March 13, 2014

On Toddler “Help” (and how I’m a toddler)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , at 2:05 pm by Tamara

Little Bear is in the phase where he loves to help me, and I’m doing whatever I can to encourage it. He especially loves baking with me, which I find absolutely ADORABLE. Of course the downside is that everything takes 3x as long with a toddler helping, but I try to let him anyway because I want to encourage that considerate and helpful spirit of his!

The other day I was having an “Ahk-I’m-not-accomplishing-anything-in-life” sort of day, and desperately wanted to get some stuff done to make myself feel better. Bear was trying to help me clean, but Baby Songbird was quite indignant that I thought a broom was more interesting than her. She is SO social; Bear has always been able to amuse himself for quite a while alone, but she wants interaction all-the-time. At one point I told Bear, “You know, the way you could help me the most would be to keep your sister happy for a bit.” He gave me a dubious look, but, sweet boy that he is, trotted off to entertain his fussing sister (who perked up the minute he was paying attention to her).

Bear really seemed skeptical that he could be more helpful playing with Songbird than hanging on to the bottom of the broom for me, but as I swept and mopped as quickly as I could, I thought how that REALLY WAS the absolute best thing he could do to help me and how much I appreciated it. And suddenly it occurred to me that God probably often tries to tell me the same thing, and I often give him the same ‘Not-sure-you-know-what-you’re-talking-about’ look Bear gave me.  Sometimes I’m so busy looking for “BIG THINGS TO DO FOR GOD,” and frustrated that he doesn’t seem to be letting me “help” him as much as I want to. But I wonder if he’s telling me, “Honestly, what would be the most wonderful is if you would just love and care for the people I’ve put around you.” He did say, after all, that the two things he wanted most from us are to love him and love our neighbors.

Shortly afterwards I got a chance to choose to practice this conviction, because Bear got tired of playing with Songbird and she decided she was going to cry until I rescued her. So, I abandoned my mop in the laundry room sink and scooped her up. I told her teasingly, “You know, how YOU could help me the most would be to fall asleep.” And right away there was God’s whisper to me: “You could ‘help’ me by being still too, you know. By choosing to rest in me, and to peacefully enjoy and love the little ones I’ve given you to love, even if you don’t feel like you’re ‘accomplishing’ much.”

Now, I’m not saying I plan to let our house fall to complete shambles, because I know I can honor God by doing those practical things, but I realized that I probably have no idea how thrilled God is with the moments when I’m just sitting on the floor, showing my precious kiddos that I love them and God loves them too. If it gives me warm fuzzies to see my little boy sweetly loving and caring for his baby sister, how much more delighted must God be when we love and take care of the family, friends, and even strangers he’s put in our lives?

“Little children…a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35


June 25, 2012

Life Update

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , at 11:29 pm by Tamara

It may be hard to tell from the last few posts, but my life really isn’t a book (or a review of a book).  So I guess I should give a life update before I write the next two book reviews I have planned….

You’ve probably already guessed it, but we aren’t going to be going overseas this fall.  As I mentioned here, once we started the application process a bunch of reasons not to go suddenly popped up, and we were left trying to discern whether that was God speaking or just life being life or the enemy being the enemy.  We were concerned about the timing for several reasons, such as our desire to have more kids sometime in the next few years (and the possibility that I’d have to come back to the states if I needed another c-section), and the fact that we’d have to raise all our support in the summer, which is when I also needed to complete my internship for my degree.

Also, right when we were turning in our applications we found out that Adam’s mom’s cancer had started progressing faster than expected.  She was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia a while back, but told it would be ten years or so before she would feel any symptoms or need treatment.  Unfortunately, her check up showed it was progressing faster than they expected, and they said she would probably need to start chemo within the year.  I promised Mom I wouldn’t be dramatic when I wrote about this, but you can imagine how difficult it was for all of us to hear that!  She very much stressed to us that she wanted us to follow God wherever he was leading us, but it was definitely a new factor in our decision process.

So, we did a lot of praying and talking with people we trusted, and finally decided that we should wait at least a year before trying to go overseas.  Ironically, a few days after we decided that, the organization got back with us and told us that they didn’t think they had quite the right placement for us.  So that closed that door!

I had very mixed feelings about that.  My first reaction was to be very thankful that God had clearly closed the door and confirmed our decision to wait.  Unfortunately, other emotions followed quickly on my thankfulness’ heels!  Chief among them was a deep feeling of rejection.  “Why didn’t they want us?  What’s wrong with us?”  And that quickly transitioned into “Why doesn’t GOD want us?”  It’s baffling to me that God clearly calls us to “Go into all the world” and says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” but then when we say “Here am I!  Send me!” he says…”No.”  What do you do with that?

So I had to take a few weeks to really wrestle with some things I believe in my head but had to come to grips with in my heart.  A big one was that God’s love for me has nothing to do with my usefulness to Him.  And that closing one door doesn’t mean He’s given up on me and doesn’t want me anymore.  That He loves me fiercely and unconditionally and considers me as valuable as His own Son, and that will never change.

Once I had some peace in my heart about that whole mess of emotions and lies and truth, it was pretty much back to my old reaction: “Alright, Lord, thank you for clearly closing that door.  But, now, where is your open door?  I’m very thankful for clear ‘No’s,’ but where is your ‘Yes?’”

And…you’ll have to wait for a future blog post about that, because we’re not exactly sure about the answer yet!  We are sure, though, that God doesn’t have us here for no reason.  We don’t want to just be here because we aren’t “there” (wherever there is); we believe God has a reason why we are HERE, NOW.  So we’re trying to be faithful with what’s on our plates right now and keep our eyes open for what God wants to do in and through us right now.  There are a couple things on our radar screens, but this is getting long, so I’ll save them for later.

Mom has had a couple of doctor’s appointments since then, and we’re very thankful that she’s found some fantastic doctors.  They are still thinking she’ll need to start chemo sometime before the end of the year, but say there are some positives about where her condition stands now, such as that she’s still considered stage one.  So we’re waiting, praying, and trusting God.  I’d really appreciate your prayers!!

Thanks for reading, caring, and praying for us!  I can tell you are.  : )

March 15, 2012

Vision and Questions for the Future

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by Tamara

“Let me explain–  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.”  (Name that movie!)

It’s a long story that I’ve shared bits and pieces of, but the summary is that Adam and I have been seriously praying about the possibility of going overseas for two years to do ministry.  We’ve sent in our applications so that we can talk with the organization, find out more about the opportunity, and go from there.  (Incidentally, the application is part of the reason for the lack of block posts lately: too much other writing for the application and school!)

Ever since we started the application process we’ve been blindsided by a bunch of reasons NOT to go.  We’re still processing them, trying to discern if any of them are God saying “Wait” or if they’re just life being life, or the enemy being the enemy, or what.  It’s exhausting and discouraging, but also a good lesson in trust and learning to listen to the Father.  We’re really in limbo so I can’t say what’s going to happen, but if I don’t at least mention it now and we do decide to go, you’ll all think it came out of thin air, so I’m mentioning it!

At any rate, that’s not the real point of this post, just the background.  Here’s the point: I get prayer updates from someone doing ministry in a dangerous part of the world, and they recently had some people visit the region to see about maybe coming to minister there.  This was in a recent update from my friend, and it just about made me cry, because I can so relate!  I can’t share my friend’s name, but they gave me permission to post this.  If you’re in the same boat, I hope it’s encouraging to you, too!


“Some call them vision trips. Others say they’re survey trips. Whatever the name, it’s all about breathing the air, walking the ground, and wondering if you could do it. Could you make this move? Could you live here, in this stranger than you’ve ever imagined place? It’s about putting your real self and your shimmering dreams before others you may have met only through email, if at all. It’s about listening to what’s said and what’s left unsaid. Its about pushing back the doubts and fears and straining to hear our Father’s voice.

“I am always awed at the courage of vision-trippers. It’s a journey of pure faith; flying face-forward into the abyss. It’s knowing that you’re called but wondering who, if anyone, will receive you. And if they do receive you, will they be glad for it? Will you find a home with the little band, the team you’ve agreed to join? Will you make good decisions? Do you really know who you are? Are you ready? And if you do come, will anyone back home support you? Will people really pray? Will they give? Will they remember you? Will it be enough? And who said you could do this, anyway? Who said you had anything to give? Why don’t you just stay home? Isn’t there enough work to be done there? And how could you take our grandchildren so far away? What about your career and your retirement – and a hundred other challenges?

“This is why I’m always awed at the faith of vision-trippers. These are folks who’ve started the journey. Who’ve stood up and bravely said; ‘I want to go.’  They have some partners who’ve said; ‘I believe in you.’ Who pray and give – who invest in the brave dream that’s not yet been fulfilled. They’ve completed applications and joined an organization. They’ve prayed their hearts out and started counting the cost. They’ve stepped headlong into a spiritual battle the likes of which they’ve never experienced before. The enemy rises up in rage. “Who do you think you are!?!” With weapons of doubt and fear, he would stop us in our tracks if God were not with us. This is why I love vision-trippers. I love their sheer courage and trembling faith. The next steps are clear; join a field-team, raise support and go. If you know any such people, cheer them on. Celebrate their journey. Enjoy the overflow of their faith.”

July 1, 2010

The Journey

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 11:55 pm by Tamara

I sat in a far corner of the bustling terminal, dressed in pants and a long cotton coat in spite of the stifling heat.  The most amazing thing, however, was the scarf covering my hair and wrapped around my shoulders.  I’d been waiting long months, months full of endless preparations, worry, details, communication, and tears.  Now, at long last, I had arrived in the airport in Dubai, pulled that scarf out of my suitcase and carefully placed it on my head.  It was like becoming someone else.

The exhausted knot of worry in my stomach was accompanied by a leaden feeling that seemed to slug through my veins.  I was terrified.  Through the entire lonely trip I’d felt distant and removed, like I was watching myself in a movie.  I found myself repeating an inner monologue as though I was commenting on my life from outside.

What am I doing?  I’m not brave!  Why am I here?  What was I thinking?  I can’t do this.  I’m not…brave.

It was like I’d had delusions of grandeur and suddenly realized they’d gotten me in way over my head.  Was I really here, and really about to go there?  It almost seemed hilarious to me, like a farce.  What EVER made me think I could do this?

But, like a robot, I had packed my suitcases, walked though airport security, boarded one plane, then another, then another, until suddenly I found myself on the other side of the world, with burqa-clad women bustling around me, listening numbly as the swirling tones of Arabic carried through the humid air, staring up at spiraling mosque turrets and quickly lowering my gaze from the prying eyes of dark-skinned, turbaned men.

One more plane, and the long, exhausting hours of sitting and rumbling would be over.  One more plane to board, and I’d be there.  The place I’d prayed over, agonized over, longed for.  Afghanistan.  I was going.

What was I thinking?

Before I knew it I was staring out the plane window as we took off.  It was final now—terrified or not, I was being hurtled towards Afghanistan.  Where was the excitement?  How many years had I ached to be right where I was now, about to step onto Muslim land?  But all I felt was numb inadequacy.

Hello, Lord, I said, reaching for that connection, desperate to know I wasn’t alone.  It was like grabbing for a rope and pulling, trying to get closer to my anchor, wanting to feel the tension on the line that meant God was on the other end of it.

After an hour that felt like minutes we started our decent, and I reached up to make sure my headcovering was in place.  It was going to take a while to get used to this.  I pulled my camera out and held it at arms-length, forcing a brave smile.  Click, and it was real.  Me, in a headcovering, flying into Afghanistan.  Exhausted, grimy, unsure, but going.

I looked out the window.  The clouds were beginning to wisp away, letting green smudges melt through.  The smudges became more clear, rising up to form gray-green mountain ranges, then sinking down into flat, bright green fields.  This was it: my first sight of a place I’d prayed for for so long.  Tiny, weather-beaten houses began to dot the landscape, and I felt a quiver go through me, like a spark of light in a dark room.  The land continued to take shape; I could see fields, houses, people, roads.  The flicker began to spread, sending warmth gently from my heart down to my fingertips.

Afghanistan.  It was here.  I was here.

Suddenly the fear seemed to be dripping and mingling with the slowly pulsing beat of excitement.  I grasped that excitement with amazement.  At last, there it was!  Suddenly I felt again what I’d felt for years—a longing, broken-hearted desire to touch this place, to step onto the ground with light and truth.  To see the darkness shattered.  In that moment my heart broke with the overwhelming feeling that I was loved and not alone.  I could feel his hands around my heart, infusing the broken pieces with love and strength and momentum.  Cradling my heart above this place I’d ached for so long, ready to let the pieces fall like seeds in the desert.

The plane landed, and I gathered my things, checked my head covering and walked to the door.  I stepped outside, walked down the steps, and put my foot on the ground.

I was here.  Afghanistan.

June 19, 2010

True Story in a Bookstore

Posted in Water Droplets tagged , , at 3:46 pm by Tamara

We get all sorts of strange requests at the bookstore I work at, people who saw a book a year ago on the shelf by the window and can’t remember its title or author or what it was about…and want us to find it for them.  Most of the time they’re nice, and it’s a rewarding treasure hunt if we can semi-miraculously find what they’re talking about.  One particular story stands out to me, though.

Right before Christmas I asked a 40-something year old man in a business suit if I could help him find anything.  He rubbed a hand on the back of his neck and hesitated for a second before saying,

“Well, I have kind of a weird request.  I’m looking for a book, and I don’t remember the title of it.  My mom just passed away, and she was reading it.”

I told him I was so sorry, he thanked me and offered a few more details about the book.  “I think the author was a man; it had a picture of a man on the back, and the cover was blue.  I think it was a New York Times Bestseller.”

That was enough information for me to know where to start, so I walked him over to a shelf and picked up a Nicholas Sparks book with a misty blue cover.

“This one, maybe?”

“Oh my goodness,” he said softly, reaching for it.  “That’s it.  She was reading it when she passed away.  I wanted to give a copy to each of my siblings.”

It was then that the title of the book hit me and I couldn’t stop a soft exclamation of “Oh!”  He looked at me as I covered my mouth, not wanting to state the obvious poignancy.  I’d never read the book and had no idea what it was about, but it seemed a surreal book to be reading during your last few days with your family.  He still had a confused look, and at last I managed, “The title….”

He looked down at the book again, and realization dawned.  He breathed a little laugh and shook his head.  “Wow.  That didn’t even occur to me.”   He was quiet for a minute, smiling a soft, sad smile.  “Thank you so much,” he told me.  “This means a lot.  I can’t believe we found it.”

I smiled, told him I was so glad to help, that my husband’s grandmother had just passed away and we were grieving too.   He smiled back and thanked me again, told me again how much it meant, and walked away with five copies in his arms: one for each sibling, a small memento of their mother and her last days.

The book was called The Last Song.

June 11, 2010


Posted in Poetry, Writing Spashes tagged , at 11:57 pm by Tamara

I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write tonight, so I was searching through my quotes file when I found this. It’s a bad, bad, BAD example of “poetry” (please accept my humble and heartfelt apologies to the entire genre for using that term to describe it) but it still resonates with me.

At last I stop, I crumble, and let all the pieces fall.
Transparent at last, a broken, watermarked soul.

There has to be more you want from me;
Some strength You’ve given me to play a part in this eternal vision
That dances with searing steps through my consciousness.

Why don’t You pick me up and dust me off and turn me into a
Blazing mirror of Your glory that flashes into the darkness?

But I’m no shining mirror; instead I’m a lump of broken clay,
And I can feel the cracks painfully traveling through me
How can I hold any of Your majesty in this state?
I am desperately trying to hold the pieces together,
Trying to protect this shiny pretext from realty.

Then a searing ray of dazzling light shoots from nowhere.
I see it dancing through the cracks and piercing deep into the darkness.
It staggers me in wonder as its brilliant, glorious beams escape,
And I realize this light has burst from behind this crumbled, cracked façade,
No longer bound by all of me that was in the way until I was torn asunder.

Like Gideon’s jars smashed to pieces, I’m broken,
But the light is revealed, and it envelops me and dances majestically
As I suddenly realize that transparency
Is only a measure of how much light I allow to travel through me.
My desperate attempts to hold the pieces of my pretence of perfection together
Have only kept the real glory from shooting into the darkness.

This shattered, broken, dusty lump of clay
Is a perfect example of all You can do with nothing.
I realize why I’m clay—so that the surpassing glory will obviously be Yours.
It must be You, it must.

Oh, Father,  I need You.  No one else has the words of life.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…  Therefore we do not lose heart.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16

Copyright T.H., January 16, 2007

May 22, 2010

A New Saga

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 10:37 pm by Tamara

It may be a little bit dramatic, but I can’t help thinking that tomorrow will begin a new saga of my life.  Hopefully, prayerfully, oh-PLEASE-fully, it will involve some “margin.”  Last Friday I officially finished/survived/collapsed at the finish line of my term of full-time work and full-time school at the same time.  I was able to get everything done, but it left me with NO margin.  No time to make new friends, be involved at church, cook meals, sleep, or deal with unforeseen issues (for example, I just about had a breakdown when Knightley needed to be taken to the vet last week, right in the middle of my big research project.)

One of the things that has been the most distressing to me is that I’ve felt like I haven’t been able to “be a wife.”  I don’t want to get into a big discussion of women’s roles here, and please don’t misinterpret me and think I subscribe to the “barefoot in the kitchen” model.  But, what I will say is that it was very distressing to me to head off to work leaving a half-folded tower of laundry, a floor carpeted in dog hair, and a note for Adam that there was canned soup in the cupboard (“Oh and could you please clean the toilet because you’re so wonderful?”), and then come home and immediately lock myself in the office with my textbooks (and my bowl of soup).  Adam, wonderful man that he is, very graciously picked up my slack, cleaning the house and even cooking.  But it still made me feel frustrated, stressed and unfulfilled.

I always knew I wanted to be a wife and mother (among other things) but I’ve actually been a little surprised by how fulfilling I find the “homemaking” tasks the feminist movement has made sound so negative.  I kind of thought other things would fulfill me and the homemaking stuff would just be work that had to get done.  But not only am I realizing how much satisfaction I get out of crafting our home, what has been more apparent of late is how UNfulfilled I feel when other life demands keep me from being able to actively create our home environment.  I can’t say I get big kicks and giggles vacuuming or cutting the fat off chicken breasts for dinner.  But, I love the total affect.  I love when the place we come home to at night, the place that envelops the most personal and cherished parts of our lives, can be described with words like restful, warm, nourishing, created, orderly, inviting, etc.

The shocking takeaway?  God knows what He’s talking about.  (Whoa!)  No matter what the world tells us, His instructions for roles are GOOD ideas.  Ideas that fulfill us and bring us peace.  And, here I have to give credit to my amazing mom, because I’ve spent my whole life watching her beautiful illustration of what this looks like.

So, after many talks with Adam, we decided it was time for me to cut back to part-time at work.  I should note that the reason we’re able to do this is because wonderful Adam is working two jobs right now to provide for us.  I feel a little scared and a little guilty: scared because this involves both a pay cut and an hours cut, and guilty because part of me is still saying, “You’re just too lazy to be able to handle it all.”  But, I’m holding on to two truths: first, God has been INCREDIBLY faithful to provide for us financially.  Adam’s second job was just dropped in his lap, for example.  And second, I believe God is happy with my desire to take care of Adam and our home, and if this is what He’s asking me to do, He’ll take care of burdens I can’t shoulder.

And last but not least, not only will this allow me to oversee my little home domain again, but it will also give me time to be involved in other things that fulfill me, like ministry and (dun dun dun!) THIS BLOG!!  So let the new saga begin, and may I protect it a little better from now on.

January 12, 2010

Another New Thing….

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 11:44 pm by Tamara

I start work tomorrow, and I have to say I’m feeling pretty apprehensive. The problem is that I just plain really like being liked, and, to be honest, starting all over again trying to make people like me is a blow to my pride and security. Will they like me? Be fine with the new girl telling them what to do? All in all, if I’m honest, I’m a little bitter that I had to go to all the work to build relationships, earn approval, etc., at my old store, and now have to start all over again. And, even worse, I don’t like seeing my PRIDE rear its ugly head when I realize all this!

I’ve been thinking of all the Bible characters who suddenly had to start over. My favorite, though, is Joseph. Imagine the effort it took to degrade himself to not only do the work of a slave, but do it with excellence. But he did it, working with so much integrity that he was promoted to incredible favor because the Lord was with him. And then, WHAM! He finds himself in prison. Prison. A dirty, disease-ridden, dark place where he was probably chained, beaten, starved and mistreated. What in the world made him decide to get off the floor of his cell and serve? I think I would have cried foul. Forget about prison, part of me is crying foul just because I have to start at a new store! I think I would have wondered how this could possibly be what happens when the Lord “is with you.”

But there are two patterns to Joseph every time he is brutally forced to start over. One, no matter where he was, he just plain worked. I doubt he was imagining much “career advancement” when he served the other prisoners, but he did it anyway. Two, the reason that he rose each time was that God was with him (Genesis 39:2). God made everything he did prosper (39:23), God made other people like him (39:21), God showed other people that His spirit was with Joseph (41:38). God was so faithful to Joseph, but Joseph would have missed it all if he decided to be angry at God or to just quit. God knows what He’s doing!

My takeaway for tomorrow is to first of all just stop worrying about it and…work! The goal at this new job is (duh) not to make people like me, but for them to see Christ. I haven’t been at peace about tomorrow because my eyes have been on the wrong place: me. God keeps us in perfect peace when our minds are fixed on Him and trusting Him. So, I need to think about Him tomorrow. How can I show His love, priorities, work ethic, integrity, etc? And I need to trust Him that if I need to be liked to accomplish what He wants, He’ll make people like me. And it will be because of HIM in me.

I know, I know. Pretty basic, right??

August 18, 2009

Death By Rearview Mirror

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 5:25 pm by Tamara

It must have been a rather contradictory sight: me, in my black stiletto heels, wide-leg slacks, and chunky jewelry, stepping out of a hunter green S10 pickup with a camouflage steering wheel cover. But when you gotta get to an interview, you gotta get to an interview. (Much thanks to Nate for graciously loaning me Kermit, his “hick truck,” by the way!) What’s wrong with my car, you ask? Just one tiny detail: the rearview mirror fell off and is swinging dejectedly from its wire, face down.


Should I go into detail about our three-and-counting attempts to fix it? I think the thing has lost its will to live, or at least its will to be attached to the windshield. Interestingly enough, this happened to me with my last car, too. It has gotten me thinking about perspective, though. How would you drive if you couldn’t look backwards? I’ve spent a lot of time this summer looking backwards and inwards. Both can be good things, but I’ve gotten almost obsessive about it as I’ve tried to figure out my weird life circumstances and how I am (or am not) dealing with them.

Corrie Ten Boom said “If you look at the world you will be distressed; if you look within you will be depressed; if you look at Christ you will be at rest.” I’ve experienced all three of those realities lately. My unemployment and the uncertainty of our future has definitely been distressing, and as I’ve desperately tried to figure out how to answer the constant question, “How are you doing?” I’ve felt almost depressed at times. I feel like God has been quietly calling me again and again to stop worrying about everything else and pay attention to Him. It’s a constant mental battle to bounce my thoughts off my worries and say, “Oh, hi, God. How are You doing? Fine? Oh, okay, I guess everything must be fine with my life, too. You haven’t freaked out yet.” It’s almost like how when you’re fasting, hunger pangs remind you to keep praying. I’m trying to train myself to use my pangs of introspection, worry, or whatever as reminders to acknowledge God’s presence and sovereignty and interest in my life. As reminders to REST. Some days my thoughts seem like a ping-pong ball bouncing between the two extremes.

Another interesting fact about the dangling mirror is that, were I to drive with it swinging there, there’s a good chance it would bash me in the face. I’m pretty sure that a wrong perspective has about the same effect.


July 14, 2009

The Breakdown–Part 2

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 5:17 pm by Tamara

I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time writing this post.  Maybe (probably) because I don’t fully get it yet.  There’s no “Ba-da-bing!  God fixed it!” ending yet.  But since I don’t feel like I can blog about anything else until I finish this, and since I’m afraid I’ve made some of you wonder if I’m on the brink of losing it completely (ha), I’d better finish it!

So, that said, “Good morning, class; today I’m giving you a pop quiz!  <deep, evil laugh of evilness>”  Question One:  Find the common denominator:  “What if I’m doing something wrong?  What if I’m sinning?  What if I’m not listening to Him?  What if this is my fault?  What if I’m being lazy?  What if I can’t do it?”

I spend a LOT of time trying to dissect those questions, or similar ones.  It was my brilliantly astute husband who once pointed out (during my tirade of similar fears), “There are a lot of ‘I’s’ in those questions.”  That hit me like a ton of bricks—I’d never thought about that before.  His point was that I’d been worrying so much about myself and my actions that I’d lost my focus on Christ.

I tend to be terrified of my own weaknesses and sin nature.  That kind of sounds like a spiritual thing, but it isn’t; not when I get so fixated on my own weaknesses that I stop being fixated on the Lord.  If the definition of an idol is anything I put before God, then I’m actually idolizing my sin nature by acting as if it’s more powerful than God’s ability to convict me, guide me, even rescue me.  If He wants me to walk rightly even more than I do—and I know He does—why would I worry that He’d give me the cold shoulder when I ask Him if I’m doing anything wrong?

That also comes back to a misunderstanding of sin and fellowship.  I thought for a long time that my sin broke my fellowship with God—that He wouldn’t help or listen to me if I was in sin.  But that didn’t make sense to me, mainly because that would create an impossible cycle.  I can never get out of sin without His help, but if He won’t help me or fellowship with me until I’m not sinning, how can I stop?

Years ago one of my favorite teachers at the Bible school, Rick Barth, pointed out to me that what breaks our fellowship isn’t just sin, but our refusal to agree with God that we’re sinning (confess).  He convicts me and shines His light on my sin, and I either agree with Him and stay in the light, or I refuse to listen to Him and then, when the light becomes too uncomfortable, I, MYSELF step out of His light and fellowship.  It’s not that God will only tolerate me so far before He’ll shun me in order to punish me.  He’s always there to gently show me my sin and urge me to walk in the new life He’s given me—it’s ME who either listend or turns away.

This also touches on how deeply I feel like God’s acceptance of me and willingness to work with me is based on my performance.  I know in my head that it isn’t, that He views me in His son and has told me to boldly come to His throne of grace for help.  But I still want desperately to be “doing good,” and I’m afraid sometimes my view of Him is warped enough to think He’ll abandon me if I don’t keep doing well.  I forget He loved me while I was still an unsaved sinner, and worry that now that I’m a saved child who sins, He just might decide to stop loving me—at least until I get my act together.  Which also shows a warped view of myself.  As if Jesus’ death and life wasn’t QUITE enough, and I can somehow work hard enough to make Him love me more.

So what’s the bottom line on all this?  I need to stop pacing outside His throne room, examining every little thing I’ve done, terrified that I might have done something wrong and He’s behind those doors fuming, just waiting for me to come in so He can punish me.  Or ignore me.  Or any of the many things He could do, other what He’s promised TO do: give me grace, mercy, and help in my need.  I need to stop freaking out and get my eyes back on Him.  If I’m doing something wrong, He’ll show me, and He’ll help me.  And if I’m not, it’s okay to just wait and keep moving forward.  More scared analyzing of MYSELF and MY fears and MY failures isn’t going to get me nearly so far as just sitting at His feet and asking Him for HIS assessment and guidance.  And if He chooses not to say anything about me right now, then that’s fine—I can still look at HIM.  That’s plenty to fill my mind and heart.

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