Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ticket to Ride: The Roller Coaster of Faith



The trust saga continues.

I have been raving for two years now about the amazingness of Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. I read it with my book club over several months and I thought that its message of gratitude and finding the joy in the ugly beautiful had oozed into every pore of my dry little heart.

I thought wrong.

It only took a revisit to the topic in our weekly Bible Study (this time with the video series along with the book), a roller coaster ride through a tumultuous situation, and a revealing text conversation with one of my kindreds, Sarah, to shine the light on my ignorance.

I would like to think that I "live what I believe."

Yes...I would love to think that.

But what I have come to see in the last two weeks is that it's much easier to spout off a philosophy than to actually live it out.

When push comes to shove, or that roller coaster screams through the station and goes around for yet another lap, I am finding what I truly believe.

While roller coasters are thrilling and breath-taking and are a lot of fun to shriek and be terrified on for a few moments, no one really wants to ride one for any serious length of time.

The "fun" wears off eventually and what once gave you "tickle bellies" on those huge drops now just makes you want to throw up.

I would love to think that I am always up for an adventure...that God could throw down a challenge and I would eagerly embrace it...that I would move through said challenge with poise and grace -- a shining beacon of an example to all who know me.

Instead, I feel like I am losing my mind.

Or at the very least, a measure of my faith.

I am incredibly disappointed to discover that I'd rather watch someone else ride the roller coaster of life with poise and grace and admire it from the sidelines. Because, I thought I would be the one with my hands up in the air hollering with delight at the ups and downs and encouraging people to get on.

But, I'm not.

Because the truth is that despite all of my talk of loving change and getting out of the rut, apparently safe and the same suits me just fine.

Last week, I posted about how after a long wait in a very small house (by American standards, mind you), I felt like it was finally God's timing to move us to something else. We had been patiently (okay...minimally patient) waiting for God's yes -- waiting for a better market, a better financial situation and just waiting because it felt like He was saying to just wait.

We moved out in that faith by putting our house up on the market so that we could place an offer on a house we loved and then lost. And that was sad. But we were still selling our house. We would get a chunk of change out after escrow and then find our dream place. We had two viable and strong offers. We took the highest and best. They signed...and then changed their mind the next morning.

No worries. We took the second best offer. They signed. They changed their mind the next morning -- after I posted on Facebook that we sold our house (and yes, we are still fielding congratulations from friends and family every time they see us...lesson learned.)

So now we have no offers. Our showings have slowed to an anemic trickle. Half of the stuff we removed from our house is in my parent's garage and the other half in is ours. I'm homeschooling out of a plastic crate and I can't find anything. I lose my business every time a child lays something down out of place in my "show-ready" house.

This quick sale and transition to something else seems to have turned into a game of Monopoly and I feel like I am not passing Go or collecting $200. In fact, I feel like I am perpetually in jail with no get out of jail free card available.

Did I mishear you God?

What lesson am I supposed to learn here?

Oh wait...the one where I say I believe what Voskamp penned about "all is grace," but then throw a huge hissy fit when you don't do what I want you to do and grace seems like the last thing I'm feeling from you?

Oh that...

Yesterday at Bible Study, I was reminded by sweet Ann that stress is really a form of disbelief -- "practical atheism" she calls it.

And she's right. How can I feel physical stress in my body and disquiet and unrest in my spirit if I truly believe that all is grace and that even in my crazy coaster ride, that God is calmly and carefully operating it.

Is it possible that I could throw one of my hands up over my mouth and raise the other high in the air -- the universal roller coaster riding sign for, "I want off this thing!!"

Wait...what?

Get off the roller coaster, you say?

I could actually do that?

And here is the truth....

I don't have to sit there and submit to the suspension of gravity through the loops and corkscrews?

I may not always be able to choose whether this ride through life goes from sedately cruising in a slow boat of "It's a Small World" to the heart pounding drop of "Goliath," but no one every said I have to stay on it indefinitely.

The choice to continue to ride or get off is mine.

So today...I make another choice.

I refuse to live in fear and the nausea of practical disbelief.

I choose to let go of my pre-conceived idea of what this ride should look like.

I choose to let go of my notion that winners never quit and quitters never win.

I choose to not make this ride about me, but to make it about Him.

I choose joy and gratitude and to believe that all is grace. (and yes...I actually did just snap on my "Choose Joy" bracelet as a physical reminder.)

I choose to get off, grab some cotton candy, and enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk of life with my family.

Because I'm reminded once again...it's not the house, but the home you make inside of it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Folly of "My Idea" and The Abundance of His Grace



Sometimes I am really slow to get it.

After 40 years on this planet, I still marvel at my sheer ignorance in the ways of God. A thousand lifetimes devoted to the study and devotion of Him and His ways would never come close to fully revealing the mystery and depth of who He is.

At least I got that part right.

But so often I miss what is so glaring obvious to me this morning as I sip my coffee before the sun is up -- yes, me...the non-morning person. (Apparently God is answering my half-joking prayer that He would make me a morning person in 2014. But that's another story...)

What I am marveling over today is the divine comedy and utter folly of attempting to claim ideas as my own -- when clearly God has inspired them for such a time as this.

Specifically, I am referring to "my" wonderful idea to purchase a day planner in January as a way to motivate me to get up in the morning to spend some quality time with God, and fill in the page allotted to each day with what I feel like He is saying to me.

Ha.

"My idea."

Hilarious.

--

It's April and astonishingly the majority of the pages have been filled in since that purchase in January. I don't make it out of bed early enough every day. But in the last few weeks, I find that I need to get up and fill in those pages. My soul craves and anticipates it.

And especially this week.

To make a longer story short enough to not bore you or cause a rehash of epic proportions in my own heart, suffice it to say that it's been an emotional roller coaster over here as we look to sell our house of thirteen years.

We have had years and seasons of "not yet," and "wait," with the most recent being last year. I knew in my heart that God was asking me to lay aside my dream of moving our family to a bigger, more rural location, and I tried my best to comply.

It's been a struggle to lay down that dream time and time again upon God's altar of sacrifice. I too often have snatched it off to pet it and look at it and mourn the "wait" of it.

But in the last few weeks, the "wait" has felt like it has become an "almost."

So we have been looking at listings again. We have looked at a few properties -- and one that we fell in love with. We put our house on the market. We have a few offers. We put an offer on the house we loved. Yesterday, for the second time, they chose another offer. We feel crushed and confused about what to do with our house now.

Sell and where do we go? Choose an offer that lets us rent back to investors and stay in our home for what length of time? What if in six months, we are renting our own house for more money than our mortgage is now? What if even though we have a money for a down payment in the bank, we get priced out of the home we want?

We'd look like fools.

And if I know anything about myself and human nature...it's that I don't like to look foolish.

So...which way to go?

I can admit that I am sorely tempted to just quit the entire thing. To refuse all offers on our house and to yank that "For Sale" sign out of our yard and just lay down and whimper to God about my dream being crushed yet again despite our feeling like He was making a way for us.

--

So, back to the ridiculous notion of taking credit for "my ideas," and yes, this is where I skillfully tie these two threads together.

Back in January, I naively believed that the idea of buying that black shiny ugly planner was my idea when clearly, three months later, the pages I've filled would say otherwise.

Because God has been speaking to me. I have a tangible reminder (almost) every day as I flip back through the pages and my eyes stop on entries that prove that He does care and He is leading me and even today, that He is for me.


January 12 - I wrote the words of Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

January 29 - The words of St. Augustine encouraged me to "accept whatever happens as from Thee."

February 11 - Ephesians 1:10, He reminded me that at the right time, He will "bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ Jesus."

February 24: I read that the Holy Spirit brings, "peace of mind and heart...a peace that the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."

March 1 - He promised to "keep me in perfect peace when I keep my mind fixed upon Him." (Isaiah 26:3)

March 11 - Sarah Young in "Jesus Calling," penned, 'If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you.'"

March 20 - God reminded me that not only is it okay to rest, He wants me to do so and has promised rest for me. (Hebrews 4)

April 2 - I mulled over the idea of discipline and the reality that no one enjoys it while it's happening, "but afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way." (Hebrews 12:11)

April 3 (today) - "Jesus Calling" smacks me in between the eyes as I read this, "Your capacity to experience Me is increasing, through My removal of debris and clutter from your heart."


I still cannot get over that last one.

Not written in my daily journal is how God has been speaking to me over the past year or so about removing the clutter and debris from my home.

I downloaded the book, "7" by Jen Hatmaker over a year ago, but didn't start reading it until recently.  I've traveled to Tanzania and felt conviction about the excess and largess that we own and frankly abuse or take for granted. I've recalled our course of Financial Peace and renewed our commitment to spend wisely and work harder to become debt-free.

I have been fixated on the clutter in my physical home and our finances, but I have completely neglected the "clutter of my heart."

Wow!

It's been so jam-packed with me, my family, my needs, my hang-ups, my constipated writing, my inability to discipline myself to get up and carve out a devotional life, etc. ad nauseum.

And today...now I can see it so clearly.

My idea to use a day planner to inspire me to "do my devotions" was never my idea. And maybe it is not so much about checking off a spiritual discipline either.

I know beyond any shadow of doubt that He has been preparing me for the disappointment of yesterday when we heard that "our house" was never our house and probably never would be.

Do I sit down in a ball of tears and rage about it?

Do I shake my fist at heaven and remind God that He promised to make a way for me and that He let this one slip by?

Or do I pick up this duct-taped journal and flip through the pages and let His words wash over my bruised heart?

This is what I choose. 

Today. 

Right now.

I close my eyes and breathe in gratitude at the marvel and wonder of His Epic Plan and that He loves me enough to remove the debris and clutter from my heart even when I was so blindly fixated on removing it from anywhere and everywhere else.

I chose to cling to what He whispered through His word in Psalm 118 just this morning:

"In my distress, I prayed to the Lord, 
and the Lord answered me and set me free. 
The Lord is for me, 
so I will have no fear..."