I think I can I think I can I think I can

Today is the 16th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the 16th anniversary of my first shift as a registered nurse. I think its fitting that today is my first day of “class” in my online RN to BSN program at Grand Canyon University.

I completed my virtual classroom with my university counselor, Simon, and finished my first online assignment and bio.  Day one of going back to school as a 43 year old- done.
I listened to a podcast while doing dishes today (yes, we wash our dishes by hand) where the podcasters speculated about how a day a work in their individual careers would be different if it was 1985.  I don’t know that I wish 1985 back, but I do feel more comfortable with a manual, real-paper-book, life than I do with the online, technology driven life.   Getting online with my school counselor to do a virtual tour of my “classroom” had me feeling like… a 40 something year old college student.  I’m excited to learn, but I admit I’m intimidated by the technology.  Next: Learn Powerpoint. 
Got a voicemail from an FFA student in Globe, AZ who asked her FFA group could market my soap for a agri-business marketing project.  I’ve also had several people email, text and message me asking what soap I have available.  I haven’t made a batch of soap in several months.  I want to make soap.  I like it that people benefit from and enjoy my soap.  But I feel like making soap and selling soap right now is distraction from the direction I’m going right now, which is pursuing a higher degree in nursing.
Going back to school, having people inquiring about my soap, having people at work encouraging me to promote into a leadership position, having two sons in the throes of puberty, having a troubled marriage (which is currently better than it has ever been), having a church family (finally!) that I’ve committed to investing myself in… all of these have me seeking God for what it looks like for me to run the race set before me, eyes fixed on Jesus. 
The school, soap and work could drop off the planet for me right now.  They’re not eternally important. But the sons, and the husband and the people I’m getting know and serve at church, they are.  When I think about my “race”- the life God has set before me to run by faith, I don’t think about school or soap or work very much (although I do think about my witness as a Christian in those arenas of my life).  What I do think about is the people I live with everyday and the people throughout history and geographically who will be my family eternally.  The desire for those to be one group is a burden I take to the only One who can transfer anyone from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of his Son.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26

a fellowship of bearing up

I’m sitting her in my PJ’s in a quiet house, waiting for my oatmeal to finish cooking. I pull up my Bible app on my phone and read the verse of the day:

 Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.- Psalm 68:19

I chuckle and sigh.  Daily bears us up.  I had just been bemoaning the daily bearing up tasks of being a mom and wife secretly in my heart.  Opening the fridge, taking mental note that there’s nothing to make for dinner and I’ll need to go to the store.  And we’re out of eggs.  And the kids will be up soon and so will begin the grumbling and moaning I’ll get to hear as soon as the call for morning chores is given.  And I need to get pellets for the animals.  And plan for someone to do the morning chores and milking while I’m gone next week.  And I need to make more soap and advertise it and post lotion for sale in the online store.  And I need to contact local retailers about carrying our soaps in their stores.  And I’ll be going to part-time soon and that’ll leave one more day a week for… for… for daily bearing up the needs of the household.

I sigh for a minute.  It’s a blessing that I’m treating like a burden.  But no doubt, it is a burden.  It’s a burden that has to be born up.  Carried.  But it’s a burden with blessing built in because it’s a burden that in it’s very nature shares the likeness of God in it.  It’s a fellowship of bearing up that I get to share with the Living God everyday!

I am no savior.  I do not save my family.  I save no one.  But I get to let the beauty of what God does shine through my life in walking with him under the load of bearing up.  And all the while I point to him as salvation.  He is my salvation.  He’s why I can bear the burden of the needs of this family with delight in the gift it is to get to do it.

It only begins to feel like a tax on me for one reason: sin.  The sins of my husband and children make it painful and draining sometimes to bear the needs of this family.  And my own sinful grumbling and lack of faith cause me to feel the unbearable weight of this calling.  But when I see through eyes of faith, that I join God in the way of bearing up the needs of others, I feel empowered.

God is using my life to show his way among the nations.  Even the Dougals.  I tremble.  What a high and wonderful call.  I don’t need to break the glass ceiling or prove my equality in power with anyone.  I know who I am.  And Whose I am.  And where I’m going.  I can bend down and bear today’s burden.  Because I’m His daughter.  And that’s what He’s doing.


Rebuilding Ruins

In a job interview recently I was asked what I thought my three strengths were, along with my three weaknesses. I named for her two and then I told her the third: organization. But, I told her I actually only saw that as a strength because it really is a weakness that I fight to be “strong” in. People I work with now often comment about how organized I am and I always chuckle and think, “If they only knew how unorganized I feel!”

One of the ways I strive to be organized is list-writing.  Even that fails to help me if I don’t look at it often.  I’m always working to keep structure and order and organization to my day.  I tend to drop off into the pit of procrastination and fall off the cliff of good intentions often.  Spiritually I have to remind myself often, even make lists, or write out in some way truths, lest I stop swimming upstream and relax my run in the race of faith in Christ and begin drifting with tide of the current zeitgeist in which I live.

I don’t know what turned me on to reading Piper… I think I read a blog that mentioned a book a couple years ago.  But recently I’ve been really feeding on the encouragement and scripture coming out of the Desiring God blog.  I found these three lists last week.  I want to print them and frame them and read them every morning!

1.  Ten Resolutions For Mental Health:  My mind is like the ruined, but in process of being rebuilt Jerusalem of Nehemiah’s day.  Sin’s damage on the mind has manifest itself very obviously in my family genes and it hasn’t skipped its warping effects in me.  If you see me and think I’m organized or any mentally healthy thing, say, “It’s a wonder!  It’s grace!”  Because that’s all it is!   And my work isn’t in earning that grace for my mental health, my fight is believing the truth that his grace brings to my mental health!  That’s why I need to read these truths often and medicate my synapses with the Word of God! 

2.  Ten Big, Daily Reminders:  Reading this and the one above encouraged me:  I am not the only one who’s mind is threatened every morning with forgetfulness.  If I don’t stop and remember, in this convenient life I live, like God told Moses, I’ll forget, and drift, and meander, letting life’s current take me wherever it will.  I don’t want to grow unbelieving and numb to the truth.

3. Seven Things to Pray For Your Children:  At my kids’ school they don’t give A, B, C, D and F’s.  They give Exceeds, Meets, Approaches and Falls Far Below.  These “grades” show where they test compared to the state standard.  In prayer, I fall far below.  At times I am moved and have “fervent and effectual” prayers.  But most times my prayers are groans, and moans for help and cries.  Real tears and no words and hands in surrender and knees bent weak.  My hands fall down and my feeble knees are about to give way and then I read something like this article and I feel my Arron has come to lift my hands and my feeble knees have been strengthened. 

Sometimes I hear, in my own mind, what others might ask or say about the decisions I’ve made regarding my marriage.  I think some might wonder why.  Some might write me off as weak-minded or “codependent”.  Some might think I’m doing my “religious duty”.  Some might just scratch their heads and think I’m crazy.  Some might think I’ve made the wrong decision.  Some might think I’ve made the right one.  Others might think either way would have been right.  I stand facing the accusation that either way I would have been and will be wrong.  I’m sure these “some” and “others” are mostly the fiery darts of the enemy of my soul making their way into my ruined and burned down mental walls, trying to keep me from building up my faith by the grace He supplies for His glory.  And so I stand as I write this not aimed an any person but rather a taking up of my sword in one hand and my building tool in the other, pressing on to work with the power supplied me in Christ to bring him glory. 

Sword:  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.- Genesis 50:20

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. – Romans 8:28-29

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” – Matthew 19:4-6

My heart rejoices in the LORD! The LORD has made me strong. Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me. No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. “Stop acting so proud and haughty! Don’t speak with such arrogance! For the LORD is a God who knows what you have done; he will judge your actions.  The bow of the mighty is now broken, and those who stumbled are now strong.- 1 Samuel 2:1-4

Building tool: 

The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.- Proverbs 14:1

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.  – Psalm 119:72

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands.For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.- 1 Peter 3:1-6

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  -Philippians 3:13-14


What do you do when you don’t have her life?

Like I said, a reset happened last week. A turning around.  Sometimes you have to go back to where you started.  Do the things you did at first to rekindle the smoldering flame.  And thank God He doesn’t just put it out. 

I spilled messy feelings out to the Music Man yesterday.  I’m sure it all sounded worse than a thirteen year old’s first blows on a saxophone.  Probably more like clanging symbols.  I had to get it out… it was festering in me.  “Something’s got to change!”  I said.  “I can’t keep going like this!”

She’s right.  I don’t get to make him love me like I want to be loved.  I don’t get to make him listen or laugh or get it or just hold me.  I don’t get to make my life the life I thought I’d have.  

I read her grace-writings frequently, and today’s seemed to be the vessel through which He said, “I know you.  Let me love you the way I deem best.”

I had already been thinking about it since I clamored out my noisy thoughts and feelings yesterday.  Ever since he looked at me and I’m sure he was thinking, “She’ll never change,”  while I was looking at him realizing I had always come to him expecting him to change.  I realized I have wandered off.  I’ve got to return to that place where I fed on truth and grace and was infused with enthusiasm in serving my Lord.

So how can I serve Him when I don’t have that life I dreamed of?

I’ve probably read every Christian wife-help book out there.  The Excellent Wife.  The Power of a Praying Wife.  Created to be His Helpmeet.  Feminine Appeal.  And probably some others I don’t remember right now.  I’ve read these and have always been stumped as to how to take that mold and force my life into it.

I work full-time.  I have children in public school.  My music man and I are marching to different drummers.  The T.V. is on more than I want.  The dinner table is crank-your-neck-to-the-side-to-see-what’s-on-T.V.-and-shove-the-food-in-your-face-as-fast-as-you-can time. There is no ministering to others coming out of this house, nor is there inviting others in.  There’s too much YouTube and Internet browsing and video games.  There’s a hiding to practice spiritual disciplines.  And there’s a murmuring of hymns, lest they be sung out loud and call attention to differing drum beats… just to name some of my top I-don’t-have-a-life-that-fits-into-the-Christian-household’s-mold things.  And it’s not like I can just busy myself and children with nature… we live in a 80 by 100 foot block walled square.  And the view out the window is shades of brown concrete and stucco.  Our history is scarred from separations and near divorces.  The hurt keeps coming back.  Again.  And again.  So how do I do this?  How do I serve Him in THIS life?

The answer is so obvious.  So right in front of me.  So me.  Me and my closed fist.  Me and my tight grip.  Me and my trying to force it.

If I want to gain my life I’m gonna have to open my grip on this one and let go.  That’s the only way to follow Jesus no matter you’re circumstances.  The only one who I can squeeze into the mold of scripture is me.

“Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” -Romans 12:2

Maybe you don’t have a dream life.  Maybe you live in circumstances you wish were different.  Like Ann said, we don’t get to write our stories.  But we do get to take what we’ve been given and make the ending a giving.  A giving of thanks.

I went back and read some of those words I wrote years ago when I was thinking on hope-filled truth and not the devastation.  I am ashamed at how far my heart has wondered away from my house of bread in my famine.  Instead of holding my ground and trusting, because He always provides, instead I let the way all the fish mindlessly floating downstream think become the way I think.  Rights.  Self-Exaltation.  Rights.  Self-Preservation.  Rights.  Self-Pleasing.  Rights.  Self-Comfort.  Rights.  Self-Esteem.  Rights.  This is the beat of the current that I stopped swimming against in my mind. I let myself drift in its steady flow towards a dead sea.  I was taking on D.H. Lawrence’s poisonous motto, “with should and ought I shall have nothing to do!

But He’s got my attention.  He’s called me back.  I’ve heard again how He’s provided, as He always does, for His own.  I’ve returned to His table.  I’ve eaten of His bread.

You don’t get to change anyone Sheila.  You just get to be changed. 

“What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”?  What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?  What if God designed marriage to make us holy  more than to make us happy?  What if, as de Sales hints, we are to accept the ‘bitter juice’ because out of it we may learn to draw the resources we need with which to make the ‘honey of a holy life’?” – Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

55. my music man encouraging entrepreneurship
56. the orange sunset
57. the promise to use my mess to mold me into the image of the Son


The ministry of a wife

(Cartoon from Joyful Toons)

There’s been much discussion and some flat out mean arguing about the ministry of a woman/wife/mom and what her role in the home, church, and society should or shouldn’t be. Reading these various articles has actually given me an upset stomach, but when I just come back to God’s word I find peace and the heart of my loving Father and perfect God who knows how He designed a woman and what’s best for her. He is good. He does not desire us to bear a burden that is not ours to bear, yet He stretches us in ways we wouldn’t usually volunteer for.

One thing I know for sure, whether you work outside your home or not, whether you’re involved in a formal church ministry or not, whether you’re a skilled and crafty domestic woman or not, God designed you to be the builder of your home. And the ministry of a wife IS a high and holy calling.