Monday, December 14, 2015

God's Unmerited Grace

O Israel, I will not forget you.  I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, 
your sins like the morning mist.  Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.  
~Isaiah 44:21

I have been struggling for the past few months with my sin.  The things I do, the things I think, the things I don't do.  All the things that add up to one big, fat, sinful person.  Of course I repent and ask God to forgive me.  But then I fall on my face the next day and do the same sinful thing over and over again.

A few weeks ago I asked my Hubby about habitual sins.  Because I needed someone to assure me that despite my sin, I was still loved and forgiven by God.  Even though I kept messing up.  Even though I felt like I was a horrible person because despite feeling like I was truly repenting, I obviously wasn't because I wasn't changing.  Basically, I was disgusted with myself and kind of afraid that God was going to wash His hands of me.  Maybe I'm the only person who's ever had that fear--that your sins were just too many or too habitual for God to wait around anymore for you to change.

I wrestled with this for quite a while, this fear that I would never be good enough.  That God must be pretty mad at me right about now.  That I was going to miss out on Heaven if I didn't get my life straightened out.  Because I'm a sinner who just keeps on sinning!  Despite going to church every Sunday, despite reading my Bible and praying every day, despite doing all the things, and repenting and asking God to help me to stop these stupid habitual sins that just keep tormenting me and making me feel unworthy and unsaved and like a total fraud!

My Hubby is such a wise man who just believes the Bible.  I asked him if we could ever repeat the same sin so many times that God would give up on us.  He gave me the "are you crazy" look and reminded me of this verse:

Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or 
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...For 
I am convinced [and continue to be convinced--beyond any doubt] that neither 
death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and 
threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, 
nor any created thing, will be able to separate us from the 
[unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
~Romans 8:35-39 AMP

God's love is unlimited.  UNLIMITED!!!!  Sin number 1,465 isn't going to be the sin that makes Him stop loving me.  Neither is sin number 1,466.  Because God's love is unlimited!  He forgives us every time we repent.  God's forgiveness doesn't run out.  

For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved 
(delivered from judgement and made partakers of Christ's salvation) 
through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own 
doing, it came not through your own striving], but is a gift of God; not 
because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law's demands], lest any 
man should boast.  [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, 
so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]
~Ephesians 2:8-9

I cannot will myself to stop sinning, I cannot grit my teeth and just stop it,  My willpower is not enough and it never will be enough.  

Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now 
trying to attain your goal by human effort?  
~Galatians 3:3

Only God can break the bonds of sin.  Only God can cover my sin with His grace.  Only God, Who loved the world so much, sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that whoever believes in Him will not die but have everlasting life.   I am still a sinner and I will continue to be a sinner until the day I die.  But God's grace, His unmerited, unearnable, undeserved grace is free and mine.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Come Away With Me...And Breathe

by Jonny Diaz
Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Wanna make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear You say just
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The Peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
Let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

When my kids started school, I had really big plans for the empty time I would suddenly have on my hands.  For a while I considered nursing school, but God led me in a different direction.  Through a God set of circumstances, I am instead serving with a Christian college group leading a small group and mentoring a few girls.  I was all set for a great year.

The first month my kids were in school, I floundered.  I have never had more than a few hours of "open time" on a regular basis in my life.  I went to school, I went to school and worked, then I worked, had babies, quit work to raise the babies and homeschooled.  Translation: I have had very little free time ever.

I went through a period of "empty nest syndrome."  All my life I have had a purpose and goals--do well in school, work at my job to earn money, keep my kids alive, educate them so they aren't dumb.  

When I suddenly found myself without any defined purpose or goal, I  felt useless.  My role went from "full time mom and educator" to "chief cook and bottle washer."  Super glamorous.  

I cried a few tears, moped around the house, started running needless errands, and found anything to do except just sit at home with myself and my cat.  I made myself super busy so I wouldn't have to think about the fact that I no longer had a defined purpose.  So I would stop feeling like a layabout mooching off Hubby.  

Then I went on a women's retreat with my church a few weeks ago.  I didn't want to go even a little bit.  I was feeling very low, unneeded, and unloved.  I seriously wondered if God had stopped loving me because I was no longer "useful."   I was praying for direction and not hearing anything.  In the depths of my heart, I asked myself if God had stopped talking to me because He was mad at me.  

But God is God and He broke through those lies to reach my soul.  I was praying in a room full of people with my eyes closed, and I saw Jesus reach out His hand to me and say, Come away with Me.  I tried but I couldn't.  I wanted to go with Jesus but I was being held back by this heavy suit of burden.  Jesus looked at me, reached out His hand, and unzipped my suit of burden.  I watched as it fell at my feet, a heavy, bulky, ugly suit of worries, fears, burdens, lies.  Jesus reached out His hand a third time and repeated, Come away with Me.  This time I grasped His hand and away we flew.

Today God reminded me of this moment because I needed it.  I was complaining to God, lamenting my troubles and pains that don't seem to be getting any better.  In fact,  for the most part, they have actually gotten worse.  (Last week I changed my name to Job.  Because that is how I felt.)  Then the song Breathe came on the radio, a song I'd never heard before.  It was a direct message from God to me.

I don't pretend to know what God is doing with my life right now.  It looks nothing like my vision for what this year would be.  And a lot of it is uncomfortable or downright painful.  Yet I am holding fast to God's invitation to Come away with Him.  And to: 

Breathe, just breathe

Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to take it in fill your lungs
The Peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
Let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Grass Isn't Greener...

This fall the dynamics of my family changed.  My children went off to school and we ceased to be a homeschooling family.  If you has asked me in early August what I envisioned my life would be like once my kids started school, I would have told you that I would have endless hours of free time in which I would paint dirty walls, purge every nook and cranny of my house, and would do lots of lots of service.  It would be a breath of fresh air and would restore my nearly burned-out soul.

I was wrong.

September was one of the hardest months of my life.  Yes, my house was tidier than usual and I purged a few closets.  I did some seriously neglected deep cleaning.  I did a little service.  But sending my kids off to school hasn't turned out quite the way I'd expected.

Being a school-mom is hard.  I hadn't realized how much of the daily housework my kids were doing until I was left to do it on my own.  There's no one to unload the dishwasher, no one to reload it throughout the day.  The kids don't have time to do their own laundry anymore.  I clean the bathrooms and vacuum the floors and mop the kitchen and feed the cat and carry in the groceries and run food down to the basement pantry and all the other many things to are required to keep a household running.

Setting aside the housework load for a moment, the main difference between being a homeschooling mom and a school-mom is that my kids aren't just mine anymore.  They go away for hours every day.  They come home and have homework.  Lots and lots of homework.  So much homework that we had to make a "no screen time on school nights" rule for the first time ever.  So much homework that our family's way of life has been significantly altered.  Evenings used to find our family reading, playing games, watching a show together, or taking walks,  Staying up late to watch a rare blood moon eclipse would have been a no-brainer before school bedtime entered the picture.

Take a trip to the cider mill?  Of course!  Let's go!  Except now we have to work around school days and crowds and weekend busyness.  And did you know that going to the grocery store could be lonely?  I miss my companions.  Even when they were trying to get me to buy sugar cereal and ice cream.

And then we had to deal with the "things that I did not teach."  The older two should have known how to write in cursive.  Well, the Hubs and I decided cursive was silly and chose to omit it.  Oops.  The kids all have typing class.  One of the kids is struggling to type fast enough because we decided to not do a formal typing curriculum but to let them learn to type organically.  Oops.  And yes, band practice sheets do actually apply to every student in band class.  (Eye roll)  Or, dear child, why have you failed every memory test in Christian Studies so far?  Um, because I lost the paper with all the memory work for the semester so I couldn't study.  Did you think to ask the teacher for another copy???  Ya, things like that.

Now, not everything is bad about the kids being in school.  There are some really good things that are happening in that department.  My kids are learning things that I didn't have to teach them.  They are studying for tests and writing book reports without complaining.  They just do their work with minimal help from me.  They are making new friends and having new experiences and growing in responsibility.  Lizzy is on the student council and David is running cross country.  Lizzy is playing the french horn and David is playing the drums and bells.  They have choir and gym class and typing and art that doesn't mess up my house.  They have Chapel and ask me to buy food to donate to the Church's food bank because they want people who need food to have it.  And lets not forget the science experiments that actually work!!!  Because we all know that my science projects always failed.

It's just me and Kitty, Kitty and me, all day long

As for me, I do have a lot more quiet time.  My house is very, very quiet during the day.  It's just me and Kitty, who follows me around like a lost puppy who misses her people.  She tackles the broom when I try to sweep the kitchen, she pounces on me when I try to make the bed, she meows at me and rubs against me and snuggles with me whenever I sit down.  Good thing I still have Kitty.  I am working on finding my stride.  Re-finding my identity now that I am no longer a homeschooling mom.  I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm working on it.

Now that I have seen school from both sides of the coin, I think it's safe to say that the grass isn't greener on either side.  Both sides have their green moments, and both sides have their manure moments.  Neither is worse or better.  They're just different.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Big Changes In Our Family

Sometimes life goes about following the same pattern year after year until one day someone stops and asks, "Is this it?  Is this what my life is going to be like for the rest of my life?"

I asked that question a year ago.  I asked that question a month ago.  "Is this it, God?  Am I going to homeschool my kids through high school, remain a stay at home mom, living in the same old house doing the same old things day after day after day after day??  God, there seriously has to be more to my life than this."

I wrestled.  Oh boy have I wrestled over the past year.  Two years.  Possibly three.  God told me to jump, and I jumped.  I expected grand things to happen immediately.  Nothing changed.  My life went on in the exact same fashion.  I started to feel itchy and angry and cheated.  "I TOLD You I would do anything, God!  Your job is to make something exciting happen!  And nothing has changed.  I'm still in the exact same spot doing the exact same things.  God, I want more."

Every time a song came on the Christian radio station that had lyrics like, You were made for so much more than this, or You were made to fly or anything that had to do with living an extraordinary life, I got mad and shut the song off.  Because clearly God did NOT create me to do anything more than to be a stay at home, homeschooling mom.  Fine.  I can be ordinary and boring.  I don't have to change the world or doing great things.  But I am done listening and believing those stupid songs because they are a lie.  Just dumb Christian propaganda that makes people feel like they are missing out on the great, Christian life.

Two months ago Hubby and I started seriously praying about sending David to school.  And possibly sending the girls.  We became official members of our church earlier this month which made tuition prices slightly more affordable.  I didn't tell Hubby this, but I prayed and prayed and then finally threw up my hands and said, "God, if you want us to send the kids to school, then the money will be there by March 8."  I picked that day because it was the day the school opened enrollment to new students.  On March 5, we decided we would just send David because we could comfortably afford to send him.  The girls we would wait on because their tuition would stretch us financially beyond what I was comfortable with.

March 8 someone asked me if we would send the girls to school if we had help to pay for their tuition.  I said yes.  They said they would help us.  On March 8.  My arbitrary deadline.

March 9, Hubby and I were laying in bed before going to sleep and I said, "I wonder why God wants the kids to goto school.  Obviously He worked it out so there must be a reason."

In early February Hubby told me that when he was praying for me during his prayer time, he felt God tell him to support me in what would make me happy.  I just laughed at Hubby and said, "I sure wish I knew what would make me happy."

March 6 God woke me up in the middle of the night and told me that the thing that would make me happy is to become a nurse.  I prayed about it, I thought a lot about it, I looked up nursing programs online.  And then a week later I asked Hubby to pray about it.  That I wasn't sure if it really was from the Lord or just my desire.  Hubby seemed to think I would do better at writing.  So I agreed to pray about that.  I told Hubby that I felt like I was at a crossroads: writing or nursing.  And I could only pick one.

Two days ago I set nursing aside and decided writing was the way to go because nursing will be hard and expensive and take time.  Yesterday I was reading a book, All The Places To Go: How Will You Know? (God has placed before you an open door.  What will you do?) by John Ortberg.  I didn't even make it through the first chapter.  I had to shut the book and take action.

"It took me years to realize God may have good reasons to leave choices up to us rather than sending us emails telling us what to do.  I had to struggle with the decision.  I think maybe that's part of why God works through open doors.  They help us struggle with our real dreams and motives.  I got no divine direction or supernatural indicators as far as I can tell.  But I chose [the riskier option] because the adventure of yes seemed more alive than the safety of no."

I knew immediately that I needed to pursue nursing.  If I didn't, the "what if's" would hound me for the rest of my life.  I needed to pull up my big girl panties and kick fear to the curb.

I set the book down and grabbed my laptop.  I looked up the nursing program I was most interested in and submitted an application to enroll in the school.  I requested my old college transcript be sent to the new school.  And it felt right.

This afternoon Hubby texted me and said: "I think you should follow the nursing path.  At least far enough to get a clear understanding of what the costs are, in time, in money and in peace of mind.  I heard from the Lord that you need to at least explore it and I need to support you in that.  To help you settle something that's weighing on your soul.  And if the more you learn the more you desire to do it, you should go for it."

I kind of laughed and thought it was a good thing Hubby agreed with me, because I'd already taken steps in that direction.

So I am pursuing becoming a nurse.  My secret, pie in the sky dream.  The thing I've wanted to do for years but set aside because I had little kids, and I homeschooled, and it's a lot of money and time and I might fail.  I watched my mom go to nursing school when I was in junior high/high school.  I know how hard it was for her to do the nurse thing and the mom thing.

About five years ago Hubby decided he wanted to goto law school.  He took the LSAT and was awarded a full ride scholarship to the local law school based on his score.  He was all set to go, had his start date for the program, and then felt like he had gone far enough down the path.  He withdrew from the school before even starting and we both agree the entire thing was more about Hubby needing to know he had other options if he ever wanted to change careers.

I don't know if I will actually follow this path through to the end, or if I will get a few blocks down the road and decide that is far enough.  I don't even know if I will pass Biology 201!  (Do they think I remember anything I learned to earn that Bachelor's degree???)   But I am going to pursue this path until God says, Stop!

Come the end of August, our lives are going to be flipped upside down.  My kids will be going to school, and probably so will Mom.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Weight Loss Journey--In For The Long Haul--Being Honest

Head first body sledding--Lizzy is all in

Almost two years ago I started on a weight loss journey.  I bought a copy of Trim Healthy Mama and got right to work losing weight.  I dropped 45 lbs in six months and had never felt better.  But then life took over, motivation waned, unrelated health issues sucked the energy out of me, and I started coasting.  I still followed Trim Healthy Mama most of the time.  Just enough to maintain my weight but not enough to lose.  Until the past six months where I've started gaining back a few of the pounds I'd lost.  Until today where I've put back on ten of those hard earned pounds.

Of course I've told myself over the past year and a half that I needed to stick with the program 100%.  Of course I've berated myself about being undisciplined, unmotivated, lazy.  I've talked the program up to anyone who asked, I've helped others understand this way of eating and given lots of suggestions for where to buy the less common foods that make THM more enjoyable.  I've prayed and made small attempts to jump start my weight loss again.

But nothing has stuck.

I was praying about a few things this week--things in my life that I'd like to do, that I've dreamed of doing, but have never actually done.  Those dreams you have that are bigger than life and seem impossible but somehow you know you'll never be completely whole, completely you until you've pursued them.

Then I started reading a book, The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst.  And something clicked.  She said, "A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.  An underwhelmed soul is one who knows there is more God made her to do.  She longs to do that thing she wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about...Time marches on without ever seeing her thing come into being.  What if we dared to take time to write out that new height or new big goal for our lives?  The thing we want but never really plan for?  And write down the first steps for accomplishing that thing?  And actually schedule time to work on those first steps?"

And I started to think about all the things in my life that I want, all those things that my soul craves, all those resolutions I made a month ago, all those wishes and dreams that I shove aside and never act on, all those passions that God has placed in me that I have ignored.  This is where I have relegated losing weight over the past 18 months.  Something I wanted but wasn't willing to go all in for.

Today while waiting for the shower water to warm up, I looked in the mirror.  I saw all my lumpy bumpy-ness and was sad.  Sad that I quit.  Sad that I let life get in the way and suck away my motivation.  And I wanted that weight loss.  I wanted to stop farting around and doing a half-arsed job at reclaiming my health.  Because I am tired of dragging around this extra weight.  Tired of watching all my hard work just slip away one pound at a time.  Tired  of not finishing what I started.

Yes, I am still Lisa no matter what I weigh or how I look.  I am still beautiful no matter what the scale says.  But almost two years ago I started this journey with a goal--to get into my "healthy weight" range.  I started out with a BMI that put me in the obese range and I cheered when I crossed over into being merely overweight.  But I am not content, or done, until I finish this.  No more wishing and wanting and dreaming and hoping with no actual action.  As of right now I am all in.

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