A Weekend in Review

The Daughter’s of the King ladies retreat was this last weekend, and it was fantastic.

The weekend was themed on Beth Moore’s Get out of that Pit. We watched some of Beth’s videos, heard from the book, heard teaching from the book, had small group times discussing the concepts found within, and had some personal time with God.

I’d already read the book, but the retreat was still pretty powerful. Especially the personal time with God. We had several questions to think through and pray through–but the great part was when God started talking. He told me what my pit is: self-PITy. He said, “You’re so busy longing for something different, something else, that you aren’t seeing what I’ve already given you. And, paradoxically, this has kept you from attaining your deepest desires. Wallowing in self-pity over how things HAVEN’T turned out as you expected is keeping you from enjoying the abundant life I have for you now and from anticipating the abundant life I have for your future.

Yikes! But it’s so true. Knowing is half of the battle. Now, I’m daily practicing the steps Moore discussed for getting out of the pit: Cry out, Confess, Consent. And by God’s grace, I’m on my way out of the pit.

Apart from the wonderful time with God, I had a fantastic time with my girls. We swam Friday night–and stood in the shallow end of the pool singing all our favorite kiddie songs: “He’s a Peach of a Savior”, “I’m in the Lord’s Army”, and “The Hippo Song.” We cracked ourselves up with each different version–and decided that we were having so much fun that we NEEDED to share it with others. So we sang for everyone at our break Saturday morning.

On Saturday, we made leaf door hangers–one for each of us and some extras for the Thanksgiving baskets we’ll give out last month. I painted quite a few. I took pictures of quite a few really good ones–but somewhere between the ride home and Sunday morning, I lost my camera. So, I don’t have any pictures for now. (Hopefully I’ll find the camera soon.)

After we returned Saturday night, we had cheesecake at my Mom and Dad’s house for Mary’s birthday. I found a trivia question book that I’d given the family for Christmas years ago. At first I just threw the questions out to a couple of people, but by the end of the night, there were a dozen of us draped around the living room, trying to figure out which of the listed first ladies didn’t have “Smith” as their maiden name.

Sunday morning, I slept in–and then worked in the church nursery during the service. That’s when I really missed my camera. I only had three little kiddos in the nursery, but boy were they CUTE!

We closed the weekend with the movie “New in Town” (which I thoroughly enjoyed.)

Dreaming and Doing

Some people dream to the exclusion of doing.

Others do to the exclusion of dreaming.

I vacillate between the two.

Heartsick because of hope deferred, I shut off the dreams and exhaust myself in doing.

Worked to the ground, I look up to the sky and ask “Is this really what I dreamed of?”

I planned to write a post about all the many things I’ve dabbled in, dreamed of, done. But as I started writing, the dreams rose in my throat to cut off my air.

Remember the days, Rebekah?

Remember the days you dreamt big dreams? Remember dreaming of identifying with Christ to the point of sweating drops of blood like He did? You were such a zealous little girl, swinging on the swings at Tanker Hill while the adults in the church prayed. You dreamed of an army of children, passionate for God alone. Remember dreaming of a revival sweeping our nation, transforming every public and private activity? You were such a passionate teen–and you wanted to see the world changed.

Remember the dreams, the plans, the desires of your heart? Remember the designs, the plans you wrote up? A haven for missionaries on furlough. A refuge for those struck by natural disasters. A nursing home that was a HOME instead of a “facility”. A year-round camp. A support school for home-schoolers. A church-based community center. A church without walls, a church that never sleeps.

Remember how you hungered not just for knowledge but for experience as well? Remembering dreaming of traveling to each of those exotic places you read about? Remember wanting to work in the factory, wanting to build the computer, wanting to go into space? Remember wanting to see the animals first hand in their natural habitat? Remember wanting to learn the dance, do gymnastics, figure skate?

Remember when God told you your dreams were too small? Remember when He told you to dream bigger? Remember when God told you to start dreaming again? That wasn’t that long ago–but you became disappointed too soon.

June 10, 2006 passed and you weren’t married. You’re approaching 25 and you don’t own a house. You have school loans you didn’t plan on accruing. You haven’t been all those places you planned on going. You haven’t accomplished what you hoped to accomplish in your first quarter-century. So you immersed yourself in doing and let the dreams die.

O heartsick one, revive again. O downcast head, be lifted up. Awaken to dream, to yearn, to delight once more.

Rise above the busy pit that would never have you see the light. Arise to dance again. Arise to sing again. Arise to dream again.

Exclamation Mark

I’m reading Ravi Zacharias’s Cries of the Heart (Good book, by the way). Ravi quotes Lewis Thomas from Medusa and the Snail:

The mere existence of that cell should be one of the greatest astonishments of the earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours, calling to each other in endless wonderment, talking of nothing except that cell….If anyone does succeed in explaining it within my lifetime I will charter a skywriting airplane, maybe a fleet of them, and send them aloft to write one great exclamation point after another around the whole sky, until all my money runs out.

The quote impressed me with the author’s sense of wonderment–and my own lack of such wonderment. The cell is but the least of the wonderful things that I could spend my whole life astonished at. What of the new life being wrought in my friends Jolene and Jennifer as they reach the last trimesters of their pregnancies? What of the orderliness of the universe and the fine-tuning of every law to permit human life? What of the intricacies of weather systems that bring life and death, beauty and destruction? What of the miracle of regeneration?

Yet I rarely stop to wonder, much less spend my every day wondering. And I believe I have lost much in my blase grown-upness that thinks it knows the answers and therefore fails to ask the questions.

Oh, to embrace wonder once again. To return to the child-like astonishment, that on hearing why the sky is blue, asks yet again, “But why?” For indeed, the first explanation is rarely the end, it is only a springboard for a deeper sense of wonder.

May I look at life today through different eyes, through the eyes of wonder. May I take the time to wonder, to be astonished, to gasp in awe at the greatness of my Father displayed through all His creation. May my life be a grand exclamation mark, repeated with every breath–an exclamation mark punctuating the grandness of my God.

Litany for Life

Every finished venture, and every new adventure begun, calls for a time of reflection, of preparation, of prioritization. As I have just completed my internship and am returning to graduate school, this time for my first semester as a teaching assistant, I have been reflecting, preparing, setting things in order.

I have set a few SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achieveable, Relevant, Timely) goals for myself–some more frivolous than others. But beyond that, I have spent some time reflecting and praying over my next step, using a little tool the Navigators sent me at the beginning of the year. The tool is called “PREP for a New Year” and is intended as a sort of New Year’s reflection. The “PREP” stands for Praise, Reflect, Evaluate, and Pray and Plan.

When I got to the “Pray and Plan” segment, I found myself crying out to God that this year would be different than the last. My internship experience was great, but I felt like it was one of the few things that was great about the past 7 months. I experienced great professional and educational growth–but my growth in other areas has been stunted or non-existant.

When I look at what I REALLY want in life, apart from my professional goals, very little has been accomplished in 2009. I have not grown in my relationship with God like I would have liked. I have not grown in relationship with the body as I would have liked. I have not lived with the lost as I would have liked.

My life vision is to glorify God by growing in daily relationship with Him, being conformed to the image of Christ; by growing in relationship with others, taking time to live life together; and by growing personally, always learning and practicing what I’ve learned. Yet little I’ve done in the past seven months has moved me towards that vision.

So I was crying out, asking God for priorities for this upcoming semester, begging that it be more than the previous semester–and God directed me to three simple words. Listen. Love. Learn.

With a hundred things jockeying for my time, my attention, my heart. Listen. Love. Learn. Listen for the voice of God; Love Him with all that is within me; Learn to do His will.

Faced with a deep discontent with the status of my friendships. Listen. Love. Learn. Listen to what others are saying; Love them as Christ loved me; Learn how to serve them.

It goes against my instincts, against my fallen nature. I prefer to talk, to be proud, to teach. But God would have me Listen, Love, Learn.

It would have been easier if God had given me good SMART objectives (or at least something I could DO). You know, thing like:

  • Read a chapter of the Bible every day at least six days a week
  • Spend at least 15 minutes in prayer daily
  • Limit blog-reading to one half an hour per day
  • Don’t listen to secular music
  • No “R” rated movies
  • Memorize a verse a day

Those are all nice, good, EXTERNAL things. Things that only change what I do, but not who I am. They are the easy changes to make, the legalistic changes that can let me feel good about what a great Christian I am.

But God did not give me rules to follow. He did not tell me to do these five steps daily and everything will be just fine. He did not tell me to give up these five items and I’ll be a better Christian.

Instead, He gave me a litany to live each moment of my life by. Listen. Love. Learn.

Lord, may I keep Your word ever before me as I begin the next small chapter in this adventure You are taking me on. Help me to ever be mindful to listen, to love, and to learn.

Reflections on resolutions and the past year

Every new year begins with a resolution. Few are ever remembered into the next. I’m sure I made a resolution last year–one fraught with meaning, one that if accomplished would make me the most amazing woman imaginable. But, alas, I end the year with no remembrance of its beginning.

But its middle has been rich. I may not remember what was on my heart as I started the year 2006. Actually, I begin to remember just now. I asked God for a husband. I bargained with Him, almost gave Him an ultimatum. This year, I said. Let it be this year. But it wasn’t to be. God had other, better plans in store. He thought it best that rather than distract me with a man, He should enthrall me with Himself.

And this last year has been experience after experience of coming to know the One who is my husband, my healer, my redeemer, my father, my lord. I planned to get married this last summer–June 10, 2006–but instead this summer was the most pivotal summers of my life thus far in my walk with God. Because this summer I learned that I am free. I learned that I am clean and nothing I do can make me unclean. I learned that I am justified, and nothing can change that. I learned that I am not a quitter. I learned that I am not a failure. I learned that I don’t need to be perfect. I learned how to be a child. Because this summer, I learned that in Christ, no bond can hold me. In Christ, I am pure in God’s eyes. In Christ, the job has been completed. In Christ, I have conquered. In Christ, I am perfect. And in Christ, I am a child.

My weblogs of the past year tell a story, but only part. I must seek to fill in the holes–the places where the grace of God has woven a tapestry from the tattered canvas of my life.

January 13:
I told of my fears going to Jacksonville.
Could the church survive without me? It did. And not only did it survive, it grew. God worked in amazing ways within LCF at the same time He was working amazing things within me.

I wondered about God’s provision.
And He has provided. I accepted some loans, but as the semester went by, I discovered less and less of a need for them. I was granted the corporation part of the National Merit Scholarship despite my loss of the University part. I was given an extra thousand in Pell Grants. The State of Nebraska gave me a small grant. My parents gave me some money. And my jobs as Health Aide and Desk Worker have provided for my day to day expenses without consuming huge amounts of time.

I worried about having to grow, and about the decision of whether to be a team leader or not.
I did grow, and not all of it was fun. But all of it was good. So much of it I had to get away in order to learn. And God, in His infinite wisdom knew that and brought me to Jacksonville. He took me there as a team member, where I learned how to be a member of the body, not always a leader. And He brought me back as a better leader for it. Because my focus in ministry has changed. I no longer have to minister to somehow make a place for myself, because I know that I belong in Christ. I no longer have to minister to somehow save someone, because I know that Christ is the Savior and He can do it all. And I no longer have to work to gain the approval of men or God, because I know now that God is perfectly satisfied with me as I am. And with this new knowledge I can now minister out of love for God and for people, without shame and without toil. What a blessing!

April 29:
I spoke of being restless, listless.
And while I still experience times of busyness and times of boredom, at last my soul has found a place of rest.

My soul has found a resting place in You
From the running of my past
My soul has found its rest
From the striving-From the fighting
I have found rest

You are my hiding place
My strong tower
I run to You
and running ceases
For my soul has found
A resting place in You

May 11:
I could list my activities but not my accomplishments.
No longer is that true. For no longer fearful of finishing and being found lacking, I have finished much this last year. I completed six crocheted scarves, perfected a prenatal nutrition presentation and presented it three times, finished my last science course of my undergrad career, created a filing system. And so many more things, still unfinished, instead of mocking at me, give me reason for cheer. Three discipleship programs are underway, a quilt in the works, one more scarf half done. My room is clean, I am 7% done with making every recipe in Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook. I have read hundreds of books in the last three months and gained valuable things from them. I have set up a time management system. But all of those accomplishments pale when I think of the one thing I have not done–I have not done anything to deserve God’s favor–yet He grants it to me nonetheless. And that is what gives me the freedom to accomplish anything.

May 11:
I wrote of being old before my time.
But the most majestic work of this summer was the paring of years from my heart, from my face, from my past. I grew up too young, taking on the heart of a woman when my body was a child’s. Desperate to fit in, to gain approval, I clung to “maturity”. Desperate to save everyone, I no longer allowed myself to ask for help. Self-reliant, perfectionist, the savior, never fitting in, shameful. I was an old woman, caught up in a twenty-one year old body. But God taught me to rely on Him. He taught me that I am perfect in Him. He taught me that He is the Savior. He taught me that I belong in Him. He taught me that no part of me is shameful, because I am His chosen. And now I am young. I wrote that “an old maid is only a woman who feels the losses of yesterday and none of the future of today.” And that is what I was, but am no longer. I now see the joys of yesterday amidst its sorrows; and the excitement of the future spurring the possibilities of today.

God has been good to me this past year. And I know He will be good this year as well.

So do I stop making New Year’s resolutions? No. This time I have written them down, because I want to remember them. Will they haunt me or will they spur me on? I don’t know exactly, but I have a feeling that this year will be different. Different because I am a different person. Last January, I was an old woman in her last days. This January, I am a young woman with her life in front of her. And even if I do not accomplish all I set out to do in the year 2007–I will still have accomplished much. For such it is with God–“All things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” And regardless of my actions, I have been called, so all things will work together for good for me.