Stranger in the Earth

thoughts on the way to zion

Daily Bread

Upon the request of my friend Trisha, I am setting a small goal to begin blogging again. The hard part about blogging for me is the veritable lack of “flow” in small periods I am able to give to writing, because they are often abruptly interrupted by chasing an extremely fast-crawling baby before she reaches the stairs to begin her  frequent ascent. Thankfully she is currently playing at my feet by dragging as many Tupperware containers out of the cabinets as she can.

For the last several months I have been pained over a gigantic lack of Scripture reading and studying in my life, so last week I put together a plan to get rolling. Of course, since motherhood is not so new to me anymore, I hold the plan loosely, recognizing that it’s more of a suggestion than a to-do list. However, I find it funny that there is so much warfare surrounding the simple reading of the Scripture.  *pause for baby chase*

Given the amount of times in the last year I’ve attempted similar lifestyle changes to the one in progress, I’ve had my fair share of frustration over planning out my day. But I believe that this time is different. My husband runs a Christian summer camp for teenagers, and ever since the couple of weeks leading up to the beginning of it, I have noted a sudden rise in all forms of attempts at derailing my confidence in the ability of God to aid me in spending time reading the Word and in prayer. Side note: when you engage in partnering with the Lord in ministry, expect resistance from the enemy.

Anyway, so far every time I sit down to have that quiet precious time with the Lord, something interrupts. Where my daughter’s nap used to last an hour and a half in the morning, ever since I began to plan my day around moments to get in the Word, this nap has been whittled down to 30 minutes on a good day. Today I was stoked because I found some old highlighters that would not bleed through rice paper. I searched the house and collected as many colors as I could locate, warmed up my nearly untouched cup of coffee, and since Natalie had only been sleeping for about 10 minutes, I was sure I would get around an hour to tear through Revelation and probably knock out Jude. A couple of text messages distracted me for a few minutes, but I was still good on time, and began my morning voyage on the high seas of the Holy Writ. Twenty minutes later, I heard the cries. My child was awake.  And annoyed about it.  I was happily highlighting my way through Revelation, but had barely begin. I I let her carry on for a short bit, but then the cries turned to screams, and upon closing the cover to my favorite book, I felt the ache.

I do not blame my daughter for interrupted sleep. It’s out of her control. Frustration would be too strong a word to describe such interruptions. “Disappointment” may be better suited, but even then, it’s a mixture of ache, longing, desperation (not in the negative sense of the word), hunger… maybe Bible-starved is the closest I can get to an explanation.  It would be one thing if it happened one or two times, but EVERY TIME? My record so far is 40 minutes of actual reading time, and today something special finally occurred to me.

Before beginning this new “schedule” of Bible time, I was daily aware of my need and my lack in making the Scripture enough of a priority to plan my day around it, but still felt so overwhelmed at the prospect of actually STARTING to read, that I neglected it no matter how conflicted I felt. Today, however, as much as I would love to have two hours to just dig deep in the Word of God in some way or other, whether by meditation, study or simple reading, what hit me was the fact that I was finally unable to live without it.

I’m not satisfied to live off of fumes from days and old studies gone by, or by someone else’s revelation. That’s why Jesus called it “DAILY bread”. I used to have all the time in the world to saturate myself in the Word of God, but now only brief snippets of moments. The powerful thing is that it counts. And what the devil doesn’t get is that all of the interruptions he can throw my way to keep me from the Word, only serve to deepen the hunger.

…And thank God for Bible on CD.

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New Lessons in Patience

A passage that has been a great comfort to me as a mother is Romans 5:3-5. I heard it preached a while ago, and it gave me such courage that I wanted to develop my own thoughts as it pertains to my own circumstances. Teething, fatigue and ear aches have created a very unpredictable sleep schedule on a regular basis as of late, which has at times managed to extract every nerve from my soul that they might be cast into a proverbial sizzling pan of hot oil. There are times when I know the grace of God is strengthening me to take a deep breath and to be patient, and there are times when I want to take out some frustration on a nearby unsuspecting teddy bear. One thing is sure, however. My lessons in parenting have constructed an overall increase in patience in a way that I never knew could be.

Yes, I’m exhausted and wake up every morning with the sensation of having my eyelids super-glued shut, and my legs feel as if I’m walking on two blobs of boneless tissue, but I have been learning that this kind of servanthood is taking me down to the workshop of the human soul where the Holy Spirit is utilizing every moment of cooperation I give Him to make me more like Jesus.

Each passing week that yields sporadic naps and several night wakings forms more and more peace in me. I can’t explain it except to say the grace of God is abundant for this job; motherhood, that is. Thankfully, the more I give way to it, the more I enjoy my daughter in her struggle to rest. Enjoying her rather than reacting emotionally to her immaturity has done more than reduce stress. I actually believe that God doesn’t react emotionally to my immaturity.

If you have ever said you don’t want to have kids, let me just say that I used to say the same thing. What I found out after having one is that it was my selfish pride and fear of royally screwing a kid up that held me back, but so far there has been no greater doorway into the heart of God for me. If  there was no God who bestowed no grace to parents, then all the fears of having children would have been legitimate, but all those traces of unbelief in my heart about the goodness of my God are crumbling. Parenting alters everything about your heart, your mind, and yes, your body. I would not have it any other way.

Paul says it this way in Romans 5:3-5:

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. “

At a Loss for Word…s

Lunch time. Homemade Cayenne Hot Cocoa. Bean Burrito. Stove Top Popcorn. Psalm 119.

As my daughter has been “napping” for somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes, my days have been so far from routine that I don’t quite remember what it means to call your schedule a schedule. Thus the burrito, hot cocoa popcorn lunch combo. At least it’s snowing outside, reducing the oddity of this lunch by a small fraction as it is comfort food. Time with the Lord has of late been squeezed in whenever possible since the  vast majority of my day is twirled around the ever elusive “nap.

I’m perched on a stool in my dining room, listening to the hum and clanking of the jeans in the dryer with a whining cabin-fevered dog at my feet, staring at a less familiar Bible these days. Yes, the Bible I’ve had for the past 5 years has managed to disappear. If you’ve ever fully “moved in” to a Bible that you’ve lost you understand my agony. Nothing seems to be in the right books, and what used to be quick references now has too frequently turned into a wild goose chase. Sometimes I can’t decipher if I’m pained that I lost it, or if I’m in pain that I don’t know the Bible as well as I just know my OWN Bible.

I’m now using my dream Bible- a calf-skin ESV with wide margins and center column reference, which was a beautiful gift from my in-laws  when I graduated Bible school. (I’ll give you a minute to get a napkin to wipe the drool from your chin). There’s only one problem; five years of precious notes from times of study and loving meditation, all the color-coding, all the questions I wrote all over my old Bible have disappeared with it.  However, what more often than not feels like a fly in the ointment, is also a blessing in disguise.

I discovered this yesterday when I read through a favorite chapter of mine- Psalm 119. As I prayed through it I was struck with verse 162. It says in the ESV, “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” Imagine yourself being invited to participate in something like “The Amazing Race”, where the winner is decided based on who first discovers a room chock full of loot; money, rare antiquities, gold, new cars, and a deed to a beautiful mansion, just to name a few. Imagine being the first to enter that room as the winner, there to claim your prize! Can you fathom the feeling deep in your gut knowing that aaaaaalllllllll of this is yours?! Can you imagine the way your mind would begin to race as you began to dream up what you were going to do with all that loot? Can you imagine the sobriety and dread that would come over you amidst the elation when you realized that you are about to learn how to be a responsible multimillionaire?!   All of this would change everything in a moment… unless of course you’re already acquainted with having those kinds of resources at your disposal.

I began to look at Psalm119:162 on it’s fresh clean page in my calf-skin ESV with new found revelation. Read it again: “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” The Psalmist has something profound to teach us. I want to rejoice over the Word of God with mounting excitement, holy fear, wonder, and sheer giddiness!

So… though I take a moment of silence in missing my dear old Bible, I have this new one inviting me on the chase into the knowledge of God. This is going to be fun.

On The Wings of Change

The waiting period has to be the most emotional for me. For the past month, Zack and I have agreed to begin our search for a new house, one that would be ours for at least a decade or more. It all started at the beginning of last month when Zack massively encountered the Holy Spirit in such a way that he has been a changed man ever since. His heart has been continually aching for the poor. “I want to be like George Bailey”, he told me. I agreed, but didn’t have the same zeal until a week later when I went to the prayer room strictly to spend some time waiting on the Lord to see what He might want to tell me. After a divine appointment type conversation with a dear friend in the coffee shop, I began to have Luke 6:30 racing through my mind.

“Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back”, it says. The verse is offensive to the American dream, but Jesus gives no qualifiers to make it easier to swallow. Zack and I had only just begun discussing moving from our present situation because of some unfortunate circumstances that occurred with the owner of the house.  We had the option of either trying to buy it, or choosing to move elsewhere.

Suddenly I found myself burdened for the poor as well as I sat in prayer, but in a way I never would have expected. We could stay in our house and try to buy it, but  pictures began to flash through my mind of the people I most admire. All of them had two common characteristics: they are joyful and they are generous.   It was not only that they were generous with their finances, though that is a great prayer of mine (God, make me a joyful giver!  I want to give millions of dollars away for the spreading of the gospel!), but they are also generous with their heart and their time. There are those who give of their resources but never open their heart, and never give of their time. I want to be one who is generous in all three areas: heart, time, money.

Among the people I saw as I prayed came a random scene from a movie that I don’t particularly like. It was the movie “Ever After”, which I haven’t seen in years. The prince of the story is entirely too self-preoccupied for his own good, but after meeting the heroine of the story, he is ignited with passion for things he had never considered before. The scene that came to mind was when he was gushing to her about this newfound zeal and says the line, “I used to think that if I cared about anything I’d have to care about everything, and I’d go stark raving mad. But now I’ve found my purpose.”

My stomach fluttered inside of me and I realized that what I thought I was made for was only a small fraction of the story. What was I beginning to understand about my future? It was as if Jesus was inviting me and my little family into the type of ministry that few (including myself) would think possible. Yes, we could stay in our current house, but I began to feel as though Zack and I were to be like a father and a mother to many who needed to know that kind of love. Too many people have grown up only knowing the abandonment and disappointment associated with being a child of somebody. I’m not even talking about adoption, though I pray we will be able to do that one day as well. I’m talking about expressing the love of Christ to people, young and old alike, that the Lord puts in our path who have never known the peace of a loving Christ-centered home, the warmth of an environment where prayer is commonplace, and the safety found in the care of ones who value those who cannot fight for themselves.

I felt as though the Lord was saying that the home we are currently in is too small for the  ministry assignment He has for us: to do life as lovers of Jesus with a tangible expression of helping those in need in a real way, on a daily basis. It’s a very expensive undertaking. We need a house with lots of room, lots of beds, lots of food, but thankfully I know this: the Lord ALWAYS pays for what He orders.  I have no idea what all of this will mean for the coming year, but life is about to get a lot more exciting for this little Hensley clan.

Lessons, lessons…

The solitude of being a mom holds in itself the supreme opportunity for either the formation of meekness or carnality, day after day, and moment after moment. And one minute you finally feel as though you’ve obtained a measure of meekness, and the next you feel as though you grabbed meekness by the shirt collar, shook it, and chucked it out the window! And then there are those moments when you have every reason to let the carnality have its way, but instead you lean into the grace of God and choose the way of kindness… and oh, those moments are so valuable to the Lord. At times His pleasure over me in those moments make me laugh at how often I preferred the public pat on the back from a man or woman of influence to feel valid. It’s not as often as I want it to be yet that I experience that kind of awareness of His gaze, but I know there’s gold to be had in eternity when I cooperate with His grace.

Triumph

As I mentioned, this weekend was set aside to test my skills and guts in the task of doing a little cake dChocolate Cake7ecorating for two separate birthday events. I came away from the experience having learned a great deal, and now have incredible energy to continue to perfect this hobby with the intention of turning it into a trade. Although, I still find it  hard to believe that people do this for a living!  This has to be one of the most enjoyable things I’ve put my creative eye and hand to in a long time. Truthfully, I found myself shrieking with delight and beaming with pride throughout the whole process.

I can’t say it was easy- far from it. In fact, the two separate projects each required three days in Monster Cupcakes22order to be perfected both in flavor and beauty, so not only am I learning to hone a skill, I’m also learning how to dial down, take my time, and enjoy each moment as it comes and goes without feeling as though I have to prove something by rushing to the end. My husband can tell you how rare that is for me to say.

It was when I was pouring cupcake batter into a pan on the second day, that I realized I had to slow down. It was as if the Lord was reminding me I was not in a race, my “deadline” was only a goal, and that the whole point of this project was for fun. Suddenly I was methodically scooping batter deeply engaged in prayer, and telling the Lord about all the gratitude that was in my heart for allowing me to do this. I pray often, but I haven’t prayed like that in a while. It was such a sweet time…. literally.

AMy First Cake5t the end of the weekend, I came to bed after editing the pictures Zack took of me, and sighed “That was so fun!” My feet were throbbing from the shocking lack of sitting I had done for three days, the muscles in my back felt as though they were on the brink of collapse, I had a blister on my finger from chopping chocolate, and sore triceps from kneading fondant, but for the first time in a long time I felt so proud of myself.

So… onward and upward. I’m delighted to report a triumphant weekend, and can’t wait to see what comes of all of this.  The pictures included here are just to give you a little taste of the fun I’ve had.

Hands Washed in Cacao

“The Cake Experiment” has officially commenced. No more testing or researching, at least for now. Today is the real deal. As I said in my last post, I have two events this weekend- two birthdays to be specific. I won’t divulge exactly what I am busy creating because one of these birthdays happens to belong the Posse. Perhaps after the weekend is over, I will post some pictures to show you all what I’ve been up to. For now, suffice it to say,  I have been sifting, beating, whisking, greasing, tasting, stirring, pouring, boiling, chopping, giggling, and dreaming all day.

My hope is that I can get as much done as possible before date night tonight. So far, no disasters!! I haven’t had this much fun in a long time. I feel like kid today.

Boldly going where… ??

Well, it seems I am crazy enough to make this whole cake thing happen. I have two events this weekend for which I will be attempting something delectable! Tonight I tried a cupcake recipe to see where that could take me. However, cakes hold for me a certain degree of allure that cupcakes do not. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have way too many of them and am now on a sugar high… BUT we shall see where all of this leads.

Career Change Part 2

“YES! I’m EXHAUSTED!!!” I say to my husband a few weeks back after finally having a melt-down. My baby girl was running a fever, and I had never cared for a sick infant for more than a couple of hours in my life. Here I was, up all night, staggering back and forth between my daughter’s room, and the bed that was tormenting me with its inviting warmth. Tears streamed down from my sagging eyes as I recounted my day  to my husband who had been away at work. I fumed at the fact that I had been caring for a sick baby by myself all day, and though I had no intention of letting him know it, my husband was getting a mental tough-lashing as I silently walked down the hall to take a nap. Never mind the fact that he had kindly taken the baby out of my arms, and practically demanded I go to sleep in the gentle way that I does when he knows I’m about to break. I had clocked out.

Today is day 103 if you don’t count  pregnancy in this number. I have been a mom for 103 days now.  It’s a pretty incredible gig. I’ve never worked harder for no monetary reward whatsoever, and that’s saying something since I’ve been involved in various forms of ministry for 6 years running! What I have found to be true of this career of motherhood is that who you truly are is proven by your character in the seclusion of the job.  In other words, you find out what you’re made of, and then once you’re broken by that, God makes you into something truly amazing.

My partially verbal and partially mental outburst at my husband on the day my daughter was sick was proof of something to me; I’m a work in progress.   Being a native-born Minnesotan, much of who I truly am stays hidden within the confines of my brain, and if you don’t know any Minnesotans, let me just say that we are an enigma. My poor husband hails from the Southwest, and I never have to wonder what he’s thinking, not just because he’s an extrovert, but because his culture lays it out there! Mine, however, can be described as “mum’s the word”! Talking about our true feelings can be tantamount to declaring all out war on your offender, and would therefore mean the end of a relationship if that person is also a Minnesotan. Yes, we bottle things inside, but I believe that we also are the inventors of the bottle.

So why is this important? Well, as a mom, much of my life is lived in my mind. Why? Because my daughter requires more entertaining verbalizing, and because I rarely have another adult to converse with during most days until my husband gets home. Why don’t I just take the kid all over the place? Because my child hates… let me reiterate…. HATES the car. She is an absolute delight until she is riding along in my automobile, and then her blood begins to boil (she is not a Minnesotan!). Oddly enough, she tolerates it on long road trips. Don’t ask.

My point in saying all of this is that I am on a vast learning curve, particularly in regards to the apostle Paul’s exhortation to Corinthians (2 Corinth. 10:5) to take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. A student of mine said this phrase that I keep repeating to myself throughout the day: “You’re thought life is your prayer life!” She said it not to emphasize some weird idea that thinking is prayer, which it is not, but rather to encourage her fellow students that our thoughts matter greatly to God, and to turn our thoughts into a conversation with the Lord, rather than wasting them on fantasy, complaints, wishful thinking, and vain imagination.

As a mom, this is one of the most important lessons I am learning. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

destination: unknown

I do plan on adding my part 2 to the “Career Change” post, but for the moment I thought I would share my latest venture. I am going to try my hand at an art form completely new to me. My husband and I are in full time ministry raising our own support for years, so I have been praying for several months, asking the Lord for creative ideas to supplement our income. With many of our supporters having financial struggles we have hit our own patch of difficulty, though we have been amazed at how God has provided for us.

For two days I have been in a swirl of excitement because I’ve had that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I just stumbled upon a good idea that may prove to be a great idea. I am going to take up cake decorating. I have no idea how it will all turn out, and I’ll probably have TONS of mess ups, but I’m diving in regardless, daring to believe that I could be one incredible cake artist. Thankfully I’m right-brained and love to bake, so that’s half the battle.

Fingers crossed.

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