By Rachel Steele | Category: Pursuing God, The Journey of Motherhood | Posted Tuesday, March 12, 2013
I have been putting off writing this post, basically because I’ve been searching for water in the midst of an oasis. These last couple of weeks have been oozing with doubt. Doubt that spills into every exposed crack and leaches it’s filth into what little trickle of holy water my cup has left. I should be rejoicing and proclaiming, “My cup runneth over!” I know there is cool, clear water readily available, but I find muddy puddles next to my feet more convenient and it’s easier to just lap it right off the ground like a dog. Yes, doubt halts searches, has no direction, requires no effort, gives way to apathy, and all is done in vain. I know that I should be fighting, battling with a shield of faith, but my vessel is riddled with holes, and the ones I’ve plugged are popping like wine corks. It’s hard to fill up with waters from the well when the leaky pail is empty by the time it reaches the surface.
Recently, I’ve doubted just about everything; my purpose, my calling, my marriage, my performance as a mother, my goals, my dreams, and even the validity of this blog. I just can’t seem to muster up the faith it takes to pull up miraculous amounts of water in a bucket full of holes. What I think God might be telling me, is that sometimes He patches pails and other times he gives you supernatural biceps. My bucket may be beat up with doubt, mistrust, and weariness, and it’s going to leak all the way back up from the depths of His well. He may not patch every hole, every worry, every sorrow, every sadness, every unjust event, but by God, my spiritual forearms will be bulging from the incredible strength and speed! Some of us have a slew of tiny slow fissures, that require some good toned Pilates arms. Some of us have giant gaping cavities that only the guns of Arnold Schwarzenegger could haul up enough water in. Does anyone else whimper and lose hope at the sight of their tiny punctures, knowing full well that there are many out there that face the deepest chasms every day?
What causes the breaks, the cracks, the tears? Many times there is no fault and no reason. Maybe it’s not so much finding the cause of the holes, maybe it’s just knowing who’s arms to run to when you pull your bucket out of the well empty…again. Who said that when I cry out, Jesus would arrive every time with glue and patches like I think He should? Sometimes, instead He hands me a pair of 50 lb. dumbbells and trains me and coaches me so that someday, regardless of what life throws at me, regardless of how big and how many holes have worn through my pail, I know where the water is and I know how to get it to the surface! I doubt often, my faith shrinks, but somehow, a tiny droplet of refreshing, clear water lingers at the bottom of my cup, and the murky puddles that surround me don’t look so appealing anymore. And once again, I begin my trek to the well, with my sorry-looking bucket in tow. I know He will meet me there, just like He met the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar, and He’ll ask for a drink, and I’ll hold up my bucket for Him to see all the holes, and He’ll answer, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
I guess living water doesn’t require unbroken faith or a doubtless mind. Whether the bucket is holy or unholy, the well is deep, crystal clear, and never runs dry. I know He will be there to collapse into, when my arms are shaky and I can’t hold on any longer. My hope must be in Him, not my bucket.
“…and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19
By Rachel Steele | Category: Pursuing God, The Journey of Motherhood | Posted Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Why is it so difficult to keep my mouth from erupting with fault-finding lava and plumes of critical smoke? There are times I get so worked up, I’m sure my ears must be billowing steam and shooting out sparks.
I work outside the home just one to two days a week. A few months ago, I arrived home after a rather long day at work and was met at the door by my husband, who is a very consistent and dedicated runner. He was scrambling to get his running shoes on before the sun went down and was already at the end of the driveway before I could yell out, “How many miles?!!” As I walked inside, my 18 month old was coughing and choking on some sort of regurgitated snack. It only bothered him a second, and then he was back to playing. I gave the boys a hug and then hurried to the restroom. My bladder was about to burst, so I didn’t realize I was dancing around in something watery that had puddled in front of the toilet, until after I sat down and noticed my socks were wet. What is this liquid? I wasn’t sure, so I sprayed it with cleaner, rolled off my soppy stockings and threw them in the laundry basket. Still puzzled, I walked into the living room to ask the kiddos how their day went. Again, my youngest is still battling with an unknown crunchy food form. As tiny bits are occasionally spewing from his mouth, I ask my oldest, “What is that he’s eating?” He responds, “Oh, daddy gave him peanuts.” Peanuts! What person in their right mind would give a jumping, rolling, bouncing toddler, whole peanuts without any supervision! As I am hunting around for the snack bowl to cut off the peanut supply, a tiny brown mushy ball squishes between my toes. Mind you, I’m now barefoot, due to the unidentifiable fluid incident in the bathroom. I start inspecting this cold mush by pulling my foot as close to my face as I can get it. I become a squinting and sniffing contortionist, and discover that this russet paste is exactly what I had feared. That’s right, it’s plain old number two, just chillin’ out on the living room carpet, like it’s part of the party. By this point, my thermometer of fury had reached the top of my head and I was red hot!
Unfortunately, for my husband, he had a longer run that day, which gave my infuriation ample time to fester. As soon as he stepped inside the front door, he proclaimed he was starving and asked, “What are we having for dinner?” Boom! Explosion! I could no longer contain the monumental push that was shoving this poisonous and critical speech right off the tip of my tongue. After a minute or two of reenacting the role of a blabbering and blithering idiot, I stop to catch a breath, and my husband defensively barks back his reasoning behind the nutty, squashy fiasco. He explains that he was only trying to find a healthy snack for our son, not trying to cut off his airway. He describes how he was trying to heed my wishes by using cloth diapers at home instead of disposable. Apparently, a tiny toddler nugget slipped out of the leg hole when he was transporting the diaper to the toilet. His account of the wayward diaper sprayer explained the small lake I waded through in pursuit of the porcelain throne.
I realized that my momentary rant undid all of my many efforts to sell my husband on using cloth diapers, something I had been trying to persuade him to do for over a year. When I allowed the crackly, condescending branches of bitterness to creep around and clutch my spirit, I crushed all of his spirit’s vulnerable efforts to grow in confidence. To this day, he won’t attempt another cloth diaper, and can I blame him? Well, yes I can, and I did. I’ve found that blaming and accusing, fuel on an arrogant and vainglorious attitude which tends to burn down considerate and caring gestures, often in a matter of seconds. I realized how so very far away I can be from acting like a Christian, and still call myself one. I mentioned in my last post, Hanes in the Horizon, that I have been praying to “see as He sees” and “hear as He hears”, although I find it very interesting that God has answered my prayer by exposing my own ungrace, so that I can begin to comprehend His grace. A quote from Henry Nouwen’s, Return, hits the nail on the head:
“I have often said, “I forgive you”, but even as I said these words my heart remained angry or resentful. I still wanted to hear the story that tells me that I was right after all; I still wanted to hear apologies and excuses; I still wanted the satisfaction of receiving some praise in return–if only the praise for being so forgiving!
But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking. It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life. It calls me to keep stepping over all my arguments that say forgiveness is unwise, unhealthy, and impractical. It challenges me to step over all my needs for gratitude and compliments. Finally, it demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and the one whom I am asked to forgive.”
I thought surely I would feel much better after I blurted out all of my frustrations and unloaded my wrath. Sadly, I used “justice” as an excuse for my tirade. Jesus does not give us due justice, He is faithful to respond in covering grace, a message I’m reminded of every time I wash out another dirty diaper. Let us all agree that these bitter, barren branches will transform into canopies of sweet shade as we grow and stretch out towards a fruitful season of grace.
“The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” Matthew 12:34
By Heather Ledeboer | Category: Pursuing God, The Journey of Motherhood | Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Happy is defined by “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Joy is described as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Both positive, both feelings. Both of them a choice.
As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am excited to share this next woman with you. Ann Voskamp has impacted the way I see the world. Her gift of weaving words like a warm blanket that envelops my soul cannot be understated. Her book, One Thousand Gifts is a intricately stated tribute to the awaiting joy that can be found when we allow our eyes to see the simple masterpieces that surround us.
The frost holding tree branches hostage by their cold beauty.
The reflection of sun bouncing off the sparkling snow.
The crackling, contagious laughter of kids at play.
Aside from her book, my heart was stirred and my eyes filled with drops of thankful appreciation the day I read Ann’s story about The Horn. I am confident that once you read it, you will also be touched. I won’t be surprised if you begin a search for an old horn to hang on the wall as I have.
“Give thanks if you are joy-filled” is in reality:
“To be joy-filled, give thanks.”
By Rachel Steele | Category: Pursuing God, The Journey of Motherhood | Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Sometimes I feel like a toddler in potty-training. I’m gently guided and directed again and again, day after day, with positive reinforcements only to poop in my pants once again. I forget that a toilet even exists, that a huge M&M jar awaits my successes, and I start whining and throwing tantrums about the excretions I’m sitting in.
Lately, my prayers have been to “see as He sees” and “hear as He hears”. God has been faithful to answer my prayers, and he has shown me that my human nature produces a continual dependant state of potty-training. Just when I think I’ve finally graduated to training pants, a change or stressor comes my way and I’m best pals with the Pampers again.
I remember the daunting task of potty-training my oldest son. It literally took an entire year. In the morning I would put him in “big boy” underwear and I would cheer for him and sing potty songs with a huge cheesy smile and have parties with cookies and candies and peruse through Toys R’ Us catalogs for the perfect “fully potty-trained” toy. By the evening, I would be washing and scrubbing that “big boy” underwear. Frustrated and on my last nerve, I stashed away the cookies and candies and slammed the toy catalog closed. I tried EVERYTHING! It was beyond me why after so much coaching and instruction, it was just not sinking in. It was a mentally and physically exhausting time for both of us and there were days that we were both in tears.
I think about how God has to potty-train us, not just a few years, but our entire lives! Whereas we get to the end of our rope and respond in frustration, annoyance, and irritation, His response is always patience, love, and acceptance. The cookies and candies remain on the table for the taking and the toy catalogs are open right where we left off, available for us to pick up and continue whenever we choose. Not once does he ever refuse to clean us up, or tell us we stink. He has a never ending supply of wipes and diaper rash cream, all of which he has paid for out of pocket, but continues to distribute among his children free of charge. It is called potty-training, not potty-reprimand, potty-chastise, potty-rebuke, or potty-vengeance. It is training; it is time invested in someone that is indispensable. You take time to train someone that you have confidence will eventually be able to skillfully carry out the tasks without constant reminders.
I hope that someday I will not have to be reminded that I “gotta go”, but that I will automatically recall how to “see as He sees” and “hear as He hears”. God doesn’t always answer my prayers the way I believe to be the best option, but he does answer them. He doesn’t always provide the easiest way. If he did, I’d still be sitting in my own waste waiting for someone to come by and change me! To see and hear as He does, takes a whole lot of time, continual training, and heaps of grace for a prodigal pooper like myself.
I laughed when I envisioned a heaven full of chatty MOPS groups on puffy clouds, eating heaping bowls of delectable chocolates, delighting in their wings and wonderfully dry “big girl” panties!
By Heather Ledeboer | Category: Family Focus, Pursuing God | Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Last week I shared the story of Rachel, a mother diagnosed with terminal cancer and how her story impacted my own. This week I want to introduce you to Ian and Larissa, a special couple who is truly living out 1 Corinthians 13 in the way they display love to one another. I believe their love for each other will touch and challenge you as it did me.
When I got married, I promised to love “in sickness and in health, till death do us part”. I meant it too. To the degree that I could, as a 20 year old college student, I acknowledged that our health would falter and that I may outlive my husband.
This promise is not unique, yet sadly upholding it is. In fact, most marriages do not last long enough to test the boundaries of bad health or spousal demise. In light of this, I was not surprised to see how deeply touched I was when I first learned of the story of Ian and Larissa though the Inspired To Action blog.
Ian and Larissa are a couple beautifully living out their marriage vows. Yet it was not their vows said during their ceremony, but rather their strong fulfillment before and after that gripped my heart so strongly. I invite you to be inspired toward a more selfless love in your relationships by watching the story of Ian and Larissa here. It is a small video, less that ten minutes, yet I believe it will impact and challenge your heart you in a big way.
You can read more about Ian and Larissa and follow their journey at Pray for Ian.
Next week Tuesday we will hear from Rachel our contributing blogger and then I’ll be back in the week following to share another woman who has impacted me in a lasting way.