Not ready…

This week, the husband and I are at the beach…kidless.  Yes, you heard right…sans children.  It’s been a great time to reflect and think in quiet, without interruption, without demands, without noise.  (And it’s been a fabulous time to sleep.  I have to mention sleep because I think I’ve done more sleeping in the past three days than in the past month.  I am a new woman.)

Over the past month, I’ve been boldly praying.  (See I Hate this Kind of Post for what spurred this season of prayer).  And honestly, I’ve been asking God for things and explaining to Him the good reasoning behind my requests.  It’s been a lame attempt to convince God of how good my desires really were…perhaps convincing myself more than Him.  Only today, as I sat in the morning hours on the balcony of our little one-room efficiency condo did I start to listen.  Sipping my coffee, I looked at the coastline of pop-up tents and umbrellas in the sand and began again with my “bold” prayers:

“Dear Jesus, I’ve been advised by godly counsel to ask boldly for the desires of my heart.  (See what I did there, I put the responsibility of my requests on others, just in case they are things I shouldn’t ask for…) And I’ve been talking to you a lot about those plans and dreams I’d like to see come to fruition.  (See God, look how faithful I am, how persistent, and deserving of your blessing…) Again, I’m going to ask for…”

And on went my list…

When I was being advised to pray boldly at the feet of the Father, no one prepared me to receive an equally bold answer.

“You’re not ready.”

It echoed in the newly emptied catacombs of my kidless, interruption-less, quiet and still cavernous mind.

I’m not ready…I’m not READY??…I’m NOT ready…Oh, dang…  

In Psalm 46:10, God makes a daring promise that in our stillness He is made known.  (“Be still and know that I am God”). In our quiet, He will show up.  In our listening, He will speak a bold word.

I just wasn’t ready for, “You’re not ready.”

Later in the morning, as I was lounging on my sticky purple plastic beach chair, sipping my sparkling water and eating a banana, I watched a nearby family.  Dad was lanky and covered in tattoos and mom donned bleach blonde dreadlocks.  Bold.  They were accompanied by a daughter, about age 7, and a son who looked to be about 3.  The father carried a long surfboard.  This, too, seemed bold.  We are at a Texas beach and as long as I’ve been a Texan (my whole life), I’ve only witnessed boogie boards in the Lone Star surf.  You’re not really going to catch a gnarly wave in the Gulf of Mexico. If you have a legit surfboard at a Texas beach, you probably have surfed somewhere else and know what you are doing.  It didn’t take long to ascertain this dad was not a novice surfer.

First, he took his daughter out to catch some waves.  She did an amazing job, first balancing using her dad’s shoulders then letting go to ride the foaming white all the way to the shore’s edge.  Her knees were bent, one foot in front of the other, her middle countering every tilt in the board’s rise and fall, and her arms stretched out to the sides.

The little three-year-old watched from the shore, eagerly awaiting his turn.  He was fearless, running into chest-deep water, nearly toppling over as the waves crashed against his miniature body.  No fear.  Tough.  Bold.  Eager.

Soon it was his turn for a surf lesson with daddy.  He climbed atop the board as if on horseback, his leg-span barely reaching from one side to the other.  He clung for life, chest pressed against the floating deck, fingers curled around its edges.  As a wave approached, his father quickly lifted him up to standing on the board, holding one hand and running in the water beside him.  His legs were stiff, his body straight as a tree hewn in a mountain forest.  His other arm lay flat at his side.  No buckling.  No give.  No bend.

Into the water he went, tree crashing.  He was bold.  He was tough.  He was fearless.  But he wasn’t ready.

I get it now.  In this quiet place of reflecting, void of chocolate milk and goldfish crackers, diapers and muddy floors, phone calls and FaceBook notifications, my bold prayer has been answered…with a bold word.  I am not ready.

I am not ready to receive the things of which I’ve been asking.  I’m not ready.  Though I didn’t realize my actions at first, I clearly see them now.  I have been bold.  I have been fearless.  I have been eager.  I’ve even been trusting of my Father.  But I have also been locked knee and rigid in my approach.  I’ve been resistant to any swaying of the current beneath me.  I haven’t had any give…any slack to the Spirit, any flex to my daily relationship with Jesus.

I’ve been trusting Him with the big picture end goal of surfing…but not with the daily practice of salt in my eyes and sand in my pants.

I haven’t been watching Him and His example, studying His every move and posture of balance.  I haven’t been trying his methods at home, when I rise or when I fall.  My hands have been palm-down at my side, unreceptive, unfeeling.  I’ve only been the eager one, wanting so much more than I am ready for.

My bold prayer now shifts.  Now, my request is not for the things, but to be made ready for them.

Father, you have marked my ways before I was even born.  I trust you with YOUR plans.  Please prepare me for them.  Help me to be open to your Word and your touch as you run beside me, discipling me and coaching me.  Make me pliable to your instruction and in sync with the movement of your Spirit as it guides the path marked out for me.  Make me your disciple and a good student of Your Word.  Bold.  Eager.  Ready.

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:6).

Lent: Day 20, 21, and 22…

Day 20: Trampolines

Spring Break is officially half spent. All we’ve done is sleep in and have people over. It’s time to get out. The kids have been begging to go to JumpStreet, a trampoline park. So we added trampolines to Lent.

The older three headed to the main section of the park while Judah and I hit the “7 and under” area. I put him down in front of the trampoline, took my seat on the floor against the wall, and told him, “jump.” He looked at me with an impish smile, looked back at the trampoline, and ran into my lap. I stood him up, pointed to one of the dozen inflatable balls lying around and again said, “Go…jump.” He got up and ran to get a ball that was in the middle of the trampoline, but abruptly stopped at its edge, curling his tiny toes to keep from falling.

He surveyed the land for a bit, walked over to the space in between the brightly colored trampolines, and slowly lowered one foot on its rigid surface. Then, he slowly walked, one foot strategically placed in front of the other, down the one-foot-wide green non-bouncy strip.  Like a tightrope walker, he methodically ventured. He paused as he came parallel to the ball in the center of the trampoline, the wheels turning in his mind to plan his next move. Just then, another toddler jumped on the opposite end of the trampoline, and wouldn’t you know it, the ball rolled directly into Judah’s little body. He looked back at me with amazement as he reached his short arms around that gigantic ball and pivoted on his solid path to make his way back to me.

As he walked, the large ball impaired his field of vision, blinding the two feet directly in front of him. As he neared the end of the green runway, he miscalculated the end of the trampoline and took a sharp left turn towards me. He caught the corner of the trampoline, running four little steps on it’s bouncy taut skin. Immediately, his 2-year-old body gained momentum and speed, and he instinctively rose to the tippy tops of his toes. His eyes were too large suns peering over the horizon of that big red ball. Before he knew it, he was back on the solid floor face to face with me. He lowered the ball, looked at me and said, “whoa.”

What joy he was missing walking along the safe edges of life. Me too! I never thought I’d be publicly thanking JumpStreet, but, yes, thanks is in order. I am grateful for the reminder that sometimes joy is just on the other side of risk. I can trust God that if he tells me to “jump” and go fetch a ball that lies in the middle of an ominous unstable place, He isn’t throwing me into danger. I can trust that He’s pushing me to experience new things and the fullness of life. whoa.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

Psalm 28:7


Day 21: windshield time

Today we headed to Austin. I love the space of green that exists along vast expanses of highway, in between the buildings and busyness of cities.

As we drove, the kids watched Finding Nemo and the adults had a chance to talk and catch up. I’ve been forced to ask some hard questions of myself lately, involving purpose and life goals. I have some decisions laid before me that require the investment of time and money, but first I need to know if that’s the path God wants me to walk down.  It was good to discuss my thoughts and feelings with someone who knows me like none other. It was enlightening to hear how he sees me and the purposes to which he thinks God has called me.

I’m thankful for a partner, for his insight, and his patience with his often confused and bewildered wife. We call these car ride conversations having ‘windshield time’. It was good to add this to Lent, to take the time to ponder and reflect on these questions. Processing my own goals while considering Jesus’ life and the purpose to which He was called, is humbling and recalibrating.  It’s also amusing to have the conversation with Dori in the background singing, “Just keep swimming…swimming, swimming, swimming…”

If God can speak through a donkey, he can use an animated fish, right?!

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”

Proverbs 27:9 

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

Proverbs 19:20 


Day 22: familiar places and faces

Today we visited Buda Elementary. When we were discussing our trip to Austin, the girls pleaded to go to recess at their previous school so they could see old friends. It happens to also be the school where The Well gathers every Sunday for church. It was surreal to be back, comforting to be “home”, yet sad to know that we would not be staying. It was just a year ago, over Spring Break 2014, that we piled into the moving van and relocated…how timely to be back for a visit.

Today we added familiar places and faces to Lent. In doing so, we treasured the past and gained hope for the future. We made sure to hug every familiar person and take in all the memories of the place…painting the paw prints on the sidewalks, Easter-egg hunts in the courtyard, and doughnuts by the nurses office, to name just a few.  I remember the first day of Kindergarten for our oldest, so many years ago, and worrying about leaving her with people I didn’t know. Now, I call them friends and trust those people more than ever. Recalling this makes me view our current home and surroundings in a refreshed light. One day, I will look back at this first year and remember the fear of starting a new adventure, only to bask in the love and memories that God is already fostering.  I’m excited for the new stories that He is writing–for us, for The Well, for Buda Elementary, and for our new family in Katy.

“O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”

Isaiah 25:1

And the yeast rises…

Yesterday was the first day of school.  The official introductory step over the threshold into Life After Rehab.  We’ve been building up anticipation for this event, buying school uniforms, backpacks, and those coveted new box of crayons.  The night before was full of anxiety and fierce emotion for the kids.  (Some children more contained than others.)  We recognized old patterns return.  We caught sober-mindedness fleeing the building.  We saw lots of kicking…

But somehow, through the insanity, as parents, we remained calm and level-headed.  That’s not to imply that we have mastered anything at all, but it did show some return from our rehab year.  More pointedly, it was the fruit of the Spirit that we witnessed.  Our stretch of Rehab has trained us, if even a little, in allowing the Spirit to assert His temperament over our own.  

So much anticipation…

This past weekend, I made monkey bread in preparation for Sunday morning.  The kids usually request doughnuts, because they know I’m a softy for fried sweetened gluten and special Sunday morning outings, especially when we are running late.  But in an effort to break the habit, I thought that I’d let sugared monkey bread dough rise over night in the oven so that I could quickly bake it in the morning.  I have a poor habit of never reading a recipe more than once.  If I’ve gotten the general idea of the dish from the first go around, I figure I will remember enough for the next time.  This usually works out well for me, except when baking.  You have to be precise and accurate with measurements of flour and yeast.  There’s a good deal of behind-the-scenes science and chemical reactions going on in that kitchen kiln, that I seriously should have learned by now not to leave any of that finite math to estimations. 

I’m a slow learner…

Sunday sunup, Ava had generously volunteered to surface early and turn on the oven to bake the monkey bread.  But when she opened the door to take the swelling dough out and let the oven pre-heat, this is what she discovered…

photo 4

Thank you, Daddy for thinking to take a picture. 🙂

The softened butter and crystalized brown sugar slid off off the rounded clouds of dough and sat on the floor of my embarrassingly dirty oven.  All that salty sweet bliss…sigh

Ava and I pulled the mess out and sat it on the counter.  We gently tugged at the gooey-ness and discarded the extra dough into another pan…no way we were wasting all that goodness!  As we nipped and tucked, no matter how gentle our efforts, air escaped from the bottled dough bulges.  

So much anticipation…

for that monkey bread.  Those 8 nighttime hours it sat in wait–rising, multiplying, gaining grandeur and fluff.  We all were looking forward to its butter-soaked delight at dawn.  What we found was not at all what we expected.  It was shocking.  It was profound.  It was super-sized.

Yesterday morning when we woke for school, I fully imagined the worst.  I don’t know if that designates me a horrible mom, or a prepared mom.  But what I observed was not at all what I anticipated.  The kids were all fed, dressed (including socks and shoes, which usually equates minor surgery), and smiling…early.  Yes, early.  We appeared at school and had to actually wait in the hallway because we were too early.  (“Early” happens even less than wearing socks and tennis shoes.)


Yeast is a peculiar thing.  This cooking agent that is so small, when given exactly the right ingredients (in the right proportions) develops into the amazing goodness that gives sustenance and satisfies the rawest of needs…hunger.  We had been craving for something in our family.  We had been hankering to taste that which satisfies, that surpasses the expectations of mere bread, that which bounds over the limits of American success.  Rehab taught us that only Jesus satisfies the appetite to live life to the fullest.  And like yeast, He comes in ways that we don’t expect and ways that we can’t prepare for.  He comes in forms that do not simply fill us, but overwhelm our tins with exciting and fantastic satisfaction.  Though we don’t set the menu, we still anticipate the meal He is preparing.  As we wait to encounter what He does for our children and for our family this next year, and the years beyond, we have no idea what He will do, or how He will do it.  But, we get to wait in suspense.  We get to watch the dough rise and fluff.  We get to smell the artisan bread waft through the house.  We don’t know yet what’s to come from this season, but it brings joy to watch the yeast double and swell.  It builds our enthusiasm and anticipation.

It’s difficult to see life’s dough topple over out of our plans and not tug and pull at it’s unexpected bobbles.  We like to control.  We prefer to help out with the plan God has already put into motion.  We love to amend the dimensions of the pan/plan and how long things should have to bake in the uncomfortable fire.  When we get pushy with the strategy of God we can puncture the thin skin on those delicate bubbles of dough.  He desires for us to marvel at the size and magnitude of our anticipation.  He wants us to experience the full goodness of those light and flaky layers once they are perfected in the baking.  When we implement our own program into His sovereign unknown providence, we steal our own glorious anticipation…the anticipation He desires us to marvel in.  We deny ourselves the fine and intricate pastry he’s prepared, and end up with chewy and dense life moments that ferment bitterness at where we’ve been and how we’ve lived…what hardships have been dealt our way.

Oh, I pray that we don’t get anxious for His blessings–that we don’t preemptively pop His bubble–that we don’t steal His thunder–that we don’t scheme to discover the plans for our own surprise party.  Until He serves up the monkey bread on his precise time table, I pray that we hold no expectations, but only hold our breath in joyous anticipation.  

Let the yeast rise…

An abundance of Water

Life has been crazy!  There is just no other way to say it, and yet it feels so understated and overstated all at the same time.  The raccoon has had ear infection after ear infection.  Last week, I attended a worship conference and was out-of-pocket at home.  Our weekends have been packed with all kinds of stuff and so the school week has been more recovery time than school time.    I have to remind myself that’s one of the reasons we are in Family Rehab–to recover.

A few weeks ago, Paul and the kids planted some grass seed in the backyard.  We have been in this house for a year, and finally, we got around to planting some seeds in the dirt wasteland of our sad backyard.  As luck (or God) would have it, the next day after sowing the seed, it rained.  It rained twelve inches.  The backyard was a swamp and those seeds were now floating and riding the flash flood waters.  As the water receded over the next couple of days and the sun eventually dried things out, we were amazed to see where new bright green grass was growing–in the front yard, next to the street curb and even across the street!  I began to wonder if the water could have defied gravity by flowing uphill in some areas.  It was amazing.  Cullen Country can thank the Goeke’s for supplying the block with some new grass.

Now, in the backyard, there was only a little grass growing under the hammock.  There was still a lot of dirt after our seeds had been displaced by the storms.  So, Paul went back to the store and sent the kids back out to sow.  The bluish-green seed sprayed against the muddy dirt did not look very promising to me.  And would you know it?  The next day, it rained again.

Today, as I look outside the window into the backyard, I actually see more bright green grass than dusty dry earth.  The second rain was just enough to soak the seed and nourish it, rather than send it to the neighbors.  Thank goodness.  When that second round of rain hit, we were sure we had wasted more money on seed.

All of this has reminded me of the parable of the sower.  So I went to the book of Matthew and read it again for a quick refresher, and this time, there were a few things that stuck out to me.  When Jesus tells this parable, He is sitting in a boat close to the shore.  This is interesting to me to think about the scenery as He was talking.  It sounds similar to the scenery of my water-logged backyard–water everywhere, no grass, just sand and dirt.  Why in this seascape setting, does Jesus talk about sowing seeds?  He told many parables throughout the 3 years of His ministry and on many occasions His “lessons” were hands-on, or used the setting or situation He and His disciples were in. It’s at least interesting as I read the story now, in light of our floating seed that He told His parable in the abundance of water.  (Hold on to that thought.)

He goes on to tell how the sower scattered the seed on different types of soil–the path, rocky ground, thorns, and good soil.  The seeds didn’t thrive due to birds and the plants didn’t survive due to shallow soil, the scorching sun, or the choking weeds.  Nowhere does Jesus mention torrential downpour.  So, I start to think that there is no lesson to be learned from our deep-shade-grass-seed and our abundance of water.

Then it hit me–abundance of water.  The issue with our seed, was not a disparaging soil situation.  The issue with our seed was an abundance of water.  We have good soil in the backyard, and apparently in the front yard, across the street, and up the mounds of construction dirt nearby.  The seed was having no issue taking root, being eaten by woodland creatures, or being overrun by thorny bushes.  The seed was thriving–just in the wrong place!  Or, should I say, in the wrong place according to me.

God’s divine plan goes outside the fenced boundaries of my backyard goals and desires.  He has given me seed to plant–the story of His love.  He wants me to sow without discretion–to spill over with blue-green Gospel.  He doesn’t want me to worry about how much money has been spent on seed, because His supply is endless.  If I am faithful with the seed He provides,  He does the work of sending it where it should go.  On the floodwaters of His Holy Spirit, He carries anything that I have to offer, to the places and people He wants it to go.  There is a lot of good soil out there.  There are a lot of people with hearts that ache and yearn to be unconditionally loved.  The question for me, the lesson for me, is am I willing to let God take His Gospel where He wills it?

The seed we planted was genetically altered and manufactured to grow in deeply shaded areas like our backyard.  It was designed to grow where the sunshine is weak and light is scarce.  But, God moved that seed into the bright areas of the street, where there is virtually no shade, no cover.  I like to think that God has created me with specific talents and gifts–that I am created to sow seeds of His love in certain areas, using certain strengths and giftings that He has given me.  But, what if He wants to carry me somewhere else–somewhere I feel I am not made to grow–to thrive?  What if He wants to carry me across personal boundaries into areas that don’t provide cover from things that could potentially scorch me?  What if He wants me to be uncomfortable and away from my hammock of preference?

I am, after all, His little seed in a wide scattering of His people.  I am, after all, created not just with a genetic disposition towards certain styles of growth or purpose.  I am created with the overarching purpose to serve Him, to glorify Him, to sow seeds of the Gospel for Him.  I am created foremost, above all else, to love Him and seek Him.  We love because He first loved us.  And so, I love Him and the people around me, in response to all He has done for me.  I freely give Him my life, my devotion, my control.  I say “freely” not because it’s easy to do so, but because I don’t “owe” Him anything.  He gave His life for me not so that I would be indebted to Him to do what He wills.  He gave His life for me freely, and so I give all that I have to Him freely.

Even though it is hard to put aside my own plans for a lush backyard oasis, with a hammock, some shade, and the occasional margarita, I can trust that what He has for me, where He moves me with His Holy Spirit, comes from the same love that provided me with all that I currently have.  If He loves me enough to give up His heavenly oasis, to come to a dirt-filled wasteland, on my behalf, He loves me enough.  He gave up a heavenly throne, to be a king that was mocked and spit upon.  He gave up His righteousness, to die for my sinfulness.  He gave up so much of His divine giftings and talents for me.  All so I could have access to an abounding source of grace–a sower’s seed bag overflowing with grace.  There is so much that it can be spread over and over again, after sin-filled flood after flood, and take root in my heart time and time again.  His grace is unending.  His love unfailing.  His mercy everlasting.  If He wills through the waters of His Holy Spirit to push me up mounds of dirt, defying the laws of physics–my self-written laws and limitations of my personal capabilities–then I can remember that His grace is sufficient.  His provision to give me deep fertile soil will not go away.

Back to an abundance of water…(still holding that thought?)  He does not leave me.  In the same way that there was an abundance of water as He told the parable from that boat, and in the same way, that there was an abundance of rain on our drought-forsaken land, He pours an abundance of the Holy Spirit onto every situation.  He doesn’t command me to scatter seed and then turns His face from me.  He provides the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It might be rocking my boat at times.  It might be carrying my plans down the street and out of my control.  But He doesn’t leave me.  His Spirit is not just an all-consuming force that changes my plans.  His Spirit allows new things to grow and thrive.  His Spirit provides direction for new paths and plans, that I would have never imagined on my own.

As Jesus was telling the crowds the parable of the sower, He sat in a boat that was floating on abundance.  Most likely, as the people listened to Him talking about seeds and thorns and dirt, they weren’t thinking about the need for water to make a seed grow.  But, we all know water is necessary in the process of seed germination.  Most likely, the people were not looking at Jesus on the water, and seeing the abundance that sat before them–the never-ending supply of salvation and restoration found in Jesus.  He was watering them with the “secrets of heaven”.  When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, this was His answer:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. ”

Not everyone in the crowd understood that Jesus indeed was their Savior.  Not everyone who saw Him in the boat that day, understood that right there, in front of them, was grace overflowing.  I don’t always see the water over the plans of my heart as grace abundant and provision of the Holy Spirit.  I don’t always get it.  I don’t always understand what Jesus is explaining and how He is moving.  But, occasionally, I do see that His overwhelming flood waters that stir up my backyard plans, are providing growth opportunities in unexpected areas.  I see the movement in His kingdom and the power of His love being revealed to people who don’t ever step foot into my backyard.  He doesn’t long for any of us to stay in the dark.  He wants us all to know Him and to receive the abundance that He has for us.  We all need Him.  We all need his unconditional love.  Whether we admit it or not, we all desire to understand it–to get it.

“Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.  Hear then the parable of the sower:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.  This is what was sown along the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.  As for  what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it.  He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

My prayer is that the seed of grace is firmly rooted in my heart, and in the hearts of those around me.  I pray that I don’t miss the abundance of grace that is flooding my world, no matter how far it scatters my plans.  I pray that I allow for the Holy Spirit to guide where the seeds I have been gifted with are planted, and that I willingly let them go where He wills.  I pray that I trust His provision and sufficiency, that no matter where I fall, He has the power to bear fruit in and through me.  I pray for those who are stuck on a path where the Truth is stolen from them.  I pray for those who are living with shallow roots and falling away because things are getting hard.  I pray for those who are living among the thorns of worldly success and striving for financial gain, because those things choke out the only thing that can really satisfy.  I pray that God sends His flood waters to move all the deeply shaded seed to good soil–that He nurture and feed and cause new life to grow in all of us.