"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. :)