each season the hardest, each season the same

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each season feels like the hardest one. i remember when hazel was brand new, and how utterly in over my head i felt. the learning curve was so steep. i was grieving the loss of independence, freedom to use my time as i pleased, space to be alone with myself. and i had no idea what i was doing, so no action was simple or natural. the weight of concern and worry, with all the accompanying advice-seeking and google-searches, was exhausting. leaving the house felt like the most impossible thing. how was i supposed to plan an outing between all the naps and feedings (which were, in here case, LONG)?

this season now, and those early days with hazel feel so far away. i sometimes think that if i could go back and re-live them, it would feel easy compared to now. i would handle it like a pro, i would be so much more laid back. maybe that would be the case, if i could carry the knowledge/tricks/confidence i’ve gained in the three following years with me and apply them there, too. but that’s not how it works, is it? of course not.

Father breaks us in easy, giving us one challenge at a time, taking us deeper and deeper into responsibility and commitment. if He were to throw us right into it, we would surely drown. Or so it seems to me.

looking back even further than new motherhood, to the days when i was a young adult and single, how simple that all looks from where I now stand. bills were few and simple, taxes straightforward, freedom to use and structure my own time was enormous, i could accomplish things in a fraction of the time it now takes with small children in tow, all my decisions were my own to make (no need to seek consensus with a husband), and my parents would still help me out financially. i could have gotten up and gone to do anything with such comparative ease (travel, move, adventure). but at the time it didn’t feel so easy! there was also loneliness and longing for a mate, worry about not having enough money even for the few bills that i did have, and the downward-spiraling thoughts that often filled up all those solitary and unstructured hours. there weren’t children to anchor me, to make me get up in the morning and do the next thing that needed doing, and being single was like facing the world alone, not knowing when or if that aloneness would ever end. and though i didn’t have kids underfoot to sabotage my cleaning and cooking and errand running, i also was still learning how to cook and clean and run errands, which sometimes made me feel so young and inexperienced.

as scripture says, “each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” that’s meant to remind us not to worry also about the future, but i see it working retroactively, too: yesterday had enough of its own worries, too. there will always — in every life season — be heavy concerns, and loads to bear that feel too heavy at times. there will be moments of overwhelm. and, in each life season there will be provision. there will be enough of the internal resources, the support of community, and material needs. there will be enough of these things, coming forward as they are needed, because across all of these life seasons the one constant thing is the Father to whom we’ve entrusted ourselves.

so TODAY, when the challenges of a feisty, cooped-up 3 year-old and a 21-month-old who’s stumbling into his terrible 2s while teething his molars, combined with my achey, cumbersome, pregnant body on a gray day, with to-do lists a mile long and a house that feels impossibly messy but cannot be tended to because the children’s needs are so unrelenting and my body in such a state… today when cooking yet another meal and doing yet another load of laundry feel absolutely unrewarding and mundane… today when I feel so isolated from the comfort of close female friendships because the urgency of daily life squeezes out most of the opportunities to connect… today when our list of financial responsibilities is longer and more complicated than i could have imagined or navigated when i was 24, and when the upkeep of a house and the oversight of a nonprofit and the managing of my own business keep our minds racing into the night…. today when the challenges of being a wife with all the mutual submission, vulnerability practice, and intimacy to keep up feel like harder work that the romance movies ever would have led me to believe… TODAY there will be enough. TODAY my Father is with me, leading me gently because I am with child (Isaiah 40:11), providing for my every need out of his glorious riches (Phil 4:19).

and so for you, friend. whether you are in your early 20s, living with friends and trying to discern the trajectory of your life while avoiding being turned out on the street, or whether you are a new mother absolutely drowning in the enormity of that identity redefinition and the weight of a newborn’s constant need, or whether you are in your mid-life, about to see your youngest child off to college and suddenly there is a giant gaping hole that invites you to redetermine how you will spend the rest of your days… in all these seasons, He is sufficient, He is present, He is neither shocked nor dismayed at how things are going, and He waits to show you mercy.

why i chose this : following Jesus

i chose when i was 2, which i always thought must be impossible, like maybe my mom forced me into it. but i can tell you now, as a mother who prays nearly every day for Jesus to reveal himself to her kids in ways that they can understand and know Him… He does that. Jesus reveals himself to babes, and they begin to “get” it, which is mystery and grace and altogether wonderful.

but this is beside the point.

i chose to follow Jesus as a teenager and in college because my mind was satisfied enough, stimulated even, and my heart yearned for his good news to be true. he was a moral compass, a comforting truth, an assurance that when the suffering of this life ended, there would be release in heaven.

but i chose to follow him in earnest when, in my mid-twenties, he delivered me from the pit (the kingdom of heaven starts here in this lifetime). he snatched me right out of the mire and healed my heart, and he did it with so much personal attention, so many small signs and wonders that only i would understand. he revealed himself to me and allowed me to really feel and know his love deep in my bones. he gave me relationship with Holy Spirit in a way i never knew was possible, he taught me how to really pray and then showed me how he answers. he showed me how to sink into my confident sonship with Papa, and he let me learn and hear his voice. and through all of this  he became beautiful to me, and potent, and wise, and tender, and absolutely worthy of my devotion. that testimony is a longer one, and if you really want to read it, you can read it if you want to PM me to ask for it.

and then i vowed my life to him. the same day that i married tim, tim and i also said some vows to God. we said we’d be true to him, that we’d be kind to others, and that we’d go wherever he told us to go with the gospel. i wear a ring on my wedding finger that symbolizes that vow. and divorce is not an option.

so now, you see, even though there may be seasons when things are dry between us, or when i’m unhappy with him, or when i want very much to avoid him… we’re still married. and i know that he is still alive and active and as good as he’s ever been. so i still choose to follow Jesus. and i hope that i always will.

everything else in this series about why i chose this or that or the other thing really hangs on this first thing: that i chose (choose) to follow Jesus.

a harder week

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i tried to start a fire in the wood stove so that i could sit here and write in front of it. the fire did not take. so the scene of this writing isn’t as romantic, nor as cozy as i hoped to be able to report to you, reader-friends. 🙂

you may have noticed that i’ve been quiet in this space. i had one other post drafted last week but in the end it sounded preachy somehow. i wasn’t comfortable with that. so i scrapped it. but i’ve been having trouble coming up with things to say.

this week has been hard. hard isn’t a very good descriptor; it’s much too vague. this week has been full of a raw emotional vulnerability, saying hard things and having hard things said back. it has been a scary week, a week in which i’ve fallen into the temptation to doubt the value and course of our ministry because a very recent Series of Unfortunate Events formed one big question of “what the hell is going on here?” in my heart. and i didn’t know whether it meant God was trying to put the brakes on things or just to invite us into another layer of trust and steadfastness. in the end, steadfastness turns out to be closer to the truth, i think. i’m grateful that He spoke that word (along with other wonderfully reassuring ones) over us and our team. I Corinthians 15:58 has felt like an answer: “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of The Lord, knowing that in The Lord your labor is not in vain.”

but whenever we are facing the possibility of not getting our next paycheck — as we are right now (it is one of the Series of Unfortunate Events), and which is also a prospect that we face at least once each year — i crumble into a pile of worry and resentment and then go into problem-solving, striving, i’m-going-to-take-care-of-myself-because-clearly-YOU-are-NOT mode. i’ve known that this compulsive chain reaction indicates that need for some healing or sanctification, or maybe both. so tim and i spent the week fasting and praying about it.

[as an aside, can i share with you a bit of what it’s like to live on the financial support of people who love you and Donors Who Shall Remain Anonymous? friends, it is not an easy thing. if you are not careful, you fill find yourself often in a state of questioning yourself, the work you are doing and how you are doing it, always asking if it’s good spiritually enough, the results obvious enough, the numbers impressive enough to deserve the gifts of your hard-working counter-parts who earn their paychecks at for-profit companies. in seasons when the number of people you’re “reaching” seems small, or the fruit in their lives invisible, you may wonder if you’re wasting everyone’s money in order to keep living in this God-forsaken place under chronic low-grade stress that comes from being in close proximity with poverty and abuse and social injustices that your ministry doesn’t seem to be able to penetrate with life-changing gospel news in ways that you think your donors might expect (as if it’s really ultimately your job or at all under your control). and if you buy yourself something pretty or go on a vacation, you may feel an almost irresistable urge to (a) hide it, (b) downplay it or (c) somehow explain yourself for having spent money on it. you may start to fear that your friends will dread seeing you because they anticipate you asking for support, and you struggle to believe that it may actually be a gift and a joy for them to give it.  no, this is not an easy thing. so when there’s a financial rough patch at the boiler room, my desire to somehow escape our status as ministers living on support goes through the roof.]

then God spoke Prov 31:25 to me through another member of our Core Team. “She can laugh at the time to come,” it says. She can laugh partly because she’s prepared and she knows how to care for her family in hard times using what she has on hand and the wits God’s given her. but even more so, i think the reason she can laugh at the future is because she knows who her Papa is, and that He’s holding her fast, and that He isn’t interested in seeing His children beg for bread, and that He’s wealthy and fully sufficient. furthermore, she can laugh because even if the time to come is hard and she is not rescued from the hard things, still she can expect a great gift from that Father who doesn’t give indigestible stones where there should be nourishing fish. He might not rescue her from a missed paycheck, but He will give her provision for what’s really needed, or an experience of His nearness that shrinks all her earthly concerns to something the size of an inconsequential pebble compared to the eternal worth of knowing Him. So I chose to start laughing. and worshiping. even when i still had no idea how we’d pay all the bills this month. there has been so much freedom in that, and so much joy.

as if the Series of Unfortunate Events were not enough, one of my buttons was pushed by another Core Team member in what was really an innocent email in the wake of the Unfortunate Events. and instead of waiting until the maelstrom of emotions subsided enough for me to see straight, i responded through my tears of insecurity and anger and fear, which sent that person and that person’s spouse into something of a tailspin for a couple of days. that whole process also shed light on a way i’ve been relating to tim that is not as it ought to be, and to confess that before him and ask his forgiveness and then to receive it was hard and weepy work, too. and though we [all] have been able to make things right, there’s a residue of embarrassment and disappointment in myself for not acting very much like the woman i like to think that i am, or –worse yet — for not actually even being that woman. it’s so humbling. and i’ve felt so raw and exposed, even as i’ve received grace.

i’ve been so preoccupied with the unresolved relationship tension and the quest to figure out a plan b for our finances, that i have been checking out on my kids and my daily household tasks, looking for ways to escape (obsessive Instagram checks!), finding solace in things that don’t actually satisfy, because i just didn’t know how to help myself, or haven’t felt up to helping myself. i spent one day in a funk so deep that i actually hid from everyone and refused to attend our weekly community meal because i knew i could cry at the drop of a hat. instead, i ate lots of cookies and went to bed early.

BUT He doesn’t leave me here, at least not alone, and certainly not forever. i’ve interspersed testimony to that fact in the midst of my sharing about the struggles, i hope. He’s faithful and He’s worth it all.

and it looks like — breaking news! — we might not miss that paycheck after all.

so this is me, very much still in process. feeling like the world’s worst missionary (i’ll fight you for the title, Jamie). clinging to the steadfast love of my Father and trying to emulate that steadfastness. writing “Jesus, we trust you” in huge letters on the chalkboard wall and trying to mean it. worshipping. forgiving myself. keeping my hand to the plow to do the work He’s giving me to do in spite of my imperfection in doing it.

do not despise the day of small things

sept-saturday-hike-4small seems to be a theme ’round here these days.

there’s the obvious smalls, named Hazel and Gus, to whom most of my creative energy, time, and effort are devoted day in and day out. they come with many other small things: small time blocks for activities caused by small attention spans (hazel) and small wakeful periods (gus), small clothing to wash and fold and tuck away in drawers, small bodies to lift, carry, cuddle, and bathe.

it’s taken me a considerable amount of time to get okay with all that smallness, to let go of resentment over how their smallness keeps me from the supposedly bigger things i’d like to think i’m capable of, and to learn to savor and celebrate it for the beautiful gift that it truly is.

but there’s another kind of smallness i’ve been grappling with lately. the smallness that comes with our ministry this season.

see, we launched this 10-month live-and-learn discipleship school we’re borrowing from 24-7 Prayer called The Vision Course. it’s a beautiful life model, a heart-shifting curriculum, a year set aside to let Jesus touch students in important ways. i’m proud to be offering it here and proud of Coop and Tim and Tony for shaping it so well and leading it with such integrity and passion.

but we have two students. two students where we were hoping for six to eight.

and when you get a number that much lower than the target number, it can be easy to think of it as failure. then there’s our friends who launched a [somewhat] similar school in our neighborhood and they have 7. so i start to compare (not a great idea). and i wonder if we’re doing something wrong so God isn’t blessing it, or if we aren’t attractive enough as a ministry, or if we didn’t recruit widely enough or well enough. these two students are pure gold, so it isn’t who they are uniquely/individually that’s a problem. but the number of them… it’s been bugging me. more than i care to admit.

small often means failure or shortcoming. that’s the trouble, isn’t it? somehow in our culture small has come to mean something less-than, unworthy of attention.

grace came to me in the form of our Older Wiser Mama-Bible-Study Facilitator a couple weeks ago, when she gave us 5 passages of scripture to look up, along with instructions to guess what the theme is and why she chose it for us.

guess what the word was? “small.”

each passage was from the gospels. in each one, Jesus is talking about or demonstrating how He values and works with smallness. examples: faith small as a mustard seed moves mountains, a small boy’s tiny lunch feeds thousands, two tiny sparrows whose fall is noticed by the Father, a small bit of money faithfully and sacrificially invested or offered. how had i not noticed this before?! how had i come to see feel that Jesus’ call was to large-scale, dramatic, full-throttle action instead of ordinary, small-scale living offered in love to Him?

this opens up so much grace for me as a mother, occupied as i am with so many literally small things. it also offers up to me some reassurance that even though we at the boiler room have only two lives to invest in this year (rather than 8 or 50 or more), we have two. lives. (!!) to invest in. do you see the gravity of that?!

the Good Shepherd is one who leaves 99 to search after 1. ONE. a single life is worth running after in passionate pursuit. the Father God is like the father of the prodigal (AND his brother who also was having trouble grasping how much his daddy loved him and who was also pursued by that daddy!), who pursues the naughty son while he’s still far off and throws a big fat party over him. Our Jesus does not wait until we’ve gathered a critical mass before He says that it counts. 1 counts. 2 count.

and then — as if the above isn’t enough — He reminded me of scripture that was prophesied over the SBR in it’s infancy:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, — Zecchariah 4:10

so i say Amen.

far be it from me to say that what the Father calls significant is something other than just that.

a man named K

in the group of people that i call my Church Family, there is a man (K) who is dying. he is dying of AIDS. he is dying because he has stopped taking his ARVs. in the last year, i have watched him shrink several pants sizes, become unkempt and listless, dirty and rumpled, and mentally altered, with deep and painful-looking sores cracking the corners of his mouth.

we aren’t sure why he’s stopped taking the ARVs, but neither of the possible reasons is a good one. it is either because he has stopped taking them in his depressive state over his beloved mother’s slow dying process these last two years, or because he cannot afford to pay for these life-saving drugs.

and i don’t know how to help him. he trusts Jesus as His savior, and He has experienced the unconditional love of the Father through his mother and this Church Family, i think, even in his open homosexuality (i’m so grateful for this because i know that is a sadly uncommon experience). i believe He’ll go Home on the day that He dies.

but then i wonder, does he really even have to die? couldn’t he yet choose life? if we could get him his medications, perhaps then he would have a while longer? if we could somehow sort through all the unhealthy codependencies that leads him to wish for death rather than a life without a living mother, perhaps he’d stop this slow suicide?

sometimes i get caught up in the larger picture, too…. all the social injustices and unfair infrastructure that make the lives of men like K so difficult, demoralizing, and desperate. these are systemic flaws to “the system” that make it so that some people have every opportunity in the world and others not a fighting chance. i can’t fix all of that in my lifetime, let alone in time for K to get his medications and a healing diet and good counseling services and all the other things that might turn his life around.

but God. He sees. I believe He knows K, and is holding Him still. i don’t understand why He doesn’t want to social-work K’s life to make things better for him this side, or heal him in an instant, but i’m glad that K is with us here for now, receiving some affection and hearing the words of God.

as i took a breather from writing this post, because i wasn’t sure what to say next, i noticed this status update from a Facebook friend:

Some of the most comforting words from Jesus: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” -John 13:7

maybe that’s a place to end this.

ps: tonight during worship at our Church gathering, i took a video K holding hands with one of our Vision Course students. this, my friends, is the kingdom of God on earth. i was so humbled and touched by the sight of this dear dirty and untouchable middle-aged man holding hands with a clean-and-tidy young woman.

when you ask God about an iPhone

iphone5for months i’ve been going back and forth in my head about whether or not to upgrade to a smartphone. i am, afterall, one of the only people i know who still uses a “dumbphone.” and the iPhone 5 has really caught my attention because of the camera in it!: a camera that good, that fits in my pocket, plus all the really great photo apps out there that i’d be so geeked out to play with…. yes please! for financial reasons, it wasn’t a real option for a long time, but then a couple pieces came together to make it so that suddenly i could consider it as a real possibility.

but the decision — in spite of my initial “heck yes i want the phone with the camera and the photo apps!!” — has been super difficult. like ridiculously so. there is a large part of me that is inclined to steer clear of it entirely, going to the grave with my “dumbphone” in hand. you see, i have a tendency to internet addiction. not in any naughty way, just in the “i-got-on-here-to–check-“just-one-thing-real-quick”-but-then-i-clicked-a-link-that-led-to-a-link-that-led-to-over-an-hour-spent-reading-blogs-and-looking-at-photos-instead-of-doing-my-chores-or-playing-with-my-kid.” you know what that’s like, right? i bet lots of you can relate to that phenomenon.

so i’m asking the question, “will this get me closer to the life i want to live?” and what is the life i want to live?: one in which i am truly present to my real life. the physical, touchable one. the life that includes my children and my husband, my home and my neighborhood, my friends and my God. i don’t want to see them only a instagram-worthy images or status-update material. i want to live my life beautifully, whether or not the world is watching me through my facebook page, instagram account or blog.

and i’ve been worried that if i got the iPhone 5 that it would make it much, much harder to live that kind of a life.

BUT i just kinda want it. and it would be nice to fire off a note to someone when i’m thinking of them, to pull up a recipe in the kitchen, or to take a photo or video of a beautiful moment. right now, those activities are very tied to my desktop computer and my large DSLR, which puts natural boundaries around my access to them, for better or for worse.

anyway, all this to say that eventually my dear husband got weary of listening to me deliberate while ringing my hands together in fear of making a bad decision, and so he said, “maybe you should just ask God about it.” oh. right. i can do that. 🙂

so i listened, and i wrote as i heard His voice. here is some of it:

” i am proud of you. you are free. you get it and I’ll give you guidelines. don’t be afraid of yourself; i’m greater in you…. [some practical guidelines].. pray — use it as inspiration for prayer.”

at this point i interrupted to ask, “but why would i have one? what’s a good reason to have one?”

“fun! joy! i made you to be geeked out about things like camera apps. anything you put in my hands i can use for good things! like [you already do with] your camera!”

then, as in response to my “i’m not sure i’m buying this, God”:

“you don’t have to have one, darling. i’m just telling you you’re free and i will walk with you through it if you do get one. if you will trust me with it. in this really practical way, trust me. i can teach you how to master it.”

alright, then. that’s not quite was i was expecting to hear. (truthfully, part of me is still doubting it was His voice, so i’ll ask Him for some confirmation.)

but He showed me that i was rejecting having this useful tool and fun toy out of fear that i wouldn’t be able to control myself. now i see that the reason i can be free to get one — or not — is because He gives me a spirit not of fear, but of self-discipline, if i’ll lean into Him and trust Him for it.

and then i got to thinking that in some ways perhaps God is most glorified not when we remove ourselves entirely from good-things-that-can-become-idols so much as He is glorified when we invite Him into those places, yielding and surrendering to Him each step of the way as He teaches us how to order it rightly. you see, if i just swear off smartphones or facebook because they can get to be too big in my life, i’m still relying on myself to keep myself righteous. but if i step forward to receive them as good gifts, holding His hand as i go, i must rely on Him to show me how to live with them well!

what do you think of this, reader-friend? seriously. does this sound like the voice of the Good Shepherd to you? are you surprised by what i heard?

evidences of His love (a Love Feast story)

tonight at Love Feast, Tim invited everyone to share little stories about how they experience God loving them.

neighbor-friends around the table whose lives look to me to be so hard, so undesirable, still had things to share, moments where they’ve seen evidences of His love for them.

  • i’m thankful He woke me up this morning.
  • i’m thankful i’m out of the hospital, alive and walking!
  • i’m glad i had a good day at school today.
  • my son is going to be 14 in two months; he’s as tall as i am!
  • i’m thankful for my friend Tony (who is present in the room); i wouldn’t be here without him.
  • my baby cousin H (whom we’ve been praying for) was released from the hospital on the 22nd of August!
  • M and T had a baby girl yesterday morning; her name is Sophie.

i was so humbled to hear these joyful testimonies as folks popped up one-by-one around the room with hardly a pause between, to speak about how Papa loves them.

and then we sang,

“He loves us,

oh how He loves us,

oh how He loves us;

How He loves us…oh!”

i kept my eyes open as i sang it, looking slowly around the room, to see all my neighbor-friends singing along, obviously worshipping. holy spirit shivers.

and i thought, we have come so far! i can’t believe i’m witnessing this thing. 

we are never too poor, too low, too addicted, too abused, too dirty to receive the Father’s love.

and. gratitude is a potent medicine.

on the spiritual work of fund-raising

did you know that henri nouwen (of all people!) wrote an entire booklet titled the Spirituality of Fundraising?! even after skimming it through and making note of his very good points, i dread actually doing it. it’s one of those things that can so quickly tie me up in knots of self-doubt and send me into a downward spiral of questioning the worth of the work that our family gives itself to. 

somehow, knowing that our paycheck comes from other members of the family of God — who have faces and names and financial situations of their own — creates a much higher sense of responsibility and accountability than does getting a paycheck from The Man. it’s been hard for me to live under that. 

but Nouwen invites me — us — to look from another angle. in his viewpoint, fundraising itself is a spiritual activity, not merely an unpleasant task to be endured in order to support the REAL spiritual activity, which is elsewhere. there’s an invitation here, to step into the here-and-now blessings of asking for and receiving funds. and those blessings, he maintains, are for both the one asking and the one giving. 

here may be a place where i need to choose to believe that he is correct, though my gut shrinks away from it. i will choose to believe that when we sit down to tell a brother or sister in Christ the story of the Stockbridge Boiler Room and God’s faithfulness to and through it, during each of its many and varied seasons, that it will be a blessing to him or her. that YOU might leave that conversation feeling renewed, inspired, encouraged, re-energized in your belief, and expanded in your capacity for faith. and that if after hearing you write a check, or a series of checks, that your heart might then be growing in grace, that you might get the sincere delight of feeling the Father’s pleasure over your generosity, that you will stand in more confidence as the part of the body that He has created you to be, and that you will feel more deeply connected to the purposes of God by that participation of sharing what you have worked so hard to earn. and maybe even in that obedience of giving He is beginning to heal something in you at heart level, like bondage to greed, fear or a spirit of poverty, or from a lack of trust. 

to think that so much good could be given through a simple conversation and transaction… well, that’s more than i would have dared to imagine. 

and yet i know it to be true personally. the practice of giving — even and especially when it has felt impractical to do it — has been a spring of life for our family. (so why do i doubt that it will be so for others?)

the fact is that fund-raising is part of the spiritual work that we’ve been given to do in this season. mostly tim is the one carrying the weight of it, and me only by association. yet i am beginning to see how this spiritual discipline has potential to shape me and free me. i want to participate more joyfully and fearlessly than i have up until this point. 

when i sat down to begin this blog post, it was going to be a post that included a presentation of the good story of God’s kingdom work that has led us to this point of seeing the goal before us and knowing that but for the body of Christ contributing their finances and their volunteer hours and their prayers, we would not be able to do it at all. and i was going to supply you with lots of the nitty gritty details about tim’s job, in particular. and then i was going to ask you if you’d like to have the blessing of financially sowing into this task. 

but now i see that this post has become much more about the internal and spiritual processes surrounding fund-raising generally. so i’ll leave it there for now. and perhaps later there will be another post for the rest of it.

magical thinking

when i am particularly sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, or discouraged i am prone to magical thinking. 

my house is messy and i fantasize about someone out there thinking about this poor, pregnant, stay-at-home mom and volunteering to come over and do a great deep cleaning or bring us dinner while i rest. i feel stuck at home for the third time in a week with no car at my disposal and i fantasize that someone will think of us and come pick us up and take us out… or stay home with hazel while I go out… alone! our financial situation gets a little tight with the boiler room and i fantasize that God will lay on the heart of some wealthy benefactor, or a collection of more middle-class people, that we have a need and move in their hearts to write checks to us, all without us ever saying a word.

please notice that none of these fantasizes involve me (a) asking for help in humility or (b) doing any work. 

there’s something really immature — magical! — about this way of thinking. looking closer at it, it seems like an extreme version of what began as a good thing in my ilfe: namely, a growing confidence in the attentive, abundant provision of my good Papa in heaven. see, for a long time i strived a lot, had so much trouble receiving anything from anyone — including God — without feeling intense guilt and a compulsion to pay back in full. but then He began to show me how perfectly able He is to provide for me as His child, and how thoroughly He does it, and in response to even my most hidden needs and desires. which is beautiful, and freeing, and puts my heart to rest. 

yet somehow the pendulum sometimes ends up swinging to the other side, the side of expectation-verging-on-entitlement that someone will miraculously anticipate my “need” (or, wish) and rise to meet it while i lounge on the couch with a good novel and a cup of decaf. 

i believe the Holy Spirit has been pointing this out to me recently, along with an extended invitation to move past it, to act like a grown-up in the kingdom of God. 

He invites me to ask for help if i need it, rather than expecting people to read my mind. but also to seek to give more than to receive. and He urges me to work cooperatively with Him in His purposes, taking the joys and the lessons that accompany even the most mundane tasks, knowing that these too are rich gifts.

so i’m learning:

  • to clean the floor and do the dishes with joy in the presence of Jesus, finding satisfaction in a house well kept.
  • to take on jobs as they arise with gratitude that though it may not be expendable income, we are always able to pay our bills (when for so very many people this is a luxury unfathomable).
  • to engage in the really tough work of actual fund-raising (hopefully without having a panic attack about it).
  • to get creative in forming fun mini-outings or activities with hazel — within walking distance or around that house — and pockets of quality time for myself even in the midst of a full day at home with a toddler

… rather than waiting to be rescued from it.

because it’s not too much for me.

“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.” – Elisabeth Elliot

 

12 hours of grace

i want to write about the recent 12 hours i’ve experience, in which God FEELS near, though of course He always is. but there’s been that thick blanket of grace, and those little signs that He’s listening, sees, cares.

it began with a good, ugly cry last night. i haven’t cried that way in so long. it was the sort of cry that, in its honesty, seemed to break some things open between me and God, and between me and tim. nothing is resolved per se, yet there’s an odd but certain hope that came in the wake of that cry. and that hope was an answer to a heart cry.

we listend to God together after that cry, tim and i. what i heard was reinforced by what tim heard. and there are now a few solid things to lay hold of with confidence: a few sentences of loving affirmation, an insight into a place where i feel stuck, and a gentle nudge toward a difficult obedience.

and to be listened to, held, not shut down… that was good, too. i’m grateful to have a husband so sensitive, so open to hear without defensiveness.

then i slept really, really well. perhaps i was exhausted by all the crying. and the miracle is that Hazel also slept really, really well. like 12 hours, straight through. this after nearly a week of night waking and/or waking at the butt-crack fo dawn, always in screaming tears, so much so that it got to the point where i felt as though every tim i woke, it was to her crying. i cannot begin to explain to you how immensely grateful i am for a night like that after so many rough night in a row (damn you, 18-month sleep regression.)

while i slept, i dreamed. i dreamed a variation on an old and familiar dream that features me in a familiar house, discovering new rooms and passageways and openings and features to this familiar home that i never knew were there before. this time it was about the home we’re planning to move into next year. as this beloved house unfolded before me with so many surprising features, i kept thinking, “i had no idea they [the friends selling the house to us] were so wealthy! there is more room here than we could ever need! we need to share this place with people! how will we find enough furniture to fill it?!”. i was overwhelmed by the expansiveness of that territory being given to us to call our own, for a price that was obviously a tiny fraction of it’s real value.

this dream in the past has meant that i’m on the brink of significant growth or healing. that makes sense, after that ugly cry.

this dream this time might also meant that what we’re being given in 2013 — the literal house and the work of the boiler room, both of which come down to us from the same dear and in-it-for-the-long-haul friends — may hold far more value and legacy than we can now comprehend. and there will be room there to expand, to imagine, to share, to discover, to celebrate, to be close.

either interpretation works for me. 🙂

this morning at our wee little church service, ryan delivered a good teaching, complete with a reminder that when God has told you which way to go, you mustn’t ever stop unless He tells you so. circumstances may get as rough and disheartening as they will, but you fix your face in the direction He’s told you to walk and you press on, sister! you press on.

all these things compile to a sweet sense of His nearness, a knowing that He is speaking and stands poised to teach, to rescue, to renew.

i just wanted to make note of all of that. He’s good.