Lord, Make Me Willing to Wonder

If I only wrote of what God is teaching me, how exciting it is, how I am growing, all of His goodness and the excitement of living Real Life in Jesus—the life I shadowed for so many years—you might get the image that all of my lessons come wrapped in exquisite silence. You might picture me sitting on the back porch with my Bible, journal and pen furiously writing down what I hear Father whispering to me through His Word. And all of that would be true.

I am blessed in this season to have unprecedented time to soak up God’s Word. And I’m so grateful for it. I do learn a lot in those quiet hours. But, some of the hardest hitting lessons are just that—hard hitting. They hit my ego, my sanity, my peace of mind, my confidence. Just such a lesson has been pummeling me against the stones of residual unbelief. In the wake of this storm, it feels like my mind has been thrashing with no upward or outward orientation.

Perhaps you can identify: It’s all in the numbers.

No, I haven’t been obsessing over the scale, calories in or calories out as you might suspect of a former anorexic. I haven’t been contemplating hours of exercise or the number of peanuts in a one ounce serving. It’s been another numerical conundrum—the fear of money. (I actually discovered a term for it: peniaphobia. Look it up!)

Here’s how it manifests in me: This week I have bought and returned and bought again an outfit (and almost returned it again). Another item I bought and returned and various others I have fretted over and worried through the halls of my mind like a stone between restless fingers. I have also panicked over credit card fraud, which resulted in closing two accounts and requesting new numbers. (One turned out to be real, the other I was in error.)

I have lost sleep over whether I should or should not buy something for the house. I have been consumed with whether my budget is correct or if I missed recording an expense. I have hounded my husband for not telling me he bought a Kindle book for $1.99.

Maybe you don’t have this problem. However, in the last week I have spoken to two other married women who alluded to wrestling with these unwanted fears too.

So, whether you fret about money or not, let me ask if this resonates with you: I live in a constant state of “what if”, living as if all the “what if’s” could happen and I must take preventative measures.

I’ll share some other specifics with you; try them on for size:
What if the government shuts down again and the military doesn’t get paid?
What if my husband is one of the hundreds forced out of the Army?
What if I need to work and can’t find a job?
What if we lose the renters in our house who are covering the mortgage?

These thoughts were very common when I dealt with anorexia:
What if I get fat?
What if I eat too much today and can’t workout tomorrow?
What if my family gives up on me?
What if there are more calories in that than what I counted?
What if they actually put dressing on my salad?

So, my self-protective, chicken-heart believes that it’s best to live as if these things might happen, live hyper-vigilant. More painfully true—it’s best to live as if God isn’t good just incase He withdraws His blessing that has been so generous to me for more than 34 years.

My eating disorder was one giant, frightened step back from a looming “What if?” It was my shattered response to a terrifying unknown. It manifested in rejecting love—What if they stop loving me? Extreme anxiety in school and other challenges—What if I fail? Fear of enjoying anything—What if I get used to this and it’s not here tomorrow?

Terror of the unknown cropped up in my marriage and almost short circuited forgiveness. After discovering my husband’s addiction to pornography, even after he addressed it, we worked on our marriage and I had no evidence that it remained, still I held him at arm’s distance, skeptical and suspicious—What if it comes back?

Paralyzing, invasive fear is the side effect of living in a perpetual, hypothetical state of “What if?”.

As I discovered this tendency to live in prevention mode against all possibilities, I realized that I rebel against wonder.

The same thing that I admire in carefree children and happy-go-lucky puppies, I fight against tooth and nail as an adult. I do not want to experience wonder. I do not want to embrace “maybe” or, “what if”, or “perhaps not”.

Then God got really personal. I heard Him whisper, “If you rebel against the unknown, you can never know me.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

To pursue the heart of God is to step willingly into wonder, amazement and, invariably, into the unknown. To trust Him is to acknowledge and embrace what I cannot fully know.

Oh My Father, I want to wonder. I want to know wonder and amazement and awe and true, Biblical fear—fear of you and you alone. Please, gently release these shackles of safety. Teach me to trust you and to walk in wonder. Teach me to ask “what if” with anticipation, joy and peace.

The Morning After

Thankfulness:

For noticing in the oddest of places.

Finding a measure of wonder, transfixed by unseemly, simply because it is you.

I watch and remark at the sway of trees, but if I peer closely,
Hundred of thousands of chlorophyl tissues greet the sunrise.

Welcome in the morning sun.
Even as heat bears down, sinks into asphalt,
As puppy paws seek grass and shade.
Thanks even there for grand design.
My skin deepens, bronzes, adopts a lustrous hue.

Even as humidity climbs and the air thickens,
As sticky syrup, yet sweet as too.
The faintest breeze bearing honeysuckle, fresh mowed lawn and tiny clover.
I’m glad even for these “weeds”.

After a move,
I am swollen with thanks for quick work and few things.
For empty boxes and mounds of paper and unbroken treasures.

Thank you for pillows and sheets aplenty.
For dog bowls, spoons and laundry soap.
Thank you for the waiting,
And my soldier’s patience,
Who coaxed me this far,
To wait past reason, hush and wait some more.

Thank you for the soft body curled peaceful on my lap.
For perky, black-brown ears and bright eyes.
And thank you for just enough space for the two of us
On this chair, in this ray of sunlight.

I wrote this the day after we unpacked all our “stuff” after we moved from Columbus, GA to Clarksville, TN. I’m finding attentiveness to the Holy Spirit in intentional thanks.

Sampling Gratitude

I just dug into the sample.

I’d first tasted it at my parents’ house. Early one morning, in the same fashion as her own mother, my mom cracked open a devotional and read out loud to my father and me.

I felt so treasured, so uniquely special there, curled in the corner of their couch, no rules, responsibilities or places to be. Just the three of us, parents and their oldest daughter. And for a few brief moments, that’s what I was again–merely daughter.

Age can sometimes be irrelevant. I would have sat with perked ears and my knees tucked just so whether I was four, fourteen or thirty-four as I am now. Listening to the warm, familiar voice of my mother, I was truly thankful.

So, per her suggestion, I downloaded the Kindle sample on my iPad of 1000 Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces.

But I didn’t read it.

1000 things piled high on my plate. Not the least of these was packing and moving. Mixed into my daily mess was finishing one Bible study, starting another, saying indefinite goodbyes, pet therapy, writing obligations, book marketing, cooking, cleaning, bills, wifely duties–you get the picture. My to-do list probably looks a lot like yours. And your to-read, bedside-stack probably looks a lot like mine.

I didn’t read it until…

One bedtime when I was between books and dreading the next one in line. I opened the sample and read the tantalizing first 10 pages, only to find myself salivating for more.

Strangely, I was starving for more conviction, more Holy Spirit shoulder squeezes and humbled squirming. All the same, I pined for more. I bought the book.

Who’da thought I was so ungrateful?

I wonder how long God has been trying to convince me of the utter redemption of gratitude? I wonder how long He’s been waiting for me to realize that my own joy, my own hope, my own happiness and self-awareness and all the jazz we pedal for in this world, was on the tip of my tongue? If I would only open my mouth and express thanks for all that God IS, for all that He HAS done and promises TO DO, I would realize how favored I am!

But even though my nightly reading has been refreshing thankfulness, I tend to forget my lessons by morning. Just a few days ago, I opened my journal and scribbled the words, “Father, there’s so much going on. My mind can’t be still and I don’t know what to say.”

His response?

Abby, you will never be wordless while thanks remains. 

And so I started:

Thank you for colors and limits to perfection even in the most exquisite prism. The scope finite here on earth, such that discovery remains. While nothing under the sun is new, so much remains new to me.

As we move Lord, give me fresh, childlike eyes in our new home–an innocence and willingness to bend to different, to embrace it. Fill me with no disdain for the past, but open hands to release it and grasp for an unforeseen, fresh, cusp of waking tomorrow.

I need you to do this within me. For this not me–a creature of variety of change. To forsake routine and safety is no relief to my carnal self.

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Be All To Me

Funny, I can go months at a time without writing a poem. Then, all of a sudden, one hits me and a few follow. Hope you don’t mind me posting another prayer-poem. 🙂

May God bless and keep you, Friends.

Oh Father, 
Increase my hunger for you. Screenshot 2014-04-12 13.55.44
Whet my appetite for prayer
And my tongue with intercession.

Greater in me,
Let your Life-breath swell my chest.
Illumine my eyes.
Weaken my resistance to your probing eyes,
healing hands and pure, fiery heart.

I want to know you and,
In knowing you to need you more.
I want to pummel you with questions,
Seek you for guidance,
Fear you with wisdom,
Love you with passion and an undivided heart.

Even in my frailty and oft distracted gaze,
I know, I know that you alone
Are sufficient for my days,
And more, more, more!

With answers to past troubles,
And light for distant paths,
Oh Father, when hungry teach me to feast on you.
When thrilled to glory in you.
When troubled to seek you and rest in you.
Be all to me.

Intoxicating

barbed-wire-on-a-stormy-day-1117143-mHow good of you Lord, to wrap another day
In pre-storm quiet and low-hung gray.
Sweet, tingly scent of fresh-cut grass
Hangs lazy, expectant in the air.
Silence pierced as with tiny holes,
By bird-song here and there.

The air is due for washing,
Pollen latent, clings to walls and walks where,
In minutes or hours, pure rain
Will leave them clean and bare.

How Good is God–Creator God!
To mold the world for me!
And add the redbud highlights as far as I can see.
Intoxicating beauty, I try to hold my breath,
And wish, as Joshua, “Sun stand still”,
Let worship resound in me!

In kind deference, God gifted me this world
While cold and undeserving my fists still clenched and curled.
But in this gift so undeserved,
He radiates Himself,
In quiet, sweetness, and cleansing rain.

Right here I’ve come to know Him,
Right here to understand,
The vastness of His love for me,
The perfection of His plan.

My soul awakes, revives to sing,
My fists loosen and relax.
For here within His goodness
Drunken by His beauty,
Mesmerized by love…

I give with abandon all I have
So frail compared to this.
But in all He has, He only wants–what I alone can give:
My trust, my faith, surrender,
My life to largest hands,
The ones who sculpted all this world,
This intoxicating land.

Thanksgiving and Praise

Oh My God, 

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, 

my heart admires, adores, loves thee, 

for my little vessel is as full as it can be, 

and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow. 

When I think upon and converse with thee

ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, 

ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, 

ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, 

crowding into every moment of happiness. 

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, 

for adorning it, sanctifying it, 

though it is fixed in barren soil; 

for the body thou hast given me, 

for preserving its strength and vigor, 

for providing senses to enjoy delights, 

for the ease and freedom of my limbs, 

for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;

for thy royal bounty providing my daily support, 

for a full table and overflowing cup, 

for appetite, taste, sweetness, 

for social joys of relatives and friends, 

for ability to serve others, 

for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, 

for a mind to care for my fellow-men, 

for opportunities of spreading happiness around, 

for loved ones in the joys of heaven, 

for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly. 

I love thee above the powers of language to express, 

for what thou art to thy creatures. 

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity. 

Taken from: The Valley of Vision

Marital Counseling in the Context of a True Story

By the time a couple finishes the first round of premarital counseling, most are willing to admit that marriage requires, and affects, personal change. All will affirm that marriage involves cherishing and being cherished.

However, only after the rings are exchanged, the threshold crossed and the first dinner bloopers endured, does light dawn on the truth that these aspects of marriage are not only true, they are nonnegotiable and they are mutually dependent.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s trilogy, Emma of Aurora, The Change and Cherish Trilogy, is a fascinating, didactic work of historical fiction. In her remarkably accurate account of the life of Emma Wagner Giesy, Kirkpatrick quietly unveils the perils, the promises, the possibilities and the purpose of marriage.

Emma Wagner Giesy’s life was fraught with perils. She had a strong mind and a ferocious sense of independence. Neither bode well for her in the ultra-conservative, communal Christian colony in Bethel, Missouri, where she grew up. She fell in love with Christian Giesy, during a Christmas morning church service in 1851, as she studied him across the isle dividing male and female worshipers.

Her subsequent marriage to Heir Keil’s right hand man, immediately set her at odds with the colony’s undisputed leader. Tension simmered as Emma worked to manipulate the men in her life to respect her wishes, something unheard of in the patriarchal colony. But she won more battles than she lost and eventually found herself the lone woman accompanying her husband and a small group of scouts westward to find a new homestead for the growing Bethel colony.

Perils of loneliness, physical pain, rejection and exhaustion assaulted Christian and Emma’s marriage. I watched as Emma and Christian changed, almost imperceptibly, learning to cherish each other in spite of their differences.

God’s promises prevailed over and over in this true, rich story. Kirkpatrick uses Emma’s voice to recall Scripture frequently. Familiar Biblical texts became Emma’s lifeline when her husband seemed distant and unfeeling. At the same time, Emma and Christian’s vows to each other endured continuous refining fire, but emerged stronger.

At risk of giving away Emma’s darkest, most transformational peril revealed in Book 2, I’ll simply tell you that through Emma’s story, Kirkpatrick helps the reader to understand God’s promise, “All things work together for the good of those who love Him”, often requires that we believe, “With God all things are possible”.

Finally, Kirkpatrick’s uses Emma’s story to show the purpose of marriage. God designed the union of man and woman in marriage to be unlike any other relationship. The aggravating truth of our stark differences can make marriage one of the most difficult relationships. But it is through the pain of changing that we understand how much God cherishes us. It is in learning to rest in our Father’s love that we become able to accept the differences of others, gently accept God’s changing us, and become able to cherish another human being.

This book is an excellent, unparalleled read. Kirkpatrick develops vibrant, multi-dimensional characters. None is flawless and the reader’s loyalty vacillates, even occasionally leaving the heroine.

The conclusion left me with a deeper self-awareness. It cultivated introspection, an attentiveness to the changes God longs to make in my own life. At the same time, the book left me with peace, a confidence that I am cherished, even as I am changing.