Friday, October 03, 2014

I was about to pray and ask Him to take the desire away. 
Desire to do something He hasn't chosen to allow me to do yet.  When it seems that one's desire  to serve Him in a certain way has been planted by Him in the first place,  the thwarting of something like that can seem cruel in the worst moments and perplexing in the best. Instead of that prayer though, I felt prompted to pause and asked Him what He WANTED my prayer to be. And after a little while, after I had gotten distracted and gone through more of my day and then revisited that raw itching rash of a thought, my answer came. In the form of many snippets of verses I have attached myself to in the past. A barrage of promises, like a balm.

"Commit your way unto The Lord; trust also in Him."
"Delight yourself in The Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."
"Cease striving, and know that I am God."
"Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path."
"No good thing will He withhold from those who walk up rightly."
"Trust in The Lord, and wait patiently for Him."
"WITH THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God."

Grace alone gives the ability to reaffirm my trust instead of asserting my will. I bowed my will
and found joy in that bending. Thwarted desire, instead of being a taunting enemy, can be transformed into an offering of faith. Then, relief! The joy of His smile.

Tonight I praise Him for His wisdom and for His goodness to me! That goodness has brought to me such great joy in life--(my precious Ryan's face always comes to mind when I think of that joy! What undeserved, lavish Goodness gave that gift to me?!)--and  has not for one instant faltered!

I don't usually quite "get" Ann Voskamp's style of writing (a little random and hard for me to follow--maybe too poetic for my brain or something?)...but this quote arrested my attention this evening. maybe because it is along the lines of what Jesus whispered to my own heart today.  Maybe you'll like it, too.

“Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control, let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper a surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy's flame.
Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust.” -Ann Voskamp

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Honeymoon Ain't Over!

Having a blast at the zoo, 9/6/14. All couples should have a zoo membership. I decree it to be so.

"The honeymoon's over."
I really don't think it's too strong of a term to say that I hate that phrase. Maybe I'm just a bit sensitive, being a newlywed. Maybe the romantic in me (the one who squirms uncontrollably like a happy puppy during "Cinderella" and sobs inconsolably like a collicky baby during "Return To Me") rises up and rebells at the thought of honeymoon intensity being unsustainable.  But our pre-marriage counselor blew that thought out of the water. Honeymoon intensity can't last forever, he cautioned. "Right now your hormones are raging and your mind is in a constant state of fireworks," he said. "It's just not sustainable, and that's okay." 

Humph, said I. 

And yet the practical side of me (*note: not the side that wept while watching cartoon "Tarzan's" gorilla mama die) understood that our counselor was right. Ryan and I discussed that while enjoying the stage of our relationship where even just holding hands was electrifyingly wonderful, we anticipated the stage where more depth could occur... love would then flow more from commitment and intimacy, and less on emotion and passion. Soon we'd get the chance to CHOOSE to adore each other through faults and annoyances, grouchy days, bad breath and pimples. And the beautiful, fragrant flower that is love places deep roots and finds nourishment through the daily grind of life.

We've been married for a year now. Yesterday, 9/7 was our anniversary! I can't deny that while I still reach for his hand at every opportunity and find my eyes wandering around a crowded room until they settle on him, I don't feel quite the same indignant sense of grievous injustice when I don't get to sit next to him at the dinner table. :) In short, our counselor was totally right. Our love has deepened. Our roots are growing. The fireworks of our dating days have morphed into Chinese lanterns... quieter, steadier, brightly burning for a long, long time. 

A few months ago my mom sent us this John Piper daily devotional piece she had just read:

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)
When God does good to his people it is not so much like a reluctant judge showing kindness to a criminal whom he finds despicable (though that analogy has truth in it); it is like a bridegroom showing affection to his bride.
Sometimes we joke and say about a marriage, “The honeymoon is over.” But that’s because we are finite. We can’t sustain a honeymoon level of intensity and affection. But God says his joy over his people is like a bridegroom over a bride.
He is talking about honeymoon intensity and honeymoon pleasures and honeymoon energy and excitement and enthusiasm and enjoyment. He is trying to get into our hearts what he means when he says he rejoices over us with all his heart.
And add to this, that with God the honeymoon never ends. He is infinite in power and wisdom and creativity and love and will see to it that we get more and more beautiful forever; and he is infinitely creative to think of new things to do together so that there will be no boredom for the next trillion ages of millenniums.

Reading that was a defining moment in my spiritual life. I compared it to the feelings that Ryan and I had in our dating days and on our honeymoon... the exhaustingly wonderful exhilaration of new love... and realized that GOD's love for ME is like that. Always. Never ending. He is able to sustain both the intense ecstasy and the deep level commitment that we humans have a hard time balancing. We'd grow exhausted--ok, and maybe a little creepy--if the honeymoon never really ended. But Jesus, the Mighty, Inexhaustible Most High God, feels such passion and delight in us that it's impossible for time to dim it. Our failures can't disappoint Him enough for His firework love to dim. Our coolness can't extinguish His ardor. Our faults can't induce Him to take off His rose colored glasses. The sheer constant mononity of our puny human lives does not bore Him into disinterest. 

He is madly, deeply, passionately in love with you and I.  Oh, what a mystery!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Father's Voice

--> One of the most important lessons I’ve been learning this year is to listen to the Voice of Truth. Satan attacks us in vicious and cruel ways, but rarely does he use physical methods like weapons that bring bodily harm. Usually it happens through the malicious lies or doubts or fears that he fills our minds with. Suddenly we’re attacked by seemingly overwhelming doubts or worries that overtake our minds and leave us feeling helpless and defeated. Too many times I’ve allowed myself to cower like a helpless child before the lion circling me with greedy eyes, when all I have to do is cry out to my Dad to come protect and deliver me. His very voice is the weapon the lion fears, and Jesus is NOT  the least bit intimidated!

A story is worth a thousand words. Er…something.
So, if you'll permit me to be a bit vulnerable, here’s what happened last night.

Sunday evenings are the evenings I finish my video of the past week at camp and show it to the kids in their chapel assembly. It’s a blast! I love to hear the kids laughing or gasping at the footage I’ve taken of their week; it totally makes the hours of work shooting and compiling the DVD worth it! The next morning before they hop on the bush plane that will take them back to their villages, they’re given a copy of the DVD so they can  bring it home and remember their week here and what God did in their hearts. It’s cool to be a part of that. I’ve loved it.

So yesterday night I was frantically finishing the DVD burning process AS the kids were sitting in chapel and preparing to watch the DVD. It had been a hectic day. Normally the video is finished hours before the deadline, but iMovie wasn’t behaving, and the computer was slow. Lots of glitches. Lots of frustration. And to add to all that, there were some key shots I had missed getting last week that I always put in the DVD’s the other weeks. So, it felt kinda' incomplete to me. Finally the DVD was finished—minutes before it was scheduled to be watched. But I was still feeling frustrated and stressed. Upset with myself for neglecting to get the shots I wanted into the video. Feeling like I was failing at my job and a disappointment to… to whom? I’m not sure. Maybe just to myself.  Everyone else seemed pretty pleased with the video, but in my mind, it wasn’t on par with what I had done in other weeks.

I went back to my room and sat on the edge of my bed. Just thinking. The lion started circling.
“You really dropped the ball.”
“It’s your main job here and you can’t get it right.”
 “Lazy. You COULD have gotten those shots if you’d have been doing your job.” 
“Proof again...Given enough time you’ll fail at anything.”
“You’re a disappointment.”
I listened. I wilted. That familiar feeling of frustration and helplessness closed in. And then a Small Voice poked in. “Why don’t you ask Me what I think about your DVD? All these accusations don’t sound like Me, do they?” I perked up a little. “Yeah,” I thought. “God’s probably being a lot kinder to me than I’m being to myself. He’s probably just gently telling me to work a little harder next time. To do a little better. He’s not upset with me. Just a little disappointed.” Small comfort, but at least it felt better than the lion. And then the Small Voice came again. As a nudge; an impression. 

“You still haven’t asked Me.”

“Lord…What do you think about what I did this week? What do you have to say to me about my DVD and my performance at this job? What is your heart for me right now?”

God doesn’t speak audibly to me. And there’s not much of a way to describe how He speaks other than to say that He leaves an impression in my mind that I  usually realize couldn’t have come from within myself. Sometimes I have a hard time knowing if it’s my own thoughts or His voice… but this time the thought came unbidden, from outside of my own mind, on a vein that hadn’t even occurred to me. I know I didn’t conjure it up.

“Dani…You worked really hard to get some cool footage with the GoPro for this movie that you didn’t have to get. You’re attempting to grow in your skill and you’re not just getting by with these DVDs. You’re putting your heart into them. I’m proud of you.”

His words were arrows of kindness and grace that pierced the lion and silenced him. Shame fell off and I lifted my head with a smile. Father’s proud of me. He’s not criticizing me.There is SO MUCH GRACE with my God.

I share this story with a little bit of reticence. It’s a personal story. It feels a little embarrassing to share it on my blog for the world (or what little fraction of it might stop by) to see.  I know that spiritual stories usually mean a LOT more to the person they happen to than to others. But I am sharing it because I thought that maybe it will encourage someone who is reading to hunger for the Voice of Truth in their own life. Have you ever heard Jesus speaking to you? His words are always so kind… so full of mercy and forgiveness and gentle love. They bring life and hope.

Go find your own story. 
Go ask Him to speak to you in a place where you feel vulnerable and hurt, angry or hopeless. 
If you seek Him, you will find Him.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Lessons on Love

Check out our backyard for the summer! Pretty easy on the eyes. :)

(Quick update: Ryan graduated with his Master of Arts in Counseling last month…yahoo, so proud of him!!!...and about two weeks later we flew to Alaska. We’re living in the picturesque little town of Port Alsworth, where my brother Nate lives. I’m volunteering at an awesome youth camp, and Ryan is working ground crew for Lake Clark Air. We’ve been here a little less then a week and are really, really enjoying it so far!)

With each passing year I understand a little more that each person is living through their own battles, and needs grace and mercy from me because of that. Being at a youth camp this summer will refresh that lesson for me; and if I’m lucky, engrain it into my heart so I never forget it. This week has already begun to do so.

The first week of youth camp is for teens: an awesome program called Teen Pursuit. Kids—many Alaska Native-- began to fly in on the bush planes Sunday evening and were all here and unloaded by Monday afternoon. (A bit more of a production when they’re flying in from remote villages and not being dropped off by mom and dad!) In the course of getting to know them, you quickly pick out those who are the attention getters of the group; the outgoing, good looking, personality plus types. Others are quiet, ordinary, the types you find yourself looking at three days into camp and thinking, “Has she been here all along? I never noticed her.” Others you notice for all the wrong reasons. Maybe they’re particularly awkward or backwards. Maybe they’re constantly acting out or causing trouble.

Andy* was one of the latter. I noticed him at first purely because of how awkward he was. Dark, unreadable eyes in a pock-marked face, hood pulled low over his forehead, Conversation halting at best, almost painful at worst. I looked at him and something in me (I’m not proud to type this) was almost repulsed by his looks and mannerisms. We sat in a circle, a group of people sharing struggles and prayer requests, and my eyes were drawn to Andy again and again. Then something clicked in me and I remembered how loved this boy is by Jesus. Like, passionately and crazy loved! Created, treasured, drawn to intimacy with God. Just like me. And so I decided that I would love him to, if only to rebel against the shameful feeling of superiority rising up inside of me. I said a prayer for him. And immediately something cracked inside as Jesus replaced a little of my heart with His… and gave me an eye transplant along with it. This boy was unique. This boy needed extra prayer this week. And I was going to provide it. I’d love on him until I loved him.

Towards the end of the meeting he spoke up. “I’ve been feeling alone….I feel isolated and left out…I really need God to help me…I need prayer.” WHAT a brave boy. Admitting something that I’ve felt many times but have rarely been willing to verbalize it and ask for prayer, let alone in front of strangers. My prayers rose again for him and after the service I sought him out and told him so. He smiled, then… a huge, light-up-his-face, beautiful smile. I made my first teen friend. He is a gentle, sweet, delightful kid.

Sometimes first impressions can be really, really harmful. I think Satan can whisper lies in our ears about people to turn us against them before we even know them. I’ve found that when that happens, I probably need to quit thinking so critically and start praying for the person I’m tempted to disregard or dislike. We are Jesus to those around us… and if we can’t love and accept unconditionally, unreservedly, unbiased, then who will? 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Winds in the East...

It's been a long time since I've blogged.

I guess it's understandable, because marriage is a pretty big life change and other things can tend to get pushed to the back burner in the adjustment of a new life in a new place with a new schedule and new priorities. But I'd like to get back to it. It has been a piece of who I am for years now; thinking and writing with a desire to either share life with the folks back home or point people to Jesus.  In fact, I benefited in just that way from another blog this morning, and it made me want to begin again. It made me realize that people's words can change lives, and maybe God will give me words again to--if not change a life--at least inspire someone to see the Invisible things that really matter in a deeper way.

And maybe that someone will simply be me.

I benefit from writing my thoughts; as if it helps me to live more intentionally and thoughtfully. It reminds me that life is a grand story and there is an Author who writes beauty, adventure, and meaning into each page with His own hand.

 It was a good blog post that I read this morning, but it wasn't any deep profundity that had an impact on me. It was this simple phrase: "Recently God has been filling my heart with the desire to return to Him"

Just that.

Isn't is crazy how something so small can awaken your heart? I read it and--I'm not being dramatic, I promise-- I vicerally felt something stir inside of me. Like jumper cables had been hooked up to the battery of my heart and all I needed was a small spark to re-ignite something that had been drained of it's energy. Or, for further clarification, perhaps I'll point you to this obscure actor's line in a little known movie from the '60's:

Couldn't have said it better myself, Dick. :)

I suppose blogging isn't the only thing I've lost my enthusiasm for in the  past few months.
And it's not the only thing I'll be returning to today.

No guilt here. Just a sense of being called back to where I was. Intimacy with God. Passion. That feeling of being stirred, awakened, drawn, summoned....which is indescribable to those who have never felt it. The King has invited me into His throne room and not as a disobedient subject awaiting a verdict (although that would be altogether fair), but as HIS HEIR. Sitting on His knee; seeing His eyes twinkle; hearing Him speak of His heart of intense love for me and the rest of His world.

Re-ignition. Winds in the east. Awakening. The summons from My King.
That's a good way to re-start my blog and a great way to start the day.