Living not striving…

Random thoughts and daily adventures in my life

Circles… December 1, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts,Family Life — erikaivory @ 3:18 am
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We all have circles…in our lives we are surrounded by circles.  As the boys and I raked the leaves in our yard the other day I noticed how as I raked around me and formed a pile of fallen leaves at my feet, it cleared a circle.  Next to my feet was a pile of dead leaves and a ring of cleared grass lay around me.

Image

Then as we each continued to rake I noticed that as we formed one pile after another eventually our circles touched each other.  And gradually more and more of the yard was cleared of leaves.

It hit me that in our lives as we live and love we touch and influence the people around us.  These are our circles.  Everyone that I do life with on a regular, consistent basis influences me in some way and I in turn have an influence on them.  What am I doing with that influence?  It struck me that just as I am called to steward wisely the finances, time, and resources the Lord gives me…I am also called to steward well my relationships and the influence He has allowed me to have.

Am I loving well those I touch daily, with my words, my actions, my prayers, my service?  Am I leaving those that I walk beside better off each day after their encounter with me?  I am given the opportunity to speak words of life each day to my husband and children, to my children’s friends and my friends.  Do I do that?  Am I intentional in the way I interact with the check out girl that I see each week, with my boys’ teachers and the people I serve with at church?

I stopped the boys in the middle of their raking and tried to explain my epiphany.  They looked at me with tilted heads and then ran off to slide from the treehouse into the biggest pile of leaves at the bottom of the tree.  How can they understand?  But hopefully they will see as they grow through the way I live.  If I can simply love a few people well during my days here…and model how to love well, with grace and forgiveness and compassion and joy….prayerfully those that are within my circle will then respond by creating their own circles.

I can’t love everyone, touch each life, respond to every phone call, pray over all the broken hearts or bring the overwhelming number of hurting families a meal. However I can work hard to serve the people I see every day, that I brush elbows with in the hallways at school, that I see in carpool line, or worship alongside at church.

Raking my circles wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always fun.  It made my back kinda sore and rubbed some blisters.  However, it served the greater purpose of clearing away the debris from the dying leaves and fallen sticks and pecans to make a path.  We all need someone to help us clear away some dead areas in our lives to make space for new growth.  It was much easier to rake my yard with the help of my boys too.  I struggled holding the garbage bags open on my own.  Filling them went much more quickly with lots of big and little hands.  When we each took responsibility for our own circles, the yard was cleared quickly and then we filled our bags as a team.  We can’t do life alone.  We need each other…we need our circles to touch.

You know the best part though?  In the midst of the raking and bending and stuffing bags…we made time to enjoy our hard work by sliding down that green slide into a huge pillow of fallen leaves.  We turned the work of transforming our leaf covered yard into giggles and smiles.  Just as the Lord of the seasons loves to take the hard work of transforming our lives from dead and grey to clean and vibrant into a celebration of relationships.  The business of life on life relationships is hard, it is tiring, it can be raw but it is also, oh, so beautiful.

So my new perspective is this: Where is my circle? Am I loving well those that I touch each day? Am I intentionally stewarding the relationships and influence I have been given?  

How about you?

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Unexpected gifts… July 10, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts — erikaivory @ 11:40 pm
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Walking through this season has already been full of surprises.  I feel like the Lord surprised us with a scavenger hunt of sorts and He gave us at the outset a big gift basket overflowing with wrapped presents and a backpack full of tools and necessary items.  We are going from clue to clue and seeing bent branches here and there, His footprints in the mud and little clues left along the way to remind us that He has definitely gone JUST ahead of us on the trail.  So we know we are on the right path and we have the assurance of His presence, we just have no idea where this crazy adventure is taking us!

I am also truly thankful that right now He is teaching me lots.  At the moment for me this is a fruitful journey.  My prayer is I can record these lessons and that they will be embedded in my heart and spirit because I am learning some good stuff!!  So I wanted to list some things that I have discovered already along the way.  Some of them may not really make a lot of sense but they are clear to me:)

1) We are immensely blessed with amazing friends!

Are you familiar with Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

By God’s grace we are blessed with so many crazy, Christ lovin’, Bible believin’, sacrificial, fun, awesome and giving friends!  We already knew this but we didn’t realize that they could love us so selflessly.  Many friends have come to us and already financially blessed us by giving us monetary gifts, bringing us meals and gift cards and offering support any way that we need it.  It is overwhelming.  These are friends that have already sacrificially given toward the adoption and friends that don’t have excess money lying around.  To give us these kinds of gifts means that they are SACRIFICING, and giving something to us means they are going without in some area of their own lives.

2) God’s provision through other people’s sacrifice and obedience also means that we learn great humility and surrender.

Accepting the fact that we are on the receiving end and not in a place to give this way ourselves is very humbling. There is no way around it.  The Lord is dealing with some big, bruised areas of pride in our hearts.  These are lessons I thought we already learned but apparently we need to be pruned more and it sounds so weird because we are SO overwhelmed at how loved we feel by these gifts and we are over the moon grateful…yet there is some bruising and pruning taking place that also stings and hurts.  This is Christ doing a work, a GOOD and necessary work in us!  This is keeping us on our faces and on our knees.  Keeping our hands open wide…it is a good place to be, but a place of rawness.

3) The Lord can make surrender and trust a place of joy.

We are truly trying to walk each day trusting and not staying in a place of anxiety.  That means a lot of prayer and speaking the truth of Scripture.  It means reminding ourselves of God’s great faithfulness in stories from His Word and also of stories from our past where He has proved Himself faithful. The amazing thing is as we awake each day with hope and focus our eyes on Him…He provides great opportunities for delight.

We have had SUCH an amazing and fun summer as a family so far.  We have been blessed with great time as a family and SO many tremendous experiences!!  We went to the mountains for a week with college friends and went rock hopping and slid down Sliding Rock and went tubing down a mountain river.  We celebrated God’s faithfulness with college friends. Several different families have opened up their homes and vacation homes to come and be with them. So we have had boat rides and gone tubing and celebrated the 4th of July with fireworks and made ice cream and fed baby deer and spied on alligators and taken golf cart rides and enjoyed time together and new experiences with wonderful, gracious friends.  Instead of sitting at home and worrying and pacing and fretting…we are doing all that we can faithfully and then trusting and enjoying the time we have together right now.

4) He has lessons to teach us each day, if we are walking with awareness.

Realizing that I really need to depend on the Lord because automatic draft is not going to make money appear in my bank account…has heightened my awareness and honed my listening skills.  I am hungry to hear what God has to say these days.  Yes, I always want to know what God has in mind but when I really need His input and movement in my life like now…suddenly I hear and see Him A LOT!  And I love it!!  We need His direction and we need Him to move on our behalf…but what I am realizing is He ALWAYS is!!  I just really don’t pay attention a lot.  This is making me hungry for communication with Him.  So as I see His fingerprints throughout my day it is oh so sweet!  Like I was having a really hard morning waking up with a hopeful attitude a few weeks ago. I went on a run and just wasn’t feelin’ it…I was crying out to Him and asking Him to help me keep my chin up and put on that garment of praise…well the last song that shuffled on my silly ipod was my absolute favorite praise song right now!! The one that I can never get the silly thing to play when I run without skipping…but it played JUST when I needed it!!  See, that is one of His fingerprints!  Or when my devotion was randomly enough in the book of Numbers and dealing with the Israelites complaining about manna…it spoke directly to me about how manna fulfilled the Israelite’s needs but not their desires and cravings because He wanted them to learn to turn that craving toward Him.  Kelly Minter says, “God uses scarcity in our lives (it can be in any area, not just financial) to draw us to dependency on Him self.”  God’s got my number!

5) God reads my mail!

He knows every need we have. He answers us in lots of different ways, but I am learning slowly, that He wants us to take every need to Him and let Him decide how to fill it.  It doesn’t hurt to ask!  I was really sick last week with strep.  Our insurance just ended and we are working on getting some “in-between” insurance but of course this week we don’t have any.  I hated to do it but I was tore up sick so I went to Urgent Care and paid more than a pretty penny for it.  I am truly thankful because I was so wanting to get better, but I gotta admit I was feeling awfully guilty for spending that much money on a strep test and a Z-pack! Today I received an anonymous letter in the mail with a Scripture verse and cash totaling, almost to the dollar, the exact amount I paid at the doctor’s office.  What is that?????? God’s amazing provision and tender reminder that He is enough and He knows my need.  I told maybe one family member how much the doctor visit cost.  God used someone’s blind and complete obedience to not only meet our need but remind us that He is ahead of us on this path, therefore we do NOT need to fear.

Now do I expect people to be paying our mortgage for the next six months if Mark hasn’t found a job by then? No…but I can simply wake up tomorrow confident that God has a plan and whatever tomorrow holds, it is going to be okay.  Not only okay, but good because I serve a God who is faithful and good.  And God is not pulling out the stops for us because it is US.  We are not super hero Christians or amazingly faithful Christ followers.  We are sinners that mess up and make mistakes and don’t deserve our friends to sacrifice for us and certainly don’t deserve the Lord to rescue us.  But that’s grace and it is beautiful.

I warned you that some of this might not make sense but I first of all need to record this journey because it is significant to us personally and as a family.  But we also want to proclaim God’s faithfulness and how He provides and how He is SO, SO faithful!!

 

Taking care of what matters… April 19, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts,Family Life — erikaivory @ 2:05 am
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I’ve sent you to visit her before.  She has remarkable insight.  I’ve been really struggling with being more consistent in my time with Jesus….because these days I need it even more desperately than normal.

Here’s a tidbit:

“I can pass on a legacy of intimacy or leave them, shirts pressed and shoes tied, to deal with the broken areas they’ve inherited from me.

So I am sending you to her neck of the woods again because she put to words so well what I need to remember.  What all of us need to remember, especially as we parent, our little ones.  Enjoy!

 

Unloading… April 8, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts — erikaivory @ 3:39 am
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Sometimes I just have to unload my brain. It may not make much sense to anyone else but this is a way to process what is going on inside. When I look at families that have adopted internationally, particularly families that are now trans-racial, I am amazed.  I think, “Wow, they are really brave and selfless and she must be a supermom!  How do they do it?”.  I have always thought it is just super-neat to see a family that took a risk and embraced life enough to adopt.

However, I am now in the process of adopting internationally and I am NOT…

-brave

-selfless

-super-mom

I AM…

-scared

-excited

-overwhelmed

-vacillating between freaking out and over the top anxious to get to my little ones

I know it sounds a little crazy, because IT IS!!  We do NOT know what we are doing and I cannot tell you the number of times a day that I hear that little voice in my ear saying, “Just what do you think you are doing?  Do you really think you can pull this off? You can barely keep your head above water with the three boys you have, how are you going to take care of 1 or 2 more?  You must be crazy!!”

But I know with a deep-down certainty though that God called us to this journey.  Because in and of myself…I am far too comfortable and interested in my own comfort to take the risks that this involves just to suit my own fancy.  I couldn’t and wouldn’t do this unless God put a fire deep in my belly that won’t quit.  He won’t let it go.  He gave me a passion to bring some little ones into this fold that we call home.

So that voice whispering in my ear…it isn’t the voice of my gentle Shepherd.  It doesn’t bring me strength or comfort or conviction.  It is the voice of the enemy of my soul.  So I push it back and drown it out with Jesus Truth.  I quiet the anxiousness it stirs up with reminders of my Father’s past faithfulness and refocus back on the One that called me to this crazy ride.

So please do NOT ever, ever, ever think that I am brave enough, selfless enough, smart enough, creative enough to do this thing.  I can’t do it.  He is going to do it through me.  He will have the energy and time to fill out all the crazy paperwork.  He will have the patience to wait and the emotional stability to parent and live amidst all the anxiety of this process.  He will figure out how to balance all the what ifs with the have-to-get-dones. Because I can’t, and I daily realize this.  But He will equip me for what He has called me to do.

I just want people to see that this isn’t about us…it’s all about Him.  He is amazing and mighty to save.  He is saving the Chapmans and creating a “future and a hope” for US just as certainly as He is doing it for our Ugandan children, through this adoption. And I daily want to point to Him as He does a great work in us.  Oh, how I want our story to be a monument to His great faithfulness and magnificent love!

3 Lord, you are great. You are really worthy of praise.
No one can completely understand how great you are.
4 Parents will praise your works to their children.
They will tell about your mighty acts.
5 They will speak about your glorious majesty.
I will spend time thinking about your miracles.
6 They will speak about the powerful and wonderful things you do.
I will talk about the great things you have done.
7 They will celebrate your great goodness.
They will sing with joy about your holy acts.
8 The Lord is gracious. He is kind and tender.
He is slow to get angry. He is full of love.
9 The Lord is good to all.
He shows deep concern for everything he has made.

Psalm 145:3-9

 

Trusting… March 25, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts — erikaivory @ 2:46 am
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I like to plan ahead…at least consider the future.  Apparently my boys can be the same way.  We often have conversations that are entirely centered on themes for their next birthday parties.  One week after their birthday they are already planning for next year.  While fixing dinner tonight Eli and Haig were having a very “heated” conversation about their upcoming birthday plans…in December and January.  I tried to assure them that they have always had fun birthday celebrations so they can calm down and not worry about their next birthday parties.  I tried to help them realize that there are many, many days between now and their birthdays and that they can trust that their mommy loves them and I will make sure that they have a terrific party.  Yes, we will have an amazing cake. Yes, we will invite their friends.  Yes, they can pick the theme and yes, they can even have it at a special place if possible. I will make sure all of the details work together for their best and their delight.

Will I let Haig have a pool party in January if he wants?  No….because it would be too cold and he would be miserable…even though he thinks he would LOVE that.  Will I buy Eli a pirate pinata today for his party in December?  No…because I know that in two more months he will not be “into” pirates anymore:)  I kinda giggled as we were having this conversation, and then the Lord whispered to me..

“You know you do that, too.”

“You worry about things that are beyond your control instead of trusting that I am in control.  You fret and try to figure things out that are way out in the future.  You waste time and energy planning and concocting scenarios instead of resting and trusting in my love.  Have I ever failed you?”

No, of course not Lord!

“So why don’t you trust me instead of worrying?  Rest in my faithfulness and the truth that I give good gifts and I want what is best for you.  Trust my heart. The same way that you will indeed do what is best for your boys and find ways to please and delight them…understand that I feel the same way about you.  I know what you need in this hour just as much as I know what you will need this summer, next winter and every season for the rest of your life.  I know what makes you smile, what will cause growth in you and what you will need as you face each new circumstance.  Please try to stop figuring it all out and simply trust my heart for you. I’ve got this.  Really.”

Yeah, You’ve got this. Point taken.

Philippians 4:6-8

6-7Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

8-9Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

 

Battling voices March 9, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts — erikaivory @ 3:29 am

So I admit that I am a little crazy but just maybe I am not the only one that once in awhile has a conversation inside her head…goes something like this:

“I am so tired…fat…overwhelmed…frustrated…on and on and on…” STOP IT!!  STOP IT RIGHT NOW!!!

I can either let the negative thoughts continue, grab the bag of M&Ms and the scenario does not end pretty…

or stop myself.

Today thankfully I stopped myself and chose my perspective.  I allowed the Truth that I know to speak louder than the internal voice that was speaking lies.  Yes, I did indeed “feel” all those things…fat, overwhelmed and frustrated.  But my feelings aren’t Truth.  They are real but they do not stand up in court.  They change with the wind and with circumstance.  I cannot base my decisions or how I view the world and my circumstances on my feelings.  If I do I will be in big trouble.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

I stop, take a deep breath and reframe my circumstance and what I am feeling with Truth.  Not “little t” truth but “big T” Truth.  God’s Word.  What does God say about this?  And that is why I need to be in His Word so each time I am having this internal battle I don’t have to pull up http://www.biblegateway.com to get me through.  When I am consistently reading His Truth and hiding it in my heart through memorization and meditation…it’s amazing how the Holy Spirit uses what I have just recently read to get me through the battle that day.

Perfect example…as I stopped in my tracks when I felt myself going down the “woe is me” road today the Holy Spirit brought this verse to mind.  I memorized it years and years ago and wear it on one of my favorite shirts.  It sifted through my thoughts to the forefront and helped me do battle and beat back those negative, despairing, damaging thoughts.  Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Truth puts it all back in the right perspective.  So I just needed that reminder.  How about you?

 

Broken Pieces to Share February 20, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts,Random stuff — erikaivory @ 4:16 am

You’d think I’d learn…

It’s not gonna work, Lord.

I’m just not enough.  I can’t do it.  There is only one of me!

Why do you trust me with this?  I don’t have enough..

time…energy…money…insight…understanding…strength…

want-to…self-discipline…

Anybody else have that voice on repeat in their head?

As I was scurrying around trying to figure out a last-minute dinner and muster up the self-control to use what is in my pantry instead of ordering out, the voice started.  As fatigue crept in trying to take over and frustration began rising, I once again found myself having this one-sided conversation with the Holy Spirit.

He gently and simply whispered “5 loaves and 2 fish were enough that day“.  Sigh…well, yeah for Jesus!!

In Matthew 14, after a long, long day of ministering to the needs of thousands of people, Christ’s disciples reminded Him that it was almost dinner time and these people were going to need food soon.  So Jesus said, “Feed them.”  Um…well, all the fast food joints were under construction so we have a problem here. In the same story recorded in Luke 9,  Jesus simply tells the disciples,”You give them something to eat.”

Personally, I would have been a little frustrated with Jesus at that point.  Really?  They told Him what they had…and I imagine Jesus sighed slightly:) and then told the disciples to seat the people in groups of about 50.  Now, He didn’t tell the disciples that He was going to multiply the food. 

He just wanted them to trust Him and do what He asked with what they had.

They could have become flustered and annoyed and argued with Jesus.  Or threw their hands up and stomped off.  Or taken matters into their own hands and come up with an orderly evacuation plan for 5,000 plus hungry travelers.

They chose to do what He asked.

The end result was over 5,000 physically and spiritually fed people….12 basketfuls of leftover broken pieces of bread…and a handful of disciples whose faith, I believe, had increased.  Jesus didn’t lay out the 4 step plan for feeding 5,000 or promise them a happy ending.  He used what they had to teach them AGAIN that they can trust Him and that He provides.

Did He provide hundreds of baskets of food before they handed it out?

No…He provided in the moment of their need

as their hands were actively obeying

with faith that He would indeed provide what they lacked.

Every day I am acutely and loudly aware of what I am lacking.  I am NOT ENOUGH.  I CANNOT do what He is asking me to do as a wife, as a daughter, as a mom, as a friend, as a Christ-follower.

The Truth is…only He is enough.

As I stood at the stove looking at my empty hands…He reminded me to simply do the task He is asking me to do and trust Him that He will absolutely show up with exactly what fills my need.  Not necessarily early…but just when I need Him the most.

And He may even leave me with some baskets of broken pieces to share…