A slow, yet beautiful autumn

wpid-20151017_124030.jpgThe tree intrigued me,  but I wasn’t sure why.  As I stood in the middle of the park that day,  listening to my children pretending to be princesses and knights,  I felt a wave of relief coming over me.  Standing in the sun,  I looked up at the tree that beckoned me and I began to understand why.

I love the beauty and variety of fall. Usually I’m drawn to the red and yellow trees that are vibrant and full,  but this year I’m prone to give my attention to the ones that are still in the process of change.

I believe God is trying to teach me that not all change is immediate. It’s okay for some of my leaves to still be green.  Change is present even when it doesn’t happen all at once.

No matter how many times God tries to teach me and gently show me I’m not perfect,  I too often find myself in the spot of the slowly changing tree,  jealous of the fully turned trees of ambers and golds.

It is in these moments,  I realize, that I have resumed control. I am trying to be in charge of my change,  my growth,  my healing,  when all the while the Lord humbly waits for me to acknowledge my need.

The truth is, God has done a tremendous amount of healing and change in my life in the past couple of months. My body has been strengthened,  my mind is being renewed, and my spirit is glad. I feel, quite honestly, like myself again. And who else would I rather be anyway?

I may get frustrated at times that God doesn’t do His work more “quickly,” but then I catch a glimpse of His rays shining on my branches and I’m reminded that here,  away from human standards and comparisons,  the light of His presence is all I need.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” ~ Ecclesiasties 3:11

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removing the red, but keeping the calling

It has been one week since Jacob and I have no longer been active officers in The Salvation Army.

I have been avoiding this announcement for some time now, perhaps out of embarrassment, or perhaps out of a hidden desire to put off the full reality as long as possible.

This has definitely been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. I have lived and breathed The Salvation Army my entire life. I am a sixth generation Salvationist, not only one who was born into a long family tradition of officers and Army service, but one who has been genuinely shaped and formed as a result of its presence in my life. When I felt called at the age of 14, I thought it was for life.

And the more confident I become in this decision that Jacob and I are certain the Lord has led us to make, the more I think it still is.

I am slowly realizing that my ultimate calling is not to The Salvation Army, but to the Lord. The Salvation Army has been a huge part of my calling in the past, and most likely will be again in the future, but I am learning that God is indeed larger than an organization, and He has chosen to lead us out for this season in our lives.

I am two parts equally relieved and brokenhearted. I have not coped well with stress these past few years and the result has been a humongous toll on my overall mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Sick leave has shown me that a break is just what I need and while I have been amazed at how much better I am, there is still a good way to go.

It’s funny: most people fight the Lord going into the Army, but I fought Him on the way out. I wanted to come back from this sickness strong, restored, healthy, and a force to be reckoned with…

Apparently God has chosen the path of humility for me instead.

This path involves me looking to him for all my needs and affirmations. It has me out of the driver’s seat, without GPS, and learning to be okay with that.

I think I wanted to wait to share this news until I could easily announce a perfect plan along with it. A new job for Jacob, with all the right doors opening along the way. Maybe then, just maybe, people wouldn’t judge me or pity me for making this decision, as I have so ashamedly done to others in my place in the past.

But it is not my job, or even my right to prove this season to anyone, and I don’t have much tangible evidence anyway! Just the peace in our hearts, the joy on my children’s faces, and the enlargement of faith in my spirit.  We are unsure of where we will go from here, but we are certain that the voice who has been guiding us thus far, will continue to show us the way to walk in.

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So “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders” and may my story remind someone today that You truly are all we need.

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A Color-blind Kingdom?

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Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in an upper middle class white family, I probably would not have been exposed to much diversity had it not been for The Salvation Army.

Through the Army, I have been privileged to meet a vast array of people and travel to multiple cultures, experiencing things that have changed the scope of my worldview forever.

When I was little, there was a group of us who were thick as thieves at The Savlation Army church I attended called Norridge Citadel.  We sat together during worship services in the back row passing notes, until one of the mothers would inevitably relocate us to the front.  We played basketball and hide and seek every Wednesday night while our parents sang in the choir.

One of my friends in the group was born Korean and adopted into a family at our church.  I had known him all my life and never thought about it until a conversation I had with my mom informed me of what I had never realized: Ian was adopted.

At around ten years of age, this was my first race related memory.  I hadn’t noticed Ian’s differences, but why would I have?  We all grew up together, bound by our similarities.

On weeks like this one, I sometimes wish we could all dwell in a world like that, where color does not set us apart, and our love and friendship blinds us to one another’s differences.

But our world has never been color blind, has it?

Hate crimes are a heartbreaking reality; a reality with which as a white, privileged woman I can in no way identify.

The closest I have come is suffering a withering glare from an elderly couple as they disgustedly watched my husband and I share a meal together.

I don’t understand the hatred, the violence, or the fear that seems to be so ever-present still in our society.

But what baffles me even more is the inclination some have to ignore its presence altogether; especially from those who call themselves children of God.

It is true that, in Christ, there is no male or female, no black or white.  We all indeed have equal footing when it comes to the Kingdom.

But the Kingdom has not fully come and it is our job as Christians to fight for its full existence.

All too often, however, our solution is to turn a blind eye to crippling injustice.  We back a political stance, maybe like or share an article on Facebook and call it a day.  We get fired up about our opinion and forget to see.

People.

Real people.  In real communities.  With devastatingly real realities.

I don’t think our incredibly diverse God wants us to be blind to our differences and focus only on our similarities.  I have a feeling that unity works best when we are able to acknowledge and embrace our differences, delighting in them and in our variety, as we commonly worship our God.

God, give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Humble us and fill us with a pure love for all.

May we learn when to speak up and when to be silent.

May we discern when to gird on the Armor of God and fight and when to be still and allow you to fight on our behalf.

May we stop clinging to sides and digging our heels in our stances long enough to show the world the life-changing power of your love.

“Let there be peace on earth & let it begin with me.”

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A potty parable…

Last week we were at my parents’ house for a visit when my two year old announced she had to go to the potty.  We don’t keep a potty seat at my parent’s house, but Hannah has recently agreed to go on the “big girl potty” (with a little persuasion from Hello Kitty fruit snacks as a reward!)

So off to the big girl potty we went, and after my usual “1-2-3-uuup we go!”, she was one step closer to her kitty gummy treat.  Since she is used to the security of the potty seat I always hold on to her hands when she is without it.  But before I could even position her properly this time around, she already had her palms out and an almost panicked voice was saying, “Hands! Hands!”

In the moment, I have to admit, I let out a bit of a laugh as I finished positioning her and grabbed hold of her hands.  I found myself smiling at her, saying, “Hannah, it’s okay!  Mommy’s not going to let you fall in the toilet, silly”.

The truth didn’t hit me then, but the Lord brought it to mind a couple of days later.

How often, when in a place that’s outside my comfort zone, do I desperately stretch out my arms and demand “hands hands” to the Lord?  Even in my awareness of him holding me and positioning me where He knows I need to be to succeed, I, like my daughter, often question his help.

I was telling this story to my amazing friend Karen when she offered this insight: “it would be one thing if you had let her fall into the toilet before, but you obviously haven’t! She has no reason to doubt you”.

And I have no reason to doubt Him either.  It is true that I have been uncomfortable through this process of illness, and even now in recovery.  It is true I have felt confused, have been stretched way out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions, and more often than I like to admit, I’ve panicked.  I have felt alone and misunderstood and overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion…

But God has been with me every step of the way.

He hasn’t let me fall in the toilet yet, and He won’t start now. : )

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love & peace through transition

As of this past Thursday we are officially on sick leave from The Salvation Army.  I hope to take this time to fully heal from all my body and mind have been through in the past two years. I am immensely grateful to the Army for affording us this opportunity that has come from prayer, as well as recommendations from Doctors and affirmations from mentors.

Even as I sit in a house full of boxes, I am having trouble articulating exactly what I am feeling, and as I think about all that has transpired, it can seem overwhelmingly confusing that things have come to this point.

But thank the Lord that there exists a peace that transcends understanding.

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I may not understand all the reasons why things have worked out this way, but I do feel a safe and secure sense of peace as I move forward.

So move forward we will to the Atlanta area to pursue specialized treatment and recuperation.

There are, unfortunately, many unknowns ahead and many questions yet to be answered.  I don’t like this place of “not knowing”, but my God is teaching me more and more about His love that surpasses knowledge; and it is in that love that I have been finding refuge daily.

We covet your prayers for the next few months.  Please pray for continued peace that transcends our shallow understanding and continued love that surpasses our limited knowledge.

Pray also that the Lord brings us whole and holy healing, and we would learn to trust more deeply in His perfect timing.

Finally, pray that above all else, we would know Him more when this is all over.  After all, active or inactive, sick or well, officer or soldier, Salvationist or Methodist, that is our common goal, right?

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”

~Philippians 3: 10-14

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learning from David: a lesson on trust

David seemed to talk a lot about fear.  He was not afraid to be completely honest and raw before the Lord, admitting the depths of his sorrow and brokenness.  But he always seemed to come back to trust, and I have been longing for his secret.

His secret in consistently choosing trust in the unfailing love of a God that strengthened him, enabled him to hope, and provided refuge while he waited.

When I am afraid, I will trust Him”, David says.

John Trapp said, “We never trust a man till we know him”.

Oh and how David knew him, and wanted to know him more.

In you, Lord my God I put my trust.  Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25: 1, 4-5).

He knew God and knew that sometimes meant trusting in the unknown.  He seemed to trust that sometimes the greatest part of the journey is the part where we don’t know our way, because it is there in the unknown, where God often makes Himself known to us.

He becomes not just Lord, but Lord my God.  He becomes not just God, but God my Savior.  Suddenly his names are known to us.  And:

Those who know your name trust in you, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).

And although I have never been very good at trusting the unknown, I will trust him because he has never before left me or forsaken me when I have sought him.  I will trust him because I know him and the power of his unfailing love flowing through my veins.

I wonder if David’s secret was not that he chose to trust God, but that it naturally flowed from their relationship.

Maybe my trust in God is not so much a choice I make as it is a result, a gift, of knowing my God in a more intimate way.

For the King (David) trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most high he will not be shaken” (Psalm 21:7).

May we all continue to cling to that unfailing love that grounds us, that perfect love that drives out fear, and that Name that has never let us down.

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fighting fear

People say that because our state of awareness is heightened when we are afraid, that we most likely have more vivid memories of times in our lives when we have experienced fear.

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I don’t remember being afraid, but how could I not have been?  I was about four years old when my grandfather passed away, and his wake is the earliest memory I have.

I remember watching the casket from a distance, but my mom tells me I went right up to it.  I remember seeing my grandfather, still, but somehow at peace.  I remember a lot of red, and I remember two stairs that led to a hallway with water fountains.  From what I’ve read about memory, I know that these could very well be false memories, but for whatever reason my brain deemed the experience important, and to this day it is seared in my mind.

I did not have a traumatic childhood by any stretch of the imagination, but for some reason fear has often been my enemy.

As a young girl I battled fear at bedtime for years.  I don’t necessarily remember fighting my parents about going to sleep, but I do remember lying there fighting the fear.  I’m not sure when this ceased to be an issue, but I think it was around the time my mom and I starting singing “All that I Am” and “Give Thanks” every night.

Part of me must have known even then that there is great freedom in surrender and thanksgiving.

As a child I battled other such fears as haunted houses, rollercoasters, team sports, and speaking up in class.

Well, my best friend can attest that I have survived countless haunted houses over the years; (no thanks to her imagination about such places being the perfect scene for a crime!) and a crush motivated me to overcome the rollercoaster “shockwave” at Six Flags Great America.

I actually enjoyed intramurals in college (albeit briefly) and in training they couldn’t get me to shut up in class!

And although I have seen, through these “smaller” fears, and later though “larger” fears, that fear is conquered through the power that comes with surrender, the love that comes with thanksgiving, and the self-control that is learned by just taking one step forward, telling yourself that no matter what God is with you and everything will be okay, I find myself stuck again in fear.

A year and a half ago it was labeled anxiety by the doctors, and even though there is somewhat of a stigma attached to it, I think on a subconscious level I found it easier to talk about than some deep seated fears I may of felt but didn’t quite understand.

And though medication and breathing techniques stopped the fear from coming out in panic attacks, it did not stop the fear altogether.  But I wanted so badly to be better that I convinced myself that I was.

It is honestly only in these last few weeks as I’ve taken intense inventory of my thoughts and emotions that I realize I’ve been scared on some level all along.  And this fear was down so deep, bottled up so tightly, that its only option, the doctors say, was to manifest itself in physical ways.

So for the past year I have fought fatigue and weakness, headaches, and even seizures, to avoid, as Ann Voskamp put it:

“Fear of failing, fear of flailing, fear of arrows, fear of the way marked narrow, fear of that sheer rock in front of me that begs me to believe and be brave and climb”

In the past I have fought the dark with songs of surrender and thanksgiving and I have fought haunted houses with friendship.  I have fought rollercoasters with desire (selfish though it may have been at the time) and I have fought team sports one hit at a time.  I have fought shyness with my passion for knowledge and I will fight this nagging fear of the future with whatever tools the Lord gives me, starting with the Word of God.

“Because the Word is the only life hack that will hack up the lies from the pit and let you live free” (Ann Voskamp)

What strikes me all of a sudden is how strange it is that I don’t remember walking up all by my four year old self at my grandfather’s wake to see him lying in the casket.

I’m not remembering how brave I really was.

That’s the funny thing about memory: sometimes it takes the people who love us the most to encourage us, fill in the big picture, and remind us of who we truly are.

“God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful.  He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love.  It helps us control ourselves” (NIRV)

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