Thursday, February 4, 2010

I'm on the move...

Join me at my new blog...



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Life is a highway...



Mapped out routes. Destination guides. Planned itineraries. These things make my heart happy. I like to know where I’m going, how long it will take and what I will do once I’m there.

I don’t know about you, but God doesn’t always work that way with me.

Right now I’m in one of those times where I have no map, destination or plan; and it’s driving me crazy!

I graduated from college last spring and this May Josh will graduate. We are at a place that most people expect some sort of transition; I expected some sort of transition. We moved here three years ago so that Josh could finish Bible College and become a licensed pastor. At least, that was our goal. Now that the goal is within sight, I’m wondering if that was God’s goal. By that I mean that there is no transition in our future (other than that of adding another child to our family – but that’s nothing). God’s not moving us; nothing in our life will change, except we won’t have homework.

Recently I was challenged with the idea that the goal is not what’s important. It’s more about the journey.

This is a foreign concept for me. I am a goal-oriented, task-focused person. I want to check things off my to-do list. I don’t mind a few detours along the way, as long as they’re scheduled and they don’t take too long.

But this idea of the journey takes the focus off the goal and instead highlights the importance of the steps. I was reading in Exodus today and I realized that if I were an Israelite woman stuck in the desert with Moses I probably would have been smited. I would have been one of the ones questioning his leadership abilities and grumbling that we were walking around directionless in the desert. I admire leaders with a plan, with goals, with vision for the future. I know I would not have gotten the concept that the journey in the desert has a purpose.

This thought is a challenge to me and to my very nature. I’m still processing it and learning to look around and discover what God has for me “en route.”

Are you someone who savors the journey or do you lean more to the “set your sights on the prize” catagory?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Where Can I Get Spiritual Cosmetic Surgery?




Photo from www.weightlosscenters.com

If you live in Southern California you’ve probably seen this woman. We see three or four of her billboards when we drive Josh to work. I’m not going to get into a discussion about this procedure…the only reason I mention it is because I’ve been thinking a lot today about the non-physical things I wish I could fix about myself with a cut here or there.

There are things in my personality that make me cringe and I think, “Life would be so much easier if only that were gone/different/better.” I get frustrated about it for a couple of days, maybe even a month, and then I move on. I’m looking for a quick fix because I get easily distracted and get tired of waiting for results.

Today I was reminded by a blog I follow that my focus shouldn’t be removing those parts of myself, but instead allowing God to work in me to bring me nearer to what He intended me to be. Psalms 139 assures me that God formed my inner being and knew me in my unformed state. He skillfully wrought me and all my days are already written in His book.

The things about my personality that frustrate and discourage me don’t surprise God. He’s not surprised, but He does want to work in me so that those things become blessings to others and tools for His kingdom.

So, instead of editing myself I need to hand the red pen over to God and realize that He won’t get distracted or tired of waiting for results. He is able to work a change in me that is more permanent than the quick fix I’m looking for. This trust in His loving ability to bring about a change for good in my life is what makes me not only willing but eager to hand over that editing tool to Him.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Help Wanted

How often do you tell people, “I’ll be praying for you” and then forget completely about it once they’re not in front of you? I know with me it happens more than I’d like to admit. I sometimes wonder about my faith in prayer because of how infrequently I remember to place the cares and concerns that weigh me down into God’s hands. It’s like prayer has become a last resort: “Well, I guess all I can do is pray.” It’s like a “Hail Mary” pass in football. I don’t really expect anything to come of it but I might as well try.


Growing up in the church, attending a private school for most of my school years and then graduating from Bible College I have memorized a lot verses concerning prayer. These are a couple of the ones I hear most often among Christians:

“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:13-16 (emphasis mine)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

But it’s almost like they’ve become catch phrases to me instead of powerful reminders of the importance of bringing people and situations before the presence of God. I still struggle to understand the balance between praying for what I want to happen and praying for God’s will to be done. Ultimately I always want God’s will to be done…but what if His will doesn’t cause things to turn out the way I expect them to? What if His will doesn’t make any sense to me?

I know in my head that God’s will for us is perfect and that He works out all things for the good of those who are living according to His will. It’s the living it out and turning to Him that isn’t always so easy. This weekend I really struggled with it.

This is my Grandma Bev:
 
She is one of the most important people in my life…and right now she’s in the hospital. She has myelodysplastic syndrome, which is a fancy name for pre-leukemia. According to the American Cancer Society, this is a condition when the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow are damaged.

Ten years ago she was diagnosed with a different form of cancer – one that had no documented survivors. After surgeries, radiation treatment, chemotherapy, changes in diet, blood dialysis and more my grandma beat all the odds against her and went into remission. Late last year, during a regular check-up with her cancer doctor they discovered that her blood cell counts were dangerously low.

For the last few months she has undergone chemotherapy treatment, blood transfusions, painful bone marrow biopsies and feared going into public because of her inability to fight off disease and infection. She has already had multiple hospital visits and her current hospital stay length is undetermined – they won’t discharge her till her white count is 500; it’s at 48 right now.

Being 1500 miles away it’s easy to forget the severity of the situation. During her first bout of cancer I lived with my grandparents. I was there to sit with my grandma during the day. I was there to talk with my grandpa about his fears and concerns and confusion about what the right treatment option was. I was there…

Now I’m in another state and the cares and needs of my own family, pregnancy, home and life here distract me from what’s going on. Plus I know that she’s well taken care of by my family in Washington and her doctors. Her admission to the hospital last week brought it all to the forefront of my mind once again.

I wish I was there. I don’t want to feel useless. I want to fight alongside her. But I can’t be. So I pray…

This is one of those instances that my only reliance is on prayer. That’s the only thing I can do to help. That and to write this post so others know what she’s going through and can join me in praying for her. Here is a list of prayer requests that I would appreciate your prayers for:

  • That her body would begin to produce enough healthy blood cells so that she can leave the hospital and be considered a candidate for a bone marrow transplant.
  • That the bone marrow transplant, once allowed, would go smoothly and that her body would accept the donor marrow. Her brother has been determined a great candidate and they’re both just waiting on the green light from her doctor.
  • That she would be able to endure the difficult recovery process following a bone marrow transplant: 1 month in the hospital and 3 months living near the hospital so she’s accessible for the constant monitoring necessary after the transplant.
  • That she and my grandpa would feel peace regarding the decisions they’re making, along with their doctor’s help. That they would have hope for the future and a full recovery. That they would not be overcome with discouragement, fear, hopelessness or depression in the face of all the difficult statistics and information they are constantly receiving.
  • Lastly, for my family in Washington who are doing so much to support and take care of my grandparents as they’re dealing with this illness. For their relationships, finances, personal health, and the other responsibilities they have to deal with throughout their days.

Thank you for your prayers and support for my grandma and I am believing that God can and will heal her from this just as He did before. Like the father in Mark 9, I’m crying out to God: “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Undivided



“Mommy. MOMmy. MOMMY. Mommy. MOOOOMMMMYYY.”

It’s one of the clich├ęs of parenthood. The constant, incessant, non-stop, persistent - do you get the point - nagging of a small child’s voice.

I remember before I was a parent, sitting with people who had children and wondering why they didn’t pay attention. How were they able to ignore that gnat-like buzzing in their ears?

Then I had my own children. It’s easy to acclimate to sounds. I live across the street from a parking garage and, for the most part, have tuned out the sounds of cars coming and going outside my window. Like this, my children’s pestering has become the white noise in the background of my everyday life.

On occasion I’ll be in the middle of something and one of my kids will attempt to get my attention. The funny part is when Josh is there; he hasn’t become quite as inured to it as I have. After a minute he’ll say, “Melissa! Aren’t you going to answer them?” I fully intended to respond; I just wanted to finish what I was doing first.

Today God showed me that I’ve been treating Him the same way. There are times during my day when I feel the Holy Spirit’s prompting:

"Sit down and read your Bible."
"Pray about that."
"Put on worship music instead of those kids’ shows – it will help with your peace of mind."
"Call that person."
"Spend time with Me."
"Melissa. MELissa. MELISSA."

    And I brush it away.

    I hear You. I’ll get to it in a minute. Ok, you’re right, just let me finish this first.

    Even when I do respond, I’m not giving Him my undivided attention. I’ll turn from doing my devotions to reprimand the kids. I’ll be thinking of all the things I need to get done instead of concentrating on my prayers.

    The thing is…it’s not for His sake that He wants me to focus on Him. Reading my Bible, worship, prayer, and down times all correct my perspective, strengthen me, encourage me, show me His love, grace and mercy. It’s good for me to remove myself from ME and recognize how small and insignificant I am compared to Him and His plans.


    “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28

    It’s time for me to take God out of the background and pay attention when He speaks. He knows what is on my to-do list, but He also knows what’s more important.


    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Can I have a do-over?




    One of my favorite things is a blank piece of college-ruled paper. I love the possibilities that it holds. I envision the sentences I could write, the lists I could create and the crispness of the dark ink on the bright paper. Then I start to write…and it doesn’t look quite the way I imagined. So, I crumple up the paper and start over fresh.

    Today is a day I wish I could crumple up and start over fresh.

    I yelled too loud…said things I shouldn’t…and took out my personal frustrations on the kids. Every parent has those days, I know, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

    I left the kids in their room because I knew I was about to lose it and didn’t want them to see me crying. After a couple minutes of sobbing (mine, not theirs) I called them out. I knew I needed to apologize for the way I acted.

    Instantly Elijah climbed into my lap and gave me a hug, saying, “Mommy, we super-super forgive you.” Then he wiped a tear from under my eye…which just made me cry all over again.

    In the spirit of my New Year’s Resolution I’m not going to beat myself up about this. But, I do know that I wasn’t doing my best right then and I could have handled it different. So…

    Thank you God for my children and the blessing that they are to me. Please help me to be a more patient, selfless mommy to them and to remember to always apologize when I make a mistake. Remind me of how lucky I am to have them and to be able to stay home with them. In Jesus name, Amen.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    "Once upon a time..."




    This morning my daughter, Cora, “read” us a story from the Bible. It mostly consisted of “a little man named Mike” battling it out with “crocodiles, alligators, monsters, and bad people” in an “apple house.” In the end the monster ate all of the people, except Mike his brothers, sisters and kids. Josh and I were trying hard not to laugh at her as she told us this fantastic, random tale of woe. We didn’t want her to stop because she thought we were making fun of her.

    This Saturday morning scene got me thinking about imagination. When I was little I could stay in my grandparent’s pool all day coming up with stories about being a mermaid and having tea parties on the pool floor. Or those times when I would play in our backyard with the neighbor kids and we’d pretend to be princesses and pirates and “the mom.” When did my ability to believe in the extraordinary disappear? Slowly as I matured I started feeling like it wasn’t ok to think about what could be and instead started planning for what seemed to be.

    The Bible tells me in Ephesians 3:20 that God is able to go abundantly beyond what I could think or imagine. Not to take the verse out of context, Paul writes in the verses before about his prayer for the Ephesians that they would be strengthened in the Spirit and able to comprehend the love that Christ has for them, which surpasses knowledge. Paul closes the chapter by saying that all of this power, knowledge, love and action is for the furtherance of God’s glory.

    So, does my reluctance to ask or imagine the implausible from God come from a lack of knowledge of Christ’s love for me? As adults too often we’re afraid to wish and hope for things; to dream about what our future could be. The responsibilities of life take over and our focus becomes paying the bills for the month and hoping to retire someday.

    Although it has become somewhat diminished, my natural tendency is to think about, plan for and dream of what’s next. I still think about what could be, but not always with the expectation that God will allow it to happen. I’ve lost the inkling of how much Christ loves me – which is enough to make my seemingly impossible dreams become a reality.

    Not to go to the other extreme, I don’t see this verse as a promise that God will make whatever I think up happen. I do see it saying that if I have strength through the Spirit and a relationship with Christ the things I ask and imagine will be small compared to what He has for me. So here’s a few of the dreams I feel like God has given me over the years, listed with a hope that He will actually bring it to fruition:

    • Work as a missionary in France.
    • Have a retreat center that provides a free escape for people in ministry to prevent burnout.
    • Write and speak more.
    But not all of my dreams are for me. These are the ones I have for Josh:

    • Have the ability to play and share the music he’s written with others
    • Live in a house at the base of the mountains by a lake…hmm this one seems to fit with my retreat center dream. :) 

    So what dreams do you have that feel like they’re too much to hope for?

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Slightly Late New Year's Resolution



    It’s that time again…when everyone lists the things that they don’t like about themselves and want to change.

    So, what’s it gonna be for me this year?

    Lose weight…well, that’s not possible until after June because of the small child growing inside of me. But, I could always eat healthier and exercise more.

    How about commit to spending daily quiet times so that my relationship with God increases? That’s a good one…but what I don’t need more of is guilt, which would be the inevitable result of that resolution because realistically a pregnant mother of three small children isn’t guaranteed a “quiet time” each day.

    Ok, what’s next? Be a better steward of my finances…that’s usually at the top of the list. That’s something that I’ve been working on, of necessity, since I quit my job and became a full-time stay-at-home mom. I clip coupons, make a budget and actually end up saving a lot -- $100 at my last grocery trip. So I think I’m doing ok there.

    So what do I feel like my resolution for this year should be?

    I’m going to cut myself some slack.

    For those of you who don’t know me that well, I am a perfectionist. Constant feelings that I should be doing more or doing better plague me. So, this year I’m resolving that I am doing good enough.

    Wow! That’s hard to write. Now I feel like this is an excuse to not grow or improve. It’s not that. I just want to have a realistic view of what I’m capable of in this time of my life.

    Since I started writing a year ago I have noticed a theme in what I put out there for others. Almost everything I write is related to some sort of change that I want to make in my life. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think that the Christian life should be one of perpetual growth and improvement.

    However, the Christian life is also one of grace. Too often I focus on the things I’m supposed to do and the person I’m supposed to be. While I believe that all of the prompts towards change in my life have been from God, I think that the guilt and shame I feel accompanying them are not.

    I’d like this year to be a year of grace for me, one where I acknowledge my inability to do everything and be everything. This has already begun as a result of the sickness I experienced in the first trimester and I know that what I’m capable of physically and mentally is only going to diminish as my pregnancy progresses. After that, of course, I’ll have a new baby to add into the mix of an already crazy household.

    So that’s mine, what’s your New Year’s Resolution?

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Something to Say...


    My goodness! Has it really been a month since I last posted something here?! I knew that it had been awhile, but that’s embarrassing. At this point I’m sure those of you who were reading this have stopped checking in…

    Part of the reason I haven’t posted anything in a while has been my current pregnancy. For a good three weeks there I was pretty sick and didn’t have the energy or ability to do anything other than lay on the couch and moan. But, here I am 16 weeks pregnant and, for the most part, the nausea has passed. I’m also feeling a renewing of my energy now that the 1st trimester is over and done with.

    To be honest though, the main reason that I haven’t posted anything here, or really written anything at all, is plain lack of inspiration. I started this blog to write about the experiences and insights God was giving me as I went through my daily life as a stay-at-home mom. My main goal was for it to be an outlet for me and a way to feel like I’m interacting with and contributing to adult society.

    A few years ago I wrote a piece for Radiant magazines’ website about “essential distance.” The idea behind it was that all Christians go through times where they feel separated from God and that instead of feeling guilty we should embrace them as opportunities to realize how much we need Him and that we should use them to strengthen our walk with Him. I likened it to my marriage and how in those times when I feel distant from Josh I strive to return to a place where communication is open and frequent. I feel like I’m going through a time of “essential distance” with God right now and have yet to come out of it. I know God is there; that He hasn’t moved. My receptors just seem to be down.

    My times of devotion fall flat. My prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling back at me. My spirit is left feeling dry and empty. I am set adrift and feel lost.

    This is the main reason a month has gone by with nothing said…I have nothing to say. However, just as I realized years ago, this time of distance and silence from God is pushing me to remove the barriers I’ve allowed to grow between us. There are distractions that I have given higher priority to in my life than my time with Him. There are lies from the enemy that I have let myself believe.

    This “essential distance” is now a catalyst to break down those barriers, remove those distractions and disclose those lies. This isn’t something that I can do on my own or through sheer will power. I believe that God was allowing me to choose my path, while still holding me in His hand, and has revealed these things to me now that I’m feeling isolated from Him. He is, and always has been, right by my side. He was just letting me exert my independence and discover once again just how much I need Him in every area of my life.

    So now comes the hard part of breaking through the silence and working my way back to God. But, isn’t something worked for valued more than something dropped in your lap?