Thursday, August 7, 2014

The day I asked for Joy

I have found that the key to receiving joy is sacrifice.
Its a love language all on its own. The depth rarely understood.
And for that reason, true joy, in its intended form is rarely experienced.
In the moments that I felt I needed to be sacrificial, I have felt more love, more joy,
and more satisfied than the words on this paper could ever express.
I have experienced joy. But not at all in the way I thought I would find it.
It runs deeper and longer than any form of happiness that I have momentary felt.
It is and was an experience that I have personally received when I lived sacrifice out,
giving to God the same way He gave to me. 

With that, I will take you back a year, 
To the moment  I was praying, asking to have more joy from Jesus. 
Any time I have asked a question He has never failed to reply.
"Yes!" Jesus said." But are you willing to sacrifice?"
And at first, I wasn't. I really, really, really wasn't.
So much so that the thought of not doing it seemed more logical than to do it.
But, for the thing I asked, Jesus pressed in.

He told me a secret. He said "For many years you have asked me where the joy of your mothering came from. For many years you have counted that as part of the blessing you received from me when you became a mother. And it was. Partly. But more, more than that, it was the sacrifice you made 13 years ago. To follow me and my will. To sacrifice everything you knew, to let go of everything you had, and just trust that my will for your life exceeded the will of your flesh."

"And you had  a child. And He was the blessing, just as I have said that "Children are blessings from me" but the joy you experienced in mothering wasn't because I handed it to you like I hand out grace. Joy was produced in your life because you sacrificed many years ago. And although you forgot. I remember the pages in your life. The details. The day. Like it was yesterday. This year, again you asked joy. And again, I asked you to sacrifice. And again, it will produce joy. It always will. If you remember that, if you learn to live a sacrificial life, know that joy will follow."

"Joy runs on sacrifice the same way a car runs on fuel." 

My eyes were so full of tears by then that they streamed my face in shiny streaks of a personal memory, brought to life by the realness of the words and the vulnerable places they touched.

You see when I had my oldest, I was living a life that made sense to me. I did things out of the foolish feelings of a young teenager and the dangerous roads it took me on. I did what I wanted, instead of what I was taught or what I believed. I did that, until Jesus grabbed a hold of my life and gave me a promise. He gave me hope in my hopelessness and a choice to run after him. I have never regretted my choice and the direction I took. I have never regretted marrying my husband, regardless if I felt love. Or having a child regardless, of being ready. I knew what I had to do, and since then have often wondered where the joy for any of it came from. Mostly because I sensed in my spirit that it wasn't mine. It came from somewhere much greater. 

That specific moment always takes me back, and even though it's been many years, the memory of it continuously feels so fresh. It strikes a chord and I think it was supposed to. Because Jesus answered my request with another challenge. A sacrifice that required me to give away the one thing I constantly give Him praise about. Time was something I often oraise Him for. Time to make the right choices, time to watch my children grow, time to do what I love, and time for all the in between. The gift I find myself most receiving is time. And I was grateful. Extremely. It's just nice having it, to myself, and of course all the areas 'I' would choose to spend it. 

But it's never about us, or me. Gods plan always exceeds our own life. So when I asked for more joy, joy in areas that I didn't have joy in. Things like laundry, washing floors, and school lunches. Things like early mornings, sleepless nights, and compromises. Things that pass me by. Things that I don't pay attention to until the words coming out of my mouth are hostile, irritated, and short fused. Moments that I would regret, and ask God to smooth out. Things that I knew I had no reason to complain about, no solid justification of a trial, long suffering, or warfare. All I had on my beautiful plate was a wonderful life that God gave me, topped with every promise written in the Bible. We had shelter, food, and clothes. We had heat, health, and happiness.  We had family, laughter, and community. We had provision, purpose, and passion. And honestly, it was nice that it was ours. That it was mine.

Wasn't it enough that I gave Him all the praise, all the glory, and did I need to give it up I order to experience more joy?

Although I knew it was necessary, I didn't want to. I didn't want to do what He asked me to do. And I debated weather His challenge was even worth the sacrifice. Although if I were honest with myself, I knew it was. 

It was going to be hard. Especially when God asked me to put all of my needs aside and place the needs of someone else before mine. He told me to take what I held pride in, every accomplish I claimed and pass it along to someone else. He asked me to dedicate one day out of the week to help someone succeed. To genuinely want them to have more than I did, and watch them triumph even past my own capabilities. To do anything they asked, for as long as they needed, putting the needs of my family aside.

He wanted me to learn how to stretch my hand out further and beyond my own house. 

I guess when I prayed for joy, I didn't really understand what I was asking for. 
I didn't understand that real joy was one that came from Him. That descended from heaven and into my heart and washed away all logic, completely filling me with love. Sustaining, deep, and alive. Much more than any moment could ever do. 

So I began to pray. 

And for what seemed like the very first time, I asked for joy in its intended form.

And he gave me a name. 

And I began to pray for her. 

I prayed to love her as her, I prayed that I would have the attitude I needed to help along side of her, and I prayed that my time would always represent Jesus. Because I knew myself. I knew my weaknesses. And I knew my pride along with the areas it overshadows. And I was scared, nervous, and doubtful. But despite what I felt, I went and knocked on the door. And I shared my heart and the things it wanted. I shared Jesus, because He was the only reason I was even there. 

And she saw my heart. 

And she welcomed me.

From that day forward, every week from April to June, I went. I kept coming until she told me to  stop, and on June 20th I left the house with a bitter sweet feeling. Realizing how much more I enjoyed living out life when I lived it out in His will. How much more time, joy, satisfaction I received. And How much more I wanted it active daily in my life. 

And again I came to the seat of my God. Changed by obedience and the experiences they brought with them. 

"I think, I want to live a sacrificial life. Not in a moment of it. Not out of obedience to a prayer I prayed. But out of the sheer longing to spend every day of my life, living out your will."

To ask for his will, I knew it was going to take me on another journey. One that's oblivious to the future it holds or the promises it contains for my life. But, if I know anything, I know that I wouldn't have it any other way. Because 
Taking pleasure in giving away for the will that is Gods. That produces joy.
Taking pleasure in giving away despite what or how I feel. That produces joy.
Taking pleasure in giving away regardless of what makes sense. That produces joy.
Giving only to please Jesus and everything He represents,
That's what joy is.

Hope floats.

Friday, June 6, 2014

I have hurt a lot of people

Today, I came face to face with me. And it wasn't a pretty confession.
It's something I have felt, but never said out loud. 
Perhaps it needed to be said. 

Perhaps the urgency in my spirit to give all praises to God were worthwhile.
No. They must have been because what started with a morning song, became my prayer.  Just minutes after I walked through the door.

It was a telephone call. 
From some one close to me.
One where her frustrations with me broke me down one sentence at a time. 

Now, I have to admit. That in the minutes of our conversation, I wish that I would have responded differently. 
I wish I would have heard her hurt. Before I heard the silence on the other end of the telephone line.
I wish so many things. 

Things that I can help, some times. 
Things I can't. 
But I often find myself wishing.

Hurt. Is such an interesting thing to me. I find myself hurting often.
But then again. I see myself as the one that's hurt. 
Instead of seeing individuals as the people I have broken.

I have heard people say "I have been hurt" more often than I have heard people say
"I have hurt a lot of people"
I am confessing today, that the people closest to me, I have often hurt.

It was a sad realization and it  needed to be written out. To see each letter, each word for what it was.
I. have. hurt. the. people. closest. to. me. often.

It was then that it occurred to me that today wasn't supposed to be about me. 
It was supposed to be about all the people whom I have hurt and all of the forgiveness that I have received.
I am so greatful that I have been forgiven, often. 

Especially by the people closest to me.

I didn't deserve what they, so freely,  hand out to me. 
I didn't deserve that kind of loyalty. 
But deep down, I knew that I was so grateful for all of it. 


Don't let the hurt I caused today, be something the enemy can use against me and my relationships. Instead, take the song I sang this morning and guide me to rise against what I am naturally lacking. Be the things I am not. In me. Until they become the only things I know.

I repeated my morning song, but this time it held so much more meaning. 
"Oh God you are my God, and I will ever praise you.
I will praise you in the morning, I will learn to walk in you way
And step by step you'll lead me , and I will follow you all of my days."

Step by step, is the hope I am hanging onto today, for what I hope,is  a brighter tomorrow.

Hope floats.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When life gets small

This week I realized that somewhere in the back of my mind, I am waiting.

By that I don't mean "waiting upon The Lord" kind of way.

But Waiting for more in the most worldly, snobby, ungrateful kind of way. 

Waiting to make more money, to buy a house, to be more successful, to travel, to have everything plus a little bit more. 

"I want a house." I said to my thoughts. "I want a yard, with pretty green grass, I want big windows that let a lot of light in, I want to be able to be noisy and not have our neighbors hear everything." I want. I want. I want.

I realized how quickly I allowed the desires of my heart to be replaced with the desires of the world. I realized just how shallow they were. How shallow I have become, and how they have held me back from seeing the fullness of God in my life.

And so, I said it out loud. I said it several times until the power of the words no longer had power over my heart.

"I may not get a chance to raise my kids in the house that I want." Deep breath.

"I may not get a chance to paint their bedrooms the colors they want, or have a play room, or have enough room."  Another deep breath.

"I might  have to live here longer than expected..."

"I may have to live here for a very long time."

Each thought settled in. Each thought released me from the disappointments that I walked in daily, wanting something different, wanting more instead of wanting what was needed.

And what I needed was this.

I needed to accept where we live, without any expectations set on moving.
I needed to allow the next season of our lives be a season of joy and of grate fullness.
I needed to be content, exactly where we were and where God placed our family.
I needed to save, not for something but for the freedom to move when God called us to.
I needed to invest into the memories of my children, more than the investments of things.

After I compiled a list of these things in my mind. 

I think I was ready to hear Him. God. This was what I heard.

"You are living in one of the best seasons of your life. I have restored the wealth of you family, I have rescued you when you needed me. I have answered every prayer you've prayed, and I have protected you from things only I can see. I have given you everything, all that you need, and I have always honored my promises to you. I have blessed you and will hold my word true over your life".

It was one paragraph that contained my entire life.

And finally,  I saw.

I saw my desires be filled with Gods promise and His perspective.

I saw the importance of our little yard. Our patch of grass and the new seeds that were coming through. I saw neighbors that worked for days trying to figure out the flooding problems and when they did, how grateful my kids were to them. That despite having a yard large enough to play in, what they saw was a yard large enough to grow a garden in. And through my kids,  my heart rejoiced because even they saw that we had more than enough. 

"I am choosing to be grateful for our little yard. I will not let the enemy deny me that which you have blessed me with or let it hold me back from your provision. Those who are wise with little will be wise with much, you said."

I saw my two windows, that I usually complain too much about because of how little light they let in, be enough. I saw that how our home was placed in such a way that it allowed our backyard to experience full sun. And quietly, I knew that the light I desired in our home, was very relevant to how much I actually wanted our lives to shine Jesus. It was vital, really, as both my husband and I agreed that we were living in the season where, how we lived our life and who God was to us, was going to be the foundation on how our children saw and knew Him. 

"I am so grateful that you live in our hearts, God. I will no longer allow my disappintments to diminish your purpose and vision for my life or further, misrepresent you in my children's life. Be the light of the world, you said."

Lastly, I saw the noise that comes out of our duplex.  I saw the one wall that separated our neighbors and us and I felt that just like our actions should portray Jesus, so should our noise. It's the noise of the day to day that God will use to bring our neighbors back to him. Because what they need, is not a pretty picture of a family, they have lived that. What they need is the noise of ours. A full house of a family and every noise that it comes it. They need it more than we need our privacy. And so, the one wall between their lives and ours was just enough for God to work with. 

"I am so grateful that I have your word, living in and through the bible. I will no longer expect a private life, if it means living privately in my faith. Our words become our actions, you said."

This changed everything. It brought purpose and meaning to my seemingly simple life and it changed my heart. Perspective does that. 

And it touched every area in my home. Big things, and small things.
I was finally being grateful and excited. I was finally content, not because I had less, but because I saw how much I had been given. My perspective was broadened and it reached for the eternal like never before.

Hope floats.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Valuable things are rare

Today I chaperoned my son on a school field trip to a theater production titled Fancy Nancy. It was a full day of riding a bus packed with little children and filled with laughter of all who rode in it. I could hear a couple of the adults talking in close range of me, I  could see some of the kids sitting quietly in their seats. And I could also feel the bouncing of the seat behind me. My group, was in fact the more boisterous bunch. They were the ones who played the silly games, poked each other in the eyes, and had trouble containing their excitement on the tiny leather bench that obviously wasn't made to fit three active children. But for being the active little boys they were, they did good, they obeyed my nudges to settle down, made sure they always stayed near each other, and did a pretty decent job asking me enough questions to keep me occupied and smiling.  To sum up our day, my boys did what was asked of them. They obeyed the rules.

As the day came to a close, and a single line formed with the very much, still rowdy 6 year olds, a mother behind me praised her group.

"You were super stars". She told them. "You guys deserve medals for your behavior today".

She praised her team for their cooperation while I seemed to think that their obedience was already rewarded. It was their cooperation through out the year that earned them this trip and because of it they were given the opportunity to watch a children's production, ride the bus with their friends, and eat lunch together outside at the park. That was the reward. That was the medal.

I know she wasn't being literal. But that didn't change the emptiness of her words or the lack of substance in them.

That mother, just told her team that because they followed the rules made for the entire class, they deserved something. They deserved medals, in fact. That this field trip, wasn't good enough for their exceptional demonstration of cooperation and obedience. They deserved some thing more, they deserved individual recognition.

Today this is what grabbed all of my attention.

You see. It's not just her that is guilty of this kind of praise. I am just as much at fault.

Especially because it was made very apparent last week when I took my girls in for hair cuts.

They got the full treatment. Sweet smelling shampoo, pleasant conversation with the hair stylist, blow dry and blow out. They got it all, and the room was saturated with fun and with laughter.

After we had left and seated our van, I asked my girls if they liked their hair. I asked them if they enjoyed the experience. And lastly, I thanked them for behaving nicely.

I mentioned to them that because it went so smoothly, we had an hour to spare and enough time to drive some where.

"Maybe," I said.
"We could go to that thrift store you girls enjoy digging around in."

"Do I get to pick out some books?" Jenny asked.
 "As part of a reward for being so good?"

Ring a bell?

It sure did for me.

And yet again. I was shocked by the ideas that I myself had planted in my children.

Ideas that signified reward for good behavior instead of the experiences they get to be a part of because they have proved themselves obedient. 

But even with an explanation, it was apparent that I have fallen into this trap.

And it's probably been happening a lot. 

Praises that were empty and undeserved rewards, needed to become significant again.
They needed to mean something.
They needed to be forms of encouragement, up lifting and life giving.

The best example I have of this, comes from my own mom.

She did what I believe every mother needs to do more. See saw the strengths in her children and encouraged those areas, but at the same time she was honest about our weaknesses and saw them as opportunities for growth.

Those were the types of things she told us. Not to her friends, not to our teachers, and not really to any one else. She simply told us. As for me, she told me to be better, strive higher and work harder. Until it was engrained in me.

It wasn't that she wasn't proud of us. She simply believed that teaching a child happens in the home and praise is the outcome that you receive from people outside of those walls.

She, like many parents already believed that their kids were the best.

Praise would hold little value if we just went on that alone.

Praise, I have learned should only be given out only when it is due.

Careful not to diminish it's worth.

Thinking about it, I would say that to this day, my mothers compliments to me always hit a bar so exceedingly high, holding such a high place that absolutely nothing or no one could make me think differently.

My mothers praise holds value.

And valuable things, are always rare things.

My mother rarely praised me. 


Friday, April 25, 2014

Wall flower

One of my first deepest hurts was when I was called a wall flower. Unsure of what that even meant, it was defined for me. 

"Some one who does not stand out or stand apart. They do what the rest do. They merely exist."

At least that was the definition that I was given when I was a child. 

And I didn't really even get it.

But as I grew up. I realized that I have mostly been the person walking under some one else's shadow. 

Who ever my friends have been in the past, they were always people that I wanted to be a little more like.

And it was true, I would briefly live my life on their pretty little paper. 

 But I soon grew up. 

And I got married to my best friend.

And for a while I enjoyed nothing else. He was in fact everything I needed, because for the first time in my life, I fit into his life instead of on his wall.

The challenge was that I was alone a lot. I was in a new country, married to a man that wanted to create a future of finances for our life through business. Which meant he was away a lot. And I was completely alone for long periods of time, absent of relationships and people. That season was the hardest season to walk through, but yet, it was one of the most powerful ones that shaped me, my marriage, and ultimately my life. I know that it was in that season that God defined and secured himself to me. And I find myself coming back to it over and over again. All with praise. Every part of it I am grateful for.

And I prayed. I prayed as often as I cried, almost as if there were no other ways to pray.  I prayed that God would bring me friendships that were right in His eyes. People that would be everything that He first desired for me. Ones that would sharpen me as I sharpened them. Friends that would stick closer than family, friends that bring to me the pleasantness of relationship. And then I gave God the right to guide my steps through all of it.

And I began to see the gifts of people that God brought to me and into our family. We saw how every individual, couple, family, was orchestrated in such a way that the relationships we had could only be formed by God himself. And I knew that our prayers were heard. 

I knew that we were blessed. And I cherished those blessings as far as God would allow them to be.

But I have discovered that my weaknesses never really leave me. Some how they always manage to stand close by. 
And I believe that they serve me.

They serve me, they serve you, as reminders. My weaknesses are the things that get me to my knees. They are the things that I feel so deeply, that grab a hold so tight, that some times I can barely breath. Only cry.

Only pray.

I had one of these nights a couple weeks ago. It wasn't anything that I was going to share. But here I am, sharing.

The memory kept replaying in my mind. Certain words, repeated themselves, certain feelings, circled. And I just couldn't let them go. 

It was about 2 in the morning. When I finally got dressed, and walked down stairs. 

I didn't really know what I was doing or what I even wanted. Besides sleep of course. But there I was. Sitting.

I have learned to feel comfortable being alone, often, I enjoy the thoughts in those moments and the places of vulnerability it forced me into.

So I sat there in complete silence and just let the process of thought take place. I remembered opening the bible and pouring over the scriptures, hoping to understand my feelings.

One of those feelings was intimacy. I knew that every part of me desired a deeper relationship with our friendships. So naturally I was angry that my many attempts had failed as I watched relationships that should have been mine, flourish with other people. Better people. And there I was, stuck again in my pity and in my own despair. 

And for the first time, I prayed something that I had never prayed for before.

"GOD, I said, Take this precious time in my life to secure my relationship, deeper and more intimately with you."

The words seemed almost foreign. So much of me wanted the feeling of loneliness to finally leave me, leave my children, and leave my marriage. By no means did I want more of it.

So I sat there, kind of shocked at my own prayer.

Until I realized something.   

I have always played the victim. I have continuously chosen to feel sorry for my self. And I learned how to live with it because I thought that I didn't have another choice.

That was my mistake. 

That was why I never moved too far away from it. That was why I never felt like I fitted in.

All of it was because I was meant to first secure my relationship with God. I needed to change the way I looked at lonliness, not in abandonment, but in the arms of love from a Father that desired me draw closer to Him. First. 

Never had I thought that my many failed relationships with people was Gods protection. Never had I thought that the people themselves were the doors being closed in my life. 

Never had thought that my feelings of lonliness were attacks from the enemy. Who whispered it until I believed it. Never did I ever think that my mentality as a victim discredited God of His protection and friendship over my life. 

So naturally, I was completely stunned.

And in my stunned state. I asked the next, most important question. 

What is loneliness or the absence of relationships,  intended for?

And this was what I got.

Lonliness heightens our dependancy on Him.
 In the seasons I was the lonliest, were the seasons that brought me to my knees. They contained more prayers than some times the prayers of an entire month. 

Lonliness is the absence of pressure.
Without the drive that preoccupies a person when we try to win people over, allows God to win us over. 

Lonliness is the absense of noise.
When there is no noise, no opinions, no pushed opinions from people. It creates the perfect environment for God to push His through. 

Lonliness gets us desperate.
So that we would step out into places we other wise wouldn't do on our own. It is in that desperation that allows God to create boldness.

Lonliness is God seeking us out.
Every time I felt lonely, my relationship with God was lacking. When I desired to have friendships, He asked me to be his friend first. When I asked him why they weren't growing any deeper, He asked me to go deeper with Him. 

After sitting there, in the middle of the night, I understood that loneliness was not intended to be a dessert time at all, that it isn't true of Gods desire for your life or mine. Instead God uses this fragile state in an individual to open a door into feeling secure.

I know this feeling better than anyone. I have experienced what it was like to be lonely and come out of it gaining a friendship with Him. I have felt jealousy surface when I watched people that I longed to be close to, were not mine to be close with. And I have gone out of my way countless times in every effort to deepen those relationships when I knew that I should be deepening my relationship with God. 

But today He told me why. He told me that my desires for intimacy can not be filled by people until I first searched out an intimate relationship with Him. My God. That those feelings only surface when I am lacking Him. And that my need for intimacy is really rooted in a desire to deepen my relationship with Him. First. 

I just never realized that this struggle wasn't just mine. It was my children's also. And tonight as I stayed up for half of the night, going back to old memories and some fresh hurts, I realized that those seasons shaped me, secure me and continuously draw me closer. But now, God was going to begin His work in securing my children and as the faithful God that He is,He wanted me to know just how important this next season was going to be. How vital it was going to be in my children. 

And I rejoiced. 

I was once called a wall flower, and some how that became one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. That day, God took me off the wall and poured so much water on me that I would never be any one else's flower, Except His.