Monday, August 29, 2011

being swayed

(Word of warning:  This is a very fragmented blog today as I write down my thoughts without any real concrete answers and no worries of the writing.  Feel free to comment to me and let me know your thoughts!)

It is very easy for us to speak and theorize about faith, but God often casts us into crucibles to try our gold, and to separate it from the dross and alloy.  Oh, happy are we if the hurricanes that ripple life's unquiet sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious.  Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without him."  (Madcuff)

This was the devotion for yesterday from "Streams in the Desert."  I had to think through that last line as I was reading last night and spending some time trying to quiet my heart from the day.  During the actual day while the hurricane was hitting did not cause anxiety.  I rather enjoyed the day of watching the winds and rain. We lost power and (after adjusting our minds to no technology) we enjoyed each other and had a good time.  We even let the kids play outside for a while when there was no electrical storm and the winds were calmer!  (Don't judge me -what's a little tropical storm in the grand scheme of things?)  While the actual storm was hitting, my heart was calm - I was even able to take a nap!

However, the night before was a restless night for me as I lay in bed and repeatedly checked outside.  Whenever I heard the wind even a little I jumped and wondered about heading to the basement.  Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep.

It turns out the thing that I anticipated - and worried about - was way off the mark.

That is often the case in my life.  I was telling Shawn last night that I am tired of living my life like the tree that fell so easily in our backyard.  Weak roots that gave way in the rain and wind.  Easily swayed and tipped.  I continually come back to the idea of being steadfast.  Yet for me I see myself being swayed and tipped not by the actual wind, but by the worry of what may happen.  When I am in the situation, I can believe, but my mind takes me places that are filled with doubt, worry, and fear before hand.  The "I could never" s and "There's no way"s take over and my imagination becomes my worst enemy.  I start to live as though those things I wonder about and imagine are the actual truth instead of the real things that are happening around me.

I realized as I went through the storm yesterday that I do believe God is present and with me during the storms of life.  While the winds howled around I was calm.  I had peace.  I laughed and enjoyed and prayed.  I want to be like my children - playing joyfully, trusting in my heavenly father as the rains beat down and the winds blow.  Yet I want that to be who I am before the storm hits, too.  I don't want to live my life in dread of the next thing to happen - because there will be a next thing in this broken world.

So that is my know Jesus as being even more precious to me even before the storm.  To believe and live as though I believe that even if those storms happen, it is better to have those storms with him than a calm without him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inclining my ear

Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.  Isaiah 55:3
Last week my kids were at Cousin Camp (a week of fun that Shawn's parents put on for their grandchildren) and so it was Shawn and I here all alone all week.  The year before during CC I had made plans with a ton of people that I figured I could get together with easily without kids.  This year my life has changed so drastically with John being able to stay home with the other kids that I didn't feel the need to use all my "kid-less" time catching up and meeting with people.  I didn't even honestly feel starved for a "Date night" because we are able to have a lot more alone time now - though we did go out a few times with each other and with friends.  My one desire as I was looking at a week away from the responsibilities that come from being mom to four was the chance to sit and read my bible, spend some time in the hammock, take long walks, and enjoy the silence of an empty house for a few days. 
It didn't quite pan out that way.  As my week went on, I realized I was avoiding God.  Why?  That irrational idea that things had been feeling a little stale and slow paced in my walk with him, so I needed to "work" to make things right.  And honestly, I didn't have the energy to work.  So I would see my new Bible sitting there beckoning for me to come and spend some time, and I would grab another book, or hop on the computer, or make up meals to be frozen, or plan school for the fall.   I felt like that person that you see on sitcoms that is trying to avoid someone and they go ducking behind trees and furniture!  Yet in it all I knew my feeling was irrational - that God was waiting for me to come running into his arms - the arms of my Father - and find the rest and love that was there for me all along.  And while my heart and soul LONGED for this rest and peace, and this amazing relationship to be full and real again, my flesh fought it with everything it was, and it was winning.  Temporarily. 
Then the Holy Spirit spoke and broke through.  And my heart lept as I opened to Psalms and started reading and finding Him again and hearing Him speak to my weary soul.  I just started reading  and reading, and talking to him and waiting for him to respond - and suddenly everything went from murky, frustrating, and tiring to peaceful and light.  I didn't get a lot of answers to my questions that I had been struggling with, nor did he speak audibly show his face to me.  But I was reminded to incline my ear to him and listen.  And then life was renewed within me and my soul felt alive again. 
So now my kids are home again (yay!) and I am back to a couple loads of laundry a day, a full dishwasher each evening, a grocery bill that rivals the national debt, and a house that never quite looks clean.  Busyness and noise is part of this life again - and that's ok.  I am learning to hear God's voice better in the midst of it all by turning my ear to him and away from the things that distract.  God met me where I was and when I needed him, and I am so thankful for a Father like that. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Closer to 40

So, tomorrow I turn 37.  Age is a funny thing.  People have been reminding me that 37 is closer to 40 than I was before (thank you for the lesson in OBVIOUS!)  As far as I can tell, I like getting older better than the alternative, so I will take it.  It has been fun to be in the two churches we are in.  At Compelled in Troy I would be considered one of the "older" people, where as when I walked into Schenectady last week one of the women said, "Hello there, young lady!"  (And she meant it!)  I was thinking about it all this week as I get ready to "move closer to the 40 mark" tomorrow and I had to smile.

Turning 30 was rough for me - I felt like I was hitting a time in my life when I should have done some things that I was dreaming about, but hadn't gotten to a lot of them.  Life had gone from college time to marriage to babies and diapers and all the chaos that is comes with that.  When I look over the last decade (when I was turning 27 and hitting that "closer-to-30" mark) there has been some amazing things that have happened to me and in me, and I wouldn't want to go back.
What are some of those things?  I'm glad you asked (teehee)...

I have made some real, intimate, passionate-about-God, change-your-life friendships.  I have also learned (and keep learning)  how to be a real friend.  These amazing women are not around me most of the time, and the number of friendships on this level are limited - but I am so thankful for them.  They are people who lift me up, whom I can call and talk to at anytime without feeling like any time has passed or like I have to apologize for not calling more.  We have been through pregnancy, birth, marriage issues, kid problems, medical woes, self- esteem problems, moves across the world, and journeys with God together.  I didn't know this type of friendship could exist once you became an adult and hit "real life," so I am so grateful for those people who keep showing me otherwise.

I have experienced some amazing adventures cross-culturally.  Not just living in Malawi, but visiting different places - including the different parts of the US - and loving every minute of it.  I love to try new foods, listen to new languages (or dialects), learn new ways of living, and have adventures.  I had not been too many places growing up, and those places that I had been were at times where I could not truly relax and enjoy them.  My heart is constantly calling me to the next adventure, and in that God is reminding me that the real adventure is right here with him, in his will, no matter where that may be.  So I have not only experienced adventure in this world - but in my walk with him. Until recently I never understood that resting in the Shadow of the Almighty is an adventure in itself!

I have learned that I am able to do things that I never would have imagined when God calls me to it.  Homeschooling 4 kids is not something I thought I would ever do - yet I am at the point in that where I can cheer because I have taught 4 children how to read!  (with MUCH blood, sweat, and tears - especially tears!)  I have learned to bake and cook dinners from scratch, from whatever is on hand in my house.  I have learned to wash clothing by hand when necessary, and to be thankful for washing machines when it's NOT necessary!  I have learned to play the piano and even played on a couple of different worship teams.  I can balance my checkbook and stick to a budget - something that continually escaped me in my last decade!  And, by the grace of God, I am (hopefully) teaching John French this year! (Prier pour moi, s'il vous plait!)

I have walked through some things that I never imagined I could even face in these last few years. Sitting alongside my mom as she struggled through cancer and holding her hand as she took her last breath.  Mourning my life that I had to leave behind in Malawi and learning to be content and trust God's love in all circumstances.  Navigating through the grief that comes with the death of different friends that - in my eyes - left this earth too soon.  Watching helplessly as my baby is taken away for open heart surgery, knowing that means for a matter of time his heart would not be beating.  Not being able to get out of bed to feed my kids because I was in such a severe post-partum depression I couldn't do anything but sleep and cry.  All of these things eventually brought me to a deeper, more intimate walk with God and a better understanding of myself.  I didn't always enjoy the ride, but I am learning to be thankful for it anyway.

So, yes - I am getting closer to 40 (But didn't you know 40 is the new 30?) and I have seen those gray hairs and laugh lines.  But I feel more alive, more vibrant, and more confident than ever before in my life.
So I will take it.  And I will be thankful for it and live it to the fullest!