Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Celebrating & Refreshing


Greetings from Tennessee! We are having an absolutely fantastic time down here, just getting to hang out as a family. So far the highlights have been going to the zoo in the rain and having a "celebration" here in our condo. The latter was an idea that Grace had a few days before we left for vacation, and I promised her we would do it. Actually, the conversation went something like this…

Grace: "Mommy, I have a great idea!!!!"
Me: "What's that, Honey?"
Grace: "While we're on our trip, we should have a CELEBRATION!"
Me: "A celebration?"
Grace: "YEAH! With balloons and cake and EVERYTHING!"
Me: "What should we celebrate?"
Grace: "That we all love each other so much."

Well, that was all it took for me! I agreed, and we sat down our first day here and planned it all out. Matt wanted to eat at a restaurant and NOT here in the condo, so we had dinner at the Rainforest Café. Grace wanted a Lady & the Tramp cake, so Jon found this super-cute dog-shaped cake at Kroger. Also on his shopping trip, Jon found a back of "twisty" balloons, so during naptime he, my mother-in-law, and I experimented with balloon animals and other balloon shapes. Some of them actually turned out quite cute! And after our dinner and cake (and ice cream!), I turned on some Go Fish songs and we danced and played with balloons. It was great fun, and I actually still have two sleeping kids this morning at 7:15, a feat that is just unheard of in our house.

Yes, it has been a fun trip. And I am both sad & excited to see my family time coming to an end tomorrow, as MOPS Convention gets going. I am ready to be fed and encouraged and uplifted and… oh so many other things that MOPS Convention always does for me.

Speaking of being fed and encouraged and uplifted…

I woke up early this morning. As much as I wanted to sleep in with everyone else, it is nice to have a quiet house to myself… so I dragged myself out of bed and came here to the living room. My intentions were good: I wanted to finish reading the current chapter for my Bible study (We're doing Powerful Promises for Every Woman by Elizabeth George.) and spend some time in prayer and Bible reading. But when I sat down, I just didn't feel like it. Instead I grabbed my laptop and pulled up Facebook. Then I played a game online.

Finally I put the computer down and started praying, just out of a feeling of pure obligation. So here comes some honesty, friends. That feeling of peace that I wrote about in my earlier post about the concerns with the pregnancy, that was very real. But it was a small oasis in a vast desert. Lately I've been feeling so BLAH inside. It seems like the very things that typically bring me joy and purpose and excitement have become weights on my heart. Theoretically I want to draw closer to God, but when the time comes to spend time with Him I avoid it. I have been blessed by Him with a passion and love for the ministry of MOPS, but lately—oh, this is hard for me to say—I actually dread the idea of leading again this year. I want to teach my children about the Lord and not just leave that to the church, I want to delve into this Bible study, I want to get more involved in our church, to share Christ with those around me… theoretically. But the joy in those things, the very desire to do them… it hasn't been there. Instead I escape into something meaningless, whether TV or Facebook or even naps or whatever other meaningless pursuit is most convenient.

And so this morning, rather than pretend that those feelings weren't there and try to "pray through them", I made them the focus of my prayer. "God, why is it so hard to do the things that I want to love doing?" I asked. I prayed for joy—and in the meantime, for discipline. I prayed for answers.

And answer He did.

This morning was not the first time that I have felt that God was directly addressing the things on my heart… but it never ceases to amaze me. I opened up my Elizabeth George book and began to read about God's warning us not to become involved in things that do not exalt Him. I thought that seemed obvious enough—of course things like drugs and… you know, other sins… distract us from God. Of course. OK, let's move on. But then she shared a story from her family, which I will not attempt to recount here… but at the end, she shared this quote from Susanna Wesley (mother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism), "I will tell you what rule I observed… when I was young, and too much addicted to childish diversions, which was this—Never to spend more time in mere recreation in one day than I spend in private religious devotions." A few paragraphs later, Mrs. George writes, "My friend, is there a situation you need to 'remedy'? Are you feeding on foolishness or rooting through ashes or merely sniffing the wind?" (See Proverbs 15:14, Isaiah 44:20, and Ezekiel 34:16 to understand those references.) Wow. No wonder I feel so empty inside—I'm feeding on foolishness. I'm devoting my time to pursuits that have no substance, no purpose. It's like… like eating nothing but candy bars day and night, and then wondering why you don't feel good enough to go work out or do something good for you.

I think the most humbling realization is that it isn't the first time God has tried to teach me a lesson like this. Several years ago, a friend and I led high school girls in our church's youth group through a book called Every Young Woman's Battle. In it was a quote that really spoke to both my friend and me: "In the battle between flesh and spirit do you know who will eventually win? The one you feed the most." Does that sound familiar? God has brought those words to mind many times when I have started to invest my time in things that don't feed my spirit.

So friends, this morning I come to you with hope. God didn't magically take away my… spiritual lethargy. I can't say I feel completely renewed and on fire. But I hear Him speaking, and it is a wonderful sound. I know what I need to do, and for the first time in a while, I want to do it.

And now I ask you, "My friend, is there a situation you need to 'remedy'? Are you feeding on foolishness or rooting through ashes or merely sniffing the wind?" As Elizabeth George concludes, "[D]elight yourself in the Lord, in His provision, in His Word. Faithfully feed on the things which possess true substance and real meaning." There is nothing wrong with recreation… but allow that to be the candy bar of your life, not the main course.

God bless & have a great week.

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