Tuesday, March 31, 2009

this is too good to keep to myself

My sweet friend Allison forced a book on me back in November. Yes, she forced it on me, but only because she knew I needed it. You may remember that I wrote about it a while back. I had to force myself to take a break from reading the Twilight series to get to this one, because honestly, I knew Allison was going to get after me about it. So, I put New Moon down and picked up Calm My Anxious Heart. Before I go on let me give thanks to Allison, especially for my very own recently acquired copy of this great book. It's a must read for any woman. There's simply too much covered in it for me to do a description true justice, but I want to share a favorite excerpt to give you a taste. I love this story so much that I'd love for my own story to be much like it one day:
Throughout her life, Mattie cherished and depended on the Word of God, committing to memory many verses from her worn King James Bible. Her life verse was 2 Timothy 1:12: "For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I committed unto him against that day."

As Mattie grew older, her memory faded and details eluded her. Even the beloved faces of her family slipped from recognition. Finally she was confined to bed in a nursing home. When her family and friends would visit Mattie, they would still find her quoting scripture, especially her well-loved life verse. But with the passing of time, even parts of this most special verse began to slip away. "I know whom I have believed, " she would say. "He is able to keep... what I committed... to Him." As Mattie grew weaker, the verse grew even shorter: "What I have committed... to Him."

As Mattie lay dying, her voice became so weak that her family had to strain to hear the whispered words. There was only one word left of her life verse: "Him." Mattie whispered it again as she neared the gates of heaven. "Him... Him... Him." He was all that was left. He was all that she needed. Her life focus was Him. (p. 119)
This book is full of wonderful stories, examples, and best of all scriptures to lead the reader to a deeper level of intimacy and trust in the One who holds it all in his hands. I am so thrilled to have my own copy, because I can tell you for sure, this is one book that I will need and read time and time again.

And speaking of memorizing scripture, Allison and I, and anyone who wants to join us, have big plans involving 24 memory verses, our best friend Beth Moore and a fun reward in January. You'll be reading more about it in the months to come, I'm sure, as well as learning about the scriptures I choose to memorize as I feel led to share them. I love praying God's word to him. No better way to do that than to just hide it in my heart. Psalm 119:11 says: "I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."

And Isaiah 55:10-11 promises that God's word always accomplishes its purpose:
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

I'll end with Mattie's life verse as read in the Message:

But I have no regrets. I couldn't be more sure of my ground—the One I've trusted in can take care of what he's trusted me to do right to the end.

He can be trusted to take care of us "right to the end," when we can call on the only One that matters as we get closer and closer to his presence: "Him... Him... Him!"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh, baby, this is nothing new...

is what Dad said to me the last time I cried on him. It was the night we brought him home for hospice care. You can read about it back in October 2007, if you'd like. It's also what I've been hearing him say to me today, only this time it's true. He's been gone three years today, so it isn't anything new anymore. It still hurts, but with time comes a different understanding and more and more acceptance. My sweet friend Allison sent me this scripture earlier today:

"to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."
Isaiah 61:3

I absolutely believe and have seen that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) During Beth Moore's Esther study, she spoke about this verse and emphasized the word work. That God will work for the good, and it will at times be really hard work. Hard to endure, hard to be a part of, maybe even hard for God to put on us, but with our kingdom purpose in mind. I love that there is always something bigger going on than what I can see.

Soon after Dad died I just happened upon the group Watermark. Know I know it was not a coincidence at all, because so many of their songs have come to mean so much to me. Like this one called Mended:

You repair all that we have torn apart and
You unveil a new beginning in our hearts and
We stand grateful for all that has been left behind and
All that goes before us

You've got all things suspended
All things connected
Nothing was forgotten
'Cause your love is perfect
You are our healer
And you know what's broken
And we're not a mystery to you
(to you, oh Lord, to you)

We will dance as you restore the wasted years and
You will sing over all our coming fears and
We'll stand grateful for all that has been left behind and all that goes before us

Lord, you mend the breech
And you break every fetter
You give us your best, when what we thought was better
And you are to be praised
You are to be praised

I am absolutely "grateful for all that has been left behind and all that goes before us." It's not always easy to be, but I am, because I "know and rely on the love God has for us." (1 John 4:16)

Monday, March 16, 2009

good will come

Three years ago yesterday, I brought my dad home for the last time. It was the hardest day of my life up to that point. The seven days that followed were both painful and beautiful. My mom, my brother and I had the honor of making Dad's last days as joyful and comfortable as possible. Much love was given and received. And God was among us, waiting to receive one of his own. 

The three years since we lost Dad have gone both quickly and very slowly. On one hand it seems like he was just here - I can still hear his voice and remember how he smelled when we hugged. On the other hand it seems like it has been forever since that last kiss and whisper in the ear, when I encouraged him to go and rest.

So much change has occurred in me that would not have (yet) if Dad were still here. I've had to do a lot of searching. Praying. Waiting. Hearing. Feeling. At that time, I couldn't imagine how anything good could come of something so very bad. He wasn't ready to go yet, and we weren't ready to let him go. But he loved Jesus and knew he would soon be Home. A nurse had to come to the house and do an interview with Dad one of those days for insurance purposes, and she asked him to write a sentence. When I read what he had written I left the room sobbing, because I just wasn't ready, but now I love to remember what he wrote. He wrote: "Today is the day!" He was going Home. We all wait on that day, don't we?

As for the work that has gone on in me? It's like one of my favorite Sara Groves songs says: "the future feels so hard and I want to go back, but the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I've learned." 

Once again, our Beth Moore study on Esther speaks to me:

God can reverse every negative element in His child's life and turn it into a positive. He doesn't just diffuse the circumstance. He transfuses it... your God cares about you! he wants to show you what He can do with your life and your negative conditions, but He wants you to know without a doubt that He alone is the author of reversals. Wait like a watchman on the wall and when the first sign of reversal comes, don't dream of calling it a coincidence. Raise the roof with praise and ask the One who has begun a good work in you to complete it! He is not only glorified through our suffering. He can also be supremely glorified through our celebrating. (p. 197 of the Esther study)
So, do I still miss me dad? Daily. I'll miss him as long as I'm not with him. But after much time and searching, I've come to a place of acceptance. I celebrate my dad's life. I celebrate the work God has done in me through my dad's death. I pray, I beg, that it will continue and that I'm only just getting a taste of what is to come. 

"...He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." Psalm 40:2-3

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

what are you waiting for?

It always seems like I am waiting for something. Nap time, bed time, tomorrow, the weekend, spring break, summer break. Time alone, time with my kids, time with just my husband. Time to sew, time to read, time to spend just with God. A time when I will be able to keep my house clean. The next paycheck. A greater need for architects. A better paycheck. A time when we will be able to do more and give more. For people to understand. For the kids to do this or that. For God to do this or that.

Recently, we had a financial situation that we had to wait on. For three weeks we waited. Mostly, I felt peace. I prayed for a remedy to the situation, but mainly for peace during it. God so provided that peace to both of us. We know he is using this time to do a work in us. Now, I can't say I didn't ever feel afraid during those three weeks. At times I felt very afraid. I became impatient. I kept reminding myself that God's timing is different than my own. And then, as part of our Beth Moore Esther study, I discovered a wonderful truth. Now, first of all, it is not coincidence that so many times during this study I have received a specific Word that I needed that very week. God is so good!

What I found out during the time of waiting is this: while we wait for something, God is also waiting with us...

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18 (emphasis mine)

Beth explained that the words "longs" and "wait" in this verse were the exact same word as each other in the Hebrew language. She said that God waits, too, and he longs to give us what we need. It's not a wait without the longing. Without the longing, it would just be passing time. That means that there is a reason for the waiting. I loved hearing this because during those weeks I kept feeling that there was something bigger than what I could see going on. I felt God working on me. On us. A few days ago I thanked God for those weeks of waiting and for being right there, waiting with us. I know that in this precarious economic situation, there is more waiting to come. But I also know that we are learning some things about stewardship that we've been seriously lacking. And about trust. About faith. About wants vs. needs. About what is truly important. About faith. About what God wants from me. He just wants me, by the way. For me to love and believe him. And wait on him.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next. Amen.

I only recently found out that The Serenity Prayer went on past "and wisdom to know the difference." I just love it. God is not overly interested in our happiness here on earth, but in how we live our lives. He knows that one day we will be happier than we can imagine. Hard times build strength. They bring us to our knees. They bring us to the Father. He longs to help us and loves for us to rely on him. My desire is that I will seek him just as much in the good times as I do in the bad. I just love that he wants to be with me.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. Psalm 62:5
So, what am I really waiting on? That little nagging feeling I get from time to time that I just don't belong here... is there because I don't. You don't either. We weren't created for this world. I am really waiting for Home. I am smiling at the thought of it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

my cat in the hat

I love myself some Dr. Seuss, so I was excited that Elijah's school has been celebrating his birthday this week. Today he got to dress up as the Cat in the Hat. As soon as he got home he and Miles disappeared for a while and when they returned, Miles had on the hat and Elijah had drawn whiskers and a nose on him. It was too cute. Anybody remember Oh, the Places You'll Go? I still love it!

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

---Dr. Seuss

On to another topic... on the way to church tonight (just the boys were with me), out of the clear blue, my Cat in the Hat tried to get the "cat out of the bag." He asks, without reason or warning, "Momma, how do babies get out of mommas bodies?" What!!?? Stop the car! Are you kidding me?! Are you out of your mind??!! And then I was saved because he saw the star Sirius and suddenly said "look Mom, it's Sirius!" I have never in my life been so happy to talk about a star...I excitedly said, "Where is Sirius?!! Show me! Tell me more about that star!!" And by the grace of God, I was able to avoid that conversation. I am not ready for it. In the words of Beth Moore, "is anybody going where I'm driving?" and I certainly don't want to drive there just yet! My little cat in the hat doesn't need to know things like that!

Monday, March 2, 2009

lift me up

I was working on my Beth Moore Esther study this afternoon when Miles walked in and made my day. That's a bit strange to say since he's been quite the grumpy one today. Evidently he has pink eye in *both* eyes. When we put the medicated drops in his eyes, by the sound of his resistance, you'd think that we were trying to pluck his eyes out or something worse. Then he sits there for about 15 minutes with his eyes closed while continuing to talk about the eye drops with disgust. Let's just say it's been fun. real. fun.

But as I was doing my study today and looking for a Word, I got one from my little grumpy Milesy. He approached me suddenly, wearing a newly donned and very ridiculous looking tobogan and said, "My job is to try to lift you up." What!!?? He repeated it. And then he moved on. Now, I'm sure he thought he was playing some type of super hero strong-man game that I was unaware of and his job was to literally pick me up, but he was the voice of God to me in that moment. I needed a reminder that I don't have to be all things to all people, I don't even have to be all things to my children. God is All things enough for all of us. And he cares enough about me to send a sweet little word through Miles, when I am least expecting it. 1 Peter 5:6 says:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

So, how did Miles do on his task of lifting me up? He couldn't have done any better. With God's help, even a grumpy little Milesy can lift me up "in due time."