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Friday, December 31, 2010

All Shall Be Well

I'm finding that I now feel antsy when I haven't blogged but then I come to keyboard and am not sure what to write. Contradictions always. Isn't life just like that? And humans? I suddenly feel more urge for creativity today than I have in forever, yearning for my studio, which in the last few weeks has not sounded at all appealing to me, wanting to go now today and write and draw. But the roads are icy, so alas there will be no traveling.
Funny how I seem to think I need or want to do things when it's an impossibility and then when the time is right , the opportunity there, I rebel against it. So maybe we don't grow out of that and it is not just for toddlers and teenagers, this stir-craziness, this longing to make our own way, be independent of all outside forces.
But if I lead myself, I end up in dangerous places, so I've learned it best to sit through the chaos of my mind and wait. I do a lot of waiting, being still and obedient though my heart pounds insubordination. And it is difficult this period, because when you still your mind and quiet your mouth, the Lord can speak but so too can the enemy.
So I daily remind myself that anything that reeks of condemnation and whispers of worthlessness and threatens hopelessness is not from the Lord because Christ came to give life and to give it abundantly.
So I pray this new year brings deeper perspicacious to all who are seeking, an end to striving an overflowing of His blessings and that we all would get, if not what we want then what we need. Happy New Year!

"But all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well,"

-Lady Julain of Norwich

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Misty Edwards - Psalm 45

Dear God,

I'm writing to you first before posting because I'm not in the place I want to be in in order to write on this blog. I so wanted to be more upbeat and positive. How am I going to show others Your grace and mercy and love if I'm constantly complaining? And God, I'm trying to be grateful. Thank you for the sun today and the sound of the snow melting which is so reminiscent of how the beginning of spring sounds but I found myself feeling angry instead of joyous! Ticked that the weather was being a trickster. Instead of reveling in today, I kept thinking about how I still have the month of January and February to get through.
And the kids. These are the days when I don't feel like they're good kids and I don't feel like I'm a good mom. And even right now, they're still up!!! The girls are chattering, not sleeping and I need this day to be over. They can be so strong-willed and I feel like a failure every time they disobey. Not a person who can help myself let alone anyone else.
I'm trying so hard to hear You, to do Your will. When will I know that this is enough? When will I feel Your delight?
But in my weakness You are made strong. I have to trust that somehow You are the stalwart strength in all of this and that through my utter weakness and my imperfections Your light will shine forth and draw people in. If I only allow my voice to recognize You and admit to the truth of who I am, then others, I pray might see the truth of who You are.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why write when I feel like I have nothing to write? And I could easily curl up in bed, stay in, talk to no one. The winter has brought with her an isolating fog. But, gratefully, there are things I must do, like rise - if not shine, and make my kids their breakfast, continue on through daily routine.
And so in the practice of going through many motions, today I choose again to come here, because I have found so far in my commitment with this journey to blog that He has met me here and I have been more aware of His presence while writing. And it is a discipline too, in learning to write honestly, to listen patiently and trust unceasingly. And I need His presence in this dreariness of winter. When I feel no motivation toward anything and I keep postponing doing what I know I should. It may be that I am in what Saint John of the Cross called "the dark night of the soul." I do not want to be in such a place but what I feel sounds akin to what he describes.
But I believe enough, to hold on to that hope that their may be a blessedness in this as I have found there to be in so many trials. I have learned at least, to persevere. And too, I hear there is worth in this particular strife.
I want to offer resolution but there are days when there is none. But my
hope has not gone, and I know where my help comes from, so I will push on and offer what I find, truthfully.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Choices

Thinking about these paradoxes with the writing life, or the creative life or just life in general. The choices we all make daily as to what will lead us. Will it be fear or courage? Doubt or trust? Will I view myself as I feel, a stumbling, tongue tied, faltering girl or Christ's bride, His glory in me? Do I have the bravery to use my words and blog? Blog, as scary as that is to write my words down, post them for others to see. My inner thoughts. It feels so risky and uncertain. And then once posted to think of who might read what I've written but it's too late and they're there. The choice to obey the creative flow when it cascades through my brain, down to my fingers and I have to write or do I stay still, present with what I'm doing, enjoy just being here. The small wastes of time which aren't, which are what life is really about. Do I fall to the temptation of emulating others I've heard whom I admire or do I stay true to my inner thoughts, ramblings, even through the concern that it's not good enough? This is right now, what my writing is about, the process of trust. Two weeks ago, I wrote in a paper for school that I would not blog and now here I am. Two weeks ago I found virtue only in silence and now my voice is audible but God does that. I was right two weeks ago to listen to Him, to struggle with obscurity and quietness and I trust that now, too, I am in the right place, doing the right thing. Because His leading is daily. It is the thing right in front of me, not tomorrow or the next day. So each day, I make a new choice to follow Him again and trust that He is truly in the lead and that I will not fall.

Monday, December 27, 2010

winter-killed

Madeleine L'Engle uses the phrase, "winter-killed" in Walking on Water. I feel winter killed. Winter creeps in every year, the days stiflyingly short and dark and I don't want to get up in the morning. I share this only because of the shame I'm tempted to feel as a Christian when I'm down. Depressed. Sad. I feel like my Christianity ought to exempt me from it and I feel too that people will doubt my Christianity if I admit to it. I wonder how many other believers struggle with that. If I have Christ then where is the joy, the peace that surpasses all understanding? Why does something as simple as a season come and leave my soul feeling dead? Why when I read my Bible do my spirits not immediately lift? I guess it's because I'm human. And God allows us each our own struggles. And though the rain falls for each of us at different times, it will fall.
But as a believer, I haven't lost my hope and I believe that hope is a "revolutionary patience" which is how Anne Lamott describes it in Bird by Bird. I'm patiently waiting for spring because it always comes...eventually. Weeping may endure for an evening but joy cometh in the morning. Ps.30:5

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Struggling Christian

I just started an amazing book last night by Madeleine L'Engle. Walking on Water. It's a gem of a book. A book that not only do I know God placed in my hands at the right time, but one that makes me feel like I'm reading something life-changing, unlocking a mystery and stumbling onto some sort of key to life. (Other books which have been like this for me lately are ; The Genesse Diaries by Henri Nouwen and Hind's Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard). Walking on Water is about the paradoxes of the creative life from a Christian perspective. She speaks specifically of the parallel truths of a writer's desire for both recognition and anonymity. I know that when I'm obeying the call to write, there is a battle going on as I'm poised over keyboard. I pray to let God speak through me, but then, I, inevitably come in. I start thinking about who's going to read what I write. If and when I finally let go of me, my work is so much better. So why do I even bother with the fight?

Yet, anything one endeavors to do will be met with strife. Everything important suddenly becomes a bout between two opposing voices. There are times writing makes me feel utterly stupid and full of doubt and other times when I feel empowered and high from it. So it is with my relationship with God. Sometimes I feel terribly close to Him and other times I'm screaming in my mind for Him to make Himself present. And just like writing, I walk with God, no matter what the outcome. It's the doing it. He's in charge of the rest.


L'Engle describes herself as a struggling Christian and at first that threw me off. But the more I think about it, aren't all Christians struggling in some sense? And if we're not, maybe there's something wrong with our Christianity because the authentic Christian life is a struggle. Paul said he was not yet sanctified but he pressed on. There is a war for our souls. And even when we've given our life to Christ, there is still a constant war in our minds. I know exactly what Paul meant when he said in the book of Romans, that which he desires to do, he does not do. And that which he desires not to do, he does. I can be obedient to Christ sometimes in the bigger things, but it's the small requests He makes that I sometimes refuse. A small act of kindness I could easily accomplish but for my selfishness. The things no one would notice if I were not to do. How many times do I ignore a prompting?





A quote in L'Engle's book says that , "To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, not even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist." What an honor it would be to be able to live that way. To witness that way. But I don't. Too often I feel that it is just me people see and not Christ. To have my life hid in Christ is what I desire. Sometimes. And sometimes I war within myself. Sometimes I want my own way. Sometimes I want to please God so much I strive, doing everything in my own strength, accomplishing nothing. But still yet, there are days I feel childish and justified and I don't want to submit or obey and people probably look at my walk and think that I'm not a very good example of Christ.





I am a struggling Christian.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

So, the anxiety settled in yesterday evening, swimming like so many fish. And gnawing. Do fish gnaw? My anxiety is usually tied to things so inconsequential. Yesterday's was due to church. Getting the kids ready for church. As if God waits at the door of the building, shaking his head in disgust at the appearance of my children. "I can't believe Annika is wearing those shoes! And Verity, can't you do something better with her hair?" I stress about what they look like, what they'll wear, getting their hair done, finding their mittens, coats, hats. All the chaos and unorganization of my household seems to be the most glaringly obvious right before church. But we make it there. And we worship. And we are reminded of Christ. And the anxiety settles. He is there. He is anywhere I seek Him, so could I just learn to seek Him during those moments of insignificant but intense (imagined) craziness?
And today. He is here now too. Today my house is a mess. It is okay. Toys and wrapping papers are strewn everywhere. The kids are playing. There's no where to go. And in the unhurriedness, the pressure now off, the safety of my home I'm okay. I wish every day was Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How easily I find myself in a place where my moods are determined by what others think of me. If I could hear the voice of God every day telling me how much he loves me, that He is proud of me, that He delights in me, how much more joy would I have?
This time of year is hard for me. I don't like the cold, the snow, the pressures of the holiday. I easily slip into Grinch mode. I am not a person who exudes cheerfulness and have always been distrustful of those who do. But I realized that this comes from the negative way I tend to view myself. If I felt better about where I was at in life or who I was, I'd be able to tolerate the cold, the crowded shopping centers, others burdens. Does that make sense?
I compare my insides to everyone else's outsides and I spend a lot of time worrying about my house not being clean. That' s a very fruitless train of thought. I almost laughed out loud when I heard God remind me that I'm so far from where I was once. I've grown so much. I will continue to grow. I'm not a drunk anymore. Maybe my house is not immaculate but I'm sober. That's what I find humorous. Sometimes it much more simple than we allow it to be. It's the little things which are huge things. It's the fact that my Creator is very proud of me. That I am where I'm supposed to be. And He has blessed me immensely. He does not look around my house and notice dust and clutter. He looks at my spiritual house and views warmth and opening, reverence, hostessing. I host my Savior there and that is what He desires. When I receive accolades and am tempted to allow my head to inflate or when I don't hear kind words or feel ignored and my spirit drops, then I am not listening to the one voice I need to be. I need seek the approval of only One. And I am preapproved because of His coming. Let's thank God for all His blessings today. Let's hear His voice. Let's celebrate that He came lowly. What gifts has God bestowed upon you this season?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

AA

I went to a meeting a couple of nights ago. It had been a really long time. Too long. It felt good to be back in those rooms. Like coming home. God used AA to save my life. I needed to be reminded. By the grace of God, I don't even have cravings anymore but I needed to hear those sayings. Hear other broken people share how they get through life . I heard someone say recently that people in recovery are some of the healthiest people you'll ever meet. I think this is true. A meeting is a meeting anywhere you go. There are all types. Young, old, put together, scrubs, wealthy, poor. The disease doesn't discriminate. You've got people who are healthier than others but the point is, every one there is trying. Everyone there is willing to admit that they need help. That left to their own devices, they'll screw things up. That they NEED a HIGHER POWER. I wish I could encounter these people everywhere, at church, at school, at the market. People who take personal responsibility, who don't judge, who are ready to lend a hand. I wish at church we could introduce ourselves by saying, "I'm Nicole. I'm a sinner. But by the grace of God, I'm here today." The principles I learned in AA are principles for any life. Learning to live life on life's terms. Admitting you're a mess, that you need others and God. Saying sorry when you're wrong. Asking God to show you your character defects, being inclusive rather than exclusive, service, gratitude. Should it really take a disease to be able to learn these things? Maybe there should be a twelve step program for the addiction to self we all face, the malady of humanness, the sickness of sin. And we'd give hugs and say, "I've been there too. Call me. Keep coming back."
Thank you God, for being in those sometimes dingy rooms, for being in the souls of those sometimes dingy looking people and for living in my dingy heart.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Finding Jesus (Always)

I have a Nativity which I've had since I was a little girl. It is nothing special but I love it. It brings back childhood memories. Every year I display it somewhere accessible. I want the kids to be able to play with it, touch it like I did when I was young. Every year something gets broke and we have to super glue it back together. This year, it was one of the wise men. His hands holding his gift broke off and he is waiting repair in the kitchen. And every year Baby Jesus goes missing, sometimes more than once. He is small, smaller than my thumb. But he's always found.
I was thinking how metaphorical this feels for me right now. Every year, I have to consciously look for Jesus. It seems that though this holiday is supposed to be about Him, He is easily lost. It seems that each year, I feel less in the spirit. This year has been very hard. I've felt very convicted about the commercialism of the holiday. And the money spent on my family when we really don't need anything. Brett and I decided not to exchange gifts. We spent that money we would have used for ourselves to buy chickens and rabbits through the Gospel for Asia catalog. But still. I still feel empty. Shopping isn't as fun as it has been in years passed. I feel burdened and heavy with other's pain.
But I think this is where I'm supposed to be. Maybe Christmas isn't merry. Maybe it's an ache for Jesus and we feel it all the more this time of year. It becomes more evident, our need for Him when we're surrounded by the carols, the shopping, the giftwrap, that there's so much more. That we have drowned out his voice. Everyday I need to look for Him in the chaos. Remember that without Him there is not a Christmas or a nativity. Mary and Joseph, the remaining wise men, right now, on my piano, they are all looking off in different directions as if even they, ceramic, know there is something missing. They yearn. Why are they there if not for him?
He is somewhere here. I have to find him.



12/5/11

In response to Mama's Losin It Prompt: Blast from the past


Wow.  It's been quite the year.  Last Christmas we were still in cold country.  We were still.... a lot of things that we no longer seem to be.

And still, I am looking for Jesus.

Somewhere before our move to Phoenix, I found baby Jesus from that old nativity set.  I put him in my pocket.  Maybe not the smartest move but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought that from there, I had placed him in my jewelry box for safe keeping but alas, he is again not to be found. And so as we were setting up the nativity this year, I explained to my kids that the baby was missing once again.  Well, lo and behold, a few days later they found a replacement baby Jesus from a box with a different nativity.

So that one lasted a couple of hours.

The two little ones fought over him (yes, over Jesus) and he broke.  Baby Jesus is in two pieces. Wow, even that is symbolic isn't it? He is the bread, broken.

And, too, Joseph's head is off as are some of the wise men.  Thank the Lord for super glue.  But even that might mean something, as anyone involved in the birth of Christ had to be broken enough to receive him, to submit to His will, His glorious plan.

And this season, I am broken.  I am still searching for Jesus. Advent has a very personal meaning this year. This waiting on Him.   Maybe Christmas isn't merry. Maybe it's an ache for Jesus and we feel it all the more this time of year....Mary and Joseph, the remaining wise men, right now... they are all looking off in different directions as if even they, ceramic, know there is something missing. They yearn. Why are they there if not for him? 


This year I feel so much is missing.  Might I remember that Jesus is who I'm really looking for, who I'm to yearn for. The ache I feel can be relieved by Him alone.

Mary's Song:


 And Mary said:
   “My soul glorifies the Lord
 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
   he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
   but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
   but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
   remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
   even as he said to our fathers.” -Luke 1:46-55