Monday, September 24, 2012

care-full choices

Here's a recommendation, if you care to receive it: set yourself some personal goals every week.

This is my goals journal - it's a combination of two ideas I got recently - one from a good friend, and another from a blog I found.  Here are some easy steps: [By the way, this isn't usually the style of my blog, but I'm branching out to a how-to session today. *smile*]

1. Purchase a cheap journal - dollar store is a great source.

2. Get out a calendar and write the date of the beginning of each week (I go with Sundays, but occasionally I don't get to it until Monday or even Tuesday) at the top of every successive page, for as many weeks will fit in your journal.  Be sure to skip the first page - see below...

3. On the very first page of of the journal, write the categories of your goals, and number them.  These should include some of your identity.  I chose 7 categories of who I am and who I want to become (that overlap is another discussion): as a respectful bride, as a teaching-as-we-go mother, as a gentle shepherdess, as a gospel-proclaiming writer, as a delicately-shining daughter [of the King], as a kind and encouraging friend, as a Christ-sharing professional. Your categories will be unique to you and they will vary in number.  Think of your roles and your priorities as you pray and ask God what He wants to do in you.

4. Once a week, add some creativity as you pray over what God wants to do in you for each goal.  This can be pretty paper, stamps, doodling, colored pencils, ribbon, etc.  I find that as I do this to slow me down, I'm able to be quiet enough and hear what He wants me to work on for the week.  Some of you are more "crafty" than others, and some of you have extravagant gifts in this area, but we can all be creative when we try.  It's good therapy, trust me.

5.  Write down what you hear in your heart.  This will become a lovely melding of what God wants and what you want.  It's such an encouraging thing to see your desires and His coming together in practical goals you can aim for each week. For example, my #2 entry this week is "organize their time, teach and show them how - so they don't feel tossed around in the waves of busy life."

6.  Come back to this journal throughout the week to remind you what you're aiming for and to evaluate whether or not you've reached them.  If you haven't, don't be too hard on yourself - just try again after you re-evaluate.  It's not an exact science, and it's the farthest thing from rules and religion as you can get.  Think of reaching for what God wants with intention and direction, and imagine Him giving you the strength to accomplish your Christ-gifted purpose as He holds your hand, for this is truly what He's doing.

7.  Keep going.  If you skip a week or a few, don't stop - just journal what you can remember from those weeks, be it busy or difficult or whatever, and start from where you ARE.  For those of you who can be hard on yourselves - live in GRACE.

Hopefully this will be a practical and helpful tool for you.  God has given us each day as a gift and He desires that we not squander it.  I truly believe He has purpose for us all and He wants us to sculpt our free will into choices that glorify Him with who we are and what we're becoming.  Identity is an important word to me, because who I am should reflect who He is.  It's what I want so much.  And I want it for you too.  Because when we live deliberately out of who He made us to be - we will be His praise in the earth.  But it won't happen without care-full choices every day.

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives."

                            -Psalm 37:23 (NLT)

Dear Jesus, please help Your people to seek Your plans and goals and purposes for our lives.  May we reach for Your ways, Your direction every day.  I pray that if this simple idea will bless another sister, You will encourage her and speak to her in gentle whispers about what You want to give and do as our Gentle, Loving Father.  Have Your way, God.  Not mine.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

when you're tired, and maybe even exhausted

Fatigue plagues us and we wonder why. What more can we fit into the day?  What new bits of information can we squeeze into our heads?  How many activities can our children experience?  How many more dollars could we earn today and how many different ways can we think of to spend them?  What pretty thing can we buy to brighten our home or our wrist for a little happiness?  What game can we download and compete in for a little fun or what table can we place our bet on for the thrill of it all?

Is it me or is anyone else running a race that is neither trained for nor entered willfully?

I have a few tech-savvy, apple-owning (i-what-not) friends who share a joke with me - To screen or Not to screen, This is the question. And as you read this, you know I do.  I know you do too.  And at what cost?

My kids want to participate in activities like all their friends, but they don't or can't know what they haven't learned the hard way - too many "good things" can add up to being a "bad thing."

Though I don't earn luxury in my part-time job at the school, I make more in just one hour than an African Pastor will in a month.  And oh how fast I can spend those wages on silly things like paper and books and ice cream.

... Sometimes I want to just live. 

But I'm too exhausted to do that.

Too tired to see, to fatigued to touch, too drained to really listen, too exhausted to talk, too sleepy to truly do anything that really matters. And what is living if not those things?  I don't know me and I lose sight of God, and breathing has become the inhalation of my news feed and the exhalation of my current status.

"Back in the day, students may have meandered through the Fine Arts section of the library to pick up a book. They may have even sat and spent some quality time alone without any distractions. There was a time when spending time reflecting and getting to know yourself did not involve vibrating interruptions every two seconds." - Gabby Tilevetz (college blogger

I once read that with higher machinery and technology, we've filled the time saved with expectations of just more busy-work rather than really enjoying our lives and the time we saved.  Take washing machines.  Now we have the expectation of owning hundreds of outfits and that they will all be meticulously spotless, whereas before this lovely contraption (for which I am extremely thankful), we had a few garments that we washed weekly in the basin and cared for the best we could, wearing an apron to cook in and graciously understanding if there was a bit of dust on our neighbor's cuff.  Was it worth the convenience, if we've merely hijacked our time with piles of laundry and excessive spending on clothing?  I'm not sure I can say yes.

Though I don't know how many beats this heart will perform in the course of my life, I know the One who counts them.  And I am so hungry to make the beats matter.  I want to really live this life and not waste it.  

"Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days." - Ephesians 5:16 (NLT)

I'm not calling names - judgement of evil still belongs firmly in His hand and not in mine.  But why are the days evil?  Could it be perhaps because we've forgotten to stop and see the holy in each one?

This is why I carry around books of pretty paper and ribbon full of my counting . . . because each day is the gift of opportunity.  To do what?  To worship in thankfulness. To "know He is God" (Psalm 46:10). 

Because I'm a writer and when I write down the gifts, I begin to look for what the gift is now. And if I'm ready to write it, ready to thank Him for it, I'm really living it for all it's worth.  Like these:

- her soft curly hair in my face - my friend and the twin sister I always wanted, right here in my arms as we pray for one another

- hoodies

- another astounding sunset painted bright red and orange, peering through all those leaves, and my awe at how He can do that differently every day

- the way my son still hugs me in the hallway when we pass, and the way he still calls me "Mama."  There's no way I'm rushing him out of either.

- my husband's embrace, and the way his arms can make every awful thing disappear, if only for a moment - it's still relief

- a missionary, ready to be sent, "if only to love one of them" to India and tears to remind me that God loves each of us that much

- the light teal-blue color He painted my daughter's eyes, and the way they take in everything before she speaks

"Why do we want to spend eternity with God, but we don't want to spend time with Him?"  -Mark Batterson


I'm tired again today, and yes, even exhausted.  It's early on the Sabbath (which means to catch your breath) and I'm already counting down the hours until my nap.  I'll make myself be still right now, though.  Choose to stop and see. Decide to be still and know who He is.  Sing my guts out in worship, because He deserves it, and I will become more undignified than this if I need to.  Consume the Bread and savor the taste of it on the tongue of my heart.  Rejoice in Him, because of who He is and all He's done.

The Giver of all good things.  The Father of lights.  My Provider and the One who gives each moment to be lived and not squandered.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

if only you knew ...

Sometimes masking is coping, and some methods of coping are better than others. 

The beauty of masking is that you can usually do and say all the "right" things, even if you aren't feeling them.

The pain of masking is that your real feelings end up strangling you.

Sometimes when people give me accolades, my first inner reaction sounds a little like this: "... if only you knew ... you might not say that."

I've learned that quote to be a sneaky lie of the enemy, though.  A lie meant to keep me in hiding.  Because truth be told, there is such a thing as unconditional love - and even though people who possess it are few and far between, I do have some friends who have proven the test of my honesty and have lived to love me another day.

And more than that - I have known the depth of a different kind of love.  The love of A Heavenly Father.

"So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son." -John 1:14

And when Jesus revealed the love of the Father, every being at once knew his own identity - I'm not Him, but loved by Him.  It is when we accept this with open hands that we are made ready to become that which He made us to be from the beginning.

"The acceptance of self does not mean to be resigned to the status quo.  On the contrary, the more fully we accept ourselves, the more successfully we begin to grow.  Love is a far better stimulus than threat or pressure. ... When we accept ourselves for what we are, we decrease our hunger for power or the acceptance of others because our self-intimacy reinforces our inner sense of security. We are no longer fear criticism because we accept the reality of our human limitations.  ... simply being true to ourselves brings lasting peace." - Brennan Manning (Ragamuffin Gospel)

One of my greatest joys is loving people and being loved in return.  I know this is most genuine with the people who actually know me, and know me well ... right down to the dirt.  The irony is that sometimes once they've seen the dirt, they love me even more.  And the same goes with the way I love them even more after they've divulged some skeletons from the back of their closet as well.  

And isn't that like our Lord?  One of the very most amazing and winsome qualities He retains is His knowing.  He knows me.  Every move.  Every breath.  Every word.  Every thought ... And He still  loves me.  I'm astounded.  I'm in love with Him - for loving me after knowing me that well.  Even for dying a brutal death for me in His knowing.  This song says it all for me.  I can't stop singing it.  All day long. 

"You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!" 
                      - Psalm 139:4-7 (NLT)

Lord, I'm so glad You know me, every part.  Sometimes that feels uncomfortable because I'd like to hide the worst from you and show you just the best.  But, as always, Your ways are higher than mine.  And even in Your knowing, Your love for me stays the same adoration for my soul You've always held - from the beginning, and You'll never forsake forever.  Once again, Father I am so amazed.  It's too deep to comprehend, but I'm trying.  Your love is glorious.  Show me Your glory.