Thursday, April 30, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Door

Participating once again in Five Minute Friday, where the idea is to set a timer for five minutes and write about the given prompt.  Just five minutes.  I'm not very good at this--at all--but am forcing myself to do it.  Tonight's writing prompt is: door.

The thing about doors is that you enter and you leave through them.  I'm all about entering through a great door.  God has given me, in my life, some pretty fantastic doors to walk enter into something, somewhere, exciting and great. But sometimes....sometimes he asks me to walk out a door.

Sometimes he asks me to walk out the same door that he told me to walk in.  It can be confusing.  It can be strange and even lonely.  And truthfully sometimes I don't want to heed his call to leave and walk out that door.  We just want answers.  We want to understand.  We don't want to wander or feel lonely.  But at times, walking out of that door can feel lonely.  We may feel as if we are wandering.

I have come to realize the amazing truth that I am never ever alone.  When God asks me to leave--to walk out of a door--he walks with me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Stop, Still, and Listen

My little one kept leaning forward, looking over the bench.  After many attempts to hold him back while I laced up my tennis shoes, I heard myself.  Stop Blake!  Sit still.  Listen to me.  Do you want to fall?  I'm trying to keep you from getting hurt!  Now, before you think I'm completely ridiculous for speaking to a one-year-old, who's just learning words, as if he'd understand me, let me assure you:  I already know!  I heard myself and laughed almost immediately.  But, then I heard the words again, inside my own heart.  Stop!  Sit still.  Listen to me.  Do you want to fall?  Because...I'm trying to keep you from getting hurt.  

I heard those words in my own heart, as if God had said them.  Then I realized that he has said those words to me, many times over.  Stop.  Sit still.  Be still.  Listen to me.  I love you and what I want for you is for your good.  I don't want you to lean past me or go ahead of me.  I am trying to keep you from being hurt.  But how often do I listen?  How often do I trust that he wants the best for me?  How often do I believe that he really cares whether I fall or not?  Ouch!  The not-so-pretty reality is that I find myself, at times, in a place where I need to go back to the basics of trust.  Pure trust.

For me (and for most of us), trusting in my Heavenly Father is linked to a slew of other life issues, experiences, and relationships...and how I have perceived them.  I wish it was easier.  I wish I could trust inherently.  But, that's not the case.  I read a statement earlier that confronted me, once more, with the struggle that I face again and again:  Until we settle what we believe is true about God's character, we will always question his motives.*  

In this, I am like a little child, learning to trust and fully believe that my parents want to keep me from hurt and harm...that they want the best for me.  They aren't simply trying to rain on my parade.  My one-year-old is learning the word no, but he doesn't like it.  There are adventures in cabinets and under furniture and leaning over benches that he would like to have.  But he has to learn to trust that I see the bigger picture.  I see what can happen if he leans too far over the bench.  He has to learn to listen to my voice.

The hilarious irony for me is that I don't want full-rein of my life; I find great comfort in knowing there is a God who is ultimately the author of it all. Yet, at times I fail to believe that he wants the best for me.  Sadder still, at times I doubt his love for me.  When I have moved ahead of him--when I have chosen to take the reins rather than wait to hear his prompting--it has invariably left me hurt and wanting a do-over.  When will I learn?!

Answer:  when I sit still and listen to him.  When I slow down the chaos of my life to just sit.  And breathe.  And be.  Because if I can still myself and my thoughts long enough, I will hear gentle reminders of his love.  If I will just be still.  If I will just listen.  

There is a God who loves me and you.  He loves me even more than I love my babies.  He is capable of far more perfect love than I can give.  He longs to protect us, and give us good gifts, and see us made whole from worlds of mistrust and abuse.  But, until we settle what we believe is true about him, we won't fully trust him.  People have and will let us down--that's inevitable--but God is incapable of being anything other than loving towards us.  If we can put our trust in anyone, we should learn to put our trust in him!  

Lord, my trust and my faith are so small.  I want to trust you but then I doubt and waiver.  I can be so fickle.  Thank you for being patient and gentle with me.  No matter who has loved me well or who has completely let me down, help me to learn to trust you despite the hurtful memories or painful past experiences.  Your word promises that you have good plans for me:  plans to prosper me and not harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.*  When life gets too loud, help me learn to be still so that I can hear your voice.  When I doubt your love for me, please give me gentle reminders.  Thank you.

*quote from Grace for the Imperfect Mom 
*Jeremiah 29:11

Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Holley Gerth today.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Hide

This week the Five Minute Friday theme is: hide.  The idea is to set a timer for five minutes and write, no editing or over thinking.  This is a big challenge for me. I tend to over think most things.  But I'm doing it anyway.

I had a good friend recently tell me that she felt refreshed about a new opportunity... Just thinking that she could go somewhere and not have to wear a mask.  That she didn't have to go to a masquerade party...this time. I understood. 

I have been in places in my life where it seemed so many were hiding behind a mask. Some masks were even those of humility or sincerity. And not that those qualities weren't there at all. It's just that there was so much more. So, so much more. And why did they...why did we....always have to hide?

I am making strides to throw off masks. I don't want to hide anymore. I don't want to be associated with those who hide. I simply want to be known. And I only need to be truly known by one. Only one matters. The one who named me!  Let me never hide from him!

Once again attempting Five Minute Friday: Hide

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

She rattled off her list of six; she scribbled them on paper and placed them front and center on the fridge, with a tacky magnet holding it in place.  Her list of six.  Six friends she would invite.  Six friends to whom she would send invitations.  Six friends she hoped would come.  

I learn so much more from my children than they learn from me.  I am confident of this.  They teach me love, grace, joy, and forgiveness each day.  This one in particular.  This tough child of mine.  This one I wrestle with more than any other.  This one I cry over.  This one for whom I seek God's wisdom and direction in how best to love, guide, discipline, and simply enjoy.  How do I best extend love and grace to her?  She is the one I wrestle with.  How ironic!  She is the one I named mercy and grace.  She is the one who teaches me mercy and grace, through big and small struggles, every day.

Six friends she would invite.  And one of the six?  She was the one my daughter cried over for two years.  She was the one we had conversation after conversation, about how to love.  She was the one I reminded my daughter to love and pray for....despite.  She was the one who unleashed unkind words and told my daughter that oh no! she wasn't invited to play with them!  And now, the one who unknowingly caused such pain...she was invited.  By my daughter, full of fiery emotions and an iron-strong will.  By my daughter, full of mercy and grace.  My Ella Grace had completely forgiven.  Had possibly forgotten.  And had unhesitatingly chosen and invited.

I learn so much more about God's love from my children than I could ever hope to teach them.  And this one whom I've lost countless hours of sleep over?  She has taught me the most.  

It seems much like my struggles.  Like my broken and ugly places.  The parts I don't want to look at.  The parts I don't want anyone else to see.  The ones that have kept me up at night.  The ones that have brought unrelenting tears.  The ones I have no idea how to fix or change or manage.  Those are the struggles that have taught me the most.  Those are the struggles that have landed me on my face, begging for God's divine assistance.  Those are the struggles God has used to reveal his nature and his love toward me.

My daughter forgave, forgot, and invited.  I know another who did that.  And not because I deserved it either.  Yet, I am free to come to him at any time, because he forgave, forgot, and invited me.  My God loved me so much that despite all the mess and mistakes he knew I would make in my life, He offered the greatest gift.  And no matter what gift her friend may bring to the party, my daughter has already given the greater gift.  She forgave, she forgot, and she invited.  

I'm not qualified to teach much of anything through what I write or what I say.  I am the student.  I am constantly messing up this parenting thing--I'm not gonna lie--but God's gift to me, in my children, is astounding.  I am reminded of his promise:  and a little child shall lead them.*

Isaiah 11:6
I'm having Coffee For Your Heart today with my friend Holley Gerth

I'm also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Tomorrow

Full of hope, full of possibility, tomorrow is.  Tomorrow always feels and looks better than the end of today.  I suppose at the end of my today's, I generally feel some sense of regret.  I regret something I said.  I regret that thing, that most important thing, that I failed to say.  And often, I regret that thing I should have done...but didn't do.

I dream of tomorrow often.  Tomorrow I am a better wife, a better friend, a better mama, a better sister, a better neighbor.

I also think of the astoundingly refreshing truth, which is that Jesus is in my today just as much as he is in my tomorrow. So even though I have regrets, he has only good thoughts toward me tomorrow.  Just like he had only good thoughts toward me today.  And maybe tomorrow, I can give myself a little more grace.

Participating in a Five Minute Friday writing prompt. The subject is: Tomorrow

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Don't Delay Hope

Have you ever come to the point when you realize that you've allowed yourself to become cynical?  Or worse, jaded, in an area of your life?  Maybe it's with your job, with a friendship, with your finances, your parenting, or your marriage.  Maybe it's with a dream you used to hope for.  Becoming cynical is the essence, I believe, of losing hope.  And it's completely contrary to the nature of God.  But, do you know what?  It's a very easy way out!  And I've been there.

I'm not so proud of this, but it's the truth.  I have allowed myself to come to the point where I had lost all hope, at different times in my life.  Or, I refused to hope at all.  Because, isn't it easier to not hope, and therefore not experience disappointment, than to hope and possibly face tough disappointment?  Easier, yes.  But does it feel better?  No, not in my experience.  There is a verse in the book of Proverbs that explains it this way:  Hope deferred makes the heart sick.*  I used to think that that meant it was God's responsibility to come through for me, without much tarrying , or my heart couldn't bear it.  But the word deferred means put off(an action or event) to a later time; postpone.  This puts the responsibility on me.  I can choose to hope, or I can put off hoping.  God doesn't delay hope.  He is our hope.  He simply cannot delay hope.  And he doesn't want us to, either.

But, to hope, is to allow yourself to be authentically vulnerable.  Recently, I had to admit to myself that I wanted something quite a bit.  It had been easier, in the past, to delay hope, and act as though it didn't matter too much.  But I started to feel like such a fraud.  I felt as if I was lying to myself perpetually.  I was.  The truth is, God wants us to hope for certain things.  He gives us longings and desires to hope for.  Even more amazing is the reality that all, not most--but all, of what he wants us to hope for is ultimately for his glory, even if we can't comprehend the magnitude of that.  We read in Jeremiah 29:11 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'  He gives us a hope.  He gives us many hopes, really.  So, each time I minimized that thing that I really wanted, I was denying God the opportunity to give me the future he wants for me.

Not long ago, I read something profound that Oswald Chambers wrote.
Keep your life so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point.  Live in a constant state of expectancy, and leave room for God to come in as He decides.
I just have to confess that this literally floored me.  Yes, I've heard similar statements before.  And certainly, I've heard faith-messages preached on this concept.  But it always seemed more about what I could do to earn a miracle from God, rather than on His awesome power alone.  My part is to expect and to hope.  Because, after all, love always hopes.*

So, when I got that unexpected text (that brought me immediately to the thing that I greatly hope for), I had a choice.  I could dismiss it, trying to convince myself that none of it mattered anyway (so that I wouldn't have to face any disappointment if nothing resulted).  Or, I could allow myself that moment of excitement that said What if? and then turn it over to God in prayer.  He knows the plans he has for me,* doesn't he?

In my experience on both sides of the spectrum--jaded cynicism and expectant hope--I have to honestly say that hope feels a heck of a lot better.  It may be scarier for a moment, because it's never as easy to be vulnerable and real, but it leaves me in a better place spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Remember what hope deferred does to your heart?*  As a mama to five precious beings, I want to be able to allow them to hope also.  I don't need to teach them to hope, because children are born dreamers!  But I do need to allow them to dream and to hope.  The world, with its cynicism, will begin its attempt to crush their dreams at an early age.  My job is to train them to persevere in hope.  To not delay hope.  Watch out world!  Because, on the other side of deferred hope, is longing fulfilled.  And the Bible declares that a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.*

*Proverbs 13:12; 1 Corinthians 13:7; Jeremiah 29:11
I'm having Coffee For Your Heart today with my friend Holley Gerth