Friday, December 27, 2013

We, The Returning Ones

Sometimes the words stir inside of us for a long time before there are verbal words that fit appropriately. Sometimes a desire rumbles around for a good bit before we even realize it is there. And then sometimes, the words that fit the feelings fly to the surface in an instant. That's exactly what happened to me this afternoon - while I was drinking this:

Coincidence? I think not. Lattes certainly prompt the Lord to speak clearly. Someone needs to do a study on this. Please let me be one of your subjects for testing. Please.

The words came in a flash. We, the returning ones. That's me. That's you. That's us. Here we go.

Know that the inexpressible urge you've been having is not just about you. It's wide and it's broad and it's happening for many.

The time has come for us to return, to return to our first love. To finally step all the way in - no turning back. You're not alone.

Perhaps you are like me and there has been a long building to get to this point. Here's a bit of my story.

I grew up knowing the Lord from the time I was a little girl. I love that about my story, but it doesn't matter if you met Him yesterday, we are the same. High school years were spent discovering Him. College years were spent getting to know Him in an entirely new way. Since then, there have been joys wonderful and lows surprising. And somewhere in the mix of that, some funk settled in. My generation craves truth, honesty, transparency. Rejects religion, routine expressions and spiritual performing. Whether we agree with those cries or not - is immaterial. The reality is that those are desires of the Lord's heart - whether we have been offended by them or have embraced them.

I would say my experience was somewhere in the middle. Part of me loves religion if I can be honest. It's predictable. It leads me to believe that 2+2=4. While my husband loves to fly the winds of adventure with no rules and welcomes a raised eyebrow or two, I - well - those things made my insides cringe. But in time, I was kind of forced into agreement with my generation because predictability simply quit working for me. My daily time in the Word dried into hollowness. My times of prayer ceased to be conversation. Every attempt of routine left an awfully weird taste.

Initially, frustration raged. WHY WASN'T THIS WORKING ANYMORE??? I finally let go and just stopped trying the things that used to work. It was oddly freeing. Then it was gloriously freeing. God still loved me if I didn't read X number of chapters a day or prayed first thing in the morning. More than that, He still interacted with me! Outside of the parameters of 'normal', He met me. He eased my fingers out of a death grip on formula. He met me in creativity and freedom.

Mixed into that season were some hard years, though. Years where we walked through the valleys and character was built far below the surface of what anyone would have seen had they just looked at me. When I would try to go back to the Word, and felt nothingness, my heart started to ache. It happened again and again. The feelings of experiencing the Lord through the Word and conversation simply were not there. I kept waiting for the feelings to return. Now, let me say, I walked with the Lord through these years. I loved Him and felt His love for me. He spoke to me and I spoke to Him. I worshipped Him. He reached out to me. But I ached to feel like I had some clue of how to approach the Word and instead I felt lost. Me! A Believer since the age of 6! I did pray and I did feel His response but I knew there was more where that came from and a desperation started to build in me to find it again.

So - there were the freedom years - the aching years - and then the reconnecting/rebuilding years. Ah yes the reconnecting and the rebuilding. Thank you GOD for that! The Lord is full of mercy. He is not far. He is one who goes to find the single lost sheep. That's His personality. So He, in His goodness, simply started to pursue me. I felt a little lost in how to pursue Him, so He took over. There weren't quick fixes - but there was a conversation begun. He started in conversation - quiet whispers to my heart that could have easily been missed. The craving inside of me only grew. The more He gave, the more I wanted. I haven't been perfect in responding. Mercy no. My hope is that 2014 will be a year that I respond in groundbreaking (for me) ways. After the conversation was reestablished, the hunger for His words started to grow. I'll be honest and say that I am in the process of learning what that looks like. But, the music to my ears thing is that I no longer feel lost! I don't feel confident but neither do I feel lost. He's rebuilding my paradigm for knowing Him through His Word and that takes some time.

Can you relate to any part of my journey? I feel silly even typing this because I KNOW that you can. Somehow it seems like a fairly normal journey when the Lord breeds change. He speaks to the young (who are typically more easily convinced to accept the new), He starts breaking the mold, response is both right and wrong and is exactly right and overreactive all at the same time. The change is walked out...initially in freedom and then in a time of wrestling to search out where the Lord really is versus where we thought He was. And then now.


This year.

You. Me. Us. We are returning. We will be the returning ones. We return to the Lord. To our First Love. We return with a deep conviction that we simply cannot live without Him, without His Word, without the simple disciplines of life in Him. But we return with the knowledge that it WILL look different. There will still be a messing of the routine. Rules will continue to fail us. He may reinvent the wheel with us every single day but that's okay. It may look traditional one week and off our rocker's crazy the next.

But we return.

Hosea 6:1 ESV
"Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up."

So the destruction wasn't mean. It was purposeful. The tearing down of what we knew in order to embrace what we didn't was intentional. Now - let us be healed and be bound up.

You are not alone.

Much love,

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bankrupt at Christmas

That word - bankruptcy. It makes you draw a sharp breath in, doesn't it? Let me not play games - we are not filing or have not filed for bankruptcy. But it's the only word that works for what's in my heart this morning.

Mercy, Christmas can work us over can't it? It's a season full of both precious moments and frazzled moments alike. I love the romanticism of this beautiful season and I love fully embracing these days. But, have you ever experienced sad moments that suddenly pop up in your heart during this season? It's almost hard for me to put words to the feeling that creeps in out of nowhere. But it can be as if, in an instant, the beauty disappears and the sadness is loud.

I'm sure we each have different stories of what we would attribute those moments to. But, I've come to realize that the sadness that pops in usually connects to the business of my brain and schedule trying to keep up and perform during the season and the accompanying ache in my heart to connect with Him instead. Can you relate? It's like this season somehow makes you feel like you just miss Him.

A few months ago, Zion started sharing with me something that the Lord had been stirring in him. He went through a period of waking very early in the morning and walking the neighborhood for an hour or two most mornings before work. I think it was a time of real interaction with God for Him and it was sacred. He started talking to me about how important declaring our bankruptcy to the Lord was. Bankruptcy is a state of declaring - I don't have enough. The needs far outweigh my capacity to meet them. That concept has continued to roll around inside of me ever since we started talking about it.

The truth is that, neediness and thirst are both gifts.

In seasons like Christmas, it is easy to slip into self-sufficiency - especially in America. Even if things are tight, most of us truly have enough. Most of us have figured out how to be able to spend money on those we love and present gifts to them. These days - it's as simple as a click of a mouse. (I buy every single gift POSSIBLE on Amazon - LOVE.)

Therefore, I have to watch this heart of mine awfully closely at Christmas.

Because, the reality is that I desperately need Him. The thought of this life without Him is so dim that I can't go there for very long. Regardless of how self-sufficient I may lean towards feeling, I can turn my heart towards truth in one instant.

I think of the verse in Psalms..."My soul THIRSTS for you Lord, as in a parched land." YES! No matter where you are today, you can call up thirst in your heart for Him right now. Just meditating on the words 'I thirst for you Lord' start to change my heart. I am not enough on my own. I do not have enough. I don't want to be enough.

He is drawn to that heart - in an irresistible way. Recall His words in John 7:37...

"On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink."

Regardless of how long it's been since you've truly come to drink, let it all fall away. Now, today can change all of that. In an instant, He offers it all to you. To me.

He's near. He's here. He's ALL that we could never even come close to being. And He's offering a deep drink to us. Regardless of how busy you've been, how fast you've been moving, how many gifts have been purchased, join me in deciding today to be bankrupt. I am not enough Jesus and I DO thirst for you.

Now THAT drives sadness out the back door.

Merry Christmas my friends! I am so honored that I get to share this time with you. You are some of my very favorite people and you bring a smile to my face.

Much love,

Friday, December 13, 2013

Immanuel (and reflections of a person with oversized calves)

How did Friday sneak up on me so silently and sneakily this week? It's one o'clock and my darlingest dearest man child has hit the sack. I sit here with you and there's a few funnies on my brain and one more potent thought. Let's make this one fast!!! As you've heard a million times before.... lol.

Funny number one: Have you shopped for boots recently? Well, I hadn't for a few years - until recently. I'd just like you to know that you are reading the words of a woman who has oversized calves. This was the big revelation from my shopping experience. I guess I just hadn't purchased calf-hugging boots before! My beloved, but worn down to practically nothing, cowboy boots were middies and I still wear them through the pain occasionally. Just to give my ever-lovin-oversized-calves some breathing room. I just want all of you normal-sized calf people to know how happy I am for you because, believe me, your boot selection is much better! I am now the owner of calf-sucking boots and they look great, but when you see me in them, just know the pain that occurred to get to the point of purchase! LOL.

The winning boots, purchased a size up to accommodate the calves :)

Funny number two: My mom and I are committed. Committed to making Christmas cookies with the boys. We have literally done this since they were born. The first Christmas, they were playing on play mats on the kitchen floor. Still we did the cookies. The second year, we made them and Liam wouldn't touch them because the icing was so messy. This was our year! Today was the day! Nope! Cookies had nothing on hot chocolate and the cookies were not touched. As in, we couldn't even bribe them to eat them. Have you ever heard of such a thing??? Fourth time's a charm perhaps? LOL. Knowing mom and I - we will try again next year :).

And on to the potent thought on this Friday. God with us. Immanuel. God with me. God with you. This whole thing is about intimacy. All of it - it's about a God who wanted no division between Himself and His child. It's about His undying desire to be one with us. Immanuel - He came to be with me. He came to be with me!

In my chaos - He wants to be with me.

In the weird emotional highs and lows of this season - He wants to be with me.

In the scurrying from one event to the next - He wants to be with me.

This is the most beautiful gift: that our God came to be with us and He WANTS to be with us right now. So, I've been focusing on quieting my heart to acknowledge Him. Even if it's sixty seconds while I'm driving, brushing my teeth, or wrapping a gift. Just find moments to quiet your heart and remember that He IS with you. He is.

I hope that beauty and truth are finding you this season of celebration!

Much love and Happy Friday,

PS....Speaking of scurrying to events, my Mom hosted an amazing one for the women of her church. So proud of her!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mary, Mary

I wish we could share the beauty of my moment together right now. There are plenty of times to be real about life's imperfections. But then there are the times when it is utterly important to breathe deeply of the sweetness in the air. My boy is sound asleep in his room after asking me to 'rock him like a baby' before getting in bed. Mind you he's a tall two year old. Mama's heart melts. The snow (and ice - well really, it's mostly ice) has fallen, the Christmas tree is glowing, the fire is crackling, my husband has drifted off to sleep Lucy Pevensie style by the fire and I am soaking in the warm silence, and typing. Moments like these bring a silence that breeds romanticism. :) (One should note - nearly every room in my home is currently a mess. Life is not perfect...I've just settled in a small corner where I can't see the mess!)

A few weeks ago I was reading the second chapter of Luke and something hit me so hard - as if I'd never read the words before. Isn't that the most beautiful thing?!

Here's what I read:

Luke 2:6-7

"And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

Have you ever had one of those days where it seems that even your lost keys are against you? Seriously all you need to do is get to the store to pick up apples and toilet paper. But getting out of the house unfolds into one of life's great challenges: the shirt you thought would be clean, wasn't. The two year old wants to bang against your legs as you put on eyeliner. Said two year old really doesn't care to get out of his way too soggy overnight diaper and runs yelling "Noooooo!!!!!" You stump that same old toe on a red Hot Wheels that has blended into the red of the rug on the kitchen floor. Somehow, by the grace of God, you are finally dressed and he is finally dressed. The purse is in hand. He is hoisted into the car seat and wrestled in to be buckled. You sink in to the driver's seat and reach for your keys. WHERE ARE THE FREAKING KEYS?????!!!!! And you literally have this thought somewhat consciously - 'I am going to hurt someone.' Next thought: 'Are you kidding me God? Do you see me here? Are lost keys in this moment REALLY necessary?'

There are simply those moments when my sense of entitlement to a certain level of ease and what we may like to call blessing, take me back a bit. Hello ugly.

And then I read that teeny tiny phrase at the end of verse 7: "....and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

Double take. No room for them in the inn. If there was ever a human entitled to a little special treatment from the Most High - IT WAS MARY. Mary had the kind of faith that awed the heavenlies. She was willing to sacrifice every single bit of her reputation to submit to the Lord's plan. She was even willing to go it totally alone if it had been too much for Joseph. Who knows what her parents thought. She carried the most precious human being in her middle and then got on a donkey. A donkey. Only to get to Bethlehem and be told "We're so sorry. There's no room here tonight."

If I applied my humanity to Mary, her thoughts may have gone something like "Really. Really? Do you see me God? I feel so much pressure that I might explode. Was it too much to ask you to divinely touch my bladder so that the last pit stop wasn't necessary? If we had gotten here twenty minutes ago would that room have been available? DO YOU SEE ME AND YOUR CHILD???"

Somewhere along the line, we've come under the impression that the one God blesses does not encounter challenge.

But it's stories like Mary's that make it so clear how off that is! If anyone deserved some TLC - it was sweet Mary. But God had a bigger picture and a much more beautiful story unfolding that superceded what we may think Mary deserved in our human perspective. Our Savior took his first breath of air on Earth as a human in a stable, with animals and cloaked in humility. In fact, the very truth that He came as a humble King is a huge part of the story of Salvation. Mary's lack of comfort became a cornerstone piece of a story that has been told for thousands of years and sets this God-man apart. He came in humility, he lived in humility and he died in humility. There was something of much more import taking place than whether or not God was good enough to give them a room instead of a stable and a manger.

Mercy, Father. Forgive me for belting out my "God where are you???" cries when the challenge presents itself. Humility is a beautiful gift and this is a beautiful season to turn our eyes to It.