Saturday, January 19, 2013

And i'm back...

Many seasons have come and gone since my last posting.
I have wrestled and prayed with the decision on whether or not to once again pick this up. There are a number of reasons i want to do so, but several that have caused me to hold back: i fear the broken parts of me i know so well:
 -that part of me that is always seeking for other's approval rather than my Lord's approval
- the ugly tendency i have to compare myself - usually my weaknesses to other's strengths which leads all too often down the familiar path of perfectionism: my hyper-awareness of all the areas my performance or character lacks in, areas i wish i were stronger/different in, constantly "should-ing all over myself" (where is the grace in that?), a twisted pride where i expect myself to be perfect when only God is perfect, (who am i to think i should perform on His level?)...
 and there it is again: my eyes are on myself rather than on my Lord and the grace which He so lavishly pours out on me. The truths ring in my soul as He reminds me once again what He has been whispering to me and taking me deeper into over these past months and years: that my true identity lies in Him and how He sees me, what He has done for me and not what i do for Him- i am His chosen, His beloved- even when i mess up regularly and often, He still whispers His love for me if only i will listen. As He has walked with me farther on the path of shepherding and loving my 3 little ones (yes, we've added another beautiful daughter to our brood), i glimpse a little more of His Father love for me, one of His daughters. He has also given me my Love- my precious husband who i have been honored to be his Ezer - his helpmate - these past almost 7 years. My Love's consistent forgiveness, patience, and willingness to go deeper into knowing me is a daily choice on his part and a gift that is also a reflection of the love that the Lover of my Soul offers me daily should i choose to recognize and delight in it. I don't have to be perfect for His love to be.The Lord is so tender. a verse caught my eye this morning in Hosea, chapter 11, verse 4: " I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yolk on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them".
and from Isaiah the verses that i meditated on a lot during the end of my 3rd pregnancy and throughout my labor with our little one: "Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and His arm rules for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms, He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:10-11 and Isaiah 40:27-31"Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and  be weary, and young men shall fall and be exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." These verses are like water to this parched traveler. I am weary. I have no might on my own. I am learning to wait on Him. I have a long way to go. Thank you, that you are the Provider of the strength and grace i need for each day, Father!

And so in the knowing of myself and all of my tendencies i wrestle, i pray, and God keeps bringing this blog to mind.
i am tentative - i don't want it to keep me from the priorities of first: time with my Lord, second: time with My Love, third: time with my little ones, fourth: time managing our home, fifth: time spent in outside ministry. I stepped back from blogging and general amount of computer/phone time when our first daughter was little as i started to see that i do not do well at being fully present with my little ones if my eye is constantly tracking to the computer or phone screen and i am half listening to their beautiful questions and musings. i was convicted about the importance of being fully present with those God puts in front of me, and so i stopped blogging, i don't use my facebook page for anything but the basic keeping track of announcements in a couple of groups i am in or tracking down a couple of long lost friends. i will not be writing during the week in their awake hours so we will see how often i actually get around to it. it will not be consistent and i need to give myself grace in that, not add one more should to the list i am constantly trying to beat down. i find myself excited about writing again.

He made me with a longing for the written word - i am a journaler. it's how i process and pray. it is how i am refreshed and ministered to. i am a list maker - it's how i keep from forgetting the items i need from the store, what was i going to  make for dinner tonight?, when is that assignment due for my son's kindergarten, what items did i need to get at hobby lobby for a rainforest diorama?, which notes do i still need to write (all of them) for the sweet blessing gifts we received from so many at Christmas - tokens that remind me that we are loved by so many. writing helps me to be more intentional, more aware, more thankful. and so i write.

so where is the time going to come to do this? i need to have an outlet for being refreshed, for thinking out loud, for pulling together all of the threads of thoughts and verses God whispers to me through my daily journey in the events and people i encounter and give Him the opportunity to weave them together into something that makes a bit more sense. it may not be understandable - a lot of life and why God allows things to go a certain way often remain a mystery to me - and yet i can rest in knowing that God is in fact good.

Another big factor in making me hesitate on returning to the blogging world is the never ending list of chores to accomplish, tasks to complete, prep for homeschooling or meal planning, friend i should write a note to, or whatever other thoughts press into my awareness in the quiet moments once little ones are sleeping and my sweet husband is working on some project - i wonder  "is it wise to start this up again? "
He seems to be continuing to impress upon me the need to write my thoughts out here through this blog.  i will need to walk with Him daily on this to know when to sit and write or when something else needs to be done. this provides an opportunity for this doer,  this Martha, to try to practice the sitting at my Lord's feet that has been sorely lacking as of late. i have been feeling the need to record those things i am thankful for - those gifts of God's grace He pours out on me throughout the day if only i lift up my eyes to look.

i just started reading ann voskamp's "one-thousand gifts".  it seems like all but one of my friends have mentioned this book to me. i finally got around to calling all of the half price bookstores on my side of town to no avail and ended up turning to amazon to be able to cross off the "order 1000 gifts " from one of my post-it lists as i had decided to buy it for my american mother in law for Christmas. she had mentioned on  a camping trip recently that she wanted to read it (we have an eerily/refreshingly similar interest in books) and so i ordered both of us a copy. God has a way with timing, you know? i can not tell you how much ann's honest poet-thoughts have ministered to my thirsty soul. so far i am on page 58. there is hardly a page thus far that does not have something starred or underlined or been reread several times. she speaks my language.  i know that not all people's brains are wired to appreciate similar styles of writing, but it sure has blessed me. i am going to include a couple of excerpts here that i have reread probably 20 times and continue to roll around in my soul like a smoothed pebble on the shoreline. you really do just need to go on your own hunt for this book.  She talks about accepting God's grace - His gifts to us in the beautiful and the hard things and choosing to thank Him for all of it. Learning to be content in every situation. she writes on the miracle of Eucharisteo on pages 32 and 33:

" in the original language, "he gave thanks" reads "eucharisteo."
I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?
The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning "grace". Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.
But there is more, and I read it. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy". Joy. Ah...yes. I might be needing me some of that. That might be what the quest for more is all about - that which Augustine claimed, "Without exception... all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy. "....
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo - the table of thanksgiving. I sit there long... wondering... is it that simple?
Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?
So then as long as thanks is possible... I think this through. As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.  Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning - now; wherever, meaning - here. The holy grail of joy is not some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.
I whisper it out loud, let the tongue feel these sounds, the ear hear their truth.
Charis. Grace.
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.
Chara. Joy.
A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black.
A threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life?
Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo.
A Greek word... that might make meaning of everything?"

and on page 57:
"Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant - a seed - this plants the giant miracle. The miracle of eucharisteo, like the Last supper, is in the eating of crumbs, the swallowing down one mouthful. Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life - even the hard - is made up of the minute parts, and if i miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.... I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time."

She goes on to share about a challenge she received from a friend to make a list of 1,000 gifts - be thankful for the blessings in life. I have been challenged along the same lines lately from another great book i am reading and discussing with some girlfriends: Linda Dillow's "What's it like to be married to me? and other dangerous questions" - to have a thankfulness journal - focus on the blessings and allowing joy and contentment to take root and flourish, recognizing God as the giver of all good gifts.

so... all of this to say, i believe the Lord is allowing and even leading me to pick this blog up again. i pray for wisdom in how i approach it. i see it as largely a tool for me to process and bring some thoughts together like i said. if anyone reads it, it will probably be my mom or my sister - which i am great with as little people, while bringing huge amounts of laughter and delight to our lives, make it a little difficult to have a lengthy in depth conversation about things the Lord is showing us. so mom or sister,  if you read this or any other fellow sojourner out there - i hope you are blessed in some way and that the Lord would use it in your life somehow to be a sip of  refreshing water in a very dry world. i have a strong sense He is going to use it in my life and i am excited to see where He takes me next. to Him be the glory.

Here are some recent pictures of the 5 of us that my sweet friend took in our backyard for us. Nick is more handsome than ever ;),  Alexei is now 5 1/2, Anya is now 3 1/2, and our precious Katya just turned 1. these 4 members of my family are the first on my list of gifts from God.