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Colors

Joining others in thanks

 

I’ve called her Firefly. My oldest daughter with her artistic bent and her sometimes intense emotions. Her eyes twinkle and her dimples appear and she entrances me in her light. But just as quickly, her light flickers and her face and heart are suddenly dark and brooding. Sometimes, I think she is art embodied.

 

 

And I have a confession to make. These Thankful Mondays? They’re wonderful and all, but I have not been living the thanks. My ingratitude colors my days much, much more than the gratitude has. Mondays come, and I reflect on His gifts to me, try to develop an eye for Jesus, but the gratitude has been more like quick, Polaroid snapshots in my life.

 

Today, I am grieved over the ways I’ve allowed my heart and mind to dwell on what I’ve perceived as the Hand behind His back.

 

Yesterday came and because of sickness in our friends’ household, our normal Sunday church small group routine was changed. We were still able to meet, but the children would be at our house instead of our friends’, and Firefly’s little girlfriends would not be coming.

 

Enter 3-year-old, little girl heartbreak. Bitter disappointment.

 

She cried.

 

And then she got angry.

 

Disrespect toward me entered her tone of voice and she lashed out at me in anger.

 

But I saw her, trying to fight back those disappointed tears, trying to hide them behind her little-girl-fury.

 

Over the course of a couple of weeks, the Lord has been showing me how to better parent this emotional child. I’ve (finally) learned that the anger is her defense. It is her coping. Does it excuse her behavior? Uh, that would be a *big* no. But thankfully, the One who teaches me is slowing giving me insight into how this little girl of mine chooses to paint with whatever colors life throws at her. Hopefully, this insight will help me teach her how to better handle life’s disappointments, and consequently, her emotions.

 

But simultaneously, as my heart achingly watched my beautiful girl lash out in anger as she choked back tears of disappointment, I saw myself.

 

The ingratitude, the disappointment, the things in life not happening the way I’ve wanted them, or expected them, or life not happening in my own swift timing . . . these things show up in my crankiness. My seeking for more. For something else. My anxiety. My insecurities.

 

Ah, yes, my paint-choosings.

 

My lack of trust and gratefulness colors my world in ugly brushstrokes of black, dark greens, and browns.

 

And these Mondays help me brush some different colors. My Monday afternoons are cheerier. Yellows, reds, and purples.

 

 

But I want my whole life to be full of the beautiful brushstrokes of thanks and trust. The living in grace and truth.

 

It takes time to paint a masterpiece. It takes a Master. I’m asking Him to use His brush. Chisel, if need be.

 

I do, indeed, have so very much for which to be thankful. Eternally grateful. But for today . . .

 

just . . .

 

#302 that I can go to Him, confess what He already knows, and it’s like a blank canvas. again. and again.

 

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Tucked in the Cleft

I have hinted in previous posts about our family’s current state of limbo. I am not trying to be vague, but rather, quiet, as we seek the Lord for our lives, in basically, every aspect of our lives. We sense Him leading, calling us out of something, to something, but we don’t know where, or how, or what.

 

I’m sure you’ve been there too? Personally, I feel a bit like we’re treading water in the middle of a huge lake and can’t see what direction to swim because of the dense, dark fog. For all we know, we could be right next to the shoreline and not even know it. It feels like He is purposefully keeping us in the middle of the lake. Right now? He’s apparently calling us to wait. And I know He can be trusted and that He has a plan, but honestly, I’m ready for the fog to lift, or a confirmed direction to begin some progressive strokes.

 

I needed to hear these words again today, which I heard here at (in)courage (by Ann Voskamp):

 

Is that it? When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in the cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand? In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent…. But maybe this is true reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by…. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake. Then He will remove His hand. Then we will look.

Then we look back and see His back.


 

 

Oh, I needed these words today. Because isn’t this just what I asked of Him? That He would not send us somewhere that He has not already gone before?

 

May we be in His shadow.

Like Moses,

I want to see His back.

Hungering

It’s not really early morning here, but the girls are still sleeping (!!!) and I sit to myself for a quiet few moments. I wake up, hungry. I never really realized what a gift hunger can be until this week when sickness again emerged and my lack of appetite kept me from eating and my lack of eating left me lifeless. The baby sat on my hip, feeling two times heavier, and merely standing wore me out.

 

But if I just could have eaten….

 

How often do I do that to myself in other areas of life? Do I dull hungers, longings, dreams until I’m a shell of the person God made me to be? I’m away from His Word for days on end, and I don’t even crave it anymore. Or Him. I try to deaden God-given passions – maybe even needs – but they only manifest in other not-so-God-given ways. My apathy and fear halt me from the running after, and leave me sitting, lifeless and bored, mindlessly groping for something to bring breath.

 

Sometimes, you have to train yourself to hunger again.

 

This morning, I’m eager for breakfast. And I’m thankful.

 

And my physical hunger compels me to peer into soul’s dark, hidden corridors, looking for vaults that need the exhaled Breath of the Forever Light.

 

He awakens me….

 

We speak words . . . truth . . . and like a candle in the darkness, shine it into the forgotten and dulled.

 

The light shines through the darkness, and darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:5

 

And I offer thanks.

 

 

#256 little red finch-like birds flitting on my front steps . . . the curiosity to learn of them

#257 to live in a community where the singing of birds can actually wake. you. up.

#258 the way the girls love their daddy

#259 phone calls from Dad, just checking up on me

#260 to make it through another round of a stomach bug

#261 a warm, fresh from the oven baked potato

#262 that Dove suddenly *loves* books

#263 Goodnight Moon

#264 even for “Happy Birthday, Big Bird!”

#265 finishing the Old Testament

#266 Starting the New!

#267 being indoors, being sick, making me realize that I need to get the girls *out* of doors more often

#268 U2 and little girls’ dancing in their car seats

#269 HGTV

#270 exciting music possibilities

#271 the way she puts a curve on her “R”

#272 realizing a bit more of my role in Firefly’s little life . . . that I’ve been going about it an unneeded way . . . hope

#273  hunger

#274 a full meal

#275 running into friends at a park! in the middle of February

#276 that because He has made it so, my words, my prayers hold weight

#277 His strength for the waiting

#278 black and white photos of Dove’s little face

#279 that our passions, our longings, are from Him . . . that we can lean into them and find Him in our lives

#280 to watch him

#281 that I don’t want to stop counting….

 

Joining others in soul-awakening thanks

Good Reason

Isn’t it true that some days it seems that every which way you turn, bad news awaits? Sometimes, the ripple effects of the Garden’s sin-splash enter our life’s spheres from every side . . . and the undertow seems enough to almost pull you under.

 

Yesterday was one of those days. Our little household is floating along life’s currents just fine for the moment, but it seems like just about everyone we know and love is struggling to keep their heads above water. Our hearts ache. You know that ache? The one where you pray hard, and throw out what little lifelines you can, but really, your hands are tied and only God can move and do the rescuing?

 

And even though it feels different and you feel helpless, nothing’s really changed from the good times to the bad. God is the same. We’re powerless in any sense of control all the time, not just when it feels like it. I think it just hurts more when you’re stuck on the shoreline, watching others struggle for footing and lung-filling breath between life’s waves.

 

How do we come alongside others in their suffering? Do we shake our fists at God in His seeming unfairness? Do we ignore their pain so that we are not brought down low as well?

 

I think on words, spoken by others who have struggled for that air and found it:

 

I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks . . . [for] all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.

~~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

 

 

Maybe when others are struggling for air, we breathe deep, and look for the joy – the beauty – that a good God is sure to bring. Look for the Rescuer. Pray for the Rescuer. Maybe thenwe motion hope from the shoreline.

 

And I think on words from our Pastor and I can’t quote, but the idea has been a healing balm . . .

 

As Christians in this world, we are never fully content because we were not made for this world. We were not made for the heartache, the death, the disease, the waiting. We were made for another world.

But, neither our we ever completely without joy because we have hope in a God who is making all things right. We have hope in what is to come. We are never fully content, but neither are we ever completely without hope and joy.

~~Joe Novenson, paraphrase (and probably a bad one)

 

 

The in-between. The here and now.

 

Today I am singing a song that, I think, captured this idea.

 

 

we were pressed on every side
full of fear and troubled thoughts
for good reason we carried heavy hearts

it is good to come together
in our friendship to remember
all the reasons hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

now with patience in our suffering
perseverance in our prayers
with good reason this hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

oh we saw the face of Angels
many good things well secured
for good reason this joy is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

for good reason joy is in our hearts

~~ Sara Groves, from Fireflies and Songs

 

So, we are pressed. But there is good reason.

 

Joy.

Hope.

Christ.

 

Questions at the Keyboard

It was 52 degrees yesterday and the sun was shining in all its blue sky. The girls and I had a fairly quick errand to run, but after the better part of two weeks spent indoors, I needed just a few more breaths of that fresh air. Instead of steering the car up the mountain curves, I made an impromptu, hard left turn and drove to a local playground. We frolicked and played for all of about 20 minutes in the usually elusive, but actually present, mid-January sunshine. And it was heavenly, I tell you, simply heavenly.

 

As yesterday’s glum mood lifted, my heart also sank a bit as I thought back to my recent mood and how it has presented in my recent blog postings. Why have I been so downcast? And while I want to be an Upside Down Blogger, what is the balance between being too real, too vulnerable, too sappy, too much of a downer, and still being a blessing to others? I wanted to delete a few posts. Maybe all of them.

 

And yet God gives so much grace. In this space, where I so want to be used for His glory and be a blessing to others, He calls me to be vulnerable and real. It makes me blush and I am humbled . . . I am the one who is blessed. A few emails. A friend bringing over a pot of soup. Flashing texts sent from friends and family, checking in on us. Even my daughters reaching out in forgiveness after I’d snapped too harshly. In my wallowing, whiney moments, grace upon grace. You know who you are. Thank you.

 

But what is the balance? How do you write of your life, your moments, your struggles when it involves others’ lives as well? How are you honest about parenting struggles while honoring details and struggles of just-sprouting little lives placed in your care? How are you honest about marriage battles while respecting your spouse and the sacredness of marriage? And on the flip side, how do you talk about the good gifts of life without sounding like you’re bragging or trying to rub something in someone’s face? This is where honest blogging, and really community in general, gets sticky.

 

Any wisdom anyone?

 

So, dear readers (and Heavenly Father), please forgive me for the meandering through. Thank you for the grace.

 

You shine light.

Stars

Our bed covers snuggle me in warmth and I hear my husband softly breathing beside me. My eyes stare into the darkness of the night. Outside, our little world is sleepy in its own blanket of fallen snow. All is still, but my mind is racing. So many doubts and fears give rise in the dark.

 

The day plays back in my head and I wonder what He is up to? What is He doing with us?  Why am I here? Where is He taking us? Major life decisions arise on our road and the possibilities are exciting . . . and terrifying. But He didn’t call us to a life of clarity, predictable comfort or safe security. He draws us close in the uncertain and unsettling places in life, that we might realize that He is the only Comfort we seek.

 

He holds me tight then, and invites me to trust. He is enough.

 

Yesterday morning, I woke up singing a song from my pre-teen years, I believe first sung by DC Talk, I Wanna Be in the Light. How’s that for a blast from the past?! 🙂

 

It ran through my head all day, which, I’m sure was probably getting on my husband’s nerves, since we were all stuck in the house because of snowy/icy roads! I could only remember a few words:

 

I wanna be in the Light, as You are in the Light

I wanna Shine like the Stars in the Heavens

Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation

‘Cause all I want is to be in the Light

All I want is to be in the Light

 

Firefly and I were in the bathroom later in the day, brushing her teeth and hair as I was singing and dancing (I use this “dancing” word loosely) to this song.

 

She stopped me still.

 

“Mama, why does she wanna shine like the stars?” she asked, her signature inquisitive look on her face (Since I’ve subjected her to hour upon hour of Sara Groves, I think she believes that all singers are female….)

 

I held my breath. I think I could sense something Big here.

 

“Well,” I began, “she wants Jesus to shine in her and in her life,” I stumbled for words.

 

Excitement bubbled over, my little Firefly lighting up.

 

I wanna shine like the stars!!!!!!?” Her tone full of the demand of a three-year-old’s  “I wanna!”, but with the lilt of a “can I?” by the time she reached the word stars.

 

“You do? Well, you can! When Jesus is in our hearts, He can make us shine….” I tried to explain.

 

She nodded her head at me in all her exuberance, eyes alight.

 

I hesitated. She doesn’t understand, I told myself. She’s too young. But I continued anyway, hesitant.

 

“You can ask Jesus in your heart and He can make you shine. Do you . . . want to ask Jesus in your heart?”

 

She nodded fast.

 

I smiled. I still hesitated.

 

“Do you . . . want to pray together? We can pray to Him and ask Him to come into your heart….”

 

This is where I expected the conversation to end, because often, I ask her if she wants to ask God anything and she always says, “No, you ask.” She seems to be much more comfortable thanking Him for the little somethings she treasures in her day. But this time she answered with a yes.

 

So I took her little hands in mine and she prayed after me, asking Jesus to come into her heart and life. Right there in the middle of our peachy-flowered, wall-papered, linoleum-floored bathroom.

 

And we went to tell her daddy.

 

It hit me as we were sharing the news. I didn’t mention a word to her about sin. Nothing about Him washing us clean. Nothing. What was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking. I was so caught up in His light shining up her dark spaces that I forgot about the dark spaces altogether. I wonder if I messed up this precious moment. But maybe focusing on His light, his work, his Otherness, is all we need to realize our deepest need for Him.

 

He lovingly challenges me later.

 

Do you really think that you could possibly “mess up” my plans for you or your children? Mine? Me, the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the Galaxies? In me is pure light . . . I give chase to the dark doubts and fear that visit you in the night. One little flicker of Me in your daughter’s heart is more than enough. I will always finish what I’ve begun.

 

I rest in knowing that He is already there, on our bends in the road. I know that He always has and always will have my Firefly’s little heart in His hands.

 

He calls me up to simply lean on His Everlasting Arms. Invites me to cling to Him. Dares me to trust.

 

I curl up on the couch, blanket over me, sipping hot cocoa. I lose myself in a book that I’ve picked up again and again over the years. Strong Women, Soft Hearts, by Paula Rinehart (I heartily recommend this book as a must-read for every woman). My mind settles on her words as I remember Firefly’s “I wanna!” and coinciding “can I?”…

 

Between your longings and the demand for their fulfillment is a place as real as any in the tangible world. But it is uncharted and uniquely tailored to your own personal story. You will only know you are there when you feel a little on the edge of your chair — and strangely at peace. Getting there, sometimes, feels like a miracle itself.

It is the place of trust.

Trust hangs somewhere between knowing what your heart longs for and trying to dictate the shape or timing or outcome of your heart’s desire. It lies in the willingness to accept the particulars of how and when and where God chooses to intervene. It waits in the cool shade of surrender.

 

I trust that He is all and in all. For me. For us. For our children.

 

We drop anchor in the goodness of God. ~Paula Rinehart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beckoning

He calls me and beckons me to come.

 

Come nestle under His wings.

 

For He will cover you with His feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge. Psalm 91:4a

 

Like a young toddler wrestles sleep, I struggle against His rest.

 

My husband would rather I let the dishes crust, let the laundry wrinkle, and let the crumbs sit awhile, if it would simply mean that I would have more of me to give him. And I wonder if in all my meager attempts to live for Jesus – to seek Him and find Him and do for Him – if He would rather that I simply rest in Him.

 

 

I wonder if in all my supposed doing for Him, if I’m actually running from Him.

 

How do you simply BE with Him in the midst of all the tedium and glory of every day life? I certainly don’t know, but I long to find out.

 

Maybe the rest is found in the stopping the perpetual-raising-two-kids-craziness . . . just to sing.

 

Maybe it’s in the continual everyday reminders of what is truly important….

 

Because it’s really easy for this heart of mine to get so caught up in the commotion of this life. The attempts to raise two kids, the striving to be a loving wife, the hoping and dreaming and wrestling the what-ifs.

 

I just want to rest in Him. I just want to see His fingerprints on my life. I just want to tangibly feel His loving arms around me.

 

Because He is our Beloved.

 

Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art;

I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.

Thou has bid me gaze upon thee,

as thy beauty fills my soul,

for by thy transforming power, thou hast made me whole.

 

O how great thy lovingkindness, vaster, broader than the sea!

O how marvelous thy goodness lavished all on me!

Yes, I rest in thee, Beloved, know what wealth of grace is thine,

know thy certainty of promise and have made it mine.

 

Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus, I behold thee as thou art,

and thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart;

satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its ev’ry need,

compasseth me round with blessings:

thine is love indeed.

 

Ever lift thy face upon me as I work and wait for thee;

resting ‘neath they smile, Lord Jesus earth’s dark shadows flee.

Brightness of my Father’s glory, sunshine of my Father’s face,

keep me ever trusting, resting, fill me with thy grace.

 

Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art;

I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.

~Jean Sophia Pigott