Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons Learned Gettin' Dirty

Thursdays, I am blessed to get in a wonderful, nearly 3 mile, walk with two wonderful women. It is a blessing to my health and my spirit. Really, there isn't a time that I don't leave there inspired to be a better Jesus follower. It is a blessing!! Today our conversation was about making war against these sneaky sins that get a stronghold in our lives and make us act in ways that we don't WANT to act, but also in ways that make us ineffective witnesses to our family.

Today after our walk and after getting Nathan to class, I let the Littles play outside while I cleaned out some weeds from the flower beds out front and planted some seeds that I bought at the dollar store. The weeds have been growing for weeks, but I wasn't sure if they are weeds. Since we inherited those beds from the previous tenants, I have sometimes had to let something grow to see if it was purposed or indeed just a weed. Now that I was certain of some of the green sprouting up all around my beds, I set out to eliminate the unwanted growth today. As I did, I found two different kinds of weeds.

The first kind were these button-looking greenery that were sprouting up all over the beds in random spots, but ALL OVER. I knew that those had to go, so I pulled at each one and they came out easily. Their roots were weak and with a little effort, they were destroyed.

The other kind of weeds I pulled today were perfectly acceptable plants (Black-eyed Susans actually) that had reproduced and were beginning to creep into the soil that nourished other parts of my beds. I have HUGE patches of these same flowers purposed in the front corners of each of the flower beds. I can't WAIT until they bloom, but these that got pulled today were in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to go.

Isn't that how our life is? We most definitely have the first kind of weeds growing in our life and heart- the kind that imitates righteousness and may even alter itself to confuse you, but at it's heart is sin that needs to be weeded out. We also have the second kind of weed- the kind that may have, at one time or place, been purposed but has since overgrown or moved into an unwanted area of our heart. Just like the first weed, this weed must also go. Unlike the first kind of weed, this one may take a little more work because it's root system is authentic and mature, but it must go none the less. As pretty as the promised flower from this weed may be, it will also eventually choke out the life of the purposed flowers or fruit we have growing in our hearts.

It felt good to MAKE WAR against those weeds today and my flower beds look healthier and more beautiful because of it. Now for the work on my heart!

MAKE WAR!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thank you God.

Thank you God...

...that Ella did not have the "scary, dangerous, contagious bacterial infection" that they THOUGHT she had by the looks of her rash.

...that I didn't run over the mean lady in the parking lot of Target who called me a name- a mean name and for no reason.

...for providing this home with hardwood floors and beautiful light from the windows and for reminding me today that you are walking this road with us, preparing us to serve you in Chicago. I am honored and humbled, Lord.

...that I get to walk tomorrow with my sweet friends.

...that at the end of our impromptu family talent show after dinner, I got to do the fox trot with Nathan.

...that the children requested a family squeeze before bed.

...that Nathan loves me so much and that our family is his priority.

...tomorrow is a new day, filled with new light through my windows and new grace in my heart.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Self-Discipline

self- noun
Me, Myself, and I
(definition care of ME)

discipline- verb
10. to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
11. to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
12. to punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct; chastise.
(definition care of dictionary.com)


Those two words taste bitter coming out of my mouth- they have become so foreign to me over the past few years. With five children so young and a husband in seminary, I have become very good at routines and systems, which are wonderful tools in and of themselves. They promote order and order is truly a Godly pursuit. All through the Bible, God desires and creates order. By creating routines and systems for our family, I can alleviate some of the chaos, by applying patterns of behavior that bring everyone under one goal and purpose. The problem is that I have allowed these systems to appease the part of my heart that the Lord created to desire my OWN standard of behavior. (I hope that makes sens outside of my own head.)


Instead of continuing to interpret my own thoughts, which can sometimes get foggy even for ME, here are some of the areas of my life that I need "to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control".


1. My weight: No big explanation needed here. I need to lose some weight. period. Several of these following areas contribute to this one. For the last few weeks, I have added a lot of exercise and am upping it each week it seems, so I feel like I am off to a good start. The missing link for me here is long-haul accountability. Nathan knows my heart and my desire, but it isn't fair for me to ask him to hold me accountable in this area. He loves me too much and doesn't want to be the bad guy in this. Honestly, I don't want him to be either. I am praying for wisdom to find this accountability. In the past, I have done WONDERFULLY...for a season. Then I fail and undo everything I have done. I think gaining self-discipline in the area will mean seeking strength form the Lord to continue past the plateaus and stretches that normally cause me to jump ship.



So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27


2. Getting appropriate SLEEP : Ugh. this one SOUNDS simple. It sounds simple when I am sitting here at 4:35pm. At 10:00PM, however, when Nathan has just walked in the door from class and we haven't had 2 minutes to communicate all day OR (honesty alert!) one of "my shows" is coming on, I find it hard to tear myself away and head to bed. No matter how I attempt justify it, I am not getting enough sleep. I cannot support my body and the schedule that is needed to support my LIFE on so few hours of sleep. Because I stay up too late, I am sleepy during the day, my eating schedule is off (see above), I run out of energy before i run out of tasks, and I don't get to sleep well when I finally DO submit to rest. I feel like a toddler even struggling with this, but it is a struggle for me. Sheesh.



It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2


(for the record, this type of list-making is daunting, but I am excited about checking some of these things off in the future. Without a list, no checking off can happen!)

3. Accurate and Godly Priorities: Everything else can be summed up with this one heading. I need to do a better job of prioritizing my life- particularly where my energy is spent in any given day. Too many outside activities, too many "yes's", too many play dates, and (unfortunately) too much TV can make for a messy house, children that are lacking in their OWN discipline, and a husband who feels neglected all together. I feel this is something that I have always had a good eye on, thanks to Godly women in my life at times, but lately I have not been keeping a watchful eye on my schedule and Nathan and I have both realized our error. We are making some changes and moving towards the goal of eliminating a lot from our tasks list next year, while still serving the Lord sacrificially. It is a fine, fine line to find that balance. We are not called to sit back and let others serve exclusively. We are also not called to put our name on every blank line on a sign-up sheet that passes our lap. Furthermore, it is in the pursuit of those things that ARE NOT in accordance with what God has given me to do in direct competition with those that He DOES intend for me that I find the most frustration! (see above...and above again!) The beauty comes in discovering which blanks that Lord has already filled in with my name and then doing THOSE tasks to His Glory. With this area of my life, I can't just stop EVERYTHING right now, as I have commitments that need to be followed through. However, BIG changes are coming around August for us in this area. Until then, I am praying for wisdom to take things one day at a time, doing only what I am capable of and without guilt for those that I cannot.
According to the commandment of the Lord through Moses they were listed, each one with his task of serving or carrying. Numbers 4:49






My Homework-

Spiritually speaking:I don't intend to be able to change any of these areas of my life by my own power. I am not strong enough. I am DAILY asking the Lord to help me and I am exposing them to as much LIGHT as I can, so that I cannot shirk way from them when the going gets tough...and it WILL get tough.

Practically speaking: These things are being printed and listed on my fridge. I don't want to spend my days thinking about ME and how to change ME. That is a selfish path to take. Instead, I just want to reminder (on the fridge) that I will occasionally see and be reminded of this pursuit. I am making excercise and eating well a priority. I am going to go back to something I did when I had only two babies and FAR less on my schedule, which was to hang a sign on my computer and TV that reads "Have you finished you job? If not, you are chosing THIS over your family." (I have never been one for subtle.) Nathan and I are setting aside some time, weekly, for just us- not school, not church duties, not children- just. us. I think this will help me not feel like I have to wait up for him from class so many nights of the week.

Can you relate to any of these? How do YOU deal with them?

When you point your finger at someone else...



...there are always 3 pointing back at you (thumb doesn't count. it is a long-standing debate between my children. HA!)

I have been not nice to Nathan lately.


I seem to get ill with him over the slightest things these days (and not the RUN DMC kind of ill either, the really ugly, fight-pickin' kind of ill.)

I won't say that I haven't always had a reason, but even when I had a reason I didn't handle it appropriately. I go from calm to spastic in 2 seconds flat. I get all red-faced and anxious. THEN, I do the one thing that Nathan DREADS from his wife- the ONE thing that can make him want to run and hide until the smoke settles- the ONE thing that he has PLEADED with me not to do over the last 16 years we have been together.


I compile. (A hush fell over blogland.)


I compile every little insignificant, easy to get over, non-life threatening thing that has happened in the last little span of time and I heap it all up on top of itself until each of those teeny tiny little annoyances are now one HUGE, MASSIVE, GIGANTIC, SEEMINGLY UNMOVABLE obstacle standing in the way of the peace and happiness we enjoy, strive for, NEED to live in JOY. BY then, I am completely upset and all but spitting fire and Nathan is just dodging the cloud of debris and firebombs that are falling in my path.


It is unproductive and immature, but it is what I do and what I need to eliminate in my life.

This morning, I set about thinking about WHY I have been so ill to Nathan in the first place. Being COMPLETELY transparent here and at the risk of judgement, I have scrutinized Nathan's every move for the past couple of weeks- the way he talks to the children, the way he balances the checkbook, the way he organizes his studies, the way he WRITES HIS PAPERS- really, it has been THAT bad.

I started to think that maybe we were under some spiritual warfare. We are now on the path to make big waves in Chicago and bring with us the Truth of the Gospel. That is BOUND to shake up some of those pesky demons, right?

Sure. I am sure there is SOME of that going on, but ultimately it didn't sit well with me as the solution. SO what is it?

After my workout this morning at the gym (while I was standing in the lockeroom, blow drying my hair, STARING at one of my biggest issues-my weight- no pun intended) I began to think about the looooong list of things the Lord is showing ME that I need to change before we can go to Chicago. (Insert light bulb with long chord being pulled here)

That is it. This is why I am being horrible to my husband. It is easier to pick apart HIS life and HIS behavior than to face mine. My sinful flesh can rationalize that, surely, it isn't ME who is struggling with self-control or poor thought patterns, right? Ugh. The arrogance that one must swim in to make that statement. I am being refined for God's great work. It is OH-SO-PAINFUL.



The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 (NIV)


In the pain of being chastised by the Lord myself, I think it soothes the sinful parts of my heart to lash out at Nathan and I justify it by call . (writing that makes my heart ACHE!) I love my husband so, SO much. I would never, ever want to hurt him and in fact, would do anything to help him- to support him. Yet, here I am tearing my house down with my own hands instead of taking my own convictions and applying them to my life.

So, without further ado, the next several posts will begin to explore the areas of my life the Lord is pressing on me to take a long, hard, look at currently. I want to begin the process of building the foundation for our home and ministry in Chicago. Hopefully, by coming out with my OWN list, I will lay off of my sweet husband a bit.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some repenting to do.

*Images courtesy of my nine year old, Graycen, and her reaction to being corrected. I told her these were going in her wedding slide show. Maaaaaaaaaybe I will show her some mercy.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Respite

Have you ever used a word for a long time and then realized that maybe you didn't exactly know what it meant. Lately, I have been asking the Lord for respite- from financial struggle, from parenting frustration, from (insert any earthly toils here). In hindsight, I have been using the word A LOT and maybe (probably) in the same whiny sort of tone that I correct my children from using. I knew it meant something along the lines of relief, but this morning, I was composing an email to a sweet lady in our care group and I decided I needed to look it up before I used it with her. This is what I found on dictionary.com .

res·pite   /ˈrɛspɪt/ [res-pit] noun, verb,-pit·ed, -pit·ing. –noun

1.a delay or cessation for a time, esp. of anything distressing or trying; an interval of relief: to toil without respite.

2.temporary suspension of the execution of a person condemned to death; reprieve.

Read definition #1. OK. I was right. Then I read definition #2. It was then that I heard that still, small voice, "You, my child, are not condemned to death!" I repeated it out loud, "I am NOT condemned to DEATH!!" Although there are times when we find ourselves asking the Lord for much needed break from struggles, it was like icy cold water for a parched heart this morning to read that and realize that I do not need "temporary suspension of the execution of a person condemned to death". My reprieve has been bought by the blood of my Savior on the cross and it will not be temporary it will be FOR ALL ETERNITY. Doesn't that make you want to dance?!?!?! Hallelujah!

video

*This video is from a couple of years ago, but oh, so precious.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Silly Israelites

I have been in a bit of a slump lately. Feelin' a bit blue. Part of it is that I allowed my thyroid meds to run out without a refill (Yikes!). Part of it is that I slipped into what I am calling, "Silly Israelite Syndrome". Let me Explain...

I had a wonderful week while Nathan was gone. I really did. As I said before , I came to some great realizations while Nathan was away. However, I has a couple of bad moments.


I watched the show Food Revolution with Jamie Oliver . It is a pretty good show. So, I'm sitting there, watching the show last week and it dawned on me that the show is being filmed in the very area of town in WV, where the church is located that is the ONLY job offer Nathan has gotten since he was laid off in Feb of 09. Interesting. Then, Jamie Oliver begins talking about this great pastor that is supporting him. Suddenly, across the screen flashes the very CHURCH. They proceeded to do a complete segment on THE church and THAT Pastor.

It is important to realize that, when that job was offered to Nathan, we both had sick-to-the-stomach feelings about taking it. It was so obvious to us, that every effort we made to get past it, failed miserably. When Nathan made the phone call, declining the offer, we felt weight lifted. It felt GOOD to turn that job down even though there was no job on the horizon.

Sitting there last week, my mind began to GO THERE. You know...go THERE. I began to wonder what if. What if Nathan had taken that job. Where would be now? I won't go into all that crossed my mind, but lets just say my mind wandered way too far into what if land. For the last two days of Nathan's trip I would find myself wondering (maybe wAndering would be a better term).


A few days after Nathan came home, we learned that we would, most likely, not be receiving the scholarship that we were expecting to cover Nathan's tuition next semester. For the last 13 months of unemployment, i have taken similar news in stride, dug in, waited for the Lord, and trusted that however it turned out was HIS plan. BUT, this time I had already been WANDERING in my mind for several days. When this new disappointment reared it's ugly head, I placed myself firmly in a pit and stayed there for a while- a pit of my own placing. I was in so much of a pit that I called Nathan yesterday while he was getting some much-needed studying done and just boo-hoo'd. As it turned out, he was feeling burdened also (maybe it was his sobbing wife? HA!), so he came home for lunch and we prayed together.


I began to feel better, but still was just wanting to find a cave to sulk in. A friend called and encouraged me to go on to discipleship class. I wasn't feelin' it. Nathan insisted I go. I am taking a class on the book, "How People Change". It was EXACTLY what I needed.

We read a lot in Numbers about how. many.times those silly Israelites cried out to the Lord. Basically (busymama summary here), "Why didn't you let us DIE in Egypt Lord?!?!?! We don't want to be hot! We don't want to eat stale manna! We were better off in Egypt." Sounds silly huh?

That is what I have been doing for the past couple of days, lamenting. Here is the kicker though.

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Go. Back. To. Egypt.

Unlike the Israelites, I completely remember what the bondage in my life felt like when we were not following God's plan for us. I don't want those chains again. Realizing that left me feeling like I had failed a MAJOR test. We have lived in JOY over the last 13 months, knowing (not hoping, not wishing) that the Lord was guiding us and caring for us. Our every need has been met. Here we are, still basking in the glow of understanding what God has planned for us and I am presented with a test, a distraction. I took my eyes off of my sovereign, wise, and good Lord, even for a mere moment. That moment was all it took to make my steps insecure and my heart not convinced of His goodness. So, heat came into our lives and I buckled.


I repented. I am forgiven. I am moving on.

WhatEVER God has planned for the next two years before we move (AND AFTER) is INFINITELY greater than anything I could have wished for or dreamed up.

I am trusting and watching for God. period.
*temper tantrum courtesy of sweet Annagail this afternoon when I made her...wait for it...pull up her pants. Isn't she cute even when she pouts? The beautiful daydreamer that keeps me looking up is my MaryEvelyn.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Feet


You Capture (ssignment form last week...I think)

Sweet Feet.

Photobucket

Wordless Wednesday



(Head over to Wordless Wednesday for more great photos!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Morning SONshine




Sweet Shot Day



A wise friend stopped by for some coffee and catching up this week. Among other things, she encouraged me to remember that (summarizing) I am an artist and not just a commercial retailer. I think when you have a photography business that starts to expand rapdily, it is easy to forget your own creativity at times and to start catering too much to what the client *thinks* they want (think being the operative word). Before long, the product isn't at all what YOU wanted to create. Where is the satisfaction in THAT?!?!

Anywho, I decided to jump into this weekly link-party in effort to keep reminding myself that, no matter how many clients I get, my art is MY art. For me, it is an extension of my praise and glory to my Creator. I want to love it and for it to reflect MY joy over being His child.


Sweet Shot Day

Head over and see the other entries!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Planting We Will Go

The big announcement is that we are moving again!



Not now, but in the Spring of 2012!

We are going to be a part of a Church planting team in a city that has over 200 languages in just one of it's zipcodes alone.



It hosts over 4 colleges and university, in which a vast majority of students do not associate themselves with a church or specific faith.



The NAMB said this of urban church planting,

New multicultural churches are needed in the cities or sprawling metropolitan areas. In the late 1800s, D.L.Moody stated: “Reach the big cities and you reach the nation." Today, Moody’s statement could be adapted, “Reach the big cities and you reach the world." In A Theology As Big As the City, Ray Bakke and Raymond Bakke comment about the incredible urban growth in the past 100 years: “The spectacular growth of large cities on this planet represents an awesome challenge to the church of Jesus Christ on all six continents. In 1900, 8 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. By the year 2000, that number will be nearly 50 percent.” As believers, the “go” part of the Great Commission command is still in force. However, we are now also responsible before God on another level. The very people to whom we once had to “go” many miles to reach have come to us. This is changing the face of urban America.



So, have you guessed where we are headed in two years?




The kids and I are so excited to be on this journey with Nathan. Over the next two years, Nathan (and I) will be PRAYING, training, learning, & fundraising for our church plant. We will go up with, virtually, nothing and will see the Lord grow our church from the ground up! Isn't that exciting?!?!?!?!?!



I have started a new blog to journal the goings on of the next two years, but I am not sure I will actually keep it. Because this is our life, it seems silly to seperate it form this blog. For now, I will continue to update here.

What can you do? PRAY for us. God has affirmed this ministry to us in many ways, including affirmations from people we respect and look to for counsel. Satan would love nothing more than to shake that confidence. Please pray that the whole team will remain unified in our mission and that we will be protected-physically & emotionally.



As I have said A LOT lately, I feel that the Lord has been preparing us for THIS path. We are ready to go! As one friend put it, it is comparable to a loooooong pregnancy. We have been here, learning and growing for the past few years. these next two years are going to feel like the last two weeks before you give birth- anxious to get things going, but remaining confident in God's perfect timing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Overflowin'

I was sitting down on the landing on the top of our stairs the other night, exhausted, and waiting for Annagail to finish her 14th trip to the potty so that I could begin our nighttime prayers and singing. I was exhausted- more exhausted than I remember being in a long time.

Nathan has been out of town since Saturday and it has been just the kids and I here, holding down the fort. The children are also tracked out, so we have had heaps of time to play together and work together over the last week.

Back to the landing, I was sitting there waiting for Annagail knowing that every muscle in my body was ready to feel the mattress underneath it. I led the children in their prayers and sang our “Goodnight Song” with them. My eyes were heavy. My hair even felt tired. Then I remembered that the dishes sill needed washing and the floors still needed sweeping. I took a deep breath and started to pull myself up using the railing on the stairwell. As I did, I caught a glimpse of Graycen and MaryEvelyn, laying each in their own beds, but rolled towards each other and whispering. I felt warm seeing them have that moment together. Seeing it prompted me to take a peek into each of the children’s rooms before I headed downstairs to finish out the day.

Cooper wasn’t near asleep and was trying desperately to stay still long enough for me to get downstairs. I’ve come to understand that boys are different and Cooper can’t just turn off his day, so wiggling all around his bed and maybe a car or two snuck under his pillow is expected.

Ella was almost asleep already and Annagail was not far off. Being so little still, they were both worn out from a full day of sunshine and playground fun with friends.

It was at that moment, watching Annagail laying there with her hands pressed together under her cheek and that stare on her face that always happens just before she zonks out, that it hit me.

This is my life and I love it.

It poured over me in a wave of emotion that started n my brain, but eventually swallowed my entire person and manifested itself in huge, crocodile tears.

These five children, all happy, all healthy, all clean and settling into sleep safely under one roof, with full bellies and a Daddy who loves them more than his own life, were placed in my care by my Heavenly Father. I have no need to BE anything else- no need to hold any other title or to continually reinvent myself into something “grander” or more interesting.

I. LOVE. IT.

Peaceful does not accurately describe my heart this week. I went into it fearful of how hard it would be. I ended up with a heart eager to do MORE for my family on a regular basis that extends well beyond Nathan’s one week away.

I feel the Lord changing me, growing me in preparation of what is coming next in our life- in our ministry. I feel ready- more prepared for the task before me. It isn’t only this week alone with the children, but more because I believe we are on the path God desires for our family. It feels amazing.

**My next post will answer so many of your questions about what is coming for us. The reason I have waited is because I wanted to wait until our families knew. (again, no baby news!) I will give you a fairly large hint: Another reason I have waited to share on the blog is that it seemed like a post so HUGE for our family needed images to go with it. After tomorrow at 11:30 (give or take a few minutes or normal air delays) I will have them. :o)