Monday, November 26, 2012

Ups and Downs

Not really sure what about the winter season that makes my emotions so intense. I hate to publicly admit this, but I fear my tear ducts are gonna dry up from overuse. I'm so blessed and so thankful for the gifts I've been given. It leaves me overwhelmed with so many emotions. Happiness at the promise of new things, fresh beginnings, blessings surrounding me and God being first in my life. Sadness that I feel like I have lost so much in the last couple of years. I have alternated between happy and sad tears so often lately, my poor mind doesn't know if I'm coming or going.

I have moved out of my Thanksgiving state of mind and into the next cold season. While I love watching the leaves change color, I hate the dreariness of naked trees, gray skies and early nights. So thankful that twinkling lights are coming out, brightening the darkness for a little while. I'm ready to get in the kitchen and start baking and baking and baking. I have found this absolute love for cooking, this release I get when a meal tastes ten times better than I remember it. I used to sort of enjoy cooking, but I have realized, I am actually g pagood at it and really like it. Thank God, too, cause we gotta eat...

in the midst of tears, I find such incredible joy about what this season represents. I love knowing people are more open to hearing about the birth of our Savior. I mean, seriously, who doesn't like to think about snuggly newborn babies in all their newborn awesomeness? People are in high spirits, getting ready for giving gifts, spreading joy and seeing their families. It is a joyous time of year.

This morning, though, I wish I could just pull the covers over my head, and wake up to springtime. I know in a little bit, this will pass, and I will be excited and ready for this season. My halls are decked, the stockings are hung, and I feel empty. It's crazy, but there are so many unknowns this year. I think uncertainty is stealing my joy, and I have got to take it back. Maybe something warm and smelly will take care of that. And definitely some praise and worship. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Wind and the Waves

I am gonna start by saying I love knowing what I do is important.  I love knowing I do have a purpose in my life, even if it is for a season.  I love seeing kids excited to see me, and more than that, I love hearing 18 kids scream "Jesus!" at the tops of their lungs.  Let me say, seeing their enthusiasm and trust in God never ceases to remind me of how simple loving and trusting him in all things is.  I mean, sure, the biggest worry on their mind is whether or not they will get seconds on veggie straws, or whether their drink will be purple or red, but still.  It is so simple, so easy.

Tonight, I taught a simple lesson on Jesus calming the storm for the disciples.  "Oh ye of little faith'" kept pouring through me.  So much so, I finally had to remind myself I have enough faith, and that when it fails me, grace takes over.  I was teaching the kids that Jesus and his disciples often travelled by boat to get someplace, because their only other source of transportation was donkey or feet.  So, we quickly checked the skies for signs of storms, and boarded our "boat."  We rowed out to the middle of the lake, we were enjoying our journey, and then, the winds picked up.  The clouds rolled over the sun, the sky got dark.  Then, it started to rain.  Yeah, really.  Wind, rain and dark.  In the classroom.  The kids loved it.  And, hearing their giggles and screams and enthusiasm made my entire day.  Anyway, standing their, turning the fan up and down, spritzing them with spray bottles of water, I was reminded of how much God does the same thing.  He watches me board this boat of mine, setting out to do these remarkable things.  Haha, or even not so remarkable, just everyday things, and its like He says, "Ok, Cil, whatcha gonna do with a little wind?  That didn't get you down, so let's try some dark times...  Oh, well, that didn't work, so lets add some waves and lots of rain."  And, the kids?  They laughed.  I wasn't exactly sure what the reaction would be, and honestly, I was a little nervous.  I didn't know if any were scared of the dark, or if they would freak out getting rained on.  But, don't you know that God is sitting up there, doing pretty much the same thing?  No, he doesn't order evil or condemnation in my life.  But, he will see how I can handle certain storms.  The disciples finally found Jesus, sound asleep, in the midst of complete chaos, and felt frustration because of his lack of concern.  The men reprimanded Jesus, King of kings.  Prince of peace.  Can you imagine?  Immediately, Jesus stands up and utters a short command.  Three words.  Three.  No long drawn out command.  Just a simple phrase.  "Peace.  Be still."  And, the winds and waves obeyed the Master and died down.  Astonished at the cowardly behavior of the men, he questions them, " Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?" 

Sometimes, this teacher gets more out of the lesson than her students.  It was so easy to read this story this afternoon, getting so judgemental against the disciples for questioning Jesus about his nap.  I mean, seriously, Jesus wants to nap, my goodness, let the man nap!  The Message version says it like this "Is it nothing to you that we are going to drown?"  And it hit me hard tonight.  How many times have I cried out, "Lord, do you not see this situation?  Do you not care?  I feel abandoned by you, where in this world are you?"  And, my questioning is no different than the disciples concern.  So, telling this story to the kids, I had such a hard time not choking up.  Who are we to question what His intentions are?  Why do we feel like we need to know what He is up to?

Sitting here tonight, I am so in awe of the God I serve.  I mean, this massively awesome Creator knows where every single sparrow is right now.  Why would he not care about me?  For a long time, I turned away from God's unconditional love.  I served him,  I worshipped him, I loved him.  But, I couldn't receive his love within me.  For so many years, I knew how undeserving I was to receive any portion of his love.  How unworthy, how worthless I was as a human being.  These beliefs were so constant in me, I couldn't fathom the God of the universe genuinely loving me.  And then.  I think about it, and I just want to cry out with praise that I finally get it.  I believe it.  And, thank God, I receive it.  Nothing I can do will ever deserve it.  I will never be worthy of it.  But, that is where the faith starts moving in.  His love is here, in me, regardless.  He can say to my waves, crashing around me, "You ridiculous waves, disastrous winds, get out of her way.  She is my daughter, and you are bothering her, impeding her journey.  Just stop." And, that hurricane-like storm will have NO choice but to move.  So, who am I to ask God, "Do you see me down here?"  The simple answer is that He does see me.  And this storm in my sea has the most amazing peace in the midst.  Waves gently lapping at the boat, dolphins jumping out in the horizon, sunset remarkable shades of colors I can't even describe.  It might take some heavy paddling, some scooping up water out of my boat, and waves crashing in around me to get there, but it is so gonna be worth it.  So, when my world seems like I am drowning, all I have to do is say, "Master.  Take my hand.  Hold me up.  With you in my boat, I will not drown." 

I am reminded once again of the amazing verse in Isaiah that says, "Don't be afraid.  I've redeemed you.  I've called your name.  You're mine.  When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you.  When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.  When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end - Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.  I paid a huge price for you, all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!  That's how much you mean to me!  That's how much I love you!  I'd sell of the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you."  On days I am really struggling, I will change this verse just for me.  It has been my life-line on days I really thought the world was caving in on me.  I will read it out loud to my reflection in the mirror like this, "Don't be afraid, Cil, I've redeemed you.  I have called you, Cil, because you are mine.  When you, Cil, are in over your head, I will be there with you.  When you, my precious daughter, are in over your head, I will be there with you.  When you're in rough waters, you, Cil, will not go down.  When you are between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end - because I am God, Cil's personal God, the Holy of Israel, Cil's Savior.  I paid a huge price for you, Cil, all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!  That is how much you, Cil, mean to me.  That is how much I love you, Cil.  I would sell off the whole world just to get you back, trade the entire creation just for you." 

I will just say this.  How can you not face whatever battle you are facing with God confidence when you insert your name instead of mine?  It is impossible.  Speak it to yourself in the mirror.  It works.  When I look out at those waves that were threatening to overturn my boat this afternoon, I almost want to laugh.  Who am I to worry about the waves that God controls?  God has this; He has me, sitting right there in the palm of his hand.  What in this world do I have to fear?