At The Cottage Background

Friday, January 11, 2013

The First Step...

“Sometimes you don’t know when you’re taking the first step through a door until you’re already inside.”

My house emptied and I knew it was my time. I had to grab it. I glanced at the pile of dishes sitting on my counter next to the sink. I knew the dust was waiting to be swiped away but I decided to ignore it. For now. I won’t neglect it forever. That isn’t me. But I also know, just like I will always take care of what needs to be done, this this is more important. Right now.

I got my copy in the mail . One Thousand Gifts Devotional study by Ann Voscamp. I put the kettle on and sat down ready to start. I just finished gluing all of my memory verse cards into my little Moleskine notebook for her Romans Project. I felt my fingers itching to do more. So I opened it up. It didn’t take long. The tears. They began to fall before I even finished the verse.

“In the time of My favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you;I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances.” Isaiah 49:8

I couldn’t stop them. And as I continued to read the tears just continued to fall.
I bowed my head down. I lifted my hands, empty, with only my tears filling them. I don’t have anything more to offer.
I slid off my chair. I couldn’t continue to just sit there. Elevated. With my face to the ground and my forehead pressed against the wood I wept.
This is why

“A sacrifice is, by definition, not an easy thing-but it is a sacred thing. There is this: We give thanks to God not because of how we feel but because of who He is.”
“He who is grateful for little is given much laughter and it’s counting the ways He loves, this is what multiplies joy. The life that counts blessings discovers its yielding more than it seems.” ~excerpt from One Thousand Gifts Devotional~ Ann Voskamp

She asks the question why we don’t keeps our eyes on His grace more.? I realized that I have been so focused on my circumstances and not on the blessings that He has daily given me. I was missing them. I have been missing them.

That crushed me.

I received a word, prophetic in nature, a while back. A long while back. It had to do with my husbands and my ministry. At the moment we were just coming out of one. I was sad. I felt empty and useless. The word was that we were going to be used in a new way that was going to yield more fruit than what we had been doing. I was excited. So excited. I held onto that word. And I have been waiting for the fruit ever since. I realized that what I had been waiting for it has already begun.
This is what I wrote in my journal after reading Ann’s words this morning:

Dear Lord Holy Spirit Open my eyes. show me the fruit. The fruit I thought hadn’t come yet. I was waiting for it, anticipating this great boom. This huge noticeably huge outpouring. Fruit in full bloom and obvious. But they have already come. Some are already on the ground around me. I didn’t see them. I hadn’t noticed. My focus was on the weeds. My eyes were on the weeds. I am sorry Father. I am so sorry. I am thankful Your grace I’m picking it up. Thank you.

I was waiting. I had been waiting. How much of the fruit had I missed? My heart ached with the wondering. As I found myself on the floor, weeping, repenting, I began to see it had already started. The fruit has been growing and falling this whole time. I was, and have been, so focused on the weeds in my life that I had missed so much of it. I know there is more. I know this very well. But I also know that there has already been a harvest of fruit that I have missed because my eyes were so fixed on the things that have consumed so much of my time. So much of my families time.

I want to be grateful. I don’t want to sit in my circumstances so much that they become who I am. I have never wanted my situations in life to define me and how others see me. How did I get to this place then? How did they become more than I ever wanted them to be?
It’s so easy. It’s a trap really. But at any given moment we can choose not to. Not to let any of those “things” define us. Be us. Be what everyone sees when they see us coming. Oh Lord I never wanted to be that person.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassion's never fail.

They are new every morning;great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

It’s a new day.
His mercies are new every morning. 
My daughter and I have felt the indelible mark of needing to be thankful in this new year.
The fruit.
My other daughter and I have talked in length about what God has been doing in our lives and allowing Him full access.
The fruit.
My son has been learning what it is to truly trust God.
The fruit.
My husband has been feeling a shift in his own life... change.
The fruit.
I am hungering after more of Him in every way.
The fruit

We can stay so focused on all the stuff our weeds that we completely miss what God is doing and What He has been doing the whole time.

Time to be shown that we are loved by those who took care of us Being able relate to those who are in the same or more pain than I am Even when we hide, He sees us He always longs for us to surrender that which we can’t control.Realizing that we are NEVER alone, because He is ALWAYS with us He is not the author of confusion, so we shouldn’t be walking in that ever His mercies are new every morning, so we can always have hopeHis perfect love casts down and cast out EVERY FEAR, we need only cry out to Him and trust Him to save us Like David said over and over in the Psalms, “Why are you cast down O my soul.” (Psalm 42:5) He is always our reason to not despair God takes our anger, if we let Him, and lets us see exactly what it is He has been doing There is always Hope always. So when we doubt, it only gives Him room to show us that He is faithful.
But we have to let Him. We have to let Him in to all of those areas in our lives that keep us stunted and blind. Not seeing what is really going on. That we are learning, changing, and even growing.

It’s been growing all along.
And it has been multiplying in ways that I didn’t even see.
I don’t want to focus on the weeds anymore.
I want to focus on the fruit.
Like Ann says so well the gifts.
The many many ways that He shows His love towards us.
Every Day.
We just need to open our eyes. Begin to see.
I am taking the challenge.
I am walking forward in gratefulness.  
Taking my first steps this year toward walking in thankfulness.
I would rather my focus be on that. On His gifts. His love toward us. On Him.
Wouldn’t you?

. Until another tomorrow.


Please take the time to visit Ann's Blog. You won't regret it. You may even choose to take the challenge with me. :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New and Changing

This isn't anything new. I suppose.
I suppose that there are so many that have already begun, and already finished what it is they want to say.
It's the New Year.
New beginnings and new things to change.
Undoubtedly… new things to say.
I suppose I'm a little late.
It almost feels new. Sitting here. Typing away and doing what my heart longs to do all the time.
It is everything. It is my expression of faith. My testament to the life that I am endeavoring to live.
It is documented proof of my heart.
I just don't have the luxury of time these days. I wish I did.
I've covered that before though. That is nothing new.

As the shower drips, even after being fixed once already, the dishes stand in the sink, my laundry waits impatiently to be done, home school lessons to prepare, dinners to prepare… well… we won't go into that now. There is always so much that is constantly trying to get my attention. Things that need my attention.
I could ignore it all. I suppose.
But I think we all know that those things in our lives that demand to be noticed almost always end up getting our full attention. Or at least the bits and pieces that we have left to give. And we are not allowed to just walk away no matter how much we want to. No matter how badly we fuss, cry, and plead for it all to just stop. For just one second.

This is life. We can choose how we look at it.
I have to admit. Right here in this place where I feel like I can express myself more fully.
I haven't had the best outlook over the last season of my life that was 2012.
Maybe you can echo the same emotions as I.
Tension. Regret. Frustration. Doubt. Fear. Disappointment.
There have been joyous moments though.
Surprises that took my breath away. Moments that changed everything in the middle of a heartbeat.
Sweet memories and silent reflections.
Learning to trust God in ways that I thought were mastered.
I learned quickly this year… we never master. We get better. Maybe even good. But if we could possibly master the things that try so hard to keep us from where we need to be… we wouldn't need Him.
Oh… how we desperately need Him.    I need Him.
And although those moments that I would rather run from seem to overshadow the ones that I want to savor, I realize that they are the very things that have been shaping my faith this year. Re-directing my focus. Changing me. Tearing away at my resistance. Answering words that were whispered in the stillness of dark nights, only the stars as my witness. Answers that I couldn't identify at first. They looked so different than I imagined them to.

He asked me to trust Him.
It was barely heard. It came so softly.
But I felt it. Deep where it matters most. It scared me a little. I'm not going to lie. When you are asked to trust it usually entails falling. I don't do well falling. Only if I am in control of the speed and direction in which I'm going. Only if I know what is coming next. What can be expected.
This past year wasn't any of those.

That is the past.
This is a new year.
A fresh start.
Isn't it what we all long for? And not just in January?
Yet…. why is it we start out so eager only to falter so soon after take off? I always have great intentions. Bible studies I am going to do, books I want to read,  exercise goals to make me more fit, doing more good wherever good may need to be done.
The list is long. No wonder I hiccup a week or so out of the gate.
This year... the year that feels different somehow in so many ways. Like changing tide and shifting sand. Right before the season got busier and the celebrations began to get underway.
I heard Him whisper again. This time louder… but not much.
I wasn't expecting it. Not so soon after the last one. We usually only do these talks once a year.
This was different. This was a change.
A year of change.
I tried not to wince. I held onto it for a while turning it over and over, finally ending up with the realization that there was a seed of hope buried in it. I'm not afraid of change. In fact it usually indicates adventure to me. It used to make me well up with excitement. But not lately. Not after this past year. I hate to admit that I'm a little jaded now. A little harder. And a lot broken.  So after finally letting the word settle in and find the place He meant for it to go, I just sat. Right here. At this desk. Staring at the white screen and wondering if I heard Him correctly. Almost daring myself to believe that I could hope at all. Hoping that the change that He is talking about will be better than the things that I have had to walk through lately.
On the heels of this moment I have felt the gentle pressure on my heart to begin walking in an attitude of thankfulness.
Constant, inundated thankfulness.
The conscious decision to choose to be thankful.
To allow the attitude of gratefulness to change me from the inside out. To prepare my heart. To make me more into the person He wants me to be.
Praising Him no matter what. Even when it hurts. When it requires more of me than just wisps of breath uttered in a song.

Trust. Faith. Thankfulness. Change….. HOPE.

New… and changing.

I'm not sure what this year holds for me. For us. I still can't see what is up ahead and around the corner.
I want to search longingly for all the answers. They don't often come the way I want. Is it too much to hope that they do? Is it wrong?

“Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
 And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassion's never fail.
They are new every morning; 
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.” Lamentations 3: 19-24

I. Have. Hope.
It has been spoken over and over to us. My family. Time and again. The same words ringing… repeating…
Jeremiah 29: 11-13… Psalm 103… Psalm 139… Isaiah 43… 

Change. Development. Metamorphosis. Transition. Refinement. Transformation.
Like a change in the air. A soft breeze that brings with it the promise of hope. The scent of something good to come. I am holding onto this. I am clinging and not letting go. Repenting and surrendering. 
I am waiting. 
It is coming.
Can you feel it….?  
Because I don't just believe that it is for us. I believe it is for you too.

… until another tomorrow.