Oct 24, 2012

The life in the blank pages

It happens to the most beautiful journal. Even the one that is so comfortable to write in. I find so much comfort in getting my thoughts out one day and then it happens. The blank page that lingers for months on end, sometimes extending into years. When I open the many journals around my house I can usually flip right to that empty page. I often stare at it and try to remember what all happened between that last written page and this new page I'm about to start.

I was looking through this journal and was sort of shocked to see how little I have actually written this year. I'm not sure why that makes me so sad. I guess because I has once found so much comfort in pouring out my thoughts here..

There has been so much life happening in the empty pages of this journal. So many good things and more upsetting things too (which is to be expected).  As I start this new page in the journal, I find myself hesitant to get into the specifics of what I am praying through. Perhaps it's because I feel like I need to get reacquainted with this part of my life.  I'm not used to just blurting things out anymore. But in an effort to get myself used to it more quickly, here are some examples of what has been going on this year.

  • I began this year with a goal of loosing 60lbs of my body weight. I have prayed and struggled through many temptations. I have begun exercising more regularly and have become more conscious of what I am eating nutritionally. As of today I am less than 5lbs from my goal (4.1 to be exact). I know in my heart that the only reason for my success is that God is good and he has given me the strength and wisdom that is needed because I have prayed for them nearly every day.
  • My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 gallbladder cancer earlier this year. We are so happy to see God working through his treatments and are praising Him for every victory and positive report along this journey. We are confident that God is close to our family, especially my dad, throughout this experience. He is the Healer and we are praying for him to heal Dad. It will be so wonderful to celebrate his birthday with him this weekend!
  • I am excitedly expecting a new niece to join our family in January! We are rejoicing with my brother and sister-in-law to see that God has turned their mourning into dancing, just as the Psalmist said. We also were excited to welcome our friends' babies into the world. Every baby is such a blessing and gift, they bring so much joy!
There has been so much more happening that I really can't take the time to write about. I guess I'll just have to get back into the habit of journaling again.

Mar 6, 2012

My First Ever Lent Entry

This entry may seem late but it's not.  I've been praying about how to journal about my decision to participate in Lent.  I wanted to be sure I waited until I was journaling about what God was teaching me through fasting rather than just the fact that I decided to fast. Truthfully, this is only the second year I've ever done a fast for Lent and so far, I've made it farther than I did last year. In even more truth: I can't remember what I fasted from last year. So, with this as my background, I wanted to fully participate, in spirit and action, and make this Lent season one that I would remember by not only fasting from something but adding consistent prayer in its place.

I put a lot of pressure on myself and prayed very seriously about what God wanted to use to speak to my heart during this season. I wanted my focus to be drawn to Him, not to my self, not to what I was missing. It took me until the night before Lent started to make the decision of what to forgo.  This may sound silly to some but what I have given up is... using my dishwasher.
The first day was terrific! I prayed my little heart out while I did the dishes and Micah slept and I really felt blessed by the whole experience.  I mean, we use a lot of dishes (apparently) and that equaled LOTS of praying time!
By day two and three I felt my mind start to wander and it became very difficult to focus and pray (there's so much to look at and think about when your sink faces the neighborhood)! The idea came to me to make a Prayer List that hangs by the sink so I could see the list and focus my prayer to those areas. I had an extra frame and some cute scrapbook paper that I threw together and made a list using dry erase marker. This made a huge difference in helping me to dedicate the time to prayer!
I was reenergized and my dishwashing/prayer time was looked forward to...for a day or so. Then LIFE once again "got in the way" and another round of teething started, napping took a turn for the worse and I began to loath not using the dishwasher. I remained faithful in action but certainly not in attitude or stature of the heart.  I was hitting an all time low, with dishes piling up higher and higher. I would get half way through and get distracted by something "more pressing". The whole time at the sink I was thinking about what a difficult task it was, how little time I had to do it, maybe I'll just forget it and go back to using the dishwasher. It's not that big of a deal, right? In my heart I knew it was more important than I was trying to make it seem. This was time that was valued by God. He loves when I pray and build my relationship with Him. 

By day ten, Sunday, I was avoiding the kitchen so that I wouldn't be reminded of what I wasn't doing (ha!).  I guess my husband could tell that I was getting tired of the task because he encouragingly reminded me that Sundays were a day of REST and that for one day a week it would be okay to use the dishwasher. Praise God! I seriously was overwhelmed and overjoyed with the realization that even in the minutest speck of a "trial" God doesn't give us more than we can handle! 
As I loaded that dishwasher on Sunday I began praying with a lightened heart, thanking God for providing a break, for understanding the weakness of his created being (me), for helping me stay faithful thus far, even if it was just in action for a few days, and for all that he has taught me in just this simple everyday task. I may not take every Sunday off from washing dishes (I don't want to use it as a loophole), but I was so glad to be reminded of God's grace to me this past week!

I started the week fresh, remembering the purpose of fasting is to draw closer to God. I have truly been surprised at what a struggle it has been to stay focused on prayer with a right attitude over these past 12 days. After my day of rest, I am now glad for the upcoming 30 days and look forward to what God will show me now that my attitude has been adjusted.

Dec 29, 2011

Untitled Reflections

The year started with so much joy and happy expectation. In January we became parents! In that sense 2011 was such a beautiful year! A year of getting to know our son and experience life with him. I enjoyed the immense blessing of being able to work part-time from home. Being home with our son, watching him continue grow and develop is a gift that I will always cherish - even during teething days.  In the beginning, I would often get the question, "So, how do you like being a mom?" I always stumbled with an answer - how do you put words to such a profound gift and blessing? It is hard to explain that when I became a mom I finally felt like "myself." During years of longing, waiting, praying, I had started to wonder if God had a different plan for my life. Maybe I wasn't supposed to be a mom like I'd always thought.  At the end of 2010 and in the beginning of 2011, God gave us the most beautiful gift of our son, through the sacrifice of his biological mom, and he confirmed the desires of my heart. As we are at the end of 2011 and my little baby boy is nearing his first birthday, I stand in awe of just how sovereign my God is and how richly he chose to bless us this year.

2011 was also a tragic year. In another sense, it is ending so much differently than I imagined. So much daily happiness found in parenting our son and yet so much sadness and pain in losing babies I loved before I knew them. I believe life begins at conception; this year our family has lost 5 little lives I was not able to meet outside their mothers' wombs. My nephew, William, and his twin among those lost. In the midst of this grieving there have been broken and intensely wounded hearts, sickness and physical pain attack those I hold dear in my hearts.

I remember at the end of 2010 I thought that I had enough of the sadness and disappointment contained in that year, I was looking forward to the fresh start of 2011. The anticipated joy of meeting our child and experiencing our life as a family of three instead of two - it was enough excitement to fool me into forgetting that this world is full of trouble. I was reminded of this truth not long into the year and since then I have been struggling to answer the question of how I can feel so happy and so incredibly sad at the exact same time.

Many times throughout the days/weeks/months I find myself thinking, "Life shouldn't be like this. There shouldn't be this much sorrow and death." I'm not blaming God, it just feels like an inward tug on my heart. As I prayed through these thoughts one day, the phrase I've emphasized in Ecclesiastes 3:11 came to mind:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (ESV)
I was so struck with the notion of having eternity in my heart. My heart knows that sin has ruined a perfect creation and it knows that there is somewhere far better and more perfect than I could ever imagine. My heart groans, knowing that indeed life shouldn't be like this, but in fact with sin, life is full of sorrow, sickness and pain. In the midst of these troubles there is hope. Some days it feels as though it is buried very far down and others it is overflowing the surface.

This hope, as my Pastor Stan Gale says, is not a "hope so" type of hope. It is firmly rooted in Jesus Christ and a saving relationship with him. It is through this relationship that I am able to face the heartache I am bound to face every year until Jesus returns. It is because of my knowledge that nothing good comes from my own work, I am able to rejoice knowing that "every good and every perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17 ESV).

It is tempting to approach 2012 with an attitude that surely, it must be better than 2011. I think it is natural for me to look ahead at this new year and hope that the ups will out number the downs. However, I've become so aware that each and every year holds beautiful blessings along side deep sorrow. A new year may be a new start, one that I am looking forward to, but this year I can't help but feeling like there will be more of the same. There will be trials and troubles, and there will be joy and blessings, all of which will be gifts from above.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4 MSG)
It is important for me to remember that the year 2012 does not hold the answer to the frustration I feel in 2011. Hoping in the new start will leave me disappointed in the end. Having my hope firmly rooted in Jesus Christ gives me Joy that nothing can take away and the strength to look forward to all that God has planned for my life, year after year.