Heart in the Clouds

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Grateful - 10/27/10

Amid the craziness of life and the multitude of things that pop up in a day, sometimes it's necessary to stop and rethink things. Whether it's a discussion, a thought-provoking book or an impression you have from God that sparks it, it's always good to take stock of what you have going on in your life.

You all know that I'm honest (sometimes brutally so) about when I'm feeling down-in-the-dumps or when I feel like something just isn't right, but that's not the case this time, thankfully. I guess what it is can be explained by saying that I sometimes get a sense from God about when something is about to change, and that occasional sense is often the catalyst for me to stop and really think about what I have, what I want and what I've learned in recent days. Taking opportunities like this, helps me keep my feet on the ground because I can reflect on God's faithfulness, despite my failings.

So to continue my track record of honesty, here are just a few of the things I've been learning and pondering.

--I have the tendency to make God too small.

--I am not an "institutional church" person...some of you are saying, "Well, DUH!" You who know this about me can attest to it, but I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that I've been questioning the whole idea of "institutionalization" in every way for longer than I've actually been conscious of it (church, education, society, religion, etc.).

--God is more than capable of getting me to step outside of my comfort zone, despite the fact that I often dig in my heels and make him drag me. However, once I've taken the first step, I usually know why God wanted to stretch me in the first place. He's smart that way.

--I am learning about who I really am. It seems like God takes me through seasons where I get to know myself more. I am learning to love myself. I am learning to accept my faults, and even embrace them. I am learning to be comfortable with aging (yes, I'm only 35, but it's hard for me sometimes...shut up.) They say the best way to get to know someone is to watch them as they go through different seasons in life. I think the same can go for yourself. Watch yourself and take note of the things that set you off or the things that bring out the best or worst in you. You can learn a lot about who you are just by stepping outside of yourself for a little perspective.

--I like crappy TV shows. I mean, I have some good ones I like, but honestly I like crappy ones A LOT! Mindless vegetating is the key to making my mushy brain even MORE mushy at the end of a long day. Don't roll your eyes!

--Humility HAS to be God-given. Perhaps this comes from my many years as a pastor's kid, but I can pick out of a crowd the people who are trying to appear humble. Humility isn't something you can do. It's a gift. It's a flower that sprouts out of what looks like rocky, barren ground. It often takes root when a person goes through trials or personal downfalls. It's the beauty that comes from knowing that you're loved despite the fact that you're flawed and imperfect. Humility is also coupled with joy and gratitude. If someone you know claims to be humble...well, first of all, that's a red flag right there...they're not. They're ESPECIALLY not humble if they spend all of their time complaining or whining or dramatically languishing whenever trouble comes. Humble people are happy servants who are fully aware and in awe of the grace bestowed on them. They know that God is faithful and they live their lives in that knowing. They aren't judgmental. They aren't self-seeking or self-absorbed. They have the ability to love, even when it's not reasonable to do so. I want that gift. I'm not there yet...I likely will never be, but God is working on me.

--Jesus is the reason. He is God's love letter to us.

--I'm content. Yeah, seriously. I know! I'm not complacent. I'm content. I like this. It took years for me to get here.

--I'm insanely grateful, but I have also been working on how to put it into practice more often. Lately, I have tried to make it a point in every so often during the day to stop and close my eyes and sincerely whisper, "Thank you." God likes to hear it just as much as we do. He doesn't need it (and neither do we, really), but I think it makes him smile.

With that said, I'm grateful for...

80 degree weather in October. Honestly, I needed it. I wasn't ready to dive right into Fall.


Making friends. For a long time, I kind of shied away from putting myself out there with new people. Maybe it's because there was a time in my life when I often felt misunderstood and pre-judged, or maybe it's because I got lazy...maybe a little of both. But I'm thankful that God is pushing me into more situations where I am meeting new people and realizing I'm not as bad at it as I thought I was. Yeah, I probably put my foot in my mouth a lot, but my filter has gotten better over the years. Thank you, Lord. Hahaha...

A good discussion. I love the open hashing out of ideas and thoughts with trustworthy people. It's the best. I love a good debate, too, but good, honest discussions are like gold.

Seeing Nicole again! I miss my friend, but I love when I get to see her. Thank you, Coley, for coming to see me. I loved hanging out with you. ((hug))

My messy house. When I get busy, it gets messy. That's just the way it is. But it's MY mess...I'm grateful for my home because it is truly a HOME.

My hope is that you keep your chin up. Re-focus yourself on what is really important. Everything is going to work out in the end, so don't sweat the small stuff. No, I have not been reading a self-help book...thank you very much. I do, however, think it's important to give yourself a pep-talk now and then. It's so easy to be negative, but talking yourself up and keeping yourself focused on the positive is HARD. Do it anyway. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grateful - 10/20/10 (Wonder)

Tonight, I'm grateful for...

Music. There's a song for every situation. As I occasionally do, I am in a music mood tonight. I feel like there's something about the "right" song at the "right" time that, in a way, fills up the soul. God created music, and I think every artist has something to say...I like when what they say meets what's in my heart. I'm grateful for music. I'm grateful that I sing. I'm grateful that music is something that ministers to me and connects my heart to memories or hopes and dreams. Music is a gift. Let God sing over you tonight and see what kind of music you hear in your spirit. It doesn't have to mention Jesus to be a message from God. One of my fondest God/Music memories is of a song that has nothing to do with Jesus, but I knew God was wanting me to hear it at a specific time. It still warms my heart when I hear it because I remember very clearly feeling His arms around me and feeling complete peace when the song began. He knows what touches you...

Nature. Everything in nature was created to point toward the Father. I think nature is God's love letter to us. Outside of reading the Bible, I consider the best way to be able to hear his voice is to be walking in the woods, looking closely at the intricacies of flowers, or sitting and watching the ocean tides. There's an object lesson in EVERY part of nature. There's always something to learn about God if we stop long enough to notice. God gave it all to us and there's something of him in every creation...including YOU!

Time. Even though it's not promised to us and we don't know when our last breath will be, I am grateful that I am learning to take advantage of the NOW. I could be always future-focused or always living in the past, if I wanted to. But God has turned my focus to what's happening now. My children will not be 7 and 4 much longer. There will come a day when I will look in the mirror and see a 90-year-old woman looking back at me, and it will probably happen more quickly than I can imagine. I am learning to cherish the NOW. I am learning that nothing is more important than being content and being grateful. I can truly say that I am content. I'm not complacent, by any means, but I am content. I'm deeply grateful for that.

Dates. Brendan is now at the age where he WANTS to go out with me more often, so this week I let him choose where we went for lunch and where we went after lunch. He chose Wendy's and The Science Center. We had a great time together. He's becoming such a little man. I love his thought processes. I love that he continuously said, "WOW!" during the whole planetarium presentation about the Hubble telescope, even though everyone else in the theater was silent. I love that he's in awe of the world. I love that he has a sense of wonder and that everything is a new experience. That's the one thing I've asked God for during this, my 36th year. I guess the best way to learn a sense of wonder is to be around someone who truly understands it. Brendan is one of those people. I pray every day that he never loses that.

My life. The other day, Sean asked me if I love my life. I actually thought about it for a while, and, even though I have my moments of insanity, I can say that I truly, honestly, deeply love my life. I love my family. I love my friends. I love God. I love that He has taught me to remove drama from my life. I love my flaws. I love that I am forgiven. I love that God has completely revolutionized my life through my making one choice--the choice to be grateful for everything. I've said it before but I will say it again. I want to be able to take my last breath saying, "Thank you, God, for everything. It was beautiful." I intend to live in such a way that I can say that at the end.

So my hope for you tonight is that you learn to love your life, no matter what circumstances you face. I pray that gratitude becomes your first choice, instead of complaining. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for in any situation--call it "the silver lining", or call it whatever you want. My hope is that you know it's going to be okay. I hope you know that you are loved passionately by the Father, so you had better learn to love yourself (*shakes finger at you*). There is beauty and greatness in you, so make sure to remember that, even on the days when the first thing you see in the mirror in the morning is messy hair and pillow face. You're beautiful and God loves you just as you are.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grateful - 10/10/10 (Unity)

This week turned out better than I thought it would. God is good that way. To say it's been rough for me with everything going on, and with Sean's overnight job, is an understatement. God knows, though. He's been holding me up.

Last night during church, we were all sitting around and discussing "The Unity of the Spirit"--how a group of people can come together because of God and there's a unity and a love there for each other. My parents were talking about how, in all the years they've been traveling and speaking at different churches, they haven't always seen that unity in the churches they've visited. I can say the same thing. I've been to churches, large and small, and haven't always seen the unity that comes with a love (and a LIKE) for each other. In fact, it's a rare find.

Part of that unity comes from knowing you can just be yourself and you'll be loved. Another part comes from knowing that it's okay not to agree about every doctrine...nobody knows everything about God and you can only go on the bit that he shows you, as an individual. I think it's also that unity comes from knowing that God loves you as you are, so you are free to be transparent with the people around you, including those in whatever body of believers you belong to.

I cherish that about our church. It's not typical. It's the kind of place where we sit around and discuss a topic, rather than just hear it from the pulpit and then walk out the door. It's the kind of place where you can wear whatever you want to and you won't be out of place. It's the kind of place where there's NO pressure to perform or to say the right thing. It's the kind of place where you know that when you walk in the door, at LEAST one person will genuinely encourage you, whether it's through something they say to you directly or something they say in the discussion. These people are a huge blessing in my life and I don't take that for granted. I've been in other church situations where I've felt completely alone in a crowd of people...I have never felt that way here. I'm grateful for that.

The unity of the spirit is not something you can fake. It's not something you can duplicate. It just is or it isn't. I will always be grateful for this little church and I feel like God has us in this body for the long haul. It's not about growing in numbers; it's about the individual people growing in their lives and in their love for God.


Today, I'm grateful for...

Sunshine and warm temperatures. Need I say more?

Dates with Liam. We went to the Natural History museum and the Art Museum on Friday, and we had a great time exploring together. I think spending one-on-one time with my kids is really important and I am grateful to have the ability to do that.

Having more than enough. No matter what our financial situation has been over the years we've been married, we have ALWAYS had enough. Even when we had $.05 in the bank (that really happened), we have never wanted for anything. We have lived on one income the whole time because we felt like God wanted us to do that, and he has been faithful the whole time. Any money I've made has gone toward extras. It's been great to have the ability to do that. This week, our credit card debts will be paid off. We never really use our credit cards anyway, so there's not much on there, but it will be a really nice feeling to have it out of the way. We will be able to start saving to fix up our kitchen and to do other things we need to do. God is faithful if you give your finances to him and be smart about what you spend.

Letting go. God has been teaching me about holding the things he gives me in an open hand--not grasping everything tightly and being unable to let go. Sometimes God calls us to let go of things (memories, fears, money, friends, dreams, etc.) because they are doing us no good. If we hold everything and everyone with an open hand, we are free because we know our significance and our identity are not affected by losing something that wasn't good for us anyway. Even when we lose something or someone who WAS good for us, we can trust that God will bring something good out of it all. Everything turns out okay if you give it time and if you trust that God has your best interests at heart.

Getting there. I know that I will never be a "finished" project and I'm okay with that. I am constantly learning new things on this journey with God and it's cool to occasionally feel like I've reached the small plateau before the next big climb. While we're in the middle of a lesson, it can seem like we're tip-toeing on a steep ledge where we're just barely hanging on, but when we reach each little summit, we gain more confidence in ourselves and in him. We learn to trust him more. We learn that we're stronger than we thought we were...all because of his grace.

My hope is that you know that everything will be okay. Don't worry. Even if you feel like you're coming to the end of what you can handle, God will always provide you a way of escape, or he'll provide the means to step up your courage and hold on to your faith. When we worry, we take control away from God and take it upon ourselves, as though our worrying somehow makes us the ones in charge. Worrying helps no one and causes nothing but anguish. There will always be times to be smart and to be alert and to be present in the moment, but there is never a time to worry. My hope is that you are able to let go of whatever is in your hands and put it all in God's. He's MUCH stronger. He's far more capable. He is faithful to take whatever you commit to him and to make something beautiful out of it. His grace is always sufficient.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Grateful - October 2, 2010

I've been thinking about the fact that our relationship with God is pretty much the only area of our lives where we are NOT judged based on our performance. We all have (or have had) jobs where we have to measure up to a certain standard, and we've all been involved in projects or undertakings where we feel we will be judged based on what we do, what we say or how we look. I'm so grateful that God doesn't look at us that way. He only looks at our hearts and values us for our REAL selves. His love and acceptance and approval aren't based on our performance. They are based only on the fact that HE first loved US...meaning, he already loved us even though he knew we would continually screw up, and even though he knew we'd never be able to deserve it. That's some good news, people.

I love that I can be real and honest and transparent with him. He already knows my heart. He knows my motives.You can't be fake with someone who truly knows you, and who loves you passionately in spite of yourself. When I really "got" that I am deeply loved and accepted by God and that the only opinion about me that truly matters is His, I gained a level of freedom in my life that I had never had in all my years of life. But I didn't really get it until a couple of years ago.

For so long, I tried to fit into whatever mould people wanted to try to shove me into. I tried to be all things to all people, so as not to rock the boat or cause conflict by standing up for myself. I tried to be a good pastor's kid. I tried to be a good teenager. I tried to be a good friend. I tried to be likeable. I tried to be a good pastor's wife and fit into the "pastor's wife" mould. It didn't work. In fact, I was a failure at trying to be all of these things. I have to say that doing everything to gain the approval of others is exhausting and so not worth the anguish. Even though I knew in my head that God loved me for who I was, I still projected on to him the fact that I felt all of these ridiculous expectations coming from other people.

Daily counting my blessings made me realize that the gifts in my life are not based on what I do. They are based on the fact that God somehow sees fit to pour out love on a sinner--a pathetic, undeserving, imperfect, but completely loved loser like me. I still don't understand it sometimes because I know myself and how dark my heart can be, but I accept it and I receive it.

I think this is why I've come to such a place of rest in my walk with God. Knowing that he holds no judgments against me and that he loves me fully is freeing. It allows me to learn to be free in other areas of my life. I've become more honest, more transparent, more loving, more patient and more positive because I have known true love. I can look back to the woman I was 10 years ago and I barely recognize her. I see a sad, misunderstood, fearful, approval-seeking shell of a person who knew very little about myself or (to be honest) about God. I thought I did, but I didn't.

I'm grateful to be living in a place of rest. I'm grateful that God won't stop loving me when I screw up. He won't turn away from me, but he chooses instead to dump buckets of new mercies on me every day and lavish me with countless gifts. I just have to notice them and receive them. I don't have to perform. I don't have to DO anything, as a matter of fact.

If anyone tells you that God is angry with you or that you have to do this or that to earn his love, you know that that person really doesn't know God. Run away from people like that! They may profess to love God, but their actions speak volumes about what is truly in their hearts. Their condemnation is toxic and many people have fallen prey to the enemy under the guise of "Christian love." The Scriptures say that you know the followers of God by their love and by the spiritual fruit in their lives. Are they humble? Are they transparent? Are they kind? Are they generous? Are they encouraging? Do they run from gossipers? Do they reach out to help those in need? The only standard is love. If we live our lives and do what we do just because we love God, we can't go wrong. People will see the fruit in us if the only standard we keep ourselves to is love. No other standard really matters.

I'm grateful for...

My church family. Tonight, since my parents were away and my husband was working, I was in charge of facilitating the service. It was worship night, so it was mainly music, but I shared a little bit about being thankful, but also about letting worship be a two-way thing. It was a good time. :) I'm so grateful for my church family. We are an awesome little group of people who know each other like family--so much so that we CHOOSE to spend our recreational time together, as well. I'm blessed to have them all in my life.

Perspective. I'm learning so much as a parent. I'm learning to get a little perspective before I fly off the handle about things that won't matter in the end. I'm learning to be a listener. I'm learning to know my kids as individual little people. I'm learning that they love me, even when I'm behaving like an absolute freak. I'm learning that loving them and accepting them for who they are is one of my biggest callings in life because it's teaching me more about God's love.

A chill day. Today I spent most of the day in my pajamas. Yes, I'm sick with the cold/cough thing, but I really needed the chance to just sit and do nothing. Sean understood that and let me languish all over the house, and he encouraged me to lie down and relax. So I did. I needed that.

My dog. Seriously, she's the sweetest thing. She follows me everywhere. If I stand still in one place for any length of time, she comes and sits in front of me (usually ON my feet) and leans her head on my leg. She gets happy when she sees my feet hit the floor in the morning. When I come home, she jumps around like a little puppy, even though she's getting old. I love her. She's the epitome of unconditional love, and (despite the fact that I am constantly complaining about the fact that she somehow sheds on every surface in our house) I wouldn't trade her for anything. Right now, she's curled up next to me on the couch and dreaming about running in a field somewhere.

I hope that you know that you can just be yourself. I hope you know that you're loved. I hope you know that if you're being fake or pretending to be something you're not, you're selling yourself short. Be transparent. Be who you are. Be humble, but realize that you are awesome. Seriously, go to the mirror right now. Look yourself in the eyes and say, "I'm loved. I'm accepted. I'm awesome. I'm wonderfully made. God knew what he was doing when he made me." I bet the more you learn to be yourself and to love yourself and to be grateful for everything, the more you'll find that people are drawn to you because you'll be like a candle in the darkness. You'll glow.