Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 32 and 33

Pray for me.  It's been PEA-NUTS.

The last week of summer and the first week of school are in the books.  If I thought there was little time to write during the summer, I had even less time this first week of school.  It was a Release week (our monthly praise and prayer service at church), I spoke to a women's group and we were having our floors replaced.  All that plus a few "extras," made this a week that left me spinning.

On Monday or Tuesday, I reported to my mom that one of the girls was going to have a fit by the end of the week.  Little did I know it was going to be me!

I am hopeful I'm off the roller coaster of the last 2 weeks (and 2 1/2 months of summer).  With the establishment of our new routine (with Natalie in 6th grade at West Briar Middle School and Sophia in 4th at Shadowbriar Elementary...both new schools for us) and Ella Grace going back to Mother's Day Out next week.....I'm hoping, praying and looking forward to some time for me to be creative; to write and just generally pursue all the "professional" opportunities the Lord is continuing to present.

I'm asking for protection, guidance, insight, strength and compassion in all areas, with my family (always and ever) coming first, as well as knowing how to balance all the other good stuff coming my way.

Even as I've been going in a million different directions, wearing multiple hats per day, the spiritual work continues.  Sometimes it is through joy, sometimes through power and sometimes through tears and frustration.  I've prayed with people and witnessed them have breakthroughs, as the Lord prepares them for what He has next.  I've seen the ministries I'm involved in start to come into their own and the people I'm walking life with grow in leaps and bounds.  I've seen people in devastating emotional circumstances be kept in perfect peace.

This life, this faith is not designed to be grasped completely this side of Heaven.  I feel that so acutely sometimes it hurts.  But my outbursts, the explosions of emotion are much fewer and farther between,.  They catch everyone (including me) off guard because the grace of God is so thick around our family.  Everyone was surprised Friday night when I went a little bonkers, but by Saturday morning, we'd all gotten right again.

The Lord has taught me what it means to have a sound mind (even if I have my moments of crazy).  The Spirit is teaching me what the fruit of the Spirit of temperance (or what we call self-control) looks like.  More than anything in this last year, I've learned the process of bearing this fruit is both a joy and a burden.  It's a joy because when we learn to manage our flesh (I mean emotions, thought patterns, etc.), we see what it looks like to live like Christ.  It's a burden because sometimes we just want to have a pity party and behave badly.

The Spirit is indeed willing but the flesh can still be pretty weak.

With this in mind, I'm remembering how much anchoring in Scripture I need.  I've gone back to it after being out of Bible Study and daily reading of the Word, for more than a few months.  I've been reading a lot of books - which is good - but there just is no substitute for the Bread of Life and Truth - Our Lord and Savior's very words.

I'm in the Gospel of John - only in Chapter 4 after several weeks.  I'm trying to savor it.  That sounds very high and lofty but it is more satisfying a craving or scratching a desperate itch.  My spirit feels the lack when I'm not in the Word.  It is a necessity; daily mind and heart renewal, being reminded what is important so I can go about living life in a way that is worthy and worth it.  This morning, from the Message, I read these words from Jesus to the Samaritan women at the well: It's who you are and the way you life that count before God.  Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth.  That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.  God is sheer being itself - Spirit, Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration. (John 4:23-24)

I have not done any of this perfectly in the last 2 weeks.  But I take comfort in knowing I have been myself, just as I am, before God.  I don't think the actual execution of worship, prayer, service, etc, ever has to be perfect...frankly because we don't know what perfection - true Godly (pure, holy, righteous) perfection - really looks like.  Furthermore, we really can't be perfect this side of heaven (or Christ's 2nd coming).  And the Lord KNOWS THAT.  That's why Jesus came, to give us a shot again, as imperfect and flawed as we are, even after justifying faith takes root in our lives.

That theological reality is an enormous comfort to me, as someone recovering from a performance-based value system.

Even as perfection alludes me, God's grace in all its forms and types, does not.  He is way too big, way too loving, way too merciful to let me slip backwards.  So - forward on I press, towards the goal of knowing, loving, serving and sharing the prize of Jesus Christ.  (Phil 3:14).

I figure that's about the only thing I really have to do.  If I do that, He will make sure it will all work out for His glory and my goodness.  

That is something to be thankful for and I am.  Always something to be thankful for, in this life with Christ.

I hope you can find more than enough thankfulness when you think about your last few weeks.  Sometimes it takes some work to dig it out.  Other weeks praise of God is the most natural thing ever.  Wherever you are, I encourage you to take a moment - to center yourself, take a deep breath and thank the Lord for something.  It is a great start and a good habit to have throughout the day.

Keep praying.  Keep presenting all your requests with thanksgiving.  Keep finding things to be thankful for because that's how our world gets changed for the better.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 30 and 31...Catching Up Again

We are 13 days away from normalcy....I mean school.  To answer the obvious question: Yes, we are all ready to go back.  Both the Olders start in new schools and can't wait.  This summer has been great, it really has.  But in the words of Jen Hatmaker - I'm over it.  We all are.  So, we will make the best of the nearly 2 weeks left, working towards somewhat of a routine so the first week of school won't be a total and complete shock to our systems.  Shock yes, but hopefully not a total one.

I'm still praying, just don't have a lot of time to write about it.  I do have a post teed up for tomorrow or Thursday, if I can carve out the time (because I have talks to give to the women's group at my church the next 2 Tuesdays) that really is rocking my world.  I'm structuring the 3 Wednesdays of prayer (@URPrays on Twitter) leading up to the next Release around what the Lord gave to me last week.  It's very powerful and I truly look forward to sharing.

In terms of checking in on this journey of prayer, I'll quickly share a miracle from last week.  It is one of those things where I look back and smack myself on the head....like why didn't I think of that earlier!!  It is really only important to our family, but that in no way diminishes what happened and we continue to enjoy the fruits of the Holy Spirit's labor on our part.

Last Sunday,  August 2nd, we were out of town and ran out of pull ups for the youngest - Ella Grace.  All we had were swim diapers.  As necessity is the mother of many things, as well as desperation, we (really I) decided to plunge cold turkey into potty training.  We've been toying with it, playing around, not truly committed (in all truth) for a couple of months, even buying big girl panties.  But not forcing the issue.

The issue forced us, so to speak.  As with a lot of things in my life, I won't really go for it until I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DO IT AND THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION.

Here we were, no pull-ups (I did go the resort gift shop and scoured it for emergency supplies, even diapers, to mitigate this potential disaster.  Full disclosure here.)  It became clear though, it was time to suck it up and go for it.  We did and the first day was pretty good.  The next 2 days were moderately successful with only 1 or 2 accidents.  But my irritation/exasperation/frustration level was starting to soar.  Why wouldn't this small child get it!?!?!?

(She will be 2 1/2 on the 21st by the way.  Yes, managing my expectation levels continues to be an area of growth for me.)


Wednesday rolls around - it's time to lead the weekly prayer meeting.  The whole time we were walking through the movements of prayer of Adoration and Admittance (we do the 4 As...our version of A.C.T.S. at the Upper Room), the verse you find in Proverbs (see 14:12 and 16:25) kept going around, rotisserie-style, in my head.  There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end leads to death.

Between that and the word "Fresh," which kept coming to me, I knew the Lord was telling me I was trying to potty-train her the wrong way.  I needed a fresh perspective to help my youngest get this thing down.  I was trying to get Ella to do what I wanted her to do and in my timing.  In my own strength, not His.  If this year (and my whole Christian walk) has taught me anything, when I struggle with something, I'm usually in my own way.  If I can just move aside, get low and let the Lord do what only He can do, things are much smoother, happier, fuller.

Ok, I got it Lord.  Now what?

As we came into the Ask movement - where we present our requests to the group to be prayed over - I humbled myself.  I asked for prayer over these talks I'm going to give but also over what to do about Ella.  It was a small group, so we just went around and laid out our requests and then I walked around, laying hands and praying over each woman (it was all women that night) present.  It was very powerful.

Then they prayed for me.  My friend Ann put her hands on my shoulder, praying through all I'd voiced.  I will never forget her saying,
"Lord, we know this is all in Your timing, but if You could just help Ella to get it, right now, we would really appreciate it."  
We all giggled at that, several of us being mothers, familiar with the trials of potty-training.

A new women, as we were wrapping up asked me, "Have you prayed with her about it?  I see you praying with her before she gets on the potty, asking for help."

DUH.

That was the 2x4 to the back of the head, the fresh perspective, the RIGHT way, to go about this.  Seriously, Amy, get it together!  The next morning, when she called for me, we prayed before she got out of bed.  And she went potty....on the potty!  We said, "Thank you Jesus!"  We prayed 2 more times that day and it became clear, Ella had indeed gotten this.

Ella was potty-trained and we haven't had an accident since.  After the 2nd time we prayed, she started telling me she had to go when she had to go.  In fact as I was writing this post, she ran in here, told me she had to go and as she finished yelled, "I DID IT!" (as she every time now.) 

Just like that, the Lord not only removed my frustration as I obeyed Him by doing it His (right) way, He opened up Ella's little body-mind-bladder connection.  She is a big girl, thanks to Jesus' help.  Truly, He is an ever-present help in time of trouble.  No matter big or small your trouble is, He is the answer.  And I am very, very, very grateful!!!

THANK YOU JESUS!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 28 and 29 - Catch Up Post

This summer has been spanking my "regular" schedule.  Really, in summer time, with 3 kids at home, there is no "regular."  But the last 2 weeks have been particular out of the norm, as we've been on vacation and extremely busy when home.  I didn't even lead our URPrays meeting last Wednesday - SHOCKER!

(Moseka Medlock, my lead prayer partner in the Upper Room did a fantastic job.  Too bad she doesn't follow this blog, I'll have to tell her later about how I'm going to take advantage of her love for Wednesday night prayer more often in the coming year.  ;))

My last post described a Wednesday night where the Lord gave me more freedom.  These last 2 weeks have been a lesson in walking that out.  Before, if my regular devotion routine was different, I would struggle against guilt.  Now I know the guilt is gone.  I got the time in the last 2 weeks to do "living prayer," where I prayed wherever I was.  It was a really neat experience because it confirmed what was spoken over and into me that night.

I hear from the Lord.  I know Him.  He knows me.  He is always with me.  I am never disconnected from His Spirit because His Spirit is on the insideI am valuable to Him and to His people, wherever I am.

Experiencing God not something I have to earn because I got up early and sat down to be quiet.  He is always available.  I knew this, but because I was so wrapped in insecurity, doubt was fostered, so I have always struggled with mentally accepting it.  I knew it in my heart but my head didn't believe it.  So, by practicing centering on Him, wherever I was, talking (mostly silently...which has also been a stretch for me, to believe I'm praying with power when not speaking) about whatever was happening or on my mind.....The Lord and I got just that much closer.

On the beach playing with my family, He was with me.

Cooking meals and cleaning up, He was with me.

In the morning before I got out of bed, He was there.

At night when I was dead tired, He was there.

Anytime......He was, is and will always be there for me.

I read parts of Psalm 139 this morning, in which King David describes this whole concept.  This is my version of it:
You have searched me.  You know me.  You see me wherever I am, in whatever I'm doing.  You know what I am going to say before I say it.  He protect and keep me, holding me, making me safe and secure in Your care and compassion.

I seek You again, so You can sort-through me, soaking into me, renewing me.  Anything that offends You, remove from my heart, mind, soul and life.  Let me continue to walk the love-lighted path, being made more fully alive in You.  Renew the best of You in me.
Things got back to semi-regular status this weekend and I am grateful for it.  I'm grateful for the time away because there is just nothing quite like coming home - to our home and our church home. I'm continually grateful and finding that is the key to unlocking the Presence to flood my heart and mind again. 

There is still much to pray for.  Our world needs our prayers more than ever.  God's people need hope and direction or they will continue to wander in the wilderness.  I am called and you are called to roll up our sleeves and do our part.

But thankfully, He also calls off to far-away places, for refreshing and restoration.  I got that, praise God.  I'm ready to work again.