Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bearing the Fruit of God's Promises

I love Christmastime. I even like most everything about the hustle and bustle of the season. But what I love most is pondering the story of Christmas. It seems like every year there is a different aspect of Jesus' birth that stands out to me.

Last night my daughter and I were watching The Nativity Story on DVD. As I watched it this time, I was impacted by Mary and Joseph's willing hearts to do whatever God asked of them. Often I have focused on what an honor it would have been to be chosen by God to bear His Son. But this time the thing that stood out was the heaviness and cost of that task. Mary was a virgin promised to marry. As her belly grew big and round with the life inside of her, those around her most likely judged her character in a negative way, figuring that she had broken her vow to be chaste until marriage. Even her parents must have wondered if she was spinning a story about carrying the Son of God! Such a thing was never heard of before. I'm sure Mary herself often wondered what was happening to her.

Joseph obeyed God through the message in a dream and took Mary as his wife, even though the baby she carried was not his. In doing so, his character was probably also judged in a negative manner. People could have assumed that he had broken his vows to remain pure until marriage, or perhaps he was covering up for a sinful fiance'. Yet he bore this burden for God's sake. Even after Jesus was born, I am sure Mary and Joseph had little idea how this "Son of God" thing was going to unfold. They could only raise him as they would any son--day by day. Every other direction would have to come from God in His time.

I desire to be used powerfully by God--to be chosen by him to bear great fruit for His kingdom. What I often fail to recognize is the incredible cost there might be in that assignment. There could be negative judgments from others about the credibility of what I carry inside of me. I may have to navigate through seasons of self doubt as well. Can I really believe that God has spoken to me even when it costs me a great deal? Even as some of these promises are born, can I walk through the process of trusting God to show me how to steward the fruit He gives to me?

The Christmas story assures me that God looks compassionately on my human frailty. He went out of His way to reveal Himself to all mankind in a way they could understand--whether they were blue collar shepherds or upper class wise men. All He asked for was obedience--to follow Him at His word. So, in light of that revelation, my prayer this Christmas season is that my heart will respond as Mary's did--"Be it done to me according to Your Word."

Friday, October 16, 2009


It's so easy to get preconceived ideas--especially when it comes to thinking I know how God is going to work in my life. For the last year, I've sensed that change was coming down the pike. I even blogged about it. (see my post entitled "Waiting"). I knew it was the birth of something new, and I was excited to see it's arrival.

Change has come, but not exactly in the form I expected. There's change on EVERY side of my life. With this change there has had to come a releasing of the old. Funny, in my visions of this new birth, I never factored in having to give up too much. I just figured I'd add this new thing into everything else! But that's not even how real births happen. With every birth, there is a letting go. The mother's body surrenders to the needs of the growing baby; parents give up their right to sleep as late as they want. Life is now centered around growing and providing for a new little life.

So it is with the changes happening with me. Although there is much change AROUND me, I'm finding that the main changes God wants me to focus on are the changes He wants to do WITHIN me. There's a radical level of surrender God is asking that reveals the hidden places of selfishness I have inside of me. Places where I have propped myself up by titles, or accomplishments etc. Instead of this, I've been thrust into a place of seeming hiddenness where I feel I'm regularly a failure.

Strangely, however, the more I am in this place, the more liberating it feels. I have a deeper realization that my value to God remains regardless of my level of performance. I am learning that some of God's best work is done in secret. So I remain in this transitional state and trust that whatever God is up to is good. My job is simply to align myself with Him and let go of those preconceived ideas. . .

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cheering in the Middle

Two years ago I woke up early on the 4th of July in order to be waiting at the finish line of a 10K run my college-age daughter was running in. The celebratory atmosphere, and the excitement as people crossed the finish line made me vow to be a participant the next time. I'm not in good enough shape to run a 10K so I signed up to walk the 4.5 mile "Mayor's Fitness Walk". It's the same route as the run, but it eliminates a 2 mile hill that the runners must conquer. I talked most of my family into walking it with me.

The morning of the 4th, the starting line was absolutely electric. It was a beautiful summer's morning and the weather was about 70 degrees. Amid brightly colored streamers and blaring music, there were over 5,000 people waiting for the starting gun to go off. The runners got a 15 minute head start so they didn't have to navigate around the walkers. Once our starting shot rang out, our family foursome started off with the rest of the walkers at a steady clip. After mile marker number one I could tell our 16 yr. old son was feeling the need for speed. We gave him permission to run on ahead and told him where to meet us. Then there were three.

My husband, my 12 year old daughter and myself continued on at a leisurely pace. Afterall, I told myself, we were not in this to win, we just wanted to enjoy it. But my daughter's excitement was waning. She wanted her try at running up ahead too. We were about half way done. We gave her the go ahead and told her where to meet us. Then there were two.

At this point the runners had long passed us up, in fact, the winner of the race had already been decided. We walkers were simply trying to finish what we started. We were a diversified lot! There were able-bodied, handicapped, elderly, children, men, women, strollers, dogs. But the most inspiring thing I saw took place on the sidelines. Starting at about mile marker number 2 there were people sitting all along the road in their lawn chairs enjoying the sight. I marveled at their resilience to stay and watch the last of us finish this race. Their faces were still excited as they watched each one of us pass. Some of them cheered us on--"You're half way there!" "you're doing so good!" There were elderly people in wheelchairs waving their arms in encouragement, a hippie drum corps sending us "good vibrations", and even police men smiling and waving as we trudged by. The thing that inspired me was that these precious cheerleaders were stationed at places along the race route where they would not be able to see the outcome of the race. They would not see whether or not I ever finished, but they were there to tell me I was doing a great job and they believed I could make it.

My walk took on a steady determined gait as I gained strength and determination to not only finish this race, but to also be a loyal cheerleader for the people I encounter on life's path. Sometimes I may get the honor of being at the starting gate as people launch into new beginnings of their lives. Sometimes I may be on the finish line when people achieve goals they've set out to conquer. But other times I will have the honor of meeting someone in the middle of their journey where encouragement is probably needed the most. Although I may never know whether they make their final destination, hopefully my contribution will help nudge them in the right direction.

With this new resolve in place I could hear the crowds of people cheering as the walkers began to cross the finish line. I turned to my husband, grabbed his hand and we crossed the finish line together while our children,who had successfully finished before us, cheered us on along the sidelines. What a great day!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Crockpot Theology

I have rediscovered a love for cooking with my crockpot. Actually I've rediscovered my crockpot. It was a wedding present (26 years ago!). It has a funky orange, green and brown design that gives its era away--very retro. As my work schedule has increased, I've needed time-saving ways to cook for my family and so I pulled the old crockpot from the back of my pots and pans cabinet. It's like a treasure I forgot I had! For the past 3 months I've cooked in it at least one time a week, sometimes more. Throw a bunch of vegetables and some meat in the crockpot in the morning, and when I get home from work, wonderful smells of a tender, succulent stew are greeting me at the door.

The secret, of course, to a crock pot's success is SLOW, steady heat. When food is subjected to this kind of process, it becomes very tender and all the flavors blend together. I thought about how that also can apply to life. The processes that have broken me and made me a better more tender individual have been things that have taken a good amount of time. Being a parent is probably one of my crock pots of life. I laugh sometimes when I remember what I was like before I had children. I had lots of goals but they were pretty self-centered. Our first pregnancy was not planned. It seemed to put a big obstacle in the middle of our career plans and dreams. I was in an internship to become a marriage and family counselor and I had to stop out for awhile to have my baby.

Although I felt such awe and love for my new baby daughter at her birth, my adjustment to being a new parent was not carefree. Our baby was collicky and didn't sleep well for 5 months--so we didn't either. I felt overwhelmed at figuring out how to bathe, clothe, feed, diaper, entertain this new little life that I was responsible for. Everything in my life was contingent on this little creature!

Finally after a few months, I returned, very part time, to interning in counseling. I was worried that my time away from the practice would make my skills rusty, but I found that my counseling instincts had been sharpened as I cared for my child. I had wanted to become a better counselor, but I had actually become a better person. As I was forced to set aside my own agenda and care for another life, my heart had become more tender and I was able to see and feel things that I was too selfish to see before.

Meditating on this inspires me to have hope for similar outcomes for other areas of my life where I feel overwhelmed right now. My prayer is that I will surrender to the process God is doing in my life and come out on the other side a softer, gentler, more authentic version of myself. Maybe that's why God says WELL DONE to those tender souls who finish what He's called them to do.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Come and Sit a Spell

For the first 16 years of our married life, my husband and I were in some sort of schooling. We were very productive during this time of our life--We got 4 graduate degrees between us and all 4 of our children were born. Like most graduate students we didn't have much money. We also moved a lot (around 17 times) looking for affordable and safe housing--which was hard to find!

As we looked at the many different houses we had to choose from, I was always especially drawn to the ones that had a front porch. I mentioned to my co-worker how much I felt drawn to porches and she bought me a calendar that had beautiful glossy pictures of porches from all different kinds of locations. Just leafing through the calendar pictures brought a calm, serene feeling to my otherwise harried life.

In a time of life when we were never in a location for too long, porches reminded me of the importance of slowing down and spending time with God and with people--valuing relationship. Porches are the part of the house that a person encounters first. Maybe there are rocking chairs that beckon someone to sit for awhile, or maybe there's just dead plants and rusty toys. How do I extend myself to others? Do I welcome people into my life or do I send a message that I don't have time for them?

Just before my husband finished his final graduate degree (Hooray!), my son, then 5, took a liking to The Andy Griffith Show reruns. Regularly our whole family would end up around the television totally taking in our 30 minutes of life in Mayberry. Many time Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea and Opie would find themselves on a Sunday afternoon on the front porch. Andy was strumming his guitar and everyone else was semi-comatose. They were just being with each other. Peacefully.

That is how I want to extend myself to others. I want to offer God's love to people and welcome them as they are. Words are fine, but they aren't necessary. Being comfortable and authentic with each other are what's important. That kind of fellowship goes down like a cool drink of iced tea on a hot summer's day.

So whatever situation you may find yourself in today, pull up and sit a spell with me. Enjoy the small selection of "porch music" I've assembled, close your eyes and feel the warmth of God's love and the sun on your face. . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

Frustrations of a Blog Party Newbie

Wow! I'm new to this blogging party scene, and it's been quite an experience figuring things out! I know the instructions are probably simple for most to understand, but it took me awhile to figure out how to get myself registered. I'm still not sure what the heck a Mr. Linky is, (or a widget!). They sound like science fiction creatures. Anyway, I think I got around everything o.k. Feel free to look around my blog.

I love to write about places that I find God in my everyday life. As a Christian, I want to learn to hear God's voice more clearly. I find on my journey that what I need to learn most is how to stop ignoring God! It's so easy in the process of a busy life to just zoom by and miss that God was even involved. So, this blog is my way of holding myself accountable to look for God in the big and small places in my life. Hopefully along the way I will make some friends in the blogosphere!

My wish list for prizes in this party are: #11- Aromatherapy from Oils for Wellness; #19 - $50 gift card to Target #24 - Prisoner of Circumstance from Justbeingme1 After that anything like gift certificates, candles, or oils.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Everyday Heroes

I'm not much of a phone person. I much prefer communicating by e-mail. It gives me time to thoughtfully craft my responses or questions to people, and it takes a lot less time. I'm constantly in awe of those people who are attached to their cell phones. How do they do it? What is there to talk about? How do they get anything else done? ( I could think of more questions, but I'll stop there.)

I talk to my Mom long-distance by phone about once a week. She always wants to know what's new. That question regularly stumps me. I know my Mom would be happy to hear whatever I would have to say--even if it's just that I changed peanut butter brands--but sometimes I honestly feel like NOTHING is new. I get up, have an hour to myself, get the family up and feed them breakfast. After everyone is out the door for school and work, my day is filled with counseling appointments at work or duties around the house. After school I cart people to practices etc. and once again focus on getting everyone fed and in for the night. The next day I repeat. Of course there are little differences here and there, but overall that is my life.

There is an underlying feeling when I'm lost in the monotony of my everyday life that I'm not doing anything remarkable. I'm just being a Mom, a wife, a teacher, etc. . . Sometimes I long for a change, but the truth is that whenever I get a chance to get away for a bit I miss it.

My oldest daughter had to constuct a school project depicting the major influences in her life. To do this she went through our big box of family photos. (It's the over-sized shoe box where I stuff any photo that I promise myself I will later put in an album.) As I looked at photos from even the last year I was amazed at how each of us in the family had changed. Even though the daily routine of our lives was pretty unchanging, we were still growing, and maturing. I look at my youngest child and remember so vividly when she was born. How can she be 11 already? It happened one day at a time. My husband and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary last year. How can that be? It's one day stacked upon another, upon another, upon another. . .

I am realizing that some of the most consistent, steadfast, and lasting things that I have in my life are the fruit of seemingly endless days of doing the same things: Getting up and being a Mom even when I don't feel like it; staying married through the good and the bad; showing up for work even when it isn't fun. Faithfulness.

It's not going to be anything that makes the headlines in the newspaper. (Julie Cole made her kids pancakes for breakfast this morning!) But over time those actions build lives, they shape destinies, they bear good fruit. When those actions are not there in someone's life they leave a huge hole that needs to be filled.

So here's to all the everyday heroes who got up today and faithfully did what the day required of them. Even though it may feel unimportant or unremarkable, there's good fruit ahead if we stay the course.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Waiting. . .

I don't think I know anyone who loves waiting. From ATMs to drive-thrus our whole society keeps inventing things that make it possible for things to be done more quickly--and supposedly with less hassle. Waiting used to be more of a normal occurrence. Before home computers were so prevalent, if I wrote a letter to someone, stamped it and stuck it in the mailbox, I would know that some time had to pass before I could expect a response. Today with email, I can type out my request and it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to have a response back in minutes.

Waiting adds a rhythm to life that's often forgotten. Seed time (waiting) then harvest. Conception (waiting) then birth. There's a cliche that says "Good things come to them that wait", but there's not too many people lining up to find out if that's true. It's often something we find out by being forced to wait.

I'm in a season of waiting right now. And to make matters worse, I can't even really tell you exactly what I'm waiting for except that it's a change for the better. Is it spiritual change? physical change? emotional change? I hope so. I can sense in my spirit that there's something new on the horizon, but that's about it. There's a growing expectancy inside of me that makes it difficult to keep doing the same old same old. It's a little bit like I felt right around the 8th month of my pregnancies. "Let's get this baby out!" But at least when I was pregnant I had some idea of what kind of change was going to happen.

At other times I feel like I'm the baby waiting to be born--I'm growing and becoming prepared to be brought into something new.

But the waiting is hard. To keep going I've needed some signposts. Whenever I plant a garden in the summer I put a little stick next to the rows of vegetables I've planted and then I put a picture on the stick to see what I can expect. I regularly visit and water this place anticipating signs of growth and change.

God has given me some great promises from Scripture for this wait. I have written them down and earmarked them in my Bible. I keep coming back to them and let them water my spirit while I wait for signs of growth, both inside and outside of me, to confirm that change is coming.

I'd love to end this note with a neat and tidy ending, but I'm in process. I can tell you that I'm hanging onto the belief that God wouldn't ask me to wait for something that's worthless. I'm excited to look back on this and know at least in part what the wait was for. I'll keep you posted. . .