Monthly Archives: January 2013

Mentored To Hear

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James1_5Her text said, “When you have 10 min call me.”

I was at a giant crossroad needing to make a giant decision.  I shared my situation with her because I needed wisdom and guidance beyond my own.  She took notes as I shared and said she wanted to pray about it.

Honestly, she didn’t have to pray.  She is wise and insightful and discerning.  She could have given me a wise answer immediately.  And now you know why I consider her a valuable mentor: she put aside her own thoughts and took time to pursue hearing God’s thoughts.  An incredible humble woman who knows God’s wisdom is higher than any of ours.

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“When I asked God for direction for you, He spoke to me about something else: “He wants you to remember what He sees in you and who He made you to be.”

She shared what God had spoken to her about me, His design of me, and His plan for my life.  She suggested a practical way for me to hear His voice for decision-making.  She gave me a passage of God’s Word to think about in this time.

She did not tell me what to decide.

It needs to be noted that she has a big dog in the fight.  My decisions affect her life.  My decisions either keep our families in proximity or move us apart.

I knew what she wanted me to decide.  And I am amazed at the way she put aside her own needs and encouraged me to hear from God and no one else.

This is the way she mentors in my life.  Mentoring me to hear for myself.  She isn’t hoping or expecting me to walk out my life as a carbon copy of her.  She isn’t even asking me to consider the pragmatics of her life as an example to be followed.  She is solely and completing pointing me to hear and follow Yahweh.

Reminds me of the Chinese Proverb: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

Wonderful.

Confession:  I was hoping for a prophetic word that would rescue me from having to make the decision myself.

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As a nine-year-old I was faced with a terrifying decision.  Two girls from my fifth-grade class had announced birthday parties on the same day, at the same time.  These girls were enemies and everyone invited to these parties were going to, by their attendance decision, declare which side they were on.  My Mum listened to my tear-filled explanation but didn’t provide a rescue.  “Making hard decisions is part of growing up.” She said.

I all-too-clearly remember the emotional and mental struggle I went through that day.  At dinner I cried, “I just wish I could go to both!”

“That’s a great solution,” my Mum encouraged me. “You have found a way to be friends with both girls. And I’ll gladly drive you to both parties.”  (Oh Mum, thank you for being so merciful and rearranging your day to serve my silly party needs. You have always given so much to serve my needs.  I am so grateful for your sacrificial love and care.  I pray I will develop the same heart for my kids.)

This was a defining moment.  It was my first “out-of-the-box” solution.  My first time seeking for an answer that brings love and community vs. finding the “right” and the “wrong.”  Years later, I can look back and see that creative, inspired, strategic decision-making is a gift God has developed in me.

Funnily, I don’t remember the parties but I will never forget the lesson: The decision-making process is worth the struggle involved. It is a crucible for growth.  It is a sanctuary for knowing Yahweh and His heart.  It is an opportunity for the eternal to intersect with my temporal.  Where God’s Kingdom floods mine.

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I’m at a crossroad again.  And as I wrestle and struggle to find direction, I am remembering and reflecting on the wisdom of these two wonderful women of God.  And I am grateful for this opportunity to dig into the presence of God and listen for His vision and direction.  Praying for the courage, endurance and fortitude to know God more through this and not just be focused on getting a solution!

All your children will have God for their teacher –  what a mentor for your children!  (Isaiah 54:13)   Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)   So we have continued praying for you ever since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. (Colossians 1:9)   If you need wisdom — if you want to know what God wants you to do — ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. (James 1:5)

To Be Loved

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Do everything in loveIt’s such a strong compulsion.  A constant yearning.  I just want to be loved.

In this, I am my own worst enemy.  I am highly self-critical and am prone to daily self-analysis and rebuke.  Oh Carl Jung.  I understand that my introvert personality is in conflict with my heart convictions about doing life in the context of community.

Being at home, alone with my thoughts and God, is sanctuary.  Being with people, verbally processing, is vitalizing.  And I struggle to find the right balance and combination.

I deeply crave to do life WITH people.  To share our journeys.  To intersect and intertwine.  To learn and grow in community.  My StrengthsFinder report on my Connectedness strength says I am “guided by the notion that no one can live life without some help from others.” 

It’s true.  I believe that I cannot live life without some help from others.  I seek out mentors and wise people to glean from.  I look for the feedback and insights of others.  I want to team with people.  Collaborate.  Link arms.  Co-labor.  I open my heart and lay out my life journey.  I am looking for others who want to do the same.

But often I walk away regretting my attempts.  Wishing I hadn’t tried.  In my pursuit of intertwined community, I have become scarred by rejection.

My incredibly wise and caring husband has advised that I cut certain people out of my life.  He says I should carefully choose who I listen to and who I share life with.  He says that I thrive with health when I’m around people who speak into my life with exhortation and encouragement.  He’s right.  The problem is, I have a deep conviction that community takes a lot of work and that you have to commit to walking through hard stuff as well as enjoy the joy of the good stuff.

Recently a wonderful wise godly mentor said that she likes who I am.  She said that I am a source of great joy in her life.  That the thoughts that I share impact her life in deep and good ways.  She said that she loves me.

I am actually tearing up right now.  It feels like her love has healed past rejections.  It feels like a grew wings and I’m soaring above the brambles of criticism I’ve been hacking my way through for far too many years.

There is so much power in her love.  Our relationship is slowly breaking down my cage of self-critique.  Her words are injecting life and vision and joy into my identity.  Her encouragement is exposing just how powerful and damaging judgement and criticism has been.  I have been carrying a torch for contempt.

This is such a layer-upon-layer issue for me.  I highly regard honest feedback.  I prize self-reflection and growth.  I want to always be instantly sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  But I keep ending up in the bondage of feeling judged, condemned and unloved.

“Do everything in Love.” (1 Cor 16:14 NIV)

I do a lot of things in Love.  But here’s something I am lacking Love for: me. I am not a fan of me.  I do not love myself.  I will pour out my all for people and for visions and for projects.  But, it seems, I don’t deem myself worthy of the same level of care and love.

Once again I’m desperate to find the balance of having a strength of identity and a joy of loving life… AND being receptive to growing, turning and changing.  My pendulum has swung too far and is stuck.

So here I am today, sipping coffee and thinking about love, being loved, and loving myself.

When will I believe all that Yahweh says about me?  Oh Father God help me be free.

Gift: Christmas

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Christmas TreeA few weeks before Christmas, I realized I had extremely high expectations.

(Note: This is not unusual for me.  Every year I have high expectations.  It’s the one holiday the US and Australia share in date and in tradition.  Christmas, for me, is an annual connection with my past with my family.  So, Christmas is really important for me. But this year, the expectations grew to a whole new level…)

This was my “first” Christmas. My first time as family Christmas CEO. We are typically with my husband’s family for Christmas but this year the plan was to stay home.

It was our first time to establish traditions for our own little family. My first time to use traditions from Australia and from my childhood. My first time to unravel the 15 years of bandages I’ve wrapped around my tender homesick heart. (Have I really been here for 15 Christmases?!)

Fifteen years of dreams. And here it was: my chance to make them all come true.  I was ready to use elements from my childhood, my family traditions,  and Australian traditions.  I wanted special foods. lots of gifts, and special decorations.  I was oh-so-ready for my “first” Christmas.

Except, it was not just “my” Christmas. It was my husband’s Christmas and our children’s. And my husband’s parents were coming to spend it with us, so it was their Christmas too.
Except, our income covers our basic needs, not Christmas dreams.
Except, no amount of recreating my childhood would reclaim the Christmases I have lost with my parents and sister.

There was too much riding on this Christmas.  My expectations were ridiculous.

So, I forced myself to unclasp my grip on Christmas and deal with my emotions.  Of course, it was the right thing to do.  As a wise friend once told me: you have to grieve what you thought you had, so you can love what you do have.

It was good.  I got to sift through my heart and find the things that really mattered. My husband and I got to talk about his dreams for Christmas. And we, together, got to purposefully plan for our little family’s Christmas celebrations.  Of course, as we talked we found ourselves moving away from “family” traditions and talked more about Faith and relationship with God, about Church gatherings and Scripture, about giving gifts and sharing life.

Christmas is not a Biblical holiday but a man-made remembrance. I love having this blank canvas for the artistry of our Faith and family.  And so, my husband and I worked out a plan within our budget.  Not the awesome 15-year dream Christmas… but still good.  (Yes, yes.  I know: It really doesn’t matter what we do as long as we have love and joy.  My head knows it… it’s my heart that isn’t convinced.)  Slowly but surely, I made peace with my non-dreamy but still lovely Christmas.

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Can I just say, I would like to stop right here?  This is a good story.  And it has a great moral: love what you have.

Selah.

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But there’s more… sigh.  And it’s very humbling.

I would have been happy with our “non-dreamy Christmas.”  It would have been a wonderful time of celebrating Emmanuel: God with us.

The Truth is:  God is enough.  Who He is.  His love for me.  My Life in Him.  Is enough.  Should be enough.  He is more than enough.

And yet, this Christmas Yahweh did something very kind to me.  Very intimate.  Very personal.  He gave me a gift: Christmas.

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A Lengthy Epilogue

(Optional reading. For those who really like to know the stories behind stories.  Seriously, continue reading at your own risk.)

As I was sorting through my swirling emotions and years of baggage, some amazing things happened:

– The gift of a Christmas tree.  We found a coupon for a real tree for $14.99 and the kids and I had so much fun decorating.  It might sound silly to you, but having a Christmas tree each year is deeply rooted in my journey with God.  He knows, having a Christmas tree is one of my Christmas essentials because it literally brings my Australian Christmas to life.  A few years ago, when we were on extremely limited income, a gorgeous tree and trimmings literally arrived on our doorstep.  It was a defining moment for my relationship with God.  I had been crying and crying out to Him as my homesick heart ached for Christmas joy.  Christmas trees are a symbol for me that only He knows the depth of.  Finding a tree each year is now firmly rooted in my journey with God.  And finding a trying for $14.99 is a silly but beautiful reminder of His love for me.

– The gift of Christmas dinner.  A dear friend gave us a grocery card.  My husband, amazing cook and “acts of service” guy, got to dream up a special menu to serve his family and parents.  Food, or more to the point the “fear of the lack of food,” is an issue in my life.  As a child and teen, my family went through some very difficult times and food turned up on our doorstep many times.  Those times gave me a strong faith for His provision, but also a tension of fear.  For me, food is a symbol of security, stability and peace.  God has walked me through a journey of trust in this area.  He knew that by filling our home with food for Christmas, He was speaking to the deepest part of my heart.

– The gift of gifts for our children.  Our church family gave our kids Christmas gifts  and we qualified for the Marine’s Toys for Tots program.  There were so many gifts for the kids, I actually gave some away!  My “love language” used to be gift giving.  When I was very young, I created Christmas gifts for my whole family by taking food from the fridge and putting it in decorated shoeboxes.  By Christmas Day (in the tropics), the food was moldy and I remember so clearly my mum gently encouraging my gift-giving whilst speaking correction and direction about the source of my gifts.  Not the fridge.  Not taking without asking.  Needless to say, the next year we made a family trip to a department store and with a ten-dollar-budget-in-total I picked out gifts for my family.  I LOVE giving gifts.  I said that my love language used to be gift giving.  With limited finances, gift giving has lost its joy.  I’ve tried hand-making things on the cheap but, despite the birth of pinterest, my creativity has run dry.  That to say, my heart was giddy with excitement to have a tree surrounded with gifts to give my children.  Once again, my Father God whispered His great love for me.  He sees me and knows my heart.  So humbling.  So affirming.  What a generous, personal, merciful God He is.

– The gift of giving.  Another dear friend gave me beads and pearls for my jewelry making.  Yet another friend gave us another grocery gift card.  With these, we were able to make and buy gifts for our dearest friends and my husband’s parents.  As I said, I love giving gifts.  My husband is also a gift giver.  His story is very different to mine, however.  He is not a normal every day garden-variety gift giver.  My husband is a gift giver of grand proportions.  He loves to give the world to the people he loves.  It is very difficult for him to think of gifts to give people, because all of his ideas have outrageous price tags.  If he could, he would buy houses for everyone he loves.  He would own a jet and give people trips to amazing places.  He would ease financial pains and fill lives with joy.  His dreams are huge and awesome.  He is a wonderful man.  Sadly, his gift giving heart doesn’t have the financial room to spread its wings.  Except this year something of epic smallness happened:  he wanted to give people gourmet popcorn.  Funny, I know, but you should know it’s the best popcorn ever.  AND, he actually thought of a gift that was under a million dollars!  We had so much fun giving that silly popcorn.  Our Father God invested in our ability to bless others.  It was a taste of what our dreams for Christmas are:  to thank and bless the people we love.

Christmas 2012 Summary:  High expectations, let go.  New vision, embraced.  Dreams of my heart-of-hearts, come true.

Manual Transmission Epiphany

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The kids slept soundly as we chugged into the city.  I say “chugged” because our new-to-us car has a few character distinctives.  A few quirks, rattles and clunks.  My least favorite is its very touchy clutch that tricks me into stalling on slowdowns.  BUT I shan’t complain.  This cheap little “simply-to-get-us-there” vehicle has halved our gas bill!  That’s right.  So she can make as much noise as she wants to.

Although I’m glad to be saving gas money, I really miss driving our Ford Escape.  For 11 years we’ve had that SUV.  She’s been part of our life here longer than pretty much anyone else!  I loved that above-the-traffic viewpoint.  And the comfy seats.  And the roomy interior.  And the cruise control.  And the sound system.  And the cup holders.  And the smooth ride.  And a speedometer that works.  And the automatic transmission.  Ah glorious car.

Yet at the same time, I LOVE the zoom-zoom control of driving this little manual transmission car.  It’s like being part of a beast.  A vital machine component.  Firing in time, as part of the team.  My brain engaged.  My muscles in tension. My heart rate up.

As I changed gears over and over in the city traffic, I saw a metaphor of my life.

In life, I have seasons in automatic.  Seasons in cruise-control.  And seasons of fully engaged, heart-rate up, takes-every-ounce-of-energy-I’ve-got manual living.

Right now I’m in a manual transmission time.  Everything takes effort and attention.  My medical treatment.  My food restrictions.  Our little kids.  Our finances.  Our places in our church body.  Our roles in our community.  It feels like everything is requiring me to have my brain engaged fully.  Changing gears over and over.  Each turn, purposeful. Each leg of the drive, exhausting.

I was feeling exhausted.  The kids were waking up crying and I was in a part of the city I’ve never driven before.   The GPS said to turn right but the traffic sign said I-5 north.  And I wanted a totally different freeway.  I had to make a quick call.  I threw on my blinker, gear-changed down to third, and zipped over.  As I eased into the exit lane, the reflection of a quickly-breaking vehicle filled my rear-view mirror.

Oh dear.  I feel terrible.  I am not a rude driver!  I do not cut people off!  This is not my normal way!  Please forgive me!

I wish I had a giant bumper sticker:  “Warning: Not used to manual driving. Unjustifiable rookie mistakes currently in progress.”

For the car.  And for my life.

I’ve totally done that to people.  Emotionally, relationally, socially.  Made decisions for myself that has resulted in cutting someone else off.  I’m sur e I’ve appeared reckless.  I’m sure I’ve appeared rude.

But I’m not reckless.  I’m not careless.  I’m not malicious. I’m just in over my head.  I’m just trying to get used to this season of manual driving.  Trying to stay in my lane.  Trying to be cautious of other lives.  Some days, all my energies are taken just in trying not to stall out.  Sigh.  Warning: Not used to manual living.  Unjustifiable rookie mistakes currently in progress.

If I cut you off in traffic… or in life recently… please forgive me.  I’m still getting used to this manual life season.

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I’m totally amazed at her reaction.  The lady I cut off, didn’t honk.  She didn’t throw up her hands.  She didn’t even look mad.  She looked totally peaceful.  Graceful.  Gracious.

She reminds me of all the amazing people in my life who are pouring out grace, mercy, forgiveness and love to me and everyone around them.

I want to be like that.  I want my knee-jerk reaction to be Love.  I want to be ready to make room for people who need grace.  That is the revolutionary cry of God’s Kingdom.  Love is THE most powerful force.  Love changes everything.  So grateful for Yahweh’s transforming Love.  It is essential that I operate in that Love.  I am not His if I don’t.  What a deep and good challenge.

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. (1 Peter 4:8 The Message)
The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love – so you can’t know him if you don’t love. (1 John 4:8 The Message)

Deep Dreams Lost

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It was the day of her baby boy’s funeral.  Her son had gone to live with Jesus at birth.  I cannot fathom how she got out of bed that day.

That day, as my heart bowed down in grief for my friend, I heard news from another friend.  At 34 weeks, her baby girl had passed into eternity too.

Stillborn.  Sweet toes that never get to touch this earth.  Eyes that open to see the face of God instead of the face of their mummy.  A life that skips over the temporal.  Lungs left unfilled.  Mother’s milk left behind.

The depth of this grief cannot be known but by those who are forced to endure it.

I feel like an uninvited guest at a private event.  My heart hovers over the sacred ground of their journey.  I dare not pretend to understand.

And yet, I feel a tinge of knowing.  The devastation of deep dreams lost.

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The expectation of a beautiful beginning.  The anticipation of a brand new season full of life and hope.  The investment of years of planning, dreaming, building and preparing.

Leaning toward the future.  A new era that will affect every facet of life as we know it.

But it doesn’t come.  A bend in the road.  A tragedy. Dreams lost. Potential unrealized.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
(Proverbs 13:12 NASB)

We were created to create.  Made by the Maker.  Designed by Elohim in His image and likeness.  Our minds, our hearts, our bodies bear fruit.  We are compelled to birth new things.  We are fulfilled as we create, design, craft and launch.

Despite the odds.  Even when the cost is great.  We dare to face the loss, because the possibility of success exists.  What else can we spend our earthly lives doing?  Is there anything else but this?

My heart is unable to imagine what these sweet mothers are going through.  But their journeys have changed me.  I am praying today with new depth.  Praying for them. Praying for me.

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.
(Psalm 56:8 The Message)

Letter #1: Love Christmas

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IMG_1267Our Christmas decorations were totally packed up when the thought raced through my heart: What if I die before next Christmas?  And immediately my next thought was: I should have taken photos of the ornaments and journaled about them so my kids can know how special they all.  I did not unpack everything to take photos of ornaments.  But I did spend the rest of tonight thinking about all the things I would want to say to my kids if my time on earth was short.

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2013: Letters to my sweet kids #1

My amazing daughter and wonderful son,

I love Christmas.  My childhood Christmases with my wonderful family were filled with love, laughter and worshipping God.  Then I moved here and spent a Christmas alone.  During that lonely day, I opened a gift a lady had given me.  It was a simple but beautiful box. The sticker on the bottom was like a kiss from God: “Alabaster.”  The story of the forgiven woman in Luke 7:36-50 has been special to me for many years.  The full love Jesus has for her is the love I feel from Him for me.  That gift was from my Father God.  Only He knows how much it would mean.  That was my first Christmas away from my earthly family but firmly in God’s hands.  (P.S. That box sits on my dresser as a daily reminder for my heart.)

Christmas ties the two hemispheres of my life together as it’s one of very few things that Australia and America have in common.  Christmas ties my two realities together is I fill my natural senses with symbols of the supernatural.  Christmas is about my story: Yahweh loved me so much that He came to earth to redeem me back into relationship with Him. Loving Christmas reminds me of who I am and whose I am.

My children, love Christmas.

Let the season stir your heart with joy as you celebrate the massive gift of His Love: Emmanuel. God with us.

Let Christmas draw you back to your foundations: Faith, family and Love.

Celebrate the whole month.  The moment Thanksgiving is over, put up a Christmas tree and special decor.  Dress up your home up and set your mind towards celebrating.

Let your heart be moved and filled with wonder.  Play the music and sing along.  Read Isaiah 9 and 53. Read Luke 1:1 – 2:40. Worship and thank Yahweh for His Love and Plan. Enjoy celebrating!

Let your calendar be full of church family gatherings, and celebrations with friends and family.  Fill the whole month with time with people you love. Savor the sights, scents, flavors and feelings.

Love Christmas!

Year-round we walk the journey of Faith and relationship with Yahweh.  At Christmas, dive in to the holiday joy and celebrate the beautiful plan of His salvation and the power of His Love in your life.

Christmas is about your story too: Yahweh loved you so much that He came to earth to redeem you back into relationship with Him. Loving Christmas will remind you of who you are, and whose you are.

I love you, Mum. (Jan. 1, 2013)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows— light! Sunbursts of light! Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy! The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings. For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. (From Isaiah 9 The Message)