Sunday, March 31, 2013

1000 gifts: inspiration from old journals

Continuing my list of gifts, blessings that I write down to remember all the wonderful things that God gives me along life's journey. I write these down on my calendar, and when I get a chance I add them here to my blog. These are all blessings from March, 2013.

A week into March, my husband was laid off from his job, so was a really tough month for us; but on the other hand God has really drawn me into His Word and prayer, and bestowed so many rich insights. The thought crossed my mind that it was a dangerous thing, to make "prayer" my theme word for the year: I should have realized that God would hit us with some big stuff that would require a lot of prayer!

593. Katie noises
When I was feeling sad one day, my daughter Blaze cheered me up by imitating Katie from the movie Horton Hears a Who.  Katie is this little imp of a creature that says weird things and makes funny noises - and for whatever reason when my kids imitate her I just can't help but laugh.

594.  Inspiration from old journals
I typed up some excerpts from my journals from my senior year in high school and first couple years of college, as a gift for my parents' birthdays (March 1 and 3). These were events that we shared together, and insights that I was learning along the way.  It was so wonderful re-reading these years, not the events so much as the energy and joy of life that bubbled over in my writing. I came to realize that I have always been gifted with the ability to see silver linings in upsetting circumstances, and beauty in nature - as I've grown older God's also gifted me to see beauty everywhere, not just in nature.

595. Barn wisdom
B. shared this little story with me and the kids: A dad tells his two sons to go clean out a barn. The first boy says "this barn is full of manure!" The second boy says, "If there is this much manure, there's got to be a horse!"

596. College writing class
Stars' high school gives seniors one free college class, and Stars has been sharing  some of the essays she's been writing for her writing class. I learn so much more about her from her writing than just conversation alone, and she's a gifted writer, not afraid to examine herself and her motives, her goals and her dreams. (Also reminded me of the essays in one of my college writing classes that challenged me to think and examine - glad I saved them to read again someday)

597. "How to Listen to God"
I discovered this pamphlet "How to Listen to God" through my Overeaters Anonymous partners. It lines up so perfectly with my theme this year, prayer.  I've tried this a couple times, step by step, and found it to be extremely rewording - my prayer time feels useful, not just repetitive, and it feels like genuine communication with God. I've always struggled with regular prayer - this will be a big help.

598.  Scripture cannot be broken
This is from John 10:35, from my morning Bible reading. Almost every morning I've been finding a "wonderful thing" like this in my reading. I started last month with a challenge to read the Word daily, at least one chapter, because the Word is our daily bread - just as we need to eat everyday for our physical body, we need to read the Word to feed our spirit).

599.  Blowing kisses at mean kids
Dreamer (my 8 year old) has been crying a lot lately, both here at home (over small things that we have hard time understanding why she's so upset) and at school, too. I talked with her school counselor, who had some great strategies that she's been teaching to Dreamer, but this is one Dreamer came up with on her own. I loved it.

600. Sitting on God's lap
Starlet (6 years old) said she had a dream where she was sitting on God's lap. Moments when my kids share things like this remind me of  3 John 1:4: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

601. Twenty pounds lost
It's taken me almost 6 months - and at times I have been soooo discouraged with how slow the weight has come off. But this is a huge milestone! I really don't care how long it took me to get here - the main thing is, I got here!  I still have a long way to go (yes, a little nervous to admit this, but I need to lose at least another 20 pounds).  God is teaching me that slower is better, even though I argue with him sometimes on that point.

602. Missing journal discovered
When I was eleven years old, I went on a three week trip through France, Italy and Switzerland with my parents, and I kept a journal every night. But the journal has been lost for years - until my mother just recently discovered it where it had been packed away. It's hilarious - traveling from an eleven year old's point of view!

603. My grandmother's old pictures
When Mom found my old eleven year old journal, she also found the box of old pictures from my grandmother on my father's side. Even though there was very little information to go with the pictures, and my father couldn't remember much, either, they were still fascinating to look at. Among them we also found my grandmother's birth certificate, and for the first time I know the names and details of my great grandparents.

604. My mother's newspaper articles from 1956
Inspired by the journal and pictures she found, my mom also dug out some of her old scrapbooks and we had fun looking through these too. My mother traveled to Europe for the first time when she was 20 years old, in 1956. By herself for a whole summer! She saved up $500 for this trip, and she got the local Kent, OH newspaper to agree to pay her an additional $10 for every article she wrote and sent back to the newspaper while she was traveling, so she earned another $50 for the trip.

I loved reading the articles she wrote. As soon as she got to England she bought a bike, and that was how she traveled - everywhere (except when she loaded her bike onto a train), staying at youth hostels for a dollar a night. She always biked in a skirt! And apparently she had only one skirt, so she writes about when when her skirt began to split due to all the wear and tear, she had to stop and a stranger's house and ask to borrow a needle and thread to fix it! A later article, from when she was in Germany, she writes about biking into a village in a pouring deluge, and she took her shoes off and stowed them away because she didn't want them to get wet, so she biked into the village barefoot.

605. Encouragement from KLOVE

I get so much encouragement listening to KLOVE - I love the stories people call in and share, and I learn a lot of wisdom, too, even in short 30 second soundbytes."Like this one: girls growing up identify most with their moms. In order to become themselves, they must swing away, like a pendulum. But also like a pendulum, they will eventually swing back." We're going through the swinging away part with Stars right now, my 18 year old stepdaughter, and it's hard enough that I'm dreading the same thing happening again with my four younger girls. But this is a great promise - they will come back.

606.  Working with other Christians
B. is still looking for another job, but in the meantime he's been picking up enough side jobs for us to get by, and many of these are coming from friends at church. Which means he's been working a lot with other Christians, which is a huge blessing because there were no Christians at his previous job, and there were times he'd ask me to pray for him for protection because of the people he worked with and the nasty things they said and did.  Since losing his job he's also really been examining his motives with spending, and told me that he wants to start supporting missionaries and ministries. Wow!

607.  Goats and good weather for Easter
Yes, that's right - goats.  Spring has come to Wyoming with its usual irony: lots and lots of snow. But we got a reprieve and a beautiful sunny warm day for Easter so we could even hide eggs for the girls outside, and later play at the park - where the girls got to pet a pair of goats (the goats' owners were out for a stroll; they said they prefer goats over dogs!).  Another gift for Easter: a lady at church gave every parent a set of Resurrection eggs along with a matching game that the girls had fun playing, at the same time looking up verses and relearning the importance of Jesus' death and resurrection.

 608. The pain and beauty of practice

This is a daily entry in the Overeaters Anonymous book Voices of Recovery, on page 79. This really resonated with my soul, even though I haven't practiced piano seriously in years, it's still true for any form of art, even writing:
I'm a classical musician, and I know about the pain, discouragement, and boredom of practice. I make many mistakes and I make them repeatedly. But a wonderful thing happens as I persist. As the mistakes fade away, the true beauty of the music emerges. I contact the soul of the music. It's truly a spiritual experience.

This OA program has been like that for me. Persistence has been the key. I've gone through periods of pain, discouragement and boredom while practicing the program.  I've heard people say "the way out is through" and "keep on going". With practice, my abstinence has become easier and clearer... lighter and brighter.  With practice, the true beauty of my life has emerged, and I've contacted my soul.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Come to me, I will give you rest

There's been a huge upheaval in my family's life this week. For a couple days I felt like someone had beat me up on the inside, I was hurting so much. And if my hurting was bad, my husband's was even worse.

My devotional yesterday was based on this verse: Matt 11:28: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

I was very burdened, and I needed a perspective to make sense of what happened. I wanted to God to come sit next to me and soothe me, as if we were old friends sitting on these rocking chairs, sharing our hearts. 

Here's what happened. Since an interesting conversation with God at church in November, I have been slowly collecting signs from Him that obstacles to homeschooling my girls will be overcome so that I can start teaching them in the fall.

In January my boss offered me a full time job. I was flattered, but immediately realized this was a test: what about homeschooling? I told him I'd think about it and get back to him.

My husband was excited about me getting a full time job, much more than he was excited about me homeschooling. But we prayed about it, and he came up with this: well, it's not worth it for you to take this job unless it's good compensation. So he advised me to go back to my boss with a certain salary figure.

My boss said he'd consider the salary of other people in my department, along with my experience, and get back to me. After several weeks, he came back with a figure lower than I'd asked for (but still high enough that it was still tempting).

However, the grant money for this position hadn't come through yet, so I had an excuse to put off the decision and pray some more about it.

A few days later, I told my husband I wanted to turn it down and homeschool. He supported my decision. But my boss was out of town, so I didn't tell him my decision.

The very next day, God overthrew all our plans completely. My husband was very unexpectedly laid off from his job.  We were both devastated.

I found it interesting though that this happened after I had made my decision about my job, but before I had a chance to finalize it.

For some reason, God wants me to work more instead of spend more time with my kids, homeschooling them.  It might be that as important as my kids are, my husband needs to be higher priority right now. This might be (everything is still up in the air, but this is what we're praying about), my husband's time to finally go back to school and finish his degree.

Anyway, this devotional based on the "rest" of Matt 11:28 has provided some balm to my worried soul. It's excerpted from Lysa Terkuerst's Made to Crave devotional.

The gift of rest Jesus is offering here is not spiritual Ambien. The Greek word is anapauo which means “of calm and patient expectation.” In other words, Jesus is saying “If you come to me, I will take your exhaustion in this area and turn it into expectation. IN this place you feel hopeless, I can make you hopeful.” 

What’s the difference between the words “rest” and “resist”? The difference is “I”. I can’t do this. I can’t make lasting changes. I don’t see how the Bible can really help with this struggle. 

We can find anapauo rest – fresh hope – when we stop resisting God’s truths and start applying them.

God is changing my confusion and hopelessness about the loss of my husband's job to patient expectation, through trusting in Him.