Friday, August 28, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Alone

Today I am linking up with Kate Motaung and Five-Minute Friday.  The goal is to write for five minutes on a given topic wIthout stopping, editing, or revising.  I have only participated a few times, but I always enjoy reading how somebody else was inspired in a different way by the same word.

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ALONE

I am an introvert.   I think I always have been, but it seems to have gotten more intense as I get older.  Or maybe after I became a mother.  Those precious little people (who are not that little anymore) have shown me sides of myself more clearly.  Or maybe they just take so much energy that I crave it even more.

I don't mind being alone.  I never have.  As a kid, I could often be found somewhere by myself with my nose stuck in a book.  Sending me to my room was never so bad for me.  I loved it there!  I enjoy quiet and reflecting on my day and processing through different events that happened.  

I used to think that being an introvert meant you weren't a people person.  I think that is a misconception.  I enjoy being around people.  I look forward to spending time with friends and family.  In fact, I need that too.  One of my Love Languages is Quality Time.  When my husband and I don't spend enough Quality Time together, I really feel it affect our relationship and how we relate to each other.

So that's one of my quirks.  I crave quality time and I crave alone time.  My first thought when I saw the prompt "alone" is that we are never totally alone.  Our God will never leave us or forsake us.  Time and time again, He tells us through Scripture, "Don't be afraid.  I am with you."  God is always by my side.  Anytime I am alone is quality time that I can spend with the One who made me.  So maybe it is not a quirk after all.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

I Am Enough: Reflections from the Declare Conference

I started blogging one year ago.  My audience is small.  I write what's on my heart, and I share it through Facebook with my friends and family.  I don't Tweet or Instagram.  Podcasting is foreign to me, and I have no idea what it means to Periscope something.  And the technical side of blogging eludes me completely.

So I was excited about the blogging conference.   But also nervous.  Super nervous.  I talked several times with my dear friends who attended last year: Jennifer Frisbie, Amy Tuley, and Kelly Wilson.  All three--in separate conversations--assured me that I would take away so much more than just blogging.  I trust them, but I was still nervous.  I felt like I was getting in way over my head or ability level.

In the days (and weeks?) leading up to the conference,  I was more and more anxious.  I have felt like I was in a funk all summer long.  I didn't know why, and I couldn't shake it.  I have struggled to focus on anything, and my list of summer projects to complete hasn't gotten much shorter.  

I think I have been under spiritual attack this summer.  That is not something I say lightly.  I know how it sounds.  But I don't think the enemy wanted me to go that conference.  He worked on my mind and through my fears, trying to keep me away.

I went anyway, and I am so glad I did.

From the beginning to the end of the conference, one major theme seemed to wind its way through every speaker, song, testimony, and feedback from those around me.  Even a quick note from someone who does not know me at all spoke the same message.

I am enough.  My God is more than enough.

It just makes me smile to think how all the parts worked together.  That was not rehearsed or pre-planned by the event organizers.  Clearly, the Holy Spirit had been working on each and every person to deliver that idea.  Just like the seamless message of salvation conveyed throughout the Bible, the Holy Spirit brought the idea of our identity in Christ.  I know who I am and Whose I am.

Psalm 139 surfaced several times.  God created us.  He knows us down to the tiniest detail.  I am not a mistake.  The areas I see as weakness are put there by design.  He had purpose in creating me, and He knows what He is doing.  He knows my every step; He knows the words on my lips.

I found myself amused at those verses being used.  Earlier in the summer,  I read that psalm as if for the first time.  I felt like God told me to memorize it.  The whole thing.  I haven't memorized it (yet), but hearing it spoken at the conference was like God telling me, "See?  I already told you that you are enough."

Many raw emotions surfaced throughout the conference.  That took me by surprise.  I did not realize how deeply the insecurities and anxieties were running through me.  How tightly I had become ensnared in their trap.  As each one bubbled up inside of me, I began to recognize it for the lie it was.  And I started letting go.  

The Truth tells me that I am enough.  I am a child of God.  I am clothed in righteousness.  I am here for His purpose and His glory.  I have a story to tell, and no one can tell it like me.  I am "One in a Schmoozle," and my words make a difference.  

A sweet new friend shared that she cannot always go to church when she wants.  She uses her phone to read words of encouragement through blogs and other sources.  That is her church.  She connects with people online when she cannot be there in person.  Her impromptu talk resonated beautiful deep within me.  Digital evangelism--it's a real thing!  

When asked to reflect on what fears or insecurities are holding us back, my answer was fear and insecurity as a whole.  The next morning I heard that God is bigger than whatever "it" is.  No matter what you are afraid of, God is bigger.  He is more than enough.  I heard several people say it comes down to an act of faith: I believe it, or I don't.  If Scripture says it,  I know it is true.  If God says He can handle my problems,  He can.  If God says He has a plan for my life, He does.  If He promises to make all things work together for good, He will.  He has been using scared, imperfect people for a long time, and He can use me too.

This week I have had peace.  The anxiety is gone.  Really gone.  I am amazed at how different I feel.  I did not even realize how much I was struggling.  I am relieved to have that thick, oppressive blanket removed.  Please believe me that not every moment has been easy, but my perspective has changed.  Jesus said, "My peace I leave with you," and I am feeling that beautiful deep.










Wednesday, August 5, 2015

And the Winner Is...

An awesome difficult day.

Or was it a difficult awesome day?

I can't decide which way to say it because it was very much both difficult and awesome, sometimes even at the same time.

Awesomeness #1:  Early in the summer, I made a wall hanging with the fruit of the Spirit on it.  Nothing too fancy, but I hung it in the hallway at the kids' eye level.  I have never mentioned it hanging in the hallway and had not pointed it out to them at all.  I suddenly had an idea and just had to test it out.  I jumped in front of it and said, "Quick, tell me the fruits of the Spirit."

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At first Seth said he couldn't do it, and he didn't know it.  But then, almost surprising himself, he started saying the verse.  And he got it all, every single word in order.  I could not believe it!   Even I can't say it in order; I know all nine, but I get the order mixed-up toward the end.

Not to be outdone,  Hannah started reciting it.  And she got it too!

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Both kids totally memorized the Scripture just by looking at it when they walk by.  Kind-of makes a case for surrounding yourself with Scripture, doesn't it?

Difficulty #1:  Clean your room.  Oh, the dreaded words!  Seth just had one whiny round of "I don't want to" before he got started.  Hannah immediately lay down on the floor and began to cry tears of protest.  I do not have much sympathy for this kind of theatrics.  I told her that she could clean her room, or she could have the consequences of not cleaning her room.  It was her choice.  

I walked away hoping she would make a good choice.

Difficulty #2:  Forty-five minutes later, I couldn't see much progress in either room.  Seth looked up with big blue eyes and said, "I have been plerking, Mama."  Plerking.  It is a term that he coined himself about a year ago.  Plerking: a combination of playing and working.  I do appreciate his honesty.  I let him know that I would set a timer to help him stay on track.  That has usually worked in the past for him.

Meanwhile,  Hannah has been having a mini-meltdown about every three to five minutes.  She wanted me to help her, and I don't feel like she had put enough personal effort in to merit getting some help yet.  

Difficulty #3:  (There is more awesomeness coming, I promise.)   I had some bacon frying in the skillet, getting ready to throw it in the crockpot for dinner.  Hannah came in next to me, and the grease popped on her.  Much crying ensued.

Difficulty #4:  The timer went off.  Neither room is cleaned.  (Shocker, I know.)  Seth actually had been working on his room, but focusing on a minute detail instead of the big picture.  When I started to say something about not finishing the job, he started yelling at me.  "I have been working.  The whole time.  You don't appreciate me."  You have no idea how this cut into me.  I identified far too well with the feeling behind those words.

Difficulty #5:  Delivering the consequences.  The consequence this time was that the work still had to be done.  That meant we didn't have time to do anything fun today.  I was as bummed about this as anyone. After a five-day road trip, I would have liked to play games or something with my children instead of spending all my time and energy making sure that they were following through on their responsibilities.

Difficulty #6:  I have one child paralyzed by the enormity of the job.  She doesn't know where to start.  I have another child who feels unappreciated because he doesn't have much to show for his efforts. The very things I have been struggling with myself all summer.  Not only am I seeing my own flaws lit up like fireworks, but to see my kids struggling with the very same things broke my heart.  Into a million little pieces.  

I realized that I have to help them prioritize and break a big job into manageable parts.  How do I teach something I don't know how to do?  O LORD, please help me.  I cannot do this.  I don't know what to do.  Strengthen me, please.

Difficulty #7:  We are finally on track, and then Hannah pinched her hand in the box where she keeps her doll clothes.  More crying.

Awesomeness #2:  Trying to get Hannah calmed down, I began to pray for her that God would take away the pain.  I thanked Him for giving us a purpose to work and to give Him glory.  I asked Him to strengthen us through Christ's power.  I think claiming the promises of Scripture when we pray is one of the most powerful things we can do.  If only I could pray like that all the time...

Awesomeness #3:  On a quick errand, we got into a discussion about my grandparents.  When Hannah said she wished she could have known Grandma Twitchel, I explained how we will get to see her again when we get to Heaven.  They began asking me all these questions about Heaven.  Deep, thinking questions that I cannot answer.  Some things just have to be accepted on faith.  Seth exclaimed, "That means believing without seeing."  (Hooray.   He knows another verse!). On the way in Hannah commented that she thought everything in Heaven is made of gold.  I told her that the streets are anyway.  And Seth said, "Yup.  And the gates are made of diamonds."  He said diamonds instead of pearls, but I love how deep their knowledge runs.

Awesomeness #4:  Seth asked me if Jesus was alive when God created the world.  So we talked about John 1:1.  When I broke it into small parts and talked about it, he really seemed to understand that Jesus was there.  He couldn't really explain it later, but that he even got it a little bit was pretty impressive for his age. 

Difficulty #8:  The rest of the room cleaning didn't go much better than the beginning, except that I sat in there saying, "Now do this.  Now do this.  Now do this."  I nearly had a panic attack when I realized this process had been in play all day, and we still weren't finished cleaning.

Hannah kept crying and telling me she was having a difficult day.  I assured her that she was not alone; it was a difficult day for all of us.  All in all, it was not an easy day.

But I think awesomeness wins out today.  Despite difficult circumstances and attitudes, my children know Scripture.  They are asking good questions, questions that I can't always answer.  Really deep thinking questions.  I feel like I lived Deuteronomy 6 out today.  We talked about God in the hallway, in the car, when hands got pinched, and when we were cleaning rooms.  

God never promised that belief in Him would make for easy days.  Quite the opposite.  But my children are learning to ask questions about their faith, to pray when things are tough, to hide His word in their hearts, and to keep turning back to Him no matter what.  That is awesomeness that will last a lifetime-- far outlasting the trouble of one rough day.

Awesomeness wins!