faith

scribbled-out tasks on my rumpled to-do list…

Posted by on Dec 21, 2012 in career, Cornerstone, faith, motherhood, perspective, running | 0 comments

The past month or so has blown by in a blur of holiday gatherings, final exams, cookie making, and plenty of “nose to the grindstone” stuff”. As I barrel through my days, I find myself ticking things off my list and striding forward with barely a backward glance, which always gives me a distinct sense of satisfaction. Check…check…and double check.

It’s the journey, and frequently I find myself somewhere in the thick of it, traveling along and grinding it out. In theory, this sense of immediacy is a good thing, but it can also hinder my view of the past or future. Focus? Yes. Perspective? Not always.

But as I look at my rumpled to-do list, it gives me pause. Each one of those scribbled-out tasks left an distinct mark on me this last few months, and it is good to stop and pay attention. Tasks like…

todo

Submit Final Grades. I stood in front of my class at the end of the semester, and could barely choke back the tears as I thanked them for the opportunity to spend time with them for 14 weeks. When I agreed to teach the class, I wasn’t at all sure about my decision. I honestly didn’t think I would ever find myself back at Cornerstone, and here I was, trying to shake off the lingering feelings of burnout that had followed me since I took a break from teaching a few years ago. But I decided that I was going to pay attention to the “reason”, and I did. My “break” had freed me from the stress of perfectionism and had given me a renewed focus to paying attention to what my students needed…right then. They learned a few things from me, but I think I learned much more from them.

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Complete survey for The New Testament Challenge. I finished reading the New Testament from start to finish for the very first time this fall, thanks to an eight week program through our church. It was definitely “challenging”, but the impact of being in the Word every day was more powerful than I could have imagined. I usually read or study the Bible in small chunks, so I loved being able to see in broad strokes what it looks like to be a Christ-follower. Loving extravagantly, speaking Truth, giving generously, and using my gifts to serve the community of believers…all things that popped off the pages in very real ways this fall. I can only pray that I continue to water and weed the transformational change that began to take root in my heart this fall and allow it to produce life-affirming fruit. I want to be like Christ, and being in the Word is a big part of that.

Bible

Buy beef tenderloin. After a personal cooking lesson in early December (which deserves its very own post), I found myself buying groceries to host the firm Christmas party at our home last weekend. I was trying to be nonchalant about it, but I was honestly pretty terrified. One of the “mantras” my instructor kept telling me was “Don’t be afraid, Rachel”, and I needed that tattooed on the inside of my eyelids it as I picked out meat, prepped dishes that were way out of my wheelhouse, and cooked up a huge pot of risotto while our dinner guests lounged around the kitchen. Just a tad bit intimidating, don’t you think? The party was a success, even with my slightly undercooked risotto (yes, it’s true), and as Ben and I cleaned up the kitchen, I was so thankful for all of the entertaining we have been able to do since we moved in. I love having our home full of laughter and conversation, and it felt good to share with others.

risotto

Pre-register for the winter Hello Mornings Challenge: Earlier this summer, I jumped into an online accountability group that checks in on Facebook in the mornings to share what they are learning in their devotions. Honestly, I did it on a whim, but 12 weeks later, I felt such a kinship with these girls that live all over the Eastern Time Zone…from Panama to Alabama to Canada. When it ended, and we had to decide whether to continue, it was hardly a question. We were all in. Recently, one of the girls went through an incredibly difficult situation, and I sat in front of my computer crying for her, this girl I felt such a kinship with, even though we had never met. You can say what you want about technology, but there are so many amazing ways that it can be used for good…and this has been a Spirit-led movement in my life.

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Make sheep costume. Madi was asked to be a sheep in her Christmas program, which meant that I had to construct some semblance of a costume. I don’t sew…I’m not an especially astute crafter…which meant that we ended up wandering around Hobby Lobby with an image of a costume pulled up on my cell phone trying to find felt, polyfill, and fluffy pipe cleaners. Did it turn out? We managed. She did leave a trail of polyfill in her wake, and her ears were a bit precarious. But if anything, it certainly humbled me. I really didn’t know if her costume was going to stay together, and that was hard. Lesson learned…next time, I need to outsource.

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Train for a 10k. Notice it doesn’t say “run a 10k”. I trained with my neighbor, because she was planning on running a 10k at Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, didn’t have a race lined up. Still don’t, in fact. But strangely enough, I still had a tremendous sense of accomplishment when we hit our six mile run length, and didn’t pass out afterwards. It helps to have a good running partner, one that will always get out of bed to run at 5:45 and will say, “Let’s run the four mile route this morning”, even when it’s raining. That’s the kind of running partner you need. Better than that, though, is the friendship that that has been forged during the miles running up and down the streets of our neighborhood. Talking about everything and nothing…kids and family and jobs and history…it’s something that I don’t want to give up, even though the mornings are getting a bit colder.

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Finish writing today’s post. This seems to make it on my list almost every day, to be either starting or finishing a post for Mom Colored Glasses or here. I love doing it, but there never seems to be enough time to write…keep up with emails…get our name to the right PR people…build our audience…all squeezed in-between the rest of my life. Some days it feels overwhelming, but then there are other days, when we are able to send a $100 gift card to someone that really needs it or write about something that is close to my heart or have a conversation with a friend about something I wrote…those moments continue to make it worth it. Writing is the quiet that centers me…the perspective that so often eludes me…and the connection that I so desperately need.

The last couple of months have been good for me. Not simple and not easy, but definitely a time of growth, discipline, and rediscovery. And truthfully, it is only as I look back that I can see how my path wove and intersected in just the perfect way.

I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store.

Finding God…in the Mess and in the Glory…

Posted by on Oct 16, 2012 in faith, ideas, perspective, Things I Love | 2 comments

It is easy to see God in the midst of a sunset, shots of purple and pink tinging the clouds that hover above the horizon.

It is easy to hear God in the sounds of a worship filled church service, singing with one voice about the blessings of God.

It is easy to see God standing under a starry night sky, the expanse of the galaxy pressing down on my shoulders.

It is easy to watch God work through the hands of an artist, weaving together paint and brush to reflect the creativity of the Creator.

But then, I turn towards my water-spotted sink, surrounded by piles of dirty dishes, and God is not so easy to see there.

I look at my to-do list and e-mail box, filled with distractions that pull me away from my purpose, and God is not so easy to see there.

I step outside and the gloom of the clouds feels oppressive, the wind whipping my hair into unrecognizable strands, and God is not so easy to see there.

My eyes turn towards the earth, deep mud squishing up around my shoes and I can feel the same dark tendrils of gloom surrounding my soul. The dizzying speed of life, stuffed with responsibilities and seemingly meaningless tasks threaten to blind me, and I need an intravenous shot of God’s Truth to yank me out of my downward spiral.

The words come out of nowhere…when I least expect it.

It comes through the words of a sweet hymn warbling out of my Pandora radio station or through the pages of a picture-lined book with words that shoot straight to the heart.

It comes leaking through a conversation with a friend or through a simple daily message sitting next to my sink. Truth comes in all shapes and sizes, if we are willing to pay attention. 

And maybe, just maybe, that is what I am supposed to learn; that I don’t need to wait for God to show up in the sun or the stars, but that I can find Him in every moment of every day. In the mess and in the glory, He is there, waiting for me to pay attention.

See God today. In it all.

Disclosure: Dayspring provided me with the product for the review; all opinions are my own. 

on mirrors…

Posted by on Sep 26, 2012 in faith, perspective | 0 comments

I have been thinking this week about mirrors.

It started on Sunday with our pastor’s sermon. He talked about how easy it is to drift away from the Truth of God’s Word because we start comparing ourselves to the people around us instead of the Bible. Our version of “normal” starts to look very much like the standards shouted from the front of People magazine and not so much like the guidelines Jesus calmly spoke from the Sermon on the Mount.

“Look Better! Earn More! Be Confident! Be Like Her!” the magazines yell into my face, and after a while, I start to believe it. I consume media like it’s my last meal, slurping up big doses of “what she’s doing” and start to compare it to my life. Insecurity that I’m not as “grateful” as one person, and pride that I’m handling motherhood better than “that” person walks into my heart hand in hand, and the drift begins.

You see, I find myself looking in the wrong mirror, with the lenses of society’s standards clouding my vision, and the image that bounces back to me is airbrushed with lies. And honestly, most of the time, I don’t even realize it is happening. We get so used to seeing what we see…and it starts to look normal.

It’s like wearing glasses that are the wrong prescription. Not until you get to the eye doctor and she flips the little round lenses over your eyes that is the right prescription that you suddenly notice sharp edges and flourishes that you didn’t see there before.

Truth. That’s the mirror I crave.

We started reading the book of Luke this week, the beginning of an eight week journey through the New Testament as a church, and I found myself staring at the words of Jesus like it was the first time I had read them.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6)

And the words of I Peter that I am studying with my Hello Mornings group leaped off the page to sear themselves under my eyelids,

“So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.” (I Peter 2:1-3)

It’s a reminder to make sure that I’m looking into the right mirror, so that I can see clearly where I need to clean house in my life.

It’s a wakeup call that others will see that I’m different if I store up good things in my heart, which will then naturally overflow to my words and behavior.

It’s a warning that I had better watch who and what I’m comparing myself to, and make sure it is God, not culture.

Check out your mirror…what is it reflecting today?

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to Trust…One Sliver at a Time…{Guest Post @ in(courage)}

Posted by on Sep 20, 2012 in faith, perspective | 0 comments

A tiny sliver of wood lodged in a tender finger.

A lesson in trust…learning to open our hands.

It never ceases to amaze me how often the lessons that I try to teach my kiddos turn around and hit me in the face as well.

I’m writing at (in)courage, an amazing place where faith and community collides, today – HERE

I would love it if you would check it out!

 

 

Listening to the Holy Spirit…

Posted by on Sep 3, 2012 in faith, perspective | 0 comments

I had noticed the family at church before. Their daughter was in the same Sunday School class as mine, and I had noticed the temporary tag that identified her as a visitor. Every time before, I had stifled the urge to say hello with the quick rationalization that I had to go pick up the other kids, we were on our way to lunch, I had other people that I wanted to talk to…you know, the usual excuses that keep us away from obeying those inward promptings.

But this summer, as I have been reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan with a group of women from church, I learned (amongst a lot of other things) that many of those spontaneous little pushes are from the Holy Spirit.

Okay, maybe not the urge I had the other day to get a Heath bar flurry at the ice cream store, but those moments where you have to make a decision to say hello, take a risk, speak truth, share your story, or even just give someone a few quarters at the grocery store? You know the ones.

I am often tempted to ignore those urges, because I’m either so engrossed with my own life or it feels insignificant. But the truth I learned is that it is more about being obedient than it is about saving the world. Francis Chan shared a story about feeling compelled to go back to a coffee shop and tell a gruff biker dude that God loves him. There was no miraculous salvation experience and the guy barely acknowledged his existence, but that wasn’t the point.

He listened and obeyed. End of story.

And honestly, if I’m not able or willing to obey in the easy or simple things, than how can I expect to be trusted with a more extreme call to action. Obedience is obedience, no matter how big or small.

I stopped my frenzied trajectory a couple of weeks ago, even though I was worn out from volunteering in a cranky class, my kids were dashing towards the cookies, and I was indeed on my way out for lunch. I stopped, said hello, and asked if they were new to our church. Come to find out they had been in town for a month, just moved from out of state, were looking to get connected, and live one street over from us.

She said to me, “I’m so glad you said something”. I was glad too, because I know how uncomfortable it can be as the new family in town, and in the process, we found new friends, right in our neighborhood.

The Holy Spirit loves to push us into those spontaneous moments, and the more we obey, the more we see the blessings pour down on others…and us.

Listen. Obey. Go. The Holy Spirit is calling you to reach out to those around you. Don’t miss it.

Paradigm Shifts and the Holy Spirit…

Posted by on Aug 18, 2012 in faith, perspective | 0 comments

Over the summer, I have been reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan with a group of women from church. It has been challenging, inspiring, and overwhelmingly good for my soul to reflect on what it means to be actively seeking the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think that my understanding of the Holy Spirit has ever been so clear before…or maybe I finally asked for the blinders to be ripped off my spiritual eyes.

A paradigm shift.

A renewed focus.

A fresh look.

I have always considered myself a pretty self-reliant person. I can do it myself, thank you very much, and usually better than everyone else. But over the last year or three, I have found myself making a slow metamorphosis. Things started to change back when I was pregnant with Fiona, the spring of 2009. It was a rough semester, and I clearly remember one morning in the shower where I was in a ridiculous amount of pain and I just sobbed out a prayer to get me through the day. I couldn’t do it on my own anymore, forcing me to ask for help. Looking back on that time in my life, there is no human way that I could have made it through the semester, teaching three classes, tough pregnancy, two small kids, horrible schedule. It was only through the help of the Holy Spirit that I made it through, but I really don’t think I gave credit where credit was due.

This past spring, when I was struggling with my shingles, lots of responsibilities, worrying about my mom at Mayo Clinic, and building our house, I hit another breaking point. But this time, I fell to my knees a lot faster, finding myself praying on a regular basis that the Holy Spirit would empty me…fill me up…and speak through me, because I surely wasn’t able to do it by myself. There was one morning in particular, when I was heading up to lead my Bible study group on a Wednesday morning, and I physically wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. But I sat in my car and prayed for the Holy Spirit’s strength, and somehow I made it through the morning. I hardly remember a word I said, and I think that is the point. It wasn’t me.

So as we headed into the summer, I picked up the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan, which is all about the Holy Spirit. I thought I knew something about the Holy Spirit, but it turned out that I had only ever scratched the surface. Honestly, I think I had been preparing to hear what God had to say to me this summer for a while, softening my self-reliant shell and learning that I can’t do everything “on my own”.

Not only that, but by ignoring the work of the Holy Spirit, we deliberately turn down the power that is available to us, the type of power that made the people who heard the disciples speak in their languages after Pentecost marvel because they were “uneducated men”. They could see…physically see…that these were not men who had studied languages in university, but were gifted with the ability to communicate the life-giving message of Jesus.

This was a fresh look at an old story for me, to see the impact of the Holy Spirit on the early church, and understand that it was not just for them, but it’s for us too. Yeah, maybe it looks a bit different, but have I truly asked for the Spirit to move in my life? To work out God’s will not in a nebulous “what’s God’s will for my life” kind of a way, but in an active, day-to-day asking what is His will…now…in this moment?

That nudge. That push. That open door. That quickened heart beat. That uncomfortable situation. That truth-speaking moment. That is where the Spirit shows up, and I am learning to both pay attention and to point back to God when He moves.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but what I am starting with is to pray, ask for His leading, and then be obedient. So simple that sometimes I miss it.

I don’t want to miss it anymore.

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