Friday, October 26, 2012

(re)Treating

*Confession* 
It's SUPER late; I'm horribly tired.  I'm sure there are a ridiculous amount of mistakes in this post, and I'll hopefully catch them tomorrow, but I just had to get these thoughts down before another moment passed.  It's a VERY long post, with a few photos scattered in there, so I completely understand if you want to read it in sections.  But, I do hope you'll read it.  I prayed over this one, and I know God's up to something. 
*All my love.*

One week ago, I packed up my necessities (though some may say I brought a few unnecessary things *ahem* straightener) and loaded them into my girl Bethany's car.  The traffic was ca-razy.  Even her GPS was irritated.  But, we finally made it to the camp.  You can't tell from this picture, but the sunset and the moon looked incredible!
Although my "camp high" has faded some, I still feel the same way I felt this past weekend, so very ....... y'all, I just stared at the screen for a ridiculous about of time.  I just don't think I can describe quite how I felt and how I'm feeling in just one word.  So, how about I throw out a few instead.  FreeAwakeForgivenBrokenAwareRepentant.

The weekend was filled with songs and laughter.
(Bethany, Lauren, and me)
Stories and sharing.  Sighs and smiles.  (There's an incredibly funny story that goes along with this picture of Jane and me in our bandanas.  It involves animal sounds and the confusion that follows when 40 women make them blindfolded.)
Plenty of crying.  Lessons and new ways of looking at life, faith, blessings, trust, and struggles.
Those lessons were focused on the topic "When God Interrupts." And, oh does He. 

I came away from this weekend with a new awareness of not just who I am in Christ (the good news!) but of how I've been living in my own sin (and, it wasn't pretty) and not recognizing it. That new awareness was an ugly sight to come to grips with.

Friday night's session wasn't incredibly deep (I'm sooo glad it wasn't; I think we were all terribly exhausted by this point), but I left with a few tidbits to mull over:

~Spiritual amnesia happens when we are filled with fear (for whatever reason), and we forget our history with God.  Fear says, "I don't know."  Faith says, "God knows."

~Earthly gifts are blessings on loan--they're certainly not theft-proof; we can't expect to have them forever.  This includes our family members, our jobs, our homes, our wealth, our material possessions, etc.  The key truth to remember is that our best life is coming!  Our best life is not in comforts and blessings.  Ohhh, that was important for me to hear!

Saturday, I awoke to simply gorgeous weather.  On my walk to get breakfast, I basked in the beauty around me.

Saturday morning's session hit me hard.  It centered around Psalm 95.
This is the one that showed me that under this calm, collected (haha, even I couldn't keep a straight face), mostly put-together facade, I am a mess.  Because this is a journal for me, as well as a means of keeping my family and friends up-to-date on the happenings in this here part of Texas (I know you totally heard that in a ridiculously southern accent, It's ok. You can admit that you tried saying it out loud.), I'm going to confess a few things.  It's one way  that I'm held accountable, but more importantly, if I want this blog to be a blessing to those who read it, I shouldn't be anything less than honest.  If only one person sees that a sinner like me can be saved by grace, then I've done my part.  Lord, let my transparency show them You and You alone.

So here goes.

~I have been worshiping an idol.  Not the small, shiny statue kind.  Not the American ones who sing and dance.  Not possessions or things I wish I had.  I have worshiped an idol of the heart.  Over and over again.  Know what my idol was?  I say was because it's been addressed, confessed, and forgiven.  It doesn't mean I won't find myself heading toward that alter with knees ready to kneel and hands folded in prayer at some point, but now that I have been shown the truth, now that my eyes are wide open, I will be less likely to camp out there.  By His power and grace and by NONE of my own strength, I will fix my eyes on the ONLY One worthy of my worship.  I digress (but in a very real and very important way!).

Before I throw out my "heart idol" for you all to read, let me tell you how I was able to see it for what it was.  Because it's not like it was some evil thing on it's own.  It's not like it was sinful in and of itself.  It became an idol because of what I did with it.

During our morning session, our speaker Kellie Merrick challenged us to leave the sanctuary and wander around the grounds until we found the perfect spot to sit, reflect, ponder, listen, pray, etc.
So, I headed out to the lake.  I prayed for guidance and wisdom.
I watched the water and the tall white bird walking around on the other side.  I saw other gals walking the paths, sitting on benches, heading to cabins.
I found a worn and weathered table with a bench and took a seat.  I looked over my notes from the last session, and then I began reading the "Idols of the Heart" questions she had given us.

As I read and prepared myself for the cold, hard truths that were about to come, I remembered her command:  "Don't name your heart idol something kind.  Give it its real name.  Its ugly name."

(Here they are in order; feel free to answer them on your own and see where God leads.)
1. What in life, would make you if you had it, or break you if you lost it?
2  What do I covet or envy?  What do I have a strong desire for?  What do I treasure?  What is it that I absolutely cannot live without?  (Wherever your treasure is, there you will find your heart.  Matthew 6:21)
3.  What is your greatest fear?
4.  Where do you find your self worth?  What makes you feel significant and valuable?
5.  Where do your mind and thoughts go when you have time to daydream?
6.  Do you feel controlled by anything or anyone?
7.  Think about the things you really enjoy.  Is there anything that makes you oblivious or callous to the needs of others?  What enjoyment or pleasure can easily draw you away from your duties?
8.  Who or what do you grumble against or about?

Five of those eight questions had the same answer.  Here it is.  I want to be a mom; I want to have children.  I want a family of my own.  And, that one very genuine, very real desire had taken over my heart and mind.  I don't need to delve very far to figure out when and why it started, and I don't need to dwell on that.  It was there.  It had a tight grip.  And, it wasn't letting go.  Or, rather, I wasn't letting go of it.   Such an innocent desire became something that controlled my heart, my thoughts, my actions.  It became sin.  When I recognized this truth and saw how it had damaged me, I gave in.  I confessed.  I repented.  I accepted Christ's forgiveness.  I asked Him for much-needed guidance in this area of my life.  I asked Him to take control.  Dear Reader, do you know how I know He heard my cry?  The next morning I received a notecard with a song and a note written on it.  It was written by a gal from my church.  A sweet lady I've never met.   Her words were so kind that I knew I needed to find her and thank her.  I did so, and what did she say to me as she hugged me close?  She said, "I'm praying that God will give you peace and patience 'til it's time."  There's no way she could have known how I had answered those questions.  No way she could have possibly known what my sinful heart was so focused on, what I had been struggling with for so long.  But, with God ALL things are possible.  God's voice through her gave me the much-needed confirmation of His love and mercy.  It was a  beautiful Proverbs 12:25 moment.  So, since last Sunday, that's been my reminder of God's infinite love:  "peace and patience 'til it's time."

~My second realization was that I've made The Husband into my "Functional Savior," which is in essence another idol.  I expected him to do the things I should be relying on Jesus to do: meet my needs, be my source of joy/identify, meet/surpass my expectations.  Making a loved one into a functional savior can only lead to disaster.  As needs, wants, expectations aren't met to the desired level, disappointment and unpleasant feelings tear him/her down bit by sad little bit and WILL eventually destroy the relationship.  "Idolatry," Kellie said, "is quietly but relentlessly saying to God, 'Who You are and what You have provided for me are simply not enough.'"  I don't want to say that.  Aloud or in my heart.  Jesus is the ONLY one who satisfies fully.  He is the only One we can look to to provide all we need and more.  If we are to walk away from this idol-worship, these heart-issues that have taken up residence, we need to repent (to say "I HATE this idol that is eating me up inside."), uncover the sin for what it really is, and give it to God.  He alone saves.  If we truly care about our loved ones, we CANNOT make them our functional saviors.  If we do, we've handed them a death sentence.

People, do you see why that session kicked my be-hind??  Good grief, I was overwhelmed and relieved all at the same time.

Saturday evening, we had our last session. Like the Friday night session, I took away a few nuggets of goodness!

~Difficult things cause us trouble in trusting Jesus.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I think it's so true!  We trust Him in the easy times; why does our trust fall away when times get tough?

~We were made to worship, to give our hearts to something.  Are we worshiping the creation or the Creator?

~There are times when God allows us to struggle alone with our doubts--it drives us to Him!

~Our dreams of perfect lives, white-picket fences, no struggles, utter happiness are really such shallow, small dreams.  God is so much bigger and so much better than those dreams we have.  Our future with Him is what our soul is truly longing for.  That's perfection.  And, it's something we can only dream of here.  I can't wait for it to become a reality!

Saturday night, we headed back to the cabins and fellowshipped with one another.  I had the privilege of rooming with three sweet girls who I've known for a while now:  Bethany, Lesa, and Lauren.   I really enjoyed getting to be with them for much of the time there.  Lesa French-braided my hair that night as we relaxed and chatted with the rest of the group.  What a sweet, fun time we had!
Sunday was another gorgeous day, and we spent the morning worshiping and sharing in the Lord's Supper together as one big group one last time.  Those moments were priceless.   I left this weekend filled and ready to address my heart-issues in "real life." With God's strength, I know I can be rid of those idols and give my full praise and adoration to the One who made the stars in the skies and knows every cry of my heart.  Freeing.

I hope every single one of you can experience a weekend like that at least once in your life.  I'll never forget it, and I can't wait for the next time God calls me there. 

Peace and patience 'til it's time.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Retreating

I went on a ladies' retreat this weekend with a bunch of gals from my church.  I'm tired, and I have other things that need taking care of right now, but here's a glimpse of how I feel about what I learned and experienced these last three days.
Free and thankful.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Break in the Clouds

The view on my way home this evening


This one small area, in an otherwise cloudy sky, reminded me that in those dark days of life where the clouds just won't seem to clear, in those moments of uncertainty, of pain, of grief, there's often a break, however small, in the clouds, and we can see, if only for a moment, the sun.   


If you are in one of those dark places right now, I'm praying that your clouds shift and sunlight is revealed, however slight it may be, and that it gives you hope.  
Because hope is a powerful thing.

"May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you." 
Psalm 33:22 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A frightening tale

Have you ever witnessed something so terrifying that you just couldn't turn away?

I have.

Guess what has chosen our balcony for a home.

Guess what's hatched and is learning how to fly using our storage closet for a home base.

Oh yes.  I'm not sure how many usually hatch from a nest, but I'd say there's a good 20-30 growing stronger in there.  It's ca-razy to watch them come out of that little corner one after the other.  This is just a small sampling of those little buggers.

I'm basically terrified to go outside, but I constantly find myself stopping what I'm doing to head over to the sliding glass door to see what they're doing.

It's crazy.

It's actually neat in a Discovery-Channel kind of way.

And it's slightly adorable to watch as they huddle together.  It's sweet to watch as one tries out its wings, and then see it head right back to the little group.

Ok, it's also creepy.

Soooo creepy.

I asked The Husband to pick up a can or three of wasp spray on his way home.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The body

**I started writing this post Monday.  It's now Thursday night, and I'm super exhausted.  If it makes you feel any better (those of you who were waiting patiently for another post--Hi Mom!  Hi Linda!), I was being productive with my time.  I finished two of the three books I mentioned previously--they.  were.  awesome.  Anywho, I need to finish this post because, y'all, I have other things floating around in my head that I'd like to write about, and I know myself.  If I gave up on this one, I wouldn't allow myself to start a new one.  So, I'm going to edit, and then I'm going to post it.  No big changes in this post. **

The church we belong to has gone through several changes in the last year.  None of them major, mind you.  But, as I'm sure you're aware, changes often make people uncomfortable, whether major or minor.  They used to make me cringe.  But God knew my change-fearing heart needed to let go.  So, He threw my way every change He could.  I jest.  A little.  Ahem.  Now, though I sometimes still feel that twinge of fear, that niggle in the back of my head, that flutter of my heart, at the prospect of something in my life changing, God makes it work out, and He gives me the strength to endure the change.  Usually, I end up ADORING what has come from the change (examples:  moving 120 miles away, teaching kindergarten, teaching third grade, getting married, teaching pre-k, becoming the librarian).

I don't always adore them.  But often.  And that says something.

Despite the changes at our church, or maybe because of the changes, I have fallen in love with our church even more.  The body of Christ I serve alongside, those people I call my friends and family, are caring, loving, beautiful believers.  I see it in their smiles, feel it in their hugs, know it in the way they serve.  I'm honored to be counted among them.

But, there does reside in us this humanness that doesn't always react well to change.  I'm guilty of this, so please don't think I'm pointing fingers.  I do know that we as believers don't all react the same way when change is thrust upon us.  But, I've found that we often react in one of two ways:  we see it as a a catalyst to move on or a reason to dig in deeper.

Packin' those bags:
I know the Holy Spirit has done that with me at least once in my life.  I was in a place that (mentally, physically, and spiritually) I felt safe and happy and content; I never wanted to leave.
And, suddenly.
One uncomfortable and ugly major event later, and I was ready to flee.  I felt a tugging on my heart to consider moving.  That one thought, accompanied by lots of prayer and many things falling into place, led me to make a major move over six years ago, and I haven't regretted it since.

Grabbin' the shovel:
I also went through another deeply uncomfortable and ugly period three and a half years ago, and instead, (though it was painful and heartbreaking and I wanted more than ever to give up) through wise and godly men and women and through the Holy Spirit's urging, I knew I had to dig deeper and rely on Him to make a way.  And He did.  Mightily.

So, when I see and hear of the changes taking place at our church, and I see and hear of people I care about moving on, I have to trust that God has urged them to make that move, that it's for their good.  I have to trust, also, that if He had wanted them to stay, He would have made a way.  Selfishly, I miss them, but I trust them to trust Him. That has made my sadness lessen some.  :)

If you want to hear our pastor's take on how to deal with the things, the changes, happening in our particular body of believers, you can check it out.  It's a little convicting...

One of the neatest things happening at our church started last Monday.  It's called 260 Live:  Learn It to Live It.  It's all about learning what God's Word says and living it out in our daily lives.  If you're interested, click here to find out more.  I am enjoying learning, and I hope I'm living it out to an even greater extent.  I really like this idea because the goal behind it is to draw the people of our church together as we delve into God's word and learn more about the Word that was made flesh and Who dwelt among us.  It's powerful, and I know God will bless that endeavor.

I've felt convicted as of late to do more.  Not because I have to do it.  Not because it will win me favor in God's eyes.  Not because it will get me into heaven (Christ has already done that for me).  I want to love deeper.  I want to see those around me through Jesus' eyes and love them with His love.  Doing the Not a Fan study opened my eyes and my heart to an incredibly important, totally (and ridiculously obvious) realization:  we are called to love.   Not to judge.  Certainly not to condemn.  Not to act righteous or unmerciful.  To love.  It's such a simple notion but such a hard task to carry out.  I'm not sure what exactly this "doing more, loving more" idea is going to look like in the flesh, but I know I MUST do it.  Jesus commanded it, and because I love Jesus, I must love His people.  All of them.  Not just the people I like, the ones that love me and are kind to me, the ones that don't annoy me.
Everyone.
It seems like a monumental task; alone it would be.  Thank goodness I have access to something far greater than myself:  God's immeasurable, miraculous, marvelous love.  His is more than enough.

I hope you know that love of which I speak.  If you don't, I hope you find Him soon.

It's a game-changer because He's a life-changer.

Blessings to you all!