Monday, May 30, 2011

Chronicles of Hope

As I am reading through the Bible with my small group, chronologically this time, we have come to the stories of David that are recorded in both Samuel and Chronicles. These books are normally separated by Kings in the Bible but in the chronological reading plan they are read together, story by story, with Psalms intermixed. It can at times be repetitious because Chronicles was written as a recounting of God's gracious care of His people beginning with Adam and Eve. It is often taken word for word from Samuel and Kings. So as we read of David's actions in Samuel, we read it again in Chronicles often on the same day.

Which got me wondering why God included in His Holy Scriptures a recounting of a story that is already included in the Old Testament. Why do they record these stories again? And then I saw Bob Goff's tweet, "Sometimes God lets us lose hope for a moment so we'll retrace our steps and remember every place we saw it last."

Chronicles was a remembering of all those times God had provided, all those times God had lead the way, all those times He had redeemed His people, again and again and again. Chronicles was an exercise in looking back at all those times of hope present in the lives of the Israelites.

I have found that I am often in need of a chronicle of God's work in my life. A reminder of God's provision and care when I am feeling stressed out by the unknown. A scavenger hunt of hope. So as I think about my list of gratitude, my one thousand gifts, as part of Ann Voskamp's Multitudes on Monday, I wanted to spend a day looking backward at those points in my life that I am ever so thankful for. Those points that shaped me and kept me close to the One who loves me so.

  • My mom marrying my Dad and ending the cycle of abuse
  • Mrs. Wybenga, my Sunday School teacher who showed me grace
  • God's word before me, always available 
  • Spring break college tour that introduced me to Biola
  • Youth group, full of fun, intention and meaningful discussions
  • Moments abroad that opened my world
  • A holy place set apart for me to study, to become my own person, surrounded by people who loved the Lord and saw me as His child
  • A sudden urge to spend a semester in Washington DC, where I met my beloved
  • Overwhelming fatigue that forced me to change how I viewed myself
  • Three boys that are teaching me how to be interconnected in a way that is uncomfortable for independent me
  • An invitation to teach

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Few Clicks

Sunday morning, my husband took all three boys to hockey and then they were going to our "hockey" church, a church close to the rink that has service times that work with spring hockey. All three boys were going even though only two were playing hockey because they really love that church. So I had the house to myself. I grabbed my laptop to look something up for my husband and as I clicked through websites and blogs, I found myself seeing a book on someone's reading list that caught my eye. I love how that happens. I was not looking for this book. I was simply clicking along and there it was. But as soon as I saw it I knew it was meant for me.

I clicked over the Amazon and downloaded the free sample chapter to my kindle app. I was laying in bed reading and tears came to my eyes. I wiped them away and fresh tears came. I had needed these words, these words of encouragement. These words of affirmation. These words were a salve to a broken place in my heart.

I have been wondering what I am meant to do with my life. I know I am supposed to be a mother to my boys. But is there more? I am slowly figuring out where God has gifted me and what He has put on my heart. I think there must be a reason that He made me someone who LOVES to read and study and then read and study some more. Someone who cannot be anything but authentic. Someone who is not afraid to speak in public. Most people fear that more than death I hear. Someone who is relationship driven, someone who wants to be engaged in real, deep, growing conversation. I am finally figuring out that God made me the way He wants me to be. And that He might just have a purpose for all of those things that make me a little unique.

But I have not been able to mesh what I think I am meant to do with where I am. I have run into some hidden barriers that I did not realize were holding me back. This book shed some light into the dark places I did not realize were discouraging me. I have been trying to figure out how to do what I love in the world I am in, in a world that puts limits on what I can do. Limits that are not based on who I am, what I know, or how God has gifted me but instead simply on my gender, on the fact that I am a woman.  And that really hurts. Deep inside me it hurts.

I know I am a woman. I have given birth so I truly know that God made men and women different. I have no aspirations of taking over the world. No desire to tell people what to do. I just want to be true to who God made me. I am not sure of who that is but I am beginning to understand that being a woman is only part of it. It may describe me but it does not define me. I am first and foremost a child of God. My gender does not limit what God will do in my life.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28
I still don't know what exactly I am going to be when I grow up. But I have some glimpses. And this book, the result of a few "random" clicks, encouraged me in a way I did not know I needed. A little affirmation, a little clarity of thought, a huge dose of "I am okay".

Monday, May 23, 2011

Am I Shallow?

So last Monday, I started keeping a list of gratitude, a list of a thousand things that bring me joy, little things in my day. It is part of Ann Voskamp's Multitude of Mondays. You should definitely visit her website if you haven't yet. Her book "One Thousand Gifts" has been a great reminder that I need to spend my time being thankful for what God has given me, the life He has prepared for me, instead of looking at the world and people around me wondering why me or why them.

This week, as I started composing my list in my mind, I was struck by how dissonant my list looks on paper.
  • Women coming together to study God's word
  • The first sip of Starbucks
  • Watching Little One celebrate a goal
  • Dropping Little One off at school
  • A new episode of Bethenny Ever After on my DVR
  • prayer requests shared
  • lying in bed with a good book
  • a good laugh with friends 
  • clean sheets
  • warm laundry
  • date night starting with an adult creamsicle drink
  • lunch with the Gilmore Girls
When I read my list, I am not sure this is what Ann had in mind. I have peeked through some of the lists other's have shared. Their lists look so peaceful. Full of nature and love. God and family. I often catch myself editing my list in my head before I even write it down. 

Is this worthy of the list? 

Is my list holy enough? 

Am I shallow?

I know I am not a shallow person by nature. But I have shallow moments. 

I also know that I am not a holy person. But I have holy moments. 

And I am thankful for both. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Do Christians Need Church?

Another interesting topic came up at the girls weekend away I went on last week. The house was full of Christian women that overlapped one another from various parts of the homeowners life. Many were from her days at a church across town where they were all young adults together, figuring out careers, finding husbands and eventually going their separate ways as jobs and moves pulled them away. So these are not new Christians, these women have been going to church for decades. But at one point in the weekend I found myself in a conversation about whether we really need church.

Not God. That was never in question. These women love the Lord. But after decades of being in church, they were wondering if it mattered if they went. I so get that. There are Sundays when I would rather sleep in or do my own thing. There are Sundays when we have to attend two different services or even two different churches because of hockey times. Church can be so inconvenient sometimes. Not to mention the junk that can come with church. Seeing the person who hurt you last week with her mean comments. Being accosted by the child care workers to volunteer in the 2s room. Trying to find a seat and having to keep going toward the front because that is where all the empty seats are. And those are the hurdles once you are in the building.

What about those people who have been hurt by the inappropriate actions of pastors or staff people. The believers who have tried to find a church that felt comfortable but keep getting stuck with people who don't understand their decision to not have kids, or if they have kids, they decide to homeschool or even worse, send their kids to public school. What about the people who want to believe in Jesus but cannot get past the visions of the church that see on tv.

So do Christians Need church? Do we actually have to show up on a Sunday morning or can we worship at home? Can we listen to sermons online and be covered for the week? Do we really need to be engaged and connected to a church community?

I don't know. Sometimes I think I am a better christian apart from the church. Not apart from God but apart from the church. Sometimes I find church to be a distraction from God. But that is not because church and corporate worship are the problem. That is because either myself or the community I am in are having a problem.

Last fall our women's Bible study read RC Sproul's book "5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow." In this book Sproul makes the argument that worship, corporate worship at church is important and essential to our growth as believers. He writes,
"He (God) absolutely requires human beings to honor, glorify, and worship Him in the way He commands, not according to the ways we prefer." 
Hebrews 10:19 - 25 says,
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Let us encourage one another.

Let us spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Let us not give up meeting together.

Church can be hard. Whenever people are involved things can get hard. We are sinful people and we make mistakes and bring our own agendas to the building. But there is still something magical that happens at church when we show up ready to be with God in His house with His people. There really is. But we have to show up.

Sproul writes,
We benefit from the encouragement we get form being with friends who are also on a spiritual pilgrimage, people who know us, love us, and are praying for us. We, too, too have the responsibility to encourage our fellow believers. Faithful attendance at worship is one way in which we can encourage one another.
I show up at church to worship God. I show up at church to hear Biblical teaching. I show up at church to be among God's children. I don't show up to be entertained. I don't show up to "get" something. I show up because God is deserving of honor and praise. And I show up because I am part of community of believers.

I owe both my presence.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Do We All Need a Bestie?

Recently I spent the weekend with a group a women at the beach house of a friend. Some of the women I knew, most I did not. Our tie that bound us together was the woman who owned the beach house. She decided to open her home to the mothers around her who might need a weekend away. There was no agenda, no schedule, just an open house, clean sheets, and an overwhelming sense of peace and freedom that comes from having nothing planned. Nothing to do.

As the weekend went on I had a few conversations about friendship and community with different women there. There was one group of four that came together, another pair and then a few of us came alone. There were some women invited that did not feel comfortable coming because they wouldn't know everyone. I was one of the women who came alone so that struck me. I was just so incredibly thankful for a place to get away, a place to sleep in, a place without the demands of kids or schedules. I was thankful for the time alone even. I was grateful that I was being forced to spend some time with myself for a change.

It made me think about how we view friendship in our world. Oprah has Gayle. Rachel has Phoebe,  Monica and the boys. Some of my friends talk with their sisters every day or so, in person if possible, on the phone if not. Some neighbors have an open door policy. I do not have friends like this. I don't talk to anyone on the phone every day, except my husband if he is traveling. I don't have that one go to friend. I don't know if that is because I move a lot or if that is because life changes. I just know that my friendships ebb and flow over time.

I spend a lot of time at the rink during hockey season and have gotten to know those families really well. And during hockey season, I know what is going on in their lives and they know mine. If someone needs help with a ride or missing gear, if someone needs a kid watched or a baby held so skates can be tied we are there for each other. But then the season ends and we go our separate ways. For a time these are quantity friendships, friendships that get lots of time together.

And then there are the few quality friendships that I have. Friendships that can go to that deeper place, where we share our fears and hurts, our joys and triumphs. We may not see one another often but when we do there is instant connection and meaning. I may move away and we not talk except through Facebook but when I come back we can pick up where we left off. We may live across the country from one another, but we truly love each other, always wanting the best for each other. Praying for each other and encouraging each other. And while we cannot seem to get our schedules to line up as often as we would like, I know that if ever I needed one of these friends, truly needed someone by my side, they would be there. Because I know that I would jump on a plane at a moments notice if one of these friends needed me.

While I may not have a bestie, the truth is I do have a Gayle or two in my life. One is my husband, the very first person I would call. The person I check in with each day.

The other is God, my heavenly father. The truest of true go to people. The person that will always answer the phone and is always available for a coffee date. I just wish sometimes that He could actually sit in the chair across from me at Starbucks. I guess that may be why we are always looking for a bestie. We were made to have that kind of relationship. We were made to have a best friend in our lives every day. But in this world we have tried to fill that void with the people around us, we have tried to find a bestie.

I don't want to do that. I love my friends. I have been blessed by the friends God has brought into my life. But I never want them to be a substitute for God Himself. I need to figure out how to let God be my bestie.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


YES I KNOW I AM SHOUTING. Shouting from the roof tops with joy! Because we found a house. A house in the school zone we wanted, the school where we already have friends, where we are already known.

A real house with 3 bedrooms, a yard, and our very own washer and dryer in the garage. And we are thrilled. Thrilled with a house that is smaller than we have now. Thrilled to have amenities we have now. Thrilled because there was a point in this house search that we began to think that a 2 bedroom apartment with a shared laundry room and parking garage would become home for next year.

Perspective always amazes me with its ability to change my view on what I need. To change my view of what would make me happy.

When we started this journey my two requirements were being in our old school zone and having my own laundry. Slowly as we lost the first house we found and then the second and started to get scared by the lack of rentals available, I was willing to give up the laundry. I was more willing to take my quarters to the laundromat than give up the school we wanted. It is not like this is some magic school. But it is a place where my oldest has friends, where he feels safe already. A place where I don't have to make a good first impression.

But finally a house showed up on Craiglist. When the landlord called me back she already had another family that wanted it as well. I am so glad that my husband was in California at the time. He was actually on his way to the airport to head home but he quickly changed his plans. He was able to see the house the next day at lunch with his check in hand.

And now we have a house. I didn't have to worry. I did but it turns out worry wasn't necessary. The right place came available just as we needed it. Just as I knew it would, in my head, though my heart had its doubts.

(This is actually old news at this point. It happened almost two weeks ago. But as I was looking through my blog posts, or lack thereof, I noticed I never wrote about finding our house.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

I recently started reading Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts" after reading about her book on a number of friend's blogs. I am not quick to jump on a bandwagon. I didn't start reading the Twilight series until all four books were already on the bookshelf at Target. But there are a few books I have read in the last few years that I think have been game changers for me, books that broke new ground and changed the way I view life. This is one of those books.

For me the moment came in Chapter 1 when Ann writes,
"Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan's sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.
Isn't that the catalyst of all my sins?
Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other."
I had never thought of original sin in that way, as an act of ingratitude. Adam and Eve were in a garden full of good things to eat. They had ALL they needed. They had more than they needed. They did not need to eat of the tree of knowledge. But they did. They did exactly that which God had told them not to do. They sinned.

I look around my life and I am so incredibly blessed. I have what most people in this world would call enough. And yet, I struggle with wanting more...
more love...
more purpose...
more comfort...
more reassurance...
more acceptance...

My eyes focus on the something more, something other and lead me away from the life and blessings God has given me.

This book challenged the author and now me the reader to make a list of a thousand ordinary gifts within her days.

So today I will start my list.
  1. A God who loves ME
  2. grace that sets me free
  3. a warm cup of coffee
  4. time to sit and be
  5. time to write
  6. a husband who loves me enough to send me away for the weekend
  7. finding the song my son wants to hear but can't tell me the name
  8. a place to keep this list

This is my first post as part of Ann Voskamp's Multitudes on Monday. Head on over there to see what other's are thankful for this week.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Convincing My Heart

A few weeks ago we found out that we were back at square one of finding a place to live in the Bay Area.

I thought I had already dealt with this fear and insecurity about our future. I thought I trusted God. And yet...

It is always and yet.

And yet, I felt fear and worry creeping in. I felt sadness. A cloud hung over my day.

The thing is my head knows that God is in control. My head knows that God has always provided. My head knows that things will work out. My head knows.

But some days my heart just doesn't get it. My heart aches no matter what my head tells it.

I pray and I try to convince my heart.

And then time passes. My heart aches a little less. Streaks of sun glimmer between the clouds.

My heart remembers.

God is good.