Thursday, November 29, 2012

I live my life in a frantic pace, but I want peace instead.

"Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below."

-Be Still My Soul, written by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel (1752)

If you've read this blog long enough, you'll know that I tend to be a frantic person.  I always feel like I'm juggling a million things in the air -- that I can barely ever stop to breathe or pause.  Certainly, I have been trying -- but then something in my life changes, and I feel the frantic energy pulsing through my veins yet again.

In a way, it's sort of part of my disposition.
But does it have to be?

My life is like a lot of other lives.  In fact, my life is a lot less busier than other lives.  I have a lot of opportunities for "down time," all things considered.  

So why do I constantly feel frantic?
Do others feel the same way, or are they walking with a peace in their hearts?

Jesus said he gave us the Holy Spirit as a counselor -- a minister -- of peace to us.  In fact, we named Gwendolyn Shiloh after this verse, so it's one that is ever-present in my mind:

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
 John 14:25-27, ESV 

I want to live with peace abounding in my life -- not with frantic energy destroying my spirit.  I want my life to spill over with a stillness -- not infecting others with anxious attitudes.  

Last year, I had many resolutions at the New Year that, for various reasons, I broke.  This year, I wonder if I can challenge myself to live a life full of peace -- to combat these feelings of worry and hurry the way they should be fought: with prayer.  

As I think ahead to how I will -- daily -- commit to peace, I would love to hear your thoughts and stories on the issue:
  • Do you live with a frantic energy, or do you live with peace?  Was it something you had to work at, or did it come naturally?
  • How do you choose peace over anxiety every day?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An American Thanksgiving in Oxford, and other celebrations of makeshift families

Balanced in my hands, I held a steaming hot turkey fresh from the oven.  Somehow -- some way -- I found myself bounding down the street from one flat to the next.  English passersby questioned my antics and I yelled to the onlooking strangers, "It's American Thanksgiving!"

The warmth and celebrations reminiscent of home greeted me at the door as my friends relieved me of turkey-balancing duties.  We all headed upstairs where there was a flurry of activity:  college students frantically trying to piece together what-they-knew-or-didn't-know about how to prepare this important holiday meal.

Try as we did, our English friends didn't make it out to our festivities -- save one, whose name I don't remember.  But in the midst of all this hubbub and new friendships, I felt as though among family.  True family.  Family I barely knew, but family who understood the importance of this time of year.  Family that I've since lost touch with over the years, but who have remained fervent kindred spirits of mine.

One of the most treasured memories is that of my friend Ben, who tragically passed away only a couple years after this occasion.  He was on-the-phone and off-the-phone consistently with his mother back in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania -- asking for help and tips and making sure we were doing everything right.  It was Ben -- above the rest of us, coming from a family of ten -- who made the event especially sacred, ensuring that our Thanksgiving in Oxford was nothing short of magical.

And it was.

Flash forward three years, and I again find myself amongst makeshift family for this holiday.  This time the family was one which had been forged by years of carefully curated relationships that still hold fast today.  Three girls traveled the lengths to Connecticut to visit our best friend so that he would not be alone for the holidays.  Having just moved there, many household staples were missing -- like can openers, silverware, and the like -- and we found ourselves scrambling out to the store on Thanksgiving Day to see if we could find basic necessities.  Another flurry of activity and silliness marked this day, as well as an understanding that we were no longer students but had graduated into adulthood -- with apartments and jobs and lives separate from our parents.  Thanksgiving was a time to show that we were growing up with -- but not apart from -- one another.

This Thanksgiving, I will be celebrating in the traditional way -- the combining of my husband's family and my own into one big, festive celebration.  Yes, this time I am with blood relatives -- but during this week, I do not forget the many friendships I have formed into makeshift families.  And however you are celebrating or not-celebrating on this day, my thoughts are with you -- my love goes out to you -- and I wish you the most blessed of times.

(Can you tell I love this holiday?)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

if you've ever been pregnant and felt like a waddling, fat duck...

Photo by bahketni on flickr

I get it, girls.  I really do.

I get it when I'm battling head trash during boot camp -- seeing all my super-fit friends zipping past me during sprints while I'm waddling at a steady pace, having to stop and rest all-too-frequently.

I get it when I look at myself in the mirror (a thing I rarely do while pregnant) and wonder where my body went and whose body I have instead.

I get it when I get together with friends and see how awesome they look in their skinny jeans while I'm struggling to get comfortable in my loose-fitting maternity slacks.

I get it when I fear going to the doctor's and seeing the number on the scale -- and thinking about that number as I grab a bowl of cereal an hour after eating dinner.

I get it, I get it, I get.
I know it's hard.
But you know what?

I think about how I have the rest of my life to have my body to myself again.  I think about how this time to bear children and nurse them is so fleeting and brief.  I remember I already had 26 years of my body being my own -- of dieting, of pushing my limits while running, of fitting into cute clothes.

And on the days I feel extra duck-ish as I waddle back and forth at the gym and as I modify my burpees, I fight the head trash and remember that I am growing a little person inside me, and that I will have the rest of my life to lose weight and look the way I want.

  • What are you wrestling with and how are you fighting the head trash?
  • How do you stay positive about your body while being pregnant?  How do you encourage others? 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

another miracle of deliverance

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how God released me from a lifetime of body image issues.  When I asked (repeatedly) to be released from the burden, I never really thought it would happen.  It seemed so ingrained in me that I thought I'd just have to live with it.  And yet I prayed -- time and again -- and confessed my idolization of the "perfect" body.  And surely enough, God delivered me.

Well, it's happened again.  I am in shock, but it's happened again with another idol that has plagued my life for many years.

And with its release, I am reminded of why I spend each day in the Word and in prayer with the Lord.  Because He's real.  Because His Power is real.  Because without spending each day with Him, my commitment to God is a sham and I am not letting Him transform me from the inside out.

These moments when I am transformed -- 
when I feel the chains fall away from my body, left along the road somewhere -- 
are so unbelievably freeing. 

Photo by J Pod on flickr

Over the last year or two, I have felt a mounting desire for financial wealth and stability.  Living in our beautiful (but ritzy) neighborhood hasn't helped.  I've started to buy into the idea that we need an excess of money to be comfortable and provide for our children.  But even more than that -- I've made money to be an idol in my life.  It's been something I've longed for -- desiring me or Elliott to get lucrative jobs in order to live beyond comfortably, in a large home, and to never be in want.

Being wise with money is good.  Wanting to provide for our family is good.  These aren't bad things, but I've turned them into idols because I've been trusting more in money (or the idea of money) than in the Lord.

The ironic thing here is that we are in missions and we rely on the transformed hearts of others to have an income.   God has sort of worked it into our lives so that I cannot run away from this issue.  I've come before God again and again in confession -- admitting how much of a hold money has had on my heart.  I didn't want to live that way.  And throughout the year, we've had our ups and downs.  When the "down" moments happened, I usually despaired.

But a few weeks ago, something different happened.

We are having a rough couple of months financially.  Maybe even a rough year.  We are trying very hard to come out of it -- to ask more people onto our support team -- to find new ways to raise support -- but we keep losing supporters just as fast (if not faster) than we gain them.  This is cause for disappointment.

But suddenly, there's been a shift in my heart and soul.  Suddenly, in the face of discouraging financial news, instead of despairing and asking God, "Why?" I have been sprung into worship -- praising the Lord and saying freely, "God, you know best."

Some Christians have been blessed with financial wealth and are doing great things with it, but this is not the life to which we were called.  But because of the life we have been given, I am experiencing immense spiritual blessings -- the biggest one, so far, being this great release from an idol that has been in my life for a long time.

God promises that He will bless His children.  He promises that He will provide.  Our mistake is to think we know what blessings look like -- that it will always take the form we want it to take.  If we release our wills to His -- if we pray to see as He sees -- we might just experience true blessings that last beyond this earthly life.
  • How has God released you from an idol in your life?  How do you sense He is currently working?
  • How have you received blessings from the Lord that do not "look like" blessings by our earthly standards? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

you are delightful

"The Lord rescued me because he delighted in me."
Psalm 18:19

This is what I just can't get over -- what blows my mind -- is that the Lord delights in meDelights.  That's just wild.

I think of how much I delight in my daughter just because I do -- just because she is who she is and who she is just completely delights me.  I am head-over-heels in-delight with my daughter.  I could spend hours thinking about her, talking about her, looking at pictures of her, and being with her.  When she's asleep in her bed, I just think about her some more.  And all of this -- it delights me.

If I delight so much in my little girl -- me, a flawed person - an imperfect mom stumbling her way through parenthood -- how much more does the Lord delight in us?  I can't even fathom it.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Matthew 7:9-11

I don't ever want to forget the times when God has given me good gifts in such a way that I recognize His delight in me -- because honestly, it makes me blush.  Our home.  Our family.  Our jobs.  Our always-able-to-somehow-make-ends-meet.  Our growth in marriage.  Our growth in relationship to Him.  He delights in me -- He delights in us -- just as and even more than I delight in my daughter.

  • When was a time that God showed you very tangibly how much He delights in you?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

new rhythms and making room for baby #2

As I write this, I am watching the fast snowflakes fall outside the window as I'm slowly waking myself up. 

Gwen and I (and Baby #2 - let's not leave her out of this!) have found a new rhythm.

It involves a short-but-sweet one and a half hour nap at 11.  For the both of us -- er, I mean, the three of us.

It's different, but life with a baby means you're in constant flux.  I got rather attached to that two-nap-per-day schedule, but frankly, that's simply not our reality any more.

Napping takes a good chunk out of my day, and I don't get that "alone time" that my introverted self craves because -- well, let's face it, I'm craving sleep even more right now.  But if I want to be semi-alert for the rest of the day, then I must sleep when she sleeps.

And I've decided to embrace it.

The reality is that in a few short months, there will be another little girl Simko nestling herself into our cottage and our lives.  And I have a feeling I'm going to be exhausted... and will need more sleep.

In other words, my life is already adjusting to her arrival.  I'm taking more (necessary) breaks, and (somehow) finding other times to do things (or just not do them).  And she is reminding me -- constantly -- of her existence, usually by kicking me awake every hour each night.

So here is a warm welcome to you, little Simko #2!  We will reorganize our lives as is necessary in order to care for you -- and we already are.

  • What's been happening in your life?  Have you had to reorganize your schedule for any reason?
  • How have you made room for new relationships in your life?
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