Archives for March 2014

Happy 14th Birthday, Hannah! {A Gift of Favor, Grace}

In the summer of 1999 while attending graduate school and working in Public Relations at West Virginia University, I almost fainted at work.  After tests, the ER doctor smiled and said, “You’re not sick; you’re pregnant.”

A baby.

split screen dancer and little han

Me.  A mom.

me and han country shirts          me and han in la moskitia

Oh.  My. Word.
A mom?  Me?  Crazy.

I didn’t consider myself “mom material.”  Perhaps someday I’d be “ready,” but today?  Poor child.  He or she would be stuck with me.

Hannah Grace Farish entered the world at 12:06 am on March 22, 2000 {after 27 hours of labor!}.  Today, we celebrate her 14 years on this earth.  And, I am reminded that in our weakness, He is strong.  That I serve a sovereign God who decided when I would become a mom.

When we think we can’t, He knows we can.

So, God didn’t listen to a know-it-all 23-year-old.  He wove his plan as He knew it should be, gifting me with the precious gift of Hannah.

Hannah’s name means favor, grace.  And her name is so fitting.  She is graceful – physically and spiritually.  Hannah extends grace and love to others in a way that I can only admire.  She notices the leftout and the underdog.  She forgives those who hurt her, and in this day of “mean” girls, she’s intentionally choosing to not join in.

She chooses love.

Throughout her life, Hannah has been an excellent sister.  Her brother loves and admires her, and she loves and protects him – watches magic shows and learns Pokemon – just for him.

han and owen frominstagram

 han and owen very young

I most admire Hannah’s servant heart and her love for all people.  A few years ago, Hannah taught herself to crochet using YouTube videos.  She made hats and purses and flowers.  She also wanted to help others, so she combined her desire to serve with her love of crafts, crocheting cancer caps for those in the public hospital in Honduras who have lost their hair.  Hannah and I travelled to Honduras last summer, and Hannah built houses, taught teen moms to crochet, visited hospitals, and distributed food. Her enthusiasm every day – even in the hot, rainy weather with cold showers and food she didn’t like – made me proud. She genuinely loved meeting each person  – and serving them – loving them.

han w Janets girls

 

han w stack of hats                               han hammer in honduras

han and girl w her hat on

  han and grace

Hannah loves dance, reading, violin, and crafts too.  She spends hours each week working hard at her dance studio. Her dedication and perseverance even in the face of difficulty always amazes me.  I love to watch her dance and play  – create and serve.split screen han in HOndo and at dance

Most of all, Hannah loves Jesus.  Each night before she goes to bed, she does a Bible study.  I’ve read a few pages of her study.  Her insight into the Scripture as God speaks to her heart and the way she’s leaned into her faith and her Creator during a very difficult time in life are inspiring.

And while Hannah might seem quiet to most, those living close to her heart know she has a goofy side that is heart-warming – a side that makes me smile.  I simply love spending time with her, learning from her, and taking joy in her.

little han w a feather boa         funny face with makeup

She is a gift.  Smart, funny, and loving.  Willing to sacrifice for others.  Extending grace easily.

I am honored to call her my daughter, and thankful God gave me this gift – one I certainly don’t deserve.  And, especially during this difficult in our lives, I am reminded that God knew what he was doing 14 years ago in Ruby Memorial Hospital and 2000 years ago on a cross, so He certainly knows what He is doing today.

suego faults dance

Happy 14th Birthday, Hannah Grace.  My love for you is even bigger than this world.  I pray you continue to follow the One who made you for His glory – never mine or your own.  May your humble and quiet spirit continue to be a light in the dark – a beacon beckoning others to Him.

 

To the Divorced One and Those Who Love Her {Or Anyone Who’s Just Plain Mad}

Remember when you were younger and a kid on the playground made fun of your sister or brother or best friend? Remember how something fierce rose up in you, and you’d want to KICK THEIR REAR.  Then, later, you’d beat your sister up over sharing shirts or pout to your best friend for ignoring you.

How could this be?

You defend your sister to the DEATH on the playground, but at home, you’d argue and attack.

It sounds silly, but you know it works this way.  I can talk about my sister all I want, but if you say one word about her, I will seriously consider hurting you.

And while it’s not the exact same, it’s mostly how most of us feel about our soon-to-be ex-husbands and/or ex-husbands.

When you disparage him, even if we think or know it’s true, something rises up in us that says…but, you’re wrong.  When you question our decisions regarding him – did we stay too long?  Are we abused doormats? – It upsets us.

man-walking-away

For most of us, we prayed and wept and did our very best.  We loved as we were called to love.  We served and respected.  We attended counseling and conferences.  We talked and tried and toiled.

And, yes, “we took care of him at home, so he didn’t have to go looking.” {Definitely a remark to refrain from, please.}

This is not the story we wanted.  Please, trust us on that one.

Yet, it’s the story we have.  So, to hear you judge and speculate – “if only she would have _____, then he probably would have never______________” – is simply not helpful.

To hear you call the one we loved for many years names  – even if they are well-deserved – is simply not helpful.

Have I been blinded to some realities where my ex is concerned?  Oh, I am sure of that.  I want him to be the man I thought he was {he still is deep down}.  I want him to live out who I KNOW he is in Christ.  So, often, I choose to believe the best when perhaps I should not. I don’t always set the boundaries I know I should.

And, if you’re close to me and you call me out on this stuff?  I listen.  I really do.  Or, at least I try to.

And, if you’re not close to me and you call me out on this stuff?

I want to say to you…did you live with us for 15 years?  Nope. Did you see the man he could be (good and bad)?  Did you see who I could be sometimes?  I have had countless less-than-stellar moments.  We all have.  {Side note:  You have to “earn” the “right” to speak into others’ lives.}

Still, I understand.

If someone you love is hurting because of another – you get angry at the “another.”  We fiercely protect our own – our family, our friends. I really do understand why you are mad, and if it were my sister or brother? I would want to HURT someone.  Truly.

Do I get angry at him just as you do? Yes.  Indeed I do.  A lot.

Just this morning I threw some clothes and broke a few hangers. Earlier in the week, I threw a box of books.  Because I am just mad – mad I am moving, mad I can’t find anything in my new house, and mad this is happening.

Mad!

So, don’t think I am not mad too; I am.  We all are.  Every single one of us who has endured divorce – regardless of fault.  Trust us, there’s lots of mad.

And, I might “think” I want you to jump on my mad bandwagon. The flesh in me wants you to be mad too.  I want you to affirm my anger; remind me why I should be mad. Validate my “rightness” and pain.

I might “think” I want that, but I don’t.  You don’t either.

Why?

Because the spirit in me KNOWS that’s not ok.  Bashing my ex or anyone isn’t who Christ made us to be.  Do we need to be wise where others are concerned?  Do we need boundaries?  Do we need others speaking into our lives in a loving way, helping us to see the forest when we can only see the trees?

Absolutely.

But, as I have talked with so many of you over the past few weeks – divorced, about to be divorced, separated, married but feeling it’s beyond help – I know one thing:

There’s some part of you – and me – that loves those we chose to marry once upon a time. Right?

You might not like him right now, but you love him {sorta}.  And, just like your sister on the playground in 4th grade, your first inclination is to defend or justify.  And to others?  This seems ridiculous.

But, it’s not.

Because Jesus in you is saying…Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12) and as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31).

We know deep down that we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.  Romans 3:  22-24 {The Message}

We aren’t really that different – the offended and the offender – we all need Jesus.  All sinners in need of a Savior.

All made in His image.  {Yes, that person that ticks you off? The one that you’ve been hating for weeks or years? He or she is loved by God just as you are.}

Hard isn’t it?  Seems unfair.  How can they hurt you – perhaps they aren’t even sorry – and live a life that looks like roses when yours is closer to rats?

I can’t answer that.  I know God is just and faithful.  I know He sees you and your pain. I know He loves you in indescribable and unfathomable ways.

Somewhere buried under my hurt and brokenness, I know these things are true; I know who God created me to be.  His child, desiring to follow His greatest command:  To love one another.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 1 John 4: 7

I know it’s not easy.  That’s why in our weakness, He is strong. {2 Corinthians 12:9}  You can’t love those who have hurt you without the help of your Creator.  You can’t forgive and move on without Him either.

Perhaps, you’re not ready to hear verses about love and forgiveness.  You’re still just plain mad.

That’s ok, friend.  Most days, such reminders make me cringe.

BUT.

I encourage you to…pray you will…take one small step in the direction of healing today. Whether you’ve been wronged or you’re walking alongside the one who has been wronged and you are mad, mad, mad.

One step.  Toward loving…toward Jesus.

This morning after I broke a few hangers and threw a shirt, I was riding to school with my daughter, trying to simmer and remind myself of the good in my life.   Hannah always plays DJ {ie “plays her jams”} as we drive.  This morning she chose Dwell and Greater.

I will dwell in the shelter of the Most High God,

I will rest in the beauty of Your Presence

Your faithfulness is a shield and my great reward

I will not be afraid, I will trust in the Lord. {Aaron Keyes – Dwell}

The refrain?  Repeated over and over…no weapon formed against me shall prosper.

Oh heavens.  His faithfulness is my reward. I have to trust Him. No weapon will prosper.

And, Greater…

You’re greater, greater

There’s no one like Our God

You alone are worthy…

You have overcome the world,

Took the keys from death and hell… {Elevation Worship – Greater}

He has overcome this world.  And, all its sin and ugliness.

He’s greater, friend.  He really is.  Dwell in Him.

To the One Who is Single: I Am Sorry {for Married Gals Too}

To the one who is single:  never married, divorced, or widowed…

I am sorry.

I am sorry for the first night you spent alone.  The first night after your husband took his final breath.  The first night without a roommate. The first night after you or your husband moved out.

lonely-woman

I am truly sorry.

He took his final breath.  You arrived at home {perhaps} to a house full of people, but eventually, it was bedtime. You entered a dark room – no one in the bed next to you.  You could and can hear the silence. You run fans, read books, watch TV – sleep never comes, and if it does, it’s fitful.  You can smell him.  Sometimes you awaken and think…is he still here?  For all the times you still miss him – even if you’ve “moved” on…

I am sorry.

You did what the world told you to do.  High school diploma, college degree, gainful employment.  Finally, you can rent or buy your own place!  You’ve arrived!  Your first home or apartment is so cute.  Then, night falls, friends go home, and silence reigns.  What you wouldn’t give for the return of even the most nerve-wracking roommate.

Weeks pass.  Years pass.

The next logical step {culturally} is marriage, but you’ve found no one – no one’s found you.  “Not good enough, not pretty enough, just not enough” floats in and out of your head daily.  You always thought you’d be a wife – a mom – or something – but you weren’t “chosen.”

Lonely. People surround you, but often you sit at home and wonder…is this all there is?

I am sorry culture communicates that the natural progression for you should have been marriage and children, leaving you feeling as if anything less or different is “wrong” or “failure.” Shame on us.

And I am sorry. 

After years on the mission field, you’re burnt out…spent and hurting.  You’ve experienced more loss at age 36 than most of us have experienced in a lifetime.  You’ve sacrificed much on behalf the Kingdom.  You’ve loved and given and sacrificed more than most can fathom.  Deciding to move “home” – back to the States – is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.  And here you are.  Back in a place where you no longer feel at “home” missing those who have been a daily part of life for years.

I am sorry for every night you have felt alone, staring at the ceiling, missing the little people who captured your heart.  I am sorry for each bump in the night that carries you back to gunshots and lost babies.

And to the one {like me} who has spent years married.  Always having a companion – for better and for worse – {mostly} feeling protected.  As you lie down night after night alone – sometimes with kiddos giggling or crying in the next room – and sometimes completely alone – I am sorry.  You never planned to be a single or a single mom.

Your feelings of betrayal and loss are indescribable.  Even though you’ve been hurt, you still miss what once was.  And if you’ve done the hurting?  The cheating and the walking out?  Life still hurts because you had no idea how far sin could and would take you.

Sinner or sinned against – loneliness resulted. And I am sorry for the nights you spend alone – unable to sleep, wondering how life ended up this way.  How this could have become your story.  How the wedding planning and aisle walking became gavel pounding finality.

Single girl, widow, returning missionary, divorced one…I never understood your pain until today.

And for each time you felt abandoned, alone, helpless, and lost…I am sorry.

I am sorry for the times I hurried past you in the grocery store or church pew and didn’t even smile – much less say hello. For the times I didn’t understand you and didn’t seek to.  For the times I listened with my ears but not with my heart.  For the times I was so wrapped up in me, failing to extend love and comfort and words to you.  For the times I thought of you and felt prompted to check in and didn’t…

I am sorry.

I wept for you this morning as I wept for myself. I prayed for Him to comfort you as only He can.

Because we all know Jesus can and will fill this loneliness.  That only He is {ultimately} enough.  But, I understand that you might not want to hear that right now. {I don’t either.} For now, you need time to be mad – to feel alone – to kick and to scream.  And sob.  To feel the weight of your past.

And, that’s ok…really, it is.

But, sweet sister, I pray that someday soon both of us can look to the future.  I pray someday we wake up and realize…our lives are not over.  Perhaps they’re just beginning.

He is sovereign.  He knows us and loves us.  (1 John 3:1)

We are NEVER alone. (Hebrews 13:5)

He sees YOU and ME.  {I know this in my head; still praying for it to resume in my heart.}

And just so you know… I didn’t make it last night; I had a friend stay.  As the sun set, bedtime neared, kiddos slept, and the house creaked, I caved.   I stared at blank ceilings asking the same questions over and over.  I’ve never lived alone and couldn’t stomach the thought of that new season beginning last night.

And if you’re married – happily or otherwise, I know you still experience loneliness.  I know what hard work marriage is {and NO ONE is cheering you on louder than me}.  I know some days you feel invisible even in the midst of your husband and/or children.  I know you, too, wonder…is this it?  Why do I feel alone?  This isn’t what I thought it would be.  Why are some days so hard?

Or, maybe you don’t – you live in wedded bliss.

Whatever way – happily married…struggling married…single…widowed…divorced…

You are NEVER alone.  And, no, this isn’t it.  We are not home yet.  I pray you continue loving and persevering and praying and surrendering.

May we all walk alongside one another, loving and extending grace regardless of labels.

God has a plan. I can’t see it  – maybe you can’t either, but I will always believe in and cling to a God who is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

A Simple(r)Life {Starting Over Stuffless}

Each of us at some point in our lives feels pressed to change.  We know when we’ve gained too much weight, bought too much stuff, or said too many words.  We know when we’ve become unintentional; when it seems we are flailing about, running from task to task, event to event.

We know when we need to breathe.

Today, I need to breathe.

Today, Satan is winning.

He is keeping me in a tizzy of tasks when I know the words God has laid on my heart.  When I KNOW what’s important and what’s really not.

So, this…this post?  This is breathing…after spending hours over the past two days deciphering 19 pages that succinctly sum up my marriage and divide our belongings with official words like “thereof” and “hereto.”

divorce paper

Fifteen years neatly divided and defined by 19 pages.

It simply makes me sad.  Regardless of who did what and when and why. Regardless of my theology or commitment to Christ and my marriage.  Regardless of the times we tried.  Regardless of how my heart feels or what my actions have shown.

Regardless.

Reading my name…my children’s names…on official court documents that boil all the love and effort and prayer and sacrifice down to a bulleted list of items and time divided…is simply sad.

After reading the papers and texting back and forth about who gets the toaster and who needs  a pizza cutter, I’ve decided…

Stuff can be a blessing or a curse.

As we’ve divided pictures and pans…sofas and sheets…deep down…I want none of it.  What I want is an intact family focused on our Creator. A family focused on going into all the world – neighborhood or Nicaragua – sharing the work God has done and is doing.  I want to care for the orphans and widows.  I want to rely on Him and not me.  I want a heart sold out to his purposes and commands.

I just want Him.

But, I don’t have “just Him” yet.  Perhaps because I am too busy shuffling eight lamps (who in the heck needs THAT many?), furniture, pictures, and that highly coveted pizza cutter. I am too busy calling to find a storage unit for all the STUFF that I can’t fit in my new home, which is about one-third the size of my current home.

And with each overwhelming decision – because {truly} even deciding who gets the toaster makes me cry – I feel God saying very clearly…

Simplify, Sarah.

Clear the clutter – in your head, heart, and home.

I want off the treadmill of work and worry. And let’s face it – stuff puts us on that treadmill.

So, as I prepare to move this weekend, my heart is HECK BENT on living simpler.  Less stuff…in my head, in my heart, and in my home.

Heavens.  I just need LESS.

Because after you’ve “failed” at what our culture says you should be – failed at the American Dream – the measuring stick is gone.  {I know, I should have never cared about it in the first place.}  After you’ve “failed,” and come to the end of what and who you thought you needed and wanted to be, you get to discover what God has crafted deep down.

So, I am returning to what I have always known – what you already know:  All the stuff in the world won’t fill any need – not a marriage or a child or a new car or new house.

Nothing is enough.

But Him.

I am settling into smaller – and simpler – because I am convicted of consumption.  From furniture to food – I am stopping and saying “how much is enough?”  I’ve been to a third-world country.  I know how they live and how much they live on…while {mostly} still smiling.  I go the homeless shelter weekly.  I know what that’s like {sorta}.  And I am TIRED and SICK and SICK and TIRED of acting like THAT doesn’t matter.  Of justifying how much I have because I live here with a Master’s degree plus 45 and that’s just what we do – what I deserve.

Ummm…no.

Make no mistake. I want my house to look nice.  I like cute and color. My home is my sanctuary, so I want it to reflect who I am and what I love.  I also want my kids to have a space to call home. A place their weary hearts can rest and feel loved.

So, I will reuse and repaint and refurbish some of the old stuff to look new.

I’ve even made a few purchases. A bird for my room to remind me of my freedom in Him. A globe shower curtain for Hannah and Owen’s bathroom as a reminder to them that God so loved THE WORLD and to go into all THE WORLD.

But, overall, I want to redo what I have – and purge all we don’t use or need.

This time around – we all want a simpler life.  We want to make hats and Honduras trips.  We want to spend our time serving not spending. We want to give up {stuff} to grow closer {to Jesus and one another}.

And, we have an excellent example of the “giving up” to “grow closer” life in our friend, Marla.

Her family of five recently sold their house in Columbus, Ohio, and moved a few miles away to an apartment complex that houses mostly Somali refugees.  Marla, Gabe, and their three girls (Livi, Ava, and Nina) serve these folks through tutoring…and simply living alongside them in community.

My daughter, Hannah, has become close to the Taviano gals and likes to read Marla’s blog.  Recently, Hannah discussed this post with me: My Kids Are Spoiled Rotten. God used this post, the discussion with Hannah,  and witnessing Marla’s life to spark “live simply” in my heart.

Both my kids know I have been feeling the weight of “my kiddos can no longer live as they have” and that’s my fault. Because I am a single mom, I can’t give my kids “the best.”  Poor kids.

Or, maybe it’s rich kids?

Marla’s post resonated with Hannah’s heart.  Something about it said to her, “that’s how life should be.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with offering our kiddos the best, but as I have found myself struggling with what’s next and walking alongside my kids through some very hard days, I can’t help but return to “what’s MOST important” – not what’s wrong or right. Not what culture says is “best,” but what God says is “best.”

My only charge from God as a mom and Christ-follower is to raise Christ-followers.

That’s it.

So, as my kids and I begin anew.  As we wipe the slate clean this weekend.  As we hang pictures and spray paint lamps. As we giggle over what we are gaining and cry over what we are losing.

May we live simply.  And simply live.

May we cast off the old and clothe ourselves in the new.

May I take a page from Marla and spoil my kids in a new way.

May we all experience a different sort of Lent, one characterized by giving and slowing.

Because please believe me, friend:  The stuff gets in the way.

And in the meantime, we will give thanks – for all that’s been and all that is to come.  {Excellent advice from Ann}.  Our new life isn’t worse than or better than.  It’s not wrong or right.  It’s just different.

“Only you know the broken cisterns of our choices – our idols, the many things to which we turn to find life somewhere else than in you.  Yet you pursue us, welcome us, love us, and you are changing us.”   Scotty Smith

Throwback Thursday {Even If Divorce Makes It Icky}

Throwback Thursday always makes me smile. If you’re not an Instagram user, each Thursday people post “throwback” pictures from yesteryear.  They are sweet and often funny.   I used to love flipping through pictures, looking for snapshots of my kiddos when they were crawling or missing a few teeth.  Such cuteness.

family beach

 

But, the last few weeks I’ve hated looking for an older picture of them to post for #TBT.  Every album holds a reminder of what should have been but isn’t.

family w gansey

My family – all four of us – smiling back at me through the screen.  I look at each picture and remember…we really were happy at that time – or we really were miserable that year. I often get stuck, looking at pictures, wondering exactly what went wrong.

What was the turning point?  We all know troubled marriages are a slow fade.  Couples just don’t wake up one morning, happily married, and look at each other and say, “Let’s get a divorce.”

Something happens.  And that “something” comes from somewhere – from some other brokenness laid down long ago.  While there seems to be one thing – an affair, a fight, an addiction, a death – that is the “reason” for the divorce, it’s much deeper than that.  One has an affair or becomes addicted because of something else.

I lay awake at night…write page after page…analyze moment after moment, searching for that “thing” – the issue.  Sadly, I so easily focus on the what and the how of the brokenness, that I forget about the who ruling the brokenness – my Creator.

I also forget the smiles – the happiness  – the genuinely joyful moments.

fam photo young

Truly, my marriage should have ended in 2007.  And if not then, then 2009 or 2012 should have been the end.

But, I stayed. My husband stayed.  We sought counsel and we tried. Most wouldn’t believe all we did to “save” our marriage.  From focusing on God individually to seeking him as a couple.  Conferences. Retreats.  We moved three times. I could go and on.

Finally, we gave up.

And, I was MAD. Mad I had stayed. Mad I had tried.  Why in the world would God call me or  my husband to “stay” when He knew how this would end?

I stayed in that place for months.

Friends…studying about and for Lent…a Beth Moore Bible study…daily prayer time – all have been helpful in the “moving.”

Then, Throwback Thursday.

I was looking through albums on my Facebook.

What if I decided to remember the “good” in those pictures? The smiles and giggles of my children.  The time spent with one another, laughing and loving.  The time spent molding my children into God followers.

fam beach 2

What if I stopped dwelling on the broken, the what might have beens, the what should have beens, and the what ifs?

What if I chose thankful instead of resentful?

Being married beyond 2007 allowed me to homeschool my children.  They had a present mom, who sat with them, conversed with them, and loved on them instead of a mom scrambling to keep up with life on her own.

Yes, they suffered some under the tension.  Yes, they now come from a broken home.  Yes, their chances of healthy marriages plummeted according to the statistics. Yes, you can find research on all that crap online and in books.  And, it’s probably valid.

But, if their momma doesn’t live in the past – especially the past hurt.  If she can look up and look back with thankfulness for the story God has written so far.  For the good He has worked, provision He has given, and love He has shown…what might that look like?  How might that change our present and future?

Because truly…

Thus far the Lord has helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12)

He has not left me or my family or my husband to sit in brokenness. He is still present.  Still sovereign.  God continues to love and care for us – even when we can’t feel or see Him.

So, on this Throwback Thursday, I am remembering, “Thus far the Lord has helped me.”  And, He will continue.  When I look back at past pictures or recall previous years, I won’t analyze them for hurt or how.  I won’t ponder the problems or pain.

fam wvu

I will smile. Not in a “pretend all is ok” way, but in a “I am thankful for the good” way.

I am thankful for THAT moment when we all loved.  While those moments are gone, many new ones await.  God is still doing a good work in our lives.  We are still loving and laughing.

Early on in the divorce process, Owen asked me, “Mom, do you believe God still has a plan for all of us?” I said yes, but felt no.

All seemed hopeless.

But, yes, sweet Owen. God still has a plan for ALL of us.  He loves ALL of us.

Thus far He has helped us, and He will continue.

#TBT #Thankful

Where Am I Going? {Life’s Not Over, Just Different} {Lent}

Last week, I asked: Where am I?  Where are you? Longing for what was or might have been? Delighting in the life you’ve been given or yearning for a new one?  Stuck between the two, waiting on change or new or better?

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This week I spent some time reflecting on where I am through prayer, journaling, an Ennegram, and a friend.

So, I am now asking myself:  Where am I going?  What’s next?  What does God have for me?  As one who is in the biggest transition of her life, I have to be honest and say that until a few days ago, I have felt like…I am headed nowhere.  That I am stuck in a life I didn’t ask or plan for.  That I’ve failed at God’s calling on my life – wife and mom.  And, truly, that there’s nowhere left to go except existence.

But after this week of intentionally reflecting on where I am, I couldn’t help but ask…surely, God, you have more for me, right? Divorce doesn’t mean, “I called you to be a wife and now you’re not so you’ve failed.”

When I read this quote from Francis Chan, it confirmed what I felt God had been saying in my heart: We never grow closer to God when we just live life; it takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.

Deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.

My life is only “over” if I decide to dwell in pity and passivity.  My life is only “over” if I choose to be a victim.

Has the past been unfair?  Yep. Has the past seven years sucked life out of me? Sure.  Is my life over?  No way. (How dramatic;) In some ways, it’s just beginning. My future truly is unlimited in so many ways.

But.

My first priority must be “deliberate pursuit of Christ.”  He must be center followed by raising a Godly young lady and Godly young man.

Are there variables that I can’t control?  Oh, just a few hundred.  But, I don’t need to control those variables because God’s got them. One glance at my life over the past six months and His provision and timing are beyond evident.

Regardless of the season you’re in, I invite you to join me over the next 40 days as I focus on Jesus – deliberately pursuing Him, being attentive to His every promise and provision.  Learning He is enough; I am enough. Resting in what He has for me today, tomorrow, and forever.

These verses from Joel 2, summarize how I feel God’s calling me:  That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.”  Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish. (12-14)

In the book of Joel, God’s calling His people to repent and return to Him. God’s desire was to restore His relationship with Israel and bless her. Fasting, weeping, mourning – outward signs of repentance and sorrow for sin.  Torn hearts – hearts truly turning from sin, filled with sorrow.  In this passage, he’s inviting the Jews – as He invites us now – to repentance and new life.

I can see myself in the Jews in many ways. I’ve turned from God somewhat:   Angry.  Questioning. And, angry again. Yet, He still offers me what He offered them.  He desires for me to give my broken, angry, resentful heart to Him.

And, I am. (Today, again tomorrow, and over and over until He calls me home.)

I plan to come to Him, drawing closer to him over these next 40 days of Lent. I’ll fast from my beloved Diet Coke (No joke!) and gluten.  I’ll also spend time acknowledging the ick in my heart and mourning what I’ve lost while also repenting and asking God to put that ick and loss to death, resurrecting new hope and faith within me.

He will respond.

How do I know?

He’s merciful and compassionate.  Slow to anger.  Filled with unfailing love.

And, he won’t respond because I don’t drink my Coke or because I refrain from gluten.  He will bend my heart as I take my focus from food and to Him – asking Him to be my sustainer.

I also plan to attentively and deliberately spend time with Him daily. Regardless of my schedule.  Regardless of my excuses.  I will pursue Him as He pursues me.

To help me along this passionate pursuit of Him, I’m taking BE: an e-course through Lent, which focuses on Sabbath.  The course includes weekly prompts and expectations along with a Facebook group of sisters to love on and walk alongside me.

I pray you’ll join me over the next 40 days.  May we grow in and for Him as we fast from those things that weight us down and passionately pursue the One who makes all things new.

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If you’re curious about Lent, here are some links that can help you as you begin to explore what God has waiting for you over the next 40 days…and beyond.

Why Bother with Lent?  – Typically, evangelicals are shy about Lent. The 40 days prior to Easter—Sundays excepted—are known popularly as a season for giving up chocolate or other extras in order to show God how much we love him. With such impoverished notions, it is no wonder that Lent has fallen on hard times. So should we bother with Lent?

5 Ways to Revolutionize Your Walk with Christ – What if you spent the 40 days leading up to Easter walking alongside Jesus, listening to His life-changing teachings, visiting churches with Paul, and falling more in love with God with each turning page? You’re invited to read through the entire New Testament in 40 days —with a Sabbath rest each week by joining Margaret Feinberg’s #LentChallenge including a reading guide.

What Lent Really Means –   “Lent isn’t about forfeiting as much as it’s about formation. We renounce to be reborn; we let go to become ‘little Christs.’ It’s about this: We break away to become.”

Journey to the Cross:  A Free Devotional Guide– Lent strikes many Protestants as the exclusive domain of Roman Catholics, but this season can serve any Christian as a unique time of preparation and repentance as we anticipate the death and resurrection of Jesus. On the Christian calendar, Lent (from Latin, meaning “fortieth”) is the 40 days beginning on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter Sunday. (Sundays aren’t counted, but generally set aside as days of renewal and celebration—”mini-Easters” of sorts.) Whatever you might think about popular practices, Kendal Haug and Will Walker argue Lent is “first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives.”

Henri Nouwen also has free Lent resources as you prepare for the season. His free Lenten Book  Discussion begins March 5.

YouVersion Bible Reading Plans for Lent 

An Art Journal

A Prayer Chain