Sunday, January 29, 2006

Count it All Joy

We never come to a place where we pass out of reach of the compassion of our God. 'His compassions fail not. They are new every morning' -never tiring of us, always strong for our help. (Amy Carmichael - Edges of His Ways)

Lately, I've been very tired of me.

Tired of my weakness, of my failings, of my inconsistency. Tired of feeling like I am doing the Christian Cha-Cha (you step forward, three steps back). Tired of being more grieved over my inability to order my life and walk as I would like than I was by the reality of my sin and what it revealed about my heart.

But God, as He is wont to do, is able to break through when I am content to wallow in self-pity and self-loathing and, yes, self-preservation.

It all started with a, that's not right. It started with a conversation about diets. Around the first of the year, several people in the office decided to try dieting. Most of them were renewing efforts they began earlier the previous year - determined that the fresh start and clean slate of 2006 would provide them with enough impetus to "really do it this time." Since many of them know a little about the past year or so of my life...or at least have noticed that I am a bit smaller than I was before...they talk to me about diets and exercise and self-control.

One thing that comes up in almost every conversation is something about how inconceivable it is that I can have a penchant for baking, and do so often, yet not eat what I make. One particular day, I was talking with one of our engineers who was beginning a plan similar to the one I follow and he said exactly that and asked that I not make his favorite treat anytime soon, because he was certain he would not be able to resist having one... or a dozen of them.

He asked how I could do it...make all of these tasty treats and not just gobble them up along with everyone else. Rather than speaking the truth, I took his compliment as I normally take such things...I shrugged it off like it was no big deal. Immediately the reality of what I'd just done hit me. I tried to back track and insert truth, but it was forced and akward. I could feel the tears begin to well up in my eyes, so I ended the conversation and headed back to my desk.

By the time I was in my chair and safely behind my partition wall, the tears were flowing down my cheeks, under my chin and beginning to puddle in my bra. I tried to choke them back so I could make it to the ladies room and freshen up, but it was no use. So I had to walk through the office, head bowed and drippy, hoping no one would notice.

What brought on the tears and kept ringng in my head was "Would you rob God?"

I knew full well that the Lord has not done what He has done in me or built the relationships He has at work just for me. He has a purpose and that purpose is His Glory. In the moment that I shrugged off my co-workers comment...which, though it was not his intention, was pointing out the power and glory of God...I robbed God of what was due Him. I denied Him praise. And I denied an unbeliever the opportunity to hear truth.

Since that incident, I have been in a near constant state of emotion and almost hyper-sensitive to my weaknesses, failings and inconsistencies.

It hasn't been fun.

Up until this weekend, the only result of such emotion and hyper-sensitivity has been tears and a strong feeling that I was undoing all the Lord has done over the past year and a half.

Then came the song.

I was driving to pick-up my youngest niece at daycare, listening to a new cd. A sort of "up" song came on - which left me completely unprepared for how the words would pierce my heart and reduce me (yet again) to a big puddle behind my steering wheel.

Lord I’ll count it all joy
When the weight of sorrow
Drives me to my knees
Every heartache and pain
In Your mighty hands
Is forming Christ in me
And I know that Your Word is true
Yes, I know every trial
Will only prove...

You have always been my Rock
I will trust You forever, forever
You have never failed me God
I will trust You forever, forever

(Count It All Joy - Steve & Vicki Cook, Sovereign Grace Music)

" Every heartache and pain - In Your mighty hands - Is forming Christ in me
And I know that Your Word is true
Yes, I know every trial Will only prove...

You have always been my Rock - I will trust You forever, forever"

When I heard this particular portion of the song, it reminded me of something I felt the Lord speak to me that morning as I was ironing my clothes for work, which was essentially that the Lord was allowing these weaknesses and failings and inconsistencies to come to the surface for a reason. This is not a step backward, it is a purging and refining necessary to get where I am going. It is part of the process. Though it feels like anything but, it is progress. It is growth.

Though I know there is some big picture that I cannot see yet, what I can see is that all the Lord is speaking and showing and teaching me right now I can only receive while flat on my face.

And while I am still lying there, fretting over the thing that tripped me up (again), the Lord is there, full of compassion and fresh mercy, never tiring of me. In light of that, I can only say:

Yes, I know every trial
Will only prove...
You have always been my Rock
I will trust You forever...forever
You have never failed me God
I will trust You forever...forever

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Waiting and Hope, part 2

He will provide for Himself, in every work that He has planned, all that is needed. All things, without a single exception, are in the hands of our Jehoval-Jireh. Nothing can hinder His purpose. Sooner or later we shall see what we now by fath believe. We shall see the end intended by the Lord, who is very pitiful and of tender mercy (James 5:11). We shall see and we shall sing. Let us sing now! (Amy Carmichael in Whispers of His Power)

Sometimes the spark of faith is slight And does not make the darkness bright. But keep it lit and you will find: Far better this than being blind. One little flame when all is night, Proves there is such a thing as Light. Remember now the place and price Where Jesus promised paradise. One answered prayer when all is gone, Will give you hope to wait for dawn. (John Piper)

In the movie, Luther, Cardinal Cajetan is asked “What is it you want most?” When he answers, his superior replies “Then that is how you shall be tested.”

I know this to be true, as I am being tested right now!

Among the things I want most are:

To be married and have a family


To see the successful end of my weight loss.

From my current vantage point, these desires becoming reality seem about as impossible as turning back time and starting all over again. Yet, as my mind speaks these things to my heart, there is another voice, saying “For man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible…I will restore the years the locusts have eaten…He who began a good work in you will see it to completion.”

And then there are the tangible proofs…

I’ve always struggled with thoughts that my singleness is my fault. That, were I not a big, fat, ugly thing, I would be married with children by now. And in less whiney moments, I think…I sinned. I remained in sin too long and these are the consequences. I am reaping what I have sown.

But, more and more lately, the Lord has reminded me that this line of reasoning, while it may contain truth, doesn’t take into account another more important and over-arching truth…God is sovereign and good.

Over the past few days, I’ve been bombarded with things that dispute the whole “I’m single because I’m fat” notion. Just this week, I’ve met 1 newly engaged woman and 2 married women…all were wooed and/or wed while they were overweight. Which leaves me with one and only one conclusion…my singleness has nothing whatever to do with me. I am single because God has deemed it better for me to be single now. If He then decides at some point that I should marry, it won’t be because of me either…or because of the weight I’ve lost…or the changes He’s made in me. It will be because He believes it to be good for me and will bring Him the most glory at that time.

The same is true of my weight loss.

This has been at a virtual stand-still for quiet some time. Over the past two weeks, I’ve attempted to re-institute my routines and habits, hoping to jump-start the weight loss again. So far…no such luck. And, this evening I found myself very frustrated.

I began to pray as I washed dishes, asking the Lord for faith to believe though I felt like a failure and saw no way to change things. As I prayed, the Lord brought these verses to mind:

“but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).”

“Indeed, none who waits for you shall be put to shame; (Psalm 25:3)”

He reminded me of how this all began. It wasn’t about losing a certain amount of weight within a certain time-frame and it wasn’t about snagging myself a man with a new body…it was about repentance and obedience. He reminded me that when I first stepped out into this, it looked about as impossible as turning back time and starting all over again. It was overwhelming and I felt the weight of each previous failed attempt. But God…but God... set hope in my heart that if I obeyed I would not fail…if I hoped in Him I would not be put to shame.

I am no philosopher or theologian or great mind. I can’t understand all the whys and wherefores and I can’t totally make sense of where I am right now. To my mind, smooth sailing, consistent weight loss, and the deliverance of long-held hearts desires would seem to be what would most glorify the Lord. But, apparently, I am wrong. What will bring Him the most glory right now is this struggle…and this waiting…and the hope that remains. And in the end, I do not need to understand – yet, I believe one day I will. But, until that time, mine is not to question “why?”, but to obey and hope.

And even now, though I can’t see or understand it all, I can say with the Psalmist “It [is] good for me that I [am] afflicted, that I may learn thy statutes . . . I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me (Psalm 119:71,75)."

It is through this affliction, and the resulting prayer and meditation on His word, that He is making me more like His Son…and if nothing else comes of it, I trust He will help me to be content and submit my desires fully to Him.

Oh, that I would be satisfied with more of Him and long for that gift more than I do any other. Help me, Lord Jesus!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Waiting and Hope

My niece, Kira, is very attached to her Uncle Joey. He came in for a visit this weekend and she had a very hard time understanding why he couldn’t spend every moment with her. It didn’t even occur to Kira that he didn’t come to town JUST to see her. In fact, he came in for a friend’s wedding and to help my parents hang sheetrock…seeing Kira was lagniappe.

The first night Joey was in town and had to leave Kira to come sleep at my house – she screamed and cried and had to be pried off of him. It was heart-breaking for all of us. Last night, she planned a sleep-over for all of us at my house…she’s 3!! Anyway, after she felt she’d waited for him long enough, she brought me the phone so she could call him and tell him to “get in you car and drive over here.”

And, he did.

This morning, after we’d had breakfast and gotten dressed…and then put her dress-up clothes on top of her regular clothes…Uncle Joey began to pack up his car to go back home. She wanted to go down with him, but I said she couldn’t because she might fall down the steps. I told her she could, however, stand at the door and wait for Uncle Joey to come back in. She turned to me and said, very matter-of-factly “My don’t want to wait.”

My don’t want to wait, either.

But waiting would seem to be the order of the day. Waiting for “normal” to happen, waiting for my parent’s to have a home again, waiting for the replacement of all the things I need to do my job, waiting for my apartment to look like my apartment again, waiting for a word on the future of my church, waiting for friends to FINALLY come back home, waiting for the weight to begin coming off again, and waiting for the Lord to speak to “the one” and restore the years the locusts (my sin) have eaten.

But wait I must. And, not the kind of waiting my niece did this morning for her Uncle Joey…craning her neck, trying to sneak down the stairs when I wasn’t looking, bent on having her way, regardless. I must wait, content with the Lord’s provision, satisfied in what He has supplied now. I also can not let dashed hopes, lack of progress, or even failure cause me to doubt and push aside all the Lord has shown and spoken and instructed.

This point was really driven home to me a few mornings ago as I was listening, yet again, to John Piper’s poem on the book of Job. The poem opens with Job offering a sacrifice for the sins of his children. Immediately after Job learns of their death, and knowing full well it was the hand of God, he goes once again to the offering stone and makes a sacrifice and humbles himself before the Lord. He does nothing different than he had done before. He doesn’t rethink his “routine” or even question the goodness and rightness of God. He continues in the way that was shown, despite what was lost…despite what it cost him.

Many times over the past few months, I’ve been tempted to rethink the plan I was given. “This isn’t working”, I think “Maybe I need to try something else?” In the natural, that makes sense…but what I am being called to do, to walk in, to change aren’t natural things, and in the end, my motivation to change is purely natural…fleshly…and only about getting what I want when I want it.

I want the weight to begin pouring off again like it did when I first began this plan…but the Lord has decided it needs to be much slower now. I want a husband and family NOW…but the Lord has thought it better to keep me free to do other things (like serve my family and co-workers). I want my parent’s home to be all fixed and pretty and comfortable for them soon. But, the Lord has determined that they need to be uncomfortable for a while longer.

It would seem, along with waiting, being uncomfortable is up near the top of God’s desire for me right now, too. And, many others I know of…but that is a topic for another post.

It is of some considerable help and consolation to know that I am not being made to wait in vain…or with no help…or encouragement. There is a point and a purpose and a plan…and I am given much help and encouragement from the Lord. Chief among those helps is HOPE. The hope the Lord has set in my heart has kept me walking in the way He has shown and kept me from giving into the temptation to despair. But it isn’t just hope that one day things will be normal…one day I will look normal…one day my prince will come. In fact, it isn’t hope in circumstantial things at all. It is hope in Him…in His provision….His goodness…His satisfaction…Hope borne out of experiencing His comfort and all-sufficiency despite my circumstances.

We sing a song in church that says “your hope is my anchor.” And, that is exactly what hope does…it anchors us in the solid rock. Hope keeps us tethered to the Lord and to His ways. Hope is what makes it possible for us to obey, to walk in a manner worthy, and to repent and return when we have strayed. The hope in Him, in the fact of His faithfulness and goodness is our anchor (our hope and stay as another song says), which keeps us from falling away and allows us to wait with hope and without demanding that we get what we want when we want it. Yet we also do not serve a God who is unfamiliar with our weakness and cannot sympathize with them. So while He calls us to wait without whining, we can go to him and say, as my niece did this morning “my don’t want to wait” and find forgiveness and strength to continue…and grace besides.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Hold NOTHING too tightly

Last night I got myself set. I gathered all of my devotional books, my journals and my bible and put them back in the livingroom...a place they haven't been since the day we evacuated for Hurricane Katrina nearly 5 months ago. This morning, I did what I'd done the day before we left for Katrina...I woke up, put the coffee on, prepared breakfast and then brought it all in the living room for my time with the Lord.

Once I had all of my stuff in order, I hunkered down in the corner of my sofa and dug in...both literally and spiritually. It was amazing to me the clarity the Lord brought to that time, and how he tied all of the different devotional materials and scripture readings together.

I left for the office, excited about what had hapened and looking forward to many more mornings like that.

Later that afternoon, I got a phone call.

I was going to have house guests...again.

My brother Joey and the couple he is living with in Tennessee are coming in for a wedding and need a place to stay since all of the hotels are charging double their regular rates (and booked solid, mind you) and my parent's have a full house (though it is still partially destroyed).

My apartment still hasn't fully recovered from my 4 month absence and my last house aside from losing my routine, I have a few evenings of heavy duty housework ahead of me.

When Joey called to make sure it was ok for them to stay with me, I told him "Make sure they know this isn't going to be the Hilton, but you guys are welcome. My home is your home." He assured me they wouldn't mind a bit of mess, because they live with 2 toddlers and know nothing else right now. So, it is somewhat comforting to know that my house un-beautiful may make them feel more at home while they are here.

As I walked around my apartment, picking up, throwing out and trying to get organized, I thought how funny it was that since Katrina, my routines have just had to continually and consistently take a back seat. It's as if the Lord is saying "hold nothing...not even the things you want to do for me...too tightly." It is equally clear that He has a agenda...for my life right now and it isn't necessarily going to involve a seamless daily routine. And judging by the rest of my life, it isn't going to involve much of me planning my own time.

This coming weekend, its house guests, last weekend it was a family function, the weekend before that it was babysitting. These days, I can plan nothing. And again, it is a reminder to hold nothing so tightly that I can't or won't let it go.

I have to be willing to relinquish my plans, schedule and my very time at a moment's notice with joy. Going even deeper, I have to be willing to relinquish my plans and hopes and dreams if the Lord moves or speaks to the contrary...and I must do that with joy. Again...what I hear him saying through all of this is "hold nothing so tightly that you won't let it go."

It is a scary...and also freeing thought. I am also encouraged to continue holding this loosely and relinquishing as needed by how he has met me in those moments. Though there are moments when what I was called to do or give up for another was a burden, it was never more than I could bear and always ended in blessing. I am so thankful for His help, because without it, I would be a big whiney baby right now...and my family wouldn't want to be around me at all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Katrina Update 18: Press the Pause Button, please.

In her most recent blog entry, Carolyn McCulley writes about something called “The Katrina Pause.” It is the phenomenon being experienced in the most devastated areas of New Orleans - sections still waiting for recovery efforts to begin. Many parts of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area still stand in devastation, and seeing them gives one the sense that a clock was stopped (or a pause button pressed?) shortly after Katrina moved through and time has stood still ever since.

In some areas, not only do they not have electricity, phones, stores (and, thus, people), but some homes and businesses have yet to be touched. Inside the buildings lay jumbles of furniture, clothing, and other personal artifacts, where they came to rest after the water subsided. The only new development is a thick layer of mold and mildew which quickly covered every available surface. The only signs of life are flies, maggots, and, of course, roaches and rodents. Trees either lay fallen or dying with thick, dark rings around their trunks, showing the levels of rising and receding water. The homes that have been visited, cleared out and gutted are still uninhabited, as their former occupants are still living outside of the city waiting on the resources to rebuild or simply because that is where the jobs are. The "lucky" ones have been able to find a place nearby, though they are in the minority. Many New Orleanians are still living an hour or more away from their homes, friends, and family. Countless businesses have relocated to cities as close as Baton Rouge or Covington. Others chose the more distant Houston, Dallas, Jackson, or Atlanta.

In areas not as severely damaged (i.e., those who took in less than 3 feet of water), the pause isn’t as dramatically felt. In those areas, there has been some progress. My parent’s neighborhood had about 1 to 2 feet of flood water, which receded rather quickly. By contrast, the area near my church had 9 to 12 feet of water. The city where many of my elderly aunts and uncles lived had similar water levels. These homes had water either near or beyond their ceilings. Large pieces of furniture were tossed around by the force of rushing water, photos and knickknacks were destroyed, indeed, every worldly possession, including the bare necessities like food and clothing and shoes - not to mention priceless items like photos and heirlooms - were destroyed.

Though my parent’s home didn’t see this degree of destruction, the level of water did cause enough damage to require gutting the house and replacing all of the furniture, mattresses, cabinetry and curtains. Many of their irreplaceable photos and heirlooms are gone, as well. One loss was particularly difficult for my mom. It was a photo collage we made of my grandfather when he died. Many of the best photos of him are now unrecognizably spotted, smudged and shriveled. Despite the losses and the overwhelming feelings we all had upon first seeing the house, they have been able to get in, have power and other utilities restored, and begin the rebuilding process. My aunts and uncles have not been so fortunate.

By God’s mercy my home received no damage. In fact, the area of the city I live in is on a ridge near the River (hence the name River Ridge), and except for a few blue FEMA roofs, it looks as if nothing has happened. Pretty much every home is inhabited, almost all of the businesses are up and running and keeping somewhat regular hours. And this was the case as early as 6 weeks after the storm passed.

It is very easy for those in unaffected or quickly recovered areas to fail to notice The Katrina Pause and, because they are back to life as usual, forget that others are still recovering…or simply hoping to be able to recover soon.

I’ve seen this attitude in cashiers in stores inundated with new customers, heard it in the sounds of honking horns in traffic jams, and experienced it first hand both at work and at home.

My boss lived in a virtually unaffected area of the city. Because of his resources, he was able to move his entire family to Baton Rouge, buy a new home and furnishings and begin the business of running this company. There have been many moments, both during the 3 months we were in Baton Rouge and since we’ve been back home, where the “business as usual” attitude was evident.

At home, it would seem my landlord has this view as well. He lives in the same area of town as me, and his home received minimal damage…mostly fallen trees and a bit of shingle loss. When I first spoke to him after the storm, I asked for permission to house my youngest brother and his family while my parent’s home was being repaired. None of us knew how long it would take for it to be liveable, all we knew was that a moldy, bare-to-the-studs home with exposed wires and nails and all sorts of debris was no place for 3 small children. My parents bought a small camper trailer to live in and parked it in their driveway, and with my landlords initially gracious consent, my brother and his family took up residence in my apartment.

Two weeks before Christmas I received a call from my landlord asking if “those people” were still living with me. This was how he referred to my family every time we spoke after the initial post-Katrina conversation. “Those people”…as if they were vagrants I’d picked up off the street. Each time he called them that it was all I could do to retain my composure and not respond in an equally unkind fashion. The phone call was basically an eviction notice for my family. He reminded me that he hadn’t gone up on my rent... that I didn’t have a lease... that he was renovating a downstairs apartment and would get $200 more a month for it than what I am currently paying, and so on. Then he ended the call by saying “So, you need to take care of your business.”

I was floored. It apparently didn’t matter to him that my parent’s home was still studs, that each step they took toward rebuilding was met with a code, a requirement, a stipulation or three other things they needed to do first. It also didn’t matter to him that evicting my family (after a mere 8 weeks) meant that my parents would have to forfeit their tiny camper and sleep on an air mattress in a house that was still studs and slab and didn’t even have a fully functional bathroom.

I am thankful, that it does matter to God and He has met their needs, and given them creative ways to manage their unique living arrangements. I am also thankful that He has made my time, to an extent, their time so that I am able to help by taking the kids for a few hours or a few days on the weekend while they continue the rebuilding.

This week, all of the codes were met, inspections passed and the sheetrock began going up. I never thought I'd be so happy, and moved to tears, at the sight of guys hanging sheetrock! But, I guess it wasn't so much the sheetrock that touched me as the knowledge that the house wouldn't be nearly so cold at night, and my family would have a greater degree of privacy when the used they one functioning toilet.

I am thankful for the reminders and reality checks I receive when I visit my childhood home, and those I receive each morning.

Most days, I begin my drive to work in the dark. The route I take brings me from the land of normal to the land of destruction in the span of about 5 minutes. Usually, as I come to a rise in the highway which then comes down on the land of destruction, I can see the sun rising over the New Orleans skyline in the distance. I then drive through areas like what I described earlier…areas still untouched since the storm. I see waterlines, markings left by the National Guard indicating the dead that may or may not be inside, and mere smatterings of life in the form of random FEMA trailers or functioning gas stations.

I am thankful for this daily reminder that it is decidedly NOT business or life as usual. It won’t be for some time. I pray that those isolated from many of the long-term effects, or fortunate enough to have escaped much of Katrina’s wrath will be so blessed as to be reminded as well…that they would press the pause button for a moment and see and feel the reality of all that still remains to be done and all that has been lost (though not by them). I pray that they would then be moved with compassion, which is followed by hands willing to help. And that none of us will quickly forget the lessons we have learned, the blessings that wait on the other side of loss, and live to see the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose behind Hurricane Katrina.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Eventful, and blessed, Weekend

This weekend I got to meet one of my personal heroes. I’d heard her speak two years ago at a conference, then read her book, and have since kept up with her via the blogosphere and other writings and interviews available on the internet.

She is a woman of uncommon femininity, contentment, humility, graciousness and submission.

She is a picture of the woman I hope to be.

Her name is Carolyn McCulley.

When I first heard her share her story at what was to be the last New Attitude Conference in 2004, I remember thinking “I am a big loser!” Truthfully, my knee-jerk reaction is always to discredit myself. But, I also prayed “Lord help me. May I not have to be in my 40’s before I know the joy of contentment and the reality of your all-satisfying goodness.”

I left that conference challenged and determined to get my heart right with the Lord. Part of my attempt to do that was listening to her message over and over, looking up the scriptures referenced there, reading her book, and then, prayerfully and by the Lord’s grace, applying the truth I’d heard and read.

I also had to come to the sort of sad resignation that, I, friends, am NO Carolyn McCulley.

But, what the Lord has consistently shown me is that I am not called to be. I am called to be feminine, content, humble, gracious and submitted…in whatever way that needs to look for Tina Gaspard.

Though my cookie-cutter mentality was destroyed, I do not think I was wrong to see good and strive to emulate it. After all, Paul encouraged others to “do as I do”. I believe it is good for us to have gives us hope and helps us to strive for better things
(and I am so very thankful for her example and that the Lord led her to make it part of the public domain). But, as I said, my knee-jerk reaction is always to discredit myself…so whenever my domesticity was lacking or my devotion time was inconsistent or I found myself daydreaming about so and so, I wanted to beat myself over the head with “Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye.”

Thankfully, that is not the Lord’s knee-jerk reaction.

He always responds to me in kindness and lifts me up out of the ashes and turns my self-abasement to true humility as He speaks His words of truth and healing and direction and encouragement.

Ours is indeed a kind and good God.

So, then, on top of allowing me to hear this woman’s story, and have access to her words via an mp3 recording, a paperback book and the internet…He arranged for me to meet her.

There was no girly tea time and heart-to-heart talk, and though I would have loved to tell her just what she means to me, I was thrilled just to spend a few minutes with her and give her a big hug. She was sick and could barely speak, but she was very gracious…even when we wound up in the ladies room together.

When I walked in and saw her standing at the sink I thought “Great! I’ve got to pee in front of Carolyn McCulley!” But she was un-phased. She commented on the worship practice, our borrowed building and other things…which helped my shy bladder very much.

Then, I had the distinct privilege of worshipping with her, though she was in the balcony and I was on the platform. It blessed me to see her, singing out though she had no voice and engaging the Lord with us, and, no doubt, for us.

And, I am very grateful.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Domestic Bliss

Twice now, I’ve sat down at the computer to post one thing and felt immediately and suddenly impressed upon by the Lord to write about something entirely different. Today, I was going to do a New Year’s post…a look back and a look ahead. Perhaps, one day soon I will actually write that post, which is still very clearly outlined in my mind.

But not today.

I don’t actually know where this is going. I simply have a thought and a sort of finger, pointing in “that direction” (or a school of fish forming an arrow…whichever image makes more sense to you).

So, off I go in “that direction”…with no idea where I’ll end up.

It all started in the car on the way home, or, rather the thought came to me in the car on the way home. This whole thing actually started several months ago – or maybe even further back. With God, sometimes it is hard to determine beginnings. Anyway, I was in the car, jammin’ to “The Night Time is the Right Time” by Ray Charles, singing Margie Hendrick’s “Baby” part with all my might and picturing the Cosby Show episode where the family pantomimed to that song and Rudy played Margie, when I realized that in the midst of my jam, I was thinking about something.

I was thinking about how I might be able to fix lunch for the guys at work so they wouldn’t have to spend all of their lunch time driving to restaurants in the suburbs. Most of them are married, but almost all of them would go out to lunch every day before Katrina. I’m not sure if they just like to, or don’t have a choice in the matter. Either way, I figured it would be a while before things start opening up and having a home cooked meal might be nice for them. (And fun for me.)

As I pondered the logistics of this mission (all the things I could make, the grocery shopping, the preparation and packaging, carrying it up 3 or 4 flights of stairs [our elevator was destroyed in the flood] and 20 people fighting over one microwave) I realized something…I’m like…all domestic and stuff!

Then so many thoughts flooded my mind, but this one sums it all up: The Lord has allowed me to cultivate domesticity and even experience domestic bliss, though I am single, though I thought the only way I could (or should) do that is via marriage.

Truth be told, I’ve been a domestic/nesting fool lately. Before Katrina, I would be really homey when I had the kids or if I was going to have a visitor. Then, and mostly only then, I’d cook and clean and all sort of things like that. But lately, whew…While our office was displaced in Baton Rouge, the Lord led me to bake something for them nearly every day. Sure, now most of them call me Betty Crocker, but I don’t mind, because I get to interact with almost everyone almost every day and have had some very unconventional “sharing my faith” moments as a result. Since we’ve been back home, I still bake a couple of times a week as a special treat and love to watch them eat and make yummy noises. I also love that I don’t have any and have had opportunities to share how that is possible and why I don’t need to have some to enjoy it. Over the past month, I’ve spent a great deal of time planning and preparing an “Un-birthday” tea party for my niece’s, sister-in-law’s and mom. Yesterday, I ordered a crock pot. Last week, I re-organized my kitchen cabinets. Now that I have my apartment to myself again, I am planning my weekends around cleaning and re-decorating (I had to put a lot of things away on account of the kids) and generally organizing/streamlining my home. I am also planning get-togethers with friends for after I am done.

It’s crazy…but “crazy wonderful”. (If anyone can tell me what movie that’s from I’ll be thrilled.)

All of these thoughts ran through my head over the course of about 15 seconds, then I pondered them as I drove the rest of the way home and was a bit overwhelmed at the goodness and grace of God.

I thought about how I could have not responded to his promptings to serve my co-workers because it wasn’t domesticity the way I wanted it. I thought about how I could have begrudged sharing my home all these months, because it messed up my stuff and my routine. I also thought about how I could be missing out on so many blessings and so much joy in doing for others. Se... it's not that I am getting nothing out of the deal, but had I started out looking for “what’s in it for me” I wouldn’t have gone a step further, I can assure you.

Though I didn’t realize it then, I looked “up” instead…to the true reality, to something other than myself, to the Lord, to the eternal…and obeyed. As I took those first steps in obedience – purchasing the things I needed to make whatever it was I first made for the office, packing up or throwing out many of my belongings to make room for my brother and his family, and even all the planning and nesting I’ve been doing – my eyes were fixed not on me, but on others, and beyond to the Lord. I knew He would bless…and if He intended to bless, He also had a plan and purpose, and if He had a plan and purpose I had no choice but to obey.

I think the Lord had me share this as an encouragement to other’s with deferred hopes…whether for marriage or something else. He can and will supply all our needs (even emotional ones) because He is good and kind and knows the desires of our hearts. He also knows the plans He has, and though His plan is to deny right now, He can and does gratify our desires and use that blessing to sanctify and prepare us for what lies ahead. But if we don’t look up, look beyond ourselves, we don’t see it …can’t see it…won’t see it, and this way leads to bitterness.

Though I yearn for a family of my own to care for, it is hard to feel deprived when the Lord is continually providing and giving me chance after chance to “practice” on those that are in my life right now. My need to care for and serve (and apparently, bake) is being met – not in the way I would have chosen first – but it has been met just the same and it has been wonderful. And I am thankful.