Sunday, October 24, 2010
Today the thought that stuck with me is the patience of which Nehemiah began his task of rebuilding the city walls of Jerusalem. Even after he received approval from the king to start the task, he didn't just rush in full speed ahead. Even though he had the "hand of God" on him, he didn't just start the project. He went about with a spirit of humility. He took his time in getting his bearings. He slipped into the city quietly.
I personally could learn so much from that tactic. How many times do we hear God's voice say "Go!" and then take off running? Doing what He asks is EXTREMELY important, but do we wait long enough to hear ALL of the instructions. How many times do we start running without waiting to hear him tell us HOW or WHERE? Because we don't patiently wait for ALL of his directions, we end up frustrated, out of energy. Learning to listen discerningly is important otherwise we miss GOD moments. Once I'm to the point of being frustrated or lose my motivation, then the real danger starts. That's when I start the blaming God game. How many times have I thought or said "God, this isn't fair...you said to do this, but I'm not getting anywhere or it didn't work"? WAY too many times. How many times do I race out on a task, attempt to do it in my own power, and then ask God to bless the efforts AFTERWARDS?
Truly being obedient to God involves ACTIVELY listening for ALL of the directions. Enthusiasm IS a necessary component, but many times it is patience that is needed. It doesn't matter that what I'm wanting to do MAY truly be of God's will and His directing, but if I don't stop long enough to listen to Him at every single step, I tend to find myself at the point of frustration. What I am attempting to do may have started out along the right path, but if I'm not very careful I can find that somewhere along the line I stepped out of HIM guiding and into the realm of MYSELF. Other times I learn powerful lessons from the fact that some tasks He just wants us to START. He may at times only want us to open a door and then let HIM finish the work. I think that tends to be where I find myself most discouraged. Sometimes He leads me to start something, but the "finish" isn't immediate. The results aren't instant and my response becomes quite childish. I sulk or throw my hands up and say it isn't worth it.
I've found myself in many frustrating situations in recent months that deal with these same thoughts and today's message helped me see that having to WAIT for the next step isn't a bad thing. God has started me on a couple of paths recently and I've felt like He has left me alone and that at times has left me questioning if it was TRULY Him directing me and IF so, then where did He go. Today's message reminded me that He hasn't gone anywhere and that continuing to WAIT is the place He needs me to be. From my view point, I don't have the same vision He has and I can't see the whole picture yet. He can. I don't know why I'm being asked to wait for Him to reveal the next steps, but He does and when His timing is PERFECT and as LONG as I am listening, He will provide the next step in the process. After all, how many times has someone given us complicated directions....for example physical directions to a location or directions on how to complete a project but after the 2-3rd step we REALLY TRULY tune-out. Don't we tend to end up confused or decide OUR way might just be easier or have different results. Then of course, we tend to end up lost, frustrated, the recipe flops or the project falls apart. Yes, sometimes one step at a time might be exactly what God needs to give us! As a mother, I've learned that ifI need my kids to accomplish something, the best thing for me to do is to break it down into VERY small tasks. If I give them a whole list with more than 1 or 2 steps, I might as well just give up and do it myself. God knows that there are times that He needs to do that with me as well. So, for now, I don't need to focus on the end result but rather slow down and patiently wait for His next step to be revealed.
Terri S. and Shannon C.
I hope you ladies find something inspirational in the book! I'm reading another one in the same series called "What Happens When Women Walk in Faith" and oh boy...it's a good one, too! Unfortunately, it's from the library so I haven't been able to go pink highlighter crazy!
Terri send me a message with your address and I'll get it out to you this week. Shannon, I have yours from the C.O.W website.
Monday, October 18, 2010
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Sunday, October 17, 2010
This weekend, after waiting about 13 years too long, I finally took my "alone" time. From Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, not once did I cook, clean up after someone else, make any decisions in regards to anything child or family. Though the weekend was a scrapbooking retreat with 34 other women, I found myself able to leave the group at will and find complete silence and solitude. To say it was amazing, is an understatement. I also have to admit it was completely strange and somewhat unnerving in the beginning. What do you do with that SUDDEN aloneness? What do you think about first and how to you soak it all in? Though it was interesting, it was absolutely priceless for me.
I did spend MANY hours getting to enjoy my passion of scrapbooking and being creative. That time was VERY enjoyable and MUCH appreciated, but it was the "other" time that did me the most good.
Our location was a small Christian retreat center and they welcomed us with TRUE southern hospitality (how great it was to hear a southern accent WAY more pronounced than mine EVER was!). I packed a bag full of snacks (ones PURPOSELY chosen for me to enjoy without having to share with my kids....evil, I know!!!) . I was amazed that I very seldom reached in that bag unless it was after midnight. Shannon and her SMALL crew provided us with such excellent food and snacks that I never had the chance for the "munchies" to hit. Not once did I have to decide what to cook, actually cook, or wash a single dish. I didn't have to referee kids bickering or refusing to eat...and not once did I have to cut up someone else's food! I didn't even have to clean up any spills or messes. Even the "act" of cleaning up and re-packing my belongings and scrapbooking gear was a breeze since I kept things organized as I went along. No little "hands" messed things up in the process or destroyed anything.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
For quite awhile, God has been "prompting" us to get rid of our cable. We didn't listen. He didn't stop asking. EVERY single time I would turn around, there would be another "sign" or another tap on my heart that it was time to "unplug" it. I didn't listen. I didn't step out in obedience.
I have tossed and turned and run every direction except in the direction He has asked. I have tried to be "partially" obedient in regards to making good choices about watching what is appropriate. However, partial obedience doesn't exist. It's still flat out disobedience. I go through the roof when my kids only partially do a job I have asked, God expects no less of me. The more I began to make better choices about what I would watch, I still didn't have peace that I was doing the right thing. God has asked more of us. It may not be something he is asking of your family, but for us this is what He has asked.
So today, I did what he asked. We are going COLD TURKEY and ending our relationship with the cable company (except for Internet service). That also means that for the interim, we will also be without normal/regular TV as well. Our TVs are "ancient" and will require the converter boxes to receive any channels. We could probably go purchase the box, but at this point, we are going to wait. We can still watch shows on our laptops through Hulu or Fancast and I have reactivated our Netflix accounts so we can watch movies through our Wii. I still need access to educational programming. We still want to watch movies and programs as a family. TV in itself isn't bad. That isn't the issue.
The issue is that God asked us to make a change and we didn't step out in faith and follow his direction. I decided it was more important to hang on to my habits than to follow God's request. I decided I cared more about what my kids might think or what our "friends" might think. I cared more about what the world might think of us becoming EVEN greater FREAKS! Perhaps, THAT is exactly why God says to unplug it!
The first step is complete and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted because I finally did what He asked. I have completely removed the TV set from our bedroom. We've talked about it many times before, but never committed to doing it. I watch A LOT of TV after everyone else was asleep. Now that I won't have a DVR with hours of recorded shows, that issue is suddenly a non-issue. Since my change in heart about what is appropriate for me to personally watch has drastically changed, that backlog of shows had rapidly decreased anyway. Talking about wasted money down the drain! I also was hesitant about doing it because Bradlee crawls in bed with me EARLY in the morning and as soon as he wakes up, I turn a show on for him so I can "steal" another few minutes of sleep. I'm not sure how God will solve that problem for me, but if nothing else, maybe I need to be up at 6:30 with him doing something more important than sleeping!
Who knows exactly why God has lead us this way? We don't have a clue what blessings we have missed by waiting so long to do what he has asked. All I know is that He was NOT going to let me off the hook and let me stay comfortable by being disobedient. I'm hoping that what seems radical today, will feel PERFECT before long and our only regrets will be that we didn't listen the VERY first time he knocked on our hearts!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Pa Brown is "only" my grandpa by marriage, but he is the one by "heart" which matters more than anything else. He and Granny treated us as their "real" grandkids from the very first day that Dad married Teresa when I was just a toddler. What a joyous blessing to have such an incredible man in my life.
Adriana is actually named after him. Her middle name, Colette, comes from him. His first name is Coley, my step-mom's middle name is Colleen, and my little brother's middle name is Cole. Colette seemed like the perfect way to carry that tradition on and to honor such a wonderful man! Happy Birthday, Pa!
Monday, October 11, 2010
I don't remember what my exact answer for him was since we were rushed, but I know it had something to do with how important I thought it was for me to be able to control ONE thing in the middle of chaos. NO matter what else is going on, whether joyful or full of sorrow, I CHOOSE to make my bed up. It's like taking a moment to say no matter how crazy you are life, I can control this one thing. I also remember telling him something about it being a habit, being responsible, and blah blah blah. It also has to do with the fact that if you are standing in one certain spot on our front porch that at a certain angle you can see right into our bedroom and EVEN IF the rest of the room is a mess, the image of the bed made can hide the reality of what the rest of the room may or may not look like (which fortunately at this point is a non-issue!).
It was the basis of his question that hung with me today. Why do something that you know isn't going to last, something that is going to be messed right back up? Most of us moms probably wonder the same things HUNDREDS of times a week when we pick up the SAME things over and over or clean up a mess that we KNOW we cleaned up five minutes earlier!
I thought about that question on a deeper level. I thought about it from the point of view of forgiveness. Why forgive? You KNOW that if history repeats itself, "that" person is probably going to hurt you again and the pain you felt is something you are going to quite possibly feel again and again. Or perhaps that "situation" isn't going to go away and you are going to be faced with it again and again. In light of Bradlee's question, why bother? Why should I even forgive?
That answer is easy. Forgive because Christ first forgave me and He continues to forgive me on a multi-time daily basis. Forgive because forgiveness brings about healing and freedom. However, the ANSWER is easy, but perhaps the action is not as easy. It is HARD, very hard, at times to truly forgive a person that hurts you deeply.
Kevin and I have been having a deep ongoing conversation lately about forgiveness (even at 1:00 in the morning, which I KNOW he hates!)....what it means, what it doesn't mean, how hard it is at times, how necessary it always is and then the next steps. This isn't a conversation that is finished for us, it's something that we are continuing to discuss from various angles.
One thing I know for certain about forgiveness is that it doesn't erase the memory or the wrong. I've made the mistake many times of thinking that I couldn't forgive someone because my hurt was still so deep. Hurt doesn't necessarily go away with forgiveness, it just brings about the beginning stages of healing. However, the most important thing I've learned so far about forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful...the offender does NOT have to say I'm sorry in order for you to forgive. Their hearts may literally be too hard for them to seek forgiveness, they may not even have a clue about how deeply they have hurt you. You can still choose to forgive and let that start the healing process that you need. Forgiveness comes from within and doesn't depend on outside factors.
So when I make up the bed tomorrow and in the days to come, I think I will think more about Bradlee's question and let it remind me about those areas that I need to seek forgiveness of MYSELF and others and the things I need to forgive others for. If I'm as attentive to forgiving as I am to my bed making obsession, I can only imagine how much more God can use me with an open, free heart. Perhaps forgiving someone will let me have a little bit of calm in this chaotic life, with all of it's lumps and bumps that are needing to be smoothed out.
On a side note:
Today I'm thankful for reconnecting with a long "lost" friend whose friendship meant the world to me in college and in the early years of my marriage. With all of our moves in the years since, we lost contact. I thought of her VERY often, but had not been able to "find" her. Thankfully facebook makes a HUGE world, small!
I'm also thankful for an old (not in age, even though we ARE getting older!) friend that has spent the last year letting God transform her from a broken vessel to something amazingly beautiful. I don't know what the future is going to hold for her, but I know that God has an amazing plan for her and I can't wait to see it unfold. I am INCREDIBLY proud of her for letting Him change her life!
I'm also thankful for incredible children's ministers that did an amazing job today in offering our families something fun to do while many of the area kids were out of school. I looked around many times and just watched their faces filled with joy to see our "kids" happy and spending time together with their families. I'm thankful for the memories we made today and how they TRULY love our kids.
I'm also thankful for hearing that my Dad is doing ok. He isn't healed completely and has a long road ahead, but some of the anxiety I've been feeling in recent days has been relieved. I wasn't a Daddy's girl growing up, but the older I get the more I love him, RESPECT, and APPRECIATE him for the things he did for us. He may not have been affectionate and came across as too harsh many times, but now I understand just how much he WAS LOVING me and PROTECTING me. If only I had known then what I know now....isn't that strange how things change as you grow up and have your own children to raise?
I'm thankful that even though so many things are VERY unsettled in our lives right now and we are "down", we are NOT out. I am thankful for the lessons that God is teaching, the amazing ways He is revealing himself to us, and how He has not left us on this journey alone.
Friday, October 8, 2010
First of all, God literally dropped this book in my lap. A couple of weeks ago, I was finally able to order two more subject curriculum sets for the kids. When I placed my order, my "cart" recommended this book based on my past purchases and "likes" and it was 50% off and fell just in the right amount of money to not increase my shipping charge. I jumped on it since I'm a big bargain shopper and though I've not read her books, I've listened to her on the radio or read blogs/devotionals that quoted her often.
This book has literally saved my sanity and put my life back on track like never before. Many of you know that life has hit us pretty hard lately. We've shared some of the details with some of you and then many other things we've kept "quiet", but all in all.....we've been in the valley lately more than we've been in a long time. Because things have been coming at us from EVERY direction and we've not had time to recover from one "hit" before another has come, we've really lost our focus. Together as a couple and individually, I think we've questioned God more in recent months than we have in a long time. Just last week, we brokenly told God we just didn't know if "it" was worth it anymore. "It" being many things to us. For the most part, we were feeling so alone and disconnected. I personally just felt like my attempt to grow in Christ and to live a life pleasing to Him just really wasn't worth it anymore.
Then HE dropped this book in my lap. I haven't even been able to finish it because I keep getting drawn back to her words over and over. I'm a "highlighter" and note taker when I'm reading such books. I only highlight things that are REALLY important or that REALLY touch me. By gosh, I think this book has more highlights than anything I've ever read. It is as if God has spoken directly through her to me and my feelings have been expressed in those pages more than my own personal journal!!!! Each and every feeling that has lead up to my brokenness, being unsettled, and alienated has been touched on completely. I'm so thankful that these words have brought such profound healing and altered the course of my life.
What has touched me the most is that the feelings I've been having, especially the ones that have robbed me of sleep many nights, are GOOD. It's good to be right where I was. It means that God was getting ready to use me and I simply got scared. I found myself focusing on my own inadequacies too much and not on His ability to provide EVERYTHING that was lacking. I lost my direction by focusing on what I THOUGHT I was giving up, NOT on what I was gaining. I let the "wet blankets"/naysayers' opinions stifle my enthusiasm and joy. I've also gotten wrapped up in lost relationships as I've grown and changed and that has been very painful for me since I'm a "bridge builder" by nature. EACH and EVERY emotion has FULLY been covered, just as if God was sitting down beside me and telling me my exact thoughts over the past months.
I'm just so incredibly thankful. Thankful that God showed up when I needed Him most. Thankful that He is speaking to me through the words of another woman that has felt the exact feelings I am dealing with. Thankful that her words have not only brought healing, but encouragement and clarity of which direction to take. Most importantly, the "disconnect" feeling is flying out the window and is being replaced with the greatest peace I've ever known.
I wasn't sure which direction God was taking us in as a family before I "lost" my way and though I still don't know the details of His plan, I know that I'm back on board and ready to say YES to wherever that is. I am ready to be radically obedient despite the obstacles because I have been reminded of how He will take care of everything else. Satan may have been winning many battles against our spirits lately, but I think he realizes now that his same tools aren't going to work as easily as before.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I won't lie. I am on a roller coaster and I want OFF. I don't get near "real" ones and I don't like those that life puts us on either. I'm in a frame of mind that has caused my faith to take some pretty big dings recently. I'm still not on solid ground and I'm not sure when I'm going to find myself looking back and breathing a sigh of relief that God brought me through another dark time.
Don't get me wrong. God has not left me. I have not turned my back on God. I'm just finding myself on some pretty unsteady ground and trying so hard to hold on to the truth of God's word. I am in this battle of crying out to God for answers and direction and not being able to be still and quiet enough to hear Him answer.
Part of the issue is that I'm SEVERELY sleep deprived at this point. I'm only averaging about 1-2 hours of sleep a night and that MESSES with EVERYTHING you know to be true. New moms get more sleep than that. It's been a combination of having so much going on and trying to deal with things coming from every direction, a brain that won't shut off, handing things over to God but then in my fleshly weaknesses taking it back....and then health related issues. Insomnia. However, I feel confident that God is going to provide sleep soon. I completely felt it in my spirit today. I had an overwhelming supernatural calm come over me today. For those of you that know me really well, it would have been VERY obvious. I didn't have a perfect day and things didn't go "perfectly", but there was a peace that could only be attributed to God.
I don't know why all of sudden there are so many issues to deal with or why we currently are going through so many overwhelming things. I have searched my heart and begged God over and over to reveal what it is that he is wanting me to do that I'm not doing or what it is that he is preparing me for, but so far I don't have an answer. Kevin and I together have brokenly begged for direction and strength, but so far we are still feeling a disconnect. We are together and separately questioning so many things and will admit that we don't understand some of the path that we are on. We are hurting....and it seems like at many times....alone. God is showing us something, we just haven't had his vision revealed to us or we haven't stepped out in faith enough to understand it yet.
I have found myself many times lately, especially in the past week, wanting to tell God that it isn't worth it. Disappointments hurt. There are LOTS of them right now. "Closet" cleaning is HARD when you truly go in to every nook, cranny, and recessed area. I need SOLID ground, but I'm not on it right now and that's ok.
Not being on solid ground is ok. Searching is ok. Needing answers and direction is ok. I've been fighting against that over this last week. I've almost let it destroy me. ALMOST is the key word. Then today, that PEACE came. I still don't have answers and I still don't know how to handle so many situations that we are facing. Some situations I know without a doubt I can not handle on my own. Perhaps, He needs me here in this unsettled, brokenness so I can really see Him work miracles. Maybe Kevin and I need to be so broken together, so that we have no one else to cling to except for God and each other.
I was baking bread this afternoon and I began to feel that God was giving me a lesson in that process. I added all the ingredients to the bread maker and as it began to knead I began to have a "breakdown" moment. Tears wouldn't stop flowing. I felt like that dough. All of those ingredients got dropped in from every direction and were immediately being tossed about. Within a few minutes, the paddle was whipping back and forth and literally forcibly tossing it back and forth. THAT is exactly how I feel in life RIGHT at this moment. Things coming from every direction and being tossed back and forth and beat to pieces.
However, some thing amazing began to happen a few minutes later. That dough was allowed to rest. Then it began to rise and then it was baked to a beautiful golden brown and the aroma just made your mouth water. God hinted to my spirit that my day is coming. My body, mind, and heart are going to be able to rest in Him and He will cause me to "rise" up and become something beautiful inside and out. Right now, I'm just still being held in the kneading stage.
I'm also reading an amazing book by Lysa Terkeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries called "What Happens When Women Say Yes to God". I normally read a 350 page book in about 2 hours, but this book has grabbed me so deeply that I keep reading and re-reading chapters over and over. Every time I read it, it's like God is putting another band aid on my heart or caulking up another leaky place. I've ended up highlighting more than half of the book and as my "peace" is settling back in, I know God is going to use it to really change my life in an amazing way.
Just today I read a section that really spoke to me and has encouraged me to hang on during this difficult time of "growing and changing". My blog title, which you can read about why I chose it by going back to my 1st couple of posts, uses the word refined. That word has always been "special" and important to me. I remembered reading about God refining our impurities several years ago and it changed my life. However, in my disorganization I "lost" where I had read that very specific description from a devotional. It just so happens that Lysa quotes it in her book and I don't find that coincidental. I find it GOD speaking directly to my troubled heart.
"Without this heating and melting, there could be no purifying. As the impurities are skimmed off the top, the reflection of the worker appears in the smooth, pure surface. As we are purified by God, his reflection in our lives will become more and more clear to those around us." That's it! That is the exact "quote" I had been searching for a very long time. PERFECT timing.
It just means that my faith isn't gone. I'm not giving up on God and He isn't giving up on me. I'm just deep down in the heating and melting stage. It's not pleasant and my flesh screams to be taken off the fire, but He isn't ready because I'm not ready. He's letting the impurities rise up so He can remove them and so I can reflect Him.
Oh, and by the way....I can barely keep my eyes open and it's only 8:30 PM. Yes, that rest in Him is finally coming and I've never been so more ready to have it. The problems and worries aren't magically going to disappear, but HE is about to let me REST in HIM. I'm picturing this most amazing hug full of comfort and peace with His arms wrapped around me.
Monday, October 4, 2010
After this last week of pretty intense struggles and battles that took me a few steps back, I neeeded this reminder. The reminder of who I am and who I serve. The reminder of how worship can bring you fully back in the presence of God when you feel like your feet aren't on solid ground. The reminder of who is in control of EVERYTHING.