Move 2015

Well, it’s that time of year again!  The time each year when the Payne family packs up all their earthly possessions and migrates.  This year we are crossing continents again as life takes us back the United States.  So far we have a perfect record, we moved once in 2012, once in 2013, once in 2014, and this is our move for 2015.  It’s a great housekeeping method- about the time things start getting cluttered, broken, or really dirty- we move!

You would think that since we have such a moving habit we would have  a pretty good system by now, but instead, every move teaches me afresh that God is the only One who’s supposed to be in control and our real job is just to choose to trust Him.  Along the way, He rewards us with new treasures of truth lived and learned.

This first thing I’ve learned this move has to do with people.  Very often during our time in Korea I have used the word “isolating.”  Living in a foreign country, being unable to speak Korean, homeschooling, living off post, it’s all been very “isolating.”  But now, as people say their goodbyes and send us off with so many sweet words and displays I’m convicted that it’s my own insecurity that has been the biggest force in isolating me.  There are so many relationships that could have been a blessing to me but I held back from them and justified my actions with judgements.  Why do I feel I must be restrained toward someone until I have bumped into them a certain number of times  or met a certain quota of social pleasantries?  Why do I have to wait for something to break the ice?  It might just seem like the social norm, but as a christian I have Christ in my heart and if I close my heart off until people earn the privilege, then I am being selective about who gets to see Christ in me as well as missing out on whatever God could have taught me through an encounter!

As I walk around town this week each familiar face I see first reminds me of the sadness of moving and starting over, but second inspires me to live openhearted wherever I go.  I don’t need to trust every encounter- the Bible commands me to be wise- but I do need to seek connection for the sake of the kingdom of God and for my own good.  Moving is a great time to practice this: making eye contact, seeking to know about people, looking out for ways to care for the people I meet as if they are my brothers and sisters, (which the Bible says they are,) inviting people into my life, and being willing to share in theirs.

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Contentment

Kids are a delight.

They have the sweetest, most excited generosity.

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They wear cute clothes.

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They know how to delight in everything from cats to fountains to roof tops.

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058

169

They have adventures in their heads, and look beautiful no matter what they are doing.

250

170

 

Kids are a delight- but most days I am miserable.  I can see how awesome my life is, but I can’t convince my heart to stop generating overwhelming waves of frusteration, disastisfaction, and self pity.  I don’t think I’m unusual in this.

God created us women to serve.  Look in Genesis and 1 Peter and you will see that God created us so that our beauty shows up most in serving, gently and quietly.

So if we were created with the ability to be God’s hands and love towards others it makes sense that Satan would much rather we focus on ourselves.  God made us women to serve others, but Satan has robbed us of the joy and peace and beauty that God built into this purpose by convincing us we must also ensure that our needs are met.

I can write a long list of things I should have that I don’t.  I could give that list to any christian woman and I bet they would agree with it and tell me I needed to “fill my emotional tank.”  I even saw an awesome movie recently that told moms they needed to put on their own oxygen masks first, but I have to stop and think- what is there on that list that can fill me?

Can girl time make me stop feeling like no one cares?  Could a run or an adequate wardrobe make me feel beautiful?  Could a romantic date with my husband make me not care when my kids won’t listen?  I think I could get every good thing a girl could have and still be miserable.  I think my list is just an excuse to not fight the battle in my mind.

God calls all humanity to joy.  Philipians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, and again I say rejoice.”  And the gospel- Christ dieing so my stupidity isn’t my definition- is reason enough to rejoice.  Psalm 118:29 says “Give thanks to the Lord, He is good; For his lovingkindness is everlasting.” Psalm 118 says God has opened the gates of righteousness and thanks to God we can go through them.  God has saved us.  Not only has God removed every mistake you’ve ever made- and for me that is the only way I can hold my head up- but He has taken charge of the future and will spin it to your advantage.  Finally, He has crafted this very minute to give you a taste of Himself.  All that means freedom from guilt, from fear, from stress, from all my excuses for misery.

As women, Satan knows He can block us from this joy if he can just get us to focus on ourselves.  Our emotions make his job easy.  The Bible says to take every thought captive, and I think that also means every feeling.  Daily I am overwhelmed by my feelings, but God is calling me to contentment- to spending my energy on the purpose He has given me rather than my feelings.  To trusting that He will meet my needs and I need only to live the life He unfolds before me.  To call on Him in my stress and act on the answers He gives me.  God made me for a beautiful job, and He is waiting to train to me to perfect joy in it, if I will choose to be ruled by the gospel instead of my feelings.   So, I am making a commitment to contentment- to say “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it- no excuses.”

(Psalm 118:24)

 

Luke 10

God I hate this! I stink at parenting. Look at her across the pool deck.  She’s about my age but she’s still bikini thin and  pretty, and she’s laying out reading a book!  I don’t even have my bathing suit on because the short people who run my life wouldn’t give me the time to change!  I want to do something I’m good at and be praised.  I want to be in charge of my own time and not feel like screaming or crying 50 % of the time.  I don’t want to do this!

Luke 10

Verse 1-2  “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.  He told them ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”

THIS IS THE JOB I AM GIVING YOU TO DO.  GO WORK IN MY FIELD.

Verse 4 “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

IT’S GOING TO FEEL LIKE CRUD SOMETIMES.

Verse 21-23 “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to the little children.  Yes, Father, for this was for your good pleasure.  All things have been committed to me by my father.  No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’  Then he turned to His disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what  you hear but did not hear it.'”

YOU ARE BLESSED TO DO IT.

Verse 25-27  “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ He replied.  ‘How do you read it?’ he answered ‘Love the Lord your God with all your  with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”

THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.

Verse 30-37   “In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.  they stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him, ‘ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’  The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'”

LOVE YOUR KIDS AND SERVE THEM LIKE THE GOOD SAMARITAN.

Verse 38-42  “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She has a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked ‘Lord, don’t you care my sister has left me to do the work all by myself?  Tell her to help me!’  ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from  her.'”

SIT AT MY FEET.

 

THIS IS THE JOB I’M GIVING YOU.

IT DOESN’T ALWAYS FEEL GOOD,

BUT YOU ARE BLESSED TO DO IT.

SO…

LOVE YOUR KIDS, SERVE THEM,

AND STAY AT MY FEET.

All Together

“Grace, grace, God’s grace…”  Blending a family of five kids can sometimes feel like a train wreck.  Being perfectly honest and just letting what’s in my head fall into the paper today I have to admit that I fall apart over our attempts to bring our family together.  Even as I am sitting here there are things happening that are making my skin crawl, and Satan is just outside the door with a big bucketful of despair waiting for the chance to douse my heart.  A kindergartener throws a temper tantrum.  Elementary schoolers bicker, make messes, and cause more noise that our apartment can contain.  A highschooler stirs up strife.  Kenny and I have to stay up to 1 am in order to have a private conversation and stay in touch.  All the parenting advice in the world, all the self-admonition to be patient, to control my temper, all the structure and family policies- nothing can make me strong enough for this job!  I can’t get myself under control, much less my household- it’s a mess!  “Grace, grace, God’s grace.”  At a moment of blood boiling, will-this-ever-get-better-ness, I suddenly remembered that line.  “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all my sin.”  Take out sin and plug in “family” or “kid’s foolishness,” or whatever in that moment is stopping me from resting- resting in the finished work of Christ on the cross.  My five year old just fell on the floor in a temper tantrum in the middle of the crowded subway station.  God has a plan to redeem her heart from her sinful nature just like He did mine.  I don’t need to panic.  My six year old just spoke words he never should have heard.  My God is still bigger.  My eight year old has a heart ache because of the unkindness of a sibling he admires, God knows this. He is in control of my baby boy’s life and will work all things into the fabric of Their relationship.  We only have two months before our nine year old leaves us again- it doesn’t make it hurt less, but God is with her.  Our teenager spews forth all the foolishness of youth, but God is big enough to bring him into a relationship with Him, and that alone can make his life what it should be.  I blow it and sin against a kid, or my precious husband, and I don’t have to hide because God has already forgiven me, and His plan to bless my family and grow them into strong, life consuming relationships with Him won’t be thwarted by me.  “Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater.”  Greater.  Grace that is great enough.  Great Grace.  That’s our family.

Family Trip to I'Park Mall  Kenny loves malls; can't you tell?

Family Trip to I’Park Mall Kenny loves malls; can’t you tell?

We climb on statues.

We climb on statues.

The optometrist's waiting room.

The optometrist’s waiting room.

Acting out a statue at Seoul Grand Park.

Acting out a statue at Seoul Grand Park.

Bathing Beauties at Seoul Grand Children's Park

Bathing Beauties at Seoul Grand Children’s Park

Daddy daughter dance- where Dad went on to win the hula hoop contest!

Daddy daughter dance- where Dad went on to win the hula hoop contest!

A Tale of Two Cakes

The first cake started as a life preserver- not a literal white ring with red markings and “HMS Titanic” written on it, but figuratively, as the thing I was hoping would keep my sanity afloat.  See, my 27th birthday came just weeks after we moved from my hometown in Peachtree City, GA to an army garrison in downtown Seoul, Korea.  Specifically, it came days after we had moved into our new apartment and weeks before any of our belongings were due to arrive. We had been living out of the same five suitcases for two months, and the act of getting dinner on the table with no pots, pans, or dishes, and the nearest grocery store two miles away, was consuming every minute of my day.  So I decided that for my birthday I wanted to make a pretty cake.  It would be an act of creativity to bouy my floundering spirits.  I bought tin foil pans at the two-mile away grocery store, baked the cake and planned to decorate it with robin’s egg blue frosting and a big funfetti heart.   I was just mixing food coloring into the frosting when a tiny head popped into my peripheral vision:  “What are ya doin?” “I’m frosting my birthday cake, Elliana.”  “But it’s your birthday cake!  You can’t frost your own cake!”  “But I want to.”  “No.  I’ll help!”  First my pretty robin’s egg blue cake turned the exact color of hospital scrubs.   Then the funfetti went everywhere, and lastly, my little helper finger painted right into frosting so that the cake showed through spelling the message “I luv Mome,” and hearts with M+E written in them.  My cake was an act of creativity alright, just not my creativity.  I wish I could say that as we stuck the candles in and slid the cake into the cool oven for safe keeping I was so delighted and thankful for my sweet daughter that I forgot my desire to make my own pretty cake for my birthday, but instead, I sighed.  It was my birthday.  Shouldn’t I get to do what I want- something for me?  The self pity continued right up until the moment, hours later, that I was preheating the oven for dinner and smelled the melting wax.  “The cake!”  My husband, who never makes these mistakes but somehow always cleans up from it when I do, raced to rescue the cake from the oven and rush it to the freezer, but sadly, Elliana’s birthday creation of love looked more like a piece of modern abstract expressionism.   The scrubs-colored frosting was melted into waves, and the candles looked like they were doing the wave as they all bent dramatically to the left.    It was quite a birthday cake, but the real icing on the cake (forgive the pun,) came when Kenny lit the candles after dinner.  As my kids sang three different versions of happy birthday simultaneously, my husband turned from the kitchen with the cake in his hands, and all my self-pity shattered- not because the tenderness of the scene, but because of the cake!  That cake, which had already been through so much, was now spewing flame skyward!  Halfway melting the candles has left so much wick exposed that now Kenny was holding a cake topped by a good ten inches of flame dangerously licking towards his face.  His expression as he carried the cake toward me was becoming increasingly more alarmed.  But when he reached me I couldn’t blow out a single candle!  I couldn’t even try, because I was falling out of my chair laughing.  My cake, my life preserver in the chaos of family life, had been finger painted by my daughter, melted by me, and set aflame by my husband, and now we were all in danger of setting off the building fire alarm and it was perfect!  At every turn my birthday cake brought to my attention the people who love me.  My husband, who rescued the cake, and risked being set on fire by it, my boys who sang through the fiery blaze, and my sweet daughter, who wouldn’t let her “Mome” decorate her own cake.  This is what a birthday should be: a chance to open your eyes and see all the gifts God has already put in your life, starting with the people that love you.  Push fast forward to six weeks after my birthday.  It’s ten o’clock on a Wednesday night and I am covered in white frosting: my hands, my hair, my pajamas- and most of my kitchen.  On the counter in front of me is a nearly-pinterest-worthy Hello Kitty cake with pretzel whiskers and jelly bean eyes.  Elliana turns five in the morning and I’ve been working on her cake since she went to bed.  My husband has long since disappeared into the living room, leaving me to frolic in my ocean of powdered sugar and creativity.   I’m making a pretty cake, but not because I need to, just because I know my daughter will like it.  Elliana decorated my birthday cake, and now I am decorating hers.  Her cake said “I luv Mome,” mine is saying “I love you back.”

Her Cake for Me (can you see the finger painted writing?)

Her Cake for Me (pre-melting- can you see the finger painted writing?)

Mine for Her

Mine for Her

Gifts of Grace

Grace /gras/ n 1: unmerited help given to people by God 2: freedom from sin coming through divine grace 3: a virtue coming from God 8:CHARM 9: ATTRACTIVENESS, BEAUTY 11: ease of movement

I had a nasty temper. I mean really ugly, un-controlled, violent anger volcano-ing out of my eyes, mouth and hands at the least provocation, anger that had been a part of my internal make up since childhood. God is worked miraculous victory, changing me from the inside out – but those memories of ugly rage, sinful lashing out, and agonizing feelings still shape the way I see myself. So you can imagine how much it meant to me when a woman named Grace for whom I have great respect- a woman who to me embodies quietness, gentle grace and productivity that is precious in the sight of God, gave me an unexpected mother’s day gift along with an encouraging note. If the weight of a compliment is measured by the character of the giver the words of that note were solid gold, which I shall treasure for the rest of my life. The gift that came along with this blessing of words was a book titled “Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home.” I looked at the book, read the back with much excitement and then stuffed it in my carry-on bag and ran out the door to Hartsfield International Airport. I had a short flight from Atlanta to Detroit, then a layover, then a fourteen hour flight from Detroit home to Seoul. It was a long trip to make alone with three kids, and moving around the airport was especially tricky as we had used our trip back to the states to buy all our summer clothes and were thus hauling seven bags in addition to our pillows pals, souvenirs, and a homemade bow and arrow, but I wasn’t terribly worried. I had done the reverse flight just a few weeks before and the kids were great travelers. So, with a little patience and plenty of digital entertainment I figured we would be fine. But then, the flights were full and we, travelling on standby, didn’t get on. No big deal, this sort of thing happens when we fly stand by. We would just try the next flight- except that flight was full too, and the next, and there were no more flights until the next day and they were already full too. When we didn’t get on the last flight I felt devastated. I was tired and hungry and I wanted to go home to my husband. There were these kids who had already been sitting in an airport for an entire day and were tired of carrying their heavy bags and there were all these people and no one could tell me how I was going to get home. Was it awful? Were we miserable? Was this where my nasty temper took charge with angry growls at the children to sit down and stop complaining? It could have been- for a brief moment it almost was- but then, there was grace. As we sat after that last plane I read the book, my gift of grace from Grace. I read about the gospel, and God’s gift to me, and getting home didn’t seem so desperate any more. God took any frustration or desperation from me and let me enjoy the challenge instead- he freed me from my ugly temper- he gave me grace. Then God gave all three kids great attitudes even though they did enough walking and ruck marching for Dallas to develop raw spots on his shoulders where his backpack straps rubbed him through his t-shirt- God gave us grace. We had no trouble getting a hotel, and even though it was past bedtime, we pulled bathing suits out of our bags and tumbled into the hotel pool- where we soaked in grace. The next day was another entire day spent in the airport. Time and time again fellow passengers complimented the kids on being well behaved, or talked and laughed with us about our adventure. Stressed gate agents stopped and talked to me about their day and did everything they could to make us comfortable. My three kids and I ended up stuck in the Detroit airport for two days. We flew out of Atlanta on Tuesday morning and on Thursday night we flew back to Atlanta to try another route home. Between those times we spent hours sitting in the USO waiting for flights, we traveled up and down the concourse at least six times carrying our entire luggage from gate to gate to gate, and we experienced a glimpse of grace. It was grace- a free gift from God that helped us, that kept me from being slave to my temper, grace that gave us gracious attitudes toward one another. It was grace that attracted people to us and made it easy for us to move through the airport. Because God is gracious, even though we didn’t deserve it, He gave us the ability to move through this adventure with grace. See, grace is like that- it’s the nature of a gift, but it’s also the nature of the giver, and the nature of the work upon the receiver, just like my book, Glimpses of Grace, was a gift from Grace and helped me be graceful during my adventure in Detroit. So, this today, I am saying “thank you Grace, for grace.” And as a side note, I did eventually get home to Seoul- I’m there now writing through a jet legged haze, sitting next to one of my biggest gifts of grace.

Haughty Eyes

This week I began to meet people- insistently initiating conversations on the playground, forcibly inserting myself into face book conversations, doggedly hounding those poor people who had given me their phone numbers into becoming a part of my social circle and trying to impress everyone with how great I am.  Yeah, you read that last part right.  See, I had planned on blogging a tour of my new apartment this week, but it turns out God wanted to take me on a tour of my heart instead- and it stinks.  Proverbs 21:4 says “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, The lamp of the wicked, is sin.”  A lamp shines outward, spreading the light it contains to those around.  So, if haughty eyes and a proud heart are the lamp of the wicked, maybe they are the visible manifestations, or output of wickedness.   If so, what does that say about me?  I have been looking around myself at the residents of my new home with haughty eyes.  I have pride-fully considered others as less than myself- “ I bet they still have boxes to unpack.”  “I bet they aren’t having as nutritious a dinner as us tonight since I have already cooked this morning and they are just running to the commissary at 6 pm.”  “I would never treat my kids like that.”  I am a show-off, eager to present my “togetherness” to others.  The truth is that every good thing in my life- the blessings I enjoy in my family life, my beloved husband, my relationship with Christ- are all gifts from God, and not only do I do nothing to bring them about, I am almost constantly a terrible steward of them.  If you got 30 seconds to glimpse into my heart you would be sickened by the inclinations and thoughts from silly to violent, from unwise to pornographic, that are laced through my nature.  If you could know this real me- the base and ugly adulteress, ill-tempered and lustful, then you could see just how much God does for me every day.  If you could see how He intervenes to protect me from myself and how He festoons me gifts of righteousness- a moment of patience here, a glistening drop of compassion there, a sparkle of faith piece by piece remaking me- then you would know that He is undeniably gracious and mighty and good!  If you could see how bad I really am than you would know just how incredible He is.  Yet, I spend all day every day trying to create the opposite effect.  Rather than letting you see how great is the work He has done in my life, I spend a ton of energy trying to make it seem as if I don’t really need Him.  I hide His signature on my life by making it look like I have it all together.  I hide Him and that is wickedness.  Proverbs 21:10 says “The soul of the wicked desires evil; His neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.”  1 Corinthians 13:4 says “Love… does not boast, it is not proud.”  Proverbs 6:16 says that God hates and despises haughty eyes.  My haughty eyes need to be cut out.  Ugly scars would be a better reflection of the real me and blindness would give others a chance to watch God’s gentleness and romance in leading me.

Comfort Idols

My associate pastor, Tim Gwin, once taught a Sunday school class on idolatry.  He said that you know you worship something when you are cut off from it and can no longer be happy or satisfied.  He also said that an idol is anything you look to for your self worth other than Christ.  We are currently living without most of our worldly possessions, in a country where we know no one, without a church home, and I am convicted.  When I think about all the things I miss: cooking, talking to friends, painting, taking care of the house, our activities at church, I am aware that I might as well be listing my idols.  I am proud that I cook homemade meals for my family.  I feel a mite superior when the house is tidy and organized.  Even my friends and activities at church (while essential towards my growth in righteousness,) can be used by my twisted heart as an easier path to comfort or happiness.  Now, separated from all these things, I find myself discontent, dissatisfied, missing out on chances to enjoy my children or my husband because I want the things that make my life more comfortable.  I want my comfort idols!  I say the joy of the Lord is my strength and that I rejoice in the Lord but this time is showing me that in practice I actually use a lot of other things to make myself feel good and I call it rejoicing in the Lord.  Really I am rejoicing in the things the Lord has given me, which is fine, until I become so dependent on them that I can’t serve Him without them.  I see now that all the times I let myself become moody or overwhelmed what I am really saying to God is “I can’t enjoy You until You make this other thing the way I like it!”   I am not glad that I still haven’t figured out international grocery shopping, or that it has been nearly two months since my last social encounter, and certainly not that we are currently without a church home, but I am delighted and honored that when I wake up tomorrow I will be complete, and whole, and content, solely because Christ is with me and I know He has a plan for me.  I am hopeful that the next time disappointment and discouragement strike I will be quicker to fall into Christ and less emotionally ruled by my circumstances.  I’m honored that the Holy Spirit is teaching me what it really means to need Christ alone.

The verse I picked for Elliana when she was born in Philipians 4:4-8 ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice,” it begins and then it goes on to describe the various ways you should control your thoughts so that you can achieve this constant joy in the Lord. 

I hope as a daughter of God she learns to discipline her heart to find joy above all in her Savior. I hope she learns the lessons God is teaching me now.

 

Baptism

67.  Baptism-

I hate being single.  I hope it isn’t too obvious.  I try to not wear my desperate loneliness on my sleeve, but there are times when I just feel like screaming “somebody love me!”  Sitting in church is often the worst spot, as anyone who is single will probably agree.  It isn’t just about wanting to feel loved, but about getting to have two perspectives on Christ, to know more of Him because you see Him through two sets of eyes, about unavoidable accountability, about serving God with two sets of gifts and having someone to tell when God teaches you something amazing.  I know all my married friends reading this will roll their eyes and say I am being idealistic, and I am, but to have just a crumb of that unity in Christ- that is an enviable thing.  I consol myself by reminding
myself that my very singleness is evidence of the work God has done in my life.  That a girl with my history could spend four
years faithfully married and then another four without so much as a flirtation, it’s my reminder that God is sanctifying me even when Satan wants to tell me otherwise.  But I don’t just want to endure singleness- that seems so wasteful, pathetic, and feeling unloved feels just like another one of Satan’s lies.  So instead, this is what I will remember:

I was baptized on Easter Sunday 2010.  It was my 24th birthday.  I wore a green dress and gold sandals.  I was so nervous I don’t remember anything up until the minute I reached the front of the church.  My children were with me, Elliana was one year old, and she wore a dress with lots of crinoline and polka dots.  The boys were three and five years old in their matching teal polo shirts and sandals.  I don’t remember the words Pastor Doug spoke; only that he was smiling and I couldn’t stop smiling either. Grace and posse were impossible, I was just so happy.  I didn’t look around, but I knew the people around me felt it too.  I knew my dad was probably crying, and among the many in those pews that had loved and prayed for me for years, there were probably more wet eyes.  I bowed my head when Pastor Doug lifted a handful of water, and fat drops sparkled as they escaped his fingers and sang as they splashed back into the basin.  I wore a tiara of pearly drops as he laid his hand on my head and prayed.  I still couldn’t stop smiling.  When he walked me down the aisle my three kids, who had been baptized too, skipped ahead down the aisle and out the
double doors.  The entire church was lit by the faces around me- I have never seen a church so full of joy.  My wedding ring is made of water, water that sparkled like diamonds as it fell from my hair.  And the amazing thing is that this heavenly bride-hood doesn’t just set me apart, it ties me into so many loves that I should blush to ever think of myself as “single” or alone, because everyone who wears the same wedding ring belongs to me just I belong to them.  The bravery of the woman who takes this vow and wears the ring although it is also a noose for her, that courage belongs to me, the passion of a man who sings his worship for all to hear, that belongs to me too, the age old wisdom, and newly born fervor, these are mine.  The shame of the fallen and the anger of those hurt, these are mine too, and all I am is theirs.  I am anything but single, far from unloved.  I am baptized.

Dalal or Broken Bell Jars

56. My kids knowhow to chew food and feed themselves.  I know this seems silly, but there are thousands of children whose disabilities make these tasks impossible.

57.  Homemade jelly that actually sets

58.  Elliana’s “Watchadoin?” and the way the kids come together over their love of Phineus and Ferb

59.  Dalal- or broken bell jars:

The people were freezing.  They had abandoned their homes in the valley.  Villages were left like ghost towns when the people
fled up the craggy mountains.  There they crawled in between the rocks, wedging their lives into caves and crevices.  They bed their children down on cold stone floors and cooked over smoky fires on rocky ledges.  They were like wild wolves, or bears, but
with less to protect them.  So they stayed as close as they could to the mouths of their caves, wearing the mountain like a turtle wears its shell, and their children grew up in darkness.  The people were hungry, too.  Every day the men went out, chilled
without by the mountain air, but more so by the fear within, down into the valley.  They crept like thieves among the green fields and well worn paths where their children’s bare feet used to run.  They worked in the fields without talking, the work moving slowly as half the force stood futile guard.  It was not that the fields would not produce.  In truth, every day the wheat and barley seemed to have grown higher.  Their green stalks waved in a teasing dance when a mountain breeze dipped through the
valley, and they soon turned golden, and ripened before the farmer’s eyes, but the very fullness of the kernel, the golden glow of the field, creased agony around the eyes of the farmers, and bent their mouths with pain.  Any day the harvest would be ready to eat… any day…

After Joshua stepped down as leader of God’s people they dispersed to their own cities and fled farther and farther from God until God turned them over into the hands of an oppressor.  An enemy came driving them out of their homes and into caves for shelter; their oppressors gave them just enough breathing room so that they could work and prepare the harvest, then they would sweep in
and carry off what the Hebrews had grown leaving them hungry, scared, and broken in their caves.  Dalal is the word the Bible uses- it means broken, hung low, impoverished, languishing, depressed.  I have been dalal- not just in the past but right now- this very week.  Over the past two years I have wandered farther and farther from the faith that carried me through my own conquest of Jordan when Torey left- and led me into the victory that granted a safe home for my children.  I have wandered off and sought after what seemed right in own my own eyes- what I wanted, but God is faithful, and He doesn’t leave us without correction- so I fell into the hands of the Oppressor.  Now I am not saying that God handed me over to Satan like he did Job, but the choices I made left my mind open to the invasion of lies.  Lies aimed at hurting me, preventing me from loving and discipling my kids, and at destroying the family I had dedicated to God.  I believed the lives.  I enslaved myself to them.  I know this is strange to think
about- but although it sounds ridiculous I bet you’ve done it too.  Have you ever told yourself how stupid you are to have done a certain thing?  Or how hideous?  How unlovable?  How unworthy? Have you ever truly believed that you are anything less than an awesome parent invested by God with a job He perfectly made you for and delights to see you do?  Have you ever thought you were a failure?  At anything?  Or everything? How about at life?  Have you ever laid in bed and cried before your eyes were even open because you just knew you were going to get it all wrong again?  Maybe not, I realize I am more crazy than most- but have you ever believed that others were better than you?  I bet we all have and that’s the lie Satan got me to believe.  I believed it until I was dalal- broken, languishing, depressed.  Only it wasn’t depression, it was oppression, because more than just being the result of a chemical imbalance or life circumstances it was Satan’s attempt to destroy my family- to rob me of my harvest and joyful laboring.
When Gideon was alone at the lowest point, trying to sneak and thresh at least some of the harvest before it was snatched from him God spoke to him and gave him the victory.  It took faith, and Gideon was unsure and kept asking God for signs, but in the end, the light broke out above the valley and the enemy destroyed itself.  Isaiah 9:2 says “The people who walk in darkness will see  a great light.  On those living in a land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” And Isaiah 54:17 says “No weapon fashioned against you shall prosper and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from me, declares the Lord.”  God’s people have been oppressed since time began, sometimes because of their own sin, and sometimes because that was how God could show them Himself.  I know I’m not the only one who struggles with depression- but I’ve just realized for myself that for a Christian that bell jar isn’t just depression it is oppression aimed at stealing our harvest,and just like Gideon- victory comes with the light- the light of truth, the light of God’s word.  I finally heard from God on the threshing floor- although for me it was sprawled across my mom’s bed, and His voice sounded an awful lot like hers.  That encounter has brought me back into the light- not without oppression, but now, not without a torch.  I now know I can do nothing without Christ and I am holding on tight to my torch- the light of Truth- trusting God to defeat the Oppressor.

60. church

61.  worship

62. nursery workers

63. teachers

64. That God speaks to us

65. Talking with someone who has needed Christ as much as I have

66. The gifts of being in God’s family: hand me down clothes, accountability, encouragement, God’s words to me