Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Permission Slips

If you have ever had a child in elementary school, you are well aware of the permission-slips-waiting-to-be-signed-(or forgotten) pile on the counter.  As a proud survivor of having four children in elementary school at once (one has now moved on to middle school), I'm pretty sure I should get some kind of Permission Slip Achievement Award at some point in time.  It's only fair, right?  I know many of you other parental units can feel my pain.  And if that part of your parenting career is still ahead of you...buckle up. 

And buy lots of pens.  And document organizers.  Maybe some extra paper clips and magnets.

There seems to be permission slips for everything.  Which I totally understand and appreciate...don't get me wrong.  But some days this imperfect momma can't keep up.  And for such days, I have a pre-written e-mail that I can pull out and with just a few clicks customize it for the lost permission slip at hand.

Dear Mr./Mrs. So and So,

Due to being extremely and ridiculously scatterbrained (I blame my offspring, one of which you have the delight of spending many hours with) I do not know if I signed the most recent permission slip, let alone put it back in the folder to be placed in the backpack.  Please don't blame my child.  I'm a dork.  They are normal.  Could you please let me know if my child is current in their permission slip quota for the week by responding to this e-mail?  If you tell them to give me a message, I won't believe them.  They always tell me I haven't signed them...even when I have. 

Thank you,
So and So's Mom

Works like a charm, I tell ya. 

These permission slips are a good thing.  It assures communication.  It allows parents to have a choice about what their child is participating in and who is in charge of them.  In case of emergency, everyone is clear on what they are allowed to do or not do.

If they are worded right, that is.

I can remember a time when I was directing a camp for teens and we were working on permission slips for an off campus event.  The slips that had been used in years past looked decent enough.  And it served the purpose for the most part.  Communication.  Choices.  Directions.  But if anyone had contested the permission slip...if it was scrutinized in a court of law...it wouldn't have held up. 

Technically, they meant nothing.  Even if they were signed and returned and not taking up space on the counter.  They didn't pass.

I've been having to work on re-wording some of my own permission slips lately.  Some of the ones that I've turned in years ago, months ago, weeks ago.  Slips that I've worked tirelessly on, but yet somehow aren't holding up now.  Much like me, the permission slips that I've written for myself need refining and clarifying.

I've had this one book on my shelf for awhile.  I decided it was next in line to be read as I was grabbing my things to sit at a volleyball tournament all day.  Now, the irony in starting to read a book called "Unglued" while sitting in the midst of some rather, um, shall we say interesting people from the opposing team was about as ironic as it can get.  Seriously.  I was laughing.  And not just at them...because the temptation to become all sorts of unglued on my insides because of their behavior was just as ironic.  Trust me.

This book has been a permission slip for me of sorts.  Permission to accept the true definition of imperfection in my life.  To accept that being imperfect doesn't mean being crazy.  It doesn't mean that I'm destined to be a mess the rest of my life.  It doesn't mean that I'm forever going to be the mom that loses her cool over shoes not put away or shouts at the washing machine because it's not whirring fast enough.  It doesn't mean I'm a failure, a loser, a "has been" or non-player in this game of life.

Nope.  It just means I'm not perfect.  And I'm not the only one.  And just because I've weathered trauma and upheaval and pain in my life doesn't mean I'm not allowed to feel things on the flip side of it all. 

I've grown used to people saying to me "I don't know how you do it, Beck."  Sometimes it's in reference to having four kids close in age and other times it's in reference to the junk I've had to go through all the while keeping my chin above water.  I know they mean it as a compliment, but it makes me want to cry.  I want to tell them that most days I'm not doing it.  I want to tell them that even though they think I'm brave and strong, I'm actually frail and weak.  Sure, I've survived some pretty incredible attempts at satan destroying me, and I've managed to not kick any of my kids out of the house but I'm not out of the woods.  I'm failing.  I'm remembering hurts.  I'm giving in to old mindsets.  I'm impatient with my kids, my husband and my alarm clock.  My closet is messy.  I haven't dusted for awhile.  I care too much about what people think of me and are saying about me.  I become irritated at my children's bickering.  And sometimes I feed my kids tacos from Taco Bell for dinner rather than forcing them to eat the brown rice, chicken, herb soup I made and pat myself on the back because at least there's veggies in those dang tacos.

Unglued?  Nailed it.

I think God would love it if we could simply admit and surrender our imperfections.  Deny it and we become proud.  Dwell on it and we lose hope.  Use it to further our entitlement issues and we become bitter.  Out of touch.  Miserable to be and to be around.

Like anything, moderation in this "accepting our imperfections" thing is necessary.  And it's a fine line.  One that can actually damage our lives and the lives around us.  Give ourselves permission to recognize that progress is gradual, setbacks are normal and we are not alone?  Now we're getting somewhere.

Give yourself permission to be human.  It's important.

And if you think you already have, but just can't shake this feeling that there are things resurfacing that you need to deal with again, it's OK.  Refine that permission slip.  Make it something that will stand up to the greatest of scrutiny...whether normal day to day challenges or drastically altering life events.

Then give God permission to do what He needs to do.  We are never done growing.  There is always more to do.  But rather than dreading it, be excited about it!  It just means that there are greater things on the horizon that God wants to prepare you for.  Easier said than done, I know too well.  But as my heart is yet again begging to understand that concept as much as my brain is, it's resonating.  Even more than the first billion times I have had to make this heart to brain connection. 

With each additional connection moment, the permission slips become more thorough.  More steadfast.  More productive.  One slip at a time.

"Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace...imperfect progress."
Lysa Terkeurst, Unglued
 
 


Monday, February 24, 2014

Deja Vu

It's been a few days worth of deja vu around here.  The Hubster has been gone for work and my parents decided it would be a good idea for them to come up and hang for awhile.  Do I even need to express to you how amazing they are?  Or how quickly I replied with a big fat YES!  Didn't think so...

Our dinner table has been full, NASCAR has graced the TV screen, an extra car filling up the driveway and more towels than normal to wash.  And once again I ask: do I even need to express to you how grateful I am for these evidences that they are here?

It just feels so normal.  So comfortable.  So reassuring.  Kinda like it used to.

For those years of being a single mom of four, I can't even guess how many miles they put on their vehicles.  How many times they unpacked and repacked their suitcases.  They never once complained. 

I have The Hubster to help now.  The word "help" is actually the understatement of the year.  He's such an amazing father figure to my littles and partner in everything else it takes to keep this house going.  I'm a blessed woman.  But even so, work calls and hotel rooms are confirmed and I find myself feeling a little bit overwhelmed. 

Mom and Dad are still there.  They always have been.  And I know they always will.

They quiz the kids on their spelling words.  They back me up as I ban and re-ban potty talk at the table.  The reassure me.  They remind me.  They give me their opinions (they are still parents, after all).  They love big and hug lots and we all benefit from it.

As we started doing more regularly almost four years ago, the past few evenings have been claimed for us.  For quiet.  For talking.  And sometimes for mindless games or TV shows.  But instead of rehashing the happenings of the day as we once did (one day would easily take up an entire evening to rehash), we rejoice over the happenings of years.  Well, we may rehash a bit, too.  Though life is wonderful and hope continues to be renewed,  there are hard things as well.  And as I continue to remind myself that progress and healing is sometimes slow and there are sometimes setbacks...I admit I have plenty of refining to do.  Plenty of forgiving to re-do.  Plenty of emotions to continue to sift through, whether because of new happenings or old ones recycling themselves. 

And sometimes I need help making the choice to use these new and recycled hurts to make me even stronger rather than defeated.

The older and (supposedly) wiser I get, the more I realize that these bonds I have with my parents are not to be taken lightly or for granted.  The bonds that The Hubster has with my parents are almost as strong, for they happen to share a deep love for several of the same people.

The Hubsters prayers, my parents prayers, along with my wonderful mom and dad-in-laws prayers have all intersected in a divine way.  A divine way that resides here.

Tonight was my parents last dinner here.  Tomorrow The Hubster returns for less than 12 hours before he's off again.  And I'm hoping that this feeling of keeping up with backpacks, meals, laundry, permission slips, bill paying, floor sweeping, car driving, my sanity and all other general functioning required in a home such as ours will stick around for awhile. 

Thank you, Mom and Dad.  Your impact is greater than you know.  It is stretching from my generation into my children's.  From my inner circle to The Hubster's.  It's keeping us all sane.  Even though you insist on watching cars drive around in a circle and are very particular about the kind of bread you will eat.  :)

(And Dad...it's rude to read over one's shoulder when they are typing.  Just so ya know...)

{Insert ornery giggle here}

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Where Feet May Fail

I fell today.  It was icy.  It was also pretty funny.  As only one of 20 accident reports (not counting the students), I am pretty sure my fall was as awesome as they come.  I'm totally serious, actually.  It was so graceful and beautiful that I just wish I hadn't been holding an umbrella so I could have done spirit fingers.  I landed in a pose that made it look like I was proposing to someone.  No lie.  I laughed so hard.  And it gave me great joy to reenact it so many times through the day.  That being said, it was clearly not a good day for heels.  Or any kind of shoe besides a snowshoe, apparently.

I never saw the ice.

And my feet failed me.

I'm not on Facebook much lately.  I took the apps of my iPhone and my iPad, forcing myself to have to log into an actual website (gasp) to look at the thing.  I'll never blame the world's problems on Facebook, nor will I protest the benefits of having it.  But having less accessibility has been a good thing for me on several levels.  Yet even in the short amounts of time I've looked at it, one thing I've noticed:  Unpredictable terrain is something many people in my world are dealing with right now. 

They never saw the cancer coming.  The loss of their loved one.  The weather challenges.  The pain.  The eating disorders of their children.

And their feet are failing them.

They are finding themselves walking somewhere that their feet cannot help them navigate. 

Me, too.

It's unknown.  It's a mystery. 

So can we sing these words together?  Can we link arms and skate across the ice?  Can we lock eyes and tread the water?  Better yet...can we just forget about being strong and spiritual and critical and together call on the one Name that will guide us?

"Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You've never failed and You won't start now."

I don't know if this is for you or me or a combo of the two.  But it thrust itself at me while I was waiting in the pick up line at volleyball practice.  And as I played it for my kids at dinner, and my little girls danced across the floor...well, it had to be shared.  Even if it meant I had two song posts in a row.

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.  Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior."
 

Go ahead.  Stop.  Put your feet up (they may fail you anyway).  And just soak for a bit. 

(Oceans, Hillsong United)


Friday, February 7, 2014

Worn

From time to time, I look at my blog stats.  I look at how many hits the old blog receives.  What posts are read.  How they get to my blog in the first place.  And I keep all those lovely little morsels to myself.  But not too close to my heart, because that's not really why I blog in the first place.  I don't keep track of followers.  I don't post how many visitors I've had.  It doesn't really matter.  All that matters is that I write what I need to for me, and for the others that God directs my way.  It's an obedience thing.  Not a promotional thing.  But, like anyone, I'm curious about who stops by every once in awhile.

Sometimes I notice the blog activity when I receive less than lovely anonymous comments.  Gotta love our generations version of hate mail.  (And yes, I disabled the anonymous comment option quite some time ago...sorry to those of you that are friends with no other way to comment.  I guess that's what Facebook is for.)

Sometimes I notice the blog activity when I write a post that's particularly vulnerable for me to write.

Sometimes I notice the blog activity for no good reason.  Like today.  And then I'm brought back full circle to read something I wrote long ago.  Like today.

I read this one again.  And this one.    And I crack myself up.  Because the song that my 8 year old DJ funneled through the van stereo this afternoon on our way home from The Lego Movie (clever and wonderfully entertaining, by the way) already had me thinking...

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that's frail and torn
I want to know a song can rise from ashes of a broken life
And all that's dead inside can be reborn
Cause I'm worn

Until we take that final breath that ushers us into the presence of the One who created us, lived for us, died for us...whatever the current struggle we are in will never be our last.  The battle we just completed: not our last.  The battle won days, months, years ago: not the end.  I may have countless victory stories, but I must tell you...I still struggle. 
 
My kids overwhelm me.
 
My husband and I have disagreements.
 
Medical insurance doesn't always cover everything they promise to cover and we are left with financial burdens.
 
Months of "figuring out" side effects from medications I was once forced to take because of my car accident (which is yet to be settled) have perpetuated weight gain that has taken a toll on my body and my emotions.  And it has been difficult to get rid of.
 
My feelings get hurt. 
 
My questions go unanswered.
 
People aren't always kind.  People that claim to love God.  And I just don't get how someone can so easily hate when God is love.
 
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left


So you may think I'm preaching to the choir.  Repetitively so, at that.  After all, most of you get it.  I've been through junk.  I'm still alive.  I want to offer hope.  And I know that many of you have a similar cycle of circumstances that you could share.  So why preach to the choir?

Because I know the "choir."  I've been in the "choir."  And I'm aware that the "choir" is often full of folks who are doing the most hiding.  They are painting on those Lego smiles and letting the world know that "everything is awesome," even when they are struggling for the next breath.  The next step.  The next day.  From where I stand, and have stood, the "choir" could use a lot more preaching.

I'm tired I'm worn, My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing
I've made mistakes, I've let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world

I'm giving myself permission to admit it.  I'm worn.  I'm at peace.  I'm full of hope.  I'm confident that God's got every little tiny detail in the palm of His hand.  And I choose to rejoice in all those things!  But I'm tired sometimes. 

You have permission to admit it, too.

It doesn't mean you're weak.  It doesn't mean you aren't clinging to God's hope.  It doesn't mean you've lost faith.  It doesn't mean you've failed, forgotten or flaked out.

It means you're real.  God doesn't deal with pretends.  He deals with realities.

I truly do have to step back sometimes and remind myself of that.  Because no matter what we've faced before, now, or in the days to come...God wants us to be real today.

There's so much more hope to be found when we are first honest with the struggle

He'll put things into perspective if we are over reacting. 
He'll remind us of how silly we are being if that's necessary. 
But He'll always meet us exactly where we are in order to push us towards where He wants us to be.

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I'm too weak
Life just won't let up
 
Life won't ever let up.  There will always be "things."  Self-image issues.  Uncertainty at work.  Family drama.  Financial concerns.  Just because we've conquered one thing in our journey doesn't mean another thing won't come along.  It will!  It's God's way of refining us.  Teaching us.  Showing up to us, in us, through us.
 
So can we all just admit it?  Without fear of judgment or condescension?  Without wondering if it's safe to be truthful?  None of us are done.  No matter how many ways we've come up with successful ways of convincing people that everything is awesome...there's room to be vulnerable.  And there's a need to be, too.  Because that's when we find our help. 
 
In our God.  Through His people.  For our best interest.
 
Are you worn?  Then say so.  Just admitting it will bring relief.  I promise.

"Worn," by Tenth Avenue North:
 



Sunday, February 2, 2014

Attention (Please?)

It often starts with kind, soft words. 

"May I have your attention, please?"

But more often that not, at least with the littles that I have dealt with (mine and not mine alike), it often has to involve more than a subtle statement.  It often has to involve something more tangible.

Sometimes star stickers on a chart.

Money.  Get out of homework pass.  A late bedtime.

And yes, sometimes cookies.

Of course, other times it has to go a different route.  A more stern request involving raising one's voice.

A favorite something taken away.

A fine.  Extra homework.  An early bedtime.

There are many ways to get our childrens' attention.  Whether we are a parent, grandparent, teacher, child care giver...there is often a need to snap a child out of their close-mindedness and stimulate a deeper thought process.  Some of the means are more drastic than others.  Some of them more enjoyable than others.

But the goal is one and the same: get their attention.   To correct, teach, protect, help, encourage, stretch, discipline.

I believe there is more than one reason God describes Himself as our Heavenly Father.  A parent.  I believe there are oodles of reasons, to be perfectly honest...each one surfacing at the proper time and place and way for each of our unique situations.

And I believe that God is desperately trying to get our attention.  Much like an adult would try to get a child's attention.  Big time.

Snow days.  We've had a lot lately, and as a few of us moms can't help but wonder if God used these days to get our attention.  To tell us to slow down.  To reiterate to us just how important our role as a mother is, and to let us immerse ourselves into that role.  He may or may not have not caused these snow days for that specific purpose, but I know He absolutely used them in that way for some of us.

Circumstances.  Good, bad, indifferent, I believe God has a purpose in mind for any circumstance He allows.  He may or may not have caused those circumstances for the sole purpose of getting our attention, but I know He will absolutely use them in that way.

Needs.  Financial, emotional, physical. We are a needy people. Where the need is great, the provision must also be great. Does our need automatically reflect God's dissatisfaction?  No.  But He must think we have something to gain from the needs we have, or none of us would ever be in want.  There is, after all, something great to gain in our moment of need that can be recognized through a "bigger picture" view...a view deeper than our temporary existence on this round thing we call planet earth.

Consequences and discipline.  As much as I would love to believe that every time I have a hard time it means that satan must be threatened by me and I am under attack,  it's not so.  I'm sorry...but it's simply not true.  It can be, yes.  But we must entertain a different explanation at times.  We must take inventory in the condition and posture of heart before we make any assumption way or the other. You see, sometimes I screw up and there are natural consequences to my behavior.  Sometimes I harbor bitterness and unforgiveness and it compromises my physical and mental health.  Sometimes my attitude sucks. And it displease God.  And He's going to let me know.  Because He is holy and I am not.  Sure, grace isn't far behind, but I do need to get my act in gear.

Other times, it's true that satan doesn't like me.  He's trying to discourage me.  Causing me to be ineffective. But if my heart has unconfessed sin and an unwillingness to admit my own imperfections, satan doesn't really need to bother with me. I've disqualified myself from the "start attacking that person" threat level.  Which is why a good place for any revival to start, whether personal or corporate, is with heart inventory.  Confession.  Repentance.  And true change.

I'm thankful for God's grace.  Forgiveness.  Second chances.  Mercy.  But, there have been many moments in my life when God's tough love was required to get me back on the straight and narrow.  We don't always like that line of thinking. The warm fuzzies of God's character are, well, warmer and fuzzier.  Sometimes we can err on the extreme side of His judgement.  We can also err on the side of thinking that He is willing to compromise His holiness in order to allow us to remain comfortable.  That doesn't line up with the Scripture I read about God's character.  Tough lessons, but God is serious about His standards.  I know for me, He has never swooped in and held me accountable for something I knew nothing about.  He's fair.  And He's loving.   But He's also fair.  And loving.

I used to find it a moderately challenging to think of all the things we go through in light of the fact that there are much more critical things at stake than what we often consume our minds with.  That's a pretty wordy way of saying this: sometimes life is hard...but there is more to our choices and circumstances than this life.  There is eternity.  For me.  For you.  For the person down the street.  When someone's eternal life is in the balance, maybe my grudge isn't really something to worry about.  Maybe the hurt I've been through isn't as crippling as it once seemed.  And maybe there is more hope in those perspectives then we realize.  Maybe it's in our best interest to think outside the temporary box regardless of what our emotions try to get us to do.

I started off the above paragraph indicating that I used to find it moderately challenging to think of all those things.  Now?  I find it excruciatingly challenging.  Why?  Because I am not only trying to wrap my own brain around keeping a healthy and big picture perspective on life, but I'm trying to instill in my children, too.  And when they start asking questions, it's anything but easy to understand what I hear coming out of my mouth.

Funny thing is, it actually kinda makes sense to them. Not that it's easy, but it makes sense.  That childlike faith can be a beautiful thing, even when it's hard to understand.  Even when it means that our predisposition to be selfish has to be corrected.  Even when it means that prayers turn into groans that truly can only be interpreted by One that is much bigger than we are.

So what would happen if we started reacting like children when our Heavenly Father parents us?  When He tries to get our attention?  What would happen if we stopped answering with denial, displacing our guilt and beefing up our other defense mechanisms?  If we listened.  Processed.  Cried.  And changed.

I know that I am better at reacting than I used to be.

But I also pray that I never stop realizing I still have a long way to go.

So...is God trying to get your attention?

He's jealous for you, you know. ("...for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you." Exodus 34:14)

He wants your attention.

And unless you specifically and emphatically communicate your desire for Him to leave you alone, I believe He will keep trying to get it.

He will likely say please at first.  But He won't be limited to subtle tactics and temporary incentives.

HE WANTS YOUR ATTENTION.

No matter what it may take.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Peace.

The kids are in bed, because I like to {somewhat} adhere to my routine regardless of snow days.

The almost forgotten load of laundry from earlier in the day was just rescued and transferred to a much warmer destination, offering a hypnotic sound effect as a zipper brushes against the barrel.

The texts and tweets between The Hubster and myself become even more precious as we succumb to the fact that he is stuck in Chi-Town and I, here.

Countless "me time" things could take my attention right now.  Books to be read.  Tea to be brewed.  Chick flicks to be gazed upon.

And as appealing as all of those things once were, I'm not satisfied by the thought of any of them.

There is peace in here.  Peace despite chaos through our day.  Peace despite the promise of wind and snow and more chaos through our tomorrow.  Peace despite the fact that circumstances aren't exactly what we would prefer.

Because peace transcends all else.  And it must be soaked in.  Relished.  Respected.

Today I've read of and prayed for friends of mine facing pure and relentless heartbreak.  It must be hard for them to feel peace right now.  But I know it's to be found, even in their harsh reality.

My son has had paralyzing anguish the last few nights that has left us all confused and exhausted.  Inexplicably so.  But this evening I left him in his room repeating over and over "I am fine.  God is with me."  And he is.  Because He is. 

And there is peace.

Sometimes I feel silly talking about it.  Because if you compare my today with my four years ago, it's not difficult to see that there seemed to be more to conquer back then than there is now.  The peace is seemingly easier to come by these days.  Or maybe the opposite is actually true.  Maybe it's the more subtle steps in the journey...the ones nearer the next destination...the private ones that produce the greater faith.  Maybe.

But just as God's grace is needed the same for "big" sins as it is for "little" (quotations to indicate our small-mindedness, not His rating system...sin is sin is sin), His peace is needed for all levels of struggle.

"This means that we can be confident that a soldier, even in the throes of combat, can experience the peace that passes all understanding.  Those going through the deeper waters of grief can know divine consolation.  Those whose jobs are threatened can experience new levels of God's provision.  And when any of us is emotionally in over our head, we can know the power of His right hand to save and to steady."  Patsy Clairmont

Yes.  Yes we can.

I find the appearance of snow drifts to be a calming and beautiful sight.  But they could not exist if it wasn't for a harsh wind that took the snowflakes to places they did not initially settle upon.

And so it is with us.  God may allow winds to disturb our delicate fall to a calm place.  God may allow even greater winds to displace us.  Disturb us.  Undo us.

But His peace...His strength...is always to be found. 

"God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace."
Psalm 29:11 (The Message)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Netflix, Snow Days, and The Journey

Anymore, I think it's safe to say that snow days equate crazy amounts of Netflix usage.

It certainly does here.

And so we've bounced from decade to decade of movies and TV shows together.  Wistfully looking outside wishing it was more user friendly.  Grudgingly looking at the laundry that is craving our attention.

Netflix it is.

School's been on hiatus the last few days.  Out of the house activities cancelled today.  Tomorrow's volleyball postponed.  And there's more than just a few guesses that school will continue to elude us on Monday morning.  Which is OK...as long as Netflix keeps givin' us love.

Because I'm tired of my son beating me at card games.

It's often when we are stuck with limited opportunities of things to keep our bodies busy that God invades our minds.  So I hope it's OK, but I'd like to announce that my brain is tired.  In a good way...but it's definitely wearing this middle-aged momma out.  Good conversations.  Powerful times in prayer.  But I'm pooped.

I thought Netflix could help with this.  Is there anything Netflix can't do?  I didn't think so.  Until my kids chose one of the Ice Age movies.  And the mammoths and entourage were walking blindly through a dark tunnel.  And then there was a bright light.  A blinding  light.  And a talking pregnant mammoth lady named Ellie make this profound observation about a beautifully crafted scene:

"We've been living above an entire world, and we didn't even know it!"

I tried to protest, but to no avail.  My brain kicked in again.

I blame it on my book shelf.  Or, more accurately, the books that I've removed from my book shelf to take up temporary residence upon my bed side table.

I'm one of those girls that reads multiple books at a time.  It can get confusing, but I just can't help myself.  And though the books I'm reading right now are quite different from one another, within one day's worth of reading, they all made reference to the same thing: 

Wandering Israelites.

A rag-tag group of former slaves that had been set free, had been promised amazing things, but still had some major attitude adjustments to make.  God was providing everything they needed.  God was WITH them, for crying out loud.  But they just weren't getting it.  So they had to keep wandering.  In circles.  With a very boring menu to boot.

They didn't realize what was available to them if only they would obey.  Surrender.  Believe.

They were living above an entire world and didn't even know it.

They were only noticing the tunnel they were in.  Not what they had been saved from.  Not the light that would greet them if they continued to press forward.  Just the emotions of the here and now.

It's easy to judge the Israelites.  But so many of us are like them.  We've been set free from this, that or the other...and we think it's "good enough."  Comparatively speaking, it could be worse.  And it has been worse.  But we're missing out on so much. 

We're missing out on true freedom and blessings.  We're missing out on beauty and light and beyond imagination kind of stuff.  We're trading in the Promised Land for the "right" to have a bad attitude.

We're living above an entire world, and not even knowing it.  Because the darkness is comforting when compared to the bright light that may potentially reveal our flaws in the process of fulfilling our purposes.

I often remember what God has set me free from, and just how much better off I am now.  But at the same time, I realize that there is much more to come.  More freedom.  More gifts.  More opportunities.  And I have a choice.  I can allow myself to be directed by enoughs (I've forgiven enough, I've grown enough, I've changed enough, I've learned enough, I've put up with enough, I've waited long enough, I've come far enough)...or I can decide I won't allow these enoughs to keep me from what my More Than Enough God wants to show me.  Do in me. 

Do with me. 

I'm stretched in this way daily.  And lest you think otherwise, I don't always respond with great enthusiasm and unbridled joy.  Journeys are taxing.  They take effort.  There are ups and downs and twists and turns and they don't always involve optimistic pregnant mammoths to keep things in perspective. 

But these journeys, when we take them seriously and choose to finish them completely, are fulfilling.  Freeing.  Enlightening.  And whether we like it or not, just part of the deal if we've decided to pursue this whole striving-to-be-like-Jesus thing.

The Israelites were fine until they started looking back.  Until they started comparing.  And then they actually found themselves wishing they were back in slavery again (Exodus 16).  Sounds absurd, right? 

But we must guard ourselves from doing that very same thing.

God knows what's behind us.  But He also knows what's ahead of us.  And He alone knows how to best get us there.  Whether the world we don't know about is above us or below us or off to the side...there is one.  It's through faith and obedience that we will get there.  And it will be amazing.

Just ask the pregnant mammoth...

(or take a look at Isaiah 55:8-13, The Message)

“I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree.
For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
 
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
    producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
 
So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
 
So you’ll go out in joy,  you’ll be led into a whole and complete life.
The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song.
All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause.
 
No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines—
Monuments to me, to Godliving and lasting evidence of God.”