Seen & Heard: A Year of Grace & Stashing Treasures

There are so many things that happened in this past year that can’t be spoken about yet. The situations are too fresh, too near, so – unresolved. These things can be wrestled with, spoken about, cried over, before God in prayer. I think that’s the way He plans it. Quiet dependence on Him.

January

18120This year was definitely a lesson in dependence and 30 days into it, I was already Arguing with the Almighty.  My family dynamic had changed, the neat and tidy had been thrown off and I was struggling to line all my ducks up in a row again. I never did get those ducks lined up, but I learned a lot through that trial/blessing.

T&J

February
The stress of 2013, the decisions to be made, huge, greater than us, philosophical, moral, life-altering decisions had to be decided and we didn’t always see eye to eye. February 14 rolls around and a day that’s supposed to be full of love – wasn’t. Learning to live out Marriage in the Trenches was difficult, 2013 marks our hardest year of marriage so far.

March
FAMILYWORSHIPBy this time, we had started to gain our bearings a bit. Books certainly have an impact on me and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together made huge impact in how I view community and family life.  Out of it came the Family Worship Experiment, a practice that didn’t stick, due to life schedules, but was fruitful in the trying and I suspect will surface again.

April
Some time in April, I joined a book club. I’ve never been in a book club before, this one was good for me, until I made the mistake of reading someone else’s blog post on a chapter before I read it. It was talking about making furniture out of leather. That was more than I could bear, I’ve made unblogged progress in this book, but sadly, it is on the 2013 unfinished books list. I’ll finish it, I will, it’s too good not to.

Mayjojo
I was still reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking in May, blogging through chapters 3 & 4, who knew there was a Hidden Art of Doodling Prayer? This really was a good exercise for me, blogging through that book, maybe I’ll pick it up in 2014.  A better picture of what has had an impact on my own life and more specifically in 2013 is the post Child-rearing: It Takes Community. A special thank you to those very important adults who have impacted and poured into my children.

When your child hits a wall and turns their ears from you, when there is no way to get in, get through, make way. Then, friendship steps in, community steps in, life on life daily living kicks it up a notch and makes paths where the brush and weeds and thorns were too thick to pass through.

June
wpid-2013-06-11-16.56.08.pngAre you tired yet? It was tiring to live this year! We celebrated 15 years of marriage in June, moved in June, our hearts broke in June, I can only pray that in time God will restore and heal all broken things. So Life Goes On…

So I take my boxes and those dear to me and I venture out with all the exhilaration and hope that comes with new life. A fresh start. With all confidence in the One who has been faithful, and will be faithful again, I smile.

I embrace the future.

July2013-07-26 13.27.02
In July the struggled continued. 2013 was a year of changes and rediscovering who we were. It was as if the rug was pulled out from under us and we just couldn’t gain a steady footing. These two posts this month are very dear to me. One was the passing of a dear girl Amanda Wright and the other was regular life with kids, but as I look back now I see that we were making specific and pivotal decisions during this time that we’re reaping the blessings from now. God does that, He takes you through the pain to bring you to the joy, sometimes it just takes time.

August
I was studying for our Women’s Conference in August and I had biblical womanhood on my mind in The Old Worn Soapbox.  Being on the other side, I find myself tired of talking about this. We’ve gone through the teaching stage for now, it’s time to start living some of these things. I’ve been praying about how to provide opportunities for women to live out their call  in the body. We’ve made progress, God’s not done with this yet.

September
wpid-20130906_151341.jpgGuess What? In September, I posted my first Seen & Heard post. They’ve come to be my favorite, I love to act silly and say whatever I want in them. Sometimes I have too much to say because something has gotten me all fired up, but mostly I try to keep them light and funny and not LONG like this one. I also began blogging through The Church Planter’s Wife, a book that has been good for me, another book not completed in 2013. (Grace, Grace!)

October
I began blogging twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays in October. Yeah, I know, it’s a lot of Julee in a week. I have to live with me all the time so just be glad you can close your browser and walk away.  There were funny moments of Identity Crisis, moments where God spoke in A Still Small Voice, just reading books with the kids in Wrapped up in Rhymes, there were even battles over Halloween. The instance that had the greatest impact on me and greatest response from women was A Call to Connect where I discovered: “It’s possible to crave community yet also crave privacy.” I learned that it’s ok to have a small circle I’m close to, I don’t have to extend deep friendship to every person that seeks it. I scratched the surface on a topic (friendship) that is the cause of ache and hurt in  many women, it was interesting to see the response.

November2013-11-01 09.04.52
We’ve almost made it through the year. If you’ve made it this far in this post, you’re a trooper. I honestly don’t expect you to read the linked posts (Not even my husband or my mother would do that), but it’s been a great exercise for me to look back through this lens of written word. I can see God’s hand in all of these difficult days and in the great days too. November 2013 brings a look at my Unconventional Life a dream In Visions and Dreams that I thought was for one situation, but as it played out, was for another situation.

I also wrote about The Dark Thoughts of  a Mother, I understand not everyone has been to this place, which is why it needs to be written about. If you haven’t parented a child like this, you just can’t know what it’s like. I wanted to give the mothers that have, some relief.

December
I wrote two posts in December about a boy who was killed for his faith. I understand that a rich christian man losing his reality TV show job is more important, but this still burns in my heart. Dear America, This is Not a Game and Dear America, Actually  were like the Dark Thoughts of a Mother post, me saying what I really think and have lived. Both posts were misunderstood by some, that’s ok.

I wish I could say that at the end of all of these 2013 posts, I didn’t need to write and work through ObSoLeTe – The Pain in December, but I did. There are still pictures and Facebook posts and memories that remind me of the sting. It is what it is. My prayer is still this:

And I know I shouldn’t care
If I’m out or if I’m in
Cause if I am dismissed
Oh you always take me in

Take me in God. Take me in and shield the pain of what was, the pain of what could have been. Take me in to the next year and close the chapter on all that once was.

Take me in your love and heal me, make me new.

After writing that post, it stings less, just a bit less. Most the time.

On to 2014
Congratulations! You made it to the end! Now it’s time to start 2014! I’ve gone back and forth about studying the book of Nehemiah this year, but after writing this wrap up, I see that it’s time to begin purposefully rebuilding the city.One foot in front of the other, here we go. We go with grace, hope and peace – We go with God.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

 (Psalm 91:1-2, ESV)

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Seen & Heard: Bad Christians

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This Christmas has been an odd one for us. We haven’t broken out an advent book, haven’t lit a candle. We set up a tree in our living room, threw a bunch of ornaments on it, discussed at great lengths what star to put on top and called it Christmas. There have been no trips to look at lights, or to any festive places.

I suppose we aren’t very christiany Christians.  Certainly a pastor and his family must live more spiritually than this?

Last night, the kids and I watched Bedtime Stories. Tony asked how it was later in the evening. I told him it had crude humor, “You know, so that’s always funny.” I rolled my eyes as I said it, remembering the reason I didn’t let the kids see this movie in the theaters.  He asked, “Were there a lot of people slipping and falling down like Home Alone?”  “No. There was a guy named Butt-kiss. They loved that.”  We don’t do this.  There are countless children’s movies my kids have not seen. Last night, they watched Bedtime Stories. There. I said it.

I think they’re going to be ok. I really, really do.

We haven’t done anything Christmasy and we’re watching movies with crude humor. Great.

My friend asked me about children’s bibles yesterday, what’s on your bookshelf? We’ve read all of ours. Umm… The Action Bible? We had the Lego bible but it talks about rape and kids way to young were asking about that so we put that away. We have children’s books on Augustine and great leaders of the faith… surely that counts for something?

I used to be so strict, so careful. I haven’t lost that, but now that I’m the ripe old age of 33, I’ve loosened up a bit. You know how the babies in the family are always allowed to do more than everyone else ever was? Yeah, I think we’re there. I don’t plan on watching more crude humor, but if my 3 year old says Santa is bringing her a candy, I don’t sit her down and give her a good talking to.  She plays with Barbies. I know, it’s wild around here.

There hasn’t been a strong feeling of Christmas cheer, but there’s been something else. There’s been a distinct feel of family, relationship, connection.  We’ve had friends and family in, we’ve talked, laughed, shared life together. My friend showed up at my door the other day and a few days later, I sat down in her kitchen. We laughed, we talked, we shared hardships. The other night, I had the opportunity to go out for dessert with a group of women very special to me. Another group of believers talked and guided me through a difficult test in my life. The kids, all of them, have been hanging out together. Meeting each other in the halls, in bedrooms, on swingsets and spending time together.  There’s been laughing. Lots of laughing.

I had the opportunity to sit down to talk for 2 hours with my 14 year old the other night.  He just kept talking, sharing his heart, his dreams. I just kept staring straight into his eyes, asking questions, smiling, laughing.  What’s more merry than that?

We’ve been praying for people. People who are visiting our home, people we hear about, people we care about.

We actually filled up an Operation Christmas Child box this year! Two of them! That is an accomplishment for this family! 🙂

That’s 13 days of real life in December in our household, it’s not much, but God is here, alive and moving among us.

Happy Friday!  or Merry Christmas if that makes you feel better! 🙂

Seen and Heard – Dear America Actually

A little bird told me there were some who took my post to be a promotion of acting dangerously and posing theoretical questions that can’t truly be answered. I’m thankful to hear the conversation sparked. Blogging is a lonely hobby, posing thoughts, questions, ideas, the things flowing through my heart and mind, the things that help me discover who I am and what I think, I send these out into the void. The void rarely answers.

It’s just the nature of blogging I suppose. Or maybe it’s just me, but I like to console myself with the former.

So, it was nice to hear what came out of it.

I don’t think I was promoting foolishness. I actually know actual people who live in big houses and have nice things and will not pray about or consider going to certain places because of their own prejudices and yes, concern for safety. I don’t think it can necessarily be assumed that those acting out of such prejudice would also be acting in the spirit. So, any idea that you would shun the Spirit’s leading and just jump into a dangerous situation doesn’t seem to match what I’m talking about. Follow the Spirit’s leading, but actually seek, ask, heed, don’t just decide on your own.

As for asking theoretical questions. I don’t generally speak theoretically, my husband does, but I don’t. Do I? I don’t know, maybe I do, sometimes I like to ask odd questions like, “Would you rather be a jaguar or a cheetah?” Theoretically speaking, I would rather be a jaguar because they’re dark and mysterious as compared to a cheetah who can just run really fast for a short sprint before tuckering out.

When I asked, “Will you? Lay it all down?” I wasn’t speaking theoretically asking if you would turn from Christ in persecution. I was talking about today, right now, here. I actually know actual people who say they want to serve God with all of their lives, to live radically, communing with Jesus who told people to drink his blood and eat his body. The same Jesus, that those people turned their back on because they didn’t understand. I know people who say they want to follow that Jesus and yet are too busy, too distracted, too caught up in this world to actually look outside of themselves and their own concerns.

My question is: American Church, will you stop running around in circles, saying you love God and yet living your own life. Will I, as an American church member stop complaining about the present light affliction, stop filling my days and my calendar with things that don’t really matter and lay it all down for Him?

I actually live with this little boy:

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This little boy actually made in impact in my heart:

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When I look at him, I realize there is actually a mother in India right now who is actually mourning, groaning and weeping over her baby boy.

All this America, all this stuff, all this living for self?

It doesn’t actually matter.

Dear America, This is Not a Game.

Dear America, This Is Not A Game

I look at my soon to be seven year old and I see his face, the face of the 7 year old tortured and killed because he and his family are Christian. His father is said to be one of the strongest Christians in their community, many came to Christ through him.

I hear of Christians unwilling to go to certain places, races or people groups. Their own safety more important than those slipping into hell.  I trust in a sovereign God and know that He will make himself known despite a rich and selfish people who think they know best and will not hear His call. But, I wonder, what will become of such a tight-fisted, self-loving church?

We speak of persecution, of being mistreated, becoming the minority and yet we haven’t truly lived a day of want in our lives. Not if we still have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, not if we still have all our fingers and toes. Not if we still have our 7 year olds.

We say we want to be on fire for Jesus, but what if Jesus asks us to be set on fire for him? What if our faith causes the stomach of our child to be set on fire? Will God be our God then? Will we still bless His name? Will it matter where we live, who we know, what we have? Do we really think, as those who commune with Christ, that we are above such suffering?

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”(John 6:66-67, ESV)

Do you?

Want to turn away?

Will you? Lay it all down?

Maybe it’s time we stop complaining about how the media portrays us, stop complaining that we don’t have enough. Maybe it’s time to stop feeding into our children’s innate desire for more things and start preparing them to stand for the King of Kings.  Instead of marching around in circles proclaiming we’re in The Lord’s Army, maybe we could bend a knee and pray for our brothers and sisters being slaughtered for the name of the Slaughtered One.

I just keep looking at his picture. I can’t get his face out of my mind.

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Christian Post Story Here: 7 Year Old Indian Christian Boy Brutally Tortured
Gospel for Asia Story Here: 7 Year Old Boy Tortured, Killed for Being Christian

To Do: What the Rich Do Everyday?

Can we have a friendly conversation here?  I don’t usually join heated debates, y’all say crazy things all the time and I just say to myself, “They be crazy!” and keep on scrolling. 

I ran across an article today that I felt conflicted about. I think it’s fair to look at in context and realize it’s coming from Dave Ramsey and his job is to help manage money and give wisdom in that regard. I don’t actually want to talk about whether or not this list is good to follow or if these principles should be integrated into your life, if you want to be rich.

What I’m trying to figure out is what to do with this list in light of a desire to live out the great commission. What of these things would one follow if the goal is to be Christ like? What of this list will not burn away when we stand before God?

What I don’t want to read is about how you worked hard for what you’ve earned and you deserve it. Nebakanezer tried that and he ended up eating grass in the fields.  Where does this list hold up to the missionary in Africa? Where does this list hold up to the family in the church seeking to honor God with all of their lives? If self-improvement is the goal, self-improvement to what end? 

I suppose this is a list looking at what wealthy people do and I am looking for a list of what godly people do. What things on the list would look the same? What things on the list would look different?

I bring this up because articles like these are articles that come across our path all the time in the church. On the surface they seem fine. Many things about them may be fine. Something about this leaves me unsettled.

So, TALK TO ME: If the goal is a life lived out and exhausted solely for the glory of God and the exaltation of Jesus, what do you do with this list?

And Remember: I don’t want to hear why this list is wise for living unless it’s wise for living the goal above!

20 Things the Rich Do Everyday

Seen & Heard: The Dark Thoughts of a Mother

ABC's of a Godly Woman

I heard you say it. Your voice trailed off and it was quickly passed over, but I heard it.

I caught your words, softly spoken, your mother’s heart seeping some of its life giving blood. A mother isn’t supposed to think such things, but your quiet confession was like a billboard for all to see. I recognized your words, I felt your bleeding heart. Like reading a book, you recited my own thoughts:

“Sometimes, I want to say, ‘Go ahead and take your life'”

I know, it’s ugly. How does a mother get to the place where she thinks such a thought? How does a child get to the place where the one bore them, in her own body, would have such a dark consideration pass through her mind?

Now you’ve said it, I heard you say it, and I want to tell you:

You’re very brave.

I was afraid to voice it. As if speaking could bring to life. As if the condemnation would be eminent if this awful, nightmare became a reality. Afraid, if I said such a thing, it would give my child license; permission, to do as Satan tempts. A mother’s heart readily accepts guilt for the frailty of her children, readily accepts

the weight of her own frailty.

The dark chaos of a desperate mother’s thoughts: At least the torment would be over. You would be free. I wouldn’t have to worry, I would know you are safe.

The One who speaks and brings life will tell you: you’re contemplating lies. Such hopeless ideas have no place before a holy God. To ponder such things is to belittle the pain of mothers, all over the earth, who weep and mourn over the child they long to hold again. These thoughts spit in the face of a God who gave His Son to set our sons and daughters free.

Don’t take the easy road.

Even in your mind, don’t take the easy road. Certain thoughts ought to be taken captive and this is certainly one of them. But,

should you let it slip by in your mind…

Well, it might be best to just say it. Just have it out. Then, we can look it over together; examine it. We could shine the light of God’s truth on it. I know darkness wells up in the weak moments, that’s why we have sister-friends to hold our hand in the storm. We’ll search the scriptures, we’ll pray, we’ll cry. The God who understands such tears – He’ll get you back to the place where you aren’t despairing of life.

You said it.

I’m glad you did.

Find peace dear mother, find strength, find hope to smile at the future: In Christ.

Seen & Heard: Stashing Treasures

It’s a quiet Friday morning. The kids are off this week and so is our schedule. I’ve seen and heard so many great things this week, in the quiet of this morning I find myself calm, my mind blank, still.

I go through seasons where the whirlwind is so great I need to withdraw. I used to be able to do this by simply staying home; life isn’t so simple anymore. There are people everywhere. I often find myself so outside my comfort zone, so much stepping out by faith, so much being who and what I need to be, that I finally have to withdraw.  I find myself an introvert in a world that is seemingly filled with extroverts.

In the chaos. In the people. There are moments, really great moments, where hearts meet; love forms.  I dream of running off to live on a farm with Ann Voskamp where we could wax poetic about anything and everything, but the poem of these lives flowing in and out of my home cause my heart to overflow with love.

MOMENTS THIS WEEK

  • SUNDAY: Standing with my friend with tears in my eyes as she retells how God has been working in her mom. Chills, as I sense we are about to watch God do something amazing. (He did. He always does. It’s His nature)
  • MONDAY: My son explaining that his precious guitar strings, the ones we argue over who will pay for and if they really need to be changed, his beloved guitar strings? They are being worn down and worn out from worshiping God, with those in another country, the same God – in Spanish. What has become of his spare strings? He gave them away. By the way, if he comes home without a guitar strap or a capo, it’s because he plans to also leave those. What wonder is this?
  • TUESDAY: Sitting with 5 women as we finish out a study that drove us crazy with it’s frills, repetitiveness and nonsense, but laughing in wonder as we see how God was speaking anyway. Hearts opening as we share the impossible things in this life, things we have no control to change. Things we lay before The One who is victorious over all. Later, talking with another dear friend who just so happens to be a neighbor. Sharing life, encouraging one another. Days of talking over the backyard fence may be over, but we catch a glimpse of this community, christian community with this moment of encouragement in the afternoon.
  • WEDNESDAY: THIS:
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This little one begs to be played with all day long. These two who stayed late, ate chips and salsa and lived life right beside us. Hurts, tears, pain, weights and all, we lay them before the King and then play Candy Land with a 3 year old. It’s how it’s supposed to be. 🙂

  • THURSDAY: Oh, Thursday. Too many things to recount in the rollercoaster day.  Hard, good talk with my husband. Meeting with a great pastor who lets me run with my ideas, helps me carry them out and helps me think clearly! I left this meeting rejoicing, it’s a beautiful thing when ministries in a church converse, talk, and work together. It’s for the good of the people, the good of the ministry, the good of the mission and it glorifies God, why don’t ministry leaders TALK more. Stop drawing lines between yours and mine and let’s work together already. Snuck out for tea and another, easier chat with my husband. Did my best to encourage some AMAZING women whom I am so blessed to walk this life with. They LOVE and then LOVE some more and I love to watch them LOVE! 🙂

That brings us to Friday and this quiet morning. There have been high highs and low lows, but as you can see, God is so, so faithful. I can’t focus on the drama or the incessant desire to withdraw, I have to focus on Stashing Treasures.

Happy Friday!