Tuesday, December 31, 2013

75: if we are faithless...

I could feel my soul drinking it up, subtly, softly.

Don't they say that is how it always is when you are going to teach a Bible lesson? God teaches you too.

I was preparing to teach Sunday School. A lesson about Jesus walking on water.

The summary statement on the assigned sheet of paper read, "Through this lesson, children will learn that there will be times in life when our faith is tested. Life will not always be easy, and we will need to let our faith in God help keep us afloat during the difficult times in our lives."

I have been utterly overwhelmed with my job. It isn't fun to feel like a failure week after week. To feel like no one really understands. To not know what to do and wish giving up was an option.

The memory verse was Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I'm sure as I read that verse in preparation I thought, "I can't."

On Sunday morning I asked the children for prayer requests. As they gave them I heard myself reply, "Can you do that? Can you fix that? No. So we need God to do it."

I heard myself say that no one can strengthen us like Jesus. Parents and teachers can, but not like Jesus. Only God can read our thoughts, know our feelings, know exactly what we need. And have the power to do it.

I heard myself say that even though Peter lost faith in Jesus, looked out at the waves and began to sink, Jesus still caught him by the hand and lifted him up.

So I came home, and even though I had no faith that things would work out, definitely no faith that I could do all things, even through Him, not even any faith to pray and expect miracles to happen anymore, I quieted my soul and let Jesus know that I still believe in His power and am willing to have my hand caught by His as I am sinking, if He will.

One of my favorite verses:
"If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself."
2 Timothy 2:13

Friday, December 27, 2013

74: put down the list, shut up, and get to know the person

I saw this on Facebook and thought, "THAT is what I was about to post about!"

In The Surrendered Single, the author encouraged me to put down my list, shut up, and listen.

I've noticed that I have adopted (or maybe I've always had) a bad habit of coming up with ways to make people better. Or rather, I think, "If So-and-So would do this...and this...and that...then they wouldn't rub me the wrong way." And if they don't rub me the wrong way, then they will be a better person!

Now I don't always offer my unsolicited advice, but sometimes I do, or sometimes, when I have been recently rubbed awry, I mull over and over in my head how the offender could fix certain personality quirks or character deficiencies to be perfect.

Ie. so that they will never offend me and cause interpersonal conflict between us ever again.

Skipping past the self-centeredness of that thought for the time being, I've been attempting to try on a life-transforming new habit:

Accepting people for who they are.

Oh, isn't that such an overused phrase these days!

What I mean though is getting to know the person for the person, including their tendencies that make me cringe or feel less than blissful, and dropping the list of perfection that I unconsciously hold up as the solution to all their social woes.

There is a place for sanctification, for self-betterment, for critique, rebuke, criticism, and a dose of motherly advice.

But what would happen if I stopped measuring prospects by a list, stopped thinking I could fix people by them changing, and started getting to know people in their entirety, faults and all, and accepting the whole being, accepting the whole being without offering my list of ideas for improvement in exchange?

I might like who I become.

Alia Joy wrote a piece on Kindred Grace that more or less relates to what I just wrote. Check out the link!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

poetic distraction (x)

I bought a thin blue poem book the other day. I'm not a poetry girl, but this one was quaint and published in 1924, and I want to be a poetry girl.

The following page just hit me between the eyes. And since I had nothing else to write about, I thought I'd share it (because it's too long to share in a FB status!).

The Mountain Woman

Among the sullen peaks she stood at bay
And paid life's hard account from her small store.
Knowing the code of mountain wives, she bore
The burden of the days without a sigh;
And, sharp against the somber winter sky,
I saw her drive her steers afield each day.

Hers was the hand that sunk the furrows deep
Across the rocky, grudging southern slope.
At first youth left her face, and later, hope;
Yet through each mocking spring and barren fall,
She reared her lusty brood, and gave them all
That gladder wives and mothers love to keep.

And when the sheriff shot her eldest son
Beside his still, so well she knew her part,
She gave no healing tears to ease her heart;
But took the blow upstanding, with her eyes
As drear and bitter as the winter skies.
Seeing her then, I thought that she had won.

But yesterday her man returned too soon
And found her tending, with a reverent touch,
One scarlet bloom; and, having drunk too much,
He snatched its flame and quenched it in the dirt.
Then, like a creature with a mortal hurt,
She fell, and wept away the afternoon.

--Du Bose Heyward, Skylines and Horizons

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

73: why I need to spend time with teenage homeschoolers

Remember when you were a teenager?

Remember how idealistic you were?

Remember how you knew what was right and what was wrong and how to carry the torch for righteousness against a flood of naysayers?

A decade later I'm thinking I need to spend some more time with that generation again. I need to be re-inspired by those who haven't been affected by what is to come.

We need older people for their wisdom and testimonies.

We need younger people for their passion for holiness.

And then somehow to be a compilation of both. :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

72: rotic nonsense*

This evening I did something that has become rare. I curled up on the couch and read and read and read. Kellie from Nothing Less leant me one of the books she reviewed: Dear Mr. Knightley. I'm pretty sure it's a spin-off of Daddy Long Legs, which I read two years ago, but this version is wonderfully scintillating. Anyway, I sat on the couch bundled up, with my dog at my feet, absorbed in Sam's world.

I read the scene where she and Kyle write everything out--all their real-life nightmares of their time in the foster system, life with abusive parents, all the secrets that have held power over them. (I was reminded why I want to be a foster parent--to make a difference and be different.)

I'm e-mailing a guy right now. And my natural inclination as the days pass for him to respond is to create a false intimacy between us. We've only exchanged, what, three e-mails maybe?

I'm assuming all girls do, but sometimes I crave the intimacy of--how to word this--almost like a diary/therapist combined. Someone to assuage the feather twirling around in the air, tossed on every wind, and to help bring it back softly to earth.

But I can't assume that with a stranger, can I? I have to be patient. I have to stand back. I have to force myself to let things progress at a natural pace.

I'm not naturally patient with things like this.

So I decided to blog instead. Because I want to communicate with someone, and a blog seems more readable than a journal entry that only I will read.

Does any of this make sense? Probably not. But when you've been romantically reading late on a wintry night, it's less about rationality and more about feelings.

And in the end, I can talk things out with God. And when I do, I feel just as comforted, if not more so, than I would with an infinite human.

*rotic: romance without the man

Thursday, December 12, 2013

71: more on our favorite topic

Before my friend was engaged (yes, it does still happen...to people like us even), she ruminated that filtering through prospects had less to do with finding the right guy and  more to do with choosing what life you wanted to have. One wasn't worse than another. She could equally enjoy a hippie wedding or a traditional one. But when you say "I do," you narrow your options to one life. That is okay. It just means you don't have to wrack your brain anymore figuring out what you want--you want to be happy with your husband.

Today I visited the Bass Pro store for the first time. It is like toyland for men! Mounted mountain goats and deer and wolves and who-knows-what are everywhere, climbing the walls, decorating the stairs. Live fish swim in a real pond in the middle of the store with manikins in waders fly-fishing among them. Two stories of camouflage for men, women, and children surround you (including camo onesies and camo lingerie--I kid you not).

And I thought, this is so cool.

I could marry a guy that liked this kind of stuff.


The guy who works in finance, lives in the state capital, and enjoys concerts and theatre.

The guy who wants to spend his honeymoon backpacking Europe.

The guy who wants to be an Assemblies of God missionary.

(Did I mention I joined Christian Mingle for one more month?)

Different guys, different lives.

Door One, Two, and Three. Which life will be the one for me?

Camo lingerie with an arsenal of weapons under the bed or high heels and red lipstick for the latest Broadway show?

Tho I'll admit, there's a fine line between cool camo and redneck camo.

And I'm really not a red pumps and lipstick kind of girl either.

But as I'm learning, it's not about the list. It is about loving an in-the-flesh guy and wanting to spend the rest of your life with him. Right? Right.

*sits at computer and stares at screen*

Saturday, December 7, 2013

70: why I need the OT

The Old Testament gets a lot of flack.

I mean, you've got the Law.

And genealogies.

And prophecies that require an M. div to understand.

But I desperately need the Old Testament.

Because in it, I see the heart of God.

Because through it, God has shown me His love like He never had before.

The theme runs throughout. God blesses His people blessing upon blessing, lifts her out of the mire, clothes her, gives her food and jewels, and what does she do? She uses those blessings to go play the harlot with God's enemies, brazenly rejecting Him and pursuing others. God warns, God punishes, God pleads. And the theme, always the theme, is "return to Me." Return and all will be forgiven. Return and I will call you a virgin even! And as He's punishing them for their sin, turning them over to their enemies, fulfilling His promised consequences, He is also guaranteeing judgment on the nations who are taking advantage of His people and saying that one day His people will come back to Him and be pure in His sight.

Because it is all for the glory of His name. Because He is not going to let them go. Because even though she has openly committed adultery and prostitution, not by need or deception, but willfully, He still just wants her back.

That kind of love is unfathomable.

That is the kind of love I needed all the Old Testament to understand.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

69: letting go of control

I picked up The Surrendered Single by Laura Doyle at a library sale for 50 cents. A secular book on relationships? Really? But, throwing caution to the wind (or maybe just preparing myself to read with a grain of salt), I bought it and began reading. Every turn of the page was a mindblower. This book is spot-on!

Now that I'm 120 pages in of the 297, I can say there are a few things I'm not sure if I agree with. But the overall concept is almost . . . Scriptural.

The premise? The desire to be in control is preventing women from "attracting and marrying the man who's right for you" (as the subtitle says).

So here are some chapter titles and what I've been learning in each.

Surrender to Your Desire to Be Happily Married

"Dishonoring your desire to get married is a way of protecting yourself from disappointment and trying to avoid becoming dependent," writes Doyle. "Denying what you want is a way of controlling your desires so that you can ward off the fear, disappointment, and humiliation" (p33).

Give Up the Idea of the Perfect Man
"As we all know, no one is perfect. . . . A checklist [ie. the list of qualities you want in a guy] is a suit of armor that protects you from having to face your fears . . . . As long as it's never met--and it won't be--you don't have to risk your heart. Keeping your checklist is a way to stay invulnerable" (42).

It's also a way to stay in control by "dictating the qualities of an acceptable future mate" (43).

That's not a relationship.

At least, not with another (messy) human being.
And boy, am I guilty of that! I can't even decide what should be on the checklist because I don't know what I would be most happy with and what I think is perfect. I want to control all those factors so I will be incandescently happy, don't you know.

Stop Male-Bashing and Start Admiring Men.
The title says it all. Male-bashing is rather "counterproductive" (50).

Flirt with Every Man You See
Ok, don't gasp! She calls it "flirting," but really it's just being friendly and making a point to smile at men.
How many times do I on-purpose avoid eye-contact with a passing male or purposefully don't smile just so I don't give him the wrong impression or encourage him or make him think I'm open to conversation?
It's a habit!
How is a man ever supposed to get through my stonewall?
"[W]e know that smiling can lead to the unexpected, and the unexpected often makes us feel as if we are out of control, and that makes us nervous" (59).
So I just shut down any conversation before it starts. Just to be on the safe side.
Well, that's attractive.

Receive Graciously
Be a gracious receiver of gifts and compliments.
"Part of what makes receiving difficult is that we are not controlling what is offered, so any time something comes our way unexpectedly, we feel vulnerable . . . .When you refuse a compliment or a material gift, you are taking control of the situation" (p114-115).
That hit me right between the eyes.
Women are designed to be receivers, but, somehow, owning up to who we are makes us (me) feel vulnerable. Accepting what we feel we don't deserve makes us feel out of control. And so I take control and try to push the guy out of the way by not receiving graciously.
That's it for now. My hope is that the Lord will use these thoughts to sanctify me--tear off my desire for control as I simultaneously learn to trust Him--so that I can trust the Lord in more areas of my life and become the kind of woman who will be a blessing to her husband.
And hopefully learn how to do the process of getting a husband a little better. *smile*