Easy like Sunday Morning

bible-1031288_1920I’m easy like Sunday morning…

That song popped up in my head this morning. I guess it goes to show how much sarcasm is simply wired in my brain. Oh boy, at least I make myself laugh. ‘Cause let me tell you, this lovely Sunday morning started out as anything but easy.

My youngest had a hard time staying in his Sunday school class. We eventually bribed him. Mom of the year award, right? He eventually walked in the classroom and plopped on the floor with his arms crossed. Just as sarcasm flows through my veins, stubbornness flows through Oliver’s. At least he isn’t crying, I thought and off I went to meet Matt to head to our bible class. After I checked on him a couple more times, that is.

After dealing with that, we weren’t eager to get to class. We went, of course. It took a few minutes and a few deep breaths to be able to focus. The subject was on slowing down, something I actually just blogged on recently. Gotta love the way God reinforces things for us. There is something about slowing down that sometimes leads us to feel guilty. We shouldn’t, but it’s as though we feel we can’t say no. We feel like we are being lazy if our calendars aren’t filled to the brim. Anyway, the leader even had all of us stop and sit silently for a full minute. Powerful to think of a room full of adults in complete silence.

After class and before worship started, Matt whispered how he was glad we went to class this morning. I nodded and added how funny it is that Satan works hard on those Sunday mornings when you really need to hear something. Satan sure is a jerk!

Like I have said before. Don’t just turn to God. Turn away to God. Turn away from the busyness, the distractions, and all the other noise of this world. When we don’t stop and sit at the feet of Jesus––when we don’t stop and study His word––just think of what we are really missing. His still small voice is what we are missing and that is what we need more than anything in this crazy world.

Freedom

rain.jpgDid you ever play in the rain as a kid? I did. I’ll never forget this one time during my brother’s baseball game. Sporadic heavy raindrops began to fall from the sky as I played in a nearby tennis court with my friends. The rain slowly turned into a steady rainfall. My friends and I lifted our arms high and tilted our heads back as we allowed the rain to land in our open mouths. I remember the laughter that flowed from us and the glances that bonded us in that moment. Time slowed and we were nothing else but free.

Sitting here thinking of that moment, I can almost feel the same freedom I felt that day. I believe if it were to start raining right now I would want to run outside and try to relive it. I wouldn’t actually do it though. That is, unless my kids were with me. I would feel like an idiot standing in the rain by myself.

We all yearn for freedom. Look at the world around you. People are always seeking and fighting for it. Or, they’re in pain because they can’t find it or simply don’t have the strength to fight for it. What I see are people clinging to the the wrong kind of freedom or things that are not freedom at all. They just think or hope it is. Because those freedoms are always in exchange for something else. I wonder if deep down they feel a void knowing it isn’t what they really need to be seeking. Those freedoms are only temporary, they are shallow puddles that will soon dry.

Like me standing in the rain. That free feeling ceased. My friends and I became bored and cold. We ran to our families packing up the cars because the game had ended. I remember having no towel in the car and I couldn’t wait to get home to change into dry clothes. Dry socks never felt so good. The rain was a childhood freedom. Some of my best memories surround such freedoms. Childhood freedoms, although innocent and pure, are temporary as well.

There is only one real freedom in this life and that is freedom in Christ. Many of us “adult” christians know this already. Yet, we hesitate like I do when the thought of playing in the rain crosses my mind. Why can’t we fully embrace this freedom? I already know the answer. It’s because we’re all sinners. But I still wonder…what would happen if we started running and clinging to it like a child, regardless of what sin was standing in the way?

Childlike faith, I believe it’s called. 😉

Would we better sway people away from the false freedoms they are rooted in if they saw us clinging more to the truth our hearts hold so dear? I think about my kids and the type of faith I want them to carry throughout their lives. All I see is a picture of them standing in the rain with their arms up high and heads tilted back because they know freedom, real freedom, never will cease.

Raw

imageThe last year and a half has been rough on me. I haven’t wanted to fully admit it (even to myself) and I especially haven’t felt like discussing it. I don’t want to go into all the particulars that has caused this. Life is life and it isn’t always pleasant. For someone like myself, there is nothing harder than to watch bad things or bad times fall upon people I care about. I’m not saying this to prove I’m a good person, but I’d much rather have bad things happen to myself than to my peeps. That is the good and bad of the gift of mercy. I presume every gift has a weakness and Satan uses that weakness to try to tear us down.

Sometimes it is all the little instances that build rather than just one thing. A cousin commits suicide, an aunt overdoses and dies, an old friend dies, and the other instances I do not wish to share. My cousin left me hurting due to all the pain he endured and felt he couldn’t endure any longer. My aunt, where do I begin? I have fond memories of her wit and creativity. I also have painful memories of watching someone slowly destroy their life over many years. My old friend left me thinking of what more christians can and should do for those who live differently…those who have been dragged down, beaten, and have made poor choices because of this thing called life. Actually, everything from this past year and a half have left me thinking that.

My life has been rather “easy” compared to most. I know that and I am thankful. Maybe it has made it easier to have the faith I have. My struggles are insignificant compared to some and maybe that has made me “weaker”. I know some whom feel I haven’t truly lived. I must disagree. I believe we live through not just our own experiences, but through others as well. Our lives are connected and our lives have the power to alter the lives of others. Our lives are far from being isolated, that is a fact. Yes, I know no one else truly knows what it is like to live in thine own shoes, but that does not mean it doesn’t give insight and life to those around.

My somewhat easy life has left me raw and has left me stumbling. Last night, Matt and I had a conversation that I was yearning for and didn’t even realize I was. He thanked me for all the sacrifices I have made for our family and others. He told me he notices all I do. He said he doesn’t know how I do all I do. It made me weep uncontrollably. I did not know how much I needed to release. Those cleansing tears have left me feeling lighter today. Crazy what a few words from a loving husband can do for a person.

What exactly is the good?

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As I sat waiting for Luke’s game to begin, I played with blades of grass at my feet. My mind was as calm as a glassy lake; there was not a wave nor a ripple in sight. But then my phone rang. It was my dad. He never calls me on the weekend, I thought as I answered my phone.

In one second my frame of mind shifted. The pain of this world, oh the pain. I wasn’t surprised by the news, yet each word stung. Sometimes it is the unsurprising news that hurts the most. I always hope people will respond or do differently than what I see coming. I much rather the stories of people overcoming life. The bad in life, that is. I love when people prevail.

It is a strength and a weakness that I strive to find the good in all things. The problem arises when the pain of this world is deeper than the seemingly good it can bring. I hate to see people give up on life. They throw in the towel and don’t look back, and they don’t look forward either. They remain stuck unable to move. Maybe that is why I need Romans 8:28, we all need Romans 8:28.

Wait.

What exactly does that even mean? I just talked about pain and giving up on life. Now I am encouraging a bible verse that talks about “in all things God works for the good”? Yes, I just said that and that.

Yesterday, after I wrote my blog post about this verse, I walked into my kitchen and there on my table were mason jars full of carnations. They’ve been sitting there for almost a week, but I saw them as if they just magically appeared.image I focused in on the pink ones. Romans 8:28 reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my grandma’s death. Since the verse keeps popping up I have been thinking of her. Pink carnations were her favorite. They’ve been here in my house and yet it slipped my mind until that moment. As if that were not enough, I went to sit on my couch. My phone was in my hand because I was getting ready to clean and was going to put music on. (Who likes to clean without music?) I sat, thought about my grandma, pulled myself together, and then put Pandora on. I began to stand up when the song Homesick came on. It was the song they played at her funeral.

The tears flowed, I pictured my grandma’s face, and then peace came. My grandma was touched by the pain of this world, just like us all. Her pain is no more, though. She’s home. It got me thinking. That’s it, I’m homesick. We are all homesick. That is why it hurts so bad. We know we don’t belong here.

We are touched by our bad choices, other people’s bad choices, unexpected news, disease, death, and etc. We must remember our hope and truth lie in the fact that sin or anything that happens as a result cannot ruin God’s plan. His mind is set on our eternal salvation. His mind is set on bringing us home. That is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Stop and brew on that for a minute. That is powerful stuff. Nothing can stop His plan and nothing can stop His purpose of eternity.

The challenge lies not in my knowing this. It lies in my sharing this. It lies in you sharing this. How can we show people the good in God’s purpose? How can we show them that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not prevail?

The Whisper From Within

I pulled my hair back into my usual low messy bun, removed my sunglasses, and peered into the opening of the cave. My hands tightly held my treasured designer sunglasses that hid tired eyes on my busiest days. I remembered the day I bought them and the false sense of accomplishment I felt wearing them. I wanted to rid myself of all of that and so I quickly tossed them into the tall grass behind me.

I stood staring into the never-ending darkness. I took a deep breath and stepped inside. A light sweeping breeze tickled my skin. I heard the whisper, the whisper from within, calling me to continue. It was the same whisper telling me to leave behind my fierce independent ways. It assured me perfection is a weak and fragile state. It reminded me real strength lies in the mess. It lies in being content with your mess and with your limitations.

I was frightened, yet determined. I thought of the steps that led me there. I was in my early twenties. The noise of busyness, the layers of self-made sludge, the wounds of days past had drowned out the whisper. I wanted nothing more than to listen and embrace it once again. I was never meant to live that life. I was meant to live my life. So, one day I stopped. I just stopped, pretty much dropped, and couldn’t move any further into the life I created. A life I worked so hard at maintaining the image of perfection and self-sufficiency. It was then I saw brave was not nonstop trying and doing and living the “good” life. Brave was standing where I was that moment. Brave was stepping inside my own cave.

I took another deep breath and didn’t look back. It felt like the first few moments after jumping into a pool. There was a shocking cold that quickly transformed into a refreshment for my weary soul. My eyes adapted and light appeared. The outside noises soon diminished. I began shoveling through the sludge. I came across my wounds, some I healed and some I simply acknowledged. There was nothing else between me and the whisper from within. It was like a long lost friend I hadn’t seen in years. We embraced and cried and fell right back into the old rhythm of things. I fell back inline and freed myself from the pressures of this world.

There are times, will always be times, I wander outside the bounds of my life. I find my way back to my cave, I do the work all over again. I know that life isn’t real, it isn’t sincere, it isn’t mine. It is built on pressure and duty and pushing past limitations I was never meant to push past. No one is made to do it all, to try it all, to go and go and go until you drown out the voice from within. So just stop and go inside your cave. You won’t regret it. I haven’t.

This Thing Called Grace

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I think of the crushing weight that pressed on His beautiful soul. The beauty He held, I can never fully grasp. I try to comprehend. I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture the events leading up, as well. My mind is too weak. I skim over the hard parts. My body clenches at the very thought of trying to endure even one lashing. The driven nails are pulled out by my selfish need to fend off pain before it ever really begins.

The purpose of His dying was so I could be free from the yoke. Yet, there are times I forfeit the lightness that was so freely given to me. Why do I trample on my clean soul? Why do I worry, I fear, and I forget?  I hold a beautiful opened gift and I sometimes wrap it back up and tuck it away for a rainy day. Maybe not always, maybe not as much as I used to, maybe not as much as others…but enough to feel the chains that bind.

Now here’s the thing that gets me every time. I do not need to shed any blood or endure any of what He did. I do not need to earn His love or His approval. All I need is faith. He sees me as me. Not as the world portrays me to be…not what I portray me to be either. He…loves…me.

Whenever I tuck this thing called grace away he gently helps me unwrap it. He reminds me of my worth. He places His finger under my chin and lifts my head up like no other. It is because of this I am led through the Holy Spirit’s power to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

From a Manger to a Cross

fullsizeoutput_e.jpegI apologize to anyone who read my post last year…or other similar ones, but things lay heavy on me and what else am I to do?  I feel there is more depth this year than last and am wondering next year if it is possible to transcend further into whatever it is you’d call it that I feel post-Christmas.

Life starts shifting back to normal. My kids are exhausted. My house is a disaster.  I’m exhausted as well.  I’m a bit of an introvert.  I absolutely love people, I love to be around people. I also need and crave calm and quiet at times.  I need both.  I need time to reflect and get lost in my own mind. When there are many things I need to get done, like before Christmas, it sucks my energy.  I become a bit recluse trying to do what needs to be done.  Plus, this year I was sick and couldn’t rest trying to get it all done. I feel like I need to buy a t-shirt that says, “Sorry, I really do like you, but I’m peopled out.”

I am looking at the heaps of gifts scattered throughout our house and tell myself I’ll organize it later.  I feel grateful for my family and for my husband’s family.  We both have pretty low drama and intact families, at least compared to the norm.  My kids are shown love and it is almost too normal for them to have the best of everything. I do my best to show them how blessed they are for all these things. We give back and I allow the boys to to be a part of choosing where and how we do so.

Obviously, I want to have my good life. Who wouldn’t?  I feel blessed and I thank God for all we have.  But, I feel a pulling inside me that just keeps growing.  When did it start?  I think it has always been there my entire life. It is just that sometimes I feel it to the point it physically hurts. I see what I have and I see what others don’t have and it makes me sad. The older I get the more I see and feel it.

Lately, I don’t think it is enough to just recognize it.  It isn’t enough to donate clothes and old toys.  It isn’t enough to donate money, goats, and so on to the poor.  It just doesn’t feel like I’m dong enough.  No, I’m not going to give up all we have to go wander the streets with my family to make myself feel better.  I truly don’t know what I feel like I should be doing.  I’m in this praying, waiting, praying stage.  I’m practicing what I preach to others.  Give it to God and wait on His answer.

I sit here staring out my window and reflect on the life of Jesus. It began in manger, a feeding trough. It ended on a cross, Him literally nailed to it. Everything in between the two was not a life fit for a king. Yet He is the King of Kings. Through the world’s eyes, no one would ask for such a life. He was not rich or powerful. He lived a life full of sacrifice. I think about sin and how we easily can sin on a daily basis. There are sins we fight daily and it takes great sacrifice not to succumb to at times. Think of all the sacrifices He made to live a sinless life. We know He was tempted. Yet He chose a path we could never.  We are too weak to live a life such as His.

We rely on grace and many times take it for granted.  We chew on the bread and sip the wine.  We know what a blessing and gift it is to partake in. Yet most times, at least to a certain extent, Monday morning comes around and we fall right back into worldly thinking.  We may read the Word and try to teach our kids the best we can. We send our prayers.  We serve in the church. But, we don’t love our neighbors as we should and we surely don’t spread the gospel as we should.  We don’t step out of our comfort to live the life God is calling us to.

The crazy part is God loves us despite all of this!  

We know this because He sent His son to live a life we could never live and to die a horrible death to save us from ourselves. We are saved because of our King who began His life in a manger and ended it on a cross. He lived that life and here I am living my easy peasy one…and it doesn’t quite seem right.