Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God Can Handle Me

It has been a while since I've written here. One day I returned from vacation and the next day returned to work and the task of preparing for the new year of teaching art to my preschoolers. It has been a very busy month and I am struggling to get into a rhythm in which I consistently make time to write, Writing this blog is one thing that I believe God has called me to do, so pray for me as I look for ways to carve out the time to write.

Then there are the times when I may have a moment to write, but feel as if I have nothing to say. Those times are very frustrating to me because the moments of undisturbed quiet are so rare for this mom. When I have one I just want to be able to pour out all the things God has been teaching me and yet the words aren't coming.

Right now, it is 3:45 a.m. and I have that quiet moment. I am struggling with emotions, rather than words. And I thought to myself, "I can't write my blog while I am feeling like this!"

 And a still small voice quietly asked, "Why not?"

 And I said, "I'm not feeling all that grateful right now. I'm feeling angry. I'm feeling tired. Who wants to hear that?"

And God said, "I do. Pour it out. I can handle it. I am not afraid of your anger. I am not afraid of what you are like at your worst moments. I am God and I am big enough to handle you."

Just hearing those words in my heart and mind put me at ease. Suddenly, I am changed. Yes, some of the emotions are still there, but along with that is a gift of peace. I can pour it out. I can tell the truth. I can be completely known and this Jesus isn't going to run or back away. He is strong enough to handle my emotions and my distress. I am grateful.

I know I can't always tell others how I am feeling. Everyone asks, "How are you?" But I understand that in most cases that is not a genuine inquiry about my condition. Rather, it is a social phrase to which I am to respond with something short and untroubled. Usually, "Fine" or "Good, thanks" is what I say. If I am not fine, I do try to be honest without losing the social context of the question. "I've been better," is one of my lines in those times.

But, to be able to really talk to a Friend and to let Him know what it's like; to be able to speak all the thoughts, which my Father already knows; to pour it all out like water before Him and to hear His quieting and restful words . . . that is peace and joy. That is my strength and salvation.

Thank you, Father, that You are strong and mighty. You are powerful. You know my needs and You know my fears. You know me completely and yet, Your love for me is not changed. 

"Say to my soul, 'I am your salvation.'"
Psalm 35:3

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Surprise Gift

I love to go on vacation. Some years we get to go somewhere and some years we don't. I am learning to walk in contentment with those times we don't go anywhere.

This year the chances were slim and none. And slim was heading out of town.

I had a little mantra that I would say to myself. It went something like this, "Even though almost everyone around me is going to the beach sometime this summer, I don't have to go. There are people all around the world who don't even know that vacations exist and who have never been anywhere but their very own village or town. Many of them are glad if they manage two meals a day in the midst of their hard work. Yeah, I think I can live without a trip to the beach."

Levi at St. Simons pier. Photo by Taylor Cone.
I was not denying my desire to get away for some relaxation and fun, I was only trying to remind myself that a vacation was not a necessity. God has not promised me an annual trip to the beach. What He has promised  is to walk with me, to be with me in the good times and the bad, to strengthen me for this day, to never leave or forsake me, and to hear my cries. He has promised me His Presence, not presents.

And yet He is the ultimate gift Giver. He gave me Jesus. He gave me entrance into His throne room. He gave me grace and forgiveness when I was His enemy. He redeemed me by paying the costly price of the life and blood of His Son to cover my sins. He brought me out of darkness and into His marvelous light. He took me from slavery to freedom.

So, did comparing my life to some other lives in this world help me? Yes, I think it did. It's not so much about making comparisons as it is remembering His goodness to me. I want to be aware that God is good to me whether I get to do cool things I'd like to do or not. I want to know that God is mine and I am His and a trip to St. Simons Island isn't going to change that.
The Beach at St. Simons Island. Photo by Taylor Cone.
God decided to surprise me and let me experience St. Simons again this year. As I said, He does love to give gifts. I enjoyed resting and reconnecting with my kids and watching them with their friends. I enjoyed hanging out with my mom and her best friend Carol. I loved not having an agenda other than choosing among the pool, the beach, or the pier.

Thank You, Father for allowing me these days of restoration. And I especially thank You for sunrises at the beach and sunsets at the pier.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." 
Psalm 19:1

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tender Mercies

We left our church in Monroe, Georgia just over five years ago. My husband was pastor and needed healing. He was burned out, clinically depressed, and at the end of his rope. I felt alone, exhausted, and almost hopeless. It was a horrible time. Then God in His great mercy allowed us to come to City of Refuge at First Baptist Woodstock, Georgia. COR is a ministry of First Baptist, and its mission is to offer grace, mercy, healing and restoration for pastors and their families. COR moved us to Woodstock. They found a house for us to rent.  They even paid the rent until we got on our feet. They helped us move in. And they gave us hours and hours of free (yes, FREE) counseling.

Because we were hurt and tired, our new church home required that we rest. They steadfastly refused to allow us to serve in any capacity. It was our time to be "no good" church members, we were told. They seemed insistent that we find out what it was like simply to be "loved on" by the body.

The idea of resting had some appeal to me. After all I was used to spinning more than a few plates at one time.  Yet, when VBS rolled around, I couldn't seem to let go. Maybe I could serve in some small capacity, like a teacher's assistant. Being the rule follower that I am, I went through all the right channels to seek approval for this idea. "No, nope, nada, and no way," were the answers I received.

For a while, it chaffed me that I wasn't free to serve. But then I began to consider, "Why can't I just rest? Why does it mean so much for me to work in the church?"

The answer was simple and disquieting: ministry defined me. If I wasn't doing "ministry," where was my value? I mean, I was good at it! I had vision, I had energy, I had desire, I was faithful and dependable. If I wasn't the VBS director, children's ministry leader, or children's choir director, then who was I to God? Was I important at all?

As the months went by, I began to accept the precious truth that Jesus is more interested in me as a human being than a human doing. He actually finds joy in relating to me and knowing me and in me finding my identity in Him.

"I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. 
They will be my people, and I will be their God, 
for they will return to me with all their heart."
Jeremiah 24:7

Last night I let Levi stay up too late. I was enjoying hanging out with Kevin and watching "Parks and Recreation." (Don't judge me.) When Levi is exhausted he will eventually have a meltdown. And that's exactly what happened. He was building with his marble track and it wasn't working out like he wanted. Then CRASH; Levi was crying and screaming and throwing himself down on the floor. In moments like these, moving him to bed is the obvious solution, but he was so angry about the whole marble track fiasco he couldn't calm himself. He kept trying to get up and go back to work on it even though he was too tired and upset.

I was praying for wisdom on how to calm him and I got very near him and tried singing "Jesus Loves Me".  It wasn't working. Then I tried another tune. The lyrics to this one said, "Levi, Levi, I love you. Levi, Levi, I love you. Levi, Levi, I love you because you are mine." Immediately he was soothed and looked at me and said, "Sing the song again."

I sang it again as I led him to bed where he soon fell  asleep. The moment before when Levi was in turmoil, everything seemed to be about his failure at building the marble track he imagined. You could say his identity had become wrapped up in doing a good job with the marble track. The thing that turned him was my drawing near, singing my love for him, reminding him that that love is there just because he is mine. It was the remedy his little soul needed. Coming to City of Refuge was a lot like that for me.

I served and I ministered, but that became so much more important than my God who loves me. God in His tender mercies didn't yell at me or strike me, rather He came very near to me and sang a song of love and acceptance over me. The Father reminded me that I am loved because I am His. I am not loved because I am a Sunday School teacher or VBS director, but because I belong to Him. Rest and peace spring forth and I can breathe because I am valued by the One who made me and saved me.

And, by the way, VBS succeeded without me.