Stacy Voss

See life differently. Live courageously.

Page 3 of 95

The Tediousness of Holiness

Hello! I’ve so missed spending a few minutes here and there with you on this little piece of internet real estate. I’d like to say that I’m back to blogging weekly, but I know better, in part because major house projects still loom.

Yes, house.

As in, I bought one last month. After months and months of searching and 4 failed offers, I purchased a place. Not just any place mind you. The place I’m quite sure God was saving for us all along. It’s more perfect than I could have imagined, having elements I didn’t even realize would be beneficial. But that’s for a different day (assuming I put the hammer down long enough again to come hang with you here).

Now when I say perfect, many of you will start envisioning things that are fully inaccurate, like a manicured lawn or a fancy chandelier hanging from the dining room. Let me put all those illusions to the side and displace them with two words:

Cat lady.

Ok, I can’t resist. Let me throw in a few more to complete the picture.

Pink shag carpet.

Wet, that is from said cat that once belonged to the cat lady. Who cruised through the house in a power wheelchair. And destroyed walls and doors in the process.

Oh, and wallpaper. Yes, wallpaper. Remember that stuff that our moms once glued with a vengeance to every possible surface? My house came replete with the textured variety, rippling its way down nearly every wall from floor to ceiling, stopping only where the cat claimed its domain.

A carpet guy met me at the house right after I closed, ripping out that odor-filled, 80’s loving flooring. While he pried it up, we ripped down that oh-so-beautiful (not!) stuff off the walls. Lucky us, we even got a double batch of wallpaper in the kitchen. Oh, the joy!

In the tearing down process, I learned one key piece of information. My on-its-way-to-perfect house once was a model home. You would think that would serve me well, and in some regards it does, but as far as the wallpaper goes, the whole model home thing hurt. Apparently that good ol’ paper stuff got slapped right onto the drywall. No, I mean, right on.

Without texturing the walls first.

I’m a “eh, oh, well,” kind of a girl. I figured some smooth walls wouldn’t cause any issues, but when my foreman (otherwise known as my dad who, along with my mom, has graciously volunteered every ounce of his time and energy to the daunting task of removing every odor while making this place into a place of love and beauty) showed me the one small portion of the house that somehow had been saved from perils of wallpaper, I could see every divet in the drywall. Bumps were obvious and I could even tell exactly where the carpenters drove in nails, way back when. So, on Day 2 of renovations, I decided to succumb to The Texture Truck (along with an unexpected cost for said professionals).

Knowing a big chunk of my renovation budget was about to get sprayed across my walls, I tried making the best of it. At least we don’t have to work so hard getting all of the wallpaper down, I secretly reasoned. After all, it’ll just get plastered over.

But oh, no! Texture Man numbers 1, 2 and 3 all told me that the smoother the walls were prior to texturing, the better the final product would be (yes, I’m a stubborn lot and had to get three professional opinions on this simple matter).

Say what? The smoother the wall, the better the bumps? Said foreman agreed with dudes 1-3, and so began the tedious art of smoothing what was about to become bumpy.

The wallpaper had peeled off without a problem. It was the glue that caused all kinds of problems This whole second layer behind the wallpaper apparently thought the wall was its firstborn and clung on with everything possible. No, it wasn’t good enough to get most of the backing off. We had to get every piece of it.

Let me repeat: every. single. piece.

Even the ones nine feet high. While scrubbing from an extension ladder that swayed much too easily for my liking. Days passed as we sprayed adhesive remover, scrubbed, sprayed, cursed (okay, make that one singular since I might have been the only one tempted to do so), and scrubbed some more. On Day 1, we pulled off all of the wallpaper. Then on Day 2-6, we worked on removing the backing.

Truly. 5 days filled of that garbage.

And somehow in the delirium and tediousness of it all, a thought penetrated deep:

that is what the pursuit of holiness looks like.

For many of us, the transformation in our lives soon after accepting Christ was remarkable. It was obvious to others. It was like Day 1, the old getting torn down to brighten the room and make it look completely different than before.

But soon, the “removing of the backing” began, that process that typically feels tedious as we let God change those little things in us (or at least we’d like to believe that they’re relatively small and insignificant). We work on one area for quite some time, feeling like there is little progress. Finally, we think we get that spot cleaned up, only to find out that we have to revisit it not too long down the road.

Crazy, boring, tedious garbage.

Or at least that’s what I thought about cleaning those walls.

But remember how I started by describing my house? Yup. Perfect, or at least perfect for the kids and me. That even includes the walls, which are now painted in colors the three of us picked and match our temperaments perfectly. And under those beautiful shades of Antique White, Sweet Celadon Green, and Meditative Blue?

Why, there’s some beautifully textured walls, of course. And under that is the smoothest drywall you ever could see. Except for the fact that you can’t see it and you’ll never be able to. But somehow or other, therein lies the beauty,

the beauty of the tediousness of holiness.

So, my friend, wherever you are, keep pressing on.

Keep. Pressing. On.

Let the walls get scrubbed. Again.

Relent and release once more.

Take it from me, the girl who is surrounded by some great walls–and might I add, a lot of other great stuff after a long string of really, really not fun life events– it’s worth it!

May we look to Him, even as He refines, molds and scrapes away, and even–or especially–in those tedious moments in the pursuit of holiness.

Stacy Voss

What about you? How do you feel about being transformed, especially on the parts that aren’t so glamorous? What’s helped you to keep being willing to be changed and cleansed, even when you don’t want to?

What my Dog Taught me about Sin

My poor dog got into something that didn’t sit well with her and the results were less-than-desirable.

“Mom, Bella got sick again in the house,” my daughter told me over the phone when she got home from school. Our black Lab is an old lady and accidents are becoming a bit too frequent.

“Okay, well, if you could clean it up for me, please . . . ”

“No, mom. I don’t mean that she did her normal stuff. It’s like, all over the place.”

Being the kind mom that I am, I tried not to laugh (and failed miserably), but once I walked in the door later that evening, I was at a loss as to what caused me to think it had been funny. I’ll save you the visual and will just say my main floor resembled a litter box without the litter.

It took a few days, but somehow my pup’s illness and my formerly white carpet began teaching me a little something about sin and grace.

  1. Sin is Messy

I can’t bear to really go into this one in terms of the dog stuff. We’ll just say it was beyond disgusting and that our family bonding time for several nights in a row included all of us spraying carpet cleaner and scrubbing with all of our might.

All too often, I want to think that my sin isn’t so bad or that no one else can see it. Let’s just say I’ll be lucky if after multiple rounds of shampooing the carpets that people won’t be able to see the effects of Bella being sick.

2. Sin has Some Real Consequences–And Oftentimes Affects Others

Let me repeat: we spent many nights scrubbing. Trust me, that’s a consequence I would have gladly avoided. I had multiple proposals due around that same time and I’d already slotted the time after the kids went to bed for wrapping things up, yet that quickly fell to the side as I attempted to clean the carpets, which meant I had to stay up even later to work on one job before waking up early to head to another. The consequences had many layers, extending to several people.

Years ago, I was fired from a job for something my then-husband did. We were hired as a couple, so his violation of the company’s code of conducts resulted in us being fired as a couple. I’m pretty sure that the once-hubs thought his (once) secret sin only affected him, but let me tell you, the impact it had on my world was astronomical.

3. Sin Entangles and Causes more Sin

My poor pup continued to do her I-won’t-mention-thing. I couldn’t let her continue doing it across the carpet, but she loathes being outside without us and barks as if a burglar is about to come and carry off every valuable in the house. I wouldn’t subject my neighbors to her barking, so I moved her bowl into the bathroom, laid out a blanket, and locked her in the  place with very wipeable linoleum.

As I said, Bella was sick, and well, sick dogs do sick things. She did her stuff across the floor, the very place she had to sleep. Um, did I mention that sin is messy? So much for thinking that it isn’t!

In the morning, I put Bella out back while I scraped away one layer of “sin.” Once the fan brought the stench down to a 9, I let Bella back in and went back upstairs to finish getting ready for work.

“Mom, there’s a loud banging noise coming from the bathroom,” Micayla told me as she raced up the steps.

I went downstairs to find my dog thrashing around, attempting to get the air vent off of her collar. Apparently, as she laid on the floor, her tags fell into the grate, so once she moved, the entire register clung to her side.

I’ll once again save you the visual and simply say that the struggle to free a dog from a register while making sure you don’t touch the “sin” matted in her fur is challenging and gross. It felt like a sin snowball, growing by the second.

4. It Takes a lot of Work to Undo Sin

My carpets will never be the same. Fortunately, I live in a rental and the flooring attests to that fact. However, for as dirty as they once appeared, those dingy gray days are but a faint memory as a new, non-white color has graced the playroom and living room.

And that’s after all the scrubbing.

And shampooing.

And attempting a few things that I won’t even mention (some because they were an absolute flop).

My analogy falls painfully short, but work with me here. The kids and I had to do something gross. Something that went against our desires and natural bent. We put sweat into it (yes, truly). It. was. hard.

And then there’s the cross. Again, the analogy falls short, but you get the picture. It was disgusting.

A lot of sweat and blood went into it.

It went against common sense.

And came at a very high price.

5. It Might be Caused by Someone Else

Ugh, I tried avoiding this one, but here it is.

Want to know the cause of my dog’s sickness?

Me.

Yup, me.

I am wholly, fully the culprit, although in my defense, that was not my intent. I just thought my dog would like a nice, big bone. So perhaps it had been cooked, but it looked so strong and hearty. What a great treat for her, I reasoned.

And yes, she loved it. She even laid in the grass for over an hour while we were inside and chewed the thing to bits.

Yes, bits. As in the little piece that apparently got lodged internally that she um, well, worked at quite forcefully to get to come out.

I paid some for the mistake (okay, more than some. The vet bill almost made me leave similar piles on the floor as my ailing dog), but ultimately, Bella is the one who had to deal with it. One could say it wasn’t fair. Actually, it wasn’t, just like life.

Just like the times when something happens and somehow, in some way. we use it as an excuse to justify our sin.

As if my dog wanted to keep walking around with feces stuck in her fur.

Or we want to keep doing things that, if we’re honest, are equally as nauseating.

Someone else hurt us. Said something horrible or betrayed in a way that is unimaginable. It. Is. Awful.

Undoubtedly so.

But to stay there, to lie in it like my dog in the layered-0n bathroom floor, well, it’s messy. And stinky. And just downright disgusting.

Not to mention that it undermines the power of the One who can clean and redeem like none other.

In the midst of the scrubbing, I realized there was something else that needed to be cleansed: my heart and my view on sin. Perhaps you care to join me. If so, here’s part of a song that echoed throughout over and over:

“Restore unto me the joy of my salvation

And renew a right spirit within me.”

Oh, the joy of a grace that renews and restores even when we’re so undeserving.

Stacy Voss

10 Prayers That Changed the World: a Book Review

Ten Prayers That Changed the World cover

“Stacy, would you consider doing a book review on Ten Prayers that Changed the World: Extraordinary Stories of Faith that Shaped the Course of History,” someone asked via e-mail.

I’m a junkie for books, all things free, and anything related to life-altering faith and so came the resounding yes.

The book arrived with a tote from National Geographic.

Um, that’s weird. What kind of connection is there between history-changing faith and National Geographic?

Yes, I’m slow. History-changing. That’s the kind of stuff National Geographic is all about. In fact, it’s also what they publish apparently since they’re the publisher of Jean-Pierre Isbouts’ newest book.

I wish I could say I gobbled the book in one sitting. The fact that I didn’t has less to do with the book and more with an overly maxed schedule that stretched even thinner as I began dabbling in real estate before my landlord could spike my rent higher. So after finishing my multiple jobs, checking MLS listings, filing taxes and caring for two kids that I adore, the minutes before bed became more of an “I made it” victory sigh as I climbed into bed rather than my usual (or theoretical, as the case may be) time to curl up and savor the words that others have penned.

 

All of that being said, I will be the first to admit that the challenge to stay awake while reading was definitely on me and has no bearing on Mr. Isbouts’ ability to craft words. I read with rapt attention (or as rapt as one can muster when much too tired), beginning with Abraham. With the skill of a historian, coupled with the ability to take the facts of years past and present them in an engaging manner, Isbouts details the life of Abram. In the voice of a storyteller, he shows the inner struggles of a man unsure of himself and even more uncertain of the call placed on him, a call including being the father of a great nation.

“Even now, looking back, Abram remembers that moment as he stood, mute and dumb, on the top of the hill while a hundred questions ran through his mind. Why? Why me? What is it that God expects of me, a lowly shepherd with a barren wife? How could I possibly become the head of a great nation? I don’t even have a son.” (pg. 23)

 

And yet, inner turmoil remaining, Abram left the only land he’d known with Sarai, his beautiful wife.

Yes, beautiful. So much so that Abram feared what would happen to him on account of her. So he told her to state a half-truth: “say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.’ Technically it was not a lie; Sarai was his half sister as well as his spouse, not uncommon in Mesopotamia” (pg. 26).

The mutated truth cause Pharaoh to believe she was a single woman, so he took her as his concubine.

“And then Abram did something that he had never done before in his life: He prayed to God. He didn’t know the proper form, how one prayed to an unseen power, unlike the deities in Mesopotamia whose idols were shaped just like human beings. …He prayed to god for forgiveness. He prayed to God for guidance. And he prayed that God save his wife, his beloved Sarai” (pg. 27).

As I re-read those words now at a time of day other than my stupor-like trance in the minutes before I drift to sleep, the words resonate and ring true, yet for whatever reason when I first read them, they startled, agitated and threatened. Yes, threatened to shatter what I believed. Not a salvation-ending kind of belief, but a belief that goes back to my young days sitting in front of the flannel graph. I sang about Father Abraham. He was one of the pillars of the faith. Surely that meant he knew how to talk to God.

I couldn’t accept Isbouts’ words, believing he was painting a picture of a faithless man rather than the one-dimensional depiction I had grown accustomed to. In fact, I didn’t want to read on because I “knew” about Abram and wasn’t sure how Isbouts’ accounts of him lined up with reality and therefore didn’t want to read narratives about people I was less familiar with and accept their stories as true. But despite my stubbornness, the words have challenged me for weeks now, stretching what I thought I knew to a different realm.

Yes, Abram was married to a barren woman yet became the father of a great nation. And yes, Abram followed God – but perhaps even more importantly, followed a God he wasn’t fully  acquainted with. Somehow, that sounds incredibly familiar.

Isbouts paints Abram with the strokes of a realist. He doesn’t don a cape and become a far-off lore, but rather shows the fears, doubts, and yes, mistakes! And along the way, a quiet nudge whispers: yes, perhaps Abram’s prayers changed the world and perhaps if the prayers of a insecure, oftentimes passive guy could have such a profound effect, well, maybe mine can, too.

Mr. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, I commend you. It is no small task to get something past this oftentimes thick head of mine, especially when sleep is in short fashion. But you did. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were said that your book helped change the world as it motivates to dig deeper into the very thing your book speaks of: prayer.

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Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Jean Pierre Isbouts APAbout Jean-Pierre Isbouts

Jean-Pierre Isbouts is a bestselling author, historian, and award-winning director of documentary and feature films. A humanities scholar and professor at Fielding Graduate University of Santa Barbara, California, he has published widely on subjects in art, history and archaeology, and directed films for Disney, ABC, Hallmark, History Channel and other studios and networks. He has also produced a broad repertoire of classical music with ensembles in New York, Los Angeles and Amsterdam.

Find out more about Jean-Pierre at his website.

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