Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Expectation

Happy New Year!

I woke up this morning still carrying weight from 2018.  Yes, I know that life doesn't magically change from one moment before midnight to one moment after.

But, I also see the New Year as a fresh start - one where I can adjust my attitudes and perspective.  And I want to look at things differently this year.  I want to look at them through God's eyes.  And, I want to look at them through a lens of joy and confidence ( my words for the year).

The thing that weighed so much on me this morning is knowing that we have burned a bridge behind us.  It's hugely scary, especially since we haven't found where we are going to land yet.

But, I felt like God said to me, "Do you trust in ___________ or do you trust in me? (I left a blank there because some of this is still too personal and raw to insert specifics.  But, you too can fill in that blank with whatever is specific to your life).

We are now in a position where we will need to rely fully and completely on God.  There is no Plan B.  It is simply to trust Him.

And I suppose the opposite of dread (that feeling that follows me relentlessly and that I feel so often almost as soon as I wake in the morning) is Expectation.  Maybe that's what my word should have been for the year.  Perhaps the joy and confidence I seek are the result of expectation.

Expectation:  A belief that something will happen in the future  

In secular culture we are often warned not to set our expectations too high so that we won't be disappointed.

Or expectations are seen as a set of pre-suppositions that can hinder actual growth or relationships.  For instance, if we go into a marriage with expectations of what the other person should do or should be like, it can actually hurt the relationship.

But, it's also a word that is used a lot in our church recently....in a totally different context.  Expectation is seen as looking ahead, looking forward to God's goodness - knowing there are things in store for His people......  expecting to see Him work in and through our situations.

And, as I looked up the definition of expectation online I came across the 'archaic' definition, which is "one's prospect of inheritance".

Yes!  Now put that into spiritual terms.  We look ahead to , we long for our spiritual inheritance.  This is the object of our expectation.

And, how can I infuse expectation into my daily life?  I'm not sure.  But, I'm going to ask God to give me a spirit of expectation.

Perhaps one of those ways is to rewire our neural pathways (This was mentioned in Sunday's sermon at church).  My pathways have been so trained to go directly to negative thinking.  It's become a lifestyle for me.

In fact, this morning when I woke up I immediately felt the heaviness of that negative thinking.

But, by sitting down and fleshing out those thoughts in written form and reminding myself of what God is saying, I am strengthening new pathways.

Pathways to Expectation, Joy, and Confidence.


Monday, December 31, 2018

A Year in Review and Looking Ahead

What was your word for 2018 and what is your word for the coming year?




My word for 2018 was 'Stronger'. I began the year feeling as though I was on the path to being physically fit. And, I believed that the word 'Stronger' was going to reflect a growing physical strength (and mental strength as well).
As it turns out, 2018 was a year that put me face to face with my weaknesses. I fell off the bandwagon of physical fitness & gained back all the weight I'd worked to lose.
2018 was also a year of battling extreme mood swings - courtesy of peri-menopause and stress.
2018 was a year that I acknowledged that it was time to let go of some things as well. I hung up my hat as coordinator of a vintage market I'd done for the last 5 years. Also my husband and I made a pretty radical decision regarding his work...resulting in him leaving his job of the last 18 years at a family business. It was a hard and painful decision...one that we may be feeling the repercussions from for a long time. And, that has gutted me, left me feeling very vulnerable and tentative.
Despite all this....facing my weaknesses was actually a good thing. I was reminded that I can not grow stronger in my own strength. Willpower isn't enough. Determination isn't enough.
And, I've been forced to come face to face with why some things - lack of self-control in eating and over my emotions, fear, anxiety, need for control, and a tendency toward negative thinking - have become patterns in my life.
I don't have all the answers to getting victory in these areas. But, I know our entire life is a work in progress as God shapes us and molds us into who He has called us to be.
I hold fast to 2 Corinthians 12: 9 - 11. " “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."


So, in retrospect, I do believe the word 'Stronger' was appropriate for 2018 as I looked my weaknesses in the eye and came to rely more fully on the One who is my strength.

So, what is my word for 2019? I actually have two.
The first is 'Joy'. Somewhere along the way I have lost my joy. I've allowed circumstances and disappointments, and the mundane to weigh me down to the point where sometimes I dread the day as soon as I wake up. This is not how I want to live.
I want to rediscover laughter and hope and that feeling of expectation as I look to what's ahead.
The second is 'Confidence'. This is an area in which I have always struggled. And, I have allowed my lack of confidence to hold me back, to paralyze me. In fact, I wasn't sure if 'confidence' was actually the right word because I see 2019 as being a year of Doing, of making things happen.
I no longer want to sit back and wait for approval or the opinions of others before I move forward or choose to DO something. Yes, there are situations in life that will require the wise counsel of others, but I don't want to base all my decisions in life on what others will think. I want to be confident in the words I speak and the choices I make.
So there you have it....my words for 2019. Let's face this New Year with great expectation!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

What Do I Have to Offer?

What do I have to offer?

At the age of 48....no longer a fresh young thing.

No longer confident or strong.

Weak in my failings and my lack of motivation.

Overweight.  Brain under stimulated.

No idea what to do or how to do it.

The things I love and enjoy do not make money

At least not enough to garner respect.

I sometimes think I should be harder.

More ruthless.

Or at least more assertive....self assured.

I've always wanted to be special.

Special in some way that others recognized as well.

Don't we all love a superhero.

I want to be super at something.

Once I thought that was my ability with children.

Having my own humbled me.

Not as talented as I once thought I was.

But, I still felt as though I was finally fulfilling my purpose in some way.

Is there more?

More purpose?

Do I have more to offer?

Or am I done?

At our church they are often talking about destinies.

Our God ordained destinies.

Discovering our destiny.

And, it sometimes seems they are speaking to the young.

They are the ones with destiny.

What about us middle aged souls?

Do we still have destiny to discover?

Or are we a day late and a dollar short?

What if....

What if the things I longed for (a bigger house, more recognition as a writer... as a person, more standing in this world, more money, more fun, more....)

What if God is saying 'no' to those things and 'yes' to something I can't yet see.....something I can't understand.

What if God wants me to surrender my dreams.

All of it.

What if what I have to offer is my heart.

What if.

What if just offering God the little I have to give was enough.

What if my destiny is being small

Small for the glory of God.

I must become less.  He becomes more.

John said that.

And, I guess so do we all.

We are less

He is more.

It's so counter intuitive.

It goes against the grain of the American dream.

Work hard.  Strive.  And, strive some more.

Not that working hard is bad.

But, when we do it to fulfill ourselves...

we fill a bottomless pit,

impossible to satisfy.

But when we do it to serve God,

nothing is too small to bring glory to Him.

Our meager offerings,

our widow's mite

become a treasure

countless as the stars.

More brilliant,  more enticing,  more satisfying

than we can imagine.

What do I have to offer?

Not much.

But, it is His.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Silent Night

We just came home from our church's Christmas Eve service (it's actually the Eve of Christmas Eve, but they are offering services over the course of 2 evenings).  I really wanted to go, because I needed to feel the beauty of Christmas.  After the extreme stress of the last few months, I needed the peace of that special night of long ago.

I feel so guilty for saying it, but I came away disappointed from the service.  There was obviously so much time and effort and thought that went into the evening.  There was music and dance and videos and speakers and lights and....many people sacrificed a lot of time to plan and present the evening. 

But, it felt like a production.

And, that wasn't what I was craving tonight.  I was craving something quiet, reverent, peaceful, reflective.

To me Christmas is a time to shut out the noise and chaos of the world and of all the things that weigh on us.  It's a time to be still and remember that God came to us in the midst of the ordinary.  It's a time to remember when the glory of God was wrapped in the flesh of an infant.  To remember the tenderness and gentleness of a Savior who would come to us in the most vulnerable way possible.

And, I guess when I think of a Christmas Eve service, I think of voices raised in harmony (voices that we can hear above the roar of instruments, above the roar of this world) and soft lights flickering in the stillness. I think of a weary world that falls on its knees in adoration and awe.  I think of calm and the perfect peace that the Prince of Peace brings to us.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Serving


Sometimes serving God looks like sitting and praying even when the rooms seems empty.

Sometimes serving God looks like a smile at a stranger or a sincere thank you to the person checking you out at the grocery store.

Sometimes serving God looks like folding laundry and putting away the dishes.

Sometimes serving God is encouraging someone else when you yourself desperately need encouragement.

Sometimes serving God is looking at the beauty of the sky and all creation and really SEEING it...with a grateful and awestruck heart.

Sometimes serving God is taking that next breath, moving that next step, facing that next day trusting in His faithfulness and His promise to always be near.

Sometimes serving God is choosing a gentle response when a harsh answer is what comes to mind.

Sometimes serving God is examining our own heart and recognizing our need for His.

Sometimes serving God is messy or mundane or hard.  Sometimes it seems ridiculous or doesn't seem to make any difference.  Sometimes.

But always He sees.  Always He knows.  Always He is here

Always.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

What Is True?

My last post was a bit depressing.  I was in a dark place for a few days after what seemed like tragedy after tragedy. 

And I think it's ok to allow ourselves some time to experience those emotions and questions that come with them.  It takes time to process and wrestle and dig deep. 

But, I knew I couldn't stay there.  I was just having a hard time pulling myself out of it.  And, as I wrote in my last post, all I could do was trust.  Trust God that He still held us all tenderly in His hand. 

Sometimes when I find myself in a place of despair and utter helplessness, I'm also unable to pray with any real clarity or eloquence.  And I just repeat the words, "I trust You.", even as I'm waiting for my heart to catch up with the words.

My friend Joy's husband said something the other night when they stopped to visit that helped to shift my perspective from darkness to light.  (Joy is my friend who suddenly lost her father last week). 

Joy & Derrick and their children were out of town when they got the news about Joy's Dad.  They were in the midst of doing a show with many other vendors.  They told us about how both other vendors they knew and strangers alike came together to support them, offer them help, do little things to make their day easier.  They were far from home, but people - some they didn't even know well or at all - wrapped them in love. 

They also talked about how they could physically feel the prayers of family and friends surrounding them.  And how the peace that passes all understanding graciously settled on them in this incredibly difficult time.

But, here's what Derrick said that really shifted the tide for me.  He said (and I'm paraphrasing/ adding my own interpretation a bit), that we read in the newspaper all the time about anger and hate and war and the terrible things that people do to each other.  If we were to believe the news we would believe that's all there is, that the world is full of hate. 

But, he went on to say, that's not the truth.  The truth is there is so much goodness and love out there.  When the rubber meets the road, people come together and pour into each other.  The truth is love. 

Now I know that this concept that good still outweighs evil in this world is one we've heard before.  But something about darkness not being the truth really resonated with me. 

When I've been confused or feeling hopeless, this concept of focusing on what is True keeps coming back at me. 

Darkness and death and hopelessness and despair and fear and anger all come from the father of lies. 

But, the Author of Life writes the Truth on our hearts.  And the Truth is Light, Life, Hope, Joy, Peace. Love. 

The enemy would love nothing more than for us to believe his lies.  But, as believers, the Spirit of Truth lives inside us.  The light cannot be hidden.

So, after several days of wrestling through the darkness, I am reminded and challenged to ask myself, "But what is True?" 

And now the Truth is what I will choose to focus on.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 


Monday, October 29, 2018

When It's All Too Much

It seems I only get on here anymore to write when I've got something weighing heavy on my mind and my heart.

Today there is so much weighing on me.  It's been an emotional couple of months and this past week was even more emotional.

My husband and I have been praying and praying...for years actually...about where God wants us.  We kept feeling that God was leading us into some sort of change.  And, over the last several months that has really intensified.

We thought God had given us a certain direction.  But this week we hit such a roadblock that we questioned whether we had really been hearing God at all or if we totally misunderstood him.

That was enough to knock me back pretty hard.  This question of whether or not I can hear God...and hear him clearly has been pummeling me over and over.

 Another area that has had me questioning this is that our church is currently in the middle of a very large building project.  When the project was presented before the church and the eventual vote took place...John and I felt very strongly that this was not the best way to use the resources God had given our church.

We thought they would be better used directly in the community for outreach or in planting new churches.  But we were in the minority....the very small minority.  96% of the church voted in favor of the project.

And, it came like a blow to me that in all the prayer and seeking God that I did, I heard something totally different than everyone else.

These two issues alone - wrestling with whether or not we truly heard from God in our church life and our personal life has been wearing me down.

But, then this week hit.  First, it was the roadblock I mentioned.  Then we got the sudden, tragic news that the father of a close friend of ours died in a farming accident.  He was such a sweet man and felt like extended family to us that it came as a serious blow.

That same day an apartment complex in our community burned displacing 14 residents - 5 of whom were adults with mental delays.

The next day there was a horrific multi car crash involving an erratic driver (cause still not known - may have been a medical emergency).  One of the cars that was hit had 3 local high school students in it...all severely injured.  One passed away at the hospital later that afternoon as they were trying to save his life during surgery.  Another girl passed away early Sunday morning.  The third boy appears to be recovering....although he doesn't remember what happened and doesn't know that his friends are gone.

It has completely rocked our community.

And then also the news of the shooting in Pittsburgh where 11 innocent people....members of a Jewish synagogue were killed during their Shabbat services by a man filled with blind hatred.

And, it's too much.  It's too much all at once.  I can't even think or feel clearly right now.  While the tragedy that struck closest to home involves my friend's father, they have all affected me deeply.

It also makes me think of how this is still just a small sample of the suffering of humanity worldwide.  The number of tragedies that happen across this globe in just a day is staggering.  The number of people who are mourning, grieving, and in emotional turmoil is beyond the scope of what I can ever understand.

And God feels far away right now.

We sang a song in church on Sunday...and I don't remember singing it before or hearing it before.  I looked it up just now because the lyrics were so appropriate.

"Do It Again"
Walking around these walls
I thought by now they'd fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle's won
For You have never failed me yet
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You've never failed me yet
I know the night won't last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again
Jesus, You're still enough
Keep me within Your love
My heart will sing Your praise again
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet.
I've seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I'll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I'll see You do it again

I sang the words, but my heart is struggling to believe the truths in them.

But, what else can I do?

I can't give in to despair and fear.

I have to believe....I DO believe that God still holds us tenderly in his hand.

The darkness tries to hide the light.

Oh and how it sometimes seems to succeed.

At times like this all I can do is trust.

I don't understand.  I don't.

But, I will trust.


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