What do you do when you don't have her life?

Like I said, a reset happened last week. A turning around.  Sometimes you have to go back to where you started.  Do the things you did at first to rekindle the smoldering flame.  And thank God He doesn't just put it out. 

I spilled messy feelings out to the Music Man yesterday.  I'm sure it all sounded worse than a thirteen year old's first blows on a saxophone.  Probably more like clanging symbols.  I had to get it out... it was festering in me.  "Something's got to change!"  I said.  "I can't keep going like this!"

She's right.  I don't get to make him love me like I want to be loved.  I don't get to make him listen or laugh or get it or just hold me.  I don't get to make my life the life I thought I'd have.  

I read her grace-writings frequently, and today's seemed to be the vessel through which He said, "I know you.  Let me love you the way I deem best."

I had already been thinking about it since I clamored out my noisy thoughts and feelings yesterday.  Ever since he looked at me and I'm sure he was thinking, "She'll never change,"  while I was looking at him realizing I had always come to him expecting him to change.  I realized I have wandered off.  I've got to return to that place where I fed on truth and grace and was infused with enthusiasm in serving my Lord.

So how can I serve Him when I don't have that life I dreamed of?

I've probably read every Christian wife-help book out there.  The Excellent Wife.  The Power of a Praying Wife.  Created to be His Helpmeet.  Feminine Appeal.  And probably some others I don't remember right now.  I've read these and have always been stumped as to how to take that mold and force my life into it.

I work full-time.  I have children in public school.  My music man and I are marching to different drummers.  The T.V. is on more than I want.  The dinner table is crank-your-neck-to-the-side-to-see-what's-on-T.V.-and-shove-the-food-in-your-face-as-fast-as-you-can time. There is no ministering to others coming out of this house, nor is there inviting others in.  There's too much YouTube and Internet browsing and video games.  There's a hiding to practice spiritual disciplines.  And there's a murmuring of hymns, lest they be sung out loud and call attention to differing drum beats... just to name some of my top I-don't-have-a-life-that-fits-into-the-Christian-household's-mold things.  And it's not like I can just busy myself and children with nature... we live in a 80 by 100 foot block walled square.  And the view out the window is shades of brown concrete and stucco.  Our history is scarred from separations and near divorces.  The hurt keeps coming back.  Again.  And again.  So how do I do this?  How do I serve Him in THIS life?

The answer is so obvious.  So right in front of me.  So me.  Me and my closed fist.  Me and my tight grip.  Me and my trying to force it.

If I want to gain my life I'm gonna have to open my grip on this one and let go.  That's the only way to follow Jesus no matter you're circumstances.  The only one who I can squeeze into the mold of scripture is me.

"Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." -Romans 12:2

Maybe you don't have a dream life.  Maybe you live in circumstances you wish were different.  Like Ann said, we don't get to write our stories.  But we do get to take what we've been given and make the ending a giving.  A giving of thanks.

I went back and read some of those words I wrote years ago when I was thinking on hope-filled truth and not the devastation.  I am ashamed at how far my heart has wondered away from my house of bread in my famine.  Instead of holding my ground and trusting, because He always provides, instead I let the way all the fish mindlessly floating downstream think become the way I think.  Rights.  Self-Exaltation.  Rights.  Self-Preservation.  Rights.  Self-Pleasing.  Rights.  Self-Comfort.  Rights.  Self-Esteem.  Rights.  This is the beat of the current that I stopped swimming against in my mind. I let myself drift in its steady flow towards a dead sea.  I was taking on D.H. Lawrence's poisonous motto, "with should and ought I shall have nothing to do!"

But He's got my attention.  He's called me back.  I've heard again how He's provided, as He always does, for His own.  I've returned to His table.  I've eaten of His bread.

You don't get to change anyone Sheila.  You just get to be changed. 

"What if God didn't design marriage to be "easier"?  What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?  What if God designed marriage to make us holy  more than to make us happy?  What if, as de Sales hints, we are to accept the 'bitter juice' because out of it we may learn to draw the resources we need with which to make the 'honey of a holy life'?" - Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

55. my music man encouraging entrepreneurship
56. the orange sunset
57. the promise to use my mess to mold me into the image of the Son



Sometimes my computer freezes. That terrible rainbow wheel turns round and round and there's nothing I can do to get out of the screen I'm in, I just have to reach over and hold that power button until I manually turn off the computer. I wait a few minutes and turn it back on and usually all the same screens pop up, but at least then I can sort through them and pick the ones I want to get out of without the wheel of death stopping me.

Something like that has happened with me this past few weeks.  It's time to push the reset button.  For me that's turning off the frozen thought process and taking in truth.  Bible truth.

Feelings are by no means a guide, but they are a sensor.  The fire alarm in my house has a sensor that causes an alarm to go off when there's too much of an unseen, unsmelled deadly gas in the house.  When my feelings set off a depression-alarm in me I realize I'm taking in some toxic breath.  Lately I've been feeling poisoned and truth, like strong breath of clear air is the anti venom.

I care too much about people's estimation of me.  Shouldn't I care?  Isn't a good reputation important?  I thought this as I was getting in my car after work the other day replaying a conversation I had with a co-worker.  I argued in my head, "Isn't it important to have a good reputation?"  And I heard that still, small voice that breaks cedars whisper to my heart, "Are you concerned with what people think of you, or what people think of Me because of you?"  Suddenly it was clear as day.  My concern about what other think of me is perverted from the way God made it to be.  I was made a God-Image-Bearer.  I was made to magnify His nature.  I was made to glorify His attributes.  I was made to reflect His beauty.  My reputation is important, not because it matters what people think of me, but it matters what people think of HIM because of me.

This tipped off an avalanche of my missed-the-mark-ness cascading down the mountain of my unbelief.   And when it all came crashing down in my mind, and I sat there buried under the weight of my own sin- I struggled to find that breath of fresh air.  All I could do was cry, "No matter what, you are worthy my praise.  Even if I can't figure out how to get past all this, or what to do with all the alarms going off in my heart, I know one thing.  You are good.  And you do good.  And your judgements are right.  Always.  And you are merciful.  And you are worth my mouth physically opening and giving you thanks and praise even if I'm buried under a mountain of unbelief!"

That's all it takes.  Reset.  "Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."  Run to Him.  Not away from Him.  "The Lord is my strong tower.  A fortress."  "He is my hiding place."  "Those who run to him will be saved."

But then comes a time to turn the thing back on.  To go back out into the battle.  Once He's restored my thinking,  He shows me what went wrong and gives me the prescription to deal with my enemies: covetousness (which is idolatry), bitterness (which defiles many), greed (an insatiable desire for more- in my instance not of stuff but of recognition).  Yuck!  Ugh!  The remedy:  Confess.  Say what the Truth-teller says about it.  And sing.  He is worthy no matter what!  This will drive out the slick-talking Worm-Tongue who poisons the minds of so many.

So, since I've publicly wanted the glory, I must publicly give it to the One it belongs to.

Here's what He says.  He's right.  This is the root that's sprung up poisonous tentacles all over my nearly numb heart:

I've wanted Ann's life, my whole life.  Not the struggle she had to go through to get there, just the farm, and the family, the schooling and the writing.  I've coveted what I don't have.

I've wanted Carolyn's life.  Elizabeth's life.  Amy's life.  And I've tried to take make my life like theirs.  Well, that's just following a role-model isn't it?  If it was just the character with which they faced adversity that I wanted, or the way they've walked by faith, then yes.  That would be noble.  But I wanted the circumstances.  If I could just have their circumstances I would be happy.  Life would be the way it should be.  And I could enjoy life.  So I worked at making their circumstances mine through pressure, force and manipulation.  And when that didn't work, I surrendered to what I didn't want and looked up at God with a closed-fist and cried bitterly, "Why?!  I wanted good things!  Why?!"

I am Mara, Naomi's self-given name.  I saw God as responsible for my circumstances and because He wouldn't get off the throne and let my wants reign when I wanted them too I saw Him as harsh and withdrew from His hiding place into my own self-made walls.  I shut my lips from offering the sacrifice of thanks and started spewing out the poison of bitterness.  Mostly to my own husband.

My lament became a complaint against God, but I didn't even realize it.  God is in control.  Not my husband.  Not me.  Not my parents.  No my job.  Not the economy.  Not the president.  He gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!

So now that He's swept through and the toxic fumes of bitterness have cleared out and I can see the root of my bitterness: covetousness and greed, now what?

Wall building.  Not self-made.  Obedience-made.  One brick of obedience at a time.  I'm far from a Titus 2 woman.  I'm far from Ann's farm, or Carolyn's marriage, or Elizabeth's missionary adventures, or Amy's orphan-rescuing life.  I'm alien to the Proverbs 31 wife.  My circumstances are very un-glamorous.  And I can't handle the public attention these women have been given.  I want it too much.  My walls are torn down because of my own self-destructive hands- hands that have tried to hold on to my own planned-out life and have lost it.  And if God grants me the grace and covers me with His mercy- oh please let me Lord for my life means nothing if it doesn't bring you glory!- I will begin the Nehemiah-sized task of rebuilding a life that brings Him glory.  No circumstances can keep me from laying up bricks of virtue as laid out for me in scripture.  This is a heart work, not a circumstance work.

Oh please let me Lord, please help me like Ezra as I have set my heart to re-learn your Word and to do it and then to seed-plant it in another! You have shown me such mercy!  You have not treated me as my sins deserve!  You have born the consequence of all my perversion of Your image in me.  You, the most true, the most kind, the most pure, the most good, the most right, the most gentle, the most strong, the most meek, the most powerful, the most knowing Person ever and true God all the time... it is YOU I have marred and wronged... even when I'm not trying to.  I've twisted Your nature.  I've maligned Your goodness.  I've perverted Your character!  Nothing anyone has ever done or will ever do to me- no set of circumstances I have or could ever deem as messed-up could ever be more wrong to me than I have been to you.  Actually all my messed up circumstances and the messed up people in my life who have hurt me reflect me pretty well.  I'm messed up and they hurt me because, like me they're messed up. But you are not messed up and I am.  And I'm supposed to reflect you!

Woe is me!  I am undone!!!  Yet even still, with what grace, with what mercy you lift me out of this self-made dung heap and stand me on my feet.  You call me what I am not.  You promise me what I haven't earned or deserved.  You are good through and through!  And so, what's a cracked-pot like me to do?  All I can do is let your treasure shine.  You, the Light of the World, in ME?!  Me.  Yes.  Through brokenness.  I have enough of that.

And as though that wouldn't be enough, You even call me to move as your strength moves me to rebuild your glory in me.  I want to do it.  You deserve it!  Help me not to grow weary in that good work of loving a husband and children, managing my home, reaching out to others, voluntarily getting behind my husband as I trust You to lead through him, being self-controlled, kind, pure... my labor of love will not be completed in this life.  Because forever I will be in awe of the riches of your grace, not the riches of my obedience.  So be it!  May Your grace be enough and may You receive my offering of a life that seeks to magnify your goodness!


Pressing on

 (A frittata I made this week)

This has been a long week.  Back to getting up at five.  That's actually about the only thing I went back to this week.  I didn't go back to eating the same way I've been eating.  I didn't go back to not exercising consistently.  I didn't go back to Worn.  They weren't really new year's resolutions.  It just happened that I got fed up with how my mind and body were feeling at about the time the 1st day of 2013 got here. 

So I'm pressing in and pressing on.

I bought three new books on my kindle.  I am about a third of the way through If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn.  Excellent.  Challenging. A Need-to-Read.   I purchased It Starts With Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig and have read the first four chapters and used several recipes already.  I also purchased A Long Obedience In The Same Direction: Discipleship In An Instant Society by Eugene Peterson.  I haven't begun that one yet, but I'd like to ask the ladies at church if they'd like to go through this book with me sometime in the near future.

I started teaching the second grade Sunday School class at church. I take it as a great privilege and responsibility teaching God's word to children.  I intend this to be my focus as a seed-planter in God's Kingdom for the year ahead. But I would still love to get together with the women of Pathway and I think (just by looking through it) that the book by Eugene Peterson might serve as a good way to do that.

Today was the 10th day of this Whole30 Challenge that I've embarked on, with hopes of feeling better and stronger... being healthier.  Basically its eat as much vegetables, meat, eggs and fruit as you want.  No grains.  No dairy.  No sugar.  No artificial anything.  Nothing in a shiny package or box (except Lara bars which I have discovered is God's candy bar- made of dates, cashews and coconut flakes). The first three days without sugar I felt like I had a bowling ball the weight of Texas for a head, but now I feel just fine.  I mean, I wouldn't say a miracle has occurred in 10 days or that I'm full of energy and strong as an ox, but I would say I can definitely see a good difference.  No bloated belly.  No somebody-just-unplugged-my-energy-source-and-I-have-to-lay-down-and-close-my-eyes-right-now-at-4pm.  No cravings (which surprises me).  I think it's all the good food I have been eating that is keeping the craving for the sweets I haven't been eating at bay.  If I was subsisting on chicken breasts and carrot sticks I'm sure I'd be massively craving. 

I've found some really yummy recipes and made up some pretty tasty ones of my own.  You definitely can't eat this fresh and well without good planning, especially while working full time.  There's no room for, "I'm in a rush I'll swing by Chik-Fil-A."  If I've craved anything, its been chocolate, cream and sugar in my coffee, and Chik-Fil-A nuggets, fries and lemonade. 

I guess the 30 days is just a time period to form a new habit and sort-of a time to "reset" your body's diet.

I'll post recipes and pics later. 

I went back to the gym this week because I need to.  I'm not a Crossfitter.  I'm not a competitive athlete... I'm not even an athlete.  I exercise for the same reason I brush my teeth.  And if I don't go to the gym I'll find something else to fill the time and before I know it I haven't exercised in a month.  I don't know if it's all in my head or if this Whole30 diet is having an actual effect, but I did 6 sets of 10 repetitions of strict push ups without having to go to my knees this week.  Last month, when I did push ups last, I couldn't do more than 5 strict push ups without going to my knees. 

But, it's only been a week.  Now to press on for a disciplined life.  I tend to start things with gusto, with sprints, and give-up after the first mile.  Consistency is not my strength.  God has been forming long-suffering in me.  Patience.  Endurance. He seems to be calling me to press forward.  His call is not to sprint, but for a long-obedience in the same direction.


My trade and joy

I like markers in time. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Holidays. New year celebrations. And, the older I get, the more I feel each night as I lay down to die daily to my failures and successes and wake each morning to new mercies I am celebrating the beginning of a new, important marker in time.

I don't make new year's resolutions, but I do take the holiday from the daily grind to stop and think through what has happened in the past year and to prayerfully look ahead to the days of mercy before me.   In fact I keep a little journal which only write in sometime after Christmas or before the new year.

This year I need to look up.  I needed to look up last year too.  So it begins today and again tomorrow and the day after that, that I'm taking Ann's challenge to exchange being worn for garment of praise.

It's the way I've felt most of the year.  Worn.  In fact, if my 2012 was a song, it was this song:

I stepped away at the end of that last paragraph to put to bed a boy in trouble and it turned out to be a by far the most thankful, joy-filled moment of 2013 so far!

As I was searching, praying for what to do with this one as I put him to bed- how to make this a "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," moment?- I looked up at the bookshelf, at the two nearly-blank journals I had purchased last year to keep for my two boys.  One for each of them.  The thought occurred to me that I should have them join me in my quest for joy this year.   I grabbed them, our most-loved Jesus Storybook Bible marked at the page we left off, a couple of pencils, the brother to the erring boy and headed to his brother's room.

We sat there on the bed and I explained a little and they eagerly agreed to join me in the challenge to come up with 1,000 thanks in the next year... just 3 a day.  The boy with puffy, tear-worn eyes asked, "Can I write more?"  Isn't that the way it goes with grace?  When we're in deep in our own mess we see the goodness of His grace and we can think of many reasons to give thanks.

So I gave them their pencils, some cues if they needed them:  Give thanks for a person, place and thing.

We sat quietly writing our thanks to the Giver of all good things.  And then they asked to read them.  The smiling, freckle-faced boy read his with glee.  Thanking God for his new jacket.  His Aunt who just flew back home today.  And for his family.

Then his freshly disciplined and still hurting from the pain of it brother who had been rapidly writing away said, "I want to read mine."

With sincere child-like faith he said, "Thank you Lord that I didn't have to die on the cross because you did..."  He went on, giving thanks for the Lord's salvation,  the Lord's moving on his dad's heart to desire to be closer to family... all in precious, genuine 9 year old words.

My smile was about to burst off my tear-wet face.  There is no greater joy than to hear your children give thanks for the work of Christ!

All week I've been hurting, not knowing how to connect with this dear son of mine, feeling like I was loosing the parenting battle.  But tonight, as he read vulnerably his list, closed it and closed his eyes, he sang with me what he wrote at the top of his first thanksgiving journal page: 10,000 Reasons.

So, this year, this day, and tomorrow if it comes, I prayerfully set out to:

1.  plant the thanksgiving-seed of joy in my children and the other precious little ones I'll get to teach this year
2.  trade in my mourning for the oil of joy, and
3.  press forward in my pilgrimage of a Long Obedience in the Same Direction

To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. - Isaiah 61:3

May this be my song in 2013:


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