Sunday, July 29, 2012

Beyond

Beyond...the noise

GO:
Sometimes, when I stop and think about it, I'm really thankful for sleep. Sleep and I have had an odd relationship over the years anyway, but for the most part, I am pretty happy with sleep. Sleep is my friend. I guess I would say I treat sleep okay most of the time, but sleep doesn't get much say in the situation. You see I'm self-proclaimed not a morning person (unless forced). So, I say this as I type until the wee hours of what has already become the morning at this moment. Maybe it's the creative spirit in me that often wants to get that last breath of energy in eveningtime, when the world is quiet, and the sky and all the people settle in for the night.


Sometimes, though, I think about how God created us with limits. Even those of us who are night owls. I think about the fact that yes, maybe it's the best time I can write or how I feel most centered with the Lord then, but...

I'm often so reminded at these moments of my humanness and that I have limits. I think that's a good thing. I remember that I can't do everything and I need God to show me these things.


His peace is enough to break through in the moments where I'm sure I have to push through. Maybe it's not some post that I've been dying to write but a deadline or something else that I think I need to complete. He created a time for rest in between the racing, and I think for many purposes - not only for physical wellbeing, but to SEE Him more clearly.

For even though He is with us at all times, could perhaps the noise of our (my) lives be too loud at times, enough to drown out what God is saying?

STOP:

**Linking up with Five Minute Friday :) (Hey, it's still the weekend)

Does this tendency ever happen to you? Can a good thing like trying to "make the most of the day" turn into pushing the limits?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Change is Possible {Favorites Series}

Switching gears a bit, I thought the idea of change would be a good one to talk about next in the Favorites Series and the book "How People Change" by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane popped up in my mind. However, I didn't have the book to pull out because I remembered it wasn't my book in the firstplace.

Alas, it was my dear friend's book who has lended me various things over the years, books and cds and the like and I had a tendency to go a very long time before returning her items. Opps.

I decided sometime back (maybe after reading this book) that I needed to, um, change that. It got kind of ridiculous. There were piles of books that I realized weren't mine and I had accumulated. 

If that's ever happened to you, here are some steps for you:

1) Take inventory of what is actually yours and don't wait months to return something.

2) Go to their house, leave the items on their doorstep and leave a note.

3) Run away quickly and maybe they won't remember who they lent it to.

Okay, maybe not #2 and #3, but you get the point.

There are many different perspectives on change and many different approaches from which to talk about it. I see it everyday in my field as a counselor.

Tripp and Lane talk about patterns of change from a Biblical perspective in a practical way but also mapping out why it's important to look deeply and not just stay on the surface.

They talk about real people with real struggles. They also describe why Jesus looks at the heart and came to be about the inward change and not just the external. All day long I can try and clean up myself on the outside, but if nothing has changed inwardly, I am still in the same place I was before. Jesus came to actually move us from those stuck places we were in before.

In an interview about the book, Tripp talks about the rawness and realness of the people in the Bible and also the hope that can be found in how God works in people who do not have it all together, and yet there is hope for change.

"When I read a Bible story, I think, “This is an embarrassing story!” If I had written the Bible, I would have left that story out. God knows how ugly, messy, disastrous, and hurtful life can be. Right next to that honest picture of life, he puts the promise of real personal change." - Paul Tripp

There is hope for the hurting and lasting change possible even in broken situations. Jesus came not just to put a lid on surface level problems or iron out wrinkles but to get at the roughest places inside, the ones that appear to have holes that puncture and nothing can fill or make whole again.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.  
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

 
Lamentations 3: 22-23



Another favorite artist, Sara Groves, song "He's Always Been Faithful" from her album, Conversations.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Don't Give Up. { Favorite Series }

There was a time when I felt utterly behind at life.

It wasn't a 'let-me-move-faster, I-need-to-pick-up-the-pace' because I have to be somewhere or get something done kind of trying to catch up, but one of those nagging feelings that I wasn't where I once was, I was moving slower. My normal routines and way of life had shifted a bit over the years to try and compensate for pain and health issues and for a very long time that didn't feel okay. In fact, at it's worst, it felt completely wrong. I didn't want to be behind in what I thought I should doing, at the speed I thought I should be doing it. Finishing school. My work 'life.'

I felt weak. Like I wasn't living up to some kind of potential. It's not a bright place to be in discontentment. I was trying to work out my own plans instead of letting God show me that He can work them out.

It's easier to say the verses we know and learn than to actually have to live those beliefs.

There was a time when I felt utterly behind at life. And I had to come to terms with what Romans 8:28 says, actually says. That God works everything for good. We have been called according to a purpose and a plan.

When I was faced seeing that His plans for me must be good, things began to move forward.

I have to remind myself of living by His purposes and plans sometimes, when instead I feel behind because of things like having to be somewhere or my schedules looking different than what He may have for me.
As I am talking about favorite books this week, the book Closer Than Your Skin always makes me think of this idea.  Susan D. Hill (whose father lives in the same building as my grandma!) talks about sensing inklings of God and her journey of realizing how personal he was and the real ways she could experience Him. She shares of the rawness of knowing God and His enduring love. I still remember what it was like when I was reading her book in the midst of feeling like, 'What do I have to show for myself at this point? and not knowing what the future would hold.' I can remember her speaking about her journey of God building her up again and how He used the following verses in Jeremiah. Somehow, as I myself was led to go back to Jeremiah, God used it as part of restoring my hope and the journey back to joy.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again,
and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
and go out to dance with the joyful."
-Jeremiah 31:3-4

Song to go along with this = one of my favorite songs of all time.

"Song of Hope" by Robbie Seay Band

I think I would love this song regardless but I remember being able to sing this song during worship at church many years ago and how intensely it resonated with me. From then on, it has stuck with me. Singing it alongside beloved friends who were voices of hope and beacons of light in my life demonstrating God's love symbolized the message of Not Giving Up.





"God of heaven come down, heaven come down
Just to know that You are near is enough"




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to Lighten Your Load / Favorite Book Series

Yesterday, I talked a bit about the book Cold Tangerines. Everytime I pull it out, the book reminds me of how important passions and visions are, how plans are not always crafted and created in permanent marker, and that God shows up in the everyday life, that daily life that gives us room to celebrate if we look for it.

I keep revisiting old books (which is okay sometimes, but reminds me how long it's been since I've read a new book:) ). Still, there are some major themes in some of the books I go back to again and again, for topical studies, talking with friends or just reminders of truth found in the Word.

One of my favorite writers is Emily Freeman and she talks a lot about the topic of grace. Reading her blog recently, she is having a book club right now on her book, which I love, Grace for the Good Girl. Realizing now that the book club is coming to a close, I will not be joining in the blog fun on that end. Opps. Alas, a day late and a dollar short. But, Emily's book is full of demonstrations of the story of God's love in our lives through grace. Grace through failures. Grace through mistakes. Grace for the 'good' masks of approval or performance. She writes poetically about remaining in His love and letting Him be the one to give space for your soul. In the midst of running. In the midst of mess. In the midst of your own best efforts to do it yourself.

Emily talks about healing and the burdens and extra loads we carry around when Jesus came to take the mess from us. We try and make life work, often on our own, and when it doesn't we wonder why. We avoid falls, or when there is a fall, we want to avoid the healing that could come with a God who knows how to bring life even in the most messy and seemingly destraught situations.

One of my favorite parts of Emily's book happens to be the chapters she talked about this past week. It's called Safe, Even When it Hurts. I don't think this implies a physical safety, for we can't be sure of that. But, she does give an example of what can happen when someone or something hits bottom, or has a 'fall.

She says that Jesus often brings "us to a place where we have to choose what we will believe." She talks about Simon Peter's response to Jesus when he talks to his disciples about whether they will leave him and he says "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68). Peter did not live a perfect life, and yet he knew what he believed and who he wanted to follow.

Even in the midst of hurting or if the hard outer surface wants to crack. Sometimes that is part of the process of freedom God brings a person through to set your mind on what already is yours in Christ. Grace.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Start Where You're Stuck (Multitudes on Mondays 115-122)

"Thankfulness opens the door to My presence. Though I am always with you, I have gone to great measures to preserve your freedom of choice. I have placed a door between you and Me, and I have empowered you to open or close that door. There are many ways to open it, but a grateful attitude is one of the most effective."-Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Life is not always tidy.
Although I might claim to be a free spirit of sorts, I can admit that I like certainty. But I'm realizing more and more that at least some chaos is a part of this life.
However, the impact of the chaos and trials can either leave you barely hanging on or leave you yearning for more. Still wanting more of life, more thankful, seeing that there is more to celebrate and praise. It might seem almost backwards at times, but I believe Jesus spoke to this thought when he described that he had come "that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10).

We are not promised that everything will be handed to us or to have material blessings in this life, but by knowing God and coming to see more of who he is, that is fullness of life. Sometimes, I see more of who God is through trials and suffering and even the crazy, hard days in life. It doesn't mean he doesn't know what He is doing when life is complex and the world or the people in it are going every which way. He does have a plan and I still see his mercy and love working in the lives of people I see everyday, as well as my own.

What about the days when you're stuck?

I can compare it to writing. When I sit down and consider the real joy I have with writing, and get beyond what leaves me stuck, or with a bad attitude at times, I see that what I'm left with is the stuff that writing is truly made of. Why it's important to me in the first place. Why I come back to it and push through and something changes in me again and again, every time.

But still, what if you're stuck?

I like what Shauna Niequist says, from one of my favorite books, Cold Tangerines.
"I get stuck because I try to map out every dip and turn, try to write an ending, literally and figuratively, before a beginning even exists."

"But little by little, when I start whre I'm stuck, over and over, getting stuck and unstuck, something cracks through, and life reveals itself to me like a scroll unfurling, and I write about it. I struggle against myself, and I write about it...I don't figure out the solution in a tidy way, and I don't have a sharp and clever revelation, but bit by bit, writing is starting to worm its way into the dailiness of my life and creating a home there." 


Multitudes on Mondays (Tuesday)
-getting some tennis in (115)
-writing days (116)
-meeting up with a friend even in the thunderstorm! (117)
-God working out a day with a bad headache and healing it quickly (118)
-lots of outdoors time on the weekends, enjoying the beautiful nature and warm weather (119)
-hearing from my sweet friend who moved away (120)
-a lazy, cozy Sunday (121)
-time with some great friends and seeing the cute kiddos as they grow up too fast! (122)



Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Page From My Journal

Part of the reason I love writing so much is just the act of writing itself. Which oddly enough, even though I could have every media vehicle at my fingertips, used to be a lot more freeing some years back. Think 39 cent notebook and writing ferociously. The other reason is it freezes time.  Meaning, it holds a memory in its proper place. It documents things in a creative way. Even fiction can do that for me. I can remember things about my life when I go back to something I've written.

Here are a couple of pages from various journals, the first from some years ago, the second I tagged onto the other journal entries. I noticed looking back at writing that I was coming to terms with some health problems and pain I had been experiencing for quite awhile. So, that's where the second piece came in, more on the subject of trials and where God comes in.

Where there is hard stuff, there is redemption. That’s what I believe. I’m afraid who I am and what I stand for loses its value because of the dark moments before the light comes.
I think we have to share the dark moments and understand they are temporary. I’ve known things lose power this way..

***

God’s story in our lives can seem too good to be true so we go searching for a different identity. We long for an image that feels right. But there is surrender and trust. Trust that God is already putting us back together.

Bringing heaven to earth means God knew what he was doing in his overall plan, he knew we would be messy people and we would need Christ to come.
Embracing our true identities means learning who we are in Christ. Knowing that He transforms my life means living with that new awareness every day.
I know I can’t live independently from the world God placed me in. In the places and times God has me, I pray He continues to show me truth and where peace is possible, where I can open up to more that He has.

Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God has been and is making restoration possible. He was the first and best Creator and he shows me that he will continue to make a way even if something looks dried up or where without him there would be no strength or hope. God knows what He’s doing and is working in every situation.

Have you seen God show up during hard times (or sweet times!) to help you discover your true identity?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Multitudes on Mondays: 104-114


God is in the details. Even when we aren't sure how. He's there.

104. Seeing incremental change.

105. The thanks counted on airplane napkins through missed plane flights.

106. Going home again and seeing treasured friends - both home in NC and home in Ohio.




107. Planning and thinking about skyping with friends missed...

108. Trips to the west,




109. Trips to the north.




110. Time at home with the family.





111. Family reunions. Cousins. Every last one of us getting to be together.





112. Slowing down

113. The lake, popping up from almost nowhere.

114. Laughter, at the simple things, such as interesting backdrops for photos. Thanks for the laugh, Dad.




114. Always You, God, your creation, your goodness, your love, constant.



Friday, July 6, 2012

Story

Today I am thinking about freedom and space to breathe.

I see the word story posted on Five Minute Friday's link-up with Lisa-Jo, and I realize how again and again this word keeps popping back up in all different places.
Story and writing. What I know is a necessity. How God has called me before to write about story and the ways He does still, nudges me out of my comfort zone, to write about those places He has shown me grace.

I scribble nonstop on the plane, coming to Ohio for a few days. Finally, finally, there's space to write about freedom, what I've been wanting to write about for so long now. Nevermind anything else going on, the words are there, they need to come out.

I know there are still things I'm afraid to put into words on the page. But a lived story, written down, even slowly, can spell out the graces received. The faithfulness and mercy of God. Love poured out.
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever." -Psalm 118