Glimpses of heaven- restoration, rest and pinterest

I had to giggle a bit after I did a search on Pinterest for “heaven.”  I found mountains, beaches, perfectly organized pantries, a closet full of shoes, decadent desserts and baskets full of expensive yarn.

A Pinterest search for “Heaven”

My personal favorite (since I’m well known for my addiction to a great bath) is this one

heaven on earth.  Dear God, maybe for my birthday?  

I don’t think about heaven much, although I have many waiting for me there, I don’t imagine it at all, ever.  Something about allowing my thoughts to drift to the details of heaven feels naughty like some sort of strange wishful thinking.

Just knowing that God is here sustaining and redeeming me through THIS life is enough, what have I done to deserve any sort of crown or reward?

It’s not that I don’t believe in it, I truly do.

Then I stumbled upon Hebrews 4 over breakfast and it gave me a little piece of the puzzled, delivered neatly to my peanut butter smeared dinette table.

“The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.” ~The Message

Although yes, there are references to streets of gold, bejeweled buildings and crowns, I think it’s really about being done with striving, a place of rest.  And end to our continuous search to fill our God shaped hole.

No more paying bills or anti depressants, no more counseling appointments that didn’t pan out or broken down mini-vans.  No more wondering if we are enough or hoping other people will receive our hearts with grace.  Rest.  Peace.  Wholeness.  Restoration.

That is a hereafter I can believe in and even long for.

When you look at the most basic breakdown of the bible it’s this:

Creation and wholeness lead to Sin & Brokenness.  God choose his people and promised his son, they strayed and were exiled.  Christ was born, and modeled the perfect way to live.  He gave himself over to death, and then HE BEAT IT.  He returned to his father and left us his Spirit and a promise that he would be back finish it all up.

Heaven is the final piece of the puzzle, the story tells us that behind all the images of golden streets and crystal fountains, it’s basically “us” back at the beginning, fully restored to our whole, original selves.  Living fully redeemed and connected to the one that our insides are truly longing for.

I think this verse also speaks to God’s call upon us to practice Sabbath, a rhythm that he started the second he was done creating the universe.  In today’s culture we groan about the thought of taking an entire day off, we label it is unfeasible and unnecessary.

Is this verse telling us that sabbath is one of the ways that we can get a glimpse of heaven on earth?  A day of rest that brings us back to the beginning, God calling us to be just who he created us to be, to commune, to give up our striving one day a week and just be the child he made us to be.

Maybe we can bring heaven be enjoying a long meal with friends, a good book on the patio, a long nap in a cool bedroom, a few hours pruning roses, a game of golf with family.  Maybe sabbath connects us to heaven by helping us believe that the busy, striving world can go on without us for a day.

Because it will have to go on without us permanently when we transition to heaven, won’t it?

The more time I spend reflecting on what Heaven really is, the more comfortable I become with it, the more I do long for it.  A place of rest and total connection with our savior which result in worship through our very being.

We get to be fully who we are and fully in relationship with the one our hearts yearn for.

That’s where my parents and grandparents are, that’s what lost friends and loved ones are enjoying.

Wholeness, Shalom, Rest.

I’ll take that after a bejeweled crown any day.

Tell me about your heaven.

My reset- A walk away

I must confess that I have days when I wonder whether the online community is good for me.

It brings countless lovely moments, where my heart connects authentically with others, regardless of miles or borders.

Yet, there are days like today, where it causes me to doubt myself and feel like a loser.  Some days I put myself out there and come up with nothing but self-doubt and perceived rejection.  It’s like I’m back in high school at a lunch table by myself wondering if all the popular kids secretly think I’m a creepy freak.

You have days like this too, don’t you?  Don’t we all?  Those days where we look to the internet for validation and reassurance that we’re okay.

But I’m learning that when we start down this road, we need to click off our phones, snap our computers shut and WALK AWAY.  No, RUN AWAY.

This afternoon, I ran away to reset my soul, my priorities.

photo compliments of Joely O’Neal

I ran out into nature with my oldest daughter to take a long, slow walk.  We always drive to the park to tear around the playground but never to walk together and deliberately take in all the trails have to offer.

And what we found was a lush, green reset button.

We ambled slowly into the forest to smell flowers and investigate turtles.  We were mesmerized for a long while by a small waterfall which flowed over a rock dam.  We breathed in the green all around us, snapped twigs and messed with rolly poly bugs.

She constantly called the squirrels “skunks” and personified inanimate objects like poles and stairs as only she knows how.  She made sure to greet and question every jogger,  bringing a smile to all that crossed our path.

We had no goal, time or agenda, just us, taking in creation and each other.

I very strategically left my phone in the van because I needed to have time off the grid.  I craved time where I was unreachable and removed from the temptation to make the private, public (more than I’m already doing right now).  I had an absolute need to remind myself that my life is for my God and for my family first.

I need to take in more moments where I don’t try to perfectly capture things for instagram.  Too many of us, myself included, are developing a need to constantly hold our our lives out for approval.

Look at my picture, my life, my afternoon! How many likes or retweets are my thoughts and moments worth?

They’re worth so much less when we measure them by online approval.  Your afternoon of baking cookies or sidewalk chalk art is immensely beautiful no matter what anyone says or doesn’t say online.

Also, don’t worry about winning the approval of the big dogs, whoever they are in your world.  Don’t ever doubt your sphere of influence, because God is presenting you with the exact connections you need right now.

Love who you have well, that is all you really can do.  Mind those who are reading, listening and calling and stop worrying about who isn’t paying attention or responding.  There’s a very good chance they’re not who God needs you connecting with.

I’m preaching to myself, to my soul, as I painfully gain strength and learn to use this brave new online world for his glory and not to insult who he created me to be.

What about you, does the internet shrink you some days?  Has God taught you how to deal?

If the online world is making you feel rejected or smaller, then it’s time to walk away for a while.  Believe me, you having everything to gain if you do.

Week of Mutuality: Uniquely Equal

flickr- torea jade

We started with a mutual mindset from the very beginning.  We met over the internet and fell in love on the telephone.  There were countless deep conversations shared, as well as some really silly ones which involved herds of beaver and  my extreme dislike of the word “penetrate.”

We shared dreams together Kel and I, like leading a church where we taught side by side, bringing truth from the unique vantage points that God poured into each of us.

We believed that the fullness of God could only be fully expressed with both of us alight and alive, as Kel and Leanne, as man and woman.  That Kel in his maleness held totally unique aspects of God, while I with my Eve-ness carried the other part.

After all it was only “good” or “Tov” with just Adam, but “Tov Meod” or “very good” when God had breathed himself into both of them.  We believe that each of us carry attributes of God that are unique and equally necessary for his world.

So here we are now,  7 years later, we don’t have our own church and we aren’t teaching together in a Yin/Yang fashion.  He is leading a ministry and I’m at home, raising our children, making them breakfast, reading books and taking them to the splash park.

Some may look at our marriage and see me as the complement to his ministry, the support to his leadership role.  Me the little woman at home with the sewing machine, he the breadwinner with the lawn mower, black and white and typical.

That view of “us” would be wrong and narrow.

They would be missing the mornings and afternoons where he takes charge of the house so I can write and respond to all the “non-mom” ways in which the spirit is leading me.

They would be oblivious to the hard truth that there is nothing passive or easy about raising children.  Kel would be the first to tell you that in our marriage, my job requires just as much if not more strength and power from the Holy Spirit as his career of ministry and leadership.

They wouldn’t know that when I visit his supporting churches, I am “Kel’s wife”, but that when he goes to conferences or weddings, he is often “Leanne’s husband.”

This distinction holds no insecurity for either of us, because we would be selfish if our desire wasn’t for the other to shine.  I want to be Kel’s wife as much as he desires to be Leanne’s husband.

We view our unique calls as something that our whole family is involved in.  He is just as willing to take care of children at home so I can speak at a retreat as I am to go it alone while he is at a conference or camp.

Honestly? Yes, some days my call does feel marginalized by the simple truth that his work brings a paycheck and my writing brings next to nothing monetarily.  But, honestly? I like paying the mortgage and buying milk.

Right now is a season of young ones who require heaps of attention and correction.  Yet seasons always change and with age will come more space for me to lead outside of these four, small brick walls.

Today I will rest in the fact that I am no less valuable and no less needed in this world because of my gender or income.

I have birthed children, nursed babies, written beautiful words, scrubbed toilets and made a hundred pots of oatmeal.  Kel has (almost) earned a masters degree, warmed 2 AM bottles, folded socks and made pan after pan of chicken enchiladas.

There is nothing about our life that is too minimal or too large for the other to participate in, nothing that is outside the realm of our love and support of each other.

We live equally, we love differently, we bring our gifts uniquely and we support mutually.

Really, it’s all God’s Love

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” Isaiah 49: 15-16

I am often intoxicated with the sweetness of the evening.  The softness of clean, freshly bathed baby skin on my lips, the peace that accompanies nothing left but the easy unwinding of putting another day to rest, teeth brushed and pajama clad.

I love my life, all surrounds me and all that I sense on the horizon.  I love breathing strong prayers over sleeping babies just before I slip into sheets that feel so soft on my well worn and calloused feet.

As time passes I find I’m learning to release all my desperate striving and breathe grace.  Through this new way of living the spirit is prompting, leading and reassuring me.

We’re staying with our adoptive parents, Dave & Sandy while Kel is the Dean of a High School Summer camp a few hours south of us.  The way they have taken us and our children in is an unimaginable gift to us.  My mother heart wondered what life would be like for our family with no grandparents or parents left alive, and God knew and responded.

Last night I was stressed out and crabby, I had attempted to make dinner for everyone, one of our favorites, Pioneer Woman’s Dr Pepper shredded pork.  It’s spicy and sweet and will clear your sinuses and your worries in no time flat.

But last night it wasn’t turning out, wasn’t falling off the bone, wasn’t shredding or reducing.  The kids had just creamed their way through target and the little man is going through a “nothing will please me” phase where he throws whatever you offer him.

The dinner conundrum was the last straw and I couldn’t hide my aggravation and stress.  I didn’t snap at anyone in particular but no matter how much they insisted dinner would be fine I stressed that it was ruined and wrong.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a whisper:  “You better cut it out, they don’t have to love you or let you stay.  Be sweet, be only the best parts of yourself.”

I apologized to Sandy later and told her sometimes I worry that since I’m not her real daughter that I could do something to send her away.  She cried and asked me never to say that again, that I am loved and our children are cherished, that we have a place here.

Suddenly it struck me, why is it that I think that real, lasting love comes only with blood and documentation?  

After all, isn’t love always a choice?  A series of choosing God’s ways over our human desires to serve ourselves first?

Parents abandon their blood children, and legally documented marriages end all the time.  These things that I thought obligated us to love are easily done away with.

I love Kel with a forever love that has nothing to do with our legal marriage certificate.  I love my children not because of our shared DNA but because of their light in their eyes and the spirit they bring to this world.  There is nothing that anyone could do or say to remove my cover of love from them.

Do I believe that my friends who worked so hard to bring home their adopted children will actively love them less than their biological children?  No, not at all, I have a lasting faith in the love of adoption.

We are all adopted when you think about it.

We all love people deeply without any legal obligation.  I’m connected through love to my friends, my life group and our college students with a love that is a choice and has nothing to do with blood or the law.

So, if I question this earthly love, then what of the love of Christ?  Do I believe he’s obligated to love me?  That because he created me that he had no choice but to save me, sustain me?  Does he love us because it’s the responsible thing to do?  He made us so he has to take care of us?

No, but I believe that he does and always will, because he is faithful and forever.  He promised this cover of love for us would never cease to flow and he has yet to break a single promise.

The wonderful and terrifying thing is that when you bring yourself to this place where you realize that no one on heaven or earth is obligated to love, you must take a leap of faith and trust that their love is true, heavenly and lasting.

The flow of human love relationships in my life could and will change, because we humans do that sort of thing.

All real love in our lives is truly the love of God, whether it comes directly from his hand or through the hands of his people.  For me to love my children strong I must be a channel of his love in me.  For Kel to love me fiercely he has to tap into the husband love that God is growing in his heart.  In order to be true friends we have to follow the bible’s teachings and lay down our desires for the good of each other.

It’s really all God’s love, none of it human in the slightest.

He is the source of love, and if I trust that he is the spring and that those around me are seeking to plug into it then we’ll all be forever lost in a torrential flow of love.

This love is for us, but it must always be shared.  It will always move us to rescue those drowning in hope, loneliness and death.

True love can never be hoarded, it demands to given away.

Have you feared this?  Grown through it?

Reflections of a Seminary Wife- Article for Asbury Alumni

In my former, pre-mom life I was an assistant to the Alumni office at Asbury Seminary while Kel was attending classes on campus in Wilmore, KY.  They’ve graciously asked me to write about what life is like for a seminary spouse and here is what I came up with:

The past life, Seminary “us” (note the office depot uniform on Kel)

I still remember with crisp clarity the day we pulled into Wilmore with our Uhaul in tow.  It was late July and exactly one week before our first anniversary.  We were babies on the marriage journey and in retrospect had only a vague idea what we were getting ourselves into.  We had no jobs, no income and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t burst into tears the first time I saw our beyond tiny, cinder block apartment.  My husband was beyond excited to be starting classes and I was struggling to figure out how I fit into this seminary journey.  I tried taking a few counseling classes and working toward my master’s degree but somehow I knew that our budget and schedule couldn’t accommodate both of us in Seminary at the same time.  So I put my career plans on hold for a while and was eventually blessed with an amazing job on staff at Asbury which provided me with a place and a purpose.

To read the rest of the article, go the Alumni Link  to finish it up.