Category: the root word of relevant

the weight of the wait

For about a week, we had been waiting for a specific piece of mail.

Waiting has been a theme ’round these parts for quite some time. It’s almost as natural to me as breathing at this point. One day last week, I arrived to pick up Rod, but he wasn’t ready yet, and I waited. Not for long, but without irritation, I waited. And I thought about how much I have gotten used to waiting.

I think I have learned – finally – that there are some things I cannot control. Those things include the length of my husband’s phone calls and his preference for chemically-enhanced peanut butter, the amount of hunger my children will claim to have in between school and dinner, when exactly I get to visit Chicago again, whether I will ever get off the library’s waiting list for The Hunger Games, my wiry gray hairs and inability to spell “maintenance” and “thorough” without spellcheck, the timing of our Grand Purpose For Moving To Myrtle Beach, and the U.S. postal service.

But all this waiting, while it has settled into my bones, it has also made me weary. Sometimes I have a moment of…exhale, I guess…and suddenly, I can feel the weight of the wait. Some of the things we’ve waited on are inevitably superficial. But some of them, like this piece of mail, mean a lot, a lot, a lot to our family. They are the things that keep us from going back to sleep when we’ve awaken at 2am, the things that give us knots in our stomachs, the things that make us cry a little more than we should at something we see on fictional TV, take every FB post we read personally, and laugh nervously to fill awkward silences.

This day, this time, the thing we were waiting for came. Rod walked outside to get the mail, and he prayed. I stayed in the kitchen and sang a few lines of a hymn to my daughters (“to God be the glory, great things He hath done…”). He came back in and tried to fake me out, But I knew.

It came.

And you know what? It brought three friends. A fourfold blessing!

Edit: When I first wrote this, on Monday night, I thought that was the end of that story. It wasn’t. Let me be a little more transparent by saying when I took the largest one of that fourfold to deposit in the bank, in the account we’ve had for almost a year, I was informed there would be a 7 day hold on it. My response as a big, tall woman-of-faith? I cried. Like, ugly cried, right there in the drive-thru. And when I drove away, I started crying, “I want to go home,” which makes absolutely no sense because I am home and the banks in Chicago suck, too. By the time I called my mom, did a portion of the grocery shopping I had planned, picked up Rod for a meeting we had, and devoured a chicken-biscuit-and-sweet-tea (skipping breakfast and caffeine might have been part of the reason for my hysteria), my perspective had shifted back to its somewhat-proper balance. But wow… God really, really, really wants to make sure I’ve learned not to get ahead of myself!

For the most part, though, I am learning to wait more serenely. I’m learning that being made to wait is likely God testing my faith rather than an attack from my enemy. I’m learning that growth is often the goal, not some lofty, shiny result. I’m learning to expect God to answer my prayers and provide for my family. And I’m hoping that my faith will become more like a child’s in all this, because: see?

Hopeful, rested, weightless waiting is a beautiful thing.

back up

What. A. Week.

I have spent every free minute since Wednesday cleaning up a mess much bigger than the broken bottle of Worcestershire sauce on my kitchen floor last night.

In doing so, I learned new terms, like malware. I refreshed myself on how to use DOS. I found and learned how to use cleaning scripts, website security, and programs to break XML files (the precious backups of 3.5 years of words) into smaller pieces.

And because I learn this stuff as I go, I also accidentally deleted and had to re-add a database, freaked out because I thought I had to manually add 6 months worth of photos to their corresponding blog posts (turns out the necessary backup files were sitting on my computer desktop the whole time), and had to start the whole rebuilding process over again yesterday because of a misnamed file.

I also had several freakouts due to the other websites hosted on my server space – including our home church in Illinois, Rod’s ministry site, and our Branson GMR site. Everything is fixed now, but I sososo hope none of those sites forwarded people to the nasty stuff some of us saw earlier this week.

I apologize for the forwards… the bad stuff (aka malware) causing that to happen is gone and I have new knowledge and new goodies protecting us from it happening again.

As the Ghostbusters would say, “Light is green, trap is clean.”

Anyway, I missed writing, though it was kind of fun to learn the things I did in the process of cleaning the mess.

In retrospect, once I found the fix, I should have run it and let it do its work, and not deleted and rebuilt everything, but I was worried, I wasn’t sure I was using it right, and apparently, I like to make more work for myself.

And I’m really, really, really thankful I had a backup for everything.

No, the running metaphor of all of this is not lost to me. Nor was it when I was crying in the wee hours Wednesday night thinking I’d lost every word I’d written recording our journey of the past 6 months.

It has been a seriously insane 6 months. For whatever reason, Rod and I have been looking back a lot this weekend, and we’re both amazed at what we’ve come through. Surprised at God’s faithfulness? No. But always somewhat…taken aback, maybe a little flattered, when the Creator of all things takes time to help us through rocky roads, desolate places, and website attacks.

And we’re especially thankful for the little winks He seems to give, reminding us we’re not alone, reminding us that He – no man or entity, but the Lord’s ordering of our steps, is what brought us here.

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Whether crying in some strong arms or swinging around in them, having Someone to hold us is the best backup there is.

smile on me

I could write a book on the things my kids teach me, and my 4-year-old’s latest lesson is a big one.

KK, like her mama, bounces back and forth between emotional extremes. She might be happily singing one minute, and then (literally) kickin’ mad the next.

It causes some intense moments between the two of us.

Last week, The Daddy was out of town for a few days, and my wonderful children (including the new puppy) did their best to test me on a few occasions. On one of those, during which my voice was escalting in volume as I provided, for the 100th time, a set of instructions that were not being followed, KK said with no small degree of urgency:

Mommy! I want you to SMILE at me!

She caught me in my tracks. What a manipulative/clever little thing, was probably my first thought. Try not to laugh, Mama, was likely my second. But my deep thought in response to this was:

This kid is on to something. When I smiled at her, it paused the negative action. It calmed us both. And without compromising the directions I was giving her, it showed her my love.

She continued making that “plea” several times over the next few days, usually resulting in one of these from me:

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and then took a break from it.

Yesterday, the girls and I had a hurried stop at home in between their school and their swim lessons. We had just enough time for me to feed them dinner, get their swim stuff together, and get them changed, with just a little playtime cushion built in. (As a family, we are always hurrying, and yet we’re not so good at it).

Again, during one of my, “C’mon! Can you PLEASE just PUT your PANTS on?!” tirades, she asked me to smile at her. I paused, and thought about it for a second, and then I said:

If you want me to smile at you, why don’t YOU smile at ME first?

{The end of that story is: she complied, and the rest of the night into today, we have been intentionally smiling at and for each other when we don’t feel like it, at least 80% of the time}.

~
Now, I ask:
When is the last time you prayed this prayer?
Lord, make Your face shine on me.

I looked it up, and it’s in the Bible more times than I thought. A version of this prayer or thought can be found in Numbers 6:25, Psalm 119:135, Psalm 31:16, Psalm 80:3, Psalm 80:7, and Daniel 9:17, to name a few.

To me, when I picture that prayer (it was said at our wedding, and Rod and I sang “Shine On Us” at my brother’s wedding), I picture God’s version of a smile… a ray of light, a warm breeze, mayve some abstract version of an actual grin. Whatever it is, I know I want it.

And I know sometimes, be it in my thoughts, my words to others, or even, in my dark moments, my own prayers, I say:

God! I want You to SMILE at me!…why aren’t You?

So maybe yesterday, I answered that question for my own self as I answered my little girl. If I want God to smile, shouldn’t I start it first? Shouldn’t I show some love, some joy, some behavior to cause Him to want to smile?

I’m still stuck in Psalm 119, and I see a few pieces of advice there on how to “make God smile”~

seek His precepts
have a blameless heart
do not be ashamed of Him
meditate on His testimonies
offer praise to Him
follow His commandments
delight in His law
speak His Word

That is not a small order, but, but, but…
like this smile is to me:

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I think God’s smile on me is totally worth the effort.

creative survival

Why do I believe in God? And more importantly, why do I believe in the work of His Holy Spirit?

Things like this…

A dear friend of mine moved this week. She is a freelance teacher, runs a ministry to families and a small business to support that ministry, and homeschools her two young children. She is busy. She was moving this week, the stress of which is very fresh in my mind. We pass each other on Facebook nearly every day, but we haven’t talked in a few weeks. She has no idea what twists and turns “our life situation” has taken since then (and they seem to happen on a near daily basis), and yet, in the middle of the night a few nights ago, in the midst of her moving-craziness, she sent me a series of texts with a scripture. The verses come at the end of a parable Jesus told about a smart but self-serving manager who was taking advantage of his employer:

Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”

(from Luke chapter 16, The Message)

~

It’s a fine line, walking between faith that God will provide for us and knowing when to act. Certainly, God recently has led us into and through a more passive season than what we are used to or comfortable with. Lately, though, we have been made somewhat comfortable again, in that our basic needs are being met enough that we can pull our minds away from ‘Holy crap! What are we going to do?’ kind of thinking and ease ourselves back into ‘Go big or go home’ mode.

We tend to dream big…

… but because of the nature of dreams we’ve had these past few years, we believe they ain’t ours:

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4

It would be easy – and is easy – for many people to look at that verse and translate it as, Be a good little Christian and Jesus will take on the role of Santa and give you everything on your list. But that isn’t the way it works. Ready for this?

Clarke’s Commentary says that to delight in the Lord means, “Expect all thy happiness from him, and seek it in him.” Barnes Notes on the Bible goes on to say that your heart’s longings will then be granted because “the fact that you seek your happiness in him will regulate your desires, so that you will be “disposed” to ask only those things which it will be proper for him to grant” and “the fact that you do find your happiness in him will be a reason why he will grant your desires.”

So basically, if you are chasing God, He’s gonna put HIS DREAMS in your heart, and then He is going to make them come true.

He has done it for us before, and I tend to lie to myself that it won’t happen again. But Luke 16, and one phrase in particular there has stirred my soul one more for new dreams:

CREATIVE SURVIVAL.

– that is, use these ashes and trade them for beauty. Use the ugly and trade it for the radiant. Use this obstacle as an opportunity. Seek and expect redemption out of these craptastic circumstances. Stop looking at the door that is closed and instead walk through the one that opened right next to it. Use every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival.

I am jumping up and down and yelling, (quite literally at times), OK GOD! LET’S GET CREATIVE. C’MON!

The other verbiage of this verse has me thinking about doing this:

’cause we totally want to “really live.” We want to Really Give! We want to do bigger than what we’ve done before, and God has already given us the opportunity to do way bigger things than we ever dreamed…

Loving on our sponsored kids in Bogota, Colombia with Compassion.

For three years (and maybe more to come), leading gospel artists in a multi-day, raise-the-roof-with-praise event in… Branson! (We planned the first one before we’d ever even been to Branson!)


Navigating a second marriage and blending a family. Have you read statistics? This is a miracle of God! (and in our case, a living advertisement for Chipotle).

~

It is easy, so easy, for me to feel discouraged and lost and purposeless these days. I often, too often, look to my Heavenly Father and ask in tears, in frustration, or even sometimes in exasperated good humor, “WHY ARE WE HERE?” I cannot see the endgame. I cannot see simple solutions to the situations around us. But by His grace – and through words like the ones in Luke 16, I am beginning to see what it might be. That, my friends, is grace for the moment. Sometimes, that is how we live… just enough strength for this day, just enough light to see the next little step.

But Luke 16 is calling me, ME, to do more. To live big. “To really live.” To look for angles, to utilize obstacles, to be creative and survive until I thrive.

What is He calling you to do? Want to dream along with me?

 

the blessing of forgiveness

This post was inspired by yesterday’s session of the Project 31 Bible Study I am a part of, in which we are working through The Search For Significance, by Robert McGee.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9

There are a few instances in my life when I have really, really, I mean really struggled with forgiveness. Generally, I view myself as someone who has done a lot of wrong in life, and that makes it easy for me to forgive others “as I have been forgiven”…when they are sorry.

What do we do when people have hurt us, let us down, broken our trust, broken our hearts, and are either unaware or not sorry that they did?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV

How did Christ forgive us?

Well, I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have been sitting under this teaching my entire life, and the simplest way I can put it is, He forgives us because He just does.

– because He loves us (John 3:16)
– because we are sometimes very, very ignorant (Luke 23:24)
– because He is perfect, and therefore not afraid that forgiving someone is going to make Him look foolish, weak, or stupid. (1 John 4:18)

~

A few years ago, I struggled restlessly with a situation in which my family was hurt by another Christian. I have no reason to believe that person was ever sorry. I have reasons to believe that person did so with intention, not even caring that by hurting my husband and me, our children were hurt as well. I wrestled with wanting to avenge myself, wanting to prove I was right (this could be my tragic flaw if not for the grace of God) to anyone who would listen, and ultimately, wanting this person to be sorry, our relationship to be restored, and lalalalalala. (Yes, I do watch too many Disney movies, thank you very much). When it became clear to me that none of this would happen, I took ‘comfort’ in this scripture:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19

And while I believe this to be true, that it is God who doles out justice, I am certain it is not meant for us to wish God’s wrath on anyone. And I came to that realization at a Wednesday night Bible study more than a year ago, when our teacher posed this question to us regarding forgiveness and those who wrong us:

Do you want them standing next to you in heaven?

Well, for crying out LOUD. Of course I do. And there is the trump card, right? Forgive. Forgive, forgive, forgive. I took that to heart, I sent one last note of ‘hey, it’s all good’ that went unanswered, and let it go.

I thought.

Yesterday, our brave teacher shared a testimony with us about a time she was blamed for something she didn’t do. She talked about her inward struggle against “setting the record straight,” because in doing so she would have to “throw someone else under the bus.” She wrestled until she found God’s peace in the situation. And then:

She asked the person who believed that she had done something she didn’t do to forgive her for the thing she hadn’t done.

That is taking it a big step further than where I went. A BIG step. Because even after I made the choice to forgive and even to love, I still wanted the truth to be “out there” and acknowledged.

That person and situation I struggled with and I/we are no longer existing in the same ‘world.’ I know it would be more harmful than helpful to try to drag everything back into light and fix it. I have peace in my soul that I followed this commandment:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18

But, oh, have I learned more after the fact. There will always be ‘wrong’ done to us in this life. There will always be people who hurt us or someone we love and do not apologize. And there will always be God’s word and spirit to guide us through those challenging times.

His Word will tell us, without fail, to love, make peace, and forgive as He taught us to and as He does for us. And His spirit, His grace, His love will fill the holes in our hearts made by life’s letdowns.

If we allow.