where You are

This week, and last week, have been incredible for me. God has really been showing up in huge ways, ways that I couldn’t have thought up or expected Him to. Throughout my experiences over the last couple weeks, I have to keep reminding myself that these things are happening because of God and not of me. I’ve somehow finally stepped out of the way so God can do what He does and loves to do.

As I was decompressing and praying through all the things that have happened and come together, a thought came to mind. “I want to be where You want me. I want to be where You are.” Being where God is and where He wants us to be is an incredible feeling. It never gets old or boring, and we never have to worry about His provision or will. But how do we know where He wants us to be, or where He is?

Early this summer, I began to feel as though there had to be more than what I was doing every day. I wasn’t just in a rut. I was feeling incredibly bored and increasingly frustrated, feelings that come with being outside the will of God. As I began praying about it, and throughout our vacation, I began sensing God telling me that what I was doing (career, mostly), wasn’t what He wanted from me. But of course, that left the question of “what DO You want me to be doing?” I knew I couldn’t just quit my job because we need my paycheck. So began the painful, frustrating process of praying and waiting.

Throughout this process of praying and waiting, God has shown me more of who He is and who He wants to be in my life and through me, if I will just step out of the way. He has shown me things I wouldn’t have seen or realized if I hadn’t been praying and waiting.

So I am left with the thought: “You want me to be where You are.” If I daily seek after and follow God, I will inevitably be right where He wants me, because I am seeking to be where He is.

I don’t know what the next few months, weeks, or even days hold. But I know that if I want to know where it is God wants me to be, I just need to seek Him and find Him.

Peacefully Unsettled

I wrote this several months ago but never posted it. Re-reading it, I’m not sure why I didn’t post it. It is all still true, and aside from specific time references, I could well have written it today.

The title of this post is a bit, well, unsettling I guess. I am having trouble sleeping this evening, and amidst all the thoughts rolling around in my head, my overwhelming mood is unsettled. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just not content. Over the past several days, my posts have mentioned situations that are causing frustration and general restlessness in my heart and mind. I have been praying through these feelings, and sensing some gentle nudges about possible direction, but have not felt a strong nudge toward anything. Until tonight.

I have, for a long time, felt called to be a part of the lives of teenage girls, in some capacity. This has, thus far, consisted of my being a volunteer leader in the youth ministries at my church. Through these times, I’ve begun to hone in on a few girls in the sea of many that I can possibly have an impact on, through mentoring and, as my pastor calls it, doing life with them. However, while not negating the impact that this has on the lives of students, as well as myself, I’ve also begun to feel like perhaps this isn’t all that God has for me. I’ve begun to feel a little more unsettled and a little less content with staying in my comfort zone.

I’ve also begun to feel even less happy and content at my job than I was before. My attitude over the past few weeks has really suffered, and I have struggled with getting through some days. My feelings of discontent and being unsettled have carried over into this area as well. I’ve begun to really question what I’m doing, and thinking “There HAS to be something more to life than this.” My excuse has always been “I have to go back to school to get a teaching certificate. But school costs money.” Or, “I don’t have time to look for anything else because I’m just trying to get through the day and spend time with my family.”

After a particularly bad week last week at work, my spirit was broken. I was incredibly discouraged, and honestly didn’t care (much) if I didn’t go back on Monday. There are a lot of things that went into my feeling that way, but my point is, I didn’t come home Friday and immediately start looking for something else. I didn’t even want to think about it. On Saturday, I was busy getting the house cleaned up before we leave for vacation this week. Today, there was no turning away or ignoring it. I received a gentle but firm nudge this morning, after the message, and thought about it some of the day. I was unsettled to begin with, and I became more unsettled as the day wore on. Tony and I were watching tv after dinner, and the tv turned on to 60 Minutes. They were talking to a group of homeless kids, still in schools, about the impact that had on them. I saw those kids, and something clicked in me. I lost it and started crying. I have a broken heart for homeless kids. The kids who are still trying to grow up, learn to read and write, and trying to discover who they are and where they fit in the world, when they don’t always have food, clothing, or a constant shelter. We don’t have a lot, but we have a house, clothing, food, and jobs. We’ve had our share of financial problems, and still do occassionally. But, I look at my kids and I imagine what it would be like, for them, if we didn’t have this constant shelter, clothing, food. It breaks my heart to think of it.

God is speaking to me about those kids just around the corner from me who are homeless, who don’t have a permanent place of their own. I don’t know what all this means, yet, but I am peacefully unsettled. Restfully restless.

Tug of war

Here I am again, after months of nothing. For some reason, I haven’t been able to write like I used to, and life was seeming pretty mundane, or at least uneventful. Things have happened that have been frustrating and joyous and sad and fun. I just felt like I had nothing to write about.
Over the past few months, God has been showing me more and more things about Himself, who I am and what I’m called to be, and He has convicted me about seeking justice and reaching outside of myself and my little circle of influence to touch someone else. I’m still working through what all of this means, and what it involves, but I can sense His presence and desire to show me what He has in store for me.

I’m having trouble sleeping. Again. This has happened probably three or four times in the last three months. At least this time I have a pretty good idea as to what the issue is. And this time, I think God is breaking my heart for things that break His.

I can’t even really describe it. I feel completely unprepared, inadequate, and sometimes ineffective. I feel unqualified and insecure. And yet God still uses me somehow. This particular time, my heart is feeling ripped to shreds. I am struggling with where I’ve come from, and how far, but also with how fresh these decade-old feelings really still are. Reliving them through the eyes of someone else breaks my heart because I remember the struggle. I remember the heartache and heartbreak. Trying to balance that with how I know God has used that pain and seeing what couldn’t have happened without it, creates an intense inner struggle within me. I so desperately want to take the pain away from someone because, let’s face it, no one likes pain. But I also know that God will turn it into good. I wish there was a way to convince people that it really will work out, that God really will turn it into something that will grow us and bring Him glory. But I didn’t believe it when I was going through the pain myself.

I guess I wish I could spare those dear to me the intense struggle to grow by teaching them the lesson needed and then sending them on their way, automatically wiser and stronger.

How do I deal with that inner struggle?

The Redeemer

Over the last few weeks, God has really been quietly whispering His love, grace, and peace to me through the things around me. I have been wrestling through some frustrating circumstances, and I’ve really wondered sometimes whether I’m where God wants me.

Ten years ago, when I was just barely starting my “real” life, if you would have asked me what I saw for myself in my future, I really don’t think I would have pointed to everything right now. Yes, I saw myself as a mother and wife. I was pretty sure I would have a job, but never in a thousand years did I expect it would be in retail. I thought we would have a house, but I did not picture having school loans and other sobering life experiences. I do not have any regrets; I love my family, and at least I have a job. Things just aren’t what I expected them to be like.

I was in the car, by myself (which happens next to never lately), on my way to work the other day. I was having a hard time getting motivated to even go to work, and I was trying to pray through that feeling of apathy. I remember saying something along the lines of “God, I don’t like what I’m doing now. Is this really what You have for me? Why do I feel stuck in this dead-end job, not going anywhere? But starting over costs so much (i.e. loss of benefits and pay). So now I really feel stuck. I never intended to be working this job this long.” Then I sensed His whisper: “Why are you so worried about the money? Haven’t I provided for you your entire life?” Then I realized that I have been so focused on the money part of working that I have forgotten everything else. I’ve been afraid to move forward because I don’t want to battle the cost of “starting over.”

But, God gives us dreams for a reason. If we spend all our time in the in-between, waiting for the right time to move, in our terms, we miss the opportunity for God to give us our dreams.

God reminded me that it is ok to dream and to still believe that there is more to life than paying bills. He can and will redeem and make new any and every situation in life. All I need to do is believe that He will do it, and to keep dreaming of things bigger than myself.

Check out “The Redeemer” by Sanctus Real for more on what God has been showing me.

#always

I have a friend who is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. She is pretty on the outside, and she has the most beautiful spirit, making her gorgeous through and through. She is unassuming and would give the shirt off her back and the shoes off her feet, if you needed them.

My friend has had a really hard year. An injury at the beginning of the school year has caused her continual physical pain, and she has had to drastically cut back the things she does because her injury has not healed. As if that isn’t enough, her change in activity has left her often feeling lonely and frustrated because she just wants to get better and move on with her life.

The thing is, my friend has every right to feel angry and frustrated, and even, possibly mad at God. She has prayed continually for healing, for relief from loneliness, and some sense of normalcy. And yet, while she has had some improvement on these fronts, she still isn’t where she wants to be. But, instead of wallowing in her misery, she’s digging deeper and clinging to God and His promises with everything she has. She is reaching out to people for encouragement, and she is helping other people through their difficult stuff. Though she still wrestles with frustration, she is falling even deeper in love with her Father, because she knows He is the only One capable of getting her through. She is standing on the promise that He will restore her physically and emotionally, when it is time.

My friend’s faith has really started to challenge my own. She knows, and acknowledges, that God will come through, because He always does. It has been almost a year of constant struggle, day in and day out, yet she still hasn’t given up on God. Often, I start to doubt after just a few days or weeks of unanswered prayer. Her unwavering trust and unashamed love has gotten her through when the ground underneath her has been shaken. I have seen myself scramble to hold on when it feels like the world is crashing down on me.

My friend, almost seventeen, still has a lot of life to live. But I know God is preparing her for something incredible, something that will require her to have a strong foundation and trust fully on Him. It is difficult right now, but He is using her now in the meantime to teach others how faithful He is and what it truly means to trust fully in God. She is reaching out to others for advice and hope, but along the way is showing us how to fall in love with God and cling to Him when all around us is falling apart. She has inspired and challenged me to grow stronger in Christ and look to Him no matter what.

Dear friend, thank you for reminding me to trust God with my entire being. Our God will not delay. He is your refuge and strength.

“Oh my God, He will not delay, my refuge and strength always. I will not fear. His promise is true. My God will come through always. Always.”

Hidden Beauty

I have absolutely fallen in love with where we live. We moved in right at a year ago, and I haven’t regretted a moment of it.
We are in the close suburbs of the city, so we are close to a lot of things, but the town is laid out in such a way that just a short half mile walk down the street with a very curious dog is bound to lead to new discoveries.
People are always outside on their porches or mowing their lawns or doing yard work. The neighborhood playground is rarely empty.
I think the thing I love the most, though, is something someone who doesnt live here may miss when they are just visiting. This place has a hidden beauty that is easily missed if you aren’t looking for it. Some neighborhoods go undiscovered unless you happen upon a hidden road or sidewalk. The view from my back porch is incredible, where we can see for miles, but from the street it would be missed completely. If we don’t pay attention, we miss the things that make home so beautiful.
If I don’t pay attention, I miss the things that make life beautiful. The laughter coming from the backyard as the kids play with our neighbors. The smell of dinner cooking on the grill. The sight of my kids’ faces after eating ice cream.
All of these are little things that seem like nothing. They are short moments in otherwise mundane, normal days. But they are what makes my life beautiful. Little glimpses of heaven.
Are YOU paying attention so you can notice the hidden beauty around you?

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Strong-willed enough

The last few days have really made me question who I am as a parent and whether I am good enough and worthy enough to train up and lead a child to become who he is supposed to be.

My youngest, God love him, is the toughest of all three of my kids. He is extremely strong-willed and at times, his will is stronger than my resolve to stand up to him. After long work days or dealing with constant push back, sometimes I just want to throw my hands up, say “forget it” and let him run rampant and not deal with disciplining and directing him anymore.

About a year ago, I realized that Isaiah is the type that will give us a run for our money, as far as raising him goes. He has never been, and probably never will be, one to follow the crowd. Peer pressure probably won’t be a big issue for him. That’s actually an incredible trait, because we know that anything he does or gets into will be his idea. It is also extremely difficult to know how to balance raising him and disciplining him, while still helping him learn how to grow this strong will into something good. We don’t want to crush his spirit, but still need him to understand right from wrong.

So I was praying about it, hoping that God would show us a way to teach him without crushing his spirit. I didn’t want him growing up believing the lie that he is bad. I was out to dinner with my sister in law, and she used wording about one of her kids that I will never forget: he’s not being bad. He’s making bad choices. It hit me: the way we say things about what our son is doing can really change what he grows up thinking and believing about himself. Instead of saying he is being bad, or is bad, we say he’s making a bad choice or acted on a bad idea. Explaining that he is making a bad choice turns it back to being something he can change, something he has ultimate control of. Only he can choose what he is going to do about the situation.

This change in wording also helped to change my perspective on my son and how I view him. His strong will is actually an incredible blessing. Through his questioning and pushing back on every decision we make, and everything we say, I am learning how to enable him to evaluate all options and make the right decision. It seems intense for a three-year-old, but it is actually working (usually).

He is also, in some regards, an extreme picture of how flawed and imperfect we are as human beings. We are all sinners, and we all make bad choices. This doesn’t make us bad people. Once we have accepted Christ, we don’t stop making bad choices all the time, but by recognizing these decisions and realizing that we have the power to make the choice, we are able to make a better decision the next time.

God allows us to choose because He wants us to want to obey Him. Not out of obligation or guilt, but out of genuine desire to do His will. We can question His will, and we can even disagree with it. He won’t force us to see His side or go along with His plan. Eventually, however, once we realize the blessing that comes out of doing His will, we will begin to long to obey and trust Him.

Focus

We are very close to being a diaper-free house, which is cause for a great deal of celebration. My youngest finally decided that he is ready to be a big boy, and it has taken only a little coercion on our part to get him to this point.

Something I’ve noticed is that Isaiah’s listening and following directions has greatly declined over the past week or so. He is so focused on mastering this incredibly huge milestone. Where we generally don’t have to resort to counting (at least not often) or raising our voices, we’ve had to do this more often lately. It’s frustrating and maddening, and I find myself often saying “Isaiah, focus!”. All I want him to do is pay attention and do the things I ask him to.

God wants the same from us, too. Sometimes, I have so much on my mind that I can’t focus on doing what God wants me to do. Sometimes, I get so intently focused on one aspect of my life that I forget about everything else. I wonder if God says “focus!”

But how do we focus on what God wants from us when there are thousands of things going on throughout the day? The only way to focus on what God wants is to focus on God. By starting each day consciously focusing on and aligning ourselves with God, everything else will fall in line. Our priorities will be clear and we will be better able to hear the voice of God.

Direction

Are you one of those people who only needs an address and a couple general directions and you get to your destination every time? Maybe you are one of those people who gets lost, no matter how clear the directions. You know who you are. When GPS first came out, those closest to you were the first in line to get one for you. Maybe you are like me, somewhere in the middle. I always try to stay a couple steps ahead during directions so I don’t have to find my spot last minute or end up lost.

One time quite a few years ago, I went to a mini retreat for upper elementary kids. It was at Lake Erie, and I had never been to that particular camp. I had to work late, so I couldn’t travel with the rest of the group. I got directions to the campground and followed them to the letter.

So how did I almost drive into Lake Erie? The last direction, the critical turn into the camp, was unclear and it was dark outside. I was so busy concentrating on finding the camp and navigating narrow, unpaved, unfamiliar roads at 10:00 at night, I didn’t realize I missed the turn until I was almost in the lake. I looked up as the road surface changed, to see I was headed down a gravel ramp. I saw waves coming toward me and I slammed on the brakes. It was kind of scary because I had trouble backing my car up the gravel, and the water seemed particularly ominous. I finally was able to back up and found the camp, but I had learned a lesson about directions: even following directions to the letter doesn’t guarantee an easy arrival at your destination.

Sometimes our life direction can seem unclear. We think we are following God’s direction to the letter and miss a critical turn. Often, God’s direction seems unclear, when really we aren’t seeing the big picture. God doesn’t want us to get the directions and go off on our own, never stopping until we get to our destination. Sometimes, what He wants and what we need is to follow Him every step of the way, calling out for every direction. Not knowing our destination is often difficult, because we don’t want to get lost. But, God’s leading never leaves us lost, having to back up and try again. He always leads us exactly where we need to go.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying ‘This is the way. Walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21

Self-talk

“Days will come when you don’t have the strength
And all you hear is you’re not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved. But if they truly saw your heart they’d see too much”

“Praying that you have the heart to fight Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you’ve held inside so long
But they are nothing in the shadow of the cross”

This song really speaks to me, and many of us, because it deals with those things we say deep inside, to ourselves. Many of the lies we believe about ourselves are the ones we tell ourselves. We think, if only I were better at this, then that would be easier.

We also allow our outside experiences to validate the lies we are telling ourselves. For instance, we may look at a job rejection as an indication that we really aren’t qualified for anything beyond the dead-end job we have now. So we allow ourselves to give up.

What would happen, though, if we let these lies and insecurities come to light? If we were truly honest with how we feel, and really looked at what we say to ourselves, what would we discover? I think that is the hardest thing to do. It’s easy to listen to someone else saying negative things about themselves and tell them not to be so hard on themselves, but we turn around and say the same things to ourselves.

Any negative talk, especially negative self-talk, is directly from Satan, and he uses it to distract us from the truth. John 8:32 says “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” There is a huge amount of freedom in the truth, and when we discover the truth of who we are in Christ, we gain an infinite more amount of freedom. Satan wants to keep us in bondage, so we can never reach our full potential in Christ.

“You were made for so much more than all of this.”

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