Posted in The Messy Life

The Secret of Being Content

This is our second year homeschooling, and one thing we incorporate into our daily routine is Scripture memorization. The 2nd set of memory verses we studied this year was Phil. 4:12-13, and it hit me hard.

global-warming

I started thinking about all of this . . . a lot.

I grew up hearing the “I can do all things” verse over and over.

I even had a basketball t-shirt with it–meaning I can play basketball through Him who gives me strength.

And it sort of turned into (and had been presented as) the verse that encourages us to DO STUFF. Hard stuff.
Major Game?   *I can do all things*
Difficult Friend?   *I can do all things*
Big Test?   *I can do all things*
You get the picture.

But then: this memory verse. Not just verse 13 but verse 12.

I was enchanted by “the secret of being content.” Paul had learned the secret of being content in all situations.

Why “The secret”?
Because not everyone is content.
Because we struggle at being content.

Yet Paul writes that he has learned this secret.
How can we be content? How can we learn this secret?

Well…THROUGH HIM WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH.

Contentment is vs. 13. It is NOT the “do hard things” theme verse.
It is the “secret of being content” theme verse.

I can be content in good times, and I can be content in bad times.

Jesus gives me strength to do that.

I had never seen these verses together before (although I’ve read right over them numerous times), but placed side by side the full depth of meaning hit me, and I just wanted to share it with you.


This video helped my family memorize Phil. 4:12-13:

(The Secret Worship Video)

And this site, Bible Story Printables, helped as well.

Posted in The Messy Life

Revisiting Gratitude

A few years ago, I wrote a post about Gratitude. Every fall, when Thanksgiving decorations hit the shelves (for all of 1 week before Halloween takes over), I find myself needing this reminder.

Be Thankful.


“A grateful heart will be revealed and expressed by thankful words, while an unthankful heart will manifest itself in murmuring and complaining.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss Choosing Gratitude

A few weeks ago, my dear husband, whose willingness to say hard things made me like him all the more when we were dating, took it upon himself to tell me that I was complaining. A lot. Needless to say, I didn’t particularly like being told this and promptly decided that his willing to say hard things was a great fault that I no longer liked.

But the sad fact is that he was right. (Someone check on him, ’cause he may have just had heart failure upon hearing those words). Lots of things happened to us last year. Most of which I did NOT like and did not want to happen. And I became quite sick of those things happening. And I became quite vocal about it. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. Sometimes it’s hard to turn your face to the sunshine when the big, ugly storm clouds are looming on the horizon.

Just like most things in life, you have to practice facing the sunshine. You have to practice looking for the good. You have to practice GRATITUDE.

I decided that in order to do that I needed to have something to focus on daily. I’m a busy mom who is usually overly practical, so I decided to keep it simple. I found a frame, one I wasn’t using, wrote the words “Today I’m Thankful For” on a piece of paper, put it in the frame that already had a mat, grabbed a dry erase marker, and called it good.

Isn’t it lovely?

Now, I have big plans for this little frame. I’d like to paint it and actually print a pretty little version of the center phrase. But enough with perfectionism! This is it!

Every morning, I walk down the hall and see it sitting on the little sideboard next to my kitchen. I grab my dry erase marker and write down whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t’ have to be big, virtuous things like “I’m thankful for my health, my family, my life that was given to me by God”. It can be simple. Like “I’m thankful for toasters and house-shoes.”

simple things

One of the books I read a few years ago was Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It was good, challenging, and inspiring. At the end of the book, she has a 30 day Devotional Guide. There’s some good stuff there. At one point she defines gratitude as “learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits we have received from God and from others.” Fancy, eh? Basically, she tells us that when we “express appreciation” we are being  purposeful and intentional to thank God and others. Thinking of those things as “benefits” takes out any feeling of entitlement that may be lurking in the dark corners of our hearts.

She then provides the reader with a Gratitude Check (which one applies to you?):

__ I look at the world through grateful eyes and consistently express my gratitude to God and others.

__ I know I’ve been greatly blessed, but I don’t often stop to actually express my gratitude to God and others.

__ To be honest, I had not thought a lot about gratitude […]. I’ve got a long way to go to develop a lifestyle of gratitude.

__ I’m a whiner! I tend to focus on my problems and I frequently express them to others.

So, how did you fare? I’m keeping my score a secret, but I’m hoping that as the year progresses my score will move up!


I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Scroll down to leave a comment.

Posted in The Messy Life

A Day. A Year. (the heavy task of breathing)

looking back

A Day

I know exactly what day we loaded our luggage into the back end of a white van and drove to Changi Airport to catch a one-way flight to the United States.

I have a vivid memory of looking out the window as we passed the high rise apartments–driving slowly through the never-ending postcard of Singapore. I cried silently as I tried to hold it together in front of my children.

I felt caged in. Banished. Broken. Bruised.

Leaving

a place that had become so dear

Leaving

a church family that helped us grow so much.

Leaving

people we’d grown to love

I tried to breathe but only felt choked by the recycled air.

It has been a year since that day.


A Year

A year recovering. A year repatriating. A year healing.

I like clean breaks. But last year was messy and hard and heartbreaking. 2015 was messy.

Repatriating was and is messy.

There is a constant feeling of waiting. Stuck in a terminal for a flight I haven’t booked. No, we have no plans on the visible horizon to leave, but the possibility is always there. Maybe we’ll buy a plane ticket. Maybe we won’t. Shoulder shrug.


Ex-Patria

Ex-Patria: out of the native country
my new home, the in-between.
This space between what was and what could be.
A constant floating.
An unsettling.
An unnamed bog, no sure footing.

Native country–
the words tumble from my mouth
wild and free,
as if I’ve been loosed
from an untamed place.

Native country–
where oak trees wait for new spring light
before they release last year’s life,
and corn rises where cotton once bristled
against the woody earth.

Native country–
where mouths move in slow rhythms
and embrace each next word–
a seamless connection of thought and time.

Native country–
where memories collect like puddles
on the gravel drive where the child I was
kneels in the rain,
trying to dam up the ever-widening river.


The Heavy Task of Breathing

I have nothing nice to say about the ones who perpetrated the hurt. Nor will I ever. I try not to think about them because when I do breathing is hard. The stale air returns, and I’m in a van looking out the window at my beautiful dream floating away.

But I have learned a lot in this year. I’ve learned about forgiveness, about restoration, about the deep and echoing pain of betrayal, about hate, struggle, family, love, the Father’s hold on me, and my struggle to hold on to Him. It has not been an easy year between these two Junes.

We try to settle in and make a life here.

We move on to newer opportunities.

We grab onto Hope with a white-knuckled grip.

We keep breathing.

 


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Posted in The Messy Life

Forgiveness (2)

Forgiveness.

There have been times when I’ve felt like forgiveness is a pie in the sky idea: pleasant to contemplate but not likely to happen.

If you read my Year in Review, you know some of the trouble we faced in 2015. Sadly, that post doesn’t reveal ALL the details of the struggle we faced. It was truly a horrible experience. One of the worst times in my life.

I can’t believe what she said…
I can’t believe what he did
Don’t they know it’s wrong?
Don’t they know it’s wrong?
Maybe there’s something I missed?
But how could they treat me like this?
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

It was easy to be angry. And depressed. And bitter. But you can’t live like that, or it will kill you from the inside. If you’re a Christian, you know about forgiveness and the weighty significance it holds in our beliefs. It is the foundation of our relationship with Christ. Oh, but how difficult it is to forgive.

Oh, Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doing
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losing

When you’ve been wronged, it’s natural to want justice especially when the other person is clearly in the wrong (or is even perhaps breaking the law or asking you to). And I struggled (and sometimes still do) with wondering when is it right and necessary for us to speak out against injustice?  EVERY TIME!! part of me cries. EVERY TIME!  Jesus called out the Pharisees. Jesus stood up for those abused by their legalism. And I believe we should do the same, but only Christ holds the fate of those who withhold mercy and justice.

It’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times
Lord it doesn’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
But I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done.

We want apologies. We want them to acknowledge their wrongdoing. We want them to grovel for forgiveness. We want them punished. We want an eye for an eye. How easy that is. How common. But…there is a greater way.

Why do we think that our hate’s going change their heart
We’re up in arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
But pride won’t let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but just to burn them down
We think our pain is owed apologies and then it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound…
Of mercy and Your grace
Father, send Your angels down

But one day, despite the desire to see them confess their wrongs and apologize, I realized it was never going to happen. They clearly thought they were “innocent” and needed to offer no apology. That was a hard pill to swallow. And one that was very, very bitter. So I made the conscious decision to forgive them. It clanged so loudly in my mind it was as if I’d said it out loud.

Oh Father won’t you forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doing
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losing
I feel like I’ve been losing

Bitterness is not an easily uprooted weed, and forgiveness can’t grow if it’s there. So daily, sometimes hourly, I had to remind myself to forgive them. It really is God’s grace. It is supernatural–above the natural. The act of forgiveness brings us closer to being Christ-like than many things. After all, He is the embodiment of forgiveness. However, I never felt spiritual about it. I didn’t really want to do it. Cause I feel like the one losing  But what I lost was anger, bitterness, and stress.

So forgive them I did. But forgiveness doesn’t mean that I approve of their actions. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable. It doesn’t mean I keep quiet about the injustices I received or witnessed. NOT AT ALL. It means I let go of any tight-gripped control I once thought I had. It means I turn it all over to God. It means they no longer have an ounce of power in my life.

forgiveness

Lyrics from “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North
Posted in The Messy Life

Forgiveness (1)

One of the lessons from 2015. You can read about that year here.

 

Losing by Tenth Avenue North

I can’t believe what she said…
I can’t believe what he did
Don’t they know it’s wrong?
Don’t they know it’s wrong?
Maybe there’s something I missed?
But how could they treat me like this?
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

This is love
This is hate
We all have a choice to make

Oh, Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doing
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losing

It’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times
Lord it doesn’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
But I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done.

This is love
This is hate…
We gotta a choice to make

Oh Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losing

Why do we think that our hate’s going change their heart
We’re up in arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
But pride won’t let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but but just to burn them down
We think our pain is owed apologies and then it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound…
Of mercy and Your grace
Father, send Your angels down

Oh Father wont you forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doing
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losing
I feel like I’ve been losing

Oh Father give me grace to forgive them…
Cause I feel like the one losing

Forgiveness (2)

“If his sons forsake my law
    and do not follow my statutes,
if they violate my decrees
    and fail to keep my commands,
I will punish their sin with the rod,
    their iniquity with flogging;
but I will not take my love from him,
    nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.
I will not violate my covenant
    or alter what my lips have uttered.
Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—
    and I will not lie to David—
that his line will continue forever
    and his throne endure before me like the sun;
it will be established forever like the moon,
    the faithful witness in the sky.”

Psalm 89:30-37

Despite our betrayals . . .

The Final Say: Betrayal (3)

Posted in The Messy Life, The Writing Life

The Arsonist (2)

The Arsonist

 

 

There is no flame that burns as hot as one set by Betrayal

and no accelerant like anger to incinerate the remains.

Like all lovers of flame and pain,

it sets fire to the dried edges of my once childlike faith,

reduced to kindling, while sweet, idealistic tendencies give off acrid smoke.

My tinder heart ignited by the steel strike against flint.

 

 

Part 1

Posted in The Messy Life

Burning it Down (1)

Just like that, my high hopes went up in smoke. Along with my trust.

I had never suspected that someone within my faith would be the one to introduce me to the consuming fires of betrayal.

In January of 2015, I turned 39. I had big plans for the year–my year at the top of the hill before I officially went over it.

CaptureI even made a cute little graphic with links to the various things so readers could know more if they wanted.

Then all of this happened, and my hopes and dreams were burnt to a crisp in the raging fires of stress and anxiety and overwhelming feelings of loss, abandonment, and anger.

It turns out that betrayal isn’t really the fire, it’s the fire-starter, the spark, that sets off a series of damaging reactions.

Of course, the first flames were shock, but they quickly grew into the greater flames of depression.

Depression. It felt like postpartum all over again. I cried because I knew it was on the way, like an inevitable looming darkness. Once you have lain under the weight of that black time, you don’t quickly forget.

Shock,  Bargaining, yes, they were there as well, but anger was a flame I found difficult to escape.

It’s an ugly place and one full of ashes. Hopes, Dreams, Respect, Expectations, Worth are all burnt to a crisp because the indiscriminate fires of anger don’t leave much behind. It’s a well recognized element in the cycle of grief, but it’s notgrief anywhere I want to stay. I definitely felt abandoned (see image), and I honestly didn’t’ know what to do with that feeling. I just kept questioning Why? over and over again. Had I been completely naive to think my honesty and transparency would be respected? Did I want to become that cynical?

I knew I was grieving , but unlike the neat little graphic here, my cycle of grief looked more like toddler scribble on the living room wall.

But those stages are not innocent scribble. They blaze and can be all-consuming. They make sure the remains are unrecognizable, and as long as they are on the loose, there is no sign of hope. No, they make sure of it.

Part 2

Posted in The Messy Life

Year in Review

It seems that everyone on Facebook is posting their “Year in Review” compiled by a little app that combs through your FB page and pulls together a lovely picture album of your year.

I don’t want to click that little tempting button.

I don’t want to see any more about this year because I know what it really looked like.

year in review

(and this is the short version)

January: Began the year with great expectations of having a Year of Restoration. In mid-January I lost my job (or rather, the administration chose not to renew my contract) after trusting leaders with extremely personal information which was then used against me.

February: Dove head first into depression due to job loss and feelings of betrayal. Spent the month frantically looking for jobs elsewhere in order to stay in-country. Found a very promising job and began talks with HR.

March: Chaperoned an overseas trip with students during which I felt useless and unwelcome by fellow leaders who basically never spoke to me, followed by the worst long-term food poisoning I have every suffered through (1 week). Oh, and that happened during Spring Break, while my husband recovered from surgery removing a golf-ball sized tumor which he worried may be cancerous. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

April: Still talking with potential job. 2nd Interview. Hopeful. However, leadership told my husband if I didn’t find a job elsewhere in-country, his contract would not be renewed either. The month ended with him being told that “they” had hired someone for his position, and he would be required to train the new guy, and if he didn’t, they wouldn’t pay my husband.

May: Shocked, hurt, and angry at our job loses, we moved forward, still hoping to find a new in-country apartment and new jobs. My husband got a job offer from a local company and hung out with them a few days. We visited numerous apartments, trying to find the perfect fit for our family. HOWEVER, at the end of May our current employers canceled our work visas. This made it impossible for us to sign a lease and illegal for us to continue working. There was one week left in the school year. When faced with the facts that they were breaking the law, our employer asked for our keys and kicked us off campus and locked us out of all e-mail and databases within 24 hours–making it impossible to complete any work I had left undone. They also said our children couldn’t attend the last 4 days of their school year.

June: Forced to move back to the States. With no work visas in hand to sign a new lease and no firm job offer yet, we had no other options. So we moved back and lived with my parents. At the end of the month, we received notice that our former employer would NOT be paying me my last month’s pay because I didn’t finish the year. So basically, because I refused to work illegally and because I couldn’t access any of the online databases, they didn’t pay me.

July: Lived with my parents. The fog of stress and depression is starting to lift, but who can tell when you’re just so tired from it all.

August: Started looking for a house to rent in the area. Not as easy as it sounds. Found a nice older home with tons of room. Finally, something good. We also start homeschooling (’cause I like to keep things simple, right?)

September: Moved into our new house. Thankful. But we have no furniture since we sold most of everything we had before going overseas.

October: Learned that life goes on. The emotional roller coaster of  repatriation is still running, and apparently I have season tickets. Can’t say I’m happy to be back in the US. Everyone seems crazy to me.

November: Enjoyed the seasons. Fall has been wonderful. Thanksgiving feels good. Happy to be near family again.

December: The year is finally coming to a close. GLORY! Christmas is in just a few days. It’s exciting. 🙂

Despite my hatred for most things in 2015, I have learned a few things throughout this craptastic year. And maybe I’ll write about them next year.

One, Jesus was betrayed by the leaders of the church, so why should I be surprised when religious people betray me. How hurt His heart must have been!

Two, Our year started with the hope that it would be a Year of Restoration. After leaving my high-stress job, I am starting to see this happen. I believe my relationship with my kids has been restored since we are now homeschooling, and I get to be home with them.

Three, Depression is a dark pit full of water that ebbs and flows, and as you sit in your little boat sometimes you rise high enough to catch a glance of the sun and other times you sink and knock against the sides of the pit just barely hanging on.

Four, Forgiveness is not a one time gig. It’s daily. It’s hourly. On bad days it’s minute by minute.

Five, Love is the greatest, and hope does not disappoint.

So as the calendar rolls around to 2016, I for one will give a hearty cheer of Good Riddance and a big &*$% you to 2015. And then I’ll turn my face to 2016 and bask in the radiant beams of newness and hope.