Sunday, November 16, 2014

Let's Get Something Straight About Condemnation, Shall We


As if making up for the years of loss, or the years of disdain, the years of running away from myself, of trying to be this or that or the other, I am here. Stepping into who God created me to be.

In this week of reflecting and being intentional with a new, local writing community, our gratitude in sharing life (and words) with each other has been at the forefront. Behold, the blessings when sharing our selves with others.  And I've been feeling this deeply.

There are brave souls, both far and wide. Yet how often? How often do we play safe? We hold back for fear, or pride, or cynicism, or insecurity, or the whatever. We withhold not only the blessing from others, but from our selves as well.

In research for something I've been quietly writing (and who knows what that even means), I came across a website on spiritual warfare. So I read. And I read. And I kept clicking to the next article and the next, because there was such truth there for me. 
 

But it was a particular article on condemnation which struck me in the core. It was something God had already revealed to me, years earlier. The article was brief, however it did get me to thinking about it all over again.

Even though we know, intellectually, that the enemy stands as our most vehement accuser, we do not really know it. For if it was as easy as that, then what kind of enemy would that be? These are schemes, sly and sneaky, so that deception trickles out in little drops so as not to disturb the waters of our conscience (or soul) as to notice it.

Of course, there are two sides of a coin, conviction and condemnation. The one leads to sorrowful repentance, setting us free. The other towards self-hate, or worse, "false" humility as we equate not liking ourselves as humility. Or that our self-depreciating thoughts are those too.

The source of condemnation comes subtle or not so subtle, even unrecognizable at times, as the enemy deceives even that part of the lie too. So we think the ones condemning us are: our spouse, or those in the latest dust-up from church, or the church itself, or from our (forgiven) past, or from friends (or the ones we used to have). But then there are many times that we don't give others the chance to condemn, because we jump ahead of the (imaginary) line and turn ourselves in before anyone else has a chance.

Oh how the enemy loves it. It can stick with us in our day-to-day, considering our worth is measured only by what we do for others. Not much else.



That's what makes this kind of false humility dangerous, because we believe a lie. A slippery slope, sinister and demonic, that leads us straight to the pit of condemnation. One that is hell-bent on punishing ourselves, or "jinxing" our self, or committing self-sabotage, or self-defeatism, or playing those negative tapes in our minds. Lots of self and thinking bad about it.

See what a rabbit hole I've fallen into?

God created us to be who He made us to be. In His image, we bear the marks of Christ for those called according to His name. In fact, we are rubies, the ones written on His hands, worth as much as the precious Son we've made Lord  of our lives, because His Spirit has now made a Home. We are the temple, holy of Holies, living inside.

So let me stop here and look at the true. Because true humility thinks on God's purposes. True humility does not get wrapped up and bent around the axle of, self. It goes about the Father's business. This humility rests in Christ and gets on with it.

True humility is brave. It counts the cost and considers all else a loss. It looks into the face of Jesus, leans a head on His chest, and listens for His heartbeat. It walks away from the old man and embraces the new Life it has been given.

And then true humility walks it out among others with a Love emblazoned by a holy fire. Because true humility thinks of things above.

So we take our ash and sackcloth, and we step between the torn curtain. For we come, as He did, bringing Heaven on earth, through these vessels ready to be full of His glory.

And praise.


~tammy

(Ps. I'm not saying we do not ever think about our self. My aim is to contrast the lies versus the Truth. The Truth about who we are in Christ.)




*Gratitudes*

~my best-friend-of-a-hubby who surprises me with joyful things

~a God who has been bursting my heart with His fullness that I want to share and give it away to anyone who'll have some

~a group of brave friends, near and far, who make life fun and much more interesting, and especially grateful to be witness to all of it

~fun soccer days wrapped in thick blankets with excited tournament players, all bubbling with glee and emotion along with the parents

~a group of kids who worked as a team and then tackle-hugged their coach into a pile of arms and legs

~a red-hot fire that keeps me warm and cozy, as slight chances of snow, tease us with promise

~hope of having a full house for the holidays, in a reunion of epic porportions....a girl can dream, can't she?


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Catawampus Days of Homeschooling

It's a campfire kind of night. Love the early Fall nights. #1000gifts #gratitude

There is a symphony of trees shaking their leaves today and they are making it known -- change is coming. The whipping winds rip the colored leaves from their perch in a loud display. From inside the house, the trees dance and the bushes wave with fierceness as they sway back and forth. Now dotted with the debris of Fall, our backyard is covered in it.

Today feels hopeful. Yet, it was just two days ago I wanted to quit. As homeschoolers (as any teacher, public or private school, would know), there are hard-wanta-quit, days. There are glorious days too. And all types of days between glorious and hard. But yesterday, was one of the hard ones. And it was the usual suspect getting us catawampus.

As I pushed the tears back, holding them at bay behind a quivering dam, I was thinking, "How can I write of gratitude with days like this?"

It was not lost on me that within a local writer's group, we are supposed to be reflecting and writing about the goodness right in front of us. And funny thing is, it was my suggestion from the days of joining Ann Voskamp, way back when. The irony of such things makes me suspect spiritual warfare or perhaps my own need for intentional gratitude becoming obviously plain. Yet, when days cut you to the wick, you are doing good to just breathe and not let the tears overcome you. All the more reason to suspect and fight the battle. But there are days we give in, for a little while and for me, yesterday was one of those.

But I know. I know gratitude. And how this is the very, exact thing in which we need. In which, I need. There was a time when I did the list of thanks, even though I'm not a list person. There was a time when I purposefully looked for the beauty of it. There was a time I stopped navel-gazing at my situation long enough to look up with intention to see with a thankful heart.
 
 

When my husband and I gave up our dream home to live on an old, dilapidated farm, to take care of my ailing Grandmother, we were high on God. But we quickly plummeted to the to dark valley of what that care and ultimate sacrifice would look like in our day-to-day survival. We understood the Israelites who pined for the choice foods of their slavery, as we did the same for our dream house as we mourned it's loss. That first Christmas we celebrated without so much a decoration, but we played the Christian radio (which also played Christmas music) like it was a lifeline. Music imparted a small glimmer of hope for the long journey ahead of us. So we grabbed hold of it.

That was almost six years ago.

I stopped looking for gratitude and just lived. But I have a need to remember, again. This month, right now.

Today.

Something's gotta give and so I will start. Because Jesus said we will have catawampus days, but to go ahead and smile, laugh a little or whole lot, and remember--He overcame the world, catawampus and all.  

~tammy



A local group of us are joining together and more are coming (as they get brave with their new blogs). Join --DaughterRising, Jennifer and Jenny's.

Gratitude's:

~~marshmallows, campfires, and belly laughs that draw kids out of the house to check on the commotion of adults.

~~late night shenanigans of parents pulling pranks on the kids

~~family within walking distance after years, decades even, of moving town to town, or in other countries, separate and far away

~~sunsets that take your breathe away, and people crazy enough to jump in the car with you and run out to meet it

~~friends who travel to places like Sudan with a burning in their heart and come back to tell of the stories of hope

~~brave writers willing to take chances on life and dreams and words

~~a hubby who is always willing to listen, despite the avalanche of words

~~two boys who are growing up to be men, before my very eyes

~~a daughter and granddaughter, dearly loved, and carried in my heart





Thursday, October 30, 2014

On Why It's Ok To Not Instagram Every Moment (post Allume)

In awe of Greenville, SC. Not ready to leave yet. #soby's @abreitmann #allume #Divine

It's this crazy world we live in, longing for our place. And there are days we gather around one another and we hope they will like us, that we won't disappoint. So we stand awkwardly in our boots or cute clothes, and we scan groups of small huddles and wonder, is there room?

But our feet burn under an ache from shifting our weight side to side, so we move. We stumble toward tables and seats and faces. And we know to push past the silly voices in our head. Because we are here with intention.

Then we pass her or him, acknowledge one another, until we are communing over sweet tea and between keynotes. Our sore muscles relax into the chair. And when it's done there are plans for pj's and sacred communion in the hidden away places. Because God is doing a work and we didn't know until now. So we listen, we share, and we climb into the guts of another someone's story. And we are not thinking of iphones, or Instagram, or capturing this sacredness. We are just cherishing these things in our heart, much like Mary, Jesus' mother, did.

But when it's gone, we want markers. Oh how we want a way to memorialize something from it. Yet, we were too invested to take a chance of losing ground, so we stayed. in. the. moment, instead.

It's a week later and the once shiny polish is now chipped into scraggly patches on my fingernails. A wrinkled pile of suitcases with tags from Comfort Inns, or American Airlines, or such travels, now carry limp clothes home.

This is the aftermath. When we are left with words from God moments stirring the stuffing inside, we come now and turn for rest into the valley of everyday living. With these people we call home, because they make any of this possible.

But God goes too, carried like a Himalayan buried in us. And we walk under the shadows of His peaks.

****

I’m sitting at the airport in Atlanta, four days post Allume. Cross-legged on the floor is a man in a suit talking about clients and CEO’s on his phone, as I type. So much has happened since I first landed at the Hyatt hotel. Many chapters of my life are being written in my heart from folded hours of hallways, private rooms, quiet couches tucked into corners, and Gilmore Girls.
Many a time, I found myself circling the elevators on the ground floor trying to process. Allume lived up to it’s name but it was beyond the keynotes or the seminars or the speakers, even though those were good in their own right (and a few are still sticking with me, now).
There are things I can not write about yet, years of things culminating into one week that have slayed me. But it was the prayers and the spontaneous preaching coming at me sideways, from unexpected angles or people, which lit my soul with gratitude for the mighty Spirit abiding within us. And it was a creamy white pitcher that prophesied a blessing and a hope on a counter which declared His goodness to me.


So much "grace and gratitude" tonight. #housewarmingGift #inMyDaughtersKitchen #miracle #allume #giftUponGift
After newly arriving at Allume, before we'd reached the miry depths, before the waxing between weary joy and somber awareness, I had a strong urge to share the worth of our spirits. The deep-down, laid-bare, beyond the insecurity of finding our place at a table, God sees the worth under the layers of worldly cares or outfits. He lives the inside out. As much as we want this place among someone's, we want God more.
I am always hungry. Like a starving child pleading to be feed. But it's for the soul. It is for the nourishing, building, and strengthening inside. And we know God longs to speak in His timing. There are droplets of dew only touching the surface or floods ripping through the fibers of our being.
It was the latter which came for me this week.

****
 
I left Greenville, breathless by an all-consuming God. And I drove my rental car, not to Texas, but further away into the hills of South Carolina. I worried not (as my past habit would have it) if my face had the proper amount of mascara or if the right shade of brown covered my brow. I was ready to be seen, in the raw. To not let my "put-together" life sacrifice love.
I drove further east, far and away from my Atlanta departure because sometimes you have to go backwards before you can go forwards.
That's when the roads began writing my story through the tree-lined curves of Carolina pines and hardwoods. Fall colors burst beside me as I whizzed past. I saw the dark-skinned people walking the streets with their grocery sacks. A past as personal as the heart that beats inside me, has been lived here and I once saw only pain here. But, as God would have it, I saw light. Everywhere.

Around me came through filters of grace, hope, and redemption. So obviously, I sent myself text messages (because I'm weird like that) about what I saw. I made markers. But they were hidden away, tucked safely in my heart and on my texts.

And it is ok. It's ok to not post every moment. Because there are times to labor, of caring for the body and caring for life. And that means carrying the moments (or people) in the wombs of our souls until we're ready to give birth.

I'm bit swollen with it all. Yet there was no captured, or Twitter-ed, or Facebook-ed trail per se', but God continues to call deep to deep. And some days, weeks, maybe years, we are letting the deep slay us. I will possibly feel the contractions, one day. And when I do, the groaning's will be birthed into words in this small corner, as a way to illume the trail that began there. Until then, my soul is full and I'm grasping at the overflow, frantically looking for cups to capture it.


~~tammy

 
(If you missed Allume, then you are warmly welcomed to join us over here and catch up.)
 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 20, 2014

For the Dog Days of Homeschooling


The year is in full swing and here you are, homeschooling. Everywhere is a classroom and you are trying to keep these two eyes open to see the wonder of it, to find opportunities. Because you don't want to miss. You don't want to miss one single moment even as the whole world feels like it is sitting on your shoulders. Or in the least, the educational scales are.

You know what it means to have opposition, right inside your own family. You have faced the criticism, the doubts, the downright venomous opinions of how homeschooling is "damaging" them. And you don't deny that it can be that way, with emphasis on "can," but anything can for that matter. And for the life of you, as much as you beg and plead and cajole, some people will never come around. On the bad days, it'll be difficult bringing your self around too. But when it's good, what exactly do you see?





The sun bursts through from the east and there is a patio afire with blinding bright as honey bees try to suckle from some white Knockout rose bush somewhere. Each day is wide with possibilities. Year to year and day to day, you take it, not always sure what it holds. You've heard the negative reviews and posts about it all. But. You've also read the positive ones, the articles about how homeschoolers are well-adjusted in College, about how they tend to have good family relations if the relationships were handled with care, about how they have more time to really get good at a sport or musical instrument or anything they are passionate about. You read about how homeschooling did not damage but in fact did much good. And you are buoyed because there is life after this, a promising one.

Maybe your family has tried the routes of public school or private school or both, and still you are here. Doing the thing you swore you could never do. Ever. But teaching is a great burden and you admire any soul who's willing to tackle it, no matter where they school.

So you take today, for what it is and you make the most of it. You don't promise any die-hard rules about the future because right now, you are in this moment. The inverted fractions, the soft-spoken tutoring lessons, learning how to say "unsweetened tea with lemon, please" in Spanish, doing speeches on current events in front of a classroom about a spacecraft called M.A.V.E.N., or sitting on the trampoline while you do astronomy and talk about stars or constellations, and basically become more engaged than ever before.

The exhaustion and hunger which used to hang heavy dark shadows after your son or daughter plopped their school bag in the car, are gone. Even your own mind refused to want to think of the public (or private) classroom because there were papers to sign, field trips to pay for, early mornings that required a good nights rest (and early bedtime). But there were still lunches to be made, homework to do, and maybe even tears over ugly social issues cropping it's head into your child's life. And you wonder of socialization and how so many people emphasize it. Not all socialization is good and especially when you see it damaging your little people's spirit.

At one time, you may have homeschooled for fear of the world. But now you do it for love, of holding these precious years close. You've seen how quickly they slip away. Yet, education is serious and you take it as such. Many a day you find yourself researching all the ways of learning, because you are determined this is what you're called to do and you don't want to ruin it. You employ help where needed, drive long distances to get your little person the resources he or she needs. As much as you are a teacher, you are the student too.

So you prepare them. Not to hide. No, you want to prepare their little souls to take heart to be in the world. Because at home, bullying and teasing from a gang of peers has ceased. And you aren't apologizing for that. Instead, you are putting one front in front of the other and you are studying them, heart and soul. You are becoming a pupil who is learning how they tick as you find ways to make learning alive. There are hard days, like any other. But at least you can nap, get a snack, take a break and start over. You are learning how iron is sharpening iron and on a good many days, your children are that iron. Yet, homeschooling isn't about squelching any of it.

The sun is rising higher and now it's time to begin. There is no romantic novelty here. Just work. So you put your head down and get to it. And you love. Lots of love. You hold these pupils loosely because they are learning to grow in love too. You want room for them to breathe it in, to exhale the tension so close to the surface in our world.

And you fall in love with them all over again, just like the day a man with a wall of diploma's placed their swaddled frame in your arms. There are no illusions. But on some days, your heart bursts with this gift of homeschooling. So you savor it for what it is. 

Because who knows what tomorrow will bring.

~~tammy




At Kelli's Unforced Rhythm's.




 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

In A World Full Of Trouble, My Childlike Faith Will Rise (Playdates with God)

 
It's 3 a.m. and once again I'm wide awake. As the darkness quietly sits in the room, the bottom of my room-darkening shades are glowing from the moon stretching its bright fingers beneath. I can not sleep. And my mind is heavy and somber with thoughts about where I am in my journey, of what it is to walk forward, and exploring (or rediscovering) my own childlike faith.

But the words are still too fresh, too murky. So I close my laptop.

Three days later, it is a new day as the rain hems me in and I welcome it. The world lies just a key tap away. A whole library of events ready to be delivered: of diseases, lives violently extinguished in horrific manners, of bombs, political unrest, streets upended, wars and rumors of wars. There's no head in the sand these days.

And yet.

Focusing too long on the evils of this world, on the troubles and the tribulations, my childlike faith grows up and leaves me standing with a tired and fearful heart. So I must look away.

Because my God.

"Isn't this the way of a little child? To open the mind wide enough that the huge presence of the impossible can fit inside? Children don't suspend disbelief. They enter into belief with their whole of the beings." Laura Boggess, Playdates with God
 
In a good way, this book has disturbed my thoughts. It has awakened my need to return to this kind of faith, more so today than ever.

Yesterday, someone had a heated discussion with me about a worrisome current event. And it was passionate and loud and it was unsettling. Too many times, I see the world seeping into relationships. The cares of this world, the rising food costs, the new norm of escalated gas prices, the trajectory of nations, of healthcare, of violence, of rights, freedoms, and liberties, and the slippery slope of any of these, have become damaging wedges. The world can harm relationships we cherish just by existing and being accessible to us.



Knowledge. Much of it exists by the deluge. I've chased it long enough to know it's power to rule our lives above others, in spite of others. I don't always look away. But I can look so long that I forget.

The world looms large around us and we get swallowed in the mire of it.

Evil. How sly it is, silently or not so silently, snaking its way into our lives, in-between lives. Unsettling, separating, turmoiling, and dividing by the mere over-abundance of it.

"When we admit there are things that we cannot understand, we give our minds permission to open to the sheer magnitude of all that God is capable of." Laura Boggess, Playdates with God
 
Once again, I'm reminded of my needed return to this simple faith, where the world pales in comparison to the One who created it. Laura's book has uprooted something in me and in my investigation of it, how does one live in as a grown up and still gain a childlike faith, to be harmless as doves but wise as serpents? To give ourselves "permission" of enriching our personal relationship with God with child-like faith-ness? How can us responsible adults shed the worries, the weights, the burdens, or shackles to re-discover it?

As I meditated on this, I thought of Paul. When he wrote to Ephesus, or Corinth, or Galatia, or Colosse. His overarching theme was to operate according to the Holy Spirit that was given us, to love one another, to not be restrained by legalistic Jewish rules, to exercise His gifts in a way that honors God and others, and to encourage us to run our race. Even the letter to Rome, a society not completely unlike our own today, which started out with depravity and idols, judgment and a need for circumcised hearts, found the whole world is guilty. But what enters in at Chapter 3?

Faith. For two more chapters, even more faith.



And then we find our new life in Christ (Romans 6), even as sin wars in our members (Romans 7), and the Spirit gives us hope (Romans 8), even as others reject Him (Romans 9), Paul reassures us that our right standing comes by one way--

Faith, alone (Romans 10).

We've entered into this commune by faith. 

The world has lured me out too many times. I have been drawn away by train wreck after train wreck of current events. As they kept coming, I followed. And when I tarry there, I enter the darkness of this world with only a wee match to see my way around.

"And Nicodemus, in the cover of darkness--from out of that cloak of legalism--asks, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!' (John 3:3-4 NIV 1984). Laura Boggess, Playdates with God

How can I indeed? That is why I must. It is too easy to be lost in fret and frustration. I need the eternal and true in a ever-darkening place. Besides, "whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:4 ESV

There are many delivery rooms in life, each one birthing something new. And in a world full of trouble, I give my childlike faith permission. To play. To rest. To sing a-long. To break away and swing with my feet in the sky. To dance. To capture tree tops glowing against a setting sun.

I give it permission--to rise. Because there is ample time for the rest.

~~tammy




{A special thank you to Laura Boggess for her book, Playdates with God. This is helping mold my faith with a desperate and needed message. And in this day and age, as the days grow more and more dark, I'm finding that I need "a childlike faith in a grown-up world." }

 
 


 
Also, at Kelli's Unforced Rhythm's.