Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Feet to Faith

Sitting in a foster/adoption class is a scary thing.  Sitting here as a single female...terrifying, yet exhilarating.  This may not be how I envisioned this all going down, but I'm sitting here nonetheless.  If I were to be transparent with ya'll, I had this pretty picture of my husband and I taking this adventure together, with our 3.5 children ready for new siblings, and our dog happily chasing squirrels in the front yard near the white picket fence.  But that's not what life has dished out to me; and instead of wasting more years playing the waiting game, I'm finally putting feet to faith and to my dreams.

And so here I sit.  Single.  Almost 36 (just three more days at 35...sigh).  With a cat who uses the wall as a trampoline.  And wondering how I wound up in a training class when I thought it was simply an informational class on foster care and adoption.  Must be God's sense of humor! HA!

Do I think this is an ideal situation?  Nope.

Do I want to do this alone?  Nope.

Do I have all the necessary tools and qualifications?  Nope.

Do I have an open heart and home?  Yes.  A resounding yes.

Am I willing?  Yes...by God's strength.

So here I am, venturing out beyond the shores into the tumultuous ocean waves of the unknown.  But I am willing and that is all He asked of me.  As Peter walked out onto the water, so I am stepping out.

Will I be perfect?  Not in the slightest.

Will I fail?  Every single day/moment.

Am I willing?  Yes, even in my weakness, I am willing.

There are kids out there in need of consistent, Godly love, and my heart is ready.  Will it break?  In a million pieces for these kids every single day.  But I am willing to be broken to give out what God has poured into me.

"Love isn't about how much money someone's willing to lay down for you, but about how much life they're willing to lay down for you."
~Ann Voskamp
"Pour out your life in small moments - because it's only these moments that add up to the monumental.  The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go."
~Ann Voskamp
I'm not doing this for the accolades or the attention.  I will probably wind up with more gray hairs, dark circles under my eyes, bruises on my knees from constant prayer and a heart that is broken again and again by the pain these kids have experienced.  That sure doesn't sound attractive, and will probably put me on the "do not go near her list, she's too complicated and that gray hair is out of control" ...which means I may remain single.  HA!  And in all reality, this act of faith may not come to fruition for another year or so....which means those pesky gray hairs can stay in hiding a little longer.
But really, all God asked of me was if I was willing. 
Yes.  Yes I am.  So here I am...feet to faith.
"Real love is in the really small gestures - the way your hands, your feet, move to speak your heart."
~Ann Voskamp

Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Waiting Place

I have been blessed with the opportunity to be part of a book launch.  Not just any book launch, but Ann Voskamp’s!  If you don’t know who she is, well, you are missing out!  As part of this launch, I have been grafted into a community of other believers who have the chance to read Ann’s (we’re on a first name basis…she liked one of my posts, after all) new book, The Broken Way, which is being released later this month (October 25th to be exact).  With this community we are able to share our stories of brokenness and healing.  I’ve read stories from all of these women (and men) and my heart has grieved with them and rejoiced with them.  I’ve watched as they have posted about how the book is stirring new things in their broken hearts, how it has encouraged them and drawn them closer to God with a deeper understanding and meaning for their brokenness. 

And then I’ve waited.  I’ve waited for something to strike the core of me as I’ve read, because I knew it would come.  Books have that way with me.  Words have a way of piercing my innermost being, striking a match and lighting a flame of passion for God, and a flame where the ugliness inside of me can be laid upon a burning altar for God to purify. 

Then came Chapter 6.  Oh dear, sweet chapter six.  The words hit home…a home run to my heart with the battles I’ve been waging as of lately!

“Look, the whole lot of us are done with waiting room theology.  We are done waiting for some elusive future moment to say life is good enough.  We are done waiting for some big enough house, some big enough step up, some big, exciting enough experience to finally think we’ve arrived at the abundance of being and living enough…. we are done with waiting room living.”  (p.87)

I don’t know if you’ve ever read “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.  If not, go to your local library and check it out NOW!  It’s not just a book for kids.  Trust me!  Anyway, back to Ann and her words.  When I read that quote, I thought about all of the times I’ve waited and I thought about the waiting place in Dr. Seuss’ book.  Waiting is hard.  Waiting makes me feel like life is stagnant.  You know, that quiet still pond that is buried underneath that green-smelly moss?  That kind of stagnant.  Blech!  And I feel like I’ve been waiting lately.

“Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go, or the mail to come, or the rain to go…. everyone is just waiting…NO! That’s not for you!” (Dr. Seuss)

I don’t want to wait around for life to find me.  I want to live an abundant life. It’s what has been my heart’s cry lately…ABUNDANT LIFE!  And I feel like this nugget in chapter six was written just for my heart! 

“What if instead of waiting for good enough things to happen to us, we could be the good thing to happen to someone else who’s waiting?  What if we could cure our own waiting room addiction by making room in our life to be the good others are waiting for? … What if abundant living isn’t about what you can expect from life, but what life can expect from you?” (p.87)

Ann goes on to say, “the world is brokenhearted and full of suffering, and if you listen to what life needs instead of what you need from it, you could fill the brokenness with your own brokenhearted love – and this will in turn fill you.” 

Ahhh…. the truth that I couldn’t put into words.  Living to give myself to others is when life becomes abundant.  Really, if you look at the life of Jesus, didn’t he do this?  Wasn’t He giving Himself so that others could have life.  He gave everything.  So why do I hold back giving of myself, giving of my time, my energy, my talents, my love?

“What if living the abundant life isn’t about having better stories to share but about living a story that lets others live better?” (p.92)

I want an abundant life that lets others live better.  I have been through things that have torn my heart to pieces.  I’ve watched friends go through difficulties that have rocked them to the core.  And I’ve watched those same friends give out of their brokenness, even though it broke them a little each time they did so.  Their pain and their brokenness allowed others to find healing and in the process they found healing, and abundant life.  I want to do the same, use my broken pieces of my past to help others find healing, find life.

“When you are filled to the brim with the enoughness of Christ, the only way you can possibly have more is to pour yourself out.  The only way to more life is by pouring more of yourself out.” (p.93)

Abundant life = pour out receive more pour out receive more repeat

“Live for something worth dying for.  Let love break into you and mess with you and loosen you up and make you laugh and cry and give and hurt because this is the only way to really live…Don’t waste a minute on anything less than what lasts for all eternity.” (p.95)

Eternity.  What is the one thing that will last for all eternity?  People.  It’s time for me to live that abundant life that I have been praying for.  It’s time to pour out on the people around me, at work, on the kids at the therapeutic riding center, at church, to the people I run into in the community.  It’s about people.  So maybe my prayers for an abundant life start with giving of myself.  Thank you Ann, for your words in chapter six.  They were exactly what I needed in this moment as I grasp the abundant life.

 “You are where you are for such a time as this – not to make an impression, but to make a difference.” (p.91)

For more information, check out the book at:  www.TheBrokenWay.com 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Comparison Game Just Ain't My Thang!

It seems like everywhere I look, I'm bombarded with things that make me look at myself and wonder if I'm measuring up.  Movies, TV, magazines, the lives of friends, coworkers, etc.  No matter where I look, I am fed this constant barrage of input that makes me question my worth, my value, my significance, my confidence.  And I've had enough.  I'm tired of the world dictating to me who I am, what I'm worth and how I should act.  So instead, I've been going to my Creator and asking Him my worth, my value, my significance and I've been finding my confidence in Him.  And it's changing me from the inside.  I'm at peace, comfortable in my own skin, in my weaknesses and my strengths.  I am walking confidently forth in what He has set before me.  But that doesn't mean that the enemy is going to let me slide. 

Although I may have given up this little game, he hasn't.  Because it is my weakness, he is using it to attack me, to attack my teaching and my passion for kids.  It's not even in big, significant things at work; it's miniscule things, that in the large scheme of what we are doing, don't really matter.  Right now, I'm being compared to another teacher, as though I'm not measuring up or doing enough for my students.  Over the last two years, I've been compared to the previous special education teacher, as though once again, I'm not good enough.  Sadly, I've let it get to me over the last couple of years...but this time, no!  I'm finally seeing it for what it is...the comparison game from the enemy to attack me.  And I'm not going to have it! 

But it's not just about me and my fight against measuring up.  I'm realizing that for the person who is making the comments where I feel like I'm compared to others, well, maybe it's coming from something deeper.  I know for me, when I look at others and sit there and compare myself (I'm my own worst critic...and I'm stopping that game too!), it is usually coming from insecurity or jealousy or of a deeper desire for something more, something I don't have.  I'm not saying that's the case for this person, maybe it's just the words hit that deep root in me that needs to be removed. My coworker may have the best of intentions, and I'm just letting her words be used as an arrow to compare. So maybe instead of letting this comparison game frustrate me and cause me to roll my eyes, I need to be praying.  Possibly lifting my coworker up to my Creator and allowing Him to work in this situation and through her words.  I mean really, if I'm giving up this game then I'm simply giving it to Him.  And the beauty of that?....well....He's already won.  In Him is victory....for both my coworker and myself.

You see, God's truth is really all that matters.  He doesn't compare me to anyone else.  He made me just as I am, weaknesses, stubbornness and all.  And He loves me.  His truth reigns over me....I am His masterpiece (Eph. 2:10), I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and I am created by Him and it is good (1 Timothy 4:4).

I'm learning to let go of insecurity, doubt, and depression because I'm simply not playing that comparison game anymore.  I'm letting His truth wash over me and I'm finding peace, joy, a prayerful heart, and a desire to live fully for Him.  So instead of playing this game from the enemy, I'm going to go to my Creator in prayer and allow Him to work His magic and let His glory be known...so that in the end, the students reap the benefit of a unified team of teachers who love them.  Cause the comparison game just ain't my thang!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

If. Trust. Forward.

If you believe that I am sovereign over every aspect of your life, it is possible to trust Me in all situations…..Trust is like a staff you can lean on, as you journey uphill with Me.  If you are trusting in Me consistently, the staff will bear as much of your weight as needed.  Lean on, trust, and be confident in Me with all your heart and mind”
~Jesus Calling (January 24th)

“So Moses took his wife and sons and put them on a donkey for the return trip to Egypt.  He had a firm grip on the staff of God.”
~Exodus 4:20 (MSG)

“Then make the seven lamps for the lampstand, and set them so they reflect their light forward.”
~Exodus 25:37 (NLT)

If.  Trust.  Forward.  Three powerful words that when looked at individually may not seem like such a big deal, but combined, they cause me to shudder with the weight of the meaning behind them. 

I have been struggling in a season of silence with God.  I’ve been seeking Him, digging into His Word, serving His people….and I have experienced great joy in it all.  Every situation has made me smile and has caused my heart to understand the difference between happiness and joy…a joy that comes from Him.  And the blessings I have experienced have been phenomenal.  But in the midst of it all, it has felt like God has been silent.  The reverberating sound of my own voice has been deafening to my heart.  In the past I have walked closely with God, heard His whisper in my heart, and have experienced sweet, divine moments with Him.  And with this silence, I miss Him; I miss what I once had.  But maybe in this season, He is working on some deep crevices in my heart where I need to learn to simply trust Him.  Or maybe… I need to stop looking backwards and start looking forward to His light and step out with a deeper faith I’ve not yet encountered.

I’ve been battling the “ifs”.  If only I had done this.  If only I had said this.  What if I made a different choice, a different decision?  These “ifs” have caused me to remain rooted in the past.  I’ve been fixated on what once was, not what could be if I let go and trust.  I’ve been stuck on my dreams and desires and my timeline, and I’ve become frustrated with God not acting the way I think He should.  But then that makes me god….and I am not!  If only He had done such and such.  If only this dream happened in this way.  If only my dreams were fulfilled.  Maybe that’s why God has been silent.  I’ve been placing myself before Him and doubting His sovereignty and His goodness and His plans.  Who am I to question God’s ways?  He is the author and Creator of life and of me, so who am I to question the Creator?

These “if only’s” have caused me to remain focused on the past and on myself.  What would happen if I changed that “if only” to “what if”?  Would the focus turn to Him?  Would I learn to trust Him and His ways, timing and plans? 

What if I choose trust instead of doubt?
What if I choose obedience instead of stubbornness?
What if I see a person in need, whether it be circumstances, financial or a heart-need….what if I step out and talk to them or help fill that need?
What if I look for ways to encourage others?
What if I pen the words He has given me?
What if I open my home up to foster children?

These “what ifs”, they change the focus from inward-selfishness, to other-mindedness….to God’s people, to Him.  What happens when the focus shifts to His Kingdom and His people?  Isn’t this where His glory has a chance to shine? 

God asked Moses to go back to Egypt so that He could release His people from captivity.  What if Moses was so preoccupied on his past (I mean he did flee Egypt because he killed someone) that he didn’t stop long enough to examine the burning bush?  It was in that moment when he stopped to take a closer look at a burning bush that wasn’t being fully consumed by fire, which God spoke to Moses resulting in the freedom of His people from slavery.  What moments might I encounter if I stop focusing on the past and start living each day, each moment with His light before me? 

The lampstand was a light that served as a guide for the children of Israel during the Exodus and it only lit the path before them, not the path behind them.  This can serve as a reminder for my own heart that His light shines forward in my life, not in the past, and that maybe it is time to step forward towards that light.  This will require leaning heavily on His staff, trusting Him, not the things of this world I see before me.  But if Moses can be example to me, he had a firm grip on the staff of God as he began the journey God called him to.

So maybe I need to grasp firmly to His staff, lean in and choose to trust Him, and then take that first step towards His light before me and begin a journey of “what if” with God. 

What if I live a life fully surrendered to Him?  If I choose to trust Him and move forward in His light each day, what will happen?

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
Isaiah 58:8-10