Tuesday, April 24, 2012

 "...our lives full of cluttered ease, muffle out the songs. That when we go to the places that strip life back to its barest essence — of courage and love and raw, unmasked pain — our hearts feel again, beat again, hear again the haunting music of a beautiful, bleeding humanity.

Maybe we are only at our most beautiful work in the same places too — the places where we don’t hide behind the distractions of stuff, where we finally empty our hands of all our possessions and idols and come to God empty and ready. The places where we can make art with tears.

Where the notes can finally soar in the space." Ann Voskamp

Keith and I are at a place that is so scary.  A place of change.  Unknown change.  Not sure of what the near future holds.  Being fully supported missionaries, our support is dangerously low.  We are trying to raise that support level up, but in the meantime we are looking around wondering how to stop the bleeding.  How to change our lives so that we can live on what He has provided instead of constantly trying to make more.  Looking around and seeing that our home is the biggest source of financial expense.  That monthly mortgage, the monthly homeowner's bill, the monthly utilities to heat and cool an old home, the insurance, the maintenance.    And I wonder, is this home, this 2500 square feet worth the debt, the worry? 

 If we lived in less could we live more? 

Could we spend our money on things that matter instead of things? Could we travel and see God's country and God's people?  Could we give more of ourselves, more of His money?  

But I don't want it to seem so simple.  It isn't simple.  A house is so much more than a payment.  It is a comfort to weary bodies and growing boys.  It is an identity.  It is a place you invite friends in and welcome neighbors.  It's sights and smells and ownership.  And wondering if a place where we could afford our expenses better might be a place that isn't as pretty.  As comfortable.  As nice.  What if it's humbling and perhaps even humiliating?  What if it's older than this house?  What if we don't own it, but just rent it?  Will that hurt?

I'd like to think that being relieved of some financial burden would more than make up for the loss of this home, but it might just hurt.  A little?  A lot?  I am not sure.  Perhaps it would be a decision we'd say, "Why didn't we do this sooner?  Why did we hold on to stuff and relinquish our peace?"  

I am praying that if God wants us to sell this home that He will sell it quickly and for good value.  I pray He opens wide a new door with clear answers and that we can lead our sons through those doors with hope and excitement for what it could mean for our family.  I never want to love my stuff so much that I clutch it tighter than God.  I have been saying that a lot lately.  Do I mean it?  Do I want Him more than all else?  I think so.  I think so.  Not because I am brave or particularly faith-filled.  But because I believe God might have a great thing for us.  A great new thing.  Because I know He will take care of us.  Because I have a bit of adventure to me and I wonder, "What's next, God?"  We have adventured with Him before and it's quite a ride fraught with wonder and fear and expectation.  Not all adventures are easy.  I wouldn't say this adventure to FamilyLife has been easy.  In fact, it has been a hard 7 years.  Not all places God leads are easy.  Hard lessons are learned.  Big mistakes get made. 

"...one only gains higher ground by climbing up through the valleys. Every mountain has its valleys.  Its sides are scarred by deep ravines and gulches and draws.  And the best route to the top is always along these valleys."  Phillip Keller (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23)

The Good Shepherd leads through the valleys because the valleys are well watered and full of plentiful grass to feed on.  They are darker, more dangerous valleys, but they are the best route to the top.  I am a stubborn sheep.  I am content to drink from dirty pools and eat the grass in the pasture I am in until it is withered and dead.  I can't see where the Shepherd leads, but if I remind myself how He always leads me well then I need not know where He leads...just that He leads.  Could you pray that we will follow and that He indeed will (perhaps, if only) lead clearly and with unmistakable signs?  My weary, faithless heart could use some clear signs.  Thanks! ~M.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My shoulders are heavy with burdens I shouldn't be carrying, but I won't let go.  Stupid.  I know.  Let them go.  Let them fall.  But sometimes it doesn't really feel like God is carrying them.  You know, on the days when I feel happy and lighthearted I don't think I have released them...I think I have just chosen to not think of them.  They are there.  Lurking.  And things like having to pay the bills or balance the checkbook or go to the store bring them back to mind.  A boy needs shoes.  Someone is having a birthday.  The weeds are overtaking the flowerbeds and mulch is needed.  A van needs tires.  A dentist wants his money. Support needs to be raised and deadlines loom.  Decisions beckon and answers dart behind the bushes.

Everything in my head knows He will provide because He always has.  Everything in my head knows He has the best in mind for what He is taking us through.  But my heart knows the way is long.  The road may get rough.  It may not be easy.  And that is where I say to myself, "Where's the relief in handing it over to Him if He may not make it better, or easier?"   He may choose to make it a time of refinement through suffering.  I don't want to go.  As much as I know He is good and He is loving I also know that a good, loving parent makes the hard decisions like saying no.  Or taking the child to get shots.  Or disciplining them when they have done wrong.  Again.  And He is more about my character than my comfort...about His glory than my happiness.  Believe me, I am more about my comfort and happiness.  I don't want discipline and I don't want suffering.  I want easy answers and a measure of security that can help me sleep at night and awaken with calm.  I know.  I know.  I can awaken with calm if I know He is handling it and He has better things in store than I can imagine.    But I can't see it.  I can't see quick fixes.  And I want quick fixes.  And I am tired of being stretched beyond what I feel I can bear up under.

I am a stubborn child.  I see my clenched fists and my tight jaw.  I feel my feet dug in and my back firm.  I won't go, God.  You can't make me go.  I don't like where You have us.  It doesn't feel good and I am not good at it.  I don't want to trust You and I don't understand You.  

And this space?  This is the space where a paragraph was deleted.  The paragraph where I tell how hard it is to be a fully-supported missionary.  But I can't share that.  I never want a supporter to read this and think we aren't grateful.  Or that God isn't providing through them.  Because we are.  And He is.  One paycheck at a time we see Him provide.  But, honestly.  Our outgo exceeds our income.  And we are just months away from an empty account.  And some days I want out of here.  God, let us earn our wages.  I don't want to ask people to join us in ministry. It hurts.  It asks too much.  I am not good at it.  Grace sufficient in my weakness.  When I am weak, He is strong.  

I can speak lies to myself but Truth fights back.  It'd be better if I quit fighting and let Truth wash over.  I know.  I am going to get up.  I am going to get back to work.  I am going to step one foot in front of the other.  I am going to go the way God says go because I don't know where else to go.  Even when it hurts.  I will never leave you or forsake you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

prayer...out loud

You make my heart overflow.  And out of that overflow I really want to live.  I really want to know You more.  I want so much more of You and so much less of this world.  This world is choking me.  This house.  This stuff.  These bills.  These wants.  These worldly desires.  Choking.  Binding.  I see myself serving two masters.  Many masters.  And when there is another beside You then You are not my God at all.  I could sacrifice myself on the altar of the world, I am sad to say.  But I cannot sacrifice my sons.  The thought that my sons would be lukewarm Christians that You would spit out of Your mouth makes me awaken from sleep...makes my stomach churn.  Can they really see You in this home?  Amid choices I wish we'd never made...video games, television.  Wasted hours of their lives.  How can I grow men who love You with their whole heart by simply telling them they should?  What love is that?  What love is there that doesn't make sacrifices?  Painful sacrifices that cost something.  Comfort.  Desires.  Choices. 

These boys are Yours, Lord.  They are from the depth of my being.  I want nothing more than for them to really love You.  I don't want them to struggle like I have.  Struggle to understand Your love.  Struggle to not carry around yesterday's mistakes.  Struggle to understand and extend grace.  Struggle with the world.  The choke-hold of the world.  Wanting to be rich.  Wanting to be famous.  Wanting to be thin, handsome, accepted by the world's cruel standard.  I want the life they have lived when they leave this home to already be so God-wrapped that they know nothing else.  But God, how can that be when we are so awash in life's cares?  

Our life looks very much like our neighbors'.  I don't know.  Maybe it doesn't.  Maybe having a good marriage, six sons, homeschooling, living a missionary's life is all very foreign to my neighbors.  They have as much as told me so.  Maybe they see us loving You Lord.  Have they?  Have we loved them well Lord?  Have they heard me losing my temper with the boys in the yard?  Have they seen me angry with my husband?  Are they comforted that, in fact, I am human.  Sinful too.  Forgiven?  Do they see the difference?  Lord, I want to be different.  I don't want to fit in quite so well.  It doesn't have to be in sack cloth and ashes Lord.  I know it.  More joy.  More peace.  More love.  That would look different.  But Jesus.  Has Jesus come flowing from my life? My mouth?  My heart? 

This life is short, Lord.  People are dying.  Sons.  Daughters.  Loved ones. Lost.  Not just to death...but to hell.  Parents who didn't care enough to lead their children to the cross.  Life is too busy.  They aren't sure You are there and they are too busy hunting down life's pleasures to figure it out.  How can we be too busy to lead our loved ones to the cross?  HOW?  And how can Christian parents think that we can take them to church, homeschool them, pray at meals and consider it done?  How can we be hypocrites who white wash the cup when all the while the inside is filthy?  

Oh God, forgive me for being this parent.  For being lazy and idle and full of self and world.  Too busy to lead them to the cross.  Too scared to lay down the things that hold us back.  To timid.  Too cowardly. Lead us Lord.  Take us further on.  You have been so faithful.  SO faithful.  I love You, Lord.  I know You love my boys more than I do so please cover my weakness with Your amazing grace.  Your grace is sufficient for all I lack.  Praise You. Praise You. Only because of Jesus can I ask, Amen.