"The word that came to Jeremiah, from the LORD: "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words." So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and her reworked another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can i not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel." Jeremiah 18:1-6
no clue how many times i have either read this, heard a devotional, or listened to a message regarding this passage of Scripture. it is so very familiar. yet, today, He showed me something in those verses that i don't remember hearing before. don't remember it at all - as if i had never heard or read it before.
"the vessel he was making was spoiled..."
things happen in life that cause me to be "spoiled", to be not at all the design of what my Lord has chosen for me. for this particular blogpost, the point is not what or how or who is the cause of the spoilage, but rather that spoilage happens. the spoilage can be so great that it requires a major change, a smashing of sorts, of what was being formed. i am the clay. so, therefore, the smashing is painful. it is a result of the spoilage. it is very, very needed in order to not have crucial, irreparable issues down the line. i had been worked upon, was being shaped my the Master's hand. when something integral to the design was off and suddenly i am being smashed.
i have felt this smashing 3 times, the most recent being just a few months ago. for as long as i can remember i dreamed of growing up to be a nurse. my whole family knew, and for my birthday one year (or perhaps it was Christmas?) i received one of the best gifts ever....everything a nurse would need. from uniform complete with blue cape, to cap, to medicine bag holding all the necessary medical equipment. the smile on my face was h.u.g.e. in the picture of myself all dressed up. soon enuff, i was off to college where i completed the mandatory 2 years of general education requirements. next step: application into nursing school. the time spent waiting to hear back was tense, and when i did i was frustrated, sad and confused. the "not accepted at this time" seemed to jump off the page at me. knowing i could reapply in 6 months, i did so, fully anticipating that i would receive the coveted news. nope. not accepted. i was crushed.
i moved back in with my parents and got job working as ski lift operator for a small local ski area. i applied, later that fall, to a different nursing school and was accepted!! i was elated, packed up and moved to the university. halfway thru my course of studies, my new husband got transferred halfway across the country, so i needed to withdraw from school. not horrible, as i knew of many great schools in the new place. i did get accepted, but one afternoon as i made the 90 minute commute (one way!!) i realized that nursing school was not going to happen. i had 2 children, under the age of 3, who needed their mommy. second crushing disappointment.
the years have rolled by, all 4 children are grown and graduated from university's. the ember of my dream was fanned into flame once again. i spent a LOT of time in prayer, conversation and thinking. applied and was accepted, especially good news as the university's satellite campus was 20 minutes away. transcripts were sent and received, admission package filled out, fees paid, advisor visited. after 5.5 years spent in other schools, i was officially accepted as a senior! wow. until the advisor shared with me that all but one 3 credit class had transferred over as electives. meaning i would have to literally start all over. i was crushed for the third and last time. my dream extinguished. i am not nor ever will be a nurse. this was the third crushing. for so long i had looked at this as Him taking away my dream, of being some cosmic jokester and relegating me to a life of dirty diapers, lost pacifiers, jam on the wall, irascible teens etc etc etc. i was angry, discouraged to points of defeat, and confused. what was wrong with being a nurse anyway?!?
"...he reworked another vessel..."
i love this part cuz it shows that the master didn't give up, he didn't throw the clay into the slag heap. spoilage meant that the potter had to smash the clay back into nothing. back into an indiscernible pile of clay with no hint of what it might become. he threw it back down on the wheel to work with again. the potter's wheel is exactly that - a symmetrically circular firm surface that is spun around and around at dizzying speeds determined by the potter. he chose to keep going with his design.
the years have held varying levels of acceptance as my dream of being a nurse was smashed. the majority of the time, i accepted it with peace. i embraced my life as wife and mom. (especially as each of our four children are literal miracles). i had the profound honor to be a stay-at-home which further gave me opportunity to train and raise our kids (yes, we homeschooled). i completely knew i was doing exactly what He wanted. the ember of my dream being buried and forgotten for a long time. it truly was ok. i did not think much about myself as individual then. i was either 'the wife' or 'the mom' and it was good. of course my own spiritual, heart journey with my Lord was challenged, encouraged, recognized. yet, i didn't think much in singular terms.
"...as it seemed good to the potter to do...."
all those years He has been reworking me. making me into His plan, and His purpose. as it is good to Him. the medical field still fascinates me, and i am one of those weirdos who love the hospital environment. i am content that that will never be the environment that He intended nor intends for me. you see, what i wanted, what i dreamed of becoming, was not good to Him. He knows me cuz He is the one who fashioned me together - not only physically, but in every other human arena as well. He knows what is best for me and what role i fill that will impact His kingdom forever. what seems good to Him has turned out to be pretty amazing to me.
"...like clay in the potter's hand, so you are in My hand...."
He alone is sovereign. not me, not my dream, not my mom's dream for me, not my husband's desire for me to be fulfilled or happy, not what the latest Christian "self-help" book says i should be, not any of the ideas of what my friends or children think, not anything or anyone besides the One Most High. the hardest part has been choosing to believe that He is potter, that He is indeed making me into the perfect design for the perfect function. whether that function be for noble or ignoble things is not the difference maker. it is how i choose to be fully engaged in that function.
i have chosen to believe
i have chosen Him
it is good.
for more information on this passage:
i didn't go to church on Mother's Day this past week. it is usually one of my most favorite Sundays. it is really nice, honestly, to have the general attention and to be wished a happy day by so many. i had opportunity to go, even tho it would have exponentially added more activity and stress to an already loaded day. what i chose to do instead of church wasn't bad, or ungodly, or sinful.
why i chose to not to go was, yes, sadly, a sin.
we don't actually physically attend our church. we watch and worship in our basement with invited friends and guests, and with whomever happens to be staying with us on any particular Sunday. we used to go to a physical, geographical spot. just like we used to live in another state. i loved our church in that state. it was an amazing place where evidences of God were literally e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r..e. it is now an even more amazing place and i am very grateful for their services that i can access online. i still love my church and pray for its leaders.
we were back in the state for an adopted son's graduation from university. it was a 4 hour drive to get to church and we could have easily done that....if we packed up, picked up, organized and left early. when i remembered who was going to be the speaker that day, i was even more reluctant to put in all the effort to make it to the last service of the day.
i was jealous.
you see the speaker has everything (or so i thot) that one could be jealous of....well, at least what i think many women could be jealous of. she has many of the things i am particularly jealous of. tiny: i knew by the age of 10, confirmed at 12 that i would never be a gymnast as i hit my head on the ground while going around the lower bar on our schools uneven parallel bars. she is thin, even after the birth of 3 boys: i am the typical, middle America, middle aged, with an enlarged middle, woman. she has gorgeous long hair: i grew up with pixies and shags and to this day cannot grow it much past my shoulders. she is fit and looks like she could place in the top 10% of the Iron Man: i can hardly the climb the 700 feet in elevation change from the lake to our mailbox without huffing and puffing. she is called beautiful, and she is beautiful: i look in the mirror and still struggle some days to see the beautiful of me.
she holds a position of great prestige as the wife of a well-known pastor: my husband, an executive, no longer even has a job currently and my "first lady" duties are hence long gone. she is a speaker: what i talk to most are our 2 Great Pyrenees dogs, and they don't even really listen. she gets to do really special things cuz of her position, that are gifted to her family: my days of traveling the world alongside my husband are over, with no foreseeable special things in the future.
she is definitely called by the One Most High. He has called her exactly to that state, to that city, to that church, to be that wife, that wife, that leader and that friend. i do recognize that it is not an easy calling, nor an easy place to serve God. i also recognize that i have only the tiniest of tastes of how hard it may be, after having been on staff with a different church. both of the teaching pastors at my church have shared how hard it is for them to speak, to climb the stairs to the stage, and then to walk out to the center. to speak into a mic that enlarges their voice so many can hear. it truly is God who enables them to fulfill their calling.
i wonder if she has, or has had similar feelings. is it hard for her to be center stage, with a mic and speak? is it hard to accept fabulous gifts because of the station she holds in society? is it hard to be beautiful and fit, knowing that many women struggle mightily with their weight and aging? is it hard to walk the path that God has called her to walk? is it hard to be as visible as she is? it sure looks like a great place to live from my view.
what is my place? -- mostly alone with God, the dogs and an occasional human, on 8 tick infested acres next to the lake? where is my influence? -- over the weeds and the dogs? will i ever be fit and beautiful? -- as i struggle with multiple chronic and debilitating health issues? what's my purpose here? -- to write?
what's my purpose here.....???
then it hit me:
my purpose here is to write
i am called to this place: the lake; with these circumstances: quiet, no circle of friends or influence to distract me; for this purpose: to write. i am so in over my head with writing. haven't taken a writing class since the early 90's. have acquired my own unique and very ungrammatical style of writing. i know next to nothing bout editing, writing to a specific audience, or publishing. i have this very simple blog that i don't get to as often as i would like.
then, i realized that just maybe...maybe as hard as it is for me to be in the this kind of place, being the kind of person i am, doing what He has called me to do, maybe it is just like the teaching pastors have shared how hard their role is. just maybe. just maybe the old adage bout grass looking greener on the other side is true. just maybe her life, the lives of others i admire, are not as easy as they look. just maybe they struggle just as mightily as i do. maybe, just maybe there is someone who is jealous of me. (tho i pray not, as jealousy is so not good).
i am no longer jealous. i am forgiven of that. thank You sweet Jesus. i have a different viewpoint on my place and my calling now. it is good. and maybe, just maybe, there will be someone who is encouraged by this blog post. maybe, just maybe, someone will have the will to confess jealousy and be healed of it. maybe, just maybe, someone will look at their place, their person, their calling the way God looks at them.
when i came home after getting my first tattoo, i was very excited to share the results with my family. our then college aged son looked at it quizzically, asking: " 'Just Because' you wanted to get a tattoo? ok Mom." i could tell he didn't get it.
Psalm 37 is chock full of encouragement for the righteous and dire warning for the wicked. it is where He led me to read this morning. Three instructions, commands popped off the page for me (yes, because i needed to hear them...in case you were wondering!).
"rest in the LORD"
"keep His way"
i really like the promises He gives, i just don't like to put in the work in order to receive the promise!
these aren't exactly active verbs. nor is there a time put on for how long i am supposed to to be engaged in resting, waiting or keeping. it could be anywhere from moments to years just before i go Home. i'm a short term thinker. i realize i expect the reward l.o.n.g. before i have put in the work, or effort of obeying and doing what He has told me to do.
seems like these principles are also applied to weight loss and exercising, coupled with eating healthily. i foolishly hope that just a few days of eating well, paired with working outside (we have been hauling limbs, making a giant pile, carrying, loading, unloading wood, cleaning up the mess from a downed tree that took out 3 others) will shave off pounds. i have been struggling with an angry, jealous and frustrated heart that keeps popping up. it often is triggered by spending time scrolling thru either Facebook or Instagram.
it frustrates me a lot to see posts bout health, current exercise goals achieved and how great of shape the individual is in. i guess because...i am not in great shape. exercise actually makes me feel crappy. due to a number of disease processes, i just don't have the endorphins that surge after being done. sometimes i feel crappy for an hour, sometimes it can last up to 24 hours. my body revolts when i exercise. as a result i realized that i expect every post to have a disclaimer that releases me from the responsibility to exercise: "hike a mountain that exceeds your current elevation statistic" followed by "not intended for those with health concerns" .
i obviously do not have this particular segment of my life figured out. truth is, i don't really know how to figure it out because i am addicted to food. (boy, that is scary to put out there). i don't know how to combat and therefore win over my addiction. am i not sick enough of the shape my body is currently in? can i really keep an appointment with Him and myself to get up early to swim? do i really want to take care of myself for His glory or for the selfishness of wanting to look better (and get back into some of my clothes). i don't care bout my grey hair, wrinkles of evidences of gravity and age on my body. but fat - that i am embarrassed of.
earlier this year He told me to "rock my body", in other words, to live with confidence in what He has given me. i used to walk tall, straight and gracefully. for too long i have walked drawn inwards, hunched over while subconsciously trying to hide my fat. with His strength and the Holy Spirit's guidance i want to be ready to say: "let's do this". can i still say it cuz i want it but am not 100% in?
or can i say it believing the 100% will come? today, i choose the latter. i like it a lot better.
whether it is resting, waiting and keeping or swimming, walking and lifting weights today i proclaim:
i have seen this vehicle just bout every time i go to our vet. (weird, right, having this kind of establishment sandwiched in between a vet and a sewing boutique?!) here at the lake there are a fair number of vehicles that have either their business name and phone number stenciled on, all the way up to elaborate paint jobs that catch the eye.