Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Back to School

Well, after four years away from school counseling, I have decided to return.

Yes, I'm keeping my private practice in counseling. I will be reducing the number of clients that I see on a weekly basis in order to work 20 hours a week as a school counselor at Rockford Christian Elementary School.

This comes in the midst of conversations that I have been having with God about desire. In fact, pursuing this position kind of started those conversations.

My good friend Mackenzie, who works in the business office at RCS, told me about the position innocently enough. She wanted me to have the information about the position in case I had any counselor friends who might be interested in applying. What neither she nor I could have known, was how desire would stir in my heart as soon as she started to describe it to me.

There are things that I have come to absolutely love in private practice counseling. I love being my own boss, setting my own hours and having complete freedom over how I practice counseling.

There are also challenges. My income is constantly fluctuating and the recent changes in medical insurance have affected how much I am reimbursed for my work and whether or not my clients have coverage for mental health services. If you catch me on a vulnerable day, I am likely to rant about how much I pay in taxes and insurance.

I left my job as a school counselor in Chicago because I was completely burned out and I wanted to move to Rockford to be closer to my family and to be more involved in R2HOP. I wrongly assumed that I would never again work as a school counselor because I didn't think there was a private school here that would hire me and because I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted that I could not ever imagine working in another school.

Well, you know what they say: never say never.

As I initially considered the position, I was surprised by how quick my heart was to remember what it was like to be entrusted with the precious thoughts and feelings of children. I was surprised by how much I wanted to have that opportunity again.

I am excited about this new position, even though I know it will be a huge transition for me. I look forward to doing more preventative work and to having shorter sessions that include art and play. I'm also excited and curious about other possibilities that are available at RCS like helping with music during chapel or offering an elective to help children learn to express and care for their feelings in healthy ways.

And, I'm thankful that I can keep most of my clients in my private practice and continue the work that we have been doing together.

Engaging the desire that I felt about pursuing the school counselor position has also grown into something larger in my life. Recently, I have become aware of how much of my life I still live mostly from duty and out of fear. Wanting to be "good" in the eyes of God and others still strongly motivates a lot of my behavior and I want this to change. I want to be governed by love and desire for God, rather than fear and duty.

I'm meditating on John 15:9-10:

I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done--kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love. (The Message)

I wrote it out on a card that I'm carrying with me. I'm praying for God to help me make my home in His love and to stay intimately connected with it. Where my desire is weak or stronger for someone or something other than God, I am presenting it to Him honestly and asking Him to change my heart. Where I am tempted to do the right thing for the sake of being "good" or because I'm afraid of what people will think or how they will respond, I am owning what I truly desire and making it my offering to God.

Still Counting Gifts:

  • #1152: We had a wonderful time in Chicago celebrating my friend and former intern, Frances, as she married Matt! (The first three pictures are some of the beautiful moments that we captured there.)
  • #1153: It was so, so refreshing to my heart to spend a weekend in Chicago and reconnect with my treasured friends and former roommates Michelle and Christine!
  • #1154: Just days later, Ben and I got to host my dear friends from my time at the French School, Carine and Lilita, at our home
  • #1155: Carine and Lilita got to visit the farm and take some delicious vegetables back to Chicago with them
  • #1156: My house is clean because of all the company
  • #1157: I have been living a new rhythm of prioritizing resting and receiving in my free time over accomplishing important tasks
  • #1158: I have been practicing saying calm when someone seems unhappy with me or needs something that I am not willing to provide and waiting until I am actually ready to respond before I try to fix the problem
  • #1159: We get to go camping AND tubing this weekend
  • #1160: My birthday is on Monday and I took the day off, decided that I'm going out to breakfast and making myself my favorite cake
  • #1161: We got to borrow one of our favorite dogs this weekend

Monday, July 13, 2015

Busy summer

I have been staying busy this summer and not telling you very much here.

Lots of fun and exciting things have happened. There have also been moments where my heart has felt heavy and life has felt challenging.

Something fun was when I saw two foxes hanging out at a house just around the corner from me.

They were sitting together at the end of the driveway until one had an itch and needed the brick wall nearby to scratch it.

Karyn says that one is called Charlie and he is a regular around our neighborhoods.

I think this is true because Ben and I saw him again in another yard when we were walking home from watching fireworks on the 4th of July.

We had an amazing weekend in June at Camp Pathfinder in Algonquin Park with my extended family on my mom's side. We slept in platform tents and Ben and I paddled around the island, without tipping over, in a wood and canvas canoe. My cousin Warren showed us around his wood shop and explained how they make and maintain the canoes that we were enjoying. We visited with aunts, uncles and cousins and ate lots of delicious foods.

We stopped in Shelby, MI to visit our good friends Rich and Pam Lantz on the way home. Josh and Laura Anderson were there too and it was so nice to reconnect with people whose hearts still feel so familiar.

Our yard is still full of flowers and colors, although the weeds that we have not had time or energy to pull are becoming more assertive.

After about a month of thinking that my work was causing my heart to feel heavy, I discovered that I was mostly missing Ben.

I remember Kelli Anderson saying something earlier this year about how she doesn't look forward to the summer months the way most people do because she knows that it will mean that Philip is extremely busy with farming. I remember thinking something like, "Hmmmmmmm...that's interesting. I don't think I've felt that way. Summer is so much fun and I love summer!"

But now, I feel much more understanding and empathy because I have really been missing Ben.

He is so very busy farming. I cannot even describe how hard he, the Andersons and all of those work share volunteers work every day in order to grow and harvest delicious vegetables. They usually start really early in the morning and work until after dark. (I am beaming with pride as I think about how hard Ben works. And, I miss him.)

I miss the rhythm of the winter months when he can steal a morning at home if I'm going into work late or take off an entire Wednesday to spend with me. I miss waking up and starting our day together and having time and energy at the end of the day to connect.

And, I don't like these feelings of mine. I don't want to admit that I am not functioning as well as I can because I am not spending as much quality time with my husband as I desire and need. I don't like to ask him to see if he can leave work early because I need to see him, to touch him and to talk with him.

However, as I have discovered in the past month, the alternative is worse. When I refuse to admit my need and make my requests known, then my heart gets hard. I struggle to connect with Ben even when he is available because I have told my heart to stop desiring connection with him. In trying to cope with things by myself and not inconvenience Ben, I have actually made the problem worse.

God, in His kindness, has been inviting me to practice honesty with myself. It's not really Ben who has a problem with my needs. It's not God either. In fact, it's me who has the greatest problem with all of my desires, my needs, my feelings, my hopes and my fears. It's not God or others who are telling me to keep quiet and take care of myself. It's God and others who are inviting me into rich, authentic life where my requests are made known and intimacy brings joy.

I am responding to this invitation and my heart is becoming more light.

Still Counting Gifts:
  • #1142: A really fun 4th of July spent with many special people
  • #1143: I'm learning to play a new song on the piano
  • #1144: We put up the lights in our screened-in porch and it's my new favorite place to eat and be
  • #1145: How God's mercies feel new every morning
  • #1146: All.the.rain.
  • #1147: Sweet quality time with my husband this weekend
  • #1148: Anticipating a fun weekend in Chicago
  • #1149: Hosting friends at our house
  • #1150: Releasing pent up feelings in a clean, healthy way
  • #1151: Hope in uncertainty

Monday, June 8, 2015

My half-marathon and how running is helping to encourage me in my life with God

First, Still Counting Gifts:

I ran my third half-marathon and it went really well (#1116). I ran the fastest first mile of my life, thanks to Colin and Karyn: 10:06 (#1117).

I had to send them on ahead because they just run faster than me and I didn't want to run the entire 13.1 miles with a stitch in my side. Ben lent me his phone after mine didn't wake up on Saturday morning (#1118). He even broke it out of its' life proof case so that I could put it in my running arm band (#1119). Thanks love!

Seeing Ben at mile 2 and 7 and my parents at mile 8 and 12 kept me feeling inspired and running strong (#1120). They appeared as the literal answers to my prayers for God to give me strength and endurance to keep going when I wanted to quit (#1121).

In my last mile, when I was really struggling to finish because of intense leg cramps and pain, God ordained a song to come on my shuffling playlist that talked about running hard this race in order to win the prize (#1122). I couldn't help but smile and say thank you to Him as I rounded that last corner and saw the Finish line. I finished in 2 hours and 36 minutes, which was only 8 minutes longer than my last time (#1123).

I struggled some with perfectionism and was tempted to judge myself for walking a lot during that last painful mile. God helped me to agree with Him and believe that I had done my best and it was a great race, regardless of how long it took me (#1124).

Karyn had an incredible run: finishing at 2 hours and 14 minutes! She may have developed an addiction to running long distances, which is special to me because of my love for running (#1125). Unfortunately, she is so fast that she probably needs to find a faster runner to train with. But, we can still do fun runs together (#1126).

Ben and I had a great time with his family when we met up for his cousin Julia's wedding (#1127). It was fun to be able to talk more with several of his aunts and uncles and to get to know the Striker clan better (#1128).

We enjoyed riding part of the way there and back with his sister Amy (#1129) and got to host David and Debe at our house for several days after that (#1130). Seeing our house again, through their eyes, was so sweet (#1131). I especially loved sharing all the flowers and plants with Debe, who thoroughly appreciated them (#1132)!

Second, God has really been speaking to me about my life in Him:

You already know that God has been inviting me to make Him my peace. Because Ben and I are self-employed, our finances are usually the perfect area for God to work in. I have been struggling with a lot of frustration that God continues to provide just what we need, as we need it, and has not allowed us to pad up our savings in the way that I would like Him to (#1133).

I have been struggling a lot with fear that God is not good to me, specifically in the area of our finances. I have felt this pressure even more in this past week because our 2nd quarter tax payment is due one week from today and we still needed some money to come in toward that payment.

I kept praying Mark 9, "I do believe, God. Help me to overcome my unbelief." And, God was so faithful (#1134). He kept reassuring me that He is good to me and that He would provide for us, even as I waited to see how and when He would do so. But, it felt so, so hard to persevere in faith.

God kept reminding me of how hard that last mile of my half-marathon felt to run (#1135). My legs hurt so much that I could hardly walk, much less run. That's how I felt this week, emotionally and spiritually. I was so tired of contending for God's peace in my heart about our finances, that I could hardly continue. I recognized that we were only a week away from the deadline, just like I knew that I was approaching the finish line when I was running the half-marathon. But, it took the pure grace of God to bring me to that finish line of faith (#1136). I didn't think that I could make it and I know that I wouldn't have made it apart from God's kindness to me (#1137).

And right in the midst of all that turmoil, God was so clearly giving us joy in Him (#1138). Ben and I kept having these moments of sweet satisfaction in our relationship with Jesus where we just knew that He is worth the pain of this journey of trust. Even as we struggled and hurt, we felt confident that it was all worth it because of the person of Jesus Christ and how enjoyable it is to live for and with Him (#1139).

Just yesterday, God brought in a very special gift of financial support for Ben's work at the Moravian House of Prayer as an intercessory missionary (#1140). We were stunned. It was exactly what we needed. We cried tears of joy and relief as God showed His great faithfulness to us all over again. We worshiped God and thanked Him for loving and providing for us (#1141). We were also so thankful that we had persevered in our choice to continue trusting God, despite the difficulty of the process, because He is so worth it.

We pray that we continue to love and trust Him this way, even when our prayers go unanswered, because we believe that He is always worthy of our praise.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This is my favorite flower this week and it grows in my backyard, near the garage.

I have been waiting and eagerly watching for these flowers to bloom. And, let me tell you, they have been more than worth the wait.

The outer color is the most amazing and vibrant pink and the inside is soft, pastel pink and white. They smell absolutely incredible! Literally, I stood outside, in the rain, in work clothes, holding my purse, and kept smelling them repeatedly. They smelled that fantastic!
There are several other flowers new to our yard this week. I actually don't know for sure what any of them are called, but I love looking at them. I love driving up to the garage and seeing beautiful flowers growing by my house and thinking, wow, that was not there before. And, wow, I live here! It's like an extended game of surprise as we wait to see everything that previous owner's of our house have planted. I am very thankful to them, whoever they are, because our yard is a delightful place and teeming with color and life. I pray that God blesses them as they have been such a blessing to me.

Life is also feeling vibrant and colorful this week. I got really sick, again, on Friday night. (I was just sick at the beginning of April for two weeks.) On Saturday, I felt so miserable that I didn't even know what to do with myself. I missed my last run. My 10 mile run, which was supposed to help me feel oh, so ready to run a half-marathon this very Sunday.

I asked Karyn, twice, could I please come be sick at her house because Ben was farming all day long. He kissed me good-bye as I was sipping Theraflu at 6:50 AM and did not return home until after 11 PM. She was so kind and invited me right over. She sat with me on the couch while I blew my nose and tried to carry on a conversation with my stuffy head and sore throat, while also caring for Ava, who was sick with a sore stomach and throwing up. She warmed up chicken and wild rice soup for me when I came back at dinner time. She was even willing to sit in the center of the "sick sandwich" with me and Ava when we watched Rio 2.

My sister is completely wonderful and amazing!

I was starting to feel better on Sunday and Monday, but the weekend was not nearly as productive as I had hoped it would be. Instead, it was filled with rest, reading, sleeping, healing and connecting with family and friends.

In my times with God, I am sometimes completing lessons from the Breaking Free study and sometimes reading from my 1000 Gifts devotional. It's been a wonderful blend of identifying areas where I'm feeling stuck and recognizing how God is infusing my life with joy shining through the darkness.

As Ann Voskamp quotes Amy Carmichael saying, "Joys are always on their way to us. They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming."

I am struggling with things like physical illness, fears, professional challenges, authenticity in my relationships, idolatry, worry over finances and many other things.

God is inviting me to experience pure joy and complete satisfaction in Him.

He is not pretending that my struggles do not exist or minimizing them in any way. God enters into the darkness of my soul and it is like light to Him. He engages me there and breathes life and love right into me. God reassures me that His presence is always enough.
So I keep on breathing in and out and looking to Him. I keep confessing over myself that God is my peace. I keep praying, like that desperate father in Mark 9:23, I do believe! I really do! Please, help me overcome my unbelief. Please push out all my doubts and give me your peace. Please show me just how able and willing you are all over again. I keep opening my hands and my heart to receive whatever God offers me because I believe that His gifts are good.

Still Counting Gifts:

  • #1105: Ben and I leave tomorrow morning for a wedding with his family
  • #1106: I discovered a delicious recipe for kettle corn this afternoon
  • #1107: Naps are even better when you feel sick
  • #1108: Weeding is actually fun when it's been rainy and the ground is wet and soggy
  • #1109: Honest conversation with trusted people
  • #1110: Praying for someone else when I could just be offended
  • #1111: I finally checked out a copy of Sara Hagerty's Every Bitter Thing is Sweet
  • #1112: Reading time in the car while we drive
  • #1113: Sunday evening Narnia readings with my parents
  • #1114: Ben's sweet parents are coming to visit us for a few days after the wedding weekend 
  • #1115: The severe cold and sinus Theraflu really is wonderful when you feel terrible!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Things making me happy right now:

(Still Counting Gifts:)

Fluffy baby geese by the river (#1087).

It's like a testimony that spring is really here every time I see them.

There are several families who hang out together and I love when I come across them. The babies are learning how to swim, eat grass and cross the bike path.

The babies are so cute that I wish I could pick them up and snuggle them.

Of course, I don't do this because the adult geese are so scary. They are literally watching for people like to me to get too close so that they can hiss and charge. This is so terrifying that I risk having wet feet and run through the grass across the path from them in order to be sure that I will not be attacked.

Even today, when I finally mustered up the courage to stop and take a picture, I stood as far away as I possibly could, while still getting the picture.

The view outside of my office windows is becoming amazing (#1088). (And, they are beautifully clear because David McDonald and Norwegian Squeegee recently cleaned them. #1089 Thanks Dave!)

May has been a bit slower for me, in terms of seeing clients. I am receiving this as a gift and spending time enjoying the view outside. #1090

I haven't actually been outside since this morning, but we are moving into the time of the year when you start sweating as soon as you walk out the door. And, I have this thing about being sweaty in regular clothes. I'm OK with sweating in my running clothes, but I prefer to avoid sweating in other clothes.

Our yard is becoming this amazing place (#1091) with all of these plants that I cannot identify. Ben says these are called bleeding hearts. I like them because they are pink. #1092

I'm actually starting to desire to work out in our yard. #1093 I haven't acted on this desire, at all, yet. But, I'm thinking about stepping out there and trying my hand at some weeding. I'm imagining myself doing it, that it will be harder than I think it will and that I will feel proud of my accomplishments afterwards.

Ben is spending more and more time at the farm. He got up at 5 AM this morning and left me sleeping. (I'm pretty sure this is actually the first time that he has gotten up before me in this house. So, I was feeling pretty impressed with him. #1094)

Things at the farm are off to a great start and harvesting and markets actually start this week. #1095 I'm excited for Anderson Organics to start wow-ing our community again this season with their amazingly, delicious vegetables.

I'm also excited to bring some home to my house and eat them. Seriously, their vegetables taste so good! #1096

There is some resurrection going on in my heart right now. #1097

There is pain as places in my heart that have long been dead come back to full vitality and feeling. #1098 There is fear because these feelings are returning with a strength and intensity that I did not remember they had. #1099 There is joy because God is making my heart fully alive to Him. #1100 There is hope because dreams that seemed dead are coming back to life. #1101 There is perseverance in engagement because returning to emotional shut-down would be SO, MUCH, MORE comfortable! #1102 There is love as God reassures me of my incredible worth to Him and His desire for me to be completely free to receive Him and all His benefits. #1103

My wings are back! As you can see in this picture. #1104

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

God is my peace

There's a phrase that I keep praying, over and over again. God is my peace. Breathe in. Breathe out. God is my peace.

It came when I was feeling out of control of our finances, again. I was looking at the amounts in each of our accounts, thinking through all of our anticipated expenses for this month, and feeling a strong sense of fear. I was thinking back on when we took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace class and how hard I have tried to use these principles so that we can have peace in our finances. I was feeling frustrated with God for not blessing my use of these principles and giving me financial peace when I heard Him say, "Jody, I want to be your peace."

It stopped me in the middle of my frantic thought. I felt God's invitation and His strong affection for me. I felt understood in my strong desire, need even, to feel peace in my finances. I felt His tender response and strong desire to answer my strong request. I remembered that God has always been faithful to provide exactly what we need. I felt His affirmation that He would continue to richly provide for our every need. I decided to say yes to His invitation.

I started praying, God is my peace, when I balanced our checkbook each week and paid bills. I kept praying it, with even greater passion, as I thought about how we have just over a month left before our second quarter tax payment is due. Over and over again, God is my peace.

Then, I started to pray this over other areas of my life. This is where things get really exciting because I really don't have much control over much in my life and I need a lot of peace.

God is my peace. He is how my fear will diminish. He is how I will continue to calmly breathe in and God is my peace as I prepare to launch a pilot support group at work and as I engage my creativity through writing and playing the piano.
out. God is who will make it possible for me to courageously step out into new opportunities.

God is my peace as I learn to live fully alive and full of desire, rather than out of fear and a desire to ensure safety and comfort.

God is my peace when I'm comparing myself to you and feeling less than enough. He is my calm when I'm feeling failure and rejection. God is my peace when I'm wishing I had done better or tried harder.

God is my peace when we're working together and you're hurting or doubting and I don't have any good answers for why you're experiencing what you're experiencing. He is my peace when you're regressing and depression, anxiety or both are threatening to consume you and my prayers for you don't seem to amount to anything.

God is my peace when I'm positive that I need to prepare myself for the very worst because it's going to happen and I don't want to risk that crushing disappointment. He is the quiet confidence that makes it possible for me to trust that even if the worst happens, He will be enough for me.

All day long, this is what I'm praying: God is my peace. Because I want to believe it and feel it. I want to know, by experience, that it's true. I want to learn to let this truth govern my thoughts and feelings. I want to develop a habit of letting God quiet and comfort me by confessing this over myself.

God is my peace. 

What are you praying?

Still Counting Gifts:
  • #1079: When I was spitting mad this morning and took off running, fast and hard, because I wanted to get far, far away.
  • #1080: When the miles, the music and quiet conversation with God kept me running hard and fast so that I could get back home and make things right with you
  • #1081: That I can desire repentance and it's available to me
  • #1082: God wants me to know and believe Him
  • #1083: Ben made breakfast for me this morning
  • #1084: Fun connecting with my family on Mother's Day
  • #1085: I have a purple toe nail that I view as a running badge of courage
  • #1086: Several opportunities to engage in prayer for our region in the past week

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When Creative Desire Stirs

The past 3 months have felt crazy.

And during all these months of crazy, busy activity in my life, desire has been stirring in the background of my heart. I read things that other people write and feel myself come alive. I talk with people and hear things that God is speaking and want to write them down and share. I listen to music, sing to the Lord and long to create something that will help other people to connect with God in worship.

It has been over two months since I touched our piano. Or any piano, for that matter. This is also my first blog post in almost 3 months. Crazy months, yes. But, 3 months all the same. I feel sad about these things. And scared to start again. What if I have lost everything that I had developed?

But even fear of the possible frustration of starting again has not been able to change my desire. My desire has only been stirring and growing all this time. My desire is to resume creating. With piano. With words.

This is week 9 of my training for the half-marathon. I ran 5 miles this morning and cannot believe that it felt like an easy distance for me. As I run, I am reminded of all of these good life principles about perseverance, the fruit of hard labor and what it is actually like to train my body to do something.

I waited for a long time to register for the half-marathon. I really wasn't sure that I wanted to run another half-marathon. I really wasn't sure that I would be able to run another half-marathon. I decided to start training and make my decision later. I wanted to start running and see if the ability to run a half-marathon would return.

I ran those first 7 1/2 weeks of training without registering for the half-marathon, just in case it didn't work out. I'm still nervous because I don't know what that day will be like, how I will feel and how well I will be able to run. I know from past experience that there will be moments where it feels really hard and I will want to quit. I also know that I will feel complete exhilaration and pride when I cross that finish line. In that moment, all of my training will be worth it. I finally registered last week and am now officially, "IN."

I'm hoping to borrow from this experience as I prepare to re-engage creatively. I'm not sure how well I play the piano and lead worship right now. I'm nervous that writing consistently was only possible for me during my Fire in the Night internship and just after. I'm going to commit to a training program and see what happens. I'm going to purpose to spend time and energy playing and writing. I'm hoping that this training process will ultimately cause me to feel excited to exercise my creativity again. I'm hoping that I will have moments of delight and gratitude that I'm able and excited to play and write again.

Those of you who read my blog will have some idea of how I'm progressing in my writing. Those of you who come to R2HOP on Wednesday nights will have some idea of how I'm progressing in playing the piano and leading worship. Thank you to each of you for being willing to be a part of my accountability process by reading here.

Still Counting Gifts:

  • #1074: Bible study with the lovely ladies of FCF starts up again this week and we're Breaking Free with Beth Moore
  • #1075: One pretty tulip in my yard and many pretty tulips all over my neighborhood
  • #1076: Bananagrams
  • #1077: God is my peace
  • #1078: I am engaging the desires of my heart

Sunday, February 15, 2015

So, we're buying a house...

I know, it's crazy exciting! And surprising because we thought we might end up renting from my parents forever. But, they have decided that they want to downsize and buy something that is smaller and just right for them in this season of life. Ben and I are excited for them to finally be empty-nesters after 33 1/2 years of having at least one child living at home.

I never thought that we would find a house as fast as we did. I was imagining a long, thoughtful process of looking at older houses in need of TLC and imagining what they would look like after we rehabbed them for the next 5-7 years. Being huge fans of Nicole Curtis and Addicted to Rehab, we assumed that this was the plan for us.

This also felt more comfortable to me financially. The idea of purchasing a house after years of renting felt terrifying in the seriousness of its financial commitment. I think that I secretly hoped we would keep renting because it felt safer than risking purchasing a house and having to depend on God to provide the finances for our house payment. I know, I know. God regularly uses my finances to help me stay in a position of utter dependence on Him and I keep trying to wriggle out it because I would much rather be in a position of dependence on myself. I guess I should have guessed that a house was coming because it was the next logical leap of faith and trust financially.

Our first two houses were foreclosures that needed tons of work. I felt comfortable with the price tags, but wondered how there would ever be enough time in the off-season for Ben to accomplish all of the work that they needed. Then we saw 2211 Oxford Street and it was love at first sight.

This house is absolutely adorable and move-in ready. I could not believe that every single room had some feature that captivated me. Built-in's. Window seats. Crown molding. And tons of natural light, my most favorite house feature. I had a moment standing at the top of the stairs. I was looking out the  enchanting, small, rectangular window and I realized that I was feeling the same way that I felt when I tried on my wedding dress for the first time. I swirled in place a little bit, trying it on for size, and then I knew: I could live in this house.

This process has actually been a lot like other big decisions that I have made. I always want to make big decisions carefully and gather information thoroughly. But, then my intuition sweeps in and I just know that I know that I'm ready to make my decision. Choosing to go to Centre College for my bachelor's degree. Working at the French International School in Chicago. Wanting to marry Ben the very first day I met him. Knowing that we had found our very first house on only our third showing.

Then, as usually happens, I started to doubt myself. What if my intuition is wrong? This house is at the top of our budget. What if it is too expensive and we can't pay our bills? It only has two bedrooms. What if we can never sell it again and we have to live there forever, cramming our future children into every nook and cranny and transforming the sunroom into our bedroom? What if we make the wrong choice and God punishes us?

Ben and I prayed and had long conversations about desire and wisdom. We were both feeling such a strong delight in this house and that stirred up strong desire to purchase and own this house. We wanted to hear from God and follow wisdom in making this important decision. As we prayed and waited, we made plans to see other houses. Despite our best efforts, we could not stop thinking about that little house we had fallen in love with. Other houses we saw just didn't compare and our hearts were not moved. Finally, we realized that God was speaking through what our hearts were feeling. We felt His father heart moving toward us and giving us peace about purchasing the house, coming to believe it was a good gift that He wanted to give us and that He would provide for it financially.

We close on March 11 and we remain in this posture of awe, excitement and some anxiety. Ben has poured over the home inspection and cannot wait to start maintaining our very own home with love and care. I keep looking at the pictures online and imagining my life in that space.
I think about taking off my shoes and coat in the cute mudroom.

Drinking coffee with Ben in the yard or screened-in porch.

I imagine bringing a baby home to the little bedroom and giving kids baths in the little tub in the blue bedroom. I think about walking to my sister's house in the summer or running a few blocks over to be along the river.
I think about playing the piano there and making new neighbor friends.

I don't know exactly how we are going to pay for our house each month, but I believe that God is faithful. I believe that He knows the exact sum of our monthly bills and that He will provide every cent that we need. Beyond that, I believe that God cares about our dreams and our desires. I believe that He hears our prayers and responds.

Still Counting Gifts:

  • #1064: My business has held steady since December, averaging 25 clients a week again.
  • #1065: I am really enjoying my work. I feel God calling me deeper and stretching me through the clients that He is sending into my practice. He is helping me to extend His invitation to true joy in the midst of great suffering to people who are hurting.
  • #1066: My sister and I are running a half-marathon at the end of May! I never thought I would do this again, but she has persuaded me and I'm getting excited for another long-distance event.
  • #1067: Karyn has me doing yoga and I actually really like it. Who knew that was possible?
  • #1068: I finally got rid of those ten pounds that have been plaguing me and refusing to move!
  • #1069: I'm eating really well and feeling amazing.
  • #1070: Celebrating Valentine's Day with senior citizens yesterday. (I went with a group of 8th grade students from the Rotary Academy to visit Wesley Willows and we had a great time!)
  • #1071: I led a song, by myself, this morning and didn't die. To the contrary, I'm growing in my skill and confidence at playing the piano and leading songs.
  • #1072: I can drink coffee black and enjoy it.
  • #1073: Our Florida vacation is coming...and I'm so excited!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Burning heart

I sometimes listen to Christian radio and the announcers have a habit of picking a word for the year. It's supposed to help give vision and motivation. I have to tell you that I thought it was kind of stupid and cliché at first. Then, I picked a word. Actually, I picked two words: burning heart. This is what I am asking God for and pursuing in my life in 2015.

Before you get excited and pick a word or words of your own, please let me tell you that God is already beginning to answer my prayers and His responses seem to be adding chaos to my life. God seems to have interpreted my prayer a bit differently than I had intended.

I prayed, "God, I want to have a burning heart. Cause my heart to burn and be fully alive this year."

I think He heard, "God, please find every area in my life where I am hiding because of fear, pretending to be someone I am not because I am sure that the real me will be rejected, and living in a numb state because letting hope live in my heart feels too risky. Please go to these areas with your resurrection power and shine your brilliant light right into their darkness until every one of those painful places enters into my conscious awareness and begs for wholeness and healing. Take no mind for my comfort, pride or convenience. Just bring my heart back to life."

I had piano crisis last night that exposed the tenderness I am feeling as God is poking and prodding things in my soul. I was already wrestling with condemnation and disappointment in myself for not practicing at all during the week. Then, as I stumbled through the two songs I am working on and they sounded nothing like what they are supposed to sound like, I became convinced that I am worthless at piano. Like ripples on a lake move out from where a stone falls in, fears of being worthless escalated all around me until I began to question everything about my worth.

God moved into view right around that time. Ben started affirming me and reminding me of what is true. He talked about joy and how God wanted to encounter my fearful, hurting heart. The verse of the day for my Bible reading was James 1:2-3 talking about counting difficult things as joy. This morning, I was reading a post from www.aholyexperience.com by Jon Bloom that was all about joy and "what to do when you don't feel like doing it at all". He said:

The pattern in everything is this: the greater joys are obtained through struggle and difficulty and pain--things you  must force yourself to do when you don't feel like it--while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are as inviting as couch cushions...Understood this way, each thing we don't feel like doing, great or small, becomes an invitation from God to follow in the faithful footsteps of his Son, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2 and John Bloom at www.aholyexperience.com)

Finally, Kelly, my piano teacher, affirmed that my feelings of exasperation are valid because I am used to communicating expressively and articulately. My current piano skills cannot offer that level of expression and its OK for me to feel sad and frustrated about that. However, there is great hope for me to improve and it is possible for me to develop that ability to express what I am thinking and feeling through music. In order to do that, I need to accept my smallness and feelings of frustration as I press on through practice over time and grow into greater musical ability.

This is what I plan to do in playing the piano, in my process of becoming whole through relationship with Jesus and in every other area of my life that feels achy and dark right now.

Still Counting Gifts:

  • #1054: I just completed my first Tuesday night practice! (Apparently playing the same day that you have your lesson helps seal it into your brain. I'm giving it a try.)
  • #1055: Being a part of my dad's surprise for my mom. He bought her a topaz ring and honored her for being a Proverbs 31 woman. We got to watch and rise up and bless her.
  • #1056: I've been running again and trying to get my 3 mile run back
  • #1057: Finally starting to read a book that I borrowed over three years ago: Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You. (Chapter 1 is already so good that I can't wait to read more!)
  • #1058: The gift of time when I wake up early
  • #1059: Discovering how to spend free time away from TV and electronic devices
  • #1060: Making dinner with friends last week
  • #1061: The best funeral that I have ever attended, how glorious and beautiful they made Jesus look and how excited I felt for eternity afterwards
  • #1062: Dreaming with Ben, both the familiar and the new
  • #1063: Getting back to writing for 10 minutes each morning, two days in a row