February 23, 2016

The Softening


We tried a produce co-op this week.  My homeschool friend told me that several moms go in together and split the cost of lots of fruits and veggies for their families, and she invited me to join in.  My husband is kind of a health nut, and I am more of a "Let's eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal right before bed kind of girl",  so I literally told him to just call her and let her know if he wanted them to pick some up for us too.  He did, so she did, so now we basically have a 90 acre farm's worth of produce in our fridge.  And the other fridge.  And the kitchen island.  And the window.  And the desk.  Basically, everywhere.  I'll admit, I did eat a salad the other day, and I really like all the fresh berries in my vanilla yogurt, so...I guess we will call that a win.

So, this morning, my little boy asked me to peel and cut one of our 97 kiwis for him (ok, so we only actually have 17, but still), so I told him to choose the one from the window that seemed the most ripe to him.  He asked what "ripe" meant, so I said that it would be the softer one.  He said "so it should be squishy?"  We concluded together that none of them are "squishy" and that if it was squishy, it probably wouldn't be good anymore.  

I began peeling and cutting the fruit he chose and thinking more deeply into the conversation we had just had.  I've been going through a season, for at least a year now, of what I have been internally calling "The Softening".  I've noticed that I just don't get so worked up anymore over things that I might have had a strong emotional reaction to in the past.  I don't get angry as quickly, I don't feel as impatient, I don't take on so many things that I'm left feeling desperate.  I even felt deeply hurt and angered by a loved one recently and I didn't respond at all, initially.  I chose to keep it silent within me as I prayed about it and asked a friend to pray with me and for me.  It was about a month later that I felt soft enough to bring up the issue and express how it made me feel and also, that all was forgiven.  This way of handling something that ultimately had to be addressed, was so much more beautiful than any fight I could have started and it was received far more graciously and humbly.  

That softening is just the first step in my "ripening" process. This morning, as I cut off that thick, furry skin from the kiwi, I thought how much it's like me...like all of us.  We soften slowly, and it starts from deep within.  It starts while we're growing.  It starts while we're still attached to the vine.  I recently heard it said that "The blessing is not the fruit; the blessing is the Vine".  Knowing that Jesus is the Vine to which I'm connected helps me to choose to ripen slowly.  I'm well aware of all the changes going on within me, and I know that if I choose to release and drop off too soon, I'm still going to be the unripened, hard, sour version of myself that is undesirable to those who I was meant to fill.  For me, the softening comes from serving in whatever area I see a need, from quieting myself when I want to be heard, and even from speaking up when I'd rather stay silent.  

The willingness to be softened opens doors for God to move.  How certain are you of what is going to happen next in your life?  Where do you know you'll be used?  Is there a big change coming?  Will strong winds blow that may try to force you to release from your Vine before it's time?  
HANG IN THERE!!!  There is a plan and a purpose for your life.  Stay put until you know that you're making the necessary decision with a ripened, wise heart and a soft, tender compassion.  When the Vine releases you, you'll know you're ready.

Today's Prayer:  Father God, continue to soften me.  To ripen me.  To hold tightly to me until you see that I'm ready to be dropped into the exact placement that you have for me.  Give me grace to hang on with integrity, and have mercy on me for the times that I have tried to release in a season that I was unprepared for.  Continue to prepare me for the mission you have for me.  Grow me in sweetness and fill me full of your love.  Let every seed that will eventually be given from me fall onto ground that is ready to continue those things that I'll never see grow.  You, Father, are the Master Gardener and I trust You completely to grow me and change me, according to Your will for my life.  Amen.      

February 21, 2016

Set Your Face

I was relieved yesterday to learn that I am not alone.  My friend texted me to ask why her husband and children make her feel like she is a "nazi wife and mom on travel days".  The backstory on this is that they were beginning their journey to their first trip to Disney World.  I know that particular journey well.  I know how many hours, days and weeks go into all of the "mom-prep" of that trip.  It ain't pretty, folks.  When a mom knows that this kind of journey is coming, she sets her face.  There's the list making, the packing, the meal planning, the packing, the tears, the packing...well, you get it, right?  I know what it's like to barely sleep the night before, and to wake up crazy early the morning of, shoving several pajama-clad children into a pre-packed, gassed up minivan, throwing individual baggies of dry cereal at everyone and feeling ready to hit the road for that 8 hour road trip.  (Well, 8 hours is actually a joke.  It's only 8 hours if you don't stop for bathroom breaks, meals, feeding the baby, stretching your legs, dropping by that really cool shop with the rainbow colored popcorn, etc.)  But let me tell you, when a mama sets her face, it is wise not to interfere.

It's one thing to set your face for a journey like this one, with a really fun destination in mind, and the certainty of a beautiful castle and that giant, grinning mouse at the end.  It's another thing altogether to know that your journey will be filled with unimaginable pain, and a decided death at it's completion.

Luke 9:51 in The Message Bible says "When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem."  The KJV says it this way: "And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem."

This is a passage of scripture that gives us a peek into the humanity of Jesus.  He knew what was ahead, and that it would decidedly take courage, determination and steeling himself.  He had to set his face toward Jerusalem.  This was not going to be a joyful journey.  This was going to be the hardest he had ever worked, the most opposition he had ever faced, and the most rejected he had ever been.  And he knew it.  When you know what is coming, and that it will take a great deal of strength to get to the end, you set your face.  Please understand that I'm not talking about what it takes to get to the end of your life.  I'm talking about the here and now.  The current struggle.  The today trial.  The thing that has "impossible" written all over it.  There's an actual word for what "set your face" means.


Faith is the thing that settles it all.  It's the surety that everything you're hoping for, dreaming of, believing in...is going to happen.  It's the KNOWING.  When you KNOW, everything else is sidelined.  You can adapt your vision.  Blur everything out that isn't your self-declared ending.  When you know, you SET YOUR FACE.

Wouldn't that have been a great ending to this blog?  Yeah.  Well, it's not.  Because the thing about Jesus setting his face is that he knew he was heading to an ending he didn't desire, yet he continued ministering, healing, teaching, sharing and loving all along the way.  He didn't just set his face on the destination; he also set his face FOR THE JOURNEY.  Jesus LOVED all the way to the cross.  If I had ever even gathered the courage to walk that journey to my own cross, you better believe I would have been blubbering and begging God to change His mind and walking crawling as slowly as I could possibly go.  I can't imagine that I would have been stopping to love on people and heal them and teach sermons and raise others up along my path.  But that's what He asks of us.  He asks that we trust Him enough to invite Him on our journeys.  The daily ones.  The big ones.  The small ones.  The really, really ugly ones.  The ones where only He can see the ending, but He still asks us to trust Him.  Those are the hardest.  

Friend, set your face.  The thing you're going through has an end.  If you're allowing Jesus to walk it with you, the end is a good one.  With Him, the ending of this particular journey you are on offers redemption and peace. 

Today's prayer:  Father God, King Jesus, Holy Spirit, I invite you on this journey.  Travel with me every moment and every step of the way.  Order my steps.  Help me as I set my face and progress toward your desired end for this situation I am journeying through.  Give me courage.  Keep my heart pure.  Keep my mind focused on you.  Keep my words true.  Cause me to honor you with my choices and to be a light WHILE I'm on this path.  May others know your truth by watching the way that I walk with you.  I love you, Lord.  Amen.

October 27, 2014

Minimum Requirement

What in the world is going on?  You know how you go through those times in life that I like to refer to as "crazy-go-nuts"?  And then,  everything settles into place and the ride gets smooth and the sun is shining and the smiles are plentiful and all is well and then just when you've settled into your favorite recliner, you lean back a little too far and the whole thing falls over backward and dumps you out on the floor?  Ok, well that pretty much sums up the last month of my life.

I had a really difficult experience with one of my kids,  had a rough week at work, had a really difficult experience with another one of my kids (there are 5 of them, so challenges come up regularly, but these were the big deal kind), had an old friend die tragically, got in a car accident, and then separately had my car break down.  In the midst of all of that, my Pastor and his family announced that they've accepted a Call to relocate and pastor a different church, out of state.

I have seen a video of Beth Moore teaching when she described how, if her world fell apart, she knew that she would go through all of the human emotions that naturally come along with major circumstances and transitions.  However, she also knew that when all was said and done, she would rise back up, brush off her knees, take God's hand and get back to living the life He called her to live.

I'm doing that.

I'm doing a lot of thinking and praying and trying to figure things out.  I have absolutely zero answers for all of this.  I'm feeling all the human emotions.  I have cried a lot, but it has only proven to me that I have loved deeply.  I've broken through some walls with my children.  It's a good thing and our relationships are growing.  I've watched my husband take care of, and fight for, every tiny detail of resolving the accident I was in.  It has softened me to see him take over in these extraordinary ways.  My church family is now in an unexpected transition and we are all leaning on each other.  This has taught me to pray for my Pastor's family, his new church, our existing church during transition, and for a family I haven't even met yet, who will eventually be coming to fill the role of Pastors at our church.

I have been picking up my Bible for the last month and feeling strongly encouraged to just keep reading Psalm 27.  Over and over. And over. And over.  I actually told God that I pretty much had it memorized and I'd really like to read something else now.  He said no.  Then he started highlighting 2 verses in my Spirit:

Psalm 27:8  You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]...

Psalm 27:14  Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring.  Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

He gave me these scriptures as a preparatory gift to guide me through the times that He knew I was about to enter.  I chanted "I require Your presence.  I require Your presence.  I require Your presence."  There was no way I was going to get through all the things I was thinking and feeling and quaking under, without His presence.  His presence was my Minimum Requirement.

And then, when I settled in, there was that second verse.  Wait, hope, expect.  Be brave, have courage and a stout heart.  Endure.  This verse might as well have said "Lather, rinse, repeat", because the repetition in my soul has been necessary.

I'm not yet on the other side of this journey, but I now know how to traverse it.  One day at a time, waiting, hoping and expecting the Lord.  His Word is true and His love never fails.  Even when the recliner is upside down. ;)

July 22, 2014

Happy Father's Day to my husband...a little late

(***Today is July 22 and I've just realized that this didn't post on Father's Day like it was supposed to!  Yikes!  Sorry husband!***)

I just don't know how to say what my heart bears so fully.  It's the eve of Father's Day, and you're my husband and the father of our 5 children.  I've bought gifts and cards, and the ingredients for your steak and cake dinner.  I've done all the wifey things, but even as I type this, I'm sitting upstairs alone, and you're downstairs having a devotional time with our kids.  How do I say thank you for that?  How do I let you know that when you follow your many hours of work each week with ensuring quality time instilling the word of God in our babies, my heart overflows but my lips can't form the words?

You know that I love you, but this is an entirely different arena.  This is our children, our reflection, our legacy.  It matters, and you don't let it slide.  You're consistent when I feel shaky.  You're strength when I'm stumbling.  You're wisdom and logic when all I can see and feel are chaos.  

Our boys know that when it's time to talk about guns and woodwork and muscles and music, you're the man for the job.  They always come to you first, confident that you'll have exactly the answers they seek.

Our girls know that you're willing to sing along to Coldplay or the My Little Pony theme song, and that whatever life is bringing them, you'll do your best to provide the answer, and that when they walk straight into your chest and bury their tear-stained faces, you'll be enveloping them in the embrace that matters most to a girl...the arms of their Daddy.  

I watch you, day after day.  I see the sacrifices.  I see the protective nature.  I've seen you when you've been ready to rage against those who've come against your kids.  I've seen you talk for hours when it felt pointless, but eventually yielded holy fruit.  

You are so careful to point our kids to 1 Corinthians 13.  What you don't see is that you are pointing them to your example as well.

You are patient and kind.  You are not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  You do not demand your own way.  You are not irritable, and you keep no record of being wronged.  You do not rejoice about injustice but rejoice whenever the truth wins out.  You never give up, never lose faith, are always hopeful, and endure through every circumstance.  
The example you set in our home is that of a man who is imperfect, but who never stops trying to be like Jesus.  

These words feel like nothing compared to what I truly feel, but they are a start.  They are true.  They are all that I know to offer to you, the man who blesses his family abundantly every day of his life.  

I love you,

June 14, 2014

Happy Father's Day to My Right Hand Man, my Daddy

He was actually held me first, when I was born.  I wish I could remember that moment.  See, Daddy has these gray-blue eyes and they're always bright and full of life and fun, but in really special moments, they get a little shiny, and a little red.  I bet they were shiny that day in April, so many years ago.  I bet he looked deep into my eyes and counted my fingers and toes, and smelled my head and kissed me.  Oh how I wish I could remember that.  But it's ok, I got to have those kinds of moments with him, again and again...kind of like in that picture of him standing beside me, when I was in my wedding gown.  I tried not to look at him for too long on my wedding day, because his eyes were shiny, and a little red, and I was afraid my mascara was going to run if I kept looking at him.

I can't explain what it's like to love a man so well.  We weren't always in the same house when I was growing up, but it never felt like we were apart in our relationship.  We traveled, we joked, we talked on the phone.  He and my sweet "other mother" gave me a little brother, and I gave him 5 grandchildren.

My Daddy loves me.  Not everybody can say that about their dads, and some of them are unsure about it, but not me.  We talk all the time, he tells me about his adventures and his down time, what he's cooked lately and the music he's enjoying.  He calls me just to share the "little things".  And he never, never forgets to say "I love you".  He's not afraid to bear hug me and tousle my crazy hair and hold my hand.  Those moments are absolutely sacred to me.  I know when he takes my hand in his, that his hand will feel very big and rough.  They're the hands of a man who has worked hard his whole life, and who has never complained for a moment.  I've memorized those hands.  I know the curve of his thumbnails and the casual, comfortable position of his hands wrapped around a coffee mug.

He has no idea of his value, his absolute worth to me.  I love to hear his voice, hold his hand and look into those gray-blue eyes.  When all we can manage is a phone call, we love to chat about theology, and this funny little blog of mine, and what we plan to do when we grow up, if we decide to grow up.  He's my right hand man.  I think I'll keep him.

I love you Daddy.