Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What Story Teaches Us :: We Learn We Need God and Others

This wasn't an easy post to write for {in}courage, but it is an important one. Our stories DO teach us many things. And if I am going to encourage others to know and share theirs, it is vital that I do the same.

In this post I re-visit what is perhaps the hardest season in my life. As I do that I share what God is teaching me about how easily lies break us, but how He is bigger, stronger and always, always enough.

I grip the counter hard. It’s a white knuckle hold of slippery, grey-speckled imitation granite. The cars whizz by down the hill. This is the neighborhood in Budapest where my family and I have lived for a year and a half. But it is not, yet, home. And I do not know if I can survive until it is home.

Thoughts have begun to enter my mind. It is a journey of seven years, too many moves, and three kids that have brought us here. The calling has remained clear, even after weathering a path of so much hard.

Until now. I have gone so far adrift, I cannot find my place anywhere in this world. And while my heart still beats, hope’s fire wanes. I am in a fierce battle. I know I must learn anew to fight. For even in the deepest darkness, there is a light sewn into my heart of hearts and it will not be overcome.
As I write this now, a little more than a year separates me from the dark place mentioned above. What I share here, I offer humbly. Because the way out is a daily, moment to moment choice, and one I continue to struggle to make. 

But the hope is real and the God of it bigger and stronger than anything.

Come finish the rest with me over at {in}courage.

Please share with others as there are so many who suffer in silence and need to know they are not alone and can take a step towards healing today.

And if you are visiting from {in}courage, I have a new e-book available for subscribers:

In Every Story a Song

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What Story Teaches Us :: We Learn to Laugh(and #oneword365) #TellHisStory

As promised, I am going to keep walking in this path of story through this new year. I hope I have committed so fully to knowing and living my story, and encouraging, guiding others to do the same, that it will shape the rest of my life.

So far, I have talked about how we learn to see through our stories. And this is really a part of everything else that story teaches us as we allow it to become the lens of our lives. Too, I have shared how we learn to behold. At the heart, this means all story in the light of God's Story reveals His Glory, especially in the most surprising places. And I have shared about grief, how story teaches us its complex nature and we learn how to take an honest journey through our grief to the hope.

But, there is a light side to story too. Story teaches us to laugh at ourselves, at the crazy things of life, and this is both freeing and profound. (click to tweet)It takes humility and grace to laugh at the funny, quirky, yet lovable,we have lived.

My twin sister, Sara, has always been my tutor in this. The Lord knew I needed a goofy twin ;)

This was at the airport after we arrived for our first furlough. My son is confused...he is just meeting her at 17 months old.
Here are a couple of the ways that looking into my own story has taught me to laugh:

I cannot deny it, I have always been a 'spazz'. No matter how mature I grow or the wisdom I gain, if something new or surprising happens or my husband gets *slightly* lost driving, I go a bit crazy.

One night years ago, after talking until 2 or 3 AM with our brother, Sara and I were driving on I-287 in New Jersey. She was new to the area and had not gotten her registration changed and sure enough, a police car began following us. She remained calm which translated to 'cautious' driving about 35mph on a 65mph highway. When the officer pulled us over, he had seen me talking animatedly to her about the situation, as a kind of spastic silhouette in the middle of the night. After checking her breath for alcohol and trying to discern if there was anything seriously wrong to make her unfit to drive, he asked, 'but what about her? (meaning me) She had her arms swinging erratically in the car.' Sara said, 'I don't know officer. All I can say is that she is my twin and she has always been like this...a spazz.'

In general, related to myself and others, I am quite clueless. I have gotten better here. But I still lack a good deal of common sense, being an extremely abstract thinker by nature. In my single years, I was often the last to know if someone liked me, and too, if they didn't like me ;)

But, the biggest, craziest example of this is how I became a math major in college. It happened one late winter afternoon during my senior year of high school. I was planning to major in Elementary Education, and Sara suggested I consider secondary education in a subject I was really good at...like math? So, I took that at face value and declared a math major. Because I was taught to finish what I started, I studied hard through Calculus IV and became a math teacher. I added the credentials and lots of credits to become a Spanish teacher along the way.

Then, when I got my first job teaching Spanish, I not-so-politely declined to teach Math saying, 'I am not passionate about Math.' After life turned and I moved back home, I went into the District Office of my old school district to put my name in as a Spanish substitute teacher, not even listing my math credentials, though they were on my resume. However, quite miraculously and since God really does have a grand sense of humor, there was a full-time Math teaching job open. The Superintendent of the school remembered me from playing softball with his daughters and my years going through the District. My secret was out, and I found myself reluctantly accepting a full-time, contracted job teaching. I said 'yes' with the fierce stipulation of staying one, AT MOST, two years.

In the end, I stayed five years. I was humbled by all I thought I knew about life, remained grounded and home. And in God's great kindness, too, I was living with my parents when my mother got sick with cancer. I was also in the right location to meet my husband by being at that no-never-ever-will-I-teach-Math job.

Story teaches us to laugh at ourselves, at the spazzy and the clueless. As we gather with other story-tellers who have the grace and humility to laugh at themselves, we find even greater humor in the midst of all of the pain and tragedy in the world.

The laughter comes with the truth that we have and will get it all wrong. In our sincere desire to figure out life, our struggles for control, our need-to-know and our desires to live our dreams, we are going to miss the mark. In the light of a God who loves us in spite of all of this, and who is moved to compassion because of it, we see the beautiful ways of laughter woven into our stories.

And this is kind of connected, in my usual round-about way ;)

My One Word for 2015: WELL 

My focus on 'well' this year is full of the beauty of knowing I am God's. He has written my story and done great things in the midst of my crazy, foolish yet lovable ways.

Also, 'well' relates to the depth of stories from which I am writing my story, and the well of all of God's goodness in salvation.

The focus verse related to my word is Isaiah 12:3 'With JOY you will draw water from the WELLS of salvation.' As I embrace God bigger than all my mess, His ever-saving and ever-rescuing me, there is A WELL OF JOY, from which springs LAUGHTER.

What about you? What from your story has taught you to laugh at your crazy yet lovable ways? And do you have a word picked out for 2015? If so, please share in the comments, I would love to hear it!


Friday, January 2, 2015

What I Learned in 2014

I have wanted to write this post for over a week, so when Emily posted a 'What I Learned in 2014' with a link-up, I was Thankful for the motivation to actually get it done ;)

1) I am stronger: 2014 began with the first lifting of a long fog, the first break of dawn after a long night, the great hope of somehow finding myself again in the year. Coming through these things, I believe, more than ever, God does not waste the tiniest moment of our pain, grief, or testing, all of it is working something beautiful.

2) The way to hope can surprise you: There have been many surprises in the path I have been on towards renewed hope. The craziest part, for me, came through what I write in this post, this series, and how it wouldn't have been as real, if I hadn't spoken it out loud ;)

3) God writes the story: 2014 held many gifts related to story. In the end, stories remain very shallow, misunderstood, and are lost in busyness or distraction unless we surrender to God's writing and eternal purposes in them.

4) It really is amazing to 'Let {It} Go': I couldn't resist the reference to the FROZEN song, my little two year-old son loves to sing. It is catchy. But, the truth of when we really let go is profound, exhilarating, glorious and hilarious. There is no replacing the simple and yet oh-so-hard act of letting go.

5) True community is a heart choice with great freedom: So much of the hard leading into 2014 came through all of the transitions and their spinning displacement and ripping up of roots. I stayed in the dark as my idea of true community (and home) became bound in location, nationality, real-life, and was compounded as dear friends moved away. It has brought such freedom to embrace community, virtual or face-to-face, Hungarian, Spanish or American, long-time or brand new with a heart choice of what God always wants to give.

6) God's heart for my kids is so much bigger than mine: My three kids have been uprooted right with us, been the solitary Americans/English speakers in school, work and play, and have struggled to understand why the family they love is so far away. As we returned to the States for our first furlough, they amazed me. I saw how confident they were in every new situation. My daughter kept saying, 'Mom, there's a whole group of kids and they ALL speak English.' Then she fearlessly ran to play with them. They made new friends with ease, instantaneously renewed relationships with cousins, and didn't lose their Hungarian. In this crazy life, God is taking care of them.

7) No one else can pursue your dreams for you, or even, with you. This is one that will roll right into 2015. The past few months I have found the courage and confidence to live as the writer God has made me to be. The calling has always, always been there. The affirmation from others too. But, at the end of the day, I am the only one who can pursue the God-sized dreams I have been given.

8) There is not a single success that can bring true rest. Even if God is in the center of the risk, the courageous, bold dream and brings it all to pass, we do not find real rest in the success. It is actually the opposite. We often find our greatest anxieties and fears come to life at the heights of reaching what we have set out to do, and this is how it must be, because, in the end, God is our only true rest.

9) I need to pay attention to my tears. This comes from Emily's book 'A Million Little Ways' and it is a powerful book about our desires, and the art God uniquely gives us to do. So many quotes, but the balm to my soul remaining is how God speaks to us through our tears. It's been a treasure to embrace this.

10) Beauty will save the world. This quote from Dostoyevsky's 'the Idiot' is of the stop-me-in-my-tracks kind. I have always loved it, but this year, it's sealed something to my heart about what it is for me to write. The most common response I receive related to my writing is that it is 'beautiful'. It is the gut reaction. And I don't ever want to lose that or think it is somehow not enough. More than a principle or a truth, I want people to interact with the heart of my writing and leave with a greater sense of Beauty.

11) I am still a girl without too much common sense. This truth is in every hilarious, frustrating yet lovable story from my life. I am a head-in-the-clouds kind of girl who has to work on common sense. This is why the thing I have loved longest, the gift earliest known, is only now at 40 defining how I uniquely live the art God has given me.

12) It is hard to write 80,000 words of fresh prose;) In early September I began a memoir. I am now 24 chapters in and I think it was about chapter 7 I thought I had exhausted every unique way of saying anything ;) Even more crazy is how I realized part way into the process I have two 70-80,000 memoirs to write. 'Lord, help me!' is all I can say :)

13) You have to be a little crazy to stay sane. This is a 'family quote' passed down to me through my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. If I could just remember to live a little of this each day, I think I can face just about anything. These women did and were unbeatable survivors.

14) My bright blonde children are called 'sour cream blonde' in Hungarian. Our oldest began Hungarian school in September. When his teacher saw our little blonde troop, she mussed their hair and called them this. It made me smile. They love sour cream here...and our kids.

15) Neither Rome nor anything lasting was built in a day. Or a year, even ten years. This perspective has helped me so much, especially as I navigate writing, home, marriage, kids, on-going ministry, a still new language and culture. It is all going to take time and I have got to overcome my every tendency to want instant results and become discouraged when I don't miraculously wake up with the Superpowers to do everything.

16) Prayerfully Pick Your Battles. Not only in parenting, but in ministry, relationships. What is really my fight? I am quick to put the fists up, not to fight somebody, but to fight FOR them and a cause, but I have burnout, and will again, if I don't really wait on God to show me what to surrender and what He is calling me to fight for. This is a great path to learn how to pray without ceasing.

17) It is so very good to learn to take yourself LESS seriously. This seems even more important as the stakes rise, ministry and dreams grow, responsibility, etc. It's a humbling thing to lead and there will be lots of failure...God is always BIGGER.

18) Twenty Minutes is Time Enough. If nothing else productive, spiritual, planned, intended happens in a day. Take a break. For me this has meant I walk the hill in my neighborhood EVERY.DAY. It's my non-negotiable and has been life-giving many times over.

19) God's story, His words, are the BEST. As I write and read more, my soul is hungrier than ever for the perfect Beauty of God's Word. It's become like a song I always want to be hearing, so I study it. Meditate on it as I walk the hill. Even when it doesn't seem like I am really grasping, I don't lose heart, I let it drive me to prayer, life, relationships...see it become the yeast in the dough :)

20) God is Big Enough. He is big enough to draw us into His heart and through this touch the world. He is big enough to give an open door to a school for our son as we pray and seek Him and then do more than we could ever imagine in giving him friends, security, confidence. He is big enough to provide a heart friend for our daughter. He is big enough to risk greatly for the right things. He is big enough and it frees me up to be His, embrace who I am, and watch Him do beautiful, transforming things through living this out, both in my life and others.

Extra :: I have THE most amazing, supportive, encouraging, loving husband in the whole wide world and NOTHING can change my opinion on that :) 


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