Love is on the way

As soon as it was mentioned last winter, I knew I would be going.

This year instead of spending my final week of summer break preparing for the coming school year I would be heading to the south side of Chicago to do some inner city mission work. I would have to spend some time organizing my classroom a bit earlier than usual, but I thought I would be up to the challenge. After all, it was months away.

Fast forward to this past Sunday.

My daughter’s sweet family had just left on Friday after spending three wonderful weeks with us. Putting school work as far out of my mind as possible, I enjoyed every minute of their stay. I did manage to squeeze in a morning or two at school, but for the majority of the last month I chose to soak up family time like a thirsty sponge.

Now it was Sunday afternoon and the reality of what I had to get done in a week’s time began to bear down on me.

What had I been thinking?

I would not return home from Chicago until the Saturday before school began on Monday. Although Monday was a designated teacher day I knew it would be filled with meetings from the beginning and end with an introduction to my new students and their families at our Back to School Night. There would be no time on Monday for lesson planning or preparing materials for the open house.

Panic-stricken I began to melt like a sugar cube dropped in a tea cup. A few hours of work at school on Sunday afternoon had only intensified the pressure. I’d begun to realize there was NO WAY I was going to get everything ready for school and the mission trip. So I did what I always do when I am feeling completely overwhelmed.

I sat on the floor and cried.

And then I prayed.

Slowly, peace came.

Determination followed.

So now the words of Jude 1:2 from the Message Bible are resonating in my heart. “Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way.”

Joy fills my heart. The cavalry is coming! Love is on the way.

As the school year begins I will enter encouraged and prepared.

The mission work accomplished on the streets of Chicago will be a blessing.

No longer is there fear or worry in my heart.

His grace is sufficient.

Love is on the way.

Living in the Fast Lane

Lately, I’ve been considering what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. I’ve thought about what it takes to be someone who isn’t just playing church, but is wholeheartedly sold out for God. And as I have been thinking and praying, God has been patiently, lovingly nudging me toward the idea of fasting.

And in my usual stubborn way I have been trying to dodge the issue. Putting it off because the time was not right, my life was too hectic, or I was just too afraid to face the fact that I might be too selfish to give up my favorite foods. Socially acceptable seasons of fasting like Lent would come and go with only the smallest effort of sacrifice on my part.

Honestly, the thought of any kind of fast was petrifying. How in the world would I make it through the day without the three major food groups – Coffee, Diet Pepsi, and Chocolate? To be truthful, I could live without meat – but dairy and bread? Come on, Lord – I’m a midwestern girl!  You know those two groups make an appearance at every meal. 

And so I quietly resisted. Assuming that fasting was intended for someone much holier than me. Continuing to pretend as if I didn’t hear the call.

Until now.

On Saturday, I began my journey on a 21 day Daniel fast. It will be three weeks without dairy, meat, bread, sugar, caffeine or processed foods. In addition to that, the Lord has called me to a deeper fellowship time with Him that does not include TV or social media. (So to all my Facebook friends, except for publishing my blog, I won’t see you again until October.)

This past week as I prepared for my fast, I cut down on my sugar and caffeine intake and tried to eat as organically as possible. Still, on Friday morning I had an unexpected major meltdown. I was on my way out to school and was stopped at a red light when I started crying. Of course, there were other cars on both sides of me. Their passengers gawking at me probably wondering if the little blonde woman in the car next to them was having a mid-life crisis. As I wrestled a napkin from my lunch to catch the waterworks I was wondering why didn’t I listen to my mother about always carrying a Kleenex in my purse!!

It had begun because I’d been thinking about the fast. Suddenly I was gripped with an overwhelming sense of fear and guilt. Fear of not being able to go through with it. Guilt over the fact that if I was considering backing out then I was obviously addicted to food. But even in that panicked moment I felt God’s comforting presence. I began to pray and I remembered that in God there is no fear and no guilt. Those are schemes of the enemy. I spoke God’s Word over my anxiety and allowed Him to replace my fear and guilt with love and mercy.

And so off I go into the land that is not flowing with milk and honey. But I go knowing I am not alone. Only when I am willing to totally surrender my life can He can take away the things that separate me from Him. And in my state of physical hunger I will wait for Him to satisfy my spiritual hunger. I am ready now, Lord. Ready to encounter the loving God who wants to pour out His heart to me.

Choosing joy

Last week when my daughter’s flight from Kansas City was delayed due to stormy weather I was afforded a little more time in the airport to “people watch”. Fortunately, I was seated where I could easily observe passengers emerging onto the concourse without looking like a stalker. Minutes after the arrival board posted each plane’s landing, throngs of people would pour out through the hallway. Some passengers had loved ones gathered close by the entrance to greet them. Squeals of joy, bear hugs and pats on the back followed. Other travelers arrived with little or no fanfare. Smartly dressed in business suits with briefcases in hand, they strode toward the next meeting. Still others emerged from the hallway with the look of uncertainty that often accompanies travelers in a new city.

Interestingly, even though every arrival had its own story, each person’s eyes seemed the same in one distinct way. They were all searching for something. Some were undoubtedly looking for a familiar face in the crowd. Others routinely scanned phone messages on the way to the escalators. A few looked anxiously for the signs that would point them to the baggage claim area. As I watched them parade by it struck me at what a perfect a parallel this was for the way I can choose to approach my life. I can either expect business as usual, fearfully contemplate what to do next or anticipate joy.

I’ve been there. Falling into the routine that is “the business as usual” way of looking at life. Losing sleep in fearful anticipation of the unknown. But the good news is that no matter where I am in any situation I can always choose joy. And in choosing joy I receive the source of my strength. Nehemiah 8:10 tells me that “The joy of the LORD is my strength.” I choose to believe Psalms 27 that “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life.”

Therefore, I must search through life with conscious intent. By choosing the numbness of busyness or being sidelined by paralyzing fear, I am allowing the enemy to rob me of the extraordinary. Instead, I must anticipate the best that God has to offer me. And in doing so, I will choose joy.