April 19, 2014

On Following.....Lent's Ending


As Easter Sunday has approached, I've been almost mournful as I've known this season was coming to an end.  Part of me has wanted it to last forever.  I've relished in His love and sweetness and close relationship and I haven't wanted there to be an ending or a shift to what this season has looked like for me.

With these feelings, I started to wonder about the disciples and their relationship with Jesus when He was here and in ministry to and with them.  For three years, they followed Jesus around.  They ate together, fellowshipped together, learned together, traveled together, laughed and cried together.  But ultimately, Jesus came here to die and there was going to be an ending to His ministry and with that, there was going to be a shift in the very tangible relationship that He had with the twelve.

This week I read the gospel accounts of the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  One of the things that struck me, was that in every gospel, just after the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, Peter followed to see what was going to happen.  Yet, it says that he followed from a distance.  He followed, but he kept out of sight.  He didn't want to be seen or even identified as a follower of Jesus, but he was nearby as the horror unfolded for his teacher and friend.  When someone called him out, He denied ever knowing Jesus and after realizing that he had denied Christ just as he was told he would, his heart broke and he left weeping.

This made me curious.  Perhaps if Peter had followed closely and stood by Jesus' side, he too would have been beaten and killed.  I'm sure he wanted to see what was going to happen to his friend.  But we see that Peter didn't enter in closely.  It's recorded and purposed in Scripture for us to know that Peter followed, but only from a distance.
This got me thinking about where my following Jesus has only been at a distance.  I can still see Him and hear Him, but I keep some kind of safe space between us.  I'm not completely present.  I could leave quickly if I needed to or if someone persuaded me.  I'm not close enough to be identified as His follower.  There are parts of me still uncertain about who He is or what exactly it is I am doing with this Jesus I follow.  I sound a lot like Peter maybe.  As I sat with these thoughts, I realized - I don't want to follow Jesus from a distance anymore.

At the end of the gospel of John, Jesus makes breakfast for Peter.  If you're unaware, Jesus not only dies, but comes back to life again (it's the best part of the whole Jesus story).  Jesus prepares a meal and shares a conversation with Peter - this same man who followed Him at a distance, denied ever knowing Christ, the one who fell asleep in the garden when Jesus needed Him the most.  Jesus and Peter share a sweet exchange of words and at the end of the passage Jesus tells him and other other disciples there, the exact same words He spoke when He first met them.

Follow Me.

And then it hit me.  It was the same invitation He spoke to my heart two months ago - Follow Me.  Jennifer - could you follow me here?

These past six weeks, the living without sodas and desserts and the sweet things I usually fill myself with, following Jesus on this journey during a season of Lent - it hasn't been about the food or my body or weight.  It's been about my heart.  It's been about where I am willing to follow Jesus, and where I am not.  This whole journey, this experience, while it has taught me that I can live without sweet things, more than anything I've seen where Jesus has cultivated in me a heart of one that truly, sincerely, deeply and intimately wants to follow Him.

Where are you following Jesus only at a distance?  Where is He asking you to follow Him to and what is holding you back from going?

Never in my life have I looked more forward to an Easter Sunday.  I'm cleaning my house, preparing food, and preparing my heart for a grand celebration.  One of remembrance of my Jesus - the One I have followed closely these last six weeks.  It is certain there will be a change and a shift as this season of Lent comes to an end, much like things shifted and ended for the disciples when Jesus was crucified and resurrected.  But it is one that I welcome.

My desire is to remain close.  To follow Jesus with all of my heart, not just pieces, and never to follow from a distance again.



April 14, 2014

Heritage


If you've ever heard my Grandfather (affectionately known to us as Poppy) talk about his family, you will almost always hear him speak of heritage.  As long as I've known him, one of the most important things to him is what he is leaving behind to his family, and being able to see what he has instilled in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He wants to leave a legacy.  He wants to leave the world changed and to see the people he has crossed paths with change.  He wants to see his family pass down the morals, the beliefs and the values that he holds so dear.  More than anything though, he wants to see us all walking with Jesus.

There are few people I know who have a genuine passion for the Bible.  The-can't-get-enough-of-it, read-it -every-day, know-verses-off-the-top-of-your-head-in-an-instant kind of passionate.  My Poppy has always been the one I've gone to when I've had questions about what I'm studying in the Bible.  He has always provided clarity and understanding, but he has also instructed me when I've been confused or full of doubt.  His influence has been instrumental in my life and spiritual journey.

Poppy's passions for the Bible, the correct interpretation of it and good, sound doctrine have finally funnelled themselves into a book he has written.In the last two years, I have watched my Grandfather come alive in new ways as he has written and studied and pieced together a book that is the culmination of both his passions and life-long teachings as a Pastor and teacher.  As his eldest grand-daughter, I could not be more proud.

The book is nearly done, but his publisher needed a scripture reference index.  And being that the book is Bible-intensive, there were over 2,000 verses that needed to be documented in the index.  Because I can type quickly, I offered to type it up for Poppy and send it on to his publisher as the final piece to his book.

I have to admit, it's a bit of a daunting task.  It's not just typing out something that's been written.  It's numbers and semi-colons and dots and commas and a certain amount of spaces so that they all look even and stream-lined.  I've never typed up anything like this in my life.

Yet, even though it's been a bit labor-intensive, it's also an honor to do it.  To have a hand in something that my Poppy is leaving behind is humbling for me.  What he has written will forever be a part of my heritage.  And I love that my boys can know that their Great-Grandfather was not only passionate about Jesus, but about His word.

Sometime soon, The Confusion Factor by Rev. Paul V. Hull will "hit the shelves."  It's about the Christian life, about our security in our salvation as believers and good, solid truth when in a world with so many different views and questions, provide clear cut answers from Scripture.

The book will forever be a footprint in history of how God molded one man's heart.  And if not anyone else, the book, my Poppy, all of his wise teaching and instruction, has most certainly left me changed.  And by God's grace and mercy, I can continue to live on in that same heritage and pass it down to my children and my children's children and my children's children's children.

April 9, 2014

Lent - Week 5

While mini-mooning in Marble Falls, Todd and I made the choice to treat ourselves to an ice-cream sundae.  At the time, we didn't feel like it was a big deal, to go "off lent" or whatever it is that you call it when you have whatever it is that you've given up for the season. 

I may not have mentioned that Todd was doing this with me.  While he is doing it to support me and not necessarily for Lent, he too has withheld from sodas and desserts and sugary treats. Naturally, he's lost ten pounds, but he's realized that he doesn't need soda during the day to keep him awake or energized and he has decided to cut out sodas from his diet with the exception of having one when we occasionally dine out.

The sundaes we purchased were the first real dessert since before March 5th.  We ate that ice-cream and hot fudge - me, primarily just the hot fudge portion because chocolate is what interests me most when it comes to the dessert spectrum.  I wasn't able to eat it all and after I ate what I did, sadness set in.  To my surprise, it wasn't a feeling of failure or self-contempt, but of conviction.  Like something in my heart hurt and I felt grieved.

On top of that, my body almost felt physically ill.  Todd felt the same way.  It was rich and decadent and was too much, even though neither of us finished what we had.  The getting the ice-cream in the first place was perhaps more about places of disappointment we were both sitting in, me especially, than feeling like it was okay to indulge since we were away and on a special outing.  Though I tried to convince myself of that.

After I sat there, post-hot fudge, I thought about how these last several weeks of life have been some of the sweetest I've known with God.  He's felt near in a place that I've only ever felt His distance.  I've gone to Him when I wanted the sweet and found that in His heart and His word and His presence.  For the first time ever, I've desired to honor Him with what I am or what I'm not putting in my mouth to eat.  I've waited for His voice with expectancy and in ways I never have before.  I've looked to Him to fill something in me that I've seen where I have filled with sweets and desserts for years. 

I realized that it wasn't the sundae I was wanting.  It was Him.  I was needing some of His sweetness and care and love as I sat with emotions and pieces of our story together that feel weighty and sometimes hopeless. I think we were both needing Him.

We haven't had another sweet since that one outing on our getaway.  I was amazed at how a few spoonfuls of hot fudge set off my cravings for sugar all over again for the next few days.  The whole experience did something in my heart though.  It made me curious what it might be like to stay the course.  To live a life without sweets and desserts.  For them to be had on a special occasion instead of a daily or nightly occurrence as almost a reward for surviving my day.  I wondered if I could keep on.

And as I've been curious, I've heard that still small voice.  The same One who invited me to this journey two months ago.   

Would you follow me here?  Oh come and see, follow me and taste and see that I am good.

April 7, 2014

Great Expectations

Ideally, Todd and I would like to get away alone together at least four times a year.  Maybe once a quarter where we could check out of life and kids and the daily routine and just be alone and reconnect and rekindle and renew, because marriage is always needing to re-something it seems. But, four times a year - who has the time or money for that?

A dear friend of mine offered to keep the boys for a weekend should we ever want to get away together, and since we were feeling the need for that re-something, we booked a hotel in Marble Falls, left the boys and ventured out, just the two of us.  I had been there once before in the spring - it was beautiful and show-offy with it's lakes and gorgeous Texas wildflowers and exciting outdoorsy restaurants.

As with any getaway I suppose, I had my own ideas and expectations of our time together.  I was envisioning wildflower photo shoots, a scenic hike at Inks Lake, dinner outside at a scenic restaurant, juicy steaks, lots of relaxing and sleeping in at our hotel, and long romantic walks.  And plenty of blogging fodder of course. Before we ever left, I had my own agenda.

When we arrived at our hotel I was immediately disappointed when I discovered that I didn't get the room I was promised.  We had two queen beds instead of the one huge king bed.  It was on the first floor.  It was right next to the lobby where we could hear everyone breakfasting over their waffles and bad coffee. 

The weather was cold and overcast that Saturday.  There was no dining outdoors since I brought nothing warm to wear.  I actually thought I could rough it when I snapped this picture.  And immediately after I took it, we asked for a table inside.  We went to see a movie, we walked around Walmart so I could find a new brush.  We perused some shops that contained over-priced boutique clothing and decorative items.

We discovered that Marble Falls wasn't nearly as big and scenic as we were expecting, and we spent all of Saturday watching movies and napping and almost feeling lost without anything to do or anyone to take care of.  It was both amazing and completely weird.

As with any time I spend alone with my husband, it was wonderful.  It's when we're alone that I most often feel the natural way we click together.  How doing nothing but laying on his chest in bed watching Indiana Jones is more delightful than any excursion I could ever plan for us.  And the time felt bittersweet.  Hard conversations, hard realizations and looking at how much "work" that has to go into making us, us.  It's work.  I don't want it to be work, I hate that it even feels like work, but yes, it's work.

Sunday, it stormed and our hiking plans were literally washed out.  And to my surprise, I dearly missed my boys and was ready to head home to see them.  I had originally thought Todd was going to have to drag me back kicking and screaming as I was in dire need of a mama-break as I thought I would need two weeks to myself and not just two days.

As we drove back home in the pouring rain, holding hands and quiet, I reflected on my expectations for the weekend.  The expectations of our room, of the weather, of the scenery, of the things we were going to do and how it was nothing like I had expected or planned for.  I remembered where my heart was two and a half years ago with wanting to be done with us, and how my perspective shifted when I began to love without expectation.  And when I did that, I saw how my husband had loved me like that for years.

I wasn't expecting to miss my boys and feel ready to head home.  Perhaps I needed to know I could miss them - especially Jacob.  After feeling discouraged and weary in motherhood for months, I needed to know my heart could miss that boy.  And I did.  And I never expected I'd feel that way come Sunday morning.

I didn't know I was needing another reminder about love and expectation, but the weekend showed me that I did.  And maybe our little mini-moon as I called it wasn't the re-everything that either of us had hoped it would be, but it reminded us that our love story our life together will always come with disappointments and surprising turns and quiet, lazy Saturdays to do nothing but be.  It will always be wildflowers and rain storms.

April 1, 2014

Bluebonnets

You have to be from Texas to truly understand our infatuation with Bluebonnets.

You see, spring is a season that literally lasts for a few weeks here - maybe a full month if we are lucky.  There is a short period of time where winter is gone and everything buds up new and green and the weather is absolutely divine.  Wildflowers show off in glorious displays of reds, blues, yellows and bright purples.  It's so breathtaking you can hardly stand it.  But then by May it's gone, and the fresh, new life of spring gives way to heat as summer starts early and ends late. 

Those few weeks of spring though, we enjoy and relish and bask in the glory of windows open weather and the glorious display of Bluebonnet filled fields.
The greatest symbol of spring's arrival in our part of the world are the Bluebonnets.  It is something that every Texan looks forward to with great anticipation.  It's a Texas tradition too - you have to take pictures in the Bluebonnets.  Or force your children to.

My boys are no exception to this tradition.  So naturally, this past Sunday, I dressed them to match (oh yes, I did) and plopped them smack dab in the middle of a Bluebonnet field in hopes of having some of my own precious spring memories.

To my surprise, they both did well.  They smiled and everything.
 In a few weeks this beautiful patch of Bluebonnets will be gone and another spring will have already passed giving way to our usual six-month long summer.
But for now, for this moment, for this day, I'm enjoying the beauty and welcoming in the spring.  Delighting in the gift of Bluebonnets, a vibrant reminder of my Texas home. 

March 26, 2014

Lent - Week 3


Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which You have broken may rejoice.

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart - These, O God, You will not despise. 


- Excerpts from Psalm 51


Why does God want us broken?

I don't think it's so He can fix us or make us better, or even heal us.

It's a question I'm curious about today, that over my morning coffee and the few moments I had to myself before work, disrupted my heart.  If the point of being broken is not so He can fix us - why does He want us broken?   I'm pondering my own places in my heart and story that have been shattered by the wounds of others, by my own sin, by my own ways of managing my life and trying to control everything around me.  My brokenness seems to define me.

What if I'm to remain broken?  What if He never fixes me and leaves me here?  What then of following Jesus?  What then of my brokenness?

I only want Him to fix me.  And He only wants me broken.
 


March 20, 2014

Spring, spring, spring

Being the season lover that I am, there are a few moments every year that I wait for in great anticipation and expectation.

Summer is a feeling.  It comes from the perfect amount of warmth and sunshine and laughter of a little boy running through the sprinkler, food fresh off the grill.  It comes when I can see the bright colors of plastic aqua swimming pools, strawberry red popsicles and jet black skies lit up with golden sparkly fireworks.

In autumn, it's that moment when the sun is golden and it lights up my living room all romantic and amber-like.  When the first cool front blows through and cools us off from a long, blazing summer and the first fall winds are something you feel deep inside. 

Winter, I look to the sky.  When it is perfectly gray and cozy, it invites me to find comfort in soft, worn blankets and homemade soup and warm bread and snuggles on January evenings.  It's after the holidays when life settles and quiets and I'm left with time for reflection and solitude.

And spring?  It's our Rosebud tree, always the first to bloom.  It's pink flowers give way to beautiful heart shaped leaves.  I can see it right outside my living room window and it's my very favorite.

It's blooming now.  It means that spring is here.  And my heart is bursting with gratitude.
The last several months, especially throughout the winter, I was at war within myself.  I was sitting with feelings and thoughts that felt consuming, especially on the bad days.  They were the kinds of things that only happen on the inside of a person and if you would have seen me, you wouldn't have known.  They are the kinds of things no one knows about unless they ask how you are, how you really, really are.  And only the good friends ask that question because they truly know you're heart and because they can see when your smiles are forced and when you're not the same you as you usually are.  They can tell when your sparkle isn't as sparkly because you're hurting. 

I've been doing some writing about this season and I plan on sharing some of that here soon.  It's about motherhood mostly - and pride and disappointment and failure - and how those things are weaving into the threads of my story and life.  All of it making me, changing me, growing me.  Today, I'm feeling grateful for a place that still feels difficult, because it's brought me to my knees and reminded me of my desperate need for the Father's love and my Savior's abounding grace.

Spring is finally here.  Our tree is new once again. It lived through summer's blazing heat, autumn's fall and winter's barrenness.  And I lived through them too.  I too am new, for He is always making new.  He is faithful to make the new.

Happy spring everyone.