Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Beautiful Mess

Studying God’s word incessantly while fasting can really mess with you.

So can a mission trip to a developing country or a homeless community.

A switch has been flipped and like a fan clearing smoke from a room, the fog is clearing and I am finding myself consumed by God’s words and His very heart.

There’s a sweet ever-present conversation happening between us now that’s deep, intimate, and sometimes painful.

In short, it’s really rearranging my life, my dreams, and my goals; this Christianized American dream I was so busy chasing.

Isaiah 58 (NIV)
 For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God...

How did I rationalize your call and heart away while serving within your church walls for so long?

 I, the professed, “hater” of all things watered down have apparently watered down Your very gospel in my own life. Forgive me. Oh Jesus, please forgive me.

So now I am a mess. It feels like a beautiful mess, but a mess none the less as I slowly, but surely try to unravel the threads of the American dream out of my life; out of our family’s life. It sounded so noble and normal and yet I find it extraordinarily base and empty now.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

My dear hubby and I find ourselves re-thinking even the basics in the assumed rules of engagement for the American church.  This repetitive call from your Word is not to be saved for a few events peppered throughout the year, but weaved into the very fabric of our day to day lives.

There is a great blank canvas in our future now as You, oh Lord, wash the plans we had painted on it away. We find ourselves with baited breath and fervent prayers awaiting Your next brush stroke.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Jesus you fill my heart with wonder and joy, but these come tinged with grief and remorse compared to where I was before.

So here I am. I am a mess for You. Yours for the taking and amazingly I discover that you chose me first a long time ago.

 I am not the last one picked for a game of kick ball, but your treasured pick because You have already chosen what you will do through my mess. You, who make all things beautiful.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Am I All "in" or a Passive Princess?

So many thoughts have been swirling through my mind like dust and sand swirls up with the hot and blistering winds across the desert.  Shifting, twirling, and picking up new thoughts, emotions, and ideas as it travels forth. 

Like an impending cloud of doom, I have been at a cross roads that could lead me into a downward spiral of depression. In other words, this week has been rough.

We have been bombarded with bad news from many different angles, whether it’s at church, with friends, from family, or even in our own home. 

So this week I have tried to be even more intentional with reading God’s word. These rough times are where I normally want to get spiritually lazy. To crawl into bed and pull the covers tightly over my head hoping they will muffle the bad news from the world around me.

You know what? This never works. The world keeps turning whether I decide to tune it out or not. 

My friends, my family, my church family, they still need people to comfort them, and speak hope and truth to them. They need someone to be a shoulder to cry in or an invisible prayer warrior in the background of the fight.

This week I have been making myself sit and ponder God’s words. Can you picture a mom constantly reminding her child to get back to their homework? Yes, mentally that is what I have been doing. 

Scolding and prodding myself to be intentional with my quiet times with the Lord. At times, I am even adopting the role of a sports coach yelling at myself to do more sit-ups… Err I mean read His Word. Does this make me crazy? Maybe…

Anyways, I am choosing to be extra intentional with my quiet time study of His Word. Whether it’s through a devotional reading or some straight-up Bible reading I am kicking my lazy rear into gear.

I mean it; l am kicking my spiritual work-out into a fervor. If running hard for 30 minutes does not leave me challenged or slightly sore then I know I need a bigger challenge to endure if I want to gain  results. Especially if I want to build new muscles and burn away the old fat and chub away...

The same method can apply to me spiritually, if I find myself unaffected by the readings then I must press on and dig deeper. I will re-read them, and take time to chew on and ponder them.

  I am choosing to struggle through the distractions and despair that may be plaguing me so that there is finally a clear path for the Lord to work in my heart.

Have you seen Sleeping Beauty? Do you remember that part where Maleficent has entangled the castle that holds the sleeping Aurora in massive black vines and thorns? This really resonates with me. I can just see the prince as he fights his way through the over-growth of thorns and vines to reach His love in the Castle.

I picture the Lord, as my love fighting His way through my apathy, through my tendencies to ponder too much on the negative news and pain I am surrounded with. He fights until He reaches the castle and bestows a kiss. 

His kiss of Love,

          brings an awakening to life, 

                                 light, love, and restoration.

I love this visual. It helps me to identify the enemy and the ways he is trying to ensnare me to feel hopeless, but there is so much more to this.

The Lord calls us to pick up a sword and join Him!

So this week I am choosing to fight alongside of my Lord. I will wield my sword of Truth and Love and hack away through my vines of apathy and frustrations, because God calls me to be “in” all of this tangled mess that is life.

 (I love that He calls me to be in this battle, to not passively sleep like Aurora waiting for a rescue. He calls me to pick up a sword and shield and fight, besides I have always loved a challenge, so why am I standing around and just taking the hits?)

He calls me to be “in” this battle; to be His hands and Feet. I need to be LOVE in the midst of all this hurt and anger. I will choose to be love in the midst of sorrow and strife; to be love in the here and now. I know I am not to wage war as the enemy does, but with love, grace, forgiveness, and truth.

“Because Real love is not afraid to bleed.”

 This is a quote from one of my favorite bands, The Rend Collective. 
The song continues on to say,

 “I’ve counted up the cost 

You’re worth everything.”

It’s so true! Lord you are worth my everything.

This week I am choosing to be “in” this and run the race set before me. (Hebrews 12:1-3) I will continue to make myself get up; to be “present” in the midst of the pain and heart ache, but most of all to be in the presence of my Lord. 

He is the one who gives me the strength, the wisdom, the joy, and the peace to stand. (Isaiah 40:28-31) This week started rough. My time with Him was a struggle, but it is finishing strong.

I pray this for you too, my friends. I pray you choose life and love over death and hate. Instead of bitterness, and condemnation, I pray you choose to bestow grace and forgiveness. Remember Love does, even when it’s hard…Love does.

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

How are you doing Friends? 
Are you in the midst of pain or battles? 
How can I be in prayer for you? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Me, Myself, and Food! It's not Pretty.

This post is a continuation of a series on the book Seven, a Mutiny against excess, by Jen Hatmaker. If this seems confusing you may want to start with some of my previous posts starting HERE.

The not so pretty side of me, myself, and… FOOD!

I am being absolutely honest when I tell you that I actually love being on this fast, but I did have my moments where I missed certain snack foods. I had days when I forgot to make up some food ahead of time and found myself in a pickle.

I had weak instances where I was spreading a certain chocolate hazelnut spread on my kids’ bread for a special treat and I longingly looked at the lovely chocolaty goo and bread and thought, “Oh how wonderful you are! I miss you so.” 

Or  perhaps the time I was with someone who was eating some lovely french fries and my mouth started watering for the salty crispy crunch to be mine all mine, but the truth is... I really feel better not eating them.

I have caught myself many a time trying to rationalize why I can buy myself a pumpkin spice latte from “Four bucks”.  (This is a very apt name my awesome sisters-in-law came up with.) 

Sadly, I get a wee bit too excited for this little cup of pumpkin spiced joe. It is the kick-off celebration for my favorite season of fall. Which became especially "rough", (I use that word loosely since we are only talking about coffee, dear drama queen.) the moment my sweet hubby called on his way home offering to pick one of those pumpkin lattes up for me since I was having a really bad day.

I practically wept while telling him no, and reminding him of this fast I was on. I was simultaneously grateful for such a sweet man, frustrated at having to turn something so sweet down, and hoping he would offer this another day when not on said crazy fast. (Don’t judge people, it was a very bad day and I was operating on too little sleep.)

One of my cute pumpkins holding a pumpkin! ;) She is so much better than a silly cup of coffee.

 Or how I think to myself in a panic, what if I miss all my chances to eat a sugary spicy cider doughnut from our favorite orchard. (Why!? Oh Why did I agree to start this fast in the fall?) It’s one of my favorite seasons for the food! I am surprised by my blatant issues with rationalizing my food habits by emotional whims or the, “But it’s tradition to eat this right now!” mentality.

The lessons learned that rid myself of me, 
and focused it on The One
                                 and the ones He calls me to LOVE.   
I have discovered some new ways to cook some meals. (Like Pasta-less Lasagna, which my whole family proclaimed as delicious!) I am astonished (Le gasp!) that I do not need to eat bread or pasta as much as I thought I did. 

I have once again come to the realization that when I do something unto the Lord He can give me the strength to do it where I normally would fail. My sweet Heavenly Father has taught me way more about myself and my American mindset than I even expected.

The Lord has unearthed my shallow ways and I have found myself and my habits wanting. The wonder of it all is that even in the midst of my ever present weaknesses I discovered a wonderful Lord who still loves me more than I could ever dream. 

He has plans for me that are absolutely amazing and detailed. He takes care of me and asks that I would take care of others through my families’ insane abundance. 

Jesus has offered me a love song for His people. It has cracked wide my bleeding heart this last month. The veil before my eyes is falling away and His light is revealing those who are crying out for help, healing, and for love. I know just the One who can provide those very things in abundance and I need to be sharing about Him through my heart, through my hands, and through my feet.

Remember? Love Does.

Do you see that lovely lady to the left? She was my buddy while we walked the streets of Pontiac in our group. She is 62 and recently experienced a stroke, yet she grabbed her walker and walked those streets sharing the love of Jesus. She is on a mission!

So last weekend this was how I celebrated the end of month one. I walked the streets of a nearby city with dear friends and family in Christ. We shared Christ’s love. We shared food. We shared gloves, hats, scarves, and invited them to a banquet being given in their honor the following weekend.

This will be a “Luke 14” kind of banquet, where they will be waited on hand and foot. People will supply them with winter coats, clothes, blankets, a delicious meal, entertainment, haircuts, and so much more. The part I love best? They will be showered with the sweet, sweet love of Jesus. How beautiful is that?

Matthew 22:37-40

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Food, Glorious Food! Sing with me. ;)

Seven, My first months fast against excess…


Have you ever seen, Ice Age, The Melt Down? Where the vultures start singing about, "Food glorious food"? That song has played in my head more times then I can count this month. Hmmm...I wonder why?

After listening to the words I feel like I need to explain this song. So, for those wiho have not seen this movie, this song is sung by vultures, and yes it's a little creepy, but funny. ;) It was mainly the chorus that was stuck in my head. 

If you have read Jen's book you will notice that I did a different type of food fast than hers. (She tells you to do it the way the Lord leads you to.) After some prayer and  realizing I have some health issues that I do not want to aggravate by such a long sustained fast, I came up with this plan and I still learned a ton.

This month my meal plan for the fast will consist of...

Breakfast: Plain oatmeal. The only add ins will be milk or water.

Lunch: boiled chicken breast, sweet potato, leafy greens. 

Snack foods: Banana, apple, or carrots.

Dinner: Only homemade meals. No processed junk. This also means that if I did not make the bread or pasta myself, then I will abstain from eating it. 

So yes, my dinner was not an extreme thing, but I have a good reason. I have 3 munchkins and it is very important in our family that they know, we get one meal to eat. Momma is not a shorthand cook ready to make 3 different meals for dinner to satisfy their whims. 

There will be one meal, for our whole family, and we will all eat it. Enough said. If I suddenly show up to the dinner table with a different meal these smarty pants will undo all of our hard work using me as their example. No thank you.

Beverages: I will drink mainly water with some coffee or juice. (For the first 2 weeks I am challenging myself to drink the coffee without sugar/flavoring. This is rough since I like "phoo phoo" coffees. I have given up coffee for a whole month before and survived. I just flat-out chose not to give it up this time.)

I will also abstain from all refined white sugar.

My First Reflections…

Eating plain oatmeal with no seasoning or fruit, or maple syrup/ sweetener of any kind…Well, it really stinks. This absolutely will take a while to get used to. I LOVE cooking and this is hard to not go into chop and season mode…

Also it tastes like bleh.

Reality check…

This is sometimes the only food a person in a developing country may get for the day and honestly many do not even get this one bowl. ARGH! Sigh.
Well, so much for my pity party about how bad it tastes.

Lunch, was good. It takes a lot more forethought to cook some chicken up and chop up some sweet potatoes or other veggies. I learned the hard way that I have to think ahead with our crazy lifestyle and cook up 3-4 servings for myself ahead of time in case an emergency arises like a child throwing a major fit and a friend needing a ride to the hospital to have a baby six weeks early… (She is a beautiful and precious munchkin by the way!)

Oh how I miss you salty and sweet snack foods! I miss you so…
Suddenly, I am reminded like a smack in the face, (in other words…Wake up woman! Do you hear what you are whining about?) about something I learned from my lovely friends in South Africa. They call chips, candy, soda, etc., “luxuries”. This should be a splash of ice cold wakeup water in our faces. 

Hello America!

A bag of chips is a luxury? It’s standard fare for so many here, along with candy, beverages, and so much more. A luxury? It used to be.

I remember those days…

 I recall somewhere back there in the cobwebs of this mama brain, a time when it was an amazing treat to get some soda pop because it was someone’s birthday. Or the joy that yes, your parents actually took you to the “Golden arches”. I remember working odd jobs to save up the money to get some candy. 

I kid you not, my children are so spoiled by their grandparents that I have to give away and toss out candy monthly. There is no possible way our kids could eat it all nor would we ever allow them to, but yet it abounds.

A second issue I am running into with the word, “luxury”.  What do we call luxury items here in America? There are luxury cars, luxury vacations, luxury spas, luxury medical treatments, and so on. Luxury has such a different label here and price tag.

I am floored at how much of a difference one can experience after only one week. It’s Saturday and it’s my nephew’s birthday. All the family is there and I had decided ahead of time that I would eat “normal” during birthday celebrations. 


Haha! Oh my goodness, I didn’t even eat that much. Since my stomach had apparently shrunk a bit I took small portions. It was nothing that would have made me sick before, but oh Mylanta! 

There I was trying to shoot some video of the kiddos hitting the piƱata after dinner and I suddenly had to do a quick camera hand-off to my hubby as I literally ran for the bathroom inside. Ack! Ahem…it was not pretty, but I did make it in time. I have never looked so forward to eating plain oatmeal before.

Stay tuned for, 
The not so pretty side of me, myself, and… FOOD!