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.

March 19, 2014

Lent - Week 2

What am I doing this for?  This is stupid, I thought.  Two weeks into Lent, to saying to no to soda and withholding desserts and sweet things from myself, my attitude has been sour.  What’s the point?

As I began to journal my raw thoughts and emotions, I was suddenly aware of how ugly my attitude was.  I was writing to God and how He better be doing something with this.  How He better have something for me here.  How He better bring about some kind of healing or cure for my eating disorder.  How I better shed a few pounds by Easter with all of the calories I’m eliminating in my every day diet.  How there better be a reward at the end of all of this Lent stuff.

The pen in my hand was writing furiously and I could barely keep up with all that I felt like I was wanting and hoping and needing God to do in this process.

You’re missing it, He said.  You’re missing Me.

So I stopped and I cried.  Because for two weeks, ALL I have thought about is donuts and cookies and pie and ice cream.  I have begrudgingly eaten some apples and have tried to imagine my container of light and fit yogurt was a bowl of chocolate ice cream with extra hot fudge.  I haven’t sought Him out when the cravings hit.  I haven’t gone to Him when I’m desiring the usual amount of sugar I am used to filling my body with.  Instead I’ve pouted and have been waiting for some spiritual light bulb to go off inside of me that gives me some aha moment and maybe then I’ll suddenly be changed in this place forever.

It’s what I’ve been waiting for.  It’s almost what I’m banking on to happen at the end of this journey, that in the last week, has felt utterly ridiculous.  When I was honest with myself, weight loss or feeling cured of this is maybe why I agreed to go through with this in the first place.  I realized that I’ve been in it for me.  For my own glory and gain.  Or loss, in this case.

And what He spoke to my heart was true.  I have been missing it.  I have been missing Him. It grieved me that something is all about Him and for Him, I've managed to make all about me.

There are 30 more days left of this season.  And I have been counting down because Easter Sunday marks the day I can freaking have some kind of amazing dessert.  Even my countdown has been all about me because I’m counting down to the thing and not to the celebration of His resurrection.

Today I’m feeling humbled, a little knocked on my butt and a little embarrassed that to admit any of this here.  My hope is that the next 30 days will be less about me and less about the sweets I’m not eating and more about Him.  Because I don’t want to miss Him in this.

This morning I’m remembering His invitation when He laid this on my heart.  Come to me for the sweet, He said.

Could He be sweet?  The God I love and believe in, the One I’ve wrestled with and struggled with, the One who has broken my heart again and again – could He be sweet?  Could I find what I’m looking for in Him?  Can God really satisfy me here?

I don’t know yet.  But maybe I’m beginning to ask the right questions.

March 17, 2014

The Range is Hot

Last week was my birthday.  Apparently, I’m 33 now.  Or seven years away from 40 as I see it.  The up side of your birthday falling in the middle of the week is that you can stretch out the gifts and celebrations and get-togethers for a week, or even longer if you’re crafty.  Not that I do that or anything.

Come Saturday, we were still celebrating and Todd surprised me with a fun day-date out.  A long time ago I asked if he would take me shooting and show me how it’s done and could we maybe try out the world famous Saltlick restaurant.  I mean nothing says Happy Birthday like getting up close with firearms and barbecue sauce right?

Our first stop was to purchase some ear plugs.  And I have to laugh at myself, because I really can be the girliest of girls.  Me with my make-up and charm bracelet heading to a gun range where I most definitely don’t belong, going to shoot guns and stuff.
Todd drove us out to a little gun range somewhere in Redneckville, Texas, where several years ago he brought me once before.  I chickened out and threw something of a tantrum and had a meltdown about something and pouted in the truck until we left.  It was a horrible day and I was determined that this time I would:  #1 – not sabotage our fun day out and #2 – actually shoot a gun even though I was a wee bit freaked out.
Apparently, everyone else had the same idea about gun shooting that day and we had to wait a while for a spot to open up.  To start, I was a bit shaken by some of the guns people were shooting.  They may as well have been firing canons they were so loud – even through my ear plugs.   

Every so often though, the gun range-masters (who knew such a job existed, and also, THE GUN RANGE MASTER  sounds like the title of a western movie - just saying.) would declare a cease-fire and allow for people to adjust or set up new targets.  When everyone is off the field again, they declare that the range is hot and we are good to start to shooting.  I wanted to ask for the megaphone and be the one to declare that the range was hot again but I didn't think the range-master would let me.  They seemed to take their range mastering very seriously.

Todd is most definitely an expert when it comes to the world of guns and shooting so I knew I was in good hands even though things were exploding all around me.
After he showed me how to hold the rifle and what to be looking at through the scope, I felt pretty good.  I got the hang of it pretty quickly and was able to actually shoot my target.  I’m now convinced I could totally take down a deer should I ever brave the hunting scene with him one of these days.
Handguns were up next and I was both equally terrified as I was excited.  I was most certain I was going to be a natural like James Bond after my experience.  I mostly wanted to learn to shoot a handgun in case I ever found myself in a situation of needing to protect myself or my boys.
Unfortunately, I was not nearly as good as I thought I would be.  I hit the dirt a few times and was carelessly flailing the gun around without the safety on, which is a big no-no.  Todd was adamant about me paying attention to that – it was almost as if I could hurt someone or something, geez.  He kept telling me to relax, but seeing as I wasn’t in a bubble bath and instead holding a weapon that was capable of killing someone, there was no relaxing to be had.  But, seeing as I didn’t injure myself or anyone else, I considered it to be a pretty successful lesson overall.

I went first and Todd went after me.  I bet you can’t guess which target is mine and which belongs to my husband!
After our shooting adventure, we headed out to the barbecue place of barbecue places – the world renown Saltlick.   
We had to wait an hour and a half to get in, but it was so fun to sit down at this place we have heard and seen so much about.  Their smoke pit is legendary, and so is all of their delicious food.
We most definitely had our fill of meat galore.
Anytime Todd and I are able to veer away from the normal pace of life, I am always reminded how much I love and enjoy being with this man.  We laugh together and enjoy each other....we just fit.  And sometimes it takes a long wait for barbecue and a shooting lesson to be reminded of how great and wonderful our love really is.

It was a birthday for the memory books.   Here's to 33, to good barbecue and to trying new things.

March 12, 2014

Lent - Week 1

It seems to be that the nights I need the most sleep are the nights I can’t seem to rest.  I awake and toss and turn and can’t get comfortable.  I’ll surrender to my body and decide that God must want to hang out with me because the middle of the night is usually the best time for such a thing.  Apparently.

The other night was such a restless night, and with my 4:00am attitude, I got out of bed and went to the living room to read and pray.  However, I discovered the body of my big boy curled up on the couch asleep.

Tommy has been having bad dreams lately and tells me that he is afraid of the dark.  He doesn’t like to come to us when he wakes up and feels scared because he thinks the walk from his room to ours is dark and too scary.  No amount of nightlights and prayers have seemed to help, so he finds solace on the sofa because the living room feels less threatening than his own for some reason. 

My heart ached when I saw his little four-year old self wrapped up in camo pajamas and his Spiderman blanket, clutching his old yellow bear, a vivid reminder of his innocence and youth.  I gently woke him and tucked him back into bed.  I kissed him on the cheek and told him he was safe and he could go back to sleep in his bed.

After I closed his door and sat down, I had tears for my boy.  I thought about what it might be like to be four and to feel afraid.  To feel like you have to find comfort on your own, because even though mom and dad are just down the hall, the walk there is too scary.  It breaks my heart that he needs us in the middle of the night, and instead, he finds a way to take care of himself.  He doesn’t ask for comfort or for help, or for another prayer and to be tucked in bed again with a reminder that he’s safe.

I can remember what it feels like to be little and small.  I can remember feeling scared and confused and feeling like I was left on my own to take care of myself, to figure something out, to be my own source of comfort.  There was little space for me emotionally and physically, especially to my mother.  So I did what any child might do – I survived.  I sought out my own places of comfort and solace.  I calmed myself down when I was scared from a bad dream by repeating a phrase “When I am afraid I will trust in You (God)” over and over again until I could fall asleep again.  The sound of my little voice in the dark made me not feel so alone.  But ultimately, I decided what I needed wasn’t important and I would be fine without it.

Tommy was a reminder to me of where I was once little and in need of comfort.  At some point along the way, I found comfort in food, and in sweet things especially.  It was how I comforted and cared for myself.  It is still a place I attempt to comfort and care for my soul.  Though now I often make other choices like bubble baths or conversations with a friend or writing or going for a walk.  But sometimes, a bowl of ice-cream or a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven can feel like the kind of comfort I’m needing too.

It’s been a whole week since the beginning of Lent.  It’s been a whole week without soda and dessert and chocolate and all of the sweet things I enjoy so much.  I’ve mostly been grouchy and have seemed to forget that I wanted to do this in the first place.  I might give my left arm for a single chocolate chip cookie.

Today, I’m thinking about comfort.  I am remembering the places in my childhood where comfort was lacking and what I did to seek it out.  I am looking at my heart and how I know this is a place where I have rarely sought God’s heart.  I go to Him and I go to Him for many things – but rarely, maybe even never, for comfort.  

Before bed last night, I reminded Tommy that if he woke up and He felt scared in the middle of the night, he could come to us.  That it was okay to wake us up and that we were here if he felt scared.  I couldn't ignore that small still voice that left me with the same invitation. You can come to me too my child.  I'm here.  I can give you rest.

I wonder what might happen if I went running down the hall to God when I'm in need of comfort - even if the way there is a little dark and scary.  I'm curious what might happen if I stop resisting His comfort.  And what I might discover about His heart if I could embrace Him as a comforter.  My comforter.

March 11, 2014

Maybe it's not silly

Every once in a while, out of curiosity and deep longing and hope, I’ll scour job postings for writers.  Silly right?  

I’m not really sure what I’m looking for, or how a story-loving, writer-aspiring woman like me would even fit in to that world.  I have no credentials, no degree and no editing expertise.  Any experience I have would date back to an award-winning essay written in the seventh grade about water conservation and my sophomore creative writing class that led to a silly published poem about how a woman died under an apple tree from a broken heart.  And of course, there’s this little blog I’ve come to pour my heart out to for years telling stories and writing down memories of what I’ve wanted to capture and keep for always. 

Writing has been a constant over the years.  It’s the thing I’ve returned to again and again since I was a young girl.  Next to my passion for sitting with others and hearing their stories and pointing them to Jesus, my greatest desire is to write something.  If not for anything else, simply the mere enjoyment of it and how it makes me feel.  It is without a shadow of a doubt something that I was created for. 

It feels silly.  It tell myself that it’s silly all the time.  It’s silly to think that I could be a writer.  It feels silly to pursue it or go after it.  After all, it seems like everyone wants to be a writer or claims to be one and how silly of me to think I’d actually be one of those people.  Everyone has something to say.  This is everyone’s thing and what would make me any different?  These thoughts have silence me and I’ve allowed myself to feel defeated.  Like I’m not special or unique and I have nothing valuable to say or to offer because I don’t write like her, whoever that her is.  I envy those who can compose these beautiful, rich sentences dripping with so much imagery and beauty that I lap it up and am left thirsty for more.

I sit a job every day, and have for years now, where my main job is keeping the books.  You know, reconciling accounts, paying bills, filing taxes and sending invoices.  As I do this every day, I stare out the window to my Texas blue sky and green live oak trees and I’ll catch myself writing a sentence in my head about what I see or what I’m feeling at the moment.  As I watch dark rain clouds come in, or fierce winter winds that blow everything into chaos, or watch a doe chase her fawn in the fall sunlight, I know in those moments deep in my gut that I was made for more than the living I have made for myself.  This living that came as a result of a broken heart and a great series of tragedies and giving up on a dream I once had to sing opera.

Most days I feel like opera was a dream I was meant to let go of.  And most days, I am grateful for the skills I have developed and taught myself and how working hard over the years has enabled me to help support my family.  I like the security of knowing that if something happened to my husband, I could still take care of myself and our boys.   

Even so, I constantly catch myself day-dreaming, thinking if I only could be writing.  When I’m not working and not mothering and not off somewhere, I am writing.  I am journaling, I am writing down thoughts and lists and memories.  I write almost every single day of my life.  And I don’t glamorize in my head what life might be like if that’s all I had to do.  I know it’s not all fun and glorious or easy.  I’m sure it’s full of deadlines and edits and gut-wrenching emotions and disappointments and criticisms.  I am very aware though that the job I do day in and day out often times drains and dulls me. Don't get me wrong - I’m thankful for my job.  I’m thankful I’m good at what I do.  I'm beyond thankful for what I have.  But sometimes, a lot of times, I wish I weren’t so good at it.  Most days, and most every day, I hate that I’m a bookkeeper.  I don’t want to be a bookkeeper.  Probably because I am much more interested in a very different kind of book-keeping.

Seeing as I am on the eve of my 33rd birthday, perhaps there is more growing and maturing to do.  I keep telling myself when I’m older and when my kids are older, when the world is older and when all the things are older…..When age and wisdom and more life has been lived and more experiences tucked under my belt, maybe then I’ll be qualified somehow.  But that sounds ridiculous too.  Silly even.  Because I’m not guaranteed living to the older and I don’t want to wait that long to let myself dream or see my dreams become reality. 

So here I am on a cool Tuesday in March, writing about writing and thinking how silly it is to do that very thing.  Staring at this screen, my fingers on the keyboard, surrounded by notes and scribbles, knowing, believing, feeling that I was created and made for more.

And it’s not silly to want to do this.  It’s simply time.