Sunday, October 30, 2011

moment by moment to deliverance

"Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness... What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 6:17-18, 21-23

I remember a time that used to be devoted to working out -- a time when every spare moment was a chance to do another set of abs or leg kicks or pushups -- a time when a spare hour was undoubtedly devoted to a quick run or weights or yoga.

It wasn't an option for me.  It was a must.
I was enslaved.

Now?  Well, there's a marked different in my mindset.  There are many times I could work out, but I make a different choice -- to read or to write or to pray or even to do chores (which, oddly enough, I tend to find relaxing).  I no longer feel enslaved because... well, as I've said before, what's the point?  What will that one extra set of abs do?  Where will that extra pushup get me?  I'm all about being healthy, but part of being healthy is (for me) sometimes choosing not to exercise.  For me, it is a sign of my old self -- the old ways -- the former chains.  I was obsessed with being perfect for a variety of un-holy reasons.  So, healthy goes beyond the body and into the emotional and spiritual realms.

The biggest thing for me right now is the fact that I don't even have to work through anything to achieve this non-exercise-body-perfect-obsessed reality.  I'm just suddenly finding myself here -- as if I somehow stumbled along a worn-out path and found myself face-to-face with a new me -- a new reality -- a new life.

Where I am standing along the path, a very distant and dim but oh-so-familiar voice whispers in my ear, a familiar drone:  " could exercise right now -- flatten that tummy out, you know..."

If I were to respond, I might say something like, "Why?  There are so many other things I have not yet done today that bring me so much joy," or maybe just a simple, "Nah -- I just don't feel like it.  Go away, voice."

But the glorious reality is that I barely have to fight it away, because the voice is just that soft -- like a far-off memory trying to force its way back into existence but failing miserably because it's starving.  I simply haven't been feeding it.  And it's dying.

This is extraordinary -- to suddenly find myself in this place -- and this realization coming from a girl who, merely two years ago or less, found it hard to focus in a worship service because I was bemoaning the fact that she wasn't as skinny as she wanted to be.

...I remember one such service, consumed perhaps by guilt -- for eating too many calories, as well as for not focusing on God -- feeling like I was being eaten alive -- oh, God! -- I remember it so well, and crying out to Him -- "Father, just save me from this life of filth and lies!  I don't want this any more!" -- all the time wondering why I couldn't just let go of it.

And when did I let go, exactly?
It wasn't just a moment, was it?
It wasn't as if I could just make the decision and snap out of it, right?


It was years of striving and falling back -- of countless tears and obsession facing me in the mirror -- of being utterly consumed and worn-out and emptied -- of crying out to You day after day, moment after moment -- every time I caught glimpse of my reflection to boast or cringe at my profess -- it was each moment I brought it to You -- the painstakingly slow culmination of "Help Me's!" until suddenly, one day, I realized it just hasn't been an issue at all.

And it has taken an effort of new vocabulary and speech on my part -- of choosing not to indulge in skinny or fat talk -- to myself or to others.

And this small deliverance -- well, small to most, but huge to me and my life -- makes me think of the ways I ought to curate (as Megan of Sorta Crunchy puts it) my thoughts towards others awaiting deliverance.  For who am I to point a finger and say, "Fix this part about your life now -- it has no part in the Kingdom of God and you just need to let it go and move on"?  How can I say that to anyone after a 10+ year battle with body image as an idol (and still some residual scars that ooze up every now and then)?  What kind of husband would Elliott have been if the third or fourth or fiftieth time I was crying about my body issues, he had just up and left and said to me, "You know, I told you to just let go.  You didn't listen to me and I'm done giving you chances"?

Instead, he offered advice and support and prayer for years, perhaps with no end in sight -- no promise or hope of a resolution -- and he stayed.  How much more will God stay with us through our struggles?  And how could we, as children of the living God -- walking images of our Creator -- ever point a finger, scoff, and say, "Just get over it"?

No, friends.  That is not the way of our Father.
We need to stay.
We need to remain with each other.
We need to remember that true deliverance is in the hands of the Lord.

I can't pretend that it happened overnight, like we always want and expect deliverance to happen.  Sometimes it will only take a moment in in time -- sometimes it takes many moments -- perhaps even 30 years of growth and then a few years of ministry and then three days to overcome -- and then perhaps the rest of time-as-we-know-it -- yes, sometimes it takes a long time to witness true deliverance.

But it will come.
It will happen.

In time.

And sometimes, just moment by moment.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

what keeps me away

An unfamiliar silent stillness fills the room.  At first, my brain tries to fight through it -- restless habits breaking through an enveloping rest -- but eventually, I stop the fight.  I succumb to it.

Somehow, this place seems sacred.  There is nothing to distract me.  A baby sleeps peacefully in a folded-out co-sleeper next to me.  There is no internet.  There are no chores to be done.  My cell phone has died because it spent so much battery looking for non-existant service.  The lack of distractions is new -- refreshing -- and it draws me into His presence.  Yes, this is a sacred spot.

I practice a listening prayer.  I do not speak.  I do not ask.  I do not let myself fall away into a slumber.  I find myself in silent reverie until I am driven into the Word.  There, I seek to understand.  I ask questions.  I search for connections.  I search for God.

Coming home from our trip, I am reluctant to return to the white glow of a familiar distraction.  I fear turning on the power button, because I don't want to be fully consumed by an online world.  I want to remain distant -- to be far from the tempting easiness of reading a blog post instead of a parable.

And it's an awakening moment, really -- to realize that part of what keeps me away is the computer I keep just inches from my Bible.  I've come face-to-face with the startling reality that even though writing brings me closer to my Father, the means by which I write can also keep me away from Him.  I need to learn to temper my usage -- to put the computer away to chase after stillness -- to designate different spaces for different things.

What keeps you away from being with the Lord each day, and how have you been able to battle it?

Friday, October 28, 2011

a newfound hospitality

Whatever gifts had been given me, I was always pretty sure hospitality was not one of them.

I figured this out early on in our marriage, when the thought of anyone entering our apartment made me choke up with anxiety.  When we did have people over, I never thought to offer anything.  I felt all cramped up inside.  I didn't think of how they felt, because I was so consumed with my own anxiety.  It took all my energy just to "entertain" them.

People would invite us over for dinner.
We were nearly always unable to extend the invitation.

I figured hospitality was something I would have to work at.
I also figured that maybe I was just too introverted to have company over.  Ever.

But now living in our own home, it's like I've suddenly discovered the joy of hospitality.
Who knew all it took was having your own space? 
...or kitchen?
...or time to unwind without anyone around?

Who knew that maybe -- for some people (ahem - for this person) -- the circumstances around them affected whether or not they would be able to be hospitable?

Now I'm discovering that not only can I be hospitable, but I want to be -- I enjoy it -- I long to do it.  And ever since we moved into this house, we've had people in and out like crazy.

And this introvert is actually enjoying it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blog Highlight: the pastor and the bartender

Content:  I've got to say, I really appreciate this blog because it's not your typical Christian mommy blog.  I mean, the title of the blog hints at this fact (Emily is the pastor and her husband is the bartender), but the blog is so much more than a catchy title.  Emily talks about parenting styles (of which attachment parenting and Montessori are mainly highlighted), pastoring, her baby girl (Vicki Jo is just a little older than Gwenny!), book reviews, and recipes.  I love it!  There is always something interesting going on here, so I really recommend following her blog.  Where else can you find such a wide range of interesting topics?  (Also, it's worth mentioning that although there are many blogs on AP, I haven't found many on Montessori, so you're getting something really unique here.)

Style: Emily has a great command of her writing.  Her posts are extremely well-written and move along fluidly.  She definitely has the tone of an expert on her subjects -- be it pastoring or mothering -- and it's interesting to discover along with her what she's doing in both spheres of life.  Her style sort of reminds me of one of those women's journals magazines (albeit with slightly on-the-fringe subjects).

Frequency: She posts about two to three times per week.

Don't Miss: Munchee Monday and her well-informed posts on Montessori.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waste Not Wednesday: Reusable Solutions

Before you go ahead and...

...need a bag...

...or use a tissue...

...dispose of a jar...

...or buy water in a bottle...

...throw out a dish sponge...

...drink coffee in a disposable cup...

...or buy hand soap...

...replace a computer...

...or pour water down the drain...

...first ask yourself:

is there a reusable solution?

My reusable solution for the week:

My Computer

My trusty ol' MacBook and I go back to 2007.  Over the last six months, this little computer wasn't living up to its promise.  It had been getting increasingly slow and basically un-usable.

Growing up in America, my first instinct was to go ahead and buy a new computer.  So I started searching, until someone planted a new idea in my head:  get it fixed.

And I did!  A couple hundred dollars later, I have a new hard drive, a shiny computer, and I feel like I got a new one for barely NOTHING.  Hurray for reusable solutions!

Do YOU have a reusable solution story?

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Testimony

Have I ever told you my testimony?

Well, sure, I know a testimony is made up of one's entire life, and I could argue that each post is a little bit of the bigger testimony that is my life... but I mean The Big One -- the one testimony that sums up why I am the way I am today, and how I came back to believing in my Lord as Savior of my life.

That one.
Have I shared it here?
I don't think I have yet, and it's sort of crazy that I haven't done so.  But recently I was reading Titus, and ran across this verse...

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions... But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy."
Titus 3:3-4

And I thought: "Yes.  That is me.  This is exactly me.  That is my testimony -- right there."

And then I continued reading...

"I want to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good."
Titus 3:8

And I thought, "You know, it's about time I shared my testimony on my blog."
So here it is.

I grew up in a Christian family.  Not the kind of Christian family that claims one thing and does another, but the type of Christian family that lives it.  I was surrounded by people (including my extended family) who knew the cost of following Christ, and yet persevered because of His Grace and Love.  It was an incredible way to grow up, and I do not take it for granted.

It's worth mentioning that I've always felt "claimed" by the Lord -- that somehow, deep inside me, I felt as though I were truly adopted into His family -- that no matter what I did or no matter how far I'd run -- God had me.  I was His.

Even though I knew this, I was also curious.  It wasn't enough to know that certain things were wrong -- I needed to try them out and see why they were wrong.  I'd always felt this way in general, but I started to branch out in my curiosity a little bit more as I grew disillusioned with the faith.  Going to a Christian college, I started to doubt that people really had faith.  Everything seemed so fluffy and perfect, and I didn't want a fluffy faith.  So I allowed myself to question (which, I think, can ultimately be a good thing) and became friends with non-Christians, because I felt they were more "real" than the Christians I knew.  I am still friends with these wonderful, lovely human beings and am thankful for our friendships. I guess the only problem was that, as a Christian, I had no support base -- no church, no Christian friends, no mentors.  I was on my own.

And so I ran.  Far and fast.  You know the parable of the prodigal son?  Well.  That was me.  Every time I read it, I can see myself as that son, asking his father to have his inheritance and leaving.  Again, I say: that was me.  Do you know the implications of that son asking for his inheritance?  He was disowning his father.  He wasn't supposed to see his inheritance until his father was dead.  So by asking for his inheritance, the son was saying, "Dad, you're dead to me."  And that's what I was saying to God.  I was basically saying, "I know You've blessed me in many areas, but I don't want You in my life.  I'm just going to take advantage of those blessings.  I'm going to claim them as my own, use them up, and not talk to You any more.  Because the world is more fun, I want to party, and You're sort of getting in the way of my conscience.  Also: I just don't get You.  You're dead to me."  And with that, I left.

As I lived my life the way I wanted, I always had this sense of God in the back of my mind.  I even claimed to be a Christian.  But there were two things going on that prevented me from making Christ LORD of my life:  1) I was honestly felt like I was having too much fun; and simultaneously, 2) I felt absolutely chained to what I was doing.  There were times when it wasn't fun -- when I felt devastated and broken -- but I wouldn't allow myself those feelings.  There were two years when I didn't cry at all (and, if you know me, I'm a cryer, so this was very bizarre).  But if I let myself look into the reality of the situation, I was a shell of a person.  Everything was an act.  Everything.  And as I was also an actress, this really got destructive and dangerous.  It got to the point where I didn't know who I was -- literally.  I couldn't tell if I was Rachel or whatever character I was playing at the time.  Reality and the stage got confused.  It was so, so scary.

There was a very dark point in the winter of 2007.  When I think back on that time, all I can see is darkness.  I remember being alone in my house (because my college roommates were home for the winter.  I was in graduate school at the time for acting.) and everything seemed dark.  I remember crawling up my stairs with barely any energy left inside me, the loneliness gnawing away at my soul.  I saw this picture of myself in my mind -- a person dangling on a string -- about to snap -- and about to go hurtling into a miry pit.  But I couldn't even pray because I had nothing left inside me.  I whimpered to the Lord -- inaudibly saying, "God, I need You to come get me.  I can't do it."

"Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God."
Psalm 69:1-3

The thing about my testimony is that I did nothing.  I did nothing to deserve being rescued.  I didn't try to do any new or right thing -- I didn't seek a church, I didn't start pouring myself in the Word, I didn't do anything.  All I did was cry out to my God -- admitting that I was helpless without Him -- that there was absolutely nothing I could do to save myself.  And I seriously needed saving.

That's the most miraculous thing to me about it all.  I cannot claim anything in my salvation.  It was all God.  All it took was an inaudible whimper -- an admittance -- an asking -- and that was that.  My life has never been the same since.  

And I have never looked back.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

to my friends who mourn

"Carry each other's burdens..."
Galatians 6:2 

I will stand beside you.
I will share carry your burden -- not only because the Lord asks me to do so, but because I want to do so.
I will mourn with you, even when I fully don't understand.
And when I don't understand, I will remain silent.

But I will still be there.

If God has comforted me in a similar way, I will try to comfort you.
But if you cannot receive comfort from me, I will back off.
I will hug you.
I will let you cry.
I will assure you that your emotions are valid.
Because they are.

And I will just be there.

When words fail me, I will pray -- even prayers that have no audible sounds.
They might be silent, but the Holy Spirit will carry them off.
God hears them.
God mourns too.

And He will stand beside you always.

Sometimes I won't say or do the right thing.
Sometimes I might be insensitive.
But I want you to know you can tell me.
I will listen.
I will learn.
I will change my ways.
I want to know if I do anything to further the pain.
I want to know how to love you better.

I will be there.

To my friends who mourn:  there is a time for mourning.
There is also a time for dancing.
I will stand with you through the mourning -- however long it takes --
and I will hold your hand and dance with you
when the time has come.

And then, we will dance.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blog Highlight: Sorta Crunchy

Next in our Blog Highlight series is Sorta Crunchy.

Content:  Apparent from the title, you'll find a lot about simple living on Megan's page.  You'll be able to find a lot of good, practical ideas for living simply from her site -- from the ever-awesome oil-wash method (which I personally use and love) to a variety of green resources (see the link at the end of the post) to the ever-daring cloth wipes.  Besides promoting a greener way of life, Megan also has a lot to say about parenting (so much so that she's actually co-writing a book about parenting -- specifically, spirit-led parenting).  I've found a lot of solace in reading what she has to say about this subject, as I often feel on the margins in real-life when it comes to parenting styles.  Megan has also been getting more into sharing pieces of herself in the blog, which has really been a beautiful revelation.  I love learning more about this woman I admire so, so much.

Style: She writes so beautifully, almost as if she were painting pictures with words.  I love getting lost in her posts; even simple posts about washing dishes can become lovely portraits of a daily life.  Her writing is also marked with honesty and humbleness, along with bits of tender confessions.  Simply put:  her writing style is lovely, and I know you will get lost in her words along with me!

Frequency: Every weekday.

Don't Miss: Okay, there are a bunch of regular posts that I love:  What I Wore Wednesdays, Your Green Resource Thursdays, and the This Is Where I... Series.

Friday, October 21, 2011

on relinquishing control

These days don't go exactly how I want them to go.

I used to have plans.  Every day, I had a plan.  And I was really good about completing my plans.
My daily to-do lists were always neatly organized, and always completed.
The check-mark and I were good pals.

But I was young(er) back then.
I was young, and I was single.
I was young, single, and I did not have a baby.
Or any serious responsibilities beyond amusing myself.

With each new step in life, there are serious gains.  I would not trade where I am for anything.
But there are still moments when I mourn the losses -- just a little bit.  I know that in the losses, there are still gains.  Like learning how to be selfless (because I was not born a selfless human being).  Or learning how to sacrifice (because for most of my life, sacrificing was not a blessing.  Now I see it is the biggest Blessing of all).  And seeing how my losses sometimes benefit others (because I am constantly realizing it's not all about me).

And I'm learning to relinquish control.
Or, the facade of control.
Because, well, the reality is I wasn't ever in control, now was I?

And now, even if I wanted to pretend I still had control, I just can't.  The reality is I can make plans and lists and expect the day to go one way, and then something hits me out of left field.  Like a car breaking down.  Or a baby refusing to nurse.  Or a beautiful day lost because I have to stay indoors for a variety of reasons.  Or feeling exhausted every second of every day.  Or.  Or.  Or.

No.  I'm not in control.
And when I think that that's a bad thing, I remember that I should be thankful -- abundantly, on-my-knees-grateful -- because this world -- my world -- would be a messy, dismal place if I was calling all the shots.

So when I am mourning the loss of my control-freak-facade, I ask God to remind me that this is a better reality in which to dwell.

Thank-you, Lord, for being in control.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waste Not Wednesday: Smart Grocery Shopping (sans coupons)

Yup, that's right.
I want to talk about smart grocery shopping without using coupons.
The truth is there are some of us (*raises hand*) that just aren't designed for coupon-ing.  My brain doesn't really work that way (maybe it's the part about keeping track of all those little pieces of paper?  I'm not sure exactly...), and honestly, you need to allot extra time for it (instead of, oh say, blogging, for instance).  I thought maybe -- just maybe -- there are other people out there who, like me, have found some success shopping smartly without the use of coupons.

I'll share my tips below for saving time, money, and energy while grocery shopping.  After you read (by now surely you've learned the routine), be sure to share your own tips and tricks.  If you ARE an avid coupon-er, please share with us how you got started and the best ways to do it.

Rachel's Tips for Smart Grocery Shopping Sans Coupons

1) Choose a Store and Stick to It!

Choose one grocery store to do all your main shopping, and get to know it like the back of your hand.  I like to plan out my grocery lists so that I can go in and follow the list aisle-by-aisle.  This saves me time in two ways:  on the planning side, it helps me organize my needs better (which means the list gets finished faster), and on the shopping side, all I have to do is follow the list (instead of wondering which aisle the ^insert random rarely-needed item here^ is down).

Another bonus for choosing one grocery store is you can save the receipts and know what everything costs.  In other words, your budgeting will be more precise in the future, which brings me to...

2) Set a Budget and Stick to It

Decide on an exact amount that you can spend each month on groceries and don't go over it.  If you find yourself running out of food towards the end of the week, you start to get creative.  If you add up the grocery list (this is where those old receipts come in handy) and you're over budget, start to think about what exactly you can skip for the week.  Sometimes it makes me go back to the cupboard and think of how I can use those cans of tuna instead of buying extra chicken for the week, and sometimes it makes me really question if I need those granola bars for the week.

Some grocery stores have budget-helpers online.  You can create your entire grocery list before going in, and see exactly how much it is without the "trouble" of adding it up yourself.  I'm an old-school, pen-and-paper kind of gal, but I used one of these online resources when buying food in intentional community, and it saved us a lot of time and energy.

3) Buy Second-Best

Okay, so we all know that fresh is best, right?  But sometimes those of us on a tight budget (read: single ministry income) can't afford the luxury of getting fresh produce all the time.  But I really love eating healthy and so I found a way around it.  We buy what we think we need to buy fresh (for us that's lettuce, onions, carrots, apples, bananas (sometimes), etc.), but then the rest we buy frozen.  Usually all of our dinner veggies are frozen (broccoli, asparagus, stir fry, etc.).  We also indulge in frozen fruit (frozen mangoes and berries are a delicious treat.  I also freeze bananas when I see they are starting to turn bad so we don't have to throw them out.). 

4) Eat Less/Enjoy Leftovers!

In other words, practice mindful eating.  Put portions onto a plate (maybe even a smallish plate), eat with other people at a dinner table, and wait at least 20 minutes before taking a second helping.  You may be surprised at how many leftovers are available in the coming weeks.

I like to make a big crockpot meal one week, freeze the leftovers, and then put said leftovers into the meal plan a few weeks later.

Another aspect to mindful eating is to snack thoughtfully.  Before grabbing that extra granola bar or apple, really consider if you're actually hungry, or just mindlessly snacking.

5) Meal Plan

If you haven't started already, be a meal planner.  We plan our meals for two weeks in advance, including leftover nights (yes, we even "meal plan" our breakfasts and lunches).  This helps us buy only what we need and nothing more.  By the time two weeks is over, we definitely need to shop, because we're usually scrounging around for food (but this also helps us dip into our random food stuff we have way back in the cupboard).

Meal planning two weeks in advance is also a bonus when someone unexpectedly invites you over for a meal, because then you have an extra meal that you can use for the following two weeks.

6) Stay Flexible

If you notice something is on sale at the grocery store, jump on it.  It helps to have a few go-to, simple recipes lodged away in your brain.  Or if you are venturing slightly over-budget for the week, try to see if you can switch a recipe up (Does it really need the lemon?  Do you really need to buy that extra spice?  What can you actually do without?).

What are your tips for smart grocery shopping?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

four years ago: in a nail salon

I sat smugly in a Main Line salon in the middle of a weekday, getting my nails done.  My show was opening that night, and with a new hair style paid for by the theatre, a mani/pedi would be the finishing touches on an actress ready for her spotlight.

I was very full of myself back then -- thinking that, somehow, I was better than other people.  I don't know what other people, exactly -- maybe just people in general.   I got to go to nail salons in the middle of the day, when "normal" people were working, slaving away and wishing for a life like mine.  I got to spend three hours a day at the gym, because it was important for my job to be physically fit.  I was living my dream, and getting paid to do it.

Of course, these thoughts were kept secret in my mind.  I wouldn't dare utter them aloud, and instead allowed my naturally-humble demeanor to carry my through social situations.  No one could see into my thoughts, and so I could go on with the facade that I felt like everyone else.

But now, in the light, don't you see how ugly it all was?

"But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be made known.  Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the rooftops."
Luke 12:2-3

Maybe on the outside, I was pretty -- with my new hair, perfect nails, and svelte figure.
But inside, I was ugly through and through.

"Therefore do not go on passing judgement before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts."
1 Corinthians 4:5

This memory came to light today as I went through my menial, weekly chores -- the mopping, the folding, the getting-dinner-ready-ing.  It came in a flashback -- like many memories from my past life do -- and typical of the inner actress inside me, I felt the same pride I felt back then.  Sure, it was only an instant -- a flicker -- and then it was gone, but it really shook me up.

I used to be that way all the time,  I thought.  And then I thanked the Lord that He brought me far from that life.

And then I caught myself.  How far had I actually come?

Friends, I think pride is one of the slyest sins in the book.  It creeps up inside you when you least expect it, and it lodges itself deep in your soul -- in a place so out of conscious reach that it finds healthy nourishment to grow.  Even though my life is vastly different than it was four years ago -- when I was in the height of my self-worship -- I can't pretend to be unaffected by past habits.  Sure, maybe I don't gloat inside the way I used to, but is there even a bit of me that thinks of myself as better than another because I do (fill in the blank)?  Aren't I just as susceptible to pride in other areas of my life, such as church attendance or simple living or blogging or cloth diapering or keeping a clean house or having a baby who generally sleeps through the night or any myriad of things that I should not take pride in?

Yes, friends, I am still susceptible to pride, in all its ugly, gruesome forms.

But at the same time, I don't want to take away from the work God has done/is doing in my life.  I am vastly different than I was four years ago, and I am in a much better place.  And part of being in that place is admitting that although God is saving me from all forms of self-obsession, I am still prone to such things.  I am still fallen.  I am still susceptible to sin.

But I don't want it, and I am thankful for a God who reveals to me daily that I am in desperate need of a Savior.

Monday, October 17, 2011

what I know

This is what I know.

That there are days that are harder than others.
That there are times when the flashbacks come like torrential raindrops.
That there are memories flooding into my brain.
That sometimes I can't see straight.

There are times my brain feels fuzzy.
And times I can't relocate the peace I once had.
Times when sitting still is torture, and doing anything active takes more will than I have been given.

There are times when nothing I do seems to make sense.
And days when all I want to do is cry, but don't dare.
Weeks when I could fall asleep at the drop of a hat because I really am that exhausted.  All the time.

There are days, friends.

This is what I know.

I forget things.
I flub up.
I can't keep up.
I don't stay in contact with friends.
I fail.  Consistently.
I get scared.
I allow myself to stress about tomorrow.
I am selfish.
I want to forget but don't.  And sometimes won't.  Because I don't want to.
I wonder, "What if?" a lot.
I say the wrong things.
I neglect to say the right ones.
I put tasks ahead of... a lot of things.  And people.  And God.
I have skewed priorities.
Did I mention I fail?
I don't get it sometimes.
And sometimes I doubt.

And I'm sure you're wondering, "So where is the silver lining?  Where's the tagline that pulls it all together?"

Maybe this time I don't have one.
Because I don't have all the answers.
And I'm not as profound as I like to think I am.

But this is also what I know.

Life isn't about me.
I fail.  And that's the point.
I flub up.  And that's the point too.
I will consistently let people down, and they will let me down too.
I learn.
I grow.  And grow up.
I am forgiven.
I am redeemed.
I am allowed to tell God how I feel.  Even when it isn't the "right" thing to say to Him.
I am over-emotional, perhaps.  But that's not a bad thing.
I can empathize.
I can care for others.
I can be honest.

And I still don't have all the answers.
And I still doubt what I'm doing.
I still fail.

This is what I know.

I still need a Savior.
And a little grace.
From everyone, including myself.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

on Sabbath rest

I ask for peace, for rest.
God wants to give me Sabbath rest, and yet I fight it.
I always find something to do -- I always put something else above eternity.
I always cave in, putting my to-do list above all else.

Except recently, God hasn't let me.
Somehow, He has broken through -- keeping me mindful of the ever-important in the midst of the immediate.

Walking through my house, I notice the dust bunnies collecting under the chairs.  My gut instinct is to run for the broom and start sweeping.
But then, a rebuke:  My Sabbath is for rest, not for productivity.

I think of the grad school homework I could be doing, of the blog posts I could be writing, of the newsletters I could be composing.
But then, a whisper:  My Sabbath is for being still, not for keeping busy.

I wonder if maybe I should turn on a TV show, or a favorite movie.  Maybe I'll read some blogs and catch up on my commenting.
But then, some truth:  My Sabbath is for drawing near to Me, not for entertainment.

And without knowing how or when or why, even after an eleven-hour night of sleep, I find myself napping through the afternoon, and waking up to a slower pace.  I drink in the twilight as I sit in silence, thinking of my Savior -- allowing gratitude to fill inside me --

and I listen.

And listen.


And sometimes I don't know what I'm listening for, but I know this is an important step.
I know this is what He wants right now.
So I listen until I am drawn into His Word.

And I delight in His Sabbath.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Living in the White, White Suburbs, Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

I love our neighbors.
And I mean (okay, so I only just met them, and only a couple of them, but) they are really great.
And it's only taken a few days to meet them.

They are so friendly.  When I walk down the street, pretty much anyone who is outside will stop me and have a full conversation with me.  It's amazing.  I've honestly never experienced this type of neighborly hospitality in my hometown suburb.

But it makes me wonder a couple things, as I continue to grapple with the cozy whiteness of where I'm living.

1) Would I experience the same hospitality if I were a person of color?

My gut reaction says, very sadly, no.  Probably not.  There is another extremely affluent suburb close by where I attended college (and where we now do ministry).  The black students have a saying about going out into the neighborhood, and it's called, "Walking While Black."  Their experience walking around the town is much different than mine.  I really couldn't put it in my own words, so here's a bit of what it means to say WWB (in the words of my friend):

"I'm referring to the feeling that many people of color experience when walking in an environment that is not predominantly of their race... I will grant you that this feeling can sometimes be attributed to my own innate sense of insecurity, the idea that people will somehow know that I don't belong here." (Just a side note - I totally feel like I don't belong here and do belong here at the same time.  But whether or not I feel a certain way about the place, I still look like I belong here, and that makes living here much easier for me than it would be for some of my friends.)  "Then there are other times when I'm certain that it has nothing to do with my insecurity and everything to do with an unjust reality... Walking around [these types of suburbs] can be intimidating without white friends... It doesn't matter where you were raised, at some point you will encounter and remember that you are Black and in some cases still not wanted around."  

The words of my friend echo in my head and am greeted again and again by my lovely neighbors, all the time thinking: What if I weren't white?  And why do I deserve such niceness based on the color of my skin?  (I don't.)

2) Why didn't I experience this same type of neighborly-ness in the last (extremely diverse) suburb I lived in?

Don't get me wrong -- people were friendly in our old neighborhood, and truthfully, we would love to move back there someday.  But it was much harder to make friends there.  People tended to be a bit shyer, and in many cases, there was a language barrier.  Still, the whole time I was living there, I so wanted the immediate connection with them that I am now experiencing with my new neighbors.  But it never happened.  Nothing was immediate and I admit, I didn't go out of my way.  I was shy.  I didn't know what to do.  I tried to make conversation when I could, but many times I just sort of smiled and kept walking.

Maybe the key to living in diverse neighborhoods and learning to love your neighbors well is planting there for the long haul.  Our time there was like the blink of an eye.  We barely had time to get the soil ready before we were out (and we didn't leave because we were looking to; God opened a really neat door for us to walk through).

I don't have a profound, succinct way to end this post, but since I want to encourage others to engage with this conversation, I'd like to hear from you:

Have you ever had an experience similar (or exactly like) WWB?  What was it like? 

If you haven't had that experience but are learning about it for the first time, does it change or challenge the way you see your own neighborhood?

For those of you that have lived in diverse neighborhoods, how did you connect with your neighbors?  What made the difference, and how has your life changed because of it?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

a reminder about not putting our trust in earthly things


I can't believe I'm writing these words.

Our car broke down.  Again.

We just replaced the transmission.  Like two weeks ago.  And that was after not having the car for a month, getting it towed from place to place, and then finally reuniting with it.

So what gives? 

The last time this happened, we learned a lot about how God provides in really creative ways as we borrowed not one or two but seven different cars from seven different people, most of whom we didn't even ask to borrow a car from.

This time, I don't know what we're going to learn.  Maybe a little bit of patience.  Maybe a little bit of not relying on earthly things.  Maybe a lot of both.  And then some.

Hey you out there in internet land - could you do me a favor and say a prayer for us?  Because I'm really confused as to what to do with this situation.

...asking God for a miracle right now... 
...and maybe to gain a little clarity...

...and to keep things in perspective...

UPDATE:  We are getting the car sometime tomorrow (seriously - praise the LORD, folks!).  They didn't install the transmission correctly, which caused something bad to happen to the axle (can you tell I'm not a car person)?  But since it was their fault, it's all being done for free (can someone say miracle?) and we had an impromptu family day today.  Thank you for your prayers!

Waste Not Wednesday: How to Get a New Wardrobe (without buying a thing)

Sometimes, no matter how simply you live or how much you are content with your wardrobe, you are just plain tired of your clothes.

You look at your closet and think, "I just don't feel like wearing any of these things."

Or maybe you put on the same, go-to, feel-good outfit that you wear every week.

(This is my fall go-to outfit.  You will probably see me in this dress at least once a week.)

So, what do you do when you're worn out by your own wardrobe?

If you're tired of the "grin-and-bear-it" method, I have another idea.  Inspired by an annual church swap and from borrowing maternity clothes last year, here's my idea:  a clothing swap.

Here's how it works:  Go through your closet and take out all those clothes you've for-some-reason-or-another held onto throughout the years but never actually wear any more.  Call up some friends and ask them to do the same.  Find a central location point and -- you've got it -- start swapping!

I've done haphazard versions of the swap (nothing too formal) over the last year as I've had to borrow (and lend) maternity clothes, and through the process of losing weight from the pregnancy (the in-between stage was really awkward for a while until someone gave me a bunch of their old clothes).   I also know I had a few skirts and hoodies I didn't really want to part with (for strange, nostalgic reasons), but felt okay giving them to friends who would wear them.

You can get some really great new favorite outfit pieces without spending a penny, and you'll (hopefully) be able to part with all those old-time favorite items.

For more great green ideas, check out the weekly Your Green Resource guide.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Living in the White, White Suburbs, Part 1

Elliott and I have always been open to being elsewhere.
We have always lived with the attitude, "Here we are, Lord.  Send us."
And month by month, year by year, we wait to see where the Lord will send us.
Month by month, year by year, the Lord has made it very clear He's not sending us anywhere.

As my husband said, "There are some very supernatural reasons we have stayed exactly where we are."

Every time we sort of get an itch to go, God does something so crazy that we know, without a doubt, that He wants us to stay.  (1) It all started when Elliott got the job at the church (through the CCO.  Yay, partnerships!).  He came into the hiring process really late in the game, and this church really wanted him and only him.  (2) Then a year and a half into the ministry, our car was totaled.  Without any money for a new car (and a heart aching for the people in Haiti devastated by the earthquake), we basically told God we were going to Haiti.  A week later, we were given a free car.  (3) Over the last year, we were certain that the church would not have the funds to keep Elliott on staff, and started looking for employment elsewhere.  In a flat-out miracle, the church found the money to keep Elliott on for another year.  (4) Another free car.  (5) And now with an amazing house to settle into -- well, there is no reason we should have this house -- but here we are.  Yup.  We're certain God wants us exactly where He has us.

And that's a lovely thing.  It's beyond comforting and affirming.  But you know what?  I'm extremely uncomfortable at how comfortable I am in this place.

You see, I had a wake up call in the last year about the way I lived my life in relationship to the way I approached race.  The problem basically stemmed from the lie that I believed I didn't see color, and that that was an okay way for me to live.  My entire life (growing up in an affluent white suburb surrounded by other well-meaning people who didn't "see" color), I lived in ignorant white "bliss."

And I repented.  I asked forgiveness -- from the Lord, and from my brothers and sisters of color.  And I started asking God to use me in His plan to bring full racial reconciliation to His church.

So imagine my confusion when we moved into the white (and I mean, WHITE) suburbs.

When I found out this was happening, I brought it up to my friend (I'll call her "A"), a woman of color (with whom I have a very close, borderline scary (in a good way), spiritual bond).  I think I said something along the lines of, "We have such a heart for racial reconciliation, that I always thought we'd end up in an urban setting," to which A responded, "You know, we've got it covered in the city.  We're doing okay.  I know it doesn't look like it on the outside, but we're really doing okay."  And that's when I had the epiphany (DUH): The last thing the city needs is another white couple from the suburbs wanting to come in and make things right.  (As if WE know what to do!  HA!)  What the kingdom of God needs is a white couple, with a background in the affluent white suburbs, to go back into their context and change it.

That's where we come in.

We both come from very affluent, white, suburban neighborhoods (although neither of us were particularly wealthy growing up), and so we understand the context.  We can really relate to these people because they are the people we grew up with -- the kids we played with, the houses we slept over in, the meals we ate with the people that made them.  This is our context.

And yet we feel very alien, because we have been out of this context for over two years (Personally, it's been almost 4 years since I've lived in a white neighborhood.  I'm going through a bit of culture shock.).  We have lived in the city and in an incredibly diverse urban-suburban neighborhood.  We have lived simply and rejected The American Dream.  Yet God put us smack in the middle of the place where The American Dream is golden.

Walking around the other day to the library, we were admiring the beautiful houses (and these houses, it should be mentioned, could eat at least three or four of our little carriage house), and Elliott said, "I wonder when our neighbors are gonna realize we really don't belong here."  And it's so true, in a sense.  Our hearts don't really belong here -- our lifestyle does not belong here -- and yet this is the exact place where God wants us to do ministry.

So.  Okay.  God wants us here.

But my insides are squirmy -- not only because I feel like a fish out of water who had gotten used to the land but is now thrown back into the water -- but also because I'm finding that (UGH) I like the water.

I'm so comfortable here.

And that makes me so, so, so uncomfortable.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blog Highlight: heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Content:  Sarah's musings span very private, personal moments to poetry to good reads to social activism to anything else in between.  Her content is real, always meaty, and leaves you hopeful for the next post. The subjects she chooses to write about are usually very different from any other blog I read, and I find myself challenged about the way I live my life through her thoughtfulness.

Style: This girl can WRITE, and I mean, old-school write -- think novels and yesteryear-journalism and thematic essays.  I love reading her work -- no matter if it's a short blurb about what she's reading or an introspective post about Catholicism.  I am absolutely drawn in to each and every post because of her writing style.  (Just maybe if we're lucky, she might post bits and pieces of that novel I know she's working on.)

Frequency: She usually posts once a week, or two times a week.

Don't Miss: Poetry Tuesdays and "stuff I've been reading," because we all need a little more poetry in our lives, and she picks out some of the most interesting articles to read.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

let's talk about race.

It's interesting.  This post has been heavy on my heart for a long time, and I even started writing it about  a month ago.  And yet I've been reluctant to keep working on it -- to finish and post it.  A part of it is that no matter how many times I go over this post, I find that it's lacking.  There's always something more to say -- always something I can't quite articulate -- and I feel like it might be pointless to post it without saying every little thing I feel needs to be said.  But on the other hand, I think that's just an excuse.  Because I can post about race again -- it's not like this is the last post I will ever make for the rest of my life.  The discussion needs to start somewhere.  And that's the other point -- it needs to be a discussion.  I will not get to say everything I want to say, but that's where you come in.  You will probably say something I didn't say, or didn't even think to say.

But I think the other reason I've procrastinated on this post is because it's hard.  Although we think we live in a racially-equal society, we are still so hesitant to talk about it.  We hide behind the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement, but we do not reach out to our neighbors.  We tend to (and not everyone, I realize, but the majority) make friends with people who look, act, talk, and dress like us.  We want to stay in the comfort zone.  (I'm, of course, speaking generally here.)

But I don't want to stay in the comfort zone, because I know that's not where God wants me.  He made everyone with a specific heritage -- a rich variety of people.  And honestly, I learn the least about loving people when there is no struggle.  So.  I want to talk about race.  Struggle and all.

And I hope and pray you will join the conversation.  (Of course, there's a rich conversation already going on, so please check it out.)

Here are a few things that need to be said (that I don't feel like are said enough, at least in my whitey-white circles):

1) The "I-don't-see-color" Issue:  I'm going to come right out and say that until recently (ie. in the last couple years), my (faulty) approach to people of other races was, "I don't see color.  We're all the same." I (thought I) treated everyone as completely equal because I just "didn't notice" whether they were black or white or this race or that.  In my mind, we were all the same, and that made me okay.  I was "safe."  It was only last year that I realized how hurtful this approach truly was.  It completely ignores the intense history that people of color carry with them every day.  It keeps me living in a white obliviousness wherein I don't have to have difficult conversations.  It excuses the hurt and harm and devastation of the past.  It gives us no hope for the future.  It's just plain not right, and we need to break the cycle by bringing it up.  For a really great post on this issue, go here.

2) It's the Only Way to Move Forward:  If we don't talk about it -- if we don't engage in the conversation -- if we don't reach out across our comfort zones -- then we will remain a largely segregated society.  If you're in school, think about your school cafeteria.  If you're in the suburbs, think about your neighborhood.  Think about who your friends are -- who comes to your house, who comes to your parties, etc.  Really, how segregated are we still?  And why is this still the reality?  Isn't it sadly bizarre how after 40+ years, I can still live in a town that is basically full of all white people?  It creeps me out, honestly.  And I want it to change. But in order to change it, I need to have the conversation.

3) God's Definition of Worship:  In Revelation, we read about people from "every tribe and tongue and nation" worshiping the Lord -- here on earth, and someday in the new earth.  We are a racially diverse people of God, and yet in my own life, I have failed to attend one racially diverse church (for a consistent time).  And I ache for it, friends.  My heart aches because I know the Lord's heart aches for us to heal this part of our brokenness.  And honestly, if the church doesn't pave the way for this sort of reconciliation, then who will?  And how can we sit silently and just let it happen -- let the ignorance, the blindness, the "I-only-make-friends-with-people-who-look-like-me" happen?

I don't have the answers or the eloquence to make this post (or subsequent posts) super-awesome and profound.  The reality is, I have and will continue to make mistakes.  But I'd rather make them and grow than stay scared of saying something wrong.  I'd rather be a part of a reconciled church than stay comfortable.

So seriously.  
I won't stay silent any more.
And I hope you won't either.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Waste Not Wednesday: Saving Energy and Water

So here's the thing:  Elliott and I have never had to worry about utilities.  Part of the deal with our community-living was we had a flat rate on rent every month (pretty convenient, eh?  You're thinking about community living now, aren't you?  Just a little bit?).  Now that we're in our own house, we have graduated into more of the real-world (we've been taking baby steps) and have to pay energy and water just like the rest of you.

Of course, this makes us think about our usage more often, and we want to be more intentional about it -- not just to save money (although that's a big bonus), but also because every little more step towards intentional living is a step closer to the restoration of God's creation (can I get an Amen?).

This is where you -- my readers -- come in.  I'm going to share the little bits I know about how to save energy and water, and then I am begging you to join in on the comments section.  Maybe we'll all learn a little bit from each other.  What doya say?

And so now I give you...

Rachel's ideas for saving energy and water:

Unplugging: this one's an oldie-but-goodie!  I've read, heard, and witnessed how unplugging appliances and electronics can save LOTS of energy.  So we're trying to make a habit of unplugging computers, phones (and chargers -- EVEN when they're not charging), stereos, space heaters, etc. when they're not in use.  When I lived with my dear friend Janelle (Hi, Janelle!) before my married days, I unplugged EVERYTHING before leaving for work each day, and it really saved us a lot of money on our energy bill.

Lights Off: This is simple:  If you're not in the room, don't leave the light on.  I'm curious to know if anyone also keeps candles and/or an oil lamp around for reading at night.  Has anyone done this?  I think I might try it this winter.

Bundle Up and Cuddle:  If it's cold out, wear more layers.  Wrap yourself in a fleece blanket.  Cuddle with your spouse/kids/pet-of-choice.

Bracing myself for the cold: bundled and armed with tea.

Energy-saver:  Opt for energy-saving appliances (air conditioners, washers, etc.).

Take It to the Gym:  If you belong to a gym, use the facilities.  Take a shower there a few times a week.

Air-dry the Laundry:  Rig up a clothing line inside the house (for the winter months) and outside the house (when it's nice out).

Overuse the Cold Setting:  When you can, choose to wash your clothes in cold water instead of warm or hot.

Alternate Heat Sources: This one I'm still learning about, since we just now have the option.  If you can, use your fireplace instead of gas heating or space heaters.

What about you?  What do you do to save energy and water?  I know there are some more great ideas out there, and I really want to put them into practice!

Gwenny helped me write this post today, and she says you should subscribe/follow this blog.
(Well, actually, what she says is, "Goooooobbbrrrrrrrhhhggggrrrr," but I translated it for you.  
You're welcome.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

on the move and being home

We wake up early on a Monday morning -- somewhat weary from the weekend but also somehow refreshed by the newness of it all.  My husband asks a question -- a question that has grown familiar in the last 36 hours.

"Does it feel like our home yet?"

The truth is, I don't know.  Or maybe, yes and no.  Yes, this is our home.  Our things are here.  Our hearts are here.  But no, it still doesn't seem real.  There's something dreamlike about it -- something that doesn't quite click in my brain as "home."

I know it will come with time -- the clicking into reality -- the snapping out of the constant dreamlike state.  It will become normal.  It will become more real.

But we are so used to movement around us -- to many pairs of feet treading the floors below us -- to being greeted in the morning by many different faces -- to share a space with people doing different things -- to negotiating quiet time and dinner time and chores and food lists and relationships.

So, yes.  This is different for us.  This is new.

It should be mentioned that the only times Elliott and I have ever been alone have been on vacation.
And so when people ask me what it's been like the last two and a half days, all I can think is, "It feels like vacation."
And also, "My brain is fuzzy," because everything happened so fast.

We are still recovering from the whirlwind that was last week, and adjusting to this newfound life of... stillness.  We've also been prone to question every noise ("Did you hear that??" seems to be a frequent phrase in our house these days) as we are not used to being the only ones in the house.

But we are, indeed, adjusting.
And we are, indeed, loving it.

Somehow it feels as if we got married all over again.  Or maybe even that we delayed the nesting for a while, and we're suddenly coming home from our honeymoon two years later and with a baby in tow.  I also have a feeling our church is celebrating as well -- people have literally been showering us with gifts, old and new alike.  And they showed up in droves on the big moving day.  It was overwhelming (the good kind of overwhelming).

God's provision has been abundant.
And we are still in awe of our much our God is mindful of us.

How can it be that He loves us so much?
...that He cares for even the everyday things?...
How can it be?

And the big move itself went... um... remarkably well.  When we decided we were moving, I was bracing myself for a full-blown anxiety attack.  But it never came.  The usual panic-before-the-move-until-I'm-basically-paralyzed thing didn't happen.  God has been very gracious every step of the way.  Maybe the rushed nature of the move helped, and maybe God gave a double portion of His peace in my heart.  Peace surrounded the whole week and was centered in my soul on moving day.  And we had so much help.  It was as if a swarm of (busy, helpful, loving) bees descended upon our stuff, and magically transported it into the new place (Whoot!  Magical bees!).

And now, for some highlights:
  • That despite the call for 80% rain all day, it was sunny and beautiful.  (Did I mention we have a gracious God?)  We were praying for a nice day because we didn't actually rent a UHaul but borrowed people's trucks, and it turned out to be okay, even with potentially ominous weather.
  • We discovered we have an attic.  A really cool, old, spacious attic.  Full of really interesting finds (which we will have to ask our landlady about).  I mean, if we stayed here a good amount of time, we could potentially think about using the attic for something.  Like more living space.
  • Ikea delivers super-early (or at least, for us they did).  We now have (our very first!) dining room table and chair set.  We have a dining room and can't wait to use it with many friends and family!  
  • The awesome, built-in bookshelves also have a space perfect for exactly one chair, which means we have a reading nook.
  • Neither of our parents could be there, but we were "adopted" by a couple in the church, who stayed to the bitter end of the move, making sure we felt settled enough to rest for the night.  They bought us dinner and (yes) showered us with gifts for the kitchen.

Some moving snafus we didn't think about beforehand that are worth mentioning:

  • That pokey little staircase I love so much?  Well, it wouldn't allow the boxspring to come up the stairs.  Um, let me rephrase that:  the boxspring that we bought the last time we moved five months ago won't fit up our stairs to go into our bedroom.  The last time we moved, we had to replace the old boxspring (which may or may not have had mice living in it on occasion -- YUCK) and slept on the floor for the first week while awaiting its arrival (I was eight months pregnant.  It was not a fun time.).  This time, I tried to swallow down the probable reality that we would be facing another couple weeks of sleeping on the floor while awaiting another new boxspring, but our pastor came to the rescue.  He went out and got us some boards to rest our mattress on.  So far, it's fairly comfortable, so we may just do without.
  • Ha.  Gas.  That's kind of important, right?  Well.  We don't have it.  So that means our showers have been taken at the local Y and our meals have been made via microwave or crockpot.  (Gotta love that gym membership!  And that crockpot!!!)  We should get gas turned on soon. (Update: the gas man came!!!  We're all set!)
  • Oh, you know.  The basics you always forget.  I mentioned some of them yesterday: salt (hummus and chicken stock?  It's, um... not going to be a featured recipe any time soon), coffee filters (hello, Starbucks run!), tissues (did I mention we're all sick?)...
  • It's been cold.  Okay, so maybe not a moving snafu per se, but it really feels like it went from summer into late fall.  Our bodies are not adjusting well. 
There are still boxes to unpack, still questions about what else we need and what goes where, but for the most part, we are settled.  And we can't wait to share our home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

where God finds me (and how He breaks my bad habits)

I have never been particularly "good" about setting aside quiet time with God.  I've always been somewhat strangely addicted to a crazy-busy lifestyle, while at the same time hating it.  But even when I hated it, I found myself going back for more -- saying YES to more things to do, adding more things to my personal schedule, and rushing around like a chicken with -- well, you get the point.

Yet right before the baby was born, the year was spent concentrating on the discipline of daily time with God.  I wanted it to become a habit.  And it did.

A couple of months into motherhood, most of my habits were out the door.  As a new mom, I could barely remember if I showered or ate (and this coming from the girl who used to get up at five every morning to exercise and ate six small meals a day at the same time every day.  I am dedicated to schedule.)  As for a daily quiet time with God, I tried to do it in the morning with babygirl, but I became easily distracted.  And then when her feedings went from a lazy 45 minutes to a rushed 10 minutes, I felt completely at a loss.

So I did the only thing I know how to do when I feel completely helpless: I prayed.
And prayed.
And prayed.
I just asked God to help me -- to carve out time for us -- to help me know Him better.

It was just the other night when I realized with what creativity God answered that prayer!

Shortly after putting Gwennypie to bed, I tend to stay in the room for at least 20 minutes in case she wakes up.  I know not everyone agrees with this style of putting-baby-to-bed, but I really relish those 20 minutes, and find myself just being in God's presence.  It comes naturally, since the last thing we do with Gwendolyn is pray and then say The Lord's Prayer.  I am already in communication with Him, and we just sit together.  It's the most peaceful time I've ever had with the Lord.  Ever.  In my life.  And it's one of the greatest gifts He's ever given to this busy-minded-heart of mine.

And as for reading the Word, somehow that got worked in too.  Since I can't break my exercise habit (even with lack of sleep -- I sit around too much of the day, I need to get some running in), I find I have a half hour before babygirl wakes up.  As I munch on my breakfast, I read the Word.  So I guess you might say I have two quiet times per day now.

I am thankful for the way He answers prayer.
I am thankful that He communes with us.
I am thankful that He has never given up on me and my bad habits.

So He has found me where I did not expect to be found -- in a somewhat mundane (but treasured) routine of putting my own child to bed.  And before I go to bed for the night, God meets me in the quiet stillness.

(Hey friends -- an update on the move will be up soon.  We just got internet and we're attempting to settle in.  So if this week seems a bit dodgy on the posting, give me some time to get my bearings again.)

(Oh, and have you subscribed/followed this blog yet?  You should do that! :)  Subscribe on the left of this page, and follow on the top of the page to the left.)

(Isn't it funny how many things you forget to pick up when starting over in a new home?  Elliott went to make coffee today before realizing we had no coffee filters.  I almost went over to our neighbor's house to ask for some, but it was still too early yet.  And we also forgot to get salt, and I realized this too late before starting to make hummus.  Have you ever tried to season hummus with chicken stock?  Very interesting.)

(Um.  No more thoughts.  That's it!  Leave me a comment!)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

God's fingerprints are all over this one, folks

My husband told me I should post this excerpt from a previous post, and so in light of today's move, I thought I would.  Here's what I wrote on September 8th in my post entitled the truth of it is I'm scared:

"Because to be honest, I dream of having a home.  I know that may come as a surprise...but it's true.  Deep down, I pray for a home to call our own.  A place to settle down in, for years to come."

At the time of writing the above, I thought we'd be living in intentional community for at least the next year, if not more.  But God knew -- even as I prayed while writing the above post -- what was to come.  I can almost picturing Him smiling down at me, saying, "Oh, Rachel.  Just you wait."

And the thing of this whole situation is that God's fingerprints are all over this one.  You can't get away from it.  Yet again, in His God-like fashion, He has done something in our lives that is so incredibly radical and unheard of, that everyone in my life cannot help but ask, "What is going on in her life?"

A quick review of The Great House Event of 2011:  once Elliott and I found out we would be here for another year in ministry, we started praying the unthinkable: a two-bedroom home, with laundry (for all those cloth diapers), and near to our church (which is in what could be one of the wealthiest areas in the country) for the low price of $*** (not important, but let's say it's about half of what the going rate of said apartment would be in this area).  Secretly, I also prayed for some trees.  Maybe a little space to have a garden.  Hardwood floors.  But I didn't ask others to pray for those things.  The original prayer seemed like a high-enough order, don't you think?

Well, the prayer wasn't answered on our time frame, which caused us to move from one community to another (and there have been many benefits reaped from the experience), but it was still answered.  Like, um... exactly answered.  Like, there's no other way around it.  You cannot explain this miracle away by sheer luck because the house we have for the price we are paying does not exist in this area.

In short:  it's a God thing, through and through.

And why, many in my life ask, do these types of things consistently happen to me?

Here's what I think:  early on in our relationship, all Elliott and I asked of the Lord was that He would use our relationship to glorify Him.

And He is.  Big time.

That's why.

Anyhoo.  I'll see you on the flip side, once we get internet into our own home.

(Thank you, Lord.)

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