Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Enjoy the Dance

I often forget the Lord is my strength.  I'm too busy trying to be strong.  I'm scoping out the path, trying to figure out how I'm going to climb those mountains, move those boulders.

Sometimes I watch my little daughters dancing, princess gowns on backward, a scarf tied around a little head as flowing long hair, feet clapping against the flooring.  Their moves are anything but graceful, but they don't care.

They are enjoying the dance. 

They don't care how they look. They don't care if anyone is watching.

There once was a girl who loved to leap and dance and twirl.  She loved wrapping herself in blankets as make-do dresses.  She loved to sing at the top of her lungs songs she made up.

And then she grew up. She stopped dancing.

And then she had kids.  She had four little girls who reminded her that God must delight in watching His daughters dance and twirl, leap and spin, sing and rejoice.... like no one else is watching.

Singing and dancing to the one who is my strength, like a deer bounding here and there, leaping from one ledge to another. My focus on my Savior, rather than myself.

And I realize that the reason I so often repeat, "I can't" to myself (about any given thing) is because I'm busy looking at myself, but when I'm looking at my Father, nothing seems impossible. A giant leap is but a small step in His direction.

I've come to use that phrase often. Enjoy the dance. This is our dance, God and me, where the Lord has me right now. Often I'm panicking or fighting Him or trying to run away. I'm worried what people think or what it looks like... and all the time I'm resisting the One who is leading me.

Stop. Mandy, enjoy the dance.

This morning, as I stood in front of the bathroom sink, looking at myself in the mirror, heart heavy, I felt like He was saying, "Why are you looking around You for approval and love?"

The Lord is my strength.
He's my strength to stay free.
To stay focused.
To dance this crazy, awesome dance.

I may know He's my strength in the big impossibilities, but often I forget that really, my life is full of impossibilities without Him. Without Him, I'm left to look for love, approval, value, and meaning around me. It's impossible for me to enjoy right here, right now, without His strength, without His love. Without Him, my high places depend on how I'm feeling on any given day and whether it's a "good day" by my own standard.

I want to be in this dance. I want to press into my Savior. Where you go I go, Lord. I want to be in step with His Holy Spirit. I want to be so focused on Him, that it doesn't even occur to me to look anywhere else.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Beautiful Things

It's true. I've been thinking how God creates beautiful things out of dirt and filth. Some may look at a tray of watercolors and see just a tray of watercolors, but in my mind's eye I see all the possibilities of things I can create with those hues. I love that God's vision is so extensive. We see so little, we dream so small. He creates and recreates. He takes messes and fashions them into masterpieces. He is the ultimate Artist.

Are there areas in your life where you have seen Him make beautiful things out of dust?  Are there areas where you are asking for His transformation?

Most regular readers know that my marriage was a train wreck until God transformed it... almost overnight... and brought my husband and I into the knowledge of His saving grace at the same time.  I have seen God do all sorts of healing works in many different areas— with my children, with my friends, with my husband's health.

I'm currently praying for complete healing. Will you join me? I feel like my body is falling apart. Twelve years of pregnancy, nursing, and such have exhausted my body because I did not take proper care of it. These last few years I've been really working to restore my health, but there are some things I feel are "too far gone" and need the healing, miraculous touch of Jesus.  Will you pray for me?

While I am feeling better than when I first realized I had adrenal fatigue, I am still struggling through it. I am often tempted to take the easy route when it comes to food because I don't have a lot of energy (plus I have a wicked sweet tooth).  My teeth are suffering as they have become frail and nutrient deprived since, even though I brush and rinse and do coconut oil rinses, I neglected to take vitamins and minerals seriously.  My body had a hard time absorbing them due to my diet (grains/legumes hinder absorption) and my pregnancies and nursing depleted what I was able to absorb.

My organs are suffering as well. They literally ache.

I have abused my body. It is my fault, mostly because I was ignorant so many of those years, not fully understanding that what I ate really mattered.  But I believe God heals even the wounds we have made ourselves.

It's hard for me to write this because... well, I feel pretty stupid. But, I know I'm not the only one going through this. Will you join in praying for me?  Can I pray for you as well?

Thank you!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Retrospect, Lessons in Trust

Yesterday our sweet Evangeline Rose turned 4. As I flipped through her baby pictures, my mind drifted back to the days when I was pregnant with her.

After four miscarriages in less than a year, I enter into my pregnancy with her with a hesitant heart. I wanted to rejoice, but I was afraid that I would miscarry her too. I found out I was pregnant with her on New Years Eve, the same day I had found out I was pregnant with her brother, Keagan, three years previous. I had no idea that the year 2010 would be one full of trial and beauty.

One Spring morning, a Sunday as I recall, I woke up not feeling so great.  Merikalyn was sitting at the table playing, or maybe eating... possibly both.. and all the sudden half of her face started twitching.  She looked at me with fear in her eyes.  Her eye twitched, her mouth moved, and she was not able to control it. That night we would find out that our oldest child had a brain mass, and several days later, she would undergo surgery to remove it.

It was only a week or two later that we went in for an ultrasound to see our little baby and find out the gender. After the ultrasound, I received a call from my midwife.  I knew it was difficult for her to share the news since we had just gone through so much with our oldest daughter.

"The ultrasound revealed that your baby does not have all four chambers."  Later we would find out that Evangeline also had a mass on her brain.  My midwife told me to schedule an appointment to see a specialist, "But," she said, "More importantly. Don't start freaking out.  Pray. Talk to God about it."

The specialist began telling us about Trisomy 18, which all evidence pointed to on the first ultrasound.  He spoke briefly of labor and delivery options, life expectancy, and such and then began the ultrasound.

And our baby was whole. Complete. Perfect.

I can't even describe the relief I felt.  We were still nursing Merikalyn back to health.  I was still feeling the pain and loss of four miscarriages. I was so grateful, so grateful.

I think that season of my life was a clear message that control is just an illusion.  We think we have control of our lives, that we can have children when we want to have children, that we can keep our little ones healthy and safe, that we can order our days the way we want.... but the reality is that our area of control is very small. Very. Small.

My Father continues to open my eyes to that reality, not just in the difficult trials, but the good times as well. The building of our home was yet another revealing that God brings all things together. He accomplishes what I am unable to accomplish.

Truly, my children teach me that lesson over and over.  I need Jesus Christ. I need Him more than I can ever imagine, and you need Him more than you can comprehend.

There's nothing like parenting to really send that message home. Again and again.  I love each one of my children deeply. I want to keep them safe physically, mentally, and spiritually, and while I am responsible for them and have a big role to play in protecting them, ultimately, they are in Father's hand, and I have to trust Him with their lives.  I think it's sometimes easier for me to trust God in the big, dramatic events of my life when things are very obviously out of my control, I know I have no where else to go but the Father. The problem is that in the every day mundane, I often fool myself. I think I have it under control. I believe I can control my life better if I find the right method, the perfect curriculum, the most efficient routine.  At various times in my life, I have believed things would be perfect if we just had more money, if my husband had a different job, if we lived in a different house, if they had more land to play on,  I have placed my trust in life's goods rather than my God, in my situation rather than my Savior.

I love this quote from Jerry Bridges:

 “Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelms us.”
Trusting God is not just checking out. It's not a passive statement of, "Oh, well, the Lord's got it."  It's an active belief, and often it takes real work to truly trust and believe that God loves me, is for me, and is in ultimate control. (He isn't wringing His hands, wondering how He's going to work out this situation or that.) It takes work to trust that He is good, even when the circumstance doesn't seem good, or the outcome isn't what you wanted.  It takes effort to believe and trust because often there seems to be evidence that says not to (based on our limited view).

I realize that my default is to either choose to be oblivious (just check out) or to trust in myself (which often looks like worrying and the emotions that come with trying to problem solve in my own strength).

The weaving of our lives is such a strange thing.  Evangeline would not be here had I not miscarried. One day I will meet those babies in heaven, but if I had not lost the first, I would have had a different baby, not my Evie baby. And while I would have loved that baby, I am grateful for Evangeline, and look forward to meeting my other babies.  It's all... weird, and confusing, and difficult.  I'm not saying it's easy to explain or all makes sense.  But thankfully, I don't have to make it make sense.

And now I'm done rambling. :)

Thank You, Lord, for Evangeline Rose's life. Thank You for the precious gift we have in each of our children.  I'm so grateful You watch over them and love them more than I can imagine.  I want to trust You with their lives.  I want You to use them in mighty ways for Your kingdom, and that often requires risk and the sacrifice of the appearance of safety, but Lord, we know that You are for us. You love us. You will not forsake us.  I pray my children would firmly believe that as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Throwing out pride and building Mothers up.

Where my mind has been recently is that our pride often has us putting up a false front as mothers.  It's easy to do that these days where so many of our interactions are on social media, and we can pretend we aren't struggling, pretend we have it all together, pretend our homes are mess free and our children are perfect.

Our pride can keep us from coming alongside other mothers to encourage.  Instead we judge.  We tear down. We pick apart their homes, their parenting, their marriages, and their methods.

And it's no wonder mothers are falling apart.  I believe the Lord longs to use us to encourage each other. He wants to speak words of Life to each one of us, not only for us to receive but for us to lavish others with too.

A friend and I were hanging out in my living room several weeks back, babies wiggling in our laps, when she said, "I feel like I've been fooled."  See, all these women gave her a glimpse of the beautiful side of motherhood. But no one said there would be hard days. No one told her it would be a struggle. No one told her that some days she wouldn't exactly like her children. No one said that some days she'd feel like walking out of her life.

I think there's several reasons for that.  First of all, we're all trying to give each other the best impressions rather than committing to just be real.  Secondly, we're good at hiding the reality because we aren't living in community with others.  We spend just enough time with people to give them a glimpse of the highlight reel.  We hide the crazy just long enough. Once our guests are gone, we can let it all hang out again.

My friend's comment reminded me of how important it is to not let my pride get in the way of being who I am, where I am. My pride wants to scurry around and tidy up my home before people stop in. My pride gets embarrassed by the mess. But I know there is something soothing to a fellow mom who can enter my abode and see that a dose of chaos lives here too with princess costumes strewn about, the stove top looking like a lasagna bomb went off, and crayons tossed around like confetti.

I don't have to be embarrassed when my toddler has a melt-down or my nine year old says something absolutely horrifying.  Likewise, I don't have to look down my nose with judgment when someone else's baby pitches a fit or their big kid makes a big blooper. We can love people for who they are and where they are.

I don't want my pride to get in the way of loving others.  I want my friends and their families to know I am for them, even if we don't look the same, parent the same, homeschool the same, worship the same, or keep house the same.  I want them to know they are adored even when they make huge mistakes, say hurtful things, or fall apart, just as I want others to love and forgive me even when I screw up big time.

I want to be an encourager. I want to build other mothers up.  I want to be an encouragement to their children. I want them to see my home as a loving place, and my family as expressers of grace.  I want to lavish people with the love and grace I receive from God.

As C.S. Lewis said, "Pride is a spiritual cancer; it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense."  I've seen pride tear apart strong friendships, crumble marriages, estrange children. Pride tears down. It decays everything it touches. It's not surprising that Satan often appeals to our pride because He knows how deadly it is to relationships, especially our relationship with Christ.

I just want to encourage you to reach out to the mothers in your life—maybe even your own mother— and offer genuine words (and actions) of encouragement. Write your mama a letter thanking her for all her hard work during your childhood. Offer to babysit a friend's children so she can have lunch with friends, grocery shop by herself, or finally get that hair cut she's been wanting. Invite over a couple moms you know and have some coffee while the kids run crazy together.  You will not only encourage, but you will be encouraged (and you'll probably have some good laughs too)!