Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wander/Wonder

When I wander, I wonder.

There, I confess.  I said it.  The truth is out.

Two words only separated by one vowel, but greatly different.

I love how Jennifer Rothschild words it in "Invisible" (an incredible book by the way!), "When our thoughts wander from God, we begin to wonder who we are."

Yep.

Guilty.

Let me say it again, GUILTY.

The moment I look outside to anything other than Christ for my identity, I falter.  I flail.  I sink rapidly.  That downward spiral happens in a flash of lightning.

She asks this question, " If I am in Christ, why am I  in crisis?"...

The beautiful response...

"I know why---it's because I am prone to wander.  I am always one errant thought away from rejecting the truth that God accepts me and instead adopting the lie that He accepts everyone EXCEPT me."

"When we don't see the truth that we are loved, we seek proof that we are loved."

"We often find ourselves in places or seasons of life where we feel like a nobody. It can be hard to see our own value if we are feeling constantly overlooked or we associate our value with our virtue. You know, if we are good, we are worthy of being acknowledged.  If we behave, we merit attention."

Now, I don't know about you, but to me those words are really hitting a raw spot in my own heart.

We HAVE to stop embracing the lie that our worth comes ANYWHERE other than God himself.  Otherwise, we are going to be constantly seeking validation or placing pressure on someone or something to fill us up.  AND. WE. WILL. REMAIN. EMPTY.

Empty.

Who I am is found in WHO HE IS.

It is easy to feel invisible in the world we live in.  Social media, technology, and just the influx of information and inundation of "stuff" overwhelms. 

If we don't pull away and quiet our hearts to meditate on His truth, we can't silence the lies.

As a SAHM, homeschool mom that is CONSTANTLY surrounded by someone ALWAYS needing something, I can't tell you the number of times that I feel like I'm spinning around in a room and just want to scream, "I can't hear you." Some days, it is pure controlled chaos.  The noise, the motion, the lack of personal space. Granted, as my kids have gotten older, it's much less of the physical demands (I'm finally beyond the days of cooking with someone on my hip or don't typically have fingers poking under the door of the bathroom---unless it's one of my "littles") and more of the emotional demands.  (Someone remind me that I WILL live through the teen years!). 

Just as I feel as if at times I can't breathe as my day is spiraling around with loops and dives of a roller coaster and I want to jump off and say "FREEZE".... it's the same way with God. He is right there waiting for me...to just stop and listen.

I DO have to stop.  I DO have to purposely take that time away to just reach for the calm and sit with Him.  Read His Word.  Be in communication with Him.  Learning.  Studying.  Acting in Obedience.  Listening. Repeat: listening!

Because if I don't. 

I wonder.

I wonder if I'm good enough.
I wonder if anyone really cares.
I wonder if anyone sees me.
I wonder if He loves me. 

My husband may make a fairly innocuous statement and suddenly I'm wondering if he meant something else. Which is then followed by, I wonder if he still loves me like he used to.  Or that little comment may spark a pointless war in which there is no winner.

I see a prayer answered for someone else, and I wonder why I'm not good enough to have it answered for me.

I see someone praised for something they did for someone and I start harboring bitterness because someone didn't thank me for the same thing.

I do something for someone and they don't acknowledge it or don't acknowledge it "enough" or with enough thought that I wonder if I'm not good enough for them. This is especially a hot button for me when I spend hours upon hours making something or putting EXTRA thought into a gift instead of just grabbing something off the shelf.

I can't solve this or that problem in my parenting, in a relationship, etc... and I allow it to seep deeply into my heart as it screams failure, you're not enough, etc...

My sins condemn me instead of convict me.

Oh my, how that list can go in.

I'm getting vulnerable and honest here (as I've always promised to do---no matter how scary that is!).

Those things are the reality of what happens when I'm not rooted and grounded in Him.  I become so self-focused and inward driven.  The more I obsess with me, the easier it is to stray from Him.  OUCH!  Did I really just type that out loud? :)

But there's this BEAUTIFUL reality.  When I stop wandering, I stop wondering.  When I purposely spend time in His word, my perspective changes.  Moving from self-focused to soul-focused is POWERFUL. It's where I go from head held low, emotionally in a pit----to head held high and victorious. 

But...

If I don't take that time...

The pit swallows up quicker than walking in mud in flip-flops! OK---think about that image.  Have you ever done that?  It just draws you deeper and deeper.  Every subsequent step feels more and more difficult.  And----if you're wearing those cheapy flip-flops---you'll probably even find that the straps might break.  Been there. Done that. (Ever run out in flip flops to quickly take the dog out and he decides to drag you along on a wild tangent that ALWAYS includes mud?  Maybe that's just our 4-legged crazy creature!)

Today, purpose your heart to not wonder who you are and what your value is.  My value, your value, comes from His inherent value. But to know that, to REALLY know that, we have to be spending time with HIM.  It's not enough to sit through a church service and consider that enough to silence the lies that Satan loves to whisper.  Even if you manage to go every single week or even twice a week, it's not enough. 

It's easy for me to know if I'm spending enough time with Him.  The days (weeks, months) that I'm letting the priority slide perfectly coincide with the same time frame that I'm struggling with worth, negativity, bitterness, anger, etc...  Unfortunately, my family and those relationships closest to me also know.  They are like an instant thermometer of my spiritual health.  It's not coincidence.


















Thursday, January 21, 2016

When God Changes Your Name

Recently, I was reading in Genesis where God changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah. It made me think also of another situation where He changed a name: Jacob to Israel.  I find it of pivotal importance when God steps in and does that.  To me, "whys" have always mattered (I'm not good at looking at things on just the surface) and what the benefit is of such significant changes. 

Abraham's and Sarah's names were changed to name them as "father of many nations" and "mother of many nations". (Genesis 17) Abraham was 99 years old when this happened and at this point he had no children.  God fulfilled that name change the following year when Sarah did finally conceive and give birth to Isaac (and she was 90!). Back in Chapter 15, God had shown Abraham that he would have descendants as countless as the stars in the sky. He was 75 at the time.  He had to wait about 25 years to see the beginning of that promise come true in his life.  Can you imagine how many doubts filled his mind throughout the years?  Can you imagine Sarah's disappointment each time she knew that "this" just wasn't the month, yet again? But when God stepped in....everything changed.  It wasn't an immediate fulfillment of a promise, there weren't immediate results of the name change, but it happened.  Through their stories, we learn to not give up when the timing seems so long to us.

Jacob became Israel in Genesis 33, changing him from a deceiver to a prince. Jacob, a grandson of Abraham, was living a life of deceit.  He deeply deceived his brother Esau and had to flee to Haran. Though he had a dream reminding him of God's covenant with Abraham, he still didn't make that needed life change.  A few years down the road, as a father of 12 sons (later becoming the 12 tribes of Israel), he continued to fight against family and lived a life of deceit, most especially with his uncle, Laban. Needing to return to Canaan, Jacob feared passing by his brother Esau that he previously fled from.  The night before arriving, Jacob wrestled with an angel of God throughout the night and was injured in his hip/thigh. It was at that time that Jacob was renamed Israel, which some say means "he struggles with God" and some say mean "having power with God." God changes his name and reminds him of his purpose, BUT he still struggled.  He changed the name and the man eventually changed to live up to that name, but it was a long hard process.  Through his story, we learn that real growth comes at times through struggle and pain.

Names are changed to give a new identity. 

In a few months, I'm going to have the chance to rediscover my own identity a bit.  I made the decision, with the full support of my husband, to completely step away from ALL childcare in my home for many reasons. There will be no more "tot" school and no more "littles" to love on.  A big change is ahead for me.  For the first time in about 19 years, I will be without a little one to care for (either my own or someone else's that I care for as deeply as my own) and won't have someone in diapers or potty training.  My role is changing.  Many things I've put off, I'll have a chance to begin or restart.  In many cases, it's going to be discovery mode. For half my life, I've been identified AND lived out a life that centers around small children.  I have had, even what some consider irrational, a DEEP love for little ones.  It's who I am.  Though I still love them and will have some deep withdrawal, I'm going to be going on adventure to see what other identities are within me.  That may be a bit of an "off balance" time as those changes take place.

Identity is important. 

What happens when God changes OUR names?

When we turn our lives over to Him, our name does become Christian, but what if we took that a step deeper? We become a new creation with a new identity! What identity is that?

We change sinner to redeemed.

We change unworthy to deeply loved.

What if we stopped living as victims and let our name be VICTORIOUS? How would that change our actions, thought patterns, and the way we move about life?

We change from hopeless to with hope.

We go from abandoned to cherished.

This list goes on and on.

Yet, here's the problem.  This is where I'm guilty...

I don't walk in that new identity often enough. 

I stay in the old.  I crush my potential.  I don't succeed at fulfilling my purpose.  Wonder how many blessings have been lost, lives changed, or opportunities missed?

Yet, we ARE these new things.  When we encounter God's presence, HE CHANGES US. 

Our new identity is right there for us. 

But....

We have to embrace it. 
We have to grow into it.
Yes, we might even have to struggle through it.

Are we choosing our new name or staying stuck in our old ones?

Today, what if...

What if, we just took one little step that moved us towards LIVING out our identities in Christ.

Knowing who we are IN CHRIST changes everything.















Friday, January 15, 2016

Blind Faith?

Back in April, we found ourselves in a position that required us to completely place our trust in a team of medical providers in an unexpected emergency situation.  Our daughter, almost 18 at the time, had a relentless headache that just wouldn't respond to any of the typical at home remedies.  Since she has an extremely high pain tolerance, when she became unable to tolerate the pain, my husband and I decided a quick trip to convenient care was in order.  We figured they could give her something stronger than the ineffective over the counter meds and she'd come back home and sleep it off with some knock out drugs.  Our middle son was away on a church trip and was due to return in another hour or two, so my husband took her down the street to the walk in clinic while I took off for an intended quick 5K walk with our youngest.  Of course, as luck would have it, I was at the furthest point from home on foot when he called and said that the clinic wanted her taken to the ER.  Though I was in our neighborhood, I was still several minutes away from home and our son needed picked up soon, so it was decided they would go on to the ER (especially once I found out that the clinic was so adamant about her going that they had called ahead to the ER to alert them).  At the time, both dad and daughter were actually laughing because they thought the need to go was "ridiculous".  We are definitely not the type to just run to the doctor for every little sniffle and ER trips, in our eyes, are for the bleeding to death kind of emergencies.  Little did we know that we were about to be on a crazy roller coaster.

I made record time in getting home and then paced and prayed.  Paced some more.  If you know me, you know I'll clean like a crazy woman when I'm stressed.  We'll just say that while I was waiting for initial reports to find out what was going on, my kitchen became as spotless as it could possibly be.  I'm surprised I didn't rub a hole in the counter tops from shining them so much. 

She went in with a headache but the REAL problem was something was wrong with her heart.  She was sustaining a heartrate of no less than 200 beats per minute and at times was well beyond that. She was considered in Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT).  She had extreme facial flushing and her extremities had become very mottled- purplish lace-like. However, she was laughing and still just as sweet and gracious to everyone around her.  Oh---she still had that MEGA headache that became unimportant. When my husband realized the headache wasn't even a concern to them at the time and more and more staff was being called into her room, he knew that I "probably" needed to find a way to get the boys and head to the hospital.  At that time, it was getting pretty late and I didn't have many options for the boys so we grabbed a backpack and went. 

What I didn't know was that I was walking in the hospital and being directed back to her "room", her room was filled to capacity with medical staff from multiple specialties as they gave a medicine to literally stop her heart.  They made the decision to stop it from beating in hopes that it would begin beating on its own again at a normal rhythm. Professionals stood by with cardiac crash cart in hand in case it didn't start on its own. 

What?

Are you kidding me?

You mean to tell me that my perfectly healthy, seldom EVER seen by a doctor, tiny and strong daughter was lying in a bed with her heart stopped by a medication in "hopes" that it would restart.  Normally.

(And no, I didn't have a CLUE at this point.  Dad was in the room, but he really didn't know what was going on either because it was a blur.)

Just seconds after her heart did beat again on its own, it again was beating at the same increased rate.  Though they were relieved that no additional medical intervention was required to restart it, she continued in SVT and that was becoming more and more troubling to them.  In came more staff and phone calls were being made to other hospitals with pediatric cardiologists on call.  At that time, I arrived and Kevin went to sit with the boys.  (Just knowing I was in the hospital, STANDING, instead of out cold on the floor was a miracle in itself.  I. Don't. Do. Hospitals.  Who am I kidding? I don't even do doctor's offices! My panic attacks from years prior with Peyton NOT ONCE surfaced during this whole time.  Miracle in itself right there!).

Her very sweet nurse came back in and told Adriana that in the next few minutes they were going to try that same thing again.  Though I wasn't aware of them doing it the first time since I was driving and hadn't been updated, I INSTANTLY knew what they were talking about.  I KNEW what was happening without explanation.  I knew THIS WAS SERIOUS.  She asked Adriana if she was prepared for that "feeling" again.  (She described it as the time she broke her ribs in gymnastics on the uneven bars, but a thousand times worse. That crushing pain of broken ribs and the wind knocked out of her lungs.)

In those moments, it was about BLIND FAITH.

Trusting in the knowledge of the professionals.  Believing they knew far more than I did.  Knowing that there was something serious enough going on to warrant something so drastic.  Letting them do what they needed to do and not standing in the way. Giving them full liberty to do anything and everything necessary, regardless of how uncomfortable, how difficult to see, or how unsure I was of what was happening.

THAT moment taught me MANY things (as did the whole roller coaster!)---but something that STOOD out ABOVE and BEYOND all else.

The "blind faith".

I trusted without question, no matter how much it heart my momma heart.

Do I do that same thing with Christ? Do I fully trust Him?

Or rather, do I fight him.  Argue with him.  Plead my case.

Do I trust when He says, "Wait."?  Do I let Him have the room to work in my life with full access? Do I trust Him when dreams aren't fulfilled?  Do I trust in the valleys? What about when I feel it's "unfair", too hard, too painful, or asking "too" much? What about when He asks the hard things?  Or what about when I'm defiant, stubborn, or too meek, fearful, or scared?

Really, it isn't about blind faith.  I read once that it's better described as "well-founded faith" and it has stuck with me.  I like that version much better.

I trusted the doctors because of their training, their knowledge, their skills, and their hands on experience.  I didn't trust them blindly as just a stranger on the street with no medical knowledge.  I had something to go on.  Yes, it required trust, but it wasn't completely blind.

Trusting in our Savior isn't any different.  In the life of a believer, that trust and faith is well-founded instead of blind.  We have His Word packed full of countless examples to strengthen our faith, teach us about Him, and show us how to live. We see His miracles.  We see how He lived, what He's capable of, just HOW POWERFUL He is. We can see prophesies fulfilled and promises kept.  Not only does scripture give us that basis, but also our real life.  We KNOW that He's at work in our lives.  We've seen Him at work in others. Above all, we have the Holy Spirit living in active within us. 

We aren't walking around blindly.

We are trusting in Well-founded faith.

Sometimes, we just need to remember that.  When we are afraid to trust or don't like our circumstances,  when we are going through some hard things or grieving the loss of someone or something valuable to us, when we feel abandoned, or.....  (insert an unending list...)

We also need to trust in that well-founded faith when we have to place our trust in situations that are out of our control.  Just like in the ER---I had to step back and say, "I trust you. I believe that you are doing the best for my daughter."  I didn't like what was happening.  I didn't want her uncomfortable.  I didn't want to feel completely surrendered and have to give up my control.  But...

It was necessary. 

Today, I know I need to say the same to my Heavenly Father. "I trust you.  I believe that you are doing the best for me (or this situation, or this person, etc...).  I'm struggling with giving you this control, but I know it's for my best.  You are at work.  I may not know what You are doing, I don't even necessarily find it comfortable.  But I trust.  You've always proven to be in control.  You are LORD of my life and I place my trust in YOU.  I hand to you my whole life, even the hidden parts and every situation." 

(On a side note for those not knowing how our "story" ended:  IT continued be a roller coaster.  Her heart stayed in that state of stress for several days landing her in CCU under full monitoring. Yes, she got crazy looks from every one coming in the door to care for her.  They expected to see an elderly patient hooked up to those monitors instead of a young girl. Though a medication could have been used to slow the heart rate, the approach was that it was more important to find the cause.  We couldn't just treat the symptoms.  As those days passed, few people knew just how many initial diagnosis thoughts were given to us, what was tested for, or how serious of a concern they had for her.  If it was a scary word or diagnosis, it was suggested as a possibility to be looked at and ruled out. As those days progressed, we began to have another issue of her white blood counts bottoming out and her platelets dropping.  Practically to non-existence, putting her at even greater risks.  Yes, she even eventually picked up the FLU on top of it all.  It was a LONG in hospital week, followed by several weeks of continued testing and sitting in oncology/hematology clinics waiting for results of those scary words.  EVERY SINGLE test came back as negative. Nothing could be found.  After about a month, her blood counts finally returned to normal (and yes she was a PINCUSHION after daily blood draws---they cringed seeing her come in because it was getting more and more difficult to get a vein.).  Her heart is still a bit on the faster side for someone in her healthy condition, but that slight elevation is probably a normal for her.  She is a tiny person to begin with (our munchkin was only 22 pounds at 2.5 years old!), but by the time that hospitalization was over she'd lost another 10% of her bodyweight.  Today, 7 months later, she's not quite gained back to her starting weight and still has a bit of energy lag at times, but ALL tests still remain normal.  Even with my history of Lupus and a great history of thyroid issues in both of our extended families, those tests even returned normal.  So medically speaking it was decided an unknown virus attacked her heart and blood system.  Quite possible.  But perhaps, God also intervened, placing another miracle right in our hands. She was healthy enough to go back to the Dominican Republic that summer without any restrictions.)

(On another side note:  that very special ER nurse happened to pass her while shopping in a fabric store many months later.  It was a providential meeting.  You see, our daughter made an incredible impact on her with her attitude while under such stress.  She took the time to THANK HER for taking care of her as she was being wheeled up to CCU and even after every invasive or uncomfortable procedure she would commend her for doing a good job.  We didn't remember her name and as is typical, once a person leaves the ER, it's not typical to know what happens after.  The nurse had always wondered about her "sweet crazy heart teen!" and was just floored to see her healthy and without long term complications.  She had feared the worst.  Then just last month, Adriana had the opportunity to do a clinical rotation in that ER as part of her EMT training, and it was a great moment to see her once again!  Go, God!)











Thursday, January 14, 2016

Looking Forward

13 months.  THIRTEEN months.  Of silence.

But, I'm back.  Ready to jump back in, dust off the keyboard, and put my thought back to "paper" once again.

I felt like I needed to step back for awhile and at the time I had no idea that the whispers in my heart would continue to say, "keep waiting".  I finally felt like I had the "green light" to share what is on my heart once again, but that hit at the busiest season and time of life so I had to anxiously wait a bit longer. 

Now that I'm back, I don't intend to spend a lot of time giving you a run down of what has been going on the last 13 months of life!  I am sure that some of it will trickle down naturally through my future posts, but in general----it has been hard, it has been amazing, HE has done lots of REFINING and reshaping.  I will also say that my year of being 40 was phenomenal in regards to finding a new confidence (or as I like to say God-fidence!) to be ME, more and more every day. The inside work He's been doing makes me look forward with great anticipation! Ladies---here's a side note---don't fear 40!  It's actually freeing, fun, and worth celebrating. 

I'll admit---this getting back online feels GOOD, but my goodness I am rusty!  I couldn't even remember how to log on or even my own blog address.  It's. Been. That. Long.

I think it's important to look back and learn from our mistakes, but it's more important to also look forward. When I forget that, I remember being asked a question.  "Do you know why a car's rearview mirror is so small, but the windshield is so large?"  We DO need to see where we've been and occasionally have to look back, but it's vital to be looking forward and have a wide, unobscured view. 

Looking back, I took a break because of time constraints, my relationships weren't getting the best of me, I was letting "this" replace my individual one on one time with Him much too often, and dare-I-admit....my blog had become somewhat of an idol for me.  The Bible clearly says to kick those to the curb! (putting it in my own words).  An idol is anything that separates us or leads us astray from God.  I obviously didn't purposely worship my blog, but I placed it on a pedestal and it began to slowly become an idol in my heart.  Anything can become idols in our life.  Even good things.

I recently read an article from HomeLife magazine that was reprinted on Lifeway.com.(Full Article Here)  In this article, it summed it up really well.  Idols make empty promises, obscure reality, consume resources, and robs joy.  "Idolatry leaves you empty because idols are empty." Yes, that's where I found myself. 

Spiritual spring cleaning was in order (and a very much ongoing process).

I also had become VERY overwhelmed with sharing so much of my heart, my faith, and my hopes.  I TRULY wanted it to reach hearts and to be a ministry (STILL my main goal!), but I had become so broken and both emotionally and physically weighed down by wanting it to change hearts and not often seeing the fruits. 

I had forgotten that I can plant, BUT ONLY HE CAN MAKE IT GROW.

Looking forward is where my focus now rests.  I look forward with great anticipation.  My heart is in a new place and the door is wide open for Him to work.

I have clear goals now.

Be me.  No one else.
Step back anytime I feel that I'm putting Him second.
No getting caught up in numbers, comments, growth charts, etc.. My goal is for one.  Reach one.  Reach one more.
Remember that HE is the only one that can make ANYTHING grow. 

With that said, here's to a new adventure.  I'm currently reading "Simply Tuesday: Small Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World" by Emily Freeman.  She says it best:

We plant, trusting God for the growth.
We act in faith, trusting God for the outcome.
We build, trusting God to fill.
We offer, trusting God with the response.

I'm back.  Planting. Acting in faith.  Building without being responsible for filling.  Offering while trusting God.

Pretty sure that's a perfect way to be looking forward. 
















Thursday, December 18, 2014

Growing in the Valley

Our greatest times of growth comes during the times we spend in the valleys. 

I've heard that said different times throughout my life and have come to greatly believe it more and more the older I get.  Sometimes it may take us a long time to be able to see the growth because we are blinded by the hard times we are in OR we might just be stubborn (ha!)  Seeing the growth taking place WHILE we are still in the valley itself---that comes from spiritual maturity and faith.

THIS has been a valley week (or several weeks) for me.  Multiple painful and stressful situations going on, emotionally on a roller coaster as I think of this time of year and grief, and physically a battle with lupus were already swirling like crazy and then I think the bottom of the valley floor smacked me in the face. I had the rug pulled out from under me in a way that I was TOTALLY not expecting with someone very dear to me betraying my trust like I've never experienced before. It literally took my breath away and physically felt like I broke in multiple pieces.  I also had to FINALLY face the fact that a highly valued friendship(s) has changed so much that I had to  "release" it and along with it I had to let go of my expectations, hopes, and LOTS of hurt.

In the valley, I can already see growth happening.  However, I don't want to be in the valley.  I most definitely do NOT want to be having to grow.  I most definitely would rather life be easy and without pain. I would much rather just float along on "easy street".  (Annie lyrics are going through my head as I type that----though I've not seen the newest version, this Annie fan of many years is quite excited to see it soon!). 

But...

I have a choice to make.

Kick and scream.  Fight like crazy.  Spiral downward.  Shake my fist at God.  Spew back hate and hurtful words.  Give up.

Or....

Grow. 

See what it is that He is wanting me to see during this difficulty. 

Maturity comes from trying to see through His eyes.

For me, this growth in this particular valley is all about forgiveness.

Forgiving the betrayal and trusting again, though my heart is bruised and the wound still very fresh.  Offering grace and mercy SO the relationship can have room to be healed.  Looking at the roots of the situations instead of just at the surface.

Forgiving God. 

Granted, putting those two words together is quite odd.  They really shouldn't go together.  Why in the world should I need to forgive a perfect God? Who am I to think that He needs forgiveness? 

He doesn't.

But I do.

I need to say, "I forgive you", so that the chains holding me back can be broken.  It has nothing to do with actually forgiving Him---it's all about the posture of my heart. 

Sometimes, we just need to say it. 

We just need to say it so we can move on.

God, I forgive you.

I forgive you for "allowing" me to go through this/that situation instead of preventing it.  I forgive you for not "allowing" that dream to take place or forgive you for not making it easy and without obstacles.  (After all, don't we tend to think that if God gives us a dream and calls us to something it should happen instantly and without obstacles! For example, our desire to be in the foreign mission field.) I forgive you for not allowing that friendship to remain as top priority and meet the needs that I thought it would.  I forgive you for "taking away" that person (either by death, by location, or anything that causes separation).  I forgive you for not solving the financial dilemma.  I forgive you for not healing that person.  I forgive you for not providing this/that on MY timetable.  I forgive you for.............

I forgive you.

Again, He doesn't need forgiveness.  He's done nothing wrong.  His ways are FAR beyond our ways and He sees a big picture that we can not always see.  His timing works entirely different than ours. 

But....

To say the words and mean them...

Opens the door to our heart for the chains to be broken.  The growth to happen.  The changes to take place.  The bitterness to be released.  The selfishness and expectation to be removed. 

The forgiveness changes US.

Yesterday, I couldn't breath.  Hurt was so heavy that I felt in a fog.  I felt like I was waking with a pair of the kids old "moon shoes" on.  Smiling on the outside when necessary---but crumbling on the inside. Thinking there was no way I could survive all of these "things" going on in my heart with any faith intact.

But then...

I realized that I'm growing. 

I'm growing IN the valley.  I'm not just waiting to see how I grew--after the fact. 

Then I realized that THIS growth was about forgiveness.  Sure, I need to forgive some individuals.  I need to forgive myself.  I need to seek forgiveness for some of my own reactions and faults...

But in reality...

I needed to forgive Him. 

I had to ask for the chains to be broken.  I had to release my anger towards Him.  Had to release Him from the hurt.  Because...

THAT'S when TRUE growth can happen.

I say it often, "I trust in Him."  Yet, then I don't.  I really only give him PART of my trust or I pair together trust and doubt.  In reality, that isn't trust at all. 

To trust means I have to completely surrender.

So in this valley, in this hard place, in this hard season----I surrender.

God, grow me.  Grow me, HERE.  Grow me, now.  Teach me YOUR ways.  Show me YOUR truth and YOUR plan. 

I'm yours. 

Grow me.

Either in the valley or the mountain top.  Grow me.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Garbage In...

I *may* be a bit hard-headed.
I *may* be a bit stubborn.
I *may* struggle with an issue that I KNOW has a fairly "easy" solution for WAY too long because I just won't give in.
I *may* also have learned something in the past and still slip back into a bad habit, negative way of thinking, etc..

That *may* be true of me right now....

Ok.  Forget this *may* business...

My name is Tracye and I'm stubborn.  I can be staring directly at a solution for WAY too long, but just too hard-headed or "weak" to submit to it.

That has become SO very apparent in my thought life.

I firmly believe that what you put in your mind is what's going to come out.  What you feed your heart is what's going to come back out in your life.  That is the reason we are SO very picky about what our children watch or listen to, what they are exposed to, and what we feed their hearts.  Even more so, that's why WE continue that same level over into our adult lives.

Find yourself in chaos, hard times, overwhelming stress and just in general---weighed down by life---what you've fed your heart and mind is what is going to come back out.  Most especially during times of pressure.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

It's why I flood my heart with worshipful music.  Why we have raised the bar so high on what we will watch on TV, in the theater----in public or behind closed doors. 

It's also why I've forced myself to step away 24/7 Facebook access.

I've mentioned many times before how it has drawn me into a place of anxiety, depression, bitterness, anger.  I've walked in to the door of discontent, comparison, etc..  Simply put:  it's been a poison to my soul.

BUT....

I love it.  I love the connection.  I love the encouragement from multiple sources.  I love "seeing" others outside my four walls.

Because it's the ONLY way many family members and far away friends see our family and I see theirs, I couldn't just walk away. 

I find it necessary on MULTIPLE levels.

But, I was an addict.  There you go.  It's the truth. 

I may not have spent long periods of time on it during the day, but my countless few seconds here or five minutes there ADDED up immensely. DRAMATICALLY!

I needed to step away....

But in today's media world it's nearly impossible to cut it off completely.  It IS in reality a form of communication that many people use on a regular basis.

So, I had to come to a compromise and it's working.  I don't keep it open all day and I have GREATLY reduced the amount of time by only purposely using it on mobile devices instead of mindlessly filling in every second of downtime and waiting (which was my downfall!).  I only give myself a certain amount of time to check in to see if anything is going on.  I specifically go only to certain pages to check for updates instead of scrolling through newsfeed every time (sick friends, those that are posting updates about specific prayer needs, etc...). Lots of little details that have balanced out the time I spend and therefore how my emotions have been affected.

Let me be blunt:  we often say we don't have time to read the Bible, send a personal note to a friend, spend time in prayer, sit in the quiet and LISTEN, spend some quality time TALKING with a loved one, etc....  It's a lie.  A flat out lie we tell ourselves or a lie that we believe from satan.  It IS true that life is a whirlwind speed, BUT we honestly waste so much time in big ways and little ways that add up.  We DO have time for what we decide is important.

Because my heart has been struggling with countless issues, I KNEW I had to step away and refocus.  It's come in the form of social media. 

I also had found myself watching more "tv" on my kindle (we don't have cable and our TV is so old that we seldom sit in front of it to watch anything).  Though I wasn't watching anything "bad" by normal standards, I had found myself drawn into "binge" watching shows/series.  It was affecting my time AND my emotions. 

Time to step away again.

Along with reading books that lead me towards spiritual growth, I've with great purpose been instead spending my time WRITING positive thoughts.  All those COUNTLESS positive pictures with quotes/scriptures from facebook/instagram/pinterest that I had been saving as screenshots on my phone, have now been written down in a journal (though I still have 100s left!).  It has freed up space on my phone and computer, BUT more importantly it has filled up my heart.  The process of writing them down and then having them in ONE place has been remarkable. This notebook has now become "my" place of redirect.  If I'm having a bad day, need encouragement, find my thoughts going down a path of negativity or anger, need to relax, etc....  I can pull out the journal and either read what's written or add more.  Sometimes they are convicting reminders.  Sometimes they encourage me to not give up.  Sometimes they just make me laugh.  They all point me back to Him.



The result....

My heart is GROWING in the direction it needs.
My thoughts are centering around positivity.
I can HEAR God more clearly at work in my heart and it's MUCH easier to get my heart in a place to connect with Him.
Conflicts at home in regards to parenting and marriage are not nearly as volatile when my heart is in a good place.  It's easier to forgive, compromise on solutions, and "let it go".
I'm more full of joy, affection, laughter, and at peace.
I can more easily find myself thinking of others and seeking to encourage them.
Hurtful situations don't cause the same amount of distress.
The ability to handle stress is increasing.
The downward spiral is decreasing.

Even the physically difficult days (which have hit HARD and FREQUENT with the weather changes and some SLE imbalances!) are easier to handle.

All because....

Of what I'm stepping away from and instead replacing.

So many people think it doesn't matter what you put in front of your eyes.  What you read doesn't matter.  What kind of movies and TV shows we watch don't matter.

But it does.  Oh it does!

I'm being spiritually fed and coming alive again.  I can sense His presence more often and easily---though still a work in progress.  My prayer life is reviving.  I'm reviving.





Friday, December 5, 2014

Just like a load of laundry...

Today, I found myself just standing in front of the washing machine lost in thought as I watched a load of clothes swirling around. At first I was just "out of it", lost in another world, as my thoughts were swirling around just like those clothes.  My head was working "through" unexpected thoughts I had just shared with a friend in a text message.  I was going over what I had said about some areas that God was leading me to release to Him. 

As I stood there, I began to think about those clothes and how they relate to our spiritual lives. 

We wear clothes and they get soiled.  Some just a bit and others disgustingly so.  If you have boys in your life, they mostly all will fall in the later category! :)

Life is like that.  Our hearts are like that.

They get stained.  They get dingy. They get worn out, stretched out, and in need of refreshing.

Sometimes I get angry or bitter towards God, though I know that's wrong in itself and a matter my heart still needs to work through on many levels.  I think of how sometimes life just gets hard.  Nothing comes easy it seems.

 I may have friends that on the outside look like they have it all together.  Finances never seem to be an issue to them.  They can travel around the world often and do.  They can give their children the best of everything.  They just don't ever have to really consider something as crucial as planning meals just so that you know there is enough money in the bank account to cover the ingredients---they can "do" and "go".  There may be friends that just always seem to have a great support system when hard times hit.  They don't ever seem to have to feel alone or have to struggle to balance things because they have a massive amount of people that will drop everything when they are in need.  There may be friends that are from families that are intact and relationships aren't strained. Friends with abundant talent.  Friends that look straight from a magazine.  Etc..., etc...

I can take those feelings of improperly placed jealousy and bitterness and let it get the best of me.  I can let those things bubble out of me to the point that I can't see the gifts and blessings right in front of me. 

I can get irritated at God and wonder why in the world life can't be "easy" for us.  After all, I try hard.  I do my best to live a life pleasing to Him.  Therefore, shouldn't life be easy. 

Simply put, NO. 

It doesn't work that way. 

Struggles actually keep me pointed towards Him.  Seeking Him.  Needing Him.  Unable to rely on myself. 

That load of laundry in the washing machine just didn't sit there. 

To get clean, it had to be agitated, tossed around, rubbed the wrong way.  It had to be subjected to hot or cold water---not just a comfortable temperature.  As a watched a specific article of clothing go into the water and agitate around in a specific pattern before coming back up to start the entire cycle again, I thought of how I'm in the same cycle. 

Dunked into the hot water (or cold). Swirled around and around.  Tossed and agitated.  Rubbed.  Subjected to deep cleaning.  All before I can come up for air again, barely catch my breath and then the cycle begins again.

For my heart to be clean and to be growing in Him, I have to continuously go through a refining process.  Clothes don't get clean just sitting in the laundry basket (contrary to the belief of my children!).  God can't shape me into His vision if I'm constantly living a comfortable, easy life.  Though clothes sometimes need to soak in water for stubborn stains, for the most part the cleaning process takes places through a pushing, pulling, tugging process.  An active process.  My heart and life are the same.  I can't expect to grow in Him or become more of the woman He wants me to be, passively.  I can't just sit in one spot and expect that growth process to just happen without some effort.  Without some moments of struggle.  Without some pain. 

Oh, how He loves me (and you!).  Oh, how He wants the best for us.  He loves us so much that He doesn't want us just sitting around in our own filth. 

Sometimes that growth and change of heart can come quickly and easily.  Sometimes situations can quickly shape us and refine us.

But sometimes....

Many times...

Often times...

It doesn't come from our comfort.  It doesn't come from just observation. 

We have to let ourselves be subjected to the hot waters.  The cold water.  The dunking and twirling.  The swirling around. 

Just like a load of clothes can come out fresh and clean---after the process of being washed, heated, and folded----so can we. 

He alone makes us clean.  It's not from something we do or don't do.  It's purely by His mercy and grace and SACRIFICE for our sins that we are made spotless in His sight. 

But we also require some daily refreshing...soil removal...sprucing up.

To keep growing in Him---finding out more of what His purpose for us is---we have to go through that not so easy process of refining.

As I find myself, DEEP in that refining process as He's shown my heart some changes He wants and some different directions, I *want* to just skip the cleaning process.  I want to just skip over the hard stuff and get straight to the victory. 

But...

It doesn't work that way.

So, instead.....

Just like those clothes I watched today...

I will be twisted, agitated, swirled, knocked around...

BUT....

In the end...

I'll be like that freshly washed basket of laundry waiting to be put away.  Clean.  Refreshed.  Renewed.  Ready to be used by Him. 

Oh, yes....

The process becomes much more worth it when you see a glimpse of the end.  What lies ahead!