Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is that not my name you're calling?

People rarely say my name right. If you don’t know me well, and sometimes even those that do know me well still get my name wrong. I’d played the piano in a church for over a year, when the pastor called “Jessica” to the piano. My name isn’t Jessica. Nor is it Jennifer, Janell, Janet, Janice, Gina, or Jamie. But I’m called by the incorrect name so often that I typically answer to them – regardless of what name you use. I am the girl with no name. But the other evening, I was walking into church when I heard someone say “Hey, you slipped right past me… Jennifer! Jennifer!” I’d come from the other side of the parking lot, no where near this man so I filtered through the information and the fact that they were still a long ways away from me to conclude he wasn’t talking to me so I kept walking.

This week, as I consider things I wish I had stopped. I wish I had turned around and just made sure. Yes, I’ve done things like this before and usually feel foolish because, well, obviously Jennifer isn’t my name either, but…. I wish I would have checked. Because when someone calls out to you there is a reason they called out your name. And people are too important to have them calling only to be ignored. Even if they’re calling the wrong name. I have too many names and none at all.

When God calls my name I want to be the person that is so anxiously waiting to hear her name called that she’ll answer for someone elses name too. When a hint of a name comes out, I want to be there saying “God? Did You call me? I’m here, I’m here God, if You called for me.”

It doesn’t have to be the right name. It doesn’t have to even be directed at me. I just want to be listening, eager, waiting.

For so many things in life you have to be patient, to have decorum, to show restraint and caution and wisdom. But there’s something perfect about imagining that excitable dog, who’s so happy to see his master that he’s leaning on the door, mouth panting and tail wagging, just waiting for you to come in. And when God sees me, waiting on Him, I’d love for Him to have that same sense from me. Perfect joy and excitement just to be near Him, to hear Him call my name, and to be able to turn around and say “Here I am Lord”.

Tail wagging and all.

Derek Redmon finished the race.

My brother apparently has some odd beef with the raccoon family. This is the 2nd time in as many months that he's killed a raccoon and a raccoon has retaliated by killing his car. As a quirky life would have it, this was his first night driving his spiffy new rental car because he'd recently scraped the left side off his car by plowing into an 18wheeler conveniently parked in his lane on the interstate.
Fortunately everyone except the car and raccoon are quite alright still.
But, the phone call left me unable to go back to sleep (Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day – accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day.) so getting up and plodding through my backlog of google reader blogs I came across this and wanted to post it for you all.

Found @ A Disciples Thoughts by Terry Laudett - Thanks for posting this Terry!

Monday, August 30, 2010

A masterpiece of scraps

This past Sunday at church, I was blessed to be introduced to 9 young men that were there to represent the San Antonio Teen Challenge. These young men stood in front of the congregation, dressed all alike in khaki pants, white shirt and tie, with their hands clasped in front of them for most of the service. They introduced themselves one by one telling their name, where they were from, and how many months they’d been in the 13 month program. The timelines ranged anywhere from 13months, to 3 weeks. The two that had been there 3 weeks and 1 month respectively both had already unbuttoned the top button of their white shirt and loosened their ties some. The others, with discipline from many months stood there, crisp, tightly knotted and buttoned.

They did not appear to have any special musical abilities, but the collection of them sang “unto the Lord” as their Leader put it. They sang words like “I’m not who I was…”, and “Oh no, You never let go, You never let go of me.” 3 of them had the opportunity to tell their specific testimonies. Most were typically tales of bad crowds, starting on drugs and alcohol at an obscenely young age (age 6 for one). But for the most part, looking at the group collectively, I saw in them a piece of myself. They each had the story of reaching the end of the rope and just begging God to help them because they could not help themselves at all. They had tried to help themselves, and they knew now it was impossible. Christ was their only hope.

And yet here they stood, 4 months, 9 months, 13 months later testifying of Gods greatness, His goodness and His mercy towards them. They testified to a love of such a nature that they had never imagined it before. I was moved as they closed the service singing “Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that You’re my God.” And I felt it. That’s why they were here. To worship. To say that He’s their God.

And to make money so they can keep doing what they’re doing.

At the end of the service, instead of just taking up an offering for the young men and Teen Challenge, they invited us to purchase one of their handcrafted items they made in their own woodshop. Then they told us something that drove the point home.

Their local houses maintain 51 young men and they have a womens home as well. For stewardship reasons they seek donations for their supplies as much as possible. So instead of purchasing wood for their woodshop they have been blessed with a local merchant willing to donate wood. A cabinet maker here in San Antonio supplies them with, not whole wood, but scrap wood. Wood the cabinet maker might have thrown out, instead is used by these men to make things that were truly beautiful. And as I looked at the table full of wood scraps turned beautiful, I then looked up into the face of a young scrap that God had turned beautiful as well. He’d quoted the full chapter of Romans 12 to us before he ended his testimony.

I know what God can do with scraps. I know what it is to turn to God with a broken life and a broken heart and wonder if He could possibly want something so ugly and insignificant. Only to find that He can do more with scraps than a master cabinet maker can with whole storehouse of perfect wood.

I’m not who I wanna be, I’m not who I’m gonna be, but thank God I’m not who I was.

If you'd like to support Teen Challenge by buying some of their products as well here is a link to the Teen Challenge Store

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The dangers of magnification

I was tweezing my eyebrows.

More information than you wanted to know I'm sure, but without telling you that important detail the rest doesn't really make sense. So... I was tweezing my eyebrows and that's where this story begins.

Thanks to my renters leaving a lot of personal items in my renthouse that needed to be disposed of, I am now in possession of a handy little mirror. It's small, perfectly round, and intensely magnified. You have to get it really close to your face for anything to make sense, but magnify things it certainly does.

It was incredibly helpful with finding the small hairs that would have been hard to see. And after awhile, I had the job done....


I was still looking at my eyebrows through super magnification.

They looked at least a feet long, with huge logs of hair at least 6 inches with roots the size of tulip bulbs danging off the end. It was grotesque. I wondered how people stood looking at me without pointing at laughing at the logs above my eyes. I very seriously considered pulling out every last hair.

Then I went grumpily to another mirror to see my eyebrows through a regular mirror only to discover they looked like they always have, except now they were tweezed to betterment. My forehead wasn't a disaster of uni-brow. And people won't be pointing and laughing anytime soon - at least not over my eyebrows.

I would have thought magnification was a wonderful thing. It helps you see flaws and imperfections so you can fix them. Close study, and observation helps magnify so many other problems - it can't be a bad thing can it?

Yes, yes it can.

In our lives, too often we get absorbed in the problems. We get deep into the thick of them with our ideas and notions to fix things and too often fail to remember that the general structure wasn't a bad thing, it just needed a little bit of tweezing around the edges. But, as I learned, once you get into a magnified problem, everything about it can often look like a problem when it isn't.

Perspective is very important.

In my life, I've noticed that it's hard to me to get past issues once I've decided they're a problem. I dwell on them, sulk in them, let them dictate my life choices and burdens that I'm willing to carry. Sometimes it takes something difficult happening in a totally different area of my life for me to be able to step back from one problem and deal with the other. Once I've stepped back, when I turn around I realize that the first problem wasn't so awful after all.

You need magnification to do corrections, but once those corrections are done it's important to take a step away from the situation before you go changing other things. I nearly lost my eyebrows in this case, but in others... I very well may have lost valuable relationships that mean the world to me. I may have plucked out beautiful directions that my life could have detoured into. Or I maybe am just living with obvious issues that are simply consequences of magnification overload.

I was genuinely surprised when I looked in the mirror and found out I didn't look like my little magnifier showed me. And as I put the little mirror away I couldn't help but sternly inform it that it was a dangerous tool that I would need to use wisely.

Because sometimes a mirror isn't just a mirror.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dear Avatar

Dear Avatar, I hate you. I think you're stupid. I'm sorry to be so blunt. If you were the standard 90 minute movie, I wouldn't feel so strongly, but NOOOOOO you had to take 3hrs. So, I hope you fall off the shelf and get scratched.

The treasures of darkness

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. Isaiah 45:3

There is a whole byplay going on in these chapters in Isaiah, that I'm certainly taking the verse out of it's context by displaying only one. However, my ideas on the verse and how they display Gods nature are still fitting (I think).

There was something incredible about that verse that struck me, because anyone that knows me knows that before moving to San Antonio I was going through a pretty dark time. So when I read that verse, I was gripped by it's choice of words. "treasures of darkness", "hidden riches of secret places". Riches in secret places.. Treasures OF darkness - suggesting that the darkness itself is the treasure.

I spend so much of the time surrounding holidays looking for the right gift for people. Not just a gift, not just something they'll like, but that special gift that leaves them happy and excited and never having imagined that they would receive such a gift. I stink at that kind of shopping - but its what I try for none-the-less.

And in so many ways, that's exactly what God has done for me throughout the year. I've discovered treasures and gifts I didn't imagine for myself, yet here they are gracing my life. When He handed me darkness, I didn't treasure it, I didn't say "Wow God! Thanks! It's just what I've always wanted!" But now, a year and a half past the awfulness of it all, I know a darkness that has become a treasure rather than a minefield of suffering.

In those secret places where I sat alone with God and literally screamed at Him for what He'd done - I've found the riches of a relationship with a God I can reach out and not just touch, but grip. I found a God who grips me as well. I've found riches that amaze me.

So when I read a verse and it says: "And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by name, am the God of Israel." I believe it. I absolutely believe it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sometimes I hate myself -- and that's ok.

Nobody knows how bad they are until they have tried very hard to be good ~CSLewis

I have a lot of my dad in me.
He possesses an incredible ability to find religious fault.
I took that quality, and multiplied it in subjects such as manners, family obligations, and the ability to instantly judge a situation and a person based on very little information. I love rules because it gives me an easy guideline to line life up against. 9 years ago as a flight attendant we were given the rule of "No drinking from a cup standing up". It looked unprofessional so it wasn't allowed. And here I am 9 years later still unable to drink standing up without considering that rule and it's breakage.

So I took one small fault and multiplied it to an extreme that makes even me not like me sometimes.

I have a little of my Father in me.

As I age, I see both sides grow.

And I'd rather see the family side shrink while the Godly side grew. And some days I like to imagine that is exactly what's happened. But other days - other days I wonder if I've gotten away from the negative at all.

I know I'm growing, I know I'm changing. Some days are just less encouraging than the others.
Today, even sitting here frustrated and disappointed in myself the emotions only sink so deep until they hit the rock that is my foundation. The rock that says I'm loved and accepted with all my flaws. I can strive for perfection, but failure to reach my every goal does not mean utter failure. Because as long as the Rock is still my foundation, as long as I still strive, there is always hope and joy.

So tonight I'm discouraged and I say: "I want to be better than I am today."
But next week, I could be fully encouraged and happy, and I still hope I remember to say: "I want to be better than I am today."

There is no stopping.

And that is pretty encouraging.
*** 1 Day later update ***

I talked with God last night about so much of this that I'm struggling with. And today the change was immediate. It doesn't mean I won't sink back into old habits again because I tend to - but for now, today showcased itself as an immediate answer to prayer. A little bit of the footloose joy I felt years ago tinged the day today. I almost felt carefree. That's pretty incredible. Joy to the world - the Lord has come.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Psalms 93

I woke up this morning thinking about these scriptures:

Psalm 93
1The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

2Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.

4The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

5Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever.

I’ve been focusing in lately on the strength of God, as our ROCK as David defines Him in Psalms 27. There is just a sense of confidence that comes from living and acting on the strength of God rather than your own strength. At first it’s scary as all get out, but as you see how firm and solid and reliable He is to meet every single need that fear changes to something like relief as He carries the burden of being strong enough, and you simply carry the burdens of being willing enough to do what He asks.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A non-crazy blog post.

So.... I looked at my last post and I realized how unexciting it was.
No one goes online to read "everything is swell". People endure those things while waiting for the next twist and turn in the plot. I get that. I got to watch first-hand how this blog grew from word of mouth that probably went something like "Dude, this chick just goes crazy."

So let me just assure you of a few things. Even in times of peace that crazy feeling hits me and I panic. It just doesn't happen to be hitting tonight.

Sometimes, during the moments as I question the future and what it holds and how hard the road might be I'll turn to God with the crazy-eye look and say "HEY! You've GOT to keep a better hold on me this time. I can't do that again, and obviously I'm not able to keep myself so YOU need to keep me. Hold on tighter or something won't you?"

Pain and hurt sometimes blind you to truth. to Truth. And I need 20/20 vision no matter what happens. We all do.

So pardon me these moments of peace and rest and bliss. I'm sure I'll have more drama soon.

God is able.

There is something strange afoot today.
It's peace.

I expected to be nervous today, looking at my phone anxiously every time it rang or vibrated for any reason. But it didn't happen. Oh the phone did ring, and vibrate, but the anxiety wasn't there. This is a better peace than usual. I tell you, God gets better with age.

I've been resting. Trying to prepare for kids dropping out of nowhere, and it's been so peaceful. During the day I field calls and faxes and newspaper postings for renting my house. I work my job. I continually search craigslist to keep track of the number of bunk beds and cribs available at any given time. I have one twin bed at the moment, it's not enough but I'm not sure which other bed I should get. So I wait.

I get home and sit and plan and pray. Then I rest. I simply rest.

I've been thinking a lot about "This walk" while I'm resting. Quiet tends to do that to me, plus the fact that thinking is pretty much impossible to stop with all the details of houses to rent, and kids to be ready for. But as I thought, I've realized that even from two months ago something has changed for me. There is something different in me that I'm just not used to. I remember walking back to my car after meeting the health inspector and realizing 'I feel strong'. But it's not my strength.

I feel firm. Solid. Strength. Things will be difficult. But I'm standing on a firm foundation and everything is going to be ok. Everything is going to be better than ok. It's not because I've prepared enough, it's not because I've seen this before, it's because God has a work for me to do and He will be faithful to complete it through me.

God is able. And if you're feeling discouraged, or just plain tired, if you feel that there's too much for you to accomplish and not enough time, remember that God only added what you can bear. Not a drop more, but sometimes not a drop less. He will see you through.

God is able.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

When God writes words to your life

At midnight last night, when I was driving down from San Antonio to my house I'm trying to rent in Whitesboro I was calm, quiet, slightly anxious for the excitement of new adjustments to be over with. The purpose of the trip was to get some final repairs done before my new renter moved in on the 15th, so I was anxious to get the paperwork all squared away, meet them, and get them moved in.

I was also cutting the trip short so I could come home and rest. I expect to receive foster children sometime this coming week and I didn't want to start the week exhausted from the trip and the work and behind on household stuff before the kids have even arrived. The first couple of days of arrival are exhausting enough.

If I was worrying about anything it was about the kids. My organization is putting a lot of faith in me and has licensed my home for up to 4 kids at a time, and for kids treatment care ranging anywhere from Basic, Moderate, or Specialized. Last time I was only licensed for Basic. Troubled kids in the Moderate or Specialized range.... it's a lot to handle. Especially if they give you several kids at a time.

Plus, I've already done this. I know it's scary, I know it's difficult, I know when I hear the stories it's going to rip my heart out, and then eventually when they take the kids away it's going to hurt like all get out. I've seen this movie before.

I'm quieter than usual lately as my mind is almost constantly contemplating the issues whether it be renters or kids. But on the quiet ride to Whitesboro, sometime in the middle of the night the radio station played a song that I've hated for quite awhile. HATE this song. Hate it. This time though, I finally heard the words:

Don't know where to begin
Its like my world's caving in
And I try but I can't control my fear
Where do I go from here?

Sometimes its so hard to pray
When You feel so far away
But I am willing to go
Where you want me to
God, I trust You

There's a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You

I will swim in the deep
'Cuz You'll be next to me
You're in the eye of the storm
And the calm of the sea
You'll never out of reach

God, You know where I've been
You were there with me then
You were faithful before
You'll be faithful again
I'm holding Your hand

There's a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You

It's one of those rare moments when you think "Wow, they had to have written that song with me in mind." And I thought about how true it was. By going back into fostering I'm saying "Let the water rise if You want them to." I'm also saying "I will swim in the deep" because I can't think of too many things that would be 'deeper' than 4 Specialized kids in my house. These words just spoke right to me. "You've been faithful before, You'll be faithful again." Abso-honkin-lutely.

He's proven Himself.

Then this morning while I was fixing up the house, the renter that I'd driven 347 miles to see, backed out. I flipped open my phone to the initial text message alerting me to the problem and just sat there looking at it. Then from somewhere deep inside of me the words rose up: "So let the water rise, if You want them to - I will follow You". And since I couldn't remember all the words to the song I spent a lot of the morning singing the basic line "I will follow You"

I can live with anything. I can live with losing the house if it came to that -I've already got a 3rd renter lined up, but I'm not counting on it anymore until they actually move in. - I can live with crying over someone elses kids while they wish I was someone else.

I can live with anything except walking away from God. God I trust You. So let the waters rise if You want them to. I will follow You.

For those unfamiliar with the song it's called "Let the waters rise" by Mikeschair.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Forest Gump, Church, and Prophetic visions...... Oh my.

Church is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna get.

An interesting thing happened this morning at church. Something that I don't quite know what to do with despite my many years at church and several "prophecies" I've received telling me that I was going to play the piano and God was going to use it. (I've pretty much always been the church piano player, so this is always an easy prophecy to make and win - leaving me all the more skeptical of the "prophet" and his authenticity.)

But this morning, I pulled in to the lot at Grace Tabernacle. Upon many recommendations from my pastor, and even the father of our bishop (for our section of IPHC), I finally went back to visit the church.
I pull up and a middle-aged hispanic couple pull up next to me. I wait to get out of my car so our doors won't fight with each other and I notice the lady keeps looking in my car at me. I figure its because I'm sitting in a car (in San Antonio heat/humidity even 45seconds in a car means you're now a soggy, sweaty mess and possibly trying to commit suicide).

Fast Forward through the service to me going back out to my car. The couple beats me to my car and are waiting by my car door. The man asks if I've got children.
No. But I will soon - and I explain the foster care plans.

He then translates for his only spanish speaking wife that when they drove up, she looked in my car and she saw me brushing the hair of a baby, a baby with curly hair.

It took me a minute to understand what I was hearing, because I began explaining how, no, I didn't leave a kid in the car when I walked in - I don't have a kid. I was sitting in my car, clutching my purse praying I'd get out of the car before I melted. I wasn't brushing a kids hair.

So he explains it again - she saw you. And through the conversation it turns out she has had other visions of things.

I don't know how to take it. Because once they said the words "curly hair" my mind was transported back to a toddler with dark brown eyes, and wavy little curls, wearing a yellow and pink princess jasmine nightgown and sitting on my lap all damp and clean while I brushed those curls before bedtime.

The people then ministered to me, telling me that sometimes people feel alone and empty but God is always there. Which, I was able to agree with because I didn't feel alone or empty. Nervous about fostering - yes, trying not to think too much about my house renting - yes, and thankful for all God has done this week - yes, all that and more, alone and empty - no..

But my eyes had filled with tears when they said "curly hair" so they prayed with me.

I'm questioning it but I don't want to discount it off hand. Maybe it's one of those times where God was doing something, saying something, and human nature adds to it something more because we feel we ought to.
Or perhaps, I'm going to feel very empty and alone in the coming weeks and this is Gods way of putting in His little reminder card "I told you not to feel empty or alone..."

I don't know. I just don't know.