Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Humble Stage

The Humble Stage

Lately there has been a lot of whining (and not all from me), a lot of tattle tailing and tantrums at the Keys' house.  I have been tempted to threaten no Christmas presents and sing the "Better not pout" song.

I have been decorating, planning presents, and creating special times with these kids, but no one seems any jollier darn it! I've been prayerfully disciplining, and yes many times yelling, and all the time wondering what am I doing wrong?

To top it off I've been tearing up at every Carol this December that mentions Jesus birth.  "Am I just as emotional as my kids?" I asked God today.

He said it was, "Because you are in the Humble Stage".

I teared up at those words (again).  The Humble Stage.  I am herding small children all day, wiping mouths and bottoms, cleaning, teaching (ahem trying not to yell), all day every day.  When I try to add up the accomplishments of each day, they don't.    There are no more papers, or professional tasks to check off  my lists, the list is neverending now and there are still so many dreams I'm waiting to live out.

I am in the Humble stage of life. There is no glamour or prestige in parenting small children, (unless maybe your involved in Padgents, or have a child prodigy of some sort?).

Jesus was born into the humble stage.  He choose to be born in a smelly barn with animals and to make his bed in a trough.  And this was only the beginning of his sacrifice for us. Why was this important?  Because God choose to be like us, to be with us.  And he knew being humble was important.

"A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor." Proverbs 29:23

Jesus was held by a woman like me.  She had an amazing calling, but in the meantime there were more boxes then she could check off.  She was the most blessed of all women and she had her baby seemingly out of wedlock, in a barn, away from her family, and she was so young.  She was humbled, yet chosen to do the most important work of all.  She had obstacles in the way of her calling, but the Lord was cheering her on.  "Blessed are you among women!" her cousin sang

"Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar." Psalm 138:8

He chooses to be with me so it doesn't matter how anyone, even I see me.  He chooses to honor me for my sacrifices, my sacrifice of all of me all my time and energy.   My sacrifice of  prestige and honor as the world sees me for who he says I am right now.  

"Strength and honor are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come." Proverbs 31

The best part is, at least this Humble season is full of play with my favorite two little faces.  I think Mary  smiled too looking at  the little face of hope that was resting in her love.   The humble spirit obtains honor indeed.

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin," Zechariah 4:10

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A letter to God

Been feeling like my little life of homemaking doesn't matter in the grand scheme.  Staying home with my two, does it really make a big difference? My little projects, crafts and pottery, and decorating, how can they be changing the world?

 Was this whole staying home thing my idea- or yours?

I feel like my mind is shrinking lately.  Can you cheer me on a little louder Lord?  Send some saints to surround me with encouragement.   I desperately need to hear, "Well done." and "It matters so much more than you can know right now."  How can I turn up the volume on your thoughts and opinions of me?  I know they are all good, I want to really know more.

I hear this song, by sara groves

and this verse, ""The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness." -Luke 11:34

So show me how to clean what is covering my eyes so I can see everything illuminated, my home and corner of the world, and especially myself.  
Thank you- Allison

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I've been feeling the empty places lately.  The places I've longed for someone to stand up and cheer me on.  The places were I want to feel beautiful and fulfilled, you know as a mom, homemaker, friend, artist, daughter.  God sees me that way, Beautiful and Fulfilled, but I've been feeling more like a grey moth, common and unremarkable. 

I was praying for the little Sunday morning kids last night and God gave me this picture for myself.  My heart was a little birdcage filled with frantic birds trying to get out.  It was exactly what I've been feeling, a fluttering panic in my heart.  Like a flock of wild doves caught in a cage.  Each pulse of delicate wing asking   Why am I trapped in this small place?  Where is my blue sky?  Their song becomes clipped and frantic jumble.  Wings beating against the bars ache to fulfill their purpose and instead make an ugly jumble of striving.

God said, "Those birds are your cares.  You have forgotten to let them go."  So I smiled and took each one from the cage into my hand and freed it.  They each flew to God.  My Cares are not for me to hold as pets, but for releasing to God, He waits to care of each precious one.  
1st Peter5: 7"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to talk to God

How do I have a Quiet (God) time?
Our pastor was asking this question today and I've been thinking about what a question it is.    I wish I knew what other people's inner dialougs with God sounded like.  I watched Jonathan playing with a toy house and his stuffed animals today saying, "I go quiet time" "bye, bye" and putting his little panther in a room by itself.  I guess he wonders what we do in quiet time too.

When I ask Dorathea what God says to her it is usually a vision that she draws.  "Mommy this is fruit God showed me.", Me-"Those are grapes on a vine.  Did you know God says, 'I am the vine you are the branches, remain in me and you bear much fruit'?" "No" Me to myself; "Thanks for the teachable moment  God, you totally set up that slam dunk by giving her that vision."  I bet the whole world of people have a kalidoscope of ways they talk to God.  So here is my version.

Even though I try to have a conversation with God all day sometimes life gets frustrating (like this weekend as I was trying to convince a little boy that going potty is fun), and then it gets harder to hear His voice (over his crying and my whining).   I use quiet time as a tune up, to tune into that quiet voice that gives me peace and helps me do all things, especially potty train.

Lately as I feed kids, clean, and teach little ones during the day, I watch the backyard and bide my time till I can steal away a few minutes in it.

When I get there I let the thoughts that have been taking over my thinking float to the surface.  "Am I potty training the best way?"  "Is this the right time to train him?"  "Why am I so irritable?" Then I close my eyes and try to see God.  Sometimes he is on a throne, or sitting in the grass telling me to lay down and be still, or in a big easy chair asking me to climb up and sit with him.

For a while I would see Him, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus sitting around a dining room table telling me to sit down and eat a meal they made for me like a chorus Italian grandmothers.  "Eat. Manga!".  This may have been inspired by teaching The verse John 8:14 in Sunday school.  I led the kids in covering their eyes and imagining that they were in a house God had made for them.

Allison Keys
When I asked what thier would be to eat in that dwelling place thier reactions were priceless, "Spagetti!  Icecream!"  When I told them they can visit this dwelling place anytime they wanted to something opened up in my own quiet time.   So now sometimes I visit my own God house in my mind and spend time just hanging out with the holy trinity.

Last fall as we were losing our house, I saw myself lying in a hammock during my quiet time.  "Why am I in a hammock?"  I asked him, getting right to the point.

"I am cradeling you but you don't feel me"  "You you are swinging free and feel vulnerable, but I am still holding you up, and I won't let go".  I was having my first back yard quiet time at this new house when I realized the hammock I was sitting in, was the same hammock he showed me in my vision.  Not only did he have me in his hand, He knew exactly where I would be six months later.

That's what quiet time is for me.  Quieting  my own inner whiney voice and spending time being with my Father in my minds eye.  I have had enough "hammock" moments to have confidence that it is Him I am hearing and seeing.  If the voice sounds critical or hard, it's never Him.  My Father is soft and soothing and strong, and his few words have a wisdom my own futile reasoning can't summon up.  After I spend time just being with him and enjoying Him, my questions are easily answered, "You are doing a great job with Jonathan, I'm proud of you.  "You are irratable because you're working harder as a mom then you realize."  "Keep going, he will learn and you can do it!".

Thanks Dad I needed that.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

From October 2011
I lay under the covers this bright Saturday morning afraid to get out of bed.  What if today is the day the police put the eviction notice on the door?  I pray "God help show me what you want me to see today".  Eyes closed I see myself held in his great hands.  I feel safe and loved.  I remember that nothing in the world can take me from that spot.
 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea," Psalm 46
I may be moved out of my house, but God, my home, is still present in me.  So what am I afraid of?  And my children, my husband will always have that home in me.

I wake up, make coffee and drink with my bible open.  "Oh lord, I don't know what is going to happen, give me vision".  I open up to the passage about Hezikiah who was a good king
Chron 31:20-32:1 "This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly."
It makes me think of Ted who is a good husband and father, who is working so hard to provide for us but thinking his efforts are not good enough.  And yet he still fights for us, holding out hope that it will all work out. And telling me over and over that we will make it through all this, even when he is battling with himself. Like Hezekiah talking to his people;
Chron 32:6-8  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said
 I can hear the enemy in my head too.  "I already have you.  You will lose your home and your family will fall.  You are already in my hands, how will you be able to escape what will happen to you now?".  Hezekiah heard the enemy speak out loud as well.  His enemy yelled back;
"On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? When Hezekiah says, ‘The LORD our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,’ he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst….  “Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand?  Who of all the gods of these nations that my fathers destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand? "
I close my eyes again.   The foreclosure looks like a fire burning our house down, and we in the middle of it watching it all go.  But God is with us, and so instead of melting with it all we are glowing like gold.

 "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine...
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you
3For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...
13“From eternity to eternity I am God.
No one can snatch anyone out of my hand." - Isaiah 43

So here the Keys go, through the fire.  But we are together here, our family, and God. I don't know what the other side will be like, but I can tell you that God is using the calamity the enemy has brought to divide my love of people from my love of things.  And if the fire comes again, I won't be as afraid.  Because the things I have that are really good won't be snatched out of his hands.

The song of the bird sitting on top of her cage

I'm sitting on top of my cage right now.  The cage has been my house.  It's been too small for comfort, it's been run down and in need of repair, and most of all I've been unable to pay for it.  But I've thanked God for the cute little shelter that it is for my family and friends.  I sang like a little thankful bird on her nest because God has blessed me with so much.

Ted was let go from his job two years ago.  A few businesses that didn't materialize (and one in which we were horribly taken advantage of) and what feels like millions of jobs that he applied for and didn't get have made this an impossible time financially.  Suddenly we realized that we were being foreclosed on, and once the process started we were powerless to stop it.  The bank wouldn't except our late payments.  I drove on the day of the foreclosure rushing to try to pay the bank and stop them in time, and the lawyers presiding over the foreclosure wouldn't wait ten minutes, even though they knew we were coming.  In the car I yelled at God, "WHERE ARE YOU?".  Wasn't he supposed to be fighting for me in the midst of setbacks?   Providing for me in my weakness?   We had done all we could and now were losing our home.  And where was God in this fight?

Over Thanksgiving and Christmas this year I fought against my shame and my anger with God.  I was counseled by some amazing ladies and friends from church who showed me that God was really fighting for me.  That he was fighting the spirits that bore down on me with shame and abandonment  even as I was crying out for Him to do something.  That I had trouble because, "In this world we will have trouble."  And that the bank is a system of the world and therefore imperfect.  They lifted up my head and told me I was doing a great job, they actually admired me in the middle of my messieness, even when I would call sobbing and yelling and full of doubt, angry and impatient for resolution.

 It was hard work still fighting the doubt and shame.  I was petrified of having to pack boxes and having no idea where we were going.  Then God reminded me of Abraham who was commended in Hebrews 10:8 for his faith as he left his home, "Even though he did not know where he was going".  That verse made me cringe.  But I heard it everywhere like God was chasing be down with it.  So I asked him if he was chasing me down with it an he said, "That's what I do".  He chases us down with lovingkindness.  I actually laughed.  When I asked what he wanted me to do with it He said I needed to say that scripture like it was who I am.  So if I started to feel overwhelmed or afraid I would say to myself, "But Allison has faith even though she does not know where she was going."  It was hard at first but as I said it I became it.  I was a strong woman with faith like Abraham.

Ted decided to go back to school full time online in January (he had been going part time online since he lost his job) and Lord willing finish a information systems degree this year.  Shortly after this decision, God provided some money for us to rent a house (hallelujah!).  It was hard to look for a place when the Mortgage company had not contacted us since the foreclosure so we had no idea when we would need to move.  We could have a month or year for all we knew.  It felt like an anvil was sitting on top of our heads.  We prayed and felt like in March it was time to start looking.  My emotions seemed to change daily based on the houses we were looking at.   None of them were as nice as the one I was leaving.  In my head I wondered, even if we find a place how could we ever get through an application process or a credit check?

As I said goodbye to my garden I asked God for fruit trees, for space away from neighboors, for flowers.  I said goodbye to the house, and  I asked for space, a concrete floor for a pottery studio, for big walls for art to hang on, for a fireplace, for closets.  I asked God to show me what the house would be like so I would be sure it was the right place.  This might seem silly but as I prayed I kept seeing wood, trees, and an old garden, and a view.

The kids and I stepped into a 1960's ranch on a culdesac tucked between rolling hills of Blacksburg's Glade Road.  The owner was an organic farmer who had bought the property so he could work the land around it and rent out the house.  I peppered the poor, quiet man with comments about how I loved the big kitchen, the huge windows with garden views all around, and all the built in bookshelves (if you know us that is a big plus).  I asked him if I could paint myself, if I could pick out the colors,  if we could pick from the apple and pear trees and black raspberry bushes, if the double garage could be used as a studio.  I felt like Anne as she talks to Matthew (another quiet farmer) on the way to Green Gables.  I was talking so much I felt like a pest!

Meanwhile my kids ran down the halls of the house and in the yard so fast I apologized to the farmer.  We filled out an application which asked lots of hard questions.  Income per month?  Credit Check?  Ever been evicted?  References?  I asked God to open the door if it was the right one because this door was clearly not openable by me my family or our quailfications.

He offered us the house.  And later he told me it was because I offered to paint it myself.  Go figure!

I still wondered if we could have stayed in our little house longer.  Then we happily signed the lease to the farm house and three days later we got an eviction notice in the mail.  
Our eviction court date was set for 3 days after we were scheduled to move into the new house.  The number 3 is significant in the bible as being "divinely perfect".  And this all happened on the day before Easter.  I felt like God was putting an exclamation point on his perfect timing for us.

 When the farmer called, you have no idea the burden off my shoulders.  It was like the little house, the things I could never fix , the bill collection calls, the shame of not being able to pay for it, all my questions all lifted off of me.
I looked at a drawing I had done last summer, a bird being released from her cage.  It was me.  God didn't want me to stay here he had something better all along. He cares about what I care about.  He is helping me take care of my family.   I am leaving, shame free, trusting again.  Trusting deeper.  God has fought and won.  I have fought and won.  And now I am free, and I am still singing.
illustration of Roman 8:28 I did before the Foreclosure, little did I know what it says to me now!  
A friend told me this weekend that "You will sing the song of the bird who is sitting on top of her cage".   I asked Him this weekend "Why do you love me, how am I special?"  He said, "You were the bird singing in her cage before it was opened".

 Then I realized our houses, our bodies, this life, all cages.  God didn't put us in them, they are here because sin entered the world, forged long before us.  Even as I cry out "Where are You God?" he is working to free me.  He is fashioning all things in my life (good, bad, and foreclosure) even the ones the enemy tries to destroy me with,  into a key to open the cage.  We live in these cages and love each other in them we thank God for his mercies as we sing in them.  He watches in admiration and cheers us on.  But he waits for the day he can turn the key.   This is one of those days.

So excuse me if this post is too personal or revealing for you.  But I am so happy I can't hide what He has done! I refuse to stay in this cage of doubt and shame and just say, we're moving to a nicer place.  It's my time to sing.

"On the top of my cage I am sitting     Above the shame so lonely     Your kindness it has lifted me               To see the way that you see              I’m gonna sing out loud             And let my voice be heard            It’s a song of victory           And its ringing in the earth"       Melissa Hesler from the song On the Shores 

Friday, December 23, 2011

the Blind Eye

As I lingered between sleep and awake last night I saw a monster.  It wasn't cute like Cookie Monster.  First it was just one clouded over eye, white and unseeing .  Then I saw the whole monster a scaly and robust brown and it was clutching my heart.
I asked God, "What is that?".
"Self Hate" He said.
"Wherever it holds your heart it blocks the truth from being able to penetrate into that part of your heart."

   The words "You are beautiful Allison" floated back to me, things my mother said over and over when I was a teenager and I never believed.  I would retort, "You don't see me like I really am."  I would listen instead to those who really didn't know me very well, or at all.  Or compare myself to the people I saw around me, measuring myself against them as if they were the rulers to measure how I could or should look.  Later I would struggle to believe my husband when he echoed my Mom's words, "You're beautiful".  Self hate at that time had locked onto the self beauty and body image part of my heart and blocked the truth.  He only let in the hate.

I remember seeing those blind eyes of Self Hate, clouded over.   I realized what I was seeing Hate is blind.  Only Love can see clearly.  Love  sees us as we truly are.  Hate lies, but Love tells the truth.  

So go away big scary monster!

Lord forgive me for ever letting hate take over any part of my heart.  Help me diligently guard my heart with the truth, your loving words of who I really am.

Without any stains
Fulfilling who you designed me to be.
Good Mother
Amazing Wife
Cherished Daughter

and so many more,
Proverbs 4;

20My child, pay attention to what I say.
Listen carefully to my words.
21Don’t lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
22for they bring life to those who find them,
and healing to their whole body.
23Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life