Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trying a New Path

I began a personal challenge this month and it is proving to be the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. Let me provide a little background: For the last few years I have been working full time, finishing my dissertation, starting a counseling/coaching/speaking ministry, and writing my soon to be best -selling book (tongue in cheek.) I have been doing, or should I say attempting, all of this while trying to be a wife and mother and find my place within the ministry of my church. I have failed miserably on most accounts.
As I looked at myself and my life, I discovered something important. I was desperately unhappy. The necessity t work gave me less time to devote to my ministry, dissertation and writing, the things that feed my soul and energize me. The demands of maintaining a home, marriage and children seemed impossible to fulfill in a manner that satisfied those in my life and accomplished the goal of making them feel like a priority, rather than an interruption to my schedule. How do I balance meeting the needs of others with meeting my own needs?
Everything came to a head one afternoon after many attempts to work on a writing project and my dissertation, I had cleaned house to not only my satisfaction, but to the stringent standards of my more discriminating husband, I thought I had covered everything and would finally address my own list of "to-dos." It was at that moment, when I sat down at the computer, that my husband asked if I would "like," to help with the yard work. I voiced my honest opinion. "No." I would not like to help with the yard work. I would rather not leave my just warmed up seat to work in the yard. I had things I wanted to do, things that I had put off for many days. My poor husband innocently voiced that he always did the yard work and he would like me to help; "But," he said, "I want you to want to help." Well that wasn't going to happen. How could I make myself want to help? When would it ever be my turn to do what I wanted? When would my dreams be fulfilled and my needs be satisfied? I begrudgingly closed the laptop, resentment oozing from every pore. I plastered a fake smile on and went outside where I spent the rest of the day pulling weeds, until all of my inspiration for writing had boiled over and dried up and it was time to start making dinner, I cried self-pitying tears that night, bemoaning the fact that there is never anytime to achieve my goals, my dreams, my hopes. I had no control over my time--over my life.
I decided that night that was no room for me in my life. I would just have to put what I wanted aside, even if I felt it was God's plan for me to be in ministry,. What I actually did was trip and fall into servant-hood with a big chip on my shoulder. It started off as a cynical surrender of myself. (Think of Cinderella with an attitude.) I woke up the next day and immediately started laundry and the dishwasher while I got myself and my children ready for school/work. I defrosted dinner while I packed lunches and washed the dishes before my husband could have a chance to. When I came home from work, when I wanted to sit and stare at the wall, I picked up other's belongings, folded laundry and cleaned toilets. When the house was clean, I drove to the hardware store and purchased a refill for the "weed wacker," and wacked my heart out in our backyard. "I'll show them," I thought, with all of the drama of Katherine Hepburn. "I'll only do for others." "I'll demonstrate what I believe is true; I just don't matter." I cleaned out my teenager's closet, made my elementary age son's bed and restrung my junior higher's guitar (ok so I didn't go that far.) But I did everything that I could think of that would prove to whomever was watching, (as if someone was) that I was going to be a selfless martyr. I didn't just do these and other duties, I did them instantly. If I was in the middle of a project, television show, or book, I instantly stopped what I was doing to do for another. If I just finished one chore and was asked to do something else, I jumped up with as much energy and joy as I could muster and tackled the next request. I also made a conscious decision to not ask anyone to do for me what I could do for myself. (more on this exhausting experience next time.)
A funny thing happened somewhere around week two. My heart changed. Instead of an "I'll show them," attitude, I developed a "How can I show them," attitude. How can I show my husband that he us loved? Acts of service. How can I show my boys they are loved? Notes on the mirrors and homemade chocolate chip cookies (husband likes those too.) Week three cane and went and the oddest thing happened, My anger subsided. I had deep conversations with my sons and my husband asked me on a date. Well as least as close as you come after 19 years, three kids and two dogs. Coffee at Peet's and a nice talk.
I have decided that when I have exhausted every possibility to serve those in my life and I have prayed to see those opportunities that I don't naturally see, and performed those tasks, I will pull out that laptop and write and dream. For this season in my life I need to learn the sacred steps of servant-hood. I'll keep you posted on how my journey continues; but what I have discovered as of now is this: When I lay my plans, hopes and dreams down at the foot of the cross and search, really search for opportunities to serve my family, I am being more Christ-like than I ever was when I tried to "do" ministry.
Please post your thoughts directly to the blog and let's talk.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lives Interrupted

You know those times when you are moving along life's path, reaching towards the goals you believe that God has placed in your life when suddenly, BAMM! something unexpected happens? You sought the Lord and pursued the direction which you felt led to follow; however, along the way financial sources dry up, a child is born with special needs, a job is lost, a marriage is shaken and your plans,those plans that you felt originated with God, are derailed... interrupted. I am reading a study on Jonah, by Priscilla Shirer where she says, "Interruptions have a way of revealing whether we really mean it when we say, 'Lord, not my will but Yours be done.' " How do we respond when this happens? How do we know when an interruption is an attempt to lead us off course and when God has sent it to direct us towards a new course? When is it interruption and when is it intervention? What are your thoughts?

On another subject: some of you have asked why you don't appear on the bottom of the blog page as a "follower." You can become a follower by clicking on the "follow" button OR you can subscribe to the blog by entering your email address in the subscribe box. Only those who are "followers" have there names posted at the bottom of the blog page; however either way you should be automatically notified when there is a post on the blog. Hope this info helps.
Looking forward to hearing from you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Posture of Christ

So I have been noticing Jesus' posture lately as I read my Bible. Yes, I know that out of all of the theological concepts that I could focus on, this seems an odd one, but it all started when I was looking at Mark chapter 5. In this passage, Jesus is touched by the woman with the flow of blood and she receives healing and "he turns to face her." Did He need to turn to her? Did He need to acknowledge her? No, in fact, socially speaking, it was completely the wrong thing to do; but, He chose to do so. He chose to place upon her the dignity that, one made in God's image deserved, by acknowledging her when the rest of the world had refused to do so. When Jesus ends an evening meal with his friends, he takes the posture of a servant, and on his knees, washes their feet. Is this posture required of Him? Of course not, but in assuming this posture He teaches us about humility, service and love. When Jesus speaks to the Pharisees who have caught a woman in the act of adultery, He bends down and begins writing in the sand a message that we are not privy to. What does His posture demonstrate to us? To me it reminds me to not look so closely at the sins of another when I have plenty of my own. It reminds me of Jesus' compassion as He takes the focus off of the offender and on to something else, and in so doing, alleviates her humiliation for the moment. And what about his posture in the temple when He discovered it occupied by thieves and money changers? He was no shrinking violet when faced with the blasphemous acts of those in attendance. He was fiercely protective of His father's house and His posture shows this as He gathered whip in hand, to intimidate offenders into fleeing and turned tables of those selling sacrifices.
The posture that Christ took throughout His earthly ministry was revealing, but none as much as the one He took last. At the cross Christ opened His arms wide and both surrendered and embraced at the same time. He surrendered Himself to the plan of His father. After His very human prayer to have "this cup pass," Christ chose to not only pick up His cross and carry it, but to be nailed upon it with a viciousness that we will never know. What his enemies didn't realize is that they pinned Him into the perfect posture for receiving--His arms wide open. This was God's plan all along. With His arms wide open, he surrendered himself and embraced our sin, and in so doing, made it possible for us to enter into eternal relationship with Him.
As you may have noticed, the name of my speaking/counseling/coaching/writing ministry is Arms Wide Open Ministry. I hadn't thought about this final posture of Christ when I picked the name, but I do love what the posture reminds me: To live my life in such a way that I am in constant surrender to God's plans for me and to therefore receive all that he decides to lavishly pour into my life. When the time comes that I fulfill my purposes on this earth and Jesus invites me to join him in heaven, I imagine the heavenly gates opening and the obligatory clouds parting to reveal my Heavenly Father greeting me.... with arms wide open.

What are your thoughts? Press the "comments" tab and share your thoughts.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Thoughts on the New Year

Annie Dillard writes, "How you spend your days, is how your spend your life." I've been thinking about this for the last few days as a new year looms ahead. Some spend their days angry over circumstances and end up at the end of their days with an angry life. Some spend their days waiting for others to fix their problems and end up with a life lived as a victim. The thing that I fear, is having a life filled with regrets. Regrets at things undone; words unspoken or unwritten; relationships not experienced, purposes unfulfilled. I wonder how this will effect my moments and therefore my days and in turn, my life. Often I am so distracted by yearning to fulfill my life, that life itself is sneaking by. Can I reset my internal self to find joy in the "now" instead of longing for the "when?" When this project is finished then..... when we have the property then.....when I loose the weight then.....what about the now? I wonder how much of life we yearn away? Some slogan, somewhere stated, "Live the possibility!" Yet do we miss this present reality by doing so? How often do we sit in the moment in which we find outrselves and notice the surroundings? The voices of our loved ones? The chair under our body? The smells in the air? Even the fears in our hearts?
I plan to be more alive to each day this new year and more thakful for each moment I have. I hope to experience days that will be filled with contentment so that in the end I may have lived a life of contentment. I suspect that I will still find moments to dream without losing the reality of the dream that I am living...this amazing life that God has given me for this moment. Happy New Year.