Collateral Damage

Sometimes, the damage isn't readily visible. Sometimes, when people do bad things, make bad choices, the consequences don't happen for years and years.
When the shit hits the fan, sometimes you find splatters of it decades and decades after the initial collision occurred.

My heart aches for those neither wrong or right, for those that weren't even alive when the shit hit the fan, for those that have no choice in the way generational sin plays out.
I can only hope. Hope that we learn the lessons, that we offer kindness and patience in lieu of name calling and shouting matches. I hope that we can look past wrongs that have been done against us and the ugliness that they brought into this family line and see the good in people.
I hope that my tears will dry, that I can find the words, that I can have arms big enough to comfort and a heart big enough it can be stitched back together once again.

It doesn't have to be this way, it shouldn't be this way. God's design and purpose are so much bigger than this anger and disdain we hold for each other. God's design is for good, for peace, for love. God's design is for the present and for longing for a future when he will reign over a righted world.
Until then, I'm left with the collateral damage and the hope in Christ now and for the future.


We Are Waiting

I love TSO, love them. This is one of my favorite songs, Christmas Canon Rock.

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

The hope that he brings
The hope that he brings
The hope that he brings
The hope that he brings

This night
We pray
Our lives
Will show

This dream
He had
Each child
Still knows

We are waiting
We have not forgotten

On this night
On this night
On this very Christmas night

The season of Advent marks a season of hope, of preparation for Christ both as a child being born to the virgin Mary and a hope for his coming again. I've been thinking about that a lot this week. As I feel God's hand heavy on my heart, speaking to me and challenging me to step back and spend more time with him listening, talking, reading his word and worshiping him I've been thinking about waiting on God. Waiting on his call, his direction, his blessing. Many ways, through media and people directly to me and through Ben's sermons at church I've been hearing him clearly calling me away from my noisy, busy involvement in anything. He's calling me away from saying yes to so many things, that while good, compromise time that I desperately need to spend on my face in front of Him. It is not coincidental that this is happening at the same time I feel so pressured to stay busy, to run like a crazy person and to say yes to so much so I don't feel left out. I have some idea about what he's going to say, which is part of my reluctance to hear it. But I can't let it go on much longer. I've heard it before and have been fearful, hesitant. Because I know that listening to him is going to require me to step out boldly and that's just so far outside my comfort zone I can't even see it anymore.

So I wait. I wait on my King, my Father, my God.

It would be so much easier, simpler, clearer if there was an action that I could take. I'm very good at doing. But time and time again, the words drifting up in my hear are those of Psalm 37:7

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him
Psalm 37:7

So I wait.

What are you waiting for this advent season? What are you anticipating, hoping for, longing for? Are you waiting for an apology, for the "I love you too"? Are you waiting to be forgiven, for the right time to say you're sorry? Are you waiting to be kind, to go that extra mile, to encourage someone that you see struggling? Are you waiting for God to be real to you, for him to step down from heaven in a thunderous way and declare himself as real, living and moving? Christmas Eve six years ago was the first time God was real to me. During a service that played TSO and showed videos from Jesus movies. God drifted in quietly and shattered the pieces of me that weren't already broken and set about repairing the damage done throughout so many years of anger, grudges, abuse by myself and other. He set about removing the razors from my wrists and the hopelessness from my heart.
What are you waiting for?

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!
Psalm 27:14

But for you, O LORD, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
Psalm 38:15

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry
Psalm 40:1


Shut up and just sit right back

Starting with Ben's talk on Sunday through a dvd I watched by Don Miller (Free Market Jesus), my conversations with the manager at the bookstore Monday night while working and during my study and prayer time later that same night God's been speaking. Tuesday I heard the message in songs and read it on blogs, today I was beat about the head and face with it by Beth Moore during our last meeting of Life Groups, it was confirmed in the study I had done in preparation for tonight and in the conversations I had with Diane before everyone else got there. I come home, completely ignoring what I've been hearing over and over again and I hop online to run amok a little before collapsing into an exhausted heap. I log into google reader and see that Anne Jackson has a new blog post. I see that Jon at Stuff Christians Like linked The Prodigal Jon site's new post.

I get it. But I don't get it. I don't do "still" well. Being still makes me uncomfortable, it makes me nervous, it makes me ugly. Being still helps me hear things being said to me that I don't like to hear. Things that I need to change, address, face. Being still usually means growth, and darnit there are some things that I'm uncomfortable changing. I've been stomping my foot and shaking my head at God because I've heard him, softly but clearly telling me to be still. To shut up and listen, to be still before him and adore him and allow him to chisel off some more of the armor that I have spent years building up. I don't want to. I like my armor. It's cozy and familiar, it's comforting even when it's restrictive, even when I feel trapped inside of it the armor is still better then stepping out and believing that it will be ok.

I love God, but sometimes I don't trust him. I don't trust him because I place the human characteristics of all the people that have encouraged me to jump and then dropped me, of the people that let me get close to them only for me to hear that I sort of suck at life and could I just quietly go away. I trust the God in my head, but not always the God in my heart. I get a little closer then I pull away. I'm never really sure that I want to hear what it is that he is telling me. I feign ignorance, "surely THAT isn't what you mean, surely that can't be what you just said".
But since Sunday, person after person, source after source, song after song, book after book, blog after blog has pinched me with conviction.

I have no idea what's going to happen really, if I actively work on being still. There are so many voices in my head sometimes, and the ugliest one is usually the loudest, and I'm so tired of hearing what that voice says. I'm so tired of seeing myself as that girl and not the woman that God wants me to be, that God sees already in me. But confronting that ugly means having to tune into it, follow it to the root and then yank it out. It's so much easier and so much more immediate gratification if I would just be allowed to do what I've always done. Eviscerate myself and not address the root issue.

Being still isn't my strong suit, there's always something to do, someone to talk to, and quite frankly I don't want to feel left out. If I'm still. If I say no to things because I want to be still and not because I'm already booked, then what if people stop asking me to do things? What if people stop inviting me places? What if people forget about me?
Silly, yes. Selfish, absolutely.

But it appears God isn't letting up on this one. Dangit.


Enough for God

For the last 48 hours God has been moving around and shaking some things up in my heart. It's messing me up guys, messing me up.
Ben talked on Sunday about love and fear. I'd give some link love but it's not being made available online for download, they want to be sure it's heard the way it was intended. Wholly and complete and out of love. He talked about fear and named 3 things that are pretty common fears:
People- as in the fear of disappointing people, sort of like wanting to please people and have everyone like you. I'm still processing that one, and the surprising depths my fear of disappointing people runs.
Money- having it, not having it, missing out on something because you're saving it and more.
Death- pretty self explanatory, but he talked about the assurance that faith in Jesus brings in the face of death or about to be death
I'm hoping to come back and revisit each one, we'll see if I remember and actually post anything.

But this is one of the few things that God has been kicking my ass over this weekend. I almost exclusively apply characteristics of people I know to God. I mean we all do it, it's what helps us wrap our teeny brains around the massivisity (what?) that is God.
During the money section Ben talked about obedience in 3 areas with money. When you have money God says we should do 3 things with it. Give some to God, save some, and spend the rest within your means. He said that disobedience in 1 of those 3 areas can lead to all sorts of issues with money. But I don't want to delve to deeply into that right now. The point is, I am rampantly disobedient in one of those areas. Oh, I give to God regularly and when the option comes up for me not to I put my foot down and say no, that part of the budget stays. I also live within my means (mostly and you'll see why I say mostly in a second). I have ZERO credit cards. I have no note on my car, I paid for it in cash. I have my student loans and my mortgage, that's it. (sorry a girls got to brag sometimes). But I do not save. At all. If there is a penny to be spent by golly I'm going to find something I just have to have, or something I just have to buy someone else, or someplace I just have to drive so I need that money for extra gas. I spend it all. Well, that doesn't bode well for the occasional rainy day emergency, especially when you own a house.
Ben called us to repent to God for the area(s) that we're disobedient in. So I started right in on it, because if nothing else I follow direction fairly well.
But I never really stopped. I've been grovelling about not saving, which led to grovelling about my past sin and disobedience, which led to me spending quite a bit of time dredging my past for all the mistakes I'd made long before I ever believed God even existed. I eviscerated myself at the foot of the cross, and I thought, rightfully so.
Because when you have to apologize to another person for wronging them, one apology just isn't going to cut it. They have to really know that you're sorry, you have to prove to them just how sorry you are and maybe then they will consider thinking about accepting your apology. But they'll also bring it up again, and they won't forget, and sometimes they'll flat out refuse your apology, especially if it's something you're constantly screwing up on.
The last one especially sucks the air out of me.
Because left to my own devices I much prefer cruelty and snarkiness as a companion rather than grace and patience. Because if I know someones weakness it makes me feel powerful to exploit that weakness. I have exploited many a weakness for years. In the last almost 6 years since I began following Jesus I still slip up. I still say cruel and awful things. I still mock someone into a puddle on the floor. But I apologize, I repent to them, and I repent to God, but I just keep doing it.
Two Christmases ago I did it again. I was in rare form. My cranky pants were on and they were yanked up to my chin. When the battle was over and the other party had retreated I went and I apologized, I didn't even try to explain as usual, I just said, I'm sorry, I know better and I will try to do better. This person that I love and admire looked at me so coolly and said, "I'd like to believe you but your apology is just not good enough"

Sometimes I think my apologies to God are just not good enough, and in a sense they're not really. I have a hard time believing that he truly forgives and keeps no record of wrongs. I feel this unassuaged guilt at times for things that I've done, things I still feel so strongly that I want to do. I feel like if only I were sorry enough God would take these feelings, these thoughts, these desires away.
But that's not really how he operates. I know it, but I sure don't get it deep down. You ask, he forgives, he keeps no record of wrong. That's just so much more divine than I can really grasp most of the time.

I sort of feel the same way about prayer. Like if I was a really good believer I would be praying for hours and hours. I would be like the people whose stories I read that spend the first 4 hours of their day on their face during their quiet time and Lord help me I have no idea what they're saying, because I seem to have this mucked up notion that in order to pray you have to talk all the time. I'm sure you haven't noticed, but I tend to ramble. I don't want to ramble to Jesus, I often think he has more important things to do!
Again, that is just not true. My teeny human brain can not comprehend what God can do, and that's because he can do anything. Even be everywhere all the time.
I think half of the battle for me is to just be still before God. I'm just rarely still. I try to multi task my prayer in while I'm driving, while I'm catching up on google reader, while I'm showering, while I'm cooking. That's all well and good, and those prayers are perfectly valid, but they are all one-sided. It's all me coming at God and requesting things from him and occasionally thanking him and telling him I love him. Rarely is it me, asking him to come and speak to me and then shutting up.

Is it because I say yes to much? Yes (pun intended). Not all of it is that, but that is a good portion of it. So I'm going to try to say no more. I'm going to try to do a few things well, have a healthy balance of relational time, and the rest, I'm just going to try to be still. To sit, to read my bible more, to just listen for God talking. Because if the last 48 hours are any indication he has a lot to say and I just have been screaming to loud to hear him.

We're not good enough for God, but that's ok, because we're not God. Jesus bridges that gap, Jesus intercedes with our Father and he is good enough. What a relief, now maybe I can not only believe that God forgives me, maybe I can forgive myself.

Like a punch to the chest: mild hysteria to follow

This picture is leaving me breathless and broken hearted this morning. I can't stop crying.
Could this be photo shopped for heart string effect? Sure. When I look at the picture I wonder why the person stopped to take a picture instead of immediately scooping up this child into their arms.
But photos are powerful whether they're staged or not. They change, shape, and intensify your perspective on things.
Feeling your heart break over such need is rough when you're sitting in a warm, cushy cubicle with plenty of fresh and clean running water. Seeing such terrible hunger is like a knife to my ever expanding gut.
What do you do when there's so much to do, where do you start and how do you help when you feel like you're not helping enough?
Why? How?

God I cling to the fact that you are God, that you are sovereign and good, that you can be trusted, that your heart is bigger and more broken over the damage in the world then mine could ever be. Father I don't understand the why and the how but I choose to trust in you and your ways.
Use me, use us, catalyze and drive us to discontent with the way it is and show us the way it should be.


Self Loathing and Holding Grudges

I'm working my way through a Beth Moore bible study on the Psalms of Ascent in a church life group. It's very good, and it's becoming very difficult for me to resist the change that God is trying to make in my heart.
Beth Moore said in one of her videos that self-loathing is a form of pride as well, because it's still all about you. As hard as I try I can't get that thought out of my head.
I'm a grade A self loather. I feel pretty douchy almost all the time, but I've gotten really adept at hiding it. With the exception of a comment here, a self deprecating shrug there and you would never know the onslaught of criticism and nastiness that my brain unleashes inside my head.
Since I started leading outreach, it's only gotten worse. But I was sort of expecting that. When I was praying about leading I was pretty sure I was also about to enter into a season of some serious growth and the inevitable pain that comes with growth (at least with me, does that happen to any of you?). But I wasn't really prepared for how ugly I would be to myself.

I was talking to Diane last night while we were waiting for the Olive Cheese Bread to bake and telling her about the last year. God has worked harder in me in the last year than I've ever allowed him to do before. It's quite frankly terrifying. The subject of this weeks part of the study was about forgiveness and how the Lord keeps no record of wrongs, and how if he did, no one could stand under that guilt.

I come from a long line of grudge holders. My mom's mom stayed mad at her step-mom for 70 years. SEVENTY.YEARS. That's a hell of a grudge. It's all about keeping a tally of who did you wrong when and how severely.
When I was 2 or 3 my Uncle Johnny died. Uncle Johnny would always be sleeping on my grandparents sofa, and when I would arrive I would go and climb up on his stomach, lightly pat his face and say, "Wake up Uncle Johnny, I'm here, it's time to play with me" When he died my parents told me he had fallen asleep forever (so I've been told, I don't actually remember any of this). So at his funeral, I saw him "sleeping" in a box. I climbed up on this convenient step stool (one of those Catholic kneely things) and climbed onto his chest in his sleeping box. I began to pat his face and tell him, "Wake up Uncle Johnny, I'm here, it's time to play with me" When I was 16, my grandmother related that story to me with tears in her eyes, and then said, "You were such a terrible awful spoiled brat and you should know that I will never forgive you for what you did to me at Johnny's funeral"
So if I'm not attentive, my memory can play tricks on me and lead me to believe that I deserve to hold a grudge. I deserve to nurse those wounds and keep them active and seeping.
But that is a lie. It is a lie of an enemy that wants me to be so distracted by wounds I don't allow to heal that I forget to worship and serve a God that is so much bigger then grudges and offenses.

But the longest list, the deepest wounds, the hardest things for me to forgive are the wounds I inflict on myself.
Stupid, ugly, fat, douchy, why would you say that, what were you thinking, of course you weren't invited, you're never going to make it, that 72 pounds of chocolate you just ate will probably not make you gain any weight, don't let anyone take your picture you'll break the camera, don't draw attention to yourself (you can pretend it's humility but it's just because you're not worthy of peoples attention and affection)....
On and on the list grows, the ugly hateful things that I say to myself. The self loathing I nurture and coddle as it grows and grows.

That my friends, as Beth Moore pointed out, is pride. Sinful pride. Who am I to think that it is all about me? Who am I to think so much about myself that I wound myself paralyzed and unable, uninspired, unmotivated to serve the God that freed me, that saved me, that sent his Son to die for me (me, me, me, me, me!)
I am not a confident person. I am more confident with those of you that I have known, those of you that I trust to show my weakness to (and those of you that are strangers on the internet). I am confident on behalf of other people, but I am not confident in the woman that God created me to be, I am not confident that I won't mess it up, I am not confident that my big mouth and prideful intentions won't get in the way of shining God's light in the world.

I'm right, in a way, to not be confident in those things. Because I am broken and flawed. But God isn't. My self-loathing, my almost constant focus on what I'm doing wrong takes away the focus from a truth I seem to have been missing all along.

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter that I'm broken, flawed, and downright falling apart some days. Because God isn't. He's like, God. God has a history of working in broken and damaged people. He has a reputation for taking the ugly and making something beautiful out of it.
What I haven't been able to grasp, or to even see is, that God doesn't see that terrible awful spoiled brat that my grandmother decreed that I was. God doesn't say that he will never ever forgive you. God doesn't hold grudges.
God forgives and he keeps no records of wrong. God makes beauty out of pain, joy out of sorrow, and light out of darkness.

Out of the depths I call to You, LORD!
Lord, listen to my voice;
let Your ears be attentive to my
cry for help.
LORD, if You considered sins, Lord, who
could stand?
But with You there is forgiveness, so that
You may be revered.
I wait for the LORD; I wait, and put my hope
in His word


Awesome Weekend: boy am I tired

I threw a housewarming party this weekend. People came! People laughed! At least 4 people said it was the most fun they've had in a long time! I was loud and obnoxious at a Mexican restaurant! I'm pretty sure it was the wine though...

I was still busting ass to get things ready at 2, thank goodness Fred and Claire showed up early to help me run around like a chicken with my head cut off. People streamed in, (they brought gifts!) and I took them on the tour, they ooh and ahhh'd in just the right places. Jake and Cody came in from Cleveland which was so awesome, I don't get to see them nearly enough!
After a lot of people had straggled out I saw a car pull up. I wandered to the living room window, thinking..."that looks a lot like Pete's car, but it's obviously not Pete since he's in Cleveland" As I peer our the door I realize, IT IS PETE!

Holy crap! He totally drove down and surprised me, and I had no idea! So we sat around, drank more wine and then my tum said, "Bethany you have to eat, there's a lot of wine in your tum and it's starting to get floopy" So we head out to Acapulco and I mooched off of the big ass margaritas Pete and Heather couldn't finish (my plan was flawless!) We all laughed until we cried when Alaina saw a waiter that looked like a lesbian she used to know, and I subtly tried to point him out to Jeff (and by subtle I mean shouting Jeff and jerking my head around like a fish out of water) We paid the bill and went back to my beautiful home to shoot the breeze and see if we could successfully eradicate my house of wine and summer sausage. We did a pretty good job, although I think I'm going to go get a glass of wine now with all this talk.
So here are some updated pics of my house, furnished with stuff hanging on the walls.

This is the wall just inside the front door. You'll see the lovely shadow boxes that Sharen and I hung about 10pm Friday night, and the sofa table with 2 lamps is in the middle. I bought all 3 pieces for $40 at Lowes the day after Thanksgiving, huzzah!

This is the wall opposite the sofa table. You can see my lovely Charlie Brown Christmas tree and the paintings and mirror hung on the wall. My friend Mandy painted the pictures for me and dad made the stain glass mirror. The black triangle at the bottom is Gertrude's ear, she's a camera hog.
Speaking of camera hogs...here she is again. She likes being on camera, but refuses to look AT the camera, which isn't really helpful. This is a table my dad's dad made my gma, it used to be her nightstand for the longest time. The nativity on the bottom is one mom and dad bought her in 1990 from One World Shoppe. I can't decide it if looks to awkward there or not, but I like seeing the stuff being used and out so I'm keeping it for awhile.

Here's the bookcase I couldn't decide about earlier. It actually looks so much better with all the books on it. I also added a few trinkets here or there to make it look a little cozier. As Jake remembered the blue sign 1st shelf on the left is a "Shoplifters will be Prosecuted" that I borrowed from Cedar Point. I fully intend on returning it, I just haven't had it with me when I dropped by recently. I really like having the lamp in the corner, reduces the need for overhead lights which makes it feel softer and more homey.

Here's the top of the bookcase. Sharen let me borrow a lace table runner of gma's for the top. I think it helps give the case a more finished look. I also threw some old books (with cloth covers) up on the top and 2 of Bob's old bibles up there to help make the top less plain. In case you needed to know, the snow man has stitching on the other side that reads, "I love you SNOW much" I know, that's almost to cute to bear!

So that's my house. It was a fun party and I wish so many of you could have been there. By so many of you I of course mean the 4 people I know that read this and weren't there. I hope you had a great weekend, I'm going to have a glass of Pinot!


Hold on

I heard today, about the 3rd person in 3 weeks that has committed suicide.  None of them were people that I know, but it's just so sad.  I also heard today about a friend of mine who I care about that had been having chest pains.  They went into the hospital Monday and are still there, having had quintuple bypass surgery today.  
There is just so much damage and brokenness in this world.  Today I just had to keep stepping back and reminding myself that God is good, that God is good.
It's times like these that make me so thankful for the reasons I never actually killed myself. Seeing the back end, the survivor stories I realize just how terrible it would have been had I gone through with the fantastical ideas I had.

Even when we can't see him, even when we sure that he isn't there, even when we don't believe in him or even when we hate him God is there and he is good.  It is the world that is evil, broken, damaged, and out of control.  I pray for those left behind and for those in hospitals alone tonight, and for those sleeping alone because their husband is in the hospital.  I pray that God is known through all of these circumstances because God is good.  God is enough.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning: great is your faithfulness.  "The Lord is my portion", says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him"
Lamentations 3:22-24
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.  I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. 
Psalm 3:3-5


Very Productive

I've been uber productive lately and I'm getting really excited about the way my house is coming together. Over Thanksgiving I went to Mom and Dad's in BG and raided their house and UJ's storage unit. I also bought a few things at Goodwill. (A sweet barrel back chair which I love)

Then the day after Thanksgiving mom, Sharen and I got up and went to Lowe's by 6am to buy a sofa table and 2 buffet lamps that were on sale for $50 total for all three pieces. Plus I checked out behind mom and ended up getting a $10 off coupon, so it was $40!

After much ass kicking on the Wii and eating my weight in turkey and stuffing I drove back down 75 to Cincinnati.

After working Saturday and Washington Project Sunday I came home and took a 2 1/2 hour nap. Not so productive on the surface, but it's really helped me a lot the last few days, I didn't exactly sleep my life away up in BG.

Sunday I washed, sanded and spackled the living room wall that still needed painting and carried in all the aforementioned furniture from my garage. I also did a ton of laundry and tried not to cry from exhaustion and party planning OCD.

Monday I worked. When I got home about 6pm I promptly set out to paint the living room wall before I got to tired again. So I painted that wall, and also put another coat on the trim in the hall. I cleaned up all my painting supplies and put together the sofa table and lamps and rearranged some furniture to try to make it fit a little better. Here is my end result

Immediately to the right of the brown rocker is where the front door opens to. I just can't figure out what to do with those pesky cords. I was thinking I could put something under there to cover them, but what if the house catches fire?! Maybe I'll use some twist ties and clean them up a little.... What's that sitting in between the lamps you say? That would be, my very first Christmas decoration!

I also placed the reddish bookcase by the stairs to the garage entrance. I can't decide if it's to awkward there or not. Tonight I'm going to try to put a white cloth on top to see if it looks more finished from the back that will help. See the front and back below and let me know what you think:

Here's the front, it's a three shelf bookcase and if you notice the light coming through the cracks in the back it's very rustic and unfinished looking

Here's the back view from the basement stairs. The white cloth will be to clean up this view of it.

I really enjoy having the light there though. It really warms up the rooms without having the glare of the overhead light.
Tonight Sharen is coming over and we're going to unpack and organize some more, maybe put up the Christmas tree. I have so much to do before Saturday, but I'm feeling so much better now that the wall is painted and sofa table put up!