In my mind, our camping trip, and our entire vacation was going to be a time for contemplation and reflection…to be purposeful in examining areas that I need to take back to God. And then reality of what “vacation” means while having preschoolers hit me!
One-bedroom hotel rooms, an enclosed vehicle, and a shared tent don’t exactly offer the opportunity for quiet, thoughtful time. And, quite honestly, there were some very difficult moments and, yes, tears on my part. But, looking back on it, and trying to jot down a few highlights from each day, I can see that even amidst the chaos and my periodic emotional breakdowns, there is a lot about myself that came to the surface.
My daily routines are so incredibly helpful in keeping balance…but routines often are flung out the window on vacation. So, this planner-girl had to go with the flow, which is not a natural bent of mine. Again, the issue of impatience rose to the surface…as well as fear (of those bears and other such mysteries in the woods)…and especially my desire to be in control of the situation. (What is it about wanting to be in control that deceives me to think that peace will come?)
I also was reminded again of the influence of my personal perspective.
Through one lens, one particular incident would look like this: I woke up freezing cold in our tent and couldn’t feel my toes…hungry and the campfire was taking forever to get going…with hyper kids who wouldn’t stop asking for “Mommy”…finally sitting alone in the van with the heat on my tootsies.
But, through a God-lens, here’s what that exact, same scenario looks like: I woke up to a chilly morning with the combined sounds of a bubbling brook and a joyful 5 year old. My amazing husband started the campfire and handled all the cooking that morning for me. The kids were having a blast throwing pebbles into the brook and wanted to share their joy and discovery with me. When I mentioned the “toe-situation” Steve gave me some of his thicker socks and encouraged me to get in the van to warm up. A few minutes later, he brought me a plate of food that I didn’t have to make and he made sure I was doing fine while he took care of the kids.
The first perspective sounds awful!! But the second sounds almost blissful.
I’m sad to say that I chose in that moment to live in the first perspective, looking through a tainted lens. But now that I’m home, with a few moments to finally think through that and other experiences, I can see the difference. And I pray that I actually learn from it and choose next time (as in a few hours from now when I’m trying to get excited kiddos down for a nap) to intently look through the God-lens…see the blessing of my children, be thankful for the time I’ve had to myself, be kind and gentle to help them get ready for bed and live in a state of joy rather than exasperation.
Living with a chronic issue has required that I consider the power of perspective. Discover the God who heals in my latest book, Chronic Healing. Order your copy today!
Our dishwasher can be a bit finicky. There are seasons it works just fine, seasons it doesn’t work at all, and seasons it tends to melt the now-clean plastic dishes on the upper-rack. Right now, we’re in a season of having it not work at all and it’s just simply not a budgeted priority for us to fix or replace it at this time. So, hand-washing, here we are!
Hand-washing our dishes, when I’m very used to flying through quick loading and unloading, is showing me so much about myself, especially about issues I have with impatience. It is a task that stands absolutely against the inner-rush I usually feel about my homemaking. It laughs in the face of the much-prized multitasking badge worn by women everywhere! It forces me to slow down! And I’ve actually realized that not only do I not mind it…I actually often enjoy the 20-30 minutes standing there up to my elbows in soapy water.
The time required is a wonderful opportunity to be purposefully slow…after all, I don’t want to break my now-clean dishes. I can have a few moments to reflect on the day so far…if it’s the morning, to think about and pray over what needs to be accomplished this day. If it’s the afternoon, to ask God to help me with a grumpy attitude. After dinner, it’s a time to breathe and reflect: how did I treat my family today?
My favorite addition to this time is to prop open my copy of Thomas A Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. The one or two pages I can see on my windowsill are meaty enough to last me that whole time without even a need to turn the page! (And since I tend to be a speed-reader, this is yet another opportunity to slow things down!) It’s definitely helpful in the opportunity for insightful reflection while I stand there washing.
Very soon on my list of “want to read” is Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. I remember my favorite story about him as the sink fills with water – that his assigned task in the monastery was dish-duty. Yet, that’s when he found he was able to get a wonderful sense of the real Presence of God, despite such a so-called menial task.
God is glorious and does glorious things. But He is also in the simple things, the simple tasks.
He can be found everywhere, but it’s usually easier to find Him and sense His Presence when our pace is slower rather than faster. And speaking of needing to wash some dishes…here I go!
Autumn is my favorite season of the year! There is so much going on and to look forward to. And now, the Fall Feasts are upon us!
My background is definitely not Jewish, but I did marry a man of Jewish lineage. In researching many of the most important celebrations of the Jewish/Messianic heritage, I have found such a depth of revelation and a desire to share this amazing heritage with our kids. And, since Jesus was a Jew, I figured there may be some worthwhile things to learn from that rich heritage!
God loves patterns and He loves a good party! From the movement of the sun and moon to the cycle of the seasons…there are patterns penetrating every aspect of our world and lives. In the Old Testament, we see how God instituted various Feasts, fasts and Sabbaths for our benefit. The primary reason given is always the same: to remember that He is the Lord…the Sabbath day is also to actually rest and remember that He is our Provider (and not us!) Fasts remind us that He is our Sustainer and His Word, our very Bread!
The Feasts remind us of specific points in time when God has shown up in a HUGE way!
This is a work in progress in our family to get to where we incorporate each of these into our calendar year. But I look forward to bringing these into our family life with a creativity which honors God and reminds us of His ongoing Lordship.
Rosh Hashanah (aka: The Jewish New Year) is only days away! It is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the previous year and to dedicate the upcoming year to God, entrusting our lives, our finances, our ministries, and all that we put our hands to, to Him. The traditional foods of this celebration are sweet, in anticipation of the good things God will bring in our new year. My personal favorite is sliced apples dipped in honey!
So how is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?
There are really endless methods, but I don’t believe the important thing is to focus on the method so much as it is to focus on the memorial, the remembrance of God in our lives. For example, one Rosh Hashanah, we had extended family over for a huge, intricate meal. I hand-kneaded challah bread and made multiple traditional Jewish dishes. And I learned so much about the symbolism behind them. Another New Year, we stepped away from the daily distractions to spend some time in nature as a family and seek God’s vision for the upcoming year. You’ll see in Leviticus 23:23-25 how this celebration is also called the Feast of Trumpets. The blast of trumpets every day for 30 days was a reminder to examine yourself and return to God in every area of life. A great activity for kids is to make little trumpets out of paper towel rolls, decorate them and let them blow their trumpets.
Whether you follow the Messianic calendar or the traditional Christian calendar, or if the primary celebrations of your year are just Christmas and Easter, I want to encourage you to use these reoccurring holidays to remember and glorify our Lord.
It’s about the making of a memorial, not the limitations of a method.
By the way, Rosh Hashanah this year begins at sundown on October 2, 2016. And, if you’re interested in diving deeper into how the traditional Feasts impact us as believers today, I recommend The Torah Blessing by Larry Huch. It’s a fabulous resource with great ideas, without placing a burden of legalism on believers. Remember, it’s not about the method…it’s about establishing a memorial honoring the Lordship of God in your life.
Driving home today, my mind was caught up in the whirlwind of different, yet MAJOR, life decisions we are in the midst of facing. Should we do this, or do that? What are the pros and cons each way? If we did this, then what would happen? And so the whirlwind spun and spun.
Then one lyric from the kids’ worship music came through the speakers: “Whatever you do, do for the glory of God.” Whatever I do?? It seems so nonchalant…so belittling of these huge decisions looming before our family. That is, until the important part of that statement poked into my musings…the why!
Now, I’m not at all going to say that what we do doesn’t matter to God, because I believe it absolutely does. (10 Commandments, anyone?) But, maybe, just maybe we spend too much time thinking about the options set before us rather than the motivation behind those options.
Does this seem appealing because I’m afraid of doing that?
Am I considering that because I want the glory for myself?
Or, is my heart in a place that says, “whichever thing we choose, whichever path we take, we are determined that our motivation will come from hearts that long to glorify God, not ourselves?” Are we prepared to say, “Our why is NOT our fear or self-glory. Our why is God. Period.”
Life is full of these major decisions and many times it seems that the biggies come at us all at once! My prayer today for our family is that we would pay the most attention to God’s voice in all of this decision-facing…that we would give Him our fear and uncertainty and selfish ambition and make those life-changing decisions based on making Him the focus.
God can work with and re-direct the whats of our lives. But we establish our personal whys. What is your why today?
It is not like the movies at all...he was immediately attended to in the back of the ambulance, with the doors shut to me, the wife trying not to completely panic. Another medic asked me questions that I attempted to answer coherently and then I was directed to sit in the front seat. (You aren’t actually allowed to sit in the back with the patient…is anyone shocked that Hollywood might paint this differently?)
Since we were in town for my sister’s engagement party, I texted her from the front seat of the ambulance…yes, at 5:30 on a Sunday morning…to update her and see if she could help me with getting my car later. My only other thought at that moment was, “We need prayer – lots of it!” So, one lucky friend who was the last one to text me also got a wake-up text to spread the word and get all our “girls” praying like the warriors they are.
These practicalities done, the ambulance began moving in the darkness of the pre-dawn. I stuffed down all tears, thinking that I’d much prefer the driver focus on getting us to the hospital and not on some weepy woman sitting in the passenger seat! And I felt panic clawing at me.
But in the midst of the panic, the fear and the uncertainty, something came to the front of my mind: Psalm 23. When I was a young girl, laying in my bed at night, anytime I’d get scared, the only way I could get myself back to sleep was to recite Psalm 23 over and over and over again. It’s the one section of the Bible I know with the greatest familiarity, so, in a moment when my mind was racing, this one passage came into the fury and stilled my heart.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” Deceivingly simple words…six brief verses penetrated through the darkness threatening to envelop me. I knew in those few moments of chaos the kind of peace only God can bring. Whatever happened, I knew He was there and He would carry us through. I was hungry for peace because I had none. And God fed me His Word to fill up my emptiness.
And then He just showed off…
He showed how NOT alone I was: my sister met me at the hospital, only about 2 minutes past my arrival…my prayer warriors woke up early on that Sunday to do battle for us…our kids were well-cared for by loving family members…our friends and family were calling to check in…and best of all, I drove away from that hospital two days later with my amazing and healthy husband sitting right next to me.
When our son was born, I distinctly remember my first coherent thought as Steve placed him in my arms: “What on earth am I going to do with a boy?” This question had nothing to do with my son, but everything to do with me!
The elation and immediate mama-love was there and overwhelming! But, still, I wondered and in my wondering, I felt totally inadequate. What did I know about raising a boy and doing “boy things”?
Well, thankfully I have a God who equips and a husband who teaches and a son who apparently doesn’t realize my inadequacies! I don’t have to know it all ahead of time! (MAJOR revelation for this planner-girl here!!)
But what a difference our Father God is! He not only created us on purpose, was thrilled to have us enter into time on earth…but He also has had a plan from before our Day 1 began! He’s never once looked at me and wondered, “What am I going to do with her?” He’s known all along…my identity, my potential, my preferences, my personality…and how to direct all of it every day of my life. I am so thankful that He is such a Parent!
And as for my parenting…I’ve embraced the boyishness…hands in the dirt, climbing trees, using the couch cushions as landing pads for his high-jumping, super-hero capes, wrestling around and finding that my 5-year-old son can actually lift me off the ground if I haven’t braced myself. Not joking.
So when those days come, filled with overwhelm and uncertainty, God gives me some precious little moments when my little man squeezes my neck with all his strength, gives me a very gentle kiss and says, “You’re the best mama in the whole world!” And then this girly-mama gets teary-eyed and says, “You’re the best son in the whole world!”
I grew up in the church. So I thought I knew the formula – I thought I knew what to expect. But I was in for a huge surprise.
Studying abroad for a month sounded like a fabulous way to earn 6 credit hours the summer before my senior year of college. So, leaving Steve, my then-boyfriend, family, and friends behind, I went to London to study English literature. Steve was so sweet and helpful and wanted to be sure that I had a chance to attend church while I was away, so he did some searching and found a little church in Soho he suggested I visit.
I managed to convince two other students to join me for their Sunday evening service and, boy was I glad I didn’t go alone!
We walked through a low doorway, and into a basement-style room…no windows, just the entry door. The craziness of that evening, in all its fullness, still eludes me, but I do remember lots of interesting Jesus-flavor happening: a poem spoken in Korean (may I remind you we were in…London!), lots of drumming, various bizarre testimonies, and – the best part – finishing off the night with a church-wide conga line!
Coming from a traditional Southern Baptist background, my jaw dropped a bit. Granted, at the time, I was attending a mega-church back home that had a rock concert-like feel every weekend, so my tastes had expanded greatly, but this was a bit more than I’d bargained for. It was eye-opening to see the colors everywhere, on the walls and especially represented in the sixty or so people present…all kinds of beautiful colors and cultures! Once the shock abated, I just laughed.
The next day offered me the chance to laugh some more, because on Monday morning, our small class went for a tour of Westminster Abbey. The very height of the arched ceilings seemed to testify to God’s immenseness. After marveling at the exquisite architecture, and the literary heroes buried there, we sat in on a Gregorian-style service. And my musical heart pitter-pattered away listening to those harmonies.
But my mind laughed hysterically at the crazy dichotomy of Sunday evening in Soho versus Monday morning in the Abbey. How amazing God is! How creative and colorful! How expressive and worthy!
I felt His Presence in the warmth and fun and friendship in the basement church in Soho. I experienced His grandeur in the lifted praises echoing against cathedral ceilings in the Abbey. And in each place, He touched my soul so deeply, so profoundly that now, more than ten years later, I remember these moments and I smile. I smile because God is so beyond what my mind can conjure. He is both personal and enormous. He is both present and eternal. And He is most certainly hilarious!