October 11, 2011

The Daily Paws

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , at 12:26 am by Tamara

You can’t really see it in this picture, but Bear’s shirt has a picture of a dog delivering a newspaper called “The Daily Paws.”  I love it because I’m realizing that Bear is my “Daily Pause:” taking care of him, particularly when he needs to nurse, forces me to pause for a minute, which I think is more valuable than I realize.

The other day right after Adam left for work I got a call saying someone might want to look at the house.  So far Adam has (miraculously) been home every time we’ve had a house showing, and I’ve been dreading the first time I have to get the house perfect and get Bear  and the two dogs out of it all by myself.  When we put the house on the market I emptied out our storage ottoman in the living room so I could throw stuff in there in a pinch (can I just say how stressful it is to not even be able to shove things in closets, let alone close doors on messy rooms?  Thank heaven for that ottoman!)  I now measure the cleanness/messiness of our house in terms of how many ottomans the mess would fill up.  Haha!  Thankfully the house was only about one-half-ottoman messy, but I needed to do cleaning (bathrooms, floors, etc), so I was a little panicked.

About halfway through my cleaning Bear woke up from his nap and wanted to eat.  Panicked though I felt, I still told myself that he is the most important thing and sat down to feed him.  Pausing in the middle of panic seems counter-intuitive, but I think it’s probably a really good idea.  I’ve written before about how I love nursing Bear because it’s one of the few times I’m sure I’m doing the most important thing right at that moment.  Having an immanent house showing definitely tested that theory, but I stuck to it, and I was glad I did because I was more calm in the end, anyway.  Pausing to take care of him also gives me time to think and time to pray.  I think I’ve done more praying since he was born than probably any other time in my life.

I know that as Bear gets older and stops nursing it’s going to get harder and harder for me to take a “daily pause” with him.  He’ll be running around and we’ll probably have more kids and twenty activities I’ll want to do in order to give them “every opportunity” and make myself feel like a model wife/mother/Christian/missionary.  But it’s a lesson I don’t want to forget: I can, and need to, take time to pause and just invest in and enjoy Adam and our kid(s).

It’s also a lesson I need to learn on a spiritual level.  We all need time to pause and invest in our relationship with God; He instituted Sabbath for that very reason, but we Americans are very, VERY bad at pausing.  My Sundays (or any other day) aren’t always truly restful, refreshing, and renewing.  I think they (and the rest of my life) could be more so if I would make pausing and focusing on God more of a priority.  Reflection, meditation, quietness, and listening prayer are all spiritual disciplines that are under-emphasized and in my case seriously under-practiced.  I’d like to read something about them, if anyone has any book recommendations.  An excellent book about rest in general is called The Rest of God, by Mark Buchanan.  I think I need to reread it!  (Oh, and I just saw he’s coming out with a novel about David.  I am SO EXCITED!!)

But for now, I sure am treasuring my daily pauses with Bear.  I never would have thought the business of motherhood might teach me to pause, but I hope it does.  I may need to frame that onesie when he grows out of it….

June 21, 2011

Prayer

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged at 12:14 am by Tamara

I get a lot of prayer requests.  Between my classmates from Bible school, the hundreds of students I met and/or mentored at NTBI, and missionaries I’ve worked with overseas, it adds up to a lot of prayer letters, facebook prayer requests, and e-mails.  I love getting them, and I’ve committed to always pray through each of their requests when I get them.  It’s a privilege to have someone share what’s going on with them and ask you to take their needs, hopes, and fears to God.  But sometimes, to be completely honest, I don’t want to open the requests because I don’t want to take the time at the moment to pray through them.  I definitely care about them, but sometimes I’m just tired, or distracted, or whatever.

I’ve often heard prayer referred to as “laboring on your knees,” and that’s something I try to remind myself of when I get a prayer request: it’s called labor for a reason.  It takes effort to focus my mind and really think about what I’m asking God to do, or provide, or remind.  But I think that’s part of what makes prayer so exciting: when I force myself to expend mental energy and effort and concentration, I’m literally joining the fight.  Not that I think my mental energy is what accomplishes anything (!)—it is completely God’s work and God’s power.  But He invites me through prayer to be an active participant in His work, and being active takes some energy!

Doing that isn’t even really a big deal, so why does it seem like it?  How can I easily spend hours channel flipping or browsing online, but feel exhausted or like it’s a sacrifice to spend a few minutes focusing intently on a need someone has?

So, when I don’t feel like praying, I remind myself that it’s a labor, a work, and do it anyway!  I am FAR from it, but I would like to be known as a prayer warrior.  I would like people to know that when I say I’ll pray for them, I’ll really pray for them.  I believe that prayer is more valuable than I realize, so I want to use this resource!  And I think the more I pray, the more I’ll get to see how incredible the God I’m praying to is.  Prayer is pretty much guaranteed to teach me more about God, and who wouldn’t want that?  Who wouldn’t want to get to see His glory?

I have so, so far to go, but I want to go.  And what better time to work on it than when I’m spending my days sitting at home holding a baby?

February 4, 2010

Sunlight

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 11:30 pm by Tamara

One of the perks of South Carolina I’m enjoying is the mid-winter sunshine.  Sunshine really does make everything seem just a little brighter, both literally and emotionally.  I’ve figured out that at about eleven every morning at work there’s a patch of sunshine that falls a couple feet from my register.  I deliberately plan my mornings so I’ll have some task I can do over there that will make standing in those rays of sunshine look mostly necessary.  <smile>

I was pondering the sunshine and how it somehow seems to send a message of “everything is okay—there’s a reason to be joyful!”  It lights the way for us so we can see clearly and understand more fully.  It gives us nourishing vitamins (that still blows my mind—how does it do that??), it purifies, it warms.  At the same time, if you get too close or don’t respect its power, it can hurt you.

Then I thought, in heaven there will be no sun, because God’s very essence will do all those things.  Think about God’s presence permeating the air so He affects us the same way as sunlight, only unimaginably more intensely and perfectly.  Think of His presence affecting you the way you feel when you step out your front door on a day off and feel a glorious rush of bright, exuberant energy.  Think of being with Him, and how that will flood through any cold, broken emotions and dissolve them forever.  Think of being nourished mentally, emotionally, and spiritually just by being with Him.  The thoughts give me tingles.  If God’s presence is like sunlight (and we know that God is light)…ah!  I can’t wait!

June 25, 2009

Beautiful Fear

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 9:55 am by Tamara

I’ve always been intrigued and a bit perplexed by the concept of fearing God. It’s all over the Bible, but…I don’t really get it. How to I balance fear with His love, grace, etc, and what does it look like PRACTICALLY to keep a healthy fear of God in my mind?

A few nights ago we had an awe-inspiring thunderstorm. Brilliant sparks of lightning flashed across the stars in tandem with ground-shaking crashes of thunder. I like thunderstorms; the combination of terrific force and equal beauty entrances me. And I don’t feel afraid watching them while safe in my house, cuddled on a soft bed in the cool of the night.

I read a quote by John Piper the other day that painted a beautiful picture of the fear of God. (Granted, I have more than a few problems with Piper’s theology, but I loved this quote.) He starts out saying to imagine that you’re on a glacier when a storm sets in that you’re afraid might blow you off the cliff:

“But in the midst of the storm you discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide. Here you feel secure. But, even though secure, the awesome might of the storm rages on, and you watch it with a kind of trembling pleasure as it surges out across the distant glaciers, Not everything we call fear vanishes from your heart, only the life-threatening part. There remains the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such a power.
“And so it is with God. The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. Hope turns fear into a trembling and peaceful wonder; and fear takes everything trivial out of hope and makes it earnest and profound.” (Piper, John, quoted in Holy Available , p 148 by Gary Thomas, [emphasis mine])

What a vivid picture of the fear of God. My fear of thunderstorms is a beautiful fear, a recognition of their power but a feeling of safety because that power isn’t against me or going to hurt me.

I think I need to take God more seriously. Fearing Him requires really knowing Him deeply enough to recognize what He’s capable of, what He deserves, what I deserve. It would undoubtedly effect my obedience. What is my sin, if not a statement that I really think I know better that God? But the more I combine a realization of all God is (which should create a healthy dose of fear if I’m honest) with the hope He’s given me because of His grace, the more I’ll take His commands seriously and trust Him that He really does know best.