Saturday, January 24, 2015

On Handling Disappointments

The big word is always TRUST. 

We all know one of life's Big Questions is "where is God when bad things happen", or some variation of that. One of the things that has been pressing close to my heart this past week is from Romans 8.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (Romans 8. 35 NLT)

What I hear in this passage is that regardless of my circumstances, I am still God's beloved child (I John 3.2) and I will never be snatched out of His hand. (John 10.28) Unless I willingly choose to step out of His protection in pursuit of my own selfish pleasures of this world, unless I am turning my back on God's will for my life, I am and will be, forever firmly planted in His care. 

It's been difficult to understand this long stretch of financial challenges Bruce and I have been traveling. If Life is a Road then there have been times when it feels like ours looks like this:

The hills and the valleys both bring challenges, the hairpin curves feel threatening, fog and rain make it difficult to navigate. There's been flat tires, engine failures and empty gas tanks. We've had to get out and push the car up the hill some days. (I'm speaking metaphorically, you understand) And it's been difficult to comprehend because it's not like we drive a clunker. In other words.... we are persistent in trying to follow what we believe is God's will. 

What it comes down to in this life is this: Trust. It's so crucial isn't it? I have to trust other people in order to build real relationships with them. I have to trust that things we set out to do will yield positive results. And I have to trust that God's Word is true. Trusting that God has the best plan for my life. Trusting that whatever life brings, nothing can snatch me out of His hand.

This week we got the news about the job Bruce applied for. The answer was a disappointing no. I thought I would be crushed by this, based on how badly I was rooting for it. The funny thing is, I did feel sad and disappointed and yet ...not without hope. While my first thought was "noooooooo!!!", my second thought was "God has something else in mind." 

There have been times I have wondered if we were somehow being punished for something we did--which I could accept being in dire straights if we were operating under illegal or immoral principles. I'd get it if we were lazy people who didn't want to work. But the God I know doesn't operate that way for people who follow Him. I don't follow the 'name it and claim it' theology but I do believe God wants to bless us. I am learning however that sometimes His blessings come in very different packages. 

I have to trust that what we are living is all part of God's plan for our lives. That even when I can't see what the purpose of the moment is, there is a higher purpose. Whether it is to teach us or someone else a lesson, to develop something in our character that still needs refining, or to build up something in us that no one can tear down, I need to trust God.

I must choose to trust God. Because any other option will break me. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8. 38-39 NLT)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

while I'm waiting

Well, the week came to an end without any definitive word about the job. Patience is a virtue, right? (she says tapping her fingers impatiently) But, God is doing something in this time, of that I am sure. So, no worries...

The song that keeps coming to me is  "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller. A sample from the lyrics are:

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait

And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am peaceful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it's not easy no, but faithfully I will wait
Yes, I will wait.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Divine Appointments

I wasn't going to write about this until I knew what the outcome was going to be. I was convicted however, by the reminder that no matter how this turns out, it's still God who is in control. God, who knows what's best.

Last week as I perused the classifieds a job posting caught my eye. I mentioned it to Bruce as a possibility for him. He was intrigued enough for me to send him the listing to examine for himself. While the job was definitely within his realm of interest and skill set, he was a little iffy about pursuing it as it would take him out of active home building and design, something he still really loves to do. Still, a job is a job and with our roller coaster economic situation all opportunities need to be explored and considered.

A couple of days later he had business to attend to at the place that was advertising for help. As he parked his truck he decided, for various reasons, to not ask about the job. He tends to be a bit of a "fleece thrower" and he just wasn't sure this position was a direction God was taking him. As he stood in the parking lot one of the guys who works there, a guy who Bruce deals with almost exclusively for all his material orders for construction jobs, came out to greet him. This wasn't strange really, but still, a little unusual. J. told Bruce he had a couple of things he wanted to Bruce to know. First, he told Bruce, he was retiring. (Ah, the reason for the job opening) That made Bruce a little sad as he really trusts J. and enjoys doing business with him. The second thing, J. pressed on, was he had already given his boss Bruce's name as a candidate to replace him. 

You can imagine the shock that rippled through Bruce at that moment but he maintained composure and a lengthy conversation ensued. This was followed by a chat with the manager of the store. While nothing was settled by these discussions, Bruce left there with his head spinning slightly. He certainly recognized this was not a coincidence by any means. In fact he knew this could only be a God-orchestrated moment and he felt obliged to follow through on this as far as he could.

You can probably also imagine the reaction he got from me when he got home and shared all of this with me. While I TRIED to maintain a neutral expression and refrain from telling him what to do, my body language CLEARLY told him anyway. We had quite a conversation about the possibilities and what to do next. Then, putting it into prayer and the Lord's hands, we tabled it.

The next morning he was called and invited to come in for an interview. On Monday he had the interview. It went well but he had no real sense of what they might be thinking. There were of course, several other applicants to meet with. But we should hear something by the end of this week. Until then, while I am anxious for a decision, I am also watching Bruce wrestle with this:  What is God calling me to do? Is He calling me out of construction after clearly leading me into it 30 some years ago? If I don't get the job what should the take away be from the way this opportunity was crafted?
Other questions like: am I ready to walk away from home building and instead be supplying materials to other home builders? I've been looking for work but the opportunities are slim. My body can't keep up with the physical demands of construction; I need to be using my administrative and managerial skills and let the younger guys do the physical stuff.  

And so on. It's not easy when you've been self employed for over 30 years to lay that down in exchange for being an employee. Even when that means steady income and somewhat less stress.

Sigh. I'm watching and praying.

Experiencing the Divine Appointment of last week has reminded me just how much God is involved in the minute moments of our lives. That verse about knowing the numbers of hairs on our head and if He cares about the sparrow, how much more He cares about us?* It's true and this was driven home so clearly for me this past week. I am having my own wrestling match with my thoughts that range from how clearly this IS a God- moment and how I believe that Bruce will get the job and life will settle down and be somewhat calmer, to preparing myself for him to not get the job-- or worse, he's offered the job and feels led to say no-- in which case I have a friend lined up to help me hide the body--(JUST KIDDING)  but through it all, remembering that God knows the plans for us... plans for good and not to harm us, plans to give us a future and a hope.**

Knowing, and believing, WHO is really in control, is keeping me sane.

* Matthew 10.29-30
** Jeremiah 29.11

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

When Introverts Have Meetings

It should be no secret by now that I'm an introvert.

And... just in case you are confused, let me assure you --for the record-- that I am not shy, reserved, or anxious. I'm actually quite the opposite; gregarious, outgoing, fun and adventurous.

In it's simplest terms think of a battery discharging energy. An introvert is one whose battery is drained by being around people and stimulation, while an extrovert's battery draws energy from those things.

My sister and I (both introverts) often chuckle over things that are suggested in our culture that have to have come from an extrovert. At church for example. When the pastor says turn and greet 3 people you've never met before, or, let's all join hands to pray. Those are exciting fun ways to connect... for the extrovert. For an innie like me, not so much.

At social functions where I don't know very many people, I tend to navigate to a quiet corner and seek out one person (that I already know) to converse with. Having to make small talk with strangers can choke me into paralysis if I'm already tired. Add loud noises and several things going on at once, and you might see that 'deer in the headlights' look on my face. That is if I haven't already snuck out the back door.

Let me clarify, that this is NOT a social dysfunction -it's not an anxiety attack or shyness or fear. It's that my brain has to process things, analyze things and if there's a lot of stuff going on around me it takes energy to filter it. It takes energy to mix and mingle. It takes a lot of energy to engage with others, especially if we don't already have a relationship established. And as the event goes on, more energy goes out and with no time to re-charge, eventually the battery goes dead.

Over the Christmas holidays we ended up having back to back parties to attend. Both were being held in the homes of people we know and love. However, at both houses, the rooms were filled with LOTS of people who also know and love them. But to me, those other guests were all virtually strangers. My husband was excited to meet and greet, mingle and laugh. His battery was getting charged up by all this interaction.

For me... well, it was a completely different story...

There was a lot of noise, it felt crowded and chaotic. I looked around for that quiet corner to hole up in, hoping I could sip a glass of wine and observe. As the evening went on, I could feel my battery draining fast and soon I was operating on reserve and that was dissipating as well. The thought of sitting down next to someone I didn't know was so overwhelmingly beyond me the very thought of it made me my skin crawl.

Thankfully, my sweetie recognized the signal I was sending and we were able to make our polite good byes and escape.

I remember the days before my husband truly understood my introverted nature. We'd enter a large gathering place-- a concert for example,  and because we'd not had a previous discussion about  it, he sort of expected me to choose where to sit and he would follow me. I'd stand at the back, almost frozen because the largeness of the room, the amplified noise and the unknown of all of it rendered me literally unable to make a decision. I didn't know where to sit because my brain was too busy trying to process all the stimulation around me and filter it into appropriate categories. Now that he better understands me he knows when we arrive some place new that I really do  NEED him to just take the lead. Don't ask me where I want to sit, just find us a place and lead me there!

I can play hard and love every minute of it when in a group of people I already know and am comfortable with, but eventually I'm fidgeting to be done. Ready to go home, put on my PJ's and curl up and veg. I relish and cherish my alone time, but that doesn't mean I don't  love people! I do need to be socially interactive. I just want it to have meaning.

So, it strikes me as funny that I now head up a women's writers group, which I'm willing to lay bets, is largely comprised of introverts. ( I don't have percentages to back this up but I think a large majority of writers are probably introverts)

Why this is funny to me is that when we started the group, most of us did not know each other. And what's more dreadful than going to a meet up with of a bunch of strangers? (Answer: going to a meet up with of a bunch of strangers and engaging in small talk! EEk!) It's been helpful to hide behind the hand outs of guidelines and reading our written words, rather than make surface talk around the table. Over time we've built a rapport, and gotten to know each other better and found connections of the heart and soul.

We have several gals who joined the writers group but haven't made it to any of our monthly meetings... and I wonder if the idea that they will have to face a room full of strangers and make small talk is just more than they want to pursue. I want to assure these ladies that I understand completely and I don't really blame them for choosing another activity (like staying home!!) over our meetings! I  also want to assure them that because I do understand, I can promise there will be no hand holding, no greeting 3 people you've never met before and really, no surface-y small talk.

Being an introvert is a wonderful thing. It's not something that needs to be fixed, as extroverts sometimes think. But it is helpful to recognize the differences between an introvert and an extrovert and then work to honor those differences. After all, this is the way God made us!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

It's Brand New And I'm Tired Of It Already.

Day 3 of a brand new year and I'm already grumpy. I guess it's not the new year that has me grumbling, but rather the season. Winter has only just begun according to the calendar but the cold wet weather has me down, down, down!

I started compiling a list in my head about all the things that complicate this time of year for me.

1. It's cold. 
Cold means finding ways to keep warm.

Our house tends to be drafty and we heat with a wood burning stove.

Bringing in fire wood daily means wood chips sprinkled on the carpet, which means vacuuming WAAAAAY more often than I want. My back does not appreciate this, nor do my shoulders. (Of course the obvious option is to not vacuum again till spring but ignoring the trail of wood fibers just goes against my nature)

Dust is an ongoing issue and it collects in my nasal passage as well as on the furniture. My sinus's do not appreciate this anymore than my back or shoulders do. I should buy stock in Allegra.

2. It's cold
Cold means finding ways to keep warm.

I have to dress in layers this time of year, whether I am staying inside or venturing out.

I have a nice collection of fleece lined leggings that do a great job of keeping me cozy. But... if you wear your leggings under jeans like I do, we are faced with another little issue...known as the Force of Gravity. Ever since the invention of stretch denim this conundrum has existed. Because you know as the day goes on that the stretch part of stretch denim means gravity will eventually win.

I can feel my jeans sliding down my hips ever so slightly, rubbing against the fleece which causes the leggings to begin to slide downward as well. You know what that means right?  Yes....the undies travel with them. Seems I'm stopping every 5 minutes or so to gently tug all things upward... one layer at a time. Not so easy to do in a lady-like fashion when you are out in public. Who am I kidding? There is no lady-like fashion in which to do this.  I found myself waddling precariously through Fred Meyer's the other day, as the crotch of my leggings somehow snaked past the crotch of my jeans and no matter how tight I cinched my belt I could not keep them upright where they belonged. (Try wrestling your panties out of that mess on aisle 9 and see what kinds of looks you get!) (on second thought, DON'T --I'm not sure I can ever shop at the store again)

The other issue with dressing in layers is a word most women shy awake from in the fashion world.

No, sorry. Not THAT kind of BULK!!

You know what I mean, right? You may have starved yourself through the holidays only to look in the mirror and see a much wider silhouette than you prefer once dressed and while you can blame in on the layers, you just know everyone else is thinking "she packed away a lotta truffles this Christmas."

Or, if you did indulge in every cookie, pie and chocolate goody and are now paying the price by squeezing into your jeans, you find that the added layer of fleecy means the stretchy part of your denim will indeed be getting a work out and when you look in the mirror at that wider silhouette, you know it's not just the layers talking.

Sigh. It's depressing no matter which way you look at it.
But. At least you're warm, right?

3. It's cold.
Cold means finding ways to keep warm.

And what better way to keep warm than to exercise! And what a perfect way to shed those unwanted holiday pounds!

Unfortunately, because it's so dang cold or wet (or both) you need to dress appropriately for the weather. I add extra-extra layers when I am going for a walk. (Of course the sound of the coat zipper triggers something in my brain to send a signal to another part of my body that necessitates some disrobing in order to 'take care of my business' before heading out the door. Dang it!)

And walking, (or waddling in the case of the slippery legging syndrome) does manage to work up a little bit of a sweat so that halfway through my routine, I find myself desperate to shed a layer somewhere. Of course, this isn't likely to happen because when I turn around to head back to home I face a wind that whips through me and the dried on sweat bringing chills. It's hilarious.

4. It's cold.
Cold means finding ways to keep warm

Toddy has it figured out.

Some days, the only logical solution is to make something hot to sip, grab a book and a blanket and pull your chair as close to the fire as possible.

Veg there all day long, ignoring the dust on the furniture and the wood chips sprinkled across the carpet. Get lost in that book, and occasionally gaze into the flames and dream about tropical vacations --or, central heating, take your pick. I'll take central heating... because it's only the 3rd day of the new year and we are barely 3 weeks into winter, and as you can probably tell...I'm tired of it already.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On Setting Goals, Being Smart and Choosing My Word

I had my word for 2015 all picked out a couple of weeks ago. I even shared my word last night with my husband as we waited for the clock to strike. The word was "Joy" and it's a beautiful, lovely, meaningful word but this morning on my walk, as frosted grass crunched under my feet, the Lord spoke a different word to me.

It's not a new concept, anymore than Joy is. I looked over my words from the last few years; relationships, gratitude, love.... are on the list. As I reflected on the new word I realized that I have a pretty good grasp on joy these days but grace is a more slippery fellow. The more I chewed on it the more it became clear to me: I need grace and I need to extend grace. The more I read Facebook, newscasts and blog posts and the more time I spend in traffic, grocery stores and relationships, the more clearly I see how desperately our world needs more grace. And I was convicted that it starts with me. I need to extend grace to those who offend me, extend grace to those who are hurting, to even extend grace to myself! I need God's grace every day or I'd be in such a deep deep hole I'd never see light again. And if I need grace so desperately I can only imagine how much others need it.

While a new year usually brings up the subject of setting resolutions, the latest trend is to set some goals instead. I like that. I recently came across this nifty little acronym about setting SMART Goals. It goes like this:

(sometimes I see Action & Reasonable in place of attainable and relevant )

I remember back when I had my fitness center, when a new member joined, we'd set goals with her. Often the woman would say she wanted to lose X amount of weight. We'd ask "why?" so we could keep the reason for doing so in the forefront of her mind. Just as often the answer was: I want to be healthy. Which is great but I always pressed further: what exactly does that mean to you? What does healthy look like for you?

One of my favorite answers was from a gal who truly struggled with obesity. She thought long and hard and finally in a whisper and with tears in her eyes, replied that she was a brand new grandma and she wanted to be able to get down on the floor to play with her grandbaby. In her current condition there was no way she could get down on the floor, not to mention, get back up. She was able to keep that picture in her mind's eye about kneeling on the floor with her grandson and playing games and it kept her motivated to stay with the program and lose the weight. (The day she brought in a picture of her laying on the floor next to her 2 year old grandson playing with his train set was a red letter day for both of us!)

Ah, yes, good memories.

Smart goals and a word to live by. That's my focus this first day of 2015. 
What's yours? 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Like Loaves and Fishes

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. Mark 6.41

Despite the leanness of the last few months, where work has been scarce or spread too far apart, we have survived.

 Once again, our Faithful, Loving, Miracle Working God has carried us through. 

As I sat at the desk the other day balancing the checkbook and going over the bills, I sat back in grateful amazement as the truth of our situation sunk in. We had made it through another month. 

From September till about 3 weeks ago, there has not been a 40 hour work week for Bruce. I am not even sure there has been a 30 or a 20 hour work week! Instead, the work has come in spurts, a day here, two days there... which is often the case in the winter months but some winters seem leaner than others and harder to bear. 

Yet, somehow, in God's wonder-working ways, we have made it through. He has taken what little we had and multiplied it in a way only God can do. Like a basket with just some fish and loaves of bread, He has increased it to make it be enough. 

I am constantly amazed at the way God works and yet, in that crazy mixed up way that often contradicts my faith, I can so easily forget His faithfulness and let fear rule. I chide myself for being so flaky in times like these. I know God is for me, I know His plan for me is good, so why do I allow anxiety and worry to prevail?

 I'm human, that's why and maybe the only way I will remember God's provision is to experience the desperate need for it.