Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Messy, the Mundane, and the Miraculous

If I had to choose three words to describe the past couple months, it'd be these three: messy, mundane, and miraculous. Once I think about it though, that doesn't just describe the past couple months; that sort of describes all of life.

We're all put on this earth and we live this thing called life and it involves a lot of sweat, tears, pain, sickness, hurt, brokenness, suffering and the list could be endless of the messiness of it all. 

It involves a lot of dishes, work, laundry, lawn mowing, grocery shopping, vacuuming, eating, sleeping, and the list could be endless of the daily and weekly mundaneness of it all.

But it also involves so much beauty, so many daily miracles. Each morning when we wake up alive and breathing and with a heartbeat, it's a miracle (even though it doesn't always feel that way... yawn). 

The sunset and the white clouds and the blue skies and the birds flying south and the leaves turning bright red and water rippling down the river and the loon that pops up a few yards from the canoe?



The hugs and drooly kisses of a ten month old hunk of a little guy, the hug from a friend, the consistent prayers from church family, the crunch of leaves in the fall air while walking the pooch,  the drinks and laughs with fellow life travelers?

These are incredible gifts.

The stepping out of our comfort zone, out of the mundane normal, the trusting God to work in and through us and beyond our abilities and fears?




Jesus Himself lived a messy, mundane, and miraculous life. He faced hurt in relationships, lost loved ones, persecution, hurt, rejection. He had to eat, sleep, listen to His parents, find clean clothes to wear.  And He is also the most miraculous Person to ever grace the face of this earth. He brought beauty and healing and salvation to a lost and dying world. 

So when the messy seems out of control and when the mundane seems suffocating, may we focus on and praise God for the miraculous amidst it all. 

Because it's there every moment of every day.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

On Slowing the Insanity and Taking Naps

I just woke up from a nap.

A nap.

On a Saturday afternoon.

I slept.

For more than an hour.

And it was beautiful.

Who am I?

On Thursday morning I had an appointment with my specialist down in Madison. We were discussing how I was doing and, as I listened the words coming out of my mouth, I realized just what an idiot I can be. I was sitting there telling him how in general I'm doing amazingly well but that I had crashed and burned on Sunday and felt like death warmed over.

The reason? Running absolutely nonstop for weeks. 

Something every evening.

Something big every weekend.

Late nights and early mornings.

Why do I do this to myself?

This past week I have started saying "no".

There is enough stress that I have no control over in my life. Why add the stress of saying "yes" to nearly everything?

(Possible Probable Definite Answers: I'm an admitted people pleaser, I love having fun, I love helping people, I have tons of family and friends, I have many interests.)

For the past seven days I have made the choice to fit quiet into my days and week.

coffee on a quiet Sunday morning

fall decorating

lunch in the park during work days

taking my elderly friend for a walk in the fall air

double batch of chocolate chip cookie dough balls in the freezer

feet kicked up after a long week...

...with wine and a new book
(which ironically is about learning to say no, so we can say yes to the best)

candles burning while I write

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably could have just skipped this post because it's not the first time I've written about this. I'm a slow learner. 

And also? Sometimes life is going to be crazy insanely horribly busy for a while. And that happens. But it can't be the norm. We weren't created to run nonstop. We weren't created to run on empty all the time.

And life is much more beautiful when you slow down enough to truly enjoy it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

More Than Conquerors

It’s a muggy August Saturday evening after an exhausting fifty-hour workweek.  The air conditioning and ceiling fans are running, the internet is dead, Rend Collective is playing on my iTunes, and I’m sitting here pondering life and Jesus and spiritual bondage and fear and pride and love and grace and forgiveness and freedom and faith and the future and Facebook and insurance and my dog eating nineteen cupcakes and the piles of paper I need to take care of and how much I miss Colorado and how I should really get up early and go to the gym and how quickly my nephew is growing up and how many books I want to read and skills I want to learn and the fact that I should stand up right now and close my blinds.

Whoever said a woman’s mind is like a web browser with a hundred tabs open at once could hardly have stated it more perfectly.

But mostly I’m thinking about bondage, fear, pride, and failure and how Jesus can save from all of it. The past week I started (again) the Breaking Free study by Beth Moore. It is hitting me at the core of my being and applying so practically to my life. I love that she sends me digging into long passages of Scripture and that passages from the Chronicles and Isaiah can suddenly become so alive and relevant right here and now in 2014.

Throughout this week I’ve also been listening to Rend Collective on repeat. I don’t think it’s coincidental I’ve had a more uplifting week. There are so many truths and promises packed into their lyrics. The following song has impacted me an extra lot this week as I work through the Breaking Free study.

Through Christ, I am more than a conqueror over sin and life’s storms. So many days my hope and strength is gone. The weight of my own personal shortcomings and sin, the weight of bearing the burdens of those I love, the weights of the storms of life feel too heavy. Confusion, hopelessness, restlessness, defeat, and discontent so easily set in. Satan knows to hit us when we’re exhausted and lets be honest: life is exhausting. I love my life and all the people and activities that are a part of it. But it is draining and demanding and if I am not daily taking time to refill from the Well of life, I become weak and susceptible to living in daily bondage instead of the incredible daily freedom Christ offers.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.”
(Gal. 5:1)

“When we are suffering because of captivity (or for any other reason), we must learn to cry out! Yes, of course, God sees our sufferings and cares deeply for us, by acknowledging the slavery is a crucial starting place toward authentic freedom.”
 Beth Moore

When I shift my focus from myself to Christ, when I take my eyes off of the problems and lift them upward, and when I consciously choose to believe the truths in Scripture, then I can begin to discover the joy of living every moment in His incredible freedom.

Freedom from fear.

Freedom from pride.

Freedom from discontent.

Freedom from past pain.

Freedom from unbelief.

“Nothing needs the infiltration of God’s truth more than the heart. We will find freedom to the degree our hearts accept, rely, and respond to the truth of God’s Word.”
Beth Moore

I am excited and scared about what the remaining nine weeks of this study will do in my heart. Excited because there is nothing more exciting than living in the freedom of Christ. Scared because to live in that freedom I have to dig deep into my own heart, hurts, and past.

“Sometimes faith is the absence of fear. Other times faith may be choosing to believe God even when your heart is melting with fear. Perhaps, then, faith is tested by what we do with fear, not whether or not we have it.”
Beth Moore

Another thing I love about all of this, is that all those random things flying around in my head that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, are suddenly put into perspective and I can rest in Christ, do the next thing, live in the peace that passes all understanding, and smile & laugh because Christ has it all under control. In the nitty gritty of daily life, in the mundane moments, in the unexpected twists and turns, and in the big decisions, the deep heart issues, and major life changing events, I am more than a conqueror through Christ. What an incredible truth and privilege. 

More Than Conquerors
Rend Collective

When my hope and strength is gone
You're the one who calls me on
You are the life
You are the fight
That's in my soul

Oh, Your resurrection power
Burns like fire in my heart
When waters rise
I lift my eyes
Up to Your throne

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

I will sing into the night
Christ is risen and on high
Greater is He
Living in me
Than in the world

No surrender, no retreat
We are free and we're redeemed
We will declare
Over despair
You are the hope

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

Nothing is impossible
Every chain is breakable
With You, we are victorious
You are stronger than our hearts
You are greater than the dark
With You, we are victorious

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Changing My Attitude Because My Attitude Changes Everything

3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon and I'm sitting at my kitchen table just breathing, enjoying the sunshine, and listening to music. After a long and emotional week, I enjoyed a lovely lunch with an amazing friend at a cute & yummy cafe, a drive through the Horicon Marsh, and grabbed a raspberry mocha and cinnamon roll from the local coffee shop on the way back home. 

winter is breaking into the Rock River and in my heart

This week has included multiple doctors appointments, a full cast being put on my wrist, lots and lots of tears, a phone that didn't work, and more pain than I care to think about. Last night my sister picked up my prescriptions for my mouth surgery scheduled for Monday morning, something that's been hanging over my head for four months.

keeping it real...funky pictures and all

Around the middle of the week, I realized (again) that I could not control my circumstances but I could change my attitude toward them. That decision changed the course of my entire week. Day by day, moment by moment, I did my best to choose to find the little things in life and be thankful. It's a conscious decision that literally has to be made moment by moment. 

I'll be honest. I had to force myself to switch from, "Arrrrgggghhhh, running to the Verizon store was NOT part of my Friday after work plans!" to "God, thank You I haven't had to take my iPhone in more than once in the past year in a half". I had to apologize to my brother for hanging up on him when I was frustrated and in tears. 

But then last night, when I was crying more tears than I've cried in a very long time, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my sister and her sacrificial love and help in my time of need. I knew if I had to go the emergency room, I didn't have to go alone. The tears could flow uncontrollably and I could say anything and she would only love me. If that's not something to be thankful for, I don't know what is. It's these kind of things that I'm (slowly) learning to always focus on, not the smothering weights of the world and trials of life.

Dove has good advice

Life is not rainbows and unicorns but it is beautiful. 

Life is never easy but it's always worth it.

Life always has a hundred things to complain about but a thousand things for which to be thankful.

Learning to switch from complaining to living in a state of gratitude changes everything.

"...whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." 
Phil. 4:8

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Simple Sundays

There are (many) Sundays I don't make it to worship with my local church. It is one of the factors of living with chronic illness. (On that note, I'm so thankful God meets us wherever we are with His truths and we can sing praises to Him from the shower or the kitchen or the car: it doesn't have to be in a church building surrounded by dozens of other people.)

But there are the nearly perfect Sundays like today that include... 

...God waking me up in time for church

...worshiping surrounded by my grandma, brother, sister-in-law, and (cutest, sweetest, handsomest, awesomest) nephew

...playing with cute kids in the nursery

...having my brother, sister-in-law, and (cutest, sweetest, handsomest, awesomest) nephew over for a leisurely lunch

...lounging in the family room for hours just laughing and chatting and snuggling the (cutest, sweetest, handsomest, awesomest) little guy

It really doesn't get much better than this...

...sitting on the floor with my sweet golden retriever in my lap

...reading a good book, sipping tea, and listening to soft music

...sucking up my pride and going to Bible study in my yoga pants (sometimes it's all I can handle wearing against my belly...yay Crohn's)

...sitting in a circle of Jesus-loving women at all stages of life and learning God's truths and sharing from the heart and praying together

...getting a quick load of laundry done

...writing (a.k.a. therapy and creativity and healing and life-breathing typing for Naomi's soul)

After working a fifty-hour week, it's what I needed. 

I needed to be reminded of life's priorities...of the need for a break from work and media and just running around like a crazy woman.

This past week it has been hitting me hard that I need to slow down and focus on loving and intentionally listening to and caring for others. (Why is this so hard to do?) There are always a hundred things to do (and living with constant illness and pain is an additional part-time job) but I find myself always rushing to the next thing, focused on my schedule and to-do list, and not on taking those extra five minutes to chat with someone or write a quick note or make a phone call.

When my life is over, it won't matter if the bathroom got cleaned on Wednesday night; it won't matter if I was five minutes late for my self-imposed deadline to be somewhere; it won't matter if my bedroom got vacuumed; it won't even matter if I had to grab a pair of jeans out of the dirty laundry to go to work on Monday morning (I just heard all those gasps of horror, people, but I heard even more grunts of agreement).

What will matter is how I loved and how I lived. I want to love well.

So here's to a Monday and week that is love focused and people focused.

G'night, peeps.

(Here is a post I read earlier this week that spoke straight the center of my heart... Why Slowing Down is Paramount if We're Ever to be the Body.)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

When Almost Four Months Go By...

It's crazy how quickly four months can fly by.

It's even crazier how much can be packed into four months.

There are at least a dozen or two blog posts that could be written. Actually, I'm determined to get them written.

If there's anything this thing called adulthood has taught me, it's that each day is a roller coaster and there really are very, very, very few days that are either good days or bad days, weeks that are good weeks or bad weeks. It's all just a messy combination of joy and pain, hurt and happiness.

There is finding out that you need braces and mouth surgery.

There is happy Thanksgiving family time (even though all you can eat is mashed potatoes and squash and pumpkin pie, thanks to said braces being put on a week earlier).

There is never-ending physical pain.

There are birthdays and chocolate.

There is the super fun and indecisive annual Christmas tree cutting.

There are twinkling lights and mugs of cocoa and sledding and Christmas cookies.

There is walking the streets of Chicago surrounded by wintry and Christmasy beauty.

There is huge financial uncertainty and stress.

There is the incredible joy of holding a new little nephew after over a half dozen years of waiting and praying.

There is family stress that just never goes away.

There is the sheer amazement of watching God provide miraculously so that you can experience the excitement of moving.

There is also the stress of moving.

There are countless medical appointments all. the. time.

There are chocolate chip pancakes on Saturday mornings.

There is the absolute stress and fear of facing the potential of being off work for months due to a hand/wrist injury that just will. not. heal.

There are baby snuggles and coos and smiles and tiny hands and feet.

There are the tears and hurt for your baby brother when you get the news that he broke his wrist again and his amazing active athletic self is laid up and unable to finish the basketball season.

There are the tears of gratitude when your family is there for you when your physical limitations cause you to need them so desperately.

There is the fun (and humiliation) of going downhill skiing for the first time.

There is the amusement of barely being able to walk for a couple days afterwards.

There are Bible studies and devotionals that just hit spot on for right where you are at and boost your faith and keep you going.

There is laughing until you cry over the stupidest things.

There is bawling your eyes out from hurt and frustration and pain and uncertainty.

There is throwing the tennis ball with your golden retriever in the snow.

There is laundry and cleaning and cooking and errands and shoveling and dog poop scooping.

There are hoodies and cups of coffee and Snoopy slippers.

But really, it's all comes down to this: there is life.

And it's beautiful and ugly and messy and fun and painful and exciting and crazy and scary and full and  really just a roller coaster of faith and trust and letting go and living in the moment.

Without the ugly, we wouldn't appreciate the beautiful.

Without the pain, we wouldn't know the depth of joy.

Without the scary, we wouldn't learn to trust.