Tuesday, March 22, 2011

As I look back on my 2nd week of Lent, I can't help but be grateful. Grateful that I have almost another month to get it right. I read the words back to myself that I wrote when I started this. And I cringe. Did I shop for myself? No, and that is a freeing thing. It isn't all bad when you walk into Target and just KNOW you have to stay out of that ENTIRE SECTION of t-shirts in every color and cute cardigans or that one last thing to get you through the long dreary winter. I am surprisingly thrilled to not be stepping into a dressing room getting depressed at trying things on that don't fit right. I am easily throwing away catalogs by the droves as they come in and deleting emails instantly that are trying to convince me that this is "The greatest sale ever!! Again" . No problem with any of those things.

Yet, I missed the point.

I have failed to turn to my God and praise Him. I was here to find contentment and joy and peace that could only be found in Him.

I have stayed away from Him. I still choose other things over my time with Him. Whether it be the computer or a book or a magazine or a TV show or shopping still... for my kids.

I have found new clutter and fed the clutter that gets in the way.

I am still looking for joy and peace and contentment and my closeness to Him.

I have learned that I am just as happy buying for my kids or gifts for someone else as I am for myself or my home, so limiting to it just being about me, really isn't limiting me that much.

I am so disappointed in me right now that I can't even tell you. I didn't want to come here with this update. I wanted the rosy picture saying how GREAT everything is going and how JOYFUL I am now that I have put my focus on Him. And I can't.

So, trying to regain focus, I am learning about the purpose of Lent. The purpose in fasting as this is my first time doing this. And one line sticks with me. Taken from The Banner March 2011 by Dr John Witvliet "Lent was the church's way of saying YES to the free offer of salvation and NO to cheap grace- baptism without discipleship" Interestingly enough- to me anyways- every single time I read that I thought the last word was discipline not discipleship. I need discipline. I don't want cheap grace that is just handed to me with no strings attached. I don't want to just say "yup, I am a Christian, I am saved. I do whatever I want"

I know that I cannot just do as I please.

I need to learn discipline.

I want to BE a Christian. I want people to SEE the difference in me, not just hear me say the words.

Next week, I pray that I have a much better report. And if you see me, feel free to call me on it.

Linking up with Jen at Finding Heaven today...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mending: Revisted

*This post was originally written in September 2009. I had approximately 3 readers then, so I thought it would be worth the revisit. ;) I will report that now my daughter is almost 8 and nearing the end of 2nd grade and the blankie has been tucked away safely...though she still asks for it. As for the mangy mutt...he is still with her, curled up in her arms as she sleeps right now. *

 I have been putting this "project" off for quite some time. And, as usual, the more I put it off, the worse it got. My daughter loves her blankie. I mean love, love, loves her blankie. I know she is 6 years old and a very big 1st grader now, but we can't seem to get rid of this well loved friend of hers. Its just a part of her. It was a gift from Grandma Pearl who is now 91and not so able to continue making blankets. So, its quite irreplaceable to me. See, this is her when it was beautiful and new and you could see the design on it. It was fresh and clean, and yes, already, very much beloved.

Isn't my baby just so precious and sweet?! She was fresh and new there too! I thought I would have a hard time finding a picture with that blanket in it, hah! Not so much, every page I turned in her scrapbook was like "where's waldo" for the blankie. It was usually around, no matter what. Which has caused us to look more like this. This is her other best friend. His name is Lucky. Lucky he hasn't been condemned yet because of all the disease he must be carrying! Wherever blankie is, Lucky is also. Now that Maicy is 6 however, they do both stay in her room on her bed on school mornings, and only come out when she is sick, or really tired, or Saturdays, or when she is cranky... umm. yeah. So they make there appearances often! Here is the result of such love. Do you see that 18 inch scar down the middle? Yup, that's what happens when you are sooo loved. I had to hand sew it, because my sewing machine was eating the fragile fabric around the big giant hole.

These corners have wiped tears, snot and yes, even vomit. Sorry, but its true. This blankie has helped this dear one through many sad days, bad days, and gone along for bike rides on good days.

To bring myself through this dreadfully tedious task of stitching this worn friend, I had to think about the symbolism of this dear one. This blanket proudly bears the scars of carrying its loved one through good times and bad. It comforts and soothes when nothing else will do. It has been beaten and battered and tossed to the ground. It has been forgotten and thrown aside during the easy times. It has always been there to be picked up again, ready to start the loving over.

I can't help but reminded of the scars that Jesus proudly wears. His wounds there because he has helped us through those horrible times, he carried our sins, he brought us through. He has been beaten and battered and too often tossed aside when life is going well. He is there to pick us back up again when we need Him. He is always waiting with love. He joins us on the journey, no matter where it leads.

Maybe its a stretch to relate a torn up tattered blankie with our Savior, but I need visuals, and this is my visual. Like looking through the scrapbook, you can look back on your life and play "where's waldo" and see that Jesus was there on every page. He may have been off to the side when we didn't know it, but he was there. Every time.

We all need mending from time to time, and our Heavenly Father is there, to carefully stitch us back together. He does so with love, allowing the scars to be seen so that we may not forget what brought us there.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Giving In

For as long as I have written anything I have denied being a writer.
I even say it on my profile over there on the right "I am not a writer, I am a talker" And I honestly truly believe this. I have improper grammar and sentence structure and I cannot wax anything poetically. I was pretty sure I knew where my gifts were and weren't. Writing was not my gift. I write like I speak, a jumbled mess that I pray SOMEONE can make sense of and understand my point.

And then I took some time off blogging. Not deliberately, but just lack of time to spend on writing and reading blogs with the addition of Charlie Brown. And during that time I noticed something about me. I missed writing.

I missed working my mind to tell stories of my days and observances.
I missed seeing my God in the small things, because I wasn't looking.
Writing for me, while far from accurate or profound or anything too great, is my...gulp...spiritual gift??

If you have been here before, you know this is a huge struggle for me.I don't pat myself on the back. I don't pump myself up. I do believe I am called to be insignificant.

I sat through the sermon as he said "You cannot choose your talent. You can discover it, and sharpen it. You cannot choose it"
Well. I certainly did not choose writing. I did discover it. I think I am working to improve it. (though I realize I have a long ways to go)

So while I have been protesting any special gift or talent or knowing my place... I may have to give in to the fact that maybe. Just maybe. God may have given me the gift to write. Maybe He really is calling me to use this gift for His kingdom.

I am reading my notes from this sermon and it strikes a cord, knowing that blogging is not the only writing I do. I write weekly letters to a woman in prison... whose baby boy happens to be living here. My notes say this: The focus is to be 'how does God call me to use these gifts?' Not on getting these gifts and shoeing off, but showing  love by using gifts for God. A gift of mercy in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Are you working on sharpening your gifts? Are you still trying to find them? That's okay, God will reveal them when He is ready.

Esther 4:14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

Linking up with http://nebraskagraceful.blogspot.com/

Friday, March 11, 2011

My first attempt at Lent

A little late?.. yes, I'm used to that these days.
But I have to do this or I will not stick with it.
Here is my lent post, meant to be up on Ash Wednesday, but the thought is just the same, I assure you.

This is my first year participating in lent. I don't know why I haven't done it before, oh wait, the thought of doing without anything generally got in the way. I have used the time to reflect more deeply on the life and death of Christ and read through the gospels more carefully, but as long as I didn't have to sacrifice anything I was good.

Then the other day I sat down to flip through some catalogs that had been piling up. I haven't actually opened any- most were immediately tossed- and I was in the mood to browse. Hubby was sitting next to me feeding the baby and asked what I was doing. I simply said "looking at magazines that make me want to redo everything in our house" (I do believe the answer he was looking for was "junk mail", but he asked). His response has stuck with me ever since... "maybe you could find a magazine that teaches contentment instead". Ouch. That was harsh. But necessary.

I began pondering Michelle's Shop Not challenge. Maybe it is time. Not for a whole year mind you, I'm not that crazy- not that Michelle is crazy, but YIKES!365 days is a LONG time! 42 days sounds doable. I had to set some realistic perameters or I would set up for failure.

After much thinking, praying, scripture reading, I realize that it is about so much more than shopping. It is about my self image. My self doubt. My negative self talk. I think that by buying the next cute top or perfect jeans, I will somehow magically find happiness. And then what happens? That rush fades, the doubts creep in and the shirts shrink. It doesn't do what it did for me the first week I owned it. I look around and think "She" has a much cuter top, if I had that I would feel that good too. And it doesn't work.

The only way to find real and everlasting joy is in Him. And I want that joy. That joy that seems just out of reach too often. That joy that is just waiting for me to pick it up. Right there, all the time. I just have to turn to Him.

So for the next 40 days I will buy no clothing for myself. No shoes, no socks, no jeans, no scarves, no dresses, no tops. Not even on clearance. Especially not on clearance- that's when I say "oh well it doesn't fit great, but it's cheap" Waste of money. I admit this seems enough to send me into a panic, especially seeing as how lent is always (always- I checked) followed by Easter. That means fun new springy outfits to show off as the sun shines more and we come crawling out from this wintery cave we have been in for the last 5 months. (yes, sometimes its the time to get the kids a nice new snowsuit because we are often greeted by an Easter morning snow). So, no new springy Easter morning outfit for me. My kids yes, because well... I already have the boys' stuff.
Also, home decor including baskets, bins, files, vases, pots, blankets, lamps, wall words, and more. I am always trying to find that one more thing that will make it feel "just right". And it doesn't. So I rearrange, I spend, I obsess.
I am putting 1 caveat on that- I have been dresser shopping for both Charlie Brown and Jackson, so if I find the right dresser in the right price range budgeted, I will wait at least a few days, and then decide if it is a worthy purchase. No impulse buying.

And what do I hope to gain from this experience?

A closer relationship with God because I am focusing on Him and His word, not me and my wardrobe. Not knocking His creation of me, but embracing the person He has made me to be. Taking joy in what He has done for me. Thanking Him daily for the beautiful home in which I am lucky enough to live in. Two of them in fact. I have nothing to complain about. I need to find my gratitude back and get rid of the whiney and complainy me.

Psalm 32:11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous, sing all who are upright in heart.

Matthew 6:29 No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Linking up with the Jen and the beautiful group sisters of Soli deo Gloria...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Heard it. Yes, I heard okay?!

I have been wanting to link up Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday with Michelle over at Graceful for quite some time now but between being snowed in at hockey tournaments and computer crashes, I haven't quite gotten that done. Hopefully this is the day.

The fact that is has taken me this long may also have to do with the fact that as a general rule I need to hear things SEVERAL Sundays or times before I really HEAR it. This is no exception to that and I am still struggling. I am hearing, I just don't want to listen.

A few weeks ago I received what I assumed was a random text message. It contained a very nice Bible verse and I read it, smiled, and thought that was lovely. And moved on.
I then went to get the mail and was quite surprised to find a letter from Charlie Brown's (yes, that's the name I'm going with for our foster baby for the sake of this blog since I cannot use his real name- if you saw his head you would confirm that it is quite a fitting title. Ahem.) mom. I was a little bit surprised. Okay, a lot surprised. I didn't think she would have access to my information. Guess again! I wanted to tear it open to see what she could possibly say, and I wanted to tear it up and pretend she didn't actually exist. Turns out that she really is a real person with a real story- whether or not I hear the truth in her story doesn't matter. She is his mom. I still had no desire to talk to her or write her or be nice or anything. I was still ready to tear up the letter and take Charlie Brown and my family and head to Figi. (not really so please do not report me to DHS, they already have my number thankyouverymuch. )

Are you curious about the verse yet? It was about the time I was browsing real estate in the tropics (*ahem*) that the gentle nudge came to reread that text. Fine. I will read it. "Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone". Col. 4:5 NLT.  Nowhere in that verse does it tell me to pack up and flee the country so I decided to re-read it. Make the most of every opportunity. Yes, you certainly did give me the opportunity to present the gospel to an unbeliever, didn't you God. Just like I asked not that long ago. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive.  So...sarcasm will not be appreciated in my response to her then?

I would like to say that all of this alone was convicting enough to change my heart and attitude, but for those of you who know me, I just don't sway that easily. I did promptly text a "thank you" -of sorts- to dear Erin for her oh so timely Bible texts. And I did find a lovely card with some nice verses on it to send my letter back to mom in. On ther surface I do believe I looked quite gracious.

Enter in Sunday. A few Sundays later mind you, but there it was none the less. Let me just share with you a sampling of song titles, if you don't know the songs, google them.
 I Give You my Heart
The Potter's Hand
Have Thine Own Way Lord (mmm-hmmm)
We are an Offering
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
Take My Life and Let it Be
and of course ...
I Surrender All. 

Now. I like to think I catch on pretty quick. But. I don't always want to.
I am not sure how much more clearly our Heavenly Father could say to me "This is NOT about you. This is not about "the mom". This is not even about Charlie Brown. This is about ME. This is MY story. You are an instrument in MY kingdom to bring people to ME. Whether you like it or not."

Do I know what is going to happen with Charlie Brown? No. Do I know what will happen with "the mom"? Nope. Do I know what will happen to our family? Not a chance.
How do I go on? Because I do know that despite all I don't know, GOD KNOWS. And He will take care of everyone. My only job here is to be a gracious speaker and to show kindness and compassion where I don't want to. My job is to show the light of Christ to a very dark place. I know that I cannot do this. But I do know that God can. And that is all I need to know right now.

To meet Michelle, click the box above to see more great inspiring stories. You'll be so glad you did!