Friday, October 28, 2011

Abounding in Love

Okay - I am addicted to Twitter. I like it much better than Facebook. If you haven't tried it you most definitely should. All day every day there are people posting quotes. Some are hilarious and others are serious. This quote came across my phone a few days ago and I have been thinking about it ever since: "Always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor 15:58) Abounding. The opposite of foot-dragging. ~Ray Ortlund. Let's talk about that for a minute!

I have been having an ongoing conversation with a dear friend about loving our husbands. We both admit to struggling with this. There are days it is easy to be supportive and loving and kind and patient and the voice of affirmation. But there are seasons when this is very difficult... Our husbands require love and affirmation and respect even when we don't feel loved and affirmed and respected ourselves (the reverse is also true - but we aren't talking about us right now!). And in those times it feels like we just have to give and give and give. Here is how my friend puts it: "Marriage is not give and take. It is give. And give... I am not called to give my hubby affirmation and speak words of truth that he needs when I am receiving what makes me feel loved. I am called to do it. Period. Because Jesus gave and gave and gave. And still gives more. The same Spirit that was with Jesus has been sent to dwell in me and will give me strength and joy." This is where we come to abounding.

"Always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor 15:58) Abounding. The opposite of foot-dragging. I have perfected the art of serving my husband with a bad attitude and serious foot dragging. This is what happens when I work out of my own strength. I personally am seriously lacking in strength and seriously not lacking in self-pity and self-indulgance and even self-preservation. But God has called me to this work - the work of loving my husband. And the only way I can abound in this work is through the power of the Holy Spirit! Do you see the relief in that, friends? We can't love our husbands in our own strength. Period. We can only love - and give - out of the strength of the God of this Universe!! I don't have to muster up strength each morning to cook again or speak words of affirmation or serve patiently or be a joyful wife!! I just need to PRAY!! God will give me abounding strength. And He will cause me to be more dependent on Him daily. He will develop in me more love and more compassion and more strength to serve.

Just a footnote: Please don't hear me say that loving my husband (or you loving your husband) is ALWAYS work. It most definitely isn't. There is so much joy in this that my heart bursts just thinking about it. But we cannot deny as wives and even mothers that there are days when... well, when we don't have the mental, emotional, or physical strength to love our families. I hope you haven't experienced those days yet. But if, like me, you have - please know that you are not alone and that you can ABOUND in this work - NEVER through your own strength, but in the Strength of the One who has died in your place and who has given you His Spirit!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Summer Review - stories and all!

Well, Summer is over and Fall is well underway. I have finally been able to breathe enough to think of all that God has done during the summer months. A while ago I talked a little about what I was expecting but now I want to share a few details of the summer. As always, God has blown me away with his goodness to me and my family. I feel His favor (and that is not favor above others, but his kindness and grace and mercy).

June saw Steve and I visiting Vail, Colorado for the Acts29 Retreat and Rocky Mountain National Park. What did God show me? It was actually life changing for me. I am the chief worrier. Not as in the best, but the very worst. My default mode is to fail to trust God and to try and figure things out on my own. God once again had to show me that He alone is in control. I love the
mountains but they do not love me. My blood pressure tends to climb with the altitude. After talking to the doctor (and being advised to find the nearest medical facility for "just in case") I
settled in to our "retreat" and began the worry spiral. But each time I worried and prayed about what to do, what course of action to take, God very clearly pointed out that my life was His - high blood pressure and all. (Mind you, I was taking medical advice... so this wasn't blindly ignoring serious signs!) God was quite simply, though, asking if I trusted Him. Repeatedly. And I do. But I wasn't acting like it. My fears had become all consuming... and they were ruining my vacation. But God in His goodness and graciousness, ripped away my fear and showed me the reality that He controls all things - and He alone chooses when I die and how I live. All He asks is for me to trust Him. We went on to have a beautiful, but sedated visit to one of the most beautiful places Steve and I have seen in a while - at 13,000 feet God's grace shone over me in the snow covered mountains. And I am grateful.

July brought a couple of family trips. I love spending Fourth of July with my parents in
Kentucky. They are such a blessing to me! Their heritage is visible in their children and grandchildren. Plus, Kentucky is a place that refreshes my soul! Later in the month we got to visit Chicago with the kiddos. It was the hottest three days of the summer. But we sweated it out together and had a blast. The Bean was a favorite and Isaac was happy to cross it off of his life's list of accomplishments! The next item on the list? A segway tour!

August was all about school. Esther started her junior year and Isaac began his 7th grade year. It also brought a first. Victoria moved out. God granted her a full scholarship to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville - yes, that's right, it's in our town. It was the last place she looked at. But it became the place that she wanted to attend the most. Then God graciously allowed her to attend for free. So we moved her into a dorm and left her there! Talk about hard... I cried like a baby. As I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for Steve
I began talking to a woman who was going to leave her son and drive back to Texas! Texas - can you imagine that distance!?! She,
who was not crying, looked at me, who was obviously a basket case, and asked how far my drive home was. All I could say was... about two streets that way!! Not one of my prouder moments. But, in another sense, it was. Victoria has worked so hard to get to college and she is loving every minute of it! God has blessed her with a great community of friends to walk through life with AND I still get to see her on Sundays. God is good. I am so proud of all three of them!

September brought another trip for Steve and I. I feel very fortunate that, for now, I have not had to work. We have fun traveling together. However, leaving my kiddos has been one of the hardest things for me as a mom, a worrying mom. God continues to ask me if I trust Him. I do - and I pray that He helps me when I don't. Friends have lovingly stepped up to stay with Esther and Isaac as we have been gone. Mind you, they are two of the most self-sufficient kids on the face of the earth! But, they have been surrounded in our absence by people who love them - and they know that. Isaac is notorious for saying that it took a whole church of people to take care of him while I was away. And he was beaming as he said it. I am truly thankful!

Now, Summer is over and it is October. I am another year older... and still loving being in my 40's. I am even more grateful to God for the blessing of belonging to a place. As Wendell Berry would say, I know exactly where I am and I don't want to be any place else.