Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dream Saga Series: Oh for Grace...

One of the most frustrating things about the "human condition" is our seeming inability at times to get out of a crazy cycle.

Sometimes we do things the same way for so long that it becomes ingrained.

I say this. He says that. Then I do this, and he does that. So, again, I say this.....

You see how it goes.

If we do this enough we create a whirlpool that starts to run on its own steam. And our very participation in that whirlpool keeps it going.

It takes extraordinary effort to either a.) swim against the current and go with other way, or b.) swim out of the whirpool altogether into the unchartered calm water of the vast unknown.

The truth is that it can be easier to just stay in the pattern we know when the ocean looms wild and deep.


But even though it may take less effort to just stay stuck and go with that crazy current, inside we die a bit more each day.

Because the truth is...we really don't want to be a slave to the whirlpool.

We want to be more. To be better. To rise above. To overcome.

This desire to be free and victorious is just as much of the human condition as going with the staying stuck in the flow.

But the two things don't go together. They are in constant tension.

I want to be better than I am now.  But being better can be so maddeningly, mind-bendingly hard.

--

I have failed yet again.

Yesterday, we drove 30 minutes out into the country and looked at an old farmhouse that was for sale. Built in the early 1900's, it has many charming features, and maybe a few not so charming ones. However, the fruit and nut trees, barns and an outbuildings made it an idyllic patch of land in my opinion. 

The price had just been lowered and I had worked my way through the longer commute and even got excited that it might be possible to move from our current house into that one without a container or renting an apartment or staying with family. 

Plus, the video series of "One Thousand Gifts" could have been shot on location there -- making it even more appealing.

As I was mentally moving our furniture into this house, I realized that I should probably ask my husband what he thought.

"Meh...it's okay."

"What do you mean 'okay'? Do you not see the built in window seat, the buffet and glass door knob? Obviously you didn't see the retractable clothes line or outdoor drinking fountain and patch of grass that would be the perfect place for the trampoline?"

"I dunno...it's not great."

"What's not great about it? Did you not see the pool or barns or bounty of fruit growing over there?"

"I'm just not excited about it."

"What would you be excited about, then???"

"Well, it's kinda far out, and I don't like all those ramshackle barns that we would have to tear down, and stuff might need to be fixed and I don't think the price is good for all of that."

"There is literally NOTHING else out there that has all of our qualifications. Shouldn't we start to think about making allowances for something that's not exactly what we want?"

(Shrug) "I just can't picture us living there."

--

I may still be learning about marriage after 15 years, but one thing I have learned is that I can't force or talk my husband into something. I mean...I can. I have. But it's never to a good outcome.

If he is not on board, then I have to consider that and accept it. 

Even if it feels a little like death.

So...just like that, the balloon of my hope deflated in a puddle around my heart.

I immediately went into my whirlpool -- an  internal funk, refuting all of his points in my head, going online and finding out how easy it would be to transfer our existing internet and satellite tv service out there (not always easy in the country, btw).

We talked about it later in the day. He still felt the same way.

And, so did I.

Crushed.

This process of leaving our house of 13 years and trusting God for something else is breaking me down.

And I know on some level...that's good. There is some stuff that needs to be broken down in me.


But it's so hard for me to let go and trust at times.

And then I get mad at myself for going back to old patterns: Fear, anxiety, depression, apathy rather than hope, trust, faith and peace.

I want to be better than this.


I want to be the wife that graciously submits to her husband's decisions. I want to not let my inner desire to "run the ship" to take over and steamroll over other people's opinions. I want to be the woman of faith who would accept that this is not the house for us and to move on and wait for something else.

But, instead, I feel like a small tantruming child who wants the candy in the grocery store.

Why God?

But, God?

What if...God?

It's not that I don't trust Him. I absolutely do. I think it's more that I don't trust Him...enough.

This morning at church we sang a familiar hymn,

"Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him

How I've proved Him o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust Him more"

That last line really got me. I choked it out like a prayer.

I trust Him. And yes, He has proved Himself faithful over and over in my life. He is precious to me....

But....

...oh for that grace to trust Him...more.

"Lord, I believe....help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24)

In the midst of that exhausting internal turbulence, I thought about something a friend posted on my Facebook wall earlier this week. My Grammie used to say, "God is previous," and this is another example of how He can orchestrate things into being before we need them.

Yesterday (and today), I needed to be reminded of this.




I feel like that little girl clutching that bear. It's the best thing she can see at the moment. I dare say she would say, it's all she ever wanted. I know that she would bargain, plead, promise anything to keep it. 

But she doesn't know what she is missing.

I am that girl.


The difficult part for me is that my Jesus is SO BIG that he blocks the view of what He is holding onto for me. Because he wants me FIRST to give him my most precious thing: My trust.

Only after I surrender that which feels like is my treasure can he replace it with what He has for me instead. 

I have to give it without seeing what I'm trading it in for.

And if I'm honest, I don't like that...not one bit.

Because it all comes back to control -- my lack thereof and my reluctance to give it up.

But Jesus isn't disgusted by my childish ways. I feel His love. I feel His heart of tenderness for me. I feel Him waiting for me to let go -- to truly let it go. Even if it's something I do every day or every minute.

He's bent down. Impossibly, improbably the Savior of the world is crouched down in front of me extending His hand. Not because He wants to rip the last vestige of what I hold dear from me. Because He has something else.

I only need to find the courage and surrender to extend mine.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dream Saga Series: The Pocket of His Grace



This past year as I have dove headlong into my year of turning 40 (aka, "Fab4D"), I have been more intentional about being awake to the simple joys and beauty in my life. Every day is truly a gift.

But when you live an average of 27,375 days, each one can meld together if you don't make a concerted effort to wake to your "one beautiful life,' as Ann Voskamp would encourage.

I am often guilty of living my life in the "not-yet." 


I am a planner to the core, so my fingers are always itching to fill in the squares of my monthly/yearly calendar.

"I just want to know," is something that could be put upon my tombstone.

Time Management.

Managing Time.

It almost seems laughable when I type it out. As if I could manage something so vast and wild and unfathomable.

We each do our best to take what we have planned and purposed for each day and manage that day to the maximum. Sometimes we do better than others. Sometimes we cram each day with so much that it becomes unmanageable.

And then we get upset.

Time is raw, free, infinite, yet somehow limited...and limiting.


I have also learned from dear Ann's, One Thousand Gifts, that I can slow time down when I truly live in each moment. And the way to focus in on moments in infinite time is by looking -- truly seeing -- and giving thanks for that very moment.

The laundry still might need to be folded. Potatoes should probably be peeled, and the very next moment may hold a science experiment gone wrong.

But this moment.

This is the moment that I truly see a measure of God's grace.

I'm packing up and putting away our new-to-us-completely-a-blessing iPad in its long-awaited case. I'm putting the bluetooth keyboard that works like a champ with it (that we already had for our daughter's Kindle Fire) into the case that I converted from a crayon holder last summer.

And then I see it.

A perfect row of tiny yellow stitches.



And then I look over at the white stylus that I just received for Mother's Day.

And it clicks.

It's a perfect fit.





I don't know why I ripped out all those tiny rows that were originally designed for crayons but left that one intact. It might have fit the keyboard better. I'm sure it did.

But right now...in this moment...it's being filled in a way that I never would have guessed or even dreamed. I can't help but marvel over it because it looks like it was made just for this stylus...even though I bought it and repurposed months and months ago.



And maybe it was.

You see....I'm learning that time is also fluid. And lately, I feel like God has been lifting the curtain a bit and showing me glimpses of his power and his forethought over my life.

And if God cares enough about me to orchestrate the perfect spot for my stylus almost a year ago, then He has the timing of this house thing completely locked up.

There is a perfect fit for us out there somewhere. And I wouldn't be surprised if He hasn't been making adjustments on it for months or even years.

Because when He shows me His faithfulness in the small things, it is so much easier to trust Him with the BIG stuff.


I would rather fit snugly in His pocket of grace, then anywhere else.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dream Saga Series: When Not Getting What You Want Doesn't Feel Like Better




They say when you don't get the something you've wanted, God has something better.

But what do you do when better seems so far away, and all you can feel is today's sting of loss?


Despite my best intentions, I am in slight state of mourning.

The amazing blue house that started this journey of selling our house -- the one that motivated us to toss piles of random stuff into the garage so the realtor could snap tidy photos of every room for the MLS listing, the one that caused to wait on pins and needles for that first good offer -- that house sold today. 

But, not to us.

The first time they passed on our offer for another was difficult. But, then those buyers changed their mind, and it it was our turn. Between having a contractor come out to look at our desired renovations and how we would financially swing them, we inexplicably lost out again to another buyer.

Throughout the process of looking at over 25 other properties over two counties and a span of 40 miles during the last month, I still believed somewhere deep in my heart that this deal would fall through leaving "our house" ready for us to swoop in with our finished escrow, money in hand.

I didn't realize just how much hope I was holding out for this particular ending until now when I saw the email from our realtor letting us know the escrow had closed, and it was gone.

Earlier this morning as I was journaling, I reaffirmed my belief that God does want to give good gifts to me. In fact, I do believe that there is a reason behind this door (and other doors) closing. Some would say that what God has for us down the road tomorrow is even better than what He didn't have for us today. 

But, the truth is...the not getting what we thought He wanted to give us hurts...today.


We did everything possible to buy that property and we still didn't get it.

If that isn't a final answer, then I don't know what is. 

Any maybe that's the comfort in this situation.

Throughout this process, we have prayed that God would shut doors that need to be shut and open doors that only He could open.

Meaning...that for all of our exertions of trying to force and prop open this door of our "dream property," God does not and never did want that door opened.

It's still a bit of a hard pill to swallow, to be honest.

But, as I sit here in my cozy almost-sold house and I think about how seamless things have been for the sale of this property, I know that God has cracked wide open the door of selling this home. I am not sure I could have scripted it better...in fact, I know that I couldn't have even if I tried.


  • This morning as I sipped my morning coffee, I realized that we are going to be selling and moving out of this house exactly 13 years to the month of buying and moving into it.

  • We will own our house through the end of May -- perfect timing for the previous owner whom we bought the house from to be in town for a wedding and to come by for a look at her childhood home and perhaps a cup of coffee.

  • The closing of our house at the end of May, and the 30 extra days we will have to rent back to the new owners through June will make it possible for us to finish homeschooling for the year, for Rylie to finish out his school year, for him to enjoy watching the World Cup in the comfort of our living room with our cable all hooked up, for our kids to go to VBS, and for Declan to go to week of soccer camp -- all from the safety and comfort of our home.

  • All of the kids will go to the VBS all morning for an entire week that last week in June -- giving us 20 hours or so of uninterrupted time to sort, pack, move and clean.

  • The girls will leave for church camp the day after will leave the only home they've ever known -- giving them the perfect place to process and experience any sense of grief or loss they will likely feel.

If that isn't amazing timing, I don't know what is! Add into that, the first summer in years that Rylie has not been committed to teach a summer class or camp in June, and I'd say it borderlines on miraculous.

If you add in his not being committed to work until after mid-July -- allowing us to keep the camping reservation I made earlier in the year (before all of this house selling madness) and that the kids are so excited about, it's even more amazing.

In fact, we have literally nothing at all on the calendar in the first part of July (again...hasn't happened in I don't know how many summers), and this openness is going to make it possible for us to finally go up to Oregon and visit Rylie's dad and his brother and family who just moved up last year. 

No house. No mortgage. No problem.

Just add in my sister and brother-in-law's pop-up tent trailer, and our home for July has now become a house on wheels.

And the kids are so excited about the adventure of it all. 

Me...I'm getting there.

But, I am getting there. Because it all seems so beautifully orchestrated. We were thinking we wouldn't be able to get up to Oregon at all due to finances and schedule issues. And now those have been swept away like dust bunnies.

We may not know what will happen the last part of July when we need to be back in town. And, true, it will be difficult to hunt for a house if we are in another state.

But I'm not worried.

After all, this last week has proven to me that God is the Master of Time. Our realtor was gone for a week and would you know, there was not even one property that we were remotely interested in seeing. I was stressed that something amazing was going to pop up and we would lose it -- especially being so near to the end of our window to find a place to move to from our current house.

But...nothing.

So, I have full confidence that will not miss out on God's best for us because we are visiting family. Will God surprise us by bringing something to us before we leave this house in June? Or maybe as we are on the way back in July? Or will it be when I'm sitting in an apartment dining area months from now?

I don't know.

And for the first time...in a long time...that's okay.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dream Saga Series: When Fixating on One Tree Keeps You from the Forest of His Grace



I don't know why God is so good to me sometimes.

I know that by nature, God is good. I know in my head that He loves to give good gifts to his children. I guess my problem of late is why He would want to be kind to me...right now.

You see, I've been in kind of a snit.

Granted, I'm not in full-out, lay-down, kicking and screaming tantrum mode. But I have been a bit...well, reserved with God.

Our deadline to find another home (our dream home to be precise) is coming due within another week. God has approximately 7-10 days to come through in a miracle way, or we will need to consider other options.

Although I am open (and a bit resigned) to this "other options" way, I honestly have always thought God would move us from point A to Point B with no other point in between. And I have been struggling a bit with the idea that it may not happen that way.

I am still getting up every morning and I'm still eager to journal and do my devotional time. It's just that the shine has worn off a bit. 

This makes me feel like a bit of a fair-weather Christ-follower. Although my outward actions have not changed, I feel a bit different inside.

It might just be the tiniest seed of doubt. Okay...maybe it's more of a sapling. I'm trying my best to keep it in check, because I so desperately want to be all all-weather Christ-follower. In my heart, I'm that person, but my mind starts churning with a bunch of what-ifs and betrays me.

It's those last hours or minutes before the dawn that are the darkest and feel the most never-ending.


So, this last week for me has been disappointing as we had to take an area of housing off the table because it would make us ineligible to remain enrolled in our homeschool charter (more important than a house in my opinion). Although it has narrowed down our search -- and in a certain perspective could be interpreted as God answering our prayer to shut doors that need to be shut -- it has pointed us in really only viable area -- one that is more expensive and has less available properties.

It's almost as if God is setting everything up for the mother of all miracles.

Or if you are my brain, you start to wonder if He is too busy to notice that time is running out.

"Lord, I believe....help my unbelief," indeed.

Yet, in this state of unbelief (or because of it), I feel like I am compelled to catalog the things He has done for me this week -- amazing wondrous things, really.


  • Out of the blue, I received a call to place a fairly substantial order for my direct sales business. I have been working on and waiting for this order for over a year. Literally days before the phone call, I had given it over to God (again) but asked him for favor in getting the order submitted. I shouldn't have been surprised that the call came, but I was.


  • The over-payment that we received in my hubby's last paycheck appears to be legit. I was certain that it was a clerical error (it has happened a few times), but after calling several times and finally reaching somebody in Payroll, it seems that this substantial amount will go right into our savings fund towards the deposit on our dream property.


  • The appraisal that we have been waiting for on our current house finally came in this morning and came in higher than our realtor even had hoped. This means that we don't have to make up any difference between the buyers' offer and the appraised value. Potentially, a low appraisal could have tanked our deal, and it would have stuck with our house for six months -- making it hard to get the offer we needed.

These are all very BIG things that are a God-sized miracle and don't even take in consideration all of the "little graces" that I have experienced this week that have lifted my spirits and given me a dose of much-needed encouragement at much-needed times.

Yes, our hot water heater decided to go out on Tuesday night. Yes, we have been "making do" for two days until a technician could come out. Yes, we did wait all morning for them to arrive, only to call and find out that the appointment was made for "next Thursday." Yes, the customer service agent agreed that waiting another full week for hot water was not doable. And, yes, she squeezed us in for tomorrow. And, yes, I'm thinking of the water shortage in Tanzania and how hot showers were a blessing and how glad I am for family who is happy to let us shower at their house.

But that's a really small inconvenience. And, yes we don't want to have to put a ton of money into fixing or replacing it since we are moving, but I am confident that the God who made a way for me in all those ways listed above, has this one under control too.

When I step back and really look closely at what has been going on these last few weeks, I see SO much blessing and SO much of God's hand in it all. I think, however, as I have been entrenched in trying to "get through each day," I may have seen a broad brushstroke here and a beautiful little embellishment there, but I have not had the perspective to see the beautiful masterpiece (mosaic?) that He is creating.

And that's why I feel unworthy of his goodness to me. I feel like I have been given a glimpse at the complexity and vastness of this work of art.

I feel like God has been inviting me to lift my myopic gaze from one specific tree, and behold the forest of his many graces.


Yet I don't know why He would do it when I've been a bit of a brat.

But that's the whole point...His grace is not earned. I could never be good enough, consistent enough, faith-filled enough. And, that's why it's grace.

Because it's undeserved.

--

Postscript: My hero of a hubby came home from work tonight and decided to give the water heater another try and guess what...hot water abounds in our house!

God is so good...His grace...well, it's amazing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dream Saga Series: Breaking Bread During the Storm



You've heard the phrase, "when life hands you lemons...."

... well....you know the rest. Basically take the unpalatable sourness and add some pure cane sugar to it, some water and voila...refreshing sweet beverage.

But...what if it's a storm of stress of epic proportions? A swirling vortex of doubt and confusion. A hurricane of desperation and depression and you are heaving to and fro -- certain that you will be dashed upon the rocks ahead and drown in sight of the shore.

What then?

You eat bread.

No...seriously.

If you are the Apostle Paul, you call a time out from the squall and have everyone sit down for a bite to eat...but more about that in a minute.

I've been blogging about watching my fledgling dream launch from the nest. And as I wait up on that branch to see if it will find its wings and soar, or tumble to the ground, I am learning a lot about myself and what I actually believe versus what I say I believe.

It's not been pretty.

It's easy to talk about faith and hope and knowing that God is going to come through. It's another to believe that when all the facts and information would say otherwise.

The window for God to intervene and give my dream some current winds to soar is rapidly closing. 

The stark black and white lines on my calendar mock me with the circled date that I've narrowed down as the last day for God to "do something."

It's fast approaching.

We are selling our house.

Our house has been in escrow for three weeks today. No hiccups so far. It's what we've wanted for a long, long time.

But we aren't finding anything. Not what we want. Not in our price range.

So my brain is churning...wondering if I should settle for something...any piece of land or property to hold onto...someplace to park this equity that we will finally be netting.

But my heart is heavy. I don't want that to be the end story of my dream for a bigger home and land on which we can roam.

And if we don't settle, do we pack it all up and put it into storage and cram our six bodies in with family for a time while we wait? Or do we find an apartment? Do we look to rent the type of property we want and hang out there? And if we do that, why are we selling our house when we could be renting it out thereby still owning a house? (And round and round in a circle I go.)

At this point, I have come to the place where I've stopped dictating to God what I will and will not do. I am anxious to take any direction that God would give me. The problem is, the walkie-talkie is on, but I'm not receiving any transmission.

Thus, feeling like I am in that storm-tossed ship awaiting total destruction.

But Paul wasn't worried. God told him that He would spare every crew member and passenger's life. Even though the howling wind and the tumultous waves would indicate otherwise, Paul trusted God to bring them through.

Sure...he knew that the ship would wreck, but they would survive it.

Paul knew it and he tried to tell the others to trust God and stay the course and stay in the ship....in the middle of a storm that had "raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone." (Acts 27:20)

The sailors did what anyone else would do, they tried to get off that death trap.

"Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.”

Just as day was dawning, Paul urged everyone to eat. “You have been so worried that you haven’t touched food for two weeks,” he said.

Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat..." (Acts 27:30-36 NLT)

When I read that this morning, I was just a bit astounded. Despite the tempest ranting and raging around them, 276 people sat down and broke bread together.

Sometimes the very last thing we think we should be doing....is the very thing we should be doing.


Life goes on.

We need sustenance to survive, this is true.

But I think it was more than just getting food into a stomach.

This act had more to do with taking a moment to remember what is important in life. And, I'm not sure that anything brings this point home more than sharing a meal with someone. 

When you share food you have to do a few things.

Be in close proximity -- close enough to really look someone in the eyes (this can be hard to do when you are flailing around in panic mode) and breathe. And talk. And smile. And maybe cry. But you do it face to face...and that's important.

Become aware of the blessing -- when you are so wound up with stress that you are either not eating or just cramming food down as fuel, you are not aware of the great blessing of each and every bite. Life is made to be savored, not endured.

Realize the storm will rage no matter what you do -- coming to grips with the fact we have no control over the situation -- thus taking the time to eat because in the scheme of things, it won't change the raging going on -- is good for the soul.

So, after a morning with a stomach that is flipping and churning with the unknown-ness of it all, I decided to take a lesson from Paul and sit down and eat some bread.

In our case, it was banana bread.

This kids cheer every time we make some and it's been awhile. So, instead of trolling MLS listings or Craig's List, or the newspaper, or posting up a storm on my Facebook wall about available properties, I measured out the flour and the sugar, cracked the egg and greased a baking pan.

My blood-pressure dropped a few points and my stomach stopped the tossing and turning and I enjoyed the process. 

I read with my children while the loaf rose and wafted its delectable scent from the oven into our dining room.

And as I cut into the warm soft bread and slathered on the butter and served it to my children, I made sure to look each one in the eye and just breathe.

Yes...the storm is still raging. The boat may be indeed headed for destruction. But I am resting in the assurance that God knows exactly where I am, and he will not let me sink.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sweet Surrender: The Beautiful Rhythm of Interdependence

This blog post is brought to you by my new iPad...it's currently housed in the case that I bought empty last December and prayed that it would one day be filled. 

--



I have always been a little (okay...a lot) stubborn.

I am pretty sure one of my first phrases was, "Me do it," or some such sentence. My character/pysche/personality is such that I want to do things the way I think they are best done. I may take some help -- but only if the helper(s) see fit to do it the way I am doing things.

I would like to believe that my edges have been softened over the years. Having little ones for almost 12 years has dulled the blade of my perfectionism somewhat and as I have not been able to "do it all," I have let go of the idea of having "it all done."

Mostly.

Four kids later, as a homeschooling family, with a child who has some learning issues and therefore has therapies, tutoring, etc, and all that goes into daily family life, I am at the place in life where I am pretty much willing to accept help from whomever -- in whatever way they want to give it.

When you are living your life in the urgent from day to day, there is no time to be picky or insist on a "right way" of doing things. 


You are just trying to keep up and make it through each day alive and not in the loony bin.

I don't want it to sound like I have this all wrapped up, though. I do still struggle with feelings of failure or inadequacy when my sweet mother walks into my house and starts sweeping my floor or doing my dishes. 

But I have come to see that is everything to do with my pride and nothing to do with my mother's heart and her intentions to be a blessing to me.

Ahhh...pride.

The great stumbling block of young mothers everywhere -- a truly infectious disease of the 21st century.

Why have we swallowed the bright and shiny lie that needing help is a character defect?


Recently, a friend of mine was sinking. After weeks of being sick, her infant was no longer sleeping through the night. To make matters worse, her toddler started being afraid to go to sleep alone and then stay asleep alone. Literally, if it were not one child, it was the other -- all night. Every night. Did I mention that my friend was back to work full-time? Or that post-partum, her hormones and body were not back to their old selves?

All of this played into a devastating and debilitating period of time for my friend (and her spouse) where I could see the ship sinking, but didn't know what to do. The lack of sleep night after night erased the spark from her eyes and replaced it with a glazed expression that worried me. Tears were always close to the surface and her body started to respond to the constant stress by acting out in physically painful ways.

Something had to give.

So, being the intrusive friend that I am, I got up in her business and made a plan to help give her some relief. I simply couldn't stand by and watch her fade away anymore. I was truly worried for her mental and physical health.

When I broached her with my plan, her first response was, "it's okay...I've got this."

Me: "Umm...no, my friend...you don't have this. I am very worried for you. I'm worried that if you don't accept some help, you are going to wind up in the hospital or the psych ward."

Her: "I feel like I should be able to manage this. I choose to have this baby. This isn't my first child. I have a degree for heaven's sake. I should be better than this."

Me: "This is too much for anyone. I don't care what degree you have or how many children you have. This is not sustainable...for anybody."

Her:  Tears.

Me: Tears.


And so my beautiful brave friend made a choice to accept help. She didn't want to...everything cried out that she should "work it out" and "stay strong," and "be tough."

She said she didn't want to be weak. Or needy...or be a failure.

My heart broke for her because my heart understood hers. 

I don't want to be weak. Or needy. Or be a failure.

When did needing help become these things? How have we allowed a very basic human condition to have such a negative connotation?


As a Christian, I am called to a life of dependence. My income, my living situation, the kids I have, the plans I make -- my very next breath is dependent upon a life plan that my Creator has set for me. For me to believe that I can do any of it independent of Him is pure folly.

One of the entries for April 30 in Jesus Calling spoke volumes to me recently:

"Awareness of your inadequacy is a rich blessing, training you to rely wholeheartedly on Me. The truth is that self-sufficency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success. Health and wealth can disappear instantly, as can life itself. Rejoice in your insufficiency, knowing that My Power is made perfect in weakness."

The Apostle Paul expresses it wonderfully in The Message version of 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

"I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. 
Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.  
Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become."


Truth be told, I struggle daily with this dependence. Yet ultimately, it is easier to depend upon my Father who has proven Himself over and over in my life, then to depend upon those around me to meet my needs?

Why?

Because I have been failed. I have been let down. I have let others down. This life has taught me that no human can be 100% trustworthy. So, I buck against the idea of having to place my life, my heart into the hands of another.

But, as a Christian, I am also called to do this as well.

To depend on others.

When my friend tried to talk her way out of needing help, I asked her what she would do if the situation was reversed. What if she saw me literally falling apart and could see that I was foundering? She hesitated (because she is smart and saw where this was going), but she admitted that she would be doing the same thing.

"So," I asked her, "why are you that less important? Why are you not worth someone intervening and helping?"

She didn't have an answer.


During this time, I read something one morning from my Mosaic Bible devotional penned by Steven Conrad that I immediately texted to her:

"Just as Jesus received from others, we are called to freely give and freely receive. In my own life, the pull toward independence is strong. I want to be self-sufficient. But God calls us toward interdependence. We are to live in the give-and-take of true community."

And there is the secret of it all.

Interdependence.


You see, it's much easier for me to receive help when I know that I am part of a something bigger. My perceived weakness is bolstered by my community's strength. 




Most of the time, it is just a season of life. Even though it may not be true in every situation, I am more apt to be dependent upon my friends and family when I remind myself that it's only temporary -- and that someday it will be my turn to have the strength and help to give.


And, I can only do that when I am healthy and strong.


And that someday, I will have all of the insight and compassion of someone who has walked that road and will be all the better of a friend for having done so.

My Mosaic Bible finished with something that has become my prayer since I first read it:

"...it's my desire to give and receive, to learn the beautiful rhythm of interdependence with others, and to live in the lavish grace that God pours upon us." 

Interdependence.


It has a rhythm. It ebbs and it flows.  It waxes and wanes. But it is continuous.

And it is beautiful.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dream Saga Series: Embracing the Empty





Over the past several weeks, I have sensed God doing something new and different in my heart. It's taken me awhile to step back from it and realize that He is building a new measure of faith in me as I take a specific dream that has been close to my heart for the last year or so, and throw it from the safety of my heart's nest, and wait to see if it will find it's wings and fly.

This theme has spread through quite a few of my posts and the two most recent. I didn't know it, but I had unwittingly launched a series of posts that I have decided to call, "The Dream Saga." Although my conscious mind is a bit late to the party, I have gone back and added in the label to those posts to keep them linked together and so that I (and others) can read about what God has done and the wondrous possibilities of what He can and will do.

--

I have an egg basket on my kitchen counter.

It's filled with some Easter-ish colored shredded paper and some plastic eggs.

Before that, it was collapsed down and hanging from one of my "command centers" by the kitchen.



Why an egg basket, you ask?

It's a symbol of my dream.

About a year ago, my kids, my mom and I ventured out to a family-run farm for a homeschool field trip. This lovely family -- with homeschooled children now grown and working on the farm -- let my kids explore through the chicken coop, the goat pen, through the thicket of turkeys, the garden and even gave us a ride on a trailer through their vineyards.

We had a blast and my kids came alive crawling around hunting for eggs and filling wire baskets, trying to catch lizards and swinging from their tree swing.



As we sipped ice water, traded stories about our homeschooling journey, and enjoyed the cool breeze on their enclosed porch, I felt it...such a strong sense of contentment and tranquility.

I had kept a special eye on my second born child through it all-- the one who had just been diagnosed with ADHD. The one who was struggling to find a new normal on her medication that often made her emotional and out of sorts.

She was having the time of her life.

I looked around me and breathed a prayer before I even realized I was doing it.

"Please, Lord....can I have...this?"



I'm not sure at that point, I knew exactly what this was....of course, we were not in a position to buy a John Deere tractor and start making furrowed rows for crops. I didn't feel ready to take on a gaggle of turkeys, or a bunch of goats.

But the wide open space...the lack of tall wooden fences to enforce boundaries...the quiet and absence of road noise and sirens...it was intoxicating.

My body relaxed and my shoulder muscles released and I felt....peace.

They sent us home full of that peace and a dozen eggs that my children had hunted down.

I went home and jumped on the internet in search of an egg basket like we had used that day. I found the perfect one, but my mouse hovered over the "Buy Now" button for awhile. It seemed like a foolish purchase in our present situation.

A few months later, I decided to take a leap of faith and buy one. When it came, a few days later, I showed it to the kids and told them that it would remind us to pray for a peaceful bigger place of our own -- whatever that would look like.

And yes, at that time, it was a wild and crazy dream. We would find out a few days later that our current house did not have enough equity to allow us to sell. In fact, we had negative equity. I looked with longing at that egg basket, but I left it hanging and we kept praying week after week and month after month.

Almost a year to the date, I felt like it was time to revisit that dream. Upon checking in with our realtor, we found that our house was not only on the positive equity side, we would be able to net enough for a down payment on something else.

I took down the egg basket in its collapsed state, and I set it up on the counter...and I filled it.



I put out a couple of other Spring/Easter decorations, and as people came and looked at our house, we waited. Realtors put their business cards next to the basket...one, three, seven, ten cards piled up. And then the one we had been waiting for...a full offer on our house -- just what we needed and a smidgen more.

Easter came and went. The tomb was empty and then filled with the Son of God and Son of Man. Scripture and the prophecy was fulfilled.

The Easter decorations went away, but the basket remains. Open, filled with only a copy of the real thing. But I am believing that one day -- not too far in the distance -- it will be filled with real eggs that my children will wake up excited to hunt down.

At times, I have continued to feel a bit foolish -- making that online purchase for something that had no purpose or use in our current situation. It was a fanciful dream. But, yet, I felt compelled to buy it. To display it. To meditate on it. To faith it into being.

You see...sometimes we have to be comfortable enough to sit with the emptiness and still believe.

The cradle that seems to mock us with its emptiness. The empty side of the couch and bed that has been anxiously waiting for the presence of the spouse for which we have longed and yearned. The passport that is devoid of visas and stamps and lays languishing in a drawer.

Empty.

But these things must exist in emptiness before the miracle of the filling.

Before I was married, I enjoyed hearing a story about another single gal who bought a pair of men's pants and laid them over the bottom of her bed -- asking God to "fill those pants" with the mate He wanted for her. While it's a cute and slightly comical story, I always liked the moxy of that act.

So often we don't want to be reminded of that emptiness. We do everything we can to banish it from our thoughts. The idea of intentionally putting out something that would fall into our everyday line of sight is unthinkable.

Or is it?

Perhaps rather than stowing our greatest empty dream away into a journal, or even locked away in our drawer or hearts, we should find the courage to pull it out and display it. And pray over it. And weep over it. And share it with others. And hope-fully, one day, put our hands on that object, lift it up and rejoice over it.

I'm  learning not to fear the empty, but to be grateful that it allows for infilling.

Yes, I am still waiting my egg basket to be filled with the real deal. But until then I will see it every waking day and continue to pray.

Because we never know when the empty will be filled.

The iPad 2 case I felt compelled to buy in December which was on sale at my local grocery store...the one that I had no iPad 2 to put inside of....the one that I wrestled with taking back for a refund several times, but every time, put it away with other electronic items for a hoped for "one day." The one I would see and think about how much my homeschooled children, my ADHD beauty, and my inner-writer would love to own...




Well, that iPad 2 case is in the process of being filled. It will arrive in a few days -- secondhand in wonderful condition, with extra goodies from a friend who doesn't need it any longer. Empty for almost six months, it's merely days away from being filled.

And the truth is that every empty thing is only days away from being filled. Only One knows just how many.

--

Postscript:  The iPad arrived a few days ago and would you know...not only does it looks great in the case I bought, I am able to use it with the Logitech keyboard/case that my friend sent along. If that is not synchronicity, then I don't know what is....