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Breathing Expectation

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A Reflection on My Dad

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Thank you for 50 years of practical guidance, heartfelt moments, and loving me as unconditionally as a human being possibly can.

I am so grateful for decades of memories. Many hilarious, some serious, and a few anger producing. The anger was on my end and from when I was about 14. Thanks to you and Mom for both hanging in there and shaping me into a better person than I could ever have become on my own. 

I spent the first 30 years of my life believing you were never wrong. What a relief to finally discover you are as human as the rest of us! This revelation didn’t diminish my admiration for you. Rather, I realized you had the ability to maintain positive leadership and earn our respect through what must have been your own uncertainties. Thank you for being a strong parent and showing me how to love and lead my own children. 

Relationships are made for change and ours is no different. We have navigated this dance of life as best we can. Some life change has been remarkably difficult and we have been powerless to stop it. But we have faced it together and that has made the difference.

We probably won’t celebrate today the way we used to. I know some days are really tough for you. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to wish (my word, not yours) a body would remain physically capable of all that it once could do.  I’m okay with the changes we are experiencing because you are still here. We both know that is nothing short of miraculous and I am beyond grateful.

It may surprise you to know that the moments we spend visiting now are some of the sweetest in my memory bank. I hope they are for you too.

Dad, you are still and always will be My Superman. (Minus the tights of course!)

Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for making every day of my life richer and fuller because I have a dad who cares and has asked me the hard questions and always come through for me. Life may have changed your body a bit but it has not changed your strength of character. Thank you for passing that on to me. I love you, Cindy


PS: Your worst piece of advice to me ever was to stop having babies. Where would we all be without your youngest, extremely tenacious grandson?!

My Saturday Morning Heart

Saturday morning, cup of coffee in hand, is a weekly ritual when I “take stock” of what occurred in my life the past week. 

Unfortunately, this beautiful Saturday morning finds me steeped in regret. Words I spoke, actions I chose, thoughts I let percolate in my head until they became nearly poisonous. Why? I know better, so why don’t I “do better?” These words from the Apostle Paul at least tell me I am in good company:  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15
I really do have a desire to speak uplifting words, choose wise actions, and think positive thoughts. Unfortunately I also (almost simultaneously) don’t want to make those better choices and all too often I choose to speak/live/think in destructive ways. Strong word that–destructive–but completely appropriate. When I choose to not live in the freedom of Christ, it negatively affects not only me but those I talked about and also those who share in the consequences of the poor choices I made.

Enter this week where I have to face what has developed out of some some really bone-headed decisions. I know better. I mean, I really know better. But something about those moments drew me to the point of no return. Where I almost couldn’t help but push myself over the lines of good judgment. Truth is though, I could help myself and simply chose not to. Repeatedly.

I continue to look for what my new best friend Paul has to say so that I might find hope to cling to. Throughout Romans 7, he references the internal war we all face:  I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out . . . who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

There is, as always, a way out. Jesus. And when I look back through the telephoto lens of my week, the truth is that I didn’t want to reach out to him. I could have. Oh the avalanche of self-destructive habits I could have stopped with even one silent plea. 

The good news is it is absolutely never too late to turn my heart, thoughts, words, and decisions over to my savior. That’s Paul’s point. On our own, we aren’t wired toward goodness and unconditional love of others. That comes only through our belief in Christ and our continuing surrender of our lives to him. 

This morning, I am not going to hang onto the mess I put in motion. I’m handing it to him, telling him I’m sorry, and asking for mercy to help get it right next time. And he says, “Yes.”

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. -Romans 8:2

That’s me! And Saturday is looking up!!

Undone

I’m simply undone. The church I attend semi-regularly has a first Sunday of the month evening worship service that I say I really love but haven’t made a priority in several months. Tonight I pulled myself together 20 minutes before the start and headed out.

I asked God for an answer to a specific prayer on the 5-minute drive. It’s a prayer I’ve been asking off and on (more off than on) for the past 5+ years. I haven’t really been serious about receiving a response from Him because to get one requires something of me. And I’ve been really reluctant to know the outcome of this one. Anyway, question asked on the drive and kind of forgotten as I took my seat.

Sunday night typically has really good worship music. Tonight was no exception, but none of the music was really impacting me. In fact, I had to mentally remind myself several times about where my focus belongs. At some point during the service, I mentioned to God that if He were looking to get a hold of me tonight, the music was going to have to be something really meaningful to me. And I suggested in my heart that it should be something I really like and probably as moving as The Agnus Dei.

The night proceeded. I was touched by the readings, the prayers, the fellowship, and by the music (a little). At the close, the attendees were reminded this was the last Sunday evening service ever. And the worship team closed. With . . . The Agnus Dei.

Total heart silence on my part. Barely able to sing the words. And then I realized God was answering my 5+ year prayer. With the last song. Likely chosen by the worship team days before. On a night when I didn’t even anticipate going to church. Bam. That’s just how God is. I am not random. You are not random. We are forever in His thoughts and He loves us through words and songs and every individual way imaginable.

The answer He shared with me tonight is not one I am thrilled with. In fact, I wrestled with Him a little on the way home, lightly arguing that I meant I wanted better music and that part really wasn’t about answering my prayer. I gave up pretty quickly though. It’s not remotely arguable. He reached out and touched me without a doubt.

What’s next? A whole lot of trust. Because this step isn’t going down without my leaning on him for every footfall. It requires mental, physical, and spiritual commitment of more than I can put forth on my own. Good thing He’s God and I belong to Him. He told me so on a quiet Sunday night in a small town church during their last Sunday evening service.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zTgUVugjcWI

 

 

The P Word (and its evil twin)

Perfectionism. I am not a fan. The first 7 letters are enough to cause me instant angst. Perfect. Nobody has managed that in over 2,000 years. And yet, we strive and reach and make ourselves crazy. I have a friend who is very pleased to call herself a perfectionist. I’m quite worried about her actually. You can’t possibly be a perfectionist and enjoy the little things in life at the same time. So as I ponder how to share with her that I think her attitude is akin to walking the plank, I’m jolted by a realization of my own.

I may not welcome perfectionism into my heart, but I am surely well-acquainted with her sister, “Performance-based Worth.” Ah. The dagger strikes. I can feel as smug as I like over disdaining perfectionism, but my performance meter is drumming up a party beat.

It’s been an extensive battle. And battle is really the only word to describe it. For the first four decades of my life, I felt like a failure unless I was the very best at whatever was the flavor of the day. Academics, athletics, best friending, work, etc. The problem with this, of course, is that no one can be the best at absolutely everything. So I felt pretty rotten a lot of the time.

In my forties, I started to realize I had really wasted a ton of time measuring myself not only by what I was doing but also by how well I was doing it. Safe to say God had been trying to get my attention for a really long time but I was just too deep into weighing, measuring, and groaning to expand my view to match His. As I began to open myself to the thought that I maybe had some personal thought processes messed up, God showed me quite clearly that nobody thinks about me nearly as much as I think about myself and certainly no one else is assessing my every move to figure out if I’m worthy of their time and attention. This concept was freeing.

 A couple of years ago, I lost track of God’s wise teaching  and ended up not really liking much of anything and finding every day really hard to get through. Life was good all around in general, but I was only counting the failures. God clearly spoke to me that it was time for a serious change. No more worth based on performance.

What is a girl to do when the framework she has spent nearly 50 years developing needs dismantling? Get on her knees, that’s what. And as always, God came through. Wholely and completely. He led me to His own words over and over again of how much He loves me and finds me worthy simply because I Am His. So simple; so amazing and awesome.

I wouldn’t say I’m 100% cured, but I surely am aware of when I find myself trying to earn, rather than accept, my place. And I know to let go and surrender the “I can do everything myself” attitude before it gets entirely out of hand.

There is more than one reward to living this way. Peace. The supernatural kind that only Christ can give to any of us who stop flailing around long enough to receive it. I have a new P word in my life and it’s the best reward I’ve experienced yet.

Restless Heart

Not the ’80s country group. My own heart.

It doesn’t happen everyday. I’m often clicking through life just fine and then–bam!–I awaken the next morning restless and, quite honestly, a little unlikeable.

I know immediately I’m “off.” Edgy. Wanting to stay isolated but too bored be alone. So I start looking for something to fill me. And nothing satisfies. I move from thing to thing, not really accomplishing anything. Social Media can serve to distract me in the short run, but by day’s end I’m frustrated and critical of myself for all the time wasted.

This cycle repeats every few weeks. It never lasts long but it wrings me out both mentally and physically. And judging by the way my family scatters when this phenomena strikes me, I gather it’s no picnic for them either.

Today was such a day. It bled into this evening and I’m now sitting here wishing for a do over. As that is not possible, I turn my brain cells toward figuring this out. 

The answer is immediate and oh so simple. It’s my focus. When I put my eyes and heart on only myself, I end up in a dangerous place. Self-serving, self-sufficient, and the all-consuming selfish. I lose sight that I am created by God and for God and His purposes. I haven’t forgotten about him this week, just have been sliding him into the backseat instead of handing over the steering wheel. 

Big sigh of relief when I discover I don’t have a cyclical mental disorder. This is so fixable. Immediately fixable. So I turn my head and heart to My Best Friend Ever to obtain clarity and peace. As usual, he does not fail. And I’m no longer failing either. My head and heart are at peace and I’m looking forward tomorrow because I know I’m restless no more.

Can we find a friend so faithful? – From the hymn What a Friend we Have in Jesus (my Grandma Gobel’s favorite by the way) written by Henry Crosby

Victory and (Momentary) Defeat

I’ve spent the last several weeks in Joshua and Judges, courtesy of the fanastic first5 ministry. Today was the video wrap up of both chapters from the historic old testament.

 

Joshua is a book bursting with the 12 tribes of Israel claiming victory after victory against the immoral people who occupied the land God had promised to his chosen people. Again and again, Joshua leads the Israeli soldiers as they slay armies and capture cities. Inheriting the promised land is less about sitting down to receive a gift promised and more about downright bloody work.

Unfortunately, God’s people make the poor choice of not entirely cleaning up the land. They allow some of their enemies to live counter to God’s directive. It isn’t long before Israel begins to engage in the corrupt practices of the people who held the land before them. Many of them turn their backs on God entirely, ultimately serving false gods they have created with their own hands.

While God opens His own hands again and again for us, many times without us having to do anything, the stories of Israel’s conquests portrayed in Joshua is a reminder that obedience toward God leads us into claiming and living in his promises. Not long after, Judges reminds us that disobedience can lead to disaster.

Krista Williams themed this weekend’s first5 message on being a woman of conquest rather than a woman of compromise. I too desire conquest over compromise and can see the relevance of Israel’s victorious conquering of nations and then sliding into complacency and compromise as a parallel to my own life.

Following God means being fully obedient and when I am not, understanding there are consequences. That doesn’t mean God isn’t still good and, in particular, good to me–just that I have some unpleasantness to live through based on my own deliberate poor choices. I am unfortunately in a season of repercussion at this moment and feeling the pain of the people of Israel who sat on their laurels a little too long after victory.

The good news for me is the Word of God clearly shows the hope that exists for me, not just in the future but also today, this very moment, as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. God sees my restored heart, rather than the messy outside visible to the rest of the world.  And He clearly shows me through Joshua and Judges when it is necessary for me to pick up my sword and when I need to be still.

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Where I’ve Been

Where I’ve been is as important as where I stand today. And key to where I am going. This is a fairly new truth for me. I’ve mostly considered the past over and done and am ready to see where life leads next. Except when life doesn’t move fast enough, leaving me shuffling my feet and unsure what to do with myself.

I just finished a study on Deuteronomy (Thanks, First 5!). Yep, the OT as in Old Testament, not overtime. As a result, I have a new appreciation for “what has been.”

Deuteronomy (in my unscholarly biblical opinion) is basically a recap of Exodus–the great story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness where they were led and shaped by God for 40 years. Initially it seemed slightly unnecessary to have another biblical book (and a really long one!) retell the events. I have come away, however, with a new perspective.

The retelling of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and wandering in the desert for 4 decades is an opportunity to remind those living then and all who have followed since of the faithfulness of God. By the retelling of these mighty deeds, God’s people were reminded again and again He would not let them down. Because He was faithful in the past, He would continue to be faithful in leading them into conquering and claiming their promised land. And He did. Just as He does for me.

I thought long on my own past today. I am so grateful for the example of two godly grandmas who taught me to persevere in faith no matter what. I was not thankful as a child for being taken to Sunday School, although those foundational teachings have served me well my entire life. As an adult, I also have an appreciation for having learned commitment by attending regularly. I now go/do/serve even when I don’t feel like it. (Thank you, Mom and Dad.)

Life is hard. I am learning that having my own stories of God’s continued faithfulness to recount to myself and my family make it easier to go forward, especially when the storms of life roll over us. We are not lost but rather learning to trim our sails and trust the one who makes the rain.

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The Choice – Death OR Life and Peace

I had a day! Well, actually, not just one day. The last few days, perhaps even weeks, have been tough. Mostly of my own ridiculous making by taking on too much, overthinking, and expecting myself to perform mostly perfectly.

The real problem is that I obviously can’t measure up to my own expectations and this generally results in, well, my not making the best life choices in a variety of areas. Enter today. Which actually started last night. I was angry by some perceived slights and the physical state in which I found my home after working all day. There is no doubt everyone in the household, including the dog, understood quickly this was not a good day for me. They all went their own ways and I attacked the kitchen and living room with fervor. Thank goodness! Cleaning is my best choice for exorcising dangerous thoughts. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually ever deal with the feelings. Which again brought me to this morning.

I don’t like to face myself when I’m not willing to admit I’m in a bad spot and completely resistant to making good choices. So I generally don’t. Instead, I put on my selfish cloak and dive in deeply with whatever I want in that moment with little regard to anyone or anything around me. I pulled that cloak tight today and unleashed an onslaught of selfishness that resulted in some very unfortunate results. Every time I do this and finish my “less than best choices,” I’m left with an empty, angry, emotional hangover. Which is where I was sitting this afternoon while feeling a tiny bit sorry for myself. Sometimes remorse comes quickly, other times it takes me awhile to confront myself and get to the “I’m sorry” that is so necessary for the relationships that mean so much to me.

I had kinda decided I wasn’t going to feel that bad about my behavior (which you’ll notice I did not describe for you) and I sat down and turned on some music. Funny what lyrics can do to a person. In this case, it was Jars of Clay singing Show You Love. I have never been really attached to that song, but some the words completely undid me today:

Speak

And say the words that no one else will ever say

Love

Love like the world is over in a day . . .

I’m gonna speak with words that have no form

I’m gonna give you what you never had before . . .

And you’re beautiful.

Bam! Just like that, Jesus reminds me that he loves me. As I am. In this moment. My selfish, sinful, not very sorry self. It took me 35 years to really believe and accept this. I have always operated under the thought process of “Jesus only loves me when I’m good.” Fortunately, a few different people have helped teach me to annihilate this thought and accept that God loves me the same today, yesterday, and forever. As he does you!

Which is great, great news! But what I want is to get over myself. To stop putting expectations on myself that are completely unrealistic and result in my getting angry with myself and everyone in my path when things don’t turn out the way I want them too. I also want the following pattern of poor choices and icky attitude to go away. What to do? In some reading this week, I came across the following verses:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5 and 6)

The answer to my selfish problem is really simple. Get out of the flesh. In other words, stop competing with everybody else in the world to get what I want, stop being angry when I’m not getting my way, and focus my eyes, heart and attitude always on the One who loves me enough to speak with words that have no form and tells me I’m beautiful.

Forget death. I’ll take a big helping of life and peace.

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Why I Breathe

Breathing Expectation. Three years ago this month, I began and christened my blog using this title. The name was then and is now a reminder to myself to live in expectation of good things to come.

2013 was a truly difficult year for me and our family as a whole. The birthing of this blog was a result of that pain. Posting my writing became a tangible way for me to sustain myself through the hurt and confusion.

Writing those first words and (gasp) putting them out for public consumption is one of the greatest leaps of faith I have ever taken. I was terrified. But I had no other options really. In the midst of the emotional beating we were experiencing, I had to decide whether or not I was going to live my faith out loud. In a small step of spiritual obedience, I wrote my very first public blog And we Know, using Romans 8:28 as my anchor:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

That verse became more than my anchor. It became my saving grace for navigating the remainder of 2013 and every day since. The transformation in the lives of our family–physical, spiritual, financial, emotional–is nothing short of miraculous. Where others intended to hurt, confuse, and destroy, God made peace, clarity, safety, and hope.

And He did it one step at a time. By showing us a little light every day. And–believe me–some days that light was hard to see. After all, you have to get down on your knees to see where the crack of light under the doorway leads. God faithfully showed us that we could not focus on the chaos around us; rather, we needed to keep our eyes on Him. To praise him, to thank (yes thank) Him, to trust Him. It is unquestionably the hardest thing we ever did. It is also unquestionably the best thing we ever did.

It still twists me up to think back to the 2+ years of hurt and uncertainty. But God often shows us where we are going by where we have been. He remained faithful through everything. That is not only what He does but Who He Is. The same yesterday, today, and forever. So much so that I intend to breathe expectation for the rest of my days.

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