Dancing Amid Disaster (A Beautiful Life: Week 2)

A BEAUTIFUL LIFE-01

To read last week’s introduction, click here.

MISSY

I’m so excited to introduce you to Missy! We first became friends through the power of the blogosphere, and when we met in person at Allume this year, it was more than obvious we were sisters from another mister. My goodness, we’re practically the same person — down to realizing we’re even sorority sisters! Laughter is her spiritual gift (one of her many, many gifts) and she blesses me to no end with it. 

Missy writes anonymously at www.missindeedy.com. She longs to get it right, but often gets it wrong (her words, not mine!). The mishaps are a’plenty, but there is grace galore. She’s wife to one, a mama to two, and likes to write words. But above all, she’ll tell you that she’s saved by grace and strives to remember that mishap by mishap. Oh, yes indeedy!

We love to dance in our house. We love to crank up the music really loud and go all dance-crazy! This fun activity has proven to be quite the stress reliever and family bonder. We’ve even discovered that the pace of our dancing has a pattern: the more challenges adventures that our family is experiencing, the slower we like to dance; and the more relaxed our family life is, the wilder our dancing becomes. It’s almost like the calm brings on The Carefree!

Lately, though, we’ve been experiencing a budget crisis in our home. And this stilted our dance parties.

A huge lack was suddenly present when, with little warning, we were forced to work with roughly one-third of the previous monthly budget amounts. I found myself in the middle of a financial disaster as I scrambled to relearn words like “budget” and “delayed gratification”. Readjusting our outgoing to more responsibly match our incoming revealed a lack, alright, but not really in our budget…it was in my heart.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also be.” (Matthew 6:21)

I first realized that my idea of treasure needed some major rethinking while standing right in the milk aisle of the grocery store. Because our cost-cutting measures involved a very tight meal plan with no deviations, we were trying to limit the number of times we visited the grocery store to once a week. The need for a quick stop to pick up what we honestly needed to finish out a week of meals, provided a jolt to my mindset. That few dollars left in my purse for the remainder of the week was a stark reminder that there was no room for frivolous “just because” purchases.  “Is your treasure in the Oreo aisle, Missy? Or is it with the knowledge that I will feed you all you need?”, I heard God whisper to me.

My eyes were opened, yet again, in the middle of the mundane of my typical daily errands. Driving through town became painful, as I passed shop upon store upon restaurant that I used to frequent without thought to “what was in MY wallet”. Once I began sorting through my emotions relating to the “treasure” I missed having the freedom to buy, I realized that my daily routines demonstrated a complete disregard for The One who provided it all. And I began to see that I was counting on what was in those stores to fill an emptiness that was in me.

And then, there were my pants.  Our budget wasn’t the only thing that was tightening! My pants were getting tighter, too. Those pants of mine seemed to be trying to tell me that I’ve been feeding the wrong hunger.  With less money to carelessly throw on a muffin “to go with that coffee”, I miraculously found extra room in the budget and in my pants! They became a literal reminder that being bound up in debt can result in other, physical and mental, kinds of binding, too.

But, the turning point came when I was on the verge of lying. I found myself engaged in a discussion with other parents at the bus stop about the coming school vacation. Everyone was sharing the exotic locales they’d be visiting or the hot-chocolate laden snow-skiing trips they would be on. The conversation left me waffling between trying to make our pending “staycation” sound glamorous and fudging the truth. “Do you treasure the opinion of these people so much that you would lie?” I heard God pointedly asking me.

It was then, that I began to grasp that what I really needed wasn’t another trip to this or that place, a meal from such-and-such restaurant, or even a new pair of pants to match “that shirt” for that special event. My need wasn’t in the threading that covered my heart, but within my very heart, itself.

At that point, I looked into the eyes of The One who gives me All Things tearfully asked His forgiveness.  I laid my head on His shoulder and entered into a slow dance of rediscovering the treasure, from Him, that I desperately needed to begin storing up in my heart again.

Treasure like:

His promise to place a new song in my mouth. (Psalm 40:3)

His reminder that He will provide “pleasures never-ending” if we will but walk (and I’d add, dance) with Him. (Psalm 16:11)

His reassurance that He is aware of my every earthly need. (Matthew 6:31,32)

I wanted my heart to rest, again, in the truth that God will provide all that I need. And that realization brought on a desire to turn that slow dance, with Him, into a jig.

Not only because my heart began to sing for the newfound understanding of what had been missing, but because joy had been restored. The joy that comes from knowing that Jehovah Jireh, who knows everything I need and considers me far more valuable than the sparrows in the sky, will indeed provide.

In fact, as I began to consider this Truth more and more, and desire what was inside one of those stores less and less, I realized that He already has. God truly has uncovered my lack and filled it with His best, just as He promised. (Click to tweet that)

“You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing; You stripped off my dark clothing and covered me with joyful light.” (Psalm 30:11)

That calls for some dancing.

Don’t you think?

Additional Resources: Looking for some tools to help? Check these out!

1. Who is Jehovah Jirah? A deeper look into this name of God meaning “God is my provider.”

2. Tools for Getting Financially Fit. Resources from the infamous Dave Ramsey on getting yourself financially healthy.

3. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. One of the greatest ways to intensely get out of debt!

4. Cheaper, Better, Faster: Over 2,000 Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day by Mary Hunt. Come on, who doesn’t need this??

Watercolor hearts photo ©iStock.com/beastfromeast (modified by Elevate Ideas)
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A Beautiful Life (New Series: Introduction)

A BEAUTIFUL LIFE-01

“You direct me on a path that leads to A BEAUTIFUL LIFE. As I walk with you, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.” (Psalm 16:11, Voice)

There has been pain.

Pain when two boys we used to care for in our home were killed. Pain when a fellow student in high school died. Pain when my family shifted and changed unexpectedly after college, and the foundation of everything I thought that was suddenly wasn’t, and everything I thought I had vanished and a series of heart-bursting earthquakes left me shaking, empty and broken.

Yes, there has been pain. But there’s also been beauty.

There was beauty when I was a teenager and would sneak in the back of church on Sunday nights — when I had done something I knew I shouldn’t, or was feeling something bigger than I knew how to express, or was confused or sad or lost. I’d sneak in the side door on the far right-hand side of the sanctuary and sit right there, on the second to last row under the balcony, where the lights were dim and I felt unnoticed.

And every time — every single stinking time — God would have gotten there first, and sat there so quietly and invisible that it wasn’t until I felt His huge arms wrap around my body tightly that I realized I actually had sat on His lap, not just the pew. And for the entire service, He would just hold me tight and I would cry until there was nothing left.

There was beauty when as a young adult I reached the end of my rope — when the path of pain and shock and tears all converged right there at God — and my options were simply Will You? or Won’t You? and out of sheer desperation I fell to the side of my bed and whispered, I will. 

And it wasn’t until I felt His huge arms wrap around my body tightly that I realized He had gotten there first and I had actually fell into His lap, not just the floor. And He held me tightly and I cried until there was nothing left.

And there was beauty when I a real grown-up and faced tragedy and loss and shook my fist at God asking, Why me? and He gently…oh so gently…whispered back,

Why not you?

and my pride vaporized and I again found myself in His lap, arms tightly holding me as tears fell until there were no more.

There has been pain. But there has been even more beauty.

We all know suffering. We know the question-raising, faith-doubting, back-turning pain this life brings — whether we’re affected by it, or it’s our own personal story to tell — we know it. We see it throughout the Bible, in our communities and in our world. The consequences of a fallen world mean we will have pain.

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. BUT TAKE HEART! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

And the secret to not just surviving the suffering but thriving in it is tucked right there in the end of the verse. The take heart, or be of good cheer as it’s sometimes translated. The original Greek of that phrase is wrapped up in one word — THARSEO — literally meaning ‘be of good cheer’ or ‘be of good courage.’

And that phrase — THARSEO — is either spoken by Jesus or in direct relation to Him each of the eight times used in the Bible.

THARSEO – Your sins are forgiven. (Matt 9:2)

THARSEO – Your faith has healed you. (Matt 9:22)

THARSEO – It is I. You have nothing to fear. (Matt 14:27)

THARSEO – Do you see? It is I. (Mark 6:50)

THARSEO – He calls for you. Get up and go to Him. (Mark 10:49)

THARSEO – Your faith has made you well again, daughter. Go in peace. (Luke 8:48)

THARSEO – I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

THARSEO – You have successfully told your story about Me in Jerusalem, and soon you will do the same in Rome. (Acts 23:11)

Our defining moments — the moments that lead us to a life of beauty or a life of ashes — come when we’re standing facing that fork in the road deciding between the Why Me? path or the Why Not Me? path. As we stand there we hear Him call THARSEO! and we either choose to be of good cheer or we don’t.

 And it’s choosing the Tharseo path — the Why Not Me? path — that leads to a beautiful life. (tweet that) 

“Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You.” (Psalm 16:1)

This series is called A Beautiful Life not because it’s about how to avoid suffering, or agonizing over our pain, or asking why me. It’s named A Beautiful Life because choosing God and the joy and contentment He alone brings — regardless of our circumstances — is what makes life beautiful. Because God is in the business of making beauty out of ashes, if we first choose to Tharseo. 

“God has sent me to give them a beautiful crown in exchange for ashes.” (Isaiah 61:3a)

He’s in the business of abundant futures and eternal riches, if we first choose to Tharseo.

“You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup. In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches.” (Psalm 16:5)

He’s in the business of making glad hearts and joyful souls if we first choose to Tharseo.

“This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest. Who could want for more?” (Psalm 16:9)

He’s in the business of giving us victory in life, not making victims, if we first choose to Tharseo.

“To anoint them with gladness instead of sorrow, to wrap them in victory, joy, and praise instead of depression and sadness.” (Isaiah 61:3b)

This series has been on my heart a long, long time. It is my prayer and belief that through this series God is going to raise up Victors. That He is going to bring freedom to those that have been enslaved to their circumstances for too long. That He is going to show you how beautiful life truly is and empower you to choose the Tharseo path — to give you a heart of courage and good cheer.

And the best part about this series is that I’m not doing it alone.

“The beauty of faith-filled people encompasses me. They are true, and my heart is thrilled beyond measure.” (Psalm 16:3)

I’m beyond honored that some of my favorite writers are partnering with me in this series, and starting next week you’ll hear from them each Tuesday. You are going to be so blessed by their insights and wisdom and how choosing THARSEO — even as the smallest and faintest whisper — has brought beauty to their lives. We’ll hear from Missy, Katie, Allison, Sara and possibly one or two others as the Lord is leading. It’s going to be incredible. I pray you’ll pop back next Tuesday.

THARSEO! He calls for you. GET UP AND GO TO HIM. Here’s to a beautiful life, my friends. 

Watercolor hearts photo ©iStock.com/beastfromeast (modified by Elevate Ideas)

Thanksday #62

There comes a point when I’m putting the kids to bed, where I cannot stand being in my day clothes for one. more. second. And the kids are dilly-dallying, and saying nonsensical things and taking forever to pick stuffed animals to sleep with. And I’m dying. My rings feel too tight. My earrings are swinging back and forth in an irritating fashion. My neck is hot and my hair needs to be in a ponytail immediately. My jeans have got to be replaced with yoga pants before I rip them into pieces with my bare hands. And sometimes…once or twice…irregularly, really…I find myself rushing the kids along so I can change. my. clothes.

“Why don’t you just change before you put the kids to bed?” you ask. Because that’s. too. easy.

In other news, I seem to be into the ending sentences like. this. today.

Consider. yourself. warned.

Thankfuls this week:

1. Greg’s 80s Dance Moves. Greg will randomly break into a very specific set of dance moves, one of which is a variation of the robot that he stole from me. And while I accuse him of stealing my moves, I still fall into a fit of laughter. Because his robot is so incredibly non-robotic.

2. Rainy Days and Saturdays Always Get Me (the Opposite) of Down. Because being in your PJ’s until after 1 pm and having a nap on the couch is the perfect way to spend a rainy Saturday.

3. Tom-Toms. I have no idea what this is. But it’s Paxton’s new favorite word and he uses it as a substitute for almost everything. For example:

Prayer time: “Dear Jesus, thank you for the tom-toms…”

Dinner time: “Paxton, what do you want to eat?” “I want…chicken…and tom-toms!”

TV time: “Paxton, what show do you want to watch?” “Mickey Mouse tom-toms!”

It’s completely nonsensical and actually cracks me up. But it just has to mean something. Do y’all remember our “Bobadoo” mystery that turned out to be Bob the Builder? I’m going to crack this code if it kills me. (And no, it’s not the shoes.) (He’s not that hip.) (But Jaana is.)

And evidently today is brought to you by the word “nonsensical.”

4. Living Here. I have these moments of pure joy about living here. The other day I was driving and it was sunny and breezy…and I saw open fields just full of buttercups. There were gentle rolling, green hills with budding flowers and cows grazing. And I was just so happy to live in such a beautiful place. Yes, I don’t shop much anymore. Yes, gas costs a lot. And yes, I need a spreadsheet to figure out what restaurant is open on any given day of the week. But it’s a unique opportunity to live where it’s just so peaceful and gorgeous and slow-paced and low-stress. And I wouldn’t trade it for a restaurant open past 6 on a Tuesday in winter.

5. Full Gas Tank. I just love that feeling of having the car freshly filled up with gas and just ran through the car wash. Makes me want to hit the open road and drive to California. Which then makes me think of songs like, “Goin’ back to Cali (back to Cali, back to Cali). Goin’ back to Cali…I don’t think so.” And, “It never rains in Southern California (they tell me).” And that makes me drive with a happy little smile on. my. face.

6. Cheat Day. This will probably take up a permanent spot on my Thanksdays for awhile. This week’s fare: fried green beans with wasabi-ranch; fried green tomato sandwich with fries; vanilla buttermilk pie; donuts; steak and cheese taquitos; ice cream; Cheeze-Its. I wonder if I should I start taking digestive enzymes?

7. Our New Dog Walker. The dog is driving me insane in the membrane, people. I’m thisclose to I don’t know what…but when I think of it, I’ll let you know. Luckily, Luke + My Dad = TLF and PePaw has officially taken over the walking duties while he’s visiting. Which is a nice break. Except that Luke has figured out all he has to do is stand at the door and PePaw will take him out every. single. time. Even if it’s just been 15 minutes since the last trip. So I’ll have a lot of re-training to do when he’s not up here. Which is what I have to do with the kids anyway.

8. Dinner To Go. Y’all. I’m SO TIRED of cooking. And I don’t do it well anyway. Since there’s no delivery options up here, and eating out often is too costly, I have cooked more in these past 2.5 years than in my whole life. I recently remembered a local grocery has a dinner-to-go option that is a full meal (with side dishes!) for pretty inexpensive…you just call ahead to order, pick it up, and it’s the closest thing to delivery you can get. I’ve used it a few times the past couple of weeks. Because come Thursday, I just can’t conceive of having to hit the store and dream up even one. more. meal. God bless the Mountain Fresh.

9. Grace. I’ve needed a lot of grace extended to me lately, and I’m so incredibly grateful to the Almighty and the people who have given it to me. I’ve been a little snippy at times and short-tempered…and haven’t let my words (verbal or written) be seasoned with love and grace. And I hate when I do that. Fortunately, the Lord has sent gentle conviction to me about it immediately and I’ve been able to ask forgiveness quickly. One of these days I’ll never make mistakes and finally walk in perfection. In. heaven.

10. Praise Reports. You know what, there have been a lot of praise reports that I’ve heard about lately, and that in and of itself deserves a praise. God has provided a lot for many of the people I love; and while a lot of those praises still have circumstances that need His touch…we can’t let those outshine the blessings. So thank you, Lord, for what you’ve provided, healed and forgiven in the lives of those I love. Help all of us to continue to recognize your provision in our lives, even if it doesn’t look like what we expected it to look like. And help us to remember to always. give. thanks.

Your turn! Let me know what you’re thankful for this week and share the love. Leave a comment below or link up with Candra. It’ll feel better than yoga pants and a ponytail, and will make. your. day.