Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blog Blessings

It's funny how I used to blog just to keep track of our family. I didn't want to lose our memories. I wanted far-away-family to be able to see how our kids were growing and changing. Then life got busier. And busier. My blog was set aside. And hundreds of pictures just sat in my computer. Unorganized. Unprinted. Un-remembered.

Then one day last October, I came across this girl named Jami's blog. It is amazing. It is crazy how I could read a blog written by someone I've never met, who lives half-way across the country, and realize how much her heart speaks to mine. It's like she speaks the same language. But I've never met her in real life.

Anyway - one of her blog posts was about being a good steward of memories. Not losing them. Preserving them for my kids and their kids and their grandkids. Giving my kids something to look back on when they grow up to they see how much I loved them and their dad, what we did, what I thought about them and life and Jesus.

I thought of all of our family's pictures. Our memories sitting on my computer. Neglected. Funny things my kids had said that had gone unrecorded. Details of family memories that are probably lost forever. And I decided to do something about it. I opened up my Macbook. Logged into my Blogger account, and started again. It's never too late.

Little did I know the adventure the Lord had for me through our little blog. Soon after I started to blog again, I knew the Lord was moving me to share more. To go beyond the surface of the pictures. To dig into our lives. Reality. That some of life is fun and sweet and pretty. But some of life is hard and ugly and struggle. Yet Jesus takes it all and makes it good and beautiful. He redeems. He saves. And, I was bursting inside, so badly wanting to give God the glory for it all.

Pretty soon, I found myself sitting on my bed with my Macbook, this stuff just pouring out of me onto the computer screen. And Eric kept saying, "yes, keep writing this stuff, keep sharing about real life and about Jesus." And some friends and family kept saying "yes, keep writing this stuff, sharing about real life and about Jesus." Jesus kept saying "yes, keep writing this stuff, sharing about real life and about Me."

And, He rewarded. I know I've said it before, but I just can't get over the way that He has encouraged me to keep going. When I've faced criticism or discouragement, time and again - exactly when I need it-  Jesus has sent other voices to say "keep going, keep writing this stuff, keep sharing Me."

My sweet friend, Jen. She and her wonderful mom are two of my biggest cheerleaders. 
Thank you if you've been one of those voices, by the way. I know it may not seem like a big deal, telling someone that you like this or that about their blog or something they've written. But, it always comes when I feel ready to give up and go back to only posting smiling faces and "today we made Christmas cookies" type of posts.

Sometimes I don't even know what I'm saying, or if my words are clear, or if any of it makes sense to anyone but me. But, Jesus has used my blog to start conversations with other women that wouldn't have happened otherwise. It has deepened my already-existing friendships immensely. And it has given me new friendships with women who I'm coming to dearly love.

Last night we sat on a back patio having dinner with new friends. A friendship the Lord brought together in real life via two girls writing two blogs. Sarah and I could have crossed paths in many other ways and other times. But the Lord chose to use now and our writing to cause our families's lives to collide.

And we get the joy of experiencing the Lord, as He pulls back the veil just a bit so that we can see the way He weaves our lives and days with the journeys of others around us. And in those moments there is just no denying that He places us where we are. That He is Sovereign over our moments, our comings and goings. That He alone orchestrates where we are and who are we with. That He hems us in behind and before.

In Joshua 4, the Israelites finally crossed into Israel, under Joshua's leadership. The Lord told Joshua to tell twelve men to each take a stone from the Jordan River. The men were to carry them across the Jordan River, into Israel. The stones were set up as a memorial for the Israelites and their children to remember forever what the Lord had done for them.

We (thus far in life) don't have a river that needs crossing and we haven't been wandering in the desert for 40 years. We have other wanderings, other struggles. But, God shows up in the midst of it all in so many ways. Sometimes it's in providing a new friendship when we weren't expecting it.  Such a blessing. And as we interact with people who He has placed in our lives, they are almost like a memorial in themselves. They remind us of the way the Lord orchestrated a friendship. Far more fun than a dozen stones, I might add.

And, recording those moments where the veil is pulled back gives us memorials to look back on, later in life, in times of doubt. It gives us another way to remember. And then for our children to know and remember the ways God was at work in their lives, too. Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, says, "[i]n memory, the shape of God's yesterday-heart emerges and assures of God's now-heart and reassures of his sure beat tomorrow."

Ann's words articulate my heart in blogging and recording our memories. That our family would look back and, in our own history, see God's faithfulness in the biggest details and the smallest. Then, when the next storm comes, we would be able to trust His goodness in the midst of it, even when we can't see clearly what He is doing, because He has always shown up in the past. And that we could live, walking into each of our tomorrows, without anxiety and worry because we know by experience just how Good He is.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

On Your Feet Friday

There are so many things to love about this city . . . but one event combines a lot of our favorite things. On Your Feet Friday! Friends, running, Gallagher's, downtown, Venti's food, free Great Harvest bread, PTB, local shops, sunshine . . . what am I missing?

Here's how it works. The events take place on the second Friday of each month, May through October. You register in the parking lot of Pioneer Trust Bank. Get this . . . Registration is totally FREE. Just show up between 5:30-6:15 and add your name to the list.

Upon registering, you're given a passport, with each box labeled with the name of a local business or landmark. When the starting gun sounds, you run to as many of those locations as you can squeeze into 45 minutes.

Unashamedly hijacked from Conrad Venti's Instagram account

When else would you ever get to play a crazy piano overlooking the Willamette River?

Photo Credit: Eric Compton

At the end of the 45 minutes you return to the bank parking lot, turn in your passport, and receive a raffle ticket for each location you made it to. Then stick around for the raffle drawing and a party! Last night's party gave us a great chance to catch up with friends, new and old.

I was thrilled to finally meet (in person) one of my favorite interweb friends, Sarah Matheny of Peas and Thank You. She is a lawyer-turned-homemaker, a girl after my own heart. But, Sarah also happens to be an amazing author and food blogger. Go look up her Thai Fried Quinoa recipe on her blog. I promise you won't be disappointed!

It was a huge blessing to talk with another lawyer-mom who I have known for quite awhile, and to hear her story about the ways Jesus showed up in recent happenings in her life. I loved listening as she shared with so much emotion how God made His presence undeniably known. I could hear it in her voice and see it on her face. It is such an encouragement to hear that God is showing up in the practical details of friends' lives, just like I see Him show up in mine. And, I loved this woman's heart as she shared when the next trial comes along, how  easy it is to forget God's past provision and to doubt that He will show up again. Another girl after my own heart. One who loves the Lord, desires to trust Him, delights in seeing Him, and admits to the struggle of the Christian life!

Okay - back to the event details . . . For each month, Gallagher's Fitness has arranged for a different shoe company to be a shoe title sponsor. For example, last night's sponsor was New Balance. New Balance representatives are there, with shoes to try out. And they provide raffle prizes like New Balance goody bags and free pairs of New Balance shoes.

There is food donated by Venti's Cafe available to purchase for dinner. Either Gilgamesh or Seven Brides brew is also there each month. And, last night, Great Harvest Bread was there with free slices for all.

Proceeds go to Friends of Two BridgesFriends of Two Bridges (F2B) is a non-profit group dedicated to the design and construction of the Minto Island Bridge and connecting pathways.

The event is family friendly. Strollers are welcome - Hooray! Thank you Venti family for sharing yours with us this time around!

Our kids are already begging to go to next month's event. So . . . if you're local, come run with us next month and join the party! See you there!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Keep Going

So, I did it. I finally started Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. I know I'm totally behind the times on this one. I feel like I'm the last one on the Ann Voskamp bandwagon. My best friend gave me the book last year on my birthday, and sadly it has sat on my bookshelf for almost a year. (The story of many books in my life).

But, today as we watched swim lessons, my dear friends Amybeth and Dana were talking about the book. They are both reading it right now. They inspired me to pull it off of my bookshelf and start it too.

I am through one chapter and I'm already so grateful I started this book. And I'm grateful for Ann Voskamp and the courage she had to lay bare her story. To open herself up to the world. To share what the Lord has taught her, that He might teach others through her.

I had to put down the book to write a quick blogpost.

To those of you who are writing your stories, blogging your journeys. I just wanted to say keep writing. Please keep sharing what you are learning. Your story has meaning and purpose. Jesus is using your struggles and triumphs in the lives of other women, as you are willing to share with whoever is listening/reading.

If you are feeling like no one is listening. If you are feeling like your writing is silly. If others are telling you it's silly. Or they don't like what you're saying. Or they don't understand why you would spend any of your time writing. Then listen to what my interweb friend, Kyle, said earlier this week (her blog is beautiful): "you are not silly. your blog is not silly. you aren't wasting your time. thank you for writing, creating, and inspiring this group of women to be who they were created to be, without shame. keep going." 

Take her words to heart. You are blessing me and so many other women. Please.Keep.Going.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Isaiah in My Heart

So . . . My sweet Mag-Mag (otherwise know as the uh-mazing Maggie) was over visiting the other day. And she mentions that I haven't written a theology-type post in awhile. All I can say is "I know."

I keep starting blogposts. And then deleting them. Starting again another day. And deleting again.

It doesn't mean that Jesus isn't at work in my heart. Oh, trust me, He is. I'm just having trouble articulating the ways He's pushing me, and teaching me, and the things He is showing me.

I will say that in the past month or so, God has proven to me (again) that He is going to show up in His Word. That He is going to use His Word to speak directly to my heart. In pointed ways. That bring Life. and Hope. and Comfort. and Peace. In ways that are so direct, that it takes my breath away.

Oh, I doubt myself at times. I think, "No way. This has to be coincidence. There is no way that these ancient words could really speak so directly to my life situation." But, I know that God's Word says that His Word is alive and active in me. (Thank you, Beth Moore) So, in faith, I attribute it to Him. Moving forward in faith, trusting that it is Him directing what I read and when I read it, and that His Holy Spirit is using it to shape and change my heart.

In God's sovereignty, I was in the BSF study of Isaiah during a trying and troubling time in 2010-2011. And God met me in the book of Isaiah. Every.Single.Day. In my personal study, in my weekly discussion group, and in the weekly lectures and notes. He just kept using Isaiah's ancient words to speak healing to my modern 2012 heart. The heart of a girl who felt like a mess. Who was struggling with issues. And hurts. And depression.

God was using His Word, spoken through Isaiah, to shout at me from the heavens:

"I'm here!" "I haven't left you!" "I will take your ashes and create beauty." "Don't be afraid, I am really with you!" "I will make water flow in your desert, your desert will blossom as a rose." "I am YOUR God!" 

More than once I have wished that I could just hug that prophet. Say thank you to Isaiah's face for his faithfulness to deliver God's words to His people, even in the face of persecution and mocking. Seriously. I would love to tell him the ways that the words he recorded have ministered to me today. I'll have my chance in Heaven, right?

Struggle for me looks different today then it did just one or two years ago.  But, one thing is the same: God has been using Isaiah's book in my life again. Daily.

Isaiah has a place in my heart that no other book in the Bible holds. Knowing that fact, Eric got me a book for Christmas called Isaiah by the Day by Alec Motyer. Motyer is a Bible scholar who has the same passion for Isaiah that I do. (Well, okay, his passion probably outweighs mine, considering he has devoted much of his life to it). The book is Motyer's translation of Isaiah, based on his extensive study and keeping as near to the Hebrew as possible. The scripture is divided into daily portions with tons of notes, followed by a devotion for each day.  I so badly wanted time to dig into it. But there it sat, on my bookshelf, for six months.

Then last month I took it off the shelf. And opened it up. I've been spending my time in the Word with this book as well as the corresponding passages of Isaiah in my good ole ESV.

And God keeps showing up. And it motivates me to keep digging in.  The Lord is using the book of Isaiah to keep me coming back for more.

When I feel frustrated with myself and my sinful nature God says:
Do not fear, Worm Jacob,
mere mortals of Israel. 
I have, myself, determined to help you --
and your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 41:14)

Notice that God doesn't say that He will help the perfect people, those who are not struggling with sin, those who have it all together. He is talking to the Worm Jacob and mere mortals of Israel. And in reading that, I have confidence that means He is going to help me.

When I feel like my life, my priorities, the things I do are being judged critically by some around me, He gives me this:
As for me, I said, 
'For emptiness I have toiled;
without sense or substance I have exhausted my strength. 
my judgment is with Yahweh, 
and my achievement is with my God.' (Isaiah 49:4)

God uses His Word to remind me that even if I think I've failed, even if my efforts feel like they lack any purpose, that some people don't see my efforts or understand my heart, He is still "my God." And I can let Him, and Him alone, be the judge of my life. As Motyer says, "He is sovereign in the accomplishing of his own will. Whatever he desired from my unworthy efforts, he will himself unfailingly achieve, and even turn disaster to triumph, bringing his good pleasure out of and in spite of my disasters." Praise Jesus for the freedom to serve Him, and Him alone, and to trust Him with the outcome.

And when I'm feeling like a situation might be hopeless, God says that He will take action and then
"you will know that I am Yahweh: 
those waiting confidently for me will not be disappointed." (Isaiah 49:23)

His words are what I cling to. Isaiah says that we can trust God. We can cling to His promises - waiting confidently, which also means with expectation. Expectation that He is going to show up. It gives me hope, and keeps me from despondency or depression. How can I head toward dark despondency over a situation when I know that I can wait for Him and that I will not be disappointed?!

So. . . that's some of where I've been lately in my heart. In the living of daily life. In the midst of daily chores, bike rides, tickle wars, laundry, swimming, eating ice cream, washing dishes, vacation, fireworks, more laundry, schoolwork with the kids, vacuuming, play-doh, running (okay, not so much), grocery shopping, making cookies, hanging out with friends, art projects, and just being. Nothing profound. But I wanted to record that God showed up when I needed Him. In breathtaking ways. And continues to call me to Himself.