Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am not Amazing

It's funny.  Since Keith died, I get the comments, "you're amazing" and "you are so strong" a lot.  It is very sweet of people to say, but inwardly I cannot help but snort.  I am far from amazing, and, some days, I am the antithesis of strong.

Some days, more than I would like to count, my life, my attitude, is much less than amazing.  Some days I scream in frustration at the mess in the house, and the children in my house who made it.  Some days I cry angry tears of over spilled milk and broken light fixtures.  Some days school contains more words spoken in an angry tone than in an uplifting one.  Some days I want to just retreat, curl up in a ball and wait for the day to be over.  That's reality.

I am not amazing.  I am human.  Sometimes much too much so!  If I have done anything right in this whole journey of grief, if I have any advice to give, it is this:  let God be God.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) may seem trite to some...until you try living that way.

Dressing your four young sons for their daddy's funeral...I can do all things...
 Continuing to homeschool with no break and no "principal"...I can do all things...
Celebrating birthdays and holidays and milestones...I can do all things...
Teaching young men to be men of God in the image of their dad and their Father...I can do all things...

I could go on, but the point is this:  I do nothing here, nothing, but surrender.  God has a plan and a purpose and, really, I am along for the ride.  And it will be a wonderful and beautiful and joyous ride as long as I don't try to take over the driving on my own.  Instead, I wait for directions.  I pray and I pray, and I often fail and make a total mess of things, taking them back from God and trying to do them on my own.  But, I keep trying, and God keeps being gracious.  Praise Him for that.  Hallelujah!

So, my standard answer when someone says I am strong or amazing:  "No, I'm not, but God is!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Prodigal Heart and Bubble Wrap

A couple months ago, something in the sermon at church had me praying for prodigal children.  As I was praying, I realized that I, too, was a prodigal of sorts.  I have a prodigal heart.

Let me paint the picture.  I have a great life.  Surrounding me I have four wonderful, loving, compassionate, smart sons; gobs of friends who love and care for me emotionally and physically; a great family who has my best interests at heart; a warm and beautiful home filled with plenty of food and clothing for all of us.  I have a relationship with God that continues to grow as He teaches me and prunes me and prepares me.

Yet, I want to wander.  I want to take my inheritance and go, instead of waiting for the right time, God's time, instead of completing the learning and training necessary to be a child of the Master.  I want what I want, not just physically but emotionally, and I am willing to forsake the Plan for that.  I am drawn by the open road, and want to do things the easy way, instead of the right way, God's way.  I am led astray by the foolishness of my own wayward, impatient heart that wants things that are not mine to have now, maybe not ever again...like a husband.

This is what I need:  bubble wrap.  I need to have bubble wrap around my heart, insulating it against the lures of the world, against the lures from within.  Lures that draw me away from God's plan will only cause heartbreak.  Sometimes I need bubble wrap around my whole body. 

I want the package of "me" to arrive safely at the Master's feet, unharmed and untainted.  I want to always want what He wants for me in my life.  I want my life to be so wrapped up in becoming the Bride of Christ that everything else pales in comparison.  No pun intended.  This is the real deal, what I want, what I need, to strive for daily. 

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  -Psalm 25:4-5

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Going on a Joy Hunt

Some days are hard.  Yesterday, I missed the feel of Keith's arms around me.  Maybe it was because I have had a lingering cold that has sapped some of my energy and some of my emotional buoyancy.  Maybe it was because his name came up several times in conversation this week as I shared part of our story with new friends.  Maybe it was because it was another Friday night--alone.

I went to bed early, choosing my mini pity-party over anything productive.

I awoke this morning feeling a bit better after a longer night's sleep, but not back to normal.

Time for a joy hunt!

A devotion I am doing (www.walkingwithgod.com) has me writing down scripture and analyzing it--and asks me to name a blessing from the day before.  No room for requests; just a blessing.

Expanding this concept, I decided to go on a joy hunt.  In less than a minute, here are the things I found to be joyful about:  my kids; my warm, comfortable home; my bank account having a positive balance; my boatload of friends all over the country; my loving family; my country; my church; my dogs; my health.  (free association here, not listed in order of importance)

When I was in college, we had a prayer circle going, thanking God for things in our lives.  A young man I did not know well stated each time he spoke the same words:  "thank God for milk."  Now, I don't know if he was a huge milk fan or if there was some deeper significance behind his praise of milk, but it made an impact on me.  Though this happened 20 years ago, I still remember it.  Seemingly simple things, but worthy of thanks to Him who created them.  The essence of a child-like faith expressed!

I could continue my joy hunt to that level of detail and probably fill pages and pages in my journal, but I think I will stop here.  I am feeling better--realizing I am blessed beyond measure.  Pity party over.

Feeling low?  Go on your own joy hunt!

Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. 
- Psalm 30:5B, New American Standard Bible

Thursday, January 12, 2012

God in the Details

My oldest, Alex, can usually be found in a Christian t-shirt and jeans.  On Christmas Day, he had just gotten new shirt (black, with a guitar on it and scripture) and was sporting it with his new jeans. 

Being the helpful kid that he is, he was loading the dishwasher for me as I rushed busily around the kitchen preparing for company.  As he was filling the well with dishwasher detergent, however, I cringed.  I had forgotten to warn him about the dangers of the bleach in the detergent.  Before I could stop him, he swiped the excess detergent down both his shirt and pants.

I  hustled him upstairs to change, hoping to avoid the bleach spots which I knew would end up on the shirt (I have several such shirts myself).  I hoped that maybe washing the shirt and pants right away might take the bleach out before it could do any damage,  Needless to say, Alex was bummed.

Later in the day, I moved the clothes to the dryer and discovered that, indeed, there were bleach spots on both the shirt and pants.

Here's where God came in.  When I pulled the clothes out of the dryer...THERE WERE NO BLEACH SPOTS ON THEM.  No kidding.  The spots I had seen with my own eyes were gone!

Why did God, in His infinite wisdom, choose to remove the spots from the jeans and shirt? 

It could have been because of the money I would have to spend to replace them.  It could have been because He likes to see Alex in a Christian t-shirt, proclaiming His name.

I think there might be another reason.  This incident is an excellent example to me, and to Alex, of just how much God is in the details.  It is an example of His extravagant love for us played out in a shirt and pair of pants.  Any time he wears the shirt, Alex will think of God's infinite care and love for us, and so will I. 

I hope you do, too.

"And even the very hairs on your head are numbered."  -Matthew 10:30

Monday, January 2, 2012

Joy as a Verb

"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." - Habakkuk 3:18 KJV (emphasis mine)

I have always thought of joy as a thing, something to possess.  It is storing memories and moments in the scrapbook of your heart.  It is that rope you cling to when you are at the end of yours.  It is something beautiful and precious, but almost something past.  When Keith died, we still found lots of joy.  It was present in the care of our Savior, the love of our friends and family, and the remembering of the life of a godly man.  This joy was good and right and real.

This passage talks of another kind of joy, though. 

I have this print by the artist Michael Podesta in my living room:


This is joy...the word made into action...dancing!

This is how I want to live - with joy as a lifestyle - embracing whatever comes my way.  I want to recognize that the Father planned my days, or at least allowed them to play out as they have, and that regardless of the outcome, it is for God's glory.  I want to dance in the rain and in the pain, to see beauty around me even in the midst of the hard and ugly!

The verse our family has relied on through Keith's death and other stresses has always been Jeremiah 29:11:  " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord.  'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "  This verse has given us a lot of comfort, but I would submit that it speaks of the first kind of joy, resting joy.

If you read just a bit farther, though, to the end of the verse, I think you get at this dancing joy:  "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart." (verse 13)

So, I'm going to work at joying my way through 2012 -- seeking God in all the moments, good and bad, and dancing to His tune as I go!