Thursday, June 24, 2010

Puzzle Pieces

What About Me?

Lately, I've picked up an old favorite devotional: My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. This was a kind of staple in my spiritual upbringing, along with the daily Psalms and Proverbs ritual. There were times when I would dread the readings in these books, fearing that my conscience would consume me from the inside out, wanting me to let go of the sin that had taken hold of my life.

But through that part of my history, it has stuck with me. Today, I look forward to those nuggets when I find the time to read. Oswald's book is very deep, despite being just one page per day. I especially liked the reading on June 21st: which also happens to be my mom's anniversary day. Here's what really impacted me:

"...the continual grubbing on the inside, to see whether we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, morbid type of Christianity, not the robust, simple life of the child of God. Until we get into a right relationship to God, it is a case of hanging on by the skin of our teeth, and we say--What a wonderful victory I have got! There is nothing indicative of the miracle of Redemption in that. Launch out into reckless belief that the Redemption is complete, and then bother no more about yourself, but begin to do as Jesus Christ said--pray for the friend who comes to you at midnight, pray for the saints, pray for all men. Pray on the realization that you are only perfect in Christ Jesus, not on this plea--"O Lord, I have done my best, please hear me" ...
...How long is it going to take God to free us from the morbid habit of thinking about ourselves? We must get sick unto death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God can tell us about ourselves. We cannot touch the depths of meanness in ourselves. There is only one place where we are right, and that is in Christ Jesus. When we are there, then we have to pour out for all we are worth in this ministry of the interior. " (My Utmost for His Highest, O.Chambers pp. 173)

Wow. Those are powerful words! To have that kind of spiritual maturity is incredible. I think we all go through times of 'poor me', in our lives, and then we move on from there to what is next. God will use whatever circumstances are required to bring us to that wholeness---and apart from the perfect sacrifice, we will never be complete.

The Anniversary

Monday was a good day for me. I didn't cry, not that I should have or wouldn't let it out...I just didn't. My wave of grief had already washed away, into the ocean of emotions. Don't know when the next tide will come in, but it's ok. God knows, and He will provide the necessary means to get through it. It was good be with family on that day, and in the days leading up to it. I felt much peace in their company. And like the old saying goes, 'all good things must come to an end'. So we said our good-byes and carried on with our day. But if nothing ends, then there isn't anything to look forward to, right? We are looking forward to more time together. I feel very blessed to have a supportive family network. Thank you, to all of you, for the role that you play in mine and my family's life. You are like the precious stones that wash up on the shoreline, amongst all the other stuff that life brings in. It's good to have those gems in our lives, isn't it?

Nothing Ever Occurs to God

Ever have one of those surprise moments, you know, something outta left field--didn't see it coming kinda thing? Yeah, that happened to me last night. I was going over a design with a client when the subject of 'where did you grow up?' surfaced. I reluctantly mentioned the name of the town, and then their eyes lit up: 'hey, we know someone from there and will be seeing them tomorrow!' Yep, you guessed it: I also knew the same person. The next thing I knew, there was a fancy, wide-screen phone laying on the kitchen table and I found myself talking to someone from the past, via speaker phone! The room was all ears, as you can imagine.

I hadn't talked to or seen her for at least 19 years. She was one of several friends that I used to run around with. You could say that both of us are different people today then we were, back then. Probably a good thing, too! I was happy to hear that she has a nice family and that she loves the Lord. So while I've often prayed for old friends from this town, here is one of them, being a light in the darkness. I hope that I can be an encouragement to her, should we remain connected. None of this is a surprise to God. Just another piece of the puzzle, put in place. I drove home, shaking my head, saying "Ok God, you do have a sense of're up to something!"

Watch 'em Grow!

How delightful it is to watch our kids, playing and being so innocent. They are happy, most of the time, and have no cares in the world. They know they are loved and trust that their parents will meet their needs....I said needs, not wants(ok maybe sometimes, wants)! We sit there, beaming from within because we are so proud of them and love them so much. We humbly ask for wisdom, quite often, in raising them up and in making decisions for on their behalf. What an awesome responsibility it is, to be a parent. But having our kids be happy, for the most part, makes it a joy.

I often think that God feels the same way about all of us. I know that I am happier and more peaceful when I trust Him with life stuff. Like a friend reminded me, God is in the 'Restoration business'. He wants to make all things new. He knows what we desire and is delighted when we want the same things He does. So while the reading that I mentioned points to the Redemption, already said and done, God continues to work Restoration--because of the Cross--in us. It requires total surrender and getting out of our own way. And we get our whole lifetime to figure out how to do this! Every day is an opportunity for growth, in some capacity. Sometimes it rains a lot, sometimes its very dry, sometimes its some of both. But, through it all, we will grow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Worn and Made New

Ever have one of those 'I need retail therapy!' days? You look in the mirror, or in your drawers, and although there is a reflection and plenty of clothes--nothing looks good anymore--there is simply 'nothing to wear'. Our husbands(or significant others) shake their heads, not understanding this common dilemma. My guy will wear a shirt, or pair of jeans, until it is 'too holey' to wear anywhere, let alone a place of worship(pun intended)! If I dare give these tattered items away, or worse yet--throw them out--he will know...they always find out, somehow.

The clothes, hanging in the closet or on our bodies-- stretched out from laundering and little fingers tugging at the hems, don't look as appealing as they did on the rack from last year's clearance special. Such is the nature of tangible items, here on earth. Everything in this world goes from order to disarray. If you have children, you see this happen on a moment by moment, daily basis. No matter how much we straighten up or put away, the stuff we collect finds its way out of its proper place...again and again.

This lesson really hit home to me, 2 years ago, after my mom passed away. I realized how futile it was to live only for the things this life could offer. In a moment, it can all be taken away. And in 3 short years, a very special person was removed from this life and graduated on to eternity. Oh, how I miss her. She was such a beautiful person, inside and out. My mom had such style and a way with her wardrobe. As a little girl, I would watch her change outfits or put on eyeshadow, wishing that I could be a 'big girl', in that moment, so I could do the same. Now life has come full-circle as my own little Samantha looks up at the noisy hairdryer, handing me the bottle hairspray(she knows the routine).

One of my favorite pieces that Mom often wore was her Psalm 23 necklace. Given to her by a relative, this sterling circle with those timeless verses inscribed on the front, were a source of comfort and strength as she battled through her illness. She had it on the day of the funeral, as she did on most days, during that period of her life. It was then that I realized how much it would mean for me to wear that necklace, as a reminder of the strength from which she drew upon. I treasure that gift for the memories that it holds and for what it stands for.

I like the words written in the book of James: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures"(chapter 1). All that I have been given, all that can be given away, all of it comes from God...and it is good and perfect. My talents and abilities are also gifts, not only for me to enjoy but to bring joy to others and glory to God, the Creator of all things.

I can spend my time and energy, chasing after the temporary things of this life, thinking that they will satisfy me. They will, for a little while. Like the shirt that I bought last year; it was new and fun at the it's worn and ready to be replaced(yea for that!). What peace there is when you know the Source of all that we have been given. Cling to giver of life, and not to the things that will fade away. Zero in your focus on what you can leave behind, or send on into eternity. For me, that means relationships with others. It's much harder than staying home in my comfort zone. It sometimes means misunderstandings and hurts, but it is worth the risk.

The visible reminders of how temporary this life is helps me remember that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen...By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible"(taken from the book of Hebrews, chapter 11; italics mine). Wow, how awesome is our God. So much that we can hardly get our heads around such a concept as this. All the more reason to trust Him; to rest in where He has me and enjoy what He has given to me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Fan Club

It's true, that my greatest admirers are less than 4 feet tall. I would never have to leave my house, ever again, and I'd still be popular(at least until my daughter started begging, "I want to go in the van, mommy!"-- she likes to stay busy). To test this theory out( every mom has done this): try to go to the bathroom, by yourself...or check your email...or just walk down to the mailbox(I have a long driveway)...and you will hear voices, chanting, screaming your name: Mommy...where ARE YOU?

Like the celebrities, trying to run from the press and crazed-fans, sometimes the persona of being 'Mom', makes me also want to run and hide. The price of fame is that we are loved and admired, but we also live a very public life...who knew the bathroom was a sacred place! Like a friend once told me: once you're a mom, you're always going to be one. Life changes, forever.

I love my kids and I wouldn't want them spending the majority of their time with anyone else.
However, I've discovered that a little time away makes your time together, even better.
When my son had his first day at preschool, I blubbered like a baby, cradling myself down the sidewalk and into the van. I then drove to the coffee shop, sat there with my daughter, and cried for the next hour(she was laughing at me). And this was supposed to be fun, 'girl-time!' What's the matter with me?

Fast-forward to present day: tomorrow will be the last day of preschool, for summer break, and now I find myself a little sad that this day has come. I eventually got used to the 2 days a week, 3 hours a day, that Adrian was in school and found that time very valuable: who really wants to take more than one child(or any) to the grocery store? You won't see me raising my hand! My children refer to it as 'the cookie store'. Free cookies while shopping is a life-saver. They don't whine, or hit each other, when they are holding a cookie and shoving it into their mouths! Genius...I love it.

Today, we made a memory that will forever be in my heart. It was so simple, and yet so profound. I said to the kids, 'Hey, let's walk over to Grandpa's house'. He lives next door and we see him often. Samantha said, "OK!" I reached for her little hand and soon it was in mine. Then I heard Adrian say, "I'm coming!" He jumped off his bike and wanted to walk with us, grabbing a hold of my other hand. We started skipping down the driveway. Then jumping up and down, laughing together. Adrian wanted us all to run, but I explained to him that Samantha would likely skin her knee(in the same spot) for the umpteenth time. So we walked. We talked about bugs, caterpillars, and how tall the weeds were growing. And just like that, we found ourselves up at the top of Grandpa's driveway, ready to go inside.

In a flash, those moments will be gone. I can't believe how fast time has gone by already. Just thinking about them growing up and flying away makes me cringe inside. I only hope that they don't fly too far away. I want to be there to watch them start up their own 'fan clubs'. I will smile now, because I'm blessed beyond measure. Because I want to enjoy this fun, yet challenging, time of life. And someday, I will laugh(a little) as they try to hide in the bathroom from their own fans!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Let it Rain

Isn't it fun when you can walk out your front door and see a rainbow, so close that you can almost reach out and touch it! It's beautiful to watch: rains falling, sun peeking out, revealing a path of color through the clouds of grey. A picture full of truth, often descriptive of the stormy times in our lives.

Sometimes the weather can reflect how we feel on the inside. More than I'd like to admit, the skies will dictate how my mood might turn out to be, on a given day. Several cloudy days in a row will often bring out the worst of me--all of the junk seems to rise to the surface, like the tide clearing away the debris. And then there it is: all of the ugliness, left on the shoreline of my life, waiting to be picked up and discarded.

The last several weeks have played out like I've already described. I've been dealing with multiple stresses in my life, making it hard to focus on what's important. But today was different. For awhile now, some words from a popular book have been in the back of my mind--waiting to be picked up and looked at more closely. Here are those words:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus..." Philippians 4:6-7

I've memorized these words and pulled them out as arsenal, when necessary. But its the next few lines that really impacted me today:

"...Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

As I surrender my anxieties to God, He promises that my mind and heart will be guarded, through Christ Jesus. Ok, I can do that. I can pray, let it go, and continue to be thankful for all that I have that is good. But what's next? My answer came in the last few lines, listed above.

I need to discipline my mind to focus on what is good and think about those things. Easier said than done, I know. But like we feed our physical bodies, daily, we have to feed and renew our minds and hearts, as well. That part of me is just as much alive(if not more)than what it tangible and visible in the mirror each morning. So when I surrender and think about good things, the 'peace of God' and 'the God of peace' is with me.

I read those words, thought about it, and was feeling like the sun was shining and all was well in my world again. But God wasn't yet finished. I was getting myself ready for the day when I felt compelled to sing some favorite lyrics, aloud. After about the third song, containing phrases like 'Hosanna' and 'King of Glory', I felt a familiar presence washing over me. Like the water that was pouring over my face and the tears that soon would follow, God's spirit was upon me--draining away the sadness and all the debris that had accumulated in my life. It was incredible.

I walked away from that experience of God, changed. And I will continue to be changed, from one glory to the next...mountains and valleys in between. He is such a good God who cares about the tiniest details of our lives. His compassion and mercy fuel my desire to continue to reach out to others, even the ones that are hard to love. He knows what is best. He knows when the timing is perfect. He knows my heart and the desires that were put there. He knows my name and hears me when I call. He knows when the rain is coming and how much is needed.

And like the promise in the rainbow, we will never drown away in our struggles so long as we hold onto Him.