Saturday, January 31, 2015

1000 gifts: after five years, reached #1000!

I want to make one of these for myself

My gifts (blessings) from January. This 1000 gifts list is mostly written for myself and for my family. I don't expect anyone else to read all these details, but I decided to leave these posts "public" just in case they might inspire someone else someday to start keeping a gifts list. Keeping this list has
changed my life.

995. Starting the New Year reading a great book
At midnight, the girls were watching the ball drop on the computer, and I was nestled in my recliner reading a good book. In fact, I spent most of the first day of the year reading "Among Others" by Jo Walton, and I was perfectly content. Such a "me" book!

996. A surprising kind of sunset
A kind of sunset I've never seen before - beautiful red clouds but then right before dark they turned kind of spooky, like red eyes looking out of darkness, or like ash cast over red fire. Love how God's creation keeps surprising me.

997. Compliment from my boss 
Jeff H. said he'd like for the University of Wyoming offer a cartography class and that he would want me to teach it!

998. Priorities was never meant to be plural
Originally "priority" meant only one thing, the Priority. If you make God the one priority, everything else will fall in place.

999. Dragonfly wings
Watched a couple Nature shows on PBS, and I'd forgotten how much I love these shows (I grew up watching Nature and Wild Kingdom).  A dragonfly's flight in slow motion is a stunning thing: the four wings swirling in and out of each other.

 1000. A stone from the brook of Elah, Israel
Several of our friends from church went to Israel last month, and showed us their pictures and talking about all the Biblical events that happened at different places. Terry and Katie brought me back a stone from the Brook of Elah where David picked up the stones he threw at Goliath. At first I was a little jealous, oh Lord when will I ever have a chance to go, and walk the places that I have loved reading about so much in your Word? But then God took away the covetousness and gave me complete peace.

1. Adam and Dog video
Since I'm back at the beginning of my list for my second round of 1000 gifts, I thought I'd start with a reference from Genesis.  This 15 minute short film imagines the first dog in the story of Adam and Eve, and it does a lovely job of conveying the beauty and wonder of the Garden of Eden.

2. Shepherding a Child's Heart
Great discussion at our moms' bible study about the chapter in this book, on how many methods for training children may get "surface" results but teach the wrong attitudes, like greed, fear, controlling or expectation of rewards. The heart is what matters to God, not external behavior. For instance, grounding could inadvertently train them to hate being home, that home is a punishment and leaving home is freedom. Not that you should never ground your kids when they've abused their freedom, but that your main point should be to address what desire of the heart motivated the wrong doing. Verses on the heart: Psalm 51:6  Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach wisdom in the inmost place.  Proverbs 4:23, I Samuel 16:7, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Ezekiel 14:1-8 (they have set idols in their hearts) and Joel 2:12-13

3. Transparency in prayer requests
Often times our bible study or prayer group requests are for other people. Which is fine: but I'm always deeply touched by believers who humbly ask for prayer for themselves, when they're struggling with anger or fear or anxiety, etc. In Beth Moore's To Live Is Christ she shared how she struggled with anger that kept coming back. She shared her struggled with another believer and her anger eased. I want to have the courage to share my struggle with insecurity and ask for help in this spiritual warfare - Satan knows my weak point is insecurity, but it's so hard to admit it to others. I can't even go into detail about it here on the blog, where I feel free to share just about anything.

4. Reading Unbroken to my dad.
Dad loves WWII war stories, and I love the author Laura Hillenbrand (who also wrote Seabiscuit). I have enjoyed reading books to my daughters so much, and the discussions we get into, so I thought it might be something my dad and I could enjoy together too, since with his Parkinson's disease all he can anymore is just sit and watch TV. I think he did enjoy my reading him the first chapter, and even talked a little afterward, but he didn't want to me read more the next time I offered. Mom thinks it might be hard on his pride, which I can understand. I'm just trying to think of anything else beside sitting and watching TV with him. This is so heartbreaking. And yet, I chose to be thankful, and list this as a gift. Because I'm so very thankful for my dad. Recently, this verse gave me hope to keep praying for his salvation: 2 Samuel 14:14 Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from Him.

5. Proverbs 18:1 He who separates himself seeks his own desire
This verse is actually a puzzle to me; even reading it in various translations and using the Blue Letter Bible to look up the original Hebrew has not helped me satisfactorily understand this verse. It can be interpreted in both positive and negative ways. But I think it's important for me to keep pondering it until God gives me insight; I suspect it might be related to an old struggle of mine, escapism.

6. Our radiant skin
Pastor shared this interesting fact in his preaching: that scientists have discovered our skin actually radiates a small amount of light. Moses, of course, had to wear a veil to cover the radiance of God he was reflecting when he returned from Mt. Sinai, for it was too much for the people to bear. Imagine what we will be like in heaven, reflecting God's glory! Imagine seeing the Glory of God himself! (His Glory is my theme word this year)

7. Serious makes a blanket adventure
One blanket is a waterfall (down the stairs), another is the bumpy river, the smooth river, the underground river (under a blanket draped over chairs), and a pink blanket is the fire river, where hot lava flows into the river and makes it explode.

8. Skiing with Blaze
One of my favorite memories from my junior high years is when my mom got me ski lessons and we went downhill skiing together (and since then of course we have dozens of wonderful skiing memories!) So I was overjoyed when a big discount came our way so that I could get Blaze skiing lessons, and by the  end of her very first day she was skiing with me down the big slopes, snowplowing and grinning like crazy. I figured out the last time I'd been skiing was 11 or 12 years ago at Winter Park with B. and Stars - I was worried I wouldn't be any good at in anymore, but I guess it's like riding a bicycle; the movement came right back to me (muscle memory is amazing!) And being in the snowy mountains and majestic pines, seeing light slant through the trees while swishing down the slopes... I wish I could bottle the feeling and the beauty, so I could drink it down daily. 

9. Continued sharing my favorite verses with the girls at home school Bible study (Judges through 1 Kings)

Judges 13:17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?" He replied. "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding." ...and the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: as the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame.

1 Samuel 16:7 For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart

2 Samuel 22: 7-11
In my distress I called upon the Lord, yes, I cried to my God; And from His temple He heard my voice, and my cry for help came into His ears. Then the earth shook and quaked, The foundations of heaven were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up out of His nostrils, fire from His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; and He appeared on the wings of the wind. (This is from David's song when he was delivered from Saul. I love how the Lord is described almost like a dragon! And how he rides a cherub!)

1 Kings 8:58-61  (I love discovering divine paradoxes in the Scripture)
May He turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands.
(I love how Solomon asks God to turn our hearts, to make our hearts fully committed. God does the work first; then we are able to work for Him)

10. Come As You Are, by David Crowder

Come out of sadness from wherever you've been
Come broken hearted let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner, come kneel

Earth has no sorrow
That Heaven can't heal

So, lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer, come home
You're not too far
So, lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There's hope for the hopeless
And all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary
Rest that endures

Earth has no sorrow
That Heaven can't cure

Come as you are
Fall in His arms
Come as you are

There's joy for the morning
Oh sinner, be still

Earth has no sorrow
That Heaven can't heal

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My theme for 2015: His Glory

His infinite glory, dwelling within me
In 2012  my theme for the year was Seeking God; in 2013 my theme was Prayer and in 2014 my theme was Surrender.

This year my theme is for His Glory, but first, a recap of what the theme of Surrender looked like in 2014. 

In addition to surrender, two other words come to mind when I think of the highlights (and low points) of 2014:  loss, and laughter.

We lost B's beloved mom and the girls' beloved grandma this year. Another less permanent loss was my stepdaughter's move to Seattle: a loss of closeness with her. But despite moments of tears and loneliness and loss, this year has also been one of so many laughter-filled moments, especially with my girls and B. It's not that they've all at once become funnier this year: I think it's just that I appreciate them more, how they make me laugh. All the funny things they say or do or funny things we discover together.  One of the very best things in life: when your kids do something that make you look across the room at your husband, smiling, and he looks back at you smiling, and without speaking a word we share that deep pride in our kids and family and our deep love for each other.

So, a year of loss, and a year of laughter... and surrender. Surrendering control is a constant struggle. This year has been our tightest financial year yet (and we've had some tough years in the past). I wanted to control every penny my husband earned, in addition to my own, but I had to keep surrendering that urge to control and nag my husband and instead, trust God.

A few years ago I remember having to accept the change in my father as Parkinson's overtook him. Another form of surrender. In 2014, I've had to accept changes with my mother. She used to be my travel buddy - we loved to travel together! We had wonderful trips together in recent years (some with kids, some just us) to Virginia, South Carolina, and lots of places on the Front Range and mountains of Colorado. But in 2014 she wouldn't travel at all with me; she still wanted to, but it was too hard for her to leave my dad's side for more than an hour or two at at time. I admire her devotion and care for him, but I was heartbroken to lose my travel buddy. But looking at the bright side of things: we can still do lots of stuff right here in Laramie. We went to the Nutcracker and a couple Christmas events in December and I'm so thankful her health is good and we can get together whenever we want to chat over lunch or a cuppa tea.

Another family-related surrender this year: changes in B.'s family. Losing his mom, my girls' grandma... the changes catch you in unexpected ways... like this was the first summer we didn't go boating on the Missouri with family. Because the boat had to be sold when she died to pay some debts incurred during her fight with cancer. Also, this was the first Thanksgiving and Christmas not going back to South Dakota (Grandpa didn't want anyone to come this year, it was too hard on him). I hate how one loss multiplies out to other losses. But if there's one constant in life it's this: change. Things always change, and you can't stop it. Surrender. Accept. Be thankful for all the good things you still have, and trust in more good things to come.

With my kids... I've had to continually surrender my daughters to God with the things I cannot control: like Blaze's dislike of church and disinterest in God, and Dreamer's fears. I cannot take away her fears; only God can do that. I cannot make Blaze love God: but I know He can open her eyes and soften her heart and fill her with awe... in His timing. In the meantime, I'm so thankful for another year of so many opportunities during home school to share with them how God is working in my life, and share the verses He gives me that brighten/strengthen my day and sometimes catch my breath with deep joy.

Surrender is a common word in Twelve Step meetings and the books and materials for Overeaters Anonymous. You can either surrender to your desire to eat, or you can surrender to God and humbly ask Him to remove your short comings/stumbling blocks. My favorite saying from OA: The more total your surrender to God, the more freedom from food and other idols. I barely missed any of my OA weekly meetings in 2014, and was able to keep the 20 pounds off that I lost in 2013, and lose four more pounds. But more than losing weight, I'm thankful to be free from the old obsession with food.

I still struggle deeply with insecurity, especially at church, and especially as church continues to grow and I feel lost in the crowd (particularly on busy Sunday mornings when there are so many people!) The first five/six years after I got saved, my church was such a close knit family. Now its so big and busy it doesn't feel like a family at all, and I struggle with that loss. But I know this church is where God wants us to be, which means surrendering to the change, and being thankful for all the good things that come with a big a church instead of dwelling on the sense of closeness lost.

One thing I haven't had to struggle with for 3 years now: depression! Another depression-free year. Oh my great Lord, my Abba father, thank you so much!

So now I come to my theme for 2015.  I chose to focus on His Glory this coming year for these reasons:

1) because the more my eyes are on Him, dwelling on His glory, the less my eyes are on myself... and the paradox is that I'm happier and more content and more fulfilled when I'm concerned with others, with God in particular, instead of myself.... which reminds me, I want to devote an entire post on the article "Who Are We? Needs, Longings, and the Image of God in Man" by Edward Welch which addresses the error of focusing on our needs and longings, even if we focus on how God fulfills them. We are not primarily beings seeking for fulfillment as we are beings created to radiate his Glory.

2) because the heavens and earth are full of His glory, and I want to see it all and give praise

3) Whatever we do or seek to accomplish, if we do it all for His glory, then none of it is wasted or done in vain

4) Because there are dozens of verses that tell us to give glory to God
Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name give glory, for Your mercy and loving-kindness and for the sake of Your truth and faithfulness! Psalm 115: 1
5) Because God's glory makes me think of shining light; and I love all the different ways He made light shine in our world. How he made the sun the source of the energy that drives all life (like himself) and at the same time the sun can be seen by everyone, but is itself too bright to look upon, like himself! How beautiful and precious light is, all the way from a child's nightlight and little Christmas lights to His mighty stars; from glowing candles and firelight to the majestic northern lights. His Word is a light, and a lamp to our feet. His Glory even shines inside our hearts:
2 Corinthians 4:6  For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
6) When we bring Him glory, we radiate His glory out to the world. Isaiah 60: 1-3
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.