Category: weekly devotional

comfort and courage

I have a short confession to make:

I am comfortable. In my life right now, where I am, who is around me, what is going on…I like it. I enjoy it.

And then I see something like this:

comfort vs courage

…and I think, “Oh NOES! I need to stop being comfortable or something is going to happen to pull me right out of my comfort zone.”

Is that true?
I don’t know.

Is comfort with personal circumstances as opposed to all circumstances really a barrier to growth?
I’ll let you know…

After seasons of stress and turmoil, is it “ok” to have a season of ease?
That seems like a legalistic approach. Pretty sure God just wants us to pursue Him and He’ll give us what we need in all seasons (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…)

Is happiness a fleeting feeling I should let go of in the pursuit of true, deep down, God-given joy?
Heck YES.

I’m not sure if these questions make sense to anyone but me right now. I’ve been having fun mini-blogging #bestsummerever on my Facebook, enjoying the whole hammock-and-popscicles kind of life previously unimaginable in adulthood. But as always, that doesn’t reflect all my life. We still have stuff – you know: quandaries, issues, struggles, decisions. I still have hurdles – questions about where to go from “here” in various relationships and pursuits. In all that, though, I don’t want to apologize for finding peace. I don’t want to feel guilty for embracing joy. And I don’t want to worry that comfort – in my own skin – is a roadblock to growth as a leader.

So, I hope what the above means is “don’t be satisfied.” In my eternal quest to decipher whether my “drive” is God-led ambition or ego-fueled pursuit, I know that there is rarely a time when I am “all good” with staying exactly where I am. I need to improve my fitness, my parenting, my Bible study, my keeping in touch with people, my focus on The Moment.

Example: My pursuit of relationships lately has been interrupted by my pursuits in ministry. As a leader, I am called and expected to elevate my level of conversation. For me, it has always been easy to crack a joke, make a sarcastic comment, bond through negativity, or be a safe place for people to “be real” because Kelly, she’s been there. And while that last part might be a truth, the rest needs to go out the window. A leader, I am learning, values truth…in gentleness, in love, but over lies and over ease. I am also now just learning (’cause I already knew), but embracing the art of when to shut up! It takes courage for me to stand on this. I always want to be liked and approved of. I run from most conflict. But a leader cannot compromise integrity. So I’m not. And there are results of all kinds…

Comfortable? Well, being comfortable in myself is something I’ve worked on for 3 decades. I won’t be giving that up.

Choosing comfort over courage, or pleasure as an excuse not to grow and lead? Not going to happen.

Boldness and peace in one lifetime? Well, it feels right:

micah 6:8Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
  And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

another lesson from the driver’s seat

lessonMy KK is new to using a lunchbox. She brings lunch to her new pre-school a few times a week. We haven’t bought her her own lunchbox yet, so she uses a random lunch bag that fits her various food items (she likes a lot, and variety) ‘just so.’

This morning, she asked me to pack her Spider-Man waterbottle, and though I was not sure of its spill-proofness, I obliged. On the way to school, while she sat in the back of the minivan, far out of my reach, she took everything out of her lunchbag to view what I had packed. Then, she proceeded to haphazardly cram it all back in and fight with the zipper to get it closed over Spider-man’s head.

Disclaimer: I will also add that we have family in town this week, so we are doing that “pretend we are on vacation even though there is school and work” thing, and we’re a little tired…

Cue teaching moment for KK’s mama:

me
Kaity, don’t try to zip it. It has to fit a certain way. Just leave it.

KK

keeps trying

me
KK, just leave it.

KK
keeps trying

me
KK, I will fix it when we stop. Just leave it!

KK
keeps trying

me (as I picture applesauce, grape jam, and water flying everywhere to mix with all the other crap making our van sticky and horrible)
swears under breath
JESUS HELP ME! KK, JUUUUUUST LEAVE IT!!

KK
slams the lunch bag down on the seat.
glares at me

~

The truth of it all is what actually glared at me. Allow me a moment to map it out:

  • I was driving my child safely to her keep-calm-and-learn-from-your-5-yr-olddestination, after having lovingly and thoughtfully packed her mess in the only way it would have worked.
  • She tried to see what was in there without help and before the appointed time.
  • When I forced her to listen to me telling her why her actions were wrong and how I could help her, she threw it down and got mad at me.

Unlike God, I lost my patience. But everything else in that scenario could have easily been switched out… God as The Parent, me as The Child.

I want to know what is waiting for me.
I want to take care of all the messes myself.
I, after 36 years of growing, still sometimes throw it down and get mad at God when something doesn’t go my way or even if He, through the guidance of another voice or His Holy Spirit, stops me from doing something stupid.

~

Nothing was spilled in the car. I repacked KK’s lunch, and we hugged and exchanged “I love yous” as if no conflict had occurred. It is the beauty of small children, how their hearts open wide enough to blot out offenses.

It is a 15 minute drive to KK’s school, but another example of how being a parent teaches me a multitude of wisdom for this life’s journey.

Yesterday, a pastor/friend of mine said to me,

“Just tote it; don’t try to wield it.”

Translated out of church-ese, that says:

“Carry it, but don’t try to control it.”

Wisdom whispered to me… may I pass it on gently to my children.

 

 

 

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.

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:

20120308-155149.jpg

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:

20120308-155247.jpg

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?