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Small Beginnings

Sometimes God whispers.   Perhaps He always whispers?

His voice is gentle and full of hope.

Lately, the phrase “don’t despise small beginnings” has been playing on repeat in my heart.

“Don’t despise small beginnings.”  Gentle and hopeful…

Starting in June of 2009, a series of events occurred in my life that totally derailed everything.

For three and a half years, I was living in survival mode, tending only to the most important things.  Things like budgets and exercise programs felt unattainable.   Things like  feeding and loving my kids and maintaining my marriage took priority.

Honestly, I could not handle any more than that.

I could barely handle that.

The rest of my emotional energy was spent just trying to keep from plummeting into the depths of depression

Thankfully, things are much better now!

I can breathe again…

However, there is a lot to catch up on.  I still haven’t lost the baby weight.  Our finances need to be better managed.  Our house needs to be more organized.  I want to be a better and more consistent writer.

I feel overwhelmed…  ALL. THE. FREAKING.TIME.

Then I hear “don’t despise small beginnings.” Gentle and hopeful…

So, I exercise 15 minutes a day and keep a food journal.  That is ALL I am going to do.

We wrote a budget (again)and we are keeping better track of our money. However,  we are NOT going all Dave Ramsey crazy.

I devote one afternoon a week to writing.  It’s practice and it’s therapy.

Small beginnings… Very small beginnings.

Do you feel overwhelmed?

It’s ok.  I do too.  I think God would speak the same thing to you.

“Don’t despise small beginnings.” Gentle and hopeful…

Do what you can.  If you are in a season where you are doing all that you can, be at peace.

The season will end.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… Romans 8:1

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Defining Moments

In every person’s life there are events that change you forever.  You can look back and see a clear divide between before and after.   You were one person before and someone else after.

Defining moments

The birth of a child, especially the first child,  is that type of event for most parents.

Josiah’s birth was a defining moment for me but not only for the usual reasons.  His birth was the most traumatic event of my life.  When I look back, I feel like I don’t even know the person I was before.

I almost lost a child that day and my own life was at risk. It all happened so fast. The world became a scary place where any terrible thing could happen at any time.

It changed me.

I have often wondered why it has had such a dramatic impact on my life?  I think it comes down to this; before I believed that if I just made the right choices, behaved properly and believed the right things, I would be SAFE. 

Theologically incorrect and self -righteous.

After, God’s goodness came into question in a devastating way- the questions that had previously been whispering to me, were now SHOUTING.

Is God real?

Does He love me?

Will he protect me?

Is He sovereign?

I told myself things like-  Your son is alive! He is healthy! You are alive! You should just be grateful!

Oh the guilt...

You know what??

I AM SO VERY GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR ALL OF THAT AND MORE!

However, that gratitude does not silence the grief of dreams and innocence lost.  It does not silence the guilt I sometimes still feel when I wonder “did I do something to cause it??” It does not silence the questions and doubts that arise from going through something that seems so senseless.

Grief and gratitude are not mutually exclusive and neither are faith and doubt!

I have had to adjust my theology from God will protect me if I do/say/think all the right things to God works all things together for the good of those that love him…  My “safety” is totally out of my hands.  My good deeds don’t save me in a spiritual or a physical way.

One of the most painful things about this season of my life was the feeling that I was alone.  I felt like people only wanted to hear the praise but not the pain

If you know a mom (or anyone) who has gone through something like this, even if they are spouting joy and praise, there is probably underlying pain, grief, guilt and doubt. 

Ask them questions and don’t be afraid of the answers.

I say that knowing many people will be afraid of the answers.

I am not anymore.

Josiah’s birth was a defining moment in a messy and beautiful way.  As Glennon Melton from Momastery.com says, it was “brutiful.”  Both brutal and beautiful.

I may not remember the girl I was before Josiah was born but I am getting to know who I am now.  It’s messy and good.  I have more to offer a hurting world now…

I am a beautiful mess and He is truly bringing beauty from the ashes.

Perspective…

I heard recently that 40% of people will get cancer.  That statistic is not comforting for someone like me who tends to be anxious and fearful about such things.  For several days, I let that statistic take root and cause me to fear.  Then one day, I was reminded that I have a 60% chance of NOT getting cancer and even if I do become one of the 40%, many of those survive.

Suddenly, I was comforted.  Nothing changed.  I just changed my perspective on the exact same information.

Yesterday was a horrible day.  I keep thinking about what those families are going through and I am horrified. It’s unimaginable.  I don’t even want to put words to the images in my mind.

The temptation again is to fear.  In recent years, we have seen shootings in malls, schools, movie theaters, churches, mission organizations, workplaces etc…  My reaction is to want to avoid all these places.

Lately, when I go to the mall, I find myself paying extra attention and planning what action I would take if something were to happen.  I get nervous when Jaison goes to a late night movie with friends. I’m scared to send my son to preschool next week.

Fear and anxiety…

Yet, this morning, I am reminded that MILLIONS of children went to school yesterday and came home safe.  MILLIONS of people go to churches, malls, restaurants and various workplaces EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. and come home safe.

In one of the news reports, I read that Newtown, CT was once the “safest place to live in America” and known for its’ high quality schools. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it goes to show me that I cannot control my own safety simply by living or working in the right place.

I have to live my life, and trust God. I can not let the actions of evil people steal my life, joy and opportunity.  They have already stolen enough.

Hope Surrendered

Life, doesn’t always go the way we hope.

Nobody likes to suffer.  Even Jesus prayed “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Something inside Him hoped for a less painful, less humiliating way.  Yet,  even knowing what was coming, He surrendered that hope.

His hope surrendered ultimately produced hope eternal.

To really know Jesus, I believe we have to know suffering…disappointment, rejection, humiliation, grief, and sorrow.

It has taken me a long time to accept this and these truths are still working themselves out in my life, but this passage means something so much deeper to me now; He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God,  stricken by him, and afflicted…  Isaiah 53:3-4 NIV

For me, “hope deferred” (Proverbs 13:12) has become hope surrendered.  My posture before the Lord has changed to a “not my will but yours be done” posture in a deeper way than I have ever known before.

That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days.  I do.  I have really bad days.  Throw in the towel and become an atheist days.  However, I always end up with my hope surrendered.

May it become hope eternal.

Poem taken from “Streams in the Desert”  November 30

There is a peace that cometh after sorrow,
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled;
A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,
But calmly on a tempest that it stilled.
 
“A peace that lives not now in joy’s excesses,
Nor in the happy life of love secure;
But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.
 
“A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passion free;
‘Tis not the peace that over Eden brooded,
But that which triumphed in Gethsemane.”

Broken

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be “broken”  by the Lord. 

It’s no secret, the last few years have been messy.  Disappointment, death, financial difficulty, depression, rejection, and indifference are just a few of the “trials” we have endured and continue to endure.

I have been leveled, isolated, broken.  I have been reminded of  who I would be without the redemptive power of Jesus.  It’s not good at all. 

As much as I hate to admit it, I am thankful for the mess.  I can see glimpses of what it is producing in me and it is good.  I see surrender where there was battle.  Humility where there was pride.  Compassion where there was indifference.   Trust where there was fear.

Of course, there are still battles, pride lives on, indifference protects and doubt and fear creep in.  But, they control me less than they used to. 

I have been healed and I am being healed.  God is good and scripture often talks about how God tears down in order to build up.  I understand that now more than ever before. He allowed some of the ugly stuff to be destroyed so He could re-build my broken life and make something beautiful out of it.

I have persevered (clung by a thread to my faith when I felt completely abandoned) and perseverance produces character and character produces hope.  I have hope again.

So, what does it mean to be broken?  In this season of my life brokeness came from having every high opinion of myself destroyed and ultimately coming to a place of surrender.  

Whenever I feel the fight and anxiety coming back, I just put my palms up before the Lord and say “you know best.”

On The Shore of The Sea

Sometimes our destiny, calling or blessing lies across a deep, raging sea.  We stand on the shore,  knowing that we do not have the strength to cross.   The people around us tell us that there is no way to get to the other side.  It is impossible.  It is easier here on this side.  Safer.  They tell us, we tell ourselves, that we don’t have what it takes to succeed over there. They are right, but something compels us to get to the other side, to cross the raging sea.  Somehow we know that what we were made for lies waaaaay over there.  So, we stand here on shore of the sea…scared, overwhelmed,  doubting, questioning our own sanity.  

I’m there.  Jaison and I are there together.  Standing here, looking towards our destiny.   Torn, between living a safe  life that we have not been called to, and moving forward across enormous challenges to continue the journey to our destiny.   Even as I write this, I am questioning myself.  Destiny?  That is just some whimsical idea.  Calling?  Whatever!  Yet, I truly believe in those things.  Somehow I know that God has things for us that we will only take hold of if we cross the raging sea.

You know, the Israelites were there too.  They left Egypt where their needs were met in slavery, only to end up on the shore of a raging sea. Their destiny lying on the other side.  Slavery probably looked good as their hearts filled with doubt  What? You want me to cross THAT?  With my kids? We will drown.  At least we had homes and food and jobs in Egypt.  It was impossible. There was NO way they were getting across the sea.   Until, Moses obeyed God and simply lifted his arms.  Seriously, how easy was that?  The sea parted and they saw the biggest miracle of their lives. 

 Doubt became awe.

It is impossible for us.  There is no way we can cross the raging sea.  So, we stand here…but God is starting to tell us to move…to lift our arms…to just take the first step…be obedient…have faith.  It is terrifying, but we will see the impossible.

Doubt will become awe.

Resting in the Mess

It recently occurred to me that I am all grown up.  Not sure when THAT happened!  Didn’t I just turn 21 like yesterday?  This grown-up thing kind of snuck up on me. I can try to deny it but the mirror, marriage, mortgage and babies are there to prove it.  Being the grown-up I am, I really should have “it all figured out by now.  I don’t even know what “it” is and I don’t think I ever will. 

You know what?  For the first time in my life, I’m kinda, sorta, not really but maybe a little bit ok with that.

I have spent most of my life pursuing this elusive idea of getting/having it all together.  Whatever that means.  Seriously what does it mean?   In my mind, it means all of these things and probably a few more; thin, well dressed, liked by everyone, organized, financially set, very in control, and of course very,very spiritual. Oh and don’t forget…maternal, creative, and domestic ! I really am none of those things and I am, quite honestly, tired of trying, trying, trying to be something/someone who I am not.  I’m not saying any of those things are bad or unworthy of being pursued.  They are not…except maybe being liked by everyone.  Pursuing that is a colossal waste of time. 

I am saying that sometimes it’s ok to just BE. Sometimes what we are striving for is not what God wants for us. Sometimes it’s ok to just “be still and know that He is God.”  Sometimes we just need to learn to rest IN the mess.  I will say it again “rest IN the mess!” That little word “in” is very important…

MAYBE there is much to be learned in the mess? MAYBE having it all together would not make me a “better” person but rather it would make me an arrogant person?  MAYBE facing my failings everyday is teaching me humility and compassion for others? MAYBE the pain, rejection and failure is a gift that will give me the ability to “hear” people in pain that others may not be able to? MAYBE this mess of a life is actually shaping me to be who I am supposed to be?  MAYBE God is, in part, the author of my mess…

NOT MAYBE.  DEFINITELY.

The last few years have been rough and it’s hard to reconcile “Jesus loves me” with some of the things that have happened. But every now and then I see the purpose in it.  I catch glimpses of how I have changed.  I see the person I would have been if I had achieved getting it all together…if things had come easy.  I don’t like her.   I like who I am…who I am becoming… I believe the mess has forced me to become more authentic in my faith and a more authentic person. 

My life is a mess….a beautiful mess and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

 

 

Peace

Peace is a funny thing.   It’s that thing inside you that says; everything is going to be ok, you are where you need to be, you are on the right path, even when everything does not seem like it’s going to be ok and you don’t know where you are going in life.   I have peace right now and I really should be FREAKING out!  I have so much peace that I am kind of freaking out about the fact that I am NOT freaking out!  I guess this is the “peace which transcends all understanding” that Paul was talking about in Philippians 4.  I haven’t felt this kind of peace in a very long time.

For two whole years, I was without peace.  Those two years, we had health insurance and a predictable income but I was miserable.  Now, we don’t have either of those things but I’ll take this uncertainty over that lack of peace any day. It doesn’t make sense and I question my own sanity for feeling this way but  I’m just not that worried.  In fact, Jaison is more worried than I am.  If you know us at all, you know that is a huge statement. Jaison is usually pretty relaxed but worrying is my hobby. I do it well. I struggle with anxiety. I worry about things that most people don’t even think about BUT I am not worried now.  Maybe I am crazy…

I think God speaks to us by giving us peace. I’ve always made decisions in my life based somewhat on whether on not I felt peace about it. I’m not sure why I settled for those two years without peace. I’m not sure why I didn’t listen to it, question it. I think I thought we were being faithful to what we had felt God called us to. I also was desiring to get established as a family. Thankfully, God moved us when it was time to move even if it was painful.

A month from now, we may not be able to pay our bills.  Our income just got cut in HALF!  We are struggling to figure out what to do.  Our plans are not working out. We thought we knew who we are and what we are called to but that’s not as clear as it used to be.  We NEED God to direct us, to open doors for us.  Don’t get me wrong,  this is a scary place to be and I want some answers but I’m not worried.

Somehow, I just know that it’s going to be ok, that we are on the right path and that God is directing us…”peace which trancends all understanding…”  If that makes me crazy, I think I like being crazy!

A Fish Bowl Kind of Life

When Jaison was “let go” from our church, we decided that we are DONE! Done with ministry as a “career.”  Jaison has had a long time desire to finish his MBA and start a business.  I am, quite honestly, just too tired and beat down to feel like I can go on.  I have come to the conclusion that you have to either have a lot of emotional strength or have some awesome acting skills to be successful in ministry.  Actually, you probably need a little of both. I have neither.

I’m weak and sensitive.  I don’t have it all together.  People see this about me.  Sometimes I blame myself…maybe I am the reason that Jaison was let go? It was my weakness that he had to compensate for…my sensitivity that made him question things….my lack of being “together” that made people see us as less than worthy of ministry.

You see, ministry is a fish bowl.  Everyone is watching…many are judging…a few are understanding.   What people may see when they look in my “fish bowl” is a messy house, piles of dirty laundry, lots of disorganization, Josiah watching too much TV, some questionable financial decisons, and me fighting anxiety, depression and my weight.  There is not a sticker chart or memory verse to be found anywhere and my “quiet times” are often few and far between.

When I look in my “fish bowl,” I see two healthy, happy and deeply loved children,  a marriage that is growing despite so many challenges, a spiritual life that is recovering from some deep wounds, and myself overcoming A LOT of junk every single day.  Yep, I see the mess too but it’s not the most important thing right now.

I really wish that more people had taken the time to look into our “fish bowl” and see what I see.  I believe it’s what God sees too.  I believe that in some ways it qualifies us for ministry rather than disqualifying us. It makes us more compassionate.  More able to do that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.  I know that from now on, I will try not to judge other peoples “fish bowls.”

All that to say, we have been revisiting the possibility that our time in ministry is not over.  My reaction to that possibility goes something like this…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I DON’T WANNA LIVE LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!  I NEVER WANT TO FEEL LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!  NO! NO! NO!  Alas, we will do what we feel God is asking of us.  If (big if) we go into ministry again, I will approach it very differently.

When Jaison and I were dating,  I kept telling him how crazy I am!  I would tell him all about my insecurities, dysfunctions, sensitivities etc.. I did not put on an act for him…I needed him to know who I REALLY am, so that I could know that he was marrying the real me.  After we go married, he realized I was telling the truth!  I told him “I told you so! You are stuck with me now! Ha Ha”  Thankfully, he is happy to be “stuck” with me 🙂

This is how I will approach ministry if we do it again. I just might invite the whole church over to look in our closets, check our bank accounts and read my journals. I will tell them just how crazy I am. I will invite them to tell us if they see something they think is questionable and tell us promptly.  Whatever the outcome, at least we will be able to say “we told you so” and just maybe we will find some people who are able to overlook our “fish bowl” and are happy to be “stuck” with us.

Dancing In The Rain

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

It’s not a Bible verse, but it is Biblical. Trials and suffering are part of the Christian life.  They have certainly been a significant part of my spiritual journey.  It has been “raining” for a long time now. Lately,  I have been challenged to press through it.  For awhile now, I have been waiting for the storm to pass.  Looking for optimal conditions to really live life and be what I am supposed to be.

What if the storm never passes?  Then, I will have wasted my life.

In nature, little grows in places where the sun shines all the time.  It’s places that get lots of rain that flourish.  I think the same applies spiritually.  I tend to think that a spiritually “blessed” life, is one that does not see a lot of adversity, rejection and grief.  Maybe it’s just the opposite?

We keep praying for God to take away the “storms”.   They keep coming.  I have to believe that they are producing growth, that we can flourish through them.  Somehow, they are molding us into the people that we are supposed to be.

For years, I have been thinking of writing about the REALITY of my spiritual life.  Not about the highs and great accomplishments but about the lows.  The doubts, failures and imperfections.  I have been afraid of what people will think and how it might affect our position in ministry.  I’m not afraid anymore…

It’s time to start “dancing” in the rain.