A life prepared

In what is, arguably, the busiest season of the year, I find myself in the middle of a time-use overhaul. In the last several months, I found myself painfully overstretched in my time, and somehow even in the leftover moments, I was still floundering with it. I have lamented over the hours flying by to God, to my friends, and my husband, a lot…bless his heart. But no matter how I tried, I felt like I was walking through a life wasted.

Do you ever feel like that? Like your entire body can be present and at work in good, and even meaningful!, things, but your heart and mind are so distracted and absent, that you feel like you missed it? I have sat across from inmates in prison and wasted it. I’ve had coffee with a woman aching from a hard situation in her life and wasted it. I’ve gone on a rare date night with my husband, and yet, wasted it. I don’t mean wasted as in, not worth it, I mean wasted because I walked away wishing it had gone different, desperate for another chance to encourage and be there for them. The primary cause of my wasted opportunities was because I wasn’t prepared for it all. I didn’t ready my heart to make the most of my words and their time.

When it comes to regulating something, I am very much like a horse in need of blinders on. I am strong-willed and very much like the dog on the movie Up who is always snapping back to thoughts of squirrels, no matter what important moment is happening. So, I’ve gotten a bit drastic in my time management lately, and asking my husband to hold me accountable to my attempts to form new habits.

It may seem like an overhaul is drastic especially this time of the year, but sometimes drastic is what is needed. At least when you’re as hard headed as me, it is. But why SO rigid on my time and determined in my efforts? Because reading through the story of Jesus’ birth, there are two words my eyes rest upon. I stare at them, willing them to be untrue but seeing myself in them despite my desires: no room.

I am the innkeeper.

I talk a big talk as the season approaches, and I have such desires of where my  heart focus will be, but once Christmas is upon us, I look around and realize that my time and choices said there was no room for Him. No extra room, at least. No room for His birth. No room for the prophesies leading up to that moment. No room in my heart to look through all the Christmas glimmer to see Him standing there on the other side of it, looking at me with calm, patient eyes, willing me to  drop it all and walk away with Him for a moment.

He has gone ahead of us and is busy preparing a place for us, and yet, I don’t do the same so often for those He has placed in my life. I live out a life that believes the lie that there’s no room. No room in my time, no room in my head, no room in my heart, my home, my budget….

And to be honest? I’m pretty sick and tired of the lies. Because when I step outside of it a minute, I see the truth. But inside of it? As hard as I try, and as much as I care, I find myself rushing and rushing to check off lists and squeeze things in. I want to spend time with people, but often I feel like they need me as if I’m what stands between them and collapse. But I am no savior and I have no healing powers.

But, there is something I do have to offer up with open palms: a heart prepared. A heart that has readied for time with others so I can sit across from them over coffee, dinner, or the ever-watching gaze of a guard and listen instead talk. I can look into their eyes and know that the only One who can save them is One who was born and placed in a manger, but grew into a man and changed the entire world. I can remind them of His promises and love for them, and that will be so much more than enough.

I have a great desire to leave the presence of others almost bursting with all the words unsaid, so that I may pour them out to Him instead. I want to ask questions that cause true reflection and help me to know them. I want to walk away empty, because I have filled them up. But what I have found, is that the catalyst for all of that starts way back down the line in time before that moment. It can only happen when I have been so intentional with my time and gifts, that I may not be great and as boastworthy as an inn on a dark night, but I am as welcoming and warm as a stable.

Normally, this is a New Year’s sort of thing, but the people in my life are there now. Max Lucado says that you change your life when you change your heart, and that is so, so badly what I want for Christmas. So Merry Christmas, and may your gatherings this year be full of the light and warmth of a stable, even if they aren’t as done up and fancy as an inn.

Word of the Year-End of year review

So, there’s two more days left for 2015. This year was the year of renewal for me. I had every intention of continuing with my word of the year posts, but things got crazy. real crazy. Like, husband graduates, we wait in limbo for months for him to be licensed, then he moved away from us for more than a month while I packed up our lives with the blessed little old house we called home for three years fell apart all around us.  Then we moved to a new city and about the time I began to catch my breath, my dad’s health spiraled down and he was in the hospital and before we knew it, he was gone. Then the next week was Thanksgiving, then Christmas…and now here I am, looking 2016 dead in the eye. However, though I wasn’t able to stay consistent with blogging about my word, it was very much a part of my spiritual life throughout each and every month.

And you know what? I don’t feel renewed. Today, I was sitting in my living room eating a salad and having a conversation about it. To be honest, I was alone and that conversation was happening in my head, but it’s still applicable, right? (Also, while I’m on the topic of honesty, the “salad” I was eating was basically chicken and bacon with ranch and barely any lettuce, but Walmart made it and who am I to judge. It was delicious.)

anyway, I was thinking about my word “renew” and my 2015. My favorite thing to do with my word is to google my word by itself and read the definition that pops up. So in between bites of my “salad” today, I googled “renew.”

re·new
rəˈn(y)o͞o/
verb
  1. resume (an activity) after an interruption.
    “the parents renewed their campaign to save the school”
    re-establish (a relationship)
    “he had renewed an acquaintance with McCarthy”
    repeat (an action or statement).
    “detectives renewed their appeal for those in the area at the time to contact them”

And suddenly, I saw it. I had a year of nothing but interruptions. If 2015 was anything at all, it was a year of resuming and repeating. It was a year of perseverance. A year I hoped would end with tall, healthy stalks actually left me with raw plowed soil. So, I’m entering 2016 with aches and questions, but I’m also entering with confidence and hope. …which reminds me, 2016’s word of the year? Hope.

What about you? looking back on your one word, can you see now how it outlined your path? Can you google and read the definition with new eyes? and anyone have a new word yet? This is seriously the earliest I’ve ever had mine! I’ll leave you with one of my very favorite verses…a verse that led me to my word renew, and ironically, also led me to my word Hope.

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When you’re hurting on Thanksgiving

It’s the week of Thanksgiving! Are you ready? I wish I was, but there’s a lot to do and a heart to prepare. It’s been less than a week since we laid my dad to rest, and we’ve decided to spend this Thanksgiving at home. Sometimes, grief needs to be cocooned and cradled, and for me, that looks like being home. Honestly, it’s just too soon for me to bear going “home” for the holiday and not taking an apple pie or homemade bread to my dad’s, particularly when I FINALLY remembered that he loved apple pie and hated pumpkin pie. I confused it so many times and would always either take a pumpkin, or have to take both refusing to admit to him before that I had forgotten again. haha

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But, Thanksgiving will be a bit rough around the edges this year. I get to play hostess for the first time ever, which is something I will love to do the first year in our new home, but there will be an ache always conscious that someone is missing. But, last year, I learned something I found interesting, but this year is vital to my heart for Thanksgiving. I had been reading through the Bible, so I had passed on through Genesis and Exodus. I was aware of all the laws and requirements for worship for the Israelites, having just read through them again. Then, I ran across this:

With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread. Leviticus 7:13

Now, if you hadn’t just read through Exodus, that verse may not seem all that important to you. But, it is extremely important and all because of one word: leavened. The verse before that says that they would also need to bring unleavened bread (the pure and good), but then here we see for the first time that He was also requiring leaven this time. Leaven meant yeast, and yeast was strictly forbidden in any offerings made to the Lord with fire. In fact, He was so serious about the presence of yeast, that He insisted they throw out ALL yeast before celebration of the passover each year and not even have it in their homes. ummm….do you have any idea how difficult it would have been to get that yeast back? You had to grow yeast from yeast to have yeast….and you’re in the desert…and no one is supposed to have it. But, each year, they had to throw it out. Either, someone wasn’t all that honest about throwing ALL their yeast away, or they were going to great lengths for their bread. But, yeast bread vs crackers?

So, why was God anti-yeast? Because it was symbolic. Leaven symbolized sin or evil in the world. It’s deceit and hurt and pain and everything God doesn’t want for us. It’s cancer and divorce and yelling at loved ones in rage. And in the offerings, like the sin and other offerings, He required it out. Drop your issues, leave them out, repent, and come to me.

But for thanksgiving? He said, bring them in.

Don’t try to fix them. Don’t wash your tear streaked face and dust yourself off first. Bring it here. Because if you can only be grateful for the good, you’re cheating yourself in knowing Him more. Being thankful doesn’t mean you’ve got it all together. Being thankful means that sometimes, you hold it broken. You come before Him with your pain, and your loss, and your sin, and your fear, and you say, “You are still God. You are still good. and I will still follow you, in the harvest and in the drought.”

This Thanksgiving instead of styling our tables perfectly and putting on our masks so that we look like we aren’t broken this year in front of others (and our Lord), let’s just go to Him like we are, either with a harvest of happiness and blessing or with our arms cradling our broken hearts. It’s hard, oh my word, it’s hard. And I don’t know that I will be able to decide right here to offer my hurt with my blessings, but I can spend my week offering little bits at a time. But there is a reason God required it. He knows that we need to know He is gracious through it all. He is walking with us through it all. And through it all, He is good. And He has promised us so much. He’s promised that He does have a plan. He’s promised us that our pain and trials will produce perseverance and faith and so much more. And I want those things. So, I’ll take joy this year in knowing that He loves me and weeps with me and that hurt and pain is not what He wants for us. But, He’ll use that hurt and pain that comes in our fallen world, and transform it into something beautiful. And beauty from ashes may just be what I’m most thankful for this year.

Fight, Flight, or…Freeze? When the Future is uncertain

Have you ever heard of the Fight or Flight instinct? I’m sure you have. It’s a theory we’ve heard about for decades. I always wondered which instinct I had, but then one night my freshman year of college, I found out. Two exchange students, both with an obviously foreign sense of humor, were causing a bit of a disturbance in the hall of my dorm. I lived alone and my suite-mates were asleep while I sat in my dark room that was illuminated only by my laptop screen working on a paper (I’m sure was due in a matter of hours.) After a series of happenings, I was thoroughly freaked out and completely unsure of what was going on. Finally, after more than half an hour, a knock came at my door. And I, being an idiot, opened it.

What greeted me were two faces. Two horrible, awful, terrifying masks. In that moment, I realized that I have neither a fight nor flight. I have FREEZE. Seriously, if those faces had belonged to kidnappers, they could have picked me up like a statue and simply carried me away.

They honestly got bored with my reaction and took their masks off just to make me move again thinking I wasn’t at all frightened while I internally, I was a puddle on the floor. Then, they went through our bathroom to gently wake one of my suite-mates with their masks on. She roused from her sleep, her eyes got huge, and she seriously jumped out of bed and chased them down half asleep. One was able to slip out the door and apparently ran across the quad to hide in another dorm, while the other was caught in our room. He was lying on my bed trying desperately to rip his mask off while she stood over him fists clenched and ready. It was amazing. Definitely fight instinct. We decided after we all laughed about it that from then on, I should keep my door locked and just allow all intruders to go through her room first.

Well, fast forward to now. I still have that instinct in the face of fear. I’m not sure if it would change if my children were involved or not, but if it’s just me, then see ya. I’m just standing here in the face of fear doing nothing but staring. But it wasn’t until this week that I realized that that same instinct carries over to other areas of fear or dread.

When the future is daunting

I have a lot going on. No surprise. We all do. It’s just life. Ours is just a current weird season that I hope isn’t going to be repeated. May was full of my husband’s graduation and party, a shower I hosted, a week long deliberation on a job decision, an acceptance of a job…hours away, looking for houses and going through all the contact with realtors and lenders and so on, and a beach trip. GOODBYE May! June will be a lot of waiting. July will be go-time. There is A LOT to do in July and August, and only two of the many are moving our family hours away and figuring out our homeschool routine for the year and starting that, which are HUGE.

But there’s almost nothing I can do right now to actually help the work later that I haven’t already done. I’m just….waiting. So for weeks, I have wanted to blog. Wanted to write. Wanted to catch up on my house. Wanted to PACK. wanted to pull out allll the homeschool things and make progress there. Wanted Lance to start his job already so we can figure out our routine. Wanted to be in contract for a house so I could plan how many windows I’m supposed to have curtains for and so on.

But I can’t.

And faced with all the upcoming things and my fear and dread, guess what I did? Yep. Froze. I just froze. I was so overwhelmed (still am!) with all the things that I needed to do, that I only saw the huge big boulder of issues. But if I had zoomed in a bit, I could see that that boulder is made up of a lot of things, and each thing is made up of smaller things. Baby steps. All I needed to do is take a step in doing one thing from one piece right now. Then wait. Then repeat. Sometimes, God works in giving us all those details. When He wanted His tabernacle built, He gave specific instructions and details even all the way down to exactly who He wanted to make parts. I’m sure Moses was grateful to have instructions because when God told him to take those people out of Egypt into the dessert, he was not given a map. He had no idea the path they’d take, only the end result. The reason was because so much of their path depended on their faith and bravery. AND they didn’t get to go the shorter route because God knew they’d see the obstacles and freeze in fear, running back to Egypt and slavery. So, they didn’t get details and they didn’t get the shorter path.

And I really don’t want that for myself. I don’t want this summer to be a long, drawn out, hot exodus. I want a shorter path, even if it’s a harder one. But that will require faith and bravery, and it’ll require moving my feet in action even when there seems to be too much to even begin to work on.

What about you? Are you a fight or flight? Maybe a freeze? Is there something looming in your future that you’re waiting on an answer for? Baby steps. He only asks for baby steps. 

Unrefined Beauty and Hope for the Season of Little Ones

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I love that verse. It gives me such hope. It is my very favorite verse. I have had seasons in the past when I have been drawn to other verses, verses about grace and heaven. I’m sure seasons will come when I’m drawn to other verses. But for now, this is it.

He who began a good work in you will

This is the season of littles. It’s a season of living life inside a rock tumbler with all our unrefined and immature gifts banging against each other all day, every day. A season of waking up to read the Word and sitting quietly in a rocking chair with a cup of steaming coffee in hand for 2.9 seconds before the dog vomits in the floor or someone cries out in pain because they bit their own finger. From that moment on, the day goes fast and hard. I never stop moving, they never stop talking, we never stop thinking. And because of that, there aren’t many moments that pass by without someone in danger of sin.

I wake in the morning full of repentance over my sins of yesterday, and determined and steadfast in my  heart to respond with gentleness and sweet words to each need of my family. But somewhere during the day, I fall short. The word for sin actually means to miss the mark. I have a target, but when I aim as well as I can at that mark, I still often miss. Sometimes I’m close to the target, but not quite on the mark. Other times, my arrow didn’t even hit the target. It went way over it and over a fence.

And sometimes, that fact makes me lie in the floor on my face sobbing because as long as I’m bound in this body on this fallen earth with these children bound to their own bodies, I am prone to sin. But, then I read this verse. He is faithful. He will continue His good work in me. I don’t struggle with what I did before. What once made me angry in years past, I could take all day long and make it look like a joy ride. But, I’m not around those things, I’m around little children. And I am being refined by them. And that verse reminds me of that. But, there’s another side of that I often forget. so I need a reminder.

I have three bracelets made of raw stones. One made of raw and unrefined amethyst, for my February first born. One made from sapphire stones, for the little girl with eyes to match her birthstone. And then one made of rubies, for that littlest one. The thing about those bracelets is that they didn’t cost much. Because they’re unrefined and not perfectly cut. However, if I had the experience and tools, I could put the time in and refine those stones. I could cut them and polish them, and eventually, those stones would become jewels. But I do have the experience and tools to help refine those little girls, maybe not the ones I need in years to come, but I have enough for today. God has promised that.

I have a daughter full of compassion and grace, but who often wants to control and boss. I have another daughter who is joyous and trusting, but who often wants to ignore what needs to be done and let someone else take care of it. And one who is full of surprises and laughter, but who often throws tantrums when she can’t have all of the attention.

They are valuable and their gifts are valuable. But their gifts are unrefined and raw, causing their sinful nature and emotions to be unrefined and raw. And that’s okay, because He is faithful. He will continue the good work he has started. The unrefined gifts are the proof of that. They are the deposit He has already made into their eternal souls, and part of my job is to stop holding them to a human standard and trying to be their Holy Spirit. Love is what molds. I could nag all day long and maybe refine a bit, like a slow stream. But loving someone enough to live with them through their flaws, in spite of their flaws, and helping them to strive for more refines like a rushing waterfall. We can’t always see that, of course. Because waterfalls are loud and hard to get too close to, without splashing you with water or pulling you down as well. and homes full of little children who spill all the cups and bicker and run and giggle and hug hard are much the same. Getting close will be loud. They’ll splash you as well and likely pull you down into the mess to be pounded by the waters. You’ll all lose your cool and calm, and bump into one another repeatedly in an attempt to find your ground. BUT, you’ll be refined in ways you never knew possible. And though I can’t speak from experience yet, I have a feeling that one day, I’ll stand on firm ground again, soaked and exhausted but with a deeper understanding of His grace. And I’ll be so very grateful for the season of littles.

Keep going. He is faithful to continue that good work! and not just in you, but in those kiddos too, praise the Lord! 😉