Tuesday, December 21, 2010


We are ten years in to the new millennium and in that time Jason and I have gotten married, moved across country, lived in two different cities, had three children and countless other “worth mentionings” on the timeline. If you zoom in on our life in 2010 you will see that after a few years of hunkering down for baby life, we are all – including Salem – very much on the move as we run a family household of three zooming, playful toddlers. As all three of them on different levels are becoming more independent, this season has felt so much more about nurturing, guiding, instructing, training, encouraging and reconciling. This age has brought us to bended knees frequently as we see this age is about reaching down into their conversations, their frustrations, their concerns, their joys, and most importantly, their hearts. God has been gracious to teach us as we learn how to be individuals who abide in Him, as well as a married couple who takes care of each other well, while also being parents who know exactly where our children are right now.

The very lovely and oh so sweet Grace Cowan (3 ½). Grace has turned into such a dancer. She loves to perform for us, which is always such a treasured gift from her when she offers it, because she tends to shy away from the spotlight so often. She makes up her own routines, moving her feet, leaping about, and using such graceful arms. Grace has such a gentle spirit, bringing a peacemaker quality to play with her brother and sister. Grace says really adorable things like when we are passing by something and we say, "Look, Grace!" and after we've gotten past it, then she will say, "Mommy/Daddy, did I see it?" Out of the endless moments of joy she brings us is the sound of her laugh when she is most delighted!

The beautiful and full of life Kanah Cowan (3 ½). Kanah has been entertaining us this season with her renditions of Frosty the Snowman, Jesus Loves Me, Rudolph and Away in the Manger. She loves to sing, quite loudly actually, and if we’ve got our ears perked up to her voice, especially from the very back seat, we get that treat of her live performance very often. She has also become quite a bit more social this year, enjoying little friends and knowing to ask on Tuesdays, “when are 'the friends' coming?” Kanah brings us so much happiness and she just seems to be made for close relationship, as she is always pursuing hugs and snuggles and smiling two inches from your face.

The manly, the brave, and the fast Salem Cowan (1 ½). Now that Salem is closer to being two than being a one year old, he has decided he’s going to start speaking English in two and three word phrases, adding “mommy” or “daddy” to just about everything he says. Little Man is so expressive and loud lately that one of his most endearing expressions is when he simply whispers “k” in response to everything. It is quite often that Jason and I look at each other and shake our heads as we watch him play, saying the same thing again and again, that we cannot believe how much we love our son.

All three of the kids had a great time this year at gymnastics. By the end of the year, the girls took their first ever non-parent gymnastics classes and laughed and tumbled their way through every 45 minute session, while across the room I hung with little man’s class as he went wild on bars and trampoline and breaking all the gym rules he could. A big highlight for the girls this year definitely had to be their at-home co-op preschool with two of their little lady friends. Learning about God and his creation, doing crafts, and singing songs became a great way to start every Monday.

Jason and I have been really blessed this year to enjoy a getaway backpacking trip to Ingles Peak as well as a couple days down to Canon beach, our favorite yearly destination on the west coast. And before the year is up we are so thrilled to head back to the bed and breakfast that I used to work at in Blowing Rock, NC called the Inn at Ragged Gardens to have our Christmas date. We love our life with the kids but getting away just the two of us is always a gift – and we have both sets of parents to thank! We have continued to enjoy having our community group come to our home every Tuesday, as well as enjoy relationship with men and women, respectively, in our bible studies. And we could never part from a few very important individuals in our lives who are far away but whom God keeps close to the deepest places in our hearts. We are thankful for this, as I in particular, have been learning from the Lord a lot this year about leaning on Him by leaning on his people, who are gifted to encourage, lead, and counsel me. The Lord has been faithful to keep leading our hearts, counsel our marriage, and meet us where we’re at individually. I’m just so thankful to know Jesus and I don’t know where I would be or how I would see life without him.

For just a fun little tidbit on our day to day life, we have been working on remembering the verse I have pictured at the top of this blog. And the kids, including Salem, like to sign this one. For "from the fullness" we blow up our cheeks and make our arms round like a big belly. For "of his grace" we make a sign like we are sprinkling something over our head. For "we have all recieved" we have our arms extended and then pull them tight to our chest. And for "one blessing after another" we pat our heads as we say each word. I am thankful there is a fun way to teach toddlers Bible verses and it's one of the main way I have remembered too! :)

These two verses below are the ones we put into the bags for the homeless that we made with the kids. We all have a shared struggle of poverty in our hearts and Christ offers us riches beyond riches by his generous hand. We struggle in this physical life in various forms but all of us share the struggle of inner depravity and hopelessness without the gift of God. That is what these verses express together and that is our hope, for all of us, this Christmas. That hope came into the world in the most humble of ways. And this season, as a mother, I have felt an even closer association with how humble our Jesus must have been because as moms we are constantly being lied to that spending time at home with our children, our babies, isn't worthy. Yet what a worthy call, what a dignified gift God gave Mary to ask her to take a knee and give her life to love the baby Jesus who would save the world.

2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the generosity of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

Oh come, Oh come, Emmanuel...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is he even a doctor?

I have such a weird doctor. I swear, is he even a doctor? The last time I was there, when the nurse was done and was about to leave the room while I waited for him to come in, she turned around at the last second and added, “Have you met with Dr ‘Fill in the Blank’ before?” “Yep,” I said. “Okay good,” she laughed, “So you know he’s a quick fix and you’re done.” “Yep,” I said again, “That’s why I’m here.” Which is actually true, for my normal day to day cold stuff. Let’s face it, I have three toddlers I am carting around and what I don’t want is a long doctor’s appointment with someone maxed out on patients because they’re amazing. I don’t need amazing. I need DRUGS. J (By the way, today I realized I would really like to buy one of those rope things that preschool classes hang onto. Why don’t I have one by now? They could all be attached with little caribeaners. It would be fantastic. Target?)

Anyway, then today at the same doctor’s office I show up for a walk in appointment b/c I happened to be in the building without the kids. My ear infection was feeling like it wasn’t going away – shocker. I already went to an ENT a couple of times earlier this year. So before I can even describe my symptoms, he’s whipped out the prescription book and is ready to sign the magic dotted line. But this time, minus kids of course, I’d kind of like to talk concerns. Like, “Hey I already did 10 days of meds and then I’ve been on some other antibiotics for another illness more often than I’d like to recount and I’m kind of feeling like I am taking an antibiotic every single day of 2010. I’m worried about that. What do you think?” What did he say?

“Oh don’t worry, we’ve got all kinds of things you can take.” And laughs, going ahead with the prescription.

Yep. Changing my primary.

I like that he’s sarcastic. I think it’s kind of funny that we talk about golf more than my condition. I like how he thinks that me having three kids is like a hundred kids (cause it kind of is and I like the credit). I like that he feels like a grandpa at Thanksgiving. I like that he’ll write me prescriptions when I’m at home, not wanting to come in with the little people who are likely to give me a whole ‘nother medical issue on the way over. I like that he’ll just give me the DRUGS! But. He’s not doing me any favors, for goodness sakes, besides that convenience card and with how terribly often I have been sick in the past year, he’s gotta go.

I feel this way with a lot of things right now. Like with prayer, I’m not good with a nice wrap-it-up prayer time and we all smile and mingle and leave. I need to cry it out. I need to call out to God. I need to PRAY. Not to be a Pharisee. But because if prayer really is touching the ears of God, I’ve got to get there! And with Christian community. I really don’t just need to hang out for filling up the calendar’s sake. I need conversation. I need true encouragement that God supplies through his people himself. I need questions, hard ones, and someone to shovel all these thoughts out of my brain and to plant some good ones.

I think in some seasons, kind of like with my primary, I am floating on by and I just need an occasional fix and I’m good to go. But right now is when I see that I am more than needing bandaids. I need the most real, the most truthful, the most soul-baring, exposing and painfully refining HELP I can get. Both for my body and spirit. And this requires a different sort of care…all around.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sidekick servants

I don’t seem to notice the rain this time of year or the fact that it will probably be wet the next sixty days. I just expect to put on my rain boots and get on with it. (Kind of a small miracle, mind you, if you read previous posts I write around Oct). There’s something really special about the anticipation around the birth of Christ that has a powerful presence over the air in all of November and December. I get unusually happy about planning our usual traditions, thinking about how we will serve and then especially this year, enjoying looking into my children’s eyes as we are able to have fairly thoughtful exchanges about what this is all about.

Though lately I have been struck by how even though I love Jesus with all that I am as his daughter, I find myself tetering internally sometimes between staying focused on the glory of God and how good it would feel to make a fun list of what I would like for Christmas (since people are asking, after all!) Yet I feel an intense drawing, a tide that is bigger than me, moving me towards learning more and more to completely let go of the anticipation that has to do with me. And a joy accompanying the steps I make in that direction that assure me of what is right.

I wrote a few months ago that I had one word ringing in my head that I couldn’t shake and I didn’t know what to do with it: SERVE. One snippet of that blog said:

I do not know what I am supposed to do with this word. And honestly I think it’s pretty gracious that he’s just given me A word and not a twelve page document charting out an undertaking that might take the breath out of my chest like I might die if I have to go through with it. It’s like he’s working the value of this word deep into my core. And reminding me that this is what Jesus came to do. This is what form his love took for the world. I want my children more and more with age and maturity to also learn that life is about giving our lives away like Jesus did. I want them to get their hands in that truth too.

So I don’t know where this is headed. And that’s okay. It’s not like I have an empty day every day and I need to run out and fill up all my hours. I’m already maxed with loving on my three little ones and somehow, slowly, graciously, accompanied by a growing heart burden, I see him kneeding in a new piece of our lives that he wants to make part of how we live.

All I know is that if I keep listening I bet the Spirit will keep talking about this. Because that is what he does. And my heart is perking up. And my ears are being awakened morning by morning. And I am like one being taught.

I recently posted a question on facebook about how I could serve with three kids three and under. Seems daunting. But I can’t shake the tide, so I’m compelled to figure it out (darn it, we can’t be in a cave forever!!! He he). My main realization from that exchange was that I’m not crazy for thinking it’s a daunting idea to figure out serving with toddlers. They can’t do much and they mostly keep my hands busy, and not to mention most people would kind of vote for us to stay at home instead of coming to “help” them – ha ha. So there are simple ways to overcome these hurtles.

I realize my heart as the mom, the rudder on the ship of our day, is the most important factor. Am I thinking about how we will give our lives away? Is my heart showing itself to be gracious when someone drops their groceries in front of us and my kids see me help them? Did they see me stop to talk to a woman outside the store whose name happened to be the same as mine but who was forced to live a very different life? Am I providing them the opportunities? Are we having those simple conversations about the children who live in the world without mommies and daddies? My heart steers my thoughtlife which steers our talk life, which gets them moving towards Jesus and his compassion on this world, which leads to: serving with sincerity.

So, with a simple “agenda” on the horizon, me, Jason, and our sidekick helpers seek to serve this season (and beyond). Here’s what we’re up to, with small hands and feet in tote:

This is the first year the girls are learning to serve ONE ANOTHER, which actually has been the most powerful and relationship transforming idea to affect my children. They are learning that serving one another “honors God” and that this is a joyful gift to give to one another. I talked in a previous blog about how I am learning to CELEBRATE with my family when they honor God and I kind of go crazy with hugs and kisses when they allow God to give them a servant’s heart in tiny ways that really add up and matter. Throughout the summer and fall they have practiced this in small ways by sharing toys, giving up a turn, holding the door, practicing hospitality for friends coming over, etc. And this season they are doing extra chores to earn coins in little jars so that they will be able to participate in buying a small gift for their two siblings. This has helped us to an extent to keep the conversations about Christmas off what they want and on what they will give.

Our family date this year will be heading to a Target to gather supplies to make bags for the homeless that would be a blessing to them: warm socks, $5 giftcard to get something to eat, some homemade goodies, and a note from us. We’ll go home and make them together and keep them in our car, waiting on the Lord for who he would have us to give them to.

We have a special foster girl who is now 14, but who I used to work with through a foster care agency when she was 7 and 8. She now lives far away, still does not have a “forever family” and likely never will. She lives in a group home for orphans and we keep in touch with her especially on her birthday and holidays. She only has two families, including ours, who pursue her in any regard. We will be making a care package for her with the girls and mailing it off and give her a call as well. I would like to be more faithful to this girl as I cannot imagine living in such a fragile time of life without the security of a home or family or even a bed to consistently call your own. Maybe the Lord will open a door one day for us to bring an orphan into our family. In the meantime I cannot imagine why every believer would not in some way, shape or form – even if only, and most importantly prayer – let their hearts grow and break for these children.

Last year and this year the girls have been my sidekick helpers with cooking. If it weren’t for a climbing, curious little Salem boy, I would probably have them help me with dinner every night. They are looking forward to making goodies again with me this year for the holidays and packing them up in bags to deliver around to our neighbors in the wagon. It’s such a fun time and I can’t wait to take all three of them this year.

I think one of our favorite traditions is our Christmas craft party for kids that we have done for kids around the girls’ age. Everyone comes over for a couple of stories, maybe a song, and then gather around a bunch kids tables to do all kinds of crafts with one another. It’s great fun and it’s also fun to invite older kids in families we know to SERVE the younger children by offering a hand to moms with multiple kids. Last year all the moms brought a plate of cookies so that before they left with their crafts, they could make treat bags for their neighbors, etc. I am praying and thinking about maybe offering another way to add the element of SERVE to this fun day together so that our hearts are celebrating but also turned out to teach our kids about giving their lives away. We’ll see what idea surfaces. I'm asking God to speak up and let me know if He's got something on his heart for us. I'm listening.

So this is what we’re anticipating and planning. But sometimes it’s the “here let me give you a hand” surprising moments in serving that are the most intimate and joyful. And for me, 98% of the time, that’s directed towards three little human beings who are daily in my care, who clearly have been entrusted to me. And just like any foster child or homeless person or widow or slave, they are made in the image and likeness of God and desperately need to meet him. So if my hands and feet aren’t first willing to selflessly serve them, then what does that say about my heart to serve in general? That’s exposing.

I’m thankful Jesus turning my heart towards this one word. It is surely a word he is all about. And I just wonder if it might be my most joyful Christmas ever if I will let the current of this conviction carry me through.

Matthew 20:28 “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Like a Schedule with No Script

(written earlier this week...)

I think when I start my day circling my family room and kitchen with a coffee cup and prayer, somewhere in me I think it guarantees a perfect day. Because 4:00 p.m. comes around every single day and somehow either I have dementia or else I am in denial, because when my kids have their 19th tantrum, I am somehow shocked that all of this was possible. I mean I got UP and had my quiet time!

Yesterday was actually horrid. Have those horrid days? It’s actually worse when you wake up all Snow White like, as I did yesterday, waltzing around with your coffee, convinced today is going to glisten and glow. It has more potential to send you straight into the forest, like she did, terrified of all the evil in the world that she had no idea existed. That’s probably why it ended so badly. Yesterday I kind of forgot that evil existed. I kind of forgot that that included the evil that lurks in my kids and me. And that even if you have yourself ready before they wake up and a nicely gift wrapped schedule for the day, the script is not yet written for the emotions, the interactions, the fights, the words, and generally for all of the capacities of sin that flow from the heart. There is no script yet. The Director hands you that as you go, which is just not fair.

I hate improv. And that’s kind of what we are doing everyday here, know what I mean? My kids throw me a new manipulative request and the spotlight is on me – act! Respond! Say something! And it better be good! Life is more than unjust in this department for introverts. Come on! We were made to stare at life and respond later. But if I did that I would literally have no friends and my kids would run the house like little bandits, tying me up in chairs and stuff. It would be cool in heaven if conversations were kind of floating or paused, like in that teen witch show, and I can just ponder every response for a long, delayed while, while you...I don’t know, drift somewhere in a waiting room.

Having hope in your schedule with no script is just like what happens sometimes when my husband and I have our date night. It doesn’t matter what you plan, how good the ideas are or how fancy the food – if I don’t prepare my heart before we go – it ain’t gonna be pretty. I am going to have skyscraper expectations, dump all my junk on him, get my feelings hurt if he even waits two seconds to ask me how I am doing, and the date will be over before we leave the neighborhood. It’s just that crazy of a season, so it takes a little more of a fight with my inner wild woman to appear…well, a little normal ;). (Incidentally, the name Kelly actually means “warrior woman”, so you know I was probably born with more fierce issues than most). Maybe one day normal will not feel so unattainable, but these days, it’s quite a feat! So it’s much better if I focus a little on my side of our date script ahead of time J.

So back to yesterday’s script. On the paper of my mind, the day read:

Bible verse/signs with kids at breakfast

Playdate with friends at our house

Kids help “serve” our community group with little chores (oddly and thankfully they think it’s like a game)


Playdoh and beads while I cook


Community group

What happened looked more like:

Kids not eating

Tantrum followed by a bigger tantrum

Salem stealing backpacks, Gracie throwing wild uncontrollable fits, Kanah screaming

Playdate – (actually good and should have had her stay all day)

Only one of my kids serving, the other rebelling in timeout – again

Short nap for one and no naps for other two

Needed six hands to help them with a terribly needy, envious round of playdoh

Salem fussing (infinitely til bedtime)

Sheer miracle to get simple tacos on plates for last minute dinner.

20 people show up for community group (kicker: I do the childcare with friend – great humorous ending of script for the day)

I don’t even know how to write this one into the list, but somewhere later in the day I noticed an odd feeling an pulled my shirt forward to find the shelf of my camisole full of crushed cookies. The worst, most confusingly laughable part is that I do not remember any incidents that would land me swimming in cookie crumbs, nor do I even recall giving them cookies that day…hm. That’s kind of a good word picture for the whole entire day.

So when I woke up the next morning I instantly faced a sinking feeling that today would be exactly the same. There was no chance it would be good. I was going to fail miserably, my kids would drive me crazy, and I was not sure why starting my day the same way with a quiet time would even matter at all. I mean, look at my day yesterday!!! So I snoozed til 6:30 and finally felt motivated enough to crawl out of bed and get the coffee going.

I started reading Proverbs, like usual, and Jason came down to say goodbye and pray for me before he headed off before work to his accountability group. I got up from my quiet time, prayed with him and mumbled two or three grumbling comments about the day ahead and gruffily went back to my reading with a stubborn attitude of who cares. So instead of reading on, I got up to start circling my kitchen and family room, praying outloud with urgency and near anger. I just decided to be honest, because that’s all I had and it went something like:

“Lord I do not understand! I really am struggling to see how this matters! My day was horrible yesterday. It was nothing like I wanted to be. I am getting early in the morning. I am reading. I am praying. What else am I supposed to do? Lord I want to trust you but all I feel is oozing cynicism. I am overwhelmed by it. This isn’t working.”

That sort of helped. Sometimes if I am feeling cynical I stop reading or I just don’t even get to prayer, with a rolled eye sort of mentality and move along to getting ready or breakfast. But this is what the whole “crying out to the Lord” thing in Psalms and Proverbs is about. So I am circling, crying out, and then: He speaks. He spoke so quickly, before I could make another lap, that it surprised me.

I do a verse a week with my kids when I am on track with them. I have the ones we did the first half of the year listed on Word and now, so as to help them hide it in their heart even more deeply, instead of doing new ones we are just randomly going back over the old ones. So I literally just picked a verse and wrote it up on our board a few days ago.

So I’m walking, panting my prayers, and I look up and see:

“Jesus helps those who are being tempted.” It’s Hebrews 2:18 and the whole verse in the exact wording reads “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” And I can’t explain to you the influence, other than the Holy Spirit is powerful, why sometimes we read the Bible and it’s like skimming a book and other times it’s like you get knocked down by an evangelist on a stage. But I stopped dead in my tracks and I promise you I felt something a lot stronger than my cynicism at that moment. I felt BELIEF and GRATITUDE fill my heart in that exact moment I read that verse. His power flooded the words on my board and he gifted me with FAITH in them and the cynical chains from that morning were broken.

I heard him in my head say: This is true. Believe it for yourself.

With an unrecognizable heart to who I was moments before, I hurried back to sit down and look up the Scripture which immediately struck a cord with another Scripture that, for a second time, rebuked me and poured life into me all at once:

James 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

I have read this chapter soooo many times. I have rarely memorized chapters but this one I actually have. And it doesn’t matter because God makes things come alive that seem old sometimes. He is powerful like that. And all I could hear, as if I had never heard it in my whole life was, “Kelly you MUST believe and NOT doubt. You MUST BELIEVE.” The wisdom he desired to impart to me about my circumstance was that I was allowing the “faith,” if you will, of doubt to consume my belief system. Otherwise you will be like a woman who is unstable, which is exactly how I felt that morning without my belief securely written on my heart. I felt floundering and lost and bitter and frustrated and mad. And certainly: unstable. I think the wording is so interesting, so compelling, so commanding: You MUST believe.

I suffer in my own forms of temptation. I live sacrificially as a mom daily, sometimes laying my life down willingly and other days by force because I don’t want to do anything except love myself. But this is my road of sanctification. This is how Jesus is making me mature and complete. And on this road I suffer very particular kinds of temptation: unrighteous anger, impatience, selfishness, comparison, self-pity, despair, depression, isolation, and bitterness. I feel these evils lurk around me on their own schedule, using our family’s scenarios, dialogues and scripts to tempt my own heart.

And the reason these verse so touched me was not because it promised me we were going to have a great day. Not because it promised me my kids would behave a certain way. But because my deepest need in that day of chaos was that I would be able to be strong and this verse declared to me: in your every moment battle of your heart, I am more than able to help you in your temptation and you must thrust all of your belief on that and choose with all of your strength to overcome doubt.

Nothing else is promised. But what is promised is that I will be given the strength and the way out of my temptations and even the lines to say. And in the unscripted improv of my life, that is enough.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Friend of the Earth?

When I was like ten I subscribed to Friends of the Earth magazine. I think it was cool at the time with my other little friends to read about endangered species. Those were maybe some of my first conversations that actually had a hint of seriousness about them and a small sense of justice rose up in me. I liked to look at the animals, I felt sorry for the ones that suffered and began to notice people’s bummer stickers, particularly the “save the manatee” ones.

I didn’t like my own dog though. Poppy (well maybe I liked Poppy because I was very young and much nicer to animals then), then Molly and then (and still) Pepper. If my dog even licked me once or jumped up on the couch with me, I’d push her off of me, make a wretched face even I wouldn’t want to see, and whinily call for mom to get that gross animal away from me. I still kind of feel the same way to be honest. Smelly, yucky, needy – no thanks. I also hated and despised every single insect that ruins my idealistic thoughts of living in the south. Those dreaded, crunchy, quick moving grasshoppers, cockroaches and beetles make me cringe and hug my nearly bug-free existence tighter here in the northwest. Even in my Friends of the Earth days I was all about extinction of the humidity-loving creepy crawling things. Ew.

My family recycled in three different containers. But we also threw away about half of our house every single week. Let’s just say my step-dad likes paper towels. A lot. If you asked him that deserted island question, I could answer for him right this second. Paper towels. No need to think about it. I can see him creating a paper towel bed right now on which he would sleep in a tightly spun paper towel cocoon, under a large palm tree and then napping happily. (Wait, he is the least resting person I know – so no nap, but he could make paper towel walking shoes as he scurries around collecting coconuts. That’s a more truthful image.) Growing up, he would spread out a paper towel under each of our place settings and fold up one under our forks and if I spilled my milk (quite the common occurance – such a clutz), he’d spin those suckers off the stand til he had twenty little clean up crew members to take care of my half cup mess. It’s a miracle we haven’t been held responsible for any landfill issues our city might have had. We certainly contributed more than the share of our block. :)

Sometime after those shallow rooted days of flipping through a kids environmental magazine, I not only didn’t care but got kind of bitter about it. I still recycled, but who didn’t. It was a habit, not a conviction. A behavior, not a heart issue. People annoyed me who talked about it. It felt more like a club they belonged to and felt like talking about it merited them respect and a higher standing. Maybe it was just the people I encountered so I’m not spreading a big blanket here, but pride kind of oozed out of these conversations. It wasn’t humble, it wasn’t pure-hearted – it just felt plain annoying and like they’d found an elite membership. You might as well have put a gold bricked club house around them and given them a martini to take on their walk out to the putting green. It felt just that snobby.

I also happen to have some other family members who are uber-opinionated about politics in general and who end up falling in the “I don’t believe any one or any party” category. So of course this influenced me as well. There were even little classes held in a relative’s house about why all the environmental push was a scam and a lie. So how can I escape that influence as well? No use going into the details and how I stand on everything discussed. I was young so all I can conclude at this point is the simple statement: Don’t believe the exaggerated propaganda. I still have a bit of that in me for certain. The skeptic was born, with a rushing and eager delivery.

So I stopped reading, stopped caring. Questioned most everything on the news or on posters, besides Jesus. Just recycled. And sometimes didn’t. And didn’t notice. Once you become a skeptic, even if you want to believe someone, you just can’t find it in yourself. Humanity isn’t truthful to you anymore. It’s hard to throw yourself on that identity of mankind.

So this also correlated with a time in my life around my late teens and early to mid twenties where I had strong convictions about certain other things. Things like wanting to read books by men and women I trusted in the faith. Things like learning how to be a part of a community of believers and how to love our neighbors. Things like how to not be defensive and judgmental as a Christian, but to learn how to love and be like Jesus even with people who completely disagree. Things like how to love a city that feels really dark and lost and lonely (Boone, NC and then Berkeley, CA). Things like seeing, really seeing, people who are all alone – some of them all alone from an obvious perspective and others all alone though they stand in those circles of people at all times. It was a time of faith. A time of letting my heart get burdened by a great God who loves people, his very creations made in his image. A time of learning a pinch of what it means to lose your life so that you can gain it. It was a season that had to come first. A season that got to the heart of the matter. And I certainly changed.

And graciously, God let me begin there. With the heart. With seeing Him. With seeing myself with both the light and the mirror he gave me for a gift those years. And with seeing other people, as Jesus did as he looked out on the crowds. It says in the gospel that he looked out on them with compassion. I feel like it took me about six years to look out on the crowds to even begin to form that compassion and burdened, shepherd heart. With lots of other immaturities and imperfections still permeating my lifestyle and behaviors and day to day choices, he graciously started there. At the heart of me and the heart of what he is most concerned about – his people of his very own, his most treasured of creations on earth…his children.

Then he slowly began to work on my weaker convictions. I don’t know how else to describe them. So though my heart was growing in the spirit and in my mindset and in my world view of people and community and life…there were very intangling roots in my physical life. I don’t mean my physical body, though I am not excluding that. I am talking about my good friends named laziness, selfishness, and ignorance in my day to day life.

It’s kind of like those people who give their whole lives to a big important world-shifting type job but then go home to an unkept, unsanitary house and eat out of take out containers. Something just doesn’t add up there in the healthy department. I wanted people to wake up each day to know God the way I was getting to known him, but somehow I could not get myself out of bed in the mornings and my snooze button was getting worn. I prayed for people to come to church with me, just to experience the Lord as I had, but I misused my own free time with distractions and selfish ambitions. I didn’t want people to waste their years on meaningless pursuits and empty idols of success and wealth, yet I had my own versions of waste with things like stewardship and money.

(I guess to some degree no matter how much we’ve grown or believe something, we are always hypocrites. And it’s just good to admit it upfront, that you’re not out to sell something because you’re the super star who got cured. But Jesus is all about making me like him and I just have to keep admitting that any change for the good in me isn’t my own righteousness or hard work – it’s been bought with a price and is a gracious gift. A gift that keeps springing up in me, so that I can’t even come full circle with this blog b/c it’s still coming round.)

So the Lord continued his work in my spirit, but began to connect my meaning of “spirituality” to my physical world. He wanted my head on the pillow to understand it was connected to my heart, to my devotion to him. He wanted my hands that commited themselves to distracted interests to understand that they were not my own, they were created for glory in how I served others. He wanted my feet that were set in a spacious place with lots of freedom to choose what to do, to understand that the Lord made me as an instrument of his righteousness, created to do good works. And lately he’s even showing me that the very ground I walk on is not just randomly existent under my feet - it is his land and he made it for us to live and move and have our being.

Do you remember doing those brainstorming webs for English class and you draw a circle with three main lines coming off of it and then off each main point you can draw a bunch of sub point ideas that connect or support? Well, off of this time in my life (the past five years of pregnancy and motherhood) I feel like you could draw like a trillion of those little shoots with things that the Lord has shown me about myself, what he has a heart for, what he’s growing in me, who He is, what he loves, etc. And one of those little lines is actually what I am getting at in this blog. But I could write a ton of shoots off this one, or maybe that’s what I have been doing all along (hmm…).

I mean to say in all of this that one tiny area of conviction, like how we feel about this place called home, called Earth, called our environment, called whatever you call it, can take years and years of building of conviction and belief around it. And I think that as someone who began at having no interest in such a topic so many years ago, finds it interesting that the Lord would make that area one of many such death-to-life building blocks. It’s one area for certain, that has surprised me, that he has said – Kelly, I care about this. You are my daughter and I have set you and my other children over all of what I have made. It is your home, it is your creation to enjoy and have dominion over and to protect. It is in your hands. Treasure it with your actions, enjoy it with your life, and use it to point to who I am.

(More to come on this topic…)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Compassion for the Struggle

Thoughts from Sacred Marriage chapter 4

Well summer hit Seattle for six weeks or so J and I guess my blog got the boot. That’s fine. I think watching ponytails fly in the sun and my kids actually put on bathing suits and my own skin feeling warm is much more valuable than a bunch of introspection anyway J. But now it’s winter again (another J) and I’m back.

I don’t think I hit chapter three from Sacred Marriage yet but all I can think about is what happened to me recently when I re-read for the third time chapter four, so here goes.

Can you think of a moment when your heart has been significantly softened for your spouse? When the walls on the room you used to leave for grace for him just got pushed back? That is what it felt like when I read the end of this chapter again. I had actually underlined a ton of great stuff in the beginning of the chapter about dealing with contempt for your spouse – very convicting truths actually. And as I re-read the chapter my heart turned to mush for my husband on a totally different segment.

Gary Thomas had a portion of the chapter entitled “Remember the effects of the Fall.” Allow me to quote a bit of it for you on p.67-8…

“We need to understand how profoundly broken this world is. Sin has radically scarred our existence. As a result of the Fall, I will labor with difficulty and angst (Gen 3:17-19). Lisa will mother our children and enter into relationships with mixed motives and frustrated aims (Gen 3:16). Even an unusually good marriage is not able to erase the effects of sin’s curse on individuals and society…

“The problem is that even though we can’t go back to the idyllic existence prior to the Fall, we were created with an understanding of what pre-Fall days were like – in other words, we know what relationships should be like, but we are incapable of making them perfectly in tune with that ideal: ‘Our souls are wired for what we will never enjoy until Eden is restored in the new heaven and earth. We are built with a distant memory of Eden.’

“This calls me to extend a gentleness and tolerance toward my wife. I want her to become all that Jesus calls her to become, and I hope with all my heart that I will be a positive factor in her pursuit of that aim. But she will never fully get there this side of heaven, so I must love and accept her in the reality of our lives in a sin-stained world.

“Accepting the fallenness of this world – with its bitter disappointments, physical limitations, and myriad demands – helps me to understand how difficult life is for Lisa, which helps me in turn to have contempt for contempt.”

It’s so important for me to understand as my husband’s wife that there’s a whole backdrop to what is going on in our relationship. It’s not like his life is roses and then we have a disagreement and it’s a complete surprise. The backdrop for my husband is first the fallen world around him, filled with sinners who sin continually, so he struggles in the world. He navigates broken conversations, filled with selfish gain. He works in an environment focused on pleasing man and performance, while internally struggling in the spirit towards being a man who only strives to please God. And then backdrop of his heart personally is that he lives his whole life with a sin nature, with which he struggles and fights in the spiritual realm to be transformed by Jesus from now until he leaves this earth. On the outside it may look like day to day work and mowing the grass and vacations and “what do you want to do today’s” but deeper and weaved into every interaction is a life-long struggle in the spirit.

So without me even evaluating who is at fault or who should apologize first or before I start building up contempt for this person who I feel has burst my beneficial relationship bubble…I really feel compelled and convicted to see his struggle.

Jesus himself tells us that “In this world you will have trouble.” He is talking to his disciples about how he will be leaving the world soon and that they will be scattered, but there will be a day when they will be able to be with him again, and no one will take away their joy at that time. If I read that as Jesus speaking that personally to my husband, I can hear him telling Jason, my husband, “Jason in this world you will have trouble…” and a great compassion falls over me.

I think in the moments I feel misunderstood or sinned against or wronged, I am completely walled off to this difficult state of struggle that we are in as human beings, and more specifically the life of struggle that my husband will have, until he goes to that joy everlasting with the Lord. But when I let those hard words sink in, that my dearest companion lives in a fallen world, in fallen relationships, and lives in a battle with a fallen nature, that breaks my hard heartedness and self-absorbtion towards him in our more difficult moments.

In just the next chapter, John 17:15-19, as Jesus prays to the Father, he ministers to me concerning this struggle he has allowed us to remain in.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

It is the Lord’s will that for now we remain here, in a fallen world. But the remaining is for a purpose. That he might sanctify us by the truth. This is the HOPE that I must, must, must couple with my deeply compassionate seeing of my husband’s struggle. I must couple his struggle with the hope that Jesus has left us here for a time to transform us. He finishes his statement from earlier, “In this world you will have trouble…” with “but take heart, for I have overcome the world.” Jesus has overcome the struggle! He has overcome this fallen world. He has overcome the fall of sin.

And he has overcome our fallen hearts.

I used to think that the word “praise” was old and kind of silly to say outloud here in 2010. It’s still sometimes an prideful, awkward struggle for me to respond to a friend’s answer to prayer with a heartfelt “Praise God!” But all I can say to the truth that I am to take heart, because Jesus has overcome all of this fallenness is, I PRAISE HIM!

I am so thankful that he has not only given me the difficult, yet Christlike, compassion to see clearly and deeply my husband’s struggle, but also he has encouraged me towards the rest of the story: that he has overcome this world and its fallenness.

Jesus is so gracious. I have to include his final words of that prayer. These are the words of God himself, before he left us here on earth in this struggle with fallenness. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Our struggle is not ours alone. “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)

JJ Heller’s – Your hands

I have unanswered prayers

I have trouble I wish wasn’t there

And I have asked a thousand ways

That you would take my pain away

I am trying to understand

How to walk this weary land

Make straight the path that crooked lie

Oh Lord before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking

Heaven stands

When my heart is breaking

I never leave your hands

When you walked upon the earth

You healed the broken, lost and hurt

I know you hate to see me cry

One day you will set all things right

When my world is shaking

Heaven stands

When my heart is breaking

I never leave your hands

Monday, October 4, 2010

Don't Exasperate: In Practice

The little couch in the front living room is starting to get a lot of wear. It used to be so empty and deserted in that part of the house. And then it became our spot for timeouts. Now we spend a good part of the day there.

The other day I was not in a terrific place. The kids were being wild and taking turns being disobedient. And I was getting annoyed. Very annoyed. To the point of just not making clear decisions about discipline. I wish I could remember the details of the incident, but generally the three kids started to look like a mob making protest in all kinds of obnoxious ways and Grace got blamed. She was a target in the midst of a chaotic moment. I think it was true, she was whining or something, but my behavior in response was so out of place that it was extremely inappropriate to scold her and discipline her so sharply when my sin in the moment trumped hers by tenfold. I did not use wisdom to "use words with restraint" or to be "even-tempered" (prov 17:27) but instead proceeded to exasperate my daughter in an ungodly reaction.

I sent her off, crying, into the front living room. And three minutes later, in the twenty steps it took to get to her, I felt a sharp rebuke in the pit of my stomache from the Lord.

You need to repent to your daughter.

An enormous amount of compassion swept over me for her as I approached her. In my place of authority I had misused my role and had missed the mark of justice by a mile. Although I was still terribly frustrated with the general behavior of my children and downcast about our snowball of sinful behavior, this particular act of discipline was not for her, but for me. I sat down by her and she gazed up at me all teary and when she saw my soft face towards her, she sat up by me.

Gracie, do you know what? God is my authority just like I am your authority and he just told me that I need to tell you I am sorry for being harsh with you. And that I need to obey him by repenting to you and asking for your forgiveness. I am so sorry sweet girl, and I would like for you to forgive me. She smiled sweetly at me and told me she forgave me and I gave her a huge bear hug, so delighted in that moment of my obedience and the softness it created in me.

There is something incredibly beautiful and joyful about the humble act of repenting of your own misbehavior to a little child. And then to have them speak forgiveness over you. I just so badly want to be that parent that instructs their child faithfully in teachable moments, disciplines faithfully in moments of correction, and confesses faithfully when I am the one who’s got it all wrong. It’s just kind of an unheard of part of parenting to take a knee, repent of your own faults with a sincere apology on your lips, and genuinely seek the forgiveness of a small child. I so badly want my daughter to not remember me as perfect, but as faithful, and to know that I need the gospel of forgiveness and grace just like she does.

It’s something from God and I just pray that I will continue to see myself as God’s child, just as Grace is mine, and listen to his discipline for me, especially in moments like these when God asks me to be the one to take a seat on the couch for a few minutes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Don't exasperate them.

My girls are three and a half next month. I have had a very clear realization that this is going to be an incredibly important year at home with them. This is the last year I will have all three kids in my care every single day. Suddenly I feel like this is a mini version of their senior year of high school and everything I encounter feels like I am about to say goodbye.

I flipped through a magazine the other day looking for luggage for the kids and saw preschool backpacks looking all grown up on the page next to the elementary kid ones. Then there’s the buses. We rode the bus up in Whistler last week to get down to the village from the condo and the girls thought they were on cloud nine. They marched down to the bus stop, and once they got on they were all wide-eyed and gitty excited about their adventure. Grace thought it was cool to sit in the back of the bus, while Daddy taught Kanah how to pull the wire to request a stop. They are learning the difference between spotting a city bus and a school bus. Then another reminder is our library time. I keep finding little books like Maisy Goes to Preschool etc about what classes are like and what it’s like to have a teacher. And encountering pictures of backpacks, driving by city buses and looking at library books (among other things) are sparking little senior year mom missings in me. (I don’t think that’s a word, but I like it, so now it is!). Missings that make me feel excited to have them close in my care this year, excited to be doing this little preschool co-op at home with two other mommy friends.

In thinking about where my girls are at, it has suddenly occurred to me lately that they are in a very sweetly packaged and protected season of childhood and that I do not know for certain how much longer this exact stage of innocence may last. I know that it is not promised that nothing will go wrong or that a circumstance or trial may arise that would be difficult for them, but generally speaking – acknowledging that we live in a fallen world – this is a precious window of childhood.

I was thinking recently through my own struggle with anxiety, fears and control in the last few months and how hard that has been on me mentally. And what a literal battle it is for my mind and heart, so that I can even get to enjoyment of life and time with family and conversations over coffee, etc. And I thought back over my span of 32 years of life, seeing that my struggle internally has seemed to increase over time. And I see it happening with others around me. Around age 28 and up I have struggled through anxieties around children, how to parent, how enjoying marriage while dealing with increased responsibilities, and how to battle some of my own personality and ways I think about things. The five or so years before that introduced struggles of missing my family from long distance, living in a new city, figuring out how to do life without close friendships, and learning how to navigate the work world. Before that, how to handle the college burden of thinking about your future and understanding what you were made to do with your life, while struggling in comparing myself to others. In junior high and high school my stresses revolved around performance in school, people pleasing, rejection in friendships, acceptance of how God made my body and navigating relationships with peers. Even in elementary school I remember little stresses and struggles around friendships and disappointing teachers/parents, and certain social interactions.

All this to say, I am not sure when it begins, but over the course of life, we struggle. And I would say too that we struggle increasingly. That even with Christ and his bounty of blessings in my lap, he is helping me, counseling me through the struggle of life as it comes in waves. Peter would say (in 1 Peter 4:12) to not be surprised at the painful trials I am suffering as though something strange were happening to me. Struggles are not strange – they are familiar and frequent.

Yet my children now at age 3 and a half (and Salem at one and a half) are enjoying something completely unique and wonderful for them. And it’s not that I was totally clueless to their childlike happiness or to the fact that children generally don’t have much stress. (I feel like I learn that everyday when we’re trying to get out the door and they are bouncing on pillows and taking their time eating their cereal!) But for me personally, as their mom, and looking specifically at their time and stage of life, the Lord seemed to reveal to me in a more illuminating, and in some senses heart-breaking, way that they are in a special season of ENJOYMENT of life.

He revealed this precious truth to me alongside of a growing conviction for me as a mother around Ephesians 6:4 which says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

If any of you have read Shepherding a Child’s Heart of Instructing a Child’s Heart, you immediately recognize this verse. Parenting is about instruction, which is teaching my children about godly truths in both planned as well as (mostly) spontaneous times as we do life together. Parenting is also about training/disciplining as the “folly bound up in their hearts” is exposed in their disobedience and we need to take time to correct. That is not the focus of my point here, but worth noting first. So, we are after those two things as parents to our kids for certain. But right before that there is a clear opposing idea about parenting: exasperating our children. It is specifically written to fathers, perhaps because the Lord knows that men struggle more with anger tendencies generally, and also it is because he is first entrusting the instruction and discipline to the fathers since they lead the families. And he is pointing out that the opposite of that way is to just randomly and emotionally exasperate our kids. So though the Lord addressed the fathers with that, that also happens to be an issue I deal with inside. I mean, I exasperate myself for goodness sakes! . When I am not carefully, wisely leading my children with my words, I easily think my impatience, anger, carelessness, raised voice etc. could all fall under the overarching category of “exasperating.”

Exasperate: to irritate or provoke to a high degree, annoy extremely, increase intensity. (Synonyms: incense, anger, inflame, irritate). The origin has roots in the words “rough” and “harsh.”


The Lord has very appropriately put this verse and specifically that one word on my heart: Kelly, do not exasperate your little children. Instead grow them up in my ways.

We have a chalk board in our kitchen just for bible verses and usually I put a new one every week but recently when it came time to change the weekly verse, I realized I needed to keep one at the bottom permanently for me and then to keep giving the children new ones.

Mine is from Proverbs 17:27 “A man of knowledge uses word with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.”

This is what I sense him pairing with his encouragement from Ephesians 6:4. But alllll of this good instruction and encouragement from the Lord is not just a big DON’T. The Lord has also graciously, because of his Fatherly love for the children he has entrusted to my care, shown me that precious innocence that they dance in right now. He has shown me the length of my years alongside of the increasing closeness between he and I as I have experienced more and more life of struggles. And with that he has also shown me the care-free joy my little creations are gifted to experience for such a short time. Such a short season!

And finally he has whispered to me…

Don’t steal that from them by exasperating them! Be faithful to grow them in my instruction and discipline because you love them, but never provoke them. As far as it is up to you, let them dance in this sweetness of life without leaving them frustrated. I will enable you to hold all of the cares in their world, so that they may be without regard for the tangles of life. Rejoice with them, for this is what it will be like to be in the Kingdom.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I have had a series of very anxiety filled weeks. My body even began to respond to the stress and I became ill, with one thing after another. Some of the stress was self-induced, in that I had committed to more than I could bite off. But then as the commitments passed on, the anxiety did not. This was not a month void of quiet times or prayer through out the day. In fact I had just followed through in my dreaded 6:00a.m. commitment to wake up before my family to get that alone time for my heart. I do not have an answer for why my quiet times and prayer were not enough. It has reminded me of the psalms where the guys are asking things like Lord how long will you leave me here? My couch is flooded with tears all day long. That type stuff. Ditto button. It seemed that there was something deeper bound up in me. A distrust. A wavering. An underlying self-reliance. I have no idea. Just tense. Suuuper tense.

I felt the Lord brings two words to me recently.

One was that I needed to submit myself to my community in the body of Christ and have them intercede for me when I am in a place when I am feeling bound. The Lord asks us so carry one another’s burdens and in this way we fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). I often view my relationship with the Lord as “my” personal relationship. And this is true and also not true. I do have a relationship with him but I am part of the bride of Christ, and it is the Lord’s desire that we all become built up in him and attain fullness in Christ in that way (Eph 4:13). These are the exact type circumstances when I need to stop wrestling with my boot straps and experience what the body of Christ is meant to do for one another. I very often come to friends, my bible study, my community group aaaafter the fact. Like after the train wreck a few weeks later I come stumbling up telling them what happened, showing them my wounds and telling them that I eventually got out of it okay. Bizarre. Why do I not ask for help in the middle of my crisis?

A ridiculous desperate attempt for this as a mom of three who was doing a playdate with my sweet mommy friend, Mariah, mom of three was to pray over each other right before me and my crew left to go home. All six kiddos were doing flips on furniture in like three different rooms of the house with leotards and tutus flying and some of them being silly with chanting and clapping. I sat my rear right beside my friend's and with laughter we determined that we would pray until we were done, "come @#!*% or high water" as the saying goes. And I am pretty sure both of those came while we were praying, but hey I did the unusual thing of asking for prayer and the unusual thing of insisting we do it right then. And you know what? So glad we did. Loved that. I will keep pushing more for good time like that, even when all common sense is saying, hey maybe you should peel that five year old off the roof (of the play house, not to worry). :)

The other word came after I talked to my mom on the phone after a week or so of this. She said it reminded her of when I lived in Berkeley. I was kind of taken aback with the comparison, remembering that anxiety-wise, it was a paralyzing time for me. At that time I was totally isolated from community and family, in the midst of navigating the newness of marriage. I was also spiritually attacked quite often at night when I woke from sleep and also I experienced panic attacks around flying on airplanes.

It’s hard to describe to others who find a plane flight so relaxing and fiction book worthy how I suffered from horrible tormenting mental images of myself dangling from the sky in my seat, as I bent over in Jason’s lap in sheer terror. I know that in some light this is the same root of anxiety that flares up in me when I have a rough week with my feet on the ground, running in a thousand directions. If you were to ask me what was really going on, I would say that I don’t trust man. And some man, or rather group of men, designed, built and pieced together this metal contraption. And add to that another team of men, who are very underpaid (I say this not to degrade but from insider info since someone in my family had this job) checking certain simple, but essential, mechanics of the plane last minute before it takes off like a rocket into the air. I am 100% certain that man is fallible. So how can I close my eyes for a doze or allow myself to get caught up in fiction fantasy when my LIFE is dangling in the sky, locked inside a heavy piece of machinery?

So. On to my word before I forget why I started writing this and cancel our family’s vacation to North Carolina at Christmas.

I was very randomly reading Job. Can’t even remember why, and apparently that’s not why anyway, so it doesn’t matter. What matters is this verse:

Job 26:7 “He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; HE SUSPENDS THE EARTH OVER NOTHING.”

Okay so when I read that I LAUGHED outloud. That is seriously the BEST verse to give someone struggling with anxiety. Usually I would say verses like “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” would be the best verse. But for me…This. Is. It. I mean, it’s backwards in it’s encouragement because now part of me is panicked about the ground I stand on being suspended over the black endless nothingness that is the universe. Of course I would worry. I am bent to create all kinds of fears in my head. BUT it is also perfect. Because here I am in my everyday life with two feet on the dirt, trusting God with my life and my being and my ways. And simultaneously God himself is daily holding the earth up above the abyss of NOTHING. These two situations ARE the same! And in both situations I have a Sovereign Provider and Creator. As I mentioned in a recent blog, Matthew 10:29 says that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father. And then it says “Do not be afraid” because I am worth more than a sparrow.

I have no idea what is going on inside of me. Why this anxiety is persisting. I feel the Father telling me to "test the spirits" because I feel something evil compelling me to just lay down, duck out, give up and believe things that are utterly false about me, my family, and my circumstances. Obviously that is demonic. The other Voice I am compelled to listen to is telling me that Psalm 68 says that the Lord daily carries my burdens. He tells me that in Exodus 16 the Lord instructs the people to collect the manna that they will need for that day and John 6 tells me that my Daily Bread is another name for Jesus himself. He tells me that somehow I should rejoice in my suffering because he intends it to produce something...perseverence, character and hope. And that I will not be disappointed. I feel the Spirit prodding me. Compelling me towards leaning on the prayers of others, toward repenting more quickly than ever, toward purity of thought and deed, and BELIEF.

The same way I have to intentionally, with a determined and set mind have to trust God while I am flying at 30,000 feet I have to practice that same intentionality here on the ground. It's funny to say it that way b/c I never saw that anxiety in me on the ground like I do now, but that fear and tenseness I feel when I'm that high is what I've got going on here now. Yet the Lord says that in both places I am dangling, vulnerable, weak...and provided for. In both places my life is suspended in his hands and my feet dangle from the heights, but I have a place to put the trust in my heart. I have to believe that they are the same. And that there is a Creator who is suspending my life over all my days. I hang by his strength and He is the one that I am to hold fast to, because there's no sense in clutching so tightly these "arm rests" that I am gripping at my sides.

Lord give me more grace.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Verse

Proverbs 17:27
"A man of knowledge uses WORDS with RESTRAINT,
and a man of understanding is

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nudges and Shoves

Do you ever get those little nudges? You know, you feel compelled to do or not to do something. To ask someone how they’re doing with sincerity even though they seem just fine and their face changes and a whole story unloads. Or to stay at home this time and it turns out that one of your kids really needed you. Or to go ahead and text so and so even if you have nothing to say but, “Thinking of you for no reason at all” and it turns out they really needed you in that moment.

And then there’s those enormous convictions that more feel like a friendly shove. Like when you need to speak up to encourage. Or do the courageous act of embracing someone who is totally broken even if you just met them. Or talking to a stranger who just might be completely desperate for a friend. Or actually being the change you want to see in this crazy world by living a different kind of life by the divine power that’s bigger than you.

I get those nudges and shoves. Daily. Probably hourly. Even right now, writing this, I am compelled by something…other…as I write this. And I can only describe it as a heart pumping nudge, keeping me awake and aware to a particular leading, a particular compelling goal. And I must follow, I want to follow, in my deepest desire.

I’m starting to really believe, and not just glaze over, the fact that I’ve got a Counselor following me around. And it’s not just him when I get my heart shoved. It’s also a lot of the little nudges. They’re not just happenstance. Many of them are him. Like everything, I am a tainted girl. I’ve got my sinful lenses and I’ve got my spirit lenses so I am not perfect at discerning what is him, what is common sense, what is just a random idea and what my pastor would say was the burrito I ate the night before. But all I know is that he created me. I am a creation. Who is known. He has searched me and known me. He knows when I sit and when I rise. He perceives my thoughts from way out in my mind. He discerns my going out and when I lie down. He is familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, he knows it completely (psalm 139). And since he created me and knows me, everything that I do that pleases him has been set about by his work, because I am his workmanship. So I need to give all credit to him for the good counsel that pops in my mind, even in the little things.

You see lately I have been feeling a little tug. And for a long time I’ve thought, this is ridiculous. This is so silly that I keep feeling like I need to listen to this minute meaningless unimportant conviction. And even writing this I am a nervous wreck that someone is actually going to hold me accountable since I actually have a community of godly people out there. But I have had some health issues lately and I keep feeling very clear conviction, as I have for a looong time, to not drink so much coffee and other beverages outside of just dousing my body with water. And I would really like to think that this is a silly idea and go on with my absolutely satisfying morning addiction…however, I have had interesting little guilty thoughts before and during that sweet cup of bliss that have felt super similar to other moments when I choose to think thoughts or go through with actions that I am sure are unpleasing to the Lord. I know this is him. In a nudge. Helping me.

In fact, in all honesty and ridiculousness of the moment, I am actually DRINKING COFFEE RIGHT NOW. Okay it’s confessed. I am a hypocrite. It’s true and it feels completely helpful to say it in writing. But truly I had decided to start my fast tomorrow and enjoy my last cup right now before I go through my painful one week of detox. I know he is nudging me, helping me in this area and I need to YIELD, finally!

I had similar strange food convictions all during my pregnancy with the girls. I cannot even capture on paper how challenging and frustrating those 21 weeks of pregnancy were, trying to eat something…anything. I could not keep food down. I’m not the best at reading every book on the block when it comes to “how to” or __ for dummies, etc. I just ask other people and look up things here and there on the internet and kind of wing it. And I found the Holy Spirit himself in those times giving me random nudges that helped me and then later I would come across some reading or hear from another woman that you should avoid x food or try to eat x and I was so grateful. I felt like someone had counseled me on something I didn’t know to discern on my own.

Not ironically, I literally just stopped writing this post because an old friend from church was here in the coffee shop and got up to leave so I saw her. We got to talking and the nudge to my heart was to ask her about community. Seemed harmless and easy so I responded to the “idea” and it hit a button with her that took us through a long conversation about missing home and the risks involved with giving yourself away to messy community. And we had a great talk and at the end she said this was just what she needed to hear. Now, I can count that as credit to my amazing capability to pinpoint someone’s heart…(ha!) or I can count it as a good gift of the faithful Counselor, who is always directing my steps, bringing himself into every interaction in my life for his glory. I count that conversation as a sweet gift to my day and hers, thanking God for that little nudge to ask such a little thing. Because it led to big things.

I got an email from a friend the other day and her statement sparked my brain on this post and got me going down the tracks. She was writing our bible study about her “evidence of God’s grace” for the week (as we all do weekly, as we pay attention to the work God is doing in our lives). She was looking for an important document and had already been through one pile of papers and was about to shred them when she really felt compelled to look once more. She found what she really needed and was so thankful for that nudge and counted it an evidence of God’s grace.

I know some people count it as luck or count it to their wisdom, but should we be so quick to discount a counselor, a designer, a Spirit just because it’s a little thing?

Maybe some people think this is all ridiculous. That’s fine. I’ve been learning to not demand people learn exactly what I am learning at exactly the same time. But as for me, I feel like that sparrow in Matthew 10. God says there that not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from his will. And then says, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

The little things are not silly. He is here even in these things. He is for me. He is the Great Shepherd who carries me forever (Psalm 28:9).

And I am worth more than a sparrow to him.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Favorite posts on Small Belle Speaks #6

Post title: The Hardest Thing (posted 12-8-08)

When it’s all over and we all stand up, I know what my heart is supposed to be doing. There is just a lot going on to keep me sitting lazy. Lines form in the rows as one at a time sliced bread is dipped into either wine or juice. Children enter the room twirling and doing knee bounces to the music. I look over at my love. Head bowed. Hand on my knee. Other hand on his forehead. I turn my head down and start blocking. My to do list thoughts. My chair being knocked by the family behind me. The singing that has started around me. Though it is my favorite song, I have much to say to the Lord. I need to say it. I need to lean in. My thoughts resist. Even trite thoughts and make believe prayers fill my mind. I end them to start real life ones. The conversation feels hard. But I need to do the right thing in this moment even though it is a hard thing.

Last Tuesday as the usual group lit into a conversation about raising children, what she said struck a bell with me. Sometimes it takes up her whole morning to discipline one thing and those hours are gone, but she didn’t let the thing – whatever it was – slide. She let it take up her morning to deal with it. This was her love for her child.

I had already been thinking about this lately. That the right thing to do in my life is very often the hardest thing for me to do. Rarely does doing the right thing or the obedient thing or the selfless thing feel easy. It’s a pulling and a fighting and a submission hold of the flesh.

My daughter didn’t want to eat lunch today, like most days. Her boney legs dangled from her booster seat. She ate some after doddling a while and then finally got a bite too big and threw up the entire meal. At dinner we did all we knew to do to get her to eat. Act like ridiculous ADHD cheerleaders for every single bite. Probably like twenty seven of them. And every bite was followed by our bright eyes, as we wildly slapped her hands over and over and threw her arms up in the air multiple times. You could see she thought of quitting numerous times. But then she’d see my eyes start to light up. She’d prep her lips, clear out her mouth – as is her usual habit before each bite – and open up wide, looking at us expectantly. She finished that container. Bite by bite. Cheer by cheer. And we wanted to collapse at the end of that darn meal. But she’d eaten. One container of yogurt. And our hearts triumphed. It wasn’t the easy thing. But it was the right thing. And I knew it was how we could love her through her stressful trial of mealtime.

I feel this pushing to do the right thing all the time. And it feels awful, how difficult it seems to choose that, but nonetheless the challenge towards it comes again and again. When I am writing a friend an email reply and know they don’t need to just hear “I’m praying” but instead need to know if there is any encouragement or counsel from my heart. When my husband and I cannot seem to get our thoughts to overlap in harmony and it takes hours of talking to wind our hearts together. When the girls disobey for the thirtieth time that day and I choose not to ignore but again and again go to teach and discipline so that their hearts understand what is right and good. When I have wronged someone and I feel that maybe they would just overlook it or maybe they have even already forgotten it, but I know in my heart of hearts that I am called to confess and reconcile with them. When someone insults me, to overlook their words and do the work of seeing their pain and misery under the conversation so that I can absorb the blows. When I would rather “get something done” but little beauty girl is saying “up” and handing me books.

I don’t want to do the lazy thing. As I “sit there” and all of the distractions and wills of life call around me for my attention, I know it will be difficult to bend my knee and bow my head to die to myself. To block the thoughts that becon me to be about myself. And to say and do the things that the Spirit in me is requiring me to do. In those moments, I want to put my will in a submission hold until it passes out and does the right thing. Even though usually it’s the hardest thing.