Tag Archive | spirituality

When Someday Might be Soon

sun-on-mist-through-treesAnyone who knows me knows I have always wanted to live in a country setting. I want to look out the window and see beautiful scenery and not just neighbors. It’s never been feasible for us to move, mostly because of money, so it’s just a dream. Someday, I say. Someday.

A couple weeks ago a few events happened that made me rethink the someday part of that dream. I saw a couple houses in our price range that had land and beautiful scenery. My son got married, and another is closing on a house, so our family is shrinking fast, meaning we could do with smaller spaces, which might be more our price range. My husband’s job is in a location that makes it easy to head out to a country setting without him spending half his life in the car.

So we talked to an  agent and decided to put our house on the market. I’m painting and repairing and working myself to death to get it all ready. And while I do, I worry. And I doubt. And I question the wisdom of this. We have a perfectly fine house. It’s on a pretty lot, considering we live in the city. There is no reason for us to move except that I want to. It will be expensive, and it’s work. My husband and son couldn’t care less, so it’s happening just because I want it to, and wow. It’s been hard to tell myself this is okay.

My husband isn’t happy with his job. It doesn’t use his skills, and the pay is much lower than his last job (he was an engineer who lost his job about eight years ago), and it’s second shift, which has been hard. When we decided to move, he stepped up his job search, thinking maybe he could find a new job before we move, and then we could simply move to his new location. I’m fine with that. I hate for him to feel trapped and not to be challenged by his work.

So I’m worrying about finding a new house and whether it’s worth a move just because I want it. Feels decadent. And he hopes to find a job before I find my long-awaited country house, because he would hate to find a job three days after we settle and force us to move again.

Today he got a call from a recruiter about a job that’s close to us but far enough that it would make a country life easier. The job would make more money, and it is in a small, rural town close enough to our big town that I could easily keep my son involved in his life. It would be the best of all worlds. It would be amazing.

And my thoughts about this? It could never happen. That isn’t how God deals with us.

God must get so tired of me for doubting His goodness and His love and His power. I fall into this same pattern of thinking over and over and over. And yet the Bible makes it clear He isn’t tired of me. He doesn’t get frustrated and make my life hard just because I expect it to be hard. His love is huge. Of course He could give us a good job and a good house at the same time. He’s done it for other people. It’s not an impossible dream. And if He does or doesn’t do that, it doesn’t change His love for us. He isn’t a big meanie who doles out blessings like a miser.

So where does the doubt come from? I’ve had plenty of things in my life work perfectly. Healthy babies that grew up to be healthy adults. A roof over our heads even after months on unemployment. A great church. We have cars that run and toilets that don’t. So where do I get this idea God puts a limit on how good things can get?

I’ve been like this forever. It’s something God and I hash out over and over and over, my doubt that He cares about the little things, that He works in the details. The big stuff, sure, like salvation and justification. Heaven. I have no doubt he loved me enough to send Jesus. So why do I think a few details are beyond Him? And where do I get the idea that He wants me happy, but not too happy. Life can be good, but not too good.

I don’t have answers for that. I have the feeling the next few weeks are going to shake a few things loose. I’m a mom who’s spent the last quarter century putting myself second to my family, and right now I’m asking my family to sacrifice so I can see trees. You bet I have some things to learn here. And my marriage–whatever happens with the house and a job, we’re about to make some changes. We’ve not moved in seventeen years. And in more personal ways we’ve been pretty stationary, too. Big changes in our outer world will mean big changes in our relationship. And that’s exciting and scary.

So. We’re putting our house on the market. Simple words. People do it all the time. My son is a mover, so his entire livelihood depends on people moving from place to place. But it feels huge and strange, and it’s bringing up a whole lot of emotions and shaking loose a whole lot of wrong thinking. And God is there waiting, smiling, urging us to seek Him and work through it all and maybe for once get a real picture of His love, maybe one I can keep hold of for a time.

I’m excited. I’m terrified. And as the words of this blog leave my fingertips, I know this is God calling me to come closer. Whatever happens, He stands with outstretched hands and beckons me to come close so He can take the burden and work through the questions and grow me into the person he wants me to be. City, country, good job, bad job–He can and will work through whatever He has planned for us.

Step of faith? Step of selfishness? Doesn’t matter. He’s part of it and loves me, whatever the motives, whatever the path, whatever the outcome.

Refrigerator Prayers

sorrow bwI have friends who are preparing for ministry overseas, and recently they distributed prayer cards. If you’ve been in the evangelical world for any length of time, you know what I’m talking about–those cards that look like photo Christmas cards with a photo of the family and then the family’s specific prayer needs. I put them on my fridge so I’ll remember them.

Because this family is in preparation mode with another year or two here in the States, the card was filled with prayers that might apply to anyone. Prayers for family unity, marital unity, spiritual growth, financial needs to be met, and transitions to go well. Now, lest I sound like I’m putting down these prayer cards or the specific prayers, I’m not. However, as I read the card, I wondered what it might be like to have a prayer card for everyone in my church.

The idea behind the refrigerator card (my term, by the way) is that a family that’s out of sight is out of mind, and we need to see them to remember to pray for them. Makes sense. But a lot of my church family I see on Sunday and no other times. I have to admit I fall into the out of sight, out of mind mentality a lot. Sure, my body rallies around one another in times of need, but sometimes, in times of regular life, we’re absent from each other’s lives. I don’t like it, but that’s the culture we live in.

I wish I was better at regular, organized prayer. I get that Satan hates us praying, and it is one of the most intense battlefields out there, but I am a child of the King, and I should be able to overcome. Too often, though, I get lazy and don’t include regular prayer in my life.

But what if I did? And what if I had a prayer card in front of me for every family in my church? What if I knew my church family had a prayer card for me? What if once a year I could let someone know what struggles are forefront in my life, and I could know that maybe once a week or once a month or even just once a year everyone in my body would lift those prayers to God on my behalf?

My friends’ prayer card is on my fridge. I need to find a better place for it, a place devoted to prayer, a place devoted to God. I need to arm myself and fight for my Bible reading and prayer life. My friends will soon head into a new world with new difficulties, and they need to count on my prayers to get them through. Right now, I’m not reliable.

And in lieu of a booklet of prayer cards for the rest of my church family (Wouldn’t that be awesome?), I need to find a way to keep each of them in prayer. Not just during the times of struggle, but during the mundane times. Why do I limit my prayers to big items and not pray for my friends’ children’s salvation, their marriages, their personal walks with God? And how can I remind myself and push myself and be the prayer warrior my church family–and my biological family needs?

We just had a wedding at our house, and in a few weeks my oldest will be purchasing a house, so two of my crew will be leaving. Only three of us will be left here. My life is going to slow down. I will have even fewer excuses than before for the lazy state of my life with God. As we transition, I hope and pray that I will put new safeguards into place and once again reorganize my life around my main priority, the God who loves and rescued me. The armor has slipped, and it’s time to cinch it up, get serious, and head back into battle. I’m not sure what that looks like since I fail more than I get it right, but I have to try again. Every failure must be followed with another try. I’m so glad God covers us with grace so we can always, always, always start again.

A Fist Filled with Mist

IMG_2003I think a lot about dreams. Those hopes, plans, ambitions I have for my life, my future, my happiness. I’m probably not alone there. I think most of us have lists in our heads of things we’d like to do or see or have during our time here.

God is likely not going to say yes to a lot of my dreams. For some, it’s simply too late. There isn’t time left in my finite life for some things to happen. Some cost more money than it appears God is going to give me (like my farm. I’ve always wanted one. He has said no for 40+ years,  and the bank account and our current incomes say it’s probably not going to happen.) Some require better health than I have. In fact, better health is a dream, and I certainly can’t make chronic illness disappear just by dreaming it.

I read an old article today about King David and how God told him no when he wanted to build a temple. That seems like a pretty selfless dream. And to be told no was a pretty big no. But David let it go. The author of the article said David held things loosely. When his will and God’s didn’t line up, he let it go.

I’ve been thinking about that. What do I hold onto? How loose is my grip? And I realized the things I hold onto the most tightly are things I don’t have. My empty fist is tightly wrapped around dreams and goals that are nothing more than mist. No matter how tightly I squeeze, I can’t hold them. They are things I never had, so there’s nothing even there to cling to.

However, the things I have… I’m not that enamored with what I have. Even things I once held tightly as mist, once they appear in solid form, I release, because the reality never quite meets the fantasy.

I need to switch things around. Well, to a point. I know I don’t need to wrap my fist around anything in this world. If I’m going to cling to anything with white knuckles, it should be the hem of Jesus’ cloak. At his feet I find what I need the most. His words and deeds–that’s where I can be selfish. That’s something I can cling to.

But the rest of it? Yeah, not worth the tight fist. Nothing I have fills the void in my heart that longs for God. Nothing I long for can do it, either. I need to hold loosely.

I’m not good at that. I admit that right now. Right before I sat down to write this I did some work on my kitchen. For over a year it’s been in a state of destruction. The goal is to remodel, but money and other things got in the way. Today I came up with a way to do some work on the cheap. I was excited. And that fist began to tighten. If only, I said to myself. If only I could finish this kitchen… But what comes after that? When I hear my heart saying If Only then alarms go off. If only I get this dream fulfilled, then life will be good. I will be content. I will be happy. It all revolves around one more thing, one thing I don’t have that I really want. Then I can stop wanting.

Right. If my kitchen is finished, it will look better than it does now. That’s it. My life won’t be fixed. My family won’t love me more. Or each other more. Meals won’t taste better. I will have a finished kitchen. That’s not bad. But it certainly won’t improve my life and fix everything broken in my soul. Neither will a beautiful farm or even perfect health. Those things will likely never be mine, and even if they were, I know they won’t satisfy my deepest soul. I need to unclench the empty fist and open the palm to God.

Let Him drop whatever He wants into my hands. Use what He gives me. Treat it with respect and care, thankful for the use of whatever blessings He sends. And then, hands open, I need to let all of it go and wait for Him to drop the next blessing.

Open hands. Much better than fists clenched around mist. And wow, so much easier to write than to do.

On Being Raw

On being rawTell me I’m not the only one who has those days. Those days where you’re a giant exposed nerve, and every little thing hurts and burns. I’m having one of those raw days, when I want to find a soft cocoon and curl up and feel like I’m enough. Like my opinions are good, my choices are sound, and while the world around me may be broken, I’m enough just the way I am.

I was reading notes and posts from friends this week, and that exposed nerve was jangling. I read harsh posts about politics, which are meant to change my mind but simply sear my heart. I’m not a fool for thinking what I think, for valuing what I value, for drawing my own lines in the sand. I hope I’m not a fool. But sometimes the world says otherwise, and it’s hard not to doubt.

This week a few home school moms I know chose another path, and that’s fine, but right now my world, which revolves around me schooling my children, is so devoid of people who understand that lifestyle that each mom who walks away pulls some of my heart with her. I need new support systems. People in my life who can discuss what I value, who understand where I am. I’ve let that go and surrounded myself with people I love who, unfortunately, aren’t people with whom I can share some of those particular burdens. And normally that’s okay–sometimes the world is too big. Sometimes it’s too small.  But right now Mama Bear needs a day of Just Right.

It always comes down to support.  I’m a mom. A teaching mom. A teaching mom with a nearly-grown family who is heading into a new stage of life. I don’t always take time to look for support of my own, and too often I think I’ve found it only to have it walk away. People move away, move on, find new niches. In a fluid society in a fluid world, where are the rocks? Why does the foundation that looks so beautiful one day shift and sink the next?

And the nerves jangle. The cocoon calls, and I can’t find it. Everything hits my skin and rubs that raw, red wound. Where is the balm?

I know the answer. The Sunday school answer, but it’s true. Jesus is the balm. God draws near. Paul wrote about feeling abandoned. David wrote about it more than once, pouring out his raw nerve days and asking for help. So today, that is my quest. Reading the Psalms where David shares his fears and concerns. Where he asks God for some concrete sign of his love, for victories and blessings. He lets that raw nerve have its say, because God cares about him–and me–on the good days, the victorious days, and the days of defeat. And God wants us to share with him on all those days, even the raw ones.

Some days, I think it’s okay to put on soft PJs and step back. Raw nerve days come and go. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be stronger. Maybe tomorrow I’ll see truths and conquer the world. But perhaps today it’s okay to hide away, spend time with God, and keep the world locked on the other side of the door: the friends, the enemies, the support, the needy, all of them. Today I have my own ledges, and I’m going to tuck myself in the shelter of a Rock, a holy refuge, and simply watch the wind and the sun and wait for another day. When I find solid footing up here, then I can buttress the support systems and decide which directions to go. But not today. Nothing at all today but the steady in and out of each breath, waiting for the abraded nerves to calm.

Waiting under the broom tree with Elijah, eating cake from God’s hand and strengthening from fight to fight. The battles will still be there tomorrow.

Just me and God today, guys. In the wilderness watching the beauty of the Creator. Come back another day.

Unless you’re having a raw nerve day, too. Then come share some rock with me, and we can sit here in silence and watch God lower the sun and show off the moon and call out the stars. Breathe in and out. In and out. And of course I’ll share a little cake with you, until it’s time for us to head back down into it again.

 

When the Bible is too Real

bible is too realAt the beginning of the year I challenged people to join me in daily Bible reading, specifically reading the Bible in a year. I am here, halfway through the year, to admit I’m behind. And it’s for the strangest reason. I’m behind because I’ve been reading the books of Samuel and Kings, and it’s been depressing me.

Part of this is that I’m a writer. I love stories. But I get too involved in my imaginary tales, and I can’t handle writing anything but a happy ending. (Yep, that’s a spoiler for my entire book list. Sorry. Or, if you’re like me, you’re welcome.) I love it when everything works out well. Wounds are healed, love conquers all, and there’s a good deal of joyful walking off into the sunset.

But you know what? The Old Testament has some seriously unhappy endings. David’s prayer over the loss of his dear friend Jonathan. Solomon’s disappointing turn from being a wise man of God to a man who helps his wives build idols. Everyone’s children. Samuel, Eli, David, Solomon–nobody turned out good kids. Depresses me to death. If all these great men of God are parenting failures, what hope do I have?

Years and years of Israel turning away and turning away and turning away. I watch the building of the tabernacle, the building of the temple, all the people promising to follow God, all the celebrations, and then two pages later they’ve forgotten every word and are sacrificing their children to evil gods. The temple is destroyed, cities fall, and people wander into darkness.

It makes me sad. Really, truly sad. I know in my head that it’s over. David is happy now. Same with Jonathan. Jesus was the ultimate goal of  the Bible, and he successfully came to save us. The words are there to help me learn and understand the nature and character of God, but I get so involved with the story and the characters that I can’t quite untangle myself from them.

When we get to heaven, I want to meet King David. I think he is the most fascinating character–non-divine character–in the entire Bible. This is a man who lives big. He dances so big that his wife hates him. He drools on his beard to make someone think he’s insane. When a man dies touching the Ark, he wants the Ark far away. As soon as someone is blessed by the Ark, he wants it close again. He’ll do anything for a blessing from God. But he sins big, too, and he mourns those sins with poetry and song that speak to hearts even now. He lives out emotion in a way I’ve never been able to do.

This guy was real. Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around that. And sometimes I can’t unwrap my head from around that. The history of this planet is real, and God engineered all of it. The sheer size of God and the scope of his plan can be too much to comprehend, so he gives us stories of men and women, stories of real people with much too real good and bad qualities, and through those God makes himself more real to us.

If you’re reading your Bible this year, hooray. I hope you don’t get stuck like I have. I spent a long time today working toward catching up, and I feel good about that. I don’t like to be behind, not when it’s because I’m hiding from the reality that we, humans, are a sinful mess. I’d have to say that’s one of the main themes in the Bible, and it’s really clear in the history of the Israelite nation.

If you’re not reading, it’s not too late to start. Just read it without worrying about how much or how fast. Let it be real to you. It’s history. It’s God calling us to participate in all He did from day one. It’s about broken people, failure, betrayal, anger, tears, joys, birth, life, and ultimately the One Person who takes all that chaos and shines a bright light into it bringing it all into focus.

I need to toughen up a little bit to keep reading the Old Testament. Or the New Testament-we all know hard stuff happens there, too. But maybe it needs to be that real to me. Maybe until I weep with David and fear over Israel and feel the horror of the crucifixion at the end of each gospel, I can’t really understand what this is all about. God chose to give us stories. He chose to unite the past and the present in one long narrative, exposing Himself along the way in the only way we’d truly understand.

It’s not an easy read. But it’s worth it. And yeah, sometimes I wish for more happy endings. Until I remember that the happiest ending is still to come, where I can chat with all the heroes of old and laugh and smile and feast, and the hard parts will be forever behind us. Maybe I’ll be a little more outgoing there, and David and I can share a wild dance out of love and excitement for this great big God who made us.