dumpster delivery

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For our fifteenth anniversary my husband rented a dumpster.  This is not a bad thing; don’t think ugly thoughts about Michael.  I had requested it, so he was indulging me.

The thing is – in our fifteen years together we haven’t moved in the last thirteen years.  We haven’t purged closets, or the garage, or our storage areas.  I mean,  I’ve taken clothes and toys to good will from time to time, but I’ve never really cleaned out.

The problem is : We have collected stuff.  Stuff we don’t need.  Stuff we don’t want.  We’ve kept broken stuff, used up stuff and stuff that we just don’t like anymore.  fifteen years of stuff.  And we were full to the brim.

The dumpster was delivered last Friday and all weekend we dumpstered.  We sorted, piled, and organized bits and pieces of stuff to keep and after that we began pitching.  All day Saturday and Sunday we threw away stuff.   It was terribly hard work.

And it felt good. – We begin year sixteen of marriage free from the bondage of all that stuff!

I realized that there is nothing better than clean and organized closets.  Items put in their place are refreshing and appealing, rather than overwhelming and controlling.  I can’t even explain how good it feels to not be afraid or embarrassed of those closets and their contents anymore.  Only the good stuff fills our storage spaces now.

So, Sunday evening when our dumpstering had come to a close I had time to think it all over.  This messy situation isn’t too far from the story of my heart.

Although I am a believer, there are times when I collect my sinful fears, thoughts, emotions and desires –  and I keep it all hidden in the dark places of my heart.  Hard stuff, that I’d rather conceal than choose to look at and purge.  Ugliness I’d rather be filled with, than confront honestly.  And that’s just what the Deceiver wants me to think – that it is better and easier and more comfortable to keep it under wraps than to deal with it.  That there is no true deliverance only emptiness.  And there are a multitude of ungodly reasons to believe him.

But, what is the real truth?  from Hebrews 12:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Holy Spirit whispers to us, calls us, begs us to pull out that sin ; bring it into the light of day and then give it to the one who sacrificed enough to eliminate it permanently.  Sins lurking in my heart are meant to be dealt with.  I don’t have to reconcile with them – I need to get rid of them!  That is His will for me : to live eyes wide open to the truth,  empty of my sinful self, delivered from that sin, and filled with His goodness by His grace and mercy !

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There’s a song I’ve heard –  a prayer of deliverance.  I’m moved to repentance every time I hear it.

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
No, I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

 

 

 

Fifteen!

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There are many miracles that happen daily in this world.  But, today, the best miracle of all is LOVE, marked by the occasion of a 15 year anniversary.

Today Michael and I celebrate fifteen years of marriage.  Fifteen years of God’s gracious favor given to us.  Fifteen years of digging deep.  Fifteen years of “I’m sorry”  and “I forgive you.”

Any time two people can come together, and survive 15 years of that togetherness, for the sake of love – it is miraculous.

Frankly, I’m grateful he’s survived me – I wouldn’t want to live life without him – but anyone who has put up with me this long,  deserves saint-hood.  and that is the truth.

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Happy Anniversary, my love!  Here’s to another 15, and many more!

mean tangerine..

pinto

That was its name.  It was gawdy orange with black leather interior.  Yes, my first car was an orange 69 Ford Pinto.  It did not have power steering or power brakes or a working radio.  But it did have a horn that sounded like a tug boat’s.  I drove it with pride. sometimes.

I remember the day my dad pulled up in front of the house in my new ride.  I had just passed the test and had my license. finally.  He had told my sister and I that he had found the perfect little car for us at a family friend’s used car lot.  We were ecstatic! What would it be?  A little honda, a cute mazda? Maybe a super fun volkswagon?

I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when he pulled into the driveway.  or my sister’s.

From my parents’ perspective there were good things about a bright orange 69 Ford Pinto.    We couldn’t go fast;  pedal to the metal and the car was going 45.  maybe.  We couldn’t hide or sneak around town; no one misses an orange pinto, I promise you.  We couldn’t leave the city limits; the car was just not reliable enough.  Keep in mind that my home town of Bowling Green, Ohio might have been four square miles.

I remember calling my dad for assistance one day.  My muffler had fallen off.  I had picked it up from the side of the road and brought it home.  Dad reattached it with a hanger and some sort of adhesive.  nice.  I think we repeated this particular pattern several times.

From my perspective there were terrible things about the car.  We couldn’t go fast ; pedal to the metal and the car was going 45.  maybe.  We couldn’t hide or sneak around town; no one misses an orange pinto, I promise you. We couldn’t leave the city limits; the car was just not reliable enough.  Keep in mind that my home town might have been four square miles.   hmmmmmm…..   sound familiar?

Well, did I learn to drive?  Yes.  Did I have little fender benders in my parents’ nicer vehicles?  No.  Did I grow a thick skin because of my friends’ teasing?  For sure.  Am I stronger now because of it? Absolutely.   Can I see now that this was the best little car for me at the time?  Yes.  Was it hard to understand way back then?  You better believe it.

The very things I found detrimental, it turned out they were for my good.

After all this time, I’m still learning this lesson.  There are things in my life that I’m not sure I like.  Not sin, not moral dilemmas – just situations, stuff.  And I look at my Heavenly Father and say, “Why?  I do not understand this!”  From His perspective there is definite purpose.  But my point of view is clouded at best.

It’s in these moments of questions and insecurity that I have to look at Him and say, “Okay.  I trust You.  I don’t get it.  But, I’m okay with it.”  In this case, that is all I know to do.   If my dad, who loved me so much, did what he knew was best in giving me my first car…  how much more is the Heavenly Father going to take care of things?

In Romans 8 :28 (along with many other places in Scripture) He promises that at the heart of his plan His will is for my good:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Thank you Heavenly Father for your constant care and protection.  Even when I don’t get it, when I lack understanding, You’ve already planned it all.  It’s so good to know you are a loving Father, prepared to give me what is best.  Amen.

From Luke 12:  “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

(originally written on February 23, 2011.)

love, the answer

There’s a small journal in my purse most days.  I’ve been carrying it around with me now for the better part of 2014.  because I’m forgetful.  Friends tell me things, troubles and struggles and I want to sincerely pray for them.  Seriously, if I don’t write it down, I can’t remember.

I don’t tell you to puff myself up or anything.  No – I tell you because I took a long look at the list recently.  There are answered prayers – a lot of them, and for that I am so grateful to our Heavenly Father.  But then, there is a lot that remains –  brokenness, hopelessness, darkness.  Many sleepless nights and anxious days are represented in my little journal.  It is hard for me to read what I’ve written in my journal sometimes, let alone pray, without doubting.

just being honest here.

Last night I went to a concert where the artist, Andrew Peterson, finished with one last number.  And I wept thru the entire song.  Actually, I ugly cried.  Though I’ve heard the song many, many times, I realized something in my heart, not just my head.

Jesus, Himself – love embodied to the world – is the real and true response to every entry in my journal.  Sometimes it is easier to expect simple, physical or earthly comfort as the answer.  But really, at the end of every crushing blow and series of horrible events – there is Jesus.  He is love eternal.  And I don’t believe there is a more thorough or better answer that is promised to every prayer request ever uttered.

Friends, I give you these words.  May your heart be encouraged as mine was.

After the last tear falls…

After the last tear falls, after the last secret’s told
After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone
After the last child starves and the last girl walks the boulevard
After the last year that’s just too hard

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

After the last disgrace, after the last lie to save some face
After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue
After the last dirty politician, after the last meal down at the mission
After the last lonely night in prison

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last plan fails, after the last siren wails
After the last young husband sails off to join the war
After the last, this marriage is over
After the last young girl’s innocence is stolen
After the last years of silence that won’t let a heart open

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last tear falls there is love

 

drive by affections

We noticed it again this morning when we drove by, Emily and I did.  And of course, we laughed.  We always do when we pass it.  What is it that brings on a full belly laugh?

There’s an on-ramp that we drive regularly to get onto highway 153 near our house.  The cement barrier that we face, as we come full circle, has a lot of spray painted messages.  Probably the most prominent, which we noticed more than a year ago, was a declaration of love:

I LOVE YOU STEPH!

That’s what it said.  It wasn’t until about six months ago, it became even more noticeable when it was changed to:
I LOVED YOU STEPH!

Oh the difference that one letter made.

Emily and I have a dramatic scene we’ve imagined many times over, where the young betrayed and distraught lover sneaks out under cover of night to change his message.

And we giggle about it every time we pass it.

In the back of my mind it resonates with me, though. When it comes to loving others the way the Heavenly Father loves me, I am not steadfast in heart or mind. I am completely fickle, unreliable, just like young love can be.    It is a part of the human condition, I suppose.  With one passing moment, deep, solid, eternal affections are swept away by earthly joys and sorrows. I am frivolous, hopelessly possessed it seems, by the here and now.

But, here is the truth. There is a recurring theme in the Old Testament : the people of Israel would sin against God – love Him one minute, reject Him the next.  And still, He loved them, faithfully reminding them of His promise : He would send an ultimate sacrifice that would show His love for them.

In Jeremiah 31, He reminds the Israelites of the steadfastness of His love again- and they are words that I too can rely on – words of His perfect, promised affection.  and they are no laughing matter.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;  therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Heavenly Father, I am barely able to comprehend this love you bestow.  May I learn to love others with this same love I’ve received : No drive by love.  No past-tense affection.  Only your love, fully mine to give away.

 

 

How to start the school year right…

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On Sunday night it hit me hard.  one more day.  Just one more day of summer. no more “freedom – sunshine and happiness – pool time – ice-cream – sleeping late” kinds of days.  They are over.  done.  Only “alarm clocks to set -schedules to follow -school work to complete – never-ending schedule- gotta keep moving” kinds of days instead.

It always feels to soon when we are getting ready for the academic year to begin- summer is never long enough. Not to mention – there are three children to teach this year – and three sets of curriculum to work thru, and three checklists to check off – which does seem VERY overwhelming.

But, there are no brakes on the calendar, time marches on and we had to carry on with it. So, school officially began at our house on Tuesday.

Here’s where I normally would post photos of our first day of school, complete with smiling faces, but my computer is giving me troubles – so, unfortunately, not too many photos.  I can tell you that our first day involved fresh pads of paper, newly sharpened pencils, unused erasers, shelves and shelves of books that were especially ordered for each child, and plenty of positive reinforcement. (otherwise known as : peanut butter M&M’s and starburst.)

And I had music playing: it keeps me calm+ in forward motion= two very important items for the teacher’s first day of school.

I listened to one of my favorites several times – and it was such a good reminder, keeping my emotions in check and feeling less helpless.  When I heard the lyrics, I became confident: everything was under control, specifically HIS control, and I could rest.   These are the best kinds of moments at the beginning of the school year – the ones where HE is at the center, my steadfast anchor.

Here are the words:

Come To Me

I am the Lord your God, I go before you now
I stand beside you, I’m all around you
Though you feel I’m far away, I’m closer than your breath
I am with you, more than you know

I am the Lord your peace, no evil will conquer you
Steady now your heart and mind, come into My rest
Oh, let your faith arise, lift up your weary head
I am with you wherever you go

Come to Me, I’m all you need.
Come to Me, I’m everything
Come to Me, I’m all you need.
Come to Me, I’m your everything

I am your anchor, in the wind and the waves
I am your steadfast, so don’t be afraid
Though your heart and flesh may fail you, I’m your faithful strength
I am with you wherever you go

Don’t look to the right or to the left but keep your eyes on Me
You will not be shaken, you will not be moved ooh
I am the hand to hold, I am the truth, I am the way
Just come to Me, come to Me, cause I’m all that you need

 

 

the girl with the vest

It wasn’t that long ago, (and I’ve been thinking about it ever since) that we saw a group of women at the park where my children play.  They were a group of women, brought to the park in a white van, who were fulfilling community service to the county. Wearing fluorescent vests while cleaning, picking up trash and the like.

One young woman, with her head hung low, walked past us and as she did, I caught a glimpse of writing that read:

I AM A DRUNK DRIVER.

Ah.

No longer does the brightly colored vest bring enough humiliation.  There must be more shame in big black letters.

And I’ve thought about her and how much we are a like.

Okay, I’m not a drunk driver.  But, I’ve got a long list of past sins and failures.  The only difference is that no one is expecting me to announce them, engraved on the back of a loudly colored vest.

greedy. dishonest. selfish. ungrateful. discontent. controlling. unloving. unkind. unjust.   oh, my list is long.

While I’m very familiar with my shortcomings, there’s one thing I’m acquainted with even more.   These words I do wear:

I AM FORGIVEN.

I don’t have to own that sinful pedigree which is rightfully mine.  Regardless of how often I come up short, no matter how unable I am to live a righteous and holy life in my own strength:  My Heavenly Father forgives.  And He gives to me the righteousness of His son, Jesus.   No humiliation or shaming required.

from Colossians 1:

18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

 

Thank you, Jesus.  You are the giver of life, love and forgiveness. By your sacrifice You have set me free.  You have removed my vest of shame and clothed me in your righteousness.  I am grateful for such mercy.

amen.