Saturday, March 30, 2013

Finding Thankfulness in Hard Times

It seems like recently I have been repeatedly reminded how precious life is- those moments where love feels as if it will explode from your heart, of new introductions, of authentic connection.  Moments where the pain feels so great the only way to cope is to break and let the flood of emotions move through...moments of grief.  Moments of doubt.  Moments of fear. Moments of beauty's revelation right before your eyes.  Moments of feeling so loved you can hardly breathe....

In recent weeks, I have had several of my amazing friends facing some really difficult circumstances.  Loss of a parent, facing a new and life changing diagnosis for a beloved mother, marriages stretched to the breaking point, waiting on pins and needles for the official news of whether or not it will be possible to adopt the daughter they so deeply want and already love, kiddos struggling with significant delays, sudden changes in a pregnancy necessitating immediate and scary action in order to save lives, waiting to see if a husband is awarded a job that will require their family to move out of state and socially start over again...just to name a few.  Some really big things...needing some really big prayers before a really big God.  Life is full of hard things we have to face, however I'm grateful that we do not have to face them alone.  I'm thankful for quiet moments and time to whisper prayers on their behalf. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rethinking Rain

For the longest time, I have felt like I have been in a spiritual desert.  Dry, dry, dry.  I have felt alone in my wanderings through this particular wilderness despite the (much cherished) encouragement, love and support of family and friends.  I have felt distance between God's heart and mine, even though I know his word tells me otherwise...and while I believe his word, my heart has certainly felt differently.  

From my own perspective, I have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the proverbial rain to start.  For the experience of rich, refreshment of spirit and soul that only comes from Above to just start pouring down over my life again bringing along with it new growth, fresh life, renewal, clarity...  I have had in my mind vivid images of this waiting, this preparing for the spiritual spring rains in a season of personal drought and winter of my soul.  And in my mind, that "working while I wait" has kept me going with purpose because in my mind, all will become better when the rains start falling and I want to be ready...

As I am working on looking at my life with fresh perspective, I felt a nudge to ponder how maybe the rain is already falling down around me and I just have not had the eyes to see it.  Maybe instead of dry, I have actually been wet.  Perhaps my struggles in the wilderness with these life "storms" I've been experiencing over the past year have actually been drops of rain that have managed to settle into a steady, stormy downpour and I am just in need of a really good umbrella and a fresh perspective.

I don't know if there is a "right" way to look at it, because honestly, both perspectives feel 'true' to me here in this moment.  The only notable difference for me is that one perspective was not on my heart yesterday the way it is today, and I wanted to spend some time writing about it while the nudge was fresh.  Either way, I know that God is always the redeemer of rain in our lives...whether he brings it upon the dry deserts of our hearts and uses it for our good (growth, restoration, life sustaining, healing) or floods our lives in effort to drown out our pride, hard hearts, self-reliance and stubbornness in his desire to draw us closer to Him...and prepare us for where He wants us to go.   He is our only safe shelter in life's storms.  Like the song by Mercy Me says, if that's what it takes to praise you (and if I may add, bring my heart closer to You), Jesus bring the rain.

May our hearts be encouraged, it only rains for a season.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Journeying Toward Perspective: Part 1

A couple of years ago around the New Year, I began noticing around the blog world that different bloggers I enjoyed reading were choosing a 'word' for their upcoming year that would shape and guide them throughout.  Words like, 'hope', 'up', 'joy', 'open', 'rest', 'courage' and 'possibility' to name but a few were claimed and put out for the world to ponder.  I admit, I found the idea very inspiring and wanted to join in.  However, I did not necessarily stick with it after a few days or weeks as life took over and I don't even think I wrote about it that much (which is tantamount to me not actually processing). 

This year as the New Year approached and I was desperate for things to be 'new' and to reorient myself towards clarity and focus again instead of the foggy, reactionary living habits I had fallen into, I began thinking about what I wanted my 'word' to be for 2013 way back in October of 2012.  My journal is filled with my ponderings on what word to choose and why. Coming off of such a difficult 2012, and knowing that some tough things were ahead for me this year, I was thinking about words like, 'fearless,' 'courage', 'strength' and the like.  I had in my mind that I would need those elements to be in my mind as I faced daily challenges, fractures in my confidence, struggles to have another baby, obstacles to personal growth, times when I did not want to work out, or frankly as I faced myself on days where I just did not want to get out of bed.  I was determined to hold onto my word and make it my own and write about it along the way and to have it change me.

Then, along came my friend, Jena.  She is a beautiful person inside and out who also happens to have a passion for writing.  We have spent time together in various social settings, and from time to time, she would mention how she lets God give her a word for her year and how it has transformed and deepened her faith. Huh.  She lets God give her her word....and it helps her grow in her faith and relationship with God.  It sounds crazy, but in my few years of "doing this" little personal exercise, I had never put the choosing of my 'word' into the framework of faith and how I could do this with God.  I had always put it through the filter of my own strength, might and was my word and I was choosing it based on what I wanted to see more of in my life or what I felt I needed more of.  I have also desperately been wanting to grow deeper in my walk with God, yet had never connected the two dots.  Funny how that can happen when you are trying to do everything yourself without any input from above.

In my fog of disappointment and frustration with God that had developed over the past year, I had not even realized how hard my heart had become toward Him until I began thinking about Jena's words and realizing how little I have been seeking His input and leadership - let alone Lordship in my life.  I was truly stunned that it had not even occurred to me to ask the One who knows me the best, the One who designed me, who foresaw these difficult and dark days in my life before I was even born what He might want to reveal to my heart in this new season.  It was a convicting realization.  I knew he patiently awaited my surrender, only in my stubbornness and lack of faith, I clung tightly to my own ways.

Initially, I landed on my own word for the year- courage.  I was very excited about it and felt like it would carry over into every area of life that I needed it to based on what I could see that lay ahead.  I of course, did not tell anyone about it, but myself and God.  (Note:  I told God.  I'm sure he had a little chuckle at my expense!)  Then, a couple of weeks into January, Jena was again sharing with a large group of women about her word for this year and gently challenged our group to let God give us a word for our lives.  Her challenge was offered as gentle encouragement, but in my heart the challenge did not feel gentle not because of her words, but because my heart was hard and God knew I needed a swift kick to actually get the message and respond.  I felt God nudging me directly to allow Him to choose my word.  As I began to acknowledge his nudge, I knew He had a different word for me than the one I had chosen, and this made me feel nervous.  This nudge did not dissipate over the next few days and I began praying (admittedly with some trepidation in my heart) and asking God to give me a that HE wanted for me at this point in my journey.  

A fortnight passed as I continued to listen and eventually a word began appearing over and over and over again both in my heart and all around me- so much so, that I absolutely could not miss it.  I certainly could not deny that God was trying to send me a message about what my word for the year was truly supposed to be.  Without question, I knew my new word was PERSPECTIVE.  It is not one I chose or would choose, that is for sure.  My mind was racing and my heart felt anxious as I wondered what it meant and what it might possibly mean for me in the future.  Would it be hard? Would it be good? Would I like it?   Ironically, the more I wondered and turned this future journey over in my mind trying to "manage" it, "understand" and "control" its potential outcome and impact, the more perspective I gained on how much God really wanted to teach me about it and how much I had yet to learn. I pretty much immediately began to feel the humbling process of my heart's sharp edges of pride and unbelief being pressed upon by my Maker's skilled hands.  He alone knows best the soul work and beauty ahead.

With a shaky heart in the weeks that have followed, I have repeatedly worked on actively surrendering my life, my focus, my heart, my time, my energy and my thoughts in effort to wholeheartedly participate and milk this experience for every ounce of blessing that He is holding for me here.  I have been amazed, stunned and my hope re-energized by all He has shown me so far and it's only March.  Not every experience has been pleasant, but it has all been beautiful in its own way.  I look forward to sharing more of my journey toward 'perspective' here with you on the blog as I throw my messy, broken life into His expert hands for His glory. be continued

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Marching Forward

My apologies for the blog being quiet. Our family has had a rough couple of weeks.  Between the three of us, we have each had major colds (some have lasted all three weeks!! Ahem.)  Lily has cut FOUR new teeth. Our sweetest girl has had TWO rounds of double ear infections as a result = no fun and not many naps which means no breaks for this Mama.  And we have been practically buried in almost two feet of snow here in the Midwest, so there have been lots of snow days and cabin fever on top of everything else!  (Hello, wandering trips to Target - one of the only stores open -with no list just to get out of the house!  I think we were one of 8 people in the whole store, too!) ... but I digress...

Now that it's March, my internal seasonal calendar is also saying it's finally Springtime. Along with the anticipation spring's beauty, I almost tangibly feel a change in my heart...a readiness for new things, fresh starts and new growth.  In some small ways, my heart feels energized as it has not for a long time. I notice a little bit of hope cracking open again here in the darkness which feels both scary and life-giving all at the exact same time.

 I'm ready for spring, and I'm waiting for the rain.  Like the parched earth here in the drought stricken middle part of the country, my heart also waits for its refreshment from Above. All I can do is prepare myself for its I clean, I play, I pray, I mother, I read, I listen, I cook, I host, I write, I go to doctor appointments, I follow directions, I wait, I wait and I wait some more... hoping doing all of these things in obedience will somehow lead me to where I'm supposed to be....wherever that is.  

I know it is not about doing the right things or staying busy and distracted, but it is about doing all I can to somehow prepare my heart to become I'm the woman I'm called to be for whatever God holds for me in the days, weeks and months ahead.  I absolutely do not know where this path I'm on leads so I just continuing to take the next step in front of me trusting that Someone much greater than I can see the map.

My heart feels uncertain of where I'm heading but also confident that it's where I'm supposed to be going.  I can accept that now.  I'm trying to practice faith daily and sometimes even hourly by trusting only in Him along this journey.  I'm working on learning to be still in my heart and wait patiently for the Lord to move, while also marching forward in obedience through my days and responsibilities.  I'm striving to honor the life and calling I have here and now instead of bemoaning what I feel isn't "right" about it.  

I'm learning that somehow it is possible to both wait and move forward in obedience all at once.  I am far from an expert on this as you know.  I'm just a girl striving to make some imperfect progress along the path of faith and surrender which is so much more than I could say about myself in all of 2012 where I was primarily angry, frustrated, depressed, disappointed and super pouty/bratty about it all with God. So, hooray for small and minor victories, right? I'll take them! 

Friends, God is working.  He is moving and He is meeting me where I am -in my fear and disappointment- and it is a truly beautiful thing to experience how he is and has been loving me throughout this season (Don't worry, its a whole different blog post!).   Yes, I'm absolutely ready for the seasons to change, both outdoors and within my heart.  I'm ready, waiting and watching for His beauty to bloom....