Friday, September 18, 2009

Potentially Nonsensical Thoughts from my "Journal"

***Warning: this is long and originally not intended to be a blog posting. I was just processing through thoughts on my own and only through that felt it should be shared. Additional “warning notes” at the bottom***

Something, or someone really, is stirring up my heart. It feels as though a swoop of wind has turned it about and dust is swirling in the air. You know, when it almost looks like a mini dirt tornado? Or at least I used to think of that as a kid. Anyway, all that to say, something is brewing.

Lately, I’ve been trying to evaluate “how I’m doing” with God and whether I’m in his will. It’s something I think about periodically and never quite have a good grasp on what the answer would look like. I mean really, what does “doing well with God” look like? In my mind I think it’s being problem-less and happy. But that’s not Scriptural. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds... (James 1:2) So then I think maybe it’s when I feel complete comfort and have hit an obligatory “plateau” like the American Dream. Again, not Scriptural. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15) Okay, so maybe I have to sell everything I own and move to live in a hut before doing well? Or something entirely different? I really don’t know.

And then I thought, why do I have to have a measure for what this looks like? I am not God, I do not know where he is taking me in this life. If I am daily laying my life at his feet, holding the pieces of this world with open hands, and pursuing him wholeheartedly, how am I to say that is not what “doing well with God” looks like? We are so quick to create comparisons to determine how and where we stand, whereas God does not compare us to anything except perfection, which we failed miserably on. But thankfully because of Jesus, he does not see my failures and instead sees a broken person covered in the perfect blood of his son.

So then I thought, how am I doing with pursuing righteousness, living open handed, humbling myself before him, and loving others? Enter irksome feeling in my heart. Why? Because I do not often enough follow Moses’ instructions to watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol… (Deuteronomy 4:15-16) I, instead, am like the Israelites who got bored thinking Moses had disappeared with God and decided to make a calf to worship. Our hearts are created to worship something and if God is not holding that place firmly, we will naturally sway to something else. Always. In discussing these concepts and passages during small group Wednesday in the context of trials (studying James this semester), sweet Anna said she was drawn Moses’ urging to watch yourselves very carefully. Coupling that with the knowledge that we will have trials is very profound.

Okay, so how on earth do I pull my heart that is prone to wander back to God? How do I take my somewhat spontaneous, inconsistent, non-planner-like self and maintain consistency? How do I make myself pursue God when I’m so tired and just want to enter the world of slumber? I don’t know. Except, that it takes grace and forgiving myself when I do fail as opposed to internally beating myself up to the point where I don’t have the energy or desire to focus the next time.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been drawn to the story of a girl who gave up her conventional, American life to live for God and love others in Africa. My friend Sarah introduced me to her story and in reading how God is working in her life, began to compare myself and feel useless and ineffective. And a mix of jealousy for her calling and fear that I could be called to this life. As I wandered around over lunch today, thoughts were swimming in my head and God whispered quietly that I am not to compare myself to her or anyone. I should be challenged and encouraged by her story, but mine is different.

So, what IS my story? Am I living it? Am I living it well in a way that God will one day say “well done my good and faithful servant” in the way that I so hope and pray? Yes, I love on and serve my precious girls, but is there more I should be doing? Do I focus too much on me, spend too much time with friends, artsiness, music, entertainment, etc etc etc? Am I missing the point? I desperately want these sorts of words to be said about me and not for my fame, but to know that I truly opened myself up to the point where God shined SO brightly through me that these words would be true:

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

I truly do not know the answers to those questions. To be honest, I have an extremely difficult time “evaluating” myself as I tend to see the negative, the sin, the ugliness. I hear the lies being whispered in my ears and strive to shut them up, but they weasel their way back in through the form of doubt. But I think about some aspects of myself that are drastically different than before, even just a year ago. I have shared tough, ugly things about myself with people; women in community, CR, my girls. This is NOT of me as I prefer to bottle it all up and put on a somewhat smiley face. This is one huge aspect of growth in my life.

But it’s not enough for me. I don’t want it to stop here. I want to pour out every single solitary last ounce of myself for Jesus. For others. I want my life to count for him and only him. I want for people to not see me, but instead see Jesus shining through me. And I am not saying this lightly as I know the magnitude with which God moves and his hatred toward lukewarmness. No matter how hard, difficult, uncomfortable, or painful this may be, I know it will mean I am in Jesus’ hand, in God’s will. Making a difference for him.

I don’t really know what this looks like or where God will take me. One passion God has given me (which is hopefully quite obvious to most of you) is for his young girls to know him and pursue him. To shepherd their hearts, teach and learn about his word with them, and to use myself, my sins, my struggles, and any other aspect of me he chooses to encourage their hearts. The last of which I never thought would occur to the degree with which it has, but that’s what happens when I open myself up to God. I get that irritatingly uncomfortable heart racing and full-body heat which is the Holy Spirit encouraging me to share. And Praise Him for not allowing it to return void as anytime I’ve opened myself up, he has filled it back with girls who need encouragement and to not feel alone, or something else entirely.

So, with that and after my bit of rambling I end and thank you for bearing with me. As I said in my intro, I had no intention in sharing this as a blog post. I was just writing and thinking. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I thought there could be an element of encouragement to someone out there. Someone with whom God could use my words to speak to their heart or, if nothing else, as another way for me to become more transparent. I will say, in an attempt to keep this raw and how it flowed from my heart through my fingers, I did not re-read anything. So, please forgive me if you get confused, read bad grammar, or find my thoughts confusing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Group - Be Here

One of my favorite things to do is listen to music in my car and sing. I pretend no one can see me and just belt it out (which I’m sure plenty of folks have pointed at me and laughed, but I could care less). There’s a road between Austin and my parents house through the “country” that is my most favorite place to blast music. It was my road home while in college and I tended to drive it at night. Night is by far my favorite time to drive, thereby my favorite time to sing.

Monday night my small group co-leaders and I met to catch up and chat through the year. Times with them are always so encouraging and I left the frigidly cold Starbucks full of warmth thinking about the great things God has in store for the year, be it times of difficulty or times of ease, it’s all in his hands. I’m sure many of my student ministry friends would share my sentiment in this, but I am often asked by others how I spend the time and energy I do with my girls. They are shocked to hear I have been in their lives since seventh grade, meet with them multiple times a week, pray for them, spend weekends on retreats with them, etc. My answer is easy as it is a joy, and each one of our precious girls are enfolded into the fabric of my life. I know God uses me, but he has used each of them in great ways as they learn more about him, encourage and love one another, pursue righteousness, embrace authenticity, experience rough times with grace, and trust. I am constantly praising God for his works in their lives and for giving me the opportunity to be a part. I could go on and on.

As I drove home Monday night, I reflected on some great times over the years with our girls. One of my most favorite times was our retreat last year. We got away as a group to the lake, enjoying one another, and simply hanging out with sweet Jesus. Aside from sharing times, an incredibly special moment God gave us was on the drive out to the lake. We were in the middle of nowhere and after listening to endless Hilary Duff, High School Musical, etc, one of my girls asked if we could listen to praise music. Of course I said yes and the last hour of our drive was spent praising God together as a group under the stars. I had a glimpse of what heaven must be like as I listened to their sweet voices sing truths. We also had praise time over the weekend in which I led worship with our talented Molly.

I’ve recently become quite obsessed with the below song, which I found through my random search of relatively unknown music (another one of my favorite things J). It’s called Likeness of Jesus and is by Jonathan David Helser. My prayer for my precious girls is God makes this the cries of their hearts. As the lyrics say, there is nothing keeping us from God since the temple veil was torn after the death of Jesus. Praise Him.

I want the cry of Moses
I want the ears of Samuel
I want the heart of Mary
Most of all
I want the likeness of Jesus

I want the prayers of Daniel
I want the voice of John
I want the walk of Enoch
Most of all
I want the likeness of Jesus

From glory to glory,
I am transformed,
Nothing between us,
The veil has been torn

I want to be holy as he is holy
I want to be righteous as
He is righteous
I want to be loving as
He is loving
Most of all I want to
Be like Jesus

Monday, September 14, 2009

Organized Chaos (Not by Me Of Course)

The thoughts for today have been stewing in my mind for a while, and I have hesitated sharing as I don’t quite have a grasp on where God’s taking them. However, although it may be a bit disjointed and all over the place, I decided to just start writing as I am an external processor and know God may not show me for many years to come where he’s taking these seemingly random bits of thought. So here it goes; and I warn you, if you are one who prefers to read entries tied up with a bow, this is not for you. J

I finished CR. In August (for those of you who do not know what CR is, click here). It was quite a surprise in some sense, as a year ago the process seemed extremely daunting. I jumped in with both feet, dragging myself to meetings and sharing even when every ounce of my being wanted to avoid it like the plague. Thankfully, for the most part, God gave me a spirit of anxiousness to dig into the junk, so I usually went willingly and anticipating how God would use each Monday. Now that it’s been a few weeks from completing, I’ll be honest to say I expected to have some sort of “ah ha” moment. It hasn’t come, but I suppose that shouldn’t be much of a surprise given the nature of God, who moves in his timing, changing the heart bit by bit. In any case, while not perfectly, I am attempting to continue working through the steps, incorporating it into my daily life.

Satan and his gaggle of Screwtape-like tempters really bother me. A whole lot. Lately the uncreative one has been wreaking havoc in my dreams. I usually don’t remember dreams very often (except the occasional funny or random one), but over the past few months, I have often woken quite confused by scenarios that either tempt me in areas of sin I struggle with or that feed into my insecurities. I haven’t had the quality of sleep I am used to, which in turn also makes it quite difficult to wake up in time to spend any meaningful time with God. This morning, for example, although I had coffee, I sort of stared blankly at my Bible not focusing on what the words said. I also have felt much more insecure in my body and in comparison with friends. I haven’t quite figured out how you battle Satan in your dreams as that is the essence of me being without control. Any thoughts there? I’d love advice.

When I have had quality time with my King, I’ve been a bit all over the place. This really doesn’t stress me out as I believe every single solitary word is beneficial for my soul, plus, let’s face it. I’m a bit all over the place myself, so my Bible-reading style shouldn’t be all that surprising. In any case, although I’ve bounced from the story of the Israelites exodus from Egypt, desert-wandering, and Promised Land-entry, the Psalms of Ascent, James, and my 2010 Journey devotional passage, God in his unsurprising sovereignty has created ties between the various, seemingly different sections of Scripture. Although each section is humanly written by different people who lived at completely different times, they are holily written (and yes, I realize this probably isn’t a word, roll with it) by our Perfect Father. And I believe he orchestrated this time for me to spend in the midst of these sections.

Anyway, I am struck by how easily the Israelites slip away from trusting God’s provision and goodness after seeing amazing miracles. And then quickly realize I do the exact same thing. I want to have the words of praise on my lips that the Jews had on theirs when ascending the steps of the temple. The organization of those Psalms progressing as they prepare their hearts for worship astounds and encourages me to enter worship of the Creater of the earth with greater reverence. I also have been moved to tears often with the knowledge that I have the privilege to intimately know the most holy, big, Majestic, Sovereign, I could go on-and-on God and also the knowledge that I often choose meaningless things instead of him. Precious God, I do not even remotely comprehend the profundity of this and the deep satisfaction I would have if I truly, truly believed in every ounce of myself your trustworthy goodness. Forgive my doubting, selfish, prideful soul and thank you for loving and pursuing me in spite of it.

James reminds me of the father of lies and how easily I can falter, yet how sweet God is to provide wisdom if I only ask and listen. And how he blesses our perseverance through the hoopla that is thrown at us. And my Journey devo passage excites me greatly. As of now, God is leading me toward a very raw entry to accompany my assigned commonly known and read passage. To be quite frank, I’m a bit nervous, but trust that it’s in God’s hands and he has a reason for what he’s currently laying on my heart. I pray my struggles will help encourage others know and love him more. And that’s all I’ll say for that one, you’ll have to wait for April 9th. J

So that’s a bit into the randomness swirling in my mind. Well, not randomness since I know God is moving, but you get the picture.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Go Cheederleader, Go Cheederleader!

McKenzie a capturé mon coeur avec son amour de toutes choses français! I spent the past weekend with cutie pie McKenzie and, as you may guess from my previous sentence, she loves Frenchiness just like me. And artsy things! We spent the weekend painting pottery, making jewelry, painting pictures, baking cupcakes, and attending the Barnes and Noble storytime. The latter of which, to my wonderful surprise, was in French! Having never attended one, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how it typically worked. The reader was a Parisian who somehow ended up in Lubbock. McKenzie shares my love having several French-inspired outfits, adores a French singer Coeur de Pirate, and after my brother and sister in-law asked if she’d want to go to Boston next time responded “no, I want to see the Eiffel Tower.” Je l’aime. Très bien ma jeune fille, très bien. :)

Below are a slew of pictures I took over the weekend: