan was to get everything done, including my work for next week's Sunday school, so that on Tuesday I could revel in sweet silence for four hours.  In my house.  Alone.

Do you know what happens when you try to get everything done?  You fall short.  Well, at least I did.  I got my house in order for the most part, but my work still lay strewn across the study floor.  Well, I thought, at least I can work in silence.

When I got home from dropping Hannah off, I walked into the door.  It was raining outside. I lit some candles, and sat on the couch, telling God that I would at least have a 30 minute sabbath before I hit the computer.  I sat with my sketchbook in my hands, my pencils laying beside me. For whatever reason, I started writing down all my flaws.  Not just the petty ones, like yelling raising my voice when I want my children to listen, but deep ones that are so ingrained in me that they make up a large part of who I am.


The list continued, as you can see below.  After I finished scribbling out my ugliness, I paused.  I listened.  God said, Let me have the pencil.  Close your eyes.  Wipe out the images in your head.  Let me have control.

Do you know how hard it is for me to just move a pencil around a page?  No plan, no direction, no end goal?  To relax and possibly end up with something just...well, not pretty?  I laugh now when I think about this, considering what was already on the page was not pretty.

So, I actually let go and let God.  And I just moved the pencil and tried not to make sense of which direction it was going.  And the feeling?


It was a simple, tangible example of what it feels like to relinquish, to surrender, to clear the road map from my head, and just follow.  To just roam where He pulls me.

I opened my eyes and there before me was no masterpiece and yet, do you know?  There were now faults and flaws that I could no longer read.  With His hand, He had blotted them out.  And even though it was I that wrote the words on the page, I could no longer even remember what I had written.

Choosing Him and leaving my own agenda behind naturally seemed to erase some of my flaws.  Looking out for what Jesus wants means I'm less concerned about myself.  Striving less for perfect and more for Jesus.  Controlling less and giving Him more.  Competing less and contending for God.

And out of all that, new inspiration for another piece of art.  A new bloom to match my renewed heart.
I'm linking up with Jennifer's In the Studio, Rachel Anne's Home Sanctuary, and Andrea's Caffeinated Randomness today. Stop by these fabulous women and check them out!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Unexpected Sabbath

Last week, I linked up with Jennifer, but I kinda didn't read the reason for the link up (so, so sorry, Jennifer) and I just posted the link to my last blog entry.

But isn't it so interesting how God uses our mistakes to get our attention?  Last week, I blogged about God calling me to engage in the Sabbath -- a time not to work, to do something that was worshipful to God and pleasurable to me.  And, as I was lamenting my mistake, I had this very strange pull toward charcoal pencils and a sketch book.  Draw, He said.  In this creation, you will find Me.

There was definitely choice involved here.  Work and ignore God or draw and take a sabbath (or a 30 minute one, at least).  As I stated last week, I'm just not really into hurting God's feelings on purpose and so I simply told Him, Yes, I will come.  The second choice was whether or not to actually do what He asked told me to do.  Why was He bidding me to draw?  I am not what you would call an accomplished artist.  Sure, I did some paintings in college, but the word artist doesn't really apply.  I don't regularly seek refuge in a studio, amongst paints, clay, and brushes.  It is outside my normal, routine behavior.  There would simply be no real purpose behind me drawing.

Oh.  Right. 

The Sabbath is supposed to look different from my normal, everyday life.  The purpose here is simply pleasure.  There is no end goal (gasp!), there is no right way to do it, perfection is not required.  I thought about the tools that I selected with which to draw.  Blank sketch book paper and charcoal pencils.  It's easy to draw with charcoal -- with just a quick run down a line, I can create shadows and depth (or at least I can try).  It's easy to hide my mistakes and does not require the precision of a graphite pencil.  I can still erase errant lines, thank goodness.   Upon that blank piece of paper, I can be unguarded.  I can slowly loosen up and release.  I can let myself go, unworried about the final product, about not measuring up, about not having everything. just. so.

This freedom, I think, has a place in my relationship with Jesus.  He is the eraser of my sins.  He can run His finger down the lines in my life and produce depth.  He can use the lines that I at first thought were mistakes to bring a glorious new element to my piece. 

And so, in the unexpected, tangible items of this world -- a charcoal pencil, an eraser, and blank pieces of paper -- I found rest.  I found Him.

I'm linking up all over the place today (because there are just SO many fabulous people in this blog world).  Check out Andrea's Caffeinated Randomness, Rachel's Home Sanctuary, and Jennifer's Sneak Peek Friday.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And Yet, Another Victim

Three days ago, my 90 year-old grandfather told me that he loved me for the very first time in all my 32 years.  Today, I found out that he has cancer.

The two events are not related, as he just found out this morning.  But knowing that he is ill in this way makes me cling to those precious words.

I love you.

I never doubted his love for me -- it is evident in the sound of his voice when he hears me speak on the other line.  It is in the joy of his smile when our family has arrived for a visit, which are so few and far between.  It is in his faithfulness of sending sweet Valentine's day cards every year, without fail, to me and, now, my daughters.  He has honestly always had a big heart, I think, but was just limited in his ways of expression.

When my mother called to tell me the news, I didn't cry.  But as the day wore on, I began to think of him, alone in his apartment, scared and worried.  My grandmother is currently in the nursery home of their retirement community, recovering from a fall, and I am sure that he wondered how he would tell her.  The victim of a terrible intruder, still trying to be strong for his family.  And then, I thought about my other grandmother, who has been residing in her mansion in Heaven since April.  I thought about how terrible it was to watch her die of cancer.  I thought about her pain.  I thought about her brave front.  I thought about how much I still miss her.  Every. Single. Day.

The truth is, I know very little in this moment about the severity of the situation.  He is having surgery next Thursday and then all could be well.  It could be as simple as that.

But I don't know and cancer scares me.

I've seen the journey down the road of radiation.  I've seen the journey down the road of chemo.  And I've seen the journey down the road when chemo totally and completely wrecks the body and there is nothing left to do but live out the last days in the least pain possible.

I don't want my grandfather to take the same journey as my grandmother -- down the road where the poison outweighs the strength and the cancer is allowed to thrive.  And if this is the only way to glean a few more years with him, I cannot say with every ounce of my body that it is worth it.

I just don't know.

And so my prayers are that he, my family, and his doctors would have wisdom and discernment.  I pray for peace and comfort for him, my grandmother, my mom and my aunt.  For everyone, really.  And I pray that whatever my Father in Heaven believes best, comes to pass.