Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Seasons, Chapters and Choosing Love

I recently wrote about our old oak table and the memories which surround the table. My time of reflection brought me to conclude we need to hold on to our table. The table has actually since undergone a makeover.

Trips down memory lane happen frequently for me these days. And those trips take me back to the different seasons of my life. Like different seasons of the year, God takes us through different seasons throughout our time here on earth.

A while back, my friend Holly sent me a Voxer message after reading a post I had written on the book I dream about (every writer’s dream, I believe). The book would likely be a collection of stories from my years of marriage. Holly suggested the chapter titles simply be a particular year of my marriage. Her suggestion resonated with me.

Basically, the different seasons of our marriage would become chapters.

I don't imagine the book would be a chapter for every year of my marriage but it could highlight the years when I believe God did something profound, grew our faith and trust in Him or prepared us for a new chapter.

My book choices lately are ones written by Shauna Niequist. I loved her book Bread and Wine so I decided to continue with a Shauna theme by reading Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet. I completed Cold Tangerines and have a hundred pages or so left to read in Bittersweet.

In the chapter titled “Sea Dreams” of Bittersweet, Shauna writes, “Sometimes we have to leave home in order to find out what we left there and why it matters so much.”

Her words speak to a chapter in my marriage; a chapter when I left my husband and home. This chapter would be titled "1999." Whenever I reflect on this chapter I try to do so without regret. Of course, it breaks my heart to recall the hurt I caused my husband. At the same time, I do believe the act of leaving allowed me to discover what I had left and why he mattered so much.

Thankfully, 1999 ended with God having grander plans for the next chapter – 2000 – a chapter which included a fight for my marriage.

We appear to be on the edge of another chapter ending. It too relates to the words written by Shauna. The second part of those words may end differently though. I tread lightly here because this chapter ending doesn't relate to my marriage. On the other hand, it impacts our family and lays heavy on my heart.

As one chapter potentially ends, God teaches me how each chapter matters.

In a video series, Living Life Together featuring Shauna Niequist, Shauna says in the second video of the series that “our stories are stories of who God is.” God is love. And God calls us to love. We love no matter what the future may hold for a relationship. I have the choice to look back with regret for years spent loving someone and now consider it as time wasted. I also have the choice to be grateful for the chapter they were a part of. And I can be more like Christ by choosing love amidst the sorrow of their loss.

Every chapter matters because whether it’s a chapter filled with joy or sorrow we have the opportunity to glorify Him. It’s another chapter of our life which tells of who He is.

The year 2015 would surely be another chapter in my book. It's shaping out to be a profound year of God awakening us to His love, faithfulness and every day graces. The year has been full of good and hard moments and we haven’t even made it halfway through the year. Yet, we experience God’s love and faithfulness, maybe even greater so when He walks with us through the hard.

While 2015 may include a less fortunate ending for people we love, the marriage between my husband and I, which came close to an end back in 1999, will celebrate 25 years in October. All praise and glory goes to God.

This reflection reminds me not to limit what God can do. His ways are not our ways and many times far exceed our understanding. So I will choose to love through what may be an end of a chapter.

While I might guard my heart more closely, I will not close my heart to choosing love again no matter how this chapter ends or the next one begins.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Throne of Grace

Recent status updates on Facebook have referenced how I now walk in freedom from an eating disorder. There has been mention of my longtime battle with bulimia here and there on my blog. Last year I attempted to give it up for Lent. I wrote about it here and here. I wrote about how I did not reach my goal here.

The battle continued on, mostly in secret. Family and friends rarely confronted me on the matter, except for a few, which made it easier to keep it a secret. When the few would ask how I was doing they received the standard response of, “It is better.”

You might wonder, what does “it is better” mean?

For the most part, it does not mean a thing. Those words were used as a diversion from being real. There were times when the purging happened less frequently but usually not by much. The battle always remained a battle.

A part of me wanted to come clean by saying, “It is far from finished.” There would be freedom in such admittance. On the contrary, doing so would make it harder to carry out the act of purging, if the desire remained to do so, because others (mainly my husband) might watch closer my actions after eating.

Was I ready to let go of the warped sense of control I had over my eating disorder?

I could not tell you the last time I made myself purge. It hasn't been very long; maybe two or three months. I did not make note of the date it stopped. A day did not come when I said, “It is finished.” I thought a day like that had come—I said so during my Lenten journey here.

I was not finished.

Could it be my faith in Him wasn't strong enough for healing? The answer, of course, is no. Our healing isn't dependent upon the level of our faith.

Why am I now certain that it is finished? What is different from the other times?

I think it has something to do with accepting His grace. By this I mean, believing His grace is a gift for me too. I know that it is but there's a difference between believing and accepting.

I wish I could speak of a profound moment similar to the many miracle healings performed by Jesus throughout the New Testament. Like the experience of the bleeding women who came up behind Jesus to touch the edge of His cloak and then her bleeding immediately stopped (read Luke 8:43-48). Instead, a day just came when I no longer purged.

In a recent sermon by our Executive Pastor he addressed the nature of miraculous healings performed by Jesus. He expressed how the healings included four characteristics:

1) They were unpredictable

2) They were done in Jesus’ name

3) They were instantaneous and complete

4) They resulted in praise to God

Something clicked during his sermon. A light bulb went on. I had experienced a healing that could have only been done by Jesus.

Unlike the prediction of my eating disorder being finished when I began my Lenten journey in 2014, this healing was unpredictable. It was done in no other name than Jesus’ name because only He could perform such a healing. It was instantaneous and I now believe complete. All praise and glory goes to God.

My history may prove I will likely fall again. And I may. I think not though. His grace gift of healing is one I do not plan to give back.

It is finished.

I may not understand why He chose to do this now. But He often doesn't work in ways we will understand. This is what I'm learning: the magic actually happens beyond the healing. As I walk away from an eating disorder and in to freedom I cannot help but point others to Him because it's all because of HIM. And isn't that the point?

Healing or no healing, He is more than enough. He is all we need.

Like I wrote here, thank you for being a soft place to land as I tell my story. There is more to tell but I think I shall save for another post.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

{An} Old Oak Table

My husband and I recently completed a nine week Financial Peace University (FPU) course with Dave Ramsey. It's a course our church provides a few times a year. If you have never heard of FPU, I highly suggest you check it out. It will change you. And when you go through it with your spouse, it will have a positive impact on your marriage.

It's powerful stuff. It’s so powerful we have shipped off copies of the CDs to our eldest son to encourage him to go through the course. Afterward, our younger son will receive the same encouragement.

Mostly, I hope our children see a change in how their parents handle money. I pray we also reflect the truth to them: everything we have comes from and belongs to God. He has simply entrusted us to be wise with what He gives and to treat it with open hands. In other words, become like Him and be givers.

Dave Ramsey began and ended the nine-week course with reference to an old oak table. You see, it was around his old oak table where he and his wife declared bankruptcy. Around that same oak table they made the choice to be obedient to God’s instructions by following biblical principles on how to handle money. God actually has quite a bit to say on the topic.

I left the last week of our nine-week course reflecting on the old oak table which sits in our home and serves as our dining room table. The table has been in our home for at least 15 years. And life has surely happened around our old oak table.

The table is battered and worn out. Several years ago hubs started to strip the stain off to prepare it to be re-stained or painted. For the most part, it sits there as bare oak waiting on us to decide. At times, mainly when we entertain, I throw a white table cloth over it for a prettier look.

Like Dave Ramsey, there are good and not-so-good memories which surround our table. Of course many meals were served and eaten around our table but there’s so much more to this table…

Toddlers became middle-schoolers.

Boys became young men.

Homework was fought over.

Art was birthed.

Fights were fought.

Fists were pounded.

Hard decisions were made.

Hearts broke there.

Tears fell.

Forgiveness was given.

Smiles formed there.

God was found.

The Bible was opened and read.

Prayers were lifted.

Grace was said.

“See you later” and “welcome home” moments were spoken and lived.

Love letters were written and mailed.

Care packages were assembled and shipped.

Friendships blossomed.

A marriage proposal prepared for and extended there.

The growth of a family was witnessed.

Losses mourned.

The gifts of redemption and transformation were received.

God’s miracles are still seen daily.

The above memories only scratch the surface of the life lived around our old oak table. Nonetheless, the process of writing down the memories makes me wonder how I could have ever considered saying good-bye to our table. Yes, maybe it's just a table. The memories would not disappear with the table. But I have suddenly grown founder of our table.

I find myself sitting at the table on one of the four chairs slowly falling apart, one being held together with a yellow bow, humming the lyrics to a song by Colton Dixon:

There are days I've taken more than I can give
And there are choices that I made
That I wouldn't make again
I've had my share of laughter
Of tears and troubled times
This is has been the story of my life

I have won
and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy, I've seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

Watch video here: “Through All Of It

Through every event which transpired around our old oak table God has been our God through all of it. Maybe we didn't always see Him. Maybe we went most of those years denying Him. Yet, He was always there knocking, waiting for us to open our hearts to His everlasting love.

Hard stuff didn't stop being lived around our table once we did let Him in for we live in a fallen world. But God continues to be our God through all of it. Instead of waiting on us to respond to His knock, His Holy Spirit now dwells within us.

I think we shall keep our old oak table. Whenever we gather around our table I think we shall take a moment to thank God for being our God.

“You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.”
Psalm 118:28

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Friday, June 5, 2015

When the writing runs dry

It's been almost a month since my last blog post.  There are attempts to write and then the attempts are quickly followed by the press of the delete button. If you follow me on my blog Facebook page you may have witnessed the disappearing act of a few status updates lately.

My reasons for not writing are many. Mostly it's attributed to a realignment of priorities. The Storyline Conference I attended last October led me through the process of outlining the various roles I play and then identifying which ones matter most to me. This helped me to create a life plan, or at least a plan for the year ahead by summarizing ambitions for each of these roles.

Child of God

Writing falls lower on the list than it once did. But am I ignoring God's call to write?

I do believe writing has the rightful lower position on my priority list. The priorities I listed above writing need to come first. God having proper place as my first love is changing my life. I now walk in freedom of an eating disorder only by the grace of God.

“The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Like He did with the Israelite's, God spoke to me saying, “You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north” (Deuteronomy 2:3).

I have turned north and do not plan to turn back.

At the same time, Satan has not given up on his attempts to win the fight for my worship of him first. He increases the intensity, I believe, when we claim freedom from a stronghold for we have done the very thing he prowls around trying to prevent.

When it comes to writing I fall to Satan’s lies. He places seeds of doubts in my mind. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I have admitted to this before. The difference lies in letting doubt win – letting him win – by not writing.

There’s not a lack of God stories to share with you. Life is full of good and hard stuff. God’s presence and His wonders are experienced through it all.

I have a confession to make though. Doubt has allowed the writing to run dry. I have pushed away or deleted words given to me by God with a wide-range of excuses. The most popular excuses being, “It’s not good enough,” “It’s too hard” and “It doesn’t matter anyways.”

God has spoken again saying, “You have circled that mountain long enough too, Beth.”

The God stories embedded in my heart and mind of all the ways He continues to redeem and transform need to be told. It’s those kinds of stories we as Christian writers pray point others to Him. Because the whole purpose of what God does in our lives is to bring attention to Him. It has nothing to do with us.

As said by our Executive Pastor in a recent sermon, “The purpose of signs and wonders it to prove Jesus and to point to Jesus.”

If I allow doubt to let the writing run dry then it’s like saying to God that the work He does in and around me doesn’t matter.

I certainly do not want to say that.

How about I (we) do this instead?

“Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea,
Take the news of his glory to the lost,
News of his wonders to one and all!”
~ Psalm 96:3 (MSG)

The writing may still be infrequent which is okay if the infrequency stems from properly aligned priorities and not because of doubt.

Am I done with writing until 2016 as I said in a recent status update? How about I carry on with letting God determine when I write.

Until next time…

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