The Journey Home

Friday, December 7, 2012

She who believes....

It has been a looonnngggg time since I've taken the time to sit and write down my thoughts in this blog.  Oh, it's not that I haven't thought about it often, it's just that actually finding the time to sit down at this computer is nearly impossible.  This morning, though, I was gently guided by His loving hand to a truth in Scripture that I just HAD to record. 

If you know me at all, you know that I love Christmas-time...which for me starts in late November and doesn't end until the middle of January.  I love everything about it, especially since the Lord is teaching me how not to get caught up in the commercialism of it all and enjoy it for what it is.  Which has also led me to love Advent.  Truly taking part in Advent has been a game-changer for my family and I.  It takes a wild and stressed-out heart and directs it to the side of Zechariah and Sarah as they receive the amazing news that they are going to have a baby in their old age, and that this boy will herald the coming of the long awaited Messiah to the Israelites who have been not-so-patiently waiting for the past 400 years.  It brings me to Mary as she receives the heart stopping news that she will house God-Made-Flesh for 9 months and makes me marvel at the faith that says, "I am the Lord's servant.  May it be to me as you have said."  I travel each grueling mile with Mary and Joseph on their way to the City of David and watch each person shake their head and turn away the young couple about to birth the most precious of all babies into the world.  And I sing with the angels, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!"  I feel the anticipation of Simeon and Anna as they watch every day for the Messiah to walk through the gates of the temple; and watch and watch, and watch, until one day the Lord rewards their patient diligence and Mary and Joseph walk into the courts holding God With Us in their arms to dedicate Him to the Lord. 

I was reading today in Luke 1:39-45 where Mary gets the news that she will be with child and also learns that Elizabeth, her old, wrinkly, in-love-with-God cousin, is also expecting a child.  She picked up her skirts and "hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea" to spend almost 3 months with the only person who could understand what was happening to her.  Here's the part that God whispered into my heart this morning, "I want this to be you, dear one."  Here's how Elizabeth described Mary in verses 44 & 45: 

"As soon s the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

As soon as I read it I knew:  I want to be a woman who believes that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.  Sometimes I feel stuck in my sin.  Will I ever learn to be gentle with my words?  Will I ever learn how to respond in His Spirit rather than react in my ugly flesh?  Will I ever, for the love of the land, stop being so selfish?  My feelings swirl like a tornado and I am left believing the lies of the evil one and forgetting the truth of Scripture.  That

"if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh."

"The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." 

These and hundreds of other promises are made by the One who only says what He means and means what He says.  My job is only to believe Him for what He says.  Just like Mary.  Just like Elizabeth.  Just like my friend Kelly.  Just like Abraham who "believed the LORD and it was credited to him as righteousness."  And Jesus speaks over me and over all of us,

"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"


Friday, October 26, 2012

Learning in the midst of living....

"The art of life is learning how to turn and see a certain way...

I knit brows over kids yelling, and when did I start thinking serenity was something that I owned, that peace was something I had property rights to — and that I’d been straight out robbed if I lost a bit of peace and quiet? How can I lose it when I lose things as trite as a clean counter, a break, an uninterrupted moment?

And I touch the edge of things... —

Who am I to complain in losses — when what I lost wasn’t mine to begin with?"
~Ann Voskamp
Oh, this is me.  I crave peace.  What I never thought though, is that I also crave quiet.  Me, with the 5 crazy kids and the homeschooling and an 1800 square foot house.  Sometimes I demand it, quieting the screams and the squeals and the giggles and the running which causes the 6-pound white dog to bark incessently, but why do I do it?  Am I not stifling the stuff of a life alive when I do this?  Who am I to think that this is the season for quiet?  And why do I feel so unglued when I don't have it?  But reading this on this particular morning, God makes me pause and think.  I am sharing in a Bible study journey with an amazing group of raw, honest, open, authentic women for the next six weeks that is making us take a look at what causes us to come Unglued.  I think God is teaching me that it is this, this craving for serenity and the lack of it that makes me feel like I'm falling apart.  This is what causes me to explode when kids are fighting.  This is what fuels sarcastic remarks when the 8 year old who would rather live in a tree house and spend 99% of her time outside balks at doing her schoolwork.  This is what causes my insides to boil when the boy fights with the freckle-faced girl over the inconsequential and miniscule.  But when did I start thinking that "I'd been straight out robbed if I lost a bit of peace and quiet?  Who am I to complain in losses - when what I lost wasn't mine to begin with?"  Is it possible to feel the rest of God when the everyday is loud and chaotic and messy? 
I don't want to explode anymore.  I don't want to screech a lecture.  People, this parenting thing...this living life hard.  I don't get it right many times during the course of my day.  I give you full permission to ask my children who live with me 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  They see my ups and downs.  They hear the stern and disapproving voice.  They see the countenance, the furrowed brow and the tight lips.  God has been talking to me, teaching me, about the rest He offers to every single one of us, for a couple of years now.  But I did like I so often do:  took it to the extreme.  I took it to mean that rest equaled serenity.  I'm thinking now, though, that this is a quietness of the soul even in the midst of the craziness of raising this brood that He has blessed us with.  I know that this is going to be hard for me.  I know that I am going to have to lay down what I've tagged as "my right" and sacrifice what I want (serenity) to allow our kids to be what they are:  young.  impetuous.  crazy.  loud.  messy.  alive.  beautiful.  I will learn to live in the crazy and experience God's peace at the same time.  I will lay down my rights and let God supply my needs.  And I'm giving myself space to mess up and learn.  To let the Master wash over me with His grace in the midst of unglued moments.  To be happy with "imperfect progress" as Lysa Turkhurst calls it. 
38 years old and still learning everyday....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see....

One of the greatest blessings in my life is when the living, breathing, Word of God speaks to me.  I have had the privilege of walking with the Lord Jesus for 20 years now, and I will never cease to be amazed by how He talks with me and teaches me through His Word.  Especially when it's a verse that I have read countless times during these last 20 years.  Such was the case this morning.  An old truth hit me in a new way; a truth that I pray will deepen my relationship with the amazing God who still chooses to bend down to lead and guide His children.

Today, I was in Hebrews 11, reading again about the members of the Hall of Faith.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and the rest. 

"Who, by faith, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies." 

The older I get, the less inclined I am to think of these men and women as the "greats" of the Christian faith.  They were just ordinary men and women like me, like you, who chose to believe God.  There was nothing extraordinary about them except one thing:  They believed God for what He said and who He is.  Here is the verse that slammed itself into my head and heart this morning:  "Without faith, it is impossible to please God."  I was working through my Bible study this morning and this is what it said concerning this verse: 

"Are you still searching for your calling?  Are you still wrestling with your purpose on this earth?  Our calling is to please Him - to wake up every moring saying, 'Yes, Lord,' then live through the day to discover His questions."

My husband and I are in a new season of life and I am struggling to find out what my calling is in the midst of it.  For the past eight years I knew my role.  Youth pastor's wife; mama; teacher of the Word to high school and college students.  God took most of that away from me and I've felt like a fish out of water.  What now, Lord??  I believe He answered my question this morning.  "You are to concentrate on pleasing Me."  How can I please you, Lord?  "By believing that I AM and that I reward those who earnestly seek Me."  (See Heb. 11:6) 

I am tempted to think in my head, "Well, that's a beginning!!"  But it's not.  It's everything.  I want to understand what it means to walk with God and please Him.  To remember that what I do does not give me my identity.  He does.  I want my story of faith to bring pleasure to my heavenly Daddy who loves me.  What will be written about me in the annuls of heaven? 

"By faith Noah....  by faith Enoch....  by faith Abraham....  by faith Rahab....  by faith Jennifer Travis...."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Learning to Live in the Truth

This mama can sometimes wonder if her life is amounting to much of anything.  What difference can I be making as I wash, hang, and fold 11 loads of laundry this week?  Or fight my way through 400 strawberries to make jam for the year?  Or tend a garden?  Or cook 3 meals a day every day?  Or school my children?  Or love my husband?  And doesn't life sometimes feel like the old(ish) movie Groundhog's Day

And then He whispers it to me as I stand alone outside, pinning clothes to the line and listening to the wind rustle the green leaves in our huge maple trees:  It is all for nothing if I'm not doing it with Him.  My significance doesn't lie in what I do.  My worth is NOT found in what I do.  I am worthy because He loves me.  My work is worthy because He makes it so.  Sometimes I feel like I get it, and those are wonderful days of contentment and peace in my soul.  My mind is at rest on those days.  How am I so quick to forget these deep lessons learned?  It is indeed true that the enemy prowls around like a lion waiting to devour any unsuspecting and, dare I say, sleeping son or daughter of the King.  He waits for the morning when I haven't armed myself with the truth of scripture to whisper words that make me doubt and I am so quick to believe those words.  Why am I so quick to believe those words? 

The Lord has taught me something over this past year through my precious husband, and it has made all the difference in me as I learn to think rightly.  It is this:  Always combat the lies of the evil one with the truth of scripture.  So I open His love letter to me and read in Ephesians 1 that our God and Daddy has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 
That He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. 
That He adopted us as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ because it pleased Him to do so! 
That He lavishes His grace on us. 
That He wants me to know in the marrow of my bones the hope to which He has called me:  the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and His incomparably great power for us who believe. 
That He Himself is my peace. 
And then He leads me to Colossians 3:15-17:

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  AND BE THANKFUL.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

So I will wash, hang, and fold laundry with the Lord, and give thanks to Him that we have clothes to wear.  I will make jam, thanking Him for the bountiful harvest and share what He's blessed us with.  I will tend our garden and be thankful for seeds to plant and good soil to plant them in.  I will make meals and be thankful for food to prepare and put in front of my family at meal times.  I will school my children and be thankful for the opportunity to live out Deuteronomy 6 as we "impress {these commands} on {our} children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  I will love my husband in front of my children and try to model for them what life can be like when the Lord weaves 2 lives so closely together that they become one flesh, loving one another with the love that the Lord lavishes on us.  And I will remember:  my Daddy King loves me and promises to empower me daily to walk life with Him.  I will not forget again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Letter

Sweet Biruk Abigail,

You have been here for 8 months and I really can't believe it!  You have brought so much laughter and fun into our house.  I can't remember life without you, and I don't want to!  Your sweetness (and even your difficult-ness at times) has increased the grace and the joy in our house by 10.  Here is a couple of my favorite times with you, Biruk:

*The first time I saw you.  You were so quiet, holding onto daddy's neck.  Your eyes got H-U-G-E when you saw that "jumpy-jumpy" (trampoline:)) and you bounced the tar out of it with us.  You actually hugged me 10 minutes in!  We played catch with a little red ball, and you refused to put your tongue inside of your mouth!:)
*The day that you discovered toys beyond the pull-around-on-a-string dog.  You dug right into that big trunk of toys and had a blast.
*The first time that you kissed me.  It was only the 2nd day that you had been home, and you cuddled right up on my lap and kissed my cheek.  My heart nearly exploded from joy!  You were a sweetheart right from the beginning, weren't you?
*Watching you learn how to swing:)  Now you're a pro, but then...falling off of the swing was a regular thing!  Loved watching your eyes light up when you finally learned how to pump your legs and make that swing go.
*Seeing you warm right up to church.  You loved your "school" from the very first time you went there.  You melted every single teacher's heart, and made just about 100 friends that day.
*I didn't really know you then, but the first time I saw your picture.  It was a cold, gross-looking-kind-of day, and I was over at the neighbors' house.  Leah called me on the phone and told me to "GET OVER HERE!!!"  So, I sprinted across the yard (barefoot.) and ran right to the dining room.  Tears on every face, dad peeking through the window since he had been making maple syrup, and a laptop in front of mom.  "We got a phone call, Em!!" mom said through her tears, "We HAVE A LITTLE GIRL!"  Your picture was small and sweet.  You looked ornery, (Were we right on that or what!?) and your smile was small.  I fell in love right about there.
*When I found out that your name means "blessed".  Hon, we were blessed by you!
*The very first time that you were thrown 30-somethin' feet into the air by daddy...hearing your screech of joy.

These are just a few examples, Biruky:)  There has been many more, and there will be many more. I can not describe how glad I am that you are my sis.  I love you, Biruk.



Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oh, but for grace

Last evening my amazingly wonderful mother-in-law came to spend time with us.  I was getting up to leave the supper table, distracted, thinking about the meeting I was heading out the door to get to.  They all pretended to cough, all of my sweet loved ones around the dining room table glowing with candlelight and strewn with remnants of a Friday night pizza and bar cookies smeared across little faces.  Gratitude journals busily being scribbled in.  "Stay, mama!  I think I may be getting sick!"  More coughing and giggles.  I try to clean up some of the mess before I have to go, anxiously looking at the clock and knowing that I must be leaving to get there on time.  I give kisses to all of them, making my way around the table as I pulled on my coat to guard against the cold and snow awaiting me outside.  I promise to be gone only as long as I have to, and out the door I went.  I got into my car and put up the garage door, just like always.  I started to back out, just like always.  And then I ran into my mother in law's car.   

I made a big mistake and today feels hard.  

This week, the fuel pump went out in my man's truck, our Yukon is not working right, the heater for our home broke, a tooth chipped in the back of my mouth, we're learning again how to fully trust the Lord to provide for our needs since He called Aaron out of the ministry, and now this.  Ugh.  Double ugh.  Tears are flowing and I'm not trying to stop them.  Sometimes a soul needs a good cleansing.  I noticed that when I cry, I can physically see better.  When tears fill my eyes it's like having the benefit of binoculars; all things around me come into view clearly.  I decide that this is exactly what I need, but I need it more for my spirit.  

When I backed into Mom's car, I received something I clearly did not deserve:  grace.  My mom immediately hugged me, telling me it was going to be just fine.  My man who, truth be told, I was even more worried about than my mom looked me straight in the eyes and held both of my wet cheeks in his strong hands and said, "It's o.k.  God will provide."  Both of them just kept pouring grace out on me all last night and this morning.  But how does one who deserves to be chastised for such a silly mistake accept this grace freely and lovingly given?  I'm only now starting to feel it.  The first impulse is to pulverize the self, let condemning words run freely through the mind and nod the head in utter agreement.  Why?  Because I know that's what I deserve.  Here's what I know.  Grace is hard to give sometimes.  But it is always hard to be on the receiving end of it.  Always.  We're not dummies.  We know what we should get.  And when we don't get it we're dumbfounded.  We don't know what to do with it.  

Isn't this what I've done for the past 20 years of my walk with Christ?  He has poured out grace upon grace over my head, and I've worked and worked to earn it, not daring to fully believe that He gives it not because I deserve it but because He loves me.  Me, who feels the least deserving of it because I know myself.  Surely He must be using this as an object lesson for me.  Accept grace.  Breathe it in.  Live in it.  Rest in it.  Stop the worry and the work and the self-condemnation.  There is no more, NO MORE, condemnation for those who live in Christ Jesus.  So I read this blog by Ann Voskamp and I remember again to force myself to accept grace, and that I can't see all that God is going to do through this but I can know that He will indeed work ALL things to the good of those who love Him and that I need to learn to give thanks in ALL circumstances like the Holy Spirit is teaching me through Paul, and suddenly I begin to see clearly again.