Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"It takes a long time to grow an old friend" ~ John Leonard

"Just as lotions and fragrance give delight to the senses, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul." 
Proverbs 27:9
In recent weeks I have reflected many times on the irreplaceable gift of the friendships our family has been blessed with over the years.   Countless times we have benefited from others living out the verse in Galatians 6:2 that reads, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."  Our lives are assuredly more full when we open ourselves to sharing it with those who can celebrate with us in our joys and mourn with us in our heartaches (Romans 12:15).  I've never been one to want to seclude myself from others, although I do admit that at times throughout my life, even from my earlier memories of childhood friendships, it has been easier to withdraw to surface level relationships rather than put myself out there at the risk of being hurt.  However, if I had let the fear of getting hurt always trump God's desire for me to open my life to others, I would have missed out on the refreshing of my soul that can only come from dear friends and the timeliness of a good friend's much needed advice.

In a previous blog post around this time last year, If home is where the heart is...when will my heart realize my body has already moved?, I wrote about what it felt like to live in the balance between the friends we left behind after our move and the ones yet to be made here in our new home.  A little over one year later, God has indeed proven faithful to give us more than we could ever ask or imagine when it comes to the people He has put in our path (Ephesians 3:20-21), but that's another post for another day :). Today, I want to share just a small glimpse of the kind of friends God has blessed us with in the transition from one home to another, our "middle-of-the-way" and "in between" friends. :)

"For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.  You should recognize the value of people like these."
1 Corinthians 16:18

Scot and Dee are the kind of friends you long to be with.  And when you're with them, there isn't a thought given to how late it's getting or what might need to be done in the morning.  In simple conversation, they have the gift of making you feel like whatever is going on in your life is the most important thing of the moment.  Their home is one that's warm and inviting and one cannot help but be drawn in by their hospitality and humbled by how easily they seem to share their lives with others.  Scot and Dee may not even have known it, or been purposefully mindful about it, but for Matt and I, they were a lifeline to the familiar after we moved.  Each month after our move, for 4 or 5 months in a row, they came to visit us for a weekend.  While we loved our new home, our hearts still ached for the familiarity of friends that knew us well.  I felt as if I marked time with "Before Scot & Dee's Visit" and "After Scot & Dee's Visit".  :) After a weekend with Scot and Dee, Matt and I both felt our souls had been refreshed.  We were reminded anew of the blessing that comes from opening up our lives to the people God puts in our path.  Our excitement grew over what God would be capable of doing in the future when we were reminded of how He'd blessed us in friendship before.  It couldn't have been easy for Scot and Dee to have planned so many weekends away from their own home...but we are more than grateful that they did, as they were just the bridge we needed across our "middle-of-the-way".  

Elise is just as much a part of my story today as she was 8 years ago.  No one who knew me 8 years ago would have EVER pictured me living here in Lynchburg and not wanting to be anywhere else.  Eight years ago, Matt and I were in the middle of a period of many months in which the mere mention by him of the town of Lynchburg would make me angry.  I can remember times when I'd be in the next room and hear a snippet of a conversation he was having with someone else about Lynchburg and I'd call out, "I heard that!  God may have told you that we're supposed to move there but He hasn't told me yet, so forget about it!"  I felt as if I'd married a man of many plans when all I wanted was to stick to MY plan.  I had let my fear of change and my need to be comfortable crowd out any dream that Matt might have had to follow a desire planted in his heart by God.  I can remember one night sobbing in the corner of the bathroom in a restaurant in the middle of New York City because Matt had chosen an inopportune moment at dinner during a weekend away to broach the subject again and I fled from the table in tears.  I briefly considered leaving the bathroom and leaving the restaurant entirely and wandering the streets of New York City until Matt really understood the level to which I disagreed with his leading.  :)  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately..., the fear that I might've still been wandering those streets today, waiting for him to understand, kept me huddled in the bathroom trying to erase the tears as they continued to pour down my face.  It was in the midst of this period of disagreement between Matt and I that Elise and I went together to a Beth Moore conference in Richmond, VA.  Somewhere in the jumble of memories leading up to our move and after, the significance of that particular weekend and it's testimony of God's miraculous answer to a desperate prayer of mine got lost in the shuffle.  Just recently, Elise asked me if I could find my notes from that long ago weekend for something that she was doing.  I dug through all of my old journals trying to find them as a favor for her, having no idea that what I would actually find would be my biggest reminder yet of God's faithfulness surrounding our move to Lynchburg.

As I flipped through the pages of my scribbled notes, a small piece of paper fluttered out from between them and fell to the floor.  I picked it up recognizing Elise's familiar handwriting:

"Ok, you're not going to like this, but here's the thought that came to me.  Perhaps you are to wrestle this out with God and find your peace, your confirmation apart from Matt.  I will stand out at the edge of your 'further still' place and pray for you as you go there to fight it out with God.  And I'll be there to rejoice with you when you come out." -E

I can remember leaving for that weekend away and desperately asking God to show me some way to convince Matt that he was wrong and I was right.  My spirit was so opposed to the idea that I thought surely Matt had to be wrong in his desire to come to LynchburgI felt imprisioned in the midst of the turmoil caused by Matt's and my conflicting ideas over the future, unable to convince Matt that he was wrong, and unable, or worse...unwilling, to allow myself to hear God above the roar of my feelings.  Beth Moore spent some time talking that weekend about how when we're stuck in difficult circumstances, we are not stuck there without purpose.  God is most assuredly completing something that is lacking in me when I'm in the midst of a situation that I cannot control.  She talked about the idea that it's these kinds of situations that bring out the worst in us, and for good reason.  It is God's refining of us through fiery trials that brings out the worst in us so it can be acknowledged and then done away with.  When we are refined, we can have a new response to an old situation.  Though the situation or circumstance may never change, God's priority is my response to the situation.

"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."  1 Peter 1:6-7

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  James 1:2-4

As I struggled that weekend to somehow conform God's word into what I wanted it to say for me in my situation, Elise heard the truth of what God was really saying and loved me enough to be honest with me in her note, jotted quickly on a scrap of paper.  Eight years later, as that note fluttered to my feet and I read it again, I had that feeling from within that can only be described as a bubble of joy bursting and overflowing out of my mouth in the form of praise for what God has done in my heart through these years.  Elise had no way of knowing where I'd be today.  Our friendship had been the kind where each of us could easily end up on the others doorstep in tears or in laughter, just wanting to share whatever it was on our mind.  If God were to confirm for me His desire for us to move, there would be a lot more distance between her doorstep and mine.  Yet still her prayer was that I would cast my fear and anxiety on God, rather than Matt, and her promise was to rejoice with me in the outcome whether it put distance between us or not.  Between the pages where I had tucked Elise's note, I wrote these words during that weekend eight years ago:

"Matt doesn't need to change, I need to change.  God is trying to teach me through Matt, 'the man with the plan', that my security lies only in You, God.  Give me that security, God.  Don't let me walk away unchanged from this trial.  Remind me daily that you are always accomplishing something in  me in the 'wait'.  Refine me God, get rid of my old, sinful response.  Give me a new response to the same situation.  I am here, at this point, for a reason.  Complete what is lacking in me so I may be fully used of You wherever, whatever that may be.  AMEN."

Below these words I had written a note to myself to find scriptures that spoke truth about the desires of my heart reflecting God's desires, & the trustworthiness of God to give me the desires of my heart when I hand them over to him and to then continually pray through the scriptures I found until my thoughts reflected God's own. 

"For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.  But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."  Matthew 13:15-16

This was exactly the condition of my heart eight years ago.  I had become so wrapped up in what I wanted and what made me feel comfortable and secure that my heart had become too calloused to even be aware of what God was speaking.  I had squeezed my eyes shut tightly and covered my ears like a child having a tantrum and expected that I could continue to be content while not seeing or hearing.

"Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, and your vindication like the noonday sun.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him..."        Psalm 37:4-7

Everyday that I witness the beautiful rising of the sun over the mountains from the deck of our home here in Lynchburg, I am reminded anew of how faithful my God is.  He didn't just bring us here and leave me longing for what I left behind.  He opened my eyes to see and my ears to hear so that I could accept His gift of bringing us here.  He replaced my selfish desires with His desires for our family.  He knew the blessing waiting for me here and patiently held my hand through my tantrum, knowing all the while that when I got where He was leading me, I'd see the silliness of wanting to stay where I was simply because it was "safe".  He has given me the desires of my heart even when I had been willing to settle instead for my limited view of what was best.  

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord...'You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.'"  Isaiah 55:9,12

Never underestimate God's ability to change your heart and give you true joy in the midst of what you feared the most. When I compare the calloused heart beating inside me eight years ago, to the one that pounded loudly in my chest six years and two months later as I told Matt that I had a peace about our move, I can no longer doubt God's ability to accomplish what concerns me when I give myself completely over to His care.  I need to continue to challenge myself with this truth in other areas of my life.  I was reminded this week, in a Bible study by Angela Thomas entitled "Brave", that "God is always plotting for our joy in the unseen."  Was He ever! :)

"He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me...For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness.  For by You I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall...The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation."  Psalm 18:19, 28-29, 46

God's gift of Elise, with the right words for the right moment, is a constant reminder to me of the blessing found in a friend who is willing to speak truth to you, no matter the cost.  She pointed me in the direction of God's best for me, not even knowing herself what it would be or what it would cost her.  The result has been one of the grandest displays of God's faithfulness in my life to date.  Elise has surrounded me in my "in between".  Having known the full story of our family's journey to Lynchburg that began seven years before we ever got here, she stuck to her word and has rejoiced with me as I came out the other side. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Always watching...always thanking.

"Continue praying, keeping alert, and always thanking God." Colossians 4:2

This past weekend was full of friends and laughter...okay, and maybe a few tears because of an emotional movie choice. :)  It was the kind of weekend that exhausts you in the best way possible and causes you to sit back and reflect on the goodness of the gifts that God has given you in the people He puts in your path.  I am not so far removed from the "alone-ness" that can come after a major move that I can let such a weekend pass without acknowledging the blessing of being surrounded by friends.  My prayer is that I would continue to be sensitive to the work that God is doing in and around me, even as the newness here continues to fade and my life becomes increasingly full of the normal, everyday things that come with beginning to feel established somewhere. 

"I will remember your great deeds, Lord; I will recall the wonders you did in the past." Psalm 77:11

Around this time last year, I remember feeling like everything here took effort.  It was an effort that I wanted to make and most days enjoyed, yet still I longed for the comfort of the old as I lived in expectation that there would come a day when the "new" wouldn't wear me out so much.  Last fall there were days when my favorite thing to do would be to just stay at home all day while the kids were in school.  It didn't matter what I was doing, I simply found joy in being somewhere in which I didn't have to introduce myself or feel like I was always needing to figure out something new.  I think those days were good for me.  Being the new person can be exhausting and I felt refreshed by being around what was familiar and required little effort, even if for just short periods of time.  Just to be clear, if I had followed that inclination every day, I wholeheartedly believe I would have missed out on a majority of the blessings surrounding me today.  :)  I was alert then in my expectation for God to reveal Himself to me in a new way, and I am thankful today for the reminder in Colossians 4:2 to "continue praying, keeping alert, and always thanking God."  For me, one of the benefits in having to start over in a new place has been the extra sensitivity to what God was doing or going to do because I was looking for it.  I was more aware because, quite frankly, my life wasn't too full of activity to notice even the smaller meaningful things that were happening around me everyday.  It's important to me that I not lose that perspective...that expectation for God to show up in the midst of the ordinary and do something extraordinary, to take notice of it when He does, and to bring Him glory by sharing what He has done and what He is capable of.

"I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.  For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth." Psalm 57:9-11

I've been struck by my busyness lately and how quickly it can sneak up on me and leave me with no time to consider what it is that God would have me notice.  Today is a day in which I'm simply enjoying time at home, not as I did a year ago to hide-out in a sense, but to take the time to be still and allow my mind the space to wrap itself around the extent of what God is doing.  Too often, in the busyness of the everyday, I see life as a random string of events being pulled quickly past me as I try my best to just simply keep up.  When in fact those events are intricately, and purposefully woven together with glimpses of the hand of God at work if I will just take the time to notice.  There have been numerous occasions in the past that I have let an event or circumstance pass me by, whether joyful or frustrating, because I was too busy to glean from it the lesson being given.  One thing that this past year with our move has taught me is that being alert and watchful, living in expectation is how I should approach each day...not just after a move when I am waiting for God to fill the "empty spaces", but also when I've been connected to a place for many years and am tempted to allow myself to grow dull to what it is that God is accomplishing around me, what He's teaching me and how He's blessing me amidst the joys and struggles of everyday life.  The title verse that I chose for this blog is as applicable to my life today as it was over a year ago when I first began to journal my way through our family's "roadway in the wilderness"...

"Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19

My prayer is that I will never get so distracted by the busyness of the everyday that I begin to look at life as a series of meaningless events - some good, some bad - that are all just bringing me closer to an end that is just as purposeless and meaningless.  We have been created with great design and purpose, life is meant for much more than going through the motions.  I pray it is this truth that shines through my inadequate words on this page.   

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Ephesians 1:18


"But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:4-10

As I was driving the other day, the lyrics to a song by Natalie Grant put a smile on my face as I reflected upon the beauty of a moment when the thoughts on my heart are reflected in the words of another and put to song.   May the "Greatness Of Our God" be what you watch and wait for.

Greatness Of Our God
by: Natalie Grant

Give me eyes to see more of who you are.
May what I behold still my anxious heart.
Take what I have known and break it all apart.
For you my God are greater still.

And no sky contains no doubt restrains all you are
the greatness of our God
I'll spend my life to know and I'm far from close to all you are
the greatness of our God.

Give me grace to see beyond this moment here.
To believe that there is nothing left to fear.
That you alone are high above it all.
And you my God are greater still.

And there is nothing that could ever separate us,
No, there is nothing that could ever separate us from your love.
No life, no death,
of this I am convinced,
You my God are greater still.

 (Tailgating this past weekend @ LU w/ many of the blessings God gave us this year) :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

I no longer need the gps to find the Roadway in the Wilderness :)

The smell of chlorine tickled my nose as the splash of water found it's way to my face.  The evening humidity draped itself over me like a damp blanket as the shouts and laughter surrounding the pool area reached my ears.  All of a sudden it hit me.  I am part of a community. :)        

Earlier this week we went to a swim meet to cheer on the children of some friends who were competing.  This may not appear to be anything earth shattering, but as I stood there surrounded by people I knew, having come to support someone else's children instead of my own, I realized for the first time that God has indeed been faithful to bring me past the place of feeling welcome, to truly feeling like I belong here.  I smile at the timing of this revelation as this weekend marks one year  since packing up our lives in Maryland and beginning to unpack them here.  It seems a funny concept to "pack up" one's life and in turn to then "unpack" it, but along with the boxes that held our earthly possessions, I feel as if we also figuratively placed our lives in a box and over the past year have slowly taken out pieces of ourselves and set them here or there in hopes of finding just the right place in which to totally feel at home.

On one hand, it seems as if the past year has flown by and it's crazy to think that all the "firsts" of the last 12 months, which at the time seemed so daunting, will now suddenly be "seconds" that aren't so intimidating.  On the other hand, picturing myself dazed and confused amid a gazillion boxes and wondering where to begin, both in the unpacking of boxes and the process of settling in, seems like a lifetime ago.  I feel at home, yet still hold on to the wonder of how blessed we are to be in this not-so-new-anymore place.  I looked back today at the previous year of posts and am thankful that I can still remember exactly how I felt a year ago today.  Maybe that's why it seems in a way as if a year has flown by.  So much has happened, yet it's still fresh on my mind the mix of feeling alone in a new place coupled with the assurance that God would do something new and anxiously living in expectation of it.  "Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:18-19)  Looking back, I couldn't have chosen a more fitting verse to title this blog.  God has most faithfully made a way and a home for us here...even in the times when I wasn't faithful on my end to truly be aware and look for the ways in which He was continuously working.  There are still days in which I feel like the new person, but they are becoming more few and far between.  The idea that I feel truly at home here surprises me on some days, like earlier this week at the swim meet, when all of a sudden I felt such a sense of community that I was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of a God who loves me so much and continues to instill in me a sense of belonging.  As we've literally and figuratively unpacked our lives here, we've seen how God has allowed us to bring with us those relationships we've held dear for years while still leaving us open and our hearts available for the blessing of new friends.  Even in recent weeks, God has surprised me with the creative ways in which He continues to bring new friends across my path...but that's another post for another day. :)  I am learning to continuously live in expectation of the new things God is working in and around me, remembering that no matter how long I have lived in one place, He is always wanting to do something new and desiring that I be watchful enough to be aware of those "roadways in the wilderness" and "rivers in the desert".  :)

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)

"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." (Psalm 5:3)

"God said, 'I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go...I will not leave you unil I have done what I have promised you.'"  (Genesis 28:15)

"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." (Psalm 9:10)

"The Lord will guide you always, he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." (Isaiah 58:11)

"This God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end." (Psalm 48:14) <3

(At least "someone" was comfortable in all the chaos one year ago today.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

To pursue and be pursued...

I am terrified of this post.  It is one that I have been working out in my head for a few months now, but it was today that God placed the frame around the ideas that have been till now undefined and scattered in my mind.  I have no idea why distant memories from long ago, which most days seem like pages from a stranger's life, would surface today from what seemed like out of the blue or why God would require me to be so vulnerable with areas that I'd prefer stayed sheltered.  However, when my hands shake from the rush of adrenaline caused by words that must be said, and when my heart feels a burden that can only be lifted by laying down what God has placed upon it...I write.

Our daughter turned 13 this year.  The days of being a mom to a teenage daughter have always seemed so far off in the distant future that I've found myself quite unprepared for the actuality of the far, distant future now suddenly being the present.  Hannah Joy is a gift.  For many reasons she is a gift, but today the enormity of the gift I have been given in her by God is overwhelming.  He has entrusted her to me to help mold her into the young lady that He's created her to be.  Despite my own failures both past and present.  Despite my shortcomings.  He gave her to me.  And so I know that not a shred of what God has brought me through can be squandered.  I know that my brokenness is of value when it is Christ who has lovingly put me back together.   

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us." (2 Corinthians 4:7)

When Hannah was little, she pursued me.  What little girl doesn't want to be where her mom is, doing what her mom is doing?  I think in my naivety as a young mom, I often took this forgranted.  Not thinking ahead toward a day when she wouldn't be so close on my heels, as near as my next breath every time I turned.  That day is here, and I am finding that it is my turn to pursue her.  To be the one seeking her out on the days when she feels unlovable, recognizing the odds are that I am at times no longer her natural choice to seek out on those days.  To be engaged enough in the matters of her heart to know whether it is Christ that has captured her heart, or something else entirely. 

"Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." 
(2 Timothy 1:14)

It would have been easy (and preferred) for me to leave this post as only pertaining to my relationship with Hannah.  My pursuit of Hannah, instead has been the motivation to allow God to pry even deeper to the most unreachable and ugly areas of my heart that until today, I thought no longer existed.  Not for the purposes of leaving me broken and exposed, but to continue to reveal to me the extent of His own pursuit of me.

As many girls do, I struggled with insecurities growing up.  Unfortunately, sometimes those insecurities led me to make unwise or harmful choices.  While my deepest heart's desire was to feel loved, accepted and known, it was at times those very choices that caused me to feel the opposite.  Unlovable, rejected and not worth being known. 

It was in this state that my future husband would find me.  Why God sent him to me when He did, and why He allowed Matt to see beyond what I had become, to the woman I could be, I may never know.  What I do know, is that Matt has been and is still an integral part of God's plan to rescue me.

For too long I spent myself pursuing and never being able to lay hold of the acceptance I craved.  My pursuits instead left me feeling ashamed, ugly and ruined.  It was these feelings in fact that overwhelmed my mind today and caused me to really acknowledge whether I have fully allowed God to wipe clean the record of wrongs I've built up against myself.  Or have I simply buried them deep, giving lies the authority to still define me in my weaker moments? 

I question God at times, wondering why He would allow me to make such choices in my ignorance that would leave me broken and require the relentless pursuit of a husband who longs for me to see what he sees.  I don't have the answers to any of those questions today.  I simply feel the need to acknowledge the amazing blessing of the man that God sent to me, who waited for me, while still pursuing me with all his heart, hoping to capture mine.  I find it astounding that he still endeavors to pursue me in the same way nearly 15 years later and frustrate myself at the inadequacies that cause me to fall short of the wife he needs or deserves.  But I guess thats the point...God too has loved me at my most unlovable, for no other reason than He chose to love me.  I have nothing to offer Him and have done nothing to deserve His sacrifice on my part.  God continues to give me a tangible picture of this, as so often Matt sacrifices his own desires for mine.

"This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10)  

  It is God's patience with me and His pursuit of me that show me He has created in me something of value.  I think the weight I felt on my heart today was the desire for any who needed reminding of their value to know that there IS a God out there who is in relentless pursuit of His children and longs for us to see the worth He has created in us.   

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."  (2 Peter 3:9)  

"What do you think?  If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off." (Matthew 18:12-13)

Prayer for Hannah

To always know fully every inch of you is loved
That the same One who formed you, also scattered the stars above
Your special purpose, you'll surely find as you whole-heartedly seek
To know the One who'll be strong when you feel so weak
Always remember you're the chosen daughter of a heavenly King
Live like the princess you are, never settling for a lesser thing
Life can be hard, sometimes the path becomes dim
Hunger for the Word, may your light be found in Him
His light in you will always be the beauty others see
The same beauty I pray you will always find in me
The prodigal's road for so long was my empty heart's choice
Seldom stopping to listen for the truth only found in my Father's voice
Pursue the passion He's given you deep within
There's a place in your heart that can only be filled by Him
Don't go it on your own thinking there must be a way
Don't fall for the lies that took me so far astray
There's only One who proved to you with a costly sacrifice
That your life to Him was more than worth the price
I pray that the good promised to come from my forgiven past
Will be your choice to love FIRST, the One who will last.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The end of the beginning.

"And I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them.  I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains.  These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone." Isaiah 42:16

     This promise, to not leave "undone", is the one and only reason I have not come "undone" in the last year and 19 days.  1 year. 19 days.  1 contract. 1 buyer.  Some may say it would have happened eventually, it was only a matter of time.  I feel a weight over my whole being to say it was only a matter of God.  One of the verses from my last post continues to leap off the page at me as I've thought about just how to wrap up this whole "saga" of our waiting for the house we left behind to sell.  "All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 4:15.  While my preference for "wrapping things up" usually requires no questions left unanswered and neat packaging complete with a pretty bow on top, I find myself in this moment content in the simplicity of this:  "for your benefit" and "cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God".  Eight months of paying two mortgages and over a year of uncertainty as to how long we would have to wait certainly took it's toll.  We were brought literally to the point of not knowing how we could possibly do it for one more month...and then the wait was over.  I could focus on the frustration of having to exhaust all our resources in the process, or dwell on the physical effects that the stress has had on my mind and body.  But I have a choice.  We always have a choice of what to allow our minds to dwell on.  And I choose to dwell on the fact that we were brought to the end of ourselves and God took it from there.  To be at the end of yourself is never a fun place to be, but the freedom that comes in admitting that something is too big for me and handing over the responsibility of it to God, rather than continuing to try to control things on my own is one of the greatest gifts I have ever experienced in being a child of God.  

     I'm gonna have to brag on my husband for a bit :)... I am married to a very capable man.  I would be extremely hard pressed to come up with anything that I couldn't ultimately trust him with to accomplish when it comes to the good of our family.  While in my human-ness I admit I have many times taken him for granted in the day to day, the truth in my heart knows that God made him for me and me for him.  This, while being a tremendous blessing, can at times also be a downfall of mine.  Too many times I foolishly put him in the place of God and force him to shoulder the burden while God's outstretched hand patiently waits for me to remember who God is and who Matt is not.  It is for this reason that I believe God will continue to bring me to the end of myself.  He causes my "thanksgiving to overflow"  to His glory alone.  He has surely done it! "...I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.  I will give Thee thanks forever, because Thou hast done it, And I will wait on Thy name, for it is good, in the presence of Thy godly ones." Psalm 52:8-9.  At the end of us, God waits to make up for our shortcomings, our weaknesses and accomplishes things in a way in which there is no other place for the glory to fall but on Him.  "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, THEN I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  How gracious the Lord is (to our benefit!) when in return for the burdens He allows us to place at His feet, He only asks for our thanksgiving to be laid there as well!  Most joyfully then will I give the glory to Him alone!  Not only for the buyer He brought for our house, but for the way He has sustained our family through the waiting.  "Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul...Willingly I will sacrifice to Thee; I will give thanks to Thy name, O Lord, for it is good."  Psalm 54:4,6.

"Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it!  Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it..."  Isaiah 44:23

"I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze, and cut through their iron bars.  And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden wealth of secret places, In order that you may know that it is I, The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name...That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me.  I am the Lord and there is no other."  Isaiah 45:2-3,6

"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.  For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned?  And My glory I will not give to another."  Isaiah 48:10-11

"Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places.  And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and the sound of a melody."  Isaiah 51:3

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Silver Linings

I helplessly looked on as, right in front of me, the tires of the car my husband was driving left their grip on the pavement and started sliding sideways on the ice that had seemed like only slush moments ago.  Time seemed to suspend and as if in slow motion, his car was carried over the hill and went careening down into a field near our house.  I watched in horror for what felt like an eternity as I waited for his car to come to a stop and prayed it wouldn't flip over.  It's weird that even now as I recall this memory weeks later that my hands are trembling.

We had left our house that morning, me following behind his car in my own, in order to drop mine off for some work to be done.  Not to leave you in suspense or anything, :-) but Matt is totally fine and the car did not in fact flip over.  You would think that this in and of itself would be the silver lining.  God however, has been teaching me in this season of uncertainty to look much deeper for the ways in which He is trying to bless me even amidst the struggles.

I guess for this story to make sense I'll need to give a little background about the car to begin with....

As we are still waiting for our house in Maryland to sell, (one year and counting as of the beginning of this month) we decided that in order to ease a bit of our monthly financial burdens we would get rid of the car Matt was driving and trade it in for something less expensive.  Less expensive turned out to be a car on ebay.  In Chicago. :-)  Anyone who knows my husband, also knows that if it's not an adventure, it's not worth doing.  So off to Chicago he went.  He was having reservations about the car before he even left the dealer but decided to go through with the purchase.  On the 12 hour drive back to Virginia, issue after issue seemed to come up making him even more anxious about the reliability of this car for the long term.  So he gets it back home and after a ridiculously long, complicated dance with the DMV the car is, for better or worse, legal.

Wouldn't you know that JUST the week previous to the accident we had raised our collision deductible, also in an effort to save money.  It definitely would have been easy to let my thoughts "camp out" on this idea alone.  It certainly has been a struggle for me in some areas to remain positive when my natural tendency can be to lean toward the negative and dwell on it at times.  But God had an almost ironic silver lining tucked carefully in this story. :-)  One that my husband and I couldn't help but get a chuckle from.  When we got the call from the garage about all that would need to be fixed on his car, do you know what was on that list?  Every single item that Matt had been concerned about with the car previously!  Now, not that it's not a strain to try to scrape together the deductible...but I can't help but notice the blessing of having all the issues with the car fixed for much less than we would have had to pay outright.  And the added blessing that the reliability of the car in the long-run will be more likely.

This is just a silly illustration of something much bigger that I think God tries to teach His children in every circumstance.  Sometimes we take the time to stop and look for what He's doing in the midst of trials, even if we don't understand them.  Being willing to ride them out and wait for God to accomplish His bigger picture.  At other times, we want to rush through the trial, never looking to the left or right, only focused on figuring our own way out of what we never wanted to be in to begin with.  It's when I rush through the tough spots that I miss the little gifts tucked in along the way as reminders that God's eyes are always on me, and He knows just how much I can take, will never give me more than He'll equip me to handle, and will always, if I am willing, make me a better person who is better able to accomplish His purpose for my life BECAUSE of the tough spot, not in spite of it.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  (2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 15-18)

"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him!...He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you."  (Isaiah 30:18-19)

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  (James 1:17)