Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rest Part III

This is the third in a three part series on Rest.  To read the first post, click here.  You can find the second post here.  Thanks for joining me!

For two posts now I've talked about why I think rest is paramount and how I believe we sometimes choose to be busy even when it's not what our hearts long for.  Now I'd like to get practical.  How do we choose rest?  What does it look like in the daily grind of life?

Here are some thoughts that came to mind as I prepared for this post:
  • Walk slowly.  Sound simple?  It is.  I learned this one from my husband.  He's a slow walker.  Me?  I'm a speed walker.  When we started dating I quickly learned that if I wanted to be near him while we were walking, I would have to slow down.  He absolutely refuses to be in a hurry.  (Incidentally, this reminds me of my grandfather's advice when he was teaching me to drive.  He told me: "don't worry if they ride your bumper; if they're in a hurry, they can go around.")  The wisdom both of these men taught me is this: when you move slowly, you physiologically have a better sense of calm.  Other parts of you (not just your feet) begin to slow down (your thoughts, your breath, the quickness with which you make judgments).  It's really hard to be stressed out about something if you're moving slowly.  Trust me.

  • Breathe.  Another simple one but oh-so-profound.  Just ask any Yogi.  Breath not only physically relaxes you - moving oxygen into your system, giving your body what it needs - it also psychologically takes your focus off of whatever is stressing you out and forces you to focus on something simple.  The sound of your breath moving in and out of your lungs.  Out of simplicity comes clarity.  What really matters remains.  That is a restful state of being, a state in which you are only carrying that which really bears carrying, a state in which you have let the non-essentials go.

  • Find something that rejuvenates you and then do itThis doesn't have to be complicated, folks.  You don't have to fight through the "but when will I find the time?" thoughts.  I'm not saying you should go sky-diving every Monday.  I'm talking about picking up a Real Simple magazine and forcing yourself to actually read it.  Slowly.  Perhaps while sipping tea.  Or, take a bubble bath even though the laundry isn't finished.  Or, sit on your porch.  Whatever it is that works for you: do it.  Daily if at all possible (no, that isn't self-indulgent - it's necessary).

  • Pace yourself.  This is where I've had the most trouble and it has taken me the longest to learn.  I will move too fast and do too much and then crash and burn.  Again, enter husband: he taught me to recognize when I was doing this and to cut my expectations by nine-tenths.  In other words, if I mentally had a list of ten things to accomplish in a day, he told me to begin to expect that I would complete one.  WHAT?!?  One?!?  That sounded crazy to me at first.  And, of course, it was.  I could finish all ten if I put my mind to it.  But could I finish them well?  Would my family be happy and feel loved after my accomplishments, or would every one of them - including my husband - be in a state of meltdown because I had been pushing so hard?  I may have finished that blog post, polished the floor, cooked the dinner, but did my two-year-old feel neglected?  Was I so fried by the end of it that I had no energy for night-night routine?  Did I get snippy with my husband when he came home from work, all for the sake of getting stuff done that, really, could have either waited until the next day or not been done at all?  Adjusting my expectations and pacing myself has without a doubt made the most profound impact on my ability to walk in rest daily, hourly, minute by minute.
What are some practical ways that you rest?  Not just as an isolated moment but also as a state of being, continually, throughout the moments of your day?

Linking up with Tiffini at Word Women Wednesday this week.  Be sure to check out some of the other ladies' posts!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rest Part II

This is part of a three part series on Rest.  To read the first in the series, click here.  The third in the series will be live by Wednesday, June 1st.  Thanks for reading!

Lately, I’ve been feeling impatient. 

I have asked God for grace, because impatience isn’t Godly no matter what the reason, but I’m also paying attention to what’s driving my rather harsh responses.  I think the impetus behind them is actually Godly (though, as I have readily admitted, the way this Godly response is coming out is definitely not Godly – bear with me as you read on).

Here’s the deal…

Lately, I’ve read a lot of women’s blogs.  I’ve read a lot of feminine voices – specifically Christian, feminine voices – and I find a similar, recurring theme.  (If you go back and read my blog, you’ll find the same thing – I do not exclude myself from this pitfall!) 

We all talk about the importance of rest - how we're craving it, how we know it's important, etc - but few of us actually do it.  In fact, most of the time, we're actually spending energy we could be using resting complaining about how busy we are!

I know this is hard to do – hard to choose.  I’ve lived (and sometimes still live) with the frantic busy-ness that serves to occupy time and space.

But I’ve also – by His grace alone – lived with the opposite.  During this last year of health battles and coming to the absolute end of myself, I’ve simply had no other option.  I can’t be busy.  I have to rest. 

And do you know what I’ve learned as I’ve said no to things?  I’ve learned that the belief that I can’t say no is actually a lie.  And not the kind of lie that makes me a victim.  Not the, “oh, I’m so sorry I’ve been believing a lie, please forgive me,” kind of lie. 

No.  The kind of lie that makes me the culprit.  I am actually to blame.  The lie is, ultimately, rooted in my own pride.  It is the, “I can do anything,” kind of lie.

Now, I know that most of us don’t consciously say to ourselves that we can do anything.  We don’t believe that we are all-powerful.  We believe quite the opposite.  We pontificate about our utter lack.  We blog about it.  And yet, we keep doing.

This is where my impatience comes in.  If you know you’re tired, if you know you can’t, then stop.  Don’t bemoan your busy-ness.  Stop choosing busy-ness.


No “but’s”.

Just stop.

What will happen if you don’t?  Are you that important that the world will end (the end-of-year PTA meeting will fall apart, VBS will not happen, your Book Club will be disappointed, etc – insert your own issue here) if you opt out of your activities and take time to just sit and be?

I think a lot of women choose the lie of busy-ness.  For different reasons, perhaps, but to the same end: it serves to make us feel better about ourselves.  It keeps us from truly acknowledging what we often say out loud: the truth that we really are utterly, completely, 100% dependent on His gifts and not our own. 

Let’s not just say we depend on Him.  Let’s actually do it by letting go of some things and seeing what happens. 

Who else will get an opportunity to exercise their gift muscles if I set aside my pride and let her take “it” up instead of me (“it” being leading Bible study at church or coaching my son’s t-ball league or whatever)?  What things will get realigned if I make them less important?  When I make room in the soil of my life, what new buds will spring up?  What will God be able to reveal to me about my heart, my life, my choices?  Will the Body work more efficiently if I’m not trying to do things I’m not made to do?

I think it is really exciting when we let go.  There is so much life and grace in that place.  But I also think it’s important that we call a spade a spade and confess in the process.  For it is, often, quite simply pride wrapped up in a nasty knot of insecurity that keeps us holding on in the first place.

May the God of grace meet you as you sift through your commitments this week.  I pray you have time and space for true, meaningful rest.

 Linking up with Jen and the ladies at Soli Deo Gloria this week.  Be sure to pop over!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rest Part I

This is the first in a three part series on Rest.  Be sure to come back tomorrow night for the second post.

"Hear it on Sunday"...the word is rest

My son came down with strep throat last Thursday.  It's the first time we've had strep (or anything like it) in our house since having children.  For the record, strep is a bummer.

Per the doctor's orders, we gave him lots of popsicles and lots of rest.  Though he's been fever-free for two days, the strep is still covering his throat.  Though he clearly feels better today, he's still sallow in the face and needing much more rest than normal.

In fact, we've had him on a pallot in the living room watching TV and DVD's for three days.

Did you catch that?  Three whole days of TV-watching. 

Does this make me a bad mom?

Don't worry...I only ask that tongue-in-cheek, laughing as I type.  The truth is we've had the best weekend we've had as a family in a long time.  And I think it's because someone ordered me to allow rest.

Like most women, I'm not very good at slowing down.  I even multi-task when I go to the bathroom - reading a book, sending a text, typing an email (yes, the laptop has followed me into the toilette).  I have to make an active choice to rest, to slow down, to not do anything.

And my need to be productive can spill over into the other members of my family.  Yes, I can get annoyed if others aren't moving around me.  If my husband chooses to sit and snuggle with our little ones when there are dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, floors to be cleaned, I can get - well - huffy.

But the truth is: 100% of the time he's making the better choice.  He's making the Mary choice.*  And furthermore, he's teaching my children how to do that too.

It's not that my husband doesn't help out around the house.  And it's not that I don't snuggle with my children.  It's just that, naturally, he leans toward rest while I lean towards work.  Hmmm, not sure if I can call it work.  That might glorify it a little much, make it a little too important because of what it might produce.  It might be better to call it busy-ness (more on that tomorrow).

I've resisted rest over the years for many reasons.  The most fundamental, I think, is learned behavior.  To be valuable in my family, you had to be productive.  To be anything else was to be lazy (which was more than looked down upon or disapproved of, it was judged).  I've had to swing to the lazy side of the rest pendulum in order to learn the difference between laziness and rest. 

Laziness weighs you down, makes you feel bloated.  Rest frees you up, makes you feel light.  Laziness steals life from you.  Rest gives you life, energy, what you need to be productive when the time comes to get up and start moving again.  And if you practice rest right, you're able to walk in rest even when you are no longer resting. 

This is by far the most valuable lesson I've learned about rest over the years.  So much so that, now, if I'm working on something and feel all life being zapped out of me at an incredibly quick rate, I know I'm doing something wrong.  I stop, get to a place of rest, and start again from that place.  Inevitably I'm more productive and more efficient.

So, it's been a great weekend.  I've let my son rest, chill out, completely veg.  In fact, I've let all of us do it.  As a result, we feel very connected as a family.  And I've been reminded of how important it is to give your body what it needs.  I've watched my son sitting still and have lodged that picture into my mind to remind me: even when you start to feel like you're ready to get going again, it's important to keep operating in rest to become fully restored.  We often need much more than we think we do.

Linking up with Michelle over at Nebraska Graceful for her "Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday" series.

*See Luke 10: 38-42.

Of Funerals and Cakes

Funerals are a good thing.

Yesterday, I went to my friend Kathy Lockart's funeral.  I saw old friends.  We cried.  We laughed. 

I heard the Word.  Was saturated by it, actually.  The Word prevailed throughout.

John 14.

Psalm 121.

And then there was Psalm 23.

The pastor invited us to say it aloud with him before he began reading it.  It was an impromptu invitation.  There were no words in the bulletin, no Bibles in the pew.  And yet, when he began, there was not a closed mouth in the sanctuary.  We all lifted our voices together and recited the Truth:

The Lord is my shepherd.
I lack no good thing....
He restores my soul....
Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

It took all I had not to sob audibly as I sat with these old friends and claimed that truth together.

There is power in remembering.  There is Presence in reciting.  In that moment, we were in community.  Standing together against all forces of evil and proclaiming the truth.  Just as Kathy had done so many times in so many ways.  It was a fitting tribute.

When I came home and got the kids to bed I still felt the need to celebrate.  To mark her life and my grief over losing her.  I couldn't decide what to do so I went with my gut: I baked a cake.

As I whipped up the frosting and poured out the batter I thought: "this is therapeutic."  There is something about food and funerals.  As we engage with food (bringing it over to the bereaved's house, eating it at the post-burial reception, making it alone in your home as a private act of marking your own grief), we affirm life.  You have to have food to live, after all.  Eating is the opposite of dieing.

And, the tradition of food and funerals is a very Southern thing, is it not?  Holding that mixing bowl and wooden spoon, I felt like I was transported to a time and place where tradition was paramount, where you did because you just do, where eating is the only proper response and "setting" food on a table is an enormous, tremendous act of love.

So I baked my cake.   I made it pretty because Kathy would appreciate that.  I cut myself a slice and ate it alone, in her honor.  And I smiled.  I remembered.  I gave thanks.

Kathy, here's to you, friend.  You are missed.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


A day consisting of
dish washing
meal cooking
child's play
laundry folding

It seems to me
this is enough
this is full life
this is good because

It is simple
and yet

With That Moon Language by Hafez

I recently read this on another blog.  I agree so deeply with the words of this Persian lyric poet that I am reprinting them here.

With That Moon Language

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them,
     "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud;
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.
Why not become one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world
     Is dying to

-- Hafez

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


A friend of mine passed away this morning.  My heart is heavy, but I also feel deep gladness.  She is free of pain, and she is with her Maker.  I can't imagine what that must be like.

She has battled cancer for more years than I know, and yet, every time I saw her she would ask after my husband with regard to his epilepsy.  She would sincerely ask after my kids.  She would smile and chat and hug and generally take the brighter view of life.  She would encourage me.  I do not know what her internal thoughts were nor what her home life was like, but I can tell you, in public life, she shone brightly.  I am grateful.

The biggest tribute I can give to her: in the social world that she and I moved in - a world in which most are not sincere or kind or genuine - she always treated me with respect.  She also dealt with me genuinely.  She always operated in sincere kindness.  I can think of no higher praise.

Kathy, I will miss you.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Turning

A few weeks back I had an interesting moment.  I was at home enjoying quiet time when this thought entered my mind:

"The kids will be home (from spending the night with their grandmother) soon.  Am I a horrible mom that I send my kids off to Grandma's almost once a week?"

Then, almost immediately, came this thought:

"No.  Let's try that again.  How about this: 'I am so thankful that my kids have grandparents that want their home to be a safe place.  I'm so thankful that I have a mother-in-law who loves to care for me and her son this way.  I'm so thankful that Gunnar and Lily are growing a strong, solid relationship with these grandfolks.'"

Whoa.  Uh.  What just happened?

I experienced a turning.  Call it repentance.  Call it 'taking my thoughts captive' (2 Cor. 10:5).  Call it whatever you want.  I call it good

I immediately felt better.  Mentally.  Emotionally.  Physically (I could feel the tension leave my muscles as I engaged the second line of thinking).

"This is awesome," I thought to myself.  "I want it to always be like this."

In other words, I want to choose the gracious path - the path that spreads life, love, wholeness, peace, joy.  I want to see the good in things rather than the negative.  I want to be thankful for what I have rather than lament what I'm missing.  And no matter what I say or anyone else says, the older I get, the more I know: this is a choice.  How I see my life directly affects how I am able to enjoy my life.  I, for one, want to see it with His eyes - thankful for what the Father has given me.

In the weeks since I've been trying to practice this turning, specifically in my thought life.  Are there areas of your life that you need to see differently?  Would a shift in perspective bring you into a greater sense of His presence, alive and active in your life?  I'd love to hear about it!

Linking up with Jen at Soli Deo Gloria again this week.  Be sure to check out some of the other posters and join the community if you feel inclined.  It's a wonderful source of mutual, Christ-centered encouragement!

Heard it on Sunday...

While I did make it to church yesterday morning, most of my day was spent driving between Austin and the Texas coast with two toddlers in tow.  As such, it was a busy, tiring, but FUN day.  I don't have a lot to contribute to our "Heard it on Sunday, Use it on Monday" community, but this paragraph from Beth Moore's Finding God Day by Day devotional struck me.  I thought it might hit home with some of you too:

From May 20th:

"Our heartbreaks really aren't anyone else's responsibility.  They are Christ's.  Remember, He came to bind up the brokenhearted."

Blessings on you this day!

Monday at the Beach

  1. When you take two toddlers to the beach - by yourself - pack flexibility.  It took us an extra hour to get here yesterday because I stopped for extended periods when I felt they couldn't take it any more.  If I had adhered to a strict plan, I never would have stopped.  The ride would have been shorter, but it also would have been much less peaceful.
  2. Never underestimate the power of getting dirty.  It is seriously fun.  (Lily didn't just play in the sand last night - she covered herself in it.  We found it in hair, on upper arms, on her nose - all on a girl that never actually sat down at the beach.  Giggles abounded.)*
  3. When you're open to whatever happens (see number 1), you might receive unexpected gifts.  Last night, I ended up having one of the best times with the Lord that I've had in months and months.  I had planned to use the time the kids were asleep to write.  Instead, on a whim, I opened my journal first.  Just for a few minutes, I thought to myself.  An hour later I emerged having spent really awesome time with Jesus.  Just what I needed to be able to continue to pour out into the kiddos today.  Thank God!
  4. Sometimes, it's a good idea to say 'yes'.  I spend a lot of time saying 'no' to my children.  Normally this is either to keep them safe ("don't run out into the street!") or because I'm trying to train them up into righteousness.  It gets old, for them and me.  Last night my three-year-old desperately wanted to sleep in the big bed with me.  This is a big no-no at our house, a boundary we don't cross for fear we'll never go back.  But I could tell he was genuinely afraid to be in his own room and, well, heck, it's vacation.  So I said yes.  I didn't sleep well, but it's a memory neither of us will ever forget.  His little heart is full.  Worth it?  Absolutely.
Linking up with Carissa at Miscellany Monday today.  Go check out the other posts if you have a second!

*Some of you have asked to see pictures of our kids.  While I greatly appreciate your interest in being a part of our lives, I wanted to explain why I don't typically post pic's of the kids.  My husband and I don't feel comfortable putting their images out there for anyone in the world to use as he/she sees fit.  It's one of the ways we try to keep them covered.  So, pic's don't go into the public domain.  We have no judgment against anyone else's choices - this is just our choice for now.  It may change in the future.

I know pictures make a blog much more exciting.  I'm sorry about that.  I'll work on ways of meeting the need while honoring the choice we're making!  Love to all, Jenny

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nappy Time No More? An Update on the Adrenal Story...

Last Friday, I made it through an entire day without taking a nap.

This may sound random to many (most?) of you, but, to me, it's deeply significant.  As my three-year-old would say, trust me.

Here's the story:

Exactly one year ago I caught a cold.  That cold turned into a serious illness involving intense chronic fatigue that only worsened over time.

Seven months after my cold, my doctor got to the bottom of the larger issue: she diagnosed me with adrenal insufficiency, or too-low levels of cortisol in my body.

Eight months after I had contracted the cold, I began treating the adrenal insufficiency with daily hormone replacement therapy, under the care of my endocrinologist, of course.  In other words, I gave my body the hormones it's supposed to produce on its own.  If I didn't, I would eventually die from an adrenal crisis or total adrenal failure, so I've made it a point to take my pills. 

Things immediately got better.  Along with vitamin supplementation, a change in my diet (all gluten-free, all the time), lifestyle changes (if you cause me stress, you're gone), and a strict eating/sleeping routine, the pills seemed to be making a difference.  I had more energy and the frequency of my passing-out episodes had decreased.

However, I also knew that I had a long way to go.  If I deviated from my schedule even by ten minutes I would crash physically - sometimes to the point that my husband would have to leave work to come home and cover the kids because I simply couldn't move my body.  No skipping meals for me - every part of this amazing machine God designed had to be in precise working order.  If I became thirsty or hungry my body would think it was under stress and try to produce extra cortisol.  Uh-oh, my body would say to itself, you can't produce extra cortisol.  You're in a danger zone.  You need to shut down and protect vital life functions only so you'll survive.  What happened next?  I would pass out stone-cold, completely unable to respond.

So, I learned to follow my routine.  I ate five, good meals a day at precisely the same times every day.  I took my medicine and supplements (yes, I'm part of the handful club) at exactly the same time, twice a day, every day.  I carried a stainless steel (no hormone-execreting plastics here...we can't risk upsetting the balance of my endocrine system) water bottle with me at all times, downing the clear liquid in an effort to stay hydrated.  And I slept.  Asleep by 10 p.m., up at 6:40 a.m., like clockwork.  If I didn't/couldn't make that happen, I paid for it with increased fainting episodes the next day.

[How did I handle passing out while taking care of two kids, you might ask?  The crazy thing is, since the end of my last pregnancy, I have never passed out when I'm alone with the kids.  (Some doctors would hear this and think that it provided evidence that I was, clearly, making all of this up and just producing symptoms in order to get attention.  I was referred to a psychiatrist more than once.  I have been inexplicably passing out since December 2007.)  I, for one, attribute that fact to God's amazing, all-covering grace and provision.]

Last week I had to call my endocrinologist's office to talk with them about refilling my hydrocort prescription.  I hadn't planned on calling them.  I hadn't planned on asking if the quality of my life could improve.  The words just came out of my mouth before I even knew what I was doing.

I explained that I still can't make it through a day without napping.  I described for the nurse how I fall into this deep, intense sleep that takes me a solid thirty minutes to come out of, and how this happens every day at the exact same time (2:30-4:30 in the afternoon...for those of you who know anything about cortisol production in the body, this will make sense...starting between 3 & 5 your body will descrease its cortisol output in order to prepare your body to sleep later that night).  I also told her that if I deviate from my strict routine, even slightly, that I'll have another fainting episode.

Then, I asked her, expecting a negative/hopeless response: is it supposed to be like this?  In other words, is this as good as it will get?  I mean, it's fine for now, while both of my kids nap when I do, but what happens when my oldest drops his nap?  How will I make it through a day?

She sounded genuinely surprised and said, "um, no....let me speak with the doctor and get back to you."  Now, as you may have guessed, I'm not new to doctors.  And I'm certainly not new to doctors blowing me off.  From the sound of her voice, it sounded like she was concerned and would get me an answer soon, but I wasn't betting on it.

One hour later she phoned back with a new plan from my doctor.  He wanted to raise my daily dose to the max level and see how I tolerate it.

All I can say is, thank God for this doctor and his entire staff.  It's amazing how loved someone can feel when people do their best to take care of you.

I implemented the new regimen the next day.  The result?  NO NAP!  I laid myself down, as usual, at 2:30 and expected to pass out.  The minutes ticked by and I didn't fall asleep.  I actually felt somewhat normal.  I counted backwards and realized that was the first time I hadn't napped since last November.

It's been two days and still no nap.  I'm definitely tired, but I'm also really excited.  I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe my life will be different someday in the near future.  Maybe I will have a relatively normal level of energy, enabling me to participate more in my life and the lives of those around me.  Maybe I'll be able to throw the ball with my son, rather than just watch while his daddy plays catch.  Maybe I'll be able to do laundry while my kids nap, instead of forcing them to suffer through it during playtime.  I'm starting to think it's not just a maybe, that it's a real, attainable yes.

YEA!  That's cause to celebrate!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I wrote this poem while participating in a writer's group at my church in the year 2000.  It is meant to be read in a tumbling, forward-falling fashion with pauses precisely where punctuation or extra spaces and line breaks exist.  I recommend reading it aloud to oneself.


a deep, dark hole of desire that twists and turns with every movement moving with the tide of love that binds me to you though at times I don’t remember that I am bound at times I do and I love it and I hate it and I seek it and I make it more than it is.  it is not what I make it is ancient of days material for the masses I move like molasses through its twists and turns sometimes I run and sometimes I weep sometimes I drown and sometimes I creep.  Do you know what I mean?  You know because you are and you made the abyss that encompasses the deep, dark hole in my soul.  In my soul.  A duck quacks in agreement with the pontification of my mind through my pen via my mouth with my soul      in       tow.  Do you know what I mean?  You know because you are and you made the tide of love that binds me to you ancient of days.  Ancient days of love.  Days of ancient love.  Of ancient love days.  What’s the combination?  What’s the difference?  You find me I do not find you.  You love me I cannot love you without you loving me.  You fill me I cannot fill me.  The abyss is yours to uncover to shape to mold to fill.  Here I am your uncovered one do as you will.
I cannot leave it that for there is hope in the longing love in the waiting faith in the hoping.  You love I love that’s how the story goes.  I am yours you are mine once upon a time we both chose.  I cannot see it filling but you know that I am willing and waiting and hoping and longing and I know you.  I know you.  You are in the business of filling.  It won’t be long now.  My hole will be filled as another’s revealed.  That’s the key.  Intimacy.  It is a desire fulfilled and prolonged.
I rejoice
I will never be hungry and never stop hungering for you my source, my bread, my love, my life.  Amen, amen.

Linking up with Jen and the ladies at Soli Deo Gloria today.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mondays are Awesome...at least, this one is!

My mother-in-law took the kids for snuggle night last night.  Actually, she took them at THREE p.m., so my husband and I got:
  1. Alone time (separately - as in, we each spent time by ourselves)
  2. A real, complete date - dinner and a movie
  3. Chill, hang-out time on our new deck (and it wasn't even late yet!)
  4. Lots and lots of talk time (that was mainly for me, of course)
  5. AND, more time alone to unwind at the end of the night
Then, this morning, we woke up when we wanted to - no chillin's screaming our names - and did what we wanted.  It wouldn't be good to live like this everyday (honestly, discipline is a good thing), but it sure felt good to have this morning all to ourselves.


It's gray here in Austin.  Another good thing.  We had record-high days in April (in the '90's every day, I think), but now, in mid-May, we're enjoying a week of temp's in the low '80's, cloud cover, and cool nights.  It is AWESOME.  We all know the blazing heat of summer will arrive too soon, so we're enjoying it while we can.  Lots of park time.

The kids will be back mid-morning just in time for Lily's physical therapy.  In the meantime, I plan to spend time with Jesus, try really hard not to obsess over the MOUNDS of unfolded laundry in the dining room, and write.  One of my main characters is calling my name.  I can't wait to see what he has to say.

There you have it - these are my morning pages for the day.  Enjoy!

Linking up with Carissa at Miscellany Monday today.  Go check out her cool site and all the fun link-ups!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What a Difference a Wall Makes

Nine months ago I began this new journey...becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom who writes when she can.  The writing is not an aside; it is just as important to me as my other job (mommyhood).  The difference is: it is not as immediate.  My toddlers have immediate, daily, constant needs and wants that must be addressed in the moment (otherwise, the moment will pass us by!).  But my writing is patient.  The stories within me have been percolating for decades - they are content to continue waiting until the right time to bubble forth.

Perhaps that is why it has taken me this entire nine months to settle into a writing space that feels spacious, that feels right, that feels just like me. 

You see, when I began this journey, a good friend of mine (you know the kind - someone who says something in an off-hand way that haunts you for years because it is so right-on profound and intuitive) advised me to carve out a physical space in our home that is just for writing.  A space that is entirely my own.

I'm sure many of you can imagine how difficult that is when you live in a full house.  I dutifully made several attempts, but I was always borrowing from other, well-established spaces.  The large double-window in the living room would serve as home to me and my laptop when the kids were away.  Or, the dining room table would provide a space to write when it wasn't covered in laundry half-folded.  The list goes on.  At some point I did put an antique desk (thanks Mom!) in my bedroom with the intention for it to become "my" space, but it never quite crystallized.  Instead, bills piled up on it and projects half-finished inevitably landed there.

Until yesterday.  Yesterday, on a whim, I decided the desk needed to be moved from one wall to the adjacent wall.  I made the move furtively, unsure of what my husband would say (this bedroom is his too, after all), but I somehow knew I needed to make it anyway.  It was just something that had to be done.  I couldn't rest until the move was complete.

Here's the result:

I now have a clean, beautiful place to write.  I absolutely love it (and so does my husband!).  The fact that it's facing a window is perfect and symbolic and inspiring.

I had thought that, this week of all weeks, I would be losing more of myself.  I've been having anxiety about it, actually.  The kids finish preschool on Thursday, so I've been basically freaking out about how I'm going to find time to continue writing over the summer.  And then this happened - this unexpected, intuitive, perfect move - and I feel space open up before me.  The anxiety is gone.  I don't know why.  I just know that this summer is going to be really, really good.  Like my cleared-off desk, I know there will be space for whatever comes our way.

This past nine months has been about one other thing in addition to mommy-ness and authorship: learning how to love myself.  That sounds cliche (and kind of annoying to write, if I'm honest), but it's deeply, profoundly true.  At its core, loving yourself involves making space.  Allowing yourself to be where you need to be when you need to be there. Not predetermining what should be and why (a desk shouldn't cut off a window - that's a decorating no-no), but rather following your gut and affirming yourself in the process.  

It's been a hard process, primarily because I've been stubborn about submitting to God's leadership, but an incredibly valuable one.  I'm so thankful for this past nine months.  My belief in God's goodness has been built up, made more solid.  I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I just read a friend's "Miscellany Monday" post, and it inspired me.  Here's a hodge-podge of thoughts for you on this RAINY Wednesday in Austin:

1.  It's raining!  We've been in drought for months.  The wildfires have been out of control.  Driest April on record, etc.  Over the last several weeks I've felt the collective longing of our city for rain.  I felt it when my priest spoke up during the Prayers of the People: "please Father, send your rain upon our parched, dry, weary ground."  Her cry was sincere.  I felt it when my friend told me she had asked God for rain on her birthday (and it rained on her birthday!!!).  I felt it when I explained to my son why the grass had turned brown. 

Now, I'm sitting in my bedroom listening to the drip-drop of rain fall through the dozens of oak trees on our property.  My bassett hound is barking at the rain, as if to say, "I'm glad you showed up!"  My lab/boxer mix is prancing around smelling everything.  And I feel deeply content.  Settled.  Right with the world.  Our land can breathe a sigh of relief.  There will be growth again.

2.  An update on my novel: I'm on page 77!  I never thought I'd make it this far.  Thanks to everyone for prayers and support!  I'm two chapters into part III (the final part of this book) with five more to go.  I'm thoroughly enjoying writing it and feel like the words fly out of my fingers.

3.  On another literary note, my dad gave me several classic science fiction novels for my birthday.  He said it was time to "educate" me (rib, rib).  Two are by Heinlein, two are by Asimov, and one is Dune.  I devoured Asimov's The Caves of Steel in about a day and a half.  Reading it has renewed my confidence in the relevance of what I'm writing (I had been struggling with self-doubts and criticisms for a few weeks).  Beyond relevance, however, it just felt good to commisurate with another novelist.  The copy Dad gave me has an AMAZING forward by Asimov in which he reflects on his career.  He coined the term 'robotics' (did you know that?) and wrote the first commercially successful robot novel.  Think about that: we wouldn't have Data on Star Wars without Asimov's choice to take a risk and write about something seemingly outlandish! 

I know I have drifted off into total nerd-dom.  The point is that I felt encouraged and inspired to keep going.  You never know where your creative pursuits will lead.  And if you never try, what might the world miss out on?  Because, in the end, your voice is just that: your voice.  There's noboby else's like it - make it heard.

That's it.  Anyone else have any miscellany to share?  Would love to hear from you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Honoring Mom

Yesterday at church our priest prayed for moms during the Prayers of the People.  She ended her prayer with: "we pray all this in the name of Jesus, who loved his mom."

The way she said it made me take note.  She spoke of his love for his mom with tenderness.  It hit home.  He did love his mom.  I don't know why that struck me, but it did.

So, in honor of our Father's love for his earthly mom, I'm going to write down a few of the reasons I love my mom:
  • She gives me things.  I know this sounds hopelessly superficial, but it's not.  First of all, gift-giving is her primary love language, so when she shows up with a bag of clothes from Ross I know it's her way of saying "I love you."  Secondly, she often gives me things when she knows I need it most, helping me in practical, tangible ways that really help.
  • She shows up.  Always.  Every time.  Whether it's a kickball game, piano recital, church retreat, or bigger things, like when I'm in the hospital or on my wedding day or at my kids' births.
  • She tries her best.  This seems pedantic, but it is significant for me.  No matter what, I know she's giving us her best.  That makes me feel loved.
There are other things I could write, but I just wanted this to be a sampling, an exercise in honor.  And an impetus - to get you thinking about yours.

Thanks to all the moms out there - you are honored.

Linking up with Michelle at "Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday".  Check out all the awesome posters over at her place!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mommy Mania

Okay, this is going to sound like the most obvious statement of all time:

If I make time to do things for myself, I am better for everyone around me.

Duh.  But while this may seem silly, slap-in-the-forehead duh-mb, and obvious, it's also really important to say out loud.  To notice.  To make note of.  Especially today, of all days.

Today is Mother's Day 2011, and, for me, it started off pretty horribly.

My three-year-old had kept my husband up until 1 a.m. the morning of.  As a result, all my husband's great intentions - for presents and cards at breakfast, for letting me sleep and have quiet time - went down the proverbial drain.  He slept in (because, frankly, he had to), I cooked myself breakfast and explained to my son why it was a special day, and I took the kids to church with me, sans hubby.

I knew it was the best choice.  My son has been testy this week, and he's been pushing us both to our limit.  He's kept us up late, gotten us up early, and pushed us hard all day long.  We're both really tired.  But my husband is by far the more exhausted of the two of us.  He's worked a six-day week while creating an amazing birthday week for me, staying up late, getting up early.  He was just done, Mother's Day or not.

So, I was "on" this morning.  I wish I could say I had a good attitude about it.  I didn't.  I was testy and grumbly and resentful.  I was short with my kids, both of them, and definitely at my limit.  I was less than gracious toward my husband.  And worst of all, I felt entitled to every negative thought and behavior.

Can I just say...YUCK?!?

But then, the winds shifted.  We finished with church and brunch (my husband met us at the restaurant) and got the kids down for a nap (my son slept four-and-a-half hours!).  My husband and I both slept for two hours! 

And when we woke up, I made a choice.  Fighting against the internal voices of "should's" and guilt...battling the really annoying tendency of mom's everywhere to subjugate our needs to everyone else's...I looked at my husband and said, "I'm going to leave now and go do whatever I want."

Knowing he was still tired.  Knowing my kids would be sad when they woke up and I was gone.  Knowing that I would be disappointing people I love, I chose myself. 

I did the things that replenish me: I went for a swim; I showered in peace (at the gym, of course); I had quiet time in my tuned-out world of ear buds and iPhone playlist; I flipped through new books that looked interesting at my local Barnes & Noble - slowly, nonchalantly; and I wrote. 

I had a major breakthrough in my novel, getting past a block I've been facing for a few weeks now.  I heard a specific word from the Lord during my quiet time (don't you love it when He's specific?).  I began to make a rather interesting plan for the summer months, based on that word.  And at the end of my nearly three hours alone?

I felt fantastic!

I'm serious.  It was like a new person had come and inhabited my body.  My outlook on life was better.  I felt happy, joyful, content, satisfied.  I could smile at the homeless guy on the corner on my way home, pause to let people cut in front of me and then wave at them, and eagerly drive home to see my waiting family.  I felt so thankful on my way home.  It reminded me of the simple statement I wrote at the beginning of this post: I have to get better at filling myself up so that I can pour into others.  The people around me - especially my family - suffer when I don't.

(Side note: my family felt better too.  I had worried about the kids and my husband for nothing.  They were all great when I returned.  Somehow, they had managed to survive without me.  Please, note the sarcasm!)

I know we all know this (mothers and non-mothers alike).  I know we've all lived this.  So why is it so hard to live it out?

I don't know.  I wish I had some helpful insight into this cycle we can all walk in.  Maybe it's pride, this believing that we can self-sustain without refueling?  I don't know.  I just know that Jesus' words are sooooo true:

"Love you neighbor as you love yourself."

(This is found in Mark 12:31; Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 22:37-40, among other places in Scripture.)

You have to start with you.  That means knowing yourself - knowing what fuels you versus what drains you.  That means choosing yourself - even when you're disappointing others (not all the time, of course; this road calls for balance; but that's another post).  That means loving yourself - going easy on yourself when you make the wrong choice, letting your needs take precedence every once in a while, and doing the things that you love just because they give you life.

This post reminds me of Mary and Martha, of course - another good reference to think on during Mother's Day.  I have spent most of my life as a Martha, only becoming a Mary when I was forced to, when I had no more to give and all I could do was sit.  I have to tell you: I like being Mary much, much more.  The house may not be swept, but I definitely have a better perspective on that little problem after sitting at Jesus' feet for a while. 

I'll wrap this up by wishing all the moms (biological and otherwise) out there much love and fulFILLment today and every day.  I hope you get some time to yourselves.  You deserve it!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Forgetfulness & Hearing God

“You called me a moron.”

“I did what?”

Hmm, this was an auspicious beginning.  I had phoned a friend to ask for his help in writing this article.  You see, the topic I’m supposed to write about – how do you know you’re hearing the voice of the Lord? – is one that, for me, often involves forgetfulness.

One of my giftings is prophecy.  As a prophet, I’ll often have a specific word for people around me – friends, strangers, you name it.  This can make life interesting, most definitely.  The question I get most often from people is: “how are you sure you’re hearing the Lord’s voice?” 

Excellent question.  My honest answer?  I’m never sure, not 100% certain, and I don’t believe I can be.  I believe that part of following Christ, including the process of walking out our giftings, is walking in faith.  Sometimes, you just have to try and know that the God who loves all of us will make up for your lack. 

And, it’s a learning process.  The more you try, the more you learn how He works with you specifically. 

And finally, confirmation helps.  When the Body tells you that what you’ve said to them really made a difference, you start to believe that maybe you’re doing something right.  Praise God.

So back to my friend, the moron.  I called to ask him if I had ever given him a word that impacted his life, a word I had claimed was from the Lord and that he, in turn, believed was from our Father.  He replied: “yes, you called me a moron.”

I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.  He elaborated: “last fall I called to tell you I was dropping out of the race (he was running for Congress in California).  I was fed up, tired, mad at God, and wanted a sign.  I poured out my fears to you as I was driving back from the California Republican Convention.  I also mentioned that a party operator – a campaign manager named Rachel – had been looking for me at the Convention but we never found each other.”

The next day my friend took a much-needed day off to play at Disneyland.  At the end of a fun-filled day he made his way to the fireworks display at the Castle.  He hadn’t sat down for more than a minute when someone shoved their hand in his face and said: “Hello Merlin, my name is Rachel; I’ve been looking for you.”

Merlin was flabbergasted.  He exchanged pleasantries with her and said they’d touch base later.  The day after Disneyland he phoned me again, telling me he had finally decided to pull out because God had not spoken.  I promptly responded with, “you’re a moron” (at least, according to him – I have absolutely NO recollection of any of this.).

“What?” he asked. 

According to Merlin, here’s how I responded: “Merlin, obviously God heard you and gave you a sign.  How many people find the exact person they’re looking for in a crowd of thousands?  How many want-to-be, totally green, unfunded Congressmen have a veteran campaign manager seek them out?  Give me a break, friend.  I believe the Lord is telling you quite clearly: ‘I have called you to this race.  Do not give up.’”

And he didn’t give up.  He went on to knock on over 24,000 doors and raise $45,000, giving 10% to local charities.  He ran one of the most innovative, cost-effective races in California history.  He lost the race, but he made a huge impact on both the Party and the people in his district.  In the process, his own life was changed.  He learned – in a real, tangible way – how to not give up.  He learned how to walk the path Jesus did: how to approach people who literally hate you (he actually received emailed death threats) and speak the truth from his heart.  He witnessed to God’s goodness and glory in an arena that rarely sees the light of Christ proclaimed.  In these and many other ways, he was 100% victorious.

And today he told me it’s because of a word I gave him that I can’t remember.  Did that word come from me?  Heck no!  How do I know when it’s the Holy Spirit speaking through me?  When I can’t remember what I’ve just said!  That’s one way…when my friends reference conversations we’ve had that have clearly impacted them significantly that I can not remember at all.  I often find myself saying: “I said that?”  They look at me like I’m crazy.  But I know that this is a really cool, really good thing that the Holy Spirit does, especially for prophets.  It’s one way He makes sure it’s all about Him and not about me (us).  The more we empty ourselves, the more we get ourselves out of the way, the more room He has to move.

 This is part of a guest post over at Jen's Finding Heaven Today.  You should pop over and check out the entire series: 31 Days to Hearing God's Voice.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Loved Lavishly

I posted this last Friday, but I'm reposting it today because I want to link it up with the gang at Soli Deo Gloria.  Take a second to stop by and visit other posts - there's always LOTS of encouragement to go around.

I just can't let the week end without telling my friends in the blog world what an AMAZING birthday I had.  Thank you to all who celebrated with me!

It started exactly one week ago, when my husband was up for the fourteenth night in a row finishing the deck he built me:

He spent hours, days, weeks doing manual labor after working full days at his job - all for me.  One week ago - when he was putting on the finishing touches:

he looked at me and asked, "you know why I'm doing this, don't you?" 

"Um, for my birthday?" I asked, slightly confused.

"Well, yes," he responded, with that Captain-Obvious look he gives so well.  "But it's more than that: it's because I want you to know that you are loved lavishly.  This is one way I know I can tangibly show you.  I want you to have everything you've ever wanted.  I want you to know that your heart's desires are heard.  I know it's just a deck, but it's a symbol of that - my lavish love for you."

Um, can I just say, I was speechless?  (Yes, me...even I can be at a loss for words.)

I've wanted a deck since before we moved in more than three years ago.  I had definitely given up believing that it could happen.  And then - poof - I now have the most amazing deck ever.

But it didn't stop there.  The next morning I had a quiet time - a real, uninterrupted quiet time - during which the Lord showed up in a big way.  Guess what he said?  "This birthday is about me showing you how lavishly I love you."  Yep, He used the same word my husband had!  It was really cool to see how God had spoken first through my husband and, second, directly to me.  That's when I realized that "lavish" wasn't just a really amazing gift from my husband - it was a word from the Lord.

Then He gave me some verses: Psalm 34: 9-17.

Then we had a party, and nearly forty of my friends showed up (sans kiddos!).  I reconnected with friends I haven't seen in ages - from all parts of my life - while milling about on the (you guessed it) new deck.

At the party several of my friends brought me flowers. 

FLOWERS!  I absolutely love having fresh flowers in my home, but I can count on two hands the amount of times I've had them since my husband and I got married over five years ago.  It has just seemed too ridiculously frivolous to spend money on flowers when there were so many other things to cover.

Did it stop there?

Nope!  So at this point I had this amazing deck but no patio furniture.  Hey, a girl can't get greedy, I thought to myself.  Then my mother gifted me lavishly with cash for furniture.  And when my husband and I went to buy it, we found out that the exact patio furniture we wanted - the expensive furniture - was on sale!  In the height of patio-furniture-selling season!  Everything we wanted was covered exactly by my mother's gift.

There's more...all the people who posted on Facebook with birthday well wishes; the phone calls and texts; the twenty minute, unrushed conversation I had with my sister who lives in the Bahamas; a wonderful day alone with my kiddos on my actual birthday; the chance to go out - alone - with my husband on my birthday night...the gifts just kept on coming.

And all the while, I'm ashamed to admit, I was rejoicing, receiving, and having a really hard time.  It's incredibly difficult for me to receive like this, in ways that overwhelm my defenses.  This lavishness confronts my doubts, my fears, my disbelief - the places in me that whisper: do I really believe that God will provide, not just what I need but also what I want?  Do I actually think that my dreams will come true, even the most seemingly small and insignificant ones?  Do I serve a God that gave me desires in order to fulfill them, and not just to tease me with unfulfilled longing?

Wow, that last thought is really ugly.  But there you have it - raw and real.

I wish I could say that this week of symbolic gifts - gifts that represent the Father's heart toward me as well as my friends' and family's hearts - has magically erased all fear.  It has not - not yet anyway.  But it has definitely started the process.  Faith is growing; fear is waning.  That, in the end, is the greatest gift.  I am so thankful, and I am rejoicing.  I can hear Him whispering: "Happy Birthday, Beloved; you are loved."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Birthday Post

Tomorrow is my thirty-fourth birthday.  It feels weird to be that old (I know, I know, "old" is relative).  I guess what I mean is: I feel much younger inside myself.  Not necessarily in a good way.  Still a bit too uncomfortable in my own skin...a sign of immaturity, I think.

Anyway, birthdays always kind of depress me.  I don't want them to - I fight it every year - but every year a funk settles in around two days before the big day, only lifting several days beyond it.  It feels spiritual, like some sort of weird attack.  Like the enemy wants me to believe that I'm not worth celebrating.  I call bulls**t on that, for the record, but I have to fight the funk nonetheless.

This year, my first year as a blog writer (something I never thought I would do), I'm marking my birthday publicly with this post.  I have a tradition on birthdays.  I always ask two questions:

1.  What was your favorite thing about the last year?

2.  What are you most looking forward to in the year to come?

If you're ever with me or near me (in the blogosphere) on your birthday, you'll most likely have these questions come your way.  You can answer as generally or specifically as you want.  They are meant to cause reflection, to elicit vision, purpose.  For me, the answers must always be bathed in His presence, for that's how I try to live - in Him, with Him, for Him.

This year, these are my answers:

Question One:

This past year was probably the most challenging of my life (even more challenging, I think, than the year my husband developed epilepsy).  During it I became very, very sick, and I watched my daughter go through trauma after trauma (which affected the whole family, of course).  We've all just started to recover - thank God - but we're still reeling from the effects of illness, injury, and more.  It's hard to look back and see something good, if I'm honest, though I know that there are many good things in the midst of all the trauma.

So, I can not pick one favorite thing.  True to form (for those of you who know me well), I have to list several.  One of my favorite things is how loved I have felt by a certain Soli Deo Gloria leader we all know.  She has loved me really, really well this year, faithfully walking alongside me through all the crap, supporting me in practical and impractical ways.  I am thankful for her.  In particular, she enabled me to be able to see a naturopath, which has kick-started the healing/recovery process.  I'll never forget her obedience and love in that.  Thank you, Jen.

Another favorite?  My husband.  I can't say enough here, so I'll try to keep it brief.  We continue to get to know eachother five years into marriage and seventeen years into our relationship, and it just gets better every year.  He is so wise and patient and loving.  He walks me toward Christ daily, simply by being who he is.  I am thankful for him.

I have loved watching my children grow.  Again, this has been a challenging year: my sweet, precious little boy hit the terrible three's and started to drive me crazy; my littlest one had trauma after trauma to fight through.  In spite of both of these things - or perhaps because of them - my relationships with each of them has grown...grittier.  An interesting word choice, but a precise one.  We have grinded eachother into greater purity.  I grow because of them and they because of me.  We stumble in our attempts to love eachother, but we always come back to center - that is, love.  It has been amazing to watch these three year and eighteen month olds grow up.  They have developed so much this year.  I am thankful for them.

Last but not least, this has been the year of "living the dream".  I have become a stay-at-home mom.  I have become a writer.  At long last, my vocational space has shifted into that which I have always wanted it to be, and I am so, so grateful.  Now, if I'm honest, I feel kind of stupid even writing that "I'm a writer" because I'm not yet published, blah, blah, blah.  But in my heart, I am one.  It's how I spend my time; it's what I dream of achieving; it's my goal and calling and act of obedience.  So, this year, I'm praying for fruit to come out of this obedience.  But I get ahead of myself....

Question Two:

Lily's continued healing.  She is developmentally caught up, but now has some physical therapy issues to grapple with, along with her continued, wonky vitamin D issue.  I pray health and wholeness over her.

Watching Lily and Gunnar learn how to love one another.  They are getting to the age where they can actually interact (instead of Gunnar getting to do whatever he wants and Lily just observing him).  I pray kindness and love and tenderness to blossom between them, that they would learn to care for one another from the very beginning of their life-long relationship.  Let it be Lord!

That my husband's heart desires would be fulfilled.  I yearn for this.

That I would get a publishing contract for one of my writing projects.  This is a specific, deep desire - so intense that I physically ache when I think about it.  I want to have faith for this - I want to believe that this is not all for naught.  Most days, I do have faith.  Some days, I doubt.  Oh Lord, help my unbelief - let me stand in the truth that you call us into good gifts, into places where fruit is produced and not just dreamed about.  I want to feel like what I'm doing is real, and not a waste of time.  Please help me stay disciplined, especially during the summer where my time for writing will shrink.

That I will continue to heal, to get stronger, to live a clean life (clean eating, clean products in my home, and more - I'm just beginning to learn what this means).

That someday - maybe by next May - I'll be able to participate in a triatholon.  THAT would be a miracle!  : )

There you have it, friends.  My birthday wishes for myself.  Thanks for walking this journey with me.  Love to you all, Jenny

Monday, May 2, 2011


"You're in recovery, and recovery takes a while."

"It can take up to a year for gluten to completely leave your system and the auto-immune inflammatory cycle to slow down or cease."

Opening myself up.

Walking in balance.


These are the thoughts, words, comments that are rolling around in my head.  I was going to write this post about dreaming only - leaving off my health/recovery process for a bit (after all, that can definitely feel a bit heavy at times!).  BUT, as I sat down to write I realized that it's all related, as things often are when God is at work.

The healthier I become the more in balance I am (physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually).  The more in balance I am the more I am able to open myself up to new possibilities, to dreams.

Here's how the process has looked for me this time around:

Several weeks ago - about the same time I decided to test a gluten-free diet to see if it helped stop my passing-out episodes - I started to dream again.  It was a really strange process, actually.  I didn't actively or intentionally engage it.  Thoughts and ideas - things I later recognized as dreams - just started moving to the forefront of my conscious thinking space. 

The strange part - and this is going to be hard to put into words - is that this dreaming process has been unlike any other I've ever experienced.  It is a new thing, happening from and within a new space.

In the old space - the less mature, more childish space - I would "dream" all the time.  So much so that I eventually decided my tendency to daydream was a bit of an idol.  I was never satisfied with what I had, where I was.  I was always thinking about how things could be better, how I wanted more.

Somewhere in my mid-twenties I recognized how miserable this made me (not to mention how much it dishonored God, the giver of all good gifts), so I made a decision to actively repent.  Every time I would have a daydream thought - like, "oh, I wish my apartment were bigger...how would I remodel this place if I could?" - I would choose to counteract it with a thankful thought.  For example, I would say to myself: "no, stop it.  Instead, let's go here - 'thank you, Lord, that I have a wonderful place to live; thank you for ______' and then I would begin to methodically list everything in my apartment, whether I loved it or not, as an act of worship, acknowledging that God had given me many gifts.  I would list even the most seemingly insignificant things - "thank you for my forks" - because, well, I needed those forks, and I was honestly grateful to have them.

The more I did this, the less time I spent cutting off daydreaming/ungrateful thoughts.  The more I chose thanksgiving, the more my mind changed. 

"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:2, NLV)

Ironically enough, during this same season in my life - and I'm just putting this together as I write - my life's purpose and heart's desires started to come into clarity.  This was my "L.A. time".  I lived in L.A. alone, having moved there to find myself (effectively), knowing no one, wanting an adventure.  During this nearly two year period I practiced the discipline of thanksgiving, as I've described, and I also started to realize who I am.  Silly things like, what's my favorite color?  Do I care about clothes or not?  How do I want to spend my time?  In short, I explored myself and, through the process, I came into focus. 

Words the Lord had spoken years before began to make sense.  His spoken will for my life and my own desire, buried deep beneath a lot of "should's" and desires to people-please, were far more in line than I had ever realized.  And things were much less complicated than I thought.  I didn't have to walk through this melodramatic "what am I made for?" process.  Really, I just needed to let go of a bunch of things and get quiet.  What I was looking for had been there all along.

So, how does this relate to the dreaming that's been happening over the last several months?  Well, I think I had sort of stopped dreaming.  I think I had become bogged down in wife and mommy-hood, living in the daily grind, forgetting to dream.  And, I think I thought that God had already shown me my dreams (to be a wife, mommy, and writer), and, since I was actively pursuing them, there wasn't really anything else to seek, to listen for, to dream about.  Now is the time to walk them out.

I wasn't yearning as desperately as I had in my twenties when I felt so utterly lost.  The desperation for God's revelation wasn't - isn't - as fierce. 

In many ways, I'm grateful for that.  I don't think that's a bad thing at all.  I mean, it's good to be desperate for God, but I was angsty about it.  My younger desperation was not coming from a place of peace.  Now I feel a lot of peace.  I feel very settled.  So, not as desperate but not complacent either (just to clarify).

Having been able to live out my dream of being a stay-at-home mommy, starting last September, I was fully committed to focusing on the now.  But after these last two months, I can tell you, I know God wants me to keep dreaming, for He has more to show me.  He deposited more in me when He knit me together in my mother's womb, and the time seems to be right for some of those deposits to be unearthed, discovered, and mined.

The process has been different because I'm definitely not leading it.  I'm not pounding on God's door asking for Him to let me in and show me what's up.  I'm walking through my life - fairly satisfied and content - focusing on what He has for me now.  Yet He showed up and started whispering - reminding me of things I had forgotten, laid down, let go of.

The more He whispered, the less I could ignore the growing longing in my own heart.  Not all-consuming this time.  Not so intense I feel like it will burn me up.  Much more gentle, like coals glowing after a bonfire has died out.  What is left will burn much longer than the impressive-looking flames.  And even after the coals turn to ash, they will continue giving life, feeding the soil around them.

So I have these new dreams that are actually old.  Longings I had dismissed in my teens, actually, as silly, too lofty, etc.  Now I find myself looking at my husband and saying, "why not?  why should we automatically say 'we could never do that'?"  For maybe, just maybe, that's exactly where He'll lead us next.

Linking up with Jen at Soli Deo Gloria today.  Be sure to stop by some of the other posters' sites - there's always lots of encouragement to go around!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Faith by Proclamation

"Faith is not received through the reception of sensation but rather through the proclamation of the Word."
-Rev. Emma Jean Gregory, Seminarian, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas

The above is taken from today's sermon.  The text was John 20: 19-31.  The priest expounded upon this story of Thomas' doubt by pointing out that Jesus gave us four gifts during this post-Resurrection exchange:
  1. Peace
  2. A Mission
  3. The Holy Spirit
  4. Authority
I thought that was a really cool way to look at this familiar passage - I'll have to think more on that.  But what stood out to me immediately, viscerally, were her comments on the exchange between Jesus and Thomas.  As she pointed out (I'm paraphrasing, of course):

Thomas doubted the other disciples.  He had not seen Jesus alive with his own eyes, and so he doubted.  (How many times have I doubted Christ's resurrection power in my own life?  How many times have I demanded to see proof?  I can certainly relate to Thomas.) 

Jesus showed up specifically to address Thomas' doubts.  He could have ignored Thomas.  He could have punished him for doubting.  But no, He showed up.  He addressed his doubts specifically.

Jesus spoke.  He didn't just come and stand there.  He used both His presence and His words to speak to the heart of the matter with Thomas. 

Jesus invited.  He invited Thomas to touch him, to feel for himself.  He gave Thomas an opportunity to approach Him and experience Truth, New Life in the real here and now.

The next thing Scripture says? 

"Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (verse 28). 

Scripture doesn't say: "Thomas walked over and touched him and then he believed Jesus."  Nope, it says that Thomas recognized Christ simply after hearing Him speak.

And so: "Faith is not received through the reception of sensation but rather through the proclamation of the Word."

The proclamation of the Word.  This is God-initiated.  It doesn't depend on what we do, really, at the end of the day.  It's all about what God does.  It's so amazing how, from my perspective, it just seems that God is standing right there, ready to show up when we need Him, ready to speak the words that will give us the faith we need to do the work He has.

It's good to be reminded that God's Word has the power to transform - a doubter into a believer in this case.  I want to hear His voice.  I want to let His Words permeate me.  I want to be transformed.

Linking up with Michelle at Graceful for "Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday."  Go check out the folks that link up!