Friday, June 29, 2012

Here I am...

I woke up early this morning to dig into my new Bible study on Nehemiah.  The whole house slumbered as I prepared my heart through prayer and my body through coffee.  Asking for wisdom and petitioning for a heart that beats daily with a burning passion for Christ.

Late last night Darcy and I were deep in conversation.  Someone recently asked him, "What do you want to be when you grow up?  Aside from being a good husband and father, what is it you want to be?"  He pondered this question all day.  While discussing this, he explained, "Had I been asked this last week, my answer would have been quite different.  I really don't have an answer.  And perhaps not having an answer is actually better...a sign of growth and maturity."  We discussed the state of our hearts being one of  "Here I am, Lord. Take me. Send me."  That our plans are really not our own and sometimes the best outlook on life is just to be in a position of availability and willingness.  So, to answer that question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Our best reply is, "Lord, I'll be whatever you want me to be.  I'll go wherever you want me to go. I'll do whatever you want me to do."

We've recently walked through something pretty horrible.  As if there hadn't been enough dramatic events occur in our family over the past couple of years, this was the topper.  It could have ruined.  But it also could have been much worse.  This "rock bottom" could have been reached much lower, and we are thanking and praising God daily that it didn't.  Since then, eyes have been opened,  blinders lifted, layers have been peeled away, walls have come crashing down, and his grace envelops us.  A gracefall we cannot remove ourselves from if we tried.  We may very well be sitting in the worst set of circumstances we have ever found ourselves in, yet...Yet.  Underneath us are His everlasting arms.  Despite what it looks like, the peace, joy, confidence and contentment in our hearts is greater than it has ever been.  I have never felt more in love and more united with my husband than I am at this moment.  A revival has sprung.  I am so proud to be his wife and his friend.  We are walking by faith and not by sight. And it's a revelation. Circumstantially defeated, yet spiritually victorious.  I'll walk in this victory over any of the world's victories any day.

This morning while I was doing my Nehemiah study, I was referencing a verse in Colossians, flipping back between the Old and New Testaments.  When returning to Nehemiah, I glanced down at my Bible and it was opened to Jeremiah 31.  There was no bookmark there to encourage my Bible to land on that passage.  (And if you've ever seen my Bible, it is a bit cluttered with extras hanging out of it).  I immediately felt a strong stir in my heart.  One very similar to the stir I felt 2 years ago when the Lord first introduced the idea to us that we should leave the field of education and pursue a new career.  2 years ago this very month He led me to another passage in Jeremiah that confirmed this indeed was the direction He wanted us to take.  We've found ourselves at a crossroads recently (not in a career sense, but in many other ways).  I stand amazed at the way God steals our attention and speaks to us.  This morning I feel as if His hand, with much intentionality and purpose, reached down from heaven and flipped those pages of my Bible to Jeremiah 31.  A Word just for me...for us.

A long while back, I had written in my Bible that Jeremiah 31 describes a separation between God and His own, and His deep desire and readiness to close the gap.  As I began to read this chapter, verses popped out at me making my heart leap with revelation.

(Jeremiah 31: The Message and NIV) "They found grace in the desert, those people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them.  God told them 'I've never quit loving you and never will.  Expect love, love and more love! And so now I'll start over with you and build you up again.'"

These past two years have often felt like a wandering in the desert for us.  We've felt lost, abandoned, thirsty, unsettled, and desperately in need of His provision during this time.  He's taught us much through this wandering and given us the resolve that He indeed is for us and will never leave us.  We've also felt like a people who have "survived the killing"...even when the "killing" has been committed and induced on our part.  It has seemed that we've faced trial after trial after trial...with losing a business, a home, an unborn baby, living with in-laws for 2 years, a career change, a frightening and debilitating illness with our son, and then the latest dramatic event.  We've felt tired and beat up.  But He never stopped loving us.

"They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back.  I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble."
Jeremiah 31:9

"'I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give comfort and joy instead of sorrow.  I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty,' declares the Lord."
Jeremiah 31:13-14

"'Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,' declares the Lord.  'They will return from the land of the enemy.  So there is hope for your future,' declares the Lord."
Jeremiah 31:16-17

"I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning; 'You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined.  Restore me and I will return, because You are the LORD my God.  After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast.  I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.'"
Jeremiah 31:18-19

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."
Jeremiah 31:25

"'Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,' declares the LORD."
Jeremiah 31:28

"I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts."
Jeremiah 31:33

"...The LORD Almighty is his name."
Jeremiah 31:35

I've learned that God is far more concerned about our hearts than He is our circumstances.  He allowed something pretty terrible to happen recently as a way to draw my husband back to Him.  Jeremiah 31 speaks loudly of rebuilding.  With hammer and nails, the Lord is building him back up again.  And as the head and lead of our family, the fruit of this is spilling from our household.  I can't even soak it all in.  There's just too much grace.  For He is good.  There's a Rush of Fools song called, "The Only Thing that's Beautiful in Me."  The lyrics begin with:
Just like the ocean waves 
You crash on me
Just like a tidal wave
You ruin me
Just like a hurricane 
You devastate everything that needs to change

Out of infinite love, this is what God has been doing.  Allowing circumstances, trial, failure and heartache to humble, crash and ruin.  It could happen no other way.  Yet...
Just like a mountain peak
You lift me up
Just like a desert stream
You fill my cup
And like a heart that beats
You are the blood that covers me
You cover me

We are covered by His saving grace.
And all I can say is thank you, thank you
And all I can say is thank you, Lord thank you
And all I can say is thank you, thank you

The passage the Lord led me to when Darcy and I decided to switch careers was Jeremiah 32.  The LORD had asked Jeremiah to purchase a field that had become desolate wasteland, captured by the enemy.  It seemed an irrational thing for a rational man to do, but he obeyed.  Darcy leaving a respectable, stable, well-paid job that he was good at and enjoyed, to take on a completely different career with an initial 50% pay decrease, no health insurance, and a ludicrous work schedule also seemed irrational.  It kept us up at night with fear.  But he obeyed.  And God gave me much peace.  In that original passage the LORD led me to 2 years ago,  He talked about restoring the land and allowing the people to enjoy abundant peace and security.  With the failed business and lost home, I felt that the LORD was leading us down this career path to rebuild us.  We were honoring Him with our finances and had come up with a wise plan to get out of debt, and then this business opportunity came up.  The LORD gave us so many clear signs that this was the road He wanted us to take.  We felt this was His way to restore us.  Yet, what we've found over these past 2 years is something completely different.  Financially, we are buried.  With mountains of medical bills, piles of student loans, and the need to charge simple things such as gas, groceries and utilities  from time to time, from a financial point, we have never been worse.  But we are OK with this right now.  Quite frankly, for the first time in two years, we are both at peace with this.  For the mighty work He is doing in our hearts recently is producing fruit in our family that is worth far more than gold.  There is abundant peace and security in this.

So, I find it no coincidence that after this horrible incident that just occured, where circumstances are stacked up against us and nothing makes sense, God leads me right back to the book He led me to 2 years ago, and speaks afresh.  This time, He brought me back a chapter.  To chapter 31. A chapter about restoration.  There is no doubt we are moving onto a building and planting stage in our lives.  A separation had occurred and through unfortunate circumstance and immeasurable grace, He closed the gap.  He can finally begin a good work.  We humbly thank and praise Him for this.  A marvelous Romans 8:28 promise He is fulfilling right now. Rebuilding may now begin.  And although I originally thought that this rebuilding was going to take form in a different sense, I see now that it will be taking form in a kingdom sense.  I want and need nothing more.  I'm ready for the harvest.  Here I am Lord.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

weeds no more

After dinner tonight I went outside to take a phone call.  I decided to water my thirsty forgotten flower pots, and as I was filling up my watering can I looked around at my flowerbeds and was shocked by the mass amount of weeds that had sprung up and declared residence in this space.  They were overtaking my flowers, overshadowing their vibrant color, and blurring the lines of intended beauty.  I thought to myself, "What happened? How did it get like this?"

I began to start picking a few weeds and gathered them in one hand, quickly realizing that my small hand could not do the job alone, a pile must be formed. One of intentional discard.  So, I threw the weeds aside and began going after more.  The more I pulled, the more I noticed.  Weeds.  Everywhere. Spread out in all direction.  There were so many that at first I had a hard time discerning which ones were weeds and which ones were actually flowers.  Oh neglect.

Over pulling and plucking, I began to ponder many spiritual truths.  They were popping up in mind and heart as easily and as visible as that first weed.  Just recently life threw us a big curveball.  Perhaps we should've seen it coming, but see, sometimes life happens a lot like our gardens.  They are both in need of regular tending.  They flourish and grow with care, discipline, and intention.  But when left untended, weeds spring up.  And when not dealt with promptly, they take over...grow, blend, and blur the lines between weed and flower...sin and righteousness.  Left to their own...out of control...a slow chaotic fade.  And before we know it, the weeds almost take a place in our lives as if they were meant to be there.  It seems rather natural for them to play a part.  There is a desensitization to their presence, and they don't stand out as much because there's so many of them.  The sheer quantity, grown over time, softens their displacement lending them to a position of false acceptance.

 Tonight, as I continued to pull weeds in my flowerbeds, I began to find things amongst the flowers that clearly did not belong there...wrappers, an empty water bottle, dead dried leaves, pieces of gutter.  All hidden from  the naked eye at first glance.  Sin does that too...puts blinders on us that cloud our vision, disallowing us to see the weeds
(or the roots beneath them).
While sometimes it begins not as sin, but rather as something innocent and harmless, or as a means to cope or enjoy life.  But if it begins to cloud our perspective and draw us away from the beauty of righteousness, then it's a weed that needs to be pulled.  Because those weeds will try to take up residence in our lives, as if they were no big thing.  They'll overshadow righteousness.  Deception will spring up and convince us that this is just the norm.  We'll blend into this world and lose our example of being a flower among a bed of weeds.  Thoughts may easily be twisted and justified.  The shadow of the overbearing weed will block the true Light from the flower, and will lead to a life of stunted growth or withering destruction.  And before we know it, our lives take on a new shape and color we hadn't planned for.
Nobody is beyond this.

Tonight we started taking back the garden of our life.  Eyes open for the weeds that will inevitably rear their ugly heads and threaten to crowd out the God intended beauty He longs to bestow.  We are pursuing righteousness. Wholeheartedly. And the Good Gardener, regardless of our choices, always sends rays of Son and dews of mercy.  The difference now is that our gardens are being stripped bare of all that kept those things from flourish and bloom.  There is a pride, respect and deep love felt for the man who gardens beside me.  Also stripped and bare, there is a beauty there that is undeniable...given by a God who loves and cares for us far more than we could ever deserve.
Together, we are tending.

Monday, June 18, 2012

father's day 2012

inspired by pinterest, for father's day this year i took the kids out for a little photo shoot.  since we moved to romeo, i have been eyeing the back of one of the buildings downtown because it looked like it would make a great backdrop.  on a whim one afternoon after lunch, we grabbed a pair of daddy's boots and set off on our mission.  i wasn't sure where we were going to go, thought even perhaps an old dirt road or a field would do, but then i remembered this little spot.

we used these four photos to come up with a framed collage for daddy.
i was pleased with how they turned out.
had i known they would've turned out so cute, i would have had a professional (like Becky Jo) come take them for me!  but, it was such an unplanned spur of the moment outing, that i didn't have time to arrange anything like that. perhaps in the near future we'll go back...even get a family photo.

 this father's day i did a lot of reflecting...
i'm so appreciative of the man my kids call dad.
this has not been an easy few years for us,
yet he gets up each day, puts his best foot forward and perseveres on.
for us.
i'm even more thankful for the way he guards our hearts,
and remains the comfort and anchor of our home.
we are blessed to call him "ours."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

how's this for change?

One of the most beautiful people I know is fighting ovarian cancer for the doggone 3rd time in the past 4 years.  
Yes, sometimes change is good.
This one's for you!

Whether man, woman, or 8 year old boy...Bald is beautiful.

finding our way

Date night. 
We found ourselves quite somber.  
Not really in the mood to go out, but the details had already been arranged. And date night is rare, so we needed to jump on this opportunity. Not to mention we have been longing and needing to spend some time together. 
Two broken people, for reasons the same and different, 
trying to find our way.

There was comfort in the quietness of our ride to the restaurant.
And conversation began to spill easily from our hearts.
Both of us dealing.
Both of us vulnerable.
Both desiring change.
Aware of some life changes that may need to take place,
and trying to navigate our way there.

Dinner started out well as our waitress told us we were sitting at the table Justin Verlander was recently seated at.  The luck began to flow soon after as the waitress then carded me when Darcy ordered us wine.
He laughed at how giddy I was to show the waitress my ID.  But, in all truth, an almost 37 year old mom of three was thrilled to respond to this request.
 We got to talking over fried calamari and cabernet.  Talking openly and with painful honesty about our struggles.  Darcy had mentioned how he wanted to "live" and not just feel like he was "existing."  This sparked much conversation about what it means to really "live"...and what the purpose in our "existence" really is.  We know it's about bringing God glory. To be content in our circumstances. To find joy and thanksgiving in everything. To show and share love. To honor God with our choices, words and actions.  But how do we do this practically?  How do we live this out so that we aren't just existing, caught in the struggle,  but living a life of purpose and fulfillment?
 We began to relate this to our own little family of 5.  We both agreed that we want to give our kids a joyful childhood, equipping them with the necessary tools to successfully get through life.  To put these things into action as a blueprint for our children to follow...knowing that their lives will take on a struggle of their own in the years to come.  So how can we equip them to navigate through life and their own seasons of brokenness 
and to live a life of joy and purpose...
To fully understand that their worth is not wrapped up in their works or achievements,
but rather in who they are in Christ.
We need to be doing this ourselves.
 Perhaps we needed to come up with a new life plan,
working with what we've been given.
And right now, we might not have an abundance in resources, but we have time and we have love to share.
We talked about being intentional with the way we spend our time together as a family...
making it quality time that's worthy of purpose and meaning.  We brainstormed ideas and ways we could incorporate this into our lives...themed nights, service projects, ways of living beyond ourselves and our struggles.
Tuning out the noise of the outside world, protecting each other and promoting emotionally healthy boundaries, and focusing on being the individuals God has intended for us to be.  Through our brokenness we began to see clearly, finding our way to understanding.

And why not start now?
Ironically, two broken people ended their date night with a trip to the hospital,
to visit someone else who is broken and hurting
(though for other reasons).
Hand in hand we stepped into that hospital entrance fighting the uncomfortable tightening of chest that floods back recent memories of our own.  The smell that hung in the air as we walked down those corridors was all too familiar.  But with fragile spirits, we walked on, feeling more and more sense of purpose and existence with each step forward.  
And the smiles brought to that room, the hands held, the conversations shared, and the prayers offered in that moment overrode all other feelings we had wished to dismiss.

As we left, although still feeling a bit broken,
I couldn't have felt more complete next to anyone else in this world.

And what's dinner without a little dessert?
Rich and decadent sweetness was tasted and savored in a few stolen moments of tucking the kids into bed.

we're finding our way.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

thick like molasses

Sometimes viewing things through our own woundedness can skew our perspectives.  I'm a big girl, but even big girls have their moments of hurt.  Around me I see bigger fish to fry, and that helps me keep also lends compassion to the ones around me who are frying those bigger fish.

Nonetheless, hurt can feel as thick as molasses. 
It can consume (if we let it) and open old wounds and insecurities.  My natural instinct is to just "distance."  Close up, push away, guard that heart.  And in my years of walking with the Lord, I've also learned to run to the Great Healer to soothe those wounds, for He knows every hurt...and they matter to Him. 
And He fills those voids with just what I need the most. 

So that's just what I did with the firstfruits of my day today.  I started a new Bible study last week and dove into that with a hot cup of coffee at hand.  
My devotion today reads (from God's perspective to us:)

"When I look at you, I feel sheer delight. Unbounded pleasure. I can't help but smile, for you are My special creation. My love rains down on you like a summer shower. I quiet your fears and worries with My love. I rejoice over you in song. You delight Me, My child. You are wonderful, beautiful. You give me joy." 

"The LORD your God...will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17 

This was healing balm to my spirit.  In moments of feeling discounted, overlooked, or less important than you'd like to feel...let His words remind you how much He delights in you.  I'm resting in this today.  And praying that His love that rains down...will cover over those wounds.
A covering that sticks and is
uneasily removed as I confront the demands of the day.
And lean into Him,
with an ear tuned into
the sweet melody He sings over me.
Thick like molasses.

Monday, June 4, 2012

bust a move

It's dance recital week.  
Dress rehearsal in full hair, makeup and costume tomorrow.
Recitals Thursday and Saturday.
While this was supposed to be a week of "bustin a move" on stage,
someone "busted a move" with the driveway while riding her brother's bike yesterday.
 My poor girl.
(if you click on any of the pictures, it'll enlarge and you can see the damage. which doesn't look that bad from afar, but will probably look worse in the days to come, minus the swelling).
She's been in a lot of pain and discomfort, but she is such a trooper.
We are so thankful that things didn't turn out much worse...
when Darcy and I were assessing the situation initially,
we thought she may have knocked some teeth out or loose.
This accident didn't call for any hospital visits
(Thank God!)
 Brooke's been very sensitive about the way her face looks...
She started crying when she realized she had her dance dress rehearsal tomorrow and there would still be marks on her face and most likely a fat lip to match.  I reassured her she is beautiful regardless and nobody would even be able to see anything while she is up there on stage.  
She didn't want to go to the grocery store today either, for fear people would "see her face."  She's eased up a bit since.
 Even let me take a picture of her after I told her I just wanted a couple photos of her working on her history art project.  She agreed, but begged me not to text them to anyone. 
(blogging really isn't considered texting, right? so I'm safe?).
The History curriculum the kids are studying is "The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child." I really like it and like the idea of learning history chronologically from the beginning of time.
The first volume we are on is Ancient Times, where we learn about the earliest nomads to the last Roman emperor.  So far, we've talked about Nomads, Egyptians, Sumerian Dictators and most recently the Jewish people, (including of the 12 sons of Jacob.  The favored son who was given the "coat of many colors.")  Today the kids cut strips of felt and made their own coats.  
We talked about favoritism, envy, jealousy, boasting and bragging...
and how God used a bad thing and turned it into a very good thing
because Joseph loved God and allowed himself to be used by Him, even in his lowly circumstances.
(even as i type now i am finding parallels of this within my own heart. spiritual truths sparking fire and shining light on my life and most recent struggles. good to know that despite...yes despite, we can still be used by Him).
It's neat to see how biblical stories tie into the history of the world and to view the two in the same light.
We are paving our way through history, driveways, and stages these days.
On table we have the "coat of many colors."
On stage we may have the "face of many colors."
All in all,
we are trying to keep our spirits colored bright as we continue to "bust a move" through this busy week.