Wednesday, October 31, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - The End!

I'll have to admit, I feel like celebrating today! :) Writing for 27 days straight has been very stretching! It was good for me to push on and finish what I started even when I didn't feel like it. It was also good for me to actually think out things that have just been going through my mind and string them into some semblence of order that made sense. I'm glad I did it but I am ready to write about normal every day things again. Writing without the pressure of needing to do it every day! It did create an excellent opportunity to practice what I was preaching! :) I know next week I'll probably forget all about leaning when I'm right in the midst of some difficulty. I hope, though, that this writing experience can be a help in the process of making me more conscious of the posture of my heart. Today will be an excellent test: lack of sleep + worry about my little girl with a UTI + wet, wet dreary weather + a van that doesn't work and needing to scrunch 5 school children in the car twice a day...Ok Lord!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - Passing It On

Our children are by nature great "picker-upers". I'm not talking about picking up around the house (don't we wish that would come naturally?!), I'm talking about picking up on the way we live. They notice everything - attitudes, actions, feelings... even very young children! Of course our children still have to make their own choices about what they will believe and how they will live. Still, as parents, we make a huge impact on those choices! My parents were "leaners". As a child, I knew where my parents went for help and direction! It was not at all uncommon to pray together about specific needs. When someone was sick or something went wrong, praying was one of the first things we did. I know that made a big impact on me and how I viewed God. I know I've said it before, but nothing builds trust like seeing God at work! Trust is what leaning is ultimately all about. If we can give our children tangible examples of trusting the Father, I think that can be a huge help in passing on the choice of leaning.

Monday, October 29, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - Can The Rich Do It?

I remember laying in bed one night and Chris saying "I don't even know if I want to ever get to the place where I have plenty of money!" What do we really do with Jesus' words in Mark 10:23-25? Can we have the riches, just not trust in them? In Deut 6:10-12 the Israelites were admonished to beware lest they forget the Lord when they get to the place where they have everything they need w/o needing to work for it. It's so easy to forget! So easy to trust in our things! I look back at what my parents lived with when they moved to a little mission in AR years ago. Then I look around at what most of us think we're *entitled* to for comfortable living these days. I wonder if we add a burden to our lives, rather than a blessing, when we "finally have things nice"? I know it's impossible for time to stand still, but it really seems like the further a family/community/church progresses financially, the more apt they are to lose out spiritually. Maybe I'll just leave you to ponder these things in your heart.... :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - Can We Stay Bent?

So, in the struggle for control, and the human-ness of our hearts, is there any way to stay "bent"? I hate to disappoint you, but I don't think so. Like everything else in the Christian life I don't think we can ever keep one posture all the time. It's a continual growing, learning, stretching journey. However, I do think we can get to the place where we bend more quickly. Like a paper that's been folded over and over in the same direction, I think we can get to the place where we recognize the need and respond more promptly. In any other skill we want to learn, we know that practicing is the key. I think spiritual "skills" are the same way. If we really want to learn something, we must practice it over and over. Riding a bike doesn't take nearly as much concentration the 100th time as it did the first 10 times! I think, somewhat in the same way, if we practice "leaning" we will become more quick to turn to the Father and let Him take control. It won't come naturally, but it can come more easily.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - He Wants Us To Choose Him

Why did God make us creatures of control? Why didn't He create us like little babies who rely totally on their parents with no thought of anything else? There's alot of "theology" here, but what I see is this: God wants us to choose Him. There are so many parallels between parents and children and God and us. As a parent, there's nothing that makes my heart happier than to see my children choosing certain ways because they know it's what I want and they love me. God doesn't want us to lay down our will and lean because that's all we are capable of, or because we have to. He wants us to choose Him because we love Him and need Him! Like a parent who's child is intent on learning something new, He patiently watches while we try our best. He's ready to soothe the scratched up knees from the first bike ride or bandage the cut from the first attempt with sharp scissors. But what His "to and fro" eyes are really looking for, are His children who look up and say, "Daddy, I can't do this! Will He please help me?"

Friday, October 26, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - The Struggle For Control

Control, control, control. To some extent or another, as humans, we are control freaks! We try to control everything - circumstances, relationships, responsibilities, possessions, losses... In big and small ways we desperately try to control every detail of our lives. When there are things that we can't control, we still do our best to maintain some sense of it. And it is sneaky. Oh! Is it ever! It creeps into small places where we don't recognize it as control at all. This explains our struggle with leaning. Leaning means opening our hands and letting go of control. It means letting God work out the details. It means leaving our hands open when the details turn out different than what we think they should. Leaning is not some magic "Now He'll give me what I want", it's a committed "Now I'll want what He gives". Leaning is not an easy way out. Always the monster of Control is there ready to clutch at the reins. But the fact remains, leaning is the position in which God shows Himself strong on our behalf!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - The Sneaky Enemy

I told Chris last night, I'm over this topic now! I had scribbled down a rough "outline" at the beginning of this adventure and I'd actually been anxious to reach the last part. It felt like I was putting in lots of filler and the last part had the real meat! But now I'm here and suddenly I feel lost. I can't seem to get my thoughts together. They come out in fragments that don't string together and I'm left wondering what exactly am I trying to say? Why? There's probably several factors but the biggest one, no doubt, is that in the middle of writing about leaning, I've failed to practice what I was preaching. Earlier in the month I was practicing, you better believe I was! This whole writing for 27 days had me in a constantly bent position! But lately? Lately I've been standing pretty straight. Sigh. This enemy is such a sneaky little monster! It creeps in quietly before we even realize it's around. Who is this crafty enemy that tries it's best to slip in at every turn? It's an enemy called Control.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - Personal Loss

I don't think I've ever experienced as much loss as I have in the past year and a half. I've felt like an onion, sometimes, as the layers have been peeled away one after the other! I remember one particularly low time a little over a year ago when I wrote down every loss I could think of. It felt like God had taken e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. I didn't even have my own house or possessions! I wept and I stormed and I grieved. It's so easy to live out of feelings rather than facts! The fact was that I still had my husband and 4 children and my Heavenly Father. The fact also was that He wanted me to realize that was really all I needed! The other fact that I've slowly begun to see is this: God IS love. He IS good. Just because all I could see was loss did not mean that's all there was. In the same way I ask things of my children that they don't like because I can see the bigger picture, in a much bigger way that is what God is all about in our lives... but we have to lean, we have to trust, we have to let Him!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - A Grade Called Losses

When I say "losses", I am not primarily refering to death. Certainly death is a loss, but I have been realizing that there are many many more areas of "losses". I don't in any way want to leave the impression that I think they are worse than/equal to death, but I do think they are very real! We can lose our job, our house, our health, our abilities, our "positions", our reputation... Marriage and adding children brings losses- loss of freedom, personal time, ability to be involved w/ the same activities... Growing older brings losses- loss of abilities, health, responsibilities... Moving brings losses- loss of home, church, friends... Children growing up brings losses- loss of innocent days, children leaving home, grandchildren moving away... It has been helpful for me to recognize loss for what it is and to realize that what I am feeling is grief. It's ok to grieve, God made us that way, but He also wants to carry us beyond and use these losses for good in our lives. But, again, we have to let Him!

Monday, October 22, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - The Responsibility of Motherhood

I have always enjoyed small children, preferably ages 6 months-4 yrs. Becoming a mother was a big responsibility, realizing it's up to me to care for this helpless baby! I would have to say, though, that my children hitting ages 7-10 has been a whole knew dimension in motherhood for me. Younger children have feelings and opinions, yes, but my position as mother is much more one of "I'm in charge in the end" at that stage. An older child's opinions and feelings are much stronger and need validation and being heard for a good parent-child relationship. I struggle with that responsibility! A lot of times instead of using it as an opportunity to lean on my Father, I get frustrated. It's so much easier for me to say "I said so, so that's just the way it is!" and ignore the hurt and anger in my children's hearts. I really do want to learn to let this responsibility take me to the Father and lean on Him for wisdom. It's a place where I need to lay it down and say "I can't do this on my own, please show me how!"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - A Grade Called Responsibilities

As I was thinking about "grades", this struck me as a big one. I think calling us to new or added responsibilities is one way that God pushes us into a leaning position. When we find ourselves in positions that aren't necessarily our choice or we're not sure about, life can be very uncomfortable! Maybe we decide "I'm gonna do this!" Or maybe we say "There's no way!" and run as far away as possible. Or, maybe we drag our feet and complain and fuss and sigh the whole way through, just waiting for the day when we can be done with this job! Sometimes God does want us to do things we never thought we could do. In fact, I think He kind of likes to give us those responsibilities! Why? Maybe that's the only way we'll need Him. If we did only the things that we feel comfortable doing, don't you suppose we could handle it on our own? That'll never do, you know, because God wants to show Himself strong on our behalf! So, a big responsibility? Just a bigger opportunity to see what God will do ... if we let Him!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - A Relationship Example

Have you ever had a conversation like this one with your spouse? "So did you do ______?" "No, I didn't think you wanted me to." "How could you have thought that?! I SAID ______!" "And that's really what you meant? I thought you meant _____!!" Anything further is a downward spiral and very likely you end up in bed both of you still trying to defend your case. This happened at my house last week. And as I was laying there this voice said "Ahem, aren't you planning to write about, um, leaning in relationships next week??" Ugh. No, it wasn't Chris, it was the One who wants to be leaned upon and I did NOT in any way want to be reminded at that moment! Truth was, I didn't wanna lean! I didn't want to lay down my view and honestly ask the Father how He looked at it. That is really what He wants to do, teach us to see w/ His eyes and learn to make our relationships about others instead of all about us. Conflicts lose their struggle when I lay my view down and truly care about the other person. But it takes Him!

Friday, October 19, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - A Grade Called Relationships

"No man is an island, entire of itself..." -John Donne I think it's safe to say that we all have relationships in our lives. As long as we are on this earth we will deal with people to a greater or lesser degree. And, as long as we're here dealing with humans, we will run into relationship problems! No matter how much we like or get along with a person, there will be something, sometime, that will upset us or surprise us or let us down in our relationships. In fact, the closer the relationship, the higher the stakes for hurt/pain! What do we do with that? The most natural thing is to crawl into our shell and hide in safety-just don't have close relationships and then we don't have to deal with it! But God created us with a need for other people. He thought up relationships! Do you suppose He planned the inevitable conflicts so that we would also need Him? Could the difficulties in our relationships be one more chance for us to run hard after the Father and allow Him to show Himself strong on our behalf?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - A Blue Van

One "essential" possession, in this country, is a vehicle. Chris has always said that he "buys them cheap, and runs the wheels off them", but before our current van it was more joke than reality. Today I wonder if a wheel MIGHT actually fall off that van some day. We bought it over five years ago, and lets just say we jokingly refer to it as the "Badom Badom" van for a reason. If you have ever stood on a sidewalk as we went by, you need no explanation. (and please accept our apologies) We are still driving it because Chris and the Lord "made a deal." Chris would drive the van as long as it ran, and the Lord would keep it running. That was over two years ago, and they have both kept their end of the bargain. And so, we "badom badom" our way down the highway. And, though I still cringe at times when those people on the sidewalk whirl around to see what on earth just passed them, I hope I am learning to trust God to teach me His values. And I wonder, if somewhere, God is smiling..................

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - A Grade Called Possessions

We all like stuff. More stuff! Different stuff! Nice stuff! Even those of us who think we have little could have our possessions reduced by half an still have more than the basics. We live in a "bigger is better, newer is better, name brand is better" society. The push is to get it now and enjoy all the benefits! And it's never enough. There's always something else we're hoping to posses one of these days! Sometimes I wonder if all the stuff possesses us, instead of the other way around. We get so caught up in "If only I had" and "I couldn't do without" and "I really need" that I wonder what we're trusting in? Our stuff? Or the One who really owns it all? God wants to supply all our needs but when we busily set about to fulfill our needs AND our wants, does He even get a chance? I wonder what would happen if we would choose to be content with such things as we have instead of needing the "bigger, the newer and the name brand"? Would we be surprised at the ways God could show Himself strong on our behalf?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - Circumstances Made Personal

Chris was taking a week off of work and I was so thrilled! I had huge expectations for this week: he was planning to work on our unfinished bedroom (yay!!!), we were going for my first prenatal visit and a day of shopping... These were the days of "morning/noon/evening sickness" and this week looked like a sweet oasis! Well, everything changed when Chris developed a terrible earache! He ended up at the Dr and spent most of the week on the couch! He drug himself along to my prenatal appointment, laying in the passenger seat while I drove... That was a terribly hard week for me. I couldn't believe God would "do" this to me! He knew I NEEDED this week!! I knew very well that God knew what He was doing but oh, I sure didn't feel like accepting it! I remember stormy tears and finally giving up and saying, "Ok God. You know what's best. I don't understand but I trust You!" Nothing much changed really, except my heart. My heart felt peaceful after that even though the week didn't nearly fulfill my expectations.

Monday, October 15, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - A Grade Called Circumstances

I think one of God's most common and every day grades in this business is one called circumstances. There are so many circumstances, big and small, that make up our lives. Many of them are so ordinary that we hardly notice them at all-the cranky child that made the morning routine take longer, the potatoes that didn't want to get done for supper... Of course then there's the flat tires and the magic marker on the couch that shake our worlds a bit harder! And, sometimes, there are the really unexpected things-ear aches that require Dr visits and Dr visits that end up in hospital stays and job offers that move you 14 hrs across the United States... that not only shake our worlds but threaten to turn them upside down! What would happen if we learned to view these circumstances, big and small, as opportunities to turn our hearts to the Father and allow Him to show Himself strong on our behalf? What if, instead of ruining our day, a flat tire would be an exciting opportunity to see what God will do this time?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - God's Grade School

So, what if your life is a completely different story? What if you're not facing financial struggles, you have a brand new house and dependable vehicles? What if your life is completely different? God longs for all of His children to lean no matter what their stories and He's quite creative in His attempts to bring us to that point! He certainly doesn't deal with everyone the same way. In the same way we wouldn't think of trying to enroll 6 year old Johnny in High School, so God works with us. He knows our hearts and what is going to get our attention and bring us to the end of ourselves. Granted, even then sometimes we are so stubborn that we don't realize what God is trying to do! Even when we do recognize it and learn from it, God is all about taking us into the next "grade" in His school. This learning to lean business is not a one time lesson, certificate received and done, type of deal! We wouldn't be content to teach our children one life lesson and then they're good to go and neither is God.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - What it Allows God to Do

As we leaned on our "cane" and walked, we watched in awe as God showed Himself strong. Over and over again in the next weeks and months we watched as God supplied specific needs. The timing was phenomenal and the ways many and creative! Maybe we just took more notice, but I like to think that because of the changed posture of our hearts God was able to show Himself strong on our behalf. More than once it was an anonymous gift slipped into our mailbox at church. Several times it was an unexpected counter top job for Chris to do on the side or a bit extra coming from somewhere we weren't planning on. Our children's school tuition bill began arriving marked "paid" and Isaac and Lillian's hospital bills got taken care of. Again, our circumstances didn't really change much but God showed Himself strong in many specific ways for us! Every bridge we cross that holds builds a little more trust in the builder and trust is what leaning is really all about. There's just nothing more exciting than seeing God at work!

Friday, October 12, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - A Posture Of The Heart

Obviously Chris didn't quit his job, the bills didn't stop coming, nor food appear in our cupboards. Actually, very little about our circumstances changed. It was still necessary for Chris to work 2 hours from home and spend very little time w/ me and 4 little ones. We still had old vehicles that gave us problems and a house that needed siding. So what changed? I think our hearts changed their posture. When we came to our Father and said, "We can't do this anymore. There is no way we can carry this load! We're placing it on Your shoulders now. We're quite content to drive old vehicles and live in unsided houses and work hard to pay our bills but we're trusting You to work this whole deal out. We can't make sense of it, but we trust that You can and we're following you!" our hearts found Peace. We were no longer struggling along to lift worn out feet to take the next step, we were leaning heavily on our "cane" and walking. Strangely enough, before our very eyes we began to see exciting things happening!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - So after you quit, then what?

How do you quit when the bills still keep coming? How do you stop when your children are still hungry and need new clothes? Do you just throw up your hands, settle down on the couch with your feet propped up and really just quit? If God longs for us to rely on Him, how does that look? What does He expect out of us? What about the other verses, the ones about the sluggard considering the ant's ways and the man who doesn't provide being worse than an infidel? If God wants us to be good stewards and not be sluggards and provide for our own but His deepest longing is for us to lean, than how, pray tell, does that look?? Do you remember the picture of the old lady with the cane? When her legs wore out and her feet couldn't carry her anymore she didn't just sit down and quit. She didn't give up and stop going places. She did, however, stop relying on her own two feet to get her there. She picked up her cane and leaned heavily on it, trusting that it wouldn't break under her weight... but she kept on walking.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - When you sit down and quit

We were some of God's best "helpers" back in the day. We said we were trusting, that we couldn't do it alone, but there was no peace. We worked, and we struggled, and we came up w/ new ideas. We thought if we could just get past this obstacle, work a little harder, try something else, we'd surely come out on top! We were exhausted, hanging by a thread but we weren't about to give up! There comes a time, finally, that you stop. When everywhere you place your foot for the next step you only meet w/ gravel you finally have no choice. You sit down and throw up your hands and you just stop! That's when your optimistic, never give up, just do the next thing husband tells you, "I quit. From now on this is God's deal and I'm done! It's on Him now." I didn't see a window open into Heaven, but I think if there would have been one I would have seen the Father's "searching to and fro" eyes suddenly light up as He leaned forward in anticipation. "Finally they're going to let me show myself strong on their behalf!"

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - The Typical Christian Way

Anybody who's had any "church" upbringing knows this stuff. We've heard the verses. In fact, we can even quote them at appropriate times-"Take no thought for the morrow..." "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart..." and the clincher of all clinchers? "My God shall supply ALL your need..." We know this stuff, preach this stuff, solemnly say we believe this stuff. Then we promptly go and try to help the Lord out as much as we can. We make sure we have a new vehicle, old ones break down so easily! We make sure we have a good paying job, we need to be saving for a bigger house, you know! And insurance, we definitely need that, every kind we can possibly find! By all means we need to buy name brand clothing, you get what you pay for these days and, we are to be good stewards after all! I have just one question here: If God wants us to need Him, longs for us to lean, where (in the typical Christian's life) is there any smidgen of need? Where, in all our "helping", do we find the need to lean completely on Him?

Monday, October 8, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - The Longing of the Father

"And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim a huge host, with very many chariots and horseman? Yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, he delivered them into thine hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." 2 Chron 16:7-9 I think these verses are an amazing picture into our Father's heart! Isn't that what we look for from our own children? Aren't we searching, hoping for their reliance on us? Their trust in our wisdom and that we have their best interest in mind? I can almost see Him looking down on His children, searching to and fro throughout the whole earth, longing to show His amazing power, longing to find children who will rely-will lean-on Him! What is He finding?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

27 Days: Leaning - What does the word mean?

What does the word Lean bring to your mind? I'm thinking of several pictures - an old lady, laboring along, leaning heavily on her cane... Two men, deep in conversation, leaning comfortably against a wall or fence... A tired child, eyes drooping and head nodding, leaning against a parent's shoulder. What do these pictures all have in common? They're all leaning, yes, but there's more to it. They're all relying on something besides themselves. Imagine if the old lady's cane would suddenly break, she would quite likely land on her nose! The two men, what do you suppose would happen if someone sneakily removed their prop? And the tired child, they are about to close their eyes and depend completely on their caregiver to keep them from falling. All three are depending totally on something other than themselves to hold them up. They are trusting their "props" implicitly! None of them are leaning gingerly, fearing they'll fall any second. This is the picture. This is the kind of leaning that I'm talking about.

31 Days (minus 3): Leaning - It's what He wants

Eleven years and three months ago I married my best friend. We were young and happy and far from rich. We settled into our "rent free, pay the utilities, many years old" trailer and embarked on the new adventure of marriage. A year later we added a son to our lives and 21 months after that, a daughter. Four years and some rough spots later found us with daughter number 2, 15 acres of land, a remodeled house and barely scraping by. We were still holding our heads high and trying just a little bit harder. The next 3 years brought one unexpected crisis after another. Chris' work dwindled, he started a job 2 hrs from home, Isaac needed surgery, daughter number 3 was added and hospitalized for 6 days, the job 2 hrs away fell apart taking time and money invested with it... God had us in school and we didn't even know it. Slowly, purposefully, painfully God was showing His deepest longing for us-for all human kind. Softly, lovingly, persistently we heard Him pleading, "I want you to need me. I want you to LEAN."

Friday, October 5, 2012

31 Days (minus 3): On Learning To Lean

Some of the blogs I read are doing a "31 Days" series this month - choosing a subject on their heart and writing about it every day in October. I resisted the urge to join, fearing I'd run out of words by day 15, arguing that I should pick another month and do the full 31...still, the urge was there. This morning I read Flower Patch Farmgirl's 4th post on "Going" and felt smitten. So.... for the next 27 days I will be attempting to string some of my thoughts/ lessons/ ideas, on Learning To Lean together and sharing them with you. I'm a little bit excited to take up the challenge and a lot a bit scared to say I'll do it! This "leaning" business is an area God has slowly but surely been teaching me and stretching me in, especially in the last year or two. I certainly don't have the subject down pat but I would love to share my heart with you, and hopefully you will feel free to share your thoughts and input with me! So... tomorrow I'll be back with day 1 of 27!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gold pavement, shoes, and dryers

Did you know that God is a very capable supplier of needs? He's got all kinds of resources and can bring along good deals on a wide variety of merchandise! I'm reminded of Otto Koning's words, "God is not stuck for riches, He's using gold for pavement up there!!" Truly He does seem to be just waiting for us to give Him opportunities to spill a little of that wealth into our lives if we give Him a chance. We've given Him several chances lately and I'm still marveling at His amazing answers! From "simple" needs of shoes for children, to "bigger" needs like a dryer for a small space. Once again I am convinced that God longs for us to lean and does what He can to keep us in that position...if we will only trust Him.....and give Him a chance!