Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Goodbye Fear

There is a four letter word that begins with "F" that I hate.  

Oh yes, I hate THAT one.....but

It's the word FEAR that is getting under my skin right now.  

Because I've been living in it.  

I've let it root and overtake.  

Today, I'm uprooting it and tossing it out.  

God's word tells me countless times to not fear.  God is in control.  

I've been focusing GREATLY on Philippians 4:8 in regards to what I allow in my heart and mind.  For the most part that has been about things I don't watch, listen to, participate in, etc..  It's been about making sure I'm surrounded by people that lift me up and encourage me to a higher standard.  

Unfortunately, I've not been taking that verse to the deeper level of what I tell myself or what negative self-talk I allow to filter in my heart.

I've let those nasty words that come from fear overtake for too long.

You're weak.  You're not capable.  You've failed before.  THAT is impossible.  Constant second guessing.  The list could go on indefinitely.  

For the most part, the negative talk in my head has been in regards to preparing for this next school year.  In just a few weeks, we will start our 11th year of home education.  I'm still speechless.

God has really driven me to go about our education very differently this year.  More hands on.  More spiritually driven.  More individualized.  More literature based.  Basically, everything that involves MORE of me.  More of my time.  More of my heart.  More of my abilities.  

Which simply means....

More ways to fail.  


I've listened to it too long.  I've let it rob me of my confidence.  I've focused on the what could go wrong more than the what can go RIGHT!

Kevin and I spent quite awhile talking last night about everything scrambled in my head in regards to this upcoming school year. I literally was talking a mile a minute.  Once I finally opened my mouth about what was weighing on me, it all just came spilling out.  Every pro/con.  Every fear.  Every concern.  Every possible solution to problems that may or may not exist.  You get the picture!  

He just looked at me and laughed.  

No, I didn't slap him. :)  I actually laughed, too.  I realized how crazy I sounded!  He actually joked and told me to start speaking SOUTHERN!  In other words, slow down.  :)  He told me that he was still stuck back on 10 statements ago and was trying to catch up.  

It hit me.  

I hadn't been applying Phil 4:8 to my own doubts.  

Today I've been totally overwhelmed with calm about remembering that God WILL provide.  

We debated adding babies to care for.  We wondered if I could handle it or if I would self-destruct.  

What we discovered is that when God gives you a ministry or a calling something amazing happens.  He provides.  For me, extra energy has been poured out.  Fulfillment.  Joy.  The ability to embrace when things don't go picture perfectly.  The ability to compromise and try new things.  Because God called me to it, He has provided the needed tools.  Every day hasn't been storybook perfect and I have been exhausted at times----but the joy has been far more apparent.  God has shown up EVERY single time I've need Him. 

This school year is no different.  

I feel called to a new standard of living in our home and that includes how I educate, how we operate as a family, and the way we interact.  He's given us a new set of goals and deepened my calling.  

Because of that....

He will provide.  He will given me the abilities I need or send me in the direction of help when needed.  He will teach me how to balance the needs.  He will open doors to allow Kevin and I to maintain the incredible relationship growth we are experiencing (which has been my greatest fear----our relationship losing priority).  

I just have to kick fear to the curb.  Stomp on it.  Shut up the doubts.  Feed my faith so the doubts will starve.  Focus my eyes (heart and attitude) where it belongs.  Allow God to lead and overtake EVERY aspect of EVERY minute and give Him full control.  Otherwise I can't go wrong.  Bad days are expected.  We will derail at times, but as long as our eyes are fixed in the right direction we will find our way down the right path.  

Goodbye fear----you aren't living in the heart of this mom any longer.  God lives in this heart and He is FAR more powerful.  He didn't give me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  It's time I live like it!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finding Answers

God shows up.  He never fails.  

We've been actively seeking, praying, and studying about wisdom.  We've been specifically praying as a couple for discernment and for God to openly speak to our hearts.  Rid our hearts of "junk" so we can more easily hear Him.  Our lists of areas that we are seeking wisdom seems to be growing as God has opened our hearts to that desire.  One particular area that I'm specifically searching for wisdom is in how I respond to situations that don't work out as planned, out of my control, or that "upset the apple cart".  In other words, learning to relax when things don't fit neatly in to my little check boxes of expectations.  

This morning things didn't fit in my check box of expectations.  

Instead of letting things spiral out of control, I remembered to practice what I had been learning.  

I talked to God.  I let Him know I was frustrated and I asked Him to help me put my priorities in order, to calm my anxious heart, and to keep my focus on the things that matter.  I asked Him to show me how to be more like Him and to react LESS like me.  

I had a conversation with my husband.  It was good to just grab 10 minutes of time and talk.  Normally that doesn't happen during the day much anymore, but due to various situations I ended up very unexpectedly not having either of my sweet "babies" today.  When he called at lunch, I was able to actually have a "real" conversation. We talked through some of my feelings about a couple of issues that are weighing heavy on me.  

Out of the blue, I decided to go through a basket in our bedroom that I've not gone through probably in well over a year.  I'm not sure why I chose to do isn't like a 100 other things I could have done with some unexpected downtime!

In the box I found something that I had written down  that reached a deep place in my heart. It's obviously from a book I had been reading.  As I've mentioned many times before, I'm horribly bad about taking notes from something and leaving them in odd places and then not knowing later the source.  I've been working on organizing notes I take from reading books and blogs, but just not completely "there" yet.  :)  

Regardless of the source, the words met me right where I needed it.  Not be coincidence.  Not by accident.  By design.  

It's an answer to some of the wisdom prayers. It's a partial answer to the prayers this morning of "righting my heart" and adjusting my focus.  

"This day comes equipped with a set of fresh opportunities.  In its joys and pleasures, I can show my gratitude to God. In its trials and temptations, I can prove my faithfulness to God. In its pains and hardships, I can demonstrate my trust in God.  In whatever form the day's events will bring opportunities for God  and others, and chances to exhibit the virtues of faith, hope, and love."

Our prayers from last night and mine from this morning are wrapped up as answers in those words.  Nearly word for word, in order of what we were asking.  Not coincidence. 

Seeking wisdom. Finding it.

Even written on a piece of paper in the bottom of box/basket that has been touched in well over a year.  

God provides when we ask.  God provides when we make room in our hearts for Him and His direction when we purposefully crowd out the other clutter.  

Father, thank you for what you are teaching me.  Don't stop.  Even when I protest.  Don't stop. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mountains & Chains

On to my 2nd post of the night...the one I actually sat down to originally write!  My earlier post just sort of happened as I started typing. :)

Though I've been more happy, content, full of overflowing joy the last few months, it has also been a time of struggle.  The last few weeks have been hard.  It's almost as if there have been two parts of me fighting it out on the inside.

The one side that has been more happy and at peace than I've ever experienced.  Embracing love at a greater depth than I ever dreamed possible.  True contentment.  Real gratitude.  Inspired.  Hopeful.  Growing spiritually in ways I didn't expect.  Fulfilled. Living on purpose.

The other side has been confusion.  Heartache.  Struggles that I didn't anticipate.  Loss.  Physical battles.  Spiritual battles.  Spiritual warfare. Needing discernment.

Fortunately the joy has been so overflowing that it has helped me hold it together through some very trying situations.  Despite stress and heartache, my focus has remained fixed on Christ and I've felt His guidance and closeness like never before.

Yet, the battles have left their wounds.  There have been days of brokenness.  Days and moments that have taken my breath away.

Due to some unexpected circumstances, I've found myself feeling the loss of Daddy in a very deep way.  In some aspects, that loss has felt the heaviest it has since the beginning.  Circumstances that have proven that life goes on even when we aren't ready.  Circumstances that have left me having to deal with some of the emotions that I had to bury in order to survive.  Circumstances leaving me with the need and desire to just talk to him and hear his wisdom and "unique" take on life.  Circumstances of uncertainty that I've just felt the need to feel life as normal.  Not life in mode of "before" and "after".  My kids have needed him in new ways.  It's been hard.

This morning at church, God met me and found a way to reach in to some of those deep hurting places.  Though the sermon was fantastic and will probably lead to future posts because of the conviction it left in my own heart, it was the worship that grabbed me.

Anyone that knows me well, knows that I thrive on music.  It has the ability to reach my heart in ways that "words" can't.  It has the power to instantly change my thinking, reach my heart, and put me in the presence of Christ quicker than anything else.  It's even meant so much lately that I've finally reignited my passion for playing the piano.  (Which has trickled down to all three of my children!)

This morning, we sang a song that immediately makes me think of Dad.  He loved the song.  There are stories of how it touched his heart.  It's a song that we sang on our last morning that we were able to worship together as a family.

Though I have loved the song for a couple of years, it took on a much different meaning for me.  It reminds of my Daddy, of the last time together in church and those priceless memories and emotions it evokes (both painful and BEAUTIFUL).

Ever since Dad's battle, "Mighty to Save", has meant something totally different.  All I can think about is the lines that became our "anthem" for healing:  "He rose and conquered the grave. Jesus conquered the grave." During those weeks of his fighting cancer, we were praying that Daddy would beat the "death sentence" of a poor prognosis.  We were believing in healing.  I saw those words as powerful in regards to believing that healing on earth was possible.  Later, once healing came in the heavenly form, it became a constant reminder of how Jesus conquered the grave himself and because of that He has conquered it for us allowing us to have a reunion someday.  Oh, what a day!

Because of the way I identify with that song, I had lost the other powerful meanings in the lyrics.  Video with Lyrics: Mighty To Save (Hillsong United) Today, for the first time, I was able to embrace the song as a whole and truly worship in it's entire capacity.  It's such an incredible song with such depth.  Though much of it touched my heart on a deep level, the part about how He moves mountains struck a deep cord.  I immediately began to think of the mountains He HAS moved in my life.  Things I didn't believe possible.

I was also reminded of the powerful, beautiful words:

"So take me as You find me,
All my fears and failures,
Fill my life again.

I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in,
Now I surrender."

Those reached me because that is what I've been experiencing in my own heart lately.  A renewed passion for Him.  A desire to be filled by Him like never before.  Yet that desire also comes with fears and reminders of failures.  We've been actively committing to a new level of serving him.  Surrender.

This morning was just powerful for me because I was able to embrace the song as a whole and let it reach my heart in a deeper capacity.

As we finished singing "Mighty To Save" and my heart was wrapping around it's meaning, the first few notes of the next song began to be played and I INSTANTLY knew what it was.

Because the first song had already moved my heart so much, this one did as well.  For the first time, it became less about the loss in my heart of my hero and the celebration of his victory and I was able to embrace the entire song.

My chains ARE gone.  I HAVE been set free.  I have been ransomed. His grace IS amazing.

God KNOWS the struggles that we have been facing.  He knows the depth of our hearts.  He knows our fears, our desires, and our secret pain.  He knows the sins that each of us individually fight.  He knows when we are discouraged.  He knows when we are ready to step out in a new level of faith.

Plain and simple:  He knows me better than I know myself.

He knew today that I needed to reconnect to Him in a more powerful way.  He knew the messages me heart needed to hear.  He provided.

He reached in and reminded me of the mountains he has moved and the chains He has broken.  He reached me.  Oh, how He reached me.   He gave me some much need encouragement to stay on some paths we are on.  He reminded me that He is in control.  He just reminded me of who I am in Him and how that as we continue to seek Him, we WILL find Him in powerful new ways.  He reminded me that He has been with me through some amazing highs and very deep lows and everywhere in between.  He will continue to walk with us through some uncertain times we are facing.  He will provide answers to questions we are asking as long as we continue to look to Him.  Oh, how He reached me today.  Broke some chains and moved some mountains in my heart!

True Gratitude

It's been too long.  WAY too long.  I've so VERY much missed having the chance to share my heart in cyber-world.  Excited tonight for the chance to share some thoughts that are floating around in my head!

I hope to be able to sit down often in the next few days because my head and heart are in overflow mode and I know for me blogging allows me an outlet like no other!

I've been completely entranced, enthralled, and overjoyed with life lately.  It has really sunk in deeply of how very blessed by God we are.  (Though it has been FAR from a fairy-tale picnic.  It's been hard at times.  More about that in future posts!)

Some people feel that gratitude is about being thankful for the things they have.  The food they eat.  The things that they can purchase.  The places they go.  Their surroundings.

Tangible things.

Those things ARE blessings AND are definitely things that are provided by God and are worthy of gratitude. I absolutely don't dispute that.

However, I feel that true gratitude goes much deeper.  Gratitude is being thankful for the intangible things.  Having a heart that is open to seeing things that can't be purchased, that can't be made from your own hands. Oh yes, God definitely blesses each of us with different talents and the ability to use those talents IS a blessing.

It is as if He has completely turned on that light in our hearts in recent months and most specifically in previous weeks.  Even the kids are making comments that are showing depth in their thought processes in regards to being truly thankful.

I can't adequately describe the way we are seeing life right now.  We are almost hyper-aware and sensitive to the things of life that TRULY matter.

The type of gratitude we are personally experiencing and noticing in our children is a level of gratitude that I feel can only come from truly focusing on issues of the heart.  It's those things that only God can provide. Things that you can not physically grasp and hold in your hands.

When you being to notice those things in your lives, it's impossible to truly not live in a state of gratitude and a state of overflowing joy.  Gratitude even in the hardest of times.  Even through harsh struggles.

A heart of gratitude recognizes those things that may seem trivial to other people, but to you it means the world.

It's more than what money can buy.

It's more than what you can do with your own hands.

It's more than what someone else might have done for you.

Those ARE important, but a true heart of gratitude sees beyond the surface.  It sees beyond the "things" of this world and it reaches and holds on to those things that are intangible.  Yes, you may not can physically hold them in your hands.  You hold them in your heart.

"Things" put our focus on well........things.....

"Things" cause us to be grateful for what we can provide for ourselves.  God may give us the ability to earn a living and buy those things, but we make the choice of what to purchase.  We can be thankful for the money to buy those things, but our focus is still remaining on self.

True gratitude is the things that we can't produce.  We can't provide.  We can't attain with our own hands.

It's the things of depth, of the heart, and things on a spiritual level.

True gratitude allows you to wake up with a song of joy in your heart, despite hard situations. It allows you to go to bed at night with thanksgiving in your heart even when you are uncertain what the next day my bring.  It allows you to find the good in others.  It allows you to see beyond what is physically in front of you.

We so often get caught up with what we have or don't have.  We are grateful and thankful for things.  Yet, that puts the focus on "me, me, me".  When true gratitude has depth,  it's not about me.  It's about Him.  It's about His gifts in our lives.  Those that you and I physically can't touch, but mean more than any thing we could ever purchase.

I also believe once He has opened your eyes to that true gratitude that you can't look at "things" the same anymore.  They truly no longer matter.

Today, I'm thankful for how He is at work in our hearts.  He is showing us the error of our ways.  He is teaching us life is NOT about us.  He is showing and revealing things to us that we aren't proud of.  We are seeing our "filth" and our need to constantly be forgiven and under His grace.

Perhaps that is the greatest form of gratitude.  Knowing how unworthy I am of any gift He provides and the abundance of those gifts is because of the incredible nature of our loving God.  Gratitude is a heart process that takes the focus off of self and onto Him.  If our gratitude focuses on "me".....we are losing the point of gratitude.  

It's almost as if as a society our claims of gratitude have become selfish in nature.

We are thankful for our food.  Really?  Have we EVER really gone hungry or truly wondered if we would be able to feed our children their next meal? Perhaps that is true for some of us, but for most of  We have survived some very lean times financially and had some very real worries about paying bills, but we've never truly feared hunger.  We may not have been able to purchase what we really wanted to eat, but we didn't fear not having food.  Our thankfulness is really just because we were able to CHOOSE our food, or cook what we wanted.

I fear that we (including myself!) use the words thankful and grateful without truly thinking about it.  We toss it around like a "catch" word.

I'm challenging myself to look beyond the surface in the way we live our lives. Learning to focus more on issues of the heart and things that truly have significance.  I'm praying that continues to reveal to our hearts what matters.  This week I'm praying that He takes that to an even deeper level and that He keeps digging in deeper and deeper in my heart.  Revealing more of what He doesn't want in me.  Helping me become more of  who He has designed me to be.  More and more EVERY single day, I realize just how very far away from that person I am.  He may love me unconditionally and cover me with grace, but He also loves me enough to not leave me as I am.  For that, I am truly grateful.  Even when that process is painful.