Sunday, March 31, 2013

Captain of the Storm

I have not been in an Easter sort of mood today.  Nothing seems to sit right with me, I am tired, I am weary, waaa-waaa-waaa-waaa-waaa... So, I celebrated.  I praised.  I went to church.  Did the things I was "supposed" to do.  And, because I had this brilliant idea to put devotionals and new Bibles in Easter baskets instead of tons of candy or cheap toys that I will throw away next week, I had three little girls anxious for bed because I promised we would read together before bed.  One on one.   God has a hysterical sense of humor, just saying'...

Sara and I snuggled down, she looked up the verses in her devotional and read them at the appointed time, I read the devotional part, and we prayed together.  With her, this is our routine anyway.  She was having horrible nightmares, trouble sleeping, and worrisome thoughts keeping her awake.  About a month ago, we decided we were going to find her one scripture to think about while she was falling asleep, would pray for God's hands to comfort her mind, and she would sleep on her Bible.  Well, it worked so well we haven't stopped.  And, she totally reminds me when I am in a rush.  Not one single nightmare, either, thank God!  Anyway, one down, two to go.  I turned off the lights and just longed for my own bed, with my own thoughts and alone-ness

I get to Cassie, who lost hers already, which is out of character for her.  She read it and just couldn't remember where she left it.  She was upset, I was tired.  We compromised, piled in the same bed and read out of Jessie's new Bible**.  It is really impressive by the way.  Detailed stories, vivid pictures and tonight, it spoke straight to this hurting Momma's heart.  I let Jessie pick, started reading, thinking it was the same old story, and was so teary eyed by the end I wasn't sure I was gonna get to finish.  And I knew I had to write.  So, here goes...

I have mentioned more than once or twice (or five or ten or a thousand) times that I am weary.  I am tired of waiting.  I am tired of feeling battered around, drifting at sea.  I am in the final months of school, the workload is insane.  I am juggling two different jobs (thank God for the money, but...), and realized recently every night of the week has something going on.  I refuse to give up my ministry or my church life.  I can't quit work, and God knows, I can't quit school.  And my kids don't even do sports that I could cut out.  Busy is no longer an adjective that describes me.  It is just the state of being that has taken over me.  I rush from this to that to that to this, then to this other and back again.  I feel like a chaotic, exhausted, sorry, crazy mess.  I want this.  I need that, and it just keeps repeating.  Or worse, the kids need this, then that and multiplied times three adorable girls.  Insanity.  Absolute insanity.

My life right now feels like a massive storm.  Winter feels unending, no sunshine, gray skies everywhere.  Both mentally and literally.  My heart is heavy and dark, with so little hope inside.  I see no end to the mental season in sight.  School won't end until October, which feels like a decade away.  This single period of life remains unchanged.  No fun dates, no flirtations, nothing.  I hate admitting it, because I feel entirely weak and useless.  I feel unattractive and old, then mad because I shouldn't allow myself to be discouraged by human men's view of me.  And yet, all the feelings remain, just the same.  I see these situations looming over me like dark thunderheads rolling in, just waiting for my destruction.  I feel like I am one wave away from losing it all.  Crazy thing is, life is really good.  I have nothing to complain about.  I have a relationship, a dependency upon God that I never could have imagined was possible.   I have girls who love God and trust in Him for far more than I can.  I have financial security. I have a very reliable car and more than enough food in my pantry.  I have clothes on my back and the girls, and cute ones at that.  I am blessed.  But the storm within rages all the more. 

Anyway, back to my total God moment.  Jessie flips through her Bible, and decides she wants the story with all those stars.  In my head, I thought "Yes!  I know this, I can do this.  God's promise to Abraham is easy, and the star illustrations were incredible!"  And then I look at the page she is pointing to.  It says Mark 4 and Matthew 8.  Yup, wrong already.  So, it is instead the story of the disciples crossing the sea when an unexpected storm comes up.  "The storm blew the water into towering waves that hurled the little boat up, up, up -- then sent it hurling, CRASHING back down, down, down!"  That was the moment I knew this story was not gonna be easy for me to finish.  I was reading and talking to God all at the same time, trying to not think about how that boat really symbolized me.  It went on to say. "Jesus' friends had been fishermen all their lives, but in all their years fishing on this lake they had never once seen a storm like this one.  No matter how hard they struggled with their rope and sails, they couldn't control their boat.  This storm was too big for them."  And, I had to admit, in all my years, I have never felt as hopeless as I do tonight.  And for no reason beyond the fact my human mind just doesn't understand.

You know, my storm is, simply put, too big for me.  I am out here, spinning around, thankful to not be sinking, but not feeling like I am getting anywhere else either.  This storm overhead is making me lose control of my boat, and there is only one big enough to get it back on course.  We turn the page to see the storm still raging.  And the words, oh how they speak to me.  Even now, tears flow.  "But the storm wasn't too big for Jesus.  'Help," they screamed...Jesus stood up and spoke to the storm.  'Hush!' he said, and that was all."  And then sweet Jessie's stars came out.  The storm quieted.  The power held in one four letter word.  And He spoke to my heart. "Be still.  Just be still."

Here is the part that still kills me.  "Then Jesus turned to his wind-torn friends.  'Why were you scared?' he asked. 'Did you forget who I Am?  Did you believe your fears, instead of me?" Why is it when the storm is at its worse we forget who made that storm?  Why is it that it is so simple to simply believe it is our job to just keep our little boat in control, instead of just asking God to remind the storm who the boss really is?  This is the same God that sent His son to die for me, only to raise Him again.  If He can be brought into the world without, well, what makes a baby, heal the sick, make wine from water, raise the dead, and then overcome it himself, really, what I am I so stinking worried about?

"Jesus' friends had been so afraid, they had only seen the big waves.  They had forgotten that if Jesus was with them, they had nothing to be afraid of, no matter how small their boat or how big the storm."  And there it is.  The problem is, I see too much.  I see the decisions, the weight of one wrong choice and the consequences that could be mine.  I see three little girls who trust me completely to do what is best for us.  I see me, making decisions that really take two minds.  And I start thinking how small my faith is, and whether or not my promise was really God given.  I see the circumstances, instead of telling my circumstances to meet my God. 

Today in church, I struggled not to think too much.  Not to let my mind or my heart or my anything get too far away from the words on the screen.  And my heart just screamed, "Lord, do you hear me?  Do you even know I am here?  Where are You and why aren't you listening to me?"  Let me just say, when Pastor said something almost exactly the same, I didn't think it was God speaking to me.  I just thought, "At least I'm not the only one."  I am so stinking hard-headed.  He hasn't left me.  He hasn't walked away.  He isn't sitting up there, laughing, ridiculing or making fun of me.  He just wants me to learn that regardless of how big or long this storm is, He is still bigger, and He wants to know that He is still my captain. 

The question I have to ask you (while asking myself too) is this:  Do you trust Him, believe Him enough to let him direct your boat, however small it may be, or do you see the huge waves crashing and know it's all up to you?  He will speak to your waves, just like He's speaking to mine.  Unfortunately for us, we gotta let go of the helm for Him to take us where we need to be, gotta listen to Him speak over our wind and waves and allow His peace to wash over us and our situations. 

**Jessie's Bible is the Jesus Storybook Bible and can be bought here.  Lol, and I am not being compensated in any way to write a review, tell this story, and this is also not an affiliate link.  This is just a really awesome Bible!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Life Just Happens Sometimes

Sitting here, watching the girlies dance to Taylor Swift, watching it rain with a steaming cup of coffee in hand.  Not much could be better.  The last six weeks have been an insane rush from one thing to another, and today, this is exactly what I needed.  Peace.  And noise.  And giggling girls. 

My Grandma passed away at the beginning of March.  We knew it was coming, and were waiting for it, but the reality of it was this: I wasn't exactly ready.  She taught me so much about life, love and who I am.  She was an incredibly spunky lady, who knew what it meant to love and live life to the fullest.  She taught me how to play cards with dignity, and how to lose with grace.  She also taught me how talk smack and win with an air of cockiness.  She taught me how not to have a poker face, and that it is okay to show excitement over a good hand, because it really isn't all about winning anyway.  She taught me that games (card, domino or board) are an amazing way of creating a family bond and some of the sweetest memories of my life.  She taught me that it is okay to let things go, but that some hurts may take a lifetime to get over.  She taught me how to make a mean egg salad sandwich, and that sometimes, the easiest way to show someone you love them is through their belly.  She loved baseball as much as any girl could, and while I know she loved the sport, mainly she just loved all those men in ball uniforms, cause those uniforms totally gave her a better view of their backsides.  Apparently, some things really are genetic... 

I was so incredibly blessed with inexpensive airfare to get there for her service, which was beautiful.  The pastor that spoke emphasized the way Christians will wait for each other to arrive.  And I know she is waiting, encouraging and smiling at me from up there.  I was blessed to be her granddaughter.  She was a strong woman with an amazing zeal for life that I can only hope people will remember me for.

While I was there, I was so blessed to be able to spend some time on the beach.  I love the beach.  Maybe not so much in a bathing suit, but walking, listening, just being still, I love that.  I love that as I walk life out, knowing exactly who I am, the beach is one of the most spiritual places ever.  Watching the waves roll in and out reminded me of the season I am in.  Waves come, waves go.  Days come in, bring their struggles, their frustrations, the happy moments, and growth, and then get washed away to start again.  Reminding me that God will wash away the stuff that needs to be taken back out to sea, while still leaving the stuff that needs to be there. 

A thought occurred to me while watching huge waves crash the shore right before I came home.  God washes so much away, but still leaves the sand.  Moves it around a little, but leaves it.  This verse resonated within me: "How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!"  And I realized, He is never going to leave me empty or disheartened.  He leaves the good.  He washes away the bad.  Feeling the sand shift underneath me just helped me realize His thoughts may change about me.  But they are all good, and so many they cannot be counted, far more than the sand.  And, let me just say, that is a lot of goodness! 

Upon coming home, I took the girls to visit my sister and her family in Texas.  We had an amazing trip.  Lots of cousins racing through the house, laughing, playing, scheming.  I am so glad all of the kids are actually old enough to just go play without needing help from the grownups.  It was nice to sit and talk with grown-ups, to laugh and plan and just carry on.  A much needed break from reality was great! 

And, now, I find myself in the midst of figuring out how to just keep going.  I am not sad about my Grandma like I was, especially because I know where she is, that she is waiting for me, and that she isn't hurting or confused anymore.  But, I find myself wondering what people will say about me when the time comes.  I so long to be the woman of God that has it all together and all figured out.  But, really, does any woman of God really fit that description?  We all have flaws, and God knows all about them, because He put them there.  But how do we depend on God to get us through those weak spots? 

You know, this spot I am in completely feels weak.  I am so incredibly tired.  I have less than 7 months left of school.  I have less than 7 classes.  I have an amazing GPA.  I have worked hard.  But how do I stay strong enough to finish this thing?  Then, I look at the obvious.  I am a 28-year-old woman waiting on God to provide me with someone to spend the rest of my days with.  Obviously, I don't need this man to complete me, provide for me, or make me someone I know I'm not, but I so long for something more than I have.  I try to be content.  I try to wait.  I try to not take matters into my own hands.  And then, that stupid voice in the back of my brain nags at me: What is wrong with you that no one is interested?  You will never ever measure up.  And, in those moments, I am learning what it feels like to fully rely on God to make me who I am going to be.  I am learning that I have to shut those voices up and walk with Him, even when I'd much rather do it the only other way I know how, which didn't involve Him the first time.  I have the most amazing little girls on the face of the planet.  But, there are days, I just need help.  Not even so much for them, but for me.  I know they need a present and positive male role model.  I get that.  But, I also get that I need someone to give me another perspective on what they need and what they don't.  So, I wait. I pray.  I thank God for the miracle underway.  And it is hard.

I want this to be encouraging.  I want someone to read this and say, "Wow.  That is just what I needed."  Except, I have used this to complain about my plight instead of focus on how amazing it is to be free from abusive situations, to be able to make Godly choices for my kids and myself, and to be able to be self-sufficient, more or less.  To think about all of the ways God has helped me make it through this wilderness.  To think of the blessings that I have, and not because life was easy, but because I have learned to lean a little harder on God.  He is the God of the impossible.  Thinking back over some of the miracles Jesus performed in his time on Earth can only prove my miracle will happen.  School will eventually end.  I will have the strength to maintain my grades and walk tall across the stage at graduation.  There is an incredibly special man out there looking for us, allowing God to lead him here.  It will happen.  After all, Jesus not only healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and walked across water, He conquered the grave.  Writing my happily ever after will be easy-peasy after that! 

I hope this post finds all of you out there preparing for an incredible Easter weekend.  I know we are ready for at least 2 egg hunts, if not a third.  The girls are happy, and I am happy they know why we celebrate.  Jesus is risen and alive in my heart.  Nothing better than that!  I am gonna get to ironing Easter dresses and getting ready for a fun-filled celebration weekend.  Happy Easter!!