Tuesday, March 31, 2009
He runs fast and plays rough.
He throws the ball. Really good.
He writes his name and he reads too.
He has lots and lots and lots of friends.
He is super helpful, considerate, sensitive and sincere.
He leads when needed. Follows sometimes too.
He reminds us to read The Bible each night and never lets us forget to pray.
He memorizes lots of verses even when he doesn't think it's easy and he keeps trying.
He loves others.
He makes me so proud.
He's my boy and it's his birthday.
Happy Birthday Hunter!!!
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
"Speak!" You spoke the word to my heart. I silenced the fear, quenched the questioning and willed the response. It took all the courage I could muster, "Okay..." I responded.
Then six days later the invitation came. You are so good.
Your command to speak has left me speechless.
A dream of seventeen years, a vision seen by a young college coed, a desire placed deep within is being born. A hard, winding and narrow road slowly yet steadily traveled to get to this point of complete surrender. I am finally in a place where for an instant, in the instant You spoke, the doubting ceased and my mouth moved without hesitation. I spoke. An answer. To You.
I wanted to shout from the rooftops, scream at the top of my lungs, "Yes, oh yes, my Lord!" But the word that took my everything to choke out was simply , "Okay."
Oh Lord, You know me. You have known all along that in Your time you would use me.
Yesterday I was just another girl with a dusty old dream. I was worn out, giving up and looking down when You rescued me. You have taken my old dream and crafted it for a new purpose. Rescued that dream from a deep, dark place in my soul and shed Your light on it. You have freed me to move at Your command, to demonstrate my love for You.
No, I'm not as free as I long to be. You see the me I see when I close my eyes. The me I see in my mind's eye worships freely, dances gracefully and lives largely. But today, You have freed me enough to utter one simple, willing word, "Okay."
I am so thankful You are not finished with me yet. Today I feel as if You are just beginning. Today I feel hope that You will use that dusty, old dream in a shiny, new way. Today I feel the life You have breathed into my destiny. Oh, how I have waited. Waited for Your arms to lift. Waited for Your voice to command. Waited. On You. My Lord.
You see, I had to become broken.
And broken...is very beautiful.
This was written about two months ago after attending Girls Day Out with Lysa and Renee of Proverbs 31. God invited me to go deeper with Him, outloud. I simply responded to His lead. His invitation to speak has been spoken over my heart for many years. That night God gave me the courage to put words and voice to a dormant dream fear has kept hidden deep in my heart. God gave the faith of a mustard seed to a larger-than-life dream living inside the heart of an ordinary girl. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God would see fit to breathe His life into my dream. You see, my story and my life are not unique. They are simply ordinary. I live an ordinary life but I love an extraordinary God.
When God called me to write He wasn't only asking me to put words on paper. I had been doing that for years. I have journals full of my own private thoughts. He was asking me to put a voice to His work in my life. He asked me to put words here on a blog where you could see it but to write as if only He were reading it. Writing this blog has been a journey of faith. Every time I sit to write, He speaks and I simply respond.
God had me stumble over to Lysa's She Speaks scholarship opportunity through a new friend yesterday. I have dreamed of attending the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference for speakers, writers and bloggers since I first heard about it a few years ago. Fear has had that dream bundled tightly sitting in a dark corner of my heart. Until now. I knew before I ever saw Lysa's post that I was to enter this contest if given the opportunity.
Writing this post for the P31 ladies has been hard. I found myself looking for a voice that might be heard. It's been impossible, really. Completely unsuccessful. Last night I stopped trying to come up with my own words and turned to the Living Word. He reminded me that it was His invitation that waited unanswered.
Any time I have tried to speak to an audience other than One, it has backfired. I tried to turn this into a family blog. I fizzled. Then I fell victim to judging my success on the number of comments and visits I received. I flopped. At the advice of a business coach I tried to mingle blogging with real estate. I stunk.
So as I sat in His presence it came as no surprise that writing to a committee of women, even wonderful, Godly, mentor-type women I can learn volumes from, would fail. Even though God has clearly called me to write this entry. He has called me to write it for Him. Alone with Him the blessing of His Word came softly, swiftly as words poured forth. The Living Word mingling with my words breathing extraordinary power into my ordinary thoughts.
He whispered sweet words to my heart. Just as I write for One, I speak for One.
Catch up here.
Have you ever thought about your story? Where do you fit into history? His story?
I wanted my story within His Story. A few years ago, I began a journey to see God's Word through new eyes.
As I began the quest I read and reread stories of different characters Hannah...David... Elizabeth...Mary...Ruth...Esther...Jacob...Leah...Rachel and many more. I've always felt some identity with each of these Bible characters.
People who rejoiced when God fulfilled the desires of their hearts. People who girded themselves up for the battle God had called them to fight. People who gave all they had to the Lord and He gave back. People who were chosen and blessed beyond what they could have imagined. People who pressed into the Lord when the suffering was unimaginable and then danced with joy once more. Through grief, pain, heartache and triumph they sought the Lord and He answered.
Somewhere along the journey I realized very suddenly,"He showed me all I ever did." (John 4:29)
It was a truth embedded in my heart with a hidden meaning which I needed wisdom, the Spirit of Truth, to reveal to me. Suddenly, out of nowhere I got it. "He showed me all I ever did!"
I've heard the story of the woman at the well (John 4:7-29) since I was a little girl. That phrase, "He showed me all I ever did" always stuck out to me.
I know all of my sins. I realize I am very far from perfect. I totally get that I turn to all sorts of other people and things before I turn to Jesus. I get it. Why, Why, Why would she REJOICE and TELL OTHERS that Jesus repeated to her all that she, especially she who had had five husbands and a new live-in boyfriend in her never-ending quest for happiness and acceptance, ever did? Why? That was always the question I asked when reading this story.
Then in an instant the meaning was revealed. My life was changed. I understood. He didn't repeat all she'd ever done. He revealed it. He uncovered her heart's motives, hidden meanings, wrong-thinking patterns and rote habits that were sinful. Haven't you ever discovered you were doing something simply because it was familiar not necessarily knowing if there was a different or perhaps better way?
Sin, ugly, dark behavior that was holding me back from wholeheartedly seeking my sweet, precious Lord was revealed to me in an instant. Once the deep, secretive, sinful behavior is brought to the surface and into the light, the very presence of God, it no longer possesses the power of darkness over our hearts. Deep revelation leads to repentance and change in our lives. Repentance means, "to turn from"...if we know what we are doing wrong, we can turn from it and do it a better way!
What He revealed to me was simply a way that I had perceived my life incorrectly. I had misjudged my role. My life was laden with the responsibility of trying to help my loved ones in an unhealthy way. I had been taking responsibility for things that I could not correct. I simply needed to accept some things. I realized that I needed to make decisions in a new way. I needed to just let some things be.
Trying to change a circumstance, to make right what I had not wronged, to fix what someone else had broken all the while becoming more and more frustrated with myself and all those around me, I realized, this is all I ever did. I saw my sin and it was incredibly sweet, effortless and healing. I was free to hate my sin and feel incredibly loved.
I had never felt so loved, so free, so different! I was a changed woman.
"In kindness He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change." (Romans 2:4)
The woman that was so ashamed she had to draw water at midday all alone so she wouldn't have to talk to anyone was now running through town telling all, "Come, meet the man who told me all I ever did!" (John 4:29)
I invite you to come, meet the One who showed me all I ever did.
"but whoever drinks this water will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
Past secrets too dark to ever tell
I draw water at midday
Hoping no one comes my way
Sin and shame a heavy weight
Loneliness and frustration, twins I hate
Lost in thought, eyes cast down
Who's this Stranger come to town?
He speaks of living without thirst
Will He heal my pain and hurt?
He asks my name; I reply smart
How could He know my very heart?
He speaks of how life has been
I see all my hidden sin
Motives, reasoning, thoughts...all lies
Truth laid bare before my eyes
Here I find Life that's true
As I begin to walk anew
Then I run...telling all to "Come,
Meet the One who showed all I've done!"
No one ever has to thirst
Just seek Living Water first
"Many...believed in Him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I ever did.'" (John 4:39)
Don't you just love meeting someone you can instantly identify with. You get the feeling that you are understood in their presence. This can happen extremely fast in bloggy land because like I've said before, when we meet here we stick out our hearts instead of our hands.
When Joy stuck out her heart, I fell in love with her charm, wit and insights. She has a way with words that touches me. She lives up to her name. She even has two blogs...that she keeps up with regularly! She needs your prayers right now. Go meet her and bless her. You will be blessed too, I promise. We are reading through the Bible together this year. Yesterday, God led us to ponder the same verse. It was fun!
"...he himself would be their allotment." Joshua 13:33
Have you ever felt left out, passed over or just plain needy. I hear my children say things like, "She got a cookie. Why didn't I?"
In reality, I say things like this all the time too.
She's got a great ministry, Bible study, speaking schedule...Why don't I? They're not struggling with finances, behavioral issues, professional conflict, uncertainty...Why am I?
Truth is, I all too often gage my worth on the things I see. I've had a week of conflict, issues and storms professionally. My mind knows God has not forgotten me but my heart tends to pull wayward when things are tough or lean in any situation.
God called the Levites to serve Him personally. They were the chosen among the chosen. Chosen to lead the people to worship by purifying the people and entering the holy place. But when God passed out land, he left the Levites out of the equation saying He would be their portion. They had no land, no earthly inheritance, no place to settle. They would follow God's presence, serving Him, passing down the mantle of their calling.
Am I satisfied why my allotment? Am I trusting daily that He's sovereign and distributed accordingly? Am I choosing to see with His perspective my portion? It's like seeing the glass half-empty or half-full. I have a choice. If I know human nature just a little, I'm sure there were Israelites who were glad to have the land over the Levites' allotment. I pray I would be one grateful to have Him. Above land. Above a big house. Above a big ministry. Above all thing.
Lord, when I'm tempted to want more, teach me to want You. You are my treasure, inheritance and refuge. There is nothing else I'd rather pass down to my children than a life poured out at your feet, wasted on you. Nothing. May I take seriously the responsibility of handing them the mantle of ministry to you.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
In line with spring cleaning my home and heart, I've been resting here in Joshua for the last couple of days. Examining the heart is well, hard work. Just as a thorough cleaning of our homes by cleaning windows, baseboards and ceilings can be backbreaking, cleaning out our hearts can be heartbreaking. Just as sorting through the junk in our closets and drawers can take a physical toll, sorting through the junk stashed in our hearts can take an emotional toll.
The cleaning out questions are tumbling through my mind. Am I holding onto anything God wants destroyed? Is my inventory causing devastation or damage to myself or others? Are destructive patterns, habits and behaviors at home in my heart?
Beyond the purging process, I am examining things deemed worth keeping. Why is this important? What is my motive in retaining it? Is its purpose to bring Him glory?
After my heart is clear of the clutter of destructible objects, things formerly hidden become useful and beautiful. Behind a pile of cheap rubbish, under a layer of dusty sin treasured gifts lie dormant. Ridding what causes destruction frees consecrated gifts to be used for God's glory.
Lord, examine me, clean me, use me. May You be glorified in my heart and in my life. Thank you for revealing hidden treasures to me, in me and for me. You are the treasure. Bring spring's life to what winter's storm has left sleeping.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Our weekend get-a-way was wonderful. It was restful. It was romantic. It was refreshing.
From the time I was a little girl, way before Renee Zellweger's line in the movie Jerry MaGuire, I wanted a man to complete me. When I lived by myself pre-marriage I would dream of how much easier life would be as a married person. It would be so wonderful to feel "complete."
Then I married Andrew. It didn't take me long being married to figure out that marriage was certainly not the thing that would complete me. Marriage seemed like a huge mountain I had to climb. A mountain I was just approaching the base of with a summit so high I couldn't even see it for the clouds.
As quickly as I married, I realized that God had paired me with my match. We are both equally opinionated, equally stubborn, equally capable of handling ourselves. Andrew and I even joke about it saying that Jesus is Lord but everything else is up for discussion. At times it seems that every decision we've made has been a compromise. For me, learning to submit has been a difficult challenge. For him, learning to gently lead has been just as difficult, I'm sure.
So, this weekend just being together was so awesome. Every time Andrew asked me if I was having a good time, I just teared up. I knew we had come full circle when he didn't try to make me stop crying but just smiled taking it as the compliment that it was.I loved how I felt so filled up with happy I had to cry to let some out to make room for more. I realized that feeling a deep dark sadness had prepared me to feel this type of happy. I grew an appreciation for it.
Experiencing a reminder of our date fifteen years earlier was such a sweet reason to celebrate how far we've come. We thanked God together for the joy we now share and acknowledged Him as the reason we were even there sharing it together. Recreating our awesome date without the nervousness, being married, appreciating knowing each other deeply and intimately was incredible. Seeing the depth that's come into our relationship. Being confident that we'll still be celebrating in fifteen more years and many more after that.
Realizing that being married has taught me in a tangible way what the type of love that 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of. Being thankful that I've had to meditate on each part and purposefully choose to live it out. Showing gratitude that I've experienced this type of love. That when I've least expected it, my husband has exercised patience, forgiveness and unselfishness with me and in return I've been humbled to reach higher, become more and live better.
Just being comfortable walking hand in hand down the river walk without any words spoke to my heart. Completing one another's sentences may be something other couples take for granted but not us. We see that for the miracle that it is.
I love what I see when I gaze deeply into my man's eyes. It is there that I see the One that completes me. He completes us. He is completing me.
"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 1:6
Monday, March 23, 2009
I grew up in a strong Bible teaching church. Many days at my mother's house were filled with flannel graph stories and cardboard Bible characters. Every Christmas we would dress up and act out the Christmas story. As a teenager whenever I was struggling with a problem, any problem, in friendship, in peer pressure, in materialism, in moving high schools, choosing a college. My mom would lead me to God's Word. Although I knew her opinion of my choices even before I made them, I can't remember her lecturing me too much. The picture I have of her is bringing me a Bible with a bookmark in it. I can honestly say that God's Word was the foundation on which I grew.
The thing that needs to be said about that is this. Although, I look back as an adult and am so grateful and truly appreciative of this instruction, I did not understand it all as a kid. Opening up God's Word and reading rules and regulations suffocated me. It totally depressed me. I felt I would be a failure forever. Not because I couldn't follow God's laws but because I didn't even possess the desire to try. I knew they were good for life but not for my life. I remember feeling shame and sadness that even if I obeyed God, He would never see fit to bless me.
In this condition, I entered college. By the end of my freshman year, I was searching. I began to ask God to make me love His way of life and to do whatever it would take to make life better. I hated my life. If you're caught up on my story, you'll remember that this state of my heart led me to a youth camp where I found the love I had sought for so long.
From my church background I knew all the things I needed to do. I knew what was required to grow closer to God. I was ready to try all of it. Praying everyday about everything. Reading scripture everyday and striving to apply it to my life. Finding friends who would build me up and not tear me down everyday.
This was a great time of growth for me. I was so far from where I wanted to be but for the first time ever I was on the right track. I had so much free time to attend different Bible studies and read. Every book I read was new and challenging except for The Book. I still struggled to spend time in God's Word daily.
During this time I memorized many verses, completed many studies, served in a church as an intern during the summers and even led friends to accept Christ. Still, I was frustrated that I did not feel God's Word alive and active when I studied it. Oh, how I wanted to. How I prayed and begged God. I spent regular time reading The Bible but not daily time.
Fast forward a few years. I had many small children. I was knee deep in all things baby. I was tired. I kept my Bible open on my kitchen counter all the time so I could grab a few verses here and there. My favorite verse, my theme during this time, was Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." I had learned it as a small child and carried it close to my heart with my babies.
For years, all I could do would be to utter this one verse over and over while begging God for strength. Somewhere in the middle of having all these babies, I realized I needed God's Word and began to reach for it more and more. It still wasn't quite as alive in me as I desired but I felt myself responding to His Voice as I read. I was still crying out to the Lord to open my eyes!
Then a friend invited me to a ladies' event at her church. From the second one of the speakers opened her mouth, I knew I wanted what she had. She simply read scripture and life, glorious life flowed from her lips. The words, people and message danced in my mind's eye. I felt the twinge in my heart that I knew was God saying He was changing me.
After she spoke I made a mad dash over to her and begged her to lay her hands on me and pray that I would see God's Word in living color just like she did. She prayed and prayed for me. I headed for home feeling different, inspired, energized.
It was then that I began to experience God's Word instead of just simply reading it. I can now see how every single person in the Bible is like me in some way. I can see the big picture of God's message. Every single day, God reveals another of his beautiful secrets to me. I love spending time with Him in His Word more than life, more than sleep, more than an organized house...More than anything. It was worth every second and every year of waiting for Him to answer me.
Just recently I was praying and thanking God for giving me the gift of words. I just love the sound of words. They dance in my head all the time. I've always wanted to write. I've always loved to read. As I thanked God for giving me words, I began to thank God for giving me His Word. I said God, "Thank you for giving me Your Word. I love words."
He answered me by saying, "No, Lisa, you love The Word." John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
If any of you are struggling with loving God's Word, first just love The Living Word. Cry out to Him and confess how hard it is to study the Bible. Ask Him how to silence your heart and mind so that you may fill it to overflowing with His goodness and life. Beg Him to meet you in time you set aside to study. Have someone lay hands on you and pray this prayer for you. Ask me and I'll pray via email. We must become desperate for God's Word, desperate for The Word. As I've grown more and more desperate I've fallen more and more in love and experienced more and more revelation. I am still so desperate!
The lady who prayed for me left me with a question, a challenge; one I am passing on to you. "Which one are you?" She encouraged me to read the Bible cover to cover and let God show me "my story" in His Story. Before I share that here, I'm going to ask you to discover yours. I'll be back next week to share my story with you. Remember we are all bits and pieces of many Biblical characters but God showed me one that I understand everything about...Ask Him to show you. He will.
Friday, March 20, 2009
One of the ways Andrew pursued me was by spending his huge wad of graduation money on an amazing date. Amazing. I still can't believe I agreed to go. But I did and here we are.
Celebrating not only fifteen years of being together but fifteen years since the best date ever. Celebrating that date by recreating it as married people. I think being married will put the first date to shame and this one will become the best date ever.
On that day fifteen years ago, he picked me up at my apartment with doughnuts, took me to San Antonio by way of the Guadalupe River, wined and dined me on the River walk and took me to the Elton John & Billy Joel concert. Tomorrow we leave for all of that plus two nights in an awesome hotel sans kids. (Thanks, Mom!)
There has been much bloggy talk about marriages lately. My friend Melanie, received a word "to love him like no other this year." That word God gave her spoke volumes to my heart. (By the way, Melanie is my friend whose life was radically altered by hearing her parents labor over her in prayer. Visit her.) My new friend Missy is in "The Year of Our Marriage" and Lysa recently reminded me that the grass that is greener is always the grass we water and fertilize.
I have been wanting to chronicle our love story for our kids. I desperately want us to have a fairy tale all our own. The truth is our love story hasn't been much of a fairy tale. Andrew pursued me for years. I ran as far away as I could. When I finally came around and married him I wasn't prepared for the reality of marriage. Our life together was marked with sadness, much disappointment and many dark storms. We doubted how we'd ever survive it on a daily basis. Then one day God stepped in and opened our eyes to the beauty of marriage. Since then it's been so good. It's still been hard but it's been hard together. And, that has made all the difference.
The best part of that date fifteen years ago was that as we were walking on the river I made a comment to Andrew about how I loved sunflowers. When I walked in the door from our trip, there was the biggest most beautiful bouquet of sunflowers waiting for me. That was the day I knew that he would listen to me and cared enough to get to know who I was under my skin. That was the day I saw his heart.
After those sunflowers dried up and died, I took their seeds and planted them in the backyard. They did not grow and bloom. I thought they had died until one spring almost three years later. The spring that I felt God release me to date him, to commit to him, to become engaged to him those sunflowers were in full bloom!
Our love story reminds me of a song we used to sing at camp when I was in elementary school. "Rainy days and sunshine that's what beautiful flowers are made of. It takes rainy days and sunshine to make us grow and bloom. Rainy days and sunshine that's what beautiful girls are made of...For when your patience is finally in full bloom then you will be ready for anything. Strong in character full and complete."
Our love story is a fairy tale because One did come to our rescue bringing rainy days and sunshine to give us deep roots and full blooms. Just as those sunflowers took years to take root and fully grow into full bloom so has our love. We now know we have the strength to weather any storm together and that's a love worth celebrating.
"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us...Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." Romans 5:3-5 & James 5:10-11
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I am totally captivated by people. All sorts of people. People I'd love to get to know, celebrities, people who live differently from me. I love all the crazy reality shows about peoples' lives. They are so interesting to me.
Let me interrupt by saying that I can't even tell you any names of these shows currently because I do not watch them anymore. I'd like to share why.
I remember when my girls were very, very young one asked me if she could get her belly button pierced. She was around two, if that. Living in a college town, she began to ask everyone if she could see their belly buttons. Again, living in a college town there was a good chance she'd see a jewel there.
Although my husband and I were slightly bothered by this, we had no answer. We did not know how to explain this was wrong other than to tell her that asking to see covered up places is not polite and focused on modesty and appropriate touch issues. We both felt uneasy but could not explain it. Through prayer God answered us and showed us why.
He led us to His Word. "Behold, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; be wary and wise as serpents, and be innocent (harmless, guileless, and without falsity) as doves." Matthew 10:16
One of Webster's definitions of innocent says, "having or showing the simplicity or naiveté of an unworldly person; guileless; ingenuous. uninformed or unaware; ignorant"
Not only was I convicted to stop entertaining too much information on how other's live life contrary to God's Word, I was convicted as a parent to not answer all of my children's questions.
Thankfully they were still so young at the time that they hadn't asked too many questions!
As they get older, I want to protect their innocence and help them to remain pure as doves.
It was a chilling thought to me that reading a magazine or watching a documentary could jeopardize the state of our purity.
It was at this time I stopped reading any literature but the Bible for a season, turned off daytime television and forced my brain to just not go there. "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:5
As I ran across this warning to the Israelites as they were on their way to the Promised Land, I felt the Lord calling me to a renewal. A renewed commitment to protect my mind, my heart, my children and my home from an inquisitive spirit. He wants us to go to Him for wisdom. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding." Psalm 111:10
He will show us what stays in, what goes out and what needs to be shut down in our minds and how to answer our children's curiosity. Let us take an active stance in the fight for purity.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
You all know of, or at least you can see by my lack of posting, my absence from this here blog last week. Let me tell you what started my ferocity in ridding my life of unnecessary clutter; but first let me tell you some of my background so you'll understand my freakish nature a little better.
Let me explain how I grew up. I lived with both my parents until I was six. I lived in a single-parent home with my mom and brother until I was twelve. The summer I was twelve my mother remarried.
I had lived in the same house during all of this. The same small house. The house that was perfect for a family with little kids. The house that was all a single mom and her two tweens needed. The house that became incredibly overcrowded overnight when a "strange" new stepdad moved in with all his stuff.
With this new relationship and new family came new rules and new stresses. I didn't really know all that was going on in my mom's marriage but I did know there were things that were not right. All was not as it should be.
I was told that our small house, in the neighborhood I loved among the friends I loved, was only a temporary living arrangement. Our new father figure was going to move us out that "bad" neighborhood and into one far better. In fact, our new life with him would be better than anything we had ever experienced. We were going to become members of a new country club in new and far better town.
I was slightly devastated but totally excited. Who doesn't want to hang out at the country club? Swimming all day, food on demand, cute tennis outfits. Every girl would envy me! I had grand notions dancing in my head that my life would suddenly become charmed. It would be all I'd ever dreamed it could be.
I tried to tolerate the tight living space and clutter that came with someone moving in and living like they were staying temporarily on a daily basis. We never really cleaned out closets, rearranged furniture or made space for our new family member. After all, living in the old, small house was supposed to be temporary.
Because no time was made and no money was spent for organizing, decluttering and cleaning our tiny house, it was virtually impossible to manage it, clean it or maintain it. Suddenly my mother whose house was filled with fun, food and friends shut down. My mother, herself, who was formally fun and friendly shut down. Again, I didn't know what was going on; I just knew it wasn't right.
I was being told over and over that our life was great but my eyes would betray my mom's insistence.
I still tried to invite my friends over because I was used to having others in our home all the time. I remember having a friend over who commented that our house was filthy because her clothes became soiled by dust while laying on the floor in my room. I was mortified, embarrassed, humiliated. After that day, I became selective in who I invited home. I wanted to make sure their life was equal to or less than mine. I wanted to judge thier home first. It became a rule I would silently live by for many, many years to come.
At the end of ninth grade I tried out for drill team. It had been a wonderful year. I had friends I was close to, had been elected a class officer and student council delegate and was enrolled in honors classes.
I made drill team and was thrilled. That night when I went home to tell my mom, they congratulated me by telling me we would be moving away before school started the following year. I was crushed.
Although I was devastated and begged to live with my grandparents for awhile and finish at my old high school, eventually my mom's reasoning won out. She kept telling me how great it would be. My hopes were high.
We moved. We moved into a much larger house in an upscale community in a ritzy section of a town close by. I started my new high school. Long story short, our organizational challenges followed us. My friends' homes were organized, uncluttered and functional. Ours was not.
By my senior year, I never invited people over; I always went to their houses. After I left home, developers began building in the fields behind our home and rats began making appearances.
Let me stop here and say that my mom is not that same woman she once was. She is not the same person she was even this time last year. She is healthy and whole. She has a thriving ministry. She is living clutter free in her home and in her heart. She is a tremendous Godly woman, mentor and example for any woman who follows hard after God.
When I left home, I over compensated for the lack of housekeeping I had previously experienced. My dorm room was immaculate. Each apartment was spotless. I moved lots, minimizing and organizing each time. I got married and kept a perfect house. Others would even comment on it. It gave me such joy to receive this compliment. Although I didn't know it at the time, my house was ruling me.
I've now had four children and gone back to work while living in the same house we had prior to children. Imagine the accumulation.
Remember last fall when my maid quit? I freaked. I was terrified of waking up and seeing that my life had led me to a spot I never wanted to go. I was frustrated, overwhelmed and tired. So very tired. Almost, but not quite, defeated. I did get my house manageable after that and developed a plan. But, I felt swallowed up by our stuff. I felt myself suffocated by our walls. I became discontent inside my home.
Instead of wallowing in my sin, I prayed. I asked God to help me regain my focus and find contentment outside of my circumstances. I asked Him for time to refeather my nest.
This is how He answered me, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." Matthew 6:31-33
I responded by maintaining my home but putting all other organizational challenges on the back burner and simply seeking my God's presence each day. Boy, did He bless it! He showed up, spoke to my heart and gave me a ton of new bloggy friends.
I had a good rhythm to my life. Then two nasty bugs made their appearance in my house. We were completely out of commission for almost four weeks. By the time everyone was back in action and I was ready to tackle our messy quarters, we began to smell something. Ugh! I frantically tore up the rooms in the house where the odor was strongest. I even ventured up in the attic but stopped before I started snooping...What on earth would I do if I found it?!?
I called the exterminator, who couldn't find it but determined it was inside our air conditioner ducts. I called the air conditioner guy, who promptly showed up, found the dead vermin in the attic, cleaned it up and announced it was not his job. But ever so kindly loaned us his ozone-creating-odor-removing machine.
By the time he'd left I had a foolproof plan for minimizing and rat-proofing my home. I started last weekend. What seemed like an impossible task is getting easier by the day. I have two cupboards, one closet and the pantry left. Then we'll move on to windows, painting and the yard. I also realized I feel like this every spring. Winter keeps me bundled up, storing up, shoving under because it's not as fun to air out when it's dreary weather. Spring helps me get a move on; sunlight energizes me.
I realized in doing this overhaul how necessary it is that we know what's in every cupboard, every closet, every drawer. I realized that every room has an unmistakable function and everything competing with that purpose needs to be purged. God talked to me about my heart. He changed me. He set me free from more of my stuff. He revealed more of my destiny.
He reiterated that where I've come from is not where I'm going. I needed to hear that again.
"Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you." Galatians 5:1
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
Friday, March 06, 2009
From January 17, 2007...Trying Winter Things
Winter most places means cold, snow, ice and all related activities. We spent the last month or so wondering if it was going to get cold at all. Well, it's cold and we're stuck inside!
After utterly exhausting all my creative resources...and not to mention, patience. I finally relented and let my kids play outside. We had already cut, colored, made books, play dohed, read, built castles and fought wars. We hid and sought and even played silent hide and seek in the dark with flashlights. We had a snowball fight with cotton balls and raced cars all around the house. We dug through closets and looked at old pictures and searched for old games. We made play, made fun, made games and made messes and then...
One particular child of mine, who shall remain nameless, bundled up and went to get the mail. Ignoring all protocol of opening doors in this house, due to being set free in the sleeting, freezing, wintry mix, as the weatherman calls it, the door was left open and the dog got out.
Now this dog went, fast, lightning streak fast, she must've had cabin fever. My flat response was, "Don't come back in without the dog."
Now the other two kids were almost out of control...what an unfair twist of fate. They didn't ignore door opening protocol or even open the door for that matter, nor did they let the dog out. So, why should they have to stay inside. This is the stuff that makes a kid's life so unfair!
Well, after a thirty minute chase through the freezing, falling ice-rain, the dog was rescued...frozen fur and all.
The child was intact...and laughing. Hence, the relenting. After bundling up, rubber boots, hats, jackets, and gloves. They went into the backyard. After our frozen pond and ice slicked patio furniture, the largest draw was the trampoline.
(Mom and Dad, I know you're clutching the keyboard gasping, "No, she didn't!" and I know you raised me smarter than that but...)
They broke the sheet of ice that was was crusted across the black nylon by sliding as hard as they could into the frozen net that I was praying wouldn't crack and break under the tension.
They had a blast! All the while, I congratulated myself on being the cool mom I had always aspired to be as kid.
Julia and Alyssa jumped and skidded for about an hour. The result was everyone slept deep and early last night.
In case you're wondering, Hunter lasted only about ten minutes before he was freezing, wet and well, hurt. Not seriously, but enough to make him want to come in and curl up by the fire. He doesn't really enjoy being cold, wet or the smallest player in a game of ice-wrestling on a slippery surface.
This reminds me of another wintry activity that we try and continue to try...
Not too long ago, some friends invited us to go ice skating. My response was to tell them they could take Julia but based on prior experience the other children were too young.
They came to pick up Julia. Alyssa decided she didn't really want to miss out on the fun. She thought she could ice skate even if the last time she went she was miserable. She changed super quick-like as a testament to the fact that she really wanted to go.
At their departure, Hunter began crying desperately because he wanted to go too. He was big now, he reasoned. He was sure he could do it this time.
Julia who's never known fear, was skating like a pro...when she wasn't in the arcade socializing!
Alyssa skated the whole entire time with no breaks. She learned how to hold onto a cone and skate around without losing her balance. What a great thing! Apparently, this is what they teach the kids in ice skating lessons. She had an incredible time skating on her own. She was truly experiencing the exhilaration that comes with conquering something that was previously unconquerable. I was so proud and well, also astonished. She was jubilant! Quite a transition from our previous experience.
Hunter, well, he went around twice, with help from our friend's dad. He didn't like it and was almost immediately ready to go. In his defense, I think it was one more lap than the first time he skated. Little accomplishments are praiseworthy too.
All of this growing up and accomplishing new things that was taking place was causing me to think. I mean, the last time I skated with Alyssa she hated it. She was coming off the ice this time declaring, "I'm the best ice skater girl ever!!!" Her soaring confidence had taken a complete 180 since the last time we skated.
Isn't this how life is? We dearly desire to do something. Maybe it seems fun or exciting or useful. We have no training or knowledge outside of watching others or reading about it. We try it. We fail...
Do we try again and again or do we stop?
Things that were previously too difficult become a little easier each time. God gives us all the help we need to accomplish the things He's called us to. When we need a hand, He's there; when we need a cone for balance, He provides. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
Each time we progress a little more, until we accomplish what we set out to do. Then we keep trying and each time we do it a little better. Sometimes practice makes us one of the best at what we do. Sometimes practice brings only the satisfaction of personal accomplishment. Either way, we fulfill our dreams. We overcome. We've made progress.
I hope I am the one who keeps on trying.
I'll be the one encouraging Hunter next time to jump on the trampoline in an ice storm or just to ice skate.
That's what God does for us. He takes our hand, speaks to us what we understand and gives us milk until we can eat solid food from His Word. He gives us opportunities each day to choose right, to learn His ways and walk in them. With Him there is always a new beginning...each day, each week, each month, each year. We have a new birth into salvation and new cleansing from sin each day as He perfects us.
"solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong." (Hebrews 5:14)
Just like I'll never give up encouraging my children and giving them opportunities to exhibit their growth, God will never give up on me, on us. What an awesome promise.
"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 1:6)
There's lots of wisdom in "practice makes perfect" and "try, try again."
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Click on the button and win free stuff.
Just for registering. Easy. Simple. Free.
Use the Swagbucks search engine instead of google or yahoo.
Earn swagbucks. Buy gift certificates. I'm talking Gap, Macy's, Starbucks, Barnes and Noble and iTunes. Free. Totally.
Hurry. Go register and earn some bucks. Come back and tell me when you earn something.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Monday, March 02, 2009
Crying myself to sleep at night became my norm at a very young age. Beginning as early as I can remember bedtime brought with it tears. The darkness would overwhelm me as the day's disappointment flooded forth as vivid memories flooded the recesses of my mind. Millions upon millions of tears. Night after night after night. Year after year after year.
Middle school. High school. College. Post college. Marriage. Babies. No good thing removed the overwhelming sadness that shadowed my days with darkness. Not a paralyzing darkness. Just a dulling sadness. One that gave even sunny days a grayish tint.
For most of those years, I begged God to stop the tears. To take away the pain. Remove the haunting memories of failure after failure and the unending disappointments. I tried different rounds of counseling with different pastors. Some helped. Some prayed. Some stared.
The one thing I never did was admit the deepness of my weakness. Even my closest friends and roommates had no idea of the despair that threatened to swallow me up on a regular basis. I was a hold-it-all-together type person. I just didn't know if things could ever be different for me. Or better. I just picked myself up by the bootstraps and continued to survive the race called life.
By my adult years I began to accept this teary, sad state as my own. My lot in life. Where I was called to live. It just was. Had always been. May always be. Resignation set in and hopelessness took over. Oh the lies!
Then I went to a ladies retreat. I asked for prayer, personal ministry. I always ask. I never want to be in a place God is moving and miss anything He would say to me. Never.
Here, a beautiful sister in Christ laid her hands on me and prayed. She prayed many things but I mostly remember one. She, not knowing anything about my life, prayed that "the dark cloud that had always hung over my head would be lifted and my eyes would see clearly and I would live, once and for all, out of the shadows." She prayed that "the nights of crying myself to sleep alone would be no more."
God used her that night to deliver me. He freed me from depression right there. Instantly. On the spot I saw differently. I was different. I felt different. I was changed. Lighter. Clearer. Freer. Victorious.
I still struggle with sadness, loneliness and crying from time to time but I recognize it sooner and view it in a different light. When I feel despair, resignation and hopelessness threaten to overwhelm me, I repent, confessing my lack of hope as a sin.
Even though depression is not ever far from me, it no longer threatens to destroy me. It no longer holds me captive to myself or holds me as a hostage from sharing with others. For you see, God made me stronger that night. In Him. He handed me victory to live. He gave the taste of freedom I needed to no longer settle for a lie. He showed me He heard my cries. He had heard me that night and all the nights before that. He set me on a higher place in Him. He took me from depression to deliverance. He showed me how very much He cares.
He came for me.
"I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God." Psalm 40:1-3
"The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give (her) a rich and satisfying life." John 10:10