Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Joy ... Your Joy

I love that God always has a way of bringing me back off my self-imposed cliffs of frustration and joylessness. Each morning, before diving into our school day, we [the kids and I] begin with My Utmost For His Highest - my favorite devotional and one the kids are old enough to understand now. This morning's writing was spot on for me.

It's payday (Yay!) and when I checked our banking balance I was immediately disappointed; two months of expenses were supposed to be included in this check and they weren't. Having already made plans on what to do with that money (switching Anthony over to Sprint from AT&T so we can consolidate and reduce our cell bill, which requires the purchase of a new phone - hence the money part), it was not the best start to my day. Being honest, I was down-right ticked!

Then it was time for school. Opening the devotional to August 31st, I was immediately caught by today's title: My Joy ... Your Joy. Needless to say, it was the soothing balm that my frustrated soul needed:

  • "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:11
  • "Living a full and overflowing life does not rest in [circumstances], but in the perfect understanding of God."
  • "The first thing that will hinder [joy] is the subtle irritability caused by giving too much thought to our circumstances." [For me, a paycheck and a cell phone bill]
In all accuracy, my plans for today were thwarted, and I wasn't happy about it. I had been waiting for months for August 31st to roll around because it marked both a payday [with expenses paid] and the official end to Anthony's contract with AT&T. Now? Well, we'll see what can be arranged. I have to trust that God will honor our plan to reduce our monthly outgo, BUT in the mean time, I'm not going to allow this [circumstance] to steal my joy. Instead, I will Conquer Joy through Jesus.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If It Is What I Wanted...

It's almost 8am, but I've actually been awake since 6am. My bladder initially woke me up, so instead of trying to go back to sleep knowing that I'd just be kidding myself that I'd be able to ignore the calling of the bathroom, I got up with sleepy eyes and allowed the walls to direct me to my intended destination. Crawling back into bed, my first thought was that in the few minutes it took me to get to the bathroom and back, I was now awake. Not just oh-it-may-take-me-a-few-minutes-to-go-back-to-sleep awake, but WIDE awake. What?!?

After turning off the TV at midnight and then listening to a Gateway message on my iPod, I knew that I had not clocked nearly enough hours to satisfy the nightly requirement for rest, let alone catch up on any of the sleep I'd missed out on the past two nights since the AC broke.

So there I laid. Awake. In a dark, 75 degree, cool room. My eyes wide open. My instinct telling me that no matter how hard I wished for it, I wasn't going back to sleep. [Maybe now that my bedroom has the ability to stave off the heat of the summer day, I'll find an hour or so to curl up in bed and take a nap ... maybe.]

Not wanting to forfeit the cool of the AC for the heat of the rest of the house, I grabbed my iPod and opened Tweetdeck to see who else was awake - and had twittered any thoughts of their morning. I came across a new tweet from Kate McDonald with photos of her house remodeling, and since I follow her blog as closely as I follow my best friend's, I clicked the link and took a tour of her yet-to-be-finished home. From that blog I ended up bouncing to various other blogs of hers and came across an old one titled Jesus Tell Me What I Want #1 and then read Thoughts On Feminism, another oldie.

Both intrigued and stirred me, but the Jesus blog really got me thinking, especially two of the opening passage quotes she used:

If it is what I wanted, why am I so disappointed when I get it? If what a man really wanted was food, how could he be disappointed when the food arrived?” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

“Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over.
You have spent a lot of money, but you haven’t much to show for it.
You keep filling up your plates, but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking, and drinking and drinking, but you’re always thirsty.
You put on a layer of clothes, but you can’t get warm...
[That is why the God-of-the-Angel-Armies said:]
Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over.”
~ Haggai 1:5-7, The Message Bible

Lying in bed after reading this blog, I began to think about how yesterday changed the course of our lives; how 24 hours earlier I was so unsettled about signing another lease for this house and the next day the decision was made to move ... just like "that". I wasn't awake because the reality of it all had finally settled on me and now my brain was alert and in panic mode. Actually, my mind began to wonder about the ebb and flow of life itself and how we never really wake up one day expecting our lives to be much different than the day before. There's a lot of thought behind that one sentence, but my intent for this blog is not centered on that thought, so I'll walk past that rabbit trail for now.

If it is what I wanted...

Those six words really intrigued me, really resonated with me, really stopped me in my reading tracks and made me go, "Hmmm". [Things That Make You Go Hmmm. Can you hear the 80's dance song playing in your head? I can ... unfortunately.]

Do we really ever know what we want? Or is what we want consistently in flux like the seasons of the year? Is what we want supposed to change as we grow? Or is what we want just a fickle selfishness? Is what we want really tied into what we need? Or is what we want just that carrot on the end of the string that we'll constantly chase but never really obtain?

I'm not sure I have any answers to my philosophical questions. Waking up this morning, I fully realized that I won't be waking up in this house for much more than another 30 days or so. With that thought in mind, I took a picture from where I sit on my bed when blogging, looking out the window to the scene I've watched change with the seasons of this past year.

Right now the trees are still green and full of leaves. When I initially moved in, they were turning brown and getting ready for autumn. I've watched as the trees lost all their leaves, being left with nothing but a winter nakedness. I've watched rain fall and saturate the bark until it couldn't hold any more water. I've watched snow pile up and tree limbs break under the weight of it all. I've watched as the leaf buds began to appear, whispering promises of new life as spring arrived. And soon, as we close the doors on this house to move on to something different, the leaves will once again be preparing for autumn; another year of life saying its good-byes.

All that to ask, "If this house is what we thought we wanted a year ago, even to the point where we kicked ourselves for not locking in a two-year lease, how can our wants be so different just 365 days later?" Did our wants change or did the reality of what we thought we wanted shift so as not to really satisfy the unspoken wants? Those wants we settled on because 'right now' worked...

Again, philosophical questions without a desire to really dig in and answer them. Maybe the answers aren't necessary right now. Maybe the questions themselves are the first, big hurdle to cross and the answers will be revealed in due time.

Due time. What is 'due time' anyway, and how do we ever know if now is 'due' or somewhere down the road is 'due'? Ahhh ... questions.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I am so glad that I took the time (listened to the internal motivation) and wrote down all my thoughts and struggles yesterday, because today all those struggles and questions were answered in the most clear way possible. Holy Spirit pushed me [yesterday] to blog so that I could have a black and white testimony to an honest struggle on one day ... and a clear answer the next. Had I not blogged when I felt that prompting (big lesson for me), I would have been documenting both the questions from yesterday and the answer from today and it would have been a little less powerful ... in my mind, anyway.

After blogging my guts out yesterday, an AC repairman came to the house and delivered the worst  - yet best for us - news that we could get. One system completely blown and the 2nd system just about there, but still has a few running parts that could be salvaged. Truly, with out $1000 minimum to put into trying to repair the 2nd system, we won't have AC anyway, so it equates to both systems being down and out for the count.

Anyway, God settled my heart that it really doesn't matter what's happened or why. The answer is:
  • HE alone provided a place for us for this past year, regardless of the integrity or intent of the owners. 
  • HE alone answered my plea from yesterday and clearly showed us that this is where we are not going to be living in the next season of our lives.
  • HE alone made a way - blown AC - to provide that answer before it was too late and we signed on for another year without heating or AC available ... and with a cost that would have partially been coming out of our pocket because of how the owners wrote our last lease.
He provided a home when one was needed last August. And He will provide again because He saw this coming long before we did.

I can now rest in total PEACE that my God has answered my plea. I am more settled now than I have been in the past six months, and that feels awesome! I don't care that we're moving. I don't care about the amount of work I'm going to have to put in over these next three (or so) weeks. I don't care that I don't know where we'll be living next month or that we'll now - for sure - be down to one car, again. I don't care that I don't have all the answers right now.

All I care about is that I have the answer that I NEED today. The rest will come as they need to...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do Beggars Have The Right To Be Choosers?

It's been almost a year since we moved into our home in Keller; and in this year, I have discovered all of the things that I wish I could change about it.

I have struggled with maintaining a consistent, thankful heart for simply having a home to live in.

I have struggled with justifying space for space's sake. Is space really worthy if the space itself doesn't really work for you?

I have struggled with a constant voice that reminds me of all the things that could potentially go wrong in this house ... that we'd have to fix out of our pocket because we were given such a low monthly rent comparable to the real cost of the owner's mortgage.

I have muddled through a winter where our fireplace was our only source of heat during the freezing, winter days because the cost to heat a house this size is beyond our budget, and beyond the capacity of our heating system to keep up with.

I have sweated through a long, hot summer because a house this size is beyond our budget to cool during the day, and it's also beyond the capacity of the AC system to keep up with during the intensity of our summer days (even if we could afford to run it 24/7).

I have really struggled not having a single place I can retreat to in my house to have a private conversation because noise travels like crazy when there's no carpeting to buffer sound, doors that don't actually reach the floor because all the carpeting was removed or rooms/places where there just isn't a door at all.

I have struggled having property that is not useful for kids to play on yet we have to take care of simply because it's there; and lawn equipment that doesn't work and we have to pay for it to be fixed because we have such a low, monthly rent.

I have struggled with the cost of maintaining a pool that is really only enjoyed by me; even though I thought it would be the saving grace for my kids during the summer. The problem is, they don't enjoy it like I thought they would, so it's not a saving grace after all.

All in all, at the end of this year, I have come to the conclusion that while this house has provided a roof over our heads, space to move around, and beautiful scenery ... it's not working for us.

But here's where I also struggle: just because this house doesn't work in so many areas that are important to me, does that mean that this beggar has the right to be a chooser?

Is it okay for me to not be content with where I live on so many levels and just be satisfied that I have house at all? Or is it a red flag, a Godly-warning, that it's time to start looking for something else; that signing another 12-month lease is not the wise thing to do?

Every time I've questioned things something has happened to bring peace on the other side. But is peace an answer in and of itself?

I started questioning whether or not our landlords would renew our lease (at our current rent) back in April. It was but three days later, after first voicing my concerns, that our landlords called and asked us if we'd be staying (without an increase in rent). PEACE!

I questioned my family to see if this is where they want to be regardless of the lack of doors, privacy, heating, cooling, workable yard, etc? Minus Alec who would live in a box because he's not a fan of space for space's sake, both Anthony and Teighlor love our space and love where we live (the area). PEACE!

I love the area, too. And that's another nagging question for me. Alec's made friends here for the first time since being home schooled. Teighlor's best friend is just 5 miles from where we live and this affords us the opportunity to have her over more frequently. We are close to baseball, church, and our neighborhood is truly a place of peace for me because it's a bit of country right off a city street. We have a second car at our disposal, and while it's not the safest piece of machinery on the road, it's definitely made our lives easier. PEACE!

Weeks ago I was settled on the fact that come September we'd be moving ... some how, some way. The space for space's sake was just the final straw of thinking for me, and then ... all of our space was shifted around due to Teighlor's idea to share her room with Marian. From that idea came all of the ideas that moved our furniture around and actually made more sense of the rooms and how they looked and lived in then they had since we originally moved in. It felt good and it felt right again. PEACE!

And then last night the 2nd of our AC systems went out. We were able to live on one system semi-comfortably. Well, not really comfortably, but we've come to realize that we can adapt to hotter-than-we-would-care-to-live-if-we-could-fix-it-or-afford-it. Beggars can't be choosers, right? We have a house to live in. Just because we can't afford to heat or cool it in the extreme months doesn't mean we should complain... ???

So, once again, I am unsettled about being here and staying here and signing another 12-month lease. I struggle with knowing whether or not that PEACE that follows my questioning is really God's answer to my always unsettled heart and that maybe I should just finally settle the score in my heart and choose to be content with what really doesn't bring me contentedness.

OR ...

Are all of these little things red-flags that I should be paying attention to because our season in this house is over and God's trying to tell us that, and the peace itself is just manufactured out of normal circumstances?

I've been through life situations where red flags were waving and I found a way around each and every one - a way that made sense for a moment and brought a sense of peace - only to discover that I manufactured the peace and the red flags were there because God was trying to move me away from where I was or out of what I was getting into.

Is the fact that I constantly question where I live a red flag to begin with or is it just a selfish desire to have something better, something that I feel would work better for us? Or is God so faithful that every time I question He's right there to bring a peace?

I know He provided this place for us last year. I truly settled on that before moving in. It has worked well in some areas and there are some pretty special memories wrapped up here that I'll never forget.

BUT ... does He require us to stay in a place He provided for more than one year's worth of seasons simply because it was the answer to our questions/prayers a year ago? Isn't He just as capable of providing a new place that would work and provide and satisfy and bring excitement if we just had the guts and courage to step out?

I don't want to move out of where we are simply because I have selfish desires that I want met ... at least that's what I'm labeling them for right now because I know people who would give their right hand just to have a place to call their own, regardless of whether or not the AC worked or the toilet wasn't bolted to the floor.

This is my mental struggle and has been for months now. I'm at that place where I just want God to audibly say to me, "Stay" or "Go". I want a true sign, not just a peace. I want to know that if we stay because the house works for us in some areas but not in others, that He'll provide for the ways to fix this house should something go wrong. Is that going beyond faith to ask for all of this? Is it requiring my God to settle too much in my heart so that I don't have to wonder if He'll work it out or if we'll struggle?

I know that God's economy is not struggling and that fixing an AC is so not beyond His capacity, even though I can't see where the money would come from to fix it. I know tomorrow morning we could have someone show up and tell us it's something super easy and super inexpensive and Voila ... my heart is settled in PEACE again because God took care of that which we could not.

And so I come to the end of my blog without really coming to any sort of answer. I have rambled more so for the therapy of getting it all out than to expect I would have heard from God in the midst of writing. Not saying that hasn't happened before, but I don't know that I was even considering that as an option when I sat down to write.

So here's my plea:

God, I need true Holy Spirit wisdom to know the difference between being content and seeing the flags for what they are. I need to hear Your voice in what's the best move for us ... Should we stay or should be go now? (Homage to a song from my 8th grade year). I need to be settled on the fact that either You are bringing PEACE to each of my concerns, or I am manufacturing the evidence so that I can sleep at night. I need for my husband and I to be unified on this. Our budget doesn't show that this house, in the end, is really affordable even given the monthly rent because we can't afford to cool it or heat it during the months we most need to. But budgets don't matter to you unless they need to matter, so it's another area that needs to be settled in my heart. I know that You have us on a learning journey right now, especially regarding finances. I don't want to be careless or unwise as we move into another season in this house. I want to do the right thing, make the wise choice, but I feel as if I couldn't make the right choice today if my life depended on it. I feel stuck. But I also know that that "stuckness" is right where I need to be to hear from You. So, I'm asking for You to be clear; to speak into my questioning heart and settle me. I declare that I will not move without Your asking me too. This time, last year, we had no idea where we were going to live. We would soon be required to move from Bedford but where we would go was still completely unknown to us. You settled that for us. You opened a door. I'm asking to be settled once again. In Jesus' Name.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Purifying Integrity

Today, just a couple hours ago, I read a blog post by Melissa Aulds titled Trading Integrity.  I was IMMEDIATELY convicted of something that [I know] God has been speaking to my heart for over a year now. And just like Melissa wrote - "He did what He always does when I foolishly ignore His promptings; He waited quietly for me to learn my lesson." - God has patiently waited as I ignored His promptings but now has graciously - yet firmly - offered me another chance to learn this lesson and purify my integrity.

Digressing: At the end of 2008, Anthony got a "God-sized idea" to write a book on Twittering and the Church. He obeyed, sat down and wrote it, and by the beginning of 2009 the book had been given PDF wings, along with a new website and a way for people to purchase the online book. I remember asking God to bring honesty to people's hearts when purchasing the book. After all, since it was a PDF file, one copy could be purchased and then distributed out to whomever they wanted to share it with. I wanted our potential income protected and for Anthony to be financially blessed for the work he put into the book. Sounds like a fair prayer, right?

Well, even more importantly, I remember His specific answer to me, "You're asking me to protect the income due to you for the work Anthony put into this project. You're asking me to convict hearts to purchase honestly and not distribute to others. How is the behavior you're asking me to protect you from any different from what you do all the time when you copy music that you haven't paid for?"

OUCH! That's what I remember thinking.

I was so convicted by those words that I immediately stopped 'stealing' music from the catalog of CDs at the library and stopped downloading music that I hadn't paid for. What's so telling of how even a WHOA!-stopped-me-in-my-tracks kind of lesson can become a slow fade to sinning again, is that my quest towards behavior modification only lasted as long as the heart-felt conviction. For about eight months I steered clear of any music I could gank. I even secretly applauded myself when I would walk past the CD section in the library and not take a CD to load into my iTunes. And then came the slow fade ... "Gosh, I really want that CD even though I'm not going to go out and buy it." Those words began taking their toll on the portion of my soul that desires that which I cannot purchase at the moment; and soon my conviction - and God's word to me - was overpowered by my selfish wants.

Fast forward to today: As soon as I began reading Melissa's article, I was hit upside the heart with a heavy brick of Holy Spirit conviction. The memories of what I wrote above all came back to me in a rush, and I hung my head and let out a big sigh knowing that this lesson was coming back around to me. God had waited patiently, but my moment of choice was once again put before me; and this time, the request came with an even bigger chance to purify integrity.

Last time I heard and heeded the voice of God and immediately stopped stealing music that didn't belong to me ... for a season, anyway. But now, God was calling me up higher, asking me to purify my integrity to an even greater degree. Not only am I to stop and never again upload/download music that doesn't belong to me, BUT I am to go back to my iTunes and delete - yes, DELETE - any and all music that I don't rightfully own.

"All God? You want me to delete it all? Over half of my iTunes library is music I didn't pay for." Even in a moment where I know a choice has been laid before me, I'm still foolish enough to question the request ... just to make sure I heard correctly. And then God reminded me of some more words that Melissa wrote, "If you want to be a leader, if you want to have influence, you need to choose to live your life above reproach … even when no one but Me is watching." And these words, too: "Do you really want to trade your integrity for [insert your compromise here] … Isn’t it worth more than that?”

Okay. I hear You. No amount of music [that I can't afford but want] is worth trading my integrity for.

And then I saw a wall post on Facebook with the scriptures from Provberbs 2:1-5 written out:

My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. 

Okay. I hear You.

"The beautiful thing about the Word… and about the Lord… is that, in order to experience freedom in it, you can’t omit the things you’re uncomfortable with or inconvenience you." [Bethany Dillon]

I read this blog just before sitting down to write mine here. Bethany was writing about walking in the fruit of the Spirit in true wholeness, not just in bits and pieces. When I came to this sentence, it was clear that I was either going to make a choice to wholeheartedly obey God or I was going to make a choice to flip Him the bird. [Harsh, but true] Keeping music that doesn't belong to me is choosing to walk in "comfortable convenience" for the things I want but can't afford; it is choosing the bits and pieces of the fruit of the Spirit as I see fit and, more importantly, not choosing wholeness.

Okay. I hear You.

"Furthermore the Lord began to show me that when I traded my integrity for things like downloaded movies and software, that I limited the blessings He wanted to pour out on my family. He showed me how my actions tied back His hands ...  But worse, it’s wasn’t just material blessings, although there was that too, but I limited the spiritual blessings He could bestow on me, and I don’t want that!" [Melissa Aulds]

Okay. I hear You. More importantly, I want to go higher; I want to walk deeper; I want to be purified;  and I will not trade any of your blessings for my desires.

Today, I am staring a new blog category ... Altars. While I will not have a physical altar to remind myself of this day, I will have this blog.

"Father God, I confess here and now that I have defiantly disobeyed You and have chosen to walk in false justification of my own wants and desires. Lord, forgive me! I have put a wall between Your blessings and my heart, home and family by choosing my own way; and by allowing the slow fade of selfish sin to invade my soul. Lord, forgive me! Purify my heart and my integrity. I receive your forgiveness with a whole and clean heart. And I will put action to my words by deleting ALL of the music that I do not rightfully own. Thank you, Jesus, for writing this lesson through Melissa and giving her the voice to share with us your desire for purity and a walk that is upright in integrity. Continue to purify me through lessons like these. In Jesus' Name. Amen and AMEN!"