Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Perfect Day

Dear self,
This is just a reminder to never forget today. 

Never forget...
  • Savoring a sweet lunch as a family of four at Red Robin. No whining. No fighting the kids to eat. They even ordered for themselves for the first time today.
  • The blessing of the rain stopping and the sun shining just as you pulled up to Uncle David's New Smyrna house.
  • Soaking in the family gathered all around you...all 30 and 3 on the way.
  • The pure joy in the eyes of your children riding on the back of the pontoon boat. Wind blowing their hair, eyes dancing, reflecting the sparkle of the canal.
  • The day spent on the disappearing island. How the tide receded and there it was. An island oasis all to ourselves.
  • The joy of new discoveries...hermit crabs, regenerating starfish, live sand dollars, well-armored sea snails, blue crabs, tiny crabs, ghost crabs.  Casting a line and catching amber jack and catfish.
  • The pure joy of your children in their tidal pool discoveries. The silent skittle of millions of tiny crab feet scurrying as one through the blade grass. Finding live barnacles among the dead ones and hidden hermit crabs in various shells among other unusual mollusks.
  • Hearing your children screech and bounce on their toes at each new discovery.
  • Watching cousins hold hands as they walk the expanse of new land to discover.  Watch them taste and see that what God has made is truly good.
  • Running through the shallow waters with your niece and relishing the sweet sound of an adoring "Aunt Jenn" uttered from the mouths of babes.  Their smiles.  Their joy when you see them, really see them and appreciate their attention.
  • Realizing God still has newness to be discovered in the world around us...never far from our very fingertips.
  • The sweet taste of a simple, loaded baked potato, grilled pork chops, and a Stavros salad at the end of a long and happy day.  The feeling of being full to the brim in every sense of the word full.  Satisfied with life.  Satiated with a day well spent and a meal much needed.
  • Taking in the sights and sounds of your family enveloping the summer air of that back porch...seeping into the depths of your heart and soul. Each face. Each smile. Each voice. Each giggle, twirl, and crooked smile of every child. Each endearing and knowing look of every adult. My family. My blood. My heartbeat. The times like these are fast fleeting. Hold them. Ponder them. Treasure them.
  • Playing ring-around-the-rosy with your nieces and watching their eyes shine and their small hands reach for each other and hold on tightly.  May you always reach for your family and hold on tightly.  May we always give you a reason to want to.
  • The sweet comfort of the independence of your own children on this day. Five and three has been a great year.
  • Watching your daughter dance party with her cousins, toes pointed, heart abandoned. So grown up. So beautiful. So full of everything life is. Seeing all that she is and all that she will be in that moment.
  • Your son choosing daddy over you...kayaking, fishing, riding the Moped. Just loving his dad. Loving being a boy. Loving the world God made just for him too.
  • The feeling of not wanting to leave as the day wound down and each family trickled out the door of their own accord. 
Never forget wanting to stop time and hold on for just one second more. The warmth. The love. The community. The way the world feels when all is right.

Never forget the perfect day. Hold each memory tight.  Store it with your treasure in heaven. Never forget.

And next time....don't forget your camera either:)

Friday, June 14, 2013


So I'm a Sci-Fi geek.  I can recite the intro to Star Trek by heart, and there's probably not a comic book movie ever made that I haven't seen.  It doesn't matter how many Super Man movies they continue to make, people will still go see them.  I think it has to do with the something in all of us that needs to believe in supernatural power...hmmm....I digress....

Anyway, so in May of last year, I found myself fixated on a thought. (As we've determined, my thoughts get me into LOTS of trouble), but I am also strangely, how-do-you-say, "gifted" with thoughts that inevitably end up foreshadowing future events.  I am NOT saying I can see or predict the future...AT ALL.  All I'm saying is I have experienced too many de ja vu moments in my life to discount how God is trying to speak to me--not to anyone else mind you, just me.

With that disclaimer, I found myself in May of last year constantly playing over a scene from one of the X-Men movies.  (Here's the best clip I can find to illustrate. Fast forward to 1:54 and mute the music if that's not your thing. The whole clip is actually a great metaphor for what "staying inside your head" can actually do to you, but that's for another day...)  Anyway, it's a scene where the telepathic and telekinetic Jean Gray steps out of an airplane to save her friends from the impending doom of a dam breaking in front of them, drowning them all.  With the powers of her mind alone, she creates a force field around the plane as the dam bursts, water gushing forth all around them in horrific force. Her friends are able to get the plane started and escape their doom, but the force of the water proves too great for Jean's powers, and she is consumed by the floods.  (So you are made to believe.)

Now, I hadn't seen this movie in years.  Why this scene kept playing itself over and over in my mind, I had no clue.  I had thought about writing a blog about it.  Maybe God was trying to show me something I needed to pass on to others. Pride.  But instead, looking back, I see that it was a warning.  I was Jean Gray.  I was trying all on my own with my own spiritual powers given by God in my own spiritual strength (which is a lie) to ward off the coming flood in my life.  I thought I was being very holy and martyr-like to stand in the gap for my family in the plane behind me.  Joey and I would stop fighting.  I would take the high road.  I would figure it out.  I would get it together.  I would save my family.

The dam broke.  I was consumed.

On Sunday morning May 20th, 2012 every dam in my life broke.  Couldn't pinpoint what thought or action sent me over the edge that morning.  Probably nothing significant in that moment that morning because my life had been slipping out of control inwardly for quite some time, as I've pointed out previously.  I know it was a mental dam, but the force of the break consumed my body, and that is why I honestly believe I experienced my first seizure ever in my entire life.

That brief one minute incident where my body and mind were completely out of my control sent my life reeling for the next six months.

So now, over a year later, I'm in a place where I find myself humbled--daily, and about that I will write.

Only then can I boast like Paul in my weaknesses.  I am innately given to prideful thoughts, which often lead to prideful actions and prideful words said or penned, but God is bigger than me.  Way bigger, and He is faithful to humble me every time.  Every time.  It's a nasty, unpleasant cycle that I am beginning to look forward to.  Praise God that He will humble me!  Praise God that He doesn't let me continue in my prideful ways before too many people are hurt and not enough helped.  Bless Him for faithfully disciplining this child.

In this weakness I will boast of God's surpassing goodness.  A grace sufficient.  That the Creator of the universe would see my wretched, sinful pride, and even consider forgiving me, then much less filling me, then much much less fulfilling me!

So today, over a year later, I am asked if I will take the time to share about an amazing act of grace that I've experienced in my life, and the word that comes to mind is humility.  IT IS BY GOD'S GRACE ALONE THAT I AM HUMBLED.  That's weird, right?  But I'm telling you, if it weren't for Him, I'd probably be the most unbearable, judgmental religious person anyone has ever met.  If it weren't for His grace gently putting me in my place, quietly pointing fingers at all my flaws, softly ushering me back to my knees before His throne, I think I might be the most arrogant, lost "Christian" of them all.  And the grace on top of grace?  He keeps me there, on my knees, in front of Him, no matter the cost.

Some might think, 'Geez.  I'm not sure that sounds like such a great relationship?  Someone always keeping you in a place of humility?  Never letting you sound your own horn just a little?  Sounds a little overbearing and unenjoyable.'    And yes, to the world who doesn't know my God, who doesn't know me, this all sounds a little kooky.  That's part of why I know it's perfect for me.  When God is working in your life, it often makes absolutely no sense to the people around you.

But I know my God.  I know He does right by His people.  I know He wants nothing but what's best for me.  I know He is working all things for my good and for His glory.  And He's got me in a place, where really, all I really want is for others to see His glory.  He's SO MUCH BETTER and MORE and GREATER than me.  And for His grace to be sufficient for me, He has to put me in a place where I can see His sufficiency at work.  And that usually means a vantage point from my knees, but really, I almost prefer the cool comfort of the ground pressed against my face=)

So, I will tell you the story of His amazing act of grace toward me--

I had a seizure. (God's grace: Nothing was permanently wrong with me.)  Didn't learn my lesson.  Kept trying to put on the brave face, when secretly, inwardly I was working my own plan.  My grandfather died.  Not in my plans.  (God's grace: He still gave me words to speak.)  The thoughts, the lies, continued to overwhelm my self-strength.  I sank into a depression darker and deeper than I have known in years.  (God's grace: He sent a friend to tell me I needed help.)  So I took the meds, and I sought help. (God's grace: Three months of counseling not only got me off the meds but gave me freedom in place of bondage!  Tools to fight the thoughts!  God's grace on top of grace:  In the midst of taking the meds, He was busy revealing Himself to me fully.  Filling my life with who He was and the greatness of His power.  Preparing me for the faith journey ahead.)  A new year came and with it a new me, a new outlook, a new way of thinking.

I'm still tempted to lean on myself.  I'm still tempted to believe watching TV for weeks on end instead of doing my quiet time is ok.  I'm still tempted to believe that spending time doing lots of good, godly things makes up for the lack of time spent in genuine prayer and communion with God.  I'm still tempted to spout all the good, godly answers to life's hardships in other people's lives without taking the time to minister to the hurt and the immediate need.  I'm still tempted to be a Pharisee.  (God's grace: He reminds me of the meds I had to take a year ago, the dark place I was in, the lies I believed that He set me free from.  His grace is that He humbles me quicker this time around than it took the first time.  He strips me of all my pride faster than He did a year ago.  And when He does, even though I resist every time, He reminds me that pride keeps me in bondage while humility sets me free.)

And what choice do I have then?  Who wants to stay in prison? In chains? A slave to their own fleshly desires with no higher calling?  Who willingly chooses that?  Unfortunately, most of us do every day--including myself.  It's easier to watch one more hour of television than to sit and confess your sins.  It's easier to spend one more hour on Facebook than it is to stop and really spend time in prayer for all those friends.  It's easier to fill your days with play dates, lunches, VBS, Bible studies, and other ministries, than it is to ask God what HE wants you to do with your day, your time, your kids, your friends, your husband.  It's easy to believe the lie, 'I've got this.  Thanks for the protection, Lord.  Thanks for Your blessings.  But I've got this.'

It's so easy to choose the easy...and be enslaved, ensnared, indebted to prideful living and thinking.

Choose the hard. Choose the different.  Choose the difficult choice.  Submit to God's way.  Let Him have His way in your life in the daily, nit picky, seemingly pointless decisions.  Learn to bend your knee  to His will in ALL things, and soon you will realize the joy of the Lord.  His way really is best, and it is an amazing act of grace in my life right now that I am seeing it.  I've always believed it, known it, but never tried too hard to actually live it.  Oh what joy!  Oh what joy!

Choose the hard.
Whatever that may be.
Bend your heart and bow the knee.

Watch for joy!
It's there!  Don't you see?
True joy dances in the dawn of humility.

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