Reflecting and Resolving

We have all heard the expressions that say things like “Time flies when you’re having fun!”, and “Don’t blink, it all goes by so fast!”.  In my younger, more carefree days (i can pretend those days existed, right?) I would kind of scoff when people said those things to me.  I just knew that they were crazy!  How can time suddenly start moving faster?  The earth continues to turn at the same rate of speed each year as it travels around the sun, right?  I am willing to admit that I now owe all of these folks an apology!  Sorry I ever doubted you because you are correct and this past year went by incredibly fast!

As I think back over this past year I am greeted with some good memories and fun times as well as some periods of confusion and feeling overwhelmed.  All in all, it wasn’t a bad year in my life and God has showered me and my family with abundant blessings.  Here are some of the highlights:

  •  Took Max on the trip of his dreams in November when we went to Walt Disney World
  • Started a blog and published 22 posts
  • Learned that I am a people pleaser, which is part of what allows me to make commitments that leave me overwhelmed and have begun to work on not doing more than I can handle and to say “No” every now and again
  • Max started Middle School
  • Husband, an avid deer hunter, bagged three deer and filled the freezer
  • Lost 20 pounds

Looking forward to the new year, i feel obligated to create a rather large and ambitious list of resolutions that sound incredibly awesome!  Whether or not my resolve will last past this weekend I don’t know, but with God all things are possible.  So here they are in all of their over achieving splendour:

  • Eat supper at the table at least 5 nights out of 7
  • Exercise at least 5 days out of 7
  • Submit one article per month for publication in a magazine
  • Write and publish at least one blog post each week
  • Establish a new family budget and actually stick to it
  • Begin following the “SOAK” method of Bible Study, and also begin Bible coloring using the GMG Coloring chart  found here: GMG – Studying the Bible Using the SOAK Method, Coloring Chart and Meditation
  • Focus on writing by committing time each Saturday to sit down and complete Compel training offered through Proverbs 31 Ministries found here:  Probverbs 31 Ministries’ Compel – Words That Move People
  • Continue to learn through extensive reading

Whether I achieve these goals in 2015 or not, I know that I am a loved child of God and perfect in his sight exactly as I am right here and now.  Here’s to hoping that next year’s family picture has me looking a little less like Pooh Bear and a little more like Tigger, stripes and all!

Wishing you many blessings and great things in 2015!

The Lord bless and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26, NRSV) 

hundredacrewoods2014

An Ode to Joseph

In this day and age of dysfunctional, fractured, and splintered families we mourn for the stability of the family unit of days gone by.  We lament on the number of children who have to adjust to living lives with extra adults who aren’t their biological parents.  These children struggle to find security and their places in families where the lines have become blurry.

We as Christians have been given the image of what family should be and that love of God begins in the home.  I am going to go out on a limb here and say that while we (or at least I) have the impression that the Bible idea of family is a cohesive unit of father, mother, and children, the family trees in the Bible are actually just as gnarly and twisted as our modern family trees.

The very first family, in fact, is a prime example of a family that splintered quickly.  Adam and Eve had to deal with a family fall out when Cain killed his brother Abel. Cain then became estranged from the rest of his family.

Abraham has issues with Sarah and Hagar.  Isaac and Rebekah’s marital discord comes from favoring different sons. Jacob’s life was a disaster zone in the family department!   Moses had a birth family and an adoptive family.

Then there is David.  Slayer of the giant and king of Israel.  He had a weakness when it came to women.  Rather than just choosing one wife, David chose many.  So many that there isn’t an accurate count of them available.  Can you envision all of those women living in such close proximity to each other, competing with each other for the king’s attention as well as trying to get his favor for their children?

But God uses all of this for good and for his ultimate purpose.  Whether we can understand it or not.

So is it any surprise that with the birth of Jesus there is another blended family?  But just as Jesus tempered law with love, God chooses for Jesus’ foster father a man who embraces his role in this unusual family and leaves us with the legacy of a man to look up to and try to emulate in our homes.  He gives us one shining example with the very first family in the New Testament to dispel with all of the chaotic family notions of the Old Testament.

Other than he is a descendant of David, we don’t know much about Joseph except that he is a carpenter.  The New Testament only mentions him a handful of times, and we know nothing of when or how he dies.  But what these few mentions in scripture do tell us is that he is a compassionate man:

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.  When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
(Matthew 1:18-19, NRSV)

An angel steps in and assures Joseph that Mary’s story is the truth.  Joseph still has a choice though.  He could easily choose to still quietly dismiss Mary. He is well with in his rights to do so under Jewish law.  However, Joseph chooses to take on the responsibility of providing for and protecting the baby Jesus.

Would another descendant of David have been as willing to go along with this plan?  Surely Joseph is as favored as Mary in being chosen to be the protector of the Messiah.  Like Mary’s life is turned upside down when she agrees to be the Lord’s hand maiden,  Joseph’s world will also become a crazy.  He doesn’t hesitate to leave behind the life that he has built for himself and his family when he is told by an angel to flee to Egypt for the child’s safety.  Joseph once again leaves behind whatever security he has been able to find for his small family in Egypt when he is told to return to the land of Israel.

Did Joseph ever grumble about all of the upheavals that come with the advent of the Messiah and Mary into his life?  I am sure that he did.  He was after all only human.  It is his willingness to heed God’s call on his life and go when he is told that makes him stand out.

Being the appointed guardian and protector of the Christ child is his claim to fame, but Joseph’s compassion, empathy, and protection of a child that was not his own should also be remembered.  He is a true example of Godly fatherhood in a broken world.

 

 

 

 

 

What Happened To Love?

Our world is hurting.  This season of hope is filled with pain, anguish and suffering for far too many.  Hurt is running rampant.  Many live in fear.  Fear of men.  Fear of their neighbors.

Christians are being exterminated in some parts of the world by extremists who are killing men, women, and children — young and old alike.  All because they cling firmly to their faith and refuse to renounce their God.

Looters are doing damage to property and stealing because they feel that justice hasn’t been served.  In response they are protesting by destroying the homes and businesses of people who had no control over the verdicts.

Mothers are crying for their babies that will never again hug them in this life.

Police officers are no longer safe in their own cars.

Our world is in utter chaos.  It isn’t just happening in some distant part of the world.  It is right here in our own streets.

How can we ever heal all of the pain?  The answer is simple.  We can’t.  All we can do is be there for the lost, the hurt, and the wounded.  Love them.  Comfort them if we can.  And pray.  Always pray.

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sister, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-47, NRSV)

But this season we are celebrating by continuing to place our faith and hope for humanity in the small hands of the baby that was born over two thousand years ago.  A baby changes everything, according to a Christmas song recorded by Faith Hill.  As a mother I can say that is definitely true.  However the baby born to Mary and Joseph changed more the just the sleeping habits of Mary and Joseph.  This baby brought love and reconciliation to a cold, dark world.

The wee babe would grow up into a man who didn’t resemble the Messiah the people were expecting.  He was, however, the Savior they needed.  The same Saviour we look to and still need today.  Jesus. A man who reached out to the poor, the marginalized, the sick, women, and the outcasts or down trodden.  Who corrected the educated in the temple and did not seek out the company of the wealthy.

This rebel Messiah led a revolution of love.  He was the son of an unwed mother and the step son of a poor carpenter.  The most unlikely person to become a  powerful savior who would take on the Roman Empire.  Let us be the unlikely people in our time who live out that same message in a broken, hurting world.

The ancient people of Israel missed the lessons of love and forgiveness Jesus brought.  They were more concerned with being citizens of this world and getting the revenge they thought their enemies and persecutors deserved rather than focusing on becoming citizens of heaven and extending a hand of forgiveness.  They were more concerned with removing their oppressors.  So busy in fact that they missed the love and ever lasting joy being offered to them by the longed for Messiah.

Let us strive to remember the message and live in the way the Great Deliverer taught us.  Even as our Lord Jesus hung from the cross, in the utmost anguish, completely innocent of any crimes, he still asked his father to forgive his enemies.  Defiled, humiliated, beaten, and tortured, Jesus still begged forgiveness for the ones who knew not what they did.  He asked for nothing for himself.  He freely forgave his enemies and put their eternal welfare before his own frail human condition.

Love was the guiding principle Jesus taught.  Forgiveness his sovereign decree.  A baby changed everything.

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord. (Zechariah 8:16-17 – NRSV)

Encouraging Who?

The pictures that played in my head as I decided that the nudges I had been feeling (and continue to feel) where wonderful visions with happy endings straight out of a Hallmark Channel movie.  I envisioned my words bringing comfort to others struggling on their journeys.  God wants ME to share what is in my heart and my experiences with others to encourage them!  Show others that with God all things are possible and we can overcome anything.  Just look at me!

And that is exactly what I am doing today.  Looking at myself.  Humbling myself.  Unfortunately I don’t think I qualify for the role of encourager of others.  I am not even an encouragement to myself.   So maybe as usual I confused the messages I was getting.  I am not supposed to be a light to you, but have you walk with me as I continue to flounder trying to figure out this thing called life.

Have you ever felt like you are caught in the middle of a perfect storm and the winds aren’t letting up?  That is me.  After years of being married, with both of us working full-time jobs, we still struggle just to get by.  There are no savings accounts or investments, very rarely do we splurge on expensive extras (like a massage or new bath towels), and we do not live the American dream in a home that we own.

In fact it is the very opposite.  We are renters living in a tiny trailer that is older than both of us.  That is what the fruits of our hard labors have afforded us.  Fortunately we seem to be able to pay our regular monthly bills on time these days (in the past that hasn’t been the case), but there are definitely no extras of any kind.  My student loan debts, taken on under the delusion that my schooling would result in a better tax bracket for us, are constantly looming over our heads.

Drowning in my sorrows sometimes can overshadow me for a couple of days at a time.  I wouldn’t say that I am depressed and can’t cope, just down trodden and struggling to find the hidden blessings because I am too busy desperately trying to find a light at the end of this never-ending tunnel.

It never fails.  Just when I believe we are on the cusp of gaining at least a piece of security I am swallowed in the storm clouds again.  Once upon a time we owned a home, but a six month period of unemployment caused us to lose everything in bankruptcy and we have spent the past ten years trying to recover from that.  Last week it seemed like dreams of owning a well-built, comfortable home might soon be a possibility for us again with the help of the Rural Housing program through the USDA.  This week that dream is once again threatened.  I found out that the portion of my student loans that have been in voluntary forbearance are once again going to go into repayment, and the monthly payment amount is more than the amount of what the mortgage payment would be on the little house we had set our sights on.  What’s more, I have exhausted my forbearance, and going forward the loans are no longer eligible for voluntary forbearance.

Granted, in the grand scheme of things, my troubles are small.  I am fortunate to live in a country with religious freedom where I am not persecuted and can provide food, clothing, and shelter to my child.   I do give thanks for all of the blessings I have received in my life.  I really do have a lot to be thankful for and remind myself often.  However, in the midst of fighting to survive pay check to pay check I am swept away and overwhelmed.  To paraphrase from Anne of Green Gables, I am drowning in the depths of despair.  I need a Marilla in my life to remind me that to despair is to turn my back on God, so therefore I should not indulge myself in sulking.

Today I read as part of my morning routine the daily devotion emailed to me by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  It was written by Lysa TerKeurst and entitled If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This.  I must admit that I could identify whole heartedly and see myself in this post.  I often feel alone, and sometimes even lost in a crowd, especially when I am struggling with the latest saga in trying to find a secure financial path for us.  Whether it is a family gathering, a work event, or a church function I can feel oblivious and totally without friends in a room filled with people.  Below is the link for this devotion if you are in need of it today as well.

Proverbs 31 Ministries Daily Devotion – If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This by Lysa TerKeurst

Perhaps what most grabbed me, besides being able to identify with these feelings, was the verse Lysa chose to begin her post with (below from a different translation) that I had never really noticed before.  I ache with the Psalmist, seeking the same relief from my own inner turmoil.  All these ages later, that cry is the cry of my heart today.  I am seeking comfort from the ultimate Comforter and grasping to cling to hope and stand strong in my faith as my world seems to be in chaos again.

So perhaps what is on my heart for you today, my dear friends, is to let you know that you are not alone in your struggles.  We are all going through our own set of troubles.  In the midst of these storms of life, I am here, praying for you as you row through the crashing waves.  Sometimes we just need to know someone is thinking about us to help us press onward, and remember that God never leaves us.  We are never truly alone if we live our lives with the help of our Father’s guiding hands.  He will captain our ships as we sail through each storm and find calm waters.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of distress. (Psalms 25: 16-17 – NRSV)

 

 

The Advent of Waiting

Lights are twinkling, trees are decked, and Bing Crosby is once more crooning on radio stations and in stores.  Mr. Max is full of anticipation of the Christmas morning to come  with dreams of fabulous presents.  Plans are being made for yuletide celebrations.  The Christian community is waiting and reflecting during the advent season.  My house is not an exception.  We are decorated, we are waiting, and I at least, have been reflecting.  I am not sure what we are waiting for this year though.

It seems almost surreal that we are already once again in the season of hope.  I feel as though I only just took down the decorations and put the Christmas tree away last week.  Where has this past year gone?  Did I take part in it at all?  My overall demeanor is closer to the Grinch than to an eager Christian celebrating the birth of God’s salvation plan for man.

As I reflect on the past twelve months I observe that, while I am about 20 pounds lighter, my year wasn’t spent losing weight by embracing a new healthier lifestyle.  Nor was it spent in hours of prolific writing as I have only eighteen blog posts prior to this one to brag about in addition to a few handwritten journal entries.  My schedule isn’t any lighter, I am still over committed in many areas of my life leaving no time for new callings.  Although I have read several books this year, it was nowhere near the amount I had intended to devour  in the pursuit of educating myself and has barely made a dent into the ever-growing list of material to read.

I find myself in a funk of sorts this Advent wondering why the usual joy and excitement that usually comes in this season of giving for me is missing.  Is there something wrong with me?  Have the stresses of this past year worn me down leaving me too exhausted to feel the normal excitement?  Or is this perhaps a rite of passage somehow connected with me becomimg another year older?

Is it possibly the results of a deeper faith and a maturing relationship with Jesus, the Savior, whose birth we are celebrating this month?  I would like to think so, but I am still a babe with a lot to learn when it comes to having a deep and meaningful relationship with the Father.  Maybe I am not feeling overjoyed by the season itself because I have been in reflection and anticipation mode all year in a different kind of Advent?   I have been embracing the spirit of the Advent season all year.

Many of the posts I have written have centered around what I am anticipating is a new calling for me.  A lot of reflection has been done on what my kingdom work is going forward.  Future posts may need to revolve around patience for God’s timing and embracing faith, hope, and joy.

This year has taught me some valuable lessons.  I don’t have to be the “Yes” person all the time.  There are limits on my time and energy levels and no matter how much I want to please others I just can’t possibly ever do it all.  It has also shown me that the limits I put on myself can be quickly overcome when I listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit in my ear.

So it is my prayer that with God’s grace and help, I will stop focusing on what I haven’t done this past year and begin focusing even more on the One who can do impossible things in me.  I will reflect, anticipate, and wait for whatever He has in store for me yet and concentrate on my callings going into an as yet uncertain future.  Perhaps the most important thing I need is to realize and learn is I am part of God’s Kingdom on Earth and I need to be present and doing my part in the here and now at this particular stage of my life.   No more peering into a distant future that I can’t see, but showing up to be present today.

Watching.

Waiting.

Listening for the one who calls me, ready to answer His bidding.

Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doors. (Proverbs 8:34 – NRSV)