Friday, September 20, 2013

Fighting Evil

I have been spending the past few months watching my sister suffer at the hands of someone who does not have her best interest in mind.  And I am watching him drag her through the mud with slanderous words, lies and using a lawyer to launch baseless threats.

As Christians, when we are under attack do we fight back or do we stay down and wait for God to rescue us?  Maybe the answer is both.

So I was praying this morning against evil.  I have become over this last year aware of evil and how it surrounds us.  I see it all around me.  Last night I heard of another struggling marriage.  And my heart breaks.  I see evil in my children, I see them struggle between God and Satan.  Finding their way through.  Jake has made his decision but is not immune to temptation.  Isabelle has yet to reach out to God.  She is listening to Him but she is listening to the world as well.

We have a legacy of faith in our family. 3+ generations of men and women serving God.  It is a blessing, surrounded by people you can always trust to encourage and direct you down a godly path.  And my prayer is that my children and the children of all my family and the generations to come will know and serve God as this past 3 generations have.  We aren't perfect but we all serve a perfect God.  And I pray that, try as he might, Satan is not able to get a stronghold in our family or plant any seeds of doubt that may grow up and affect future generations.

As we live a life of faith, as we grow this family of faith, growing from 5, my parents and my siblings, adding 11 children and spouses, Satan will pursue our destruction.  As we face life’s challenges, and they will always be there, I pray for strength and courage to fight knowing our battles belong to the Lord and He will always be the ultimate victor.

Sometimes in our life as we follow the Lord we find ourselves under attack from the Evil that surrounds us.

At the end of Deuteronomy when Moses names Joshua as his successor, as he prepares his people to enter the promised land he says, “be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  In the first chapter of Joshua, as God is preparing the Israelites to enter the promised land and attack the city of Jericho, claiming what God has promised them, he repeats Moses' words 4 times in the first chapter, “be strong and courageous”. So we go to battle against evil.  But not on our own.  We are strong and courageous because we know the Lord is with us, He goes before us.  Actually before Moses says to be strong and courageous he says that God will be crossing the Jordan before them. 

And this reminds me of David’s battle cry against Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty...for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

We do have to fight at times.  Yes, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek but he also acknowledges that he is sending us as sheep among wolves, "therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matt 10:16) This is not an idea that has to be at odds with one another.  We hear more about the idea that Christians must turn the cheek and be innocent as doves but we forget God led his people into battles and Jesus told his disciples to be shrewd as snakes.  We don't want to engage in the Evil behaviors of Satan but neither do we stand back and let him take over without a fight.

The Israelites went to battle and killed the people of Jericho.  David did kill Goliath and cut off his head and the Army of God did then chase and kill the Philistine army he was part of.  God’s people were under attack and had to defend themselves and at times God had them defend themselves by completely eliminating the attackers.

Not all of us can imagine standing in front of Goliath, a big warrior with armor and deadly weapons, with only a sling and a few stones.  But if you are under attack from an enemy and find yourself alone and standing scared you probably get it.  It doesn't look like you are going to be the victor in this battle.   Be like David who knew the outcome before he started.  Who volunteered to fight Goliath not because he thought he was a great warrior but because he knew God was a great warrior, “this battle is the Lord’s”.

Returning the Joshua and Jericho...Before the battle God sent out the army to simple walk around the city.  7 days in a row and then 7 times in one day.  He didn't put the army first, he put the priests first.  Then they gave a battle cry of victory before it had even started. And God dropped the walls.  They didn't keep standing there waiting to see what would happen next, they went in and did the work God had laid before them.

Each battle needs a different strategy but each battle belongs to the Lord and is fought by Him.

Pray circles around your children.  And when the walls fall be prepared to go in and battle for them.  To fight the lies and evil that Satan is trying to plant so they can instead be filled with the Spirit of truth.

Stand like David against the people in your life who feel like Goliath at times, and remember, he only had a sling and a stone but he did attack.  And because he was fighting the Lord’s battle he won.  No fear.

I don't want to become a family of aggressors attacking at every injustice.  The idea of fighting to right every wrong that comes my way, be right and win is just exhausting.  I think there are times when we do turn the other cheek, let evil have its say and then let it pass on by.  But there are times when we must stand up and fight evil, protect our children, and believe in God's power.  When family is under attack we don't stand behind a rock and wonder how we will get out of this, we stand up like David knowing that while it might not seem like we have the right weapons to win the battle, we are confident because the battle belongs to the Lord.

Ps 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

God's Noisy Silence

Lately my quiet times have been a bit blah.  I get up, read, have no thoughts on what I read, nothing new to say to God, the usual, "need money, need a place to live, please help us".  And then I move on because there is just nothing else to do or say.

I remember many years ago being in a bible study. a woman talked about God being silent in her life at times and continuing to be faithful throughout it.  I sort of always thought it was stupid.  God being silent in your life.  If you can't hear God are you really listening?  Every day you sit down with your bible and you don't hear God?  Sorry, that just sounds stupid.  Completely counter intuitive.  If nothing else the bible is God's word, can you hear that?

But I think I sort of know what she was saying.  Lately I haven't had a bunch of God moments.  I don't hear his voice specifically talking to me, I haven't had any deep epiphanies.  I read my bible each morning, contemplate the meaning of that passage, read through the commentaries in my bible, and move on.  Rarely seeing an application to that day or moment in my life.  Unlike past moments in my life when it seemed like God could use a totally random scripture to show himself to me.  (I would insert an example here but all my journals are packed up in a storage container somewhere.)

Yet God's silence is not like the silence of a friend or spouse. God's silence is very noisy.  Because God is everywhere.  I may not have a clear picture of how to overcome my identity problems but I do know who my identity should be in, not me but Him.  I don't need the voice of God to tell me that.

As I look out the window and see beautiful fall flowers and birds and butterflies fluttering about do I need God's voice to tell me he is present?  I know because he tells me he clothed the lilies of the field and feeds the birds.  And he says, "Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"  Even when God is silent, he is loud.  He is present, he has given us his word in the bible and as we read, study and memorize it we aren't just learning words and ideas from some man made book we are filling ourselves with his spirit.

So even when life is dull, nothing is happening, Get up, read the bible, go to work, carpool, make dinner, watch tv, bed, repeat, i t just seems like God is silent in your life, not calling you to anything new, helping you over any hump.  But when you really engage in what you know, open up to what the spirit in your life is showing you, God's presence is overwhelming, his voice so loud.  "I am here!  I am working!  I am caring for you!"

This is where a good blogger would insert several pictures of beautiful scenery.  But considering the inconsistency of my posts lately I think we can all agree I am not a good blogger.  So just open up your last vacation photo album or search nature images on pintrest and imagine all those pictures going along with this post.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Who cares what strangers think?

Hello.  You still there?  Am I still here?

I miss writing yet lately I feel like I am running out of things to say.  Even what I write in my journal is getting a little dull.  When I am bored with my own private thoughts I clearly don't have anything to say here.

Yet, I find that writing, expressing, sometimes helps me get my mind around where I am at in life, I think out loud.  So I thought I would see what would come out if I sat down here.

A few things I have been thinking about lately:

My life really isn't that bad.  I have very little to complain about.  I live in a nice home, have a loving husband, a sweet daughter, a wonderful son and a beautiful future daughter-in-law.  I have extended family and friends who believe in me, support and encourage me.

Yes, I am in transition and I have needs but over all my life is good and the things I have to complain about really are not problems. For instance, my mom keeps her silverware in the wrong drawer.  While confusing every time I try to grab a fork, this is not really a huge problem.  I was thinking last night while this move and job change stage we are in right now is definitely stressful, very stressful, it really isn't the hardest thing we have gone through  in our marriage and likely there will be many future stresses to follow this one.

Which is not to diminish the fact that we are stressed here but to remind myself that we have overcome bigger mountains and can look back on them and see the joy in the journey.  That is one thing I am always trying to figure out.  Believing each day that this is just a moment, part of life and the days we struggle are just days, they don't define us or our lives.  I can experience joy amidst sorrow.  I always want to remember that God took care of me last time and he will take care of me this time.

I don't know how to define what we are going through.  It isn't a thing, it is a process.  I wouldn't say we are in a trial or a storm or anything.  I think part of why it feels so stressful is because it doesn't feel like a storm or a trial that we need to wait out or get through.  It feels more like a slide down a mountain.  At the end we will be on the bottom.  I feel like the struggle is that I am trying to grab hold of something to stop the free fall and I can't reach anything.  So we just keep falling down, down, down.

The truth is that isn't at all what is happening.  Well certainly one could look at it that way.  Failure.  But we have chosen this path.  If you volunteer to fail did you really fail?  If you purposely quit your job and sell your house is that a failure?  If you have a plan that does not involve living with your parents the rest of your life, if you are working each day to build a business, if your husband is going to school toward a goal, your son is becoming independent and your daughter continues to thrive.  Are you failing?

Then I want to carry a sign with me everywhere I go explaining my life to people.  I want everyone to understand my journey and why, although it may look like it, this isn't a failure.  I wouldn't want a stranger to think I don't know what I am doing.  I want to tell people that I used to be a stay at home mom in a nice house in a fancy suburb.  I used to write deep thoughtful blog posts about my faith journey.  My son used to go to an elite Christian college.  My husband used to have a successful remodeling company.  I want to tell everyone how after the economy tanked and business slowed we realized this was not the career we wanted to fight for and we decided to start all over again.

But why?  Why do I need to explain myself to everyone?  I think people who have to explain themselves to everyone are very insecure.  So I guess I am sitting here telling you that I feel very insecure about my current identity.

(I do think I am over the whole Wheaton thing because I no longer try to explain to people that Jake went to Wheaton and then joined the army.  I just talk about the army.  Well most of the time...)

When I came up with this idea, yes it was my idea, and told John, "I will go back to work full time and you will go to school full time and become a PA!"  I knew it would be a challenge but I wonder if I would have put that exclamation point at the end of my sentence if I really knew it would be this hard.  If I knew we would have to sacrifice this much.

Yet here we are.

John and I have at least one, "what are we doing!?" fight per semester and at the end of every one we conclude that this is hard but we are both fully committed to the plan.  So we keep going forward.  John keeps going to classes, doing homework, getting A's and fitting paid work into the cracks of his schedule.  And I keep working toward the goal of fully supporting us in the next couple years while simultaneously maintaining a balance in our family life.  And our family and friends, who may or may not see the plan as fully as we do, continue to stand by us, support us, believe in us and encourage us no matter what we do.

When I write out my ramble I think we can all understand what my problem is.  Identity.  I still want to identify myself as that homemaker with the successful husband who is busy keeping a lovely home and fully engaged in raising healthy, happy, godly children.  I knew what I was doing and people valued my advice and knowledge.  It is so much easier to look back on that time of my life and only see the beautiful parts and forget the challenges that existed there too.  As much as I loved my 3x/week morning working out the truth is I often wondered what I was doing with my life.  I often felt that I was just killing time and should be using my time more productively.  I can assure you I never wonder that these days.  And as lovely as that time of life was, we were always struggling financially.  So nothing has really changed there.

If I meet a stranger and they think, "poor Melanie, has to live with her parents.  Why doesn't she just go get a real job like everyone else?"  Who cares?  Does their opinion have to define me?  Only if I let it.  Only if I tell myself that same story.  Poor me living with my parents.  Why don't I just get a real job like everyone else?  I am never going to make money at real estate.  I should give up before I embarrass myself further.

SO...Pep talk to myself.  I am on a journey, we have a plan, I am going to succeed, it will be OK.  I enjoyed my past life and am now embracing my new life.  This new life includes extra time with my parents, exploring life in a new community, bonding time each day with Isabelle in the car back and forth to school.  I may not be in the expert stage of working but I am in the learning stage.  Asking questions, reading, observing, experimenting and I love it.  I tell John several times a week, "I know I am not making any money but I LOVE what I am doing and I promise it will eventually turn into money."

I used to talk about how God was leading and directing and encouraging me when I would ramble like this.  So let me assure you, each morning that is exactly what he does.  He reminds me that He is still there, we are still on this plan and keeps me going.  It is because of who I am in Christ that I can sit in this life and say, "who cares what other people think of my journey."  Because I know whether I succeed or fail, who I am is not about what I do, where I live, how much money I have.  It is all about knowing Christ.  My life is not about this moment or the next, my life is about preparing for eternity.  And while we may be a tad behind on retirement, sliding down a financial mountain, I continue to climb a mountain of faith with Christ right by my side.  I have no fear of sliding down that hill.  Not because of who I am but because of what he has done.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I am a Future Mother-In-Law

When you are this cute of a couple

Do you have any choice but to get engaged?

My son got engaged last week to his girlfriend of 3+ years.

It wasn't a surprise.  For her, or me or anyone they knew.  Just like John drove out to Virginia, where I was going to school, to give me an engagement ring, Jake flew out to Boston, where Jade is going to school, to give her a ring.  And just like everyone in our lives saw my engagement ring before me, we had all seen Jade's ring before her.

However, unlike John, who during a commercial break turned to me and said, "here, want this?",  Jake managed to plan something a little more romantic.  Could it be because his dad said to him, "For the Love of God, DO NOT say, 'here want this.'"! Apparently it is the sort of thing that is hard to live down.

Jake went with a plan.  A gondola ride in Boston, a message in a bottle slipped into the water for her to find as they are floating along and a ring presented on one knee.  I wasn't there (obviously) but it sounds very sweet.  And she said yes.

So now I am a future mother-in-law.  The journey here has been a bit of a challenge.  I have had my concerns at times with this relationship.  But when Jake left for Boston with a ring in his pocket I was able to tell him with all honesty that I was excited for him.  Excited for them.  Excited to welcome Jade into our family.

So I am a future mother-in-law.  Hmm, well, what is that like?  

Naomi was the mother-in-law of Ruth.  After her husband and son (Ruth's husband) died, she told everyone to call her "bitter" and for Ruth to leave, go save herself.   Not sure this is the mother-in-law model I am looking for. (Although Ruth comes off well if Jade is looking for a daughter-in-law example.) 

Peter's mother-in-law died but then Jesus brought her back to life and she immediately began serving dinner.  That might be a better example but let me be honest...if I have a near death experience, am sick or just have a long day, I am not going to get up a serve anyone.  I am going to ask someone to order a pizza and lay down on the couch.

Who else you got?  

How about my mother-in-law, John's mom?  She is a pretty good example.  I mean sometimes she annoys me, says weird things.  Sometimes I look at John's whole family and wonder what on earth they are thinking.  I mean, that is not the way my family would do it.  But sometimes my own mom annoys me, says weird things and makes me wonder what on earth she could be thinking.  So really, pretty normal.  

I don't think I appreciated my mother-in-law and our great relationship until Jake started talking about getting married.  I never appreciated how hard it is to be a mother-in-law.  Hard to keep your mouth shut (really, really hard for me because I like to share every thought I have.)  Hard to trust someone else to take care of your baby.  Especially at a young age.  John's mom did it with grace.  And whenever she would say or do something that bugged me I would just remind myself that she loved me, is not trying to hurt me and maybe I was over-reacting.  And maybe, just maybe, I said and did a few annoying things in the early years of our relationship and marriage too.  Unlikely but I throw it out there...

So I am a future mother-in-law.  And I am excited.  Now that the detail of the proposal is take care of we are on to more important questions.  Like, what color should my dress be?  What should I serve at the grooms dinner?  And, will I get invited to go dress shopping???? (pleeeeeease).

Congratulations Jake and Jade.  I love you both.  Welcome to the family Jade.

(I've been saving this one since last Christmas. Today seemed like the right day to bring it out.)