"It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desires which he creates." ~Amy Carmichael

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Strong Enough

I don't really know what to write. I rarely do when I begin. Rather like life in my experience. God rarely lets me in on more than the next step. The road ahead is usually obscured, with only the first step made clear. Sometimes that first step looks like applying for a job or getting an adoption license or submitting a home study. Or sometimes it is as simple as opening a blog and beginning to type. It is knowing the next right step, taking it and then trusting God with where it will lead.

In the past few months we have been led to take first steps in various areas at an unusual frequency and, as of yet, most (all?) of the reasons for those first steps are fuzzy and the paths where they may lead are yet unclear. Some of them we may never get to see in this life. It has been interesting to seek God and listen for his direction, step out with confidence and then...nothing. Repeatedly. Well, nothing visible anyway. I would be fascinated to know what has been going on in the invisible realm. Then again, maybe I don't really want to know! It is enough to know that God is working and he is moving in us. Whether our circumstances change or our external paths lead anywhere is not exactly the point anyway. Our hearts are changing and that is what matters. Our faith is being stretched and molded and shaped and I am glad for it. More than anything else I desire for my heart to be made steadfast in him. Life is hard. Some times it is harder than others. My greatest desire is to be firmly planted in him no matter the season.

I don't say this from a position of sitting in a bed of roses. It can be easier to share that God is doing work without sharing the struggles in the midst of it. Honestly, I have been really overwhelmed with life of late. For going on a month now, I come to the end of each day and my reoccurring thought is: "I feel like I've been run over by a steamroller." Pastor John posted on his Facebook today something about it being difficult to be spiritually strong when you are physically weary, so choose to rest. I wanted to cry when I read his post. Because it is SO INCREDIBLY TRUE...and I rarely have the option to not be physically weary. And he is right. It is so very difficult to be spiritually strong when physically weary. So very. I am glad that it is not all on me to be spiritually strong. 

This week in particular has been rough. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, this week I felt like I was spiraling out of control, feeling the curtain of fog settle heavily on my brain and spirit once again. The smothering darkness that I have battled time and again amidst the unending fatigue and physical pain that are a part of my life.  But grace. Unmerited favor. His grace has been strong enough. Again. There are no depths to which I can fall where he cannot reach me with his grace. Even if I have fallen there one hundred thousand times before. The whispers in my ear are not greater than his voice yet alive within my weary heart. It is not without battle, but as the song says: grace wins every time. Because I am his and he is strong and it is not by my own strength that I live. It is not by my own righteousness that I belong to him. In my weakness he is strong. Not in spite of my weakness. IN it. In the midst of my weakness his grace is present and strong. There is so much room for him to work when I am relying on him for each hesitant, tenuous, weary step. And he does. Because grace. 

If you hear his voice calling, don't turn away because you are weak or because you are weary or because you are not enough. Take him at his word, step out past the edge of your own strength, and trust that his grace is strong enough. Because it is.

 In our weakness, He is strong. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Clearing the Cobwebs

It is difficult to make my brain focus on much these days. Often it feels like a scattered blur inside my head able only to focus on whatever task is at hand - if even that. I am not sure how much of it is a result of my body struggling to sleep so much this past month (I am finally sleeping restfully more often, which is a wonderful thing!), or still adjusting to the restricted diet we are on, or some combination of hormones and supplements, or the fact that life itself has been genuinely scattered of late. Regardless, I do not like the feeling of sludge in my head and I am working on ways to clear it up.

Reading and writing are things that force me to think beyond the moment. They require enough focus that the cobwebs begin to scatter and my thoughts gain just a little bit more clarity. This is why I have done so little of it most of the last several years. I began this year resolved to read more - anything remotely edifying, as long as it was words on a page and was longer than a blog post. Simply because my brain needed to be exercised. I quit reading again through the Summer and now I am back to forcing myself to choose a book over another activity if I have some time on my hands. Technically, I have always loved reading, but reading really is work! Especially if it is anything of substance. The other day I listened to a podcast by Sally Clarkson where she talked about feeding our own minds and being in a state of continual growth ourselves in order to be able to teach our children well. Also, she referred to worshiping the Lord with our "mind, heart and soul" and that putting effort into keeping our minds active and fed is a part of doing that. It was the motivation I needed to continue following through on tasks and ideas which feed my mind and direct me toward the fullness of a life lived for Christ. Not just in my heart and soul, but in my mind also. They really do go hand in hand and if one of those areas are neglected it holds the other areas back as well.

So here I am typing away at whatever comes to mind in an effort to exercise my mental focus and communication. I think that is one of the areas where I have struggled most both with my chronic illnesses and being a parent. My brain just...stops. And I let it because it is easier that way. Easier, at least, until I get lost in the fog of life and I can hardly think straight enough to keep my days and weeks sorted out and moving in a moderately stable fashion. The daily rhythm of keeping children fed and alive, the perpetual choices of how much do I push myself before I crash and where, trying to tame the chaos of life...it keeps me spinning until I no longer know which way is up. I am choosing to learn (albeit slowly) to press the pause button and ask God which way really is up instead of guessing and increasing the speed of the spin cycle.

If you can at all relate to this struggle, here are some things I am doing lately to help clear the cobwebs:

- Listening to podcasts, as mentioned. Listening regularly to a series of podcasts is one of the best things because I don't necessarily stumble on trying to find a topic of interest. I simply listen to the next one in the series and usually find it holds my attention anyway. The fact that it makes doing housework more interesting is an added bonus.

My current favorites: At Home With Sally (this is seriously like having tea with a wise friend and a breath of fresh air all rolled into one), Focus on the Family and Family Life Today.

- Reading.
Picking up a paper and ink bible; there is something about reading the familiar, well-marked pages of my real bibles instead of a bible app on a screen.
Downloading free books as I see them on my Kindle app and choosing that over facebook in down time.
Purposefully opening the few books on our shelves that I have not yet read.
Frequently getting new children's books from the library so that I can enjoy and engage in reading aloud to the kids. 

- Listening to worship music. Before I had kids, I listened to music AAAALLLL the time. Then once I began the life of perpetual multi-tasking that is parenting, I stopped almost entirely. It was too much to handle at the same time. Thankfully, my kids are now getting old enough that I now have frequent periods of time where I can handle the added stimulation of music and it is so refreshing to my heart and soul. My most frequented Pandora station is Lauren Daigle. The songs speak so much life!

- Refreshing old skills. For me that comes in the form of working a bit on the side again. Office work and some content writing. Sometimes it is hard to get my head in the game when I need to, but overall it has been refreshing to dust those parts of my brain and refresh my skills in these areas. I really do not want to let my skills stagnate to the point of one day being useless.

- Learning new skills. Confession: I watch a lot of cooking competition shows. I really do glean so much from them and I try to implement new things that I learn as I go. I would love to take a real cooking class one of these days to learn better techniques and improve my knowledge of flavors and seasonings.

- Organizing my life and getting some of the scattered areas out on paper. Making some simple goals for the week and planning a reasonable schedule instead of stumbling through it because everything is up in the air. Often lately it really is all up in the air and there is nothing I can do about that, but written lists can help sort and prioritize the chaos anyway.

- Last, but not least, writing. Facebook statuses killed my blogging years ago. Why write a whole blog when you can throw out your paragraph-sized thoughts at any time of the day or night? I am going to try to get better about saving some of those thoughts to develop into something worth writing. In the meantime, if I pull out the laptop and tell myself "Just start typing. ANYTHING." then I'll continue to manage to get some things out there. :)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Not On Our Own

I have been reading a Kindle book called, “Trees Tall As Mountains”. The book is a compilation of excerpts from the author’s blog. Initially I downloaded it because it was free and I was fairly skeptical about it holding my interest. However, the author? I get her. Her writing style is familiar and she seems to process life similarly to the way I tend to process. I do not write very much anymore, yet every time I read her book I end up with my life floating around my head in blog style. That has hardly happened for many years! Reading her simple writing makes me want to write. So here I am, writing. This is mostly for my own purpose of processing and practicing putting things into words again, but perhaps some of it will speak to someone else as we go.

This has been a week. 

Sunday, I woke up fried from the birthday tea party we hosted for Addy and all the preceding birthday activity. It was fun and went well, but I was tired. I debated going to both church and life group. Then I went anyway. I met new attendees at life group, had a delicious breakfast-for-dinner and was encouraged through our discussion and prayer time. 

Monday, I crashed. I yelled at my (whiny and also crashing) kids, struggled to keep everyone fed and we generally dragged through our day. Then a nap happened and we woke up ready to face our day – even if it was 3:00 in the afternoon. I read aloud while the kids played outside, we cleaned up from the birthday party and then ended the day with a relaxed date with Nathan. Naps are amazing things.

Tuesday, I woke up in pain after only four hours of sleep. At 6:30 I was certain I could hardly get out of bed for the day, never mind get the kids and me all out of the house so I could go work at the office with a probable migraine heading my way on top of it. Then I did. And my headache never made it to migraine status. After all, sitting at an office desk requires less energy than caring for children anyway, right?

Wednesday, I had my first good night’s sleep in a week and a half. My plan was to rest and be with the kids and catch up on some laundry. I began thinking about when would be a good time to invite my Russian neighbor over for tea and God asked, “Why not today?” Well. Why not today, indeed? So I did. The day was spent putting dinner in the crockpot so I could not worry about it later (total flop, no one liked it), baking zucchini bread and catching up the house from being gone Tuesday. Knowing that I would never get everything done to have a perfect company setting, I simply prayed that God would make her feel welcomed and comfortable here in our home in spite of all that I lacked. You know, the little things like a perfectly cleaned house and the ability to speak Russian. And he did. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon. I don’t know for sure if God made her feel welcomed and comfortable, but I think he did…and, as God tends to do, he went beyond my prayer for her and put me at ease myself. We managed the language barrier just fine and now I have a new friend. Funny how sometimes we think that we hear God calling us to bless others when really he is as much calling us to step into a blessing for ourselves.

Thursday, began on the heels of a sleepless night. We had various appointments scheduled at 9:00, 2:30 and 7:00 and somewhere in there I needed to get groceries. As my morning began, I was sure that was an impossible schedule with next to no sleep and there was no way I could do it. Then I did. The kids were amazing at each of our stops, even when we stayed at one appointment for three hours! Well, unless you count Elijah’s whining, “Mommy, I still tired. Mommy, up me?” on repeat through. the. entire. grocery. store. All things considered, that seemed a reasonable allowance for a child who had been awake from 1:30-5:15am and then was repeatedly dragged out of bed to leave the house that day. We made all our appointments, got a brief nap slipped in the middle, met some sweet people, and were able to pick up the groceries needed as we began a restricted diet for the whole family; a diet that we are unexpectedly doing all the way through mid-December instead of the 4-6 weeks we had anticipated. As an added bonus, God recalled to my memory that a certain supplement had previously kept Elijah awake for hours during the night when I took too much of it while breastfeeding…right before I gave it to him at bed time. I HAD given it to him at bed time the night before. No wonder he was awake half the night! He slept much better that night.

Friday, started with Elijah getting up at 5am and I wondered why in the world I do crazy things like decide to have company three times within one week, on little sleep, when I am overwhelmed with adjusting to working a bit each week and struggling to keep up with the basics. I started to let myself get stressed by all the things on my plate and the house not being ready for company yet again. Until I reminded myself that this is a friend I have not seen in nine years, coming to visit me and meet my family – not coming to see my house or the clothes my kids were wearing. So I let the dishes go, dressed the kids in whatever was clean already and focused on the paperwork I needed to finish before they arrived. Then we proceeded to have a wonderful visit with wonderful people. It is a pity they happen to live on the other side of the world.

Sometimes you have weeks where grace is seen more tangibly than others and this was one of those weeks. Timely conversations, resolutions for problems brought to mind at vital moments, circumstances lined up just so, a specific sense of purpose for each day…and most of all the grace and strength needed to keep doing the next right thing. It is encouraging to see the blessings and favor that comes from walking in step with the Spirit. We are not on our own. 

It was an exhausting week. It was a blessed week. And I probably ought to finally go get that laundry clean.