Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Free to Feel...Pain that Turns to Joy

So, this is what I'm learning now: If we are free to feel the depths of pain, and walk through the pain by the power of the Spirit, the measure of that depth of pain will be turned to joy in His presence. 

I think of Philippians 3, where it talks about sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings by becoming like Christ in his death, that we can also experience the resurrection. Notice which comes first. We like to talk about and share the joy of sharing in the resurrection. But if we're not willing to go through the sufferings first, there can not be resurrection. And if we dare to only go through a little suffering, that will be the shallow amount of joy we experience after we go through it too. I want more.
Psalm 16:11 talks about joy in His presence. I want that joy! I want His presence! He has brought me to a place where I now value that and desire that more than most things in this world at most times. Except pain. I run. I don't want it. I'll do whatever to get away from it. Now hear me: I'm not talking about being a martyr, conjuring up your own "pain" or going after it. We don't really even need to do that. There's enough pain to deal with already there without us having to make up our own. What I'm talking about are the things we ignore, take drugs or drink or overeat or ______ to dull, the things we act like aren't that big of a deal, the things that make us mad because it hurts too much to face that it really hurts us so we just get mad instead. Most of these things are everyday types of things- expectations we have that are unmet, unkind words spoken at a hard time, etc. Some of these things are things we've experienced in our past that may be horrific- some type of abuse, the pain of adultery, etc.  Each of us has experienced some type of pain. What do you do with it? Stuff it? Pretend it's not there? Freak out and then go on like it never happened? Constantly bring it up just to let everyone know why you're the way you are?  What have you done with your pain?
Me: I tend to do all of these at different times. But mostly, I freak. I mean, I'm a pretty outward freak out type of personality. If you've known me for any amount of time, I'd say some words you'd use to describe me would be: boisterous, expressive, extreme, etc. I know that God made me VERY out like that. And yet, you may be surprised here, but I don't even express all that I'm feeling inwardly outwardly. Scary, huh? I bet you're glad too.  :)   
So, I've asked God now what. In my outwardness of dealing with pain, I've often found myself hurting others. I want them to feel some pain. They're hurting me, so let me dish out a little, so they know what it feels like. Or, I'm just getting out my pain and in the process hurt someone back unintentionally. This is not quite right. I've gotten tired of being the source others pain. Life hurts too much on it's own. I don't want to be yet another source of hurt for people. How can I learn from the pain I've experienced and learn from those situations so I'm not doing the same things to others? And now, I'm asking, how can I express the intensity of the pains I feel without hurting those around me?
If you've seen my shelfari on the sidebar, I read the book Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney recently. Through it, I went before God and asked him for what to do next with what I read. Basically it's a great tool for making the best use of the time God's given you and helps with a strategic plan to do that. Having four kids, home schooling, and being a business owner, I can use a plan. Of course, the first thing is making time with God number one of the day. If nothing else, just being with Jesus. Duh. I know that. Yet, with a new baby, etc (and they are very gracious to moms to be and new mothers) it's not always easy. But my newest has been sleeping through the night and I knew that meant it's time for me to get in the groove again. I am so not a morning person. So, this is absolutely God's grace for me to get up while it's still dark. However, He's been faithful...sometimes I'm not so much, but He is. All this to say, that since I've had about an hour of complete quietness before the house starts to stir, much has been coming to my mind. I mean, I have had time to be in stillness. And because of that, I can think straight. And because of that, things are surfacing to my mind that I've kinda been able to ignore by keeping busy or rushed through healing to quiet the pain. At first, I was thinking a lot of my past, things I'd done, things done to me. Then I started having dreams. I was like, what Lord?! Why is this stuff coming now, when I'm having times with you? Shouldn't that be keeping this from happening? And you know what, He answered. It just wasn't what I'd imagined. I believe these things are coming up BECAUSE I've had the time to be still and go before Him. He's bringing things to the forefront that need to be really dealt with. Felt. So I can go through them, not around them. Not stuff them quickly as I "claim" His healing. Most often, deep wounds take lots of time to heal. How do I think mine can be healed quickly?
So, here's where it's left me right now. I can stuff it again. I can get busy again. I could overeat or go wild and dull the pain with drugs or drinking and people say I've lost it. Or I could get really busy with churchy stuff and serve others so much that people say I'm so dedicated. Either would be wrong. Both will leave me unhealed. I am sensing the Lord has something way bigger. Maybe painful. But in the end, way worth it. Because I know that He is worth it, I'm willing. I may lash out at times when in the midst of walking through it, something happens or someone does something that feels like salt in the wound, but I'm hoping God will be strong to get me through that and forgiveness had and a bond made with that someone. 
I wish we'd see that when someone else does something hurtful, it's probably because they're going through something themselves. Often times, I'm so self centered, I can't see the possibility that what someone said or did or whatever is probably them going through their own hurt and struggling through it. Probably, if I'd just expressed that hurt to them and listened to them, I'd see that they're experiencing some of their own pain and we'd be able to walk together through our pains instead of causing more to each other. This is my prayer right now for myself and those around me. We're all in this same boat. There is reason for all the hurt. While we cannot use that to excuse sin, we can be understanding with each other and then go to God together. And then we all get to share in each other's pain and eventual healing. That's mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice. Sharing in it. That brings real unity. 
God, help us! We're such a mess. And we desperately need You. Thank you for your Hope. Thank you for Your grace. Help us to go to you together. To walk through it together. And then, to see You together. Free us to feel the pain that You will turn to Joy, for our good, and Your glory. Amen!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Warning: I am being oh-so-for-real, extremely vulnerable. Read cautiously.  :)

I woke up this morning kinda groggy when my alarm went off to spend time with Jesus, the ultimate Lover of my soul. I had some pretty understandable reasons to sleep in this morning, at least in my mind, being that we'd dealt with sick kids for the last week and I ended up with the stomach bug Wednesday night through the wee hours of Thursday morning. We've been getting lots of rest and taking care of our bodies to kick this...and then we were able to go celebrate Kara's birthday at her party last night. I was taking temperatures before leaving, trying to be extra cautious. I know, I think I have a problem.  :) All this to say that I was tired and not really "feeling the love" to compel me out of bed to spend time with the Lord who died for my sin and showed me the greatest love in all the world. Our flesh is still very here, isn't it?

I laid back in bed for a few more minutes and then the Lord graciously got my butt out of bed after the baby woke up a little earlier than normal to eat, so I was up. I went downstairs and was greeted by a small arrangement of roses with a heart and a note from my husband with scripture written out on it. As I went from coffee pot (God's grace to make me more than the walking dead in the morning) to my little spot I've made my morning meeting place with the Lord, to later on to the computer, my hubby had left little rose arrangements with scripture on it for me. After I'd seen the first two and sat down to journal and be with Jesus, I was struck with a sobering reality. Had God's grace not gotten this ungrateful, spoiled brat out of bed, I would've missed the blessing of love from my husband in the way he intended it to be received. I mean, Gary set those out in those places for me to find and be surprised. Had I not gotten up and gone to those spots, I would've missed the intended act of love from my husband...who is one avenue that God displays HIS love to me. Here's the point: God's grace is more than we can even begin to know. Apart from His grace, we'd totally miss out on it all. Every act of love from others is an outpouring of His love towards us. We don't deserve any bit of it. What we really deserve is hell. That He chooses to show us any kind of favor is a miracle in and of itself. 

After my time this morning, I decided to make heart shaped pancakes with chocolate chips for breakfast. Okay, people. Sometimes it is totally the thought that counts. I don't know what on earth I did, but those things looked like anything but hearts. And yes, I was using a heart shaped form. Am I the only one who can't use one of those things? My mom makes it look so easy! And then I couldn't get the dern syrup bottle open. I'd gotten maple syrup, it was in a glass container and the lid wouldn't budge. I had pieces of the slip grip thingie on my counter from twisting so hard. So we ate retarded heart pancakes without syrup. Happy Valentine's Day, kids. HA. And my sweet Bekah was being so kind- they're really good Mommy, even without the syrup. I told her she didn't have to lie and it really was okay. Then she said they'd be really really good with syrup on them.  I gotta make more sometime next week when we get that bottle open.

Anyway, this may be one of the best Valentine's days in my life yet. Gary has to work...when you own a business that's open on Saturdays, sometimes you don't have a choice.  We are spending tonight together as a family, making heart shaped pizzas. (Hopefully this will go WAY better than the pancakes!) We're doing a romantic dinner alone a different night. Valentine's day isn't about the stuff or the big fuss. What it is is just a day the world has created to show love, or in my brother's opinion, a conspiracy to make a ton of money...he may be on to something. As a christian, I'm not going to just act like it doesn't exist, cause it does, so I'm not going to lie. At the same time, we're not going to fall into the materialism trap. Yet, there is a way that it can be God glorifying. Just like any other day. Is the answer for us as believers just to trivialize it? Act like we're SUPPOSED to show love EVERY day, so I'm not making a deal about today. That'd be fine if we really did express love EVERY day, but we don't. It's not even about stuff. If I get mad because I didn't get STUFF today, that'd be wrong too. Here's the reality- it's about a day set aside to express our love to those we love most. When that doesn't happen, it hurts. I get mad. Some of us then call the day stupid and act like it doesn't exist. Not because we really think it's stupid, but because it hurts too much to admit that we don't feel loved by the one(s) that are supposed to love us most. This is what I've experienced in the past, whether on a Valentine's day or birthday or anniversary or whatever. There were times that Gary did get me something, maybe even expensive, but it still hurt me. Because he made it about just making sure I got something. What I really wanted was to feel loved. It may be something that is actually pretty cheap or would seem stupid to someone else, but to me expressed that He knows me and loves me, appreciates me. It's a woman thing to want that. This is the way God created us. It's not bad. It's bad when we react wrong because it doesn't happen. That's what I've done in the past. Instead of running to God in the midst of the hurt and knowing that He alone fulfills, I've gotten mad and hurt Gary as much as I was hurting. Since the garden of Eden, woman has had a desire for her husband. According to Ephesians 5:29, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, nourishing and cherishing it. That's what we desire as women. To be nourished- our needs, loved by our husbands similarly as our children. To be cherished- our desires, what makes us different from our children. What distorts this is a lot of wrong perspectives- that love is to be made much of, to have a feeling only...that love is all about me. That love means you're going to...insert whatever wrong thinking you've dealt with.

Here's why this is the best Valentine's day ever for me this year:  God's grace has finally brought me- maybe just for today, so when I struggle with it again, remind me- that each and every act that expresses love towards me that really does touch my heart because it's done out of love and not duty, happily and not grudgingly, knowing me and not just anything to say it got done- this too is an outpouring of love from God. What I should TREASURE isn't the feeling of being loved or even the person expressing it to me. These are simply arrows pointing us to the one who is to be fully treasured, God Himself, who IS LOVE.

So if you feel loved by those around you today- thank them, show appreciation to them, but don't treasure them, treasure God. And if you don't feel loved by anyone around you today- hurt, don't hurt them,  and treasure God. And in all things, let's give thanks for His gifts!  Happy Valentine's Day! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Celebrating New Life!...and Health after sickness!

We are SO excited for our friends, Jon and Robin, who have just adopted their newest baby girl, Rachel Joy, who was born on February 5th around 12:30ish am. There is much to their story of coming to this adoption that testifies of God's incredible grace. We are glad to have a tiny part of that in prayer, walking with them through it. 

After a lot of ups and downs and having to rest in the Lord as they got word this baby would be theirs, to not, to theirs, etc, last night they met their baby girl and were able to hold her and take her "home"- to a nearby hotel, until the papers they need to come home are in their possession. 
After talking with Robin today, I can NOT wait to see this little baby girl. She said she kind of looks like a Hirsch baby, but with darker skin. She has lots of dark hair (not just on her head)  :)  and slanted eyes. They took her to the doctor today and she is perfectly healthy.  To think of all the joy in anticipation and waiting and holding loosely their desires, this baby girl now has a home with a loving dad, mom, and two big sisters.
Rejoice with us in the beauty of God's grace to us revealed through adoption. What a small taste of our getting to be in the family of God! Thankfully, God never had to wait and go back in forth in limbo if we were His or not. :)  I so hope that one day we can experience this within our own family. For now, we will rejoice greatly with those who get to right now!
We are also rejoicing...though cautiously...over healing of yucky sickness within our family. Poor baby Brie was a tad sick with belly aches- I thought it was something I'd eaten, but then a couple days later, little Bethany was sick with the flu, and then Belle til yesterday. So far, no one else has come down sick with the bug, and we're hoping to be spared. For now, we're steering clear of sugar and faithfully taking our immune stimulator and getting lots of rest. We have a party to go to Friday to celebrate Kara Igo's 1st birthday! It would be very sad to not be well enough to go. So, we're nursing everyone to get over this. We've experienced lots of love from the Lord expressed through family and friends during this craziness- help from my parents, food from friends. It's helped lighten the load and keep me semi sane. Let me tell you, at one point, as the baby was screaming to eat, Bethany was crying just because she felt so bad, and Belle was crying, having had just thrown up across the kitchen floor, I  thought- OH BOY! Lord, near!   I am MOST DEFINITELY in need of your strength today. And He was faithful. We all made it. And He's bringing us through today too. 
So...that's the latest within our home. Hope you are getting to experience God at work around and within you too! He is so good to open our eyes to be aware of His presence, in the midst of great joys like adoption, and not-so-great things like sickness. Even if you're not, know that there is hope, because HE CAN and HE DOES. He is good!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ice Ice Baby: Part I

If you hadn't heard, we had a big 'ole ice storm here in the Ozarks, and it was pretty nasty. That would be why we've been "offline" and no blog updates for a while. A tree took out our phone line on Tuesday and it just got fixed Saturday afternoon. Thankfully, most people have weathered it fairly well and God spared us from losing electricity for any extended periods of time. We are beyond grateful to live where we are right now and not back in our Thayer home, as most of Thayer is without electricity, which means no water either because we have a well. 

This week, because of the ice storm, we have been feeling the pressures. We had someone wanting to come look at our Thayer house this week, interested in buying it. I laughed, like, come on, Lord! Really?! The week you send a huge ice storm?! Knowing who controls the weather helps us rest in His sovereignty and not freak out. Gary ventured out to Thayer on Thursday to check on the house, business, and family members, and said it looked like a bomb went off, a mess everywhere. Gary's dad who lives only a couple miles from our house rode his tractor with front end loader on it and cleared a path of limbs and debris, taking over 2 hours to get to our house! It's a big mess. We have TONS of trees in that yard...well, now we have TONS of limbs down. It'll be okay, though.
Also, our main store, Kosh Wholesale, has been out of power since Tuesday, which means the store's been closed since then. Hard thing for a small business owner to be closed so much, especially in these times. BUT, God's been faithful to remind us that He is wise. The Bible curriculum we're using for home school talked about God is Wise: He works all things out perfectly. The text was about Joseph. We've been reviewing the curriculum as part of our family worship time each evening, and it was such a good reminder for us in the midst of this time, a time when little money is coming in and many bills are due. One way God is providing is through our insurance which is going to help out on loss. It is good to know that God is still in the midst of these things and we get to allow our children to see how God is providing for us. 
Another cool thing: our home fellowship couldn't meet at the home we usually meet in because of the ice storm- too hard to get there. Instead, this morning, we broke up and met in 3 different homes. We hosed one of them here and had a big breakfast together, then had worship time and then worked on cleaning up yards and such. Well, the worship time was sweet in intimacy and sharing. One of the things shared was James 1, about suffering- consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds...this was a passage that Gary had mentioned to me and we discussed just last night as he's doing a study on James with a friend. Anyway, it was really neat. And all the sharing and adding to and encouraging was so sweet. And the house here is all cleaned up, trees all taken care of- only need to haul off the piles of debris now. It was such a blessing to have the church body together helping. Here are a few pics of the ice storm and the clean up in progress.