Saturday, April 18, 2015

Big Decisions . . . and Resulting Lessons

What a week!  I had to announce a big decision.  My boys were in Haiti.  Taxes were due.  There were stressful occurrences at work.  Money was tight.  I was super glad when we got to 6:00 last night!!!  At least I get a weekend break!

Only one of the things in that list pertain to what I want to write.  I had to announce a big decision this week.  I knew it was going to be painful to some people.  I'm being a little vague because there are still some people who do not know.  I prayed through my decision, sought counsel, and trusted God with the decision I made and the fact that my announcing it was going to be difficult.  It was one of those decisions that was more difficult.  It wasn't, "Of course you have to do this; the other is sin."  No, both choices were perfectly good, righteous choices.  But in my time with God and in my conversations with people, I could just feel my heart stirring and leading toward the decision I made.

Once the decision was made, I began asking God to show me when to make the announcement and how to do it in such a way that would be edifying and hopefully not discouraging.  So I wrote a letter.  I had Brent read it.  I reread it.  I made some changes.  I reread it again.  And I prayed that God would give me the courage to give the letter.  I was going to give it in person.  The purpose of the letter was simply so that my words would be down on paper, hopefully preventing my anxiety and stress from doing the talking instead of my real feelings.  In my time praying, I just hoped that God would make the announcement easier . . . make the person receiving the announcement more understanding, calm my nerves, etc.  I was still stressed when I did it, but I had on some level convinced myself that because I was seeking God and following his commands and direction for my life, it was going to go well.

It didn't.  I guess it could have been worse, but it certainly wasn't good.

So the rest of the week was a challenge.  The people it hurt are people I have to see all the time.  And it's hard to face people you've hurt . . . even if your intentions were not to hurt them.

As I thought about this and prayed through it almost constantly, I was reminded of how silly it was for me to expect God was going to make this easy on me.  I thought about Scripture and how often people suffered for following God and making the decisions He wanted them to make.  The list is endless, but the most significant, of course, is Jesus.  He had a choice, and He made it for us, even though it hurt him.  And every time I don't live my life according to His will, it hurts Him again.  And he was hurt for me . . . there was nothing in what he did that he deserved.  Every analogy breaks down.  And this one does quickly.  The decision I made will benefit me in many ways.  There are things I will sacrifice, but not a lot . . . not my life like Jesus.  There are people who will benefit from my decision, but there are people who are hurt because of it.  Jesus' decision was for the benefit of all mankind, and only hurt him.  Life is not easy.  Sometimes we have to walk through some really hard things, maybe because we were hurt by someone, but maybe because we did the hurting (even if it was unintentional).  So as I have been walking through this over the past several days, I have been trying to see what God wants me to learn through it.

My friend, Isabel, says, "It's easy to love the lovely.  It takes Christ's love to love the unlovely."  One thing I have learned this week is that the unlovely is sometimes someone you would not typically put in that category.  I have also learned that though I want to run and though I want to be angry with the unlovely person(s), God can help me love through those feelings, if I will submit them to Him.  And this love that comes from God and exudes through us makes a lasting impression on people.  I will continue to have to face this challenge (these people/person) for a while, maybe forever, I don't know, but I am praying constantly that God will help me love so that He will be glorified.

And then I look at the positive.  While it didn't go as well as I had hoped, the announcement is made, and I am excited for the change. My boys are back from Haiti . . . they are healthy . . . Jason loved it . . . they are both seeking to serve the Lord in incredible ways.  We didn't owe on our taxes, and I got them done on time.  And the stress at work, while it will continue because of the nature of the job, is allowing me a little break, and overall the lives I have seen changed outweighs the stress.  Money is temporary, and we have so much more than so many people.  And we ended the work with with an amazing time of worship and praise with great friends.  God is amazing . . . providing for us as we need.  We don't normally have Friday night praise and worship nights, but He knew how much I was going to need that last night . . . He is truly incredible!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Love and Respect

I haven’t blogged in a long time, but I have something on my heart that I thought I would share for those few of you who might read my blog occasionally.  A couple things before I actually write this.  First of all, I know my opinion about this is not going to be agreed upon by all, and I don’t really want to get in a fight on my blog.  These are just my thoughts.  Second, if you do want to argue my points, I would rather you read the book (with an open mind), then come back and give me your opinions.  Third, I don’t agree with everything in the book, but I did get a lot out of it and would say that I agree with almost everything.  And one final thing to clarify . . . I may be completely wrong, but Brent always thinks that people might view me as somewhat feministic, I guess based on the fact that I have always worked and that I have furthered my education.  I want to make it clear that I am not at all.  I say this because the book might really bother some of you who lean more toward feminism.  I really think that the best-case scenario in families is the traditional (or old-fashioned as some might say):  Dad works; mom stays home and takes care of the kids.  I would have been perfectly happy in that situation, but God had other plans for me, and I followed them.  But to go along with that, I have said and will say again that I don’t think my working outside of the home or being in school has hurt my children; in fact, in many ways it has benefitted them in ways that my staying home would not have.  The thing I would say about our choices or really, if we are honest, just the way things fell, is that we have not been perfect by any means, but we have tried to keep God in the center and our marriage and children a priority.  Has it been hard at times?  Definitely.  But here we are . . . by the grace of God making our lives work.

With that said, I guess you are probably wondering what book I read . . . Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.  We have had it sitting in our house for years.  I’ve picked it up a few times, but I have never made it through.  I finally determined a month or so ago that I was finishing it no matter what, and it took longer than it should have, but I finished it while I was on the plane to Virginia the other day.  It was a hard read for me . . . not because it is super intellectual.  It’s not!  It’s actually a very easy read.  But because it was incredibly convicting.  Now that I’m putting it out there, too, I’m opening the door for a ton of accountability.  While I do not consider myself a feminist, I definitely do not consider myself a submissive wife either.  Any of you who know me probably can see that I would struggle with that.  I think I can fairly say that I want to submit to Brent, I really do, but my strong, way too independent personality gets the best of me so often.  It is hard for me.  And as I read about respecting Brent, I was sad because I know that my natural tendency is not to show him the respect he needs or deserves.

What made me even sadder, though, was that Brent really does do a pretty great job loving me.  He is a romantic . . . that’s what drew me to him so many years ago.  He loves with all his heart, and most of the time, he treats me like a gem.  I was sitting in a session in my class today and the professor asked us (if we were married) to think about when we first knew we loved our spouse.  I know I would not have articulated this at the time, but the first memory that came to mind was this:  Right after Brent and I started dating (actually we had not even been on an official date, but we were spending a lot of time together in groups, and I would say our friends and other people at our college would have identified us as a couple), I got a little freaked out, and I broke up with him.  Initially he was mad, but the next day, after being out of my dorm room, I returned to find a single yellow rose with a card that said something to the effect of “If you are too scared to be in a relationship, I want to at least remain friends.”  (I know it was worded better).  I think that may have been the moment, though I would not admit it right away.  But after I cried a little, I went and called my dad for advice and a day or two later called Brent and apologized, and the rest is history.  He always took me on amazing, thoughtful, romantic dates.  He planned an amazing proposal (which I ruined, if that tells you anything).  He wrote me a song and had it sung at our wedding.  He had flowers at the house after the kids were born and when I found out I was pregnant.  He will cook and clean and do laundry.  And his thoughtfulness extends beyond me . . . he’s just all around a loving man who desires for others to know how much they mean to him.  Is he perfect?  No.  But he’s pretty amazing.  I say all this because I think for his personality, the loving part comes much more easily than the respecting part comes for me with my personality.

I’m headstrong and stubborn, and I think I know what’s right.  I’m argumentative . . . ask my parents because I always have been.  I also have pretty high expectations.  Am I all bad?  Of course not.  I work hard, and I love my family, and I would give the shirt of my back for other people, but my personality is more of a challenge when it comes to respecting my husband.  So as I read that book, I was convicted, and I was challenged because I can’t figure out how I am going to do a better job and not let my natural tendencies get the best of me.

I hear ladies talk about their husbands or I see things on social media, and it just hurts me for their husbands.  I also see and hear things that hurt me for wives, don’t get me wrong.  As I read in the book about the CRAZY Cycle (which is what Eggerichs refers to when he talks about marriages that are struggling), I could see how very difficult it is to get off of it.  Our human nature keeps us on it.  He’s not loving me, so why should I respect him?  He’s thinking the opposite.  She’s not respecting me, so why should I love her?  Now would either of us admit that we are thinking or saying that?  No, but it shows clearly in our actions and in our words.

The thing I really liked about the book is that, though I know it’s not going to be easy for me to show respect like I should, the book spells out how I can do a better job . . . in detail.  It also spends time talking about how we should work on not taking things personally when our spouse messes up.  On the occasion that Brent is not being loving toward me, I need to remember that he does love me, and he is just messing up like we all do . . . and try not to take it to personally or try to get to the bottom of it.  Did he have a rotten day at work?  Is he stressed about something unrelated to home that is causing him to be short?  Sometimes our feelings take over our logic.  We need to remember what is true and that our feelings often lie to us.


I highly recommend reading the book.  There will be things you do not agree with, as there are in all books, but there are many great truths.  I have learned as I have “grown up” that most books (even those I can’t support) have good principles I can grab, learn from, and implement.  Read the book with an open-mind, with the desire to be the person God calls you to be to your spouse.  Even if you do not agree with all of it, what does your spouse think?  When you got married, you agreed to sacrifice for the other.  For some people, you may not agree with submission and respect, but if that would help your marriage, shouldn’t you do it anyway?  Your husband may not feel like he needs to love you the way you need to be loved either, but don’t you want him to do it any way?  We have to serve each other in order to make our marriages work.  If we are only seeking what we want and not seeking to serve our spouse, our marriages are doomed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Weights

This morning I got up and went for a run.  I decided I was going to carry some weights with me.  My legs are in pretty good shape (at least my calves), but my arms . . . not so much.  I don't have time to add more to my life, so even if it won't make a big difference, I figure it won't hurt either.  Well, can I tell you how much harder it is to run while carrying weights?  And these aren't very heavy weights either, three pounds in each hand.  I didn't really think I would notice, but it not only was a pain for my arms, but it slowed down my legs, too.  It made me want to give up.  As I was pushing through and continuing to run while thinking about this, I was struck by the analogy that this is for our spiritual life.

As a Christian, I am trying to run the race and to run it well, but things come along, and they completely weigh me down.  Relationships are painful; the work is difficult; exhaustion and disappointment kick me in the rear.  They make me move more slowly and make me want to give up, just like those stupid weights.

While I was running, I thought, "I could just hide these weights in this bush and pick them up on my way home," or, "Better yet, I can just toss them.  Who cares if my arms are toned?  I don't even know if this is going to make a difference."  But I kept on going and even determined that tomorrow I'm going to take them with me again.  So again, I was contemplating how this correlates with my spiritual walk, and two things occurred tome:

When I am weighed down, I first need to ask God to carry those weights . . . it says so in Scripture (1 Peter 5:&).  I do this, but sometimes the weight is not lifted.  Sometimes that is because I do not release, even though I ask for God to take the burden, but sometimes I think it might be because God wants to tone me and train me in areas where I am weak, so He does not lift them the way I want.  Just as I want to tone my arms, God wants to tone my heart and soul.  He is there helping me grow, and it is more important to Him to teach me than to take away the weight.  Do I like it?  No.  But will I like it when it is over, and I am stronger and more like Jesus?  Most definitely!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lessons . . . Even When I Would Rather Run and Hide

           God has been teaching me so much lately . . . in not so fun ways, I might add.  It was really good that during the past two months Brent was teaching on faith and hope and that my personal study focused on cycles of sin, God’s sovereignty, and hesed (Definition provided by Sandra Glahn: “the one word chosen above all others to summarize what God is like:  full of loyal, committed, merciful, enduring, faithful, covenant-keeping love.”).  As my friends who are in ministry know, it can sometimes really, really stink.  Or for those who are not in ministry, just being a servant like Jesus calls us to be can stink.  There are times that you feel like you give and give beyond what most people would expect, yet the first time you fail to meet an expectation, people are quick to run.  Loyalty seems to be a lost word in the world these days.  I have spent a lot of time in tears, crying out to God in pain, and I’m not going to lie, anger.

            I have wanted to run from relationships . . . current ones and the potential for future ones.  I have begged God to teach me how to serve others the way He has called me to serve them (no strings attached and with genuine love) but without attaching to them on any emotional level.  I want to do what He wants, but I want to save myself in the process, but that prayer has not been answered in the way I want.  I was driving home the other night after having been physically attacked for 45 minutes by a hurting child (I’m not exaggerating.  I was probably hit no less than 20 times and was kicked in the head, had my hair pulled, was scratched and bit, and this happened just after a pretty huge emotional hit unrelated to the little girl.), God reminded me that we are called into a RELATIONSHIP with him and a He wants us in relationships with others, genuine authentic relationships, which are not possible without some sort of attachment.  Thus that prayer of mine will not be answered the way I want because it is contrary to His will.

            So while I have a level of fear regarding friendships at the moment, I want to push past this, not let Satan win the battle, and nurture current relationships and create new ones.  God has blessed me with some pretty great people in my life.  Now, they are human, and who knows if they will be in my life a year from now (or a week from now for that matter.  God is the only being I can count on to be there for all the tomorrows to come).  But if I let something get me down so much that I don’t cultivate these friendships, they will be gone for sure.  I will be losing out on so much that God wants me to learn and understand, and I will be missing opportunities to love and serve others as well.  Instead of running from friends, my goal is to cultivate them.  I am working part time now, which is a huge blessing, and it gives me more time to do just that.  I’m feeling both apprehensive and excited for what the Lord has for me in the months to come.

            The question that stood out to me from my Bible study on Ruth recently is, “Can you trust that what looks to you like an ending may be the beginning of something great?”  Of course . . . or maybe not.  I want my answer to be of course, but my heart and often my actions say anything but of course.  Sometimes when I feel let down it can look like an ending, but when I look back at other endings, they were truly beginnings.  I can see it now because I am past it.  I’m no longer sucked in by the emotion of pain.  What was hazy is now clear.  But God does not say, “Trust Me when things are clear. “ He calls me to trust Him always, and I need to be thankful that He is there in the sun and in the rain.  He has a plan for me . . . a more amazing plan than I can fathom.  But achieving that plan may happen only by going through difficult moments.


            So here I am pushing through difficult times and cultivating friendships.  I had a fabulous conversation with a friend on Friday night, a nice park play date with another friend on Friday afternoon, On Sunday I spent time with friends from work celebrating a birthday, then enjoyed a barbecue with our neighbors.  I had lunch with a friend today and another family over for dinner tonight.  Not a bad start to my cultivating new and existing friendships.  It has been encouraging, and I am excited to practice the qualities of hesed as I grow to be more and more like Jesus in my relationships with others while trusting the sovereignty of the awesome God who I serve.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Judges

I just completed a great study on the book of Judges, and I just wanted to record the things I learned.  I will be honest, it was not a book I was looking forward to studying, nor was it a book that I thought would teach me a lot, but I spent most of the time I was studying, thinking, “Ouch!  Not sure I want this much conviction right now!”  At the same time, it was incredibly helpful as I went through some super tough situations during the month or six weeks I was completing the study.  It was really neat how I was doing exactly the study I needed to be doing at exactly the right time.  That’s the FAITHFUL God that I serve!

Some of my thoughts that I wrote down as I went through it:

“Why is it so hard to learn lessons?  We all repeat cycles . . . why?”
            Ugh!  So hard.  I wish I could answer the question because the answer probably includes how to change the problem.

“It’s so easy to look at the Israelites and judge, but when I look internally, I realize I am so much like them . . . YUCK!”
            I repeat cycles.  I don’t stay focused on God or obeying Him and get easily swayed and discouraged by people or circumstances around me.  These people or circumstances or my desire for God to just fix things is a form of idolatry that I have to stop.  My constant prayer right now is that I will stay focused on what God wants for me and keep the other things in my peripheral vision, loving and caring for them but not seeking to please them.  They will either be pleased by my obedience (or the actions that come from it) or they won’t, and I can’t fix that.

“They [the Israelites] were so dependent on a leader and did not follow God on their own.”
            We all need leaders, and that’s okay, but when left without one for a time, am I able to stay focused on follow God on my own? I think I can, but the thought struck me as an important question.

“God remembers His covenant with us, even when we forget our covenant with Him.”
            What a great promise!!!!

“While God might respond to a fleece laid before him, we lose the full benefit of just obeying Him to begin with.”
            It was just painful to read Gideon’s story, but that’s because I’m on the outside looking in.  I’m sure other people have watched me with that same feeling that I had while reading about Gideon.  I pray that my obedience will follow immediately without questioning God and asking for more signs.  It’s hard to know what God wants, and I understand that about Gideon’s story.  I question if what I hear is from God all the time, which is what Gideon was doing, so I’m not being judgmental, but I want to learn from him.  Fleece’s are dangerous and should be avoided.  And they definitely should not be used to just get the answer we want, which is often what happens.  Gideon asks the Lord not to be angry with him before he lays out the fleece, indicating that he knew he was not supposed to do it.

“God is powerful but He is also understanding.  He knows our fears and doubts.  He provided something to give Gideon security, even when Gideon should have trusted Him.  Our God is amazing!”
            And yet, even though a fleece was not God’s best for Gideon, He is so understanding that he provided an answer.  He could have given up and moved on to the next available person.

“When things are going well, I fail to depend on God, and when things are not going well, I have a hard time trusting Him.”
            Another painful revelation!  It’s so true.  When everything is cruising along, it is easy to “forget” God or at least to forget to acknowledge God’s blessings.  And yet when things are bad, I want to change them myself, instead of handing it over to God.  I think if I remained “connected to the vine” at all times, my response during difficult times would be to trust God, not just ask God to rescue me and then be bummed when the rescue doesn’t happen (which returns to the issue of treating God like an idol; something Brent’s been teaching at church lately).

“God is jealous but even more compassionate.”
            For this I am just so very thankful!!!!  Another great promise!

One of the questions in the study asked what are the results when people want benefits but let everybody else do the work?  My thoughts:  “They miss the true joy of servanthood.”
            Recently I was asked to help serve in a particular way.  I really did not have the time or energy as I have been pretty spent the past month.  There were several asked to help, but only two of us stepped up to do it.  I felt a little stressed going into the whole situation, but I wanted to bless people by doing it anyway.  When the end came, I realized what a blessing it is to be able to serve others, to see a smile on another person’s face, and to know that it also put a smile on God’s face.  So many people miss out on these opportunities all the time.  Boundaries are good, but too many boundaries can cause a person to miss out on the incredible blessing that it is to bless another.

“We all have spiritual strengths and an opposite fleshly weaknesses, two for me are discernment vs. judgmentalism and perseverance vs. pride.”
            The fleshly weaknesses stink, but God uses us in spite of them.  We need to rely on him to handle the weakness.  A quote I read in the book says this, “Whatever our strengths and weaknesses, the secret of our usefulness is our availability to God.”  And another quote along these same lines. “We fail to see that we’re never too small or too weak for God to use, but we can be too big and too strong.  God is bigger than our weaknesses and will use us in spite of them.”

The biggest lesson for me in the whole study: 
            God is FAITHFUL, regardless of my behavior!


(And on a lighter note:  The book of judges is rich and full of lessons!!!)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thankful and Content

It's been a great few days!  After spending an evening with a group of friends and acquaintances at a celebration and looking back over the past few days, I just smiled to myself.  It is often hard for me to trust people.  I think that might be true of many in ministry.  For me I think it is one of the ways that I try to maintain control and to prevent myself from getting let down by relationships.  Due to some recent hurts, I have been trying to figure out what to do with that because I have been feeling even more skeptical, and I truly don't want that.  I spent today with five of David's friends over playing and celebrating the start of summer while I baked and prepared for a party for a friend tonight.  At the party I sat and enjoyed the company of other friends and my family.  I looked around at one point and just realized how blessed I am.  It's a blessing that someone needed me to help throw a party and trusted me enough to pull it off.  It's a blessing that I had a friend who was willing to jump in and help me do it because I'm not sure I'm trustworthy enough to pull it off by myself.  It's a blessing that I was able to sit down and just enjoy the presence of others.

Then I got home and I was looking at Facebook.  I somehow missed an amazing post that James put up a couple days ago, or at least I didn't read it when I was not distracted because tonight it had a huge impact on me.  It's interesting how God is working on similar things in James's life as He is in mine.  Because of that James posted the following, something I desperately need to hear and remember:

"A huge struggle lately has been getting caught up in the responsibilities and difficulties of life in Haiti. Everything has seemed to leave me entirely spent lately. But God has been hammering me with 2 reminders over the past two days to lift me up. 1) I've got to lean into Him! I'm not pulling off anything good on my own, His will is perfect I only need to allow him to use me and trust him! and 2) I'm extremely blessed, I have a great life, I'm surrounded by great people, the extent of my job is sharing smiles with amazing kids and the God of the universe gave me the greatest gift ever! Focusing on the trials is ungrateful, selfish and frankly exhausting. My God is great and He pours out endless blessings when my eyes are fixed on that fact and my heart has faith in what He is doing no trial can even earn a second glance. Love my Lord and where he has me in life!"

My issue of trying to control things is a problem.  I know that.  I can't tell you that I am going to be able to change that, but I need to continue leaning into God and remembering that I am His tool and nothing more.  And I need to remember that I am abundantly blessed.  I am surrounded by great people!!!  And to top it off, I have an incredible husband and pretty amazing kids as well.  I cannot thank God enough for the many blessings He has bestowed on me!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fighting Discontentment!

A while back I posted about a lack of contentment, which continues to be a struggle for me at this point.  I have taken some significant steps to try to overcome it, but it continues to bring me down.  I am not one to spot a demon behind every issue, but lately I have felt that this is in many ways a spiritual issue, probably brought on a lot by being incredibly tired physically and emotionally, but a spiritual one none the less.

I know the truth that "The joy of the Lord is my strength" (Nehemiah 8:10), and yet I remain in this struggle.  The knowledge is not translating to the heart.  I have contemplated how in the world to make this right thinking seep down and create right feeling.  I don't know what the answer is, but almost a year ago, I felt really convicted to take time to blog about the things in my life for which I should be so grateful.  I posted five blog posts about it, determined to post one every day, but as with other things in life, this fizzled, and I did not remain committed to the endeavor.  I also noticed about that time that I really started struggling more with being frustrated with the circumstances of life (mostly with regard to not having the time and flexibility in my schedule that I want).  This was partly why I thought the blog posts were so important.  After I started posting, though, things began to seemingly get worse, almost as if there was some sort of attack, and it has continued to be a difficult season for me.

With that said, I am very aware that while things are not always perfect and great, God has blessed me immensely, and I want to continue with this idea of posting things for which I am grateful.  I am not going to set myself up for failure again by trying to do it daily, but I do want to write down the amazing blessings God has given to me.  I started a new blog for this purpose a year ago, and I think I will continue typing in that one.  If you are interested, the link is Counting My Blessings . . . And Making Them Count.