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).

The pounding of the discontentment train…

Last night I couldn’t sleep.  My heart and mind was wrapped around a lifetime of insecurity and fear.  In the middle hours of the night, I found my thoughts resting on a lonely island of imperfections and doubts, surrounded by a typhoon of the enemy’s lies.

I know I’m not alone.  The devil’s been brewing up these kind of storms for thousands of years and he isn’t jumping off that train anytime soon.  I’d bet that men and women all over the country shared in my insomnia and self-loathing thoughts last night.  The tracks of that railroad are digging pathways into the hearts and minds of most people.

We aren’t enough.  

We don’t have enough.

It is an overwhelming and intrusive throbbing when that freight train comes to town.  I don’t prefer hanging out on the deserted island of misfits, overrun by hot-steamed engines on a race to wreck my soul.  I’d rather be experiencing thankfulness and joy…maybe even contentment? (If it’s not asking too much.)

My struggle is the same endless stuff of humanity: idolatry.  I think that if my garage were wider, my pocketbook fuller, my silhouette curvier, my schedule free-er, my attitude brighter, my thoughts wiser, my body younger, my energy less ‘tired-er’…life would be better!  And to some degree, life would get ‘better’.  Yet, it still wouldn’t satisfy.  It still wouldn’t fulfill.  ‘Better’ is a lousy substitute for ‘fulfilled’.  Why do I settle?

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore…they are what I’m seeking in all those other things.  Joy and pleasure are what sit at the door of all those other desires and ‘needs’.  They are knocking and tapping out a rhythm on my heart that drums into my veins, pulsing and driving my every movement, my every turn.  They are the undercurrent in hot pursuit of something to fill the void in their beat.  I have tried to fill in the pauses of their cadence with worldly ideals and definitions of perfection, only to be off-beat.  When I try to meet joy and pleasure with these idols I am either rushing or lagging behind.  I never sync with their rhythm, always slightly early or late.

All these other things never satisfy, no matter how often they promise to fulfill. They will never click into the track of true joy and pleasure.

It is only in His presence that the path is made known, where joy and pleasures forevermore walk in step beside Him.  Here, with Him, a solid march is found.  Here, with Him, the tempo of my heart finds its dance and settles into the peaceful rocking of His arms.  When I am with Him, there is no gap in the song.  There is no space to be filled.  There is no need to search for missing cogs.  Nothing lacks.  He is enough.  Whether I think I am enough or not, He is enough.  For in this world, perfection will never be met.  In the midst of my imperfection, He provides contentment.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul continues to challenge me with his satisfaction despite circumstances: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”  This world will never give me all that I want, so why do I pout late at night about not getting it, and fantasize of a day when God will ‘bless’ me with it?  It makes no sense…like a clarinet in a heavy metal band…playing in 7/8 with the guitarist in 4/4…squeaking eighth notes on a high F# while the band plays in a roaring Eb.  It’s not cohesive.

It doesn’t make sense.

If I say I trust in Jesus, I need to trust Him with everything.  My faith in Him should be consistent.  If I believe in Him, I should also believe in His promises.  If I rest in His salvation, I should rest in His daily satisfaction.

My prayer:

God, bring me into your presence, where the satisfaction of being with you sings louder than the desires of this world banging at the door.  Make your satisfaction a real thing in my heart.  Help me to see myself how you see me.  Help me to live and think in sync with your will, your path, and your love…without gap or need because all my imperfection and flaws are filled with You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lent: Day 37, 38 and 39…


37: garage sale 

Our neighborhood held its annual garage sale this morning.  The streets were packed with cars and bargain hunters.  We were on the lookout for two armed chairs to complete our dining room table set.  We never found any, but we did come across something we didn’t even know we needed…an old school desk.  Once we brought it home, it was immediately put to use by the kids.  Who knew we needed this desk?  I guarantee that this buy has already been used more in one day than the chairs we were looking for would have been used in an entire year.

I think of all the times I am searching and praying to find particular objects, circumstances, or opportunities, and God has something completely different in mind for me.  Sometimes I wonder why I even look to begin with if I’ve got the wrong shopping list in hand!  But if I had never gone perusing down the block for dining chairs, I’d never noticed the desk.  I think God gives us desires to get us simply out of the house.  He places things on our hearts to just get us off the stinkin’ couch, only to lead us to the things we really need and can truly benefit from.  I don’t know if I’d gone through all the trouble of navigating the busy and congested streets of our neighborhood for one old schoolhouse chair.

I wonder what other special finds God has sitting in someone’s driveway for me…and you?  We’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled.

 “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.”

Psalm 146:8


38: celebration

Today we celebrated my niece’s First Communion and the wedding of a dear friend.  It was a day full of celebration.  What a wonderful thing to add to Lent.  It’s not too often that we associate celebration with Lent.  However, today was also Palm Sunday, a day marked with joyous celebration.

When the people waved their palm branches as Jesus entered the city, they had no idea how their hearts and cheers were going to shift in a week’s time.  Did that lessen their praise?  Did Jesus hear, “hosanna!” and think to himself, “yeah, right, just wait and hear what you’ll say to me on Friday…”?  I don’t think so.  I think Jesus lived in the moment.  I think He received the praise and honor from the people.  I think He knew what was coming, but He also was riding on that donkey fully taking in every face He saw, every song He heard.

I tend to worry through even the good times–worrying about what’s to come, never fully taking in the moment. Even at this wedding full of good friends, beautiful weather, and yummy cake, every time I paused to consider what a great time I was having, I immediately thought of the 3-hour drive home and the early morning battle to get to school on time.  It was such a joy-kill.

I pray that I learn to live in the moment with joy and celebration.

 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 16:11


39: bad math

So I realized today that somehow my Lenten math is off.  I thought today, Monday, was the 39th day of Lent.  Then a google search revealed that the official 40th day of Lent is Thursday, April 2nd.  I’m totally boggled about where I went wrong!  Oh, well!  I will take this as a gift from God.  Now, I’ve got till Thursday to write the my last Lenten post.  Thank you, Jesus!  Because honestly, I’m tired and have a cold, and all I want to do is sleep. There’s really no point in hiding it.  We all feel apathetic and tired at some point.  His grace covers even those emotions, and it it sufficient for them.  There’s no need to feel guilty or to bear shame because I’m not feelin’ it today.

Thank you, Jesus, for releasing me from guilt and bad math.

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

John 1:16 

Day 32 & 33…

Day 32- clean sheets and pork

Today when I woke up, I decided it was time to wash the sheets.  I started with the baby crib, because of course he would need to use it again before any of the rest of us.  Next, my sheets.  Why?  Because I am selfish.  There is nothing worse than looking forward to clean linens when you are headed to the bedroom, only to remember you left them in the washer all day soaking wet.  I wanted to avoid that happening to me at all cost, even if it meant someone else had to spend another night on dirty sheets.

As my sheets were in the dryer, I was preparing dinner. (Yes, you did the math correctly, there are a lot of missing hours in there…I may have gotten a little distracted.) We were making pizza and I was frying up some Italian sausage.  I love me some pork.  As I was browning the deliciousness, I thought about the Old Testament law that forbid eating pig.  What, dear Lord, were you thinking?

Then, I thought about how that all changed when Jesus came and Peter had that vision about eating unclean animals.  (It was really all about Jesus accepting all of us people, the Jew and the Gentile, but whatever….)  Oh, sweet Jesus came and gave us back “the other white meat!”  Ava has a shirt that says, “BACON…another reason I know Jesus loves me.”  Oh, yes. Yes, he does.

Pork is great.  Pork chops, bacon, tenderloin, pork roast, carnitas…even pork rinds…all good.  What is even better is that Jesus made the unclean clean.  The freedom acquired by His sacrifice on the cross allows us all kinds of good things, including forgiveness, a clean record,  and new life.  Just like my dirty sheets rolling in the dryer, we have all been given a fresh start, a clean slate.  There is nothing like it…well, except maybe sliding into a clean bed with a full belly.  AMEN.

“And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ ” 

Acts 11:7


 

 Day 33- Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff was in Houston this morning promoting his book, Do Over, and offering a short discussion and networking opportunity called “Do Over Club.”  The New York Times best-selling author really challenged me in his approach to opportunity and risk, and especially self-promotion.  He said when we do something awesome, we should tell people about it.

WHAT?!?!

That is really, really hard for me!  Out of fear of not being humble, I keep my mouth shut about most of what I do that turns out well, (even if it’s finally getting the right number of seconds on the microwave, finding that perfect medium between lukewarm hotdog and wiener explosion).  I am more inclined to talk about how I could improve, try harder, or just be different.  I was encouraged by his upbeat, fearless, and carefree attitude.

In the spirit of taking risks and jumping into opportunities, I gave him a copy of my book, A Girl and Her Warhorse.  I discovered that I wasn’t completely at a loss for words, which was surprising, but also that my deodorant is not meeting-best-selling-author-proof.  He may not read it, which I’m secretly praying for, because that means all risk is void and nothing is lost.  When I consider him actually opening it, I start to panic and freak.  What if he thinks it’s stupid?  Not well written?  Boring?

And then I remember, (again), that I’ve got to just trust Jesus.  I need to lean on what He has done for me through this process.  My relationship with Jesus is deeper due to writing this book. God may have done all of this–led me down this path–just for His pursuit of my heart.  I pray that He uses the book to foster the same intimacy for others, but if it’s just for me…I can be happy with that.

So thank you, Jon Acuff.  Unknown to you, I added you to Lent.  Thanks for encouraging us and softening the awkwardness of taking leaps of faith.  I will just keep walking through the doors in front of me, in fear, yes, but jumping through them.  I will apply lots of hustle and jump a little more.  I’ll just keep smiling and rejoicing at the awkwardness that ensues.  I’m feeling a flip in my heart when it comes to this journey.  Thank you.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

Psalm 40:3

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