“Lucky for me, I have you to tie my shoes”

“Lucky for me, I have you to tie my shoes”

(My Big Fat Greek Wedding for the win!)

Thus was my sentiment to Harli earlier in the week, with bathroom habits referenced rather than shoe-tying. I’m not helpless, or a child, right? I could reeeeealllly go for a 64 pack of Crayola, along with one of those “Jumbo” activity books that my mom used to buy at Wal Mart for $2.97 in the hopes of keeping me occupied for more than 15 minutes, but I am most certainly an adult. An adult who drinks hot chocolate in the afternoon at around two, and occasionally enjoys single serve macaroni and cheese (from the BLUE BOX) for lunch, but an adult just the same.

Looking for proof, you skeptical sort? Well, I’m married- only adults do that! And I can drive, though I probably shouldn’t over here, as I’m my spacial relations are still a bit scary when I’m driving the wrong side of the car. Have a look at my house sometime, and you’ll find it spotless, aside from the almost constant presence of clumps of white fur on the floor, courtesy of my Chinchilla-cross-Persian cat who desperately needs to be groomed, but has parents who are too poor to afford the vet visit required to prove that he isn’t going to harm other cats at the grooming centre in Pet Barn, and is instead molting. He has the decency to walk around while self-grooming, and therefore spreads his fluffy deposits in every room of our townhouse. Loki even shuts the door of Harli’s “study” (it’s a bedroom devoted to his “collectibles” [TOYS] and RPG books, but it has a desk in it, so let’s pretend) behind him, so the floor looks as though a winter frost has hit if I’m not diligent in checking every day or two. No joke, before we got Loki Lou, I had to vacuum the downstairs of our place every three or four days, and the upstairs portion maybe every three weeks. Now, the entire place has to be tackled every other day, which is fine at the moment, given that I’m still home all day, but still annoying. I might just be developing better homemaking tendencies, and care a little more about how clean our house looks and smells. Anyway, point is: the house looks decent, so I am an adult, yes?

On point Panda. Things feel better than they have in months. Nothing has changed, circumstantially at least, but my days are happier and much more peaceful. I’m actually heading toward feeling pretty amazing, again. It has most certainly been an answered prayer, and I’m so so thankful. I know that there are a number of people/families who send up a word for Harli and I, and it means the world. It’s so corny, but I know when we’re being prayed for.

Practical speak: I’ve lost a little bit of weight- woohoo! Not much- like six pounds, but still. ūüôā Better eating habits (the hot chocolate and Easy Mac are pretty rare, truth be told) and exercise, who would have thought? I have the time, so devoting 20-30 minutes each morning to a dvd or YouTube workout isn’t exactly a sacrifice. Financially, we’re still ok, but our debt is the same as it was two years ago, so increasing our income remains a requirement if we ever want to be in able to afford to have children. Yes, I know that if I wait for “the right time,” it will never come and then I’ll be old and crusty and lonely. But really, we can’t afford it right now, and that’s just the honest truth. If God moves otherwise, then we won’t be upset, but it definitely isn’t our plan to add to the family before the end of next year.

On the subject of additional income, an idea of sorts has sprung up recently, and I’m praying for wisdom before we leap into anything. Don’t panic; we’re not going to flip houses, become Tupperware demonstrators, or work in the adult film industry. ūüėČ It’s only a small thought today, but any extra intercession would be most appreciated. I know- gimme, gimme, gimme, but I’m wicked like that.

Smile, Panda still loves you! xx

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I have ten Talents

I have ten Talents

What do I do with them? (Reference Matthew 25, or Luke 19- take your pick)

After 19 minutes on the phone with my best friend, I’m on my knees in gratitude. The LORD has used her so many times to bring me back to zero, in the best way possible. The ugly emotions I hide seem to just evaporate when I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have this life, and how far from my daydreams others’ lives really are.

I’m blessed beyond what I’ll ever hope to deserve. God’s given me so much, and I’m¬†convicted for what I know won’t be the last time for not thanking Him, or using my gifts. I get so easily caught up in wishing I was somewhere else in this journey that I don’t appreciate where I am.

I’m not saying that I’m an amazing specimen of Yankee goodness, nor do I profess to be little more than a worm. And, I won’t spout the cliche of being “not perfect, just forgiven.” I’m ordinary. Unremarkable, but important to God. He’s given us all something to do while we dwell in this world, and I’m pretty darn sure that I’m not abiding in that promise with my incessant kvetching. How can I go on wasting the opportunity to be a city on a hill? **

I have no idea what my mission is, but I’m certain that gratitude is the beginning of¬†re-discovering my worth and identity in the LORD. He’s the one who knit me together, and He’s the only one who can refine and polish me.

** How arrogant does that sound? I battle my own rhetoric so often when posting these thoughts; I refuse to say what I’m thinking in plain English, and then lose my fire by the time I’ve crafted the flowery goodness I love so much. What I want to convey: God is amazing, and I’m glad that He’s the only real source of Grace.¬†He’s given me heaps, and I¬†know I’m not doing anything with what I have.¬† I want to be a benefit to His Kingdom, rather than a needy child. The words “get off your ass” seem to be pretty clear in this case.

 

I’m a writer with nothing to say

I’m a writer with nothing to say

There; I’ve said it. I’m a writer, a journalist, and a memoirist who can’t think of a single interesting thing to blog about. Admitting this brings tears to my eyes. When nothing else is certain, I’ve always had something to say. I’m not sure what part of this makes me sadder: that my creativity and awareness is depleted, or that I’m desperately clinging to a “me” that might not exist anymore.

Everyone who is close to me knows how I just love personal drama. Whether it’s a situation with my mother-in-law, concern for my mom and sister, dissatisfaction with my weight, an injury, or just feeling lonely, I’ve always been someone who has “something” going on. I’m beyond tired of being that “someone.” So, in my quest to not spill my heart to the world on a weekly basis, I’m left with little to say.

I want to be better- I want my words back.¬†The thought that I didn’t use my gift, so it’s been taken away,¬†presses on me.¬†The wait is an agony. I’ve always been waiting; ready to be done with where I am, and move on to better days.¬†¬†I carry so much regret for wasting the life God has given me. My university years are a blur- I counted the days until I was done. I couldn’t appreciate¬†how precious¬†my sister was until it became obvious that I failed her. I didn’t go birthday shopping with my grandmother because I wanted cash for my upcoming study abroad semester,¬†instead; three weeks later¬†we found out that¬†cancer that was ravaging her body, and would ultimately end her life in just over three months. Today, I’m itching to move out of our Shoebox and start a family, when I’m not ready for either.

I miss the “me” that I was when I began college. I was dedicated to academic excellence, motivated to succeed, an accomplished youth advocate, and so careful with money. Ideas flowed from my fingertips and into academic, personal, and professional works. In stark contrast: I forgot how to spell “judgement” last week. It’s pitiful, but I miss the person I was. I don’t know that she exists anymore. She’s been replaced by someone she would have considered a failure.

A few years ago, I told my mom through hiccupping tears that, “I’m not depressed. I’m just really sad.” Maybe that’s still true.¬†I’ve failed at all the things that matter: relationships, academics, finances. Still, I want to believe that the Lord will refine and restore me. But, restore me to what? To some factory setting that I can pile programs and apps onto until nothing loads the way it should, and I need to be synced again? (Forgive the iPhone imagery, please.) Will He give me my words back?

The worst part: I don’t know if I know how to be OK. Encouraging, exciting, lovely things grace my world, and I can’t enjoy them. It isn’t that I’m miserable, just a bit too even for comfort. How can I expect to passionately profess wonder at the Lord’s creation when I don’t feel much more than relief that the fertilizer isn’t hitting the fan?

God is good, even when I don’t know how to be thankful. Perhaps it’s time to just relax into His blessings, and stop trying to micromanage their distribution. Maybe then my words will return.

Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”- Romans 12:18

The 12th chapter of Romans may be one of my favorite chunks of the Bible. Its instruction is applicable, no matter the season of life, and its message potent.

Truth: It’s hard to live at peace with others. People are irritating, offensive, and hurtful. They don’t behave how you’d like them to behave, they say things that you don’t want to hear, and sometimes the urge to shove them out the door can overpower the desire to minister to their needs. Their words tear at your insecurities, their flaws make you want to scream, and their disapproval can cause you to crumble. In short: people can really, really suck. (Let’s forget any claims that I’m at all eloquent.)

It’s very easy to love people who are like you, or who love you. It can be really, really hard to love someone who you don’t, or can’t, understand, or who makes you feel less than.

Truth: We are called to live at peace. We have to make the effort. But, God isn’t asking for perfection from us in this regard; He doesn’t say it will be easy, and always fruitful. His servant, Paul, proclaimed that “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Whether it yields the results we’re after or not, we’re called to do all we can to life outside of the dramatic strife which the world is so accustomed to. This may mean setting aside your pride, and admitting that you can’t do it on your own. It’s a spiritual discipline, and one that can only come through the strength of the Father.

For me, living at peace is as simple as telling my husband that I’m sorry I yelled at him on when he took too long in the shower, and as complicated as finding a way to find legitimate common ground with my mother-in-law. It’s learning when to bite my tongue when my co-workers are blasphemous, and when to correct them. It’s a process of not dwelling on how hurt I am by my circumstances, and passing on the joy that comes from life in Christ.

What steps have you taken to live at peace?

Good Friday

Good Friday

“Why do Christians call it ‘good’ Friday. It’s the day that they say Jesus died, so wouldn’t ‘sucky’ Friday be more apt?”

So was plastered in my Facebook Newsfeed. These were the words of an instructor I had during my Freshman year of university. She’s brilliantly intelligent, yet her question belied a lack of wisdom and understanding present in so many people in the modern world.

Is it really so hard to understand why Christ’s death on a Friday afternoon is “good?” True, it was gruesome and painful, unfair and un-just, and mortifyingly undeserved; but, it was good. It was His plan to sacrifice the breath in His lungs so that ours could be filled with fresh air. It was His pain which removes ours, and His trial which leaves us blameless. It is His death which grants us life eternal.

From the moment of Creation, we as Humanity have messed up our gift. We’ve torn it to shreds in the name of Power and Justice, forgetting that Mercy and Submission to others are vital to the Peace we claim to seek. God gave us free will, and we’ve used it to form our own path.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans, I have for you, declares the LORD. Plans for good, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It is His plan which is for good, not ours.

Still, we have marched through the ages proclaiming the provident care which will protect our every move. We have harmed others in the name of God’s divine will, and cast judgement without seeking His peace.

Throughout the Old Testament, God showed Himself to numerous prophets, kings, and ordinary men. He was a burning bush to Moses, promising Abraham descendents as many as the stars in the sky; present with instructions in the visions of Isaiah and Ezekial, apparent in a cloud of protection over the wandering Israelites. Countless times, the Lord said, “here I am; trust me.” He showed Himself to humanity in ways that we understand: with righteous anger, judgement, and disappointment. Reading the Pentateuch is much like reading a very detailed account of every error made by a fool with a PhD.

Still, we couldn’t fathom His reasoning, couldn’t conceive of His undeniable desire to draw near to us. The Big, Booming God of the Old Testament is intimidating, impressing that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10) Humanity proclaimed His power, but could not see His kindness. As was planned since breath was first drawn from Adam’s lungs, the LORD looked at His creation, and said, “I am not like You. Your ways are no longer My ways. I’m coming down there, so You can see my smile and hear my cries of mourning.”

Down He came, not as a warrior or a king; not as a priest or a powerful politician. He came as every Man does-a helpless baby- and was laid in a manger, where donkeys took their evening meal. He grew as all men do, taking his earthly father’s trade and working as a carpenter. At 30, he began a few short years of ministry which changed humanity. He challenged the religious and political authority of the day, was a friend to the prostitute and tax collector, healed the sick and cast out demons. If all Jesus ever did was roam the nations and heal the hurting, the world would call him “good.” But, He didn’t.

Instead, He stood trial for proclaiming who He was to the leaders who wished His influence away. He bled. He wept. He died a terrible, humiliating death, crushed beneath the weight of the world’s sins. The pain of betrayal, sting of hatred, and agony of defeat laid across his shoulders as He suffered for the sins which we commit daily.

Romans 5:7-8 says it best: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It’s beautiful, and heart-breaking. His death is my life. His agony is my freedom. He died so that we can live free of the wrath that is owed to our horrendous actions.

It was a “good” Friday which saw a sinless man die, and a joyful Sunday which saw His tomb empty.

We call it Good Friday, because a carpenter from Nazareth willingly gave His life in exchange for ours. God gave up His Son so we could call him “Father.” That is terrifyingly undeserved, but very, very good.

It’s not about us…

It’s not about us…

…thank God it’s not about us.

An old friend said this from behind the pulpt one Sunday in July, 2007. His sermon: Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. His message: I can’t remember. All I remember is his soft Irish accent lilting the words, “it’s not about us; thank God it’s not about us.”

It’s easy to convince ourselves that all of life is dependent upon our actions, and to forget that each day is a gift. We’re presented 24 hours with which to boldly live- to forgive the¬†hurts that darken our thoughts, love others without abandon, and put away the mistakes of yesterday. With each intentional action, we grow a little closer, or further, from God. Still, it isn’t about us. There’s no scoreboard, and no comparison to make to others on the same Walk.

Remind you boss that gossip isn’t productive: +1 Heaven Point

Hold onto words uttered by another: -3 HP

Show your husband the Passion of the Christ: +2 HP

Lie to the credit card company about why your payment is late: -5 HP

Imagine if life were tit-for-tat with God. If He counted our sins against us, we’d all be screwed. If it were up to us, we’d never see His Kingdom come, and we’d certainly never come up with a concept so foreign to our world as Grace.

But, it isn’t about us. It’s not about how “good” or “wretched” we are. It’s about His grace and mercy. It’s His love that heals, and His hand that provides.

Hebrews 13:5 says: “‚ÄúNever will I leave you;¬†¬†never will I forsake you.‚ÄĚ

Hear that; never. Never will He leave us. We mess up, and He is still beside us. He forgives us, even when we refuse to forgive each other. He gives us beautiful friends to make our burdens lighter, faithful spouses to teach us more about Christ’s love on Earth, and this lovely book full of answers to life’s crap. (Yes, I’m referring to the Bible.)

We deserve none of this. We never did, and we never will.

Thank God it’s not about us.

Cracks

Cracks

Wherever there is any element of pride or of conceit, Jesus
cannot expound a thing. He will take us through the
disappointment of a wounded pride of intellect, through
disappointment of heart. He will reveal inordinate
affections-things over which we never thought He would have to
get us alone.

— Oswald Chambers

Jesus has this amazing way of working into all the cracks, pushing them into canyons, and then giving you a tour of all the stuff you’ve shoved into the space. All the emotional and spiritual junk that was tucked away, never to be seen by anyone- let alone your Savior- is suddenly strewn in front of you as you gaze into the open chasm that not so long ago was a tiny fracture in the earth beneath your feet. Often,what you see is covered in dust because you haven’t been able to touch those parts of your being for years, or half-finished from the last time the crack was split and you shoved it back together again before Jesus could show you too much. As your eyes travel over a life of hurts, embarrassments, and pride, Jesus is right there, looking at your mess and trying to put it to rest.

Let him. There’s no reason to hold onto what He is begging to take away. The battle to keep the pride of education, nationality, religion, and financial status is one that is not fought with clean hands. He won’t force you, but He will plead to choose His way over what the world tells you is “normal.”

It will hurt. You’ll be reminded of every stupid, or hurtful, thing you’ve done or said- not because He wants you to remember, but because handing over those moments will feel like you’re pretending they didn’t happen and you should be punished no matter who died so you could be forgiven.

You’ll fight and claw to keep your iniquity, just so you can tuck it all away again. Because, you see, as long as you own it, but don’t look at it, you can say that you’re OK- that whatever you did is in the past, and not important. Knowing that Jesus wants to take it away means that it matters to Him. That sucks. It sucks to know that anything about you is anything less than show-worthy.

Dig into the Word. Start in Genesis- see how much care was taken by our Creator! Read the Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John-and learn the story of Jesus’ time on Earth; you’ll see that He knows what it is to be human, and what it is to give up all that is precious to you. Spend time in Psalms- They are full of praise and affirmation that the LORD is good.

Psalm 103: 10-12:

10He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

The worst part of this process comes when you look at the rest of the world, and begin to feel very alone. It will seem like everyone else who has grown in faith will have had a magical dust dropped above them, accelerating their knowledge and proximity to the Lord from 0-250. You may begin to resent them, which will only make Jesus’ work more difficult. Others may say that you’re a fool for “giving up” anything for your faith. Pray. Pray for wisdom and strength in your walk with Christ. Cry the tears that only God can dry.

Psalm 56:8-11

8You have kept count of my tossings;  put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
11in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

Pray, and read about Jesus. Again, go to the Gospels. Get to know the man who is taking away the crap. Remember that he worked into the cracks so that you could walk on solid ground.

*This is a much for me as it is for anyone reading. The Son is buffing away much of the shine that I’ve taken such pride in. The Devil is working very hard at keeping me isolated and angry. My spirit is so willing, but my flesh so incredibly weak. Still, I rest in the knowledge that He who died for me is still fighting for me.