Monday, November 30, 2009

Days 58 & 59

The more I lean into God, the more I realize the wickedness of my heart. That's not me lamenting in shame, rather it's a simple reality that I am thankful for as it leads me to repentance.

I am not a big "keeper". I like to shop and tend to gravitate towards nicer things but I also tend to give away and declutter fairly often. I keep the girl's toys and clothes weeded out and usually at least once a month I fill up bags to take to the Mission or Love and Care. There are VERY few things that mean the world to me but those that do I am firmly attached to. This is where my "stuff" matters more than it should.

It started with three simple crystal angels given to me by a friend 7 years ago after I gave birth to Salem - my surviving triplet. I plan to keep Salem's and eventually give her the ones for Brynna and Angel. I have so few physical reminders of them that for some reason these crystal angels have taken the place of what I do not have. I don't have pretty pictures or tangible items. I have memories of Brynna. I can see her in Salem everyday as she and Salem were identical.

I also have the memory of holding Angel, the many ultrasound pictures of her and Salem together and the pics the pathology department took yet I cannot share as they gruesome (long story I'll share another time).

So for some reason these simple yet beautiful crystal angels took the place of the lack of a physical reminder of their presence in my life.

Somehow they were not packed away properly as normally they would have been. This was during the time I had my weight loss surgery and it would be very uncharacteristic of me to have packed them away so unpoorly. So I began playing the blame game in my head. Thankfully most of it stayed in my head but it definitely effected my heart and I got angry and had to leave the house a while.

I made it to the van and cried. I was literally broken hearted. And I was SO angry at the carelessness that could have broken them. Grief consumed me. After a few minutes I realized I wasn't as angry about the literal angels as I was at what they symbolized. They symbolized my daughters. My daughters that I miss every single day. I usually don't let myself grieve enough even though I am trying to be more aware of this need. Then I realized as important as those beautiful angels were - they didn't replace my husband or Salem or Raina or even Brynna and Angel. The crystal angels didn't replace the simple memories I had. Their loss would have hurt but ultimately I will see Brynna and Angel again in heaven. Those angels are simply "stuff". Important yes - but stuff none-the-less.

I am not saying I didn't have a reason to be upset. I could even have been angry at the situation. But in my anger I sinned. (Ephesians 4:26).

Today's Reflection: Lord please forgive my anger. Help me be less attached to the things of this world. It's wonderful to have nice things but they won't bring me closer to You. They won't replace Angel and Brynna or make the grief less. They won't edify my soul or soothe my spirit. Only You can. Thank You Lord for the many blessings in my life. As I concentrate on those blessings, I pray that the cares of this world would slip further and further away.

***Note: Day 60 is a big post and I am tired. I will post it Tuesday as well as day 61.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day 57

I am still quite sad and a little overwhelmed by the emotions I am feeling. A lot of these emotions are bringing my fears to the light. If I am afraid of anything it's losing this life or losing someone that I dearly love.

Our life is a brief and fragile and an extremely amazing gift from God. Without God I don't think we are truly capable of understanding how precious life is. I know I've been a Christian since 1995 but only recently have I truly realized how precious life is.

I write this blog with Raina sitting in my lap. Right after I started typing she came up to me and said, "Hold me like a baby mama." How can I refuse such a sweet request?

Once upon a time I might have shushed her away and told her I'd hold her in a minute if I was busy working or even playing online. How lost I was. :( She's wearing a new Cinderella dress and it's scratching the heck out of my knees, but right now at this moment I want nothing more than to hold her like a baby for as long as she'll let me. I want to freeze this moment in time and just be with her.

Today's Reflection:
Thank You Lord for this precious gift of life and especially motherhood. I am overwhelmed by the responsibility but am up to the challenge of being the mother You have called me to be. Thank You Lord for my little girl's health and wellness in spite of their own struggles with Noonan Syndrome and Pervasive Development. I am blessed that You called me to be their mom. Thank You Lord for Salem and Raina. My miracle girls in more ways than one.

Day 56

Happy Thanksgiving. I am so wonderfully thankful for this short fragile life. It's been a hard few days and my emotions are raw but I am going to allow myself to feel them because they make me remember how precious and fleeting life is.

Rest in peace Evan - he died from conditions related to Noonan Syndrome. As you may know my 7 year old has NS so this really hits home.

Please pray for Skipper's family - she's a 28 year old sister-in-law of one of our employees and she died the day before Thanksgiving after unexpectedly collapsing.

Please pray for Matt Chandler - the preacher at the Village Church. He had a seizure on Thanksgiving day and a MRI showed a small mass on his frontal lobe. He'll have more tests and see a neurosurgeon soon.

Please continue to pray for Kathy. She has her 6th chemo treatment soon and hasn't been sick at all. She's dealing well and spending time with her family and enjoying life.

And my last thoughts go to Diana and Nick as this is the first Thanksgiving without Regina. My the peace of God sustain them.

What are you thankful for? Realize it, grab it, hold on to it. In all things give thanks.

Today's Reflection: Thank You Lord for my beautiful children and my husband. I am not sure I can come up with the words to say much else but this Thanksgiving day I am just truly humbled and thankful to be living this life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 55

I went to bed early last night so I had planned to post some other thoughts that I will share for another time. Today I want to post something that happened today.

I was SO excited today to realize that I didn't have to do ANYTHING for Thanksgiving. For the first time in 5 years I am not hosting. I am bringing items to my sister's house and will help clean up after, but I don't have to do the big stuff or clean my house before and after. I was feeling very free.

Then I got a call from Brian this morning that totally burst my bubble. One of our employee's 28 year old sister-in-law collapsed last night and is now on life support. It doesn't look like there is any hope. She has young children as well. So my wonderful husband instantly offered to help prepare Thanksgiving dinner for them.

Shamefully I must admit that my first thoughts were of resentment. Then God not so gently slapped my heart. I could literally almost feel it. I sucked it up, repented and said ok let's get this worked out. Then I put out a facebook message to some friends and so far we almost have a complete Thanksgiving meal to take to a grieving family.

I have so much to be thankful for and my heart hurts for this family's loss. I will blog about this some more tonight but I just wanted to share this with on this blog. I think it's easy to want to hide our sinful thoughts but when we expose them safely we really allow God to work in our lives on our deeper level.

Today's Reflection: Lord thank you for forgiving my selfishness. Thank you for rebuking my selfishness and reminding me our precious and fragile our human existence is. I am saddened at her family and especially her young children's loss. But I am reminded that You are faithful and all things come together for good to those that love the Lord. I pray that your peace will sustain them. As I grow in you I pray that you excise selfishness from my heart.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 54

I am feeling quite convicted about how I live my daily life - or rather how I don't live it. From the world's stand point I would probably be considered a good person. I care about my family, I work hard to be a good wife and mom, I help people, etc.

But would I live differently if I knew when I was going to die? Would I say yes to all that I say yes to, even the good things in life? I What would really matter? I keep thinking of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that says, "Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial." (NIV)

I am fully aware that God has called me to solitude and in that solitude I fellowship with God through prayer, worship and study. But at times I still let myself get trapped by things that are permissible but not beneficial. Today was one of those days. I trapped myself into something I should have said no to. It was something benign but I had a busy day thus it was one of the few windows I had to spend time with God. But I didn't. I am realizing that once you start spending regular time with God - your soul begins to crave it. I didn't feed my soul much today.

Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. (Psalms 39:4 NIV).

Matthew Henry's commentary regarding this verse says: Therefore let us pray that God would enlighten our minds by His Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts with His grace, that we may be ready for death every day and hour.

Am I ready to die at this moment? Will I leave unfinished business? Of course something would be unfinished. I am not even near to perfect. But if my heart and soul seek to follow Christ and I endeavor to do what He leads me to do then I believe that all things will come together for good for those I leave behind.

I've heard many Christians, including my husband and father-in-law, often say they would love to go to heaven today. To be honest I have to admit I am not ready to die today. I want to be a mother to my daughters and a wife to my husband. I want to be a minister of the gospel of peace. I am almost 42 years old and am JUST now starting to get things right. I want time. I want to serve God and have a long life. But rather than concentrating on what could happen I pray that God will sustain me with peace and guide and direct my steps so that each day fully counts. I want to live a life of no regrets. I want to live and love fully. As my pastor often says, live to love.

Today's Reflection: Lord help me live in the moment and engage the life You have called me to. Show me how to turn my intentions into actions and not be satisfied with sitting back and letting others do what I am called to do. Help me see the world through your eyes. Help me not neglect the daily opportunities that are right in front of me. Let me throw off everything that hinders me and the sin that entangles me so I may run the race laid out before me with perseverance. Lord thank You for Your conviction that sets my soul on fire and doesn't allow me to stagnate or become lukewarm. I want to live to live - to live with no regrets.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Days 52 & 53

Early in my journey towards spiritual, physical and emotional wholeness I often wondered who I was. Literally I felt lost. I was Brian's wife, the girls mom, the MOPS Coordinator. I felt as if my existence meant little and that anyone could do what I did. I think this is why I struggled with anxiety and the fear of dying. I know that's morbid but I think we all want to stamp our brief existence with something beautifully memorable.

But rather than creating something beautiful memorable, I felt as if I was lost in doing and being rather than being found through doing and being. I'm not sure if that makes sense in words but I literally felt defined by what I did. Now I realize I need to be defined by God and by allowing Him to define me and choose what I do - I am found.

I think it's very easy, for women especially, to lose their identity. God does call many of us to be wives and mothers. I believe it's one of the highest callings we can fulfill. But He never meant for us to become lost in our families. If we become lost in them or the other things that we do, they have become ultimate and God has faded to the background.

I didn't do this on purpose. It simply happened after years of infertility, IVF, a problem pregnancy and losing 2 triplets and then having two special needs kids. Everything else faded to the background. I am not saying my focus shouldn't have been on my kids and their needs, but my vision tunneled and all I could see was them and their needs. I lost sight of God, myself and even my husband.

So who I am? I am finally realizing that understanding my identity in Christ is absolutely essential to being successful at living a joyful Christian life. It is what should define me. I think I felt such shame at who I had been that I let that isolate me from God. Then I became subconsciously determined to be the best wife and mother I could be and while those are beautiful goals they left out the most important part - God. I couldn't fulfill that calling of being the wife and mother I was called to be without Him. I can only be accepted, secure and significant and therefore the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and minister of the Gospel of Peace I can be if I am fully dependent and enmeshed in God.

In my search for significance I found these scriptures and try to meditate on them:

The bible says I am accepted.
I am God's child. John 1:12
As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ. John 15:14
I have been justified. Romans 5:1
I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17
I have been bought with a price and I belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I am a member of Christ's body. 1 Corinthians 12:27
I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child. Ephesians 1:3-8
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. Colossians 1:13-14
I am complete in Christ. Colossians 2:9-10
I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:14-16

The bible says I am secure.
I am free from condemnation. Romans 8:1-2
I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances. Romans 8:28
I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God. Romans 8:31-39
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
I am hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-4
I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me. Philippians 1:6
I am a citizen of heaven. Philippians 3:20
I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me. 1 John 5:18

The bible says I am significant.
I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life. John 15:5
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit. John 15:16
I am God's temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16
I am a minister of reconciliation for God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm. Ephesians 2:6
I am God's workmanship. Ephesians 2:10
I may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

God can do all things without me but I am tired of sitting on the sidelines. I long to be significant for Christ and be used. I long to be close to God and to feel His presence each moment of each day.

Today's Reflection: Lord I long to be who You created me to be. I am a wife and a mother and I am proud of that calling. And in the world's eyes I could be a good wife and mom without You. But I am fully confident that I can only be the wife and mom I am called to be through You. I also believe that you are calling me to ministry. As You work in me - create in me an understanding of what that calling is. I will completely submit to Your plan. Thank you Lord for accepting me, securing me without condemnation and making my brief life significant as I follow You and serve You.

Note: I found the above scriptures on a website quite a while back but didn't not save the link. When I got ready to post this I couldn't find that website that I found it on but if that person reads this or anyone knows please contact me and I'll be sure to post the reference.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 51

I saw a movie on Friday that I've been waiting to see for AGES. The movie itself was great but as much as I enjoyed it all I could think about the entire movie was a line said toward the beginning. It has since stayed with me all weekend.

"Sometimes you have to love what's good for you."

There is so many ways to interpret this. We might interpret it to mean that loving what's good for us isn't fun or loving what's good for us isn't what we want. Why is it hard to love what's good for us? On my Day 33 post I think I touched on this some. I previously wrote: I have often been that one sheep that God ran out searching for. He always came for me. He always held me and nurtured me back to spiritual and emotional health. And along the way I finally realized that if I embraced the fences, life would be so much better.

If I embraced the love of God and the boundaries He places in my life, then that would ultimately be the best love I could ever embrace. Joy will follow. Peace will follow. Intimate relationship with God will follow.

I've been on the other side of that fence thinking I wanted what I shouldn't have was so much better than what I did have or even lacked. But I found out the hard way that the grass was seldom greener and the consequences were much harder and costly than I had anticipated.

I think loving what's good for us parallels itself into many aspects of our lives. On January 5, 2009 I weighed 232.6 pounds. I simply loved food and had very little will power in controlling what I consumed. I was also a Type II Diabetic with an A1C that was barely normal and my cholesterol and triglycerides were dangerously high. The previous October my Dr. had told me that I had a 20% chance of having a heart attack in 10 years. I started trying to diet and work out but I had zero discipline and no strength or stamina. I was miserable but I kept eating. It comforted me, yet it was destroying me. I loved what was killing me. The food itself wasn't evil but how I used food to comfort me gave it a place of ultimate control in my life. Rather than finding comfort and peace in God. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol or sex, I turned to food among other things.

I decided I had a short amount of time to fix a problem that I had developed over my entire adult life. I went to what many may consider an extreme. After being overweight for over 23 years I had weight loss surgery - a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. I certainly wish I could have had the discipline and willpower to do it on my own but I didn't. I needed a tool. My sleeve gave me the tool. It gave me restriction to where I couldn't over-eat and after losing a mere 30 pounds I had the energy and stamina to work out and eventually started running. Less than a year later I weight 144. My diabetes is gone and my cholesterol and triglycerides are normal. I have my life back. I don't regret anything - except not taking control of my life sooner.

The same can be said of my relationship with God. I turned to God and was saved at one of the worst points in my life. It was 1995 and I was definitely at rock bottom. I don't remember having this miraculous epiphany or even feeling God's presence but I did believe in God. During this time, I met another woman at this time who had even worst circumstances than I did and she was so joyful. She often say the joy of the Lord was her strength. One night I told God that I wanted to be happy and at peace like Betty was. That was my beginning. I only wish that I had been discipled at that point. But I was fairly isolated and I thought I could do it on my own. I didn't realize that I needed a tool that would lead me into a deeper relationship with God. I stayed a baby Christian and fed on milk long after I should have been eating meat. I just didn't use the tools given to me.

Almost 15 years later I am using those tools. As well as the Holy Spirit guiding and directing me, God's word is a tool. Praise and worship music for me is a tool as is prayer. I am learning to love these tools and use them daily. I am learning to love what's good for me.

Today's Reflection: How simple it is to love what is good for me yet I made it so hard. My stubborn will gets in the way at times. Lord help me crucify my flesh on a daily basis so I can see You and not be distracted by the enemy's schemes. Your word says that whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things (Philippians 4:8 NIV). Help me take captive thoughts that would lead me away from Your love. Help me redefine what I think and what I choose to be a part of. I want to love what's good for me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 50

Recently I have felt a lot of release from fear, shame and anxiety. I think the anxiety is one of the things I haven't touched on. I can almost remember when it started. Raina was about 7 weeks ago and all the sudden I couldn't nap with her anymore. I remember being anxious that something would happen. The house might burn down or Salem might be awake without me knowing it and hurt herself. I existed on a ridiculous amount of sleep. Even when I could sleep, I seldom did easily or restfully. Anxiety was growing deep within me. I think this sleep deprivation unearthed a secret fear at the lack of control that I had.

I became untethered. I fell asleep in a car wash. I couldn't get work done. I couldn't concentrate. I wasn't spending quality time with my 3 year old. I was just shuffling through my day trying to get the endless things I had to get done completed. I can remember having vivid thoughts and dreams of me and my family being killed in horrific circumstances and thoughts of me leaving my precious girls behind or them leaving me behind. I felt as if death were stalking me. I grew terrified to go anywhere. I worried when Brian wasn't at home. I had always been somewhat of a control freak but it truly grew within me during this time. It was a completely earth shattering time. I wasn't centered at all and I felt hopeless. The earth shattering feelings came about because God wasn't ultimate in my life and because I didn't turn to Him as the author and perfecter of my faith. And the enemy took full advantage of that.

In an effort to survive and make it through this anxious time, I started stuffing away my fears. I soon started turning my emotions off because I felt so out of control when I felt them. Thus, if I couldn't control my circumstances I would control my emotions. Later I realized that this was a reoccurring theme in my life. I have packed away so many fears and emotions over the years that I imploded from the inside out. Now for the first time in my life I am learning to experience and express those emotions and not be afraid of them. I need to acknowledge and even embrace them so I can let them go. That doesn't really sound like it makes sense, but how can you let something go that you never touched? You can't. It just stays around hovering looking for a place to be and take hold. But perhaps if I embrace it, see where it comes from and then let it go it will realize it has no place to be and will stop looking for one.

I am not sure if this is biblical but I don't think it's un-biblical. To me it makes sense. I can't deal with or push away something that I don't acknowledge or embrace. I literally have to look it in the face. Actually, most of the things I am terrified of aren't based in reality, or if they are it's a distorted reality. Thus when I acknowledge and embrace those fears and emotions, then I come to face to face with what it really is and I am no longer afraid for the most part.

The bible says that God didn't give me a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV). He gives me the power to meet difficulties and dangers. He gives me a spirit of love to give me peace and carry me through opposition. He slays my fears if I allow Him to.

The importance of this has become hugely apparent as I am working on this same issue with Salem. I repeat this scripture to her daily and I pray it over her as well. She tends to worry and be anxious over many things. It's hard to temper her fears and questions with peace and faith without acknowledging them. I have to let her talk them through, not passively put them away by saying don't worry honey everything will be ok. The latter is like a band-aid on a gaping wound - there is no healing value. It leaves her with more questions but feeling as if it's wrong to ask them.

Instead, I try to engage, listen and let her talk. Sometimes it can go on forever and it's hard not to grow frustrated. But I have to remember she's only 7. So we talk and I try to listen and listen well. She already has 2 Timothy 1:7 memorized so we repeat it and then pray. That helps. She feels safe knowing I will always listen to her and I am continually confirming in her that God is always with her and He is the source of her peace. I think for the most part she just needs to verbalize her fears.

If Salem needs to verbalize those fears, I probably need to as well. Even if they seem absurd. And some of them really do seem ridiculous. Yet how can God comfort me and give me peace if I don't turn to Him? He can't.

Today's Reflection: I long to walk in peace continually and to do that I must not walk in fear. They cannot coexist. Your word says to be bold and be strong for the Lord my God is with me. You are here right beside me - in moments where my anxiety is based in nothingness and in moments when fear is reasonable due to my current reality. Lord I pray that in the moments where my fear is based in nothing that You would show me how to take those thoughts captive. I pray that You would help me process them and see where they are coming from so I can deal with them, but then to rebuke it and get rid of it. Please deliver me from fear. Let it not root back down in my life. And in those times that fearful circumstances are my reality, I pray that You will strengthen me and sustain me with Your peace that passes ALL understanding. You have not given me a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 49

The word clearly says there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 NIV). We’ve all broken the moral law of God. We are all incapable of keeping it. But Jesus has set me free when He died on the cross for me. This is active not passive. He is actively setting me free from the snares and darkness of this world.

Oh my Lord - you mercy overwhelms me. I run to You - where I belong. This world holds no allure for me. The rose colored glasses are removed and I see who I am without You. That is not someone that I want to be. I am so thankful that you are my Lord and Savior. Everyday I will be thankful and remember that there is now NO condemnation from the past, present or future. Jesus paid my debt in full.

I keep thinking about my friends and family. I have a husband who has an amazing testimony of being released from drug addiction among other things. Its been over 15 years. He readily shares his testimony and God uses it mightily.

Another friend had an abortion as a teenager and went on to share her story with others and now has three beautiful children.

Another friend had an affair, but God restored her marriage after she went to her husband and asked for forgiveness.

I could go on and on. I've been the one to tell others to not walk in shame and to not the enemy destroy their future by keeping them in the past. It was all lip-service as I did hide in shame. The enemy beat me up on a daily basis. Thus rather than deal with the heart of the matter I simply did. I struggled internally but did work for God externally. But there was not a deep abiding relationship with God. Until now. The past really is the past. It's not who I am today and I would wage to say that most people who really know me might be shocked about my past but they wouldn't close the door to me. Because they know me. And because God walks before me. He covers me.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That means ME. No condemnation. NONE. Zilch. Nada. Zip. None.

Today's Reflection: Lord I know that eventually you'll have me share my story. That used to terrify me. I used to literally shake and cry and fight against it. But today I am not scared. Today I am at peace and that fear has been swept away. It lurks trying to trap me but it cannot. You have delivered me. I long to be used by You and to have You glorified in my life. I need Your love more than I need someone else's acceptance. You are my very reason for existing. I am rooted in Your love and mercy and in Your mercy I find rest. I will walk in truth. I will not be afraid. Your truth will be a banner before me. Thank you Lord.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 48

Boundaries are very hard for me. I either have none at all or I throw up walls. Sigh. Neither is healthy. I really have to work EVERY single day at reaching out to people, even the important people in my life and doing so continually. I tend to want to give up or give in. Both are the unhealthy polar opposites of what healthy boundaries mean. .

So I've been trying to figure out why I tend to throw up walls. And when I start trying to figure things out I turn to God and His word to see what He says. To be honest I really haven't found a lot yet. I am sure there is something there but I am a layman not a biblical scholar. Thus I have to spend more time figuring this out. The only thing I can find thus far is that biblically speaking I know that we are not to be unequally yoked. Previously I've always seen this in the context of a Christian marrying/dating a non Christian. But what about friendships and familial relationships? Can that apply somehow? I am still seeking but this is where my thoughts are at right. Thankfully my walk with the Lord is a continual learning process. I pray daily that if I don't understand something or if I understand something incorrectly that God will show me His truth.

So back to boundaries...in an effort to maintain healthy boundaries at times I go to far. I do reach out. I've really stepped outside my comfort zone since early summer and have been reaching out to people that previously I would never have shared my life with. Women friends especially. And some of these relationships have been to develop beautiful. Yet sometimes, when things get uncomfortable or I feel unsafe, it is still fairly easy to throw a wall up. I literally know when it happens usually. I don't like it. I do this in unsafe situations but I also tend to do it when I am probably not in an unsafe situation. That's where fear comes in.

So how do I find that delicate balance? I think it relates to the idea of being in the world not of it. Basically being counter culture yet not anti culture. In my effort to be a light in the world I am IN the world. I have to be in the world, how else could I minister and reach the loss? I cannot isolate myself from the world or relationships at large and expect for God to use me. That simply doesn't make sense. One of the keys for me is to not allow the darkness of this world to cloud my vision. In some ways I have to tunnel my vision, narrow my focus, and not be sidetracked by all the "stuff". By being counter culture as opposed to being anti culture that means having a judgmental heart. The word says, "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." (Romans 15:7 NIV). It's such a fine line. I am definitely not balanced and I fall right off some days but the good news is I now know that line is there.

When I apply the idea of being counter culture as opposed to anti culture to my relationships I find that for me that means healthy boundaries are necessary or I will get sucked back in and lose all the ground I've attained. There are times when you have to sever unsafe relationships. But for the relationships I am working through healthy boundaries are more appropriate.

Without healthy boundaries depression, co-dependency, anxiety, and other side effects crop up and tend to rule my life. Enforcing personal boundaries is self protective and healthy yet it keeps the lines of communication open. It's healthy. It's helpful. It's not hopeless.

But the person on the other side of the boundary may not find it so healthy or helpful or hopeful. Often they feel attacked, shut down or shut out. At times. that is a perfect ministry opportunity. Yet for the most part that's when I tend to put up my wall. If they challenge it, or try to force me to do something I cannot do or simply don't "get it" then my tendency is to shut down. But I don't want to shut down. I need to experience these emotions and deal with them healthily rather than running from them. And by imposing a healthy boundary yet still engaging in a healthy dialog and relationship I am accepting them the way God accepted me. That's what I am called to do. Pulling back and maintaining healthy boundaries doesn't mean pulling back and shutting down. I've lived in that isolation a long time. It's lonely and for me it bred fear and anxiety. I don't want to live that way anymore.

I want to quickly clarify that we need boundaries in all our relationships - not just the ones that seem obviously unhealthy or unsafe. I need healthy boundaries with my spouse, my children, my friends and my family. They help keep me focused on God so He can be ultimate in my life, as opposed to everyone else and their needs being ultimate.

I don't think I ever had healthy boundaries before starting this journey to wholeness. Actually it was this time last year, the week before Thanksgiving, that I started therapy with T. It was the hardest thing I ever did. Yet it's been the most healing thing God has ever used in my life. Part of that process has been finding myself - finding Leah. I literally had no idea as to who I was. I tried to be all things to all people. I literally did it all. I took care of everyone except for myself and that became destructive. That made everyone else ultimate in my life. If everyone else is ultimate where does that leave God? To be brutally honest, he basically fell off the list.

I started developing a healthy sense of self by establishing boundaries and by taking care of myself and spending time with God. It doesn't mean I don't fulfill my responsibilities as a wife and mother or the many other roles I am called to. It simply means I don't fulfill all of those roles at the expense of my spiritual, physical and emotional wholeness or at the expense of God being ultimate in my life.

Boundaries define me from the other people in my life. I am not lost in them or their struggles or their successes. Setting clear and healthy boundaries starts young thus I have a huge learning curve. Thus the reason I tend to throw up walls where boundaries should be. I am unlearning this behavior - I just find the process slower than I want it to be. It's still somewhat unnatural as well. The good thing is I have greatly improved. I tend to talk about my feelings more without expectation. I say no when I need to say no without feeling guilty and I say yes when I need to say yes without feeling forced.

But now that I've experienced what healthy boundaries are like I want more. I want to flow in the knowledge that I can be all that I am called to be without sacrificing my sense of self or my spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. If I focus on God and taking care of myself - I am so much more able to be all that I am called to be.

It's so simple yet I make it SO hard.

Today's Reflection: Boundaries are hard for me God. Help me see when I am throwing up walls. Quicken my spirit to be sensitive and accepting without being emotional emeshed in another person's issues. Help me help others without it leeching my emotional and spiritual wholeness. I long to be reachable. I want to be someone who is not afraid. I want to be able to share how I feel without guilt or anger over taking me. I want to be accepting of others, even those that have hurt me, the way You have accepted me. Perhaps a part of the problem with me throwing up walls has to do with forgiveness. Help me walk in forgiveness daily. Lord I cannot do this without you. In my own strength I am a pitiful mess. In You I can do ALL things because You strengthen me.

Day 47

At times I feel as if my emotions are all over the place. This past weekend I felt devastated by the harshness of some of the things in my life. Yet God revealed to me I am not hopeless - I am not alone. I am blessed.

In the New International Version, Jeremiah 29:11 says, "I know the plans I have for declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." In the KJV those words are: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."

Thoughts of peace - an inward peace where I am not anxious about anything. The peace of God that truly transcends all understanding and guards my heart.

Philippians 4:8-9 says: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

If I dwell on things that are are worthy - peace will reign in my life. When I give in to the cares of this world and worry about the things that I cannot change, anxiety will reign. My emotions are all over the place because I am not fully living in this word.

So that is where my struggle is. How do I walk in this word? It literally takes practice. When I find myself worrying or imagining awful things happening, I have to take those thoughts captive. I need to recognize where they come from and deal with it but I cannot let it reign in me. I cannot let those anxious, fearful thoughts feed me spiritually. I have to hope. I have to believe. If I hope and believe on the beautiful things that God has told me to concentrate on, I am liberated into the fullness of God. Once I've experienced that liberation, I experience the Glory of God.

I see the Glory of God as a covering. It protects my mind and my heart and my soul. The Glory of God is like healing oil that repairs my brokenness. The Glory of God is a literal shelter, my hiding place. Living in the Glory of God allows God to be everything He needs to be in my life. My relationships on this earth are important but my relationship with Him is ultimate. As He becomes ultimate, the joy of the Lord fills me regardless of my circumstance and that joy becomes my strength. When my joy becomes rooted in the glory of God I cannot be shaken. Life may be hard, tragic things may happen, but my joy is complete and that promise is eternal.

In the NIV, Nehemiah 8:10 says, "the joy of the lord is your strength". I've always concentrated on this. I've prayed it. But I missed what was RIGHT before it. It says, do not grieve for the joy of the lord is your strength.

Basically at this time the people were grieving because they were wounded with the words of the law. When they heard the law they understood their sinfulness. They wept to think that they had offended God and sinned against Him. They wept over their guilt. They were then healed and comforted with words of peace. It was well that they were affected by the word of God but if they yielded completely to their mourning it would consume them. Sorrow for sin must not hinder our joy in God. Instead they should put on the garments of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness.

In Isaiah 61:3 it says, "that for all those who mourn in Zion, they will be given beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."

Joy is SO much more than we realize. And so much more than I can talk about here, even more than I understand. We shouldn't be joyful out of performance or duty. It needs to truly abide within us. The joy of the Lord will rise and grow within us and arm us against the enemy. We take away the enemy's power when we let joy rule our life. In joy we are able to carry out the Great Commission. We are able to minister and comfort and help those who feel helpless.

Today's Reflection: Out of the brokenness of my life I pray that you replace beauty for ashes. I give thanks through my brokenness I was led to you. I give thanks that you delivered me out of sin and out of harms way. I thank you Lord that my time of mourning has passed and that you have filled me with joy. That it will fill me soul and spill over affecting those around me and that it will protect me against the enemy. Because of Your great love, I am healed. I am like a broken pitcher dropped on the floor in a hundred pieces. You took each piece and put me back together. I was shattered and anyone else would have swept the broken pieces away. But you saw beauty. You saw how I could be put back together and used. I can still see the cracks from the broken pieces but regardless of the scars I am usable. I am made beautiful and purposeful. I am beyond humbled to experience Your love and Your saving grace. A mere thank you is not enough. My life is yours.

Days 44, 45 & 46

Have you ever felt hopeless? I have. It was completely consuming, overwhelming and exhausting. I could see myself or someone else or even a relationship falling apart or imploding and there was literally nothing I could do to salvage the situation. Hopeless means without hope - therefore there is no possibility of comfort of success. I have felt that lack of comfort. I have felt ill at ease with the world in general and with those in my life and had zero hope that things would ever get better.

This weekend I started to feel hopeless. And I quickly felt God tell me that I am not without hope. That my hope is within Him. That is the difference between now and then. I realized that while I am still experiencing things that I cannot fix - I am helpless not hopeless. There is a HUGE difference between helplessness and hopelessness. When I realized the difference I was amazed and my faith flourished. When a situation is hopeless it doomed to fail. There is no hope for help to come. Helpless basically means to be incapacitated. To me helpless infers that I can't do anything but help can come. The word even says help will come. My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:2 NIV)

But what about hope? Without hope life seems empty. How do you turn away from hopelessness? It's not something something tangible we can reach for. At some point - we just have to believe that something positive will happen. I believe in God and I believe that true hope leads to God but even if you can't believe in God yet - find something to hope for. Hopefulness feeds our faith. The bible says, "...faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

In this scripture, faith is defined as trust, firm persuasion, belief, confidence or conviction. The word substance means assurance which literally means a standing under, support. Thus faith, in relation to hope, is assurance. It stands under and supports our hope. Thus, my hope is only as secure as my faith is strong.

Faith is the principle by which I live. My faith is secure in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I BELIEVE. When I believed and hoped in nothing else I found hope that in Christ's sacrifice. That simple knowledge carried me for years even though my faith didn't seem to grow. But as I spend time with God and pray and study, my faith now abounds. If my faith is secure in Jesus, then it lends to the development of hope that things will get better. As you get closer to God your faith builds - thus your hope builds. As you hope for a better life, better circumstances and for answers to prayer - your faith builds. I know mine has. Faith and hope have a symbiotic relationship.

In the past I have felt hopeless and that fed dissatisfaction and a lack of faith in my life. Today, I still cannot see the answers to the complicated issues I am dealing with but I see and feel God at work. Yes, I do feel helpless. But my faith in God assures me that as I trust in Him and stand on His word, He is there to guide and lead me through and that builds my faith in the things I cannot see but are yet to come.

Today's Reflections: Lord it was a hard weekend. I was angry, I cried, I even felt completely alone. I felt separated and set apart from those I love because of things I cannot explain on this blog. But in the midst of that loneliness You were there. You nourished me with Your love. You comforted me in Your sweet embrace. Thank You Abba Father for Your complete love. I only endure because of You. I only believe in You. Even when the world doesn't make sense, You do. Thank you Lord for opening my eyes and revealing Yourself to me. I never want to grow accustomed to the darkness again. Thank You for giving me hope in the things to come.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Slight Update

I had a very hard and tiring weekend and was in Lubbock today to see my therapist. I just got home. God has ministered a lot to me the past few days and I have a lot to journal about but will do so Tuesday morning. I am so tired.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 43

It's fairly easy to get sucked in by false teachings. Over the years I've seen and heard some pretty odd things preached in the name of Jesus. But more than the obvious oddities that clearly do not line up with the word of God are the subtleties. The things harder to catch that we take as gospel.

Growing up in church I was never really taught to search out God's word on my own. It was kind of unspoken that you just took what the preacher said to heart. Even as a young adult in the late eighties that would have been hard for a layman to do. Today its much easier. Anyone can go to Crosswalk.com or other Bible Study Tool websites and search Hebrew and Greek meanings and read commentaries and word studies. But with knowledge and ability comes accountability. Sometimes I am not sure I want that accountability. But its a part of my commission as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I can't take the responsibility of teaching and leading others without accepting the responsibility of knowing the Word of God. We do hear what the preacher says and its easy to believe. They are the preacher after all. They usually do have some sort of seminary training. But for the most part, I believe we are responsible for the Word being truth in our life. Ignorance is not an excuse. If we believe something that was erroneously taught to us - we are still at fault. We are the ones we believed.

I heard a Matt Chandler sermon today on Luke Chapter 17 that deals with this subject. He says men and women who are false teachers have a lot in common:

1. They are always articulate and intelligent and at some level charismatic. Morons don’t lead people astray. (Gotta love how Matt tells it like it is).
2. They start out orthodox and have some semblance of success in ministry.
3. They usually proclaim that they are faithful to the scriptures.
4. There is a lot of ambiguity in their teaching. They ask questions rather than directly teaching. They don’t outright lie – but they don’t tell the complete truth.
5. They speak the language of love, peace and unity and anyone that says what they are teaching is false is considered to be attacking the love, peace and unity of the church. They are usually morally upright and giving. And it’s fine to preach love, peace and unity as long as it lines up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
6. There is almost always money and power to be gained in what they are teaching.
7. They do it stealthily and it can be very minor at times. That’s how they distract and deceive us.

I personally think some teachers are just mean well but are deceived thus they perpetuate a false teaching. I do believe there is grace and mercy, but as I said before I do not believe that ignorance is an excuse for perpetuating false teaching. I know in my zeal as a new believer, I tended to believe whatever I was told. It didn't take long before I started questioning some of the things I had heard or read. And always know - questioning is good. A person isn't infallible just because they are a successful preacher, teacher or acclaimed author. The Holy Spirit began quickening my spirit when I would heard something that didn't line up with the word of God. Back then I just didn't know what to do with that discernment.

The word says to pay attention to yourselves – there are false teachers out there. I certainly don't want to become a false teacher, even inadvertently. But how do we pay attention to ourselves? I think the key is the word of God. We have to know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is and what it's not. And we know this by delving in and digging deep into the word of God.

Wow how intimidating. In 2 Peter 3:15-18 it says some things in scripture are hard to understand and the ignorant and unstable distort it as they do other scriptures. I find it strangely comforting that in the word it says - it says the word is hard to understand. It makes me feel less intimated. But a warning follows that says those that distort it do so at there own destruction.

If I let myself get anxious that's where the intimidation surfaces. I am not the next Beth Moore or Margaret Feinberg. Their love for and knowledge of the scriptures astound me. But it's overwhelming. So rather than striving to be like Beth or Margaret or a mentor or a friend, I am trying to be Leah. Just Leah. And I am beginning to like and feel comfortable with who I am and who I am becoming. And the ironic part is, by becoming comfortable in who I am, I give into my gifts and do not hold back. I may not be called to become a biblical scholar, but I am confident that God will lead and direct me to the truth through His word.

When I first started this journey of solitude I was unsure how it would play out. I knew at some point I'd be sharing my complete testimony. But the day to day aspect of prayer and worship and study seemed daunting. I had a wide variety of teachings and bible studies to choose from but felt let to start with Matt Chandler and the book of Luke. I felt like I needed to start fresh from a gospel and this seemed like the perfect starting place. How often can you get a great preacher on podcast going over an entire book of the new testament? It's been great discipleship for me. It's far easier than doing it on my own. Matt doesn't know it but he's been my own personal biblical interpreter lately. Don't get me wrong - he's just a man and not infallible. But if he says something I am unsure about, I pause iTunes, click on over to Crosswalk and figure it out for myself. Its not as hard as I thought it would be. I was making it way more complicated than it was.

The word of God isn't meant to intimidate. It's meant to illuminate our entire being. I am edified in the knowledge that I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I may not be called to be a theologian but Jesus gives me the strength to search out and fall in love with the Word of God. It took a simple step of faith.

If I am called to minister to others, which I believe I am, then I have the responsibility to know the word of God. Rather than living intimidated I want to live illuminated. And to do that I have to be challenged and encouraged. I cna do this. God in me can do this. At times I might be overwhelmed and humbled but not intimidated. Never again will I allow intimidation and feelings of inadequacy to separate me from what God is calling me to do. Intimidation is a deceitful trick from the enemy. I rebuke it.

Today's Reflection: Lord You truly amaze me. Your grace and mercy astound me. Thank you Lord for calling me. You do not call the equipped but you equipped the called. You are not concerned with what I think my limitations are. You have called me thus you will equip me. Thank You for keeping my eyes focused on You. Thank You for softening my heart and turning me towards You. As I turn away from my family being ultimate in my life, paradoxically I become a better wife, mother, daughter and sister. As I seek You through prayer and worship and Your word, You presence envelopes me and heals me. Thank You for never letting go of me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 42

It's amazing how God is using my young children to minister His truths to me. My 4 year old Raina has had a limited vocabulary due to speech issues related to Pervasive Development. Since June her speech has literally exploded and she went from simple 2 and 3 word phrases to being able to look at us (for the most part) and hold conversations with us. It's been amazing to watch her blossom.

Today we were leaving school and I can't remember what brought this up, but she told me she liked me. I said I like you too baby but to be honest I didn't really think much past that moment. Tonight at bedtime she was having a huge meltdown. She was very tired and had been moody all day. So I was in the bedroom with her, cuddling and loving on her and I said, "Night Night Honey". She grabbed hold of me and said, "But I like you mommy, don't go." My heart melted and I said, "I like you too Raina," and of course I stayed with her.

Since she's been asleep that phrase has been turning over in my head constantly. I like you mommy! How adorable. But how uncommon for a 4 year old to say. I remember longing to hear her say I love you. I seemed like it took forever for her to even sign the words but she did and then started saying I love you in early Spring. She's very affection with me and says it countless times. I love hearing those sweet words and I am quick to respond and offer the words before she tells me. The I like you is new. And I wonder if she knows there is a difference?

One of the Greek words for love is phileo and means brotherly love. To me this implies something different than the agape love - the God kind of love. Phileo love implies affection and attachment - liking someone. We are commanded to love people as we love ourselves. To love and see people the way God sees them. I am told to agape love my enemies. But even though I love my enemies and turn the other cheek - I usually do not have a relationship with them. When I think of cultivating relationships - I think of phileo love.

I think the epiphany is I want to be likable. And in that moment when she said, "I like you mommy," I felt validated as a mommy and as a person. I think a part of my troubled past is that I was a people-people, often willing to do whatever necessary to ensure love. Yet it so often back fired on me that I turned the opposite direction. I think I thought it didn't matter if I was liked. That perhaps it was a vain desire to want to be likable.

I know there is a fine line wanting to be likable and needing to be likable and becoming a people-pleaser. But I have to admit it. I want to be liked. I definitely want to be loved by my husband and children and family and friends. But being liked seems so much more intimate. Love at times is dutiful especially when, for example, we are acting in obedience and loving our enemy. Liking someone feels natural. You either do or don't. Being liked seems to say that people see the "real" me.

I want relationships like John and Jesus, Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David. They had close-knit relationships that spoke more of phileo love. Agape love is naturally a part of that, because how can we truly love outside of God. But phileo love adds an entirely different dimension to a relationship.

Wanting to be liked means I want to find favor with God and with mankind. I want God's love but I want Him to like me as well. I want that deep abiding relationship with God that certainly speaks of lordship, but I want it to encompass something more. Something deeper. He will be Lord of my life. But if that relationship transcends into everything I need - friendship is a part of that. Thus likability is a part of that.

In the past few months, God has put several women in my life that I am trying to build relationships with. At times I still feel fairly unlikable. Yet I am starved for deep relationships. But rather than being unlikable I wonder if it's because I seem unreachable. I do tend to put up walls and not let people in. What irony. But I am working on tearing the walls down and developing those relationships.

I pray that I am not seen as a people-pleaser. I think they must end up with superficial relationships. When you are a people-pleaser there is no depth to your relationships because people don't know who you really are. And if they don't know who you are - how can phileo love develop?

I want to be seen as kind-hearted and compassionate as well as sincere and trustworthy. That's where the phileo love comes in. It digs beneath the surface of our hearts and shows who we really are. God commands me to love (agape). But I think phileo love stands together with agape love and together they enable me to develop that likability that will in turn help me develop the close relationships I need in my life.

Today's Reflection: Lord I pray kindness and truth never leave me. That I will bind them around my neck and write them on the tablet of my heart. Only then will I find favor with you and mankind. (Proverbs 3:3-4). I pray that people will see You in me. I want to have close friends that I can be completely me with. Sisters in Christ that I can laugh with...cry with. That we can "do life" together. I pray that You give me the strength to reach out to people in faith, tearing the walls in my life down.

Day 41

I had a wonderful day or praise and Bible study, but then things grew sad and complicated and even hurtful. Among other things I really miss Nannie. She is celebrating her 83rd birthday in heaven. She's been with Jesus just a little over a month. And while I am VERY thankful she's with Jesus and no longer in pain, I do miss her.

For now I think I am going to bed and pray as I sleep. I will be back Wednesday night and will post more about Day 41. (Note: I decided not to edit the actual details of the day but added the reflection).

Today's Reflection: Lord I am still trying to figure out my complicated and tiring Tuesday. It started off so beautiful with amazing praise and worship and bible study. As the day carried on I felt more tired and over-whelmed by my to do list. I had to put away my bible study and get to work. I wanted to stay in that moment with you. Then I realized it was Nannie's birthday and I started missing her. Then the day progressed and grew complicated and hurtful and I just didn't know how to get back to where I was with you during the morning.

Instead of trying to figure it all out, help me let go and turn it over to You. Help me see You in those moments. You are right there with me, even in the saddest and most frustrating moments. You will carry me through. Please help me let go. Please guide me through it, so I won't get stuck and stagnant in my grief, sadness or pain. I often tell Salem she's not having a bad day but a bad moment. Remind me to speak those words to myself. You are my abiding joy! My joy is not based on circumstances. I can't always change the circumstances, but I can change my reaction to them.

Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 40

I am a fairly passionate person. Those those know me might say I am an advocate for those in need or for children or for young moms. Outside of being passionate for my family, I am passionate about car seat safety, Noonan Syndrome Awareness, Pervasive Development, MOPS, etc. The list could go on and on. I tend to go overboard and indulge my love for research when I become passionate about something. I could literally spend hours reading articles that help me define what I may or may not believe about something I am so passionate about. I can easily spend hours passionately researching whatever has piqued my interest.

I want that passion to transcend into and couple with my relationship with God. I want to develop a passionate to study God, explore His word and have Him be ultimate in my life. Then it comes time to passionately explore and develop my relationship with God.

I wonder everyday why certain things pique my interest yet some days I have to force myself to relax and rest in the presence of God. Today was one of those days. Just a few moments ago, I was sitting here wondering what I had learned today when a song by Delirious called My Soul Sings shuffled onto my iTunes playlist. It's a beautiful praise and worship song that I've always loved. As I sat here and listened and sang outloud with Delirious I felt the rush of the Holy Spirit flood my body. It hastened me to remember a beautiful experience I had yesterday at church.

I remember hearing the familiar melody start yesterday as our praise band began playing the same song. I remember closing my eyes and giving myself over to the Holy Spirit as I wantonly praised God. I literally felt the rush of the Holy Spirit flood over me as I started singing. I felt tears stream down my cheeks as I lifted my hands high. There is nothing else to say except that I felt God passionately and completely in that moment. I long to feel that everyday all day.

Some might think it's naive to believe it's possible to feel this way at all times. But I want that naivety as I journey with God. I have spent enough years without feeling His presence and living in the world's version of reality as opposed to living in the presence of God. I want to feel God's presence as I clean my house, run errands and work out. I want to passionately be led my God in all aspects of my life. I want to feel God COMPLETELY everyday. I don't think that's naive at all. I think God wants me to want that. Why else would He start me on this journey of solitude so I could find Him?

Why have I resisted giving myself passionately and completely over to God in the past? To be honest I am not sure. It was part fear, part shame, part pride. But as I sit here right now, I wonder how I could have resisted someone who loves me so completely. When I give into that love rather than trying to intellectually understand it, I am drawn inexplicably to God's embrace. It's not a theological pursuit or an academic exercise. It becomes a relationship.

God loves me so passionately that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for me. How can I push away that gift? How can I resist that love?

God created me with an intense capacity to feel. As I let God have His way with me those emotions will erupt. As they spill over, passion is born. God created me for this life and for His purpose. How can I resist someone who loves me so passionately?

I am finally realizing I can be myself with God. He knows all the dirty details of my life and loves me in spite of my past sin and my own feelings of inadequacy. His grace covers me. I finally realize that I can be myself with God - completely authentic and transparent. If I share everything in my life with God, we will truly become inseparable. As we become inseparable, passion will continue to erupt and overflow in my life and never lose its volcanic burn. How can I resist a God that loves me so passionately and unconditionally?

Today's Reflection: How foolish I've been to resist you. In a mere 40 days I feel closer to you than I have in the 14 years since I asked Jesus into my heart. I am alive in You. I am revived in You. I want the world to know I burn for You.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Days 38 & 39

I've seldom heard sermons or read books extolling the benefits of rest and keeping a Sabbath. I think many Christians see it as a unnecessary, unproductive and an outdated practice. Perhaps they see it as a religious law without any new testament value. Regardless of why, I think few Christians experience Sabbath and I am beginning to see it as necessary to our holistic wellness in our Christian walk.

Most of our lives are completely full. I know mine is even with trying to downsize outside commitments. I have a husband who is an associate pastor and we own a successful business that keeps us both busy. Our little girls are 4 and 7 and have school, occupational therapy, speech therapy, riding therapy and Salem has violin and occasionally girl scouts. We have a dog named Nina and a house to care for and the list could go on an on. And that's after I downsized our commitments.

This time last year we literally ran from therapy appointment to therapy appointment after school 4 days one week and 5 days the alternating week. That was all combined with a busy business and I was the coordinator of a large MOPS group. It was too much. This year it's much more relaxed. Busy but more relaxed.

Before this weekend I had only vaguely considered the possibility of needing to observe a Sabbath. Deuteronomy 5:12 says to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. Yet it seems SO hard to fulfill this in our busy lives or to completely understand it's importance. We are tied to the busyness of our lives by the technology that should make our lives easier. We have one more email or text to answer, one more phone call return, or we live on social sites such as Facebook. None of these things in and of themselves is wrong or devastating. But they can be when they rule our lives.

Some might contend that observing the Sabbath was a religious law and isn't necessary for the Christians of today. I'd have to agree with the first part of that. The bondage to that law passed away when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. But the healing and restoration that is the result of observing a Sabbath is still valid. Amazing even. We may not follow the literal law of the Old Testament but the healing effects of observing a Sabbath rest remain.

Hebrews 4:9 says: There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.

God rested, Jesus rested, why should we not rest? I am not saying we should religiously or legalistically observe a Sabbath. I don't think it needs to be a specific day or that we shouldn't care for our families or help those in need on our Sabbath. It's more about slowing down, embracing rest and narrowing our focus.

I recently read somewhere that most Christians have a hard time focusing on observing a Sabbath day and perhaps they could seek Sabbath moments instead. Even a moment has the potential to remind us and restore to us our true identity in Christ which is not given to us by our daily work, but by the fact that we are children of the living God.

Sabbath moments - intriguing. I actually like the idea and to a degree I think that's what is happening to me on this journey of solitude. But I also believe I need a literal rest. What about you?

Today's Reflection: Thank you Lord for bringing me to Sabbath today. I found such comfort in rest today. While I didn't sleep I did relax. My mind felt freed from the responsibilities on my to do list. When I think back - there was nothing that couldn't wait. I do need Sabbath moments to deliver me from toxic moments that busyness brings me to each day, but I think I need a Sabbath rest to find restoration from the busyness of this world. Help me teach my children the importance of rest and downtime and to see You at work in it all. Today You taught me how simple and easy it was to lie down on the couch and rest while the girls and Brian were outside. It was so simple. It felt so right and I felt so refreshed and refueled and ready to do what I had to do when I got up even though I had felt sick most of the day. Thank You Lord for bathing me in Your sweet presence today. I am honored to feel Your presence and Your love at work in my life.

Day 37

I am almost finished reading Scouting the Divine by Margaret Feinberg. It's been very thought provoking and refreshing as well. I plan to review this book completely in the next week or so because it has so complimented this journey God has me on. I am looking forward to that.

For now I want to concentrate on rest. In one section of her book, Margaret is talking to a vintner. They were discussing the many passages in the bible that discussed vintners and vineyards. One in Exodus basically commanded that every seventh year the land should rest and lie fallow (Exodus 23:11). This is probably hard to do from a vintner's perspective as it takes many years to make a bottle of wine and to see a profit. But the land needs the rest. The vines are literally removing nutrients from the soil and if you give the soil a rest is replenishes itself.

The vintner said: "The downtime allows for the soil of the vineyard to regain the nitrogen it needs to produce a delicious harvest. The trick is maintaining a balance of fertility in the vines. Overly stressed vines will struggle and produce fruit of lower quality. Excessively happy vines will be too prolific and create thin, uninspired wines."

Just as land needs a sabbath we do too. It's a biblical principal. Yet how many times do we work work work - do do do - then Sunday comes around we go to church, go to lunch, help the kids with their homework, etc. Where is the rest? How do we replenish our bodies?

When was the last time you napped on a Sunday afternoon? I used to nap. I can remember when I stopped. Raina was about 7 weeks old and I was struggling to nurse and sleep and care for a newborn and an almost 3 year old who wasn't on the same sleep schedule. My body was forced to require less and less sleep and I eventually gave in to that and never really replenished my body even when I eventually could. I became used to living on less rest. Soon there after we had adopted hectic therapy schedules and that was the story of our lives.

I don't regret caring for my girls and their needs. But I needed rest. Just as my spirit needed solitude with God, my body needed literal rest. I remember at a certain point I began surviving life rather than experiencing life. That is not God's plan.

Margaret says: "Life without the gift of rest is merely existing without being able to enjoy the bouquet of all we have been given."

How do you rest? I'll share more on that on the weekend post.

Today's Reflection:
Rest seems so elusive at times and definitely minor when compared to my mounting to do list. It's as if the cares of this world begin to weigh us down but if walked in your rest your burden is easy and your yoke is light. Your rest replenishes my body and my soul enabling me to quieten my mind and hear you. Lord I pray for your abundant rest in my life. I pray that as You continue to guide me, that You will help me find physical and spiritual rest in balance with the things I must do.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 36

Rest...my thoughts are with God and praying but my body is tired so I went so sleep early for me, 10 pm. Typically I write this blog in the evening so I can reflect on my day and what the Lord has shown me. Last night I needed rest. I tend to push against rest and stay up as long as I can getting stuff done and relaxing. I've always been a night owl and was able to come home and nap if I didn't get enough sleep the night before. But somehow after Raina was born naps became really hard for me. Sometimes I do unwind and still nap but not often.

I really need to work on finding physical rest right now. My soul is finding rest in God but my body needs literal, physical rest. Rest replenishes my body and refuels my soul.

Today's Reflection: Thank You Lord for letting me know when I need rest. Help me remember to replenish my physical and emotional strength by getting enough sleep. It was wonderful to go to bed last night and wake up after 7 1/2 hours of sleep rather than the average 6. Help me do this more often.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 35

A few weeks ago I really put myself out there and reached out to a group of women in search of a mentor type friend. Someone that I could share my heart with and really be transparent with. Today I had lunch with one of these women today and it really blessed my spirit. It seemed so natural. We just talked and related and affirmed each other. I was able to share with her about my rock bottom experience last fall. It was very refreshing for me to be able to be so straightforward about the past and about current issues I am dealing with. That lunch was a a true blessing to me.

As I later reflected on our conversation, I began thinking of what I am passionate about. I am passionate about being a Godly wife and mother. Outside of that I'm just not sure. I have decided I enjoy writing again. But more than anything else I realize I'm just really getting comfortable with who I am and who I am called to be for the first time in my life. Somehow I'd like to translate that into ministry.

I told my lunch date that I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do except that I knew I wanted to help women not get lost and to reclaim their identities. I became a Christian in 1995 yet I never really saw myself the way Christ saw me. Thus I lived in shame and fear. That coupled with some life altering events and the next thing I know it's 2008 and I have no clue to who I am. I felt like a lost soul with not much of an identity.

I see other women and I wonder if any of those ladies are like me. Are they just going through the motions and doing what they have to do to make it through the day? Are they missing out on something special because they've lost their identity in the day to day busyness of life?

I used to be VERY equipped at doing everything I was asked. I seldom said no and I pretty much got it all done. But what few people saw behind the scenes was how tired and mentally taxed I became or how late I stayed up every night to get the bare minimum done around my house or how often projects kept me so busy that I couldn't take 10 minutes here and there to spend time with my girls. I was every one's go to person. I handled everyone else's problems but completely ignored my own self care. I was snappy and easily frustrated at the very least.

That was just a year ago. I look back at that time and it seems so long ago. I am so very different from the Leah that existed last year. I am happier, healthier, spiritually more developed and a better wife and mother. But I had to love and take care of myself and let God work in me to heal me to become the Leah I am today. I definitely have not arrived but the Leah I was last year is almost gone. In her place is a women who seeks God and takes care of herself so she can better minister to her family and friends and anyone God sends her way.

If I were to set one goal it would be to develop a minister that would help women identify with who God wants them to be. I would want to help them escape the Wonder Woman mentality. I think as Christian women we think we have to be Wonder Woman to fulfill Proverbs 31. But now I wonder what we're missing. Because in the new testament God says everything is permissible but not beneficial. I think the Proverbs 31 woman deserves further exploration which I plan to start soon.

Please don't misinterpret what I'm saying. God does mean for us to be productive. But do we have to say yes to everything to be Godly women? What things do I say yes to that are wonderful volunteer opportunities or projects but take time away from me and my family as well as my time with God?

Just tonight I felt God gently tap me on the shoulder and say, "What else can you ease back on in your life?" I knew what He was leading me to stepping down from. And this one thing is certainly productive. I feel so good when I do it. But it does make the rest of my day crazy.

So I did what I felt God telling me to do and reached out and said I needed to rework some things in my schedule. I explained that I was just doing too much on this day. It was hard for me to be so honest. My first instinct was to question what the person receiving my words would think about me. I questioned that she could understand what I was going through as she's SO together. But the spirit of God was stronger than my what ifs and He calmed my anxiety. I obeyed and she responded favorably. You can imagine my big sigh of relief.

What are some things you can pull back from? I would love to hear your thoughts on how you can ease the busyness in your own life, seek God and identify with who He has called you to be.

Today's Reflection:
Lord as I continue on this journey, I realize it's much more complex than I ever realized it would be. Thank you Lord for opening my eyes and my heart to the reality of how busy I was. The busyness was eating away at my soul. It makes me remember when I heard John Ortberg say, "ruthlessly eliminate busyness from your life". That was at MOPS Convention in 2007. Two years ago You started trying to get through to me but I couldn't hear You through the day to day busyness that consumed my life. Thank you Lord for slowing me down and for hearing my heart cry out when I couldn't hear it myself.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 34

I was challenged today to think of what spiritual disciplines come easy for me and what do I struggle with the most. There are a lot of spiritual disciplines such as scripture memorization, fasting, prayer, bible study, journaling, etc.

Of the ideas mentioned, I think I do well with prayer and journaling. I talk to God a lot throughout the day and pretty much about anything. I try to bless God with my words but I also want to be authentic. If I voice my true feelings it breeds life within me even if it's about my life's struggles or my saddest moments. If I try to pretend how I feel and not voice those thoughts and emotions it tends to breed dissatisfaction down deep within.

With journaling, I finally got my mojo back. I used to write a lot. I wrote details about life, poetry, songs, etc. My heart literally cried out on paper. Then life became survival and I lost the ability to process my deepest thoughts on paper (long before my computer came along). I no longer felt the relief of emptying my heart on paper. I remembering seldom even proofreading what I wrote. I just wrote.

And I try to keep that through process intact here on this blog. I do proofread and spell check. I can clean it up grammatically and check my spelling, but I want my first words to be my last words. I seldom take more than 20 minutes to write this blog. I don't want it to consume me. I want it to be a natural outpouring of my soul

Scripture memorization comes harder for me. As anal as I am you'd think it would be easier. I have an attention for detail. I remember entire conversations, much to my husband's utter frustration. Yet I struggle with remembering where scriptures are. Crosswalk.com and the Bible installed on my iPhone are my trusted companions. If I quote a scripture and someone asks me where that is - I can look it up quickly. I justify that at least I know enough to know the general thought of the scripture but really I am not satisfied with that.

I also struggle with bible study. I guess really they go hand in hand. I go through periods where I devour Beth Moore studies on my own and listen to a ton of sermons but then I ebb and flow and struggle to get something in. I do read a lot of books by Christian authors that I definitely believe develop my faith. But why do I find it so hard to literally open my bible and start reading?

I want to be in LOVE with scripture. I see Beth Moore and Margaret Feinberg on a video and their love for God's word is evident on their faces. They are in LOVE with God's word. Or I listen to a podcast by Matt Chandler and Erwin McManus and I hear the love of scripture in their voices.

Don't misunderstand me. I don't want to be Matt or Erwin or Beth or Margaret. But I want to experience love for the word of God that they have. I want to soak in scripture - to find my place in the word. I truly believe the word of God changes our lives. I've seen it at work. It's living and breathing - completely viable on it's own. Yet I struggle with it. Sigh.

I will still do bible studies and listen to my favorite preachers and teachers, but I want to develop the desire to dive into the scriptures on my own. I don't need a theology degree to search out God's truth. I know how to read and I know how to ask questions. And using a Strong's Concordance to search out Hebrew and Greek meanings is not rocket science. I make it so much harder than it needs to be.

I feel like this is a hurdle that I have to make it over, in order to move forward on this journey. Would you please lift me up in prayer about this?

Today's Reflection: Lord I truly I believe Your word is life. It's not outdated or unreasonable or unable to be understood. Please develop in me a desire to read Your word, to hunger and thirst for it. I want to feel Your Spirit talk to me and commune with me as I search out your truths. As You give me understanding and insight, I want the scriptures to reside within me, embracing me and fulfilling the life You've called me to.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 33

What do you think it means for Jesus to shepherd us? Prior to this journey, I probably thought the most obvious - that He guides and directs us. He protects us.

But I think there is more to it. I started reading Margaret Feinberg's "Scouting the Divine" today. The first chapter is about The Good Shepherd.

I am not even through the first chapter and I am trying to read it slow and not rush through it as there is so much to ponder and explore. Let me share a few of those things that are standing out to me today.

This quote really hit home with me today. Margaret said, "I recognized the boundaries as essential to the sheep's survival - and our own. From a sheep's perspective, fences prevent the animal from enjoying greener grass, but from the shepherd's perspective, the boundaries ensure the sheep stay safe and doesn't eat something dangerous or get eaten."

I am literally able to translate that idea into my own walk with Christ. I literally have pushed at the fences in my own life. I pushed down boundaries put in place to protect me. I felt hemmed in. Yet once I got to the other side of the fence and enjoyed what I thought was being kept from, I realized it was somewhat of a mirage. The grass (temptations) weren't as green or as pleasurable as I thought they'd be. They often gave me a tummy ache (HUGE consequences) and I often got attacked by the enemy. Sometimes I felt God found me barely alive when He rescued me.

I have often been that one sheep that God ran out searching for. He always came for me. He always held me and nurtured me back to spiritual and emotional health. And along the way I finally realized that if I embraced the fences, life would be so much better.

In John 10:9 it says: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

I looked up pasture in the Strong's Concordance and found out that in the original Greek pasture means: food, that we would not want the needful supplies for the true life and then the final entry meaning growth and increase.

God is literally my protector and provider. Everything I need is within the boundaries that God has set for me. The consequences of being outside the fence of God's divine love and protection can be huge. They can bring spiritual, emotional and even spiritual death.

Then I look at the word gate, basically it means a door. Jesus is that door. He is an open door to the Kingdom of Heaven and He is a shut door to keep out the enemy that tries to kill, steal and destroy us. He is securing us.

This is easily understood when I think of my daughter Salem. She is a very sweet child and very obedient for the most part. But something major happened yesterday that completely brings home what God is showing me here. Yesterday Salem was playing in the backyard. The gate was unlocked (that has been rectified by the way). She came in and told me straight away that she went outside the gate by the street to talk to a little boy who was looking for a lost cat.

I was devastated. "Oh baby I cried. Do you realize what could have happened to you outside that fence?" As soon as I said this, she dissolved into tears and ran into my arms. I held her and comforted her and then we talked about the dangers that are outside of the fence. I told her that if she had questions or saw something outside the fence to come get mommy or daddy and help her. I was fairly straight forward about the dangers outside the fence and what could happen. Then I held her and comforted her some more.

Then today I read this chapter in Scouting the Divine. It hit me hard. I remembered how often I had strayed outside the fence - sometimes to help someone. Sometimes because I wanted to experience something I thought I was missing out on. But mostly it was just direct disobedience, because I thought I could handle whatever was outside that fence. Eventually I ran back into the arms of the Father. He held me and comforted me, but was stern. He swiftly let me know that life outside that fence - His protection - was dangerous and that I needed to follow His will and the boundaries He placed in my life. They are there for a reason.

Today's Reflection: Lord thank you for my sweet Salem and using her experience to give me complete understanding to why the boundaries in my life are necessary. Nothing outside that fence is worth the danger to my spirit or my life. Your are my all in all. Your are my protector. You are my provider. Thank you Lord for bringing this point home to me today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Days 31 & 32

I've just finished reading Same Kind of Different as Me. I can really relate to this story. Denver is a homeless black man who grew up picking cotton and have nothing of his own. Deborah is the woman who met him at a homeless mission and was determined to reach him for Christ. Ron, Deborah's husband, is a wealthy art dealer and this entire book is written from both Ron and Denver's perspective of the events that happened and how they developed such a close relationship.

It's really hard for me to comment on the book in depth as I don't want this to be a book review. But for those who like faith building, uplifting stories it's well worth the read.

My purpose in mentioning this book is to talk about Denver and how I related to him. Denver has been on the streets a long time. He's seen a lot of vile and ugly things. He's definitely distrusting of people wanting to help him or just love him. In one part of the book he shares the thought that he's worried about being caught and released. Basically this means that he Ron told him he wanted to be his friend, he didn't want to trust that and become his friend and then later have Ron "release' him.

I wonder how often that happens to us. I know it happens to me a lot. I want relationships, yet I fear them. Relationships - in-depth relationships - really terrify me. If the relationship ends, I tend to worry it was my fault or they were overwhelmed by my past or by who I am today. And I am a fairly social person on the outside so most people might not even realize that I have this fear. But it's a very controlled social personality. My hubby says he can see when I put up the walls. I am working on keeping them down but it's hard. It's why I tend to keep my past hidden in the dark thinking there is no way people would stick around if they really knew who I had been.

When I give into that fear I realize my priorities aren't in order. If I focus on developing my relationship with God first - the rest seems to come together. When I work at relationships with out working on my ultimate relationship at first, it will always fall apart at the seams.

We are meant to be relational. God called us into a relationship with Him through His Son. And He has called us to be in relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The scripture that most quickly comes to my mind when I think of relationships is Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV). Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

This scripture can be interpreted in many ways, but in this case I like to see it as meaning God, Me, and my Husband, or God, Me, and My Daughters or God, Me, and My Sister or God, Me, and My Mother or God, Me and A Friend. If He is interwoven into our relationships - it will not be broken.

Just right before that verse is another even more important set of verse. It says: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 (NIV)

Together we work - together we struggle - together we rejoice - together we live. We are meant to be relational.

God has definitely been restoring relationships in my life and bringing me to new relationships. I do still find myself fearful, but today am more hopeful than afraid. I am hopeful that something long-lasting will be birthed. Being able to experience Godly relationships is truly a gift from God.

We are not all the same in our differences. Our differences can set us apart if we let them. But I don't believe that is God's plan. Our differences are circumstantial. I think our similarities are more important. They are bred in our spirits and our souls. We are all children of the Living God. He died for us ALL while we were still sinners. We all yearn for His Touch - for His love. Those similarities are far greater than any differences our various lives have experienced.

Today's Reflection: Thank You Lord for the many relationships You have given me. I am alone in a sense in that I need You and You alone to fulfill me. But in healthy Godly relationships You are right there at work developing us and showing us how to live life together. How to serve You together. How to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ together. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Life is a precious gift. Every moment I have on this earth I praise You for. I praise You for the Holy Spirit that abides within me and is healing my entire being. I thank You for the relationships You have given me. Help me be a good steward of these relationships - keeping the focus on you. All good things are a gift from You Lord. Thank you for showing me the beauty in relationships and how they are part of Your plan for me.

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