Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sore Loser?

The other day I wanted Heaven.  Like really, really wanted it.
I wanted all that I know to be true about it. 
I wanted perfection.  And purity.  And health.  And right.  And full.  And joy.
No problems.  No pain.  No tears.  No wrong.  No lack.  No loss.
I just really wanted Heaven.  For me and for so many others.
I've noticed these times of longing happen periodically.  But mostly, whenever I'm sensing lack or loss.  Which is where I was.  Which in some ways is where I still am.
An experience or a reminder and that earthly feeling of emptiness settles in my soul and I don't like it.  I don't like empty or lack or loss.
I like full.  I like a full belly after a meal.  A full pantry after a trip to the grocery store.  A calendar full of activities.  A full bank account.  Full experiences.  Full opportunities.  I don't like empty.
I didn't like it seven years ago this month when we had one of our most profound losses.  When one day we were celebrating life.  And weeks later, mourning loss.  When hope and expectation filled my womb, only to be followed by emptiness.  When the label "miscarried" replaced "pregnant".
And I still don't like empty today.
According to wise Solomon, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
If I take the fullness in one season, I have to be able to deal with the lack in another. 

Last week, my girls stayed home with a babysitter while my husband and I attended a meeting at church.  When we got home, we received a not-so-great report from my oldest daughter about our youngest daughter's behavior. 

On two different occasions, she acted out because things didn't quite go her way. 

She didn't want to take her turn being "IT" during a game of tag.  Then in the midst of trying to decide on a movie to watch, she expressed her discontent because she lost a round of  "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe" as well as "Whoever guesses the number gets to choose"--two well-played attempts by our sitter to be fair about the selection process.

This isn't the first time we've seen our youngest behave this way.  She's a six year old who doesn't like to lose (I mean, what six year old does?).  As her parents, one of our present tasks is helping her learn to deal with loss and not grow up with a "sore loser" label attached to her cute little forehead.

As my husband and I sat in her room that night explaining her offense and discussing consequences with her, I felt the Spirit nudge me, too.

How are you dealing with your current losses? 

With fussing?  Complaining?  Pouting?  With a disagreeable spirit?  With a "That's not fair" attitude? 

Or with acceptance?  And patience?  And prayer?

As I wrestled this out with the Lord,  I asked, "What do I do with all of this?  When I see loss and lack in my world and in others' worlds?  When Heaven is not an option right now, Lord?"

His quiet, but clear response was this...
Have it to the full.  Abundance.  His reminder of what He gives.   

He gives life.  And He promises to give it to the full.

Then suddenly a flood of other reminders rushed at me. 


And this...

And this...

All reminders that my Father's speciality is fullness.

These empty, filled with loss, moments and seasons have the potential for great purpose. 

But only if we take them to the One whose fullness can crowd them out.

So that's what I'm asking during this season.

Father, fill me with Your fullness.  Let it crowd out the empty places.  The places where I see and feel lack and loss.  Help me not to be a sore loser.  And may I be content on the days when I really just want Heaven.  Thank you for coming.  Thank you for promising life to the full.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When It's Best to Just Shut Up

We're celebrating fifteen years of marriage today.  And for the sake of reminiscing, I'm sharing a few pictures of a certain young, innocent (& pretty clueless) couple back in the day on July 11, 1998:

On one hand, I cannot believe it's been that long.  On another, I cannot believe it's only been that long.

In fifteen years of marriage, I'd like to think I've learned a thing or two about living blissfully with my man. 

Things like respecting and honoring and trusting and supporting.  All really good things.  And about listening and observing and encouraging and praying.  All really great things. 

But one of the biggest lessons I'm afraid I'll still be learning until the whole "death do we part" thing can be summed up by any one of these phrases:

Be quiet.
Zip it.
Close your mouth.
Silencio, por favor.
Hold your tongue.
Shut up.

However you choose to say it, they all mean the same thing.

Don't. Say. Another. Word.

I know the last one on the list sounds harsh.  Believe me, it sounded harsh fifteen years when it was said in my very own wedding my husband's friend and college mentor who was co-officiating the ceremony. 

After the vows, ring exchange, and unity candle, our friend stopped to take a moment to offer some personal words of wisdom and encouragement to both of us before we were announced as husband and wife.

He started with my husband.  He recalled a time in college when he felt my husband was holding back emotionally.  He emphasized the vital importance of him sharing his innermost feelings.  Of being open and vulnerable, even when it was hard.  Of trusting someone else (namely me, the new wife) with both his pains and his joys.

Then our friend shifted his attention to me.  He began with a story of another couple he'd counseled.  He told how the wife had come to him expressing her dissatisfaction with her husband's leadership and asked his advice as to what she should do.  Our friend said he knew the answer.  She just needed to "shut quiet...and pray".  His implication:  I may need to do the same whenever I felt the same.

It was a stereotypical gender analysis.  Man needs to talk more, woman less. 

At first, I bristled.  I didn't like the way it sounded to my ears.  Even as gentle and as calm and as kind as he tried to say it, he still said it.  He said the words, "shut up" in my wedding ceremony and I was stunned.

Naive and inexperienced, I certainly had no idea how to navigate the waters of a godly marriage.  I had no idea what was ahead and had no idea how much I needed to hear those words.  But our friend apparently did.  He knew I'd need to hear them.  Maybe not then, but most definitely later.  Especially fifteen years later.

There are certainly times when it's beneficial and appropriate to speak up; I do not condone being a doormat.  As a matter of fact, I come from a long, female bloodline of "non-doormats".  But other times, I must confess.  It's best to just shut up.

So yes, I'm still learning this:

I spend most of my days overseeing, managing, correcting and teaching my girls.  I do all of this and all of that.  I'm a caretaker and a mama...just not my husband's.

And at no time do I desire to be this...

"A nagging spouse is like the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet;
You can't turn it off, and you can't get away from it."
Proverbs 27:15-16 (The Message)
No ma'am.  No sir.

Instead, I'd rather choose to:

*respect versus reprimand.
*encourage instead of enrage.
*agree instead of argue.
*consider instead of correct.

When I forget (and I will), I hope to call to mind the story of Daniel in the lion's den. 

I will try to remember the ferocious, ready-to-devour beasts as they stood before one of God's children.

And I will remember how an angel of the Lord was sent to still the lions.  To shut their mouths so they could not hurt or wound (Daniel 6:22a).  All because of prayer.

Harsh?  Maybe.  But sometimes harsh makes you think.  Especially when it's also true.  And helpful.  And inspiring.  And necessary.  And kind. 

So I finish with this:

Thanks to my pastor for this gem. :)
Lord, I know there's a time for everything.  
There's a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7b). 
Give me the wisdom to know the difference. 
Shut my mouth if what I'm about to say is not true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind.  
And may you richly bless the next fifteen+ years of my marriage as you have the first fifteen.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Declaration of Dependence for Today

Can't do it.  Not today. 

The moment I do is usually the exact moment it bombs.  You know I'm right, Lord.  You know me full well.

Your own people tried.  They didn't get it right either.  They kept doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and to whomever they wanted.

Your Word says it was because they had no king.

"In those days Israel had no king;
everyone did as he saw fit."
Judges 21:25

That's why they did it.  Oblivious to You.

As I look inward and around, I notice how little things have changed.  Thousands of years later, I see moments when we're still trying to do our own thing.  In our own way.  With no profitable results, only substantial heartache and regret.

So much like a toddler, our hearts scream, "I can do it all by myself!" 

In the spirit of independence we think we can or we think we should, so we do.  But independence and self-reliance will eventually fail us in the spiritual realm.

The good news is that we have You.  We have a King.  And You have a kingdom.  Both in our hearts and in the heavenlies.

You have a throne where You sit, where You rule.  You are most definitely on it.  It's Your throne, not ours.  Our only response to Your throne:  bow before it; don't ever attempt to climb up on it.

You have complete dominion and absolute authority.  And only a King has both the privilege and joy of setting captives free.  Free from ourselves.  Free to follow You.  Free to do as You see fit.

Left on our own understanding and our own ways, we will screw up.  Royally. 

I don't want to do as I see fit.  No, I want to do as You see fit.  I want to live according to You and Your ways, not myself and mine. 

Direct my paths.  Direct the paths of your people.  Grant us the strength to do what is right and the grace when we don't.  Steer us clear of the compromising standards of this world and toward You and Your divine purposes.

Today {once again} I declare my dependence on You.  I fully rely on You for everything.  For in You, I live and move and have my being.  I trust You.  I need You.

I acknowledge You as King and rest in Your Kingship.   You are the King of all kings.  King of our hearts, King of our lives, King of every specific circumstance today.

May our hearts bow to You and Your authority as our King, today.  Because Your Word promises every one of our knees will do it one day.

I pray for my generation.  I pray that we may be a dependent people.  And that it may be said of us,
"In those days, they had a King; everyone did as He (the King) saw fit."

"Your kingdom come,
Your will be done..."
Matthew 6:10

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