Thursday, December 16, 2010

If I had known...

     If I had known last December that 10 months after putting our house in Maryland on the market that it would still be sitting there, empty...would I be sitting here today?  If I had known last December that we would have been making two house payments for going on 5 months now, would I be sitting here...right in the middle of where we believe God meant for our family to be?

     It was about this time last year, just 2 days before Christmas, that Matt came home and turned my comfortable world, as I knew it, upside down.  With thoughts toward a transition at work and a move to Virginia for our family, the coming months seemed full of uncertainty at a time when I was ready to just relax and enjoy the peacefulness and joy that this season brings.  With a peace not my own, I supported Matt in his decisions surrounding his job and the move. 

     Now a year later, that peace seems to have at times in the last few days packed up and run as far from me as possible.  I tend to be fairly laid back about most things, so the anxiety and almost panic-like symptoms that have gripped me at the most random of times make me frustrated with myself when I can't just "talk myself out of it" or just decide to not let what I'm feeling have a physical effect on me.  The pain and tightness that seem to grab hold of my heart and squeeze relentlessly make me feel out of control.  I don't want to ever pretend like I have all the answers (or ANY for that matter!) or that it's ever easy to just simply make the choice to trust...if these past few days have taught me anything, it's that I am as vulnerable to completely losing it as I ever was.  However, I have to say, attitude and my choice to view things in light of how I'm so very blessed, even amidst difficult circumstance, makes all the difference in the world.  I remember last Christmas my father-in-law reading an excerpt from a book that talked about an "attitude of gratitude".  I have many times in this past year reflected on that idea and seen how God's faithfulness is always evident when we choose to see our circumstance through His promise to give us a future and a hope.  "'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)

     If someone had told me, many years ago when Matt first broached the idea of moving to Lynchburg, that I would be living there today and absolutely filled to the brim with excitement over being there, the love for this place as deeply rooted in my own heart as it was his, I would have told that someone that they were certifiably insane and to go tell their tall tales elsewhere!  Yet here I love with the city that the name of which literally used to make my blood boil everytime it would cross my husband's lips.  I'd like to say that back then I had prayed for God to change my heart to be united with the dreams of the man whom God had given me.  I did not. I prayed instead that God would work in Matt and remind him that I was staying put!  And that when Matt did come to his senses, I'd be able to forgive him and put all these hair-brained ideas behind us.  :-)  How grateful I am that God instead worked on my own heart, even while I was trying my best to selfishly stamp out any thought of a desire other than my own.  He proved Himself faithful, even when He shouldn't have had to, that if He had a plan other than my own, He would change my own heart's desires to reflect His own, enabling me to be more blessed than was ever possible in my limited view of what I wanted.  "Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it." (Psalm 37:3-5) 

     Right now the desire of my heart is for our house in Maryland to sell.  The stress of it sometimes overwhelms me.  Its never fun to feel like you're being stretched to your limit with no view of, or plan for relief in sight.  I have no earthly idea why God would have allowed this financial burden to have continued to this point.  Or why other desires He has placed so deep in our hearts have to, as a result, be put on hold.  But what I do know, what I cling to, is that He IS faithful.  "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)  I am blessed beyond measure.  His changing of my heart in this one instance is only one of hundreds that I could testify to if I choose to reflect on His blessings instead of circumstance that can at times overwhelm and threaten to steal my joy.  "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus...Faithful is He who calls you..." (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, 24)

     "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11)  Matt read this verse last week in our family devotional time and it caused me to reflect on the journey that our family has been on, for years really.  The path has at times been a winding one, far from direct and it has sometimes been difficult to see just where we're headed through the shadows that loom across the path in places.  At other times it has felt as if we're wandering without a clear purpose.  Then there have been times when God has given such a clear vision of where we're headed that it's been easy to tie up our laces and run head on into where He's leading, only to be stopped short by an unexpected detour.  Through it all God has been faithful to continue to reveal the path to us, sometimes in just inches at a time.  I can honestly say though, as I reflect on this past year in particular, that we have found "fulness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore" a plan not of my own, but of His design for our lives to be ones of abundant joy. 

     In this season which gives us so many opportunities to reflect on the great Gift that has been given, I urge you to choose gratitude and joy over distress and darkness.  At the suggestion of my brother-in-law, as a way to unite our family while we look forward to being together over Christmas, I've been reading thru a series of Advent devotionals entitled "Journey to the Manger".  While I must admit that I have hurriedly read thru some to just keep up with the days, this one in particular struck me as it spoke to the perspective I was desperate to regain in my moments of anxiety in the past few days.  To give credit where credit is due, this particular one was written by Peter Kuzmic and reflects on the words in Isaiah 9:1-7.

"But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.  The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.  Thou shalt multiply the nation, Thou shalt increase their gladness; They will be glad in Thy presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.  For Thou shalt break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders.  The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.  For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.  For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:1-7)

     "Isaiah saw more than he could fully grasp, for his own boundaries of understanding were transcended by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Apart from the divine light, people live in 'distress and darkness' (Isaiah 8:22 and 9:2), but the great prophetic insight is that God is willing and capable of changing our human circumstances and transforming the situation by replacing the 'shadow of death' with the 'dawning of light' (9:2).  The coming of light brings with it much joy and abundance (9:3).  Light, joy and abundance speak of freedom from oppression.  The ultimate deliverance comes with the birth of a saving ruler, the Son of God.  Royal titles ascribed to this 'light and child/son' clearly point to his deity (9:6). He is the source of all wisdom and power, fatherly love and is the ultimate peacemaker.  The final result of his deliverance and rule is harmony of peace and justice.  Just what our world needs!"

...and just what I needed. <3  May this Christmas be one in which you revel in the greatest Gift ever given, the only Gift capable of making our joy full beyond measure, regardless of circumstance.  Merry Christmas, indeed!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Knickers and Knowing Who I Am

Somewhere between Maryland and Virginia, I lost a little bit of who I am.  This is slightly disconcerting as Maryland and Virginia border each other, and seeing as there are no states in between....where could those bits of me gone?! :-)  Of all the things I had worried might be lost in the move, my identity certainly wasn't one of them!

Having no background or history in a new place has kind of made me feel like I have to find my identity all over again.  Or worse, be "identified" as something I'm not, maybe because of a bad first impression.  Before the move, I wouldn't have given much thought to what it was that actually "defined" me, but after the move, in a place where I can no longer be defined by what someone already knows of me, I've found myself feeling less secure in situations that I would have normally felt very confident in.  When you start a new job, someone has already seen your resume, they know what you've done before and what you're capable of.  When you start a new life in a new place, there's nothing that goes before you to prepare the way and let people know whether you're a normal, contributing member of society or a fugitive running from the law...ok, that's a slightly exaggerated extreme, but you get my point!  The things that defined me before, for all intents and purposes, virtually vanished when I left behind the place where I had a past.  To some, that might have been a relief, but quite frankly, I enjoyed the identity I had before the move and felt mighty comfy in it thank you very much! :-)

I think this whole "identity crisis" might explain my mini breakdown a few weeks back...

Sam had a field trip coming up in which he had to dress up in Colonial attire.  Matt was going along on the field trip and was also expected to dress up.  (be patient, I promise to include a picture at the end ;-))  The day of the field trip dawns and Matt realizes he doesn't quite have all he needs for a costume.  Due to a lack of communication on both our parts, I had come up short in meeting his expectations surrounding the securing of appropriate Colonial attire for the men in my family. :-)  My "good friend", the over-achieving woman in Proverbs 31, springs to mind..."The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." (Prov. 31:11-12)  Yeah, well, easy for her!  She hasn't just moved and had to start all over, having her mind cluttered with so many details that what once came so easily, now requires many lists and reminders! :-)  It's ok, you can unashamedly laugh at me now, I won't be offended...I, thankfully, can at least let one corner of my mouth lift when I think back to my tantrum-like response to Matt's unmet expectations. (NO picture to follow ;-))  What normally would have (hopefully) slid right off my back, instead sent me into such a tizzy that it was my poor children who scrambled around to help their dad find what he could to be "Colonialized". 

Reflecting back on it, I think it was my loss of identity in other areas that made it so hard for me to just brush it off and move on.  With the bits of me that I did lose in the move, at least I had (or so I thought) maintained the parts of my identity that I treasure most, that of being a wife to Matt and a mom to Hannah and Sam.  I normally take great satisfaction in the fact that I'm able to anticipate the needs of my family and usually meet them without even having to be asked.  When I felt as if I had failed in that, it rattled me because I had forgotten (maybe not so much forgotten as neglected to remember) that there is an even bigger part of my identity that can never be shaken...

I am a child of God. 

In the unsettled-ness and lack of surety in this life, there is always that.  Our identity will always shift and change when it is other people who are looking at us...and how could we not let insecurity creep in if it is by others that we define ourselves?  My identity will only be secure when I let my significance and value lie in whose I am, not who I am. 

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1)

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!" (Isaiah 43:1)

"The Lord your God has chosen be His people, His treasured possession" (Deuteronomy 7:6)

I am slowly, but surely finding again the bits and pieces of the "lesser" things that used to define me as I risk letting those I meet see the real me.  While it is always a risk to put your true self out there for all the world to see and define, I have also found that there is always a reward. :-)

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future." :-) (Proverbs 31:25)

(Now, I have always been one to enjoy the comforts of the times in which we live, however, if I had seen this man in knickers back in the day, I certainly would still go weak in the knees as I do today.) ;-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"You've Got Mail"

     Something amazing happened last Friday.  With anticipation I walked down to the end of my driveway, opened a little, black door...and found mail!!  This may not seem like something to be too overly excited or surprised about, I mean everyone gets mail delivered to them, right?  Doesn't our Declaration of Independence go something like this?..."We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...oh, and the right to receive mail at your place of residence." :-)  Well, it has been 90 long days since we have had any mail delivered to our mailbox.

     Warning to anyone who is looking for some grand revelation in my journey of discovery after our recent move.  :-) This post has absolutely nothing to do with any growth or emotional breakthrough on my part.  These are just some random, inconsequential musings...because quite frankly, all deep thinking must at some point be interrupted by randomness, however else would we all keep our sanity?

     When we moved into our newly built home on July 29th, our builders were planning to put up our mailbox for us. So I made a trip to our post office to find out if there were any guidelines the builders should follow in putting up the mailbox.  For instance, which side of the driveway it should be on, which side of the road it should be on, etc.  Little did I know I would continue to make this trip for a full 3 months! 

    I was told by our post master that we weren't "allowed" to put our mailbox up yet because in a new, rural neighborhood the government had to do surveys and studies into what would be the most cost effective and "efficient" way of getting mail to the new neighborhood.  This process included paperwork going back and forth between the developer of the neighborhood and the post master, (paperwork of which I might add, kept getting lost by the post office and had to be resubmitted by the developer) the route having to be driven by someone conducting the "study/survey", and the amount and type of mail coming into the post office for new residents of the neighborhood having to be analyzed and counted to come out with an average rate and type of mail received by aforementioned new residents. (huh? :-)) We were told that the reason the mailbox couldn't be put up yet was that the government needed to await the results of the survey to determine whether we'd need to share a post with our neighbor, have our own post or simply just have to keep making the drive to the post office daily.

     So I continued to make the 4 mile drive to the post office, which was in the opposite direction of anywhere else I ever went, while I waited for the government to do it's work...I need to mention here that within the first week of moving in we had deliveries made straight to our door by both privately owned FedEx and UPS (shout out to our friends who work for each of these companies :-)). Last week we finally got the call from the United States Post Office that we had the go ahead to put up our mailbox.  What were the specific instructions as to how and where we should put it up as per the extensive studying and surveying that had been going on for the past 3 months you ask? "Eh, put it where ever you want, just be sure your name and house number are on the box so the mail carrier will know who's mail should be delivered there." (side bar: there are currently 3 total, count them, 1, 2, 3, houses in our neighborhood :-))

   I'm left to ponder just how much exactly all this surveying and studying cost...and question whether this is really the picture of efficiency?  Final thought of the day on my random the bigger picture, of things more consequential than whether or not I have to make the drive to the post office everyday, will we as a country ultimately benefit as a whole from more or less government in our day to day lives?  Just sayin'. ;-)

Don't take the little things for granted :-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Hey, Johanna..."

     You know when you get a new pair of shoes and you're excited about wearing the new shoes?  You bought them because they stood out on the shelf to you for some reason, they'll go great with that outfit you've been waiting to wear, they even have that great, new shoe smell...(which is much preferred to that "old shoe smell") :-).  Then you get dressed in the morning and when you put on your shoes, you choose the old pair.  The comfortable pair.  The worn-in pair with the sole that fits your foot perfectly.  Because you know you won't come home at the end of the day with blisters or sore feet.  You know what to expect from your old shoes, they've walked with you before...

     I found myself feeling this way last week.  Longing for the comfort of the "old", and feeling like I wanted a break from the "new".  I love the "new"....but sometimes the "new" takes more effort than the "old".  Instead of going to the class I normally go to on Wednesdays, which is specifically for those who are new, I chose the old...the 10-year-old who has known me all his life.  We had dinner and it was lovely. :-)  It's not like me to miss something on The Schedule, I put that in caps because in my orderly brain, once something is on The Schedule, or I'm supposed to do it, it usually takes a lot for me to deviate from the already made plan.  I don't just decide to not go somewhere or to not do something because I don't feel like it.  Last Wednesday though, I just played hooky.  And I think that was ok.  It was rejeuvinating to sit and talk with Sam, who may only be 10, but who was also the only person around me that day who has known me for 10 years.  It was comfortable, and sometimes tired feet need the comfort of old shoes.

     The next evening, the kids and I had stopped for a quick bite to eat after soccer practice and as we were getting ready to leave I hear, "Hey, Johanna..."  My first thought is that surely there's someone else in Chick-fil-a named Johanna because I don't know enough people around here yet to happen to have the coincidence of bumping into one of them while I'm out.  And silly as it may be to say, that's actually one of the harder parts of being "new" the "old", I loved the fact that there weren't very many places I could go without running into someone I knew.  (aside from the times when I might have run out of the house still in my pj's for one reason or another...those were times I didn't mind not seeing anyone I knew)  Anyway, turns out someone had in fact recognized me and was saying hello to me.  Funny how it's sometimes the little things that feel so big just when you need it.  (Thank you, Becky :-))  The little things that continue to make it worth it to keep trying on the new shoes, even walking in them a bit, till they're just as comfortable as the old shoes.  After all, my favorite pair of shoes today were once new as well. :-)

     As wonderful as it is to be known and called by my name by someone who recognizes me when I'm out, how much more amazing when I think about how the God of the universe also knows my name, and calls out to me (Isaiah 45:2-3), desiring that I would acknowledge Him and allow Him to meet my needs perfectly whatever they might be.  And He hasn't just known me a mere 10 years, but even before I was born He knew me! (Psalm 139) He knew what my name would be, where I would be in this very moment, and that it would be He, Himself who would be the perfect fit for everything I lacked.  He doesn't desire that I merely be comfortable, He is my comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3)

     "I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze, and cut through their iron bars.  And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden wealth of secret places, in order that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name." Isaiah 45:2-3

     "O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me...For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb.  I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.  Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.  How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they would out-number the sand.  When I awake, I am still with Thee." Psalm 139:1,13-18

     "Blessed be the God and Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."  2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Friday, October 8, 2010

If home is where the heart is...when will my heart realize my body has already moved?

     Last week was difficult.  Tragedy struck those we were once in community with, in the place we used to call "home".  It was an "in your face" kind of reminder that we're sort of in limbo here.  Unable to go back and "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15), unable to share the story here with someone who would know the background and feel the pain as deep. 

     What is to be learned when you balance the truth that we are called to be in close relationship with each other, with the reality that those close relationships don't just happen with a snap of the fingers but take time to grow and develop?  How exactly, does one let go enough of relationships in the past in order to develop new ones with those around them today?  And in the letting go, where is the security and comfort of a good friend found while you wait for the time it takes to develop all over what you already had?  These are all questions I didn't think I'd be asking. 

     We, as a family, have never had such excitement or expectation over a move until this one.  We have moved plenty of times before, but all for seemingly practical reasons...this was impractical...we felt drawn here.  Well, to be fair, my husband was drawn here...I was perfectly content to be bolted to the ground where I stood.  Through both the patience of my Heavenly Father and the husband He gave me, my heart was softened as well and we were able to eagerly anticipate and excitedly plan this next stage of our lives together.  Our kids could not have transitioned more smoothly, which for anyone who has moved with kids knows, this is a major blessing!  The physical place in which we now live and all that surrounds it leaves us wanting for nothing when it comes to our day to day lives here.  The void I feel over leaving such dear friends seems like such an odd contrast to me. 

     The book I'm reading through, "After The Boxes Are Unpacked: Moving On After Moving In" written by Susan Miller, talks about the differences of cherishing and clinging to what was in the past.  I struggled to quite understand how this applied to me, of course I cherish those friends I left behind.  But how am I clinging to them?  If I was clinging to them, wouldn't I have fought against leaving in the first place?  I'm not talking about 6-7 years ago when my husband first brought up the idea of this move...because boy did I fight against leaving anything back then!  I was clinging to anything possible, including the lie that where I find my true security lies without instead of within. 

     Literally, as I type, I feel this idea clarifying itself.  Maybe the clinging is in my desire to find another Elise, another Michelle, another Tara, or Angie, or Scot & Dee, or Brandi, or Janice, or...the list could go on and on because there are so many that God has placed in my life who I have been so blessed to call friend.  Really though, how could I ever find "another" of any of them?  Those were ones God hand-picked for a particular time, a particular purpose...and today, in a new season, what is the purpose that He is trying to accomplish in me?  And why would our God who is so creative and so surprising, choose to work in an expected way, to accomplish something unexpected?  Maybe my clinging is in the expectation that who He sends today will be a cookie-cutter version of what He sent yesterday.  Of course there are so many who I will cherish no matter where this life takes us and how far we go...but to cling is to leave my fists tightly closed, unable to grasp the new blessings God desires to place in an open hand.

     There was an interesting quote in the book I'm reading, taken from another book actually, "A Place For You", written by Paul Tournier..."I thought of the trapeze artists, swinging on their trapezes high up under the dome of the circus tent.  They let go of one trapeze just at the right moment, to hover for a moment in the void before catching hold of the other trapeze.  As you watch, you identify yourself with them and experience the anxiety of the middle of the way, when they have let go of their first support and have not yet seized the second...What is the force that holds men back, which prevents them from letting go of what they would like to let go?  It is the middle-of-the-way anxiety.  It is the void in which they are going to find themselves before being able to seize a new support.  All this to say, we must always be letting go...leaving one place in order to find another, abandoning one support in order to reach the next, turning our backs on the past in order to thrust wholeheartedly toward the future."  

     My heart beats faster as I read that quote again.  What a perfect illustration for where I find myself emotionally!  That "middle-of-the-way anxiety", to "hover for a moment in the void"...So, it's ok to "hover", to feel for a moment that I don't belong, to feel the void of what I have let go, to feel the fear of what may or may not come to replace it.  I am normal.  THIS is normal.  This is my new normal.  :-) I will "hover".  With an open hand.  As I wait for God to fill it...

"And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; For He has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11:15-16

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

     My joy is full and my hope is renewed!!  Where else but in the truths of God's word can we find help for our every need, strength for our every weakness?...God can meet us right where we are, with words put on a page so long ago, their power does not come because they were written with man's hand, but because they are God's words, given to us!  Can you imagine?  God's thoughts toward us!  If you haven't read them lately, as I myself so often neglect to do, read them, soak up the comfort He longs to give.  If you don't know the One who loves you so much that He gave up His own life just to save yours, seek to know Him today!  There is no lasting hope other than Him when we are bogged down with the cares of life that weigh so heavily on us.  I am in the "void", the "middle-of-the-way", and there are days when the loneliness here threatens to steal the hope that God has us where we are for a purpose...but then there are days, days like today, when He meets me where I am and reminds me there is no void in which He is not present. 

"For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose...What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him, freely give us all things?" Romans 8:24-28, 31-32

     Someday my heart will realize my body is already here in Virginia and loving it. :-)  I do not know the means by which we shall be reunited, or those that God will use to convince my heart that it can feel at home here....but what is hope if it can already be seen?...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nesting: Apparently NOT just for pregnant women

     What would possess someone to wake up one morning and decide she must have the most organized attic and basement storage area in all the land?!?  I can remember a general need, when expecting our children, to have everything in order and also remember reading in some books that this was somewhat normal...but aside from that, where does this compulsion for everything to be "just so" come from?  And in the areas where no one sees no less?!
     Now, I'm not talking shuffling a few boxes here and there or putting away summer clothes in exchange for cooler weather clothes...I'm talking total reorganization of all the things we don't use on a daily basis...and at the risk of great peril I might add.  Which brings me to ask...just who, pray tell, ever decided that those pull down attic ladders that come down from the ceiling are up to any kind of safety code or standard?!  I was hoisting boxes and random cumbersome items (that I had no business even lifting to move from one side of the room to the other) and hauling them out of the basement, up two flights of stairs and then up this rickety, folding ladder that's barely wider than one of my feet nevermind both of them.  I don't want to put all the blame on the ladder though, it of course has to be narrow because the hole in the ceiling is narrow, which means I couldn't lift these boxes and such in any kind of normal way and support them with the whole of my body.  Instead, I was having to balance them on my head or hold them over my head, if they were light enough, while leaning forward so as not to fall backwards off the ladder, while twisting them in every kind of manner to try to maneuver them thru the hole in the ceiling.  If that weren't tricky enough, every once in a while my big toe would get caught in the leg of my sweatpants and I'd have to somehow try to extricate my toe while balancing the box and my body on the ladder.  It was in one of those moments when I had to ask myself just how I thought I'd make any new friends if my face was split from forehead to chin in a headfirst fall off an attic ladder...
     I have noticed in myself the tendancy that when I feel unsettled internally to try to settle things externally.  At times it seems easier to unpack another box or to organize another closet than to really reflect on why I'm feeling so emotionally unsettled and to then ask God and also trust Him to "organize my insides".  I'm not sure where the idea comes from that if we're put together on the outside, it doesn't matter how we're falling apart on the inside. 
     My compulsive reorganizing has been a good reminder to me this week about the importance of transparency, whether you're the new person or the one who has been in a place for years and feels at home where you are.  Afterall, it is the heart which God looks at and not how we appear on the outside. (or how organized your basement is) :-)  "...for God sees not as man sees, for the man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  (I Samuel 16:7)  Shouldn't we also then wear our hearts on our sleeves so to speak?  So that others can know how to come alongside us and to feel as well the freedom and safety of being their own true selves?  I cannot extend that freedom to someone by telling them how so and so struggles with this or that.  I need to let them know how I personally struggle, what makes me feel unsettled on the inside.  Then maybe, they will feel secure in letting the unsettledness within make it's way out and to know that their struggles aren't just a prayer request that I'll share with someone else or a reason to be judged by another, but a way to find something in common, together...because really, if we're honest, aren't we all a little unsettled and disorganized within?
     Those who know me well probaly also know that I will always have some sort of obsessive compulsion or other when it comes to organizing or keeping things don't call me on it if you see me remaking the bed after my husband has already made it (even though it may make me late in the mornings...and yes, I DO feel the need to make the bed before I leave the house in the a.m.) because I like the pillows to be just so, or if you're here for dinner and the food is getting cold because I have to clean the kitchen before I can sit down to eat. :-)  However, I do resolve, in those moments when the need to have order around me is so distracting that I miss the joy in the day to day, to take the time to figure out what's really going on instead of risking life and limb on an attic ladder. :-)

"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."  II Corinthians 4:17-18

"And let not your adornment be merely external...but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight  of God."  I Peter 3:4

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One person CAN make a difference

     So there I was, at the orientation for the kid's new school looking lost as ever, if I had passed a mirror I probably would have seen a sign on my forehead attesting to the fact that I was new and had no clue about what I was doing or where I should go.  There were a few who pointed me in this direction or that direction and plenty who offered a welcome or kind word...but there was one who sought me out even after orientation was over and extended an invitation...

     Since that first invitation there have been many others as this one continued to extend herself in order to make me feel welcome and less overwhelmed with all that was new and sometimes confusing.  From practical things like how to find places and where to park, to more personal things like a cook-out at her home and lunch out, she was a known face in a sea of many who sought me out and made me feel like I didn't have to figure out everthing on my own.

    Her sacrifice, and I do believe she made a sacrifice of her own comfort for the chance of making me more comfortable, will be one in which is first and foremost on my mind when I find myself at orientation next year.  Hopefully, not so lost and not so clueless, I'll be able to reach out to another with the same "sign" on her forehead as this one did for me and help her to see that feeling at "home" in a new place is closer than she thinks.  Thank you Sondra. :-)

     There is One who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Laying down His own comfort, His own life even, so that we could spend eternity at "home" with Him.  He too extends an invitation to us.  I was blessed with the reminder, on a human level, of just how big a difference ONE can make. 

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."  Ephesians 2:4-7

Unknown...or am I?

- 9/15/10
     I love it here.  I love everything about being here.  I love our house, the kid's school, the church we've been going to, the community, the fact that people on the highway actually move over for you when you're trying to merge. :-)  I love it here, but some days I feel very alone.  I've cried on 3 out of a total of 8 Sundays that we've been here because those are the days that seem to remind me the most that this doesn't always feel like "home" yet.  I long for the beginning of just one dear friendship with a woman here, and sometimes let my fear that there won't be one person who needs or desires a friendship as much as I do get the best of me.  I rationally know that this kind of friendship takes time, and it took time before, but I also know the blessing of true, deep friendship with other women and it makes me miss it all the more not having it here yet.  Maybe, if I'm honest, it's not the "beginning" of that friendship that I long for...because in truth, maybe the beginnng of the friendship I'm speaking of has already, well, begun. :-) If I'm really honest, what I long for is that already established friendship.  The one where your past is known and accepted, your dreams for the future are shared and supported.  After being in one place for a number of years it's almost overwhelming to think of where to begin in friendships.  I'm so used to being around people who know everything about me and there's no need for explaining when you're known so well, you're just understood.  My impatience in this area definitely tells me I was maybe too comfortable where I was...too comfortable to notice someone who might be in the place where I am today...

      Unfortunately, it is many times my husband who bears the brunt of this fear of loneliness.  I look to him to know me perfectly because I feel so "unknown" everywhere else.  There are days when I overlook the blessing of getting to live with my best friend everyday and expect him instead to fill the role that only God was meant to fill.  Only God can ever know me so perfectly inside and out that He can know my every need, hurt and desire intimately and completely before I've even formed a concise thought about it.  There is a blessing though, even in this loneliness.  I definitely feel myself more drawn to Christ and His word as a way to be reminded that He does know me perfectly and intimately.  It was easy in the midst of great friends and community to not depend on Christ as  much and to grow lazy in my own getting to know Him as He knows me.  Maybe he wants to use this time to remind me how well He knows me and that it can be enough in this season...

     The position I find myself in these days is one of great vulnerability and it's not always a very "safe" feeling kind of place.  I definitely desire to continue to put myself out there and feel like I might as well put "all of me" out there because how else will I ever be known?  And when I am known, I want it to be the real me, not a cleaned up, "in-public" version...but it definitely leaves me then to wonder, uh-oh...that was the real me I just put out there, what if they don't like me?  Maybe I've felt this way before and it's just been so long since I've been the new person that I've forgotten what's completely normal.  It's a deep longing that I have that wonders when and if we'll ever make it past the feeling "welcome" stage to feeling like we belong...

     It's interesting contrasting the "high" of planning for a transition for so long and being so sure and excited about it with the "low" of the natural time it takes to really feel at home somewhere.  It's with this thought that I am reminded how before the move God gave us such a peace about it that it seemed the usual stresses and sadness of a move were muted in a way, because it was easy to trust where He was leading.  That same peace on this side of the move is available to me when I stop stressing over the timing and details of everything and just live each day as He gives it, taking each opportunity as He gives it...

     I will FOREVER be mindful of how grateful I am for God's timing in all of this...when I think of how long ago God planted the desire in Matt's heart for the move here and how opposed I was to it for so many years, I am so thankful that I can honestly love everything about being HERE, now.  Even amidst the loneliness that sometimes sneaks in around me when I am focused on the ways God blessed me in friendship in the past, I can't even imagine what it would feel like to be despairing about one's geographical location while also feeling alone.  I am reminded anew of how God cares for me and knows me perfectly, the God of the universe has inscribed me on the palms of His hands! (Isaiah 49:16) How could I for too long wallow in the despair of being unknown when I belong to Him?  He is a faithful and true friend and has Himself longed for me to recognize Him as such.  "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)


"Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him." (Isaiah 30:18)

   ...May my longing be to first seek the One who longs for me...

(This picture was taken 1 year ago...we had stopped in Lynchburg on our way back from vacationing in Tennessee and hiked up to the LU monogram to watch the sunset.  While up there we looked down on Lynchburg and tried to imagine what it would be like if we lived here...who could have imagined it would only be one year later when we would call this place home?  Be careful what you imagine...:-))

Friday, September 17, 2010

One Thing

(from my journal- July 20, 2010)

     Well, I find myself amidst boxes again. :-)  Surely I forget each time the specific stresses involved with moving or there'd be a lot more kicking and screaming on my part when Matt suggests it each time, ha!  Seven months ago, just a couple days before Christmas, the "bomb" was dropped when Matt informed me that he really didn't see himself signing a contract for another 5 years as CEO of Social Solutions.  I shed a few tears but felt ultimately at peace with it and was able to tell him that my place was with him where ever that might be and that I'd support whatever he decided. 
     A plan was born to finally get us to Lynchburg. :-)  All the pieces seemed to fall fairly easily into place (except the sale of our house so far...we're set to move in 8 days and still no contract).  I know Your timing is always best God, but it really has felt like this has been the bulk of the stress for us...of course maybe that's the point.  The other day Matt says..."Isn't it reassuring to know that 5 years from now we'll look back on this period of extreme stress and laugh at how stressed we were?"...Um, I'm kinda hoping it doesn't take us 5 YEARS to get to the point of laughter over our folly of lack of faith, but yeah, reassuring I guess you could say. :-) Actually, how could I NOT be reassured when I think back 6 or 7 years ago when Matt first told me he felt drawn to move to Lynchburg?  Talk about kicking and screaming!  I actually even showed up on a dear friend's doorstep sobbing that surely God hadn't intended me to marry a man who couldn't cool his heels in one place for more than a couple years. :-) (thank God for friends who can listen to my rantings and then lovingly remind me that God knows exactly what He's doing...even when I don't)  And now today, God has me at the point of being just as excited about the move as Matt fact, my biggest fear NOW being that we'll end up having to stay in Maryland after having our hearts set on Lynchburg!  Craziness!  Yeah, I'm definitely looking back at myself then and laughing...but all in God's perfect timing, right?  Right.
     The sadness over the move has yet to really hit me, save for a few shed tears here and there over the friends we're leaving.  For the most part, whether it's by God's grace or my avoidance (hopefully the former and not the latter!) I've been able to focus on what we're gaining and not what we're losing.  Is that what happens when you feel as if God has you headed right where He wants you?  Or have we totally misjudged?  How do you ever TRULY know what He wants until you succeed or fail at it?  And, am I eternally destined to always question His leading unless the process comes easily?  Will I forever squander the learning and molding that comes with the testing?  Being tempted to think instead, "We must have heard wrong."?
     I do know ONE THING, although I dread the end of summer because I love everything about summer, I don't dread the beginning of the school year...I'm so excited about this new place for Hannah and Sam, that's a blessing!  I don't understand what all that foster care business was about, but I know ONE THING, if God had allowed a child to be placed with us long-term, and that child was with us when Matt approached me about a move, I'm not so sure I could have supported him at the risk of losing a child.  So, I guess just knowing ONE THING, as long as it's the important thing, is all you need to know.  I may not know when or if our house will ever sell, I may not know if the end of all this stress is 8 days away or if this is just the tip of the iceberg, I may not fully grasp the true sense of loss I'll feel when we finally do leave our dear friends here...but I do know ONE THING.  I know my Heavenly Father knows me better than I know myself and is working everything for my good and not my harm.  (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11) His plan is perfect and better suited for me than anything I could ever come up with on my own. (Isaiah 55:8-9, Ephesians 3:20) I thank God for the ONE THING.

"Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time."  -Oswald Chambers