Open Mind and Open Hands

I was taking a walk through beautiful fall colors, reflecting on the last few days when a new thought entered my mind – but first, let me back up a few steps.  When we moved to our new hometown of Walla Walla, I was mentally and emotionally prepared to down size to a smaller house.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy as the house we were in was not large by any stretch of the imagination, but I wanted to be ready to simplify and live with less.  In my mind, it meant I was giving more.  Much to my surprise, God totally provided a beautiful home at a beautiful price that was BIGGER than our previous house, and did it in such a way that there was no doubt that it was His work.  I was surprised, but happily accepted God’s good gift.  What I’ve realized though, is that I’ve now transferred the idea of a smaller, simpler house to our future.  The idea that once our kids start leaving for college, we’ll probably down size so that we can free up more resources for kingdom work.  

This brings me to my walk, and to the rub.  As I’m being refreshed by the fall air, I’m thinking about the past week (and the weeks even leading up to last week) as well as our upcoming schedule, and realizing that we have “extra” people – often times many – far more days and evening than we are without.  This past week we hosted a party with at least 40 people with the intention of giving them a warm and safe place to hang out, to feel loved and blessed, and for our neighbors to meet our church family.  We’ve had a young teenage mom, her boyfriend, and infant at our house for the day, and then hosted 14 out of town guests for the weekend.  I think there were some additional relatives in there, and a couple football parties too.  And I often found myself thinking, “I wish we had more space so we could invite more people . . . so-and-so would love to be here.”

I do realize that God has given me and my family the gift of hospitality.  I love to cook, and cook in BIG quantities, seeing how God can stretch my dollar and still produce culinary delights!  I love to see people comfortably sprawled out on my couch knowing they’re welcome here, I love making people feel special and cared for – and I’m not the only one, God has gifted my family with the same hospitable hearts.  So . . how am I expecting to love people in the way God has called me to if I keep trying to down size?!  I think I’ve minimized the power of having people into my home that God has filled with love and joy (and mess and chaos) by this thought that I need to think smaller.  That some how I can serve and love and bless better outside my home than around my kitchen table – which hasn’t been the case for the past umpteen years, and I don’t think is going to be the case any time soon.

I’m still open and willing to follow God into a smaller space, but I realized today that I also need to be open and willing to follow Him to whatever space He wants to use even IF it is a castle!  He is a good God after all, who loves to give good gifts to His kids!!


More Ugly

God is so faithful to answer our prayers, and in His sovereignty, reveal what He knows we need to see and to truly transform us rather than following our script.  That’s exactly the process I’ve been in, and I am thankful and pretty disgusted at the same time.

To start, after a month of bronchitis, I think I’m finally starting to feel better.  This has continued to challenge what I didn’t even know I had envisioned of how God was going to “pour me out.”  I’m realizing that I was pretty set on Godly activities, humble service, giving things up . . . doing good things for God.  There has been plenty of that going on, I guess, but no more than what seems normal for my life – and I really thought God was going to take me out of normal into something God-sized.  Well, He has, but it’s not been in my service opportunities.  He has started, as He always does, with a deeper pruning of my heart.  I’m reminded again of God’s words to the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah that says:  “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  (Isa. 29:13) Jesus reiterates these words to the religious uptights of his day (Matt. 15:8) – He has ALWAYS been interested first in the state of our hearts, mine included!

So,here’s the ugliness He has revealed.  As God brought opportunities for me to put other’s needs above my own I would typically be obedient, but internally have a dialogue or attitude that was all about me.  Something that made me feel like I had a right to complain later about my lack of getting my “to-do” list done, or a “sharing” with my husband in such a way that made me look really good, or somehow entitled me to some extra “me time” later in the evening.  I either felt a little bit like a victim after pouring myself out, or a little like a hero.  Being sick just magnified this sick state of my heart.  (Even as I right this, I’m confronted how many times I used the words “me” and “I” in this tiny little paragraph.  Ugh, it’s ugly.)

As I process this, I’m realizing that when there are opportunities to be poured out with people or in ways that I choose, it’s pretty easy to be joyful, but accepting someone stopping in to visit while I’m trying to complete my devotions as God-ordained and not as an interruption is another thing!  (Actually happened this week. Ironic and sad.)  I’m also seeing that my frustration with people or events are often a sign that I’m not open to God’s plan, but am holding on tightly to my own.  That I’m not trusting Him, His timeline, His work, but that I feel the need to control and orchestrate not just my life, both those around me.  This was demonstrated when I was having the same conversation with someone I had had before and had thought that we had come to a wise conclusion, only to find out that it wasn’t as settled in their mind as I had thought it was – and they needed to revisit all the points of our earlier discussion.  It seems a little thing, but I struggle with a willingness to have me poured out so I can graciously and patiently love in a way that reflects Jesus – as many conversations as it takes.  

I’m not even going to try to wrap this up in a nice little package, because God is still rooting this one out – and it might take a while.  I have to say though, I am amazed at God’s loving patience with me and the gracious way he brings my ugly sin nature into view.  In the midst of my shame, I have felt such forgiveness and encouragement – and I am constantly reminded by the Holy Spirit that this work would not be getting done if I wasn’t His child.  This work has got to be about Him, not me, and I’m confident He will be faithful in continuing the work of pouring me out so that I can truly be filled by Him.

Not glamorous

It’s been about a week since I’ve started my day with a simple prayer, “Lord, pour me out and fill me up.  Let me see through your eyes and love with your love, trusting that you’re enough.”  So last week I had, what I thought, were some good ideas for pouring into others’ lives.  Friends with little ones that I knew could use a break, neighbors I wanted to have over for a meal, and the list went on.  What I didn’t see coming was this ridiculous bronchitis that has kept me in the house feeling sick and tired,  certainly not accomplishing anything on my “pouring out” list.  What I’ve found this week, though, is that God still had a plan – it was just different than mine (imagine that!)  and way less public or “glamorous.”  Tasks like using my limited energy to make dinner for my hungry family, to make a much needed call to my grandma that I never seemed to have time for, time addressing issues with one of my kids and much more time, subsequently, praying for my child and for us as parents during this challenging time.

I’ve realized the temptation to call this week a wash, kind of like I do with a diet plan that’s gone awry, and say I’m starting fresh on Monday.  I know, however, that this illness did not sneak up outside of God’s plan, but IS his plan for me, which means this is exactly how He planned to pour me out and fill me up.  A loving reminder as I start this journey  that each day has to start with a reliance on God because I can’t even do this challenge on my own.  Sadly, left to my own devices, I will quickly make this about me – coming up with creative ways to give, and then feeling good about my generosity and thoughtfulness as I check my “good deeds” off my list.  Trying to find the balance between intentionality and Spirit led is going to be tricky, but I trust that this will be part of how I grow as I daily seek Him and accept whatever day is dealt from His hand – even if it includes me hacking away on the couch in my jammies.

Who’s Pouring?

You may already know that our family has recently made a monumental move.  From the west side of the state of Washington to the east side; from city life to small town; from ocean, rain, mountains and green to rolling hills of wheat, orchards, and vineyards.  And I love it.

One of the many things my husband and I enjoy doing in our new hometown is to go wine tasting.  Our little community is surrounded with rich soil that has produced sweet onions, a plethora of apples, acres of wheat, and grapes – lots and lots of grapes.  I have heard different numbers, but I believe there is something like 150 wineries in our county of 55,000 people, and these wineries are making some pretty good juice.  So if we have a little time, my husband and I will head out to a winery to see what they’re making and appreciate their craft.  Believe it or not, this has been an incredible way to meet new people, talk about life, hear their story and share our own.  An hour later we may have had only a couple sips of wine, but have swapped phone numbers and even made dinner plans with our new found friends.  Sometimes we’ll head to a winery we’ve been to before, even calling ahead to ask who’s pouring.  Is it someone we’ve met, someone we’re building a relationship with, someone that is friendly and fun, or cold and stingy?  We’ve found that who’s pouring can make all the difference in the quality of our experience and the outcome of our outing!

This leads me to the title and point of this blog.  When it comes to my life, I know who’s pouring – and He has given me a generous pour.  Not a few little drips, not nasty tasting cheap stuff, not given with an air of arrogance or a sour attitude, because what He gives is himself.  All of his wonderful, loving, sovereign, gracious and merciful self – nothing I could ever earn or deserve, but freely given as demonstrated and secured on the cross.  My life is overflowing with all that Jesus is and has done for me, and what do I do?  I want to claim it and call it my own.  But what does He ask?  That I pour out in the way that He has poured into me, trusting that I will never run dry and that there is no end to what He wants to do in and through me if I will but let him.

So this is my challenge, and the purpose of this one year blog – to reflect on and share the blessings and the struggle of living a poured out life.  I know it’s going to be messy, because I’m a mess, but I know it will be good, because He is so good.  He has put this on my heart to pursue in an intentional way, and so I humbly and nervously have decided to share this process with you.  Not because I want you to think I’m a great Christian (because I’m pretty sure anyone who reads this blog will be embarrassed to know me) but because I trust that as I follow Him that even in my weakness He will be made much of and together we will give Him all the glory!  So here I go . . .