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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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Picture Perfect

My life is not picture perfect.  I’m guessing yours isn’t either. However, social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest can give the impression that EVERYBODY else’s life is picture perfect, while mine or yours is kinda messy.

I wonder sometimes, how many people spend their lives pursuing a commercialized or social media driven perception of happiness? All the while, taking their potentially fulfilling real lives for granted.

I’ve used Facebook for a few years and I have watched everyday snapshots become more and more professional looking and commercialized.   It makes me wonder if we are subconsciously (or consciously) using social media to “market” a certain perception of ourselves rather than to share our reality?

If you could see a snapshot of my life at this very moment, you would see me sitting on the couch in a sweatshirt with no make-up.  The mess from lunch is still all over the kitchen.  There are toys everywhere.  Asha’s crazy curly hair is starting to dread because I haven’t washed it for a few days and she has snot on her face because I can’t keep her from wiping it straight up into her hair.  Yuck!  I probably won’t post our picture on Facebook today!

We post the highlights and occasionally the rants but not the “ugly” stuff.  Nobody puts “I forgot to pay my credit card last month and Citibank called me 75 times today and keeps calling even after I paid it” on their status.

Yep, that happened to me!  Why didn’t I post it? Because it’s kind of embarrassing ..what will people think of me?  They might think I’m so disorganized, I can’t even pay my bills on time. They would be a little bit right and I would rather hide that fact.

So, instead I/we post things like… “My husband is so awesome, he did such and such”  OR “My kid got 120% on everything and reads 200 books everyday…” it becomes easy to believe that everyone is perfect and happy when we only see their highlights and when they only see ours.  Then we compare our reality to other people’s highlights and we feel like a huge mess.

I do that all the time.

Perhaps I am the only one?  Probably not!

The truth is- Nobody’s life is perfect.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  We post our strengths on Facebook and feel bad when someone else’s strength reminds us of our weakness.

The last few years, Jaison and I have been kind of just holding on.  Desperately trying not to fall into the grips of rejection, grief, anxiety and depression.  It’s much better now and there is starting to be “room” for more in our lives.  However, for a long season we just did what was necessary to stay afloat.  We kept it simple.  No elaborate projects or traditions. Just the basics.

Soooooooo, no fancy pictures of our house, yard, baby nursery, Christmas traditions, vacations, etc…

I’ll admit, I often have felt bad when I have seen other people’s pictures of their projects and traditions.  I have felt like I was somehow cheating my kids because they don’t have chandeliers and murals in their rooms or mischievous elves stalking them.

Here’s the truth- IT DOESN’T MATTER! 

We made it through a horrible season of life while maintaining a simple but happy life for our children and a growing marriage. Our kids are happy, we have made some great memories and we have learned some awesome lessons.

There is no way to take a picture of that.

If there was, it probably wouldn’t be pretty. It would be all messy, blurry, totally unprofessional and I would love it.  I would love it even more than a professional picture that made me look really skinny!  I would love it because it’s my REAL life. Someone else might look at it and think “ugh, what a terrible picture”  but I will always know the beauty of it.

What would your real life picture look like?

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 

 

 

Beyond Surviving

Several months ago, I came across this quote; “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”- Howard Thurman.   It really resonated with me and I have been thinking about it ever since.  I started to ask myself;  What DOES make me come alive?  That has not been an easy question to answer.

In the last three years,  life has presented me with circumstances and events that I am just happy to have survived.   I haven’t thought much about coming “alive” in a spiritual or emotional sense in a long time.  My goals were much simpler; hold on to a shred of faith and sanity…don’t scar my kids for life…avoid bankruptcy…just get through it!  In other words SURVIVE!

Now, as I contemplate what makes me come “alive, ” I do so with a fair amount of skepticism and fear.  I feel like someone who survived a bomb strike peering out the door of a fallout shelter…is it really safe to come out?  What if another bomb is on it’s way? There may not be much life in here but at least its safe.

Coming out of the survival shelter is risky but life is pretty darn limited in here.

So, what does make me come “alive?” Hugs, kisses, smiles and laughs from my babies make me feel alive.  My husbands warm touch, selfless actions, unconditional acceptance and understanding heart make me feel alive.  But, what is it that I do that makes me come to life?  What is it that I do that transcends being a wife and a mom?  What is it that I do that has potential to be a ministry to the Lord and the hurting in the world?

My answer to those questions is I write. It doesn’t matter if I am awesome at it or if a lot of people read it.   It is what I do that makes me come to life. It is how I connect with the Lord. It is how I pray. It is how I process. It is how I heal.  Maybe in the future it will be a venue to minister/encourage/teach  Who knows?

For now, this blog and writing in general is all about being “alive.”  It’s me stepping out of the survival shelter and saying safe or not, I’m getting out of here!

What do you do that makes you come “alive?”

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.