...running the course God sets before us, no matter the cost, no matter the task, to the end, for His glory

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fighting For Joy

Friends kept innocently asking me at church today,  "How are you?"  or even better, "How was your week?"
Ummmm.........how could I answer that?  Today?  After this week?
So I pulled out my best oratorical evasive actions and tried to seemlessly dodge the question and change the subject.
But a few times I was caught off guard and without thinking would pull out the standard response, "Fine."  And then I would turn around and ask the Lord to forgive me for lying. 
It is not that anything terrible or major had occurred this week.  Just a lot of little things piled all on top of each other. And honestly, I didn't feel fine at all.
It is not always like that.
There can be the sort of days where you wake up early, feel refreshed, and quickly find a cute outfit.  Your hair works, your kids are awake, and when you walk out into your kitchen it is sparkly clean.  By the end of your day there are lots of check marks on your To Do list and you blissfully are able to quickly fall asleep with a sense of "well done" in your mind.
And on that day, the joy comes easy.  Not only do you act joyful, you feel joyful.
And then....
And then there are those other kind of days.
You wake up late, with a head ache.  The shirt you wanted to wear is clean, but is in the load in the washer...the load you were supposed to put in the dryer before you went to bed....the load that now smells more like mildew than mountain meadows.  Your kids are fighting and your shoe laces break.  After trying to fix your hair several times you consider shaving it all off but decide on a pony tail instead .  You walk into the kitchen to find that "someone" forgot to finish cleaning last night and now you get to start off today with yesterday's work.  And that is just the beginning of the day.
At the end of the day you lay in your bed, staring at your ceiling, not only regretting the way you spoke to your husband, but wondering, "What did I get done today?" and honestly, you really don't remember a single accomplishment of the day.
And on THAT day.  On that day you have to fight for joy.
Or at least I do.
I don't think I fought for joy very hard this week.  I was tired of fighting.
But to not fight for it, is to disobey.  I am called to rejoice.  I am called to HAVE joy.
To possess it.
To live it.
This morning at church the music was like a balm on my soul.  It washed over me and through me.  And washed out some of the grump and the pain and the weariness.  And it wasn't just an emotional response to nice music.  The music was a balm because the songs were songs of praise.
And to have joy I have to praise.  Him.  And I have to trust.  Him.
 And this morning at church my precious Lord did something else.  He spoke softly to my soul and He met me at my point of sorrow and He first assured me,
"A broken and a contrite heart He will not despise." (Ps 51:17)
Oh the relief of that. He did not despise my broken heart.  He did not want me to stay there, but he did not despise it.   My soul rejoiced at the immense consolation of His Word.
And then we sang the old song, "All in All"
When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all.
Sweet reassurance flowed down upon me. All that I need my Savior is ready and willing to give me.
A little later a sweet young friend asked me how my week had been and I just looked at him, smiled and said, "God is good."  And he laughed.  He understood.  He hadn't had a very good week either.
My week had not been good.  And I hadn't FELT joy.
But always and without fail stands the truth that my GOD IS GOOD.  That is not a feeling.  That is a foundation.
I did not fight very hard for joy this past week.  Really, really did not.
But I vow that I will this week.  Because of Psalm 121...(and I am changing pronouns in this Scripture so I will remember, on the bad days, that this is for me...and of course it is for you too!)
The Lord is my keeper;
The Lord is my shade on my right hand.
The sun will not smite me by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect me from all evil;
He will keep my soul
The Lord will guard my going out and my coming in
From this time forth and forever.

I will fight for joy and I can.  Because my God is taking care of everything else. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thoughts on the Rodeo

I went to the rodeo Wednesday night. Because I am from Texas. That is what we do!

I had a great time and it was such a blessing. We were not going to be able to go this year, but my sister and brother-in-law blessed us by asking us to go with them.

I had several thoughts afterwards that I wanted to share. I am not sure why I feel the need to share my thoughts....hmmmmm....I hope that doesn't say anything bad about me!

Thoughts about Cowboys:
  • I like them. Not more than my hubby, but I really like them. They are brave and fearless and manly.
  • I like cowboy hats. And chaps. Just sayin.
  • Even after all these years, I still wish I was a cowgirl. I still want a horse. Just something I have never grown out of I guess.
Thoughts about the young ladies who attend rodeos:
  • Wear more clothes.
  • Buy bigger clothes.
  • Just because you have a big belt buckle on does not mean you have on enough clothes.
  • If after every other step you have to tug your dress down so that you do not have a major wardrobe malfunction right in the middle of the arena, maybe it is too short. Or maybe, it is not a dress at all-----maybe it is a shirt! And you should add a pair of pants! Just a thought.
  • To the woman walking around with her jeans and her little white vest----um, darlin'---vests were designed to wear OVER a shirt. Really. They were not meant to wear by themselves. I guess you didn't know that.
  • To all the Moms and Dads- just wondering- did you see what your daughter had on when she left the house? You might want to rethink your parenting decisions.
Thoughts about arena food:
  • $4.00 for a Coke----really????
Okay, that is all. Nothing earth shattering or anything spiritual. Just some thoughts from the rodeo.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Finding Ministry in the Strangest Places

When I think about ministry I tend to think of Mother Theresa amongst the poor in Calcutta, or a pastor faithfully teaching from his pulpit, or a missionary floating down the Amazon River, avoiding the piranhas and snakes.

And I always thought, as a young Christian, that I would one day be in ministry.

So there has always been a particular girl in my head, one that looks suspiciously like Amy Carmichael, who has always sort of tut-tutted me about not being in ministry. Now rest assured, there are several other girls in my head who vehemently disagree with her and who firmly believe that my true ministry is in my home and in the reading lesson that I do with my daughter, the same one we have done over and over and which some day I just KNOW she will get. Those girls in my head firmly reassure that that is just as valuable a ministry as anything that happens deep in the Amazon.

God has confirmed that repeatedly in my heart. And God has shown me that He has ministry for me to do all over my home and in the lives of every single person He brings in my life. Let me give you one example.

I am the Minister of TP.

Yes, that TP. The necessary paper. I am the Minister of toilet paper.

And lest you think I am being sacrilegious, let me assure you that I am very serious. Although it does often make me giggle and continually confirms in my heart that along with all His other attributes God has a sense of humor.

How did I get such a high and lofty calling you might ask?

It actually was a calling that God used for a transformation.

Let me give you a little background.

I have a big family. Two adults. Seven kids. Two bathrooms. I will let you do the math.

We can go through a LOT of toilet paper.

But….(and here I am going to confess a real training glitch in my parenting)….no one seems to feel responsible to change out the toilet paper roll when it is empty.

Can I hear an amen here? Anyone know what I am talking about?

It used to make me so mad. Especially when the kids were smaller. I mean, a busy Mom barely has time to GO to the bathroom. You just keep putting it off. And then you finally get there….and….no paper.


OF COURSE, I would always have a good attitude about it and sweetly remind my children of the importance of thinking of those who come in behind you, and…ahem. Well, okay, okay, I would usually just get irritated.

What would actually even make me madder though than no paper was the culprit who would leave just one or two sheets, the ones glued to the roll, on there. Then they could say they did not take ALL the paper. Hmmm.

And then there was the real doozy. The new roll sitting ON TOP of the used roll. I mean really. How hard can it possibly be to put the new roll on the holder? It is right beside you for goodness sake!

But then it happened.

One time I was feeling pretty irritated about the TP situation and I was muttering to myself when the Lord interrupted my thoughts,

My daughter, why are you fussing about such a little thing? In fact, why don’t you just do it and why don’t you do it as a ministry. For Me.

What? My face must have looked like Noah’s when God told him to build the Ark.

Really Lord? You want me to have a ministry of toilet paper?


So I did. I did it for Him. I started looking at every time I was faced with an empty toilet paper roll, or a two sheet roll, or a propped up roll as an opportunity to serve the Lord.

And guess what? It changed my attitude. And do you think that once my attitude about it changed I started having less paper obstacles?


Quite the opposite.

I guess God was really serious about it being my ministry. I have opportunities to practice it everywhere I go. I seem to meet the end of a roll wherever I am! I’ve changed it at restaurants, coffee houses, other people’s homes, churches, gas stations,….you get the idea.

Now, I just sort of chuckle and think, “Thanks Lord for the opportunity to serve You.”

It really makes me think that God is not near as worried about our circumstances as He is about our hearts. And He is willing to use ANYTHING to transform our heart from something that is selfish and self-centered to one that is giving and other-centered.

And it also confirms in my heart something God has been teaching me for the last few years. NOTHING is outside of the redemptive power of God.


Not even toilet paper!

NOTHING. No irritation. No tribulation. No trouble. No menial task.

It is all redeemable and it can ALL be used for His glory.

Now I am sort of reticent to get irritated about things. I mean, how many ministries can a girl handle?

What about you? Is there something that just drives you crazy? Watch out- it may be exactly what God is going to use to transform you into exactly what He wants you to be!

Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. -Col 3:23

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Be Joyful Always? Really? ALWAYS?

This is a repost of something I wrote over a year ago. But I was thinking about it this morning as I was struggling with feelings of bleakness and failing miserably at being joyful and thankful. I guess one of the best tests of if I am really joyful is how I react to the times there is not as much to obviously be joyful about. True confessions- this morning I failed the test. Thank you Lord for your unending love and patience in my life!

Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all
circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16

When God says always does He really mean ALWAYS?

Like ALL the time?

No matter what?

Without exception?

Every time?

Every circumstance?

Could He possibly mean THAT?

I mean- how is that even possible. Today I woke up with the remains of a migraine that will not quite go away and that has interposed on my sleep for two nights. Was I supposed to be joyful for THAT?

This afternoon I was ready to strangle someone I love very much. Someone I have cared and nurtured for many years. Was I supposed to be joyful THEN?

When I got home a car wouldn't start and we had to jump it. Was i supposed to be joyful THEN?

When I finally got inside, out of the cold wind (was I supposed to be joyful when I was cold?) and was met at the door with a "We have something to tell you" and the look from the supervising sibling that communicated that serious parental intervention was required. Then? Was I supposed to be joyful THEN?


Yes. Really! I was. Supposed to be that is. I wasn't. Joyful I mean.

How could God expect me to feel joy in all these circumstance? Uh- well- I guess He didn't command me to feel anything. He really just commanded me to BE something and He was gracious enough to tell me how.

Praying continually. Being thankful.

If I am supposed to be praying continually then it must mean that I am going to need a lot more of God and a lot less of me in order to be joyful.

And if I am "giving thanks in all thing" I am going to be awfully busy. In fact I will have little time left over for feeling sorry for myself or feeling angry at mistakes or envious of another's abundance.

So I think I better have a "do over" today- Thank you Lord for the headache: thank You that I have to slow down, and for medicine that can work, and family that cares that I am in pain.

Thank you Lord for the mistake of my child: thank You for the opportunity for a lesson to be learned, and thank You for ready solutions, and thank you for the opportunity I will have to apologize when he gets home, and thank You for love that covers a multitude of sins.

Thank You Lord for a car with a bad battery: thank You for a responsible son who doesn't expect me to fix everything for him, and thank You for jumper cables, and thank You for a car at all and that it still runs after 180,000 miles.

Thank You for the cold wind: I like sweaters.

Thank you Lord for my young child and her sins: thank You for the chance to share how You hate lies, and thank You that You hate lies, and thank You for creative ideas, and thank You for a big sister who cares for her younger sister, and thank You that I was with her for this valuable lesson.

Thank You that I do not have feel happy to BE joyful.

Thank YOU.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hang In There!

Did you know that oysters were designed with a special glue?

Did you know that scientist have studying it for years, and just this year finally figured out its make-up?

Did you know that that glue can withstand water, temperature, and waves?

Did you know that that glue is not weakened by salt water?

And did you know that scientists are trying to figure out how to replicate this amazing compound for medical and industrial uses? But as of yet they cannot figure out how to replicate this superest of all super glues!

Forget "gorilla glue", we need to figure out how to make "oyster glue".

I think God is amazing!

I learn lots of great things as a homeschool mom. I would have never known about “oyster glue” if I wasn’t doing marine biology with my youngest students this year.

Through the years I have learned about scientists and artists. I have learned about the atmosphere and the earth’s core. I have learned about the life cycle of plants and the life cycle of nations.

And I have learned a lot about myself…but that is another post entirely.

So back to the point.

Because I tend to think in analogies, many of the things I have learned have revealed pictures of the divine to me. I guess word pictures just stick better in my mind than anything else.

So the other day, when my youngest girls and I were reading about oysters, I got a whole new appreciation of “hanging in there”.

I need to caveat this, because in another word picture moment, I was really struck about acorns and how the only way they can grow is to let go and to die. (http://whatevermylord.blogspot.com/2010/10/fruit-from-death.html)

Maybe we are supposed to do both. We have to let go, but we also have to hang on.

The difference comes in what we let go of and what we hang on to. We must let go of the world and the security we value so greatly and die to ourselves. We MUST let go of expectations, and worldliness, and sometimes even dreams and desires. That DOES involve letting go.

But then there is the other part of our spiritual walk that involves “hanging on”.

When the oyster uses that amazing “glue” God designed it to have to hang on to the rock, he is hanging on to the only thing that can allow him to grow and thrive. Without the glue and the rock the oyster would be tossed about and would be destroyed.

Oh, the fabulous paradox of God. As with the acorn, we must let go and we must die in order to live. But THEN we must also must HANG ON. But the vitally important question is, "What are we to hang on to?"

There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that is worth hanging on to other than our Heavenly Rock. Just as oysters cling to the rocks in order to weather the storms that tear at them, we must also cling to the only One Who is sure and steadfast.

Be Thou to me a rock of strength,

A stronghold to save me.

For Thou art my rock and my fortress

For Thy name’s sake Thou wilt lead me and guide me.

Ps. 31:2,3

There have really been some storms for me lately. And sometimes I feel like I am doing nothing but “hanging on”. My doing nature looks at that and accuses me of not doing enough.

Maybe, just maybe God is sending enough storms into my life that all I CAN do is hang on. Maybe He is forcing me to let go of that very doing nature. And by forcing me to let go of so many things until all that is left to hang on to is HIM, He is teaching me that always and in everything He is inexhaustively enough.

So, my Rock and my Fortress, I will stick to you like glue.....like oyster glue!