Thursday, May 22, 2008

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

Why do I feel so much like a trapped animal? A porcupine, to be exact, throwing up my quills at everything that approaches my corner. I am frustrated and despairing of just about everything and everyone.

How long will you hide your face from me?

I am frustrated with living my life under a microscope, with every decision subject to commentary. I am frustrated with the halted forward momentum regarding the sale of our real estate. I am more frustrated with my own inability to brush it off as just the way it is, and my need to continually analyze my heart, in case the lost momentum comes as a result of something I did or am still doing. What am I missing?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?

I feel like my faith is slipping away; faith that God is working my life out according to my best interests, faith that my best interests are remotely related to my dreams and plans. More strongly, I feel like my life is slipping away. I want more children, but don't feel this is a good time to start a new baby project. I want to reach out and minister to others, but don't feel I have a space (physical or intellectual) to minister from. I am left feeling like a complainer, that all I can focus on is the bad parts of my situation. I don't think there are many out there who could weather this transition with any better grace, but that doesn't make living through it any easier.

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that he will not give us more than we can bear. Or more accurately, more temptation than we can bear. There is always a way out. But I am feeling very tempted right now to crumble under the pressure. Was there ever a moment in your childhood when you were tempted to do something wrong, but you resisted the temptation ALMOST until someone came along to find you having given in a minute too early? Or have you ever watched a sporting event that lasted ten seconds too long for the team that ended up losing? I grow afraid that I will not be able to make it to the end of this test without giving in to the crazy person in the back of my head.

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

I can barely hold myself together these days. One moment I am able to speak reassuringly to a friend, the next I am swimming in self-pity. I tremble with an anxiety I cannot shake, my stomach knots with dread and dislike of my situation. I have not felt God so detached from me in years. Usually, when I call on him and bring my focus back to his way of thinking, he reveals himself to me and births in me a fresh start. But while I call out, he seems to remain distant.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.

I know I need to just be okay with the situation, however one goes about doing that. God never promises to fix my earthly problems, only to be with me through them and to fix my perception of my problems. But it rings a little trite when I think I am missing that part where he walks with me.

My enemy will say, “I have overcome him”

There is a jagged dark streak across my heart that remains through the ups and downs of this amazing year of living in the country. I can feel it, I can point to it. The darkness hurts, every time I draw a breath. Is that what this season is about, coming to terms with my inborn melancholy predisposition? Learning to accept it? That feels strangely like losing myself, admitting the lighthearted girl my husband married is slowly being extinguished. If that is true, then it seems the enemy has indeed overcome me, and I am lost.

My foes will rejoice when I fall.

What better target for the enemy is there, than to try to get a confident Christ-follower to give up in discouragement? I don't want to fall! I fight against the enemy all the time, but I am weary. I need the Lord to do the fighting, but I am really struggling to believe God is doing anything more than watching me learn some life lessons on my own. Lord, please let the storm end before my ability to withstand it blows away in the wind!

But I trust in your unfailing love

Ah, yes, here we come to the part where the psalmist declares his confidence that God will come through. How did he come to be able to say this? But I notice he does not tritely express a belief that God will fix all his problems. I suppose in my deepest heart, I do carry an essential belief that God loves me. No matter what else may happen.

My heart rejoices in your salvation.

God's salvation is being saved from myself, from my wretched human condition, by something greater than myself. Thank God that such a thing is available to me, and that I have found it. Even when I question everything else about my life, I still believe that Jesus is the way of salvation and I have staked my life on that salvation. So I declare that yes, my heart does rejoice in the salvation I have.

I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.

And he has. My life has its share of turbulence, but overall it is a good life that I would not trade with anyone. Most of the offenses against me are in my own head. Still hard to swallow sometimes, and still legitimately attacks of the enemy, but it could be so much worse.

While those words are true, they are hard to say when I want to wallow in feeling sorry for myself. And when I am tired and feeling isolated. Or perpetually unbalanced. Yet what else can I do? My life is built on this belief, to say otherwise is to unravel the very fabric of my spirit.

Oh God, please hear these words, spoken not from warm and fuzzy feelings but from the desperate aching wilderness of my heart. You are who you are, no matter how I feel about it. Bless me, I beg you, for declaring my belief in you anyway. Give me the strength to resist the enemy all the way to the end of the test, so you can be glorified. Overcome my enemy so he cannot rejoice over me. Move mightily in my situation, absolutely, but more than that, renew my weary heart. Thank you for the hope of each new day, that this might be the day where the movement will begin again.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Praise in the Storm

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desire of your heart. Psalm 37:4

One of my blogger friends builds each day's blog entry around the lyrics of a song. I like that idea, although I don't know the lyrics of very many songs.

My days are filled with distraction, and it is only on a few nights, about once a month, when I get out in the car by myself, that the distractions are silenced for a few brief moments. I have grown to love the drive home at the end of girls' night as much as hanging with the girls, because I get to listen.

I get to listen to the radio. I get to listen to my thoughts. I get to listen to God. And those moments of listening sometimes turn out to be the most profound moments of my spiritual life.

Tonight as I tuned in to the radio it was as if someone were picking up a wave from my subconscious mind:

I was sure by now, God, that You would have reached down

and wiped our tears away,

stepped in and saved the day.

Boy, that sums it up pretty well I think. Seems like I can no longer even remember what it is to even feel in control of my own life.

But once again, I say amen

and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,

"I'm with you"

and as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise

the God who gives and takes away.

But this is what it comes back to. God reassures me that he is with me, but I need to remember that it is He who retains control over my situation. He gives every good thing, and he also reserves the right to take it away at His discretion.

And I'll praise you in this storm

and I will lift my hands

for You are who You are

no matter where I am

and every tear I've cried

You hold in your hand

You never left my side

and though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

I have been thinking my place is to accept whatever is handed to me. I have prayed to become content, and to be at peace with my situation. But tonight I had a realization that it goes beyond that. I am called to praise God, regardless of my situation.

And He cares for me so tenderly, how can I not do so? He cries every tear with me, just like I cry when my kids go through rough times. But He knows the result He is working to achieve in me, and it is worth my temporary discomfort.

I remember when I stumbled in the wind

You heard my cry to You

and raised me up again

my strength is almost gone how can I carry on

if I can't find You

and as the thunder rolls

I barely hear You whisper through the rain

"I'm with you"

and as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise

the God who gives and takes away

I have started over so many times in my life. My faith journey includes lots of stumbles and lots of reaching out for hands to pull me through the hard times. Now I am experiencing another new start, and I revel in the knowledge that God is indeed with me.

I lift my eyes onto the hills

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

I lift my eyes onto the hills

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

I want to take back control of my situation, and I will definitely be grateful when we can put the sale of our SLC house behind us and move into our own place. But even then, I can never forget: my help comes from the Lord.

It is time to do more than just endure, more than be patient and content with my situation. It is time to praise God in this storm.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Lyrics taken from:
Praise You in This Storm
words by Mark Hall/music by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms
Performed by Casting Crowns

Saturday, May 10, 2008


A recent Sunday marked a milestone for both Justin and me. Over the course of our time here in Texas, we have become persuaded that it is time to be baptized. We have both been believers and followers of Christ since childhood, but neither of us has had an experience we could point to as a meaningful baptism. Justin's story is his own; below you can read my thoughts, shared with the 9am group just before my turn.

I am not sure how else to share my experience, as I don't think I yet comprehend the full significance of it. I think in my humanity I expected it to have made a bigger difference in the circumstances of my life, as if this were the last block to my forward movement. That did not happen in quite the way I guess I hoped. But I do feel a sense of contentment, that I know for sure that I obediently demonstrated something that was clearly asked of me. And the knowledge that God is pleased with my obedience, regardless of whether he sees it as something deserving of reward, is enough for me.

Believing in Jesus is more than accepting him as our Savior; it is also committing to make him our Lord, the one who controls our decisions, our dreams, our lives. First he saves us, then he spends a lifetime changing us to be more like him.

I asked Jesus to be my Savior at the age of 7, and have continued following him ever since. More than 27 years later, I am thankful that salvation was given at the beginning of my journey, and that God has been patient with me while I learn more and more about what it really means to make Jesus my Lord.

The church tradition I grew up with did not emphasize water baptism; therefore I was never really presented with the opportunity in a way that compelled me to respond. I feel my life has been a testimony to God's ongoing work, but I am now convinced that God is gently asking for this public demonstration of my faith. I am here to be baptized today because my understanding of God is growing once again.

This year has been another season in my journey of making Jesus my Lord. It has been one of the more challenging seasons of my life, but also one of the bigger seasons of growth. Today I am here because I want to take advantage of every scrap of God's blessing in my life. And I want to make sure there is no unfinished business on my part, in order to have an open channel to receive that blessing. I want to know God, and experience his power.

The apostle Paul expressed this thought much better than I can:
"Not that I have already obtained all this [knowing Christ and experiencing His power], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14
Today, I press on.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Just Call me Dorothy

I have come to believe that Justin deserves special recognition for committing to sleep in the same room as me for the rest of his life. He had no idea what was coming, and, since I am usually asleep during the most hazardous moments, neither did I.

Last week it happened again. I believe the time was about 2am. As usual, his experience and mine were two totally different things. From Justin's perspective, he rolled over to realize there was rain coming in through the window right next to our bed. Casually, he sat up and leaned over me to close it.

At this moment, my dream world cascaded over into reality. I awoke in the darkness to gale force winds blowing through the room, dimly aware of the tornado ripping through the night only feet away from the bedroom window. My brain made vague reference to the Wizard of Oz.

I could see that Justin was already bravely battling the raging storm outside, as he fought to close the window before the wind could harm me. What was truly amazing was that the window itself, frame and all, had already been sucked away. There was the twister, churning before my eyes.

At this point I really needed to see better. I reached for my glasses in the dark, but couldn't lay my hand on them. I needed light! I ran from my bed in the direction of the light switch by the bedroom door, but realized I needed my glasses to find the switch.

I took a few steps back toward the nightstand to reach my glasses, then remembered I was looking for light so I could find my glasses. The words "drunken stagger" could have been accurately applied to me as I lunged back and forth between the switch and the nightstand a few more times. It may have helped if I had actually opened my eyes during these moments, but then again, it was dark and I still hadn't connected with my glasses.

Justin's words finally broke through the chaos: "It's all right. Stop. Don't be afraid. Calm down. I've got it under control." He just kept repeating the words over and over until I heard them.

I stopped in the middle of the dark room, and finally opened one eye.

The experience of waking from an intense dream like this often gives me the sense that I have been watching a movie on tissue paper, because I can see the bits of still-moving pictures blowing away in the wind. Sure enough, the tornado and all imminent danger immediately evaporated in front of me. Not only was the window still there, it was also securely closed. Once the dream fragments had fully cleared away, I obediently returned to my bed, feeling a little sheepish.

Sometimes I wonder if this is what it will be like to wake from our fragile earthly reality, into God's eternal reality. Everything around us seems so solid, and problems seem so real. Some of them certainly seem deserving of fear. Loss. Bankruptcy. Turmoil. Change.

What if those storms have much greater magnitude in our heads than they do in God's reality? God sees the rain outside, and calmly closes the window before we get wet. It seems to me that we tend to be surprised by the rain, and immediately assume the worst. We jump into action and start casting about in every direction but His, for illumination to see the problem and solve it on our own.

And all the while, God is watching us flail, repeating: "It's all right. Stop. Do not be afraid. Calm down. I've got it under control. Do not be afraid." Over and over, until we hear it and open our eyes to God's reality, and sheepishly see ourselves through His eyes. In fact, I think God knows exactly how difficult it is for us to see through our dream-like reality. "Do not be afraid" is the most often repeated command in the Bible, occurring hundreds of times. Over and over, until it finally can sink in.

Psalm 4:8 has a reassuring word for us as the storms pass through the night of our reality: "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety." The psalmist was referring to literal sleep, but the correlation holds up as we consider our reality to be a dreamlike state. I can rest in the dream that is this life, and have peace, because God is keeping me safe.

So what if storms come our way? In the mega-storms of our reality, all of our flailing will not even fix the problem. We grasp ineffectively at half-solutions, losing sight of the real issue. And all we do is lose sleep over our inability to solve it. That night in my bedroom, I was so caught in the moment between turning on the light and finding my glasses, that had there been any real danger I would have been sucked out the window still looking for a way to see the problem better.

By contrast, in God's reality, the storms are more like gentle, necessary rain, and are completely manageable. I need to rest in God's promise that he is keeping me safe, regardless of what I think I see happening around me. "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety."

Who knows? Just maybe, what I perceive as a tornado will turn into a ride to Oz, a place brimming with beauty, fun, and adventure. Seems like a good reason to rest, and believe that the God of the Universe has it all under control.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Little Chef

As you probably know, I love to be in the kitchen. I love eating good food, definitely. But there is something magical about making it yourself. Nothing makes me happier than providing good food for those I love.

Well, as usually happens, my interests tend to influence the interests of my children. Of course, they love to eat. And as they are growing, they can frequently be found in the kitchen with me. Maren likes to make her own stew out of whatever I am cooking up. And Jesse, well he just likes to be in the middle of whatever I am doing.

On a recent night, Jesse helped me make Pizzeria Pizza. I am curious what it is about red sauce that especially entices young chefs to get involved. Perhaps there is a subconscious connection with painting. Or the circus.

Relax, that spoon didn't get licked until all the sauce was hygienically spread onto the dough. Honest. And I never said the kids get involved entirely for altruistic purposes. I find that sometimes, bribing someone into a desirable activity can lead to the activity being repeated later for its own reward.

I always expected Maren to take after me in this interest, but I guess it stands to reason that since I spend so much time in the kitchen, Jesse would pick it up just by osmosis. And anyone in the house can testify to you, this boy loves to eat. So I feel I am doing a good deed by teaching him how to provide food for himself. Perhaps a young lady will thank me someday.
This particular night, the pizza turned out spectacularly well. I had fresh mushrooms, and the ones that didn't get eaten by my kids ended up turning that pizza into a magical piece of heaven.

Jesse was so excited to try it, he couldn't decide between changing his clothes himself to be ready for dinner, or waiting for someone to help him. After a moment of the first option, he gave up and came to check out the wonderful smell.

We did take care of that detail before sitting down to eat.