Tuesday, February 26, 2013

forks and knives

so i've been writing about plates
and cups lately.
today it's gonna be forks and knives.  
{art by www.jeanneillenye.blogspot.com }
if you want to dig into a big delicious meal you'll need a fork and a knife {unless you love sushi like me...in that case - insert 'chopsticks'}.

are you ready to dig in with me?

i love to cook...really, i do.  but with the pace of life these days i have to admit that i absolutely savor a meal that has been prepared for me.  it doesn't happen often so when it does i allow the sight, smell and taste of it to really sink in.  my heart {and taste buds} give thanks.  

i've been thinking a lot about things that are prepared for me.

i've also been reading a lot about abraham.

i'm guessing most of you are familiar with the name.  amazing really, considering he should have just drifted off into obscurity.  before God got a hold of him some people may have labeled abraham a 'nobody'.  he had no children, no storybook marriage, no impressive achievements.  and yet i can say with great conviction that he is the father of my faith.  wow.

andy stanley says this of the story of abraham...
despite our relentless disinterest in him, God made the first move to reestablish his connection with humankind.

adam and eve majorly messed up our original divine relationship with that well-known fruit eating incident.  in that moment we saw the massive, forever-changing impact that a lack of faith in God can bring.

and them comes abraham.  and we see the massive, forever-changing impact that a bit of faith in God can bring.

it all started with a promise.  God making a promise to do something seemingly impossible in the life of an ordinary man.  
...and it all moved forward to change the course of history with a response.  Abraham responding with faith.  
an ordinary man trusting an extraordinary God to ultimately serve up the life he had prepared in advance for him.  the very life and purpose that abraham had been created for.

do you ever hear whispers of the life that has been prepared for you?  do you ever sense an uncovering of something so deep in your soul that it almost feels like it was knit into your very being?  

when the Creator enters into relationship with His creation there is an unspeakable feeling of being understood for who you really are...for who you were really meant to be.  if you don't know what i am talking about keep digging.  keep listening.  i promise it's there...waiting like a glowing ember just under the surface of your skin.

i'm learning that i sometimes must battle this intense work ethic and sense of responsibility i possess.  there comes a time when i must cease working my tail off for whatever it is i think i should be doing.  instead i must believe in what has already been prepared for me.  

sometimes i take off my apron, dust the flour from my cheeks and just sit down at the table.  i purposefully take hold of the fork and knife and dive into what has been plated and served just for me.

during this lenten season i am not giving myself rigid requirements or restrictions.  i'm not going to burden myself with all the preparations for a good meal.  instead i am accepting that which i have been served and savoring every bite.  

this proverbial meal is not nearly as easy to consume as the bowl of chili i had for dinner last night.  in order to really partake of the life i have been given...the one unique life prepared just for me...i have to overcome the countless distractions that beckon me to get up from the table before i have tasted the last bite.  it's the distractions i'm targeting these days.  the things i'm letting go of are idle time spent perusing social media, watching t.v., or other brainless endeavors.  and with the extra time i am banking i have been reading, writing, memorizing scripture, creating works of art, having real conversations, and looking people in the eyes.

what about you?  it's not too late to intentionally shift some of your habits during these holy days.  what do you want more of?  what are the things that will allow you to savor every bite - whether bitter or sweet - of this life prepared just for you?  what are the things that will leave you and those around you feeling satisfied instead of suffering from hunger pangs?  
and what things can you take less of in order to gain the more?

i'm asking myself all these same questions over and over again because i will never allow my soul to be given over to a 'relentless disinterest' in the One who created me in this time and this place for the work He prepared just for me.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. {ephesians 2:7-10 MSG}

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

when the dust settles and you find your cup empty

i spend my weeks alternating between being a working mom and a stay-at-home mom.  
mondays are one of my stay-at-home days.

i love mondays.
in the early moments when the house is mine alone i gobble up truth...stuffing it in every little pocket of my mind and heart so that there would be enough to get me through the day.
then the kids and i plow straight through our to-do list before lunch time.
ever since i decided to do this hybrid homeschool thing i have been so excited about my two little patches of fertile ground that i am sowing seeds of knowledge into.  
yesterday, after all the stories were enthusiastically read and the letters carefully written, i felt full.  the fullness that comes from filling hours with filling minds.  i gave myself an imaginary pat on the back for the job well done as i tucked my youngest in for his nap.

i took my full cup and sat down with lucy for a special afternoon project...a letter to christine - our friend in burkina faso whom we sponsor through compassion.  we began by reading the letter we recently received from her.  i read the words of a 4 year old dictated to someone with pen in hand and simultaneously took dictation from my own 4 year old as we penned the response.  there was one part of christine's letter in particular that struck me.
as lucy wondered aloud whether or not christine would like the minnie mouse sticker she was using and considered what princesses were her favorite, i re-read the inquiry...
   there is dust here and i would like to know if there is also dust there.

suddenly my cup felt like it had a leak in it.

i showed lucy the dusty, rocky ground that christine was standing on in the picture we have on our refrigerator...
...the picture tucked just underneath the picture of our family on a beach vacation last year.
the fullness began to seep out of my cup.

we wondered together if one of the simple box-like structures in the background was christine's house.  i explained that she probably had to share a room with the rest of her family and they may or may not have beds.  we examined her tiny feet with well-worn sandals and considered how dirty they must be walking that dusty ground all the time.  i glanced at the a basket filled with dozens of kids shoes across the room from us.  lucy's face crumpled in some combination of confusion and sadness.    she continued peeling off stickers and carefully placing them for her african friend.
i looked out into our grassy front yard that extends to the sidewalk and then to the paved road beyond.  as far as my eyes could see there was grass and pavement.
   no, christine, we don't have much dust here.
the long gravel driveway at my family's farm was the best example i could give lucy of the terrain that christine is accustomed to.  but even there the ground is covered mostly in green and feels soft and cool to our bare feet.

my cup continued it's slow drain.

i got up to get something from the kitchen and a familiar face on the counter caught my eye.
i remembered the first time i met pierre in haiti.  he had been left at the orphanage...an almost lifeless body.  he laid expressionless in a portable crib that sat on the grounds of mission of hope...the dusty grounds.  less than two years later we would return to see him flash that smile that could almost blind you.  a bright light shining in that dust-filled place.

as lucy finished her masterpiece i sat down at my computer to find a window back to that place...to those people.  i read ann's response to her first trip down the dusty roads that lead to pierre and the others.  as her words fell into me... 

more holes sprung open in my cup.  the drain was steady now.

these thoughts she shared...i share them too...
what if the american dream is a false religion that preaches God alone isn't good enough?
i look down at this girl's shoulders wracked with a hallowed repentance, her sobs lost in hymns, in Him, and 
when did north american comfort-induced numbness ever lament like this?
{ann voskamp}

i fill my north american life with so many things.  many of them good things.  many of them eternal things.  the time i spent with my children yesterday teaching letters and singing scripture was good...part of it probably even had eternal value.  but somehow when i am faced with the condition of this broken world outside of my idyllic suburban walls i find myself empty...

...but what surfaces from the depths of my soul is not what you might expect.  there is a grief that drains the life right out of me.  it is not so much grief over the condition of others and how little i have done to relieve that.  it is more a deep sadness over my own condition and what we might be missing...here...where the dust has settled and we have covered it up with perfectly manicured lawns and thousands of miles of highways and custom built homes.

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.  genesis 2:7

from dust we came and to dust we shall return.  those first full breaths of life were breathed into what was taken from the bare ground.  from that dust we were made alive.  

   have we traveled so far from that original dusty ground that we don't know real life?  
   are we living this allusion that 'we've come so far' is a good thing when really it is a dying thing?
   do we pridefully think we have made something of ourselves forgetting that we came from nothing?  forgetting our true position before His breath gave meaning to the nothing?

we are a week into lent.  a time of self-denial.  a time for us to become less so that He can become more.  my own selfish heart has engaged this tension between living a 'good' american life and living a 'God' life.  

i'm wrestling with how to reconcile those contrasting pictures on my refrigerator.  

i certainly don't have it figured out but i would love to hear your thoughts and have you join me later this week when i share the practical steps i am choosing these 40 days...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

slow steps to the cross {preparing for lent}

yesterday i stabbed a knife into the palm of my hand.  no...it wasn't intentional, just the careless removal of an avocado pit.
{note the cute bandaid that lucy climbed up and got out of the kitchen cabinet without me even asking...the girl is really good in emergency situations}
there are a lot of movements that make my injury worse so i have to be careful.  
i have to think about what i'm doing.  
i have to slow down.
that doesn't come easy to me.

over the weekend i helped to lead a retreat for the women leaders in our church.  one of the things God began to remind me of during the weekend was my condition as a human being - not a human 'doing'.

our retreat theme was 'stories and psalms'.  i want to share with you a verse from the 46th psalm that came up a few times over the weekend.  
you are probably familiar with the translation that says...
be still and know that i am God {v. 10}
oh man...that's so good.

but hold on a minute...if you haven't heard the NASB version you are going to love this...

cease striving and know that i am God {v. 10}

to 'strive' is to try hard, exert effort, do one's best.  but it also means to struggle, fight, battle.

doing our best is definitely not a bad thing.  and there comes a time when it is necessary to fight - for our kids, our marriages, our health, our beliefs, our very lives.  but all too often i have lived my life as a fighter...as someone who prides myself on always exerting extra effort and doing my best.  that doesn't work in my relationship with jesus.  

i've learned that when life starts to feel heavy and i am being crushed under the weight of responsibility i haven't spent enough time being still.  i haven't done what jesus did which is to sneak away to the place where my striving is unnecessary...the place where battles are being fought for me...the place where the victor has already been crowned.

right now there is a lot going on in my life and the lives of those close to me.  maybe you are in a similar place.  there are times when your plate is full and there are other times when it's so weighed down that you can barely even pick it up.  mine is heavy right now.

10 years ago i would have either taken the plate and hurled it across the room in frustration - letting everything come flying off - or i would have fallen to my knees in tears as i let one thing after another be piled on top.  either way i would be a complete wreck.

these days i know how to remove the things that really belong on someone else's plate and kindly give it back to them.  i also know how to say 'no' to portions that are too big for me.  but most importantly - i know how to set the whole thing down and walk away for a moment...or a day.  cease striving...and know...

today i had to set the plate down.  

the message version of the bible actually translates psalm 46:10 this way
step out of the traffic!  take a long loving look at me...

i don't want to get run over out here in the middle of this world full of speeding cars.  i don't want you to either.  life is not a game of frogger {for all you sega fans out there}.  
{photo courtesy of www.gamespy.com}
tomorrow marks the beginning of lent and i sense God calling me to slow down during this season.  i think the slowing will involve a sacrifice but i'm not sure of what.  as i retrace those steps back to the cross i want to cease striving.  i want to remember that He is God...and i am not.  i want to make a change that i can feel...a change that changes me
how will you order your steps to the cross this year?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

i confess to you and predict the future {all in one post!}

before i go any further there is something i need to get off my chest.

i ate 4 krispy kreme doughnuts today.
there...i feel much better having confessed that to you.
and fyi - i currently have 2 more in my possession and the day is not over yet.

now...on to more important topics.

last sunday my pastor taught from exodus - the story of moses.  i highly recommend you listen to the podcast.  chris does a great job of retelling the story of a man who had a death sentence at birth, was hidden as an infant, floated down the nile in a basket, was adopted by royalty, grew up the son of the most powerful man in the world, was forced to flee to the desert because of an act of violence, lived a relatively uneventful life there for 40 years, encountered God in a burning bush...and, well...you can read the other details for yourself.  

not to give the whole story away but moses ends up rescuing a nation from slavery.  he is used by God to save the people of God.  this is pretty amazing stuff for a guy who may not have even known much of anything about God until he was old and that bush incident happened.

the story of moses and how he was called by God for a great purpose and how he fulfilled that purpose {albeit reluctantly} has always intrigued me.  
every night i pray for God to fulfill a great purpose in my kids' lives.  
every morning i ask God to take my life and use it for His purposes - not mine.  
for me, my faith has always had a lot to do with the plans of God and how i fit into those.  there is something both exciting and comforting about playing a supporting role in the greatest story ever told.  {and by the way - realizing that you're not the playwright or the leading role is key to a happy ending.}

this week i have been thinking about something else chris said about this story in exodus.

God had moses in midian because of his future, not because of his past.

as moses sat by that well in midian - in the middle of the desert - after fleeing from egypt, he may have felt like he had hit rock bottom.  his own people had rejected him.  his adoptive family and the culture he had grown up in now rejected him.  moses didn't have anyone he could identify with.  the future probably looked so grim.  he considered his past and how it had ultimately led him to what seemed like a dead end.  in that moment it may have been difficult for moses to look ahead...much less move ahead.

have you ever felt that way?  
have your past decisions or past experiences led you to a place that feels like the end?  
do you look back and consider that you are in this pit of a place because of your past?  

what if you're not in your current situation simply as a result of your past but as preparation for your future.

the moses of exodus 2 wasn't ready to be the moses of exodus 14.

sometimes, like moses, we run away from what we thought was our destiny.  or maybe we feel like we just missed it all together...messed the whole thing up.  or maybe we feel like it was taken from us...we got gypped.  
but...maybe God's destiny for us is something different...something greater...and all that we've walked through has been preparing us for that time, that place, that purpose.

if you're still alive on this earth God has a purpose for you.  
     are your eyes looking ahead at the future he is calling you to or are you turned around backwards mourning what was, or what could have been?  
     are you worried that your best days are behind you or do you trust that God is using what's behind to prepare you for what's ahead?

shifting your gaze from past to future can mean exchanging despair for hope...
failure for freedom...
your small story for His big one.

what does my future hold?  it's a question i've enjoyed pondering lately...

i don't have all the answers but i do know one thing for sure - 
     it will involve eating that 5th doughnut before bedtime...

Friday, February 1, 2013

one way to get your heart ready for valentine's day

every time i step into her words i find myself dancing...there is a rhythm in her writing and a song in her thoughts that my soul seems to have heard before.  if you have been reading my words and wonder long you have heard of ann voskamp.  if you have yet to read her words maybe today is the day to dance with her.  

this post warmed me on this cold winter day and reminded me to count the gift of my own superman of a husband who has 'strengthened the stalk of me, opened the petals of who i am and i have fit my skin.'   

read this and then go write your own love letter...you might want to give it to your valentine.