Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two Years and Counting

Two years ago this week Georgie and I boarded a plane and moved to Colorado.

As I type this, I'm sitting at the table in our kitchen, and I'm remembering that 2 years ago I had no kitchen to speak of. We lived in this house for several weeks without a functioning kitchen, and with our refrigerator in a small storage space only accessible from the outside. I wonder if any neighbors ever saw me in my PJ's while I went outside to the fridge for one of George's middle-of-the-night bottles.

I'm remembering the Sunday morning a few short weeks after we arrived. It was hot. Shane was working and had taken our one and only vehicle. The house was full of boxes. Georgie was a fussy mess. I couldn't make anything for breakfast because I had no kitchen or table or anything. And the toilet and bathtub were plugged. I barely knew the neighbors on one side and thought maybe I could ask them for help but I was shy, scared, homesick and completely emotional. But I got up enough nerve to walk outside...just in time to see them driving to church. The neighbors on the other side were just getting into their car for church too, but I wasn't brave enough to interrupt them. So. I saw some folks at a house across the street and just swallowed my pride and walked over and asked to borrow a plunger. It was awful!! Imagine the gross-ness of returning a plunger. My face gets red even thinking about it.

Who would've known that 2 years later those neighbors on either side of our house would become our close friends. And the church they were going to would become ours as well.

We weren't supposed to be in this house. We had another house lined up to live in. But it fell through. As did a second home. This house wasn't even on our radar. But it was on my Father's. I've come to believe that the Lord really really really cares about where we are located in life.

He knew my sweet neighbor would ask me to a women's weekly Bible study called BSF. And that my BSF small group leader would be an integral part of my road to healing in our marriage. And that after attending this Bible study with my neighbor, I would want to attend church with her. And that this church would be a place of safety, security, healing, balance and community for us. And that out of this church would come life-long, incredible friendships and even some ministry opportunities. I thought I had to leave all my friends and family and ministry behind in the NW. But God knew I would find all that here. Eventually. Because of where He put us. In this house.

I still get really homesick. I still get mad sometimes when I realize that my children are being raised away from my family. I still go outside every.single.time it rains because I miss it so much. But this Sunday, when my daughter was sleeping in the arms of someone else's grandpa, and being shown off by someone else's mom, and held by my husband's good friend...I rejoiced. I really did. I'm learning a whole new aspect of the provision of God. He truly provides whatever we need. If we are willing to receive it.

In two years of living here I feel that I've changed a lot. That happens when you're on the Potter's wheel and He decides to re-make you. Today I'm taking a little time to remember. And I'm confessing my willingness to be wherever He thinks is best. That willingness doesn't come easy, but I don't want to miss out on all He has for me and my family. He has done more in these two years than I ever thought possible. What might He do next?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

God of all Hope

How to begin blogging again after almost a year? And what a year it has been! Part of me wants to chronicle everything that happened, but another part of me longs to just be rid of 2011 and spend zero time reflecting on what was probably the hardest year of my life so far. If it wasn't for the fact that I serve an incredible God Who turns ashes into beauty, I wouldn't even try to blog! But this God that I serve, the God of all hope, deserves glory and honor for taking my trials and turning them into gold.

2011 was a year of loss and brokenness in many ways. I'm not sure I'm interested in writing all about that. I'd rather write about the restoring and rebuilding that took place after the loss. I will simply say that after miscarrying twins, realizing my marriage wasn't as stable or healthy as I hoped, experiencing deep loneliness and seclusion, financial ruin, and realizing that I was an insecure-control-freak who was gifted at enabling unhealthy people...after all that and more, I turned to the Great Healer, Great Rescuer, the One who loves me desperately. I layed at His nail-scarred feet and didn't get up. I'm still there. And its from there that I write today. Its from there that He began an incredible work of restoration. And its from there that I can truly say that He is the God of all hope.

In February we finally found the church that we had been praying to find. One that has sound doctrine, preaches the Good News, has an outward focus to reach the lost, and most importantly for us has a strong sense of community and discipleship which we desperately needed. Not surprisingly it is the church that our neighbors on either side of our house attend. I cannot even type for the tears in my eyes as I think about our neighbors and how they reached out to us in our times of crises and need...and just served, just loved, were just simply present. Someday maybe I will blog just about them and their impact on our lives. Honestly, we would not have made it without them.

As soon as we were getting established in this church, things became startlingly clear that our marriage needed attention. Again, maybe someday I will blog about that part of our life and how if hearts are humble and willing...anything is possible. God can (and will) bring His presence into any situation and turn it all around so that it is stronger, healthier, more lovely than anything imaginable.

Sometime in May I allowed the Lord to take me on a journey of repentance and healing. I had been turning to food for comfort for 8 years. And I decided enough was enough. I lost about 30 pounds in the next few months by counting calories, running and turning to Him for peace and comfort instead of my trusty bag of chips. This was a hard season, but very rewarding. One morning in July I ran 5 miles and then bought a size 8 dress. The very next morning I found out I was pregnant again - an absolute miracle and testimony to the healing and rebuilding that was happening in our marriage.

I lived in constant fear for the first 3 months of this pregnancy. While in Washington for a visit, I even experienced my first panic attack because I started bleeding and it seemed like I was having similar symptoms to the miscarriage I had suffered. I will never forget calling one of my best friends, BA, and her words to me were, "Melodi. You need hope. Not hope in this pregnancy to come to full term, but hope in Jesus." I was so convicted, yet so encouraged at the same time. I need to write about this more fully in the future too. I had a whole host of mighty women praying for me not only in Tacoma, but also in Littleton. I realized that I was no longer alone. And when we saw my doctor immediately upon returning to Colorado, heard the heartbeat for the first time, and truly knew that all would be well with this pregnancy....I knew the God of all hope had sustained me and was giving me a season of great joy. Her name will be Elizabeth Hope. But I will call her Hope.

Twice a month I get together with 4 lovely, special ladies from our church. The last time we met we started a study on the life of Mary the mother of Jesus. In reference to the angel coming and interrupting Mary's life, someone posed the question, "How do we handle interruptions?" I have been thinking about this ever since, and I have come to realize something lifechanging. The past 3 1/2 years of our lives have not just been trials and tribulations...they have actually been divine interruptions. And these interruptions have been for the purpose of bringing us closer to Christ, changing us more into His image, and to bring Him glory and honor.

My whole perspective has changed. What if our lives were drastically interrupted because that was the only way the Lord would get us to move to a new state, new church, new community...in which He could fulfill His plans in and through our lives in an incredible way?? We're not here by coincidence or because it was something we planned. We didn't go through firey trials and painful losses just beause "that's life". No way. Our lives have been divinely interrupted and we are choosing to remain positioned at His feet so that His purpose is fulfilled and His Kingdom can come into and through our lives. So....I'm ready for 2012!!

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Rom. 15:13

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life Happens

While I haven't been blogging in several months, life has been happening. In fact, as I type this I can hardly read it because my son threw a Thomas train at the screen and pretty much demolished it. I have to type, then readjust the screen, then type, then readjust and hope to see something between all the wobbly lines...a perfect analogy for how my life has been the last several months.

Just before Thanksgiving we found out that I was pregnant. This was quite a shock since we were told we were unable to have children. When George came along a few years back we were floored that the Lord would give us such a miracle. And then to find out a second miracle was coming...wow. Obviously we were no longer in the category of not being able to have children!

As long as I live I will never forget how I felt for the next 2 weeks...peaceful, joyful, hopeful. And nauseated of course. But my reality crumbled fast when I started spotting and I realized this season of life may not be all that I was dreaming of. I can't bring myself to blog about the next 3 weeks of ultrasounds, tests, bed rest....the roller coaster ride that I desperately never wanted to participate in. We discovered that the twins I was carrying were not developing past 6 weeks. I was facing a miscarriage.

I couldn't seem to embrace the fact that after walking through the most challenging year of my life, I was now also going to experience something that would shatter my heart to pieces and shake the foundations of my faith. I didn't know it would cause me to examine the very fiber of my belief system, but it did. In my 36 years of living, I've never asked the kinds of questions I was asking. Questioning the character of God, His love, or His sovereignty is something I've not done before.

Its interesting to me to think of all the things I've experienced so far: being a step-mom, having a blended family schedule, being a single woman pastor, then a married woman pastor, rejection from children and other family, moving halfway across the country, poverty, stress, loneliness etc. My foundation secure, I just trusted Him to bring all things together for good, and although I had my own little coping methods (overeating), my walk with Jesus remained stable. Living through all these things and more, I didn't have many questions for God.

But I did now.

After I miscarried (which was physically, emotionally, mentally worse than I could've imagined), I took a day and just drove.

Shane was home with George and although there were several inches of snow I drove to Red Rocks. I needed a secluded and rugged place to wrestle with God.

My footprints in the snow were the only ones in sight as I hiked up until I couldn't breathe. I tucked myself into a cleft in a rock. I looked to Heaven and poured out my heart. I've never wrestled with God before like I did that day. I questioned everything, demanded answers, accused Him of things. I wept. I found myself begging Him to bring some kind of purpose out of all this pain and loss. I realized I wasn't just grieving the loss of 2 babies...I was grieving over many things. Things I don't need to blog about, but it dawned on me that I've been feeling a general sense of loss for a very long time. I stayed hidden in that rock for hours.

After I got as vulnerable and transparent with my Maker as I possibly could, I finally came to a place of complete silence. I could hear ice falling. Except for the occasional sob coming from me...there was pure silence. And it was beautiful. Although I was still grieving I was able to acknowledge that healing could begin. Once my wounds were exposed, washed and disinfected with those Gentle Hands of His, healing would come.

Over the past few months I've come to accept and embrace some facts of life.

Fact #1: Life happens. Just because I serve Jesus and follow Him doesn't mean I won't experience life. In fact, He says I will have an abundant life if I accept it from Him. Abundant life doesn't mean a fairy-tale life. My life circumstances will always ebb and flow with mountains and valleys. It is life in a broken world.

Fact #2: It was never my Creator's intent for me to experience death and pain. He is a Righteous Judge who looks at my circumstances and judges them as currency. I can take my ashes to Him as an offering, and because of what He did for me on the cross, He purchases beauty for me. My pain, brokenness, weakness, confusion and loss are just what He wants from me. He takes it all and says, "Yes, that's horrible. I hate it too." And then he gives me joy, wholeness, His strength and wisdom, His life in exchange. That's an amazing exchange rate.

Fact #3: It is my choice to either walk through my life in this world alone, or with the One who formed me and loves me. Its where the rubber meets the road. As life happens will I throw off all that weighs me down and run with endurance? (Heb. 12) As life happens will I allow Him His rightful place as the King (sovereign ruler) of my life no matter what? Am I like clay in the Potter's hand, will I stay on His wheel and trust that He's still forming me into something beautiful and useful?

My answer as I sift through some ashes and offer it up to Him again today is, "Yes. I choose life." I have a feeling it might be a daily choice for me as I wade through grief and try to picture a spring and summer of not being pregnant. But I'm OK with that. Its probably good for me.

I know this blog is rather transparent, but my hope and prayer is that through sharing my experience maybe someone can find the True Life-Giver too. I'm convinced that its part of the deal. I didn't go through all of the above for no purpose. If you find life happening around you, and its painful, and its full of questions and loss...tuck yourself into The Rock and let Him hold you up. His exchange rate is unfathomable and His love everlasting.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Reality

This blog is about the bare bones of my little world.

It has been a hard week. My neck and back have been giving me pain for over a month straight. So much so that I can't walk sometimes, and I cannot clean my house or do simple things like lift George to his changing table. Our finances are meager, we're both seeking different ways to make more money. I've been working hard to figure out some kind of health insurance we can qualify for. Some relationships are strained and need healing.

Shane is having a meeting with someone this morning. I've been praying on and off all night and morning about this confrontation because its a big deal that it goes well. I decided to let George spend the morning with his Grandpa so I could get some things done around the house...my back has been improving over the last 24 hours (probably due to the fact that I've been begging Jesus for a miracle so I can at least function!).

Anyway...I'm cutting coupons, going online and printing coupons and trying to put together a grocery list based on what's on sale...which if you've ever done, you know how much brain power is needed for such a task. When all of a sudden I feel a small nudge from the Holy Spirit. I put down my scissors and just waited on Him for a minute. It seemed like He wanted me to go to the piano and worship. Usually this would've been a small battle for me to fight because I'm so task oriented. Usually I would say, "OK, Lord. I'll do it as soon as all the coupons are ready." But this isn't a usual season of life. We're desperate for the presence of Jesus.

So I put everything away and went to the piano. My piano. I cry just thinking of how much worshipping Jesus on my piano means to me.
...I have years of memories when I was in Jr. and Sr. High School, of worshipping together with special friends. We would get out worship books and sing for hours.
...In college I would go to the classroom building and find a quiet spot and try to seek God for direction and purpose, while praising Him on the piano.
...Whenever I was stressed, nervous, hurting or confused I would go to the piano and worship until peace returned.
...And then of course is the time my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I played and sang and tried to believe God for a miracle for hours, while she sat in her rocking chair, gazing at a pic of her 1st grandchild weeping.
...I used to play piano for worship at my church where I was an associate pastor. I loved those Sundays. Then sometimes I played when I was a youth pastor, and I would feel led to lead a song or have some prophetic moments from the piano.

But it has been years since I laid it all down. Literally. Laid down my expectations. Laid down my demands. Laid down my tasks. Laid down my self-consciousness. And just spent time with Jesus in this way.

Until today.

My reality changed today when I was in His presence, playing the piano, worshipping Him. I'm no longer a stressed out, full-of-neck and back pain, worried about relationships, looking for a job from home girl. I'm a daughter of the King of Kings who is taking care of me and my household. I'm a valued citizen of the Kingdom of God who has purpose and who is called by the Almighty God to bring glory to Him.

Shane is still meeting with that person, I still have a grocery list to make and lots of coupons to juggle, while trying to take enough ibuprofen to get through the grocery store. BUT...in my spirit I'm singing, "Your love Oh Lord reaches to the Heavens. Your faithfulness stretches to the sky. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains. And your justice flows like the ocean's tide."

And my world looks quite different.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Little Rental That Could

Today I did something that I haven't done in several years. I opened my home. We had 3 sets of neighbors come over and we served them hot apple cider, banana bread, apple bread, cupcakes for George's birthday. We gave them all little gifts and basically just hung out for nearly 3 hours.

A tremendous amount of work has been done on this little rental to make it presentable to others. Its a small miracle that we were able to have people over and feel great about it.

But the biggest miracle of all is that a chapter has ended for me. I wanted/needed a season where I felt like my home was safe, my time was strictly for my little family and a few select friends and...its going to aound horrible and selfish, but its been several years since I had any desire to open my home and have people around.

I'm not exactly sure what prompted my over-protectiveness of my home. Maybe it was the years of pastoring when I felt like my time and space belonged to an entire church of people. Maybe it was from blended family issues. Maybe it was simply because I had a little baby and wanted his first years to be relatively calm and ordered. But regardless of all that analytical stuff....

It was really really really fun. Shane has a very special gift of hospitality, and I absolutely loved watching him serve our neighbors today. And little George is such a people person...he ran from room to room barely able to contain his excitement that our home was full of people.

I would never have thought this little rental, which still doesn't necessarily feel like home to me, could be the setting that the Lord would use to get me functioning again in the hospitality way.

But isn't that just like Him? He uses whatever He wants to bring beauty and joy to others. Even a little rental house for a little family trying to serve Him and find His purpose in hard times.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lets Have a Beautiful Life

As usual its been way too long since I've written anything. I needed a jump start to get going again and tonight I got it.

I was driving to my sis-in-law's home to watch the premier of Biggest Loser. My mind was on whether or not Shane could calm George down enough to get him to sleep at a decent time...when I drove off they were wrestling and it didn't look to me like it was ending any time soon. But straight ahead of me was something that got my attention. I had seen it about a month ago, but the setting was very different then.

My sweet nephew was born on Aug 16. George and I were able to fly to Portland in time for his birth, and then we stayed in the NW for almost a month before Shane joined us and we all flew back to Colorado together. The trip was a life-changing, encouraging, rejuvenating time for me. I might write about some of my experiences, but tonight I need to write about what I saw.

Its something I've seen before. And I pray I will see it often again. Over the years it has inspired me, comforted me, and this time it helped heal me.

What I saw a month ago from my parents' front yard was the full moon rising over Mt. Rainier. I grew up with beautiful views of the Mountain, and I am accustomed to seeing sights such as these. However this time, my eyes couldn't stop staring and my heart drank it in. Interesting how true it is that you don't know what you have (sometimes) until its gone. I even slept with my shades open that night so if I woke up I could look outside and continue to gaze.

So tonight, I'm driving, my mind going a million miles a minute and I look up. I see a beautiful full moon and it brought tears to my eyes to realize that its the same moon...just a different setting. I stopped at a stop light and looked all around. Ahead of me is this gorgeous moon. Behind me are the Rocky Mountains and the sun is setting behind them. Above me is an absolutely stunning evening sky, complete with pink, orange and purple clouds. And believe it or not, there was even a little lightning and thunder (my mom would've loved that part).

The whole scene was breathtaking.

And something clicked. A spark finally lit. With all of my heart I loved being here. A song was playing from the CD I put in the car. One of my dearest friends made it for me a few years back. The singer was singing, "Its the time we were made for....Lets have a beautiful life....We all have the chance to do the things we were meant to do....We all have the chance to be the people we were meant to be....Its the time we were made for. Lets have a beautiful life."

I intend to do just that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Home Sweet Home

This morning I went to church with George. Shane had to work, and our friend GN who is here visiting went to pull weeds (crazy guy) with Shane.

I have been very homesick the past few weeks. The adrenaline of moving, fixing the kitchen, learning my way around etc is wearing off. I've been trying to stuff all my emotions way down so as not to burden anyone, but this weekend the stuffing backfired. After my huge cry session last night while everyone was sleeping, I woke up this morning and knew today would be interesting. My emotions weren't only on my sleeve that's for sure.

A fella I went to PBC with is the pastor of the church we're starting to attend. I took piano lessons from his wife. The youth pastors are the ones I invited to speak at the summer youth camps we had when I was a youth pastor in Tacoma. So there are lots of familiar faces, along with the same "spiritual DNA" so-to-speak having come from the same college and church in Portland.

I wasn't looking where I was going when I first walked into the service, and I ran right into the pastor. We hadn't met yet since my moving here, so he gives us a huge greeting hug and asks how I'm doing. He was so kind. So sincere. And I was an emotional train wreck. I cannot talk while crying. So I'm standing there trying to answer him and all I can get out is, "Fine. I'm fine." And I start crying. He just hugged us and prayed for us and darn it I couldn't stop crying. So I still haven't really visited with him, but I'm sure I will.

I took George to the nursery not knowing if he would let me leave or not. But as soon as I put him down, he went up to a little girl and started rolling around on the ground with her, playing with toys and completely forgetting I was there! It was a miracle to say the least.

For the first time in a very long time, I was able to sit and listen to a sermon and enjoy it and grow from it. The message had to do with the portion of Scripture where Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is. And it is making me stop and think tonight. Who is Jesus to me? Who am I allowing Him to be? Who does He want to be? How does He want to reveal Himself to me in this season of my life when I so desperately need Him?

My homesickness is normal and natural and will probably be around for a bit. But I remembered today that I can find my home in His presence. No matter where in this world I am. He is my husband, He is my friend, He is my Father...He is my home. Seems simple and elementary, but today it was breath and life to me. Today it gave me hope.

And hope is the foundation of faith. And this season is faith-building for sure.

So I'm thankful for this church that felt like home. For old acquaintances/friends who will become new friends. For reminders that bring hope and healing. And for the King of Kings who lets this heart find rest in His home.