Monday, January 27, 2014

1000 Gifts

The other day me and my family went to the park after dinner to enjoy the warmer weather before bath and bed time.  The kids were playing with daddy and I was sitting on the swings.  I had a thought that was very unlike me: "I wonder how high I can swing on this swing?"  I got a good running start, hopped up, pulled myself back onto the swing and started pumping my legs.  My hair was blowing in the wind and I noticed Isaac was watching me, looking amazed.  Even Jeff was watching me with a big smile.  I was swinging high above them all, it was a strange feeling to be acting that way.  I normally would just sit on a bench, or sit on the swing and resist everyone's attempt to get mommy to play.  "I just want to rest!" is my usual response.  But not that day.

I just started reading a book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts, and I'm only half-way through, but it's already had an impact on the way I see my every day life.  The gist of it is that thankfulness is at the root of living a joy-filled life; seeing the gifts in the every day.  The book birthed a  Joy Dare, where every day of the month you write down 3 gifts.  At her blog, A Holy Experience, Voskamp has some pretty (free) printables to help you to write you gifts down for that day.  I have printed out each month's ideas and glued them into a journal specifically for this purpose.  I have only started in January and didn't write every day, but I am already up to 55 gifts (and those are just the ones I took the time to write down!).

This exercise does two things for me:  one, it helps me to really see things in my life as opposed to just going through the motions, (or trying to get everything done that needs to be done and get the kids to bed for Pete's sake!)  Instead, I am looking for the things in my every day life that I take for granted.  Most days, I have my journal and pen lying in the dining room so I can jot something down at the moment I recognize it.  Secondly, doing this is like building up your spiritual bank account.  I acknowledge that God is good, and everything I have is a gift (James 1:17 says "Every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.")  But what about on the hard days?  When I get horrible news?  When things go terribly wrong?  I haven't had one of those days in a while and it's not a matter of if but when.  What will my response be?  When I'm going on a week of depression and discouragement?  Hopefully I'll have a tangible, visual record of all the grace God's shown me in my arsenal to combat the lies I'll be subjecting myself to in those dark times (because they will come).  I will need reminders that God is and has always been good.  As the book talks about, even in the dark times he is STILL good.

So if you still haven't figured out your new year's resolution, or like to take "challenges", try this one.  I can sometimes struggle with contentment, and get so bogged down in the daily to-do that I forget I am ALIVE!  My time on this earth is not guaranteed to be as long as I plan on it being.  I may not live to write another blog post.  I may not wake up in the morning.  The time is now to recognize how good and graciously God has dealt with me.  My kids pulling at my shirt tail for juice is a gift; the beautiful brown shades in our hardwood floors is a gift; the smell of a candle burning, a wet kiss from my toddler, a hot shower, eating dinner together, a car that's worn out because of all the places it's taken our fmaily: all good gifts that I may never live to see again.

So that's my speil.  Just thought I would share it with you because I think a lot of other people are like me and need to realize today is a gift, tomorrow isn't for certain: stop taking everything for granted and LIVE.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My confession (don't judge me)

It's funny what the Lord does when others are praying for you.  In the last post, I asked for prayer for our family, for boldness and courage to follow the Lord in his leading.  I had one specific issue in mind that I was not sharing with the public.  The Lord indeed gave us boldness and courage, but he did not lead us down the path that I was mentally referring to when I asked for these things.  

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."  - Provers 19:21

As many of you know, Jeff is a Church Planting Apprentice, which means he will hopefully be starting a new church body in our city.  We hope to have a women's ministry in that new church, as well as a children's ministry and of course I, being a mother and a woman, would love to serve in these ministries at our future church, and help my husband's ministry in this way.  However, the thought of it on top of being a stay-at-home mom, involved in small groups at church, being involved in MOPS, and being a nursing student is overwhelming to me.  I have never really been much a part of either type of ministry aside from helping out occasionally, and don't know the first thing about leading these types of teams.

Jeff and I began a conversation last night concerning these future church plant things, during which I became emotional and immediately bogged down in details and scheduling (that's just how my brain works, I am not a big picture type of person - I need to know when, how, who, and what am I gonna do with the kids?).  That conversation led to another about homeschooling, which I had already written off, for no particular reason other than a) I don't know how to do it and b) I am intimidated by it.  There's a lot of benefits to homeschooling though, but I am in nursing school so I won't have time to, and once I'm an RN I surely won't have time for it.  But I'll be making enough money to send my kids to a private school.  

I began to evaluate what I'm doing here.  As far as ministry, I really want to help but I have other things already going on. How am I supposed to do all these other things, too?  Maybe God will send a woman to join the church plant that is passionate and skilled at these ministries - problem solved, oh me of little faith.  As far as school, I have a wonderful, supportive family who keep my kids happy and safe while I study and attend class; we have enough money saved that we are not going into debt to pay for school; the material comes very easily to me, I make great grades and I really enjoy the subject content.  Once I graduate, I'll be making great money, have a flexible schedule, have a meaningful job, and finally be able to afford Christian school, a bigger house and cars that don't leak and creak.  All the stars align for me to do this now, and the future payoff will be totally worth it. 

But just because it is totally doable doesn't mean it should be done.  I started to look at the reasons why I was pursuing nursing school: money, recognition for being a hard worker and smart, the satisfaction of "doing it".  These things in and of themselves are not particularly bad, but they are bad for me.  I am drawing life from these things.  They make me feel worthy and important, like I am really doing something with my life.  What would my alternative be if I didn't do nursing school?  A thankless job of raising kids and making a home for my weary husband?  Staying home with my kids all day to play with and teach them?  Meeting my husband for lunch occasionally, or taking a vacation whenever we want?  Having a cleaner, more organized home that's always ready for visitors?  Nourishing my relationship with the Lord during nap time instead of scrambling to get chores done so I can do my school work?  Selflessly serving my family with no regard for tests or assignment due dates?  Being more available to learn from godly women how to serve the women and children in our church?  Reading for fun instead of grades?

Once I evaluated all of this I thought: this is crazy.  God is providing for me the things that bring true life, yet I am voluntarily bearing a burden and striving for things I don't need.  I heard the Lord's still small voice: 

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. - Matthew 6:33

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith 
- Hebrews 12:1-2

I am chasing worldly recognition and financial security by the work of my own hands (and I have a degree so technically I could go to work if ever I needed to without being an RN).  I have been on a hamster wheel of sinful self-reliance and seeking after the ooh's and ahh's from others (and let's be real, no one really gives two whoops what I'm doing!  How prideful and arrogant of me.)

The funny thing is as soon as this recognition comes, it is gone and I am striving after something else.  Yet I already have all the approval and adoration I could ever need because it comes from my heavenly Father in Jesus Christ.  I have the divine "Yes!", there is no other approval needed.  Seeking any other is sinful and self-exalting.  Jesus is calling me to step out of the boat of the security and values of the world, and onto the waves of faith and service where He is waiting; oh Lord, help my unbelief.  

So friends, thank you for the prayers, God has used them effectively and surely.   I won't serve patients on their death beds, but I will diligently teach my children and others about the One who overcame death for them.  I won't seek admiration from others for my work ethic, but long to hear acclaim from my Lord: "Well done, good and faithful servant."  In a moment of clarity, I surely have found my calling.  

From the Valley of Vision:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold
Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hello, again!

It's been a whiiiiiile since this blog was updated!  I thought I would resurrect it since writing is cathartic for me, and our family is on a pretty amazing journey with the Lord.  Jeff is a Church Planting Apprentice in our town, I am beginning nursing school, and we have our two amazing little boys.  

There are potentially some very exciting things on our family's horizon, and since we have so many family and friends who we don't see regularly I'd like to use this to stay up to date with you all.  

If you could, please be in prayer for our family that we would make wise decisions regarding our family, but that we would also be bold and courageous to do what we feel would honor the Lord the most (even if it's scary to us!).  

Thanks friends!  Be in touch soon!

Our family at Boktoberfest in Lake Wales.