tomorrow

Tomorrow, I turn 36.  I have kind of a love/hate attitude toward my birthdays.  If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I like the thought of having a day when I get to feel special.  I like gifts, and not having to cook, and my family doing extra little things for me that they might not normally do.

But, as much as I try to not have high expectations of my birthday, I tend to have vain hopes of extravagant gestures that never quite get met.  And then, usually, my day heads south pretty quickly.  Because at some point, I get disappointed at others not really seeming to care much that they’re supposed to be celebrating me, and then I feel guilty because I realize just how much I don’t deserve to be celebrated anyway, and I often end up wishing that there was no such thing as a birthday observance. This generally results in Tim feeling like he has dropped the ball in some gigantic way, and I’m left trying to explain my irrationality to him in a way that won’t insult his always eminently practical, but still completely selfless and loving approach to making my day special.

So, I’m trying to prepare myself for tomorrow.  I’m trying to set reasonable expectations.  I’m trying to adjust my perspective to look for good in the simple things and not really care about the rest.  And maybe this year, I will be able to demonstrate that I have, indeed, reached a maturity level beyond that of a ten year old.

our girl is 9

Bethany is nine years old today.  She is beautiful and I love her.  There are so many things about her that are remarkable.  She is strong – both physically and in conviction.  She is brilliant, even though spelling still confounds her.  She is so capable…just really a quick learner, when she wants to be learning.  Her memory is astounding – she can reiterate something she has read almost word for word without having put any effort into memorizing.  She is affectionate and exuberant and always optimistic.  She is full of ideas and full of hope and full of zeal for life.  She is quick to forgive and keeps no record of wrongs.

She looks for beauty in everything and has the heart of a rescuer – a salvager.  In her eyes, there is nothing that is beyond fixing up or cleaning up or restoring to usefulness.  In this, I most clearly see in her the likeness of her Savior.  She looks past the dirt and the brokenness and sees what could be…maybe what once was, or what was hoped for, or what transforming might do, and she values and finds purpose.

She is moving past little girl years and there is maturing and refining happening in her.  I miss it a lot.  Though I worry that I’m going to fail her, I am so very thankful that she has a God who never will.  He has a plan for her life that even I can’t mess up.  And the more time passes- the more I see the foundation that is forming in her – the more excited I get to see how His plan unfolds in her life.  She is an exceptional and precious girl.  Happy Birthday, Miss Bethany.

 

hearing Him

I’ve been doubting my ability to hear from the Lord, lately.  It’s not that I don’t think He’s speaking to me.  I just question if what I think I’m hearing is Him.  I wonder sometimes if my heart gets in the way, if my unintentional biases color what I think He’s saying.

I’m guessing it’s not supposed to work that way.  It’s supposed to be about knowing His voice, right?  Being able to tell when something is only me, or when something is Him, or when something is just nothing at all – isn’t that what it means?

But there are things that I desperately want Him to be saying.  There are areas where I fear I might choose to not listen if He was trying to tell me something other than what I think should be said.  So, I hesitate to put stock in what I think I’m hearing.  Because I don’t want my hopes to be misplaced, and I don’t want to stubbornly cling to something that will prove wrong in the end.  And when circumstances don’t seem to support what my heart says He’s speaking, I become more convinced that those words I thought for sure were Him were really not, after all.

I don’t know how to be certain, or even confident.  I want to hear clearly, and then be able to trust His voice when the rest of life seems to be against it.  But I also want to be able to just trust His goodness and sovereignty when I’m not hearing anything at all.  I falter there, too.  Really, that’s probably what this comes down to in the end, anyway.  It seems like that’s always what it comes down to.  In all of it, I obviously need to know Him more. 

God, help me know You more.

Izzazilla

Isabelle is ten months old today.  Her newest nickname aptly describes much of life with her these days.  While all babies tend to some destructive tendencies, and are generally not known for being especially gentle at this age, Isabelle has demonstrated aptitude in both taking advantage of every opportunity to get into something she shouldn’t, and in being adept at behaviors that can best be described as vicious.  Biting, hair pulling, scratching, hitting, grabbing and mauling are all common occurrences.

And, as much as is possible for a not-quite-one-year-old, she can take it as well as she dishes it out.  With so many older siblings, and a less than gentle closest-in-age sister specifically, there are many bumps and tumbles, accidental and not, that come her way.  Except for the times when she has decided she is wanting the attention that comes with being the injured baby, she is only rarely phased by any of it.

I would be concerned if it weren’t for the fact that her personality seems to be an inherited trait.  I can’t count the number of times throughout my childhood that I was told of the attitudes and actions that I displayed as a baby, which seem remarkably similar to those I’m seeing in my girl.  It gives me a particular affinity for her, and makes it easier to extend grace when I think she might rip the nose off my face.  It also makes me acutely aware of the need to purpose to teach her about compassion and gentleness early and often as she grows, so that she doesn’t follow in my footsteps and reach adulthood before recognizing the need for such things.

Not that she is anything other than her own person, and she has a cheerfulness and tenacity that are definitely not qualities that I’ve ever possessed.  She smiles easily, plays happily, and loves clapping (really, it’s her favorite thing to do).  Her usually unflappable nature fits perfectly in our house of sometimes more… flappable?…others.

Brutish-ness, mayhem, growls and all, we love our Izzazilla.

I have dark circles under my eyes.  Various under-used muscles are sore from exercising them yesterday.  Sleep last night was poor because of a baby girl waking up her customary 3 times through the night, and because the aforementioned sore muscles made me uncomfortable.  My house is less than neat and tidy.  There are items on my to-do list that I kind of wish were just done already.

But, there is joy in my heart today.  I have a thankfulness for my children and my home and my life that tends to be hard for me to come by, most days.  I have peace about this day.  There is a renewed awareness of the impossibly bankrupt state of my soul, and of the great redemption that God has miraculously worked on my behalf – this truth that makes my heart ache with gratitude and awe.

He makes life worth living, in so many ways.  I just thought I’d take a moment to say so.

all for You

I hear the whisper, lay it down

- to count the cost and follow hard

I think about the sacrifice

not Yours, but mine, and raise my guard

sometimes it seems too much to give,

these treasures grasped with stubborn hands

trinkets though they may just be

I doubt Your right to make demands

I want to say, then promise me

- to make my will of highest aim

that hurt and loss won’t be my end

nor dreams abandoned for Your fame

I know You work all things for good

but, still, You promise troubles, too

my gaze that’s set on self and now

I struggle to lift up to You

for though I claim to know Your gift

is worth more than my very life

it’s what I see that drives my heart

and makes me shrink from any strife

I make it all about my life

my heart, my wants, my lessons learned

when, really, my life’s not my own

and grace and love are not deserved

these gifts You give, though free and many

pour only from Your kindness deep

if life undone be to Your glory

then there I should, in gladness, sleep

for though You bless, and though You comfort,

and though each breath proves mercy true

still, I was made to serve You only

may all of me be all for You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

heart check

I want to believe that circumstances can work for our good.  I want to be able to look past frustrations and recognize that there’s a lesson or a refining or something that makes them worth enduring.  I want to be able to love people who are unlovable and forgive offenses time after time after time.  I want to be able to endure hardship, trusting that it’s because the Lord loves me that any difficulties come my way.  I want to be able to see the eternal reward as being of far greater value than the temporal cost.  I want for the incomparably good, unchanging, life-giving truth of the gospel – the truth that I was dead in my trespasses and sins, but that He has raised me up to new life – to be so magnified in my sight that it will, at all times, evoke from me its rightful response of praise.  I want to be able to lay my anger and hurt and fear at the cross and somehow find that peace that passes understanding and that unspeakable joy that can keep me from being fettered to my angst.

I talk to God about all of this, I promise I do.  I see the ugliness in how much I cringe at the thought of extending grace.  I see my selfishness and my short-sightedness and my faithlessness.  But I’m afraid of letting go.  I’m afraid of trusting.  I worry that counting everything else as loss – particularly those things that are most valuable to me – will result in me actually losing them, at least in part.  I don’t want my treasures to end up on the altar, only to find that there’s no ram caught in the bushes.

I don’t know how to honestly give my whole heart to Him, unless it is just to keep coming before Him with the utter mess that it is and laying it down.  Maybe it won’t ever be full of only unconditional love and great grace and unshakeable faith.  But perhaps the lesson is to pour out to Him all of my heart’s imperfections and weakness and bitterness and hurt, and then trust Him simply for the strength to choose right actions in the moment.  Not so much a fake it til you make it idea, but more an acknowledgement that even when His ways are beyond my understanding, they are trustworthy, and even when my emotions and momentary weight seem irreproachable, they are fallible.  I wish I could hope for more.  But maybe this can be enough for now.

In retrospect

I wrote a post about my current perspective on the past few months, but my wireless stopped working and I lost it.  That’s probably just as well.  It was long-winded, full of explanations, but over-analysis, too.  While I am not fully settled on what we were meant to learn from the job loss and waiting and eventual provision, and while I struggle to comprehend the possibility that the new job, which was about as close to a perfect answer as we could have hoped for, could mean that we really and truly do matter to God, I think those are not what I need to be focusing on at the moment.

In spite of however else I might try to explain things, and in spite of whatever else might still need clarification, my response right now needs to be nothing other than the simple acknowledgement that God has proven Himself faithful and good, again.  He answered the cry of my heart – in His own time and in His own way – and I am thankful.

if…then

Sometimes, I think…

if I can just figure it out

if I could only explain

if they really tried to see

if I got an answer

if the baby would sleep

if I knew the whole truth

if obedience would happen

if I wasn’t afraid

if it didn’t hurt so much

if I was better, or prettier, or calmer, or more organized, or talented, or smart

…if my life wasn’t my life, and this world wasn’t this world, and there was no sin and no consequence and no struggle and no pain…

then I would trust

then I would be thankful

then I would love

then I would be content

then I would be lovable

then I would matter

…then things would stop being hard…

and I wouldn’t have to choose

and I wouldn’t need faith

and I wouldn’t know grace

and I’d never learn compassion

and I’d not see that I’m a sinner

and I wouldn’t recognize true love

…and I might just forget that I need You, every second of my life…

to do all the things for me that I can’t do

to be everything for me that I can’t be

to take all my worthlessness and make me precious

to take all my dirt and make me clean

to take all my failure and make me righteous

to hold me up

to set me free

to make me victorious

…to be my life and breath and reason for being, my Savior, my God.