Category Archives: Dreams
We are in a decluttering frenzy here at the safari house. We aren’t aspiring to minimalism, or any specific movement. We just realized that in some areas, our habits and our “stuff” had begun to detract from what is important to us. (More on values clarification below!) The clutter falls into several broad categories, so between now and Christmas, I plan to highlight decluttering tips for one or two categories per week, including:
A helpful first step is to simply identify what IS important to you. Several years ago, Greg and I composed ranked lists of what we value, both individually and as a family. These lists are concrete reminders of what guides our decision making. We used values clarification exercises from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a favorite approach of mine as a counselor. Examples of some self-guided exercises can be found here on Working With ACT.
Transforming For a Purpose is my favorite book of the readathon. I came across it when I wrote the recent post about women’s ministry which included my account of attending the Inspire Women conference in 2008. That conference was truly inspiring not only because of its content, but because it was evidence that there is hope for women’s ministry as a whole. After writing the post, I checked out the Inspire Women website and found this book, written by the founder of the organization. It is about using the lives and choices of Bible heroes (and heroines) as a model for how to handle the painful events in your life and the emotions associated with them. Often, it turns out that God can use the experience you gained during the painful events, and the way those events shaped your life, for a greater purpose.
The author herself has an incredible story that includes great hardship and pain. But it also includes divine fingerprints left behind as the author describes the faith, personal transformation, and providence involved in how Inspire Women came to be, despite pain all along the way. She describes how seeking and practicing a Biblical response to hardship has prevented those sources of pain from being barriers to the purpose God has for her.
I loved this book because this past year grief from the past caught up to me, and several new sources of grief were added. And finally, after a year of wrestling and praying variations of “why?”, I have heard the same hint of an answer several times, including through this serendipitous book- that God will use these experiences in some way and redeem them for good.
Another book that I have loved this year is No Other Gods, by Kelly Minter. It’s a realistic but gracious look at modern day idolatry. That is to say, it’s not an over-the-top legalistic view of idolatry which claims that watching tv or listening to “secular” music is a gateway for the devil. Instead the author focuses on her own humorous and even unflattering experiences with identifying and dealing with things- issues, habits, desires- that had become god-like in her life. She quotes John Calvin saying, “The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.” So even good things, like for the author, a specific career path, can become elevated to ultimate importance. She even mentions that while ice cream and Friends reruns are certainly not bad, if the bowl and tv grow to be a necessary source of comfort or even numbing, how different is that from someone who looks to a bottle of vodka for the same thing? The tricky thing is, no one is going to judge you or stage an intervention over your tv ice cream time (or your stubborn passion for a certain career path). In fact, two people could be doing the exact same outward behavior but only one of them has made an “idol” out of it. Only you know whether your attitude about those things has placed it as an “ultimate” and therefore introduced a little or big wedge between you and God. On the other hand, she makes it clear that tackling “idols” with rules and legalism is simply another way to go off track, because the focus still isn’t on how you relate to God.
Several times in the book, themes appeared that I have been wrestling with over the last year (with which my blog readers are probably overly familiar). She talks about times that God purposefully leads her into the desert like in Hosea, but at the time it just feels like dry, homeless wandering. And that thankfully, eventually she sees the hints of a city line heralding an end to the desert time. (I hope I’m at that point now.) And there were at least three more strange coincidences that lined up with themes I was already exploring on my own. I loved reading the book, but a big part of that may be that it was so perfectly timed and in line with what I’ve been working through for a while.
Today’s quote is:
“Years ago I coined that phrase “God Watch” for our children as a game, of sorts. It was an intentional way of watching and waiting to see how the Lord would unexpectedly amaze us during a particularly difficult circumstance. Now, it’s a family matra. Our God Watch is a reminder to gaze at his goodness. To rest in his reassurances. But more importantly, it’s a whisper of willingness to choose joy in the midst of doubt. –Jennifer Schmidt, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam”
I suppose I should declare a God Watch. This week and last were incredibly difficult. I was offered a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity which had been a dream of mine for the last 10 years, wrapped up with several unexpected financial perks like a sparkly, inviting bow. Not only was this something I dreamed about and longed for in my professional practice for years, but I had hoped it would be God’s answer to my season of intense questions and seeking this past year when the negative events in my life just didn’t make sense. Yet I had a persistent feeling that this amazing, sparkling career opportunity laid out before me wasn’t the right one. I had a feeling that God has been leading me so closely this past year so he could clearly navigate me past what seemed so much like a perfect direction to travel.
After a year of searching and looking for comfort and peace amidst grief, it was incredibly hard to pass up the first concrete path that I saw in the desert, especially one so inviting. And I don’t have any alternative path to guide my seemingly aimless journey instead, just a strong impression that God was telling me, “I have something better for you.” But I don’t know what that something is. I had hoped that because saying no to this opportunity was so difficult for me, I would have a reassuring new direction soon afterward. Not so. Thankfully, I do have intellectual and spiritual peace that I made the right decision, but emotionally- and quite vividly- it stings of another fresh loss. Be advised, a God Watch is in effect for this and surrounding desert areas.
“God IS always with us, even in the seasons that are so challenging that we think we won’t survive. Take time to give thanks to God for where you are right now. Thank about where your life has taken you and what your dreams are for the future. Remember that God is there. And no matter what, YOU can do it because HE gives you strength. —Jessica Turner, The Mom Creative”