Archive for the 'Love' Category

06
Mar
17

Middle of Life Grown Up Lessons

soil and plant

I think I might almost be a grown up.  At least, I’m heading that way. I’m 45 years old, and some might think that it’s about time. But, for me, it’s been a process. And I absolutely love it, and sometimes I hate it. It’s hard, and it’s messy. But I love that I’m here, and I love that I’m learning things about myself that maybe I, personally, would not have been able to learn in my twenties. Some of my growth required time and experiences that I wasn’t looking for earlier, and some lessons I actually didn’t even know existed until now.

I get excited when I get to share what I’ve learned and what I’m learning, because, honestly, growth is not really an age thing. We’ve all seen younger people who seem to be wise beyond their years, and we’ve also seen older people who are still demanding their own way and who act like three year olds in old people bodies…it’s not pretty, but it’s a real thing. So I think growth and grown up-hood is not only a thing of grace, but it also has to do with our openness to receiving the gifts given to us. It’s having eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart that’s open to new possibilities.

Lesson #1:  We all have core value because we are made in the image of God…we are God’s image bearers. That’s incredible. However, we all have core hurts that some of us live out of. And after continually walking in those core hurts, it’s hard to know and feel our own core value and virtually impossible to see other people’s value if we can’t even see our own. We are valuable, and we are worth it.

Lesson #2:  Feelings are not bad. In fact, they are helpful in how we figure out why we do the things we do. We have to be able to feel and to realize what we’re feeling, and only then, can we move towards healing and growth.

Lesson #3:  In order to know and love others well, we have to know ourselves. We have to be compassionate with ourselves before we can be compassionate with others. Jesus said, “Love God; love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Lesson #4:  Boundaries are vital. Everyone has a “yard,” and we get to decide who comes in and out of our yards.  While boundaries don’t initially make things easier, they make things healthier, and eventually, things do get easier with use.

Lesson #5:  We all have a voice. And finding and using our voice is important.  We have to be able to use it for ourselves before we are able to use it for others.

Lessons #6:  We are all unique individuals who have different gifts, and when we grace people with our particular gift, those around us are enriched and encouraged. No one’s gift is better than anyone else’s, so we don’t have to compete and compare.

Lesson #7:  I no longer have to put people in boxes labeled: good box and bad box. If I am establishing appropriate boundaries (Lesson 4) and seeing other people’s core value (Lesson 1), then I no longer have to make people the bad guy and me the good guy. People are just people.

Lesson #8:  You only know what you know. This seems like a very obvious kind of statement. But if we really believe that about ourselves and others, we can begin to not only show people grace, but we can cut ourselves some slack, as well.

Lesson #9:  You are not alone. We are all in this together.  Your story may have different details than mine, but our stories are connected. We don’t have to do this alone.

Lessons #10:  Life is hard. It just is. There is always going to be stuff that we would rather not go through. But as I get older, I ask myself, “What am I supposed to be learning from this?” I want to look for the beauty in everything, but especially in the struggle.

Lesson #11:  Everything is connected. If you start looking for the connections, you start seeing them everywhere.

Lesson #12:  “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am” is not just a nice principle or a cute Bible verse, it’s a real, life-giving mystery. And that’s the “following Jesus” kind of church that anyone anywhere can be a part of.

Lesson #13:  Questions are good. I have a couple friends who ask questions well, and I’m learning from them. If we’re willing to ask, there will always be someone there to answer.

Lesson #14:  Things are not happening to me; they are happening for me. When hard things come my way, instead of asking “Why me?” I now ask “How do I get to grow up in this?” If I look at the world through this lens, I no longer have to be a victim. It’s the difference between knowing that God is for me, not against me.

Lesson #15:  I absolutely have to have solitude and silence and wide open spaces. I cannot breathe well without these.

I don’t usually do lists, but I thought this might be a not-so-Kim-kind-of-way to look at how I’m becoming a grown up. A lot of these lessons overlap because everything is connected, of course (Lesson 11). These lessons have not been easy, and I hope to share stories in future blogs about how these lessons came to be.

For some of these lessons, I’m at the very beginning, while others I’m somewhere in the middle, and other lessons have been long and hard, and I’ve had to endure way more than I cared to. But I have a good Friend who has walked beside me and continues to walk with me on this amazing journey. And I’m grateful for the lessons He’s teaching me on a daily basis and for the friends He’s given to walk with me along the way.

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06
Feb
14

Courage: I Can’t Do This Without You

We have huge opportunities in our neighborhood, in our community. But honestly sometimes I’m a little afraid. I’m nervous that I won’t do things right, that I will zone out when someone is telling me something important, that I will be confused and won’t have any idea what I’m supposed to do. And yet, God is opening doors and placing opportunities to go outside my comfort zone and offer myself. To show up. Are we willing to step beyond our little spaces and offer a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty? (Matthew 10)

I like the thought of helping people. I like the thought of volunteering and being useful, but for me the actual doing it is the hard part. Finding the courage to step out and maybe not do things the right way, admit my lack of common sense, admit that I have a directionally challenged brain and just be willing to do what is needed and to be able to a laugh out loud at my limitations and see what God can do with them is still hard for me. But it’s really not about me or my fear, my pain, my insecurities. But what I’m learning is to show up with open hands and an open heart and see what God can do with them.

Some of us from Trinity volunteered a couple of weeks ago to help in our local school with a vision and hearing screening. We had no idea what we would be doing going in there, and I have to admit I was nervous. I talked with one of our church people when we were at the school, and she admitted she had been nervous too, and that after she originally signed up, she thought, “What in the world am I doing?” But she showed up anyway, and she did her job well. Her courage amazed me…she’s 79.

The task that I was given for the screening is one of the things I’m no good at; I had to pay attention to what I was being told and then go find different classrooms. My brain does not work at all with directions and finding stuff. I totally freeze up and cannot even pay attention to what I’m being told. But I honestly did the best I could, and I walked around and around and up and down halls and eventually found what I was looking for. It was good for me to have to try to find my way around; it was good for me to be uncomfortable. It was good for me to have to walk around the building and “own” it.

During church last week, we talked about several more opportunities to volunteer and help in our local school, and a friend came up to me and said that she wanted to do things like that, but she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do what was asked of her. And this is what I told her…I’m scared too. But what if we do this thing together? What if we face our fears and “kumbaya” it together? There’s not only huge encouragement in it being more than just myself, but there can be real community in serving together, knowing that we’re not left alone with our fears and insecurities, knowing that the people around us are facing the same fear, different situations maybe, but the same paralyzing fear to see beyond ourselves to the world around us and to actually show up in this life we’re called to live.

We’re really in this thing together. Matthew 18: 20 says, “When two or three are gathering in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Jesus sent His disciples out in groups of two. And it’s pretty amazing when believers are gathered the things that God can accomplish through them. He works individually as well. No doubt about that. But the sense of togetherness, the courage that God can build in a community of people who are focused on Him can be pretty amazing. The energy, the strength, not to mention the excitement of being involved in something that is bigger than ourselves and not for our own glory but for His glory is just a downright “jumping up and down for joy” kind of thing.

Paul and Silas, beaten and thrown into jail, prayed and sang praises together at midnight. The result: the jailer and his family came to know Jesus. Together. There’s something about doing stuff with other people that gives us a boost of courage. A “we’re not in this alone” kind of thing.  We’re serving Jesus together. If I fall down, there’s going to be someone there to help me get back up. I don’t have to do this stuff alone.There will be someone to sing praises with to God.

Even when Jesus went back to heaven, He told His disciples that He was not going to leave them alone. He told them that He was going  to send a Comforter who would be with them always…the Holy Spirit within them, within us to give us courage to be bold and do the things that we cannot do alone, on our own. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”(Ephesians 2)  But it still takes courage to take the first step and the many steps thereafter. But we don’t have to do it alone.

So whether it’s just me and the Holy Spirit or a whole bunch of people and the Holy Spirit, God can do this thing that He’s called us to do. It’s His kingdom. He’s in charge, and I may not know the specifics of what I am supposed to be doing all the time, but I know this: God has called me to this life, and He’s called me to give this life away for Him, and this absolutely begins in my home and with my family. He may be calling me to other things as well, but it starts with the people closest to me and works its way out. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that we are to let our light shine, so the good works (you know, the ones that God created that we just have to walk in) point people to God and bring Him glory.

I don’t have a lot of courage. I don’t particularly love doing new things. But I know God can do this thing through me (whatever the thing is He’s calling me to do at the time), and it’s even more exciting to see when He does it through others. And then, when we all join hands and hearts and do it together, I almost come out of my skin with joy.

Courage bleeds neediness.

Courage sees hope in dark places.

Courage leans heavy on Jesus and moves in the middle of fear. –Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways, 136

20
Nov
13

taking it all in

We recently went to the church that is in our neighborhood for Sunday morning. As I was preparing everything the night before and making sure my younger children took baths, I began noticing the sacredness of it all, even down to ironing clothes. And in my preparation, I felt like I was standing on holy ground. I had this lightness in my soul, my spirit. I felt open to receiving whatever God has for me and for my family.

And the next morning, everyone got up early, which is unusual in our house. We all hung out for a while around our dining room table with the gas logs flaming in the background.  I noticed it all: my laughing, talking teenage boys dressed in their clean jeans and polo shirts; my youngest Jeremiah just enjoying being part of it all,  and cool Julia dressed in her khaki cargo pants and white shirt with the pink lace around the bottom and her older brother’s shoes that we had found in the attic for her to wear for Halloween (she dressed as a gangster) that she has now adopted as her own. It was all good.

I took in all the joking and the excited talking and light-heartedness and breathed in deeply, holding it within my heart. It was a sacred, holy moment for me in the midst of our family.  It felt like my insides were smiling, and contentment just passed over me in waves.  We all wanted to be together in that moment.

After a while, I realized we needed to eat, so I began making biscuits and eggs, and as I rolled out dough, my fingers and hands sticky with it; that, too, felt lovely and divine. Loving my family by fixing food with my hands felt like standing in God’s presence. It was beautiful. I could taste the excitement for what is and what will be. And even as the morning rolled on, it had a sweetness to it. It wasn’t the craziness that usually goes along with Sunday mornings trying to get everyone out the door (you know what I’m talking about).

For me, noticing the sacred means slowing down and paying attention. It means being fully present, even in all the tiny moments in between the big change of life ones. It’s being fully alive and fully engaged in the life that I’ve been given. And being grateful for every part of it. Eugene Peterson says that “to eyes that see, every bush is a burning bush.”

Right now, as I stand in the present, I’m not worrying about the next hour, the next day, the next month, the next year. I’m enjoying the now and seeing the sacred in it all.

23
Sep
13

gifts

I decided that I needed to take a day and sit outside, praying, reading, thinking, letting go, receiving. I set up different areas in my backyard so that I wouldn’t get too bored being in the same spot. Between that and trying to dodge the sun throughout the day (this 42-year-old girl doesn’t need any more sunspots), this worked pretty well. But the day I kind of planned out in my mind ended up being different, better. A gift.

Before I even ventured outside, Jeff told me that there was a song he felt described me, my relationship with God, anyway. He had left our bedroom quickly that morning because he felt that there was something for him, and sometimes my voice drowns it out. (He would never say this; I just know it to be true :)) And the something that he received was, in fact, for me.

It was a John Denver song that got stuck in his head, and whether or not you like John Denver, the song fits me, not in terms of human love. because I realize this is impossibly sad for someone to try to fill, but in terms of my relationship with God. And it was perfect for my day.

You fill up my senses like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses come fill me again

Come let me love you let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you let me always be with you
Come let me love you come love me again –“Annie’s Song”

I made a copy of the song, took it outside with me and started softly singing this song in my chair, next to my table, piled with my books. By the second verse, I was weeping. I couldn’t even get the words out. I sang it over and over and over. I was grateful that Jeff was the recipient, the messenger. Another gift.

All day, I sat in the backyard with books and Bible and journal and songbook and coffee and tea and water. It was chilly and then warm and then chilly again as night came on. I soaked in God’s presence and His abundance. I heard the birds and the crickets, almost deafening at times and watched and heard the tall grasses in the field behind our house blowing in the wind. I saw butterflies flitting and birds flying. Clouds in the sky came together in one instance and then moved quickly to another position, followed by a cloudless, bright blue sky. Another gift.

For some of the time, I sat under a tree that was just a little taller than my husband when we moved here six years ago. He thought about chopping it down at the time because it was little more than a bush and rather scrawny at that. Jeff wants things to look more manicured. I love overgrown and tangly and crazy. And now, this tree offers shade from the sun. By the end of the day, the tree was raining sap down on me, on my chair, on my books, and now I have sticky dots to remind me of this day. A gift.

This was the Psalm for me for that day.

…I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother…

That’s what it was like. I felt content, satisfied to just sit and soak in what God had for me, not demanding that He meet my needs, not demanding that He feed me like a child who is desperate to be fed, but I felt content, happy to just be in His presence. Calm and quiet. A gift.

I noticed my tea bag held a special message for me that I never noticed before. On the little piece of paper connected to the string of the teabag that is supposed to sit outside the mug, it said “Be heard.” For me, I always thought asserting myself was presumptuous, and that I had nothing to say. This was a lie that I believed for years. We each have a story; we each have a gift to bring to this world, a gift that no one else has, and it is okay to be heard. My presence matters. A gift.

Jesse came out to check on me around 3 o’clock, and we talked and laughed for a while. He didn’t plan on staying but ended up pulling up a chair and hanging. Jeff came out after a while. And we all talked. Another gift.

As night came on, Jesse came back out to see if I needed a jacket and then brought me a blanket. Julia and Jeremiah came out later, read with me, and we sang “Amazing Grace” together. Julia did numerous cartwheels, and we belly laughed because she was so dizzy that she almost hit the table every time. Then, we watched the stars come out and sat quietly, mostly. A gift.

Jeff took care of the food that day. From my husband. From God. To me.

Solitude. Relationships. Beauty. God. All gifts.

19
Sep
13

cry of my heart

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, God cursed both Adam and Eve in very particular ways. Man’s curse was to have a hard time working the ground. There were going to be thorns and thistles, and he would have a difficult time earning a living. It was going to be by the sweat of his brow. And then, after he spent his entire life working hard, he went back to the same dust that he worked.

Part of Eve’s curse was to have pain in childbirth, which I can attest to after having five children. During those five births, I had 11 epidurals. I finally got it right and felt absolutely no pain with my last child, Jeremiah, but I couldn’t move for almost twelve hours after he was born…part of the price of trying to fight the curse, but, in my opinion, well worth it.

However, the second part of the woman’s curse continues to haunt me. God stated that the woman would need her husband, that her desire would be for him, and that he would use that desire to rule over her. This can happen in a multitude of ways, hence the power struggle in marriage where both parties try to “win” at getting their own needs and wants met through manipulation and control.

As a woman, I want to be loved and cared for, but sometimes it turns into this demanding, selfish neediness that is unquenchable and unstoppable. And my husband, as good and as godly as he is, is still going to, at times, lord it over me or use it against me because he wants his needs met too. We all do. Anyone who’s been married any length of time knows this, has felt this, has experienced this. It’s part of the curse, and, unfortunately, there is no epidural to take that kind of “heart” pain away.

Tim Keller talks about this in his book The Meaning of Marriage.  The woman remains dependent and desirous of her husband, but it turns into an idolatrous desire, and his protection and love become a selfish lust and exploitation. (174)

I find the passage in Colossians interesting because it commands husbands to love their wives and not be bitter toward them. Ultimately, women can make their husbands bitter against them. We can be so needy that not only will they rule over us but become bitter against us in the process. And all we wanted was love. But apparently, it becomes more than most men can bear at times.

So where do I go with my neediness? my sometimes unquenchable loneliness? my thirst for attention? my quest for love?

If I can take my need to be loved to a God who loves me way more than my husband ever could, I can allow my husband the spaciousness of being who he is and not demanding that he try to meet my every need. If I can view Jeff as my partner and not try to make him everything as so many songs try to portray human love, then the curse no longer has quite the hold on me that it had before. And I’m all about fighting the curse. 🙂

I’m not saying this is easy or simple; it’s not. But I do know the Someone Who walks with me when my own neediness threatens to strangle me and when my heart is overwhelmed. I know this God Who never leaves and Who never fails and Who never gets tired of my coming to Him with everything. He alone can handle me, all of me…

(I want to clarify…I’m not talking about any kind of abuse here…that is not what the Bible talks about when it says a man will rule over a woman. A man should NEVER be abusive to a woman. If that is happening, you need to tell someone and get help.)

30
Mar
13

whenever you’re ready

When I was in college and dating Jeff, I remember how hard it was to be away from him. I wanted to be with him all the time. I wanted to talk with him, hang out with him, just sit and stare at him. I could not get enough. Ever. Jeff graduated before me, so during my senior year of college, he came back to visit me on campus a lot. The hardest times for me were saying goodbye and having him leave me there. As he drove off one day, I almost ran after his car, but my dignity kept me from publicly making an idiot of myself. Although I resisted the urge to run after his car like a dog, I still sobbed as he drove away.

I could not wait to marry him. I could not wait to be able to be with him all the time; I was ready for us to start our lives together. And at the time, it seemed like it was forever away. It was painful…that expectation, that longing of wanting to be with someone so badly. It felt like it almost caused me physical pain. And, even still, thinking about it, almost twenty-one years and five kids later, it makes my chest tighten to think of that intense longing. Waiting was the hardest thing.

I still think waiting is the hardest thing. I’m not used to it. I’m no longer waiting to get engaged or to get married or waiting on kids to be born. But now, I’m waiting for different things. I find myself waiting for God to show up, to lead me. Sometimes, I feel like I’m holding my breath as I wait, seeing if He really is going to do what He says. And sometimes, I feel anxious as I wait because I say I trust Him, but my actions of making stuff happen on my own reveal that I don’t really trust as much as I say I do. And yet, as I walk through different trials and situations, I’m learning to entrust myself to a faithful Creator.

It takes strength and courage to wait and not just run ahead, and sometimes it looks stupid to wait. But He is teaching me to listen to His voice…to listen to His Word and obey Him. I’ve had to get rid of my busyness and learn how to be still. I’ve also had to get rid of the voices, including my own, that threaten to drown out His still, small voice. I’ve found that it’s much harder to be still and wait on Him than it is to do things that don’t amount to much in His kingdom, His economy. But He reminds me daily to continually fix my eyes on Him;  it’s the only way waiting is possible.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord. Psalm 27

Right here, right now, I feel like I’m in the process of learning the bigness of waiting on Him. I’m waiting for His kingdom to break in and His power to be seen. I see glimpses of it here and there, and I want it so badly that it’s almost hard to breathe at times. In this wait, there is intense longing, not unlike the longing I felt as I waited to marry my husband. More than anything, I long for God to make Himself known to me and the people around me.

I long for You in expectation and hope…whenever you’re ready, Abba…

Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him. Psalm 37

20
Mar
13

You Cannot Lose My Love

Recently, I had a couple of episodes with my second son, my 15-year-old. This son is amazing in so many ways. He has high relational intelligence, and he is very persistent, two great qualities if used for good. If used against others, he can bug the snot out of a person with just his facial expressions or his constant noises. His ten-year old sister is a very easy target, and he knows that.

Second son said something to his sister; she went nuts; I stepped in, and he mouthed off at me. But I know his heart toward me, and even though he tried to push my buttons, God gave me the wisdom to answer in gentleness and love after I first apologized to him for calling him a smart ass. (And, yes, I called him that.) But God, in His goodness, quickly convicted me and brought me humbly around before it escalated and became too big, too huge, too stupid. God brought me back to what He’s been teaching me for months now…gentleness.

After my apology, I spoke truth to second son about who he is and told him that my all-time favorite moment for the day had been when I saw him walk toward the house with his sister, his arm slung over her shoulder. Because that’s who this kid is.  He wants to be loved, and he wants to love.

A few days later, this same kid just out-and-out defied me. Something happened with his brother that he didn’t like; I stepped in, and second son made some snotty remark toward me. As I tried to talk to him, he continued walking away from me as I told him to stop. I felt God’s presence and love for that teenage boy even in that moment. I sent second son to his room and said he could come down when he apologized to me.

Four hours later, second son came down and gave me a very insincere apology. I hugged him anyway. I acted as if his apology meant something because I know his heart, and he wants to be loved; they all do, even when it might not look like it.

I’m pretty sure the thing that brought second son downstairs was that I had made one of his favorite foods the night before, and he had gotten hungry. But sadly, the food he came looking for had just been finished off.  Even though it was after 9 o’clock at night and I was tired and was not interested in being in the kitchen for one more second, I offered to re-make this same favorite food for him, and he admitted that he wanted it. As we made it together, we talked. And as we waited for the food to bake, I rubbed his back and gently spoke truth to him. It’s amazing where favorite foods and back rubs and gentleness can take a mom.

The truth that God gave me that night and that I was able to share with second son is that I am for him, not against him. Teenage world is hard enough, but he doesn’t have to do it alone.  And, even when he’s dead wrong and angry and frustrated and even defiant, I am still for him.

I now have three teenage boys, and this is my favorite age so far. God is for them, not against them. And, above all else, I want to reflect God’s love and gentleness to each one of my five children. Because no matter how old they get or where they end up or even what they do…they cannot lose His love…

He gathers the lambs in His arms…
He gently leads those that are nursing. (the immature, the inexperienced) Isaiah 40




time flies

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