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.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What Does It Mean to Follow Jesus?



What does it mean to follow Jesus?

What does it mean in our daily life?

What does it mean in our finances?  in our relationships?  in our jobs?  in our business dealings?  in our relationships with other Christians?

What does it mean?

Like really mean?

Oh my goodness.  One hundred pat answers come to mind.

Forget all that!

What does it MEAN to lay everything we love and cherish and desire aside to follow HIM.

What does that mean?

Will we always be happy?  Will we always be comfortable?  Will we always be secure?

What does His Faithfulness, His Power, His Mercy, His Love look like?

Does it look like rich pastors flying in jets?

Or does it look like something else?

Does it look like messy, gritty, grimy stuff?

Does it sometimes look like pain?  and doubt?  and struggle?

Does following Jesus mean we are exempt from the weariness of this world?

Or does it mean that we are  prime targets?

Jesus sure garnered praise until he garnered death.

Why are we so selfish?/

Why are we so convinced it's all about us?

Oh, hear me.  I KNOW He loves me.  He gave SO much for me.

But was it so that I could be comfortable, untouchable?  Or was it so I could let others know how deeply THEY are loved as well?

What is my role?

Doesn't it tie intrinsically into what it means to follow Jesus?

Who were His followers when he was  here on earth?  They didn't have much.

And yet.  And yet!  He used them to advance the Kingdom of God

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Dear Jesus, I want to know!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Weight

How do I put into words the things that are weighing me down?

Time.  Time moves so fast.  The children grow. We continue to age.  Large blocks of time that we thought would yield certain results become a distant memory faster than we can breathe.  

I feel surrounded by chaos.  I crave simplicity. Peace. Quiet.  

I crave special moments with my children.    A house the exudes restfullness.

I don’t want to be cranky, easily irritated.  I want to be present. I want to be effective.  I want to be important.

I want my thoughts, my ideas, my contributions to matter.  

I feel like money is the societal measure of success & worth.  If that’s the case, then my worth is minimal. What I do, what I contribute to this world doesn’t involve making large amounts of money.

It involves refereeing a thousand arguments and angry words - while trying to reign in my own anger.  Hoping, hoping that in my own frailty & failures I’m cultivating spirits of compassion within my children.  That I will raise men who care, who love, who share themselves wholeheartedly.

But, sometimes it just feels like picking up trash that’s carelessly tossed aside, wiping countless smudges of peanut butter, shutting endless cupboard doors left hanging open…..always looking around at the clutter surrounding me knowing it’s not my own, yet knowing somehow it reflects on me.  My failure to teach, to guide, to model.

I feel unable to gain my footing.  Change comes at me faster & faster.  Changes as my family grows. Changes in the world around me.  Changes in the physical landscape of my community. And, each change knocks me a bit.  I feel buffeted continuously with change.

So yeah, things weigh on me.  Things I can hardly even put into words.  It takes the creative to understand the creative.  So, my vague words make no sense to the ones who surround me….the practical, logical, functional ones.  

But perhaps my words resonate with a few.

Monday, April 30, 2018

God's Love Is Not Chaotic

Those of you who know me know that I have a love/hate relationship with modern worship music.  Actually, hate is too strong a word.  Perhaps it would be better to say that I am wary of some things I see in current trends.

For the most part I am grateful for so much of the music that has come out in the last couple decades.  I know that a desire to worship God fully & wholeheartedly is at the core of these songs.

But, every now and then, there is a song where I question the songwriter's choice of words.  As someone who enjoys writing, words are incredibly important to me.  Words carry so much meaning, and yet I know we can also feel limited by words to fully express what we want to say.

And, I think that is the case in some of these songs that I question.  We are limited by our human tongues to adequately express concepts about God that are so mysterious, so incredible, so soul shaking.  Songwriters, just as any writer, have to choose a word that partially describes the indescribable.

So, I totally get that.  I do.  But, I also sometimes wish the songwriters would use a bit more caution in the words they choose.  Because sometimes the words or phrases they end up using could have negative connotations for many of us.   I could even argue that sometimes they are not biblical.  But, I will leave that for the theologians.


Such is the case for me in the song, "You're the One That Really Matters".  As a whole, I like this song.  (I do get tired of repeating the same line over and over, but that's another topic for a different post)  But there is a line in this song that I cannot sing.  And, I try really hard not to let it bother me, to accept that the songwriter's choice here just doesn't resonate with me.  But, it's more than just not being able to relate to the line, it's that I'm disturbed by the line.

That line is "Chaotic love has messed me up again."  Taken out of context, one might assume that the author is talking about a destructive, unhealthy worldly 'love' here.  But, it's not.  This line is attempting to describe God's love.
(Correction/ Addendum:  After reading over my post a couple times, I realized I did not quote the line in its entirety.  For the sake of fairness, the full line should read "Chaotic love has messed me up so I can live again.")
As someone who has a past of extremely destructive, unhealthy, chaotic relationships, this line does indeed have a negative connotation for me.  I lived many years chasing after 'love' that messed me up and left me broken and ashamed.  I lived many years  where the 'love' I pursued created chaos in my heart, my mind, and my soul.

So, this is the last possible way I would choose to describe God's love.  God has brought order to my chaos, healing to my messed up places.

I would describe God's love as unfathomable, fierce, powerful, life altering, but I wouldn't describe it as chaotic.

Yes, God does often call us out of our comfort zones.  God does often take us places that require personal sacrifice. God's plans for our lives are often so different than our own.  But there is always a beautiful, ultimate plan of order and peace behind it all.

God takes our shattered pieces - our messed up thoughts & atititudes - and He sets them right.  He redeems.  He restores.  He brings order to the chaos.  He is the One who calms the storm.

As we were singing this song on Sunday, I felt like there might be others who struggled in the same way with this line.  I thought about going to the front during worship & sharing my reflections on that line as an encouragement to those who are so desperate for peace & order.  I decided against doing that.  So, I wrote this post instead.

If you are feeling caught in chaos & disorder, I will leave you with God's Word.....

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33





Monday, April 2, 2018

Dreaming


|t is Easter Sunday.  We have been spending an extended weekend with my husband's family at a rented house on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  The house itself is large & roomy with a wall of windows that overlook the lake that is just steps away.  It has been a serene & gorgeous atmosphere for us to unwind and to connect.



The Finger Lakes region is one of our favorite places to visit.  We first discovered it on a trip in 2010 with friends for my 40th birthday.....and fell in love.  We have stayed on both Seneca Lake & Keuka Lake.  We have done anniversary getaways - just John & I.  We have done trips as a couple with other couples.  We have done trips with family -  we've now been here with both my family & John's family over Easter weekend.  I did a girl's trip one year with girlfriends of mine & John has been on a guy's trip for his brother's bachelor weekend.

The absolute best way to experience the Finger Lakes is to rent a house...preferably lakeside.  It gives the feel of being at home away from home.  When we came the first time, the Finger Lakes were just starting to gain notoriety as a great tourist destination.  The beautiful sweeping landscapes dotted with vineyards & farmland, the gorgeous lakes & quaint towns that sit at the ends of each, and the wine trails have all been pulling more & more people to visit.  It started out as a very affordable vacation.....now though it takes more searching each year to find affordable options for our stays.

We have played with the idea over the years of buying into the real estate here.  Our ideas have ranged from buying a lake house to enjoy as a vacation home & rent out in between.... to buying a permanent residence...perhaps a farm that sits between the lakes and carving out a life in this area we've grown to love.

The major factor that has always held us back is the money....the feasibility of making something like that happen.  We're not exactly 'vacation home people'.  In fact, we are pretty low on the financial pole.  Our actual home is very small, kind of dilapidated, and the idea of fixing our own home up.....much less buying a vacation property.....is out of our current range of economic possibility.  And yes, perhaps if we had forgone our years of taking vacations and getaways & saved that money instead we'd be in a different financial position now.  But, we've never been extravagant the way some people understand extravagant....and the time spent away has been priceless & had created memories that are well worth the money we've spent).

All this to say, every time we come here, we get that same itch to consider what could be.  Could we move here?  Could we make this our home?  This is always met with obstacles...so many obstacles.  For one, I am a creature of habit.  Change is a four letter word for me.  My roots run deep, deep, deep where we are.  And, it's hard to imagine putting down roots somewhere new.   Also, despite the booming tourist trade in the Finger Lakes, it is primarily based in the wine trade.  Overall this is still a fairly financially depressed area.  There's not much in terms of business or trade.  And, what exactly would John & I do to earn our living here?  The land (between the lakes...not lakeside) is definitely more affordable than where we are now.  But, we would still have to find a way to pay for it, to continue to support ourselves.

John & I went for a drive today.  I have been watching properties in this area on Zillow.  My sister in law & I drove past a couple of them yesterday as we were out and about.  And, one area in particular captured my heart even more.  I wanted to show it to John today.

Keuka Lake forms a Y.  The land that sits in the between that Y is secluded & incredibly beautiful.  It's away from the main wine trail route....yet it hosts a multitude of vineyards.  This is where they grow so many of the grapes that are used by the wineries in the area.  It also hosts a state park and dead end roads.  In other words, the people who come here....for the most part...are the people who live here.  It's private...a hidden treasure.  And, the area is breathtaking.

There was a property there for sale that we drove past.  It sits high on a bluff, surrounded by vineyards, and has a peek-a-boo view of the lake.  The house itself is a bit odd.  While the original part of the house is apparently from the 1800s, it has had multiple weird additions over the years that make it long and narrow, and it's covered in siding from (I'm guessing) the 80s.

But, it's what surrounds that property that draws me in.  I could allow my children to ride their bikes anywhere without  fear of traffic...there is very little if any.  We would have privacy (which equals peace to me).  It's quiet & the air is so fresh & clean.  The pressures of the outside world seem so far, far away.

It's not perfect, but it could be amazing.

So, is this just a case of 'the grass is always greener'?  Or could it truly be a chance for a fresh start?  For finding that something that my heart longs for?  Is that 'something' even possible on this side of heaven?  I struggle and struggle and struggle with that question.

I also struggle with the question, "Is is wrong to dream?"  I know we are called to be content in whatever our current location or circumstance is.  There is peace & joy that transcends anything that a change in either could produce.

But....is it wrong to dream?

When I was young and passionate, dreams are what kept me going.  The hope for something new & exciting.  The hope for more.  For opportunities.  For an unknown future.

Somewhere along the line I replaced those dreams with fear, with responsibility, with settling for what I had. 

Listen.  Part of that is maturity and growing.....and the very real aspect of responsibility and reality.

But is there any room yet for the girl who dreamed?  The girl who saw possibilities?

Is it ok for a Christian to dream?  To dream about things that aren't necessarily tied to anything spiritual?  Ah.  There is where I struggle again.  I don't know.  I don't know if these kinds of things distract us from what God would have us do.  Or, if they are a road sign pointing us in the direction He would have us head.

And, then there's also the fact that when we return home, the familiar wraps around me like a secure, warm blanket.   And, those dreams that stirred me just days earlier now seem foreign and scary and not nearly as appealing.

All I know is that it feels like something new needs to happen.  I'm not sure what it is or what form it will take.  But, my soul cries out for something fresh & vibrant to breath life into me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Under Attack

We have been going through a season where I feel like myself and my family are under attack.  Not a physical, earthly attack per se - although there are aspects of the physical & earthly taking place.  No, it is a spiritual attack that is trying to tear us down.  We can't seem to catch a break and the punches keep coming in the form of....

 - An exceedingly difficult winter in terms of sickness.  We've all be sick multiple times this winter & it has worn us all down.  Every time we think we are in the clear, someone else becomes sick.  (As I write this, my oldest is on the couch home from school because he is ill).

 - An exceedingly difficult winter in terms of seasonal depression.  This is mostly my issue.  I always struggle with depression in the winter.  But, this winter it's been severe and relentless.

 - Stresses at work.  This one has been huge for John.  And, it goes beyond your typical day to day work stresses.  There has been an environment of hostility and betrayal building at his job that is beyond my understanding.  John is usually pretty even keeled in his emotions.  I'm the emotional one.  He's the rational one.  He approaches problems by trying to find solutions - not allowing himself to be frustrated by them.  But, the situations at his work place have taken their toll on him.  I've never seen him as discouraged, frustrated, and depressed as he is now.  And, that carries over to our family.  As his wife, I hate to see him this way.  I also tend to absorb the emotions of others.  So, when he's hurting, I'm hurting.

 - Financial struggles - We are always able to pay our bills.  And, for this I'm so grateful.  But, lately it feels like we are treading water, trying to keep our heads from going under.  And, with all the other stresses, it feels even more burdensome.

 - Questions about my future - I'm trying to decide whether to move forward in my business & my role in coordinating vintage markets.  It has taken a lot of my time and I've seen very little benefit.  I become very stressed over it & this too affects my family.

 - Questions about the church/faith - I've never been so personally close to God & so disillusioned with the Church.  That sounds counter-intuitive.  And, I suppose it is.  I've been pressing in to God - pursuing Him and His plans & purposes.  I feel like I'm hearing His voice - and then I see things in the Church (both local and as a whole) that leave me wondering if any of us can truly hear Him.  How can we all claim to hear from God & hear such different things?

Overall, our lives are good.  We are fed and warm and healthy in the largest sense (barring our winter illnesses).  We have family & friends who love us.  We live in relative comfort and safety.

But, these other things add up  - making life seem so heavy.  And, I start to wonder....Is this a spiritual attack?  Or is it God allowing us to experience some of these things as a season of refining and sanctification?

I'm not sure how to tell the difference.  I doubt my ability to discern correctly.  So, I am doing all that I know to do.  I'm reading his word.  I'm praying.  I keep asking and asking and asking....hoping that I'll hear Him clearly and without any room for doubt.

I keep coming across these preachers & speakers who talk about seeing angels, hearing audibly from God, or having visions as though they are normal, everyday things.  And, listening to the nonchalant way in which they talk about it, I want to call their bluff.  Because I know that if I heard right now from God in such a powerful, tangible, awe-inspiring way my tone would be anything but nonchalant.

And, I don't know that those are the types of experiences God is asking me to seek.  I believe God speaks to us on a daily basis - but I also believe we often have to look hard  & pay attention to see it.  He saves those parting the clouds moments for rare occasions.

And, while I don't expect a physical parting of the skies, I'd love for him to part the clouds in my heart & my soul right now and shine a little light into a place that feels rather dark.
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