Today I'm praying for/about:

Today, (in no particular order) I'm praying for...
- Fresh ideas, inspiration and diligence to post regularly again

- My dad fighting mesothelioma too far away for me to hug him

- Children, parents, and teachers everywhere preparing to return to school

- My single friends as they seek God for His guidance in relationships

- Broken relationships; for grace to abound where grace has been withheld

- You; I'm praying for every single person who views this blog.

Thank you for standing in agreement with me for these precious souls!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Joy Comes in the Mourning

10 years ago...

Maybe the subject has become a dead horse to some but for this little patriot, the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks called me to reflect.  I watched a few documentaries over the weekend, watched my husband share a video and devotion at church on Sunday, prayed, cried some tears and pondered what it all meant in the grand scheme of life.

With my hormones kicking into high gear it intensified the emotions I felt through all the commemoration.  At some points I felt a contented peace that there haven't been any more sincere efforts of that magnitude since then, I felt sorrow for those who lost loved ones, co-workers, friends, comrades, brethren, I felt a hint of fear regarding if/when/where terrorists may strike again, and I felt rage; a resurrection of a seething, righteous anger that someone had the gall to do what they did to so many people.  I'm sure the gamut of emotions we are processing as a nation and generation is very much akin to what was felt after Pearl Harbor, and, if we venture outside our own scope, that of the Japanese after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's all part of grief and the healing process.  I was pondering grief today and God gave me a picture of a darkened room, closed off and hushed with heavy drapes and dust.  We have a choice to make in that room; we can choose to slowly open back up, begin to draw the shades and let the light in or we can withdraw and disappear into it, cocooning ourselves in sorrow.  Forgiveness works in a similar manner... it's a choice to either let in the light or remain shrouded in darkness.  It reminded me of the old woman, Miss Havisham, in Great Expectations and the room in which she spent her days, missing out on life, her heart and emotions locked away in a time capsule of pain.

Psalm 30:5(b) seems fitting: "...sorrow may last for a night but joy comes in the morning."  If we allow God's light to flood into our grief then we find His hope, promises and forgiveness.  Joy is not the same as happiness; happiness is temporal and dependent on circumstances.  Joy is the peace that "surpasses all understanding" because of the victory we know we have through our identity in Him.  It is likely that every one of us will face more unhappiness (ranging from minor irritations to major tragedy) than happiness in our lives.  With Christ, we can have peace and joy amidst it all even when we're not happy about it.  It is especially in those trials that we can learn fully what joy is so that, quite literally, that joy comes in the mourning.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Comfort Zone

Well, it's been two weeks since my last post and a crazy couple weeks it's been.  We just finished the second week of school and we're still adjusting to the schedule and the homework as we continue to work through our eldest son's behavior issues.  (Of which we are seeing improvements, hallelujah!)  We're also dealing with some things between extended family and church (respectively) that have kept me distracted, and, admittedly, less prayerful than I should have been.  Additionally, the pinnacle of distractions to top this all off has been finding out that we are expecting our fifth baby.

We are surprised and happy but still trying to let it fully sink in that we have now filled our minivan (which we swore we'd never drive) to capacity.  Our quiver is quite full (or perhaps we're just fully quivering!) and our "rewards" from God will now outnumber our hands.  I'm still trying to process it all.  Just as exercise is the only way to fitness, so too is testing the only way to strengthen one's faith and, as such, I'm realizing how content I've been in my weakness.  I didn't realize before today that I had a comfort zone to get out of.  I think I've actually developed a level of pride (the kind that goeth before a fall) in being a mother of four and holding it all relatively well together.  I often get compliments on their behavior in public, I can, if necessary, get a shopping trip done with all of them and I've grown quite accustomed to hearing "Wow, your hands are FULL!" and "How do you do it??" (to which I always just point skyward and answer "God.")

When Eric and I got married I began taking birth control because we didn't want to have kids right away.  Within the first couple months I began to hear that nagging, "still, small voice" saying "Trust me."  To which I responded with an incredulous "HAHahaha!  No."  The voice did not relent for a good two weeks and I finally came to my husband and said "Honey, I think God wants me to stop taking birth control."  At that point his eyes about popped out of his head as he nearly shot whatever he was drinking through his nose asking "WHAT?!?"  I explained "Well, I feel that He's telling me to 1) let my body function the way He intended (especially since birth control always made me feel terrible) 2) that babies, no matter what anyone tries to do, happen only in His time 3) that He won't give us more than we can handle without Him and 4) that we should enjoy each other freely as a form of worship to Him."  He pondered this for only a moment, cocked his head to one side, shrugged and said "Ok."  I think I threw the remaining pills in the trash that day and have never taken them again in almost nine years.

Ten months later we conceived our first son.  When he was almost six months old we were surprised to conceive our second (which I struggled with at first as well until someone, thankfully, put me in my place about it!), the third boy was conceived another six months after number two was born and then we got afraid of each other.  People have always asked if we were trying for a girl to which I usually reply "We weren't TRYING for any of them!"  We managed to avoid pregnancy for almost three years at that point but were actually thrilled when number four joined the mix.  Now, baby number five will join us in May, only six weeks before our eldest turns eight.  Five kids in eight years...  If you had told me what it really was that I was committing to when I threw those pills away less than a decade ago I probably would have laughed to tears or passed out.

One of my favorite verses to quote to myself is "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline" (2 Tim 1:7).  However, at this moment, I'm wrestling with fear...  Several aspects of it, in fact, along with a lot of questions in the form of whys, what-ifs and what-nows.  I'm also wrestling with guilt/conviction for even feeling afraid and questioning God's sovereignty.  Hormones certainly don't help.

The spiritual side of me knows that God will provide for this child no less than He has the others, that He has ordained the timing, and that He is using us for some grand purpose that spans beyond our pitifully limited imaginations.  The earthly side of me is volleying all the temporal concerns of money, transportation, health, logistics, psychology and the ridicule we will certainly face.  (During my fourth pregnancy I had someone ask me in the grocery line if I was trying to be like the "Octo-mom" and several well-meaning siblings in Christ have contradicted the bible in telling us that we need to be "wise" and "do something about it")

I was listening to a talk the other day on the radio where a woman whose name I cannot remember had made it her prayer (paraphrased) that God's will be done even at her expense.  It brought me to tears because I felt the wrench of conviction that I was not (am not) in a place where I could pray something similar with sincerity.  I so want to want what God wants but for the first time in a long time, I wish He wasn't taking me there.  I want to be leaving a legacy of faith as I walk through this life, I want to be the child of God that leaves Him pumping his fists in the air, beaming with pride (just as I do on days when my eldest comes home from school with a green star in his notebook), I want to live for Him wildly unhindered.  Unfortunately, I don't want to sacrifice, I don't want to be refined and I don't want to be persecuted.

Now, though, it's time to decide... which of those desires is greater?  In my heart, I know already but at the moment, the wrestling match continues.