Monday, September 28, 2009

Aching to Be Found: Part 1

Barely holding back tears, she blindly puts objects into her small, pink, plastic suitcase. As quietly as possible she puts it on the windowsill and climbs on top of her desk to get up as well. She sits there in open window for a moment, then lowers her 11 year old body until she's only a foot or so from the dirt below. She lets go and drops to the ground, clutching her suitcase.

Leaning against the wall, she contemplates what to do next... climb the fence? But where would she go? Anywhere she went, they could call her parents and she would have to face her father's anger. So she stayed... she didn't truly want to leave, she just ached to know that someone cared enough to look for her. So she stayed underneath the windowsill, straining to hear the voices of her family.

Time passed and without a watch she couldn't keep track of how long she had been out there, she tried not to think about the scorpions and black widows that she knew frequented this corner of the yard. Very quickly she got bored, but her aching heart had to know, had to hear someone calling out her name. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep the tears away. Then, she heard a voice, "Where's Val?"
She held her breath...
The answer came, annoyed, "I don't know."

Waiting... shifting quietly to make sure she can hear... but no, there's nothing.
It feels like a punch in the gut and its all she can do not to let the tears fall. She waits a little longer, torturing herself with hope but she knows, if anyone is going to look for her, it's not going to be soon. Not until they need her for something or other... so she takes a deep breath and quietly puts her little pink suitcase back on the windowsill, climbs up the corner of the fence and the house and lets herself back into the room. She puts the suitcase under her bed, not bothering to empty it.

Laying on her bed, her face away from her doorway, she struggles again with her tears. "No you don't, you're not going to cry", the voice scolds in her head, all to familiar for one so young. "No one cares anyway, you'll never let them know, you'll never let them see. No one will ever pursue you for your sake." So she swallows her tears and begins to create a mask, so no one could see the shame she hid deep in her heart. The shame of someone who aches with all her being to be pursued, to be found, but isn't worthy of the effort.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Learning to Trust in the 'Drops'

(I apologize for the lateness of this post, lately I’ve been having a hard time keeping my head straight. :-P Thank you for your patience ^_^)

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a rather big fan of Disneyland. Some of my favorite family memories and memories with my husband were made there and there is just something magical about those few square miles. When I was quite little (3 & 4 years old) we went to Disneyland, my memories are quite vague but I know that I went on Pirates of the Caribbean even though I don’t have a specific memory of the ride from that time. How you ask? Because the next time I went I was about 11, and I was terrified of the first drop underground. I had myself so completely psyched-out that I’m pretty sure my little 11 year-old blood pressure was up and I *know* my heart was beating faster as we approached the archway. As we waited to enter that dark archway I hated that moment of just sitting and waiting there, the last boat’s screams echoing in my ears. Then I took a deep breath, held it and gripped the bar in front of me as tightly as I could, I knew there was no chickening out now. As we floated around the bend after the first 1 story drop and the second half story drop I was shocked… I couldn’t believe it… that wasn’t *half* as big a drop as I remembered. In fact, I rather enjoyed it! The rest of the ride I could not get over how much different the ride was from my little, foggy 3 year-old’s memory. I had almost talked myself out of doing the whole thing altogether, which would have kept me from experiencing what quickly became one of my favorite rides in the whole park.

Lately I’ve been reminded of this experience due to unexpected, but not unfamiliar events in my life. And I am very quick to point at God and say “I know this, I’ve been here before and I don’t want to do this! How could you lead me here again?! Why doesn’t it ever get any easier?” As we keeping moving forward I’m finding that this ‘drop’ isn’t nearly so awful as I made it out to be; situations are rarely exactly the same as they were in the past. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how scary or how hard a situation is; if it is the path that my Redeemer has laid for me, I must learn to trust that it is the best path possible. If I knew every challenge that God has for me over the years… I’m pretty sure I would be a stubborn mule and refuse to move. How many of us would chose to willingly walk a path of pain and suffering, if given the choice? Our natural human nature seeks to avoid pain, to avoid loss. This is where I have to remind myself that when it all comes down to it, He is the Creator, I am merely the creation. I trust in His loving-kindness.

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand…’

~ Jeremiah 18: 1-6

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Heart of Hospitality

I’ve always had a heart for hospitality; I *love* hosting people and making my home available to them as a place of comfort, rest and enjoyment. One of the greatest compliments I’ve received since getting married and setting up our home was “it’s so comfortable here”. I love that my brothers-in-law fall asleep on our couch, that my best friend didn’t think twice to text me last minute to come up and crash at our place for the weekend, that we’re the ‘half-way’ point that my father’s family thinks of on their way down further south. I think hospitality is a blessing not only to those who have a place to stay but also for my husband and me as we host. We get a chance to be close to people and to open up our hearts as well as our home.

There is a counter point to all of this though… I’m a perfectionist, type A person. I also worry too much about what people think of me, I want to look like I have it all put together, everything in order, like I have a cleaning routine and don’t have to rush around madly to do the things I’ve been meaning to for 3 weeks (which is exactly what our apartment looked like last night while I did that very thing). *sigh* I’m pretty sure that my friends who told me that they feel comfortable in our apartment felt that way not just because the coffee table was dusted or the carpet vacuumed. People feel comfortable when it’s not just the home that is opened, but the hearts of those who live there. We don’t have a Pottery Barn ad living room (or any room for that matter). Our cat will probably leave fur everywhere as soon as I finish vacuuming and we have random barriers up around our TV to prevent said cat from destroying every cord in sight.

As much as I would love to have the perfect, Norman Rockwell welcome for my family that is coming to visit tomorrow night; with a hot, delicious (and perfectly presented) dinner, candles lit and scenting the air, no clutter and freshly vacuumed floors waiting them as soon as they walk in the door… that’s not truly what hospitality is about. And even if dinner is late, early, or burned, even if I don’t get to vacuuming the floors, or cleaning up kitty’s toys underfoot; the most important thing is just to love on them, to cover them in prayer as they travel, to share whatever God has given us.

So as I prepare to enjoy the company of my family, I seek most of all to prepare my heart. I will labor at covering them, us and our home in prayer first and foremost. And as I straighten and clean, I ache to be aware of the attitude, the heart that I am filling my home with, one of peace and rest, not anxiety and worry.

Today I’m meditating on 1 Corinthians 13, will you join me?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Risk of Flight

You’ll never be good enough
You’re just a burden
No one wants to have you around
Why try? You’ll only fail
You’re just a failure
Don’t say anything, you’ll just look stupid
No matter what you do, you’ll always be rejected

My heart trembles as it seeks a way out of this prison of words, of lies.

A voice booms
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me…
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners

~ Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)

The whispers fight back…

It’s too good to be true
You’re not worth rescuing
You’ll never be redeemed
It’s a trick, you’ll open up your heart and end up more hurt than if you had just stayed here

Like a bird who has never known freedom, I freeze and tremble… Dare I take the risk? This cage may be torture, but its known torture… “freedom” my heart whispers, dare I fly for freedom? Dare I let go of my familiar chains and learn how to fly? Dare I risk it?

*deep breath, attempt to calm fluttering heart*

I take wing, trusting in the truth of His word.

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

~ Psalm 37:23-24 (ESV)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Winter Wait

It may only be September but I’m already dreading the winter. Having grown up in a desert I’m used to lots of sunshine and warmth, an 80 degree Christmas were not unusual growing up. But now I’m further north, living in a place where the winter months are defined as foggy and overcast, with a cold wind. There may not be snow to contend with but the rain and dreary clouds day after day weigh heavily on my soul for weeks.

I’m not a patient person in general, I want to see what’s happening and know exactly why it’s taking so long. I’m the kind to get quickly frustrated if a recipe is taking longer than usual to cook, always checking the oven to see if it’s done yet. Winter is like that for me, it feels endless and I can’t imagine how poorly I would handle being a farmer, constantly waiting for the sun to come so we can plant and so we can see the fruits of our labor from the autumn. But many plants need that ‘burial’ period over the winter, beneath the dirt and cold they’re working to be strong and ready for spring to burst forth. God orchestrates those time for us too I believe; times where things don’t feel warm and sunny, where the winds never seem to stop and feel so cold. God works in the secret places, under the ground, in the womb, where we cannot see His work until it is basically finished. We cannot see how His hand coaxes a bulb to put down roots, how He weaves sinew and bone to create a beautiful little precious life. We have to wait, we have to trust that He is doing His work, even when we cannot see anything but barrenness.

Winter feels so long, so endless, like it will never stop. It is so tempting to despair, to give up all hope that spring will bring its warmth and beauty. But God is faithful, His love endures forever and will never fail us. He will use the stark bleakness of the winter landscape in our lives to emphasize the beauty when the spring does come. Lord, teach me to embrace your work in my winter and to look forward in hope to the glorious spring.

Join me in hope today? Hide His word in your heart

“But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning."

~ Psalm 130: 4-6

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ignoring the Thirst

I get up again to fill my water bottle with fresh water, mentally counting how many ‘glasses’ that is so far today.

I’ve learned the hard way the cost of ignoring my body’s need for water, if I don’t stay hydrated migraines haunt me and cripple my ability to accomplish much of anything. So I keep a bottle by my side, have a checklist to make sure I’m drinking enough.

But my soul is crying out in thirst, and it’s so easy to ignore until I’m emotionally crippled, heart aching for refreshment. And I wonder why I snap for no reason, why I can’t seem to stay focused, why my heart feels tired, why my prayers have dried up like cracked soil. Without water, how can anything grow? Without His Word, how can I learn? How can I give? How can I love?

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

~ John 4: 13 – 15

I can hear the desperation in her voice, because it is one I know well.

He is constantly working in us to sanctify, to wash away the dried up muck that collects and refresh us with His Love. Yet again I have become caught up in this world that does not matter, forgetting the real truth of His Word. I ache to let God choose my priorities, to walk with Him and join Him in His work. I cannot do those things without refreshing myself in His Presence and with His Word. I don’t want to be numb to my heart’s cry anymore. I want to be sensitive to His call on me, to ache to be near Him and know His voice through His Word.

Dearest One, will you join me? Today I’m in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ^_^

Friday, September 11, 2009

To Honor those Who Serve

(I know I usually post on Thursday mornings but I wanted to have something to honor Patriot Day, I apologize for the change in schedule ^_^)

A soft knock on my door woke me up, it was still too early to get up for school, I had at least another 20 minutes… but then I saw his face and I knew something was wrong.

That day was one of two times I have ever seen my father cry. As he sat on the edge of the bed and told me that our country had been attacked I saw tears gather in his eyes. That whole morning it felt like time stood still, starting school never even crossed our minds as we sat, glued to the television. The following weeks and months were a complete change from the country that I knew before, so much was different.

I didn’t know it at the time, but one of those working Ground Zero would someday have a face that I knew. My father-in-law was there, helping to serve as a chaplain for the police and emergency workers clearing the site of rubble and the deceased. He was there to listen to the stories, share the tears and pain, to provide strength so the multitude who served could grieve. He was a physical reminder that even in the chaos, the pain, and the confusion that God is still there with his arms outstretched to hold us as we grieve. Just a few years later he served again in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And God placed him in my life as I went through my own personal storms before he officiated my wedding to his son. He is a man I greatly respect, someone who’s strength and grace in life constantly, quietly urges me to draw near to the Wonderful Counselor who gives all that we need.

All along our path in life God gives us these gracious people who have opened themselves up to reflect the beauty of their Savior, more often then not they are there quietly, just taking care of you in ways you may not even notice at the time. I encourage you to pray for them, to find a way to say ‘thank you’ and maybe someday you can return the favor.

As we remember Patriot Day, please take the time to pray for all our service men & women, our every day heroes of firefighters, police, chaplains, and military. They put their lives and hearts on the line every day so we can live safely and I ache for them to be blessed in return for their service.

I personally want to honor those in my life that serve:

- Don Higgins, father-in-law ~ Police Chaplain

- Andrew Higgins, brother-in-law ~ U.S.M.C. (LCpl)

- Steven Jones, cousin ~ U.S.M.C. ROTC

Please leave a comment with those in your life that serve or who you have lost in the line of duty and I will pray over each and every one, as you leave a comment, please pray for the one before. Let’s create a prayer chain, I can’t think of a better way to honor those who serve and protect us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why broken?

Having grown up in the church has its pros and cons. Obviously growing up in the love and grace of God is a huge blessing, but one of the biggest cons for me is that I've noticed how easy it is for me to be numb to God's truth. Sometimes I basically need to be hit by a 2 x 4 (metaphorically) of truth for it to seriously get inside past my head and into my heart (trust me, there is a huge difference between the two).

Lately I've been struggling with knowing that God works in the broken areas. It makes sense in my head but my heart/self is fighting it. As I wrote in my first post, I know that I need to stop 'looking' and trust that even in the mistakes God is working. I still struggle with this though, my personality is very much "I have to do it right". The dichotomy here is that I'm also lazy... These two things can be very difficult to work with. One thing I am realizing is that my perfectionism doesn't have so much to do with doing it right... as it does with looking good to those around me. This is a very stressful way to live and it's scary to realize that when I walk on my own, and do life my way, Jesus does not speak kindly of the way I live.

"Woe to you, scribes & Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which appear outwardly beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness."
~ Matthew 23:27 (ESV)

The parts of my life that hold the most shame for me are when I chose to live that way, when I chose to pretend to be something I wasn't and lied to keep up appearances. I have broken the trust of those I love and missed out on so many opportunities to grow because I let myself be controlled by fear. I greatly fear being rejected, being alone. Therefore I polish and hide, do the best I can to look all put together, to hide those blemishes. The last thing I want is to be broken in front of someone else. But I cannot be a reflection of my beautiful Savior this way, because then all anyone will see is me working on my own strength, for my own ego.

There is a lovely sister of Christ who God used to help me process this and trust Him with all my ashes, all my brokenness. Ang and her pitcher. I too wish my past was different, and frustrated at my seemingly endless imperfections... but it is *His* job to redeem and make beautiful. My responsibility is just to lay myself open to Him, to give Him all that I am; past, present & future and trust that He will do his refining work. If my broken areas are the exact place where He can pour Himself out to others, then it is worth the pain, and I choose to be grateful.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Little Things

Sometimes it amazes me how little changes can make me so excited and happy. The other day I went to Target with my monthly budget and we finally had enough extra to get something ‘frivolous’ that I had been wanting to get for about three months, drapery holdbacks. We live in an apartment and I had pinned up drapes to block out the streetlights at night, I had been using strips of ribbon pinned to the wall to tie back the drapes during the day because I love natural light. They would consistently fall out and my kitten loved to pull at the ribbons and shred them. The day I got the holdbacks I put them up as soon as I got home. I was so excited to have them up and there! I’m sure Nick thought I was crazy, but something that simple as those hooks to hold back our curtains made me so happy. It’s three days later and I still am in awe at how nice and easy it is to pull back our drapes in the morning. (silly, I know)

I honestly believe that is something that God understands. My family has been going through a rough season lately and one day I was talking with my momma and I knew she was down and discouraged. I’m a ‘have to do something to help’ kind of person and it was driving me crazy not to be there and be able to take her out for coffee or a smoothie to give her an hour or two to just relax. So instead I reminded her of all the times when God has provided those breaks completely out of the blue. When I was in junior high/high school we were going through a very hard financial time and in a three year period, my momma won three separate trips to Disneyland (my family’s *favorite* place). We had to stay at flea-ridden motels (but never took any home!) and ate food that we had packed for the trip but during those trips my parents didn’t fight, my sister and I didn’t argue (trust me, this is a miracle in and of itself at the time). We made my most treasured family memories during those trips. Some would say that it was irresponsible for my family to take some of what very little money we had to take those vacations, but I think that God knew that we *needed* that time away together.

God knows those little things that make us smile, and right when we least expect them He is more than willing to show you how much He loves you and that He’s still there. I have countless stories of those moments, and sometimes they’re bigger, like our trips to Disneyland and sometimes they’re a whisper, a butterfly flitting right by my window. I believe that God has written out His love for us in countless ways, if we just open our eyes to see them. Sometimes our hearts are so downtrodden that they’re hard to hear or see, but know that He *is* there, He promised not to abandon us and that He is always faithful. If you need encouragement or prayer, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email (h1s.b3l0ved(at)gmail(dot)com) and I will pray for you, that God will reach out and touch you with the little things. We are never truly alone.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Don't Look Down

The only way to learn how to do it faster, more accurately… is not to look down. When I look down I slow down, and I don’t learn. But I don’t want to trust my fingers, they don’t know where to go yet and I don’t want to deal with mistakes, I want to trust my eyes, then I *know* that I’m pressing the right button, striking the correct keys. I don’t like mistakes, they glare at me, “they’re wasted time” my mind rails… But I’m wrong, again, how can I learn how to do it correctly and quickly, without letting my fingers figure it out on their own?

Is life much different? How much does my inner pride squirm when I have to admit my own mis-struck keys? How much do I want to see before I press? How often do I freeze because “what if I…?”. How often to do I torture my mind going over my mis-spoken words, my stumbling tongue, my ‘not good enough’ writing? Even more so… how can I hear that still small voice when I let the cacophony of my ego, my pride scream out “don’t do it! You’ll mess up! It won’t be good enough!”

But that’s really the point isn’t it? I’m not supposed to be good enough, if *I* was good enough… how would anyone see my wonderful Christ? My beautiful Jesus? It hurts to be broken, to be threshed on the floor, I don’t want to be without my covering. But I have seen the path that fear takes me, I’ve felt the breath of the deceiver whispering in my ear… and I followed what I heard; I have taken the ‘easy’ path and seen the pain it has wrought. I will do what I can to not go there again. So I bow low, I open myself in all it’s hurting, broken ugliness and pray to my Redeemer “please, take this and mold it to bring you glory.” I quake at the uncertainty, I have no idea what His story will look like, what road I will have to take. But in my fear… I choose trust today.