Earlier this year I wrote about a transformational change in my prayer life. You can read about that by clicking here. Then I had a second profound experience in the garden which you can read about here.

In the weeks that have followed my worship time has continued to transform as a direct result of the garden. While the prayer transformation was welcomed and nothing but positive, the worship transformation has sometimes left me feeling a bit vulnerable and awkward. So, I thought I would share with you what's going on in greater detail so that you can either: a. Join me or b. Not commit me if you happen to see me at church.

The time at church where we sing has not always been a time of fulfillment for me. Growing up with the old hymns in a small sanctuary I never really felt moved by the spirit or extremely 'woshipful' during the worship service. Yes, some of the songs were beautiful, and many of them spoke to my heart. I still cannot hear Amazing Grace or The Old Rugged Cross without feeling something deep within me respond, but the fact of the matter is, I am not a great singer. Primarily I spent my time trying to insure that my volume was low enough so as not to offend God or my fellow pew mates. Pepper that with a bit of envy, and trying to track down the voices that were singing out quite beautifully, and I rarely had time to really connect with God during worship.

When I returned to church as an adult, it was to a very large church in Atlanta. Suddenly there was a sound system and dark lighting – both of which freed me to crank up the volume without fearing offense. I could close my eyes, move with the music, and often times I would picture Jesus in front of me and really try to sing at him…to him…with him. This opened up a whole new world where the worship time at church really became about worship. I really was singing the songs to Him – and the songs were different. They were actually reflective of the praise I would give to him about how he had freed me and released me from the bonds that had held me down for so long. I was really feeling it. I thought.

And then I started praying in the garden.

And then I went to church. I closed my eyes to enjoy my worship -and suddenly found myself in my prayer garden with Jesus.

And then Jesus smiled at me.

You want to feel joy? Go sing to Jesus in the garden with a heart full of love and see him see you. You'll look like a blooming idiot to passers by, but you might not ever smile so big in your life.

And then He asked me to dance.

Now listen I grew up in a Baptist church and the movie, Footloose, was one of the run away hits of my youth. Despite that I have danced a lot in life, but I had never even thought about dancing with Jesus. Yet now, if you find me swaying this Sunday with a big goofy grin, be assured me and Jesus are dancing as I pour out my love for him.

It's not always dancing though, sometimes he just listens. I pour out the fear and pain and he just listens with great love. I weep from the tenderness with which he listens.

Greg plays in our church band and occasionally he sings or has a guitar solo and when that happens I get to stand by Jesus and enjoy this incredibly talented man. I lean over and say, “Thank you.” He leans into me and smiles knowingly.

It's a beautiful, fulfilling, amazing thing. And, at times, a little uncomfortable. It has become pretty much involuntary at this point….if I close my eyes and free my mind, I am going to be in the garden. I love it, but at the same time there is a part of me that is very much sitting at church with a bunch of other people and it can get a little awkward.

So God decided to talk to me one day about those who are sitting around me….and anyone who may ever sit around me.

I was in the garden and I was truly worshipping Jesus. I was really there. Then, other people started showing up. Soon I found myself on a very crowded praise floor and to be honest with you I was a bit taken aback. I liked being alone with Jesus and my very pure feelings. Other people intruded on my feeling of safety. Suddenly I was too self aware, too taken out of the moment, and too concerned with how these other people may feel about how I was conducting myself. And it was in that vulnerability that I learned something I now believe to be very, very true.

Jesus said to me –

“You know how purely your praise is of me, and your love is for me?”

“You know how purely I love you, and how unencumbered that love is?”

“One day that is how you all will love each other.”

And I could feel it. I could feel what it would be like to live in that kind of love – for just a moment. And it is my mission, to live in that love as much as I possibly can from now on.

So if ever you find yourself near me at church and it seems as if I'm somewhere else….I probably am.

This is very much a picture of my 'garden'
Actually more an enchanted forest where my heart lives…and where I dance.

 

It's my birthday eve. Tomorrow begins a sabbath year for me and I cannot wait to learn what God has in store.

In the Old Testament God tells His people to let the ground rest every seventh year. At first when I read that, and did the math, I was excited to think that maybe I too was entering a time of rest. I might not be a field, but we all know that humans also need periods of rest and it didn't seem a stretch to think that perhaps our productivity could cycle similar to the land. The more I pondered this idea though the more I realized that while a year of rest sounds wonderful, the land isn't really resting during the sabbath year. It is rebuilding and preparing for a time of growth. While it may look as if nothing is happening in the fields during the sabbath year, the fields, most likely, would beg to differ.

And that's when I became convinced that I was indeed entering a sabbath year.

These past six years has been a time of great planting in my life. Most importantly, I became a mother – twice! I also started my blog, took on significant new responsiblities in my career, and I've expanded my learning in photography. In the past six years, I have grown closer to my husband, matured in my relationships with my family, and I've lost my father. I've made peace with my past, fell in love with the bible, and answered God's call on my life (at least privately, so far -He's still revealing things). I've re-established old friendships, and created new ones that have changed who I am through their love and care. I've found a faith community that feeds me, stretches me, and makes me grow. This is, without doubt, the most productive season of my life thus far.

I feel slightly depleted, but also ready for the rebuilding. I am slightly de-constructed, if you will, and primed for God to replenish me with exactly the right combination of nutrients and building blocks to launch my next season of productivity. It's exciting. It's also not without its fears.

I've learned in these last few years that to actively follow Christ is going to be a lot like motherhood. I do not always feel prepared, the sheer magnitude of the job is overwhelming on a daily basis, and nothing has ever been so fulfilling, beautiful and rewarding. But I've learned that I can do both things. I am not always liked here at home, it's part of being a mom. No doubt I will not always be liked as a follower of Christ, that too is part of the deal. But I am convinced that with a sincere heart and a mind set on Christ, the path will be set before me and I cannot wait to see what the next season of planting will bring.

 

At the suggestion of one of my favorite blogs, Momastery.com, we decided to start a habit during Lent rather than giving something up. We began a family gratitude journal and while it's only been about two weeks now, it's really been a great exercise. Watching a four year old and (almost) six year old take hold of the concept of gratitude has been very revealing. One of the very first things Grace was thankful for was the fact that her cousin's were getting to go on a trip over Spring Break, I thought that was so sweet. Elijah took a bit more coaching. In the beginning he tended to be thankful for whatever his eye's landed on or whatever his big sister happened to be grateful for that day, but over the last week he has come into his own and was thankful for play time with Emily at church, and hearing the frogs outside, to name a few.

I've read many studies that explain the variety of health benefits and the general improved well-being of having an attitude of gratitude, so I'm excited to have found a way to help the kids 'learn' this important life skill. An unexpected benefit though is what a window into their sweet minds this is proving to be. Almost always, at least one thing listed each night is about time that someone spent with them. Whether it is reading time with an aunt, or play time with mommy and daddy, one-on-one time always makes the list. Often they also list something that happened that I would not have known about without the journal. Things that happened at school, like learning new math, or things that they appreciate but wouldn't necessarily have mentioned, like cracking an egg without being scared. (I guess Grace has been too scared to crack eggs up until this last weekend, who knew?)

And just as the studies on gratitude suggest would happen, I can sense a change in my attitude as well. I'm paying more attention to life, noticing when things go right, and thinking, 'This will go in the journal tonight!' I am appreciating when I reach my three before I even make it in the office in the mornings, and I'm more apt to find the silver lining in a difficult situation. It's also a great way to highlight special moments for the kids throughout the day by letting them know, 'I think this moment might be in my top three tonight.' They are learning to be mindful of the good so they can record it at the end of the day – and being mindful of the awesome things that happen each day is such a life changing skill!

And some days it is just a chance to remember the things that we may take for granted, like Elijah's a few days ago, 'I am thankful for my bones.' Me too, although I hadn't ever said those words…

I highly recommend this practice. We have been delighted and suprised every night with what they come up with, not to mention seeing their choices mature and grow in just two short weeks. This will be a habit that we continue even after this season of Lent. Oh, and also – because we started this during Lent – we use our journal time to talk about Lent and Easter and what they mean to our family. This has given us a great opportunity to remind them that it's about more than the Easter Bunny bringing eggs (although that's still something to anticipate!)

What are some other ways your families practice finding gratitude in life? Do you have any other traditions that you do as a family during this season?

Here is one of the things that made my list today when I opened Grace's backpack from school:

Dear Mommy, I love you You like owls.
Mommy (today) you like purple. From
You like purple
Grace

 

And so, from now on, I like purple. The picture is Grace, me, and a silly squirrel looking up at me :).

Hope you have a fantastic week!

 

It's been a while between posts and I'm rededicating myself to weekly blogs (again). Sometimes I just feel a little overwhelmed by life – ever feel that way? Between the weather this winter, the continuing polarization of our country, or the horrendous crimes that occur right in our backyard, it can all just get to be too much.

This is the second post in a mini-series looking at ways that we can make a difference in our communities. Specifically in the lives of the children in our communities. I am woefully ill equipped to address this. I'm researching as we go and I pray for your grace and assistance. The foster care system and child advocacy is not an area in which I am well versed. And that is the point of the series, to familiarize myself with the avenues available to get engaged and make a difference, and to share those findings with you.

Last time I posted was about respite care and you can find that post here. The genesis of that post was the tragedy that occurred here in Springfield when a young girl was kidnapped and murdered. Incidents like this leave us feeling so helpless and angry. I wanted to find a way to channel that energy into something that would make a difference. Two of the members of The Chapel are foster parents, and a close friend has spent the last year working diligently with neglected children in Georgia, they inspired the last post talking about respite care – and really, this series. As a reminder, respite care is a way of giving foster families a break and also connecting with a child that is currently in a foster care environment. While foster families can have babysitter's in their home for temporary breaks, respite care allows you to bring a foster child into your home for up to 72 hours, giving the foster families time to re-focus. Respite care is an important way that you can support foster families to avoid burn out, while also impacting the life of a child in foster care.

Tonight I want to highlight CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA Volunteers are ordinary people who have gone through about 30 hours of training and are appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. Based on the information available on the CASA Website advocates are typically assigned one to two cases at a time. Each case would require approximately 10 hours or research prior to the court date and the 10-15 hours per month until the case is closed. The special advocate does not replace the attorney or the social worker's in a case, but are specifically appointed to represent the children's best interest.

I would love to have a guest post from someone who is an active advocate today. Please send me a note via the contact me link on the blog or messag me via facebook if you are interested in helping us out, or know someone who is. I'm looking to either have someone write a post for us, or I can do an interview and write the post from that.

Fair warning – I'm going to be asking for a lot of help in this series. This is so important and I'm amazed by how little I know about how an ordinary citizen can work to protect a child. But – I have an awesome net of friends who do amazing things for our kids and I'm counting on you to help educate the rest of us.

So calling all social workers, CASA volunteers, foster parents, adoptive parents, and anyone else who wants to highlight how we can help our hurting kids – help me get the word out!

And finally – I would encourage everyone to check out this blog post about foster care. I know I've thought, and still do, “I just don't think I have it in me to do this. I just don't think I could handle it.” This is a gentle post that confronts that thinking. Take a few minutes, it's worth it.

As a christian I can be disheartened by the lack of unity in the body – but this is something we can all do together. This is a place where we can stand as directed by Jesus and take care of the least. This is my heartfelt hope and prayer. Thanks for walking with me.

Here is the information for the Greene county CASA program:

CASA of Southwest MO

Director: Pat Reiser

1111 S. Glenstone Ave. Ste. 2-100 Springfield, MO 65804

(417) 864-6202 x 252

(417) 864-6280 (fax)

preiser@casaswmo.org (email)

www.casaswmo.org

In honor of my own littles.
I wish all were loved as these two are.

 

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