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Hundreds of titles for this post were swimming in my head.  Even more topics.  A hint of dread was quickly brushed off like the cobwebs that would be resting on this blog if it were tangible as I wondered if I still remembered how to write.  Needless to say, it’s been a while, eh?  Something to the tune of four months, I believe.  It might as well have been four years, what with all the changes that have taken place during the great blogging silence.  I could write many pages documenting all the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual changes, but I’m going to write about something that’s particularly of focus: the power of encouragement.

I must admit, though I crave it as much as the normal human being, I really lack in dishing it out.  Somehow, if I give some, maybe I won’t have any for myself?  As if it’s going to run out, or something.  I’m realizing something spectacular.  Kingdom fruits never run out.  They seem to multiply more rapidly when given out.  We’ve entered this new culture where one of it’s many strengths is encouragement.  Wow, has it been a culture shock for Jer and I!  It’s brought some major exposure to a bit of unhealth, for sure.  As much as I despise comparison and know of it’s evils, it’s still in there.  I realize it when I see a picture of most everyone on earth vacationing and having the time of their lives while I’m home alone on day 24 of 28 of being a single parent.  Just as I’m about to post something kiddingly-sarcastic, comparing their good time to my alleged lonely misery to get some sympathy, I read the comments from other friends, “I’m so happy for you!”  “That looks so fun!”  “That’s awesome!”  I stop.  Wow.  Those guys are being so nice and encouraging and they’re not on vacation, either.  Some of them are even actual single parents, not temporary ones like me.

Encouragement brings freedom and allows beauty to flow.  I’m telling you, people here are encouragement dealers!  I’ve decided I want to not only be a user, but a dealer, too.  Oh, the high you get when someone says, “Your hair looks so cute!”  Whatever!  I know that seems so shallow, but seriously, you know how good it feels!  “That color is good on you.”  “Awesome new song!” “I love the way you take pictures!”

Being delighted in is the most amazing thing.  More and more, I’m grasping the sheer joy and freedom that comes, knowing that my Father delights in me.  Instead of starting my devotions in shame, thinking of how I don’t spend enough of my day in concentrated devotion, how I blew it when I yelled at one, or all, of my kids an hour ago, and all the other reasons for Daddy to say, “Bad girl,” to me, I am reminded that He delights in me.  How I am redeemed in Him.  How all that other stuff is a dead me coming back to haunt me (yeah, I like Kris Vallotton’s imagery), but He wants to bring the real me more and more to life because He loves who I am dearly.  Oh, what a feeling!  Oh, how I want to parent like this more and more!  My kids need to know that I delight in them so much!  I am starting to shower them more with encouragement, and wow, I’m seeing more and more of their beautiful, true selves and less and less of their bickering, whiney behavior coming out.

Encouragement is powerful and life-transforming.  When I feel loved, delighted in, and encouraged, I feel safe and free to be who I really am.  It’s ridiculous to think that I always had all of that in Him, but I was looking for it solely in people (which seems to come hand-in-hand when you have the fear of man like I did).  I desire so much to be that to everyone around me.  I really do love you.  I don’t talk behind your back and criticize you after I smile and flatter you to your face.  I delight in who you are.  You are beautiful.  That color really looks good on you.  I love your new hair cut.  Those jeans are hot!  I love hearing you sing.  That is an awesome work of art.  And, Jer’s and my favorite new way to encourage in this culture, “COME ON!”  Ahhh, that felt so good.  Wouldn’t you know it?  There’s even freedom and joy when you give encouragement!  I’m addicted!  This new chapter of life will be one saturated in encouragement!  Oh, the life that’s about to flow!

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Practically speaking, blogging is the most illogical activity considering the current situations closing in.  There are major transitions our family is undergoing that require a lot of effort in a little bit of time.  I look forward to sharing with you these exciting goings-on, but that’s for another time.  So much is required, but I am experiencing a moment of quiet, and while I allow my ruptured eardrum to heal (stillness is the name of the game), my heart is burning within me and I’m about to spill it all out.   It’s one of those times where I see things so clearly, I’m only hoping I can clearly communicate.  I would very much appreciate your balancing input.

After reading Luke 12 this morning, I experienced a great amount of fear and joy.  Joy that the end really is near.  Jesus really is coming back, and if not in my lifetime, it could be in my children’s lifetime.  What am I doing to prepare them for His glorious coming?  At risk of sounding like a crazy preacher, the Fear of the Lord descended upon me.  He really is coming back.  Really.

I’ve personally observed pockets of Christians who seem to be embracing this reality and are going after that “pearl of great price.”  Nothing seems to be more important than readying themselves, their families, and others for Jesus’ second coming.  These people are not a people wallowing in doom and gloom, but are a people of hope, joy, freedom, and love.  They are secure in their salvation and their joy comes from relationship with Him and the promise of a perfect eternity together, no matter what temporary hardships meet them on this earth.  But they are not in denial of the current state of this world and are active partners with their Redeemer to bring about even more redemption to the world.  They do not passively sit, waiting for the world to go to pot and feeling any effort to bring about change would be futile.  They recognize the battleground is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil spiritual forces at work, and they do most of the warring on their knees.  This is my tribe.  I want to align myself with these people.

I’ve also been in the camp of Christians who truly want to be about the Kingdom, but seem to have a hard time really living it out.  They’re pretty content with the way things are, they don’t feel things are in that dire of a situation to be all that active and “extreme,” and are just trying to be good people.  There isn’t much joy, but there is confusion.

As Christians, we know what’s good and what is sinful, according to the Bible.  Or at least we should.  We know getting drunk, gossip, sexual immorality, selfishness, greed, and even gluttony is wrong.  We try not to drink too much, be too selfish, and we have internet firewalls that catch most of the bad stuff, but hey, we’re not fully redeemed yet, and stuff is going to slip by, right?  I don’t think these people are trying to be lazy Christians, I think they just might not be “interpreting the present time,” amongst other issues like Biblical illiteracy.

The fact of the matter is this: Jesus is coming back.  Yeah, most Christians are saying, “No duh, I know, I read the Bible.  What a cliche thing to say.  He’s been ‘coming back’ for over 2,000 years.”  He might not come back in our lifetime, but He might in our children’s, or the generation after that, or after that, or after that.  What are we doing to prepare them?  How are we modeling this readiness?  How are we spreading the word so more can be saved?

 Sure, there is tension on this side of the New Testament.  We are redeemed, but can still sin.  But are we using this tension as an excuse, or are we moving forward in our redemption and speaking and acting in our freedom from sin and death?  I know we are saved by grace and not works (thank the Lord), but I am also familiar with the sobering parable of the sheep and the goats.  The time is here!  There is no time for dabbling with the devil.  Or have we forgotten what the devil looks like and what our Savior is capable of doing in our lives?  With Jesus, our addictions, brokenness, and sicknesses can be healed.

I know I’m not saying anything new, yet not much seems to be changing.  This is all coming from one who has been redeemed from the fear of man, the fear of death, the fear of pain and discomfort, and lots and lots of fear, and who has been forgiven of gossip, slander, selfishness, and lying.  Yet physically I’m currently struggling with sickness, knowing God could redeem my health, too.  There’s that tension. I know the gate is narrow, but I want as many of us as possible to get through it.  It is time to really examine our lives, priorities, and thoughts.  He is coming, and that will be a glorious day for some and a damned day for others.  What will it be for you and your children and their children?
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I told you I’d be accountable to you who read this blog about spending quality daily time with the Lord, and well, the past three days have been void of that.  😦  Let me just tell you , I felt it in a HUGE way.  Things that would normally just annoy me almost devastated me those days.  There was a strength missing (go figure).  Now I have every “right” (excuse) to miss a few days.  The first missed day was when we drove back up north, Friday was a cleaning day, and yesterday was a recovery day from all the travel and cleaning.  But did I manage to eat during the day?  Yes.

Connecting with my Father this morning was the best feeling ever.  Strength really does come when we wait on Him.  All the things that were bogging me down (the dirty house, the destroyed garden, feelings of loneliness) don’t have the better of me anymore.  I know He is my Provider of all things, and in His perfect timing, all things will be restored.

Now that I have strength for this day, it’s time to make breakfast, clean, weed, mulch, launder, and get ready for the 2008/09 home school year!  Blessings to you all!

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9:00pm:  My 2-year-old has a 102 fever.

11:00pm: I go to bed.

1:00am:  I check the fever, and it broke.

4:00am: My 6-year-old wakes me up with the dreaded whimper, “I think I’m gonna throw up.”

4:15am:  It finally happened (thankfully, in the toilet!)

4:30am:  Jeremy’s alarm goes off and leaves for the airport to get to the Portland event.  My 3-month-old wakes up from the alarm.  I nurse her back to sleep.

5:00am:  My six-year-old wakes back up.  She has thrown up on her pillow.  I get a fresh one and lay her down on the ground with blankets.

7:00am:  I wake up after having a dream about a white wolf and a pack of coyotes in the children’s ministry rooms at church.  Then, I had a dream that I watched a plane crash-land and there were only a few survivors.

8:00am:  I text Jeremy to make sure he’s ok and have a text from an unknown sender asking me to pray for her cousin who had been thrown out of a car and was bleeding in her brain.  My phone dies before I get a reply from Jeremy and I can find out who the text is from.  I remember my phone charger was left in my locked car, and I can’t find the keys.

At this point I realize it’s probably not coincidental that all this happened at once.  I feel under attack.  It is a grave reminder that the “spiritual forces of evil” are constantly at war with the saints.  I begin to think about the importance of His children in prayer and in unity with each other.  I feel the necessity of prayer and my need for spiritual brothers and sisters especially at times like these. 

I think it’s time to pray Ephesians 6 over all of us again.  We can be given the weapons to fight the evil one, and it’s so important to remember that we are on the same side.  This battle isn’t against flesh and blood.  We need each other.  We need to bare each other’s burdens.  We need to be in prayer as one.  How astounding it is that we already know we’re on the winning side!  Let’s forgive and forget.  Let’s stand as one in Him, fight the good fight, and spend eternity together with Jesus.  Sounds lovely, don’t you think? 🙂

PS: My 2-year-old’s fever broke, my six-year-old’s tummy feels fine, I found my keys, and Jeremy made it safely to Portland.  Thank you, Father!
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I have a confession to make.  Although I spend some individual time with the Lord every day, it has not always been quality time.  It sometimes slips into my to-do list and out of relationship.  It’s so easy to find excuses to try and justify reasons why I didn’t get around to special time with God on certain days.  Living a “full orbed” spiritual walk is something I have been growing in over the years, and “practicing the Presence” has been life-changing, but I sometimes use these life methods as excuses for my inconsistent personal connections with God.  I’ve even been told by church leaders that I’m in a season of raising little kids and my devotional life will come back in due time.  Friends, that is a load of crap.

Lately, I have felt conviction and a sense of urgency to step it up in this area of my life.  It is a must that I am daily studying the Word, supplicating, and waiting on the Lord.  I want to know Him more.  I’m after a deeper relationship with Him.  Some might think keeping it a daily practice no matter what is legalistic, but I figure if it is, then so is drinking water every day.  Just as my physical body needs hydration every day to stay alive, my spirit needs to be sustained by one-on-one time with my heavenly Father every day.  When it doesn’t happen, I start to wither away, sometimes unknowingly for a while.  Just as I can find time to feed and give drink to my body, I can find time to nourish my spirit as well, and if I don’t, my priorities are devastatingly askew.

My flesh likes to tell me that spending time alone with the Lord is a drag because it means getting my mind off myself and my to-do list.  It slows down my production for the day.   I could get a head start on the laundry or house cleaning before the kids get up instead of praying and waiting.  Or maybe I could pray and wait while I clean and kill two birds with one stone, because I’m not sure how I’m going to find the time to get everything done.  Besides, I am really just too tired to have the ability to even make a real connection with God.  EXUSES! 

I will now be held accountable by you who read this that I will daily spend time in the Word and contemplating it, in prayer, and (the most challenging thing for me) in waiting on the Lord.  I will not put a time limit on it, because I feel that would be legalistic.  Vision is found in Him.  Contentedness is found only in Him.  Salvation is found in Him alone.  I know I will lose my way if I do not study the map and communicate with the Navigator.  I know I will starve if I don’t daily take bread.  It’s always there for the taking, it’s up to me to pursue it, in times of consolation and desolation.
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Drought weights the trees, and from the farmhouse eaves
The locust, pulse-beat of the summer day,
Throbs; and the lane, that shambles under leaves
Limp with the heat–a league of rutty way –
Is lost in dust; and sultry scents of hay
Breathe from the panting meadows heaped with sheaves.

– from "The Rain-Crow" by Madison Cawein (1865 – 1914)

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