Monday, December 30, 2013

Thinking Less

Merry Christmas and Happy (almost) New Year!

My decorations have come down and the hype has ended. 

It seems sacrilegious to speak in a ho hum fashion about such a special and sacred holiday.  But I have decided (after much encouragement from my man) to think less about the burdens I currently bear and just be. 

Be light on purpose.

I am intentionally choosing to lay down the heavy things that make my head and heart feel like they may burst....even for just a few days.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year.  We give gifts.  We do for others.  We remember the One who gave the greatest gift of all.  It should be a time that feels weightless upon our shoulders, but for a lot of people (myself included), we feel the weight of what isn't.

I  imagined this Christmas being very different.  It wasn't.  My expectations were once again unmet. 

That is ok in and of itself...but how I feel about it has to have someplace to go.

Usually for me the typical response to unmet expectations is anger toward God.

Stupid really.  But it is the truth.

My anger began showing itself through numbness. 

I have no desire to pray or even push myself to get into God's Word.  But I did express these thoughts and feelings to my best friend who happens to be my husband.

He said, "Have you thought of just taking time off from thinking about your burdens or carrying them around?"

Life is life.  My life has particular burdens that are mine to bear.  But honestly the idea of taking some time off from thinking about them sounded so good to me.

So...I did.

That is where I have been for the past week or so.  I have no idea when I will pick them up doubt it will be soon.  But, for now, I am just kind of in the moment.  No future thoughts.  No past thoughts.  Just here.  Just now.

Here are a few snapshots from Christmas 2013!

 Shep and the kids with masks from Santa!
 Shep and Caroline getting some snuggle time.
 Zeke doing his favorite thing: opening presents!
 Ava and me...seriously just a smaller version of myself.
 Our tree at night.  I love the way white lights twinkle.
 Zeke experimenting with his bow.
 Caroline being her cute self....
 This was Ava's first year performing in the Nativity Ballet as a company dancer.  It was a highlight of the season!
 These are a few pics I took during their rehearsal...without the beautiful costumes on. 

"So don't be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow too.  Live one day at a time." Matthew 6:34 TLB

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fresh Mercy

Anyone who says that an adult cannot pitch a fit as good as any child is lying.

Most adults pitch fits a lot.  Most of us have just learned to keep the screaming and rage to a minimum.  So instead many of us walk around pitching fits in our heads....all the while with a plastic smile pasted onto our faces.

"Why has this happened?"
"This is so unfair."
"What if _______?"

These thoughts that swirl and soak relentlessly with no end are really fits.  Fits of rage or frustration that beat us down and steal joy that God died to give us.

Occasionally we slip up and allow one of the mind fits to become a visible thing.  It is no longer something that occupies our thoughts alone.  It becomes a living breathing thing.  A fit that slams doors, and stomps feet, with raised voices for effect and hand gestures just because.

This was my reality just a week ago. 

Something simply didn't go my way.  My plans had to be changed.  My scheduled had to be adjusted. 

I am so embarrassed as I look back on my immediate reaction.

Call it hormones or stress if you want to.  But I am going to call it what it was: a fit. 

I could not have been more wrong in my behavior.

At the time I just felt like I needed to make someone else understand that the circumstances were unfair. 

Now...a week seems beyond silly.

Here is the silver lining to this story.  Thankfully my anger subsided quickly.  God convicted me immediately and offered no shame at all.

Instead He completely and instantly clothed me in mercy.

The Bible says that our God is rich in mercy (Acts 17:11).  I experienced that when the meanness of my heart became completely eclipsed by something I didn't deserve, mercy.

Somehow mercy received does this amazing thing to the meanness that can lurk within our really takes it away.

My unfortunate fit showed me God's mercy in a new light.  Most days I minimize my sin.  Bad thoughts are hidden from others but a fit like mine couldn't hide.  And my fit didn't push God away.   He rushed in with sweet conviction and a boatload of mercy.  Fresh mercy that was needed right then.  There was no condemnation except for me feeling so silly later.   In those moments I relished His mercy like a new baby believer.  I needed it so badly. 

Oh how we forget what He has done for us.  And what He still does...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

God's Light~ My Encounter

Two nights ago I crawled into bed in a fowl temper.

Some nights I can work through it.
Other nights I don't even hear it.
Most nights I am numb to the annoyance.

But that night I was just plain mad.

For the past 7 or 8 (I have lost count) months Caroline has come to loathe bedtime.

She is 11 years old.  Bedtime is not new to her.  She is so tired at the end of the day and will even fall asleep on the floor.  But when we put her into bed she gets frustrated and angry.  What seems like simple childish irritability soon turns into full blown fits.

There are usually no tears at all.  Just lots and lots of screaming.

We have tried everything.  EVERYTHING.

I am not even going to list out all we have would take all day.  

Usually she gives in after about 2 hours of fit pitching....sometimes longer sometimes shorter.

Meanwhile we are trying to make sure our other 2 children get to bed okay and that we don't lose our own minds in the background noise of Caroline's shrill screams.

(For the record our other 2 kiddos sleep like logs through all of Yay for that!)

Two nights ago the anger just won.  I threw my hands up in surrender to it.

As I yanked the covers almost over my head I screamed to God with my heart, "Why can't You help her stop this?  We have prayed every night.  Nothing seems to work.  We are exhausted with this routine.  Please show us what to to help her.  Do these prayers work at all?  Do you hear this Lord?"

Sleep took over but as soon as the alarm clock went off the next morning the same thoughts jockeyed for  position in my mind.  "God why don't you help us?  You tell us to pray and you will answer.  Why aren't you answering our prayer?"  

I hated feeling this way...but it was the truth.  My attitude was a little mad still but mostly I wanted to know that God was in it somehow.

His Word says He never leaves us.  His Word says He turns His ear toward us. His Word says that our faith pleases Him. 

We were continually taking this issue to Him in prayer and the resounding answer seemed to be silence.

I am not good with silence.  I want answers.

Friday came and went with its things to get done but the questions from the night before kept me rattled.

As soon as I could get a few moments of quiet I decided to do what I knew to do.

Pray in spite of my doubts.
Get in the Word and let it speak Truth to the lies that kept pervading my thoughts.

The weather was completely nasty.  Rainy, overcast and gray.  The kids were situated and quiet. Now was my chance.

I didn't dare even turn on a lamp.

I just took the moments that were given and grabbed my bible.

I slid down the wall of my bedroom and sat with my knees up and back to the wall.

The devotion took me to Revelation chap 3.  Verse 11 spoke a strong directive to my heart, "hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown".

I have no idea what my crown even is.  But I sensed God saying to actively hold on to the faith that He has placed within me.  Hold on tight.  The enemy does his best to steal it away...we I must hold on tight.

Then I went to the book of Colossians.  Our ladies bible study has centered around the awesome book for the past 6 weeks.  As I began to read in chapter 1 the coolest thing happened....the dark room was invaded by 2 perfect rays of sunshine.

One ray fell directly upon my bible.  The other ray landed perfectly upon my face.

There in utter darkness...God put His light of love directly upon me...his child.  His angry and frustrated child.

I sat as still as possible.  If I moved at all I was no longer in the light.  So I just sat and soaked it up.

There in the quiet, God' presence settled upon me.

The answer to my question no longer mattered.  He was there.  With me.

I took these pictures with my phone to show others (and remind myself in the future) that His light is stronger than any darkness.

I hope you can see that all around me was dark and shadows.  His light landed upon my face and His word.

It was as if He was saying...."Stay in this Holy book daughter.  Do not deter to the left or the right.  Don't let questions and doubts shake the faith that I have built within you.  Stay.  Stand.  Persevere".

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Chasing the Wind

The last time I blogged was Nov. 18th.  Today is December 1st.  I would have sworn that it had only been a couple of days ago....

However that is my life these days.  Super speed.

I bet yours is too.

The Thanksgiving holiday was a bit of a blur.

We traveled on Wednesday and again on Friday.  We visited both sides of the family.  We enjoyed delicious food, caught up on the happenings of our loved ones, and cheered on our favorite college football teams.

This Thanksgiving holiday a few unexpected events occurred. 

Isn't it strange how life can turn on a dime?

We managed to hit not one but two deer on our way to visit family.

There was no serious damage done.  A head light is knocked out.  The bumper is a bit off kilter.  But the sound of the thud is what lives in my memory...and then the eery quiet afterwards.

Just like that the atmosphere in our vehicle changed. 

The kids were no longer asking, "Are we there yet"?

There was just stunned silence.

A more serious upset interrupted our Thanksgiving festivities when my precious mother in law fell. We had all finished eating the big meal and were about to start a craft that had been her idea. She was so excited.  She had worked hard and been the ideal hostess for her family.

We all waited outside for her to come and join us.  Instead another family member came out and spoke with an urgency and tone that indicated an emergency. 

"She has fallen.  We need some help.  She can't get up."

She dislocated her shoulder. 

Immediately Thanksgiving Day changed for all of us.

The craft never happened.  A visit to the ER took its place.

Things happen.

We are left scratching our heads thinking, "What just happened here?!?"

Here is the bottom line.....God is still good.

He doesn't have to offer the answer.

He just offers Himself.

The day before we left to go out of town I was piled up in our living room watching a movie with my kids.  I don't really recommend the movie (it was cheap and poorly made...the words spoken didn't match the lip movement from the actors).

The story line was interesting enough and pulled us into the story.  Basically you have good v. evil.  A girl is going in search of the Christmas Star.  She has to face impossible odds and believe in unbelievable things to reach it.  In addition to this she is being hunted and chased by her enemy (sounds like the Christian life to me).

At one point in the movie she has to make it to the "North Wind."  When she arrives she can't see a person but a swirling wind blows up all around her and begins to speak.  The wind tells her to jump into it.  She is terrified of course.  Why would anyone jump into air and think that it would hold you up much less take you somewhere.

The voice in the wind begins to sound annoyed and frustrated.  I think it even says to her, "C'mon jump into me.  I don't have time for this.  Jump!"

She did jump.  And the wind held her and carried her to her destination.

God encouraged me through this scene in this horribly ridiculous movie.

He speaks to us in the same fashion sometimes.

Faith is jumping into the wind and trusting that it will uphold you and carry you on.  It feels ridiculous and scary but when you ride on its wings it feels like the most natural and normal thing in the world.

Change happens.

Deer run out into the road.

Loved ones fall and get hurt.

God is constant through it all.

He might allow the journey to be hard.  He might allow the enemy to breathe down our necks.  He might take safe options away.  But He will never remove Himself.  He speaks from the winds of change.  He is in it completely....willing to uphold us....and carry us onward to our next destination.