ReLent: Fighting

I waited for the service to start sitting at the end of my row, while people bustled around me, greeting each other, reserving their spot with their Bibles while they went to get donuts and coffee. 

I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I knew I couldn’t even muster a Sunday morning smile and “fine,” today. 

I closed my eyes and tried to clear my head of all the boiling emotions. Church was starting soon.

Why am I angry? 

The thought caught me off guard. I wasn’t angry… just frustrated. Bitter maybe. Ok, definitely a little angry. Fine. Pretty furious, if I was honest.

But why? 

I felt abandoned, because God had taken some people out of my life that I really wasn’t ok with letting go. 

I was overwhelmed and feeling way over my head at work. 

And I felt lost. So many things God was doing just didn’t make sense. 

I funneled all my anger into one question. I wanted to scream: 

God, where are you?

But I just sat there, in my pew. And fought. 

Why is this happening to me? Why have you allowed these things to happen to people I love? I just don’t understand what you’re doing. WHERE ARE YOU? 

I couldn’t remember the last time I felt like I’d really heard from God. Or the last time I knew I’d seen God at work. Or the last time I felt like He was actually working in me, and using me. 

Church would start soon. I had to cram my thoughts into the back of mind to deal with later. To distract myself, I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through emails. I opened my daily Lent devotional from SheReadsTruth, and read: 

And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

– Jonah 4:4

I stared at the screen, and let it sink in. 

Do you do well to be angry?

It hurt to say it, but I knew the answer. 

No. 

Of course no. Like Jonah, I’d witnessed God’s mercy. I deserved nothing, and received so much. 

Besides, what good did my anger do? What did it accomplish? It didn’t keep me from feeling alone, overwhelmed, and lost. It put a barrier between me and the only One who could help. 

I don’t remember the sermon. But I left feeling more hopeful than I had in a long time. I knew the timing of the email wasn’t an accident. 

On Monday, before I started on the daunting tasks for the day, I read: 

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

– Joshua 1:7-9  

Then the next day, a friend shared stories from their life with me that reminded me of two things:

  • I’m not alone.
  • And as trite as it sounds, God really does have a bigger picture at work.

When I took my seat the next Sunday, while none of the situations in my life had changed, everything else had. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t afraid. And I knew where God was. 

Of course, He’d never left.

Relent Part 1: Failing. ReLent = Starting Lent over, and the idea of giving up, which seems to be what these 40 days have been all about.

ReLent, Part 1: Failing

I just have to say, I’ve really sucked at Lent this year. 
And I mean, really, really sucked. Miserably failed.
Two years ago, I observed Lent for the first time, and it transformed my life. Last year, I didn’t do it, and I missed it. So this year, I noted the date weeks before and planned to spend some time meditating on what I would fast from this year. Then, I promptly forgot all about Lent until Ash Wednesday. 
I spent the first week of Lent trying to decide what to fast from. Ice Cream? Too easy for someone who’s lactose intolerant. Coffee? I would die. Facebook? Need it for my job. Could I fast from stress? Busyness?  Worry? I wish. Then I’d actually have time to sit and think about what I actually should fast from. 
I finally decided on meat, “rich meats” to be exact. Several weeks ago, I started attending a Bible study on the book of Daniel. Beth Moore suggested fasting from “rich meats,” like Daniel and his friends did. She defined “rich meats” as beef, pork, not including chicken and fish. 
This might be far too easy to really count as a sacrifice, I thought. 
I was so wrong. 
I quickly lost count of the times I messed up … the corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, the pepperoni pizza, the Ruben sandwiches, the bacon … so many times.
 I should be so much better than this. I can’t believe I messed up again. Maybe I should just give up. But this is so simple! Surely if I just try harder, I can get it together …
Another day, another failure. Frustration turned to anger. 
Finally, I collapsed on the couch, curled up in a miserable ball of failure, and cried.
I CAN’T DO THIS. 

It was sob and a prayer.


Yes. That’s the point. 

It was a still small voice. Not audible, felt, more than heard. 

And suddenly, the light began to dawn. That’s the point. In order for me to stop rushing and be still, I had to come to the end of myself. 


Now, I was ready to listen. 

But that didn’t mean I’d like what I’d hear. 


ReLent, Part 2: Fighting, is coming soon. 

About the name, ReLent. The prefix “re” has the idea of re-doing, starting over, starting again. In some ways, I started my Lent over at this point. I started following the She Reads Truth Lent series, and its changed everything. 

“Relent” also means to give up, and give in. So far, that’s been a recurring theme for me.

Have you ever observed Lent, or are you observing it now? (If not, you might be interested in the post I wrote two years ago, 4 Reasons To Observe Lent, Even If You’re Not Catholic.)

I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments (Please tell me I’m not alone in failing at fasting… K thanks!).

Across the Border: Days 7,8

This post contains my best pictures from the week. For more about what I did in Mexico, see Days 1-4 and Days 5,6.

Day Seven-Friday

Today was our fun day! After a pancake breakfast, we went downtown to shop.

This guy paints tiny scenes on sea shells. We bought one for a unique souvenir.

Scores of little children followed us everywhere, chanting “One dollar, un dolar,” asking us to buy their bracelets. They targeted me especially, because I have a nice-lady look about me. They also asked me to buy them food, and no matter how many times I told them “No, gracias,” they never left me alone. But before we left, we gave them all tracts and they hugged me good-bye!  

Look at that mega bag of cheetos!

After shopping we played volleyball before heading to the beach. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Pelicans

Me and Brian

The water was freezing cold, and after getting in, I couldn’t get warm again. I didn’t stay until dark like everyone else as a result, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the time I was there.

We ended the week with a bonfire, singing, and testimonies. It was a pleasure to hear the stories from the week and hear how God worked in everyone’s lives.

Day Eight- Trip Home
4 a.m. Rise and shine! We dressed, finished packing, ate breakfast, and loaded up.
5:30 a.m. We officially started the drive home.
Around 11, we reached the border.

Aside from a long wait, crossing the border was uneventful for our van. The van with our translator and his son was momentarily delayed while they questioned the two of them, but soon we were all safely back in the U.S.

We stopped at McDonald’s in Yuma for lunch. Normally, I’m not a big fan, but I was seriously craving an all-American Big Mac!

We ended up camping out in the parking lot for awhile, since the starter on one of the vans went out. Thankfully, we weren’t far from a parts store, and the timing couldn’t have been better. 
6:45 pm. We pulled into the church parking lot. As darkness settled and we gathered for prayer, it felt eerily like the previous Saturday morning before we left. The week went by so fast, and yet it felt like an eternity since we’d been home.

Speaking of which, I really struggled during the missions trip with feeling like I didn’t do anything. I was sick all day Monday, and didn’t really get back to mostly normal until Friday. I helped with VBS, but the teens and missionary had it all down to a science. I didn’t do much there except help the kids put together their crafts for ten minutes. They really didn’t need me.

As far as the work projects went, on Tuesday morning, I tried to work really hard clearing the empty lot next to the church. But since I hadn’t eaten much, I got dizzy and had to sit inside. On Wednesday, I was excited about getting to work more, but the leaders decided I would go hand out flyers and tracts instead. Ultimately, I’m thankful for that, because it was a very neat experience. Then Thursday I got to go on visitation, but I didn’t say a single word the whole time other than hello and good-bye. I thought my contribution could be singing, but I couldn’t even remember the words to well-known hymns. 
Sitting around the campfire on Friday night, I wondered if it was really worth it. I felt discouraged that I didn’t have wonderful stories to share like the others. But as I thought about it later that night and Saturday night, maybe what God wanted me to learn was that I wasn’t as needed, as important, as I thought. That it’s a blessing just to be used by God, and that maybe He was using me in ways that I wasn’t aware of. 
I like to look strong and capable. And there was nothing strong or capable about puking my guts out at the beginning of the week. Maybe God wanted me to give up that facade and teach me to accept help from others. It wasn’t easy for me.
And there’s no doubt that I have a renewed sense of total gratitude for God’s blessings to us, like this rental house, our vehicles, our clothes, our food, toilets, everything God continues to provide even while Brian is unemployed. It solidifies my trust that He will also provide Brian with a new job in His timing. 
So what about you? Has God ever had to humble you?

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Seeing the Big Picture

In my drawing class, I’m learning a lot…. about myself. I’ve learned that I want to do everything perfectly, and the first time too. Anything less is frustrating to me. One day in particular two weeks ago, I was was so sick of trying to get the shading just right, I just wanted to quit and go home. I was using charcoal pencils for the first time, and for some reason my eye and hand were not communicating. I was drawing, erasing, and re-drawing, and fuming at myself on the inside.

But it wasn’t just the shading that was bothering me, Brian was miserable at work, again. After a year and half of almost constant misery, I had had it with this job. And I’d had it with Brian too. He’d been telling me for months that he would apply for other jobs, but somehow never got around to it. I’ve written about Brian’s work struggles before, here and here and here. I took my frustration out on my paper, scrubbing with the eraser and pushing so hard with my charcoal pencil that the lead snapped off. Finally, class ended.

Class meets twice a week, so after a few days, I was back in the studio, dreading working on that picture. Maybe I’ll just scrap it and start over, I thought. I flipped to that page in my sketch book, and gasped. Did little art fairies work on it after I’d put it in my locker? I expected to see a crude, rough, misshapen image, but this actually looked good. Really good. 


As I stood and stared at the page, I got it. I had been standing six inches away from the paper, obsessing over one tiny place, and totally missing everything that was going right. I was missing the big picture.

I had been doing the exact same thing with life. I was so fixated on one problem- Brian’s job, and trying to fix it myself, that I was missing the big picture of my life, and our life together, and all that God was doing.

Finally, I accepted what I’d known to be true all along. I can’t make Brian’s job better, and I can’t make him find a new one. I can’t control the situation at all. So, I let go. And in that moment, I felt peace flood me, a peace that I’d been missing for a long time.

A few days later, I’d just finished lunch when I heard the garage door opening. I looked out the window, and there was Brian’s car, pulling up outside. Why is he home so early?! And then I knew. His first words to me were, “We’re free!” His bosses let him go, saying that they didn’t think it was a good fit anymore and they didn’t think he was happy there.

I think I took it a lot harder than Brian. At first I was sad for him, and then I was angry at the company. Almost all of the employees there aren’t happy, but they didn’t get fired. Some of them are downright uncooperative, while Brian always worked hard. They recently offered one employee a raise, because they knew he was unhappy there and they wanted him to stay. But Brian, they let go.

I couldn’t be angry or even sad for long. It was such a relief to be done, and move on.

http://karlseen.tumblr.com/

Brian has applied to five jobs since then, and given his resume to people we know at church who offered to take it to people at their companies. Yesterday, Brian attended the career fair at ASU, and one company set up an interview with him right away after seeing his resume. Several more seemed interested.

It’s an exciting and a little bit scary time for us. We know it was no accident that God led us to Arizona, and we know He’ll continue to lead us in the future. It’s all part of His big picture.

Now I want to hear from you: What has God been teaching you lately?
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Update on Our Family Situations

Hi friends, I can’t thank you enough for your prayers! Brian and I had a wonderful trip home over the weekend.  It was such a blessing to us, and to our families.

We got to visit my Aunt Joy at home, because she was released from the hospital several days early! She encouraged us so much. She told us that the tumor is cancerous, called a glioma. Some of it is inoperable, so they will start chemo and radiation once her skull heals from her biopsy/brain surgery. They are considering Mayo clinic and the cancer center in Chicago, in addition to the cancer center in Des Moines.

It had only been a week since they discovered the tumor, and in that time, she’d found out she had cancer, the prognosis was one to five years, and had undergone brain surgery to remove some of the tumor. That’s a lot to take in just a week. But she kept telling us, “God is so good!” and recounting all the ways He had already provided for their needs. “He knows what He’s doing, He knows.” She said. That has a lot of weight when it’s coming from someone in their mid 40’s, facing an aggressive disease, with four children at home. 

The white baby blanket symbolizes my cousin Andrew, who passed away as a baby.

I felt so reassured after seeing my aunt’s positive attitude, and peace. I’m sure she has lots of fears, but at the same time, she has great confidence in her God. She accepts that this is part of His plan for her, and trusts His heart.

She also realizes that it is an opportunity. When we were visiting, she shared that a friend was stopping by in the evening, and she hoped that she could lead her to Christ. Aunt Joy and Uncle Rod are also reaching out to the Drs. and nurses and sharing their hope in Christ with them. I’m confident that wherever they go for treatment, God will use them to impact the medical staff.

We also spent time with Brian’s mom and dad in the hospital. My MIL still cannot move her legs, but since they discovered she has a staph infection and put her on antibiotics, the pain has decreased. After several days, they saw the infectious diseases doctor. She was the first to agree that there had to be a connection with the staph infection and her pain and immobility of her legs. She ordered a MRI of the area with contrast, and found inflammation in the area. It’s unclear why the staph would camp out there. It’s also unclear if she will regain the use of her legs when the infection goes away.

As of yesterday, the pain is centered in her left leg, and she lost the ability to use her inner thigh muscles. They plan to move to the rehab center at the hospital.

A few days ago, the neurologist told them that her leg muscles were “dead” and she’d never walk again. They got a second opinion from a doctor, and he said with lots of therapy, she might regain some use of them. The doctor of infectious diseases said she’d be totally fine. Obviously, there’s just a little difference of opinion there. 

It’s very frustrating for my in-laws. They don’t have much confidence in the staff, especially after a Dr. claimed she had pneumonia, and later, a heart murmur, which required a test to make sure her heart valves were fine. And it turned out, she had neither pneumonia nor a heart murmur.

It seemed to me that my MIL was very anxious about their insurance and how they were going to pay for everything, and my FIL’s business. He’s been staying at the hospital 24/7, so he hasn’t gone to work this whole time, and probably won’t until she’s better. When you own your own business as a consultant, that’s not good. Please pray that they will both focus on getting her better, and leave the rest in God’s hands.

None of what’s happened to them is an accident. Not even the unnecessary heart valves test. Pray that they will see this as part of God’s plan, and be open to whatever it is that God is trying to teach them through this.

We got to see a lot of family members and some friends while we were there, and it was encouraging to know that they were praying for Aunt Joy and for Brian’s mom. God gave us a few unexpected blessings, like being able to go to the ISU football game for free, and being able to attend the 75th anniversary of the church we went to in college. The whole trip was filled with blessings, everything from being able to get on planes when flying standby, having dinner with my sister and her family, and spending the night with our good friends in Ames.

It was filled with food for thought for me. I thought about how I would respond to sudden illness…would I have peace, trust, and joy? Would I see it as an opportunity to grow in my faith, or become bitter? I realized that I have a lot of spiritual growing to do, but I’m glad that God gives us grace to face anything, right when we need it.