Aug 26, 2008

Stick Figures and Selfishness

No, this is not one of Cooper's drawings. This is a piece of my journal "art". I've just recently picked up this new quirk from a friend of mine (thanks, Aimee); i've started putting some of my thoughts into pictures. I have, in the past, used charts and graphs as a way to organize my chaotic thought patterns, but upon reading my friend's journal (with her approval-we sometimes share our journals) I saw cute little sketches scattered about and I thought, Hey! Why didn't I think of that? I want to do pictures (whiney voice here)! So, here is one of my latest.

I'm not sure if you can even tell what it is. But this is a picture of where I stand in my family right now (top picture) and what I'm working towards (bottom picture). To the left are the words

My Needs
My Emotions

Around those words are, no, not jump ropes. Those are arms. And to the right of both pictures are me (I'm the one with the beautiful head of ringlets) and my boys...Cooper and Lou. Now, if you can get by the elementary skill level of the piece, you'll notice a couple of things.

Top Picture: My needs are being embraced by me and both my boys are asking me to be with them.
Bottom Picture: My needs are being embraced by God and I'm embracing my family.

Here are the words that I wrote right before I sketched this masterpiece:

"If I could just get my focus off of myself and trust You to fulfill my needs. I've been so dependent on myself for so long--I just don't trust anyone else to care for me. But in taking care of me, I've got nothing left for anyone else! Such an inward focus--everyone else just gets my back."

God has been really speaking to me about living the sanctified life. About being different. About being a servant. It is so countercultural, and as you can tell from my sketches, so against everything in me, yet it is something that Jesus instructs us to do over and over.

"...Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:43-45

These verses are key to me. Yes, they tell us to serve others, even using the word "slave", but they also remind me of how I have been served. Jesus, the King of Kings, gave his life for me. His entire life was a service of love to His people. If that was His purpose and His ambition, who am I to think that I would be any different?

The problem is, I'm afraid that if I don't take care of myself then no one will. I don't trust. I don't let anyone in beyond a certain point. I am protective of myself. But I have found that in protecting myself, in serving me, I shut everyone else out. The people I love the most are left with an emotionally exhausted, frazzled, dismissive woman. I am so tired from taking care of my "stuff" that I have nothing left to give.

Anybody tracking with me? Anyone else out there just sick and tired of being all about themselves? I want so badly to be the woman in the second picture. I want to be confident that my God is taking care of everything that I need, and in that confidence to be freed up to lavish a service of love onto my family, friends, and community. It will be so; praise God. But I've got to learn to trust Him, don't I? Don't we? We have to trust Him with everything and depend on Him for everything.

I'll be honest; I don't think I know what that looks like quite yet. I'm still figuring it out. Right now it consists of revisiting some old, painful, hidden places and exposing them to Him. Letting Him behind the walls and learning how to let Him heal me. It also involves me stopping and turning to Him as a source of comfort when everything in me screams to turn inward and shut everyone out. It consists of me admitting to Him that I can't do it all, that nothing good lives in my flesh. And, presently, it means active surrender. Laying my plans, actions, thoughts and emotions on His altar of truth and love. Is He trustworthy? Will he take care of me, protect me, and lead me in the right direction? His word says he will. Listen to this....Oh, man. I tried to load the video of Coop saying Psalm 23, but I couldn't figure it out. Reading will have to do...just imagine an adorable, chubby-cheeked 4-yr-old reciting it.

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

If I'm going to say I'm a Christian, I need to act like it. I need to believe God's word and His word says clearly that He is trustworthy to take care of me. We can trust Him, girls. Let's do whatever it takes to do so. And in releasing our needs to Him, we will find energy and love we never knew we had to serve those around us. No more selfishness.

Father God, this is by far one of the hardest things I've ever had to learn. But please, God, help us to get it. We don't want to be selfish anymore! Give us everything we need to learn to trust you to take care of us so that we can expend our energies on others. We love you, amen.

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Aug 24, 2008

Will Post

Busy Day. Stay tuned; I will post either tonight or tomorrow. Love you girls!

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Aug 17, 2008

What are You Waiting On?

Have you been as wrapped up in the Olympics as I have? Oh, there's nothing like watching the best athletes of the world compete for the #1 position in their personal sport. I love it!! My favorite event to watch thus far has been, of course, the Michael Phelps show. Can you believe that EVERY time he raced he won a gold medal? Unbelievable. But what I loved watching even more was Dara Torres. You might not know who she is, but her story is phenomenal. She is a 41-yr-old American swimmer who is competing in her 5th Olympics. She won 3 medals for our country this year, bringing her career medal count to 12! She's amazing. She's also a mother of a two-year old daughter who is anxiously awaiting her mommy's arrival home. When asked in an interview what she would tell her daughter someday about this Olympics Dara replied, "To never put an age limit on your dreams." Don't you love that?

A more obscure athlete that I saw only tonight was a 33-yr-old female gymnast from Germany. She competed in the individual vault competition and walked away with a silver medal hanging around her neck! Now, I'm only a couple of years older than she, but I can't picture in my wildest imaginings barreling down a runway, catapulting myself into the air and twisting myself into a pretzel before landing ever so delicately on the mat. What she has accomplished at such an advanced age is inspiring. I guess no one ever told her to put an age limit on her dreams either.

How about you? Have you been dreaming of something but have yet to see it come to fruition?

I know that as I battled with panic attacks and paralyzing fear for close to 10 years, I began to lose hope that I would ever gain the victory over them that I had been praying for. I began to think that there was no way that I would ever be free from this predator that seemed to chase me down wherever I went. I had simply been battling for too long. However, God, in His own timing crushed the head of the one who pursued me. And while He did so, He also taught me how to fight. If He would have just delivered me the first time I cried out, I would have no clue how to handle the next attack that came. I had to wait, yes. But what I got out of the wait was more valuable than a simple delivery from harm. I received my battle gear, the Art of War instruction manual, and the confidence in the power of my God.

Have you lost hope in the wait? Be encouraged, friend! Your God has not forgotten you or hung you out to dry, for He has promised that He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Be assured that He is right there next to you accomplishing a great thing in you. It may be possible that He is teaching you to fight with Him instead of against Him. He may be teaching you patience, I don't know. But what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is God is faithful to his people. He will not let you down. . .He will save you.

"Why are you downcast, Oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:5

He IS your Savior.
He IS your God.

And He will come through. And sister, I promise you, what He has for you will be worth the wait.

Father, it is difficult to be patient when we are so uncomfortable. But, Lord, please help us to trust you while you accomplish great works in and around us, and help us to learn the lessons you are trying to teach us through it all. We love you, amen.

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Aug 10, 2008

Zany for Z-Straps

Are you a part of the Z Strap craze? I myself knew nothing of it until Cooper informed me that he just had to have a pair, which he decided after spotting them on his cousin Tyler's feet. I ask you, how does a 4-year-old have shoe envy already? We are doomed! Anyway, when his grandparents heard of his "need" they promptly escorted us to the local mall so they could purchase Coop his very own pair. You should have seen him when he found out what we were doing. You would have thought I fed him sugar cubes for breakfast. He was either running, jumping, or screaming the entire morning.

As we arrived at the shoe department of JC Penney's, he made a bee line to the Sketchers and found himself the perfect pair of z-straps. They were black. And had lights. Ugh! Thank God they didn't have a pair that fit him. After trying on a few more models, we found a pair on which we could all agree and that had nary a light. Thank You, Jesus. He, of course, insisted on donning his new kicks out of the store, and I had to admit, they were good lookin'. Coop can make just about anything look cute but that's beside the point. Here's the pair we decided on.

They don't look like they have super powers, do they? I know. . .I thought they appeared common myself, but according to Cooper, they harness all of the power in the universe and make him stronger, quicker, and a much better jumper. Magic shoes (That was my Forest Gump voice again. Italics equals Forest.) In between time trials from one store to the next to clock his increased speed, he would look up at me and say, "Mommy! Look how high I can jump!" He firmly believes that when he slips his cute little feet into those shoes he is more powerful than when he is sporting commonplace sandals. For him, it's simple. The advertisements say these shoes make him more powerful, so it must be so (brilliant super hero marketing, by the way).

Wouldn't it be something if we believed God's truths so simply and thoroughly? What if we actually took Him at his word and acted on it? It's easy to say we believe Him, but our actions prove what we really embrace as truth.

What has God been telling you? I'll share mine with you just to get your brain juices flowing. I have been battling with God over whether or not to have another child. We had settled on stopping after Cooper and had peace about it, but recently I have been plagued by questions like, "What if I heard God wrong?", "Will he be lonely?", "Are we depriving him?", and "Will he be okay?" I just couldn't get it through my thick skull that having only one child, though uncommon, is just fine if it's what God has ordained. After driving myself mad with questions of the unknown, I had to decide. Either I was going to believe God on this or not. I could either take Him at His word and trust Him enough to walk it out, or question Him and take it into my own hands. And we all know how that usually turns out.

So, I'll ask it again. What has God been telling you?

That you are scandalously loved despite your failings?

That you CAN get through this tough time if you stick with Him?

That your marriage IS salvageable and can be turned into a loving relationship?

That your prayers are heard and important?

That you can be victorious?

What if you acted on those truths? How would your life look different? I've decided to trust God on this only child thing and see all the wonderful things He has planned through it. Why don't you give it a shot, too? Trust Him, smash through those fears, and walk it out. You just might discover you have magic shoes, too!

Father God, help us to believe you. Help us to hear clearly what you are saying to us and enable us to believe you enough to act on it. We love you, amen.

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Aug 3, 2008

A Friend's a Friend Forever. . .

This is my friend from Malaysia, Paige, and one of her little ones. No, obviously, she doesn't hail from the small country on the opposite side of the world, but she does currently reside there with her family. How exciting, huh? To live in a magical land where the trees are home to meddlesome monkeys instead of scurrying squirrels. Where a nearby town houses a chocolate fountain that you could shower in (my husband's dream by the way) and having a driver to escort you about town is commonplace. Paige and her family have opted out of the daily chauffeur, but they do partake in most things Malaysian. She has taken in sights and holiday celebrations galore and is even indulging in the local cuisine. She's a wonderful cook and I'm fairly sure she will return with decadent Asian recipes when her time in the tropics is complete. I can't wait! I'm so excited for her and all of the adventures she is embarking upon, but still. . .I miss her terribly.

You see, Paige and I used to lead Young Life together. We had the honor of telling high school girls about the Lover of their souls. And we got to do it together. We had our kids 6 months apart and they became the best of friends. Don't tell anyone, but I actually envisioned what our lives would look like when her daughter and my son got married and Paige actually became part of my family. We would be loud and somewhat embarrassing, by the way. We ate together often and swapped stories of crazy children and even crazier husbands. We shared food, family, and faith. In short, we shared life. And it's something I've missed since she left a year ago.

So, I was ecstatic when I learned Paige and her fam would be "in the States" for 6 weeks (how cool to be able to use that term). I determined to spend as much time with them as possible, so I made the trek down to Houston this weekend. And let me tell you how good God is. . .it's as if a year had not even passed! I decided not to ask her a lot about Malaysia because I figured she had spent 5 weeks telling the same stories over and over again. So, we just started chatting about what was on our minds and where our hearts were. It was such a sweet time. Not only did we have "girl talk" and have playtime with our kids, but we also shared a meal with some old Young Life girls. It was a return to the last place we had been together. Yes, time had passed. Our YL girls had graduated from college, our little ones were a couple of inches taller, and there were details about her new daily life that I knew nothing about. But here we were, sharing life again. We didn't miss a beat. It was rich.

I think this is what a true friend is. A person who is excited to see you and share life with you even when it's been a while since you've done so. One that knows you so well that you don't have to bother with "catching up" but can move right on to heart matters. A friend who loves you despite the distance.

You know, God is that kind of God.

In the story of the prodigal son, a wayward boy returns shamefully home expecting the rebuke of his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20

Friend, have you strayed away from God? Have you created a distance between the two of you that seems so far that there is no way back? Return to Him! He is searching the horizon waiting for just a glance of your distant silouette.

Are you afraid of a harsh rebuke or an unkind word upon your arrival? Check this out:

"Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity." Joel 2:13

Sister, we have a God who in His overflowing love and compassion is waiting to close the distance. He's not ready to pounce but to embrace. And in returning to Him, in approaching Him in prayer, we'll have no need to catch up, for He knows us better than we know ourselves. We need only to share our lives with Him. Yes, there may be some repenting and apologizing to do, but forgiveness awaits. Go. Return. A friendship like no other is ready to be rekindled. Never really had a friendship with God? Light the fire, baby! This friendship is a true friendship no matter the present physical distance.

Father God, thank you for your patience with us and our rebellion. We are so thankful that you are slow to anger and that you abound in love. Give us the courage to come back to a place of intimacy with you and to find Your peace. Thank you for your unfathomable love. Amen.

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