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

Friday, January 27, 2012

It is STILL Not MY Time!

The coats were on.
The car was loaded.
Departure time was T-3 minutes.

If we hurried we wouldn’t be late.
IF we hurried. IF…
But if we DIDN’T hurry. Then we would NOT be on time. 

And Not Be On Time = Late!

I don’t like late.
And I have trained my girls to not like late.

So one sister told the other sister, “RUN and turn off the lights. Be careful- don’t trip!”

The little sister did the run part really well. But she never got to the lights to turn them off, because the “don’t trip” part.....yeah, she didn’t do that part so well.

I was rushing around the house trying to "Not Be Late" when I was brought short by The Cry. Every Mom knows THE cry. It is not the same as the, “Ouch that sort of hurts and annoys me” cry. No. THE cry immediately notifies the Mom: “Run to your child. NOW.”

As I ran out outside, I saw my child lying on the front porch clutching her wrist. And I immediately knew that I would Most Definitely Be Late. Really late. Not that I cared about being on time any more. Because when something major happens it makes you realize how minor the minor thing is that you were majoring on.

I realized ONE MORE TIME that amazing truth: My Time Is Not My Own!

So here is a rerun blog post from when I learned this lesson last year. (I have to post a rerun because it takes lots of time to fix broken appendages!) Why do I keep learning the same lesson over and over and over? Oh well. Maybe I will REALLY learn it this time!

I brought my older girls to Abilene, TX for a Speech and Debate Tournament.

I planned it all out very carefully.  Where we would be, where the ones left at home would be, who would be caring for the little ones when my husband wasn't available...I always plan stuff out carefully.

After many years of juggling varied and numerous events, sports, classes, banquets, parties, etc., my logistical abilities surprise even me.  Give me nine people, four drivers, and eight requirements, and I can make it happen.

However all this planning  can make me feel like I am in charge, and that is rarely a good thing.  It makes me feel like it is "my" time, "my" schedule, "my" plan.

So back to Abilene.

I knew I was in trouble when I woke up Wednesday morning, the scheduled morning for departure.  I felt bad.  Really bad.  I initially wrote it off to the inundation of oak pollen that has besieged us. Our cars are covered with yellow pollen and I can only imagine what our lungs look like.  So anyway, it seemed perfectly logical that the pollen was the culprit in my feeling like a old, forgotten, wet dish rag (a perfect visual for all you Moms out there).  I, not to be one to be defeated by yellow dust, drug myself around, packed, and tried to get out the door.

I "managed" but I kept feeling worse and worse and worse.  When I had a fever Thursday morning I knew I was in trouble.  So I dropped my girls off at the Tournament and then worked on getting through my insurance hoops so I could get to a doctor.  I kept praying and praying for direction about what to do and where to go, but I have to be honest, I wasn't feeling or hearing a lot of direction from the Lord.  I didn't know why, but I just wasn't.

I will not bore you with the long version of this story.  Let's just say that there were lots of starts and stops and unsuccessful attempts and FINALLY after many hours and several bad experiences, I finally had a diagnosis and I am now on antibiotics and feeling much better.

But, and well I am ashamed to admit it, but I really pretty much complained to the Lord.  He could have helped me not get sick, or got me to the right doctor first time around, or just directed me better.  I mean didn't He know I had plans and had a job to do at the tournament and I didn't want to WASTE TIME.

Ahhh......there is the real crux of the problem.  I hate waste.  And I hate wasting my time more that all the other wastes.

But is it ever really MY time in the first place?  Or, rather, aren't I just a steward of it, just like all the other assets God allows in my life: like finances, talents, people, opportunities?

Maybe my hatred of time-wasting comes from the fact that I never feel like I have enough of it. Every time I choose to spend my time on one thing, I am choosing to not spend it on something else- or rather SOMETHINGS.  Because, there is always more than one thing I need to ignore in order to do what seems the most urgent or necessary or important at the moment.

So, back to my sickness, I wanted God to tell me where to go and what to do so that it would happen quickly and efficiently and I could get back to what I needed (or thought I needed) to do.  But God didn't do that.  Maybe He didn't direct me because He wants me to learn this lesson, this very, very hard lesson for me.

This is the lesson:  God doesn't NEED me to do anything.  He just wants me to walk through what comes my way in faith and trust and reliance on Him.  It is HIS time and HIS plan and HIS way that is important.  Not mine.

So if He allows sickness to come, I just need to walk, or maybe sleep, through it.  It is what He allowed.

It came down through His hand of grace and is for HIS purpose.

My time is not my own.

My time is His time....to use as He pleases.

HIS time.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Can't See!

There are big decisions on my horizon.

What to do? What to do?

The answer is, I am not sure. That is the problem.

I have been praying. A lot. And I have been wishing for a Daniel 5 sort of moment.  You know one of those moments where some big fingers appear and begin to write the answer on the wall. Because I am willing to do whatever God wants in this (Whatever Lord!), I am just not sure what that is.

It is easy to decide what you should do or not do when you know you really SHOULDN'T do what you want to do. There is no need for wall writing on those moments. Just obedience...that is all that is needed then.

But what about when you are deciding about a good thing? What about when the "yes" as well as the "no" has just as much possibility of being God's will?

What do you do when you feel like you have following God's will and then suddenly the light goes out and the way just seems very, very dark? When the next step seems uncertain?

I was thinking about that this morning, and praying about my decisions, and not feeling or seeing the answer, and then the answer came in an unexpected way and was an unexpected answer.  The way really shouldn't have been unexpected because I found it in Oswald Chambers this morning...

...sidenote here: I love Oswald Chambers so much he has appeared on this blog quite a few times before:

...so, yes, I do love him and I should not have been surprised when God used his writings to answer me!

...back to this morning and my hard decisions and my resounding silence to my prayers. This is what Oswald writes:
"When God gives a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will make you in accordance with the vision He has given if you will wait for His time. Never try and help God fulfill His word. Abraham went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all self-sufficiency was destroyed; there was no possibility left of relying on common-sense ways. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not of displeasure."

"Um, Lord? You mean the silence is a part of Your plan?"
"You mean You want me to trust You when there is No Answer?!"
"You mean You want me to believe You in the DARK?

Yep. I think so.

Maybe that is why Hebrews defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen!"

So where do I go to get the light for my next step?

I suppose I should go the only place that promises to be "a light unto my step" (that would be the Bible, by the way) and see what God says about the Next. Step.

That is all I really need.

Just light for the next step.

So that is where I will go.

And then I will wait, in the silence, for as long as it lasts.. and. trust. Him.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The To Do List vs. The Mom

All the experts will tell...

  • make a list
  • write it down
  • prioritize your tasks
  • do the most important first
Ahhh. The dreaded To Do list. (there really needs to be a background of ominous music here.)

I am, quite frankly, a recovering To-Do-List-Aholic. I have been running around with yellow legal pads dragging behind me for decades. I have of course in the recent years modernized to more electronic means and have been using my phone and my computer. 

So, I like the list thing.

Except for when I hate the list thing.

What I like:
  • organizes my wandering brain
  • bolsters my fading memory
  • constricts my distracted attention
What I hate:
  • that at the end of a very busy day full of activity, ministry, prayer, and mothering I can look at that wonderful, prioritized To Do list and be unable to scratch a single thing off. 
  • Because in all of that busyness, I never got around to a single thing on that dreaded list.
Because life for a Mom- especially one that is full of people and their issues- is not willing to either be organized or constricted by my list.

No, my list will not bend to my life. Rather my list more often than not gets trampled by my life.

For so many years I would feel so defeated by one of THOSE days- one where my long beautiful list had NOTHING scratched off. But then...

Now I have victory over (or maybe in) my defeat.

Instead of feeling defeated by the lack of To Do's that are actually done, I simply write down what I did....AND CROSS IT OFF.

Tricky, I know. But very effective!
I can see the long list of what I did and I can see those lovely lines marking through them and announcing, "Done! Look at all you have done!"

Write down EVERYTHING. Everything you actually have done.

Like what you ask? Well, depends on the day. But here is a sample:
  • wiped tears and bandaged a knee
  • cleaned up spill
  • cleaned up another spill
  • prayed for patience
  • cleaned. up. ANOTHER. spill
  • changed clothes after baby spit up on me
  • disciplined child
  • prayed
  • disciplined again
  • again
  • cried
  • got gum out of hair
  • cried again
  • prayed again
These are not the sort of things that would go on the list at the beginning of the day. 

But they may be the exact things that were The Most Important things for you as a Mom to do that day.

So be encouraged!
And write your list!
And draw lines through what you have done.
And look at all you have done with pride.

And here is another use for that list.

At the end of the day, when your husband asks you, "Honey, what did you do today?"...and you look at him with a blank look because you can't actually remember one specific thing you did to explain why you are so tired....you take one look at your list and....voila!....you will be able to answer him!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Standing Ovations of Gratitude

Last night we saw "Les Miserables" on stage. Now I love musicals, but this is my favoritest of all my favorite musicals. I LOVE it with great passion. It brings me to tears. It thrills my soul. It inspires me. It is a story of failure, of judgement, of grace, of redemption, of love, of sacrifice. Ahhhh, I feel a song coming on. I may just have to start singing "I Dreamed a Dream."

This was my third time to see it on stage, and I have loved it every time. But for some reason this time connected with me very deeply.  The singers were incredible. (I have a secret desire to play Eponine and be able to hit all the notes. In reality I can only hit about three of them, but a girl can dream.)

Apparently in that theater I was not the only one who loved the production because at the end of the show the applause was uproarious.

Now, side-note here.  I usually like to duck out of places early. I have a genetic disability that produces intense hatred of waiting in line. Really. I think there is a syndrome name to this malady. I am not impatient. It is a Medical. Issue.

But last night. Awwww......last night I didn't care. I had to stay and applaud and applaud and applaud (and whoop and holler too). I needed those actors and actresses to know how very touched I was by their performance. I was willing to be stuck in the line, you know, the one that moves like molasses to get out of the theater. Yes, I would do that just to applaud some more.

And the faces of the cast on stage showed their appreciation. They had given their best. They had sung their hearts out. They absolutely beamed with joy as the theater shook with the unbridled enthusiasm of the audience.

It made me happy.

But on the way home, because I can't just leave things alone and enjoy the moment, I began wondering why it gave me such joy to share in that ovation. And I began to see a picture.

God is the Great Playwrite.
He is the Master Director.
He is the Expert Storyteller.
He is The Virtuoso.

He causes the morning stars to sing. (Job 38:7)
He has fixed the stories of the times and epochs. (Acts 1:7)
He causes all things to work together for good. (Rom. 8:28)
His word (His lyrics) are more beautiful and valuable than gold. (Ps. 19:10)

And most amazing of all, He became flesh, and completed the Story He had been writing from the beginning of time. (Jn 1:14)

And I was struck. How often have I given God a standing ovation?

How often have I just basked in the glory of the appreciation of His amazing work?

How often have I communicated unrestrained joy at the gift of the beauty He has given?

How often has my appreciation spilled out of my heart and run down with the tears on my face?

The answer? A few times.

A few times? When everyday I am surrounded by the amazing Story of His Love and His Work and His Beauty and His Creation?  What is wrong with me?

EVERY DAY I should be giving Him a standing ovation.

And in reality, that is what gratitude is.
Gratitude is basking in the remarkable work and undeserved gift of the Story He is allowing me to participate in.
Gratitude is recognizing how magnificent is His work and how excellent is His ways.
Gratitude is not just knowing that His work is magnificent and His ways are excellent, but is taking the time to express those things.

So this year....2012....I want to practice gratitude. And not for the stuff in my life.
Just gratitude for the most amazing musical I have every seen...God's Story!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's Your Excuse?

Note: This is not our little friend. But the picture of
this girl's face expresses exactly how I often feel.
We have a precocious little friend of about 4 years of age who has a fascinating way of answering a command when she is told to do something she doesn't want to do.

After the first instruction (and it doesn't really matter what the Thing is that she didn't want to do, because the next time that Thing will change, but the response stays the same!) she answers:
I cold!
Again she is instructed to do the undesired action and she responds:
I hungry!
Now, all this time you really need to be imagining a very melodramatic emotion behind those words. And when the instruction is again repeated, please picture the melodrama ratcheting up substantially as she exclaims:
I very sleepy!

The funniest thing about these responses is that they have absolutely NOTHING whatever to do with  her instructions. She is just looking for anything she has ever heard of as a reason to NOT do what she was supposed to do.

Silly girl. So glad I don't act like that.

My Turn
But then again, maybe I do act like that. In fact, I sounded a lot like this four year old just earlier this week.  God was telling me something He wanted me to do. Something I didn't want to do and I was throwing out every excuse in the book.

The problem was that He was instructing me to apologize for something that I did, and my pride was not hearing of it. The other person in the equation could start out the apologizing, thank you very much.  I must have had the same whinny, melodramatic voice as as our little friend when I answered my Lord:
I was perfectly justified because of what was done to me! (Translation: I cold!)
And then the Lord again instructed me to apologize, reminding me that "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, be a peace with all men." (Rom. 12:18.) I responded:
 It is his turn to apologize! (Translation: I hungry!)
I have to admit here that my resistance was beginning to wane. I have walked with the Lord long enough to know when I am beat. I really, really do want Him to have His way in me, which means I really, really do need to obey and follow Him. But even WITH that my prideful resistance stubbornly hung on as I was faced with the perfect opportunity to apologize, but instead of apologizing I exclaimed:
I don't WANT to! (Translation: I very sleepy!)
Once more, my gentle, loving Abba nudged me. I knew I was beat.
I had to obey.
I had to bend my knee.
I had to follow my Savior in dying to myself.
I had to do what was right because it was right, no matter what was or wasn't said by anyone else.

So I did it.
I apologized.  Rather poorly. It sounded half-hearted even to me. But I did it.

And God met me there.
With His grace.
And His forgiveness.

And my excuses sound pretty feeble and ridiculous on this side of the equation.

What is God telling you to do?
What is your excuse?

Take it from me. Dump the excuses and JUST DO IT! It will save a lot of time!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012- Loving God More

The first day of the year....January 1st.  The day I am always tempted to make Resolutions.


Maybe this will be the year I will exercise more.
Or it will be the year I will eat better.
Maybe finally I will get around to finishing the half-started craft projects stashed away in the closet.
Could it be that this will be the year I finally get that book written. Or started. Or whatever.

But the last few years I have avoided making those kinds of resolutions.

You know, the kind that last for three weeks before getting tossed into the pile of good intentions. Instead I have, for the last few years, come up with more of a theme or focus for the year.

Not measurable.
Not something that can be broken down into small, attainable steps.
Not exactly what the "experts" would recommend.

Not normal (like me!)

In 2010 my theme was abiding in Christ...like ALL the time!  Not just on Sundays or in my quiet times or when people were watching.  But all the time. Living, breathing, eating, resting in my Savior. I can't say I always succeeded, but having that as my goal sustained me through some of the darkest roads I have ever traveled.

In 2011 my theme was the Year of Now.  Praying Now. Living Now. Abiding Now. Doing Now. I can't say that I succeeded at this one either. There were many times I avoided the Now. I put off difficult things and steered clear of others. But because this was my theme I put off less than I would have otherwise!

So what about this year?

What will be my theme this year?  Besides still trying to abide in Christ and still trying to do it now?

Yes, once again I am going to add another theme. But this time it is almost more of a paradigm shift.

My focus this year is that, no matter WHAT is in front of me, whether physical or relational or professional or experiential or WHATEVER.....I want to love God more.

No matter what.

Especially more than myself. Especially more than my ideas. Especially more than my pet projects. Especially more than my expectations. Especially more than my rights.

More than everything. More than anything. Just more.

I want to love God more than everything and the most of anything else.

I want to live:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."  -Matt. 22:37

Happy New Year. And, I will let you know how it goes.