“See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:24
“Oh bring the fire. Burn what isn’t You…” Loud Harp
These are the types of prayers I typically avoid. Or, if I do request character changing events, I have some ground rules:
“Change me, but don’t let my people get hurt in the process.” (I always assume the worst.)
“Change me, but not till things settle down and I have the strength to deal.” (Wait, isn’t it in my weakness He’s made strong?)
“I’m willing to change, but I’m gonna need you to also make sure these other people get their issues fixed or this isn’t going to work.” (Because my humility is dependent on what? Justification?)
So, for whatever reason, this week I got brave and asked God to expose what doesn’t belong. Period. Despite every red flag I felt in my system, I did not place any stipulations. He accepted the request and reminded me that if other people do end up involved in the refining, it’s because He’s doing a work in them, also. It is not His intention to cause trauma for everyone else while he’s working on me. (What a narrow and self-centered view that is. Why do I always look at it upside down?) Also, he delivered.
He is gentle with me and I don’t feel condemned. BUT, I do immediately start concocting a plan and begin praying about how I’d like God to implement said plan in Operation Fix Me: “Ok, God, here’s what were gonna do to bring me back to my good senses…”
Woah. Wait a minute. Back it up. What I meant to say, was “Ok, God. I confess this thing you’ve just exposed in me. Please help me to move forward in your wisdom. Show me how to be more like Jesus in this. Please be my strength in this, especially as it feels impossible.”
And it stings for a minute. But then there is so much relief to have gotten that “thing” out of me. After all the time and emotion and discomfort trying to handle it myself… Or hide it. Thank you Jesus for loving me enough to not let me carry on like that. Thank you for the courage to address it. Thank you for your patience as I told you how it was going to be. Forgive me, for I obviously know not what I do.
As I’m making my way through this journey into Yoga Faith, I keep hearing the word alignment. And it means a lot. Without alignment, everything goes sideways… Literally and figuratively. And as I’m digging deeper into this practice on my mat– this practice of creating space for the Holy Spirit as I live and breathe and have my being, I continue to hear it- alignment.
And I hear it while I’m at work, at church, going for a walk, in my car, in the shower… Ok, God. I get it. You’re not just talking about my spine.
Lately, relationships have felt askew. My spiritual life- off. My eating habits and my spending habits have been cued by my emotions. The more I think about it, the more I realize a need for some holistic alignment. My priorities are out of order and it shows.
Alignment. In my physical body, this means every vertebrae is stacked nicely. Knees above ankles. Hips above knees. Shoulders above hips. Neck, nice and long.
What does it look like in marriage? In parenting? In friendship? I’m sure it doesn’t come from asserting my own agenda. I don’t believe it comes from putting another person in the position of God, expecting my needs to be filled by this person. How fair is it to put a burden like that on another human being?
Relational alignment, I believe, begins by aligning my heart with God’s heart. When I seek Him and I intercede for the people I am in relationship with, I experience how He gives me eyes to see what He sees. He gives me the capacity to love like He loves, including when (especially when) it’s hard or feels impossible.
If time is spent listening to, rather than talking at God, more space is created for hearing that still small Voice. It becomes easier to recognize it above the noise of such a loud culture. It creates opportunity for my needs to be filled by Him rather than placing that ridiculous expectation on my family and friends.
Alignment. In my habits, how I’m spending my time, my dollars, the reasons I eat… Well, lets just say, when this is out of alignment, this can look like a lot like a Netflix binge while eating junk food and making poor choices while shopping online… Things that satisfy in the moment but leave me emptier and feeling worse in the long run.
I find that these habits come out especially when I feel like my desires and longings feel unfulfilled. Rather than placing them at the feet of the One who wants to give me the desires of my heart, I disconnect. Disengage. Rather than communing with the heart of the Father, I isolate.
I think, for me, really digging in and assessing my innermost desires and longings in the presence of the Father… taking inventory… has allowed for me to hear the Father’s heart and recalibrate what’s happening internally. It’s such a safe place to lay bare what’s in my heart. I know that he wants to give me the desires of my heart and taking this “huddle time” is so valuable in weeding out fleshly desires that hold me back. It renews God-given desires that propel me. I miss out on this when I disengage.
Alignment. This is really hard in my thought life most days. If I do not hold every thought captive (See 2 Corinthians 10:5), they travel all over the place like the world’s fastest moving roller coaster, but not nearly as fun and I’m not buckled I’m not even buckled in. My thoughts and emotions are fickle and not to be trusted.
It’s so much healthier to set my mind on higher things. Taking the time to meditate on His word, being quiet enough to hear his thoughts… To hear his thoughts about me!
This whole pursuit of Yoga Faith begins with me being in the worst shape of my life, with hardly any range of motion or flexibility, and older than I probably should be for just starting out… So why, on God’s green earth, am I trying to be a certified yoga instructor?? Well, when I’m in tune and paying attention to the Still Small Voice, I see how I’m called to teach it because I need it the most. God has shown me how various pieces fit together in this one medium. How many of the little things I’ve been passionate about (for a very long time) all come together in this one beautiful form of worship.
When I’m instead ruled by my thoughts and emotions, I am so insecure about this endeavor, afraid of how I will embarrass myself. All I can see is how far I am from the goal and how much better it looks on people who “know what they are doing”. And I begin second guessing, and wallowing in self doubt. And I don’t enjoy this feeling!
SO, all this to say, God is drawing me into alignment with Him in every sense of the word. I’m so excited to have an outlet to put this into practice physically as well as a place to contemplate this in every area of my life. All I want to do is stand tall. In a regular way and in my spiritual walk.
When you have entered your 40s and you have a kid that tells you she’s getting married and another kid who tells you they are most likely going to Indonesia for an internship after graduating this Senior year, you sort of have an internal meltdown when with the realization that the nest is about to empty itself all at once.
A few things come to mind at the onset of this meltdown:
-Do I have any hobbies that don’t include my kids?
-My husband and I need to start dating. Right now. We have to remember how to be boyfriend and girlfriend again before they leave.
-Should I go back to school?… I’m still not even sure I know what I want to be when I grow up.
-What am I going to do with the empty rooms? (Lots of ideas. Not gonna lie.)
When you enter your 40s and start to reflect on the difference between who you were 20 years ago and who you are today, you realize these are 2 different women. God uses two decades worth of experiences, good and bad, to cultivate and bring change, turning you into something amazing if you let Him. (I have also found resistance to allowing Him to do this work in me just prolongs the process, making it much more uncomfortable.)
Here’s what the last couple of decades have tought me:
-I’m an outgoing introvert (INFJ if you are a Myers Briggs junkie)
-My favorite way to spend time with God is in nature, preferably alone with my Bible and my current favorite book. Studying is my jam.
-If failure were not an option and money were no concern, I would love to write books
-When I find something I’m passionate about, I’m all in
-I love to hear people’s stories, and I love directing someone’s thoughts/gaze to their Creator and the potential He’s placed in them
When you are entering your 40s, you wish you had listened to everyone that told you to develop certain habits while you’re young, before it’s too late (eating right, exercising, moisturizing, not holding it when you have to pee, etc). When your Doctor tells you you’re now in a stage of life where you’re losing muscle and you reallllly need to start some kind of strength training, you think “I’m officially getting old”. My inner self does not feel old. But the fact that I can barely ride a bike uphill, and gain 10 pounds eating a microscopic carb would suggest otherwise.
So, to recap:
-I need a hobby
-I need to get in shape
-I am an introvert with a gift for teaching who enjoys writing.
-I love being with God in His creation.
-People and their purpose matter to me.
-When I find something I’m passionate about, I’m all in.
-My children are leaving me…
Enter Yoga. Not just any yoga. Yoga that incorporates time alone with the Lord. Where you meet Jesus on your mat, inhale His goodness and exhale everything that is not of Him. Where, in the silence, you create space to listen, confess, be grateful and worship in various postures of prayer… And? You can even do this outside by a lake, on the beach, in a vineyard…
“In Him we live and move and have our being…” Acts 17:28
This fits all my bills. It’s a quiet, introspective exercise. I can do this alone-with-people, or just alone. It encourages my focus to be on Him and “hear” from Him. I’m suddenly passionate about it, aware of my need for it, and want others to know about what it can do for them. So, I’m all in. As in, regardless of how out of shape I am, I’ve begun the journey with YogaFaith to become a certified Yoga Instructor. I have no idea what this will look like down the road, and occasionally wonder what in the world I’ve gotten myself into, but I’m excited to see what God will do with this next Season in my life and I’m enjoying thinking about the possibilities. Even if it is simply for myself.
This is what me in my 40s is excited about. Me in my 20s never would have guessed, or had the experiences, or developed the gifts and talents to back it up just yet.
When you enter your 40s, you get to the part where you start to know now, what you didn’t know then. It’s kinda great. And I’m happy to have found my own personal way to create space for a “Mary Heart” in a “Martha world”.
It’s been happening all around me. I’m seeing the posts on Facebook and Instagram:
I’m getting the texts from friends:
“I am sitting outside Walmart just bawling.”
“Today was the official goodbye and it was heart wrenching.”
Mamas everywhere are lingering as long as they can before saying goodbye to the children they’ve spent a lifetime raising, only to realize they were never theirs to begin with. These mamas are dropping their babies off at college, going home, laying their heads on their pillows, trying to imagine what life will be like from now on.
Right now I am only an observer of these hard goodbyes, but my turn is right around the corner and I’m really not interested in it. Currently, I’m in the season of “lasts”. We had our last Summer vacation with our nest still in tact.
We had our last back to school shopping trip. Soon we will have our last first day of school. Each last brings me closer to joining these friends of mine who are saying these hard goodbyes, and I’m just trying to prepare my heart for what’s ahead. But how does one even do that?
I suppose, whether it be college, career, ministry, marriage- whichever avenue our children decide to launch- it is just time. Time for us to share the gift of these young adults with their fresh energy, new ideas, talents, innovations, and outlooks. Time to trust God with what belongs to Him in the first place. Time to thank God for allowing us to be part of their story, and us to be a part of theirs. I suppose I’ve been selfish long enough.
These lasts are going to be fun. I’m going to soak them in and enjoy them as fully as I can. They are also going to be hard. But, when the time is right, I am so excited for my children to experience so many firsts.
Lord Jesus, I’m trusting you to carry my little lambs close to your heart, and to gently lead me through this new season.
It’s funny. I grew you inside of my own body. I changed your diapers, read to you, prayed the bedtime prayers with you. I’ve taught you how to tie your shoes, say “please” and “thank you”, make a PB&J sandwich, and check out library books. Because of me, you know how to brush your teeth, make your bed, feed the dog, mow the lawn, apply mascara, shop the clearance rack with great skill and speak with an eloquently sarcastic tongue. I even gave you my looks. (Sorry kids.) I’ve spent 17 years teaching you everything I know and giving you all I’ve got.
What floors me… What has always floored me… God chose me to be your mother. He put me in the position of raising you. I’m supposed to teach you all the things. Yet everyday, you are teaching me.
You’ve reminded me about the importance of passion and vulnerability. You’ve taught me to be a woman of my word and to follow through. Little ears have heard the talk, and little eyes have watched the walk. The talk and the walk had better match. You’ve taught me how to handle a tender heart… And how to apologize if I screwed up. You’ve taught me the importance of leaning in to God and drawing everything I need from Him because I certainly can’t pour into you if my own cup is empty. I now have a better understanding of the fierce and sacrificial love of our Heavenly Father. I get it now, this unconditional and uncontrollable love. Because I’ve experienced my own fierce, unconditional, uncontrollable love for you. Love I had no idea I was capable of before you came into my life. And if sinful me can give good gifts to my children, how much more will my Father in heaven give? If his love is bigger than mine? Well. That’s pretty. dang. big.
As I’ve tried to foster and encourage growth in both your strengths and weaknesses, I’ve discovered that I never stop learning about my own strengths and weaknesses. Lord knows, you’ve allowed me to come face to face with my weaknesses. And I thank you for that. Because how else can I grow as a human being, a woman, a wife, a mother?
Now that we are nearing that heart-breaky part where I sense the nest is going to start looking a little empty in the next few years, I’ve come to realize something. You will be entering a new season in your life where you will take all the things I’ve taught you (and I pray to God I’ve taught you enough) out into the world as you enter a new season in your life. Simultaneously, I will be taking all that you’ve taught me (and trust me girls, you’ve taught me richly) into an entirely new season in my own life. We will both take what we’ve learned and use it while we learn how to live apart from each other. (Hopefully not too far apart. Next door seems appropriate to me.)
Oh. One other thing I’ve learned from you. The art of the Selfie. Never liked pictures of myself. Still don’t. But at least I can consider myself culturally relevant now that I know some of the few key factors in how to appear to have fewer chins than I actually have. Good thing I have you in my life!
It seems so weird to be starting right back in Genesis when I just finished Revelation a few days ago. I spent all of 2015 on a journey with my Chronological Bible and read every page. SUCH a good experience and I recommend everyone do it at least once in their lifetime.
So much to take in, learn from and apply. I can never learn or absorb enough about the love of my Savior. This Book is filled with so much love, pain, suffering, life, war, victory, defeat, encouragement… Ultimately, this ridiculous cycle of sin and then loads of redemption. And then sin. And then redemption. And then sin. And then… (Spoiler alert: It has a happy ending.)
Well, I finished the whole Book a few days early, so I’ve begun round two a little early as well. It’s a habit I’ve decided I don’t want to break. Today is the first day of the new year and I spent a few minutes this morning reading about Noah and his time on the Ark. In Genesis 8:6, after many months in this boat filled with the sounds and smells of so many animals, and sharing the same closed quarters with the same 7 human faces, and hearing the constant sound of the rain and the waves and the wind outside… Noah opens the window.
I live in Oregon. This beautifully forested state is known for it’s rain. It rains about 9 months out of the year. Eventually Spring knocks at the door and the rain takes little breaks. The blanket of gray in the sky gets a hole in it and the sun pokes it’s way through and there is this new color that emerges. I think it’s called Blue? The sky, if I remember right, is actually blue. And then you know. It’s time to open the windows and SMELL. THE. AIR. It is so refreshingly crisp and clean. It wakes up all 5 of my senses. It doesn’t change the environment in my house one bit. But this open window? It sure changes my outlook and revives my spirit. It is like breathing new life. It brings anticipation, and reminds me a new season is right around the corner.
Sometimes we are so close to our routines, situations, habits. It’s nice to remember that, while God may have us in a holding pattern that He’s designed for us, it’s not permanent. There may be some painful loss. We may lose some things we love. Maybe even people. But our loving Father also gives us life abundantly, and equips us for tasks bigger than we are. And never without a blessing for those who are obedient to the Voice. But God gives us a chance to open a window, inhale deeply and get a glimpse of the good stuff he’s about to pour into us. A boost, if you will, to recharge the spirit long enough to see the task through.
I wonder what went through Noah’s mind and heart as he opened that window and inhaled fresh air for the first time in a long time. The old had passed and the new was so close.
I have two teenage daughters. I’ve never had sons, but at times like this, I always imagine how much simpler events like this must be for the parents of dudes.
When formal dances are upon us, my heart starts to pump a little bit faster. Especially the SnoBall, which is a modern day formal Sadie Hawkins dance. Can we afford all the necessities (x2)? Are we going to be able to find the Perfect Dress that is modest and both mom and daughter agree upon? Will my babies choose safe dates? There’s hair and makeup and nails and jewelry and shoes and checking for cleavage… (No. No cleavage. If you can find something turtleneck-ish with sleeves, that’d be great.)
I’ve got the big car and the wiring of a night owl, so it makes sense for me to act as chauffeur to the squad. This particular night, our group ranged from 5 to 8 teens throughout the evening. Timing is everything. When should everyone arrive to the house? Dinner reservations. When and where? Time for photos is a must, but the sun sets at 4:30pm in December, so… Gotta get to the dance on time, but definitely not too early. Also, a group of girls who’ve never worn high heels before do not walk at a regular pace. Will traffic cooperate? Once everyone is out of my care, will they be safe? (Did I also mention I’m an introvert? Yeah. This type of event uses up all of my B vitamins.)
All. These. Details. And I feel myself get anxious. I feel myself being Martha.
Slow down. Recognize the moments, Sugar Plum. This is one of those nights that will be remembered by my kids the rest of their lives and I don’t want to miss the moments that I have the privilege of actually being a part of.
Watching friends in their element and capturing their humor on camera. Watching a nervous boy trying so hard to be chivalrous, possibly for the first time. (I wonder who did the coaching.) Hearing inside jokes in the midst of all the chatter and everyone pausing to sing that one song that just came on the stereo. WHEN THEY LAUGH AT MY JOKES! (Even if just to be courteous.)
And then sending the babies, all dolled up, looking like ladies and gentlemen, into the dance…
These are the moments. This is where I notice the blessing of who my daughters are becoming and the company they are keeping. This is where God the Father puts a gentle hand on my shoulder and reminds me- This parenting thing? It’s a team effort. “Thank you for all you’ve done to get them to the dance, Megan. I’ll take it from here.”
And then I’m at peace. I know they are in great Hands. I am able to let go of the anxiety and just settle in to a quiet evening at home. Don’t get me wrong. Pins and needles till they get home. But not the worrying kind of pins and needles. I have peace that God really did take it from there. Pins and needles because I can’t wait to hear how the night went. And from what I understand, it was a blast.