"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Monday, April 20, 2009

An Ounce of Perspective

I've got 3 posts sitting in my drafts folder that I just couldn't bring myself to publish. Why not? They're well-written, they're full of the realities of this journey, they're a great look into the process...and they're so whiny even I can't stand it. They're full of figuring out how I got to this place personally/financially/spiritually, hashing through some of the hurts that still bring an unexpected sting, stumbling around the recesses of my mind trying to find the sense in what God may be doing with all of this, blah, blah, blah... Sometimes the Lord just holds you back from putting something out there until you've seen some of the end of the process (or at least *this step* in the process). Until He gives you some perspective.

Some perspective came into my life today. Of course, it has done it while I'm cooking lunch and I'm afraid that all the insight will be watered down if I wait too long to dump it from my brain to the page, so I'm multitasking here. Which probably means the kids will be eating burnt lunch today...

Anyway, I looked out my kitchen window and saw the most beautiful thing...check out the pic:


It's a gorgous lily, isn't it? Nobody planted it. It just volunteered there. I even asked the neighbor. Nope, he didn't do it. Wow. What a blessing. Right in front of my face, this beautiful reminder of the surprises that God puts into our lives; totally unexpected, arriving overnight, sneaking up on you when you least expect it, and in dazzling, full-on,wide-open glory.


Now, let me show you the "perspective shots" that happened when I went out to get that close-up. Look at the environment in which this amazing flower "VOLUNTEERED."

The soil conditions: Not the choice, rich, dark soil you'd expect; just plain old Florida sand with a healthy sprinkling of weeds.



The weather conditions: Impending storm rolling in. And this IS Central Florida, so you can expect them *every* afternoon for the forseeable future.


The immediate environment: Those of you unfamiliar with RVing will not realize the significance of that hose in the background. That's the sewer dump line. Yep, this little plant VOLUNTEERED to live right by that. Ponder the fullness of that for a bit...

Hmmmmm...maybe this incredibly beautiful flower is NOT just a metaphor for the surprises God gives His kids. Maybe it's a humbling picture of who His kids are supposed to be willing to be. Rooted in simple ground - not the best by worldly standards but sufficient to support life. Content to be outdoors - blooming happily, not stubbornly refusing to open up - when the winds bluster and the rains fall, knowing it's going to be nearly incessant. Standing tall, straight, and beautiful right alongside the most disgusting, rancid, foul waste imaginable.


Maybe I need to stop whining already and accept my surroundings, the fact that the bugs will nibble on me and the birds will fly over and probably leave presents on my leaves; maybe it's enough that God created me to be beautiful here. Despite the environment. Despite the incessant, every day storms that roll in. Despite the sewer line that is my neighbor (there's a whole other metaphor there for loving your neighbor as you love yourself but I'll let you go there on your own...). Maybe my life is spectacular - it's just that it's hard to see that when you're a flower who has no eyes to see how beautiful you are and whose face is always lifted up toward the sky to drink in the sun and the rain and whatever else may fall.

Oh, yeah, that lily outside my window has a LOT to teach me...

Friday, April 10, 2009

AWARD!

What a nice thing to find on my return to the land of the living! After sickness that had me in bed and internet problems that kept me offline, I find that the newbie blogger has received an award from her sweet friend Sweet Jenn. Here's the problem: I have *no* idea how to link back to her site! Maybe some of you vets can give me some advice. But I'll play along and list 7 things I love (and I'll try to avoid the obvious ones of my hubby, etc!)

1. I adore sitting at a window watching lightening fork through the sky, counting the seconds until the peal of thunder, hearing the rain pound on the roof, sipping a cup of tea. (yes, I know it's not safe to sit at a window during a thunderstorm but you learn that the beauty is worth the risk when you grow up in the lightening capital of America! Well, worth *some* risks; you'll NEVER catch me on the phone or in anywhere near a running faucet during a good storm!)

2. I love sitting on the dock by the riverside watching the wave patterns, the mullet jumping, the pelicans fishing, and the dolphins playing.

3. I love the look on my kids' faces when they really *get* something for the first time. That "aha" moment.

4. I love the sound of four kids breathing deep, even breaths as they sleep in the next room.

5. I love New York style cheesecake and chocolate covered strawberries.

6. I love finding new places to explore - woods, forests, beaches, lakes - getting out there and stomping through the unknown is so fun!

7. I love the feeling after a really good cleaning session. You know the house won't look or smell that way for 5 minutes but it's golden while it lasts!

So, there you have it. Thanks, Jenn, for the sweet award. Sorry I'm too inexperienced to follow all the steps. Chalk it up to another learning curve in life!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I'm slipping....

Two posts in one day...something must be happening:

I'm sympathizing with that poor little pupa who had to scale a glass vase to reach the place where it could cling and complete it's transformation. I watched him through the process. He'd climb, then slide, then climb some more and anchor himself with a bit of silk, rest a while, then climb, then slide, then anchor himself, ad infinitum. The key, I suppose, was that each time he remembered to anchor himself and he continued on. He never slipped farther back than his last anchor point. (something akin to the rocks of testimony piled in the wilderness by the Isrealites? hmmmm...) So, here I am, spinning some silk to the surface of that vase.

Today has been a gradual slide from this morning's "beginning to see" post. I've dealt with both a migraine and the onset of some kind of allergy-induced sinus drip/sore throat/general yuckiness. And, in equal proportion, the kids have lost their sense of cooperation. This, of course, happened on the one day this week that Dan is working open to close. My runner has climbed out through the front window, sped down the street and holed himself up in the bathhouse. My little princess has deliberately removed her panties and peed on the floor. My most mature helper has refused to back off of bossing the little ones around and has incited near-riot conditions with his strutting and demanding. My "middle kid" has been belligerent and has tried to elbow anyone who crossed him (because Mom's smart enough to catch an outright punch but would never spot a sneakily delivered elbow jab...right). And I've been the paragon of virtue and strength and right attitudes and gently corrected each and every infraction. Ummm...or I became a shrieking shrew. One of those.

So, let's see...true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, worthy of praise. Where is it?

...my runner didn't head for the main road this time. He stopped at the bathhouse and came back home willingly...without climbing the ladder to the roof. Praise you, Lord, that's an improvement in his response.

...Miss princess chose a spot that was linoleum rather than carpet. And she did at least remove the panties so those won't have to be washed.

...Mr. Bossy was indeed doing what he was doing in an attempt to keep things "under control" so I could rest and get feeling better. His heart of service and compassion was the motivator; he just wouldn't listen to my instructions on *how* to handle things. Thank you, Lord, for a growing young man who wants to honor His mother. Please give me patience as I teach him methods to best express his heart and give him a teachable spirit.

...Mr. Belligerent is attempting to back off on his tendency to be violent. Not so long ago, he wouldn't have cared whether I saw a punch or not; he would've been happy to take the discipline if he got to have the fun of socking the person who deserved it. He's a work in progress, too, and I need to recognize his progress. And, again, his violence was triggered by misbehavior by the siblings; he was trying to get them to stop bickering and didn't use the best tools to accomplish that.

*sigh* Much like my shrieking wasn't exactly the best tool, either. The lovely thing here? God brought me up short, sent me running to Him, and has me posting here to refocus on Him instead of continuing in my rant. And I'm already seeing the result of His Word working in me as I seek to find Him in this. My blood pressure is down, I'm formulating my apology to the kiddos for my part in this slide backwards, and the enemy hasn't been able to get me to give up on the climb. Okay, here we go, back up the side of the vase again...

Beginning to see...

Isn't it exciting when you begin to see God working? When you start to feel the scales fall from your eyes? It's beginning. Just a few days into this conscious choice to dwell in the "whatsoever things" and I'm beginning to see with new eyes. Praise You, Lord, Your Word is indeed living, powerful, and effective!!!

May I share a few examples?
*In the last several days, I have not once described the day as "horrible" or the kids as "bad." I know, that's small, but I've been able to see the challenges as temporary things that ARE able to be worked through rather than permanent conditions under which I must labor on...

*Despite the fact that we had a pretty dramatic Asperger's tantrum yesterday, I was able to walk away from dealing with it (which is exhausting both emotionally and physically) quietly encouraging my son that he had done great in getting himself back under control. It only lasted about 30 minutes this time; it's been known to go on for close to an hour...

*My laundry has gone unfolded for 2 days. Why is this a good thing? It's gone unfolded because I've been focusing on enjoying my time with my family, exploring the blooming bouganvilla bushes, marvelling at the blue jays and cardinals that are visiting us, teaching them to swim, LISTENING to their wonderful imaginative stories, encouraging them to have fun with math and reading and learning, singing with them and being spontaneously silly together. My priorities are getting back to where they should be and I've been able to let go of the perfectionistic demands without becoming condemning towards myself.

It's beginning to happen. I'm beginning to not just grudgingly admit that there must be *something* good that happens each day. I'm starting to see the beauty as it happens, revel in it, glorify God and set aside some of those weights that have easily beset me in the past. I used to love a certain David Crowder song because I needed the perspective it offered; I'm beginning to love it even more now because I'm beginning to live its truth:
The day is brighter here with You
The night is lighter than its hue
Would lead me to believe
Which leads me to believe
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
I am Yours...
So what does that make me?
My eyes are small but they have seen
The beauty of enormous things
Which leads me to believe
There's light enough to see
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
I am Yours...
So what does that make me?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

New URL - Lovely!

So, the history here is that I've had a blogspot account for a while. I first opened it solely for the purpose of being able to track some blogs of my friends. But then, well, God intervened and here I am posting. The problem was that I had selected a meaningless url just to have access. Now that I'm actually pouring out the words that God is giving and the experiences He's teaching me through, meaningless became aggravating.

Being new to actually using the apps here, I had no idea if I could even change this. I began asking for help - in the "help" tab of all places! Do you know what I found? A simple answer. An easily achieved fix for my problem. Now, I know, life's not always like that. Sometimes there is simply not an easy answer. Sometimes there's a complicated series of steps. Sometimes there's a lot of research and trial-and-error. Sometimes there's no discernable answer short of accepting things as they are and trusting God's hand in it. But sometimes, when we drop our pride, confess our weakness and ignorance, and actually ask somebody, God has the opportunity to use other people in our lives to grow us, strengthen us, and move us farther ahead than we could go on our own.

Isn't it a beautiful thing that He has given us the body of Christ? We are blessed and empowered through the Holy Spirit and we are edified, built up, encouraged, spurred on by our extended family. How often do we neglect that gift? How frequently are we so afraid of appearing weak among our own family, terrified of judgement or rejection, intent upon maintaining the facade that we hide our faults, "handle" our problems alone and wind up isolated from the very source of help that the Lord wants to use in our lives?

Father, forgive my foolishness and fear; teach me to cry out not only to You - the place from whence comes my help - but also to my family in which You have placed me. Help me also to remember that my family - Your family - is made up of people. They are not YOU, they are not perfect, and sometimes they may fail, too. Your grace covers each one of us. Now that falls under the category of "worthy of praise!"

Friday, April 3, 2009

Practicing "Dwelling" is hard...

I've been thinking a lot about the phrase "dwell on these things." It doesn't say "remember to glance at them once in a while" or "take a walk around them then go back to what you were doing" -- it says "dwell." As in "make your habitation in" or "hang out in" or "live there." Dwell.

That's really hard. When your child with Asperger's is huddled in a corner with his hands over his ears screaming "everybody hates me." When you sit down to pay the bills and there just isn't enough to go around and you've been trying to get a 2nd job but nobody's hiring. When you find out that one of your kids has been cheating on school assignments and you now have to figure out how to redeem the time without totally crushing the child - even though you kinda feel like crushing him just a little bit. When a storm rips the awning off your house and that awning provided the shady playspace for the kids that allowed you to get a few moments of uninterrupted work time in the house.

But that's not where I'm supposed to dwell because those things are anything but lovely or of good repute, although they are true. Maybe there's a deeper truth in them that I'm supposed to dwell in. Maybe the lovely, good thing is that my child can verbalize that he thinks everybody hates him; many other kids with his same condition can't express that at all. I have an inroad into his mind and am able to interact and counteract that kind of thinking. I am blessed. Maybe the thing that is worthy of praise is that God has provided for us so that we are still fed and clothed and together under one roof. Maybe the pure and honorable thing is that when confronted, my child told the truth about his cheating, was broken when he realized that it wasn't just about the work but about the broken trust, has repented and is submitting to discipline and correction. And the lovely thing is that God held my tongue enough to let me correct and train without belittling and demeaning. Maybe the truth is that awnings are replacable (according to finances, of course...) and while the storm destroyed an outdoor luxury it didn't affect the roof over our heads that keeps us protected from the elements.

Dwell on these things. Live there. Choose to see the circumstances around you for what they REALLY are, not for what they feel like on the surface. And what are they really? They are opportunities to press closer into Christ, to ask Him to respond in His way through you because you just don't see the lovely in it, to have Him open your eyes to what was hidden, to learn what it means to give thanks in everything. An opportunity to pull a Paul and Silas and sing your heart out in the middle of a dark, dirty, poor, infested prison cell. And to really mean it. Because you've dwelt in the lovely to the point of understanding that GOD HIMSELF INHABITS - dwells in, shows up in, makes His presence clearly seen and felt, is powerful to move in - THE PRAISES OF HIS PEOPLE. When we choose to dwell where we're supposed to, we find ourselves dwelling in the same place as God.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beautiful things







Do you see that butterfly? I watched him from caterpillar through pupa to chrysallis to fully emerged Gulf Fritillary. He doesn't look great in the image on my title page - kinda brown and tired - nothing special and pretty worn out. He had just emerged. But, oh, when he spread those wings and the sun glinted off of those irridescent white spots! The brilliant orange with black markings of the tops of his wings became visible and his grace and ease of flight was breathtaking.


The journey was treacherous. As a caterpillar he was jolted from his feeder passion vine when the neighbor took hedgetrimmers to it. He was "rescued" (along with 3 of his buddies who didn't make it) by two curious little boys with sticks who found him crawling around in the dirt. He was transplanted from outdoors to a glass vase. He became dependent on the food and water provided by novice caretakers. His climb up the side of that glass vase to get himself attached on that stick was agonizingly slow and difficult; he kept slipping backwards. Once he was attached, the contortions he had to go through to get his chrysallis spun while hanging upside-down with his spinners at his mouth were worthy of the most adept acrobat. And that chrysallis - symbol of change and transformation - hardened into the ugliest, driest, most uncomfortable-looking habitation ever. His emergence was not sudden; it took place over hours of work, bit by bit, requiring rest and rejuvenation throughout the process. And when he did spread his wings? Well, that was hours again after full emergence from the chrysallis. His wings and antennae had been so crushed against him inside that they had to slowly unfurl, become strengthened, become attuned to the environment around him. But when he finally flew, it was with confidence, grace, beauty, absolute jubilation.

It has become glaringly apparent that I'm in one of those stages. I'm still not sure if it's the terrified caterpillar thrown from its vine; the struggling pupa being inexpertly fed; the dry, cracked, unattractive chrysallis; or the beginning-to-emerge strengthening period. Sometimes I think I go through the whole process daily. What I am sure of, though, is that if I focus on the struggle, the dryness, the hardship, the pain of those wings being pinned in there, I'll never see what I'm becoming. I'll never be jubilant and glorifying to my Creator for Who He is and what He has accomplished in me. It is for this reason that I'm beginning this blog. I need to be accountable to see the beauty in this process of becoming who my God has created me to be. I too often feel the pain, am surrounded by the dryness, am insensitive to the soft sunlight and refreshing breeze due to my poor crushed antennae.

But that doesn't mean it's not there. The beauty and glory, I mean. I just need to work at seeing it. I need to look past what I feel, the confusion and newness of it all, the pain and seeming endlessness, the utter lack of control over my own circumstance, and see the TRUTH of what is happening. In me and in those I love. And so, I choose to obey Philippians 4:8. "Whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are HONORABLE, whatsoever things are RIGHT, whatsoever things are PURE, whatsoever things are LOVELY, whatsoever things are of GOOD REPUTE, if there is any EXCELLENCE and if anything is WORTHY OF PRAISE, DWELL ON THESE THINGS. You're welcome to join me as I choose to exercise the mind of Christ in this area. Maybe, just maybe, if I choose to think like He does, I'll begin to see what He does, too. And my world will expand beyond daily chores, endless correction of the same things, struggles with finances, struggles with children, thwarted plans and instead become an ever-more-revealed emergence of a gorgeous, graceful, joyous creation of the most masterful Artist ever.