Sunday, October 28, 2018

Resist & Enjoy: Unexpected blessing--we are buying a house

Life (God) has an interesting way of showing up, shaking things around and creating new out of old or broken.

He has done that for our family in this season. He has given us a do-over. A fresh start. New routines and new rhythms. He has taught us to let go of not just the hardships of the last 18+ months but also how to let go of our physical stuff...living with less stuff so we can live with more HIM. It is freeing.

In mid-September I was casually looking at houses online. It was a Saturday morning. My daughter was sick and I too was at the beginning of contracting some sort of fall-cold. I laid on the couch, computer in hand, browsing the real estate websites. My fingers stopped clicking when I saw pictures of this 5-bedroom home. I immediately showed my husband. He was also enthralled.  With a little over an hour before he had to go to work he suggested we load up the family and simply drive by...sick and all. I conceded and before I knew it we were all buckled in driving towards the Green House.

Behold, they were hosting an open house. Wait, what? We just wanted to drive by! Unloading our three kids in the rain, we entered what would a month later be our "forever" home. The kids instantly felt comfortable...running around and claiming space. Looking at each other, my husband and I called our realtor and put in an offer.

Sunday came and we excitedly waited to hear the news. Our hearts were set and peace covered over me. I knew the instant I saw pictures of this house online that our family would dwell in it. Around 5pm the call came through...they accepted another offer for $3000 LESS than our offer. Our hearts sank BUT I still held onto this peace I had, asking God, "How are you going to work this out because I KNOW that this is our new home."

Monday morning came. As I was leaving an appointment with one of the kids my husband calls. "Do you still want to buy a house?" I thought, perhaps, our realtor had found another comparable house to the one we just lost. But that was not the case. The couple who had put the offer in on the Green House had some type of fight and withdrew their offer. Wait, what?!?! As the next in line it was our choice if we wanted to purchase this home. It was amazing to feel so confident in knowing that this house was a gift from the Lord. So, we moved forward.

As we continued to pray over this decision, God was showing us the gift this house would be to us...a chance to let go of the many tragedies of the past few years both with Oliver and other events.  The opportunity to host large functions in the vast backyard (over 1/2 acre!). The space to finally host a proper dinner party or holiday function at a REAL table rather than the wobbly fold-up tables we have been using (although there was a LOT of joy and rich conversation around those tables....those days will be missed for certain!). The joy of connecting with new neighbors and the hope of connecting our neighborhood the way we have connected our current one.

Built in 1955 we are only the third owners. Life has happened in this house. Kids and grandkids enjoyed all that it offers and when you walk into the house you can feel this love and passion and appreciation. It is a place I want to be.

Four days after our offer was accepted a friends came over in the evening to watch a TV program. Catching her up on the news of recent events I began to tell her how we would have to put our current house on the market, stage our home all while packing it up and moving to our new location. Her eyes brightened and she began to ask many questions. She even took several peeks around the house during the commercials. At the end of our evening she asked if her and her husband could come over the next day to take a closer look. Of course, I said yes. They did. A few days later, after getting their finances in order, they told us that they wanted to buy our house! Another WAIT?! WHAT??! moment was happening. God really does know how to do things, right?

The next week our family was in Disneyland: celebrating our 8th anniversary, Oliver's 1/2 birthday and the purchase of this unexpected blessing-- selling & purchasing a house! A few days before we came home from California, the offer on our current house was signed and submitted. We had a POD moving unit dropped off two days after we arrived back home and the packing began.

On Friday, Oct. 26th we received the keys to our "forever" home, the Green House. We could not be more thrilled or more overjoyed. The Lord has showered us with His favor and blessings, making it clear every step of the way that He has been protecting us, that He sees us and that He knows what we need (and what our friends needed too!).

There are not many times in life when you get a do-over. We certainly are not taking this for granted. This home is a symbol of God's faithfulness to us. It is a reminder of His presence in our lives. It is a sign-post for us--to look outward, no longer focusing on mere survival but to engage--being willing to have tough conversations, re-dedicate to certain friendships and ask forgiveness in others. It is a chance to allow God to create our new pathway and also just to simply enjoy HIM for who He is.

From a hard season to a season of overflowing JOY there is still much work in our hearts to be done. There are still hurts we are processing through and some hurts we are still right in the middle of yet despite these things, God is reminding me (us) that I am His and He is mine. He knows what we need and when we need it. He surely takes care of those He loves.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Resist & Enjoy: When you can't do either

This past week I have not done much "resisting" the rush or "enjoying" the life season we are in. I had great hopes for "Pumpkin Spice" season after a refreshing Summer Sabbath. But...

In plain words, life this past few weeks has sucked (and I don't ever use that word!).

The things I hoped for failed. The relationships I tried to build halted to a stop. Rejection slapped my face at least a dozen times and my children, those little darlings, are testing every bit of everything left that I have (which, to be honest, isn't a lot).

I ask the question with arms thrown to the sky, "God, what in the WORLD are you doing?"

The striping, the taking away, the pruning, the frustration....there has to be a purpose, right?

In this moment, God reminds me of this song "Closer" by Bethel Live:


Pull me a little closer
Take me a little deeper
I want to know Your heart
I want to know Your heart
`Cause Your love is so much sweeter
Than anything I've tasted
I want to know Your heart


I know God's character. I know that He is always at work. I know that His ways are not my ways but in my flesh today I cry out, "WHY GOD!!" In someways I resemble my toddler throwing a fit on the floor and in other ways I have simply just run out of productive ways to cope. We continue to wait, writhing, for God to reveal His plan for our family. In this time, I pull closer to God, not understanding what He is doing but rather knowing that at least He is doing something...even if I can not see it. We trust. We wait. We persevere. We pull back so that we can be plugged into the Source of all Rest and the Source of all Joy...the person Jesus.

Maranatha

 
 
 
 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Resist & Enjoy: A new kinda hard

Our schedule is back to full-swing, so to speak. All of our obligations have occurred at least once and we are on our way to a "normalized" routine (although every day still looks different).

Last year was one of the hardest of my life, filled with doubts and unknowns about our youngest and the stress of keeping up with work and life while raise two other toddlers.

This year we enter "pumpkin spice" season with a very new toddler at 1.5 years, an almost 3-yr old and a 4-yr old. Busy and overwhelming to say the least. I sit on the floor today almost in tears, feeling as if I can't keep up with these little treasures and work and maintain a household and a life. Not sure what to do, I bury my head in my hands and pray. What we "should" be doing is playing outside, enjoying the last few glimpses of the sunny weather. Guilt over takes me. But why?

I feel inadequate to the mother of these children. Words escape me when they need them the most and my tired body drags through the motions of lunch, dinner, bedtime...you want PB&J for lunch an dinner? Sure! That fits into the "healthy" food category, right? These things seem to matter less and less to me. Guilt again...because I SHOULD care about heathy, well-balanced meals. I try.

The days before us are busy but God is faithful. He is adequate. He has allowed me to mother these children. I cozy into Him for His extra grace, gentle pat on the back and a moments relief from the tantrums and toys being thrown around me. Thank you, Jesus, for my life! It could have been so much different. We could have only had two children, not three. I could be unemployed. We could not have a church or a place to live or..... this list of gratitude runs deep. So, here is to living life FOR Jesus and WITH Jesus, embracing the hard times and rejoicing in them. This season is just a new kind of hard but I am so grateful for it. May He get the glory. Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Resist & Enjoy: What does "important" mean?

It's not yet halfway through September. The schedule is full, I am forgetting things and the rhythm of rush has pushed through my front door (Man! I thought I locked it tight!). So here we are. FALL.

Swimming, ballet, gymnastics. Work, dating my spouse, playing with my kids, friendships, exercise. Bible study, ministry leader, personal quiet time. Planning dinner, planning activities, planning....planning....planning.

But it should. be. different.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

On a Sunday not long ago, our pastor pointed out that Jesus was never in a rush. Wow! How powerful! What can I do my life differently, like Jesus?

RELATIONSHIP. FOCUS.

In my personal study time today, here is what God revealed to me about His way: 

"How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil." James 4:14-16
By spending TIME with Jesus, He can renew my mind. When my mind is renewed, I will no longer stress about all of the planning but rather rejoice in TODAY...after all, that is all we are promised, right? Wow does that change things just a wee-bit, huh?

I am also seeing this concept of time in a different way (living in today) when my daughter started her second year of preschool. Driving her to her first day I realized that one-day, not far off, all three of my children will be in "all-day school"......!!!!! Wait?! WHAT? In just a few years? THE DISHES CAN WAIT! I only have 1,095 more days until my three kids are in school?! Three years. It's not much time, regardless on how big the number looks. My 4-year-old proved that. So, priorities. 

What matters?

RELATIONSHIP.

As my handsome husband says, "The important stuff will get done." I think I have misinterpreted the "important" for the tasks of life. Focus. Focus! FOCUS! My relationship with God is of the utmost importance. My spouse and children are of the utmost importance....

Let's pause. Invite God into our heart and mind. Focus. Intention. Fellowship, Friendship. The important stuff will get done. We just need to re-prioritize what "important" means.

Live in joy today (and always). 
Peace.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sabbath Summer: The Fleeting Sun

The time is approaching. Our Fall schedules are once again filling and the rhythm of rush is pounding at our door. In many ways this summer has been a dream, a vacation from expectations and a mental re-set. A time to listen to God's convictions, seek deeper friendships and enjoy my kids without the pressure of work or mounds of pre-planned activities. Our family schedule was filled with slow, easy wake-ups, breakfast for dinner and extended bedtimes to enjoy just a little more outside play before the sun set. Certainly a breathe of fresh air.

Now, today, we get to make a choice. Will we open the door to the rhythm of rush or will we fight back the loud bangs on the door to strive towards this life of sabbath--- rest and peace.

It seems like an easy decision, right? But as the days tick closer to September the banging gets louder, activities increase and it seems everyone and every activity to teeming at your door. So, what do you do?

GO. TO. PRAYER.

In prayer, our family has been asking God these questions:
  • What is YOUR desire for our family?
  • What activities will bring us closer to YOU, God?
  • What decisions about schedules will teach and display YOUR love through us?
  • What boundaries do we need to create to protect our hearts and minds, reserving them first to GOD then family then everything else?
  • What can we eliminate in our life that will allow us to be more present?

The reality is: our life is HIS. My life is not about pleasing myself or doing all the things "I WANT" to do (because they seem fun or easy or just because 'everyone' is participating). The things God calls us to can be hard, uncomfortable, unfamiliar. AND this summer I have learned that that is okay.

In the beginning of this Sabbath Summer I sought to change my thinking about life, my relationship with God and friends and find satisfaction and gratitude if what God has given me. Overall, I feel this mission was a success yet in other ways God still needs to change my heart.We are all in process, after all.

Through this journey I have learned much about myself (some icky and some great things). I'm looking forward to seeking God more, asking Him to establish my life. Moving forward I pray for motivation: daily prayer, daily scripture reading, continuing to love my husband, kids and friends best I can and be motivated to have better eating & exercise habits. I pray for HIS strength to hold back the loud bangs and unending pressure of pursuing activity over relationship--to be more present and enjoy the gifts of this Garden of Eden. But in order to enjoy the garden, we must resist the off-limit fruit. Whatever that off-limit fruit is--- RESIST IT! God has so much more, so much better for us.

So...here is to FALL INVITATION: Resist and Enjoy...accepting God's decisions for my life rather then setting my mind of the earthy, temporal things that only leave fleeting satisfaction. Join me?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sabbath Summer: OH NO! My phone is full!

"PRAISE THE LORD! My phone's memory is full!"

When I started this Sabbath Summer journey in May, those certainly were not words you would have heard coming out of my mouth but almost three months later I find it to be a joy that my phone's memory is full. And here is why:

Prior to this journey many people would often comment on how much I would post on social media and my craze for always having to capture the moment on camera. It's true. My husband, who is not on social media, would also frequently comment that everyone knows so much about our lives that it left little room for actually "catching up." I mean, why would you need to catch up if your whole life is on display for everyone to witness and in the front row at that! Convicted by this and the growing evil in the world, the momma bear came out in me. First and foremost I want to protect my children. Next, I wanted to cultivate deep, authentic relationships which would happen face-to-face instead of screen-to-screen.

I started by first deleting the offending phone app (I am sure you can all guess what that is). From there, I stopped posting all together for a period of time and made a pact to myself to only log-on when at an actual computer. It worked! Next, I decided to put my phone down. Instead of being known as the one who instantly returns text messages, I found that I would have 7, 8 or even 9 or more unread messages at the nights end. I saw this as a victory.

With my children, I also began to think about them as young grade schoolers. Did they give me permission to post their lives so publicly for the world to see? Is it an invasion of THEIR privacy in which I have spoken for them by making a decision that it was okay to be so open with so many strangers about THEIR lives? With the increase in child-trafficking, I want to leave little room for someone to go after my three precious littles when so much information is already easily available (and some of it from me!!). How scary!

Not to mention the vast amount pictures and videos I have accumulated. I create family "year" books and even at that there are SO many pictures I max out the page numbers AND picture limit every year. I found that I often remember the picture of an event before I remember the actual event. I would like this to change. This has been a hard one for me and a habit/mind-set that I have had for almost two decades. Yet, with a full phone memory, it helps me stay present and embrace the ordinary making is permanent in my mind rather than a picture.

I recently read an article about a teacher who posed the journal prompt, "I don't like cell phones because...." The results were sad, convicting and eye opening. Her grade school students made comments like, "I wish phones were never invented." "My parents care more about their phones than me." "Phones are more important than I will ever be." WOW! Is this the generation that we are creating? Are these the feelings we are making our children have by being a phone-obsessed generation? I want to choose different for my children. Tonight I asked my daughter this, "Does mommy spend too much or not even time on her phone?" In the same feeling as the children above, she said, "too much mommy." Even with a valiant attempt, I am still on or near my phone too much. I am so glad my 4-year, in her honesty, told me how she felt. It is a reminder of the greater thing in life--relationship. One day my daughter (and my sons for that matter!) will be grown, having her own friends, hopefully in college, and  working. She may be married. She might even move out of the state...so WHAT AM I DOING!?! Wasting theses precious moments in time tied to a "meaningless" device that brings great separation between me and those I love the most. Please, do not mishear me. I think phones are fantastic! I love snapping pictures, calling, connecting through messaging/FaceTime and even the ability to do a quick web-search. Brilliant...but when phones take the place of (or overshadow) important relationships and being present then this inanimate object has GOT to take the backseat.

Obviously, I still have a ways to go in this area (as convicting as my daughter's response was!). Yet today, victory! My phone's memory is full. If you asked those you love the same question, what would their response be?

Sabbath Summer: The Duality

In this day of age many sayings/cultural norms grant women the "right" to be who they want. Be independent! "Do anything you want," they say, "Make your path. Follow your heart."

Yet a life as a Christian (and a woman at that) tells a different story.

Here is what God is showing me (then I will tell you what this means to me):

  • I must be dependent on God not be independent as the world calls.
  • I am made with a purpose, gifted to be used by God. I can do what God has created me to do/become and within that there is great freedom as I press into the gifts and talents HE has given me.
  • Jesus said that HE is the way, the truth and the life. He IS the path so what path would I make for myself that would be any better than the one Christ has already made for me, specifically, and for us as collective believers.
  • The OT says that the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things (so why would I want to follow my own heart/desires?) Doing so could lead to death of sorts (physical, emotional, relational, financial, etc.).

These things I have been pondering durning the SS blog series. Since I don't teach at the university during the summer my attention has focused on God and supporting my family while healing from all the events of this past year. I have realized, once again, that I have began to lose a little more of who I am as an individual to become what the world wants me to be (what I think I should be...the epitome of fulfilling the stereotypical roles of a woman, wife, mother, working-professional, friend, neighbor...you get the picture). My focus has been on being the best wife I can be to my husband of eight years and the best mother I can be to my three children. In the mix of that, my focus has been on keeping our household afloat: dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, planning for my upcoming year of teaching, our upcoming year of ministry and thinking about/preparing for our fall schedule: preschool, ballet, swim and gymnastics lessons. My mind is like an Internet web browser with a million tabs open. Then I realized, in this process I have forgotten to dream a little, to set personal, achievable goals for myself. But, is it really that important?

The bigger question is who is God and what has HE created me to be and do.

I recently started a new bible study questing to deepen my relationship with God. Without this (my focus on Christ) as my foundation, I can do nothing. For in Him, I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28).

In this moment I am called to support my husband as we make some very big decisions about his work and other future possibilities on the horizon. I am called to submit to his leadership, as Christ describes in Scripture. I am to be supportive, be in prayer, offer my opinions and impressions and then let God do what God does best...direct our future. Of course, we are playing our part, yet ultimately God will prevail.

I put the needs of my children after the needs of my husband. How is their health? Do they have what they need to function in this world? Are their tummies full, minds thinking and bodies active? The needs of a 4-year old, 2 1/2 year old and 15-month old are vast yet each need is important to address. And even more important than all of those items mentioned above, how is their relationship with Christ? In what ways can I better re-present Christ and invite them into the most important friendship and partnership of all--with Christ! This is the second thing to occupy my mind.

The third is our household: what to cook... that is nine times a day (minus snacks) that these three mouths need food in them. NINE! (3 kids, 3 meals a day) The result is a lot of time in the kitchen: planning, prepping, serving, cleaning. In addition to potty-training and a lot of outside play, laundry during the summer seems to be a daily or bi-daily activity. In this, I can refocus on thanksgiving! So much sweetness comes from the kitchen. I am BLESSED to have such a time as this to serve my children and show them the practical love of Jesus.

Then comes service and friendships outside my nuclear family unit. It is in these sweet moments of connection with extended family, friends or another mother (or in meeting a need someone in the Body has), I am recharged, fulfilled and overjoyed to play a small but significant role in the lives of those Christ has called me to be in fellowship with. Putting feet to my faith.

There are other things that float in and out of my day and at the end of the day mostly "not thinking" after 7pm when hopefully all three kids are down for the night and my husband is working late, I reflect. I think of the sweet moments I had with my husband and with each kid. I survey my almost-clean house and smile as I imagine the leaps, giggles and squeals of a days worth of play. I glance to the dining room and thank God for the conversations around the dining table. I breath. I sigh. I rejoice. I am blessed. I usually then start to fold a load of clothes or put dishes away while a Netflix show runs in the background for noise sake. God, thank you for this complex life. This tension of duality: surrender and serve or selfishly pursue my own ambitions.

I pause...

My life is a JOY! God has blessed me with these three little humans, each one having grown so closely inside my womb and now He has grown them into these precious beautiful little people! The husband I serve works diligently at following the Lord, pouring all he can into our family and household while working at a very difficult and sometimes very emotional job. By His grace, we have a beautiful, cozy home that meets all of our needs and more. I love my profession as a university lecturer and find great satisfaction in teaching hundreds of students a year.

I pray all who reads this will reflect on the goodness of LIFE (Zoe) found only in HIM (the Creator). There are many tough days (and tough moments that create those days) but I am learning what matters is my foundation and my focus. "For in HIM, we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28.

Be blessed as you partake in His goodness for you, trusting that His ways and path are always the best.