Thursday, January 15, 2015

Surrendering to Stillness

God is moving in my life deeply in a way that is hard to wrap words around.

He's literally called me to a place in time where I am to BE STILL...and breathe. Really breathe. Breathe deep His presence.  Breathe deep His glory and majesty in His creation. Breathe in the blessing of my family.  My family.  Just the four of us. Breathe in a Genesis 1:2 moment in time--the stillness of beginnings.

I've continued in BSF again this year, and God is already beginning to plough the fields of my life with the study of Moses.  Moses who spent the first 40 years of his life thinking he was somebody, only to spend the next 40 years of his life as a nobody, so that God could use the last 40 years of his life showing the world what God can do with a nobody by turning him into a somebody for His glory.

I want to see God's glory.  I've asked to see it, and God has answered, "Here you are.  Here am I. Trust Me with the three remaining most precious things I have not removed from you.  Trust Me fully and be still and watch Me you."

And so I am learning to see space for God's opportunity in the white space of availability on my calendar instead of believing the lies that I do not matter, that I am forgotten, that I am useless.

I am learning to relish hours of long quiet moments in time when I can actually sit and take in and breathe deep the beauty of this land where I live.  Not just stare at the bird feeder in passing, hoping one day I will have a moment to go refill it, but actually taking time, not hurried, to fill the feeder and sit and just watch birds.  Just watch birds.  Practicing being still.  It's the practice of filling a day with rest and meditation and prayer, instead of a long list of things to do, and believe it or not, this is so counter cultural and opposite to my own personality that I find this to be harder work than the list of things I love to accomplish!

Because believe it or not, I didn't realize I didn't know how to be still anymore.  Do you?  Do you know how to be still?  Not just take a nap or a vacation or lounge for 30 minutes over a cup of coffee. To have nothing so pressing in your life more than the responsibilities of raising your family and being a godly spouse, being a true child of God.  No planned activities.  No family to call and invite over. Heck, with a three hour time difference, I find it difficult to even call my family! No church function to attend.  Nothing to volunteer for.  Just space and time and stillness....and God.

His presence is palpable in the Stillness. Seriously, sometimes I can almost physically feel my Jesus right beside me.

No, there is a deep, abiding stillness enveloping our lives here that requires we only follow God's cloud cover by day and His pillar of fire by night.  (Exodus 13:21) That's it.  Nothing more.  He's even provided all the manna we could ask for.  We have all we need.  Now, it's time to settle in to the stillness and follow God wherever He leads us next.  I'm trying not to search for anything more than that.  All it requires is my availability and courage to make myself available.  I'm not walking through any doors that God doesn't hunt and find and open for me.  No, my days of hunting and pecking and opening for myself have dwindled to a stopping point.

Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness of Midian with just his family.  He became intimately acquainted with the wilderness.  God used the wilderness to humble him and mold him.  He spent 40 years in Midian with only his wife and child to minister to him.  No one was probably more prepared to wander in the wilderness of Sinai that would come next more than Moses.  I wonder if he ever actually came to love it?  To call the wilderness home?

We all have a choice as to what wilderness we choose to sojourn.  Like Moses, we can allow the wilderness to mold us into who God wants us to be or like the Israelites we can moan and whine and complain and rage against a sovereign God, letting the wilderness kill us, heart, body, and mind.

I choose to be molded.  I choose to be wrapped in silence and stillness for as long as God sees fit because I think my heart has finally grasped the truth that I am NEVER truly alone. (John 16:32)  Loneliness is a lie from the devil.  Stillness is a rare treasure from God.

I should have been seeking for the stillness sooner.  I should have been seeking it not only for myself, but for my family.  I should have built a cocoon of stillness around our lives, creating a haven in my home where Stillness was honored, appreciated, and practiced, but I let the busyness of every day life dictate my "ministry" instead.

My family within the four walls of my home is my greatest ministry, and had God not physically removed me from my busyness in all things good and godly, I think I might have missed raising my children.  I think I might have missed the small conversations and teachable moments in the chaos of trying to remember where I had to be next at what time.  I think I might have missed connecting with them because I was too busy making sure they had a relationship with every other member of our families back East.  I think God saved my family from my own blind ambition by bringing us to California, by placing us in stillness.

(Deep Pause)

I am grateful for the stillness.  It is deep and warm and intimate here in the land of my sojourning. There are difficult days.  Days when you wish you were remembered.  Days when the thorn in your side of loneliness throbs deeply.  Days when you fight the antsy, urge in the bottom of your throat to just do something for the sake of doing something!

But no.  The lesson is to be still.  So be still I will learn to be.  As my favorite podcast coined, 'I'm going to sink down into this stillness and just BE.'

I'm going to sink down, sink in, and learn what it means to savor.  Savor time to snuggle with my kids and just watch TV together.  Savor time to pack a picnic and watch time pass as the sun settles into the ocean for bed.  Savor so much white space in my life that I can sit at my kitchen table and stare out my patio window for hours if I like, Bible open, heart open, ears listening.  I'm going to be still and savor.

And in His time, God will move me.  A burning bush will call me out of the stillness back into the fray.  You can be sure He will never let you get TOO comfortable=)  And my prayer is that when He calls, when I return from the stillness, I pray with all my heart I will not be the same woman who sits here typing today.  I pray I'm stripped of pride and filled with courage and faith. A deeper faith than I've ever known. I pray that I will have learned how to be a still person on the inside despite the circumstances whirling around me.

Which probably explains why my blogs have been so few and far between.  Dropping off the radar of life is not necessarily a bad thing.  It's definitely not a bad thing when you're being obedient to God's call.  For me, it means I'm careful about when and what and how I blog.  May God always get the glory!  For some, it may mean deleting that Facebook page, monitoring the number of hours you and your family spend on "screens" during the week, or maybe it means cutting down or cutting out extracurricular sports and activities in your life that you find yourself just doing because everyone else does it.  I think my pastor said it best this past Sunday. I want to spend my life doing less things of more importance than doing more things of less importance.  Let that sink in.

True Stillness requires sacrifice, which is why I believe it pleases God. (2 Samuel 24:24)

And should you choose to do the same, should you choose to drop off the radar of life in following of His obedience to a calling He's spoken to your heart, know that He is not through with you yet.  He's not benching you.  He's conditioning you.  And it's ok to quit everything and be still in your own home with your own thoughts with your God who loves you more than life itself if that's what He's calling you to do.

We need to learn how to practice stillness.

Praying you find the joy of the Lord in the stillness of His presence alone. (Psalm 16:11)

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Christmas Letter 2014

I post this every year, usually after Christmas, but well, life happens, right?  For those of you we missed on our Christmas card list, forgive me, but this is really the most important part anyway--our family testimony of the Lord in our lives in 2014.  Praying anyone who reads this will find JOY in 2015.  Enjoy being God's child and enjoy the loved ones around you this year, and don't forget to use every avenue and opportunity possible to tell others how being God's child changes everything about your life. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

From January to June, we saw God walk us through the biggest transition I have yet to experience in my life, moving East coast to West coast, away from all that I’ve known for 34 years into nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and my testimony is that our family has seen God, we have experienced His presence, and I have known He sees us right where we are.

From January to June, He led us through selling the home where my babies were born, to living with my parents, to landing our family of four here in southern California.  I saw His hand in every step, every tiny detail that just worked itself out. Eighteen days to sell a home in a neighborhood full of foreclosures in a still-recovering economy at a price where we still made money.  That was God.  I saw Him in the relationships of those we left behind, and I continue to see God working in the relationships we have formed here in California. I saw the Lord support our entire family emotionally, giving us strength to endure with joyous hearts and grateful attitudes.

I saw the Lord even in the tenuous circumstances around finding our home, and He found us the perfect home!  Spacious, open, beautiful backyard on a golf green, right next to the highway, ten minutes from the kids’ schools.  That was God because homes like this in California are hard to come by.  We literally had three to choose from when we started looking, and this one the Lord just dropped in our laps, literally.

And then we landed in California, and I haven’t seen Him stop working since.  The Lord brought friendships through friends from Savannah’s school.  Their kindness to a complete stranger over the summer still overwhelms me when I think about it. I continue to be blessed by their open hearts.

It took a few months to find the church we call home now, but in the three months of visiting churches, the Lord was faithful to provide encouraging sermons almost every Sunday from different pastors and through different experiences—that was a gift from God, water in the desert.  When we heard the practically applicable heart of Pastor Ambrose at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente, we knew we’d found a home, somewhere where we could find refreshment in honest, Biblical preaching, somewhere we can praise God with others for all He is doing in our lives.

Our neighbors are amazing!  From the first day we arrived, the kids in the neighborhood befriended my children, and each of those kids has become dear to me. I see God in providing this unexpected blessing.  We prayed for it, but couldn’t have planned for it when choosing our home.  We also have a neighbor who adores our dog Samson and has been so kind to open her home and heart when we need someone to care for him.  What a blessing!  An unexpected, unplanned blessing from the Lord!

We are truly in a season where God is pouring down manna from heaven in every format. We are humbled, grateful, and overwhelmed by the responsibility to share His blessings, as good stewards should.  We are looking and open to the opportunities the Lord places in our paths, but we also find ourselves in a season of stillness.

There is stillness in our activity, stillness in our friendships (to some degree, although I am grateful that stillness is beginning to ripple with new faces), stillness in our extracurriculars, stillness in our church involvement.  We are simply being called to be still for a season.  To enjoy the Lord and tell everyone who will listen how He has been so faithful.  To enjoy our children.  To see them grow. To grow with them. This stillness is a gift I did not expect, and although there are days when my entire being grows antsy to “do” something, the Lord is quick to remind me I am “doing” exactly what He’s called me do by just being exactly where I am today, in this moment in time, being a mother, really learning to be a godly mother, and being a wife, really pressing into what that needs to look like for my marriage and for my children.

Blessings!  Gifts! Unmerited favor!  This is our testimony.  There are no illnesses to report for the entire year, no major set backs, no complaints.  Weston is excelling at his two-day home school co-op for Kindergarten at Heart Christian Academy. Savannah is doing well at Grace Classical Academy, a school of excellence of which I am so grateful to be a part.  Joey loves his work, and we are enjoying the perks of his travel not being cross-country any longer. I am in love with California—its beauty is palpable; it sinks into my soul.  The ocean is my second home here. I never knew how much it ministered to me until I could be on it every day if I chose.  It’s true you never miss what you’ve never had.

Savannah memorized Psalm 19:1-11 at school, and I feel like it is the perfect summation and testimony to who God is in our lives right now, a testimony to all that He is Righteous and His ways are right. I pray that in reading those verses you too will be humbled by the greatness of our God, drawn to the desire to do things His way--exactly His way--because our family has found there is no better way.

And so with grateful, joyous, overflowing hearts, we are living life in California, building new relationships, strengthening the ties that bind our family of four, and actively looking to see where God shows up next because I promise you, I think He has shown up every day for over a year now in my life, and I can’t stop looking for the next glimpse of His goodness, the next revelation of His glory.

Sigh.  So many verses!  The entire chapter of Psalm 16 speaks testimony for our family, but I will leave you with verses 9-11:
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will You let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with JOY in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.

May your family know the incomparable joy of experiencing the presence of God in your lives this Christmas season, for isn’t that what Christmas is all about?  Celebrating Immanuel, GOD with us, His very own presence born here on earth to be experienced by man? True joy!

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