Fear

“This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Within context, the Lord is commanding Joshua, and the people of Israel to be courageous. Not because there was nothing that would normally cause fear or discouragement for someone facing such opposition, but because GOD WAS WITH THEM, they had nothing to fear.  That’s the key.  God was with them.  God already knew the outcome and he wasn’t going to abandon them.  He had it.

When God is with us, we have nothing to fear.

There will be circumstances in this world, every single day where we could have good reason to fear.  Good reason to be afraid, anxious, worried.  And yet, God’s word says, we have nothing to fear but God himself.

I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:4-7

With all the damage and potential for harm, injustice and pain, God’s answer is, “do not be afraid, you are with more than many sparrows.”  We are his kids.  Now this is in the context of the disciples going out and preaching the gospel, Jesus warns them that they will be flogged, thrown in jail and some even martyred, however I believe it applies to us as believers.  We have God with us, of whom or what do we have to be afraid?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Self-discipline.  For me, I think fear can be a drug.  It’s not even a nice one.  The irony is I literally hate real drugs because they can make my body feel out of my control.  And yet fear is a drug in itself that can cause us to loose our grip of control.  It distorts reality, and then starts everything spinning so much that then what is true and what is a lie are no longer distinguishable.  And it takes discipline and prayer to not give into it.

Once I felt God say to me, “do not take counsel from fear.”

I say all this because I feel like recently the Lord has spoken to me regarding my fears.  I am planning on getting lasik eye surgery towards the end of next week for my birthday.  The outcome sounds fantastic, and I really believe it will be.  When I prayed about it, I felt like the Lord showed me that I’d say, “I wish I would have done this sooner.”  So that’s a good end in my book.  The thing is… I haven’t gotten it yet.  Screeeeech!!!!

To get the surgery I have to have lazers shoot at my eyeballs while a vacuum holds them in place.  There are a lot of people who are not bothered by this in a bit, however when I think through having to take the drugs to numb my eyes, (something that is not my favorite feeling) and then not pass out from the loss of control over my body (which I’ve done in the past!) it freaks me out a little bit!  My eyeballs!!!  The smell of burning flesh!!!

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So naturally, I talked to the Lord about it.

He gave me an awesome word picture.  He showed me two different pictures.

In the first one, I’m waiting in a dark, cave-like hallway set up to be a fun waiting zone, like a cave or hallway at Disneyland.  It’s a bit dark, but has lights and is completely safe and a little boring.

The other picture is of a fun house, but it’s not really fun.  Mirrors are warped, tons of neon colors, music that is way too loud, stuff spinning, florescent lights, it reminds me of a cheap fair ride.  Inside, it is difficult to get anywhere and very disruptive and the fun is more for the maker and less the patron, almost to mock those who enter.  As though the creator could watch and laugh at those who enter.  And yet, outside, it’s a cool night, still, quiet and calm.  That is reality.

I feel like the fun house word picture is fear.  It seems like fun, but inside everything is warped and disorienting.  Outside, reality, is calm, cool and still.  Reality doesn’t change because you step into a fun house, but stay long enough and it will begin to mess with your mind.  It doesn’t make any of it true.  Outside remains a perfect calm night.

The darkness in both word pictures may represent that there will be instances where we wont see all the details, and yet there is no danger in it because God can see all of it.

The first word picture is safe.  And it’s designed with the purpose of making it fun for the patron.  Every detail was thought of (just like in Disneyland) and it was safe.  For the record, I REALLY like Disneyland, and I’m always impressed how even the tunnels and waiting areas are set up for the amusement of the patrons, they take every effort and energy and pour it into the finished product all for the amusement of the patron.

And that’s the difference.  In the one instance, the joke is on the patron and the maker gets to enjoy the foolishness and make fun of the one inside the “fun house” and it’s not really fun for those who enter.  In the other, the maker goes over every single detail, with the patron in mind, all for the patron’s pleasure.  The maker does all the work, just so we can enjoy it, and even if it’s just a waiting area for a fun ride, the details are all there, everything thought of in advance.  He did all the work for us to just enjoy it.

Isn’t that how God is?  He even has the details of the waiting set up to be perfect for us.  And that’s God’s grace.  He cares more about us than himself.  Jesus died for our sins, so we might enjoy life everlasting.  He gave of himself, for us.

The Lord spoke to me a few times just today about the upcoming lazer eye surgery.  Because it’s been keeping me up at night.  This morning, I was going through old photos and I found this one.  It’s of my dad holding Ellie because Davin was acting like a sleeping monster, and she was legitimately scared.  The older two were having so much fun with the “sleeping monster”, however Ellie really did become afraid.  So my dad held her.  He didn’t stop the game, he picked her up and held her.

When I saw the picture, the Lord prompted my heart reminding me that he holds me in this way.  That he loves me with that same compassion and that he’d hold me while having lazers shoot at my eyeballs.  That I didn’t have to be in control, but just to trust him.  That he would be with me.  I’d have nothing to fear even though I would be in the dark about so much of it.

Tonight as I walked to my car alone, leaving my dad and Davin with the kids, I felt the Lord walk with me, arm around my shoulder, “I’ve got you.”

Later this evening, I held my youngest before bed.  Just rocking her in her chair, savoring her beautiful hair, and soaking up the sweet cuddle moments.  I felt the Spirit remind me, “I love you just as you love her.  I made you, I adore you, I’ve got you.”

I say all this not because I am special or that lazer eye surgery is terrifically terrifying – it’s not.  I say this to tell you, God CARES, SOOOO much even when we are afraid of stupid things.  He feels the same way about you.

But we have to believe him.  We have to walk in that truth and reality, otherwise things can get distorted.  We have to have the self-control to not let our mind go to a fun house.

In all reality, when I’m not psyched out, I’m actually excited for lazers to shoot at my eyeballs and make my vision clear for the rest of my life.  That’s going to be SO crazy to wake up and be able to see in the morning.  I’ve never known that.  I can snorkel and swim without having to worry about loosing a contact, or travel without having to bring extra glasses and solution. That’s the Disneyland ride I’m waiting for in the hallway word picture.  But I have to go through the somewhat boring hallway (the surgery) to get to the fun part.

God loves me so much, that even when I am unable to calm myself down, when I am so afraid I can hardly think straight, when I feel like I might pass out in fear – God cares enough to wrap his arms around me and ease my fears.  My silly fears.  All in SUCH love.  He doesn’t mock me or tell me to get over it, or even minimize the concerns, he simply reminds me of who he is and who I am to him.

You’re his kid that he loves, and that just like with Joshua and the Israelites, “ God is with you wherever you go”.

You have nothing to fear.

 

 

So I went to Chicago all by my onesies

You all might think part of this story sounds kind of, “out there”.

But it honestly scared the crap out of me to write it out, so that probably means I should. Besides, I can never let this stuff go once it’s in my head, so there.

I recently went to Chicago.  All alone.  Like by myself.  I haven’t gone anywhere by myself to a place where I physically know not a soul since college.  I’ve grown accustomed to having Davin, or the kids or friends around all the time.  Apparently I like being surrounded by people.

I flew to Chicago to attend the Storyline Conference and Writer’s Workshop.

When I was 24 and lying by my parents pool one summer day with my best friend Jen, I read Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz in pretty much one sitting.  I remember telling the Lord that there were lots of authors I would love to meet, but that most of them were already dead, however, Donald Miller was still alive and if I could meet any author, it would be him.  That was over ten years ago, before authors were on facebook and twitter and were accessible.  For all I knew he was in a cabin in the woods and I had as likely chance of meeting him face to face as I did meeting a mermaid (yet another dream of mine).

So then Storyline comes up, like it did last year, except this time it’s different.  It includes a writer’s workshop – with Donald Miller as the main speaker.

One of my favorite authors is going to share his secrets on how he writes books and I could potentially meet him.

I was in anguish.  See, I’m not a hired writer, no one pays me, this isn’t a real job.  How in the world could I justify spending a bunch of money to fly to Chicago, pay for a conference, hotel and rental car, AND leave my kids for five days over Halloween when my actual main job is to be the stay at home, take care of the day-to-day life mom?  Writing at this point is just a hobby. This was crazy.  But there was a part of my heart that wanted it so bad.

Then I saw this talk by Shauna Niequest.

And I voxed two of my praying friends in tears.

“Why am I crying right now?  I’m literally crying over a video on the internet (and I wasn’t even pregnant then).  Why am I crying?”

Shauna had said something in her video that hit me deep to the core.  I’ll summarize as best as I can, although it’s worth watching the video if you have any dreams.

She essentially talked about what she’d learned from her mom who raised all the kids while her husband did full time ministry.  She dedicated everything to it, setting all her other dreams to the side, assuming she’d just pick them up when all the kids were grown.  They grew and she realized she didn’t know who she was anymore.  It took her two years to discover who she was again. ( I started crying at this point because I felt like I was on that path and it didn’t look so good for me come 20 years from now).

So, just because you’re a mom, doesn’t mean you have to let all of your dreams die or put them on hold for 25 years.  Dreams need to be kept alive, even if it’s just one hour a week because they are a part of who you are meant to be.  You’re not only a mom, a wife and a homemaker, you are a human whose other gifts are meant to bless the world.  Letting your dreams die will slowly kill you inside.

That was her message.

I took a brave breath and prayed.

Jesus, if I am meant be at this conference please make me not afraid to dream and pray about it.  I don’t want to scrape up my dead dreams at 50.  I want to live my whole life fully alive, even if it’s currently harder than letting my dreams die.

So I prayed.  For a while.

Then I got a little more brave and I straight cold asked God.  What happens if I go, and what happens if I don’t?  And that’s a little crazy to some of you but I really do ask God questions like that and I really do feel like he gives me answers sometimes.

I felt like He gave me two word pictures.  They were both long allegories, so I won’t tell them both.  In the first one, I go to the conference.  In the second one I don’t, and I wander for quite a long time before anything happens.  It was a little boring until the end.

I preferred the first one because of how I felt at the end of it.  In the second one, I end up in a dark cave full of riches, like Aladdin, but the road there was long and lonely and I had to meet a grumpy lady who didn’t like me.  57099205Meah.

Here is the first word picture, summed up.  I am outside of a huge warehouse, it’s night.  I go in the back door.  I wander through a long twisted hallway.   The kind where you walk and walk and think, where is this going?  Where is the end?  I finally get to another doorway.  It is blocked by two huge bodyguards.  They don’t want to let me in.  Inside is a dance club, a big party. Somehow, I get in, after a bit, past the bodyguards.  There is a table there for me, with my name on it, but the person who was scheduled to meet me there never shows up.  So I leave the table.  No one notices me.  I feel a bit lost.  Everyone is socializing and talking and I am just watching people.  I feel alone.  I walk to the dance floor and because I don’t know anyone there, I look down at the ground and see a coin.  It’s shiny.  A few people above on the second floor see me pick it up and are jealous because they didn’t find it.  All the sudden a giant chandelier drops down out of the ceiling and I can stand on it, it takes me up to the roof outside on the top of the building.  It is still night.  On top, the man who is in charge of the whole conference tells me all that I need to know about writing.  He shows me the entire landscape of the land. Every direction.  At this point I am overwhelmed with excitement.  I am bursting.  It’s as though I just learned everything I’ll ever need to know about writing, to finally just write without feeling like I’m missing something.  It is an amazing feeling.  I could explode.  Then all the sudden, I am somewhere else, like an Alice in Wonderland type of maze, except it’s morning now.  I walk through the landscaped walls and find myself at a dead end, with a boat to one side and a small stream.  It is set up for a party.  Creatures come and serve me a tea party.  It’s nice.  Then just like that it’s over, I get into the gondola next to me and sit in the stream for only a few seconds as it takes me past the dead end.  Then I get out.  It is still morning, so although I was deterred for a short bit, haven’t really lost any time.  I’m now out of the maze and completely free.  It’s totally open, the whole landscape.  Hills, trees, a sunrise the whole landscape is open for me to explore and I feel a complete sense of peace, satisfaction and capability to go anywhere.  It is like a crazy exhilarating feeling.

I wanted that feeling.  I wanted that end.

To me, that represented the feeling I would have in writing if I attended the conference.

So I talked to Davin and I’m pretty sure in the end we were both the bodyguards.  It was hard to justify leaving my kids.  It was hard not to feel selfish for taking a trip like this.  It’s not like we’re super loaded and can just drop two grand on a spur of the moment trip.  We researched, we prayed, I debated, I prayed.  I finally sorta-kinda committed.  I signed up for the conference.  I kept telling myself I could always back out if I needed to.  Then I reserved a hotel room.  All things I could still back out of.  Then two different rental cars.  We didn’t buy my flights until it was almost too late.  Now I couldn’t back out.

In the end, I knew I had to go.  Even though I was six weeks pregnant and beginning to feel the sharp pangs of morning (see: all day) sickness, and excessive sleepiness.  I told Jesus that he was going to have to help me A LOT on this trip.  When I travel, Davin takes care of everything.  He checks flights, carries my bags, drives the car.  All I have to do is walk next to him.  I’m like five years old in responsibility world when we travel together.  Now I had to do it all, with a preggo brain and uneasy stomach.  I put on my very tight big-girl pants and got on the plane.  I just took it one step at a time.

The conference was amazing.  I did walk away feeling like I’d finally gained the insight needed to just write confidently, not worrying that I’d be missing some obvious skill or rule that all the other writers knew.  I do feel more free to just write.  But I don’t think the whole process is complete yet.

My head was filled with so many good ideas and inspiration over those four days that I came home in a bit of a daze.  I’m still sorta in that daze.

One speaker told us to say yes to almost everything, just for the experience.  Some speakers told us to say no to almost everything, so we could say yes to only what was best.  I resonated with Shauna Niequist the most when she spoke about being very good at efficiency – getting everything done, while in the process only allotting a specific short amount of times for silly-play or fun with her family.  She shared how she’s become very good at managing everything and everyone in her life but not really living it.  I could have cried.  I know that person oh so well.  I’ve been working this past year and a half of blogging, to NOT be that person anymore. To slow down, to do less, to savor and enjoy the simple little moments more.  She talked about how we are always going to disappoint somebody, we just need to choose who.  This struck me. How many times have I chosen the wrong person to disappoint?  She also said, “only do as much as you can do in love.”  I’m not operating in love when I am rushing, getting to the next thing, or charging through a to-do list.  Shauna was inspiring and honest.

The way I’m going to apply what I’ve learned from Shauna is to start my days with Jesus.  I usually do this anyway, but I’m going to be a little more intentional about it.  Not just reading my bible like I’m pretty religious about, I want to also then spend time just talking to God.  I don’t mean praying to ask him for things which is still important, I mean praying to ask him his opinion about things, like what should my pace be today God, what’s on your heart today God? Maybe it will look more like me sitting and staring at the oaks in the field across our street and just thanking him for the beauty of the day, just resting in his creation.

In the writer’s workshop they talked all about using words, and only a few words, and only the best words… it all made me a bit intimidated to ever put a sentence on a page again.  They talked about how writing is a horrible, painful process.  By the end of it I was thinking to myself, “Why the heck do I want to be a writer?  This sounds miserable!”  But, these speakers do it for a living, and I get the pleasure of only doing it when I want, as a hobby.  So, I decided that it was okay that I still loved writing, and maybe that didn’t mean I was doing it wrong, maybe I just am just going to have the pleasure of loving it?  Let’s hope so:-)

And lastly, my favorite concept that I took from the entire conference was this: we are all telling a story with our lives, and your story matters.  They said we all have God given gifts and talents in us, and that if we are fully operating in those, we will be telling a meaningful story.  They had so many examples of people living their dreams, and changing the world in the process.  They were all unique, just a person pursuing their passion, and in the process doing something huge to help others.

So, along with me, let’s ask ourselves what truly lights us up?  What do we daydream about? Donald Miller said he daydreamed about making trails in his backyard.  He said he thought that was dumb until the life coach he was speaking to said that was exactly what J.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would do as they came up with ideas for Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

So, what do you daydream about?  It just may be the thing that helps you change the world.

Here are some obligatory photos from my trip (most of them were taken to send to Davin, and I have to say, I feel totally ridiculous taking selfies, by MYSELF.  It’s really awkward and embarrassing.  I had to keep myself from telling others around me, “these are for my husband, I’m not just in love with myself…”

Here is Portillo’s and the “meatless choices” they offer: halibut and tuna.  Not exactly what I’d call “meatless” ha!

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This idea actually makes me nervous… how do they get the food to stay fresh?IMG_4731

Full on pregnant lady meal.  A chocolate cake shake.  They literally blend chocolate cake INTO the shake.IMG_4732

The best view I actually had of Chicago – didn’t really get that close.

IMG_4746View of Shaumburg, where I was most of the time.

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Willow Creek is more like a campus, less like a church building.  Pretty cool concept.IMG_4670

Definitely sneaking pictures of Donald Miller and two directors… not really all that sneaky!
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The writer’s conference.IMG_4715

The only shot with Donald Miller, of course, it’s blurry;-)  Whateve’s I didn’t want to take up his time.  He had a looooong line of people waiting to talk to him.  Had there been time, I might have said, “Snap!  You are an amazing writer – thank you for introducing me to a type of writing that I actually felt like was a voice similar to mine.  I love your raw honesty and your writing has inspired me to write myself.  Thank you.”IMG_4734

Photo of Chicago taken in the rental car office.  IMG_4653

I love Coke slurpee’s!  At the film festival.IMG_4660

The toilets here have extremely high handles… maybe it has something to do with the cold?  It mystified me.  TMI?  Perhaps.IMG_4661Airplane ride!  I survived!!!  
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The end!

Thanks for reading!

What Really Matters

Today I came across a card I’ve had for years.  I love cards, and I collect them.  Mostly to give away, but this one I’ve kept because it has a glamorous picture of Grace Kelly on the front, and it was like over six bucks.  For years, I’ve always looked at it and thought of how she was such a beautiful woman, and how wise and gracious she always seemed.  Every time I’ve looked at the card, I’ve looked at her as though she were older and wiser than myself.

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Today I looked at it and realized she wasn’t older anymore.

When I looked at the card, closely, I realized that I am now older than the Grace Kelly on my card.  When did that happen?

I’m not in my twenties anymore.

I always thought once I was older, I would actually FEEL older, more confident of the decisions I made, more sure of myself, that I would know how to live my life and not mess up.  I would feel the way Grace Kelly looks on the front of this card.  Fully put together and wise, never letting an ungracious word come from my mouth.  Now, I know that no one is perfect, but this is just what I’ve thought.  I really believed that I’d reach an age where I finally didn’t feel like a little kid just trying to learn what I’m doing.

But I haven’t.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and wonder where the parents are in our house.  And then I realize that Davin and I are the parents.

I have another card, it’s from Hawaii.  I bought it because it reminded me of one of my best friends, mostly because there is a beautiful brown Hawaiian girl and a cute little blond girl on the cover, and whenever Jen and I take photos, I feel like we look like that, beautiful brown and pale precious blond together.

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When I looked into the eyes of the little girls, so sweet and young, hopeful, I realized something else.

We are still young.

We are so much like those little girls on the front of the Hawaiian card.  We don’t have all the answers, she and I make mistakes.  We try to cook dinners like my kids do in their pretend kitchen, we invent games to make life fun and try and go camping and have baby showers, and we have best friends that we look forward to seeing.  We are really just like children trying at life.  Especially in the areas of marriage and motherhood.

(Andrew Belle, Sister)

 

I think often times, Jesus looks less on us like adults who should have their lives together, and more like kids who are just playing at life, trying to learn and grow and explore.  I don’t think he throws up his hands in exasperation every time we do something wrong, like when I say the wrong words in a moment of frustration, or choose impatience when I should be stopping to rest in Him.  I think he sees that we are still learning and is gracious.  I think he loves that we are trying.

I think he loves that we are trying.

And when we don’t get it perfect, I think he still loves us with the same love that he always has and always will.

We don’t love our kids more when they win an award, we love them because we spend our days with them, because they are our children.  We are happy to see them succeed, mostly because it’s fun to see your own kid feel successful, but I love my kids because they are there with me in all the little moments of life, the dinners, the swim lessons, the getting ready for bed baths and brushing teeth.  We do life together, and just being around them makes them so very, very lovable.  I love them just the same at the end of the night whether they have made a million good choices or twenty bad ones.  I may be more tired or frustrated, feeling like I may have missed something or be failing them, but I never feel like I don’t love them with all of my heart.  And, since Jesus already knows how to do his job perfectly, he doesn’t get frustrated, wondering how he could possibly do it better.  Nope.  He just continues to love and chase after us with his fierce, unrelenting love.  I don’t think he’s he’s worried that he’ll loose us.

I think I beat myself up too much.  I give myself a hard time every time I don’t do something perfect.  And I imagine Jesus is thinking the same.  When really, instead of looking at myself and my mess-ups, I’d do better just to look at Christ, and see his deep love for me reflected in his eyes, in his real life actions towards me.  In the sunset he made to say, “I love you and I want you to have beautiful moments” in the surprise part of the day when my son comes running into the kitchen while I’m cleaning up breakfast and says, “Mama, I love you” and then gives me a kiss for no reason.  When I find myself with my head against my husband’s chest and his arms wrapped around me tight, thinking, this is how much God loves me, he loves me like this.  Or even in the quiet moments when I can hear him say to me, “Peace, be at peace.  You don’t need to rush in this life.”

When my toddler brings me a toy kitchen pan with a pretend apple in it and says with all the enthusiasm IN THE WOLRD, “MOMMY!!!!  I MAKE YOU A WOOSIE!!!! (smoothie), I don’t think to myself, “shoot, this girl doesn’t know an apple from a frozen beverage!”  No, she’s just trying, she’s playing and pretending.  It’s not the end of the world.

I think Jesus knows the whole picture.  I think he trusted us enough to give us free will, to get it wrong sometimes, but I think he knows that we are going to choose him.

One time I had a dream.  It was years and years ago.  I was at a point in my twenties where I felt like my life was a waste because I had everything physically that I wanted, but not relationally.  I wanted a husband and a family.  I had the house, the job, the car, the friends, but not what my heart truly, truly wanted and there was nothing I could see that I could do to make it happen.  I was so frustrated at God for not giving me what I thought was so important in that moment.

In my dream, I found myself in a completely white place.  It was nothing of this world that I have ever seen, the basic rules of science and gravity on earth did not exist in this place.  Every being was under God and his authority.  I couldn’t see him, but he was in front of me.  I was suspended in the air, and nothing looked familiar.  I knew that I knew, there was no way I could lie, or get around what was the ultimate authority in front of me.  I wasn’t getting out of anything here.  Everyone and everything was in agreement that God was the authority, and I felt very, very small.  He then called me into question, “What do you have to say for yourself?”

I thought of my whole life on earth.  Everything I’d ever done, good, attempts at good, any of it.

It all amounted to nothing in the place where I was.  NUUAAHHH-THING.

It was if I was the defending lawyer in the case of the century, the whole world involved, and I brought kindergarden coloring scribbles.  I was like, “Here, this is my evidence.”  That would be absurd.  It wouldn’t even begin to be close to anything even remotely helpful in my position as a defending lawyer.  I’d be laughed at.

That was what ALL of my life amounted to in front of God, kindergarden scribbles.

Then, I could feel someone standing behind me.  I recognized him.  It was Jesus.  I said, “He knows me!  He knows me!”  That’s all I could say of any value in that place.  He was the ONLY reason that I was allowed to continue standing where I was.  Because I knew Jesus.  I knew him well enough to recognize him standing behind me.

I say all this to remind myself about what truly matters in this whole life of menu planning, diets, exercise, sleep schedules, ironing clothes, sweeping the floor and trying to do everything right according to this world and Pinterest and Facebook and Martha Stewart and Pottery Barn catalogues.  And no, my house is not decorated for fall, and that’s okay.

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I still don’t even have a coffee table for our upstairs media room, for over two and a half years, we have held our cups and popcorn while watching movies.  We have unending projects and sometimes I just don’t want to cook dinner or sweep the floor, and I’m pretty sure I found a spider under the kitchen cabinets who’s been living there for the last four months.  My life is so messy, and it doesn’t really, really matter on the big scale of things.

But what really matters?

That I know the One who really matters.

Romans 12:2 The Message (MSG)

Place Your Life Before God

12 1-2 “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

As always, thanks for reading.

God’s in your box

A while back, I started to read C.S. Lewis’ book, The Problem with Pain.  But at the time, I wasn’t IN much pain, so I lost interest and moved on.  The other day I was wishing I had read it.

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This last week, I was in a great deal of pain.  I had a four-day migraine.  It came and went, and was super bad at the beginning.  Like puke-in-the-sink my-head-might-explode bad.

All I could think of at first was, “whhhhy?”

“Why God, would you allow this to happen?  I thought I was healed?  I really was!  I’m so disappointed!”

Also, I just told like the whole internet that you healed me, soooo, that’s pretty awkward.  What am I suppos-to say?

Not like God is ruled by what goes onto the internet, that’s for sure, but I felt kinda crappy about the fact that I just finally announced my big healing news and was super stoked, and then I came back from a church retreat and I got a few headaches that week, and then one very enormous migraine the following week.

As my toddler would say, “supa lame.”

Here is what I do know, and why I am actually sharing this.  Because my life trails are not all that important in your world, however, some of the stuff I learn during them has been life changing for me, so I want to share.

On Tuesday, after I got over my pity party, I took some ibuprofen and thanked Jesus that he helped people invent medicine to make me feel slightly better when I’m sick. I then ate, and took a nap and threw away any guilt I was feeling that I wasn’t healed, or didn’t trust God enough to heal me and not take medicine.  I was able to go out to dinner that night with some friends, and felt mostly fine.

I woke up the next morning, at like 3:30 am, feeling nauseous and back in pain.

After praying for awhile for other stuff, I finally got the nerve to ask God what was up.  And although he didn’t answer me why I had to go through the pain I was going through, he did tell me the following.  It has changed how I see Jesus completely.

He showed it to me in a word picture, as he almost always does when he speaks to me outside of the bible or a sermon or whatever.

Here is the word picture followed by what I felt like was insight he gave me:

I am in like basically the visual of outer space, it’s black.  There is a clear very large box.  I am inside this box and it is able to seal completely, so nothing can get into it unless it is opened.  I can’t open it.  In the box, along with myself is what I call sunlight dust particles, the dust you see in the air when the sunlight hits it right.  In this word picture, they are pain particles.  Small particles, that God the Father allowed into my box, and is allowing me to feel.  He is outside of my box.  He said that he knows every single one, he knows the number, the size the weight of them all.  He didn’t let one more speck into my box than necessary.  He said he knows my pain better than I do, he can see it from top from bottom, from inside and out, every angle.  In moments where I forget my pain, he still is aware of it.  So I’m like, okay, but why?  I hate this box.

Then, I see Jesus in my box.

He feels everything I feel.  He feels the same exact pain I feel.  We feel it together. He allows himself to feel the same pain, every ounce, every nanosecond of it, so that he is always acutely aware of what I am feeling.  Even if I forget for a moment, he is always aware of it.

I have never thought of this before.  I always thought when the bible says, “he was a man of many sorrows, he was a man of great pain” it was just talking about his physical life on earth, which was indeed full of pain and sorrow.  I always thought he could relate to our pain, like, “yeah, there was this one time that one of my best friends totally betrayed me to death in front of all my bros, it was super lame, I got arrested and beat up so I TOTALLY know how you feel when you say that you can’t believe so-and-so tweeted blah, blah, blah about you and now everyone’s hatin’, I get it.”  And sometimes I’d think, How DO you know what those little kids being trafficked actually feel like, you were never actually trafficked as a kid.

Whelp.

What this word picture was showing me, was that no, Jesus actually allows himself to feel my very exact pain.  Now whether he really does or not, I do not know, this was a word picture to teach me something about how God works and who his son is.  However, I am inclined to believe that this is an actual truth.

If my littlest one had to experience something painful to make her well, and it was in my ability to feel it to, I would.  I would want to know exactly what it felt like, so I would know how to help her, how to console her, and give her the understanding that she was not alone, that truly, we were going through it together.  Any loving parent would do this if they could.

When Jesus says he walks with us through our trails, I don’t think he is just walking alongside us in ease, although he is God, it seems more like he allows himself to experience the very thing we experience, however painful, however sad, however deep and cutting to our soul.

In this word picture, he and I were head to head, and all I could do was put my head next to his.  At least we were together in this pain, I was not alone.  It seemed the more I focused on him, the less painful it became, he was almost a distraction from the pain, and then just like that the box was gone, and we were out of it together.

Here is what I have learned so far, and it’s really early, but it’s what he is showing me.

Jesus knows my pain, because he goes through my pain alongside me, with me. He’s not drinking a slurpee while I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, just holding my hand.  No, he’s walking alongside me, knowing my great suffering, we are suffering together.  He is choosing to put aside any luxuries he is given and rights as God and walks alongside me through everything.

When I pray, and I ask for God the Father to take away the pain, he sees his own son, Jesus bearing that pain as well, and his heart is moved to action.

Also, when I looked back at that box, I could see that there were times I’d sit in the corner of it and scream.  Totally unaware of Jesus’ presence.  I bang the box with my fists hard.  I cry and fight and yell at God, believing all the while that he is outside of my box feeling nothing.

Whether we want to recognize him or not, Jesus is still in our box.  He’s always been in our box, it’s just that so many of us fail to look up and see him there.  We are too busy looking at God the Father outside of our box and getting angry and feeling betrayed, doubting his goodness.  But he didn’t have to send his son.

It also seems Jesus the only way out of that box.

If God allows suffering to bring us closer to Jesus, than this would be true.  As we draw near to him, the one who knows our great pain, we can find ourselves rescued and delivered.  And, although he may not ever take away all the pain here on earth, we can find rest in the son, because scripture says it is so.

So, I was in pain for four days.  But I walked out of it seeing that Jesus is always with me.  That is a gift I could never have hoped to have been given.  I don’t know that I will ever walk through pain the same.

It’s one thing for someone to say, I can relate to your pain.  At least that’s nice, and empathetic.

It’s another thing entirely for them to take it on themselves and walk through it alongside you, when they don’t owe you a thing.

He’s in your box y’all.

 

Rescue is coming and his name is Jesus

This is probably one of the few times I’m going to address a cause.  Today, February 27th is the shine a light on slavery day.  You can learn more about it here: http://enditmovement.com/

My sister-in-law was brave and marked her hand with a red X along with me to bring awareness to others about human trafficking.  I say brave, because she was the one going out in public this afternoon and had to answer the tons of people who asked, “Hey, what’s that X on your hand mean?”  Since she’s afraid of nothing, she shared with others about what is actually going on in the world, and what we can do to help.

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Where two or more are gathered…

I get that it’s a small thing to put an X on your hand for one day.  I get that it’s not very hard to pose in a picture and than share it on facebook and instagram.  However, it’s not a small thing to pray for change.  To pray that the Lord would rush in and rescue.  God is a God of rescue, that is his very name, savior.

  1. Definition of savior (n)

    Bing Dictionary
    • sav·ior
    • [ sáyvyər ]
    1. rescuer: somebody who rescues somebody or something from harm or danger
    synonyms: rescuer · redeemer · knight in shining armor · liberator · deliverer · protector

Last year, our pastor shared that the region we live in is highly involved in human trafficking. From the moment he shared that, it was heavy, heavy on my heart.  In prayer I finally had the courage to ask the Father about it.  Here is what He showed me and what He said to me regarding human trafficking last year:

This word picture is a dry gulch, like a deep cavern, where water once used to flow.  It now is essentially completely dry and full of muck, you can almost hear the vultures flying above.  Insects hover above the muck, and it stinks.  This is human trafficking in God’s sight.

A far distance upstream, water is forming.  Not in an of this world, natural way, but in a miraculous parting the seas kind of way.  Each one of God’s saints (the church), is a drop of water that will all at once, without any warning, wash through and restore the gulch to fresh flowing waters, where life is once again.  Rescue is coming.

This part of the word picture also has a sound, it is the sound of very powerful, rushing waters.  This water comes fast and powerful, is is a powerful force that will take out whatever stands in it’s way.

If people are in the gulch, playing in the muck, they will be wiped out.  They don’t stand a chance.

Fresh water will flow here again.

The prayers and actions of God’s people are rushing water to clean out human trafficking.  The prayers of His saints.

That is why I am sharing this, that is why I marked my hand, because the PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS MATTER.

In my study on prayer, Live a Praying Life, the author, Jennifer Kennedy Dean shares,

“Through prayer, the enemies schemes are thwarted.  Through prayer, the powers, principalities, and authorities of Satan’s realm are stopped cold.  Through prayer, all of the power and provision of God flows into the lives of His people.  Prayer brings the power of God to earth to do the will of God.” (p.59)

It is God’s will to put an end to human trafficking.

Here is the other strangest part of this word, it happened a day or two later after I received the first word.

My son who is 3, often says he dreams of Jesus in his sleep, sometimes they play trains, sometimes they see animals, but often he speaks of Jesus in his dreams.  Of course I love this and am always delighted when he dreams of hanging out with Jesus and praying for me while he sleeps.

So, the other day he says to me, “Mommy, I dream of Jesus”.  Of course I’m like, “Oh, that’s so precious, my son is so special.” you know, silly mom thoughts.

Then he said to me, “a little man touched Jesus’ privates, Jesus didn’t like it, Jesus threw him in the garbage, Jesus threw him in the water and he can’t swim, he’s drowning, he’s still there in the water.”

Initially, I was shocked at why my son would say any of this.  We shield him from everything. Then I felt like God quickly reminded me of what He had said to me the night prior randomly in the car,  “what these men are doing to these children, they are doing me”.  So I thought, what if this is a confirmation of what God had spoken to me earlier?  It matches the word picture he had just given me.

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The kids wanted to join me. All they can really say right now about why we put X’s on our hand is that, “slavery is bad”, but in prayer, that’s more than enough.

Rescue is coming.  The prayers of the saints will ignite God’s full power to do more than we can even hope or imagine.

Jesus longs to rescue these children, these women and men who are trapped in slavery.

And HE WILL rescue them.

Please join me in prayer.

self baptism and what I am learning on prayer

My question to the Lord when trying to write this post has been: how do I convey, what I am experiencing, even though I don’t truly understand it?

Here is my best attempt.  I pray it accomplishes what he intended it to accomplish.

So, I’m in a bible study on prayer this semester at my church.

And I’m reading a book on intercession.

And although I am not lost, I am feeling somewhat over my head because it is beginning to challenge some of my internal (not spiritually based) beliefs.

Beliefs such as: strong people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, if I need help, I need to help myself, if I want something done right, I should do it myself.  I’ve picked up some of that as truth, and I’ve incorrectly applied it to my spiritual beliefs regarding the church and my walk with God.   I am finding these not to be completely accurate in the world of the church and God, and it is a very humbling, pride crushing, and completely wonderful experience all at the same time.

I haven’t written on what I’ve been learning on prayer lately, because I keep waiting to get a grasp on it before I put it to words. That sounds dramatic.  I still don’t have a good handle on the depths of prayer, but I feel like it might be quite awhile until I do, so I figured I’d share even if it’s just a little bit of truth.

It’s almost like I’ve been sneaking morning walks into this misty wood, full of fog, yet beautiful and inviting.  I can only see as far as my arm will reach, and it’s as though a comfortable cloud is continually wrapped around me, keeping me cozy and safe in my little space of discovery.  I keep wanting to come back because it is so peaceful and captivating.  It is quiet and I leave refreshed. The trees are inviting, and the further I walk into the wood, the more I see, each few steps brings me to a new revelation of beauty or depth and understanding.  I am deeply fascinated by the branches and the bark, the leaves and new plants.

foggy-woods
Taken from http://bahaiteachings.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/foggy-woods.jpg

However, the last few weeks feel a bit like the fog is starting to clear out a more, and instead of only seeing what is right in front of me, I’ve got a 15 to 20 foot scope all around me.  And it’s kinda been a lot to take in.  I’m not overwhelmed, but I’m just sorta staggered by how much there is, how beautiful, how deep, how connected but unique it all is.

Please be sure to see my discovery through this lens, as this has been my general approach to my spiritual walk/life what-have you.  Here is a girl about to be baptized, those of you church-folk know you’re suppos-to let the pastor/elder church guy actually baptize you, even Jesus didn’t baptize himself but asked John to do it.

I'ma do it myself!
I’ma do it myself! I don’ need no- body’s help!

Oh, how I love that the little girl psyched herself out right before too.  I feel like I do that sometimes, “I have a problem?  Okay, “I’ma ’bout to take this ON!”  “All by MY-self, and with God too!”  “Let’s DO this!”

And that has pretty much failed lately.

I am learning that we NEED other people.

And that God made it that way, on purpose.

And it’s kinda messing with me and my idea of my independent self.  A lot.

Here’s the very brief information I’ve gathered, merely from personal experience over the past few weeks regarding prayer:

A few weeks ago, the Lord gently suggested I ask to be prayed for at church regarding the migraines I’d been having.  I didn’t.  Then I regretted it.  So, a week or two later at church, I felt like I should be obedient, and I inquired about where one would go if one wanted prayer.  I was told that there was a prayer corner, where others in the church could pray with me after service, or I could put in a request to have some of the elders of the church pray for me.  I went home and decided to think about it.

I wanted to do the prayer corner thing, because it seemed less “bothersome” and attention drawing.  BUT, I prayed about it and asked God what he recommended.  While in prayer, I saw in my mind a picture of my friends husband (he’s an elder in our church, the only one I of know actually), praying for me, and putting oil on my forehead and me being healed.  I took that as a go for the elder one, so I obediently put in a request to have prayer from the elders for the migraines.  Even though it wasn’t my first choice.

A few weeks later the Saturday night had come.  Davin was going to go with me.  The childcare was full before church even started and we arrived late to the service.  We wandered the isles looking for seats, when my friend grabbed us and directed us to two seats next to her and her husband – I’m going to consider that as sovereign action number one because we normally sit in the same spot every service.  I won’t list the other sovereign actions in numerical order, but it starts there.  We also ended up sitting next to a mom and her son who was around 8 years old.  During worship, he lifted up his hands just like his mama and a tear might have welled up in my eye.  Towards the end of service, the pastor said somewhat uncharacteristically, “sometimes we need others to lay hands on us and pray for us.”  My eyes got really big.  He asked anyone who was experiencing pain from something in their life to stand up, so he and the church could pray for us.  Which also doesn’t happen very often.  I stood up so fast!  Ain’t no shame in a cooperate prayer!  That’s not a bother to anyone, they are going to do it anyway, why not get in on that?  The young mom and her 8 year old boy along with my husband all put their hands on me.

The pastor prayed for people who were having pain in their minds, among other things, but he prayed a great deal for our minds.  I was like Whhaaaaaa?  I asked the Lord how he could possibly orchestrate ALL this.  Prayer in church the night I am at church to get prayed over?!?  What confirmation!  I thought to myself, God, you are so surprising, and crazy organized.

(Side Note: When our pastor prays over us, it feels like a present from God all packaged up just for each one of us.  Like Jesus saying, remember, “I love you.”)

The little 8 year old boys fidgety hand wiggled and tried to stay steady on my side.  Tears welled up again in my eyes thinking that I could be so special that a precious 8 year old boy would pray for me.

I was standing in God’s grace.  Right in the middle of it.  Doing nothing to deserve it, doing nothing to actually make any of it happen.  Just standing there, receiving it, not pulling myself up by my own bootstraps.

After service, we walked to the hallway and were greeted by four of our churches elders.  My friend’s husband was totally one of them and I was relieved to see a familiar face.

They were all so welcoming and friendly.  I was nervous but Davin was there, so that made me feel better.  I can’t tell you exactly what I expected when I thought of meeting the elders and having them pray over me, but it was completely different.

First off, they were so humble. They didn’t act like they were boss over anything, or know-it-alls or authoritative.  They reminded me of what maybe Jesus’ disciples might have been like, all different, but of the same heart.  They acted like Jesus was there, and that he was in charge, not them.  They didn’t act like they had the power to heal me, only that they had the authority to ask God to do something and intervene on my behalf.  I sorta felt like I was back in bible times hanging around his disciples. I know, it’s probably over-imaginative, but that’s how I saw it.  And, I was secretly glad to have imaginarily met four of his disciples.

Then they asked me what was going on.  I explained that since September (after the worship, prayer and healing night at my church), the migraines have been better but are not gone.  I shared how a few weeks ago, the Lord led me to be prayed over at church and I didn’t listen.  I explained I was there to be prayed for out of obedience.  I explained a word picture the Lord gave me when I asked him why I had to pray for something more than once, how he showed me my hands, full of arrows, and a large haystack target in front of me.  He told me that with this specific type of prayer or healing, it isn’t enough to just hit the bullseye once, but that the whole target had to be filled with arrows.  It reminded me of the scripture where it says in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  It was like the Lord was showing me there was a lot more to why I was allowed to experience migraines than just a simple one prayer answer.  And although I don’t know or understand all that is behind it, he does.  Each prayer that is prayed, he can interpret before God the Father on my behalf until I am healed.

Having the elders pray for me was shooting more arrows at that target.

Each elder prayed for me.  The first one, the oldest, put some frankincense and myrrh on my forehead.  It wasn’t ceremonial or serious, he was like “Ummmm, should I put some oil on her head?  The other guys were like, “yeah, sure”, “yes, good idea!”  He then read the label and said, “Ohhh, Frankincense and myrrh, this is the good stuff!  I’m totally paraphrasing, but hopefully communicating the gist of it.  We all laughed.

Then we got serious.

Each elder prayed something different and specific over me.

I remember the last one praying protection over me from the enemy.  Because so much of this experience has felt like a spiritual attack.  That was when I felt like the Lord showed me how he has given authority to men, in this case to the elders, to intercede and provide spiritual protection.  I felt shielded.

When my friends husband prayed over me, he said he saw that the the arrows were also about me teaching other people about prayer, that I would take other people’s arrows and shoot them at the target because they did not know how to aim.  That these migraines are not just about me, but will be used to show other people about prayer.  I started tearing up again because I could hardly believe the words he was saying.  This guy doesn’t know me.  He has no idea I’m reading a book on intercession (praying for others – shooting their arrows) and he doesn’t know I’m in a bible study on prayer right now, and that I’m writing all about it on the internet!

Again God was showing me that he was bigger than me, and had orchestrated this whole night.

He showed me that he is sovereign.

When we finished praying, I felt so full of life.  The last guy to pray over me said he felt like prayer and fasting was what the Lord put on his heart to share with me.

I asked God about it later, and I really felt like God put it on my heart to fast this blog, facebook and instagram last week.  I know that sounds like a lame fast, but it’s what I felt like he said.  I wanted SO BAD to write all about this whole thing the minute I got home.  But I’m glad I didn’t because more happened.

That night, I started to feel a very, very slight pinch near my right eyebrow where I typically get a migraine.  That’s all it was.  I could almost see in my mind, Jesus holding it back, pushing it back and saying, I AM keeping this from you.  I thanked him.

The night prior, Davin and I went on a date, and it was the first date in I don’t remember, when I didn’t get a migraine.  We even went go-cart racing.  Not any pain at all.  I felt like God was already honoring my obedience to be prayed over before it even happened.

A few times this week, I’ve started to feel the very beginnings of a migraine.  Instead of me just praying for it, I’ve right away told Davin, and he’s laid hands on me and prayed, and it’s disappeared.  One night I even texted my mom and she prayed and it faded right away.  This doesn’t just happen.

This didn’t ever used to happen.

It used to be that the pain would only get worse the longer I waited to take drugs.  Until it was almost unbearable.  It used to last thee days, with drugs.  Every 6 hours the pain returning until I took more drugs.

Then, the other day, we went out to celebrate my mom’s birthday.  I had started to feel the beginnings of a migraine a bit earlier in the day.  Davin prayed over me and it mostly (but not completely) went away.  I thought about texting my parents, but I didn’t want to bother them. Then at the restaurant, it started to get worse very quickly, so much so that I was beginning to feel nauseous and couldn’t’ really concentrate.  Not wanting to be a bother, I went to reach for my stash of pain reliever (which I haven’t taken since my last post on migraines) and my mom asked what was wrong.  She said, let’s pray right now before I could even pull any out.  She told my dad, and right there, in the middle of a bar during happy hour, my parents and husband prayed over me.  It wasn’t loud or attention drawing, just a quiet prayer.  I started to feel better, but when she asked a few minutes later how it was, I told her that it wasn’t completely gone.  So they prayed again for me.  And again, twenty minuets later.  Then, my migraine was gone.  The nausea was gone, the throbbing gone, the sharp grip on my skull was unexplainably gone.

How can I explain all of this?  If I weren’t the one experiencing it, I’m not sure I’d really believe it.  I would want to rationalize it, saying things like, “oh, she must have stopped eating something that was causing it, or oh she took the proper mix of supplements and that aided it.”  My mind would keep looking for a physical solution that occurred to explain it in my own reality.  Because in my reality, if I have a problem, I must do something that costs me to fix it.  I must try hard, or make it happen.  I must do something.

But I’m not the one doing anything.

Others are.

But mostly God is.

This experience is stumbling.  All my realities and truths of how things work are stumbling all over it.

Guys, God wants to heal us.  From REALLY BIG stuff.  From stuff that doctors say we can’t be healed from.  From physical pain, from emotional pain.  From our past.  From the very things WE think we can never, ever, ever fix ourselves.  Because we can’t.

He can.

And he might not even use you to do it.

He might use others.

I am learning that the reason he created the church, is so that we would be connected.  I was never meant to be able to pray for myself all the time, to baptize myself or to teach myself about God’s word with just him and me by myself all the time.  We were designed to be connected.  This is a new concept to me.  It probably shouldn’t be, because I thrive so much due to my very deep and wonderful friendships in Christ, but it is.

Sometimes God wants to use others.

Sometimes he wants us to feel the grace of being prayed over by a fidgety, adorable 8 year old boy.  To have my mom stop in the middle of her birthday dinner and pray for me, four times. So that when I walked out of that restaurant, I walked home with a gift, and it wasn’t my special day.

So, that’s all I have so far.

I am learning tons in the books, but nothing teaches quite like real life experience, which is why I am probably still in shock, because it’s easy to read about something and think, “yeah, that’s how it should work, that sounds right.”  It’s another thing entirely to live it out.  To have pain gone, for no reason other than prayer, and to not be the one making it disappear.  I haven’t bled my eyes out in prayer over this, I haven’t starved myself and fasted and tried really, really hard.  All I’ve done is TRY to be obedient (which I wasn’t even that good at), and try to ask for prayer from others when I start to feel pain.  That’s it.

That my friends is a crazy, crazy, reality altering experience, and I still can’t fit it into my box of how things should work and be and go.  It makes NO sense, not to this control loving girl.

I’m sure I will write more as I learn.  But until then I’ve figured out that God is sovereign and he intended for us to be connected and that I am not the boss of my world.

Thank you for reading.

an old Italian resturant and a Krispy Kream doughnut

I’m currently reading, Anthony Doeer’s, Four Seasons in Rome.  It’s put me back on vacation in Rome, only this time with twins.  But it’s astonishingly relaxing, because my twins aren’t babies anymore, and I’m past that stage of joy and struggle.  Hence, I’m enjoying this  book, plus  the guy appreciates nature and life’s beauty.  If you’ve been to Rome, wanted to visit Rome or had children, you’d probably enjoy it.

Anyway, I also was not surprised when my husband and I were praying for our children and the Lord gave me a word regarding our youngest, who is around 18 months old and it had something to do with Italy, which is where I still was a bit in my mind 😉

Let me preface my heart of prayer with this:

When the twins were the age of my youngest, people would say things to me like, “better put on your running shoes!” or “Oh, you’re going to be a busy mama” (as though I hadn’t already been busy shlepping babies around and being pregs with our youngest;-)  They were well intended, but it was like getting stabbed with a sharp thistle in the bottom of my shoe, an uncomfortable reminder of truth.

This is the age that for six consecutive weeks, I told my husband every night before bed that I might retire my mama running shoes and call the whole thing off in the morning (as if I could – the idea was at least helpful, pretending to have control over a situation I had no control over).  I was EXHAUSTED.  We did the whole, train your child young thing – so no locks on any of the non-poison cupboards, we’d say, “uh oh” and then redirect.  One thousand times a day, times two.

So as our youngest is approaching this special age.  I am hesitant.  I am fearful.  I am a little panicked, because I remember.  I remember what it was like with two.  And even one hardly sounds easy at this point.  Besides, she has two siblings to chase.

So as we approach the Lord in prayer for our youngest the Lord starts to form a word picture in my anxious mind while my husband prays:

There is a little Italian restaurant, squished between buildings in a busy city, cars sloshing by in the rain.  The door of the restaurant opens and I’m greeted with the smell of dough, mixed with a slight must.  In this word picture, I was expecting a fine dining experience, so I’m a little off put by the decor and less then fancy atmosphere.  I think, “Why did my husband bring me here?”  It’s dated, it’s classic American Italian, red checked tablecloths, old oil candle lamps, fake foliage, Christmas lights, a small plastered bust of a Roman.  The married couple behind the open kitchen window have owned the place for years, and it shows.  The tables are a little crooked and they’ve used to-go pizza folds of cardboard to prop them up from wobbling.  We sit down at a booth, vinyl cracked and splitting in formidable sections.  It’s cozy.  It is not a Michelin Star restaurant, and it doesn’t pretend to be either.  I am overdressed.  These were not my expectations.  We sit down and flip though the sticky menu.  I can’t take my eyes off the peeling paint, off the crumbs on the ground.  As I pull back a strand of hair from my face, my bracelets tinkle together and I wonder, “How did this place get such raving reviews?  How?”

The word picture jumps to the end of our meal.  When I discover why I am here.

It’s the food.  The food is amazing.  Everything about every bite I eat is AH-Maze-ING.  Every single bite.  The bread.  The antipasti (appetizers), the insalate (salads), the farinacei (pasta), even the formaggi.  It’s all delicious.

And, once I took my eyes off the peeling paint and crumbs on the floor, once I got over myself and my Michelin Star appearance expectations, I actually began to enjoy myself.  A lot.  I laughed, I felt emotionally connected to my family, it suddenly became one of those nights that you look back on and wonder what exactly made it so perfect, but you can’t put your finger on it (aside from the food perhaps, I’m sure that added to the wonderfulness), because nothing about it was perfect in the neat and tidy sense of it.  It was messy, it was human, there were even mistakes.  And yet, it was marvelous and made an evening full of wonderful memories.

So there’s THAT beautiful word picture – and here’s what it means for me, and perhaps you, if you and I have something in common with me like being a parent, or liking fancy restaurants in your life, so to speak;-)

Parenting my youngest is like going to this restaurant.  There literally ARE crumbs on my kitchen floor, and I stare at them, and occasionally scowl at them, and sometimes sweep them.  However, this girl is one of the greatest delights of my life.  She IS the delicious food in this word picture, she is the doughy bread I bite into and savor.  I think of her chubby little legs when I think of the delicious perfect dough.  This restaurant isn’t perfect, it is messy and it’s not a pretentious fancy-pantsy place that makes me feel fancy-pantsy.  Nothing about parenting ever makes me feel fancy-pantsy.  There are cracks in the vinyl, she cries when she’s tired (like every child).  She yells a lot because we don’t always understand her heartfelt attempts at English – so she yells, and when we don’t get it, she looks at us and yells louder (and it’s kinda cute).  She wants to snuggle when I’m trying to wipe down the counters.  When I finally stop focusing on the my own negatives, when I get over my expectations of perfection and clean and just let it be what it is, I enjoy myself and most importantly I enjoy HER, so VERY, VERY much.  And in those moments, I think to myself, “Ohhhh, this is the blessing that God intended when he invented parenting!  I wish I could feel like this all the time!”

And I think, as parents for the most part, we are meant to.

Apparently the Lord is very patient.  He has given me this reminder before, but in a different way.  It was when my youngest was learning to crawl – everywhere.  I had three days of stress mom times, trying to baby-proof the house and still make it accessible to twin toddlers learning to use the potty.  I came to the Lord in a tangled yarn ball of stress and he gave me the quickest, shortest, most genius word picture ever.

It was when I was vegan, like super vegan, as in 100% nothing in my mouth that is not vegan.

The Lord showed me a glazed Krispy Kream doughnut.  Those are not vegan, not in the least.  It looked delicious.

I asked the Lord why He was showing me a delicious doughnut that I could not have but wanted so very badly. (It’s slowly becoming clear how much I love food)

He said, “Your youngest is a glazed, Krispy Kream doughnut.  Enjoy her like you would a glazed Krispy Kream doughnut.  Savor every bite.”

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Snap.

At that time, only God knew in my heart how much I still loved those non-vegan doughnuts.  He and I have jokes sometimes, where He makes fun of me trying to be in control of anything, by giving me an extreme abundance of grace and love when I least deserve it, and showing me doughnuts.

I’ve shared that word before with other’s in hopes that it can be a good reminder in our heads that our kids are meant to be enjoyed and savored, delighted in and treated as a special treat.  Because they are a special treat.

Here’s to savoring every bite!

Thanks for reading.

Hot Dog Stand

So occasionally the Lord speaks to me.  It’s not an audible voice.  It’s almost always a picture in my mind, followed (usually) an explanation of what it means and clarification for whom the Word is for.  That may sound crazy-timez to you.  But that’s okay.

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, the Aposotle Paul gives the deets on the different kinds of spiritual gifts.  He lists off quite a few, some of them being the, “the message of wisdom, message of knowledge, faith, and prophecy.”

Anyways, like I said, occasionally God speaks to me.  He will totally speak to you too if you ask Him.  For reals.

When I was in fourth grade, I started reading the bible.  I would read four chapters a day, because that’s what my mom did, so I thought that’s what all christians did.  I don’t even do this now, but how cool was my fourth grade year?  In fact I read four chapters a day for about ten years.  In fourth grade I learned that King Solomon was the richest dude in all the land.  I thought that sounded nice.  Plus he saved babies by not cutting them in half (1 Kings 3:16-28 for that CAH-Razy story).  I thought he was pretty legit, so I decided to do what he did so I could become like him.  So, I asked God for wisdom.  I think I prayed this every day for over a year.  I wanted to be awesome too.  What I really wanted was God’s blessing on my life, in in my fourth grade mind that meant riches and saving babies.

All I’m saying is that if you ask God for something that He wants to give you, He’s going to follow through on it.  I believe He gave me wisdom because I asked for it, and He continues to give me info that is wise, because I keep asking for it and believing that He will tell me what I need to know.

(super side note: right now my children are suppos-to be sleeping for naps, my son currently is mimicking a howler monkey from his bed… but I digress)

Like I was saying, sometimes when I ask God about something, He gives me a word picture answer in prayer.  Like instantly.

Today he gave me a hot dog stand.  I thought it applicable to anyone who is an attempted overachiever, type A, or grasper of control in any form (be it sock organization or world domination, either way)

hot dog stand

So, I can’t guarantee that this word is for you, since I was asking Him about me, but you can pray on it and decide for yo-self.  There just might be truth in it for you.

Here’s the word:

Picture a hot dog stand in some chill city (like Seattle or San Diego), with a lady running the stand.  Everyone that comes up to the stand is on vacation or lunch break, so they are feeling pretty chill.  They are here to get their tasty food, and then walk on to enjoy the sights or whatever.  There’s even a section on the stand for mustard, ketsup, relish and napkins.  KUH-Lassie.

The weird part is, the lady running the hot dog stand thinks she is running a restaurant, like – be seated by the host, sit down and order, pay a tip kind of place.  With chairs.

She keeps trying to get relaxed vacationers to sit in lawn chairs in an organized fashion on the street.  She can’t imagine why they won’t listen and are so chill about just moving on.  She’s stressin’ about details that aren’t even real!  And people are sorta wondering what her deal is.

I am totally that hot dog stand lady.

Perhaps my poor husband and kids are my customers in crazy town, confused by why I won’t just serve them a dog with a smile, keep the ketchup dispenser clean and chill out to enjoy my easy job.

Compared to running a restaurant, a hot dog stand (I would imagine) is a cinch!  Hot dog stand lady is making her life way more work then it needs to be, she should just chill out, serve some tasty dogs and read a magazine, or listen to music while she waits out the lull between customers.  Then close up shop around 2pm and head on home.  No floors to sweep or anything!

Here is how this word applies to me, and perhaps has some relevance for you (or hopefully not and you’ve already got this):

God keeps reminding me, when I get stressed in my mom/wife/homemaker world to just chill.  I tell Him I will chill once everything is done.  Everything being: laundry, clean house, budget organized, all house projects completed, not a spec of dust anywhere – not even in the garage, everything in it’s place, children are now perfect and do not scream like howler monkeys during their nap time, et-cetera…)

So, that will never happen.  But I try to make it happen.  Every day.  And I get NO WHERE.  Actually, that’s not true, I VISIT CRAZY TOWN.  And I totally drive myself there, probably with a gps and printed directions and a best time to beat with no traffic and stoplights.  It’s insane.  And expensive.  It cost me my joy.  It makes me grouchy.  Like public restroom with twin toddlers grouchy (post coming on that soon to even out this seriousness).

Someone help me.

God is helping me.  I need to let Him.

You know what’s super sad?  This is my fast.  Our church is doing a 40 day fast in preparation for a Prayer and Healing Night in September and I felt like the Lord asked me to fast my agenda, and the idea that I can or should accomplish everything under the sun in one day, when I’m responsible for three little humans all day.  And when I don’t I feel like a HUGE fail.  So it’s like a fail fast.

The fast He put before me has no boxes to check either, and you know how much that bothers me?  SO MUCH.  How will I know I did it if there isn’t a box to check off at the end of the day?  Ahhhh!!!  I will have to check-in with Him instead.  In fact, I’ll have to be checking in with Him all throughout the day as I surrender over all the little moments I try to run a restaurant from a hot dog stand.

So, I am fasting “being a crazy hot dog stand lady”.  At least now it’s clear and has a catchy title.

I will update you on how awesome my life becomes when I start serving hot dogs  and stop trying to run a restaurant on the street.

Thanks for reading.