Closing a Chapter.

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Each year as the gift wrapping and tag writing come to a close, and I start to hear my own heart beating come to a calm, I start reflecting on the last year for the last week of December. Sort of like an end of job assessment.

Did I accomplish the things I set out to accomplish this year?
Have I grown at all in my marriage, with my kids, and with Jesus?
What do I want to focus on next year?

Usually it turns into an anxiety session about all my flaws and weaknesses. A scratched out paper of reasons why I should just give up and start over. Then I crumple up the paper, scowl and pout (these are some legit adult reactions…).

This year it’s been oddly quiet. Quite peaceful, in fact.
No scoffing.
No pointed fingers at which problem caused my downfall.
No countless scribbled pages.
No guilt.
No anxiety.
Not a pout.

Could it be that the practice of thanks over this last year has begun carving this cancer of nothingness out of me? The poisonous tumor of self-loathing, oddly self-fulfilling prophecy…this horribly dreary road…is finally clearing?

Without realizing it, unthankfulness had become a life sentence. The diagnosis to end my spirit’s existence but keep my flesh alive to witness the torture if what was lost and witness the remnant of the wasteland it had created. I’d heard about cancer, leukemia, AIDS, freak viruses and flus…but no one really warned me that unthankfulness could rob me of life.No one told me it could put me in a vegetative state to stand frozen and witness contaminated nothingness.

As the days, weeks, and months have clocked by, it’s as though the chaos slowed down and I was suddenly attuned to the breathe of God. The way my children play. The way they giggle. The way they love with their hugs and kisses. The laughter I share with my husband. The quiet talks. The sweat, the tears. God’s very life presence beating. Breathing. Transforming.

I haven’t nearly perfected it. I’m not nearly close. I still have so far to go…but some words have come to mind this time in writing. Not a kick to my failings to get into gear. Not angry tears or hatred for what I have put before myself to shuffle through. Beautiful words I had longed to hear in grace as a child amidst the less than perfect grades, piano lessons and goofy quirks. The tender words of a parent to their child in process:
“It’s ok. We’ll get there.”
Such plain and simple words. But they are room words. Room for error, learning, and growth. Words that cover my mistakes without being a cover up.

A lifetime of attempts to cover myself, my ugliness, my mistakes. And in the finality of this year of 2013…in the reflections of my past and the peering into the sun break of the future I may be blessed with, I know for certain I do not want to live another God given day covering up for myself.

This year has been the most honest and freeing year of my life. Breaking the constraints of guilt I’d fastened to direct me to what I’d do next and allowing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to come in and cover me has not been simple. I gave Him not just the compartments I wanted Him to see, but the ones I wanted to fix up before I let Him see them (which by the way turned into a horrible botched job on my own efforts).

The journey of thanks is far from being over. It’s a life long adventure. It may be a chapter in a blog that is ending, but it’s a chapter in my life I’m not afraid to open and face anymore. Another chapter marked by grace and covered by the sacrifice of the Son of God.

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Empty Blessings

The Seattle coldness is starting to seep into everyday living. It makes me want to stay curled up in my warm blankets drinking coffee all day long listening to my little girl giggle and talk until night falls again and the boys come home.

Needless to say when I take the last few sips of my morning coffee and hear the hollow sound of expectant breathing with no meeting of warm, comfortable coffee goodness… I frequent a sigh. A few weeks ago I realized that sigh was speaking volumes about my life and my perspective. It was more then just a sigh over missed coffee. It was a sigh over missed opportunity.

It’s amazing how quickly the sighing appears when I live in yesterday as if I could change it today. It’s as though shackling and beating myself will convince me that I am free. The thought, the concept… The reality is impossible.

One day I stared into the bottom of my cup. The coffee was gone, but the memory of it still real. The warmth and satisfaction still connecting in my brain. So why, with all this reality… Why is my cup not filled with blessings?

Many times I take in as much as I can to find my cup empty, cold, and haunting. I cannot possibly have a cup filled with blessings if I do not take the opportunity to fill it with the blessing of the present moment. My cup remains empty as long as I remain expectant of the blessings I think I deserve. But when I fill my cup with the moments that surround and embrace me, I begin to see the blessings bloom in abundance and deepen in clarity before my jaded eyes. Dirty socks, bills piling, temper tantrums and all.

The blessing of the present moment could mold me, humble me, overjoy me, instill passion deep in my soul. It could shake the reigns of the life I thought worth living to bring me to the beauty of who Jesus really is. It is the submission to yield to the beauty of my Creator in the passionate embrace of less of me; more of You. Less.

I have a cup filled every moment of every day, and how I choose to name those blessings and fill that cup are completely up to me. The blessings God has already formed and placed in my life are reality. In that moment, I no longer use the present moment to fix the past; I no longer use this moment to build to a future that is thought to be better than… I choose now. And I am exceedingly and abundantly blessed because heaven is already here in the present moment. He is already with me here.

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Fleas.

Life. What is there to say? As a mom, it seems like I seem to get it right, I seem to get in a good flow, and something comes along and knocks down all my folded laundry.

All these years I have fought against the ebb and flow thinking if I fight for the “right” thing and go the “right” way things would turn out “right”. Math Logic: Right+Right=2Right

I wasn’t left with anything new. I have been leaving myself with more “right”…which really isn’t right at all. It’s filler. It’s like getting a bag of chips on sale to find out that 60% of the bag is AIR. I have been buying into air for years, and recently avoiding my Psychology side of my major and doing the other requirements, I took a Theology class of Family Ministries.

It’s really less creepy than it seems

The class was simple. Readings, some shorts posts, a paper or two…and I somehow hardly did any of the work. Life was at 60% air and I got distracted and bought into the air. Again. [I’m human I should really just accept this and move on…]

The class talked a lot about how the family has changed over the last 200 years. It also addressed personal walls that keep us from growing any further. The point we get in life where it feels like everything is stalled.

I could relate to that. I knew I had gone through quite a few points in my life where I was stalled, cranky, and annoyed. [I was going through one of those cycles during this class] That knowledge did not keep me from or get me out of the cycle. In fact, I got more cranky, more annoyed, and more stuck.

Last week I was writing a paper I had asked for an extension on. My husband and I were in a war, my kids had been at each other on a daily basis, and we got fleas from our invisible dog that we never owned. Normal human cycle: I still did not throw my flag up and rely more on God. I got cranky.In fact I got so cranky I did absolutely nothing. I through a “tantrum”. I would sit and “pray” and tell God this test was just ridiculous. Something needed to give.

1 bug bombing, 30 loads of laundry, cleaning, spring cleaning, bags and bags of rubbish, and an exterminator later…I started vacuuming the first of 14 more vacuums to suck those fleas and their spawn out of my apartment and in the hum of the vacuum I realized I was so thankful I had a carpet to vacuum.

I hadn’t invited to fleas into my house, but they found a way. The climate was right and they got comfortable. Really, is there much of a difference between those fleas and how I act sometimes?

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

I chose the air instead of the chips. I let my guard down. I stopped thanking God in prayer and giving him my problems for the day. I put them on my own “to do” list acting like it’s a personal task instead of a spiritual one. The trials come in and I have forgotten God’s promises. I surrender and fall on the sword. Even to fleas.

…and at just the right time God reminds me of Jesus. (Galatans 4:5)

I didn’t pray the fleas away. I made my bed. The bed that I have not slept in for 2 weeks out of the fear the fleas would re-contaminate my room. I made it with my clean sheets. And I am going to sleep in my bed tonight.

I realize the fleas might come back. I might get bitten. I might have to do 30 more loads of laundry and vacuum until the belt snaps and I have more problems… but I don’t have to stop living, being creative in the situation, and thanking God for all He’s done. Because really…without all God’s done in my life, I wouldn’t have much to write about.

Leaving the Room of Good Intentions.

The stride is always steady when new and fresh ideas hit the pavement. When the gas is on empty, how do we fill the tank when it seems like there is no where to fill up?

That’s where I was a few weeks after my last entry. Weeks went by and giving thanks was a daily struggle. It still happened, but only when the thanks was obvious, new, and fresh. Assignments, school, laundry, Sundays… They all come and go. But I never know when God will meet me amidst another day of sighing to show me more of himself, more of a daily life of thanksgiving.

I remember sitting in the back room of the evangelical church we were attending when I was about 5 (just one of many denominations I was introduced to as a child). Like clockwork, we sang the fruit of the spirit song and watched a bible story played out on a felt board before getting our crackers and fruit punch. Aside from the distinctly odd taste left behind from the cheese crackers and fruit punch, feeling awkward, and dreaming of the shortbread cookies and sherbet floats to come at the night service, I remember sighing and rolling my eyes inwardly every time we sang that song. I even grew to resent that verse in Galatians as the years went on. Although I am sure the good intentions were there, it frequented the lectures of my poor attitude. In reflection, the question I frequently ask myself is, “how often am I living in the room of good intentions?”

Being intentional with the investment of time with my children is difficult. Making phone calls intentionally usually hits the bottom of my to do list, and I can think of many decisions I made with good intent only to realize in hindsight good intentions did not mean good results.

I started out on this journey intending to give thanks daily and watch my life forever change. But the room of good intentions is not the room of heart change. It’s outside somewhere. And I can only help but think that maybe the room of heart change is in the house of grace while the room of good intentions is in a different house all together. A house of my own making. Another house that will crumble, burn, blow up or any other number of odd catastrophic events.

Galatians 5:22-23 came up again today. This time I decided to read it, all past experiences aside. The NCV reads like I’ve heard it all my life. “But the spirit produces the fruit of love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong.”
Admission #1: I sighed.
Admission #2: the last sentence made me suck that sigh right back in.
I’d read that last sentence so many times before. But this time I switched the verse around.

There is no law against love.
There is no law against joy.
There is no law against peace.
There is no law against patience.
There is no law against kindness.
There is no law against goodness.
There is no law against faithfulness.
There is no law against gentleness.
There is no law against self-control.

A house built with these things may be hard to build, but it will never be destroyed. And there would be abundance of thankfulness. A house with abundance of food and healing for my soul.

The Abnormal Life.

Thankfulness in anything is a challenge today. The money doesn’t stretch enough. He works so hard. And I feel so guilty.

Where I’m supposed to be. At home, with my children. The laundry, the bills, the school, the chores.

So I pray again. Relief. Peace. Help.

Tears.

The journey of thankfulness. It isn’t easy. And far be it from me to present it like it is easy. This is one of the more painful decisions I have made. And when I speak when I should be silent, get angry when I should forgive… It makes it more painful. Tears of despair instead of joy still come. Selfish thoughts still pervade. I am increasingly aware that now, I make a choice to live in chaos rather than the peace that passes all understanding.

I complain about what has been provided. I sigh at what I do not have. I cringe that I cannot bring a smile to his face in the midst of his pain. I proceed to loneliness instead of the pain of exposing my love for him. A selfish web I have woven when first I do not look to Jesus.

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It sits in front of me as I wash the dishes. Unload the dishwasher. Fix breakfast lunch and dinner.

Submit and give thanks. Peace comes through submission and thanksgiving. He keeps me. Like I am special, wanted, desired. Safe. Yet I act like it is scary, unfamiliar, out of my comfort zone; in essence, I reject His love on a daily basis.

In the failure of my day and insufficiency of my own strength, I see my children giggling and playing on the living room floor; grace. The sufficiency of grace. His grace covers my failure.

Covered. Paid. Spiritually, debt free.

Trust without borders.

This week has been a depressive fog for my heart and soul. I have been largely motionless and speechless trying to sort through all that is going on around the nation and trying to figure out what I am supposed to do with all of it.

I realized today in looking over to my side amidst the chaos I was not alone. All my questions, He was listening. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t frustrated and aching.
Why my generation?
Why am I in this generation?
The children, God all the children? They are defenseless. They are meant to be guarded by the mothers and fathers, They are so vulnerable
…is this how you ache God? Is it this never ending pain of mourning for the lost? For those not even weeks old in their lifetime? Down to a toothy elementary child? God, my endless questions…I don’t think the answers could calm the anger over the selfish ways they die.

Even in the realization of the preciousness of a child, I still found myself snapping at my own that I kept. My own that I held in my arms, even moments after their birth. My own that call me mama. My own perfectly innocent children who mirror my personality so well. I am so disgusted with myself. Fill in my emptiness with the riches of your love. My failure with Your goodness. My lack of adequateness with Your grace.

I am exactly where I need to be, this I know. I am in the state of Grace. Grace…oh my God, the grace.

This week made me remember my longing to be in a different era. I’d take the 1950’s…even earlier. How about when America started? Simpler. It seemed simpler in hindsight. Something I could handle because I’d already read about the tales of freedom fighters. It’s in the fantasy of yesterday I realized…this era, this crazy De-moralized, gray generation is exactly where I am meant to be because it is exactly where You formed me, and found me. You don’t make mistakes. And You see exactly what I have begun seeing through your grace….hope. You didn’t give up for 5000 years… you’ve bestowed grace and mercy upon generations… I shouldn’t lose hope over 50. Even if I’m broke, I’ll tithe my life. You saved me.

Running. I’ll keep running.

A New Reason to Run.

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The depth of the sorrow, the confusion. It can be thick like mud, like wet concrete. No words to explain, silence loud like a siren. The unanswered questions, the unknown reasons. We stand in the wake of destruction, left to pick up the pieces.

The magnitude of someone standing beside in such an overwhelming situation can speak volumes without words even being necessary. The longing and aching that someone was standing there filling the void.

For the last year of my life I have built up every excuse not to get out and run. Not to hear the air between my shoes and the pavement. The thud every time it hits. The rhythm of my breathing. Every selfish excuse. Today I realized how unbelievably selfish and lazy I have been. My shoes may be there unused, but I have been foolish to think I can just run tomorrow. Today someone went to do what they loved most. Trained for. Planned for. Went for. Never again. So unbelievably selfish of me.

Today I have a new reason to run. I have everything I need. Daily, I want more. More me, less of You. Forgiveness rages in like a flood. I’m covered, covered, covered by grace again. How many more agains? How much further? How much longer? How much higher?

Ephesians 3:14,20 (MSG)
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. [20] God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Endless. It is absolutely and vastly endless.

My heart breaks for Boston. I wish i could be there and stand beside you. But for those who can’t, I will run. 8-11-13