Monday, May 27, 2013

Redirections

A time of change, a time to rearrange and rethink priorities and purpose.

That is what this time holds for me.

I've long wanted to move from my "newbie-Christian" place of writing and transition to a different blog with a different angle.

My angle will always be one pointed up at God with my head bowed, but as far as my writing goes, I am going to focus on different aspects a bit more.

I am starting a new blog.

I admit to not having a lot of details.

For instance, I haven't decided it will be completely anonymous (which has its perks) or if I will continue to be pretty open (with respect for boundaries, of course).

I haven't decided all the areas I'd like to focus on. I know I'd like to focus on being a stepparent and the challenges that holds, as well as how being a Christian stepparent has been increasingly challenging.

I'd like to include more of thoughts on the Bible.

I'd just like to feel more focused.

And a fresh start is a good way to do that.

So dear Dove Chronicles readers, hold on for a bit. I haven't decided when the switch will happen.

I already have the new blog up and running, but I've not decided if I will advertise that here or not. Those of you who are already "followers" received an email pointing you to the next destination.

Those who aren't "followers" should keep an eye out for any link I provide here, if I decide to.

Thank you so very much for two and a half years of writing joy. Thank you for listening and for providing prayers and feedback.

I know this is a wonderful step forward, an adventure I feel called to take.

All because of Him...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dear Weary Mom: The Dichotomy of these Love Letters

Dear Weary Mom,

I'm weary of not feeling confident as a stepmother.

I think I may be far too paranoid and feeling far too childish. Far less equipped and far less ready.

Surely God must have meant for some other woman to come into these kids' lives, to fall in love with this man.

Because all I can see lately is failure on grand levels.

Surely God meant for me to stay in my hermit-like 1-bedroom apartment and live a solitary existence so I would not mess up any children with my insecurities and immaturity.

...Wow. Do you hear how awful that sounds?

First of all, that isn't a very kind thing to say about myself, is it.

Secondly, I am basically telling God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, that He messed up.

He got the wrong girl.

As if God could ever get anything wrong.

When self-esteem is floundering, take the "self" out of it and feel how you soar.

God esteems me.

When I am weary and burden-laden, when my identity gets thrown in the laundry with dirty and grimy clothes by the enemy of all of us, God whips me out, shakes the dirt off, claims me clean, and I start fresh. 

Like mountain-spring-fresh. Grassy-meadow-fresh. 
Hung-out-on-the-line-to-catch-the-spring-breeze-fresh.

And if I just let God be my launderer, maybe I won't get so weary or lost. Maybe I will realize the Truth, as I do on my good days when I know God has called me here to these children, to this husband, for such a time as this.

I love the story of Esther and I especially love the unlikely heroism of it all. 

I love how God chooses who we would consider the least qualified to do extraordinary things.

Do you feel weary?

God chose you to do the work you are doing BECAUSE of your weariness. No, not as a cruel joke, but because you show that you need God.

These Weary Mom letters are a blessing to each of us. They are not complaining sessions between mothers, they are love letters to God shared between women who do the hardest work.

They are letters of reminders, proclamations, clarifications.

You think God got the wrong girl?

Think again.

God intimately knows each person He calls and He calls each of us to something.

And He's just loving these love letters floating all around the internet, around the neighborhoods, over your telephones.

It's a dichotomy: be weary no more 
yet also continue to feel weary -

because both are a sign that we believe in God bigger than we believe in your own ability to carry it all.

**linking up today at Hope for the Weary Mom blog - I recommend the book of the same name, as well! Let's band together in our weariness and point to the God who gets us through it all!**

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More than Crumbs (another pre-post of my church newsletter essay)

image copyright The Dove Chronicles 2013



She only asked for a crumb. What she wanted was the restoration of her demon-possessed daughter, but the Canaanite woman in the Gospel of Matthew was so desperate, so needy of Jesus’ mercy, that she ultimately asked for a crumb.

She was persistent, tenacious, and stubborn: three qualities that some people would think rude. But put it in the context of seeking the Lord and it can become some of the best qualities we can have.

She was desperate and needy: two more adjectives that aren’t exactly pretty to our ears, but interestingly enough, I think Jesus desires of us.

How desperate is a parent to heal their child’s wounds? This daughter was demon-possessed and the mother knew she was lost to her so she asked Jesus for mercy. She believed Him to be who He said he was, something so many others couldn’t - or wouldn’t.

When Jesus tested her, she rose to the challenge. She had so much faith that she would take any handout, anything the Master would give she would take. She was desperate, needy, loved her daughter so much and had such faith in Jesus, that she believed a single crumb could help.

Do you think yourself too small of a person with too big of a prayer? I sometimes do. There are so many people in this world with so many prayers. Where do I fit in?

This determined woman knew what she wanted and she knew who could help her. She gave her all to Jesus - her dignity, her pride, her ego. She was begging on her knees.

People see begging as “beneath us,” but how did going to Jesus on our knees become anything less than the preferred position?

Because Jesus, indeed, answered her prayer.

Jesus rewarded the Canaanite woman’s faith not by a handout or the dropping of a crumbly grace - Jesus completely healed her daughter based solely on this woman’s faith.

This woman who was small and sinful and human. This woman who was on her knees, dirty, sweaty, and tear-stained.

Jesus gave her more than she asked for, more than a crumb.
If you truly become desperate for Jesus, to the point of recognizing that you, indeed, have nowhere else to turn and you cling to Him as the only one who can help, that is an act of faith. Jesus loves that sort of faith. In fact, He asks it of us.

We all can have more than a crumb if we so choose Jesus as our Savior. If we put all our faith in Him, we receive so much more than crumbs - we inherit God’s Kingdom.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What the Heart Knows that the Womb Doesn't

This blog post has been resting in my heart and my mind for a while, ever since Lisa-Jo Baker posted this post the real-life definition of a mother.


Because I often think about the role I have in my kids' lives, Lisa-Jo's definition really struck home. Not in a bad way, just in a way that made me think. I know Lisa-Jo has had an "other mother" in her life so I do not pretend to think that she is really only talking about biological mothers here. But my mind often hangs on titles, so I wanted to write out my own "definition of a stepmother."

But I found I couldn't. Because I don't think there is one that can include all stepmothers. So I decided to write a definition of myself as a stepmother, as an other-mother, as whoever I am to these kids at this point in time. Because it's different for each child. To the eldest girl, I am a bother she doesn't want to admit that she loves. To the middle I am the mama she desperately wants to call on but feels scared and confused. And to the youngest, my little man, I am nearly as much of a mother as his own as I've been in all of his known memories.

So I set out to write a simple definition for myself which quickly became a tome of how my title of "stepmother" - and how these kids and myself - have changed in five years.

The following is my response to Lisa-Jo's blog entry and I ask for grace as you read. This is the story God currently writes in my life. Not every story is the same. In fact, our stories are not the same at all.

I thank you for reading and my hope is that the stepmother role and title can one day be taken out of the vaults of badly-depicted Disney movies and snarky women on soap operas.

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My womb was expectantly waiting for children the day I met my love. My womb waited and waited until the truth began to settle like an emptiness unknown to fullness.

My womb would always be empty and so, I thought, would my heart.

But I became a stay-at-home-Something soon after meeting him and took the one and a half year old to Storytime, tried to nudge him to join clapping games. I kissed his warm barely-there-blond-hair on nights he slept over and, in the morning, held and rocked him upon waking.

But my stay-at-home-ness was new and foreign and on some days I didn't like it.

And I resented.

But there were days when I played trucks and made PB&Js and secured bandaids. The girls, still young enough to be amazed, repeated their requests for me to sing Ariel’s song from “The Little Mermaid.” Then the next day they'd fight with each other so bad that I wanted to stomp out in my own tantrum and slam my door behind me.

My identity wavered.

Now, five-ish years later, my identity is rooted in titles that defy true comprehension. Titles like “stepmother” that get written on emergency contact forms and titles like “Mom” to the in-the-moment-slipped tongue.

I do not ask for the Mom title. I don’t feel it’s mine to have, though I do the Mom thing.

I have made plates of waffles that would sink a ship. I have yelled at doors so loud the house shook. I have used the word Stop too many times and not said enough Go’s.

I have worn my own mother on my sleeve and allowed her anxieties to clutch these kids tight.

I have walked blocks in this neighborhood crying, wanting an “in” to this family to which I don’t always fit, and also sometimes wanting an “out” to everything I said yes to.

And then I am reminded.

The middle girl who twirls my hair as we sit together, who fingers my cross necklace as she buries her head in my neck, who wants me to braid her hair because I finally got this hair-thing right.

I am reminded.

The boy who I potty-trained four years ago now won’t let me see his naked bum because I’m a girl and I laugh because I made sure he aimed at the toilet so many years ago. He who asks me to sing my made-up song I sang to him as a baby - that he remembers! Every night, the request to sing, the request to rub his back.

And I am reminded.

The oldest, in all her drama and trauma, I am reminded even as she pushes me away and spits on my advances. Even as she is not with us right now and is in serious peril, I am reminded as she talks calmly to me on the phone when everyone else she verbally abuses. When I look around my bedroom at the kids’ drawings and I see hers from four years ago, naming me the “best stepmom in the world” who gave her “hope when [her] family broke up.”  I am reminded when I clean out her bedroom and I see the poem I wrote her not torn and tossed in the garbage, but put in her dresser drawer. For safe keeping or just out of the way - no matter. It was not in the trash can in shreds and my heart was not in shards. Even in silence and absence she reminds me.

I can do this.

I can relive my childhood as I watch them grow up and I can be okay with it all.

I can forgive myself for all the wrongs I did as I watch my kids do all the same wrongs and hopefully forgive them, too.

I can do so much forgiving all before we get into the car to go to school.

“I have lost it, yelled it, fought it, cried it and apologized it all before 9am.” - Lisa-Jo Baker

Yes, that.

I have spoken Truth to a little girl’s fears, empowered her with an emotional vocabulary, and watch it all fade away in the span of a day only to have it return in full force the next.

I have explained too much and also not enough.

I have nitpicked and critiqued.

I have not looked, listened, and felt in emotional first aid emergencies. And everyone knows you need to do that.

“I have been woken up, shaken up, thrown up, loved up, and shut up. I have never quite, completely, ever given up.” - Lisa-Jo Baker

And yes, that.

I am halfway to insanity on most days but still want to come home to the eyes of these children, the arms of my husband.

I would have never guessed this life for myself in a million years. My womb wants to fight me on this one. My womb insists it is still empty and on the bad days, it cries out for more.

I know better because just when I think they hate me they shock me with arms that reach for me.

I know better because just when I think I have done or said that thing to tip them over the edge, there is a knock on the door asking for one last hug goodnight.

I know better because God called me here and spoke to me clear and plain that these were the needy children I was to serve, not the ones in Honduras or Uganda.

And though wet towels left on the floor sends me through the roof, I can barely believe we own this beautiful house and live in this beautiful town and have the good neighbors and church families that we do.

I am amazed that after five years I can say to the kids, “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown.”

Stepmothers get such the bad rap and though I’ve been on the spitting end of hateful words and slammed doors and torn up pictures and scratched up gifts, I know that I love them with all the love that a womb can hold.

They are mine, too. Not born in my womb, but in my heart. And not right from the start, but in time. 

Our love for each other is by choice and earned intentionally. It hasn't been there “since their first breath,” but it’s grown over time and past shirt sizes.

“I am out of my mind and in my calling and desperate for five minutes alone and a lifetime together.” - Lisa-Jo Baker

Oh, and so much of that.

I want to slow down and listen to the wise words of other mothers around me, words to heed time and squeeze the small moments because memories aren’t as tangible.

I want a better sense of humor, to not be so weepy, but I want to teach the ability to let out the icky feelings and then be okay.

“These are the good days, the glory days, the slow-as-molasses days. These are the fast years, the wonder years, the how-do-I-find-words years.” - Lisa Jo Baker

These are days I want to stretch to infinity and stop all at once. These are days of contradictions and confusion, desperation and howling at the moon.

And I wouldn’t change any of it.

My womb might not have guessed I’d never bear children. But my heart always knew I would love them.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Other-Mother Mother's Day




It’s hard to know what to say on Mother’s Day for women who care for and about children but don’t fit the typical title of “Mom.”

Aunts, grandmothers, sisters - they can be a mother. Neighbors, friends, mothers-of-friends - they, too, can be a mother.

And then there is the sort of mother that I am: stepmother.

What an odd word, “stepmother.” I used to think it meant that the 2nd wife, a fill-in mother for the weekend, was a mother who was always a “step” away from the children. Always second place. Always not-as-much. Not-quite-the-mom.

I had a wonderful stepmother growing up. She modeled independence and self-confidence in ways I still haven't digested. I know I learned a lot from her and what I did learn is still slowly coming out of me in bursts as I “stepmother” my own stepchildren.

I was not prepared for full-on-mothering my stepchildren, however. I didn’t know that was in the cards for me. I always heard of stepmothers who were on the peripherary. Side-stepping-stepmothers. Background-stepmothers. Stepmothers who had an invisible mask over their mouth so their ideas and opinions wouldn’t get in the middle of actual parenting. A mask, as though she had some sort of contagious illness.

Instead, I’m a stepmother who not only has no mouth-mask, but is encouraged to parent like a biological parent. I’m encouraged to be 50% of this household's parental makeup.

And I must tell you, with the world’s views of stepmothers, that is not an easy thing to do.

I’ve gotten all kinds of messages throughout my four and a half years of being in these children’s lives.

I’ve been told that I will never love them like a “real mother” does and I’ve been told that I am fully capable of loving them with a biological mother’s heart.

I’ve been told to back off and let my husband do all the parenting and enjoy the fact that I’m not the parent and I’ve been told to be grateful for a husband who respects me and wants me to parent alongside him.

I’ve been told these aren’t my kids and I’ve been told these are most certainly my kids.

Even my stepkids have been on this particular teeter-totter. When I first met them, they defied all the warnings I'd been given and all the horror stories I'd heard. They accepted me, even liked me. A lot.

But just as marriages have honeymoons, so, too, do kids and the new stepparent.

And I now know the stories of stepkids hating you because I've lived it. I've known the "you're not my Mom" because I've heard it. Mind you, this has only been from the eldest, but I sense the next one in line will come to that place all too soon.

My stomach sinks to think of it.

But through it all I have developed a wider definition of "mother." If the kids hadn't come to us full-time two years ago, had we stayed every-other-week parents and not become custodial, my love for them would have stayed confined by other people's perceptions of what my heart...and their hearts...could feel.

I am no side-stepping stepmother. I am not in any background, but rather in the foreground of the best and hardest calling I've ever had. I have no mask on and no illness to spread. My opinions might not always be agreed with, but my husband always listens and considers my ideas equal in importance to his.

I am in no peripherary, but, instead, in the thick of the teenage traumas, the torn mother allegiance, the frightening mental health.

In the thick of the little girl who vacillates between stuffed penguins and skinny jeans, who yells and screams at me one minute, then wants me to braid her hair and answer "one more question about Jesus, please" the next.

In the thick of learning "boy speak" as the toddler I met now says things like, "are you available?" and can't focus to save his life except in the case of Minecraft.

In the thick of emailing teachers to keep on top of school behaviors, monitoring homework and school concerts and karate class and play dates, worrying if she or she or he is learning the right or wrong lesson, being consumed with curiosity (sometimes trepidation) of who these children will turn into.  Wondering if I am doing all I can to teach them good things. Praying for them and praying that I point to God more than i point to them or myself.

I think of my role in their lives so differently now. I think of non-traditional mothers differently now: with more respect and, frankly, awe.

We are a special breed.

Mothers, biological, are celebrated this coming Sunday.

I don't want to forget us other-mothers, the mothers who might not get the Numero Uno title, but who do the work, have the love, who hold the children as though they are their own.

I celebrate that other-mother.

Because though my kids have a mother, I am confident in the role God has called me to and in the love I feel for them.

We aren't in this for glory.
Sometimes all we get are the guts.
I'm in this for God's glory and trying to juggle all He has entrusted me with.


So thank you Mom - Happy Mothers Day to my beloved mama. 





Thank you Lyn, my stepmother, Aunt Vivie, Sue Edison-Swift, Mary Fullerton, Nancy Broberg, and so many more women who have other-mothered me in my life. Happy Mother's Day to you all.

My prayer is that every person who has invested themselves in a child will be honored this Sunday.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Not So Excited: When I Didn't Walk the Talk


Tonight I take my latest essay for my church newsletter and share it with you, my blog readers. If you are one and the same, I apologize for the preview, but I wanted to get this message out. I need to hear it - again - tonight - and perhaps every night for a while as I go through some very dark nights of the soul. 
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Not So Excited: When I Didn't Walk the Talk (for my church newsletter, May 2013)



I was growing desperate for this month’s Visionotes essay topic and when I listened to Pastor's sermon tonight, I knew what to do. I knew when he finished speaking that I wanted to write about the amazing love Jesus had, first, for us.  


“Amazing love…how can it be…that You, my King, should die for me…” (Amazing Love, lyrics by Billy James Foote)


Oh, the moment was palpably exciting. I sat in the sanctuary dreaming of an essay that perfectly painted the marvelous love of Jesus Christ, with words so poetic and touching that the pained and hardened hearts would be set free and realize the Gospel truth of Jesus’ unfathomable love for us. Yes, I got goose-bumps imagining how magnificent this would all be.


And then I came home.


And I failed. Epically.


I lost my cool, spoke sharp daggers at loved ones in a moment of mounting stress.


It was as if all the truth I had just absorbed at church leaked out of me like a sieve and all that remained was a puddled mess of tears.


So did the truth leave me or was God giving me an opportunity to live out this truth?


Tonight, beloved family pressed all my buttons, my nerves felt raw and exposed, the moment slammed me to a shattered halt and all I did was epically fail at loving.


I was so ashamed of my behavior that I hid in my bedroom, not unlike my cat after she pukes on the living room carpet. You just know when you've done wrong.


But upon reflection (and suitable apologies to loved ones) I wonder if – through my failure – the truth of Jesus’ love didn't shine all the more. Because look:


I am now writing about a very real instance of a very real failing and a very real God loving me in a way that only God can.


“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” - Romans 8:31


And so we come full circle to me excitedly telling you about Jesus’ marvelous love. Only… I just got off my knees from being in the dirt instead of a place of happily writing at my kitchen table, pen dancing merrily across paper with precise poetry and literary greatness.


Instead, I broke.


Brokenness intrigues and baffles me. I long to read and write about it, for us all to take off our well-positioned masks and reveal just how in need of a Savior we really are.


Brokenness excites me.


But not my brokenness.


Know the feeling?


The topic of the world’s broken pieces fascinates me, but put me in my bedroom hiding from my guilt and shame, and I’m not so eager.


But these essays are meant to be a sharing of the footsteps I follow and the prints I leave behind. And if I can’t fall down, believe I am still worthy of this Love, and get back up with repentance and gratitude, how can I tell you to do such a thing?


I can’t tie this essay up in a pretty bow. Speaking as a writer, there will be no “concluding paragraph” because there is nothing “concluding” about my human failure, frailty, and need.


So I said I wanted to write an essay that softened the pained and hard-hearted.

God has made this piece of paper my mirror.


gettyimages.com

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wonderful: In Which I Sing My Praise

This is the video made by my husband of my solo at the Praise Team Concert (see previous blog entry, "I Will Praise You When I Cough).



I sang "Wonderful" by Christy Nockels.

And while I am my worst critic and all I hear are the cracks in my voice and the lack of vibrato, I also see the love and passion that dwells within me for Jesus.

And that is why I share this with you.

Ultimately, that is why I share anything with you.

Thank you for watching and listening.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Mosquito's Story: a Malaria tale prompted by Compassion Int'l


You are about to read a story about a mosquito.

Why on earth am I writing about a mosquito? What does a mosquito have to do with God? Oh, plenty, my friend.


As Compassion writes,

Malaria kills 655,000 children per year. And April 25 is a day to raise awareness and spur on action for a disease that should not even be killing one child.

Compassion International issued a call to bloggers to write about World Malaria Day - which is tomorrow, April 25th - and write on a specific prompt: from the perspective of a malaria-infecting mosquito. I laughed at how silly it felt and how I could not possibly do this. But then my fingers took to typing and what happened next I can only say came from the prompting of the Spirit.



**********************************************************************************
So without further ado, here is... The Mosquito's Story:
**********************************************************************************

You think I’m just a teeny insect, don’t you. But I’m a huge killer. I kill children - the population that so many of you tear up over and cry over and want to help more than ever. Millions of commercials air every day asking to save the children.

But I’m the antithesis to that.

I make sure what you do fails. I make sure your efforts go in vain. And I’m so tiny that some people think I’m harmless.

I find that hilarious; how people think that the big killers are big things - like weather disasters gigantic as the earth, itself. And big lurking men who wait to blow up buildings and big cities.

But one of the greatest killers is the tiniest among you. Do I dare tell you that? Do I dare tell you that you can fight me so easily? I will not tell you how. I must not.

Because then you will win and the children will live and the tears will stop and families will be saved.

And I just can’t have that. No, I can’t have that at all.

I want fevers. I want babies crying from dusk until dawn. I want parents weeping over still bodies. I want people scrambling around for help only to realize they don’t have the right pill or the nets or the doctors available. And people without resources is like a mosquito without a stinger:  Useless.

So go ahead and focus on the big guns. Focus on the news stories that air every night on TV educating you on all you must fear in this big, bad world. What you won’t find is a picture of me. I’m not on a wanted poster. The children I kill aren’t on milk cartons because you don’t even know they are lost. I’m done with them so fast that no one even knows about them.

Us mosquitoes are mighty so you better be aware.

But don’t be too aware. We like you ignorant and looking the other way.

picture from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anopheles_albimanus_mosquito.jpg public domain

*********************************************************

Don’t look the other way. Don’t be ignorant and think the “other person” will help these children who die every day.

My 9 year old stepdaughter has a passion for those stricken with malaria -- all because of one church service where a chime rang every minute to symbolize how often a child dies of malaria. She is saving her money, nickel by quarter, to raise money in order to donate to malaria campaigns around the world. She has chosen to open her eyes even though it’s hard and painful.

Open your eyes? Click here to find out how you can help. Click here and here.

Compassion International has a special Malaria Intervention Initiative. An engaging video accompanies it and you can see what, specifically, Compassion does with your donations. See it all here.

We don’t have to bow to such a thing as malaria. Malaria is not our master - God is. 

We can fight it.

The mosquito does not have to win.  

Please take action now.

That Sweet Spot Destination (and a little bit of Goldilocks & the 3 Bears)


Many things cause disorientation. Standing up too fast, spinning happy in a circle, vertigo from sickness. Once blindfolded and spun around for pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, one stumbles, disorientated, toward the stuffed pinata and hopes to strike the sweet spot.

As Christians, what is our sweet spot? What is our direction, the spot we must aim for?

Having spent a lifetime with different therapists, I get stuck on concepts like self-esteem, self-confidence, independence - all excellent ways of reaching one's naval-gazing quota. I do not knock therapy; it does many people a ton of good. In my life, however, I think I had an overdose.

While reading all those self-help and life coaching books for years, searching for that meaning of life that seemed more and more elusive, I came to a great amount of peace when I chose God as my North Star, that fixed point in my life.

I've been aimed toward Him for a little over two years now and, while I can't say it's always been easy, I can say it is a lot more comforting and assuring. I don't feel so dizzy and when I do find myself flailing in life,  I re-orientate myself to God, the destination of my heart.

But I do stumble, as all of us do. I sometimes fall back into the blindfold of believing I'm in control of this messy life and that I can fix it. I look in back of me, behind at my past failings, traumas, dramas, losses, and I mourn all that has happened. I sit in the muck and sink. I fall back to naval-gazing, that default of so many years.

After a while I do shake my head - hard - and see that arm reaching down to me, offering to help me up if I would just choose the Helper. And so I let God raise me to new life day in and day out and redirect me. A difficult lesson each time. I chuckle as I realize it must not be all that fun for the Teacher, either.

But there is a certain amount of danger in always looking backward.

First of all, we miss what is coming ahead of us. What would happen if we kept our eyes on God when things became difficult instead of resorting to old coping mechanisms? What would happen if we put all our dependence and need on Him instead of worrying obsessively about our provisions not being met? What kind of life would that be? It feels unfathomable to imagine, but I know God wants that for us.

Secondly, by focusing on our past we remain fixated on what has already happened instead of what can or will happen. We remain closed to possibility and change.

Worst of all, at least to me, we miss what God has in store for us and how God can redeem that which we hoard and hide.

Perhaps we ought to do a bit more head-shaking? Wake-up out of the fog? Re-orientating ourselves toward God, in front of us, always ready to lead us if we should choose to follow. And God does ask us to follow.

My sweet spot is Jesus.

I run to Him when I get lost, when I need help, when I want joy and comfort.

And I try not to look back too often, just enough to remember where I came from. Because just as our destination is important...our origin is important as well. 

How could we appreciate a delicious chocolate cake without realizing it was first a bunch of separate ingredients that had to be crafted together to make the mouth-watering result? So with our very lives, how can we appreciate what God has done, currently, if we do not remember from whence we came?

So there must be a sort of balance, a bit of Goldilocks-and-the-Three-Bears going on. A bit of this and a bit of that. Not too much one way, just enough for good perspective and the Hope we all crave.

Redemption asks us to remember, but remember with eyes on Jesus.

Because we didn't rise out of the muck and the mire,

God pulled us out and formed our lives to glorify Him.

And that is mighty, mighty sweet.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Will Praise You When I Cough

Despite the giggling when I came up with this blog entry title, due to the magnificent song, "Praise You in the Storm," it has a real, honest-to-goodness message. And it's quite serious and sobering.

It's still a story about praising God despite the storms raging in our lives. It's still about praising God when things feel out of control and you look around frantically at something to hold onto only to realize there is only one Someone you can hold onto.

I've used this song as a lifesong for a long time. It's been an anchor for me to return to the Lord and my dependence on Him.

And while the title of this blog entry makes me giggle at times, and might make you too, it is as real as any storm.

****

For months I've been practicing with my church's Praise Team for our first big concert. We struggled along the way, had a lot of fun, and as the week drew near, something awful happened:

I lost my voice.

It was partly due to another storm, one much worse, going on in my family's life, that I'm not quite comfortable sharing here yet...but I had been talking to important people on the phone for 3 weeks or so non-stop, trying to get the help we needed; I had cried and become hoarse, and I then developed the flu.

Dress rehearsal came and I had to sing ever-so-softly because I wasn't sure if I would shatter my voice.

I admit I was a bit irate at God.

This is the one thing that has brought me joy throughout this other storm. Why would you take my voice away?

Though people told me that if I had the flu and had no voice, it was obvious I could not perform, I still felt determined to get through it. I practiced, albeit lightly, and my band-mates told me I sounded fine, but my own performance-based-self  was stubborn and demanded better quality.

I sucked on cough drops and chugged tea with honey.

And then I had a realization.

Thank God for kicking me in the pants on occasion to get me to realize the Really Big Stuff.

I am not in control, I realized. My voice is croaky and unstable and I have done all I can to mend it, but I am not the one who can ultimately pull this off.

And to whom am I singing my solo, "Wonderful?"  Sure, to the generous audience listening, but I wanted to pour out my love of Jesus with that song. Does Jesus care how I sound?

Jesus ate with sinners and dined with betrayers. He saw in them beauty and love and worth.

Surely He could forgive my croaky voice and hear my voice praising Him as beautiful.

Surely, He'd find it wonderful?

So the day of the concert, after drinking warm honey-lemon water all day, I went to the final rehearsal feeling good. I had a strange peace about me. I knew whatever voice God wanted me to have would come out that night.

And, friend, it could have been the constant honey-lemon water warming my throat or my lack of talking, but I truly think God smiled once I handed the reigns over to Him.

God loves how I love to praise Him with song.

But God does not love when I get bent out of shape on wanting to sound perfect or as good as so-and-so. He wants my true voice, croaks and all.

So I accepted that. I said: bring on the croak. Bring on the cough; I will still praise the Lord.

So as the storms raged in my life amidst the chaos in my family, as Husband and I were granted a slight reprieve this weekend and he joined the concert as the professional videographer, as I arrived in my Spring Easter dress and heels that were way too uncomfortable, I was comfortable and confident with whatever was going to come out of my mouth: croak or cough or beauty. 

I kept remembering how Jesus sees the beauty in the ugly.

And sometimes, what we think as ugly is beautiful to Jesus. 

So how did the concert go, you ask?

Amazing.

Anointed.

God's Spirit filled the sanctuary - for both musicians and audience.

And my solo came and went and though I did crack a bit toward the end, I just threw up my hands in praise and truly lived the lyrics I sang:

And my life will burn for you
'Cause your light shined in the darkness
I was hopeless
And you lifted up my head
To bring me joy
With a song that breaks
the silence
of my worship
now I'm singing all the day
and forevermore
You will be adored
For you are wonderful...

I believe I almost cried because I live those lyrics. I believe I almost cried because I desperately wanted to send those lyrics straight into the hearts of the listeners. God is wonderful. He is so much more that wonderful; I can't ever put it into mere words.

But I can sing it.

And I did.

****

After the concert, a husband of a band-mate approached me and thanked me.

I feel so uncomfortable with compliments the past few years. But what he said was exactly what I long to hear. This compliment was not about me, but about my love for Jesus.

"I could tell you loved that song. And I could tell you love Jesus."

It took my breath away.

I didn't want my voice to be the one to shine that night; I really didn't. After all the ego-pushing-aside, I wanted Jesus to be the one to shine through the songs we sang.

And praise God, we did!

So it is clear:

Jesus, I will praise you in this storm. I will praise you in the flu. I will praise you when I cough and freak about not being able to perform. And I will praise you when I give up my control and let You carry me through it.

Jesus, You are wonderful! -- photo by Talented Husband