Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Praying is what I do


Isn't it encouraging when God reminds you of who you are and what it is that He has called you to do?!

When I was at Fire in the Night, I prayed a lot and I loved it. I realized that I really have been created as an intercessor and that is my primary mandate. Now, I am also really gifted in counseling and helping people, but that's second. Praying is what I do first. This is what I was made for: to encounter God through prayer. I cry out to Him and He answers. I quiet myself and listen to Him speak to me too. My time at IHOP-KC affirmed this prayer calling and started me down the path to living as a committed intercessor in a HOP.

It's been almost a year since I did Fire in the Night and I have started reversing my mandates again. You see, I had wrongly made counseling my primary mandate way back in graduate school. And, I had continued this way for years until I got completely burnt out. The snatches of time that I would get in the prayer room when I was home from Chicago on weekends or watching live feed during my morning quiet times was insufficient. I was malnourished as an intercessor because I was hardly eating. To top that off, I was running a marathon every day that I went to work. Not surprisingly, the result was complete exhaustion. It took FITN for me to be nursed back to health and to realize that I had to pray first and counsel second. But, after almost 8 months back in the world of professional counseling, I have started to think of myself as a counselor first and an intercessor second.

But, God is so faithful! I love to pray over my clients and bless them at the end of our session. I don't do this for all of my clients because some of them aren't Christians and they are usually only open to prayer when they are in crisis. Occasionally, I will forget to pray for my clients and that happened one day last week. We had finished the session, scheduled our next appointment and I was at the door. My client, however, stayed seated. They looked at me, without moving, and said, "Aren't you going to pray for me again?" I am so thankful that I forgot to bless them because that moment impressed upon me that my prayer really is the best thing that I have to offer my clients. My counseling is great, but it doesn't compare to the power of God that is released through prayer.

God lovingly gave me another opportunity to understand the proper order of my mandates this week. I have been providing sozo prayer with a wonderful woman named Kim for a few months. When I arrived for our time this week, she informed me that I was going to be leading my own room. Let me tell you that I was completely panicked internally. I always provide sozo with Kim and she is a very gifted sozo leader. The thought of being in my own room and offering it without her was terrifying. I'm sure that at least some of my fear came through my face because Kim reassured me that it would be OK and that God said, "Tell Jody just to do what she does." Kim repeated this again and I thought, "OK, so counseling/sozo. I can do this. Oh God, Oh God, Oh God! Please help!"

We decided to open in prayer in my room. We praised God and prayed scriptures and blessings. An hour later, I almost laughed out loud when I realized that this is what do! I pray. I bless. I praise God. And, this is what I was doing in my sozo room and it was exactly what God wanted to minister to that particular person.

As I drove home that night with the windows down and the cool breeze blowing in, I thanked God for affirming what I was quick to forget: I am an intercessor first and a counselor second. This truly is the right order for me. I am extremely well nourished in my spirit through the place of prayer and empowered to run the marathon of helping people get whole through God.

Father, please keep reminding me.

August 18: A gift red, read, written
#290: Sneaking out for a morning run with my beloved sister in preparation for our 5K (We left Ava in bed and Lily in the backyard with Dad.)
#291: Holly (Sndyer) Soupir's wedding and a chance to reconnect with family friends from way back in my childhood

  • #292: A gift pink (I can't think of any red) was almost everything at Holly's wedding: bouquets, shoes, silverware and decorations
  • #293: A gift read was 1 Corinthians 13 during the ceremony
  • #294: A gift written was a letter from a dear friend that I received
August 19: 3 gifts in church (First, I must confess that I haven't been to church yet this month, except for weddings, but I remember some things that are gifts to me there.)
  • #295: When I can lose myself in worship
  • #296: Taking the time to actually lay hands on people and pray for them
  • #297: the WORD
  • #298: the Bride of Christ
#299: Family BBQ
August 20: 3 gifts of serving
  • #300: Offering sozo prayer
  • #301: Cooking breakfast for my mom because it makes her smile
  • #302: Kind words to affirm someone
August 21: A gift straight, curve, turn (I'm really stuck with these gifts, so I'm going to count my own and skip the categories for today.)
  • #303: 7 out of 8 clients came for their appointments
  • #304: The way God patiently listens to what seems like confused, circular chatter on my part and how His comfort brings peace to my heart
  • #305: Getting to sing for the first time in a while
August 22: 3 gifts in light
  • #306: A brand new day
  • #307: Light streaming through the trees to touch my face like a kiss from God
  • #308: Reading Ann Voskamp's most recent blog post: When You've Been Waiting for an Answer…and Life seems Silent. Light streamed right into my heart as I read

Friday, August 17, 2012

Halfway through August


August 10: 3 hard eucharisteo
  • #250: Celebrating my youngest brother's marriage while I keep waiting for my own
  • #251: Choosing to praise God anytime the feelings of longing or jealousy come
  • #252: Trusting God when people I love really hurt in the face of unanswered prayers
  • #253: Believing that both the good and the bad really are God's goodness and love for each one of us today
August 11: 3 gifts of metal
  • #254: The espresso machine at Starbucks
  • #255: Patrick and Haley's wedding rings
  • #256: Roller coasters at Cedar Point! (This was technically from the 12th, but I can't resist counting it here)
#257: Singing and dancing along to the Rio love song at the end of the wedding

#258: A new sister

#259: Chipotle, followed by a chocolate dipped cone from Dairy Queen and then the hot tub

August 12: 3 gifts half-hidden
  • #260: Roads that we would never see if the GPS didn't warn us to be watching
  • #261: Quality time with family, found waiting in line
  • #262: The moment when the coaster crests the hill and starts down the other side, leaving me feeling weightless as I lift up in the seat and the cart plunges down
August 13: 3 gifts in green
  • #263: Highways signs giving us the Chicago countdown from Ohio
  • #264: Grass starting to grow again along the road
  • #265: The body pillow, fluffy across my bed at home, inviting me back at the end of a weekend away
#266: Dinner at Chick Fil A on the way home. Yum!

August 14: A gift in a ring, curve, sphere
  • #267: Serving steaming hot sausage gravy from the big ring of a metal pot to hungry people in need
#268: 7 clients in the same day

#269: 2 new clients who didn't come, giving me extra time to comfort someone else who was in great need

#270: My "on" week with every-other-week clients and celebrating their wonderful progress

August 15: 3 gifts ugly-beautiful
  • #271: My clients who are struggling to manage their emotions and suffering
  • #272: The hurt of divorce
  • #273: Trusting God when you can't see or understand what He's doing
  • #274: Comforting those who mourn
August 16: 3 gifts of family
  • #275: Mandy's birthday lunch on the 15th and special time to connect
  • #276: Sitting around the table playing Scooch and playful teasing
  • #277: Making coffee for Patrick in exchange for a soft pretzel he made for me
  • #278: Dinner where we all cram around the table, sitting close to one another and talking loud
August 17: 3 gifts in the morning
  • #279: Runs with Lily in the forest preserve and how excited she gets
  • #280: Being surprised by another yellow lab on a walk
  • #281: Cooking breakfast and savoring every bite while I sip coffee and read the paper
  • #282: Meeting a friend
  • #283: Driving with the windows down and the fresh air streaming in
  • #284: Coming home to a house full of family and friends
#285: When I forgot to pray for my client at the end of our session and they asked me, "Aren't you going to pray for me?"

#286: "Yes, I am going to pray for you. That's my favorite part. Thank you for reminding me."

#287: Being able to pray authentically over a client in pain over an unfulfilled longing with a deep empathy from my own experience with unanswered prayers.

#288: My part-time job in full-partnership with God that gives me great joy

#289: My life so rich and so blessed

Thursday, August 9, 2012

When it’s hard to stay present

Sometimes I find it hard to stay present. We're leaving for Ohio early tomorrow morning and I'm not ready because I have a lot of things that I have put off doing until tonight. I'm also excited for a weekend of wedding celebrations and then fun at Cedar Point. Beyond that, I'm aware of plans to get together with friends and other things that I'm hoping to do with the last days of summer. So, I'm fighting to keep my mind from wandering to all that lies before me. I'm fighting to stay present with my clients and what I'm doing now, instead of drifting into thinking of what's to come.

Today, I'm tempted to miss the gifts of the present by anticipating the future. Other days, it's the past that catches my attention and drags it from the present. When I replay a conversation over and over and imagine what I could have said differently to seem better in the eyes of that other person. I review choices that I have made and play "What if?" I embrace regret and wishful thinking, which usually leads to feelings of sadness, disappointment and frustration.

Either way, I miss the gift of now. What is God saying and doing right now? How is His unfailing love and incredible grace mine to receive now? How can I treasure this moment, this present experience, and steward it in such a way that I feel and enjoy every blessing? I want to receive everything that God has for me. I want to open my hands and my heart as wide as they will go and take in everything that will fit. I'm choosing to enjoy my present.

August 3: A gift at 10 AM, 1 PM, 10 PM

  • #229: Birthday breakfast at Egg Harbor Cafe with a surprise visit from Michelle and Tyson
  • #230: Combining half of an almond cupcake and half of a churro cupcake for a delicious afternoon treat
  • #231: Looking up through the mesh window of the tent and enjoying the stars

August 4: 3 gifts sitting

  • #232: Sitting down to breakfast around the picnic table
  • #233: Sharing a tree stump seat with mom while we watch Lily throw herself into the lake repeatedly to rescue sticks
  • #234: Eating smores around the campfire and laughing when Noah gets marshmallow stuck to his chin

August 5: A gift outside, inside, upside down

  • #235: My gift outside was our whole camping weekend with walks in the woods and to the lake, eating campfire cooked treats, breathing in the smells of fire and earth and all the good conversations that happened in between
  • #236: My gift inside was arriving back to our delightful yellow house with all its' luxuries at the end of camping
  • #237: My gift upside down was how I enjoyed being dirty the whole weekend

August 6: 3 gifts in water

  • #238: That first shower back and remembering what it's like to be clean
  • #239: Sips of refreshing water in the midst of a hot and sweaty run
  • #240: Clean drinking water from multiple sources in my house when so many go to great lengths only to find polluted water

August 7: 3 gifts in His WORD

  • #241: Seeing how God has mercy when His people humble themselves in repentance
  • #242: The way it often seems written specifically for me
  • #243: God's promise in Isaiah 56:7 to "fill me with joy in His house of prayer" and how often I feel that way when I am there

August 8: 3 gifts in summer

  • #244: The feel of grass between my toes
  • #245: Being outside when it's that perfect temperature that is neither too hot, nor too cold
  • #246: Fun activities like vacations, weddings, recreation and sports, and how it's always easier to find time to read fiction

August 9: A gift hole, whole, half

  • #247: Space in my schedule to read and write blog posts
  • #248: How Christ is making me whole by His grace
  • #249: The delicious half of a veggie burrito that I will eat for lunch!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Reflecting

Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 31 years old.

Today, I've been reflecting on the wild ride that the past year of my life has been. I was in Paris, France this time last year. Exactly one year ago today, I shopped in Les Halles, sipped strong coffee from a small cup at a café on a busy street, and meandered through the Luxembourg Gardens and past La Sorbonne. I hurried through some light rain, trying to find the restaurant that the city guide recommended before I got too wet. When I realized that the restaurant was nowhere to be found, I ducked into a small Italian place across the way. Fortunately for me, they were actually Italian and I had some of the best lasagna and tiramisu that I have ever tasted. Once I could eat no more, I slipped into the now dark streets and followed the light shining up into the night sky until I stood before Le Tour Eiffel. It is so beautiful by night! I took picture after picture that could barely reflect what I wanted to capture. It sparkled and I stared. I walked closer and closer until I was right under it, looking straight up to see what it looked like upside down and inside out. There were lots of people enjoying the sights and it felt good to be a part of a group of people enjoying something wonderful together, even if we weren't actually together and we would leave in the end.

I wasn't thinking about what the next year would be like on that night before my 30th birthday. I was reveling in the fact that I was in Paris, passing myself off as a native French speaker, and feasting my eyes and my stomach on delightful things. But, even if I had tried to imagine how my 30th year would shape up and even if I had been particularly inspired by the enticing French culture all around me, I am confident that I would have underestimated just how amazing this year would be.

I was so exhausted then that I don't know how well my imagination was working. Five years of professional life in Chicago had worn me right out. It had taken the last of my emotional, mental and spiritual resources to leave my job, move back home, and close an entire chapter of my life. I think that this is part of what made my month in France so much like a dream. I was suddenly comfortable, sleeping in the sun, taking time to enjoy lengthy conversations and remembering how to think, feel and breathe.

I think of my birthday month in France as part of my physical rehabilitation and doing a 3 month internship at IHOP-KC as my spiritual and emotional rehabilitation. I hadn't realized that I was offended at God in several areas of my life and that I still had a lot of fears about whether or not He is really good and loving all the time. I wasn't sure if I would ever want to counsel anyone ever again and I didn't know how to think about life after internship. So, I didn't. I spent time in the prayer room. I cried when my heart hurt, I prayed when my desires all came running out, and I threw my arms out over my head and sang at the top of my longs. I took communion, read my Bible, wrote in my journal and on my blog, asked for healing, soaked in God's love and started coming back to life. My heart grew until it could contain a desire to see people get free as they encountered God and to use my gifts toward that end. I received grace to live free of fears and burdens that I had lived with for years. I was surprised by the joy and peace that came to take their place. I started getting excited about going home, building a house of prayer in Rockford and creating a counseling practice according to God's design to set the captives free.

The rest, you've heard about. I have been so richly blessed since I came back to Rockford in December and started giving myself to Him and these pursuits. So, I have decided that if this year is any representation of what I can expect in my 30's, then I am delighted to celebrate this entire decade.

August 1: 3 gifts white

  • #221: Wild flowers
  • #222: Foam on my cappuccino
  • #223: Carpet under my toes at the end of a long day
August 2: 3 gifts eaten
  • #224: Warm oatmeal with strawberries, blueberries and pecans
  • #225: Pan fried chicken covered in panko bread crumbs
  • #226: Lemon parmesan pasta
  • #227: Almond cupcakes from Sugar Jones
  • #228: Decaf Nespresso consumed with my cupcake

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Unfairly blessed

I have been feeling ridiculously blessed in the past week. I actually broke down when I was talking with my sister one night because it felt unfair that God is blessing me so extravagantly while other people I know and love are hard at work counting blessings because they are tempted to think that they aren't really receiving any at all. One of the things that I love about counting blessings is that it helps each of us to recognize just how blessed we really are. But, it is still painful when certain people seem to have everything come so easily to them and I think that I am continually going without. It's also hard when I have identified myself an unfairly unblessed person for so long and only recently, I have been trying to make the change to seeing myself as richly blessed. It feels awkward and scary.

While it's true that my biggest unanswered prayer of finding a godly man to share my life with still hasn't been fulfilled, I have become that person who has things coming easily to them in all these other areas of my life. My career, which I didn't care about for the longest time, because I just wanted to be a wife and mother, is really developing now. And, I have discovered that I am hugely blessed because I love it and I'm really good at it. And, I never even asked God for these blessings and He has given them to me anyways. Lots of people have started complimenting my work and my business is becoming profitable and I feel really weird about it. And, I feel embarrassed because I am receiving all of these good things and some others aren't. They are receiving different blessings, but I feel afraid that they may feel jealous of my blessings and that this could hurt our relationship. I feel sad because I want everyone that I know and love to feel as richly blessed by God and I know that some people are actively struggling to get there.

I am afraid that people may think that I am doing something right and they are doing something wrong when the truth is that none of us deserve anything good, ever. We all deserve death. It is only because of God's unfailing love for us that we receive anything else. It is only because of His infinite goodness that we receive good and perfect gifts. Sometimes, we feel unfairly deprived by God. I think that it's really important to count gifts then to remind us that we are still blessed indeed. We may not be receiving the gifts that we desire most and ask about most frequently, but we are receiving many other valuable gifts on daily basis. Other times, we feel unfairly blessed by God, as I have recently. I think that it's really important to count these gifts too to remind myself and others that these gifts are the grace of God, not the product of our works.

With that said, here are the rest of my July gifts:

July 26: 3 gifts fresh

  • #203: When my mom texted me to ask if I had ordered a Nespresso machine because a huge box had just arrived at the house and I realized that someone had sent me an incredible birthday surprise
  • #204: The basil, mozzarella and tomato on my salad at dinner
  • #205: Conversation with a good friend that I haven't seen in a long time

July 27: A gift on vacation, at home, in relaxation

  • #206: Sleeping and waking in a magnificent bedroom overlooking Michigan Ave
  • #207: Making coffee for my entire family with my new Nespresso machine
  • #208: Breathing deeply at the end of the day as I enjoy worshipping God at the HOP

July 28: 3 gifts of beginnings

  • #209: Waking up to enjoy extended quality time with my sister!
  • #210: Using a new coffee cup for the very first time
  • #211: A new routine of settling down at the end of the day by watching the Olympics

July 29: 3 gifts together

  • #212: Teaming up with my parents to set up a new tent
  • #213: Connecting four tubes with arms and feet so that we can all look at each other as we float down the lazy river
  • #214: Time with the community of worship leaders at the HOP to share our hearts and vision

July 30: 3 gifts heard

  • #215: 3 clients told me that they had referred me to someone that they know
  • #216: A friend told me that I looked beautiful and I believed her
  • #217: God's love song over me

July 31: 3 gifts difficult

  • #218: Being at work for 12 hours straight
  • #219: That I desire to fight for my thoughts to honor God and for my imagination to stay pure
  • #220: My tender heart that is so easily affected by people and situations