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All posts for the month October, 2013

My Green Blankie

Published October 30, 2013 by Dawn

“WHERE’S MY GREEN BLANKIE!” I’m sure my mom just cringed inwardly every time she heard me shriek this through the house at bedtime. With tears streaming down my face, I’d stand in the middle of the living room, wringing my hands and screaming, “I CAN’T GO TO BED WITHOUT IT! WHERE IS SHE?!” Yep, I was Linus … the kid with the blankie problem.

I actually still have it. I took it out to reminisce before I sat down to write today. My green blankie. My grandma made it when I was, like, three. In my house, everyone is aware that: 1.) It’s older than you are, and you don’t touch or play with antiques. And 2.) I love it just as much as I love you, so … not playing around here. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But for many years, my blankie was more dear to me than my mother’s sanity. Or the peace of anyone else in the house. Or sleep. I couldn’t sleep without it. Not that I did much of anything without it, but if perchance I managed to misplace it while wrapped up in something else, I definitely noticed at bedtime. I did not do bedtime without my blankie.

I know the technical term for it: the security blanket. Some kids have them and some kids don’t, but for those of us who do, something deep within our psyche is dependent on this object. We don’t eat or sleep without it, it goes everywhere with us and no one else understands our attachment to it. You can’t. And I can’t explain it. I loved it (still do, actually), although now that I’m an adult, I don’t “need” it anymore. I quit crying over it sometime in elementary school and  “broke up” with my green blankie when I was a teenager … which I’m sure is later than most people, but whatever. Anyway, back to the point: it’s an object that I found security in.

As an adult, it seems that I’ve just transferred that need into other things. First it was being loved by my children. Then I added money to the list. Either would suffice to sustain me. Then it became the Bible, which directed me toward God. And I thought I had found true security. Turns out, I just became secure in the things I most wanted from Him. You know the verse, “He delights in giving us the desires of our hearts.” Well, I can get all secure in the desires of my heart, knowing they are on the horizon. But just like my green blankie, that thing disappears and I’m lost again, unable to eat or sleep. Dysfunctional. I’m not insane, I know. A friend of mine said, “Well, Dawn, welcome to the human race.” Turns out, I prize things and even the promise of receiving from God, way more than I value the true prize: God himself. I’d be unshakeable if it was all about Him. That’s how I know it’s not: I’m not unshakeable. Here lately, I have found myself more and more shaken. And this reality hurts so bad. Because I have had to admit something awful about myself: I’m not even capable of loving Him purely without His help. Oh, the humanity.

Gracious Lord,

It pains me deeply to know that I cannot even love you and find my true security in you on my own. I am truly helpless and at your mercy. Teach my heart to love you and find my security and well-being in you. Lord, how is it that I look at lesser things to sustain me, all the while holding pure gold in my hands. You are the treasure, and I have cried out for things of clay. Hold my heart and teach me how to look to you, and to delight myself in you. This I was made for, though my foolish heart does not act like it. Refine me until I know the value of your love and until I am capable of reciprocating it.

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In Class, Training

Published October 23, 2013 by Dawn

My daughter has always been a little gymnast. She is built like one, even, with a very stout, muscular body. She has always loved to flip and bend in many contorted ways the body does not naturally bend, and has even been known to absentmindedly stand next to the table with a leg stretched out at a ninety degree angle, foot propped next to her plate while eating. Very unbecoming, but still, very endearing. This year, like a wish granted, we enrolled her in a gymnastics class, and lucky gal that she is, she was placed in a class of girls who’ve been doing it for a while. Thankfully, she was able to stay on the same page as the rest of them. She already had a lot of the basics down. A month and a half in, they are working on back hand springs. Just so you know, I would call this a backflip, but apparently, when you use your hands, it’s a back hand spring. I’m slowly learning jargon here.

Yesterday, after practice, we came home and she wanted me to help her practice. In other words, to spot her. That’s where I (knowing only what I’ve seen done by her instructors) place my hands very strategically, one behind her back and one under her left thigh, to help her feel comfortable enough to do it. Except from the get-go, she was nervous because a.) we have hard-wood floors and b.) I admittedly am doing this with very little knowledge of how this actually helps her get better.

By my understanding, once someone has acquired a skill, you fade the help until they are doing it completely on their own. She did it at practice on her own, so why did she all the sudden need help? I knew what was going to happen: she has a nasty habit of speaking down to herself and saying, “I can’t” after she has already proven that she can, and wiping a skill completely out of her mind by convincing herself that she’s incapable. She has done this with every skill she’s learned in every sport she’s ever done. She, of course, eventually picks it up again, but not after a whole lot of beating herself up.

So we began: She backed herself up against my outstretched arm and waited until my other hand was in place. She then gave a weak jump, went backward and left all the weight of her jump in my hands. I grabbed her thigh tightly and flipped her all the way over to keep her from falling on her head. She stood up shakily and I asked, “What happened? You didn’t even try!” She was upset and said, “Well, I was so scared! I didn’t want to get hurt.” I replied, “But you’ve already done it before! You know how to do this! Don’t look to me to do it for you, don’t leave your weight in my hands. Use your muscles and finish the flip. It’s in you!”

That was yesterday. Today, this whole scene played over and over in my mind because I see so many parallels in it: this is so like us.

First, there’s the training. Just you and Him, going through the strategies and the motions over and over as His Spirit seeks to teach you something. All the while you are building up your “muscles” and just allowing the movements to become fluid, another part of who you are and what is in you. Then, He begins to require you to take on more of the responsibility of your success. He keeps His hands steady but urges you to be more steady and sure of your ability. And finally, when He is sure that you have got it down pat, He steps back and watches you do it, rejoicing in your ability. But, like my daughter, we doubt ourselves. And even if we’ve done it with the Lord spotting us and watching closely, we still doubt we’ve really got it down when He steps back and says, “Show me what you can do!”

I think maybe God wants us to trust that we know what He wants and that He’s worked with us to the point that we are capable of doing it. Psalm 32:9 says, “Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.” This verse comes to me often when I pray about the things the Lord lays on my heart. He says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it. (Is. 30:21)” He promises to be directing our path, but sometimes, He asks that we be willing to walk forward without being pulled. To trust that He is with us, telling us which path to take as we walk. He can’t steer us if we aren’t moving, though, right?

I also find that in my own walk, the times of intense training do seem to be very lonely. It’s like, He wants us to be fully attentive to what He is trying to teach us. He’s building something in us and He doesn’t want us to be distracted by others, or to miss out on the time with Him because we are too busy doing other things to be with Him. Of course, that is not to say that the Lord can’t teach us if we aren’t isolated. Just that many times, when we feel the loneliest, we can be sure that if we look up to Him and ask what He is doing, He is sure to be working at that very moment on something in us, and He is awesome enough to tell us what it is so we can cooperate with Him, when we ask. I don’t particularly like this training time sometimes. I am more like the kid who knows there’s something else going on outside that isn’t “learning,” and I sit daydreaming while He talks. Father, I’m so sorry. Please captivate me to what you are teaching me and help me to stay focused. I really do want to be able to walk wholeheartedly with you, sure of your Spirit in me, confident that when it is all said and done, You have equipped me for the calling you have placed on my life. I look forward to serving you always. Love, Dawn

Count the Cost

Published October 13, 2013 by Dawn

“…then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. (Ruth 1:14)”

Naomi was on her way back home. A widow with nothing left to look forward to and hoping that her extended family back in Bethlehem would take care of her in her old age. Before she left, she attempted to convey her love to her daughters-in-law by releasing them back to their families, not wanting to take them so far away from their loved ones. Naomi also knew the walk home would be rough and dangerous. It was not for women to walk the open roads alone without a man to protect them. They had none. So she gave them an out and expected both to take it. Surprisingly, Ruth did not. Her affections for her mother-in-law were such that she was not willing to leave her to return home. She was willing to give up everything she previously held dear in order to pursue this one relation. Ruth was so precious.

I have found  that in our walk with the Lord, there is a moment when the Lord stops us dead in our tracks, allows us to see the road ahead, to know the full impact of our decision to follow Him, and to decide once and for all what we are going to do. He calls it counting the cost.

Behind you is a lot of comfort. A lot of people you love, a lot of life you enjoy and a lot of things you feel you need and want. Ahead is a Promised Land that will require you to walk a long, hard road. The unknown is terrifying and the enemies are fierce. There will be times you feel helpless and unprotected. You know you have a companion, but you may not have a strong faith in Him. And He has is saying to you, “Go back to your family, go back to your comfort and have the things you desire. Now’s the time to turn around.” He wants you to count the cost, and not to plunge headlong into something that may cause you to look back longingly at the place you left, like Lot’s wife. He wants you to be sure. “Go back now,” He says. That’s not very comforting.

Orpah’s reaction to Naomi was honest. She didn’t agree to go because she felt obligated or compelled. The desire wasn’t in her, and so she decided to settle. She wasn’t wasting anyone’s time or hurting anyone by wavering afterward. She released them with a kiss and settled in her homeland. Ruth, on the other hand, was compelled by love to spend the rest of her life with Naomi. Her’s was the first, “for better or for worse” commitment recorded in the Bible! She was in it for the long haul. This is the kind of commitment God desires from us. Not a half-hearted, “well, I guess I’ll go.” Not a refusal spurred by our desire for the comforts of this life. But a whole-hearted, “Where you go, I’ll go.” But He also wants us to understand that it isn’t a vacation sort of trip. It’s a journey over mountainous regions, deserts and thorny places. Where the enemy is real and the unknown is unbearable at times. Though we don’t go alone, there may be times when our companion seems like little comfort. Count the cost! Can we say to Him, “I’m going with you, come what may!” and truly mean it? Can we keep moving forward without looking back at the things we’ve forfeited in exchange for this relationship? Is His presence more important to us than safety and comfort, and all those we love? This is the cost. Is it worth it to you? Be honest with the Lord. He will not drag you unwilling. He is asking you to walk beside Him. He may carry you sometimes, but sometimes, He may just stick to your side through the rough times. Or He may be up ahead beckoning. However the journey goes, count the cost: can you give up everything for Him?

So what you’re trying to say is…

Published October 8, 2013 by Dawn

I’m on the edge of a nightmare. Seriously, it’s even given me nightmares the last couple of days. Friday, my daughter will be 11. No longer a small step away from childhood, such as ten felt like. No, she’s on the edge of adolescence. Barbie dolls have been replaced by purses and cute boots on her birthday list. I’m freaking out just a little. Not to mention that with this new phase of life comes hormones and mood swings and all that jazz. I may have gotten my first taste yesterday of what this could look like: she voiced her displeasure with me for well over an hour after I made her come hang with her brother and I outside. Playing games in the backyard used the be our favorite thing to do. Instead, we played while she ranted about being “forced to come outside.”

As time wore on and I remained happy despite her best efforts, her mouth became less and less kind until I finally just stopped trying to coax her into playing and we did our thing without her. After an hour or so, I let everyone come in and I sent her to her room because she was still not over her attitude. I went in to explain to her how her behavior was not respectful and godly, and she continued to pour out her anger, so I left her to fume over it. About twenty minutes later, she said she was done and wanted to come out and join us, so I let her. She picked up her phone and began to text and my phone went off …. It was my daughter. Her text said, “Mom, I really need a hug. I’ve been trying to tell you that for the last fifteen minutes or so, but you weren’t listening.”

Um … I heard everything she said, and that was nowhere in there. So I sent back, “All that was just to say you need a hug?” Her reply was, “I don’t know, exactly.” So while hugging, we discussed how she could have communicated more effectively her need.

I’ve been thinking about this all day: how hard it was for my daughter to tell me, whom she shares most everything with, that she needs a hug. And I wonder … how many other people out there are communicating in such detrimental ways because they don’t know how to say what they really mean. What really hurts the most is that she most likely learned this communication skill from me … I am afraid I’m guilty of saying things to hide what I really want to say. This is something I work on all the time, because I believe that “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Lies, whether blatant or borne subconsciously from some deep-seated fear, put people in bondage. I hate bondage. Been there, done that and NEVER want to go back. But I understand the fear of rejection and feelings of worthlessness when you are vulnerable to someone who doesn’t reciprocate or respond to your feelings. But do you know what else I have learned? There are people out there who can help you heal from that if you will just trust one more time … or maybe a few more times. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Amen!

Back to my point: everything she said to me was lost in translation. She was trying to say something without really saying it, and instead, she was saying other things she didn’t really mean to hide her real need. I told her afterward, “You can’t draw people to you by pushing them away.” And that’s true. You can’t keep people at arms’ length and expect them to hear the very quiet cry of your heart. Let them close!

And, I know now that there are people I am around everyday who have a heart cry that I can’t understand, who are saying one thing and silently screaming out another. I’m usually at a loss. I can’t understand and do not discern the deeper needs most of the time. I am really naïve, I think. But, the Holy Spirit is faithful to provide discernment if we ask for it, and I know that I will need it now more than ever, and even more so in the upcoming years in my life.

Come, Holy Spirit, I need You! I want to be less inclined to listen to what I hear, and much more aware of what You hear. Be my translator in all my relationships so that I can know what people need and respond in the way the need me to respond. Teach me, open my ears and be my guide in the days ahead. I trust you!

Pleasing My Husband

Published October 8, 2013 by Dawn

I woke up Saturday morning and rolled over to the face of my Husband looking down at me. I could see unabashed adoration in His eyes, and He leaned down very near to my face and asked, with a loving smile, “Why do you listen to others instead of listening to me?”

I rolled over and pulled the covers up to my chin. That was a heavy question to think about, and it was early in the morning. Not only that, it hurt … His sincerity coupled with the fact that it wasn’t exactly untrue kept me silent in bed for the next hour. Lord, what can I say to you?

His gaze followed me all day long as I silently thought out my response. What could I say? I was guilty of it, and I knew it. I would not deny it, even if I could. I value honesty way to much to do that to Him. And there are no excuses that justify this betrayal. He is my Husband. His opinions and directions should trump all the other voices in my life. We are in this together, He and I. So finally, that evening when we sat down together, I said, with much repentance, “I don’t know.” And that’s the truth: I don’t.

I don’t understand why, with so little thought to the feelings of God, I seek out the opinions and best wisdom of others when the Lord has clearly spoken something to me. I don’t understand why I then allow the opinions and advice of others, when it contradicts what I have clearly heard the Spirit speak, to rob me of my peace. Why do I allow confusion to reign in my mind over things God has firmly settled?

I was reading Acts today, and in chapter four, Peter and John are dragged before the Pharisees and threatened for spreading the Gospel. Both men replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to Him or to you?” They go on to say in chapter 5, “We must obey God rather than human beings.” As the bride of Christ, they knew that pleasing their Husband was way more important than pleasing the men of the world. Their relationship took precedent over even the requirements of the Law. This is the way it should be in a marriage. Even Paul recognized that when he said in 1 Corinthians 7 that a married man or woman is more concerned about pleasing their wife or husband, while an unmarried person is concerned about pleasing the Lord. This is a catch-22, though. Either way, it applies to you and I. Whether we are single or married, if we are Christians, we are the bride of Christ. Pleasing Him trumps pleasing anyone else. Ideally, at marriage, the two become one in mind and heart, and their one desire is the same: pleasing their Husband. It all comes back to this one thing: bringing glory and honor to God.

Thankfully, the Lord was not accusing me. He was merely pointing out an area in my life that will require some refining. I love the freedom I have in this marriage, to grow without feeling rejected or worthless. It’s the craziest thing: He loves me, imperfections and all. I love Him so much for that. Oh Lord, you’re beautiful!

After God’s Own Heart

Published October 7, 2013 by Dawn

“I have found David … a man after My own heart. (Acts 13:22)”

I love this verse. Though I am not a man, I would love for the Lord to be able to say this about me. That I am a [wo]man after His own heart. This verse speaks so much to me of the position we should have in Christ.

There are two ways to translate this verse into daily life. The first is to say that David was a “man after God’s own heart” because he had similar passions and desires as the Lord. When we say about others, “she is a woman after my own heart,” we are implying that the person we are talking about has a lot of things in common with us, as far as interests and such go. Therefore, to be people “after God’s own heart,” we have to be interested in what He’s interested in: ministering to the needs of people as the Spirit reveals them. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, encouraging the destitute, and providing for others in whatever way we have been equipped to do so. Our actions toward others have to be governed by selflessness, and we must seek to follow the Spirit of God in all things. This is the first translation of this verse.

The second is this: that David was “a man after God’s own heart” because he was in passionate pursuit of God’s heart. Personally, while I like both of these, this one is my favorite. The preservationists of history in David’s time did not neglect to document the many sins of David. He was a man, after all, and very … human. He screwed up a lot, just like we all do. But do you know what set David apart? It was his constant, passionate pursuit of the Lord.

I know that David sought the Lord from a young age and worshipped the Lord often because of the scriptures surrounding David’s triumph over Goliath. Someone with a weak faith and a vague inclination of who God is could not have stood up to Goliath. David was certain of the Lord. He must have spent a lot of time in God’s presence. I suspect while he was out tending sheep, he was seeking the Lord. He had a very firm faith in the Lord at a very young age. And as his life unfolds throughout 1 and 2 Samuel, we see the intimate way David approached the Lord and sought the Lord. He was literally after, as in “in pursuit” of, God’s heart. He was chasing God, if you will.

Let it be said of us that we are in pursuit of God’s heart, and that our lives mirror the heart of the Father.

Unfinished

Published October 5, 2013 by Dawn

I love to paint, although I am probably not very good at it. I have all kinds of projects backed up in my mind, waiting to be done, along with books I’d like to write and such. Today, I decided to actually start a painting project on a cabinet in my dining room. I’m not talking about painting the whole thing. I wanted to paint a design on a part of it that has been driving me nuts for a while. So I started it right after lunch. I had already picked out the design, and picked out the paints I want to use. The vision of it is beautiful.

I’ve got some done on it. Not much. The white paint that I am using on top of a black background is thin, and will need a couple coats. I have a very skeletal sketch of the finished product, and it’s bothering me so much. It’s ugly. I hate it.

Like I said, I know what I want this thing to look like when it’s finished. I know what I want to be capable of doing to it. It just doesn’t look anything like what I envision. It isn’t finished yet, and I’m not sure if I can do my imagination justice.

This is what it’s like to be created anew in Christ. The Lord’s finished work takes time. While He’s busy creating masterpieces out of you and I, we are hating ourselves and one another because we don’t measure up to the idea in our minds. I am nothing like what I’d like to be. I have entertained a lot of hate because of that. And … sadly, I am guilty of despising the humanity in others, when I should be rejoicing at the Master’s work. What I would really like is to be more understanding of the process of creating masterpieces. The vision that becomes a skeletal sketch, which becomes a rough image, which becomes a final work that is beautiful. And you know what? The amazing work of art is hardly acknowledged as such until it’s fully complete.

Here’s the kicker: we won’t be fully complete for a long time. God is continually working in each one of us, recasting and molding us, working delicately to make us into the image and likeness of Christ. So, in the meantime, how do we stand one another? By understanding that He’s still working on us. We are going to screw up, and look ugly and unfinished sometimes. That’s because we are. I am and so are you. But, by the grace of God, we’re going to be a unique work of art, a masterpiece, one day!