Wednesday, July 25, 2012

All those life details

It's been a busy week and I haven't done any writing or counting. I'm realizing that I need to be more intentional at scheduling my time outside of work so that I can accomplish everything I want to. I think that this is a good problem because it means that I am spending enough time at work that I don't have such a surplus of free time that I can fritter it away and everything will still get done. It's a problem because I prefer the big picture to working out the details. When I have free time, I like to talk with my family and friends, read, head to Magic Waters for a swim, cook, watch something or play a game. I have noticed that I rarely, if ever, do things like return emails, pay bills, run errands, or clean my room when I don't plan them in advance. I just don't choose to do those sorts of things spontaneously. Even important things like studying my Bible, praying for family members by name, and writing down the things that God is talking to me about don't happen unless I intentionally choose to do them instead of something else.

I feel a loving rebuke from the LORD about how I am using my time. He gives it to me so generously and trusts me to steward it well. And, I think that I do, for the most part. But, some things have been neglected in recent weeks and that needs to stop. So, right here and right now, I choose to respond. I choose to plan for these important activities that nurture my intimacy with Jesus and strengthen my faith. I choose to make time to grow in His love and to be faithful in everything that He asks me to do. I choose to keep writing and counting gifts because it supports all of this goodness and fixes my eyes on God.

July 19: 3 gifts baked

  • I had dinner at Bistronomic in Chicago with two of my favorite, former co-workers and all of my baked gifts appeared during that meal. If you have the chance to check it out, I think that you will agree that it is quite a gift to enjoy a meal in this restaurant. (Un grand merci à mon ami Carine pour un bon diner et une belle soirée!)
    • #180: Fresh baguette with butter
    • #181: Tuna tartare with avocado in a little jar that looked like it came straight from the beach
    • #182: Braised lamb on a bed of couscous with little apple slices and cilantro on top
    • #183: A black and white crème brulé

July 20: A gift in light, dark, shadow

  • #184: A French breakfast on the patio, bathed in morning light
  • #185: A gift in dark at the end of the day when the heat is broken and quiet comes
  • #186: Finally finding a table under the awning at the City Market so we could rest while we enjoyed listening to Starlight Radio

July 21: 3 gifts of story

  • #187: Ava reporting on something that happened to her with great enthusiasm and bright eyes
  • #188: Fiction that makes you excited to get away with your book and escape to another world
  • #189: When other people share how God has spoken to them

July 22: 3 gifts understated

  • #190: Time with family, especially the girls
  • #191: Making a new recipe and hoping it turns out well
  • #192: Closing my eyes for just a few minutes in the middle of the day
  • #193: Having and gaining sister's-in-law

July 23: A gift high, low, far away

  • #194: Big fluffy, white clouds up in the sky
  • #195: Carpet deep enough to sink your toes into
  • #196: Countries and cities waiting to be explored

July 24: 3 gifts of sand

  • #197: The sandbox in the backyard that all the kids love to play in
  • #198: My favorite is the white sand that covers the beaches in and around Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Dreaming of going there again!
  • #199: Sand that weighs down the base of the umbrella on the deck, holding it down when the storm comes in hard and tries to blow everything away

July 25: 3 gifts of endings

  • #200: Sprinting for 30 seconds at the end of my run
  • #201:Finishing an engaging book that grabbed my imagination and has been tempting me to lose sleep in recent days
  • #202: When I'm finally done getting ready and can go

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Catching up on counting gifts

It's been almost a week since I posted my gift list. So, there's a lot to be thankful for!

July 13: 3 gifts curled

  • #153: Ava's golden hair, framing her face, as she chatters away in the backseat on the way to summer camp and home again
  • #154: Colorful balloons being shaped into animals by an old man at the city market
  • #155: A green garden hose that watered the dry and thirsty lawn when I rolled it back up

#156: An impromptu game of bocce ball in the middle of the day with two of my brothers

#157: The city market, dinner and a movie with Patrick and Haley

July 14: 3 gifts yellow

  • #158: The sun shining through the rain clouds as I drove to visit my friend Laura and my feelings about having time with her
  • #159: A cold glass of Boston summer lager on a very hot day
  • #160: Lily, who faithfully greets me every time I return home with vigorous tail-wagging

#161: Enjoying worship so much that I lost track of time and felt surprised when it suddenly ended

#162: When everyone stayed around to keep praying after the service had ended because God was listening and we were contending

July 15: 3 gifts of stone

  • #163: The tile under my feet at Starbucks, where Karyn drank a steamer, I drank a latté and we both played Ticket to Ride, twice
  • #164: Pretending I was a stone when I sat on the loveseat with Karyn and watched The Biggest Loser for hours
  • #165: My heart-shaped rock that a very special student found and gave me when we were in St. Pierre

#166: Meeting new people who share my same love for the Bible and good conversation about it

#167: My wonderful neighbor-friend Nikki came back home!

July 16: 3 gifts hanging down

  • #168: Tree branches and leaves that shaded me during my morning run
  • #169: Baskets full of beautiful flowers
  • #170: My quilt hung over the bannister as it dries

#171: My parents came back home after a wonderful weekend of camping

#172: A chance to detox and cleanse my body in partnership with a friend

#173: Going to bed with my new book

July 17: 3 gifts learned

  • #174: The chocolate protein shake tastes better than the vanilla and that's the one that I should order
  • #175: Listening is often the best thing that I can offer my clients
  • #176: Receiving compliments is nice, even though it feels awkward

July 18: 3 gifts musical

  • #177: Just keep coming back to Me by Abby Joy Newell
  • #178: Listening to music that reminds me of when I was in graduate school as I float down the lazy river
  • #179: Mackenzie Hoover leading worship at the Rock River House of Prayer

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jesus, my teacher

July 11: 3 gifts in jars

  • #142: homemade jam
  • #143: wild flowers
  • #144: Hershey's kisses in my office

#145: a day of rest in the middle of the week

#146: surprising my sister with a cupcake just because

#147: praying for victims of Human Trafficking in Almaty, Kazakhstan to be set free

July 12: A gift of life, growth, decline

  • #148: plants who cling to life and persevere despite the drought; reminding us that God can sustain life in even the most hostile environments
  • #149: my brave clients who fight hard against old, unhealthy habits and pursue change, freedom and joy
  • #150: the days of summer speeding along

#151: when the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear with just the right thing to say to someone

#152: 6 months working at Glenwood Center.

Wow, I cannot believe it's been that long already! It has gone so fast and I'm still learning so much every week. I'm noticing patterns in the way that my clients are broken and how they are like me and each other. I'm discovering how unique each one's journey is and yet how similar feelings of disappointment, anger, fear and sadness are provoked by the hardships of life on this earth. It's so easy to be hurt here and it can be so hard to heal. I'm learning how to help people run to Jesus when they are hurting instead of away from Him. As He meets me in my hurts, fears and broken's, I am realizing more and more how much He wants to connect with each one of us in these sensitive places. My life may not look like yours, but I've probably felt what you feel in one way or another. And Jesus did too. After all, He is a man and He endured the deep pain that a human can experience when they are abused, betrayed, rejected, mocked, frustrated, angry or disappointed. He is teaching me the things that He is asking me to teach others and He is expanding my confidence in His ability and desire to care for us when we are hurting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A gift of a breakdown in emotional regulation

July 6: 3 gifts of enthusiasm

  • #124: my friend Hannah's excitement about some training materials she prepared for an orientation to R2HOP class that we're hoping to offer this fall
  • #125: when my new tax accountant explained how I could determine what I need to pay in federal and state taxes and I couldn't wait to plug the numbers into the excel spreadsheet she sent me
  • #126: hugs and smiles from Noah and Kingston when I arrived to babysit them for the whole weekend
  • #127: Colin and Mandy's delight and anticipation as they left for a weekend without kids

July 7: A gift of challenge, conflict, change

  • #128: Kingston crying for 45 minutes straight and refusing to put himself back to sleep
  • #129: my second gift of challenge was when Noah woke up crying at 3:30 AM when I had only gotten Kingston back down at 1:30
  • #130: my gifts of conflict were separating the boys when they were fighting over the same toy
  • #131: Wow, being a parent is a lot of hard work and a huge change from what my normal life is like as a single woman!
  • #132: And yet, what a gift to be entrusted with two precious children for a whole weekend

July 8: 3 gifts water

  • #133: Drinking cold water in the hot sun
  • #134: A trip to magic waters
  • #135: Bathing 3 children all together

July 9: A gift of rhythm, rhyme, reason

  • #136: my whole body moving in harmony to the beat of my feet as I run
  • #137: my gift of neither rhyme nor reason is when new clients come unexpectedly and familiar clients miss their appointments without canceling
  • #138: how God consistently brings me these real people who are making their way through life as best as they can and how He shows me how to love them, encourage them and help them respond to Him

July 10: 3 gifts in weakness

  • #139: fasting
  • #140: realizing that I don't really know what I'm doing, desperately praying for God to intervene and watching Him do so
  • #141: a breakdown in emotional regulation

I am learning, personally and professionally, that emotional regulation is really an art. I just never know what feelings life is going to provoke in me and how I will choose to respond to them in that moment.

I confess that I had a bit of an emotional explosion this afternoon. I had been feeling frustrated about something for a while. I decided that my frustrated feelings weren't very important and I ignored them each time they appeared in response to this particular event. In fact, they really weren't a big deal. If I would have just owned them and cared for them right when they appeared, then I would have realized that they were easily resolved. I may have even been able to receive some love and support from God, my family or a friend if I would have taken proper care of myself and my feeling by accepting that it was mine, recognizing what it was attaching to and then intentionally choosing how I wanted to express it appropriately.

Instead, I denied it and pushed it out of my attention. I said, "That's not my feeling." I said, "That's stupid that I feel this way about that and there's nothing that I can do to change it anyways. I'm just going to ignore it and hope that this feeling will go away." But, it didn't. My feeling stayed. And every time that I denied it, minimized it and ignored it, it got stronger. The frustrated feelings from each separate event decided to form a group. Today, they were strong enough to break through my self-control. When I felt that mass of frustrated feelings, I chose to spew out ugly, angry words toward someone who I really love. I expressed my feelings and felt great release, but it was costly. My frustrated feelings were replaced with guilt and shame over my behavior. They were replaced with hurt feelings when I saw how my words affected the person who received them.

I found myself driving back to work and thinking, "How can I help people learn to do what I have not been able to master myself? How can I instruct my clients in how to identify and express their feelings appropriately when I struggle to do this?"

I felt Jesus ask, "Why are you punishing yourself for something that I have already paid for? Can you pay the price for this sin? Can you heal yourself?" I quickly realized that I cannot pay the price for my actions today and I don't want to try. I want to receive the finished work of the cross of my behalf and His grace poured out for me. I also realized that I cannot regulate my emotions apart from intimacy with God. I need to lean into Him when the strong feelings come. I cannot identify them apart from His revelation and I need His wisdom to know how to handle them rightly. What love the Father has for me that He even cares about my emotional well-being!

This is the love that God has for you too. His are the big, strong arms that hold us together all the time because we cannot do it ourselves.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 3: A gift in faith, family, freedom

  • #113: My gift in faith was when God helped me to believe that He would sustain me through 8 counseling sessions over 12 hours. This is the first time that I have ever seen that many clients in one day since I started working at GWC. Not only did God enable me to persevere, but He blessed me with some incredible counseling moments. Thank you God for how you are using my work to grow my faith and for how you have graciously and generously invited me to join you in this beautiful, transformation work that You do in our lives. I love this work and I love sharing it with You even more!
  • #114: My gift in family was encouraging and loving words at the start of my day and relaxed conversation and sharing at the end of my day. It's such a blessing to have my family as roommates this second time around. I appreciate their company and perspective so much more than I ever did when I was growing up.
  • #115: My gift in freedom happened when I got to share my faith with someone who had just visited church for the first time. I am thankful that I can practice my faith openly in this country and even incorporate it into my work.

July 4: A gift in red, white and blue

  • #116: My red gifts came in the form of freshly cut tomatoes on my sandwich and juicy watermelon after dinner.
  • #117: My white gift was whipped cream atop my café vanilla Frappuccino.
  • #118: Sunscreen was another white gift that protected my skin as I floated down the river in a tube yet again.
  • #119: My blue and white tube is another great gift that I enjoyed today.

July 5: 3 gifts of persistence

  • #120: When I wanted to give up right after I started thinking about estimating my 2012 taxes and my mom encouraged me to call a tax accountant and get some advice. These parts of being self-employed often provoke me to feel incapable, insecure and worried. Getting help is a gift that helps me to persist when I feel this way.
  • #121: My parents. Come what may, they keep loving God wholeheartedly and seeking Him first in their lives. It's inspiring to see how faithful they are and have been.
  • #122: Serving the LORD by night. Even though our Nightwatch only goes until 1 AM and only once a week, I know that this chunk of time on Thursday nights is precious to God. He is so good to share Himself with us as we persist in prayer.

#123: A new book: Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and Beth Clark. This is the incredible story of a woman who quit her life to love orphans in Uganda. Here is an excerpt from her book that really caught my attention today:

"Every day I have spent in Uganda has been beautifully overwhelming; everywhere I have looked, raw, filthy, human need and brokenness have been on display, begging for someone to meet them, fix them. And even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in. I can enter into someone's pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that He apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, he comes with us to the hard places. And so I continue to enter."

This is exactly what makes for good counseling: when I can enter into my client's pain and sit with them and know. But, even more profound for me is the realization that this is what makes for a joy-filled life because, as Katie says, "This is Jesus." This is how I can be assured of joy regardless of my circumstances. I can count on Jesus to take my hand and come right with me into my hard and my hurt. And even if He does not instantly mend my wound or meet my needs, I can be confident that He will quiet me with His love and give me joy in His presence.

This is when I like to picture how Ann Voskamp describes Jesus in these moments of our lives:

"Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world, because the Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, 'I know. I know.' The passion on the page is a Person, and the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea but the eyes of the God-Man who came and knows the pain." One Thousand Gifts

Don't you want to know this One and be known by Him? I do. Especially, in the hard places of my life.

Monday, July 2, 2012

3 gifts read

June 29: A gift small, big, just right

  • #97: My gift small was catching moments to connect with my mom first thing in the morning. I was getting ready for a meeting and she was getting Ava ready for camp. Our time and conversation was small, but a gift.
  • #98: My gift big was when the sky turned into God's canvas and He used the clouds to paint an incredible picture that looked like the ocean, from underneath the water. I stood with mom, dad, and Lily in the backyard, snapping pictures and watching the glorious image unfold.
  • #99: My gift just right was visiting with my new, favorite, friend and neighbor at the end of the day. I especially liked how free I felt to be myself and to enjoy her being herself.
  • #100: Staying up even later than late to watch two episodes of one of my favorite shows
  • #101: Both my mom and Karyn stopped by my room to say good-night when they went to bed.

June 30: 3 gifts I gave today

  • #102: I gave myself the gift of skipping running to sleep in.
  • #103: I gave mom, dad and Karyn the humongous treat of going out for breakfast and, even more importantly, staying long after we had finished eating just to talk and enjoy one another.
  • #104: I gave Colin and Mandy a night out without children.
  • #105: In giving Colin and Mandy the night off, I also gave myself the gift of precious and fun time with Noah and Kingston.

July 1: 3 gifts loved

  • #106: Fried eggs on a piece of buttered toast
  • #107: Celebrating Patrick finishing his last college class!
  • #108: Eating homemade pizza with my family and listening to everyone talk all at once

July 2: 3 gifts read

  • #109: God's word to me in Acts 20:24: "But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the LORD Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love."
  • #110: A heart-felt thank you note
  • #111: Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman

#112: Time in the middle of my work day to read the Bible, sip lemon tea and count gifts