Thursday, September 20, 2012

Back to Basics

Have you ever done something for so long that you've forgotten what you're doing... or why you're doing it?  Like driving on a long, deserted road... getting lost in your thoughts... only to arrive at your destination with absolutely no idea how you got there. Sometimes, we just get stuck in cruise control... no longer intentional... no longer purposeful.  I know it happens to all of us, but lately, I seem to be a habitual offender.  While visiting North Carolina last month, Jamie and I had a really hard conversation, finally admitting, for the moment, that God doesn't want us in Providence.  An honest evaluation of my heart will reveal that I had hoped to be there by now.  (My school calendar would also reflect that same truth... my wishful thinking has COMPLETELY ruined my Fridays.)

But, by the same token, God has still placed Providence on our hearts and CONSTANTLY confirms that we cannot remain where we are, for a myriad of reason. So we keep moving forward... even traveling to Providence this weekend to look at houses and meet with community leaders and non-profits.  Yet, through all of this, God has also pressed upon us the need to "go back to the basics."  Sometimes we get so caught up in future plans that we forget the tasks right in front of us... or, in my case, it's just an unwillingness to recognize them because... well, let's be honest.... sometimes they aren't that much fun. Starting my school day at 6:00 am with one child and not finishing until 6:00 pm with the last one is exhausting... on my best day.  I literally feel like I'm living out the movie Groundhog's Day.  Some days I don't get out of my pajamas.  I don't put make-up on... I don't even brush my hair.  (I stop short of not brushing my teeth because that's just down-right gross... but I'm sure I've even had a few days when I didn't do that either.)

In the monotony of my life, I've forgotten His presence.  I've ignored His beauty... I've made things so complicated, when really.... it's so simple.  (Not easy, mind you... SIMPLE DOES NOT MEAN EASY!) I've stopped being intentional in my relationships... putting my life on hold... waiting for something to happen... all the while, missing out on what's actually happening right in front of me.  This weekend, I almost missed out on something AMAZING.  Something our family has been praying for for years. 

From the moment our eldest daughter learned about Jesus, she has wanted to share Him with her friends.  We've always opened up the invitation to her friends... to come to church, to the Fall Carnival, to Easter or Christmas services.  And, finally, after years... literally 5 years for one of her friends... two girls accepted the invitation.  (Two girls that don't come from Christian homes.)  Initially, the excitement was palpable... until I realized that it would mean not going to Providence for the next "Team Gathering."  I'll spare you the rambling that went on in my head... and my heart... but I will tell you that EVENTUALLY... I submitted to God's will, realizing, in the bigger picture, that taking these two girls to church was where our family needed to be.  Because we didn't try to cram everything in together... foregoing the Team Gathering... we went to second service... where there was a Baptism.  I sat back as I watched these girls soak it all in.  So incredibly excited that a seed was planted... completely humbled... yet AGAIN... at how God continually works it all out...

Today is Sydney's birthday.  Jamie and I got up early to take her to breakfast... just the three of us.  And we talked about Jesus the whole time.  It's as if Jesus has... FINALLY... become a part of our family.  God has a in temporary holding pattern... we understand that now.  But, when asked last night if we still feel that God wants us to go to Providence, our answer was a unified YES.  We still have a lot to learn.  And because of that, we want to extend this invitation.  We call it the L.I.T.E. Challenge.  For 30 days, we are committing to push into Jesus by participating in a daily devotional and daily challenge to live out your faith and love for Jesus.  If you're interested in the taking on the challenge, let me know.  There's a bracelet waiting for you!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"If I Chew on that I'll Choke!"

This was the response given to me by my husband after I emptied my heart to him yesterday morning. (Oh, I love his sense of humor!)  While, I know that his statement was only in hopes of bringing levity to a very intense conversation.... anytime I talk about my faith is a pretty intense conversation... there was also some truth nestled gently into the words he spoke.  Ever-so-slowly, God is peeling back layers and revealing more and more to us... changing us, transforming us... and it's completely wonderful. But, for me, it has also been utterly horrifying, because I can't seem to talk about it with anyone.  I've tried!  Believe me.  My inner circle is tight.  A handful of women that I love and adore... and that I usually have no problem venting my frustration to; sharing my heartache; looking to for encouragement or advice.  But, on this issue, for whatever reason, I can't. So, I've been going to God.

I've been seeking out time with Him (besides the ritualistic morning and nightly prayer.) I've been sprawling myself out on the floor, pleading with Him to do whatever He's going to do... and do it fast! (Yes, I know this doesn't work, but desperation makes you forget these things.) Plus, I'm doing all the other things: listening to podcasts every morning, listening to music that focuses me on Him, doing devotionals with the kids, reading Genesis with a fresh pair of eyes.... and it IS true that things are constantly being revealed, no matter how many times you've read the Scripture!) We're even reading Kisses from Katie every night with the kids... which is part of the reason I'm feeling so wrecked! (I should have taken my pastor's wife's advise and NOT read the book.  She knows me well enough to understand what a book like this can do to someone like me... which I'll save for another entry.)

So, yesterday, after my trip to the gym... and listening to yet another horrible (and incredibly wonderful)  sermon from Matt Chandler, I plopped myself down on the bed and was able to FINALLY pour out my heart... to my husband.  Poor guy never stood a chance. As the tears flowed and the words came tumbling out, you could see the concern on his face... not for me... for him.  God has been leading us... ever slowly... to this place where a decision has to be made: where we either TRULY pick up the cross and follow Him, or we sit on the sidelines and cheer for Jesus from afar.  A statement that might have some questioning my rationale, because I don't come across as a "sidelines-type" of person... to which I can only say this:  For me and my family, God has made it ABUNDANTLY clear that WE cannot live in suburbia and be true followers of Christ: the temptations are too big, the distractions too great, our acknowledge of Him and dependence on Him not nearly enough.  Reading a passage from Kisses from Katie struck a resounding chord, that I "fear" will resonate in my heart forever (written in her journal upon her return back to the States after a year in Uganda):

"I keep forgetting to ask God first to heal me, to fill me, to guide me, to rejoice with me.  I have to set aside 'time to pray' in the morning and at night instead of being in constant communication with Him. In Uganda, because I was so physically 'poor,' I was completely dependent on God and spiritually as wealthy as ever. As I sit here writing, I am frustrated with my own stupidity, my human willingness to step back into dependence on stuff and these places I swore I detested." p. 122

So much of what she wrote is also imprinted on my heart... without ever having been to Uganda. It's been that way for a while.  But, trying to talk about it in the past has been so difficult, especially with others.  For our family, God has made it clear that living by the standards of achievement, set by this world, is not for us.  But figuring out how to loosen the chains of this world, a tightening noose around our necks, has been a challenge... but not nearly as difficult as the choice we now face. God continues to encourage me.  He continues to reveal His power in my life.  He has restored a relationship with my eldest child that I feared would be forever crippled by my inability to surrender my heart completely to Him.  I have cried with my children and prayed, with them, that Jesus will bind their hearts from the pain they feel from living in this broken world.  I am constantly reminded that He alone has made a strong marriage stronger... that He has made a good life better.  When I look at these promises fulfilled, it makes walking away seem easier.  When I think about the moments of joy that I experience at the power of His hand... joy that I have never felt from the "comforts" of this world... it makes me want to drop everything and run... and this is what my husband felt he might choke on.  There is still so much to process and God still has so much to do in us... but we are starting to see the light.  He is so incredibly good.