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Sunday, January 26, 2014

This blog has moved...

Follow me at markandrobinrussell.wordpress.com


I have used my talented hubby's skills to move my content over to a different platform that will be more user friendly for me and hopefully for you my followers! I look forward to sharing more of my families journeys, successes, and adventures with you there! See you on the other side!

Robin

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A reason for shoveling

We have lived in our house for almost three years. For the last two and half years every time it would start snowing Mark and I would almost rejoice. Because it meant that our front steps and our back steps would snow over, making it impossible to get to our house unless we lifted the garage door. This meant that we had invited you in and wanted you in our house. But, it had to take effort to get into our house. We didn't really have a reason to shovel.

Then, this year happened, the year of beloved, amazing friends. The year God would introduce us to people who would make shoveling our walkways not only a must, but a joy. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for these beloved people to make their way into our home and our hearts!

Mark and I have lived in Albert Lea for seven years, it has taken all seven years to cultivate friendships, to develop a brotherhood and sisterhood of soul friends. Which is quite funny when you think of it, because I grew up in Albert Lea, born and raised. Wouldn't you think I would be coming home to friends. But, that was not the case with me. I was coming home to people who knew me as I was and I was coming home to people who I knew before, but had not gotten to know as the adult them. People change, I change, but it takes a while to learn to trust the knew selves. We had also moved eight times in eight years and I believe we had begun to guard our hearts. What was the point of growing deep friendships if in a few years we would up and move. It was too hard on our hearts and honestly I was tired of hurting people in the process of our leaving. Building trust, building a relationship only say well sorry but we're moving and let's be honest long distance relationships just don't measure up to face to face tea, coffee, or lemonade time. Email and the phone can only count for so much, phones and email don't let you hug a person or cry on their shoulder, crying on the phone just isn't always the same. Some times it leaves you lonelier.

This year, as the snow falls, I think to myself "my goodness, one more thing to add to my day". But, I also smile and am thrilled to need to go out and shovel. While I'm shoveling I pray for the dear friends who have come into our lives. I pray for their needs, I pray blessings upon them, but I also pray for dear friends who live far away. Friends who crave to have beloved friendships were they are but have not found yet. I pray God would bring them the 12, the 3, the 1. A group of friends (the 12), beloved friends within the group of 12 that just get you (the 3), and finally that 1 person in the group that makes your heart sing. You think the same, act the same, struggle with similar stuff this is your 1 person. Jesus had 12 disciples, he had 3 good friends, and he had a beloved disciple, John, who was closer than a brother to him.

I said before that Mark and I had guarded our hearts against friendships, but last year I began to realize how lonely Mark and I had become. I also realized that guarding our hearts also allowed us to let sin in our life fester, we had chosen to live in the dark. Because when you don't have the freedom to share struggles it becomes really easy to live in the place of sin. But, having a close group of friends brings light into your spiritual life. They see you acting not quite like yourself and in love they approach you and draw you out. Giving love and encouragement, giving sword sharpening truth, bringing light into darkness. Darkness flees at the light and our souls, our lives are brightened because of these beloved friendships. So, last year I began to pray for soul friends for Mark and I. I began to pray these friends would be couples who have kids around our kids age. Oh my goodness, mercy me, did he flood us with an abundance of amazing friends. Friends who I can only say are ordained for us to know and simply 'do life with'. One couple in particular has crossed our paths several times and everything in our lives should have allowed us to meet up, but we hadn't. We have similar friends, lived in the same apartment complex, go to the same church, hike the same park, and yet we hadn't met up. This year was the year our paths would finally cross and I am so blessed and so thankful they did!

God heard my hearts desire to begin to enter into friendships, he heard my cry of needing light shining friends in our lives. This year I have not only shoveled, but sanded and salted, because I want our friends path to our house to be as safe as possible. My front door and my heart are accessible and being willing to risk hurt, risking the possibility that we may move again. I have begun to pray for our friends hearts and our hearts to be prepared for the day we might move. We don't plan on moving, it's not our desire, but none the less I want to be ready and willing to go when God says go. For now, I will rejoice at friendship, I will rejoice that I am in need of a shovel and a snow blower!

Praise the Lord for cleared paths that lead to friendship! God be praised forever and ever!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tunnel Vision

It is so easy to get life tunnel vision. The dryer breaks, the car is running on fumes and your not sure if these are good fumes, the kids go crazy, the bank account dries up and you start wondering if your sanity will go with it soon. You pray and pray harder, you trust and try to trust harder, but all that happens in the end is ending up in a pile of tears on the floor. I have found that I am attempting life on my own. I think God took a back seat and well if he's not going to fix it then I will! In the moment I do not think I am mustering my own strength, what it looks like to me is a desperate woman on my knees before The Lord. I am in part doing this in all honesty, but another part of me is hanging on for dear life to way I want life to steer. I am trying with all my might to hang on to the steering wheel, after all don't I know the way I want to go and isn't that the direction God wants me to go too? I have notions in my head of what I want and what I don't want and when it doesn't line up with God's, well, fine, I'll figure it out without you.

My heart has raged with jealousy this week, it has raced with frustration, and every other ugly emotion. I emailed a very good friend, who happens to be my cousin, and poured my sorry heart out to her. She gave me permission to feel these emotions, then she became a witness of God's goodness in her life. She took away the guilt of what I was feeling, it was truly freeing. Then God pointed out that life is so much more than my tunnel vision, it is so much more than simply here and now, God showed me and took my blinders off, and showed me that he is in the process of a bigger picture. A bigger picture that has my good in mind. He showed me, reassured me, to keep trusting, keeping moving forward, and to enjoy the moment, enjoy the slowness. Trust me Robin he says. Oh, to know that God has something coming, to know God is working, and not simply leaving me in a slump is oh so amazingly soul happy. I rejoice the God took my blinders off, I rejoice at the tunnel vision God was showing me I was having! I rejoice in my God, my Abba!

He has rescued me from my slump, he has turned sorrow and self pity into praise.

The bigger picture

I have been reading Desiring God by John Piper, a book I have struggled to read going on four years now. A paragraph is a chunk for me to read, simply because it contains so much brain food. My brain struggles to take in that deep of information at one time, simply too much to think through and digest in one sitting. So a chapter has taken me a week to read. I am determined to push through this book and once and for all get it read!

Something the book brought to perspective for me was the grasp of God with a wider picture. God sees our sins as short term and while it's still sin and still saddens him and he still dislikes it, God often also has a greater wider scope of what is to be done in and through that sin. Everything always points to God's glory, even our ugliness.

So this got me thinking about life's situations and how trusting God's bigger plan ultimately puts me at peace. I think of situations where someone seeks to do me harm and it's not hard to think of ways people would want to hurt me. I think of Corrie Ten Boom and Betsy Ten Boom, I think of their situation in the concentration camp. I think of all the horrible things they saw, heard, and experienced. What is the greater purpose in it?  I know that these two women had the same question, but I do also know that Betsy in particular deeply believed that God had a bigger picture than their suffering in the moment. In the moment their suffering is awfully horrible and I know from their books they thought it was horrible too. But, instead of focusing on the here and now, instead of focusing on the one horrible moment, which can lead to weeks, months, and years of horrible, as it was for these two ladies. It does take work and constant abiding in the father to withstand so much horribleness and be able to continually see the bigger picture. It takes a great deal of trust, trust which unless we are abiding is impossible in my mind to remain a hold of. Without abiding within such awfulness, one would wither and faint away, if not physically than in the mind and that is just as horrible as dying in the physical.

It is with the bigger picture in mind that I press on, encouraged and delighted that there is indeed a greater  picture than just the here and now. Knowing the trials and tribulations of this world are not for naught, but has a glorious and even beautiful bigger picture. It is sometimes a moment by moment trust, which means it is a situation which I must cling tightly to my Savior and not get distracted from this relationship. To get distracted, to not feed this relationship would mean death of hope and death of joy. Because, away from the presence of God I will gain a tunnel vision of despair, death, hopelessness. For, without the constant relationship and assurance of who I am and the assurance of a beautiful picture I will not withstand the worlds cruelty.

And so with the bigger picture in mind I press on, trusting not in the momentarily circumstance, but in the greater good of the circumstance. I press on knowing the race is only a means to a beautiful end of culminating a relationship with my Abba. I rejoice that Abba has a greater purpose and that despite the circumstance, even if I am not rescued from the cave with the lions, the fiery furnace, the Egyptian Pharaoh, Hitler's army, or any other trial God's bigger purpose is with me and his other children in mind.

God be praised for ever and ever!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Permission and a Wittness

Yesterday was a crazy awful day! Now, when I say awful I don't mean anything life threatening happened, nor did anything that can't be fixed later happen. But, none the less, emotionally yesterday rocked me. It rocked me because I had been in a mind set of what yesterday would look like, when it turned out to look like the opposite of relaxing, a Sabbath I so desperately needed before heading into a busy week, I lost it. Instead all I could see was all that was before me and it looked too big for me. I cried out to the Lord all day, wanting  Him, needing Him to change my attitude. Wanting him to give me extra joy and extra energy. Yesterday was Saturday, which was even worse because the next day was Sunday. I have responsibilities on Sunday. Sure they only last an hour, but it's an hour that is filled with rushing, shepherding of my kids as well as other's kids, it's filled with running here and there. I love spending time with my church body, but let's be honest, it requires emotional and physical energy to get there!

I had a choice to make. I could give myself permission to stay home, to soak in a Sabbath at home I so desperately need to get my mind in the peaceful place it needs to be to tackle the week. I could give myself permission, but instead it's laced with guilt. Guilt of knowing I am needed elsewhere, but knowing my family comes first and knowing what they really need is not a busy morning, what they need is quiet time with mommy and daddy. We need to connect again, especially after a day filled with mommy and daddy stressed out. We need the connection and so do they. We need to be reminded and grounded in our love as a family. We don't need one more thing to run to, we need a Sabbath, a quiet, we need to breathe. So, I gave myself permission.

Do I need the permission of other believers, no, but is it nice? Yes! We as believers have a tendancy to think that if we are not serving EVERY Sunday or in my case miss more Sundays than you've attended when you've committed to something. Yeah, that pill has been hard to swallow. It's been hard to swallow because instead of compassion and a hug of I'm so sorry life has tackled you lately. I feel like I will get the evil eye that I'm not holding up my side of the bargain, my side of the deal.

But this brings me to a bigger picture of what the body of Christ is needing. We are sick with sin, it's inherited, you can't run away from it, you can try and deny it, but no matter how hard you try it will always be there. We eat too much chocolate because we are lonely, we yell at our kids because the weight of the world is too heavy, we love and enter into relationships that are plagued with sickness not health. We gaze at someone in a way we should not be, instead of turning away, we allow ourselves to stay in the moment. A moment of unhealthy lust.

But, the thing is, we know we are sinners. We know we are holding the short end of the stick and so we cringe and shrink back. We label our selves sinners and so instead of giving each other permission, we label and cause two directions, either they try even harder to be spiritual, to please and be Holier than thou art, attempting to earn our way out of our sin or we throw in the towel, give up, and embrace the sin. Both are covering up a sickness they don't know how to deal with. So, instead of admitting it they press on, still sick, still needing a cure, still ducking their head in shame.

What they need, what I need, is a witness! I need a witness of love. A witness to hug me, to reassure me that even in my sin, especially in my sin. God the father, Jesus the savior understands my sin, he understands my heart, and loves me still. What I need is to know that I am still loved by the body of Christ, because within knowing I'm loved by the body of Christ, it becomes Christ loving me. I'm not suppose to need anyone other than Christ and when it comes down to it, your right. But, I do also know that God often uses his people in my life to bear witness to his love and his truth! He uses them as a sword to sharpen me, to get me through furnace firings in my life. I need the body of Christ and other believers need the body of Christ to give them permission to be imperfect. Let's not judge, let's love, let's pray for one another in love. Let's rejoice that God can take a sinner, a wretch, and love them to glory. Let's give each other permission to fail, let's love them through the failure, and bring them to victory in Jesus! Let's give permission and bear witness to one another the glory of God within us! Let the light in us speak for itself. When we are abiding in Christ, our love for Christ is evident, others will flock to the peace, they will crave the peace. Let us let love bring transformation.

Let us give permission for each other to sin, to be imperfect, to drop the ball. But, let's call each other to truth and love by being a witness of being in the slum ourselves, let's give testimony, let's remember were we were when we were lost. The times we still get lost. Let's give each other permission to be gone a Sunday or Sundays because life throws curve balls. Let's give each other permission to be imperfect, let's let God do what God does best. Let's be a witness of God at his best when we are at our worst!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking to 2014

The last few years I have set goals for myself. One year I wanted to learn broths and soups, another year I wanted to learn to make sauces and dips, and this year Mark and I are going to learn to relax! We are going to relearn how to relax and bring fun back into our lives. Some how in the midst of living, raising kids, and paying bills we forgot how to have a life. This year we are going to dig the fun back out of the closet.

One of the ways we are going to accomplish this is honesty. If Mark's had a rough day and he needs to go get lost in the woods with his camera, then I need to be able to give him the freedom to do so. Back him a picnic and off he goes. I need him to be ready to take over the kids and let me walk out the door for a while after a stressful day of school and training the kiddos. There are going to be times Mark and I need to run away together and we'll figure out a way to accomplish it.

One of the adventures we are going to try and bring back into our lives is camping! We love camping! Camping sings to both Mark and I's soul. Living in a tent, cooking over a fire, running around in the woods, listening to the birds sing, fishing for our supper. Biking is another adventure we full intend to bring back into our world of adventure. Lansboro is a sweet little tourist town known for it's great biking trails. Lansboro has sweet little shops, fabulous restaurants, and a world re-known pie shop! Fishing is definitely an adventure we will continue. Last summer we went fishing quite a bit and the kids loved it. We have learned that if your kids are indeed going to be serious about fishing then the flimsy kid poles are not a good choice. Definitely spend the extra money and get them a serious pole that will outlast kid antics. You get the gist, we are outdoors people and the outdoors makes our soul sing!

Relaxing for Mark also looks like painting, skateboarding, sitting by a fire for hours, spending alone time with his wife, and spending time with great friends. For me relaxing looks like sitting down with a great book, cooking/baking something yummy, riding horses, and sitting with great friends shooting the breeze and eating yummy food and drinking great beverages. I love long walks with friends, pretty much anything that gives me heart to heart time with someone.

We are going to find fun, we are going to start listening to our emotional needs of fun and relaxation, this will feed our spiritual, uplift us mentally, and will heal the physical.

I am looking forward to an amazing 2014! I'll let you know how our year of fun pans out!




Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Watchful Father

I have heard quite often that our relationships are an image of our relationship with God. Today, I was thinking of my relationship with my kid's and how I watch them closely and learn their in's and outs's. I know when my kid's are over tired and need to go to bed, I know how to help them before they get to a place of being over tired. I know the signs that tell me they are on the verge of a cold or some other sickness. I what their facial expressions mean and what their body language means. I know what will make their heart sings and what will fill their cups to overflowing. I know how much or how little pressure they can handle. I also know when they are giving me attitude or struggling because they need my attention and are asking without knowing it for a mommy or daddy date. They are needing one on one time with us. It is my job as their mommy to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance into my kid's. Guidance for eyes to see my kid's and their needs, issues that I might other wise miss but are important to the raising of their hearts.

Matthew 6:26 says, 'Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet their heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Another verse in Matthew says, 'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny: And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father'. Both of these verses tells me that God intimately watches us, not one of us rises or falls without him knowing. Which also tells me that he watches my heartache as closely as he watches my successes. If I will allow him God is alive and active in my life.

There have been many moments in my life that like my three year olds my temper flared and I was unconsolable. Like my three year olds I did not know it was the affection and love of my heavenly Father I was needing and looking for. I in my immaturity wandered around looking for spiritual food and had no realization of what I as doing. But, God knew, my heavenly Father, saw my tantrum and knew it for what it was. He would come along beside me and either through mentors or through his word and Holy Spirit guide me to the nourishing waters of his presence. He would water my soul through his Holy Spirit giving me nourishing soul soup of his word and comfort. As I grew spiritually, I have grown to know myself more and more. I have been able to go to my heavenly father before my soul erupts into an emotional molten lava volcano.

The question I asked myself this mornings was, 'does God care for me as I care for my kid's, does God have an active relationship with me as I do with my kid's. The answer in my personal life is yes. But, we can also choose to have the relationship of a child who will not and does not want the parent/child relationship. In which case God can attempt the relationship, but it is not responded to. Relationships both with my kid's and with God are what I put into them. If I abide in Christ and he abides in me, I am therefore tapped into the vine (God) and will receive nourishing relationship.

Yes, God responds as the father, knowing me intimately. My God is the watchful heavenly Father.