Taking the Time to Look, Listen, and Learn

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Season of Rest

"The Lord your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land."  (Joshua 1:13).

After I was sick this summer, I had several people telling me that I needed to get more rest and take better care of myself. I was a little hurt and frustrated because for the first time in a while, I actually had been taking pretty good care of myself.  I was exercising regularly and paying much better attention to my diet. I had lost some weight.  I have almost always gotten at least 8 hours of sleep since I cannot stay up late doing projects like many friends (I think I'd be much more organized around here if I did!).  So, I couldn't think of anything in my behavior that would have sparked a serious illness in my spinal cord. 

The message I was feeling from different camps was a message that it was my fault I got sick. That was a horrible feeling during my illness, feeling guilt for all everyone was going through on account of me.  And it was a sad feeling afterwards, thinking, "What just happened to me?"  I knew in my heart that I hadn't done anything to cause it, but still, this is the message that I kept hearing as people talked to me about diet and exercise and getting extra help with the kids and slowing down and resting.  My husband has been great to remind me to listen to truth, to listen to the Lord.

I wanted to have a humble heart in case God was telling me, yes, in fact, I had done this to myself.  I prayed about it, and one passage in Joshua 1 (see above) really struck me.

When the Lord ordains a season of rest for His people, it might look different than we think of rest.  In my mind, I'm imagining sleeping all day and not lifting a finger.  But looking at the context of this passage, He is talking about a season of no conquest.  He has given land, and He has given rest, so His people do not need to conquer a new land.  This does not mean his people would be sitting around sleeping all day; they would still have daily work to do, but they would not need to be plotting and scheming about the next big thing.  The Lord may have other plans for them in the future, but for now, He has given land into their possession and given them rest.  For now, they do not have a battle on the horizon.

This aspect of rest is good for me to hear. I need a restful heart. As my friend MK recently told me, "The opposite of rest is restless," and that is a struggle for me, to think about what the next big thing is.  As my youngest started school two days a week, it's easy to imagine all this new free time opening up and wondering what I should do, what could I accomplish?  But resting in His provisions, being still in His presence is a season to embrace. And truly it is a discipline to be at rest.

I do not feel I caused my illness, but I do think God has used it to His glory in many ways, especially in building community and a closer bond with family.  I also think the well-intended messages to me have been used to His glory as God is showing me more about what rest actually means and that it's a good thing and not something to disdain.

And the truth is that when given a season of rest, we need to obey and rest because, when God is ready, He will call us to the next thing (as He did with the men given land and rest in the verse above; he called them out of rest for a period to "help their brothers until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them" --Joshua 1:15). 

I would rather be rested when the battle arises; wouldn't you?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Remembering to Remember

And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.  He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendents ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed  the Jordan on dry ground.' For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over.  The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God."  (Joshua 4: 20-24)

Yesterday in church, our pastor spoke about the meaning of Worship and the different ways we worship.  (http://www.newheights.cc/pages.asp?pageid=89495) He pointed to scripture for clues on all the types of worship, including prayer, singing, dancing, silence, exercise, work, study, and other areas.  He also pointed out the vast number of times that scripture uses the word "Remember."  Remembering what the Lord has done is another act of worship.

I have had conversations with friends over the years with all of us wondering how Israel couldn't just "get it" that the Lord is who he says he is.  God's people had witnessed miracles like the parting of the Red Sea and the provision of manna; how could they doubt his power? Why couldn't they trust him and obey?

Well, I could ask the same question of myself. How can I doubt God's power? His mercy? His provision? His goodness? How can I doubt when I've seen it? How can I let fears creep in when I know God is bigger than all my worries?

We often don't look at things with God's perspective; we look at what we can see right in front of our faces. And a lot of times that is scary!  We don't know how this episode of our lives will end, and we want to know now....so often we try to figure it out ourselves, in our own strength. And sometimes we fall flat on our faces. I hate that.

Remembering how the Lord has worked in our lives or in those around us is an act of worship; we acknowledge Him and praise Him for what He's done.  This aspect of worship can also strengthen our faith.

I want to make more time for remembering. I want to look back so that I'm stronger looking forward.  I want to think about the 12 stones and what I can tell my children when they ask about their meaning. 

What are ways we make time to remember?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Help from the Sanctuary

"May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion" (Psalm 20:1-2).

I have always appreciated that the Bible confronts the fact that we WILL go through times of trial in our lives. Jesus told his disciples, "In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

As my family has recently been going through a trial of health problems, I haven't felt like writing much.  I've written in my journal sporadically, but my mind has been mush and my energy has been low.  As we have had some good doctor's reports this week and see the hope of crawling out of this trial soon, I have had renewed mental energy.  Besides the desire to be active and creative, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

When I read this morning's verse about God sending help from the sanctuary, I thought, "That's it! That's what we have been experiencing in the past three weeks!"  As we've navigated eight different doctors and seemingly endless medical tests, not to mention battling symptoms and getting ready for school to start, we have felt carried along. Even as we've been confused and wondered why and how and what, we have felt carried along. 

Our sanctuary of help has been our family, who has traveled from out of town, cooked meals, folded laundry, taken care of children, sat by our side in waiting rooms and doctors' offices, prayed for us, cried with us, kept us laughing.   Our sanctuary of help has been our friends, who have brought us meals and flowers, visited us, entertained our children, called and emailed constantly, prayed for us, cried with us, kept us laughing.  Our sanctuary of help has been our church family, who came to pray with us, brought us food, reached out, cried with us, kept us laughing.  Our sanctuary of help has been my husband's work colleagues, who brought us meals, helped with transportation of our children, supported my husband at work, sent notes and emails.  Our sanctuary of help has been our children's school teachers and school families, who have helped with transportation and helping our children have a smooth start to school.  Our sanctuary of help has been our team of doctors, who have been accessible and concerned and seeking truth and healing.

Yes, we have felt distress, but yes, the Lord has sent us help from the sanctuary and has granted us support from Zion.  Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Prayers for a Woman I Haven't Met

Living Simply: Choosing Less in a World of MoreYesterday, I wrote about the book I am reading and now re-reading.  Later in the day, I was reading another blog and saw something about "Praying for Joanne" with a picture of a woman who looked to me like the author of this book, Joanne Heim. I clicked on the link and was thrilled to find a link to her blog "The Simple Wife" (http://thesimplewife.typepad.com/).  Then I was deeply saddened to see that in January of this year, she suffered a stroke at age 38. 

I only had time to read for a second yesterday and just had time to read a bit more, but my heart aches for this family! To have been reading about her active life with her family these past few weeks, I feel like I've gotten to know her.  To read all they are now going through is so sobering.  A recent post written by her father--probably around my own father's age--talks about all the accomplishments to be thankful for these past six months (from waking from a coma, to breathing on her own, to talking...) and her next set of goals as she re-enters rehab (http://thesimplewife.typepad.com/the_simple_wife/2011/07/papas-post.html).   I can't imagine how hard this is for a father to watch his daughter endure this tremendous life change.

Her goals include some of the most basic daily routines, some we even grumble about (going to the grocery store, cleaning the house, driving, typing, not to mention walking unassisted and showering).

I am teary today. And I'm prayerful.  And I'm wanting to be more present and more alert and more grateful, savoring each moment.

I am thankful to see how God is working in this beautiful family, how He is binding them together even through suffering.  I am thankful to be allowed to witness His faithfulness.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Honoring the Sabbath

I just finished reading a simple but inspiring book that my sister-in-law gave me a few months ago: Living Simply: Choosing Less in a World of More by Joanne Heim.  I just finished reading it; and I just started re-reading it.

It is such a refreshing look at how we live and how we could live.  The whole book talks about intentionally choosing a simpler life in the face of a culture constantly screaming that we need more--more stuff, more money, more activities, more trips, more nights out, more, more, more.  This message is one I need repeated.

One chapter talks about the Sabbath and how our culture has begun to treat Sunday as a regular day full of errands and activities.  Heim remembers coming home from church as a child and smelling the pot roast supper her mother had prepared. Her mom had set the dining room table with china the night before and had done the prep work on the meal to make it easy for Sunday.  When the family got home from church, they brought another family or couple with them to share the meal.  Heim asks what has happened to this tradition?

I thought this was worth bringing up to my family. So, Saturday night at dinner, I told my husband and the big kids about what I'd been reading. We talked about why Sunday should be set apart as a special day and wondered what we could do to make it special.  Everyone was excited!

Two suggestions that Heim makes about thinking through a Sabbath are--stay flexible and plan ahead.  She knows that for her, family time and being restful are a part of honoring the Lord's day, so she doesn't want to be scurrying around all day.

Sunday, I put a whole chicken in the crockpot before church, made scalloped potatoes that afternoon (which was super time-consuming, not necessarily restful!), made a cake with the kids and put it in the oven as the potatoes came out and we made the salad. We set the dining room table and lit the candles.  We brought in the children's Bible to read a story and talk about while we were eating.  It was such a special meal, and we really all enjoyed treating Sunday as a special day.  We want to incorporate asking other people to dinner in the future!

How do other families honor Sundays?

**(By the way, if you didn't see Rachel's comment from the last post, please look because I want to know a recipe idea like that, too! Please add your own comment with any last-minute recipe ideas!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Feeding Masses with Loaves and Fish

"'Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'" (John 6:9)

Twice this summer I have invited over friends for lunch only to realize once they had arrived that we were low on provisions. Hmmm... the whole swim class and moms and siblings? How did I miss that all our sandwich bread had dwindled to only half a loaf?  Tuna salad for my friend and me while our kids ate their sandwiches? Oops. Good thing I had half an apple and some sweet pickles to add to my measly can of tuna. I always have extra tuna in the pantry. Where did it go?

The good news? Everyone was fed. Everyone was satisfied.

I am glad to learn this lesson of creative stretching, of opening doors before realizing maybe I "shouldn't."

I need to extend this to more areas of my life. I try to take control instead of letting the Lord work in His way, in His time.  I want to get my ducks in a row.  I want to know how everything will turn out, and if I can't see how, I need a plan! And a backup plan.  It gets exhausting.

I love the little boy in this passage of Jesus's feeding the 5000. He is earnest and trusting.  He does what he's told and is generous, but he's bold and courageous, too.  I tend to be more like Andrew, the disciple reporting to Jesus about the boy's offering; I tend to doubt that such a little portion could actually pan out into a miracle of provision.

And not only does Jesus provide; he gave them each as much as they wanted. And there were leftovers.

Our God is an awesome God.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ranch-style Cooking

Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes

While my family is on vacation, I have been doing a lot of reading. One of the books is Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes.  I have been curled up in the leather armchair in the great room at my grandparents' ranch, reading fabulous recipes and interesting biographical tidbits about this famed Texas caterer.

I have especially loved reading it here because he catered our wedding at this very ranch.  Each recipe brought back the delectable tasting menu we sampled at his Don Strange Ranch outside of San Antonio.  Genius. And so Texan.

Prickly Pear Margaritas, Caprese Skewers, Mango, Brie and Avocado Quesadillas--these are just a few of the clever takes on Texas cooking.

My favorite part of the book, however, was reading about Strange's own history, from working in his parents' grocery store to becoming a premier foodie all with guts and bravado that can only come from Texas.  For example, I love the story of his trips to San Franciso and New York with his wife to learn about "gourmet cooking" and broaden his horizon.  The director of the McNay Museum in San Antonio, for whom Strange catered many events, sent them to a famed New York restaurant with a sommalier.  They did not even order wine they were so intimidated, and his wife ordered a whisky sour because it's all she'd heard of. 

Another great story was his invitation to do a barbecue for the NFL commissioner at his New York estate.   When local New York butchers couldn't provide as much beef as Strange required, he had to freeze the side of beef in Texas and take it on the plane with him to New York.

The personal anecdotes combined with the brilliant recipes make this a fantastic and fun read.
Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes