Friday, August 31, 2012

(Oh God, HELP Me...)...Roll With It!
(A.K.A. Surf's Up; Ride It Out)

I am in desperate need of a nap. At least, I think I am.  I have a cold and didn't get enough sleep last night.  My son has a cold too, and I just KNOW he's going to take a 2 - 3 hour nap today.  I spend the first hour of his nap time getting caught up on a bit of writing and some reading, and literally the SECOND that I go to put the computer down, lay down, and doze off into bliss (well, as much bliss as can be achieved when you're trying to sleep with a stopped up nose)....

"Out!  Out!  I get up!"  My son's (startling, albeit adorable) voice rings out through the monitor, jarring me out of my sleepy thoughts.

"You have GOT to be kidding me."  <<groan>>

One thing that you have no control over as a parent of an almost-2-year-old is when your normally very scheduled toddler is going to decide to completely leave the beaten schedule-path and suddenly shorten his one and only nap to just shy of an hour.  Hopefully it doesn't become a trend.

Another thing you have no control over is when things randomly decide to DIVE off your refrigerator shelves at you when you open the door.  (Hey, c'mon, cut me some slack - - I'm trying to convince myself (and you) that I really had no control over it, and that it had nothing to do with the fact that I haven't cleaned the fridge out recently enough.  Is it working?  No?  Sigh....  At least I tried.)

Oh, how I WISH I'd had the wherewithal to grab my phone and snap a picture of the explosion... but when you're trying to figure out which of the red spots all over your legs are blood from glass shrapnel, and which are flecks of salsa, taking a picture isn't exactly your highest priority.  (Thankfully, none of it was blood, though there were several very small pieces of glass lodged - not deeply - in my skin and clothes.)  Just imagine a brand new jar of Pace completely smashed on the floor in front of my fridge, and IN my fridge, and salsa flung all over the kitchen walls and cupboards.  Got the mental picture?  (Insert another <<groan>> here.)

This was one of those moments when I'm super thankful my husband works (for 3 more weeks, anyway, until he starts his new job) from home.  My Stan-in-shining-armor came to my rescue and got started cleaning up the mess while I ran upstairs to try to get out of my clothes without getting cut on any glass that was stuck in them.  Success.  I come back downstairs, finish mopping, and re-mopping, the kitchen floor.  No more glass shards to be found.

So now I'm in the process of mopping the kitchen floor for a third time because now my flip flops are sticking to the floor when I walk...when I hear a cry of shock from the playroom (where Isaac had thankfully been during the entire exploding-glass/salsa ordeal.)

Trying not to slip on the wet floor, I quickly made my way the 7 or so steps into the playroom to find.... (wait for it....)

(This is a little embarrassing... I'm going to admit to one of those moments that really makes you feel like a bad mom....)

(Still working up the nerve............)

Whew.  Okay.  Here goes:

I walk into the playroom to find.... my almost-2-year-old son with the blind cord wrapped tightly around his neck!!  Augh!!  He was crying, terrified.... Which at least reassured me that he wasn't choking.  I gasped (unfortunately, as I usually try hard to carefully measure my responses when Isaac is hurt so as to help him feel MORE secure and confident - - not LESS so.  Epic fail.  Ah well....)....quickly freed him and held him tightly till he calmed down....thanking Jesus that he was safe and trying not to feel terrible about my parenting skills.

The Offending Blind Cord
[This is the part where I have to make the disclaimer that we DO keep our blind cords wrapped, up high, on those little blind-cord-holder-things.  Yes, that is the technical terminology.  Apparently Isaac has grown tall enough now that when standing on the futon in our playroom, he can reach up and grab the cord.  Yikes.  Gonna have to move that blind-cord-holder-thing up higher.]

Anyway.... I don't have a WHOLE lot of super deep stuff to say today... just this.  With every one of these circumstances, the challenge of the Lord to me today was...

"Girl, roll with it!  Take a deep breath (through your mouth since your nose is stuffed), trust ME to be your Source, and roll with it."

When life feels as ridiculously MESSY (literally AND figuratively!) as mine did this afternoon, it's super easy to get into "everyone-outa-my-way-I'm-a-stressed-out-mama" mode.  (A.K.A. "When Mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!")

We've all been guilty of hurting our family's hearts because in our own hearts we've moved OUT of a place of abiding in our Father and being resourced by Him alone, and INTO a place of trying to do things in our own strength.

Responding to God's invitations to us in stressful, messy moments like these, involves: 
  • breathing deep
  • riding out the waves as they come... 
  • while coming to grips with our inability to control them...
  • doing our best out of a place of rest* in our Father...
  • ...and just ROLLING with it.  
In other words.... Surf's Up...Ride It Out.

*I'm such a poet.... "Do your best...out of rest...."

And roll with it.

Annnnnd, that's a wrap.  (Or a rap?  Hmmm... I see another album on the horizon..... just kidding!!!  I promise.)

(Wow, wonder if my cold medicine is making me loopy tonight...?)

PS - It's time for me to take my cold to bed... so I just stopped by the kitchen sink on the way upstairs, and for some reason happened to glance at the ceiling...and.... SALSA!  Aaauugh!  But at least I got a picture for you....  Here ya go:

See it??  (Pardon the weird lighting.)
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What about you?  
What are some truths or characteristics of God that
help enable you to "roll with it?"  
Any crazy circumstances in your life lately that have made
riding life's waves a little more difficult than normal?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Moments and the Invitations: Part 4 (He Makes All Things Beautiful)

Hi there, friends!  If you are finding this blog (or this series) for the first time, I invite you to read parts 1 - 3 of this series (they are all relatively brief), if you'd like, before continuing on with part 4.  You can start with Part 1 (link below) and then there are links at the bottom of each post to the next post.

Anyway... You can find part 1 here: The Moments and the Invitations: Part 1 (The Mundane)

Also, here is a link to the page where I lay the groundwork for this series:  The Mission: Our Path of Joy

Okay... with all of that covered... let's dive into this 4th, and final, piece of the series:

He Makes Each Moment Beautiful
The Invitation: Trust and Peace;
Keeping Our Eyes Open for Beauty
(No Matter The Moment)

"He has made everything beautiful in its time."  
~Ecclesiastes 3:11a 

These "mundane" and "messy" moments we've discussed in parts 1-2 of this series....they don't often initially appear to be moments of beauty. As I look back over various difficult seasons of my life, most of them were seasons in which I was tempted to feel that there was NOTHING good or beautiful happening.... not even remotely.  BUT.... From my vantage point now, I clearly see God's hand of kindness woven throughout those pieces of my history... His sweet, tender, unrelenting pursuit of my heart...even, (and especially!) in the darkest moments.   

The Father wants to birth beauty out of our darkest hours...and the seemingly empty, mundane ones too.

In our darkest seasons, He is at work. When a tiny baby is formed in its mother's womb, it is in complete darkness.  When our circumstances are such that we can't see our Father, He is molding, shaping, creating, doing His work in the innermost parts of our being, the secret places of our hearts.  In the darkness, He is preparing to birth beauty.

When we choose to worship Him in quiet trust, in the face of endless piles of laundry, and situations where restoration seems impossible, He takes our moments in His hands and creates channels for beauty....rivers of grace.

He has promised to work all things (all our moments and seasons) together for good to those of us who love Him.  This is beauty.  This is His glory revealed, all over our messes.

Oh, my friends... He is so faithful to do this in us, all around us, if we respond with a "Yes" of faith in our hearts to His invitations in the midst of every season.  He truly makes all things beautiful.  

All things.  There is no situation that does not bring forth beauty when it is touched by His hand.

His invitation to us, in everything, is to keep our eyes open and choose to believe, to trust His heart even when all around us, our circumstances do not seem conducive to beauty.

It is in these seasons that, if we wait and watch for Him, He will burst forth like the sunrise and display His glory through our lives for the world to see.  

He is faithful... No matter how things look right now.  Hold on...wait in for Him....

Keep your eyes open for beauty.

My soul waits for the Lord
         More than the watchmen for the morning;
         Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD;
         For with the LORD there is lovingkindness,
         And with Him is abundant redemption.
-Psalm 130:6

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I love hearing from you, friends. If you've been hanging around for a little while and not commenting, how about sharing a piece of your journey here today? :) How have you seen the Father birth beauty in your own life? Are there circumstances in which you're still waiting to see His redemption? 
(Of course you're also welcome to comment with any other thoughts you may have.... I just love hearing your heart. Thanks so much!:))

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Moments and the Invitations: Part 3 (The Beautiful)

No comments:
Hello friends... If you're discovering this blog (or this series) for the first time, I'd love for you to start here for some background on this journey of learning to discern and respond to God's invitations to us in the midst of daily life.... and then, if you'd like, read parts one and two here:

Part 1: The Mundane
Part 2: The Messy

The Moment: Beautiful
The Invitation: A Heart of Gratitude...Receiving Good Gifts as Expressions of His Heart Toward Us

The Moment
Every season of life contains moments of beauty.  Praise God.... I love how He KNOWS what our hearts need.... that beauty is like medicine, or like a new breath of life straight to our soul.  Even seasons that are overwhelmingly messy, or feel mind-numbingly mundane....they are punctuated with moments of beauty... these unexpected kisses from the Father, waiting to just drench our hearts in gratitude... if we're willing to keep our eyes open.

And in these splashes of beauty, the Father waits to encounter us, whispering His delight over us.

The Invitation
I say it often because I absolutely love this about our God: His nature is revelation; His desire is to be discovered, to make His heart known to His friends.  (The Lord confides in those who fear Him - Psalm 25:14)

Why then does He not (often) show up in bodily form or speak so we can hear Him with our ears?  Here's my answer:  He hides, not because He wants to keep His heart from us, but so that we can have the joy of discovery.... He's like a good Father playing hide-n-seek with His kids... or hiding Easter eggs so that His children can experience the thrill of the search and the discovery of the treasure.

He WANTS to be found.... And one of the key places that we can find Him if we're looking, is in these splashes of beauty that punctuate our lives.

He invites us to live with hearts that are awake and alive to see Him in all that surrounds us... from sunsets and slobbery toddler kisses to cool fall days and late-night heart-conversations with dear friends.....and to trace every good gift back to Him.

Because in receiving these splashes of beauty, we can either "worship" the gifts by prioritizing them above our relationship with our Father, subtly beginning to view the gift as our source, OR, we can acknowledge Him as our ultimate source, receive His gifts as an expression of His Father-heart that LOVES to give good gifts to us, and allow our hearts to be filled with gratitude.

And in all of His gift-giving, in each splash of beauty from His extravagant heart, He is after relationship. His good gifts are expressions of His pursuit of our heart.

Proverbs 25:2 - It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Let's do this together...list our splashes of beauty in which He waits to reveal His heart....

Here's my list (or the beginning of it anyway), in no particular order:
My son's voice calling me "Mommy."
Our back deck on a cool evening
My husband's adoring glances
Listening to Stan and Isaac play wild
Heart-to-heart chats with dear friends
Chocolate mousse
Game nights
Quiet moments with Jesus during Isaac's naptimes
Iced coffee
Fall weather and leaves

Your turn!  Share part of your list with us in the comment section!  One of the best ways
to cultivate a heart of gratitude is to share the gifts.....

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Moments and the Invitations: Part 2 (The Messy)

Hi friends, thanks for stopping by today!

If you're finding this blog (or this series) for the first time, you may want to start here for some background info, and then go here to read part 1 of this series.... before continuing to read below. :) Annnnnnd now.... here we go......

The Moment: Messy (which sometimes feels more like agony)
The Invitation: Worship,
Trust, and Intimacy

The Moment

I'll share briefly from a time in my life that was very difficult... In the future I plan to write a more in-depth post about this season of our lives.

Within the first year of Stan's and my marriage, we lost 2 babies.  The first one was a tubal pregnancy, the second a normal pregnancy that I miscarried.  Those losses were incredibly painful...physically and emotional.... Add to that being in a season of life, and in a church family, where it seemed like everyone around me was pregnant and having babies (and I was so genuinely happy for them... but it did also make my own pain more acute)... Suffice it to say, trusting God's heart toward us and His plan for our lives and our family was difficult.  There was SO MUCH wrestling within my own heart in the midst of all of the grief, as I neared the brink of the most dangerous cliff in times like these: doubting the goodness of God....deciding that His heart toward me must not be good.  This cliff tempts all of us at one time or another (maybe multiple times) in our spiritual journey.

(Fill in the blank in your imagination now with your own messy (and agonizing?) moments... Moments in which you've perhaps been tempted to question God's heart toward you....)

The Invitation
And yet....over and over again, the Lord kept reminding me of these truths about Himself and His heart and His character...kept putting them right in front of me, seemingly out of nowhere.  The truth that He loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11James 1:17), the truth that His plans for my life and my family are GOOD and full of HOPE (Jeremiah 29:11)..... AND the fact that He is near to us in a unique way when our hearts are breaking (Psalm 34:18).  In moments like these, everywhere we turn, if we're willing to keep our eyes open, we will begin to sense His tender pursuit of our hearts, reminding us of truth and beckoning us to put off fear and choose to trust His heart toward us, even though we can't understand His ways.

So....I began to worship Him out of this place of pain and grief, but also out of desperation, knowing I HAD to avoid that dangerous cliff of allowing myself to doubt God's goodness, and worship was the only way to pull myself back from that edge.  And stepping out into worship in these seasons of pain and MESSINESS is like stepping out in complete faith, legs trembling, onto an invisible bridge....and watching the bridge appear under your feet step by step as you walk.  Stepping into worship and trust in moments like these doesn't make the pain immediately go away... In fact, for a little while, it might feel all the more real and deep and poignant.  But choosing to open our pain up to the Lord like this even while our heart is spilled out all over the place, prepares the way for Him to come in and fill our hurting places with His comfort, His sustaining grace, and His peace that PASSES understanding.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

As we pour out our hearts to Him, being honest before Him about the agony, and yet choosing to worship and trust Him deeply out of that place, it paves the way for our hearts to be able to receive His comfort and peace.  And receiving the comfort of the Father as we choose to open our hearts to Him in trust is the sweetest thing in the world.  The Father will take these broken pieces of our hearts, gather them gently in His hands, and lead us into intimacy with Him that is more healing for our hearts than we ever dreamed possible.

I pray for you today, friend, that if your current season of life feels messy (even agonizing?) in any way, that in those places you will discern His invitations to you, lean into Him, respond to His pursuit of your heart with worship and relentless trust....and encounter Him intimately in the midst of it all.  He is waiting there for you....even if you can't yet see Him.

If you have a minute, check out this song that has really helped me "wrangle" my heart back into a place of worship and trust in the midst of "the messy." If you've heard it before, it may be worth listening again... (You'll want to scroll to the top of this page and pause the instrumental music if you haven't yet...)

Your turn! Would you share with me a bit of your messy situation now?  I'd also love to hear ways in which God has encountered you in the midst of it and led you into worship, trust, intimacy, and comfort....
(Of course, you can also comment with any other thoughts you may have! I just love hearing your heart. :) )

PS. See this post for a little more depth on the subject of encountering God in the midst of suffering.
PPS. Click here to link directly to Part 3 of this series: The Beautiful.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

The Moments and The Invitations: Part 1 (The Mundane)

So.... having categorized all of life into 3 categories in which God is waiting to encounter us (Haha... As if it is really that black and white... there are definitely moments that can fall into multiple categories at once, and there may be more than just 3 categories!... but.... roll with me here, if you don't mind. :) )..... I want to explore each category and the invitations that I believe are waiting for us therein....the ways in which God wants to reveal Himself to our hearts.  AND... I want to invite YOU to explore with me.... to add your own examples of invitations you've felt from the Lord in the midst of similar circumstances!  Comment away! (PS - I've you've had trouble commenting previously on this blog, try clicking on the comments, going to where it says "Comment As" or "Choose an Identity," and commenting as an anonymous user.  Just leave me your name in your comment so I know who you are. :) Thanks friends!)

The Invitation: Worship...
and Basking in His Pleasure

The Moment: Stan is working late.  It's been a looonnnnnnnng, rainy afternoon, just me and our sweet boy hanging here at the house by ourselves.  We've played with play dough, done toddler-friendly artwork together, watched a little too much Elmo for one day (yes, true confession of Dana here), read books, folded laundry (which in our house translates to: tried to keep lil' guy from throwing laundry all over the room, and refolded the same items multiple times...) and made animal noises till we're blue in the face.  And honestly.... I am SO ready for another adult to talk to, and Isaac is in desperate need of some wild, romping, flying, jumping Daddy-play time.  These are the moments that, as a mom of one, can make you feel like your brain <<groan...>>

(Fill in the blank in your imagination now with your own mundane moments....)

The Invitation: To turn our hearts toward heaven... "Father, remind me of your perspective right now.  Remind me of the partnership I have with you in this moment, pouring into this precious life you've given me to steward.  God, you receive my life as worship....This seemingly mundane, brain-mushifying (Have I mentioned lately that I like to make up new words?) moment... it's yours, Lord.  Receive my heart, and my work...the kisses for my son, the discipline moments, the cleaning up never-ending messes, the diaper changes, the laundry.... receive it now as worship.... I do it all unto You, Father.  I love you... You're worthy of all of it...."  Worship Him from your heart, in your own words.....      AND.....      Be aware of His pleasure over you!!  The simple act of turning your heart toward Him in the midst of the mundane, your lifestyle of worship, it overwhelms His heart!!  Bask in it!  Revel in the revelation of His favor, His pleasure, His "Well done!" as He whispers it loud to your heart.  You delight His heart!!  

Remember that we have a God whose heart is for intimacy with us and His nature is to reveal Himself.... The awareness of these things about Him can turn our "mundane" moments into some of our sweetest times of connecting with His heart!

Supporting Scriptures: Song of Songs 4:9Colossians 3:23-24, others that you can think of?  Let me know in the comment section.

Your turn! Comment with examples of the mundane from your own journey, and/or examples of other invitations, ways you've encountered the Lord in the midst of the mundane.
(Of course, you can also comment with any other thoughts you may have! I just love hearing your heart. :) )

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Splashes of Beauty: Captured This Week


Join me on my continuing journey of responding to the Father's invitation to keep our eyes open for beauty all around us... for moments that might, on the surface, appear to be "mundane," in which the Lord captures our hearts and our attention with these "splashes of beauty...." turn our heart back toward Him in worship in these moments as He whispers His love to our heart.

My plan is to post these moments each Sunday in pictures from the previous week....inviting you to join me in this exercise of keeping our eyes open for beauty...and together cultivating gratitude in our own hearts.... a greater awareness of His love mediated to us through His perfect gifts.

Would you join me?  Comment with a link to your photos from this week?
(Or comment this week to let me know you're beginning this week... :) )

"Come, let us bow down in worship

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker
For He is our God
And we are the people of His pasture
The flock under His care."
Psalm 95:6-7

Praying you and yours are worshiping, resting, and rejoicing in His nearness today.  Blessings, friends!

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Let's Thank Him Together...
Provide a link below to your beautiful moments from this week?  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday's Musing.... Why I Write

I want to write...

...with consistency, that the Lord will use my writing to continue to reveal to me my own heart, and how He's inviting me into deeper surrender to His.

...with honesty, that God's nearness and pursuit of our hearts will be uncovered in the midst of the REALITY of life...the mundane, the messy, and the beautiful.

...with compassion, that others will feel embraced and drawn in close to the Father's heart as they read.

...with confidence, that God will challenge and provoke hearts to hunger for more and not settle for less.

...with clarity, that the heart of God will be set to words for those that He draws to hear.

...with authenticity, that the raw beauty of all that God is working in the deep places, what He's creating out of my crazy messes, will be displayed...

For His glory.  For His Kingdom.  For the sake of His name.

That His heart would be made known, and others' hearts will be wrecked too, set on fire with Love, undone by the experience of His unrelenting, tender pursuit....all around us.  In everything.

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What About You?
*Do you have a blog or keep a journal?
*Why do you write?
*How does writing help you understand your own heart? God's heart?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gentle Reminders to Slow Down (Because All Of This Is About Relationship, Not Results)

It's true... I confess - I pretty much always
use a box mix when making brownies.... as
evidenced by the plastic on the counter
under the blob of chocolate. :)
Chocolate covers his face....and shirt....splotches of it on his arm and the counter space all around us.  He was bored this afternoon, so I invited him to help me.... and I may have grumbled a little in my heart as I did.  Brownie-making is a slow, messy process when an almost-2-year-old is involved.  This thought hits my heart out of nowhere and I wonder....

How many things are slow and messy when I'm involved?

I stand back for a minute, close enough to catch him if he falls off the big chair he's standing on, but far enough to let him really engage this big bowl of chocolate. "Dirt!"  He says it with a smile, digging his spoon deeper into the triple dark chocolate brownie batter and trying to stir in response to my coaching.

If our hurry hurts our children's hearts, then doesn't slowing down build life and peace and healing into them? Slowing down to tell them that their hearts are more precious to us than our goals and schedules? 

And I find myself repenting for my grumbling heart in asking him to help me, and the Father is dropping all of this into my heart, all at once...these gentle reminders that wreck my heart all over again.... and I remember that He invites me into partnership with Him when He could so much more easily just say the word and get it all done, all on His own, apart from me.... How it creates more "mess" for Him when He lets me work alongside Him but how it's His joy, His delight, His burning desire just to have me right here next to Him through it all... mess and all....

Because isn't it relationship as opposed to results that's the point of this whole journey together??  

And how much does He love me, that He slows down His processes and creates this space for me, right next to Him?  

And sometimes doesn't He just want us to slow down with Him, stop trying so hard to achieve, and just be here next to Him?  Just respond, in love and surrender, to His pursuit of our hearts?

Because in His heart, priority number 1... is my heart.  YOUR heart.  And NOT all that we can accomplish for Him.  What love.... love that slows down to connect with our hearts along the way.... love that puts results and goals aside to focus on relationship.... love that reveals and uncovers and shares these mysteries with us while allowing us to work with Him.... love that speaks value and life and healing over our hearts as we journey together, us right here next to Him.

Father, give us grace today, gentle reminders to slow down and notice Your pursuit of our hearts... Your pursuit of real, living relationship with us... in the midst of this partnership with You.

May you see evidence of His nearness all around you today,

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Would you share a piece of your heart, your journey, with us today? 

*As you go about your lives, what does God use to whisper reminders to your heart that He's after relationship with you more than anything else?
*How often do you find yourself slowing down to just breathe in that assurance... that it's nowhere near as much about results as it is about His intimate pursuit of our hearts, and our response?


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reflections on Delight (Seeing Ourselves In the Light of His Smile)

The glass in our front door is a 2-way mirror.  I caught Isaac looking in it the other afternoon, examining his own reflection....his expression somber as he checked out every detail of his face, his clothes, his hat.  I watched him for a minute, adoring...  and then... squatted down to his level, hugging him close, looking with him into the mirror.

And suddenly.......

His face changed was lit up.  He giggled and leaned in closer to me, grinning ear-to-ear, saying "cuddle! cuddle!" (which sounds like "tuttle! tuttle!"), almost knocking me over with the ferocity of his joy and affection.  It totally altered his countenance and state of being in that moment, looking into the mirror from my arms, my grin matching his.  We sat there for a minute or so, soaking in the sight of our reflections, together, him still grinning in my arms and pressing his cheek to mine.

Oh my friends.... may we always, always look at our own reflection only in light of our Father's smile over us..... in light of His delighted embracing of our hearts.

It will change us from the inside out if we do.

Would you share a piece of your heart...your journey...with us here today?

*What things about yourself (failures, inadequacy, weakness) make it difficult for you to see yourself from the Father's perspective?
*What truths does He speak over you that cover those weak spots?
*When have you sensed His smile over you?

You are so precious to His heart!!

For The Days We Feel So Inadequate (Like We'll Never Be Enough...)


"Wife-hood" (have I mentioned that I like to make up new words?), motherhood, and ministry.... and just life in general.... they all have this way of making you constantly question whether you're enough.  Strong enough, gentle enough, loving enough, firm enough, consistent enough, in-tune enough with people's needs, giving enough, spending enough time with the Lord.....  

Who defines "enough," really?

Is "enough" even quantifiable?

And when it all comes down, isn't it more about HIS "enough-ness" than mine anyway?

These moments of failure, of raising my voice at my son in anger... of forgetting to trust Stan's leadership as my husband, forgetting to trust his heart toward me.... of neglecting to follow through on a commitment I made to a precious friend in our house church....of not feeling like I know our neighbors well enough... Sometimes this blaring inadequacy makes me feel like burying my head in the sand and not coming out for a few months.  Know the feeling??

AND THEN..... this whispering knock at my heart: "You'll NEVER be enough, Dana."  The voice of the enemy?  NO.  The loving whisper of the Father: "You'll never be enough... It's true... It's not your job to be."

Deep sigh.... Oh yes, Lord.... How quickly I forget....

....How quickly I forget about how He fills in my gaps... how His strength is made perfect in my weakness.... how I can relax and just lean, and He moves mountains.... how His invitation is to open up my weaknesses and inadequacies to Him so they can be filled, like a canyon is carved by water that runs through it.... how His rivers of mercy carve this raw beauty into my heart when I let go of control, of striving to be enough.... how my inadequacy can become a channel for Grace....His Grace that carves deeper still, making room for more....and how it spills out all around me - His manifest glory all over these places where I'm not enough.  

Oh Father.... how are You so beautiful and so good!?!?  

I am just wrecked by this mercy that grabs hold of my heart and births beauty in all of my gaps.

And in the midst of His glory being revealed all over my inadequate, beautiful mess, He reminds me, "There is no space between a river and the rock that it carves...."  Yes Lord.... No space between Your heart and mine... A reminder that all of this is simultaneously about His glory AND about His pursuit of intimate friendship with me, deeper trust, more leaning into Him....which brings Him more glory anyway....

This line from Ann Voskamp's blog echos in my mind today, in light of all of this, and I just have to share it with you:

"When you’re in covenant with Christ, it’s His responsibility to cover your cracks, to be all your competency and completeness." - - from Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience.

Be blessed today friends, in the midst of your inadequacy, to see Him more and more....

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Would you share a piece of your heart, your journey, with us today?

* What circumstances tend to make you more aware of your inadequacy? 
*What does it look like for you to lean into Him in the midst of your weakness?
*How do you feel like He wants to reveal His glory through it all?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Coping With Interruptions (A New Perspective on Being Interrupted)

1 comment:

We interrupt your current interruption,
to bring you..... another interruption!
Are you a mom?  If not, are you a human being? Yes?  Okay..... We can start from there.  Interruptions are commonplace in our lives as people....people who function in pretty much ANY capacity... and definitely as moms.  Even I, with just one toddler (so far), experience more of them daily than I can count.  Depending on the day, I can sometimes lean toward being quickly frustrated and irritated by all the interruptions, especially when they get in the way of my down time with the Lord, or when they wake me up from a (rare) nap... or take my attention away from something else that I REALLY wanted to be doing. Annnnd unfortunately, my family are the ones who often feel the brunt of it in those moments....when I feel like this:

Coping with interruptions...  Ever feel like this?

Last night, our house church dove into Mark chapter 6... the story of the feeding of the which Jesus and the disciples were massively interrupted!  I want to share with you how God used it to speak to my heart, to remind me of these things that are so, so helpful to me in coping with interruptions....

It had been a while since I'd read that story, and I don't think I had really noticed before that at the beginning of the story, the disciples had just come back from doing all kinds of ministry with people, and they were hungry and in need of some REST and ALONE TIME with Jesus.... so he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

So.... the disciples and Jesus get in this boat, go across the lake to a "solitary" place... and get this:  This MASSIVE crowd of people sees them leaving, runs (on FOOT!) around the (really big) lake (?!?!), and BEATS them there.  So they get there hoping for some chill time with Jesus and... HOLY COW, WHERE DID YOU PEOPLE COME FROM?!?!?!  If I'd been one of those disciples, I THINK I would've been pretty frustrated...maybe even angry...?  But Mark 6 tells us that Jesus had compassion on the people because they were like sheep with no he began teaching....and taught the people ALL. DAY. LONG.  The disciples were along for the ride.... And as far as we know, they STILL hadn't had an opportunity to even eat, let alone to rest.

We are mostly familiar with the rest of the story.... It's getting late in the day, the people need food, the disciples want to send them away to go find food for themselves, Jesus basically says, "No, YOU give them something to eat," to which they respond with shock as there's no way they can do that (thinking in terms of the natural realm, anyway)... then they find this little boy's lunch, Jesus miraculously multiplies the food so that 5000+ people have enough that they are satisfied, and there are 12 baskets (enough for each disciple maybe?) leftover beyond that!  

So, in discussing this story with our house church last night, here are some key things that stuck out to me:

1. Jesus valued alone time with His disciples and wanted them to get rest. (Mark 6:31-32)
2. Jesus was motivated by compassion for the people when He chose to stay there and teach them instead of finding another quiet place, away from the crowds, to be alone with His disciples. (Mark 6:34)
3. Despite the disciples apparent exhaustion, Jesus still challenged them to be willing to think outside the box when it came to possibilities of how to feed the disciples... He challenged them to increase their faith level when he said, "You give them something to eat." (Mark 6:37)
4. In spite of the change of plans, Jesus still provided (eventually, though they had to wait a bit) for the disciples' felt need for food (Mark 6:42-43), AS WELL AS for their need to encounter and experience His heart as he revealed to them his compassion for the people, his desire to meet the people's needs, both physical and spiritual, and his incredible power to miraculously provide for them.  He also revealed to them His desire to meet their (the disciples') needs, and gave them new perspective on His power and heart to provide for them, in spite of, and in the midst of the massive "interruption."

Sometimes, I find that I have been subconsciously viewing sleep, down time, even the time and space in my day to sit with the Lord, as my source, INSTEAD of Jesus Himself.

And even (and maybe especially?) in "interruptions," God is there, waiting to reveal Himself to me in the midst of whatever is happening.  My job is to keep my eyes open for Him, my heart attuned to His whispers.

And continually, to let this question roll around inside of me:  "God, how do you want to show me more of yourself, your heart, IN THIS situation?"

And....I have to think about how I have responded at times in the past to interruptions or when things haven't gone as I've planned (irritability, maybe being short with those I love most, not being truly present my family, stress, perhaps a tightness in my chest...)..... in comparison to how God is inviting me to begin to respond.  He's asking me to ride the waves, instead of trying to control them. 

Ride the waves, and look for Him in the midst of them.

When interruptions come, He is there.  Do we still need to prioritize our time and space with Him?  Our rest and our down time?  Definitely.  But they aren't our ultimate source... so when "waves" happen, when circumstances beyond our control (big or small) interrupt our plans, we can take a deep breath, relax, and know that our true SOURCE is waiting for us in the midst of it all. 

We just have to keep our eyes open for Him.

Jesus, give me grace to relax, breathe deep, trust you, see you, encounter your heart in everything.

Blessings, friends!  Surf's up... :)

Would you share a piece of your heart...your journey... with us here today?

*How do you normally cope with interruptions?
*How has He revealed (or how is He currently revealing) Himself to your heart in the midst
of inconvenience or changes of plans?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Are You a Happy Mom?

Are you happy as a mom?  Are your days mostly joy-filled?  Or do you often struggle with feeling overwhelmed by all of the work involved in being a mom?  You might even have days of feeling depressed....  But as I said in my post about why I left Facebook, God would wouldn't have called me to motherhood if He hadn't intended to meet me deeply in the midst of it.  I mean, really deeply...tangibly... experientially.... so much so that there is JOY (and even FUN!) available to us as moms who know Him.  On days that I tap into all that He has available to me, I can honestly say that I am happy, REALLY happy.... and deeply fulfilled.... as a mom.

I loved this post from Ann Voskamp, so today I want to send you over to her blog, A Holy Experience (to her post, 10 Ways to be a Happier Mom... It's brief - I promise. :) ) to be reminded of some things that are SO important in the way that we parent...and the way we live in general. When we remember these things, we will be so much happier.... and our kids will be happier too....

May you see Jesus more clearly today, encounter Him all around you... and live in the joy that is birthed from it.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why Does God Allow Us To Suffer?

WARNING: This post has turned out to be a little long, and a little raw.... Should take you about 10 minutes to read it.  Just FYI.

Hi friends.... It's Sunday evening, August 19th, about 74 degrees and GORGEOUS here in Kansas City, and my awesome husband has sent me away for the evening with the 3 or 4 books I'm currently reading, plus my Bible, journals, and laptop to have coffee and hang out with Jesus.  Hallelujah! :)  I love these moments with the Lord... and let's be honest - Moms need breaks sometimes, eh?! :)

Since the last 4 posts I wrote were definitely of a lighter nature (re. my journey through decorating Isaac's room on a budget), I want to share something with you tonight that has really been on my heart lately....So... (Do you have your cup of coffee ready?).... Here we go....

As believers, how many of us have not asked the question, "WHY, God?!" at some point in our lives? As much as we all would love to believe that following Jesus exempts us from pain, loss, hardship, trials, and suffering, we all know that this is not the case.  Not at all....  And despite the title of this post, I don't claim to have a handle on every aspect of the heart of God regarding His reasons for allowing us to experience suffering and trials in our lives at various points throughout our Christian journey.... BUT.... I do have some insight that I'd love to share with you.  And I'd like to say that I don't speak here as one who has not experienced great loss.  I have lost loved ones.  I have been through an incredibly painful divorce (about 7 years ago).  (Eesh... Is it okay for me to say that here?  I'm not happy with that piece of my history... but praise God, He makes all things new.  Click here to read my personal story in more detail.)  I have lost multiple babies to miscarriage.  I have experienced very painful breakdowns in a couple of friendships.  My husband Stan and I fostered a baby girl from birth till age (almost) 2 and we wanted so badly to adopt her, but lost her instead (birth mom now has custody).  Our hearts have been broken so profoundly.... I lack words to describe the pain.

I say all of that not to "one-up" you, or to try to make a case that my "suffering package" is worse than anyone else's.  I just want you to know that I've experienced suffering....and that those experiences, and having walked through them with Jesus, are the background out of which I would like to speak to your heart this evening.

Here are a few things I often hear people (Christians included) say when it comes to conversations about why God allows us to suffer.  I'd be willing to bet you've heard some of these also:

"Everything happens for a reason."

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

"God is allowing this in order to make me a better person."

Most people believe that when we encounter suffering or hardship, it's for a purpose..... God is allowing it in order to make us better, stronger.  But I submit to you that when it all comes down, God's ultimate goal in allowing suffering in our lives is NOT to make us better people. Being made better is merely a result of His actual goal.

Here's what God is always, ALWAYS after when we encounter suffering: OUR HEARTS.  He is after the openness of our hearts toward Him in the face of any and every circumstance that comes our way.  He is after deep, deep intimacy with us in the midst of sorrow.  It doesn't matter who you are, or even whether you have given your life to Him yet or not.  In every trial, every loss, every moment of suffering, He is whispering to your heart, "I am here.  Look for me in the midst of this.  Listen for my voice.  I long to speak to your heart, to reveal myself to you.  In every circumstance, my heart is to show you myself. I am pursuing your heart. Trust me....Trust me, precious one. Give me your heart, even now..."

So... practically, how can we surrender to God's pursuit of our hearts in the midst of suffering?  Here are a few things that I've found that the Lord is after:

1. Our worship.  In the face of pain.  In the face of loss, grief, unanswered questions...  He says, "Will you get before me? just set your heart like a flint before me? declare who I am?  Will you press into the truth of my sovereignty, my love, my grace, my unchangingness, my Kingship over your circumstances?"  (Unchangingness?  Like that word?  I made it up myself... ;) ) Another type of worship that He is after is simply this: the HONESTY of our hearts before Him.  Simply opening our hearts to Him and telling Him how much it hurts, while maintaining a heart posture of surrender, is such a pleasing fragrance to Him.  These forms of worship are both absolutely gut-wrenching... but simultaneously the sweetest experience in the world.  When we engage Him in this way in the face of our suffering, He meets us profoundly in the depths of our hearts.  He may not instantly change our circumstance... but His encountering of our hearts in the midst of it is so incredibly more than sufficient to sustain us....through anything.  Absolutely ANYTHING.  See Psalm 34:18.  He is so uniquely, intimately NEAR to us when our hearts are breaking.

Moment of reality here:  I have to say that I have definitely not always succeeded in wrangling my heart into this place of persistent, tenacious, radical worship in the face of my circumstances...and when we fail in this area He is so faithful to continue to pursue our hearts until we come back around into a place of worship..... And the second that I even begin to turn my heart in that direction, His grace is there and He is so faithful to meet me.... And what precious times I've had with Him in moments like these. My heart is undone even as I write this... He is so, so sweet, and His nearness is so much more than enough.

2. Our trust.  Radical, fierce, ruthless trust. Trust that digs in and says, "God, I choose to believe that your heart toward me is GOOD.... that your plans for my life are GOOD (Jeremiah 29:11Phil. 1:6). Even when I don't understand your ways, I choose to trust you.  No matter the pain, no matter the struggle, no matter the loss, I trust your heart toward me.  I believe that you are who you say that you are.  I do.... I do, Father!"

Another moment of reality: There have been moments, in my seasons of great loss, where I've had to get super honest before the Lord and say, "Father, I don't know right now if, in the core of who I am, I really trust your heart toward me.  Part of me is afraid that your heart toward me isn't good.... but I WANT to believe, God.  I WANT to trust you.  Help my unbelief.  Protect my heart from the enemy's lies...." Because in those moments where our suffering or our trial seems to overtake and overwhelm our hearts, the enemy's desire and plan is to plant lies in our hearts about the character of God, to try to make us doubt His goodness.... And in those moments, after I'm honest before the Lord about the condition of my heart, I have to jump (quick!!) back up to #1 (WORSHIP!) until my heart comes into alignment with truth and I begin to trust His heart toward me again.  Does this make sense?

3. Our surrender to His work in the deepest places of our hearts.  Our willingness to ask the questions, "God, what are you wanting to accomplish in my heart in the midst of these circumstances?  What are you wanting to show me about yourself in this suffering?  About my own heart?  Father, have your way in me, IN THIS SEASON, in the depths of my heart...."

He is so, so ultra-committed to pursuing intimate friendship with us, and in each painful circumstance, if we will position our hearts before Him in a posture of worship, trust, and surrender, even when we do NOT understand His ways.... He is SO, SO faithful to reveal Himself to us in new ways, to bring surprising, miraculous comfort to our hearts, (i.e. "BLESSED are those who mourn.... for they WILL BE comforted.") to deepen our ability to trust Him, and to strengthen our resolve to worship and love Him no matter what.... NO. MATTER. WHAT.  Because He's WORTHY of it.

THIS (in my opinion) is how He wants to "better" us through suffering.  This is how He uses trials to make us stronger.  We never have to just "grin and bear it."  We never have to "suck it up and keep going."   And we DEFINITELY never have to "just survive."  We pour out our hearts to Him.... stand in the face of the storm and worship our guts out, trust Him relentlessly, and surrender to His process in our hearts in the midst of the pain.  He meets us in this place, sustains our hearts, brings supernatural comfort and peace even in the midst of our suffering, and deepens our intimacy and friendship with Him like we never dreamed possible.  Such a beautiful, bittersweet process, His pursuit of our hearts.  Again and again.... I'm just undone by the way He loves me.... the way He loves us.

Grace to you, my friends, in whatever season you're in.  Whether your home situation is stressful, you've lost your job, you feel stuck in a job that you'd rather not be working, your dog has died, or you've lost a family member (you fill in the blank) matter the pain (NO trial or "suffering package" is too small), God invites you into these places with Him in the midst of it.  May you hear His whispers clearly in the depths of your heart, and may you respond to His invitation into intimacy in the midst of your circumstances, whatever they look like.  I bless you in Jesus' name with the courage and faith to jump in with both feet.... He is waiting to meet you in ways you can't even imagine.

What about you?  
How has God encountered Your heart in the midst of suffering? I'd love to hear pieces of your journey with Him....
Bless you, friends!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How to Furnish and Decorate Your Kid's Room on a Budget (and Have Fun Doing It!) : Part 4

Hi!  Welcome back, friends!  So glad you've stopped by today for the 4th and final post of my series, "How to Furnish and Decorate Your Kid's Room On A Budget (and Have Fun Doing It!)"  If you missed parts 1 - 3 of the series, you can check them out here:

How to Furnish and Decorate Your Kid's Room On A Budget: Part 1
How to Furnish and Decorate Your Kid's Room on a Budget Part 2
How to Furnish and Decorate Your Kid's Room on a Budget: Part 3

So.... I've shared with you my journey through discovering free furniture possibilities, the wonders of Craig's List, garage sales, spray paint and scrapbook paper, and hopefully you've been inspired to try some new, fun acrylic painting projects for your kids' rooms.  For me, all of this has been so, so fun!  Never dreamed I could be SO INTO home decorating...and I never dreamed I could do SO MUCH for SO LITTLE!  By budgeting for these things over a couple of months, it really wasn't any strain on our budget at all.....and my son has a completely furnished and decorated room.  You too can pull this off! :)

One last project that I thought I'd show you:

Mistake #1:  I totally jumped into making this on my own (yikes!), with no instructions, not even one glance at Pinterest.  Oops! :)  Oh well.... It turned out pretty well nonetheless....but there are a few things I'd do differently next time.  Here's how I put this together, and what I'll do differently if I make another one:

Materials List:
Cheap Bulletin Board (Hello, Walmart!)
Transportation (or whatever other fun theme) Buttons... like these:

Regular Buttons
Staples and Stapler
Craft Glue
Needle and Thread
Picture Hanging Materials (of your choice)

Step 1: Lay batting out over board, pulling slightly over the edges. (If I had it to do again, I'd only use one layer.  I used 2 this time, and it's okay, but a little too pillowy (if that's a word...?) for me now that it's finished.)

Step 2: Cover batting with fabric, wrapping smoothly and tightly around edges and corners.  

Step 3: While holding firmly, staple your fabric in several places per side, all the way around the back of the board.

Step 4: Use craft glue around the back of the board to make sure the fabric stays attached! 

Step 5: Stretch ribbon across board at desired widths, and craft glue it to the back of the board on either side.  (If I do this again, I'll measure my widths and angles more carefully so as to achieve straighter, more aesthetically pleasing lines with my ribbon intersections.  Does that make sense?)

Step 6: Sew buttons to each intersection of ribbon, making sure to simultaneously sew the ribbon down to the fabric at each intersection.

Step 7: Attach to the back whatever you're using to hang your board.... I would use Super Glue or something similar to ensure security.

Step 8:  After glue is completely dry, hang, stuff with pics of your kid's favorite people, and talk about the pictures (and theme-related buttons!! :) ) with him/her every day!!  He/she (and YOU!) will love having it in their room!!

Thanks again so much for coming along with me on my low budget room-decorating adventures.  The way we decorate our homes really does give expression to pieces of our hearts.... Thanks for letting me share mine with you!

I'll leave you with a few final pics from Isaac's (newly, inexpensively decorated) room.  :)

The one thing in this room that I still need to spray paint:
The glider.  Another garage sale find, but in great shape.
Definitely covering up those old cushions.... :)  A gorgeous
afghan from my mom (a.k.a. Gigi) helps a ton!  The solid blue
afghan on bottom was a gift from a dear friend in Colorado.

The Craig's List dresser from How to Furnish and Decorate
Your Kid's Room on a Budget: Part 1!  It occurred to me that
I never actually posted a picture of it!  Sorry about that!
Pretty sure those red picture frames will eventually be on a wall.

These shelves and brackets are easy to find at almost any home improvement
store.  They are inexpensive and relatively easy to hang, too!  Just make sure
you have your stud finder handy...

Thanks again, friends, for letting me share my ideas with you.... I would love to hear about (and see!) your own decorating adventures....  Share with me in the comments?  Thanks so much!

Be blessed this weekend to encounter Jesus in the big and small gifts in your life....

~Dana <3

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