Wednesday, August 28, 2013

GOD Calling

i want to be
i don't want to
live the dead life.
i don't want to
be the one
who shrunk into the
shadows of fear,
to be kept for safety
and comfort,
Radical TRUST
commonplace anonymity.

i want
to be ALIVE--
Wonder &
Spirit &
Courage &
Daring &
My Life

i want to spend
the stuff of
Who i am
in the
of this

so that
i can smile
at my MAKER,
whisper Joyfully,
"We had a good ride, yes?"

And to feel the
smile back.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Receive and Release

I felt led to take a walk this morning, at a nearby park.  As soon as I got out of my car the music started, blaring across the grass, and I'm thinking "this is what You wanted me to experience Lord?  this noise?"  And the whisper came to me, "people hear what they want to."

I tried really hard to listen to nature, beyond the too loud music, beyond the too loud musings of my upset.

As I walked I thought, "this is what my life feels like sometimes."  So much noise.  But surrounded by so much beauty.  As a mother of three boys, it's easy to hear only the noise and miss the beauty.  I want to shush them.  But then their noise is part of their beauty.

I catch sight of a butterfly opening its wings.  I think, maybe if I'm quiet enough, silence my phone, I can grab a quick picture.  Funny to me now as I write these words.  The butterfly probably wouldn't have noticed the little click amidst the cacophony of sound pouring out around us.  How sweetly he opened his wings so I could see him.

I am thinking of my son now.  Noah celebrated his birthday yesterday.  He is growing quickly.  It won't be long before he is taller than me.  Yesterday morning he used impeccable manners.  Precious please's and thank you's, never once coaxed from me.  His joy in living his birth day bringing forth his own goodness to make it a good day.  Like the butterfly, sweetly opening his wings so I could see the beauty of who he is. 

There will come a day soon when he will test those wings out.  He will fly on his own.  He will want the opportunity to see what he is made of, and will do so stepping out into the world, making sure I stay at home.  And I hear the clock ticking.  I will have to release him into the world hoping my mamma love has given him what is needed for strong flight.

It's hard doing this parenting thing.  Sometimes we hold on too tight.  Sometimes we push too hard.  We tug and pull in what seems like the right direction only to find out our nagging really just created a gap needing to be filled with Grace.  I think of my mistakes with Noah.  I am so glad in this snapshot of his life he has given me grace.  It reminds me we are held by a bigger Grace.

One particular moment of grace has marked me forever.  I was attending a retreat in a beautiful mountain setting.   It was the summer Noah was preparing to enter kindergarten.  He was so ready, yet he still struggled with one particular area at home that caused us concern.  During one of our retreat sessions I was paired with an older woman.  We were asked to share where we were trying to manage our lives through power over others verses the way of Jesus.  I shared with this dear woman my angst of trying to help my son through his struggle.  I wanted him to overcome the issue he was working on, but I also didn’t want him to feel shame and discouragement from me.  With great gentleness she looked me in the eyes, searching my face, my heart.  “I can tell you love this child,” she said.  “You don’t need to worry.  Love prevails.”
When I think of Noah, and especially of the mistakes I have made trying to be his mamma, I remember this.  I love this man child.  And his very existence reminds me that God loves me:  Our sweet Noah, born as the answer to years of praying for children.  I know that I must receive this time with him as gift.  The moments we get to share are passing.  And even though those moments are often noisy, they are opportunities for beauty.  I can wish away their noisiness, or I can rest my heart in their beauty, and enjoy each one.
I know it's not time for him to fly away, to make his own way in the world yet.  But already I can see him testing his wings.  He is the sweet child Tim and I received as our first son.  He is the first one we will also have to release to God's Grace.  I rest in knowing that Love prevails.  Our love, even in its human frailty, is enough to give him the beginning he needs.  And God's Love, is more than enough to hold him while he makes his way into becoming the man God created him to be.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Let Love Guide You . . . .

My sweet husband has just embarked on a new adventure as an elementary school principal.  We both know that God has put him in this position.  We also know that as much as it is a huge answer to years of praying, the blessing does not rest with Tim alone.  We know that God's purpose in this adventure moves through Tim to touch countless lives that will be affected by Tim's leadership. 

With the new position comes a new office.  A bare, stark white office.  One that needs some serious attention.  I don't know if he meant it, but Tim invited me to decorate.  I set to work making curtains, bulletin boards, a cover for his tissue box so that it would match.  But with all the effort, there was still one wall that was out of place.  A barren expanse of white-washed wall that sucked the life out of the room.  I told him I would make him a piece of art.

I knew I had to find a way to use the colors in his curtains.  I also knew whatever I created had to be something worth looking at everyday:  an inspiration, a mandate, a word of encouragement.  Here is what came to me:

The original idea didn't look very impressive.  Original ideas never do.  They have not yet had the process of engagement to flesh them out, to make them incarnate, to take what was simply thought and turn it into glorious reality.  The faint sketch barely resembles the outcome.  But the outline is there.  It is just waiting for the process of actualization to become all it is intended to be.

One of my dearest friends used to say to me, "The process is love; don't hinder the process."  As a young pastor in my first appointment I found her words so helpful.  So much happened during that time.  Some confusing things, conflicting things, difficult things.  Her words reminded me that our best answer to the questions we must live always begins with love.  God's love first.  Our love as we walk out His intensions for our lives.

When God began telling us He had plans for Tim, it was during one of the hardest seasons we had ever faced.  Tim knew that he was in a position where his skills and passions were being underutilized.  He ached for something more in life, yet every avenue to pursue that more seemed closed to him.  Into that season God sent this scripture:

"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."  Jeremiah 29:11

The King James Version states it like this:

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." 
Truly God has thought this thing through.  The thing that keeps you up at night.  The thing that looks so hopeless.  The thing that feels as if it will drain all the life right out of you.  God has thought it through and knows how He is going to bring you through it to resolution, to peace, to joy, to purpose.   God will not only infuse your present experience with purpose, He is working to bring you into your purpose, the thing He created you for.

When God gave this message to the Israelites, they were in exile.  False prophets all around kept saying God would immediately defeat their enemies and bring them home.  Not Jeremiah, who had God's truth.  Jeremiah told them they would not return home for 70 years.  Yet Jeremiah also brought the message that God had not forgotten about them, that God was intimately connected to what they were experiencing and that He was working on their behalf for good.  Real.  Tangible.  Good.  Something they could recognize as good. 

During those discouraging days it took everything within us to believe God was going to bring His Good back into our lives.  But sure enough He did.  I kept telling Tim, "I'll know it when I see it."  The day he walked in the door and told me he got the principal's job, I fell to my knees.  I knew I had just seen the Goodness of God walk into our lives.

Here is the truth:  While God was working out His plans for Tim, He was also working within Tim, making him ready for this day.  God was loving him into a new place, teaching him gently, giving him to new understanding, opening his heart, showing him what the process of love really looks like.  God was leading him with love into a new place so that he would know how to lead with love, taking those entrusted to his care to God's new place for them.

Here is what I know:  Loving God has to be first in our lives.  If anything else supersedes that, we are heading for heartache.  When we love God with everything we are, God is able to work unhindered in putting His plans into place for us.  And once we love God first, God is able to show us how to love everyone else.  Ourselves.  Our neighbor.  Everything else in our lives finds its proper place.  And all those plans and intentions and hopes and dreams God has for us begin taking shape.  So that one day we see God's Goodness walk right into our lives.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Walk By Faith

It's funny how life is.  How it is always changing.  Sometimes you never know when the changes are coming.  I am not opposed to change.  I actually kind of like it because it smells of adventure.  I like the exhilaration that comes with wide open possibilities. 
The thing is, new roads often mean leaving old places.  And faces.  This is where I get hung up.  It is not in me to leave.  I can move to the next place, but I can't leave.  And usually God has to close doors for me to understand that it is time to move. 
Sometimes those door closings are painful.  Something we would never choose.  And the road leading from the familiar is littered with snot-filled tissues as we walk away from what was, weeping. . .  limping.  I've been there.
Two years ago when God moved me out of campus ministry, that's what it was.  I could not see clearly the road ahead because of the tears.  Like Mary at the tomb on Easter morning, I could not see the Hope born of emptiness. 
Every time I sat in worship during that season of saying goodbye it seemed Jeremy Camp's song  "Walk By Faith" was on the play list:
Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me
I would weep and sing.  And pray.  And hope.  And trust.  Beyond feelings I trusted that God could bring something beautiful out of my heartache.
God's sense of humor in all of this is that He placed me in a pre-school.  (I say sense of humor because when I was brand new into ministry and barely 26 years old He placed me in ministry with senior adults and the elderly.)  For two years I have enjoyed the honor of teaching  little ones about Him.  In a place full of love, and humor, and grace.  A safe place where my broken heart could heal.  Where I could forget my heartache in the daily grace of teaching ABC's, 123's, and "Yes, Jesus Loves Me."  For each person I met in that sacred classroom, I have deep gratitude.  Each sweet lady who partnered with me in teaching has always been full of goodness, and each one taught me more than they taught our little charges.  I cherish these dear ladies. 
Last spring God led me to read a gardening book.  Sometimes I don't understand the nudges.  But I've learned it's always better to follow them.  Especially when I don't understand.  As I read, I began to sense that my life is the garden God is tending.  One passage in particular caught my attention:
"Cover crops.  To obliterate a really pernicious weed, plant a living mulch in the form of a cover crop that grows thick and heavy for one growing season.  Buckwheat works well for this purpose.  As soon as it begins to flower, I use a scythe to mow it down or till the plants into the soil as green manure.  If you mow it, compost what you cut down.  Make a second planting and then mow or till again.  By the end of the season, those weeds should be gone.  And as a bonus, there will be a lot more organic matter in your soil."  The Vegetable Gardener's Bible.  p. 99
I believe God was showing me that another season in my life was getting ready to come to an end.  A sweet season.  A buckwheat season.  Maybe not the thing that set my heart on fire, but a season with a purpose.  A season that was there to bring new life to my broken heart, maybe clear out some stubborn weeds like perfectionism and approval addiction that have been choking out the fruit in my ministry.  And maybe God was using this time of teaching preschool to replenish the worn out soil of my heart. 

Not long after, I began having dreams of being in ministry again.   I would wake up longing for those ministry moments that set my heart on fire.  And I became very restless.  My sweet husband prayed so diligently for me.  One night I told him that I felt like I was waiting for something, something to open up.  The next day he said to me he felt God asking me instead, "What are you waiting for?" 

Sometimes, instead of moving us out of an old place, God simply asks us to come to a new place.   He gives us an invitation to the unknown.  And we can stay in familiar.  No one is moving us out.  Or we can take a leap of faith.  I'm really bad at leaving.  But I am learning how to leap.

The new song on my play list is "Walk on the Water" by Britt Nicole.  When I heard it for the first time, I almost fell out of my chair.  Tim's words to me were so fresh on my heart:

So what are you waiting for
What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities try to alter you
You know you're made for more
So don't be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes and you can
Walk on the water too.

Here's the difference between this walk of faith and the last one; this one is more invitation.  It's not something that has been chosen for me.  Instead it is something I must choose.  God has been inviting me to go with Him.  I'm not exactly sure where I will end up.  I just know it's the right thing to do.  To open up space in my life where I can follow Him.  I feel like Abraham:  "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing'" (Genesis 12:1-2). 

My heart is healed.  My eyes are lifted up.  The limp is gone.  I can see the first few steps of the path before me.

Following God means I won't be teaching pre-school anymore.  I hate that.  I am so, so, so thankful for the Early Learning Center, and all it has given me.  But I also know that I can't put this off any longer.  I don't want to miss my opportunity--

to walk on the water too.