Category Archives: Struggles

Grace Isn’t Always As It Seems

Grace /ɡrās/ noun 1.) free and unmerited favor

It’s a word known and familiar.  Regardless of one’s personal convictions, its highly likely that nearly every American and countless many abroad hear the words “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” whenever its familiar melody begins to play.

We are deeply touched, even unsettled, whenever we recognize its been given to us. At times, the role of “grace giver” can feel deeply satisfying. This lovely notion that has spurred on artworks and anthems, namesakes worldwide and notoriety to iconic figures through history: A tiny nun who spent her years giving orphans a home. A friendly cardigan-zipping neighbor elevating the dignity of a fellow human being above society’s dividing lines. A Babylonian king extending his scepter at the unbeckoned approach of an unlikely queen. A carpenter’s son who found greatest worth among the least of these. Hymns and homilies and hashtags have waxed poetic of grace in action while traditions and fairytales have shown glimpses of its worth.

Grace.

We all need it.  

We’d like to think we freely give it.  

And I’ll bet my bottom dollar, in one form or another, we all crave it.  Desperately.

At least, I know I do. 

Sometimes I recognize it when given.  Obvious signs of favor I neither deserve nor deny.  Evidence of mercy’s bestowing opposite twin; where mercy withholds deserved consequences without leverage, grace bestows favor without merit.  I see its evidence and feel its weight, warm as a cloak wrapped round the shivering shoulders of a helpless child.  It floods my heart with gratitude and fills my sight with awe.

But sometimes, there are other times when its evidence hides in plain sight, when the cloak is not warm but absolute as a deathly hallow, hiding the enclosed contents completely from searching eyes. In times like these, my mind runs rampant. I’ll recall those hymns and homilies, declarations of grace amazing and sweet, their comfort felt sharp as a knife and bitter on my tongue.

If I’m honest (and can’t we all just be honest), I quickly arrive at conclusions on my worth and the grace-giver’s intentions and all the reasons why this gift, by nature undeservable, has deliberately been withheld. Shaming conclusions and deliberate rejections. I look for grace and find shadows instead. And I determine my perspective accurate, informed, right.

You too?

It’s unnervingly easy to come to such conclusions. At least, I find it so. I look for grace like a river while sorrows like sea billows roll.

But maybe, just maybe, circumstances aren’t always as they first seem?

What if the shadows are not vacancies but evidence of a stronger light?

What if the pain is not a punishment but a provision to expose and spark rescue from a subversive deadly woe?

What if felt silence is not absence but rather the quiet nearness of a gentle embrace?

What if when we wrestle through the night, as Jacob did in times of old, what if the resulting limp IS the blessing?

What if hope is not in fact hollow but firmly rooted in a foundation eyes cannot currently see?

It’s a lesson lifelong for this girl named for what she must relearn again and again. A gift often wrapped in peculiar packaging.

Sometimes grace is a shelter and sometimes grace is the rain.

Sometimes grace is a placeholder, holding off the good as it keeps place for something greater on its way.

Sometimes grace is a cradle and sometimes grace is a crucifixion.

May my eyes behold this gift when wrapped within various forms and remember at all times, it bestows favor, unmerited and free.

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Filed under Faith, God, Patience, Struggles, Suffering, Thoughts

A Lesson In Laughter

Every December, a beautiful book comes off the shelf and into my family’s hands. Covered in patchwork colors, it weaves the ancient tail of Christmas from a Garden to a Promise fulfilled, wrapped warm within a manager. Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping The Greatest Gift: A Family Christmas Celebration has become a treasured tradition for this mama. I earnestly hope it’s precious truths sink deeper year after year in my children’s minds and hearts. Only time will tell.

img_8481Tonight found us home for the first time this week with a few unrushed hours before bed. Tis’ the season when stressful….I mean “festive”…merriment abounds around every nook of the calendar. First world problems, I know. Regardless, my little brood and I found ourselves with time to spare, time enough for a timeless story. I grabbed this beautiful book from the shelf and turned to December 6th’s reading.

The Gift of Laughter – the story of Isaac

This story, both fresh and familiar, speaks of a promised child to a couple, barren and nearing triple-digit years. A covenant that could only be measured by an immeasurably starry sky. A long-offered prayer answered with a laughable word of hope. Could it be, after all this time, this dream deep and tender might come true? It was utterly absurd, rationally speaking.

“…She laughed too – but Sarah laughed sad…the way you do when you think someone is teasing you, and you laugh brave so you don’t cry hard.”

Even the clinical, doubtful dismissal by a waiting-worn woman would turn to joyful laughter as Isaac eventually entered the world by her womb.

God always answers prayers; He keeps His promises.

As I sat beside my admittedly distracted children, the heart captured afresh was my own. How many times had I heard this story? How often had it impacted my life already? Indeed – enough to name my firstborn after Sarah’s promised son. But tonight’s reading of familiar words and Ann’s poetic prose exposed a needed truth.

At times, I am Sarah who, upon hearing a good promise from a good God, responds with lacking belief or worst yet – interprets it as cruel. The words jumped off the colored page, straight into my exposed heart.

“Sometimes you use laughter like a shield to protect your heart. Could Sarah let down her guard and believe that God would be gentle with her dream to hold a child of her own?”

Could she?

Could I?

We all hold something deep and tender as Sarah did. Perhaps it’s for a struggle relieved, a relationship revealed or restored, a recognition long denied or a dream brought to reality. While our details may vary, we all can relate to Sarah’s angst in some way, understand her disbelief that her most precious hope might actually, finally, be brought to fruition. To a weathered soul, it feels an awful risk.

As this Sunday school story revived with tonight’s reading, I was struck afresh not only by the reluctant recipient of a promise but by the resilient generosity of the Promise Keeper. Sarah’s struggle to believe did not sway God’s bequeathing Hand. Rather He, in His perfect way, replaced her bared-teeth grimace with the purest laughter of a blessing made manifest, clenched fists now spread wide as they embraced the embodiment of laughter – in fact, it was his very name – Isaac.

As the story ended and my children dashed off to their next endeavor, I sensed that familiar whisper near while I closed the quilted cover.

“You’ve been like Sarah. And I am the God of Isaac. Trust me to turn waiting into wonder. After all – I always fulfill my Promise.”

Tonight finds me yet again beneath a warmly lit tree, struck in awe at the message of Christmas cast in new light. Like Sarah, I’m prone to doubt His kindness, to laugh dismissively over long-awaited prayers. But He – He is the God of Isaac, from whose line came the Ultimate Long-awaited One – Jesus, the Messiah. It has ignited my faith with renewed hope, not in outcomes, but in the One who came, who will surely come again. He who was faithful to Sarah will surely be faithful to you and me.

May the laughter of this season remind us all that hope placed in Him is never in vain.

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Filed under Faith, God, Isaac, Patience, Struggles

Beneath a Tree

It’s been a day, a wearying one, filled to the brim with projects, problems, and parenting. Also known as Thursday.

Before dawn’s light crested the horizon, this household of mine was on the go. Funny how the “most wonderful time of year” never ceases to coincide with year’s end mania. Every arena of daily life seems bursting at the seams with all that must be done. Today was no exception. Tonight finds me weary and worn.

And yet.

Here, in the quiet of sleeping babes and labors laid aside, of thoughts alight with needed do-overs and never-agains, of small successes and ample failures, I sit beneath a tree.

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Warmly lit, small splashes of color clad forest hues, a tree bedecked in memories. Something about its glow ushers in thoughts of holidays gone by, of a Savior child come to live among us. Emmanuel, come to die.

Slowly, surely, the sounds of today’s missed moments and mishaps fade, replaced by a gentler, stronger song: Come. Come let us adore Him for He alone is worthy. Christ the Lord.

And with its silent melody, Peace.

Tonight finds me now grateful: for the privilege of enduring life’s chaos, for the harrowing honor to steward children’s hearts and youth for a time, for the quiet that now fills my home, for the Reason behind a glowing tree. This has become a Silent Night, a Holy Night.

Indeed, all has been made calm and bright.

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Filed under Christmas, Faith, Struggles

Bestow The Words You Crave

Another long day, grappling past lies and current insecurities and future worst-case possibilities.  Craving words of reassurance to raw wounds open, I reach out to friends with said aching, seeking remedy.  Disappointment comes again as well-intentioned words fall hollow on these doubting ears.  Shame lays another layer down upon a battered heart.

And round about this carousel of craving I go again.

We’ve likely all taken a spin or seventy on this merry-go-round, seeking wholeness in the words of trusted friends for our scarred places, wounded spaces. Guilty as charged.  For me, it happens most often come evening. When the world slows, and children finally sleep, and I lie alone in bed.

“Am I enough?  Is God still kind?  Not to us all but to me.  Did my failures today scar my children for life?”  These are some of my frequent flyers.  I’m confident your list stands ready in the wings too.

What do we do?  What do I do?  I grab my phone and reach out to people to fill these aching gaps.  They respond as best they know how yet my holes within only expand under the weight of sincere yet inadequate platitudes.  This cycle repeats until loud lies feel true and worth seems lost and alone becomes more than a place but a defining status.

Maybe it’s just me.

But I know it isn’t.

Life happens, wounds happen, heck – simply human existence happens – and we reach out battered hearts for divine balm from mortal sources.  Funny how loneliness often perpetuates itself through the avenues used in seeking remedy.

Recently, I found myself on this well-worn path again.  Questions of worth, the purpose for pain, value where history had “proven” otherwise.  In the middle of the familiar reach towards my mobile, a soft stirring began to sound.

You’re not alone in loneliness.

I’ve heard it said that if we recognized how often people feel lonely, we’d find community within our loneliness.  Or something like that.  Bottom line – you’re not the only one aching, the only one seeking, the only one asking these same questions.

What do you long to hear?  To believe?  To have someone who knows your story believe of you, for you, speak over you?

Such questions gave me pause.  What did I truly want to believe as TRUTH in my depths?  Words began to fill my mind, snatches of verses often cliched in their application.  Words of worth, destiny, beauty springing from ashes and hidden hopes realized.

“Ok, Lord, I ‘know’ all these things are true, but I want to believe them, and I honestly don’t.”  His next whisper surprised me.

Who else needs to hear these words too?

Full stop.

I sensed the Lord challenging me to trade seeking for serving, to lift my eyes from sorrows, off licking proverbial wounds, and recognize those surrounding me.  It took conscious effort, this changing of perspective: wounds in one hand and desired spoken truths in the other, both held out before the One who ultimately bore all wounds, who alone bestows all healing.  And the results astounded me.

Slowly, surely, as names came to mind, a choice lay before me.

No, an invitation: set aside my own wounds to extend balm for another.  And if asked of its source, I’d only be able to point to the One who was pointing this all out to me.

Pick up a phone, select a person, type away.  Only this time, not in gathering, but in bestowing, in speaking life.  As their faces came to mind and words were sent on blessing’s mission, the most remarkable thing occurred: My own ache began to ease and texts started coming in.

“How did you know?”

“I so needed this.”

Grateful, I responded, “Me too, my friend. Me too.”

This paradox turned hurting on its head, bestowing community where moments before loneliness reigned.  It’s counter-intuitive when wounds screaming loud bleed raw and words from trusted friends fall flat on aching ears – to lay down craving in place of grace-proclaiming.  What if we transformed our intuitions to seek into commissions to serve?  Who else might need to hear the very things our own hearts long for?

Simply put – bestow the words you crave.

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Filed under Struggles, Thoughts, Words

Learning To Let Go

Bright-eyed at 5:45a.  With a jump and a smile she leapt from bed.
The day had finally arrived.  Today everything changes. Today our home will never be the same.

Today Eliana Faith became a Kindergartener!!

I’ve never seen her more excited.
I’ve never felt such bittersweet ache at her gain.
My baby girl now an Elementary Student.

Last night she slept like a rock.
I slept like a restless child, tossing, turning, watching the clock tick slow.
Like the relentless tide so questions assailed my insomniac mind.

Did I do enough?  Where did I fail in preparing her?  How did the long days of toddlerhood pass in a flash?  Is she ready?  Did I do enough?!

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I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
(‭Psalms‬ ‭121‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

Though she came from my womb, she was knit by heavenly Hands. All her days were ordained before one came to be. In God she lives and moves and has her being. His plans for Eliana brim over with hope and love. His thoughts towards her outnumber the stars. His mercies pour out afresh on her every morning.

On Eliana. And her momma.

Grace.  Grace.  God’s grace.
Grace that will cover and cleanse within.
Grace.  Grace.  God’s grace.
Grace that is greater than all my sin.

Where I lack, His grace covers.  Where I fall, His arms reach low to lift me up.  Where I have failed my daughter, His love remains strong on her behalf.  He has not called me to be a perfect mother.

Just a faithful one.

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Today begins a new chapter of learning to trust God further, to lean on Him harder, to release what is ultimately His into His steadfast arms.

Eliana, you continue to teach me faith, to adjust my eyes to see God’s continued answered prayers.  Walk tall today, sweetheart.  You are ready for this.  Not because of me but because Almighty God walks with you wherever you go.  Listen for His voice.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Enjoy today, my darling girl.  You are ready!

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Filed under Eliana, Motherhood, Parenting, Struggles, Thoughts

Taking Stock

This week has taught me a simple yet profound truth: familiarity can blind.

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Twice a year, the NC State Fairgrounds fills with the gianormous Kids Exchange Consignment Sale. Thousands come to sell their used goods from kids clothing to computer systems, books to bikes, furniture to furbies. Run like clockwork, this huge sale brings an awesome opportunity for families to sell outgrown items and purchase others for a fraction of store costs.

I’ve attended this sale in years past but this time around, I decided it was time to purge our house of everything outgrown. As the gathering began, something caught me off guard to a stagering, humblingly degree.

In a culture of excess, I confess how easily I fall into the lie of lack. Comparisons, complaints, kids growing faster than my clothing budget. Without due diligence the slide into dissatisfaction grows slippery and steep. Like quicksand, the more I see, the more I want, the more others have, the more I feel I lack. Ugh. ‘Tis a dangerous cycle.

But as I sat amongst boxes and boxes and boxes of my children’s used clothes, reality reduced me to tears. I’ve been surrounded by this striking evidence of God’s tangible provision yet its familiarity blinded me. God has truly taken care of our family!

“My God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

What amazed me most was the sheer amount of clothes from the seasons when we had stepped out in faith, leaving a salaried/benefits job to start a business, when we had to completely trust God for every new student, new client, new child born. It was from the seasons of smallest income that the tallest piles of clothes stood.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

As I sorted this massive collection of clothes, memories overwhelmed me as the majority of items had been gifts. Memories of kind strangers, generous friends and unexpected finds flooded my mind. God truly had provided for our little family. He not only clothed my kids – He clothed them in style! This evidence of grace had sat unnoticed in my home for years. It wasn’t until I stopped to take stock of it all that I saw clearly.

God has been faithful.
God will remain faithful.
God can be trusted with the needs of today and tomorrow as I hold evidence of yesterday’s provision in grateful hands.

Familiarity blinds. Stop and take stock today of all He has already done, already provided, already shown Himself faithful and strong. You’ll be amazed by the treasure trove of blessings already in your grasp.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-33

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Filed under Comparison, Faith, Generosity, God, Motherhood, Struggles

Anchored

This may surprise you. It certainly surprised me. You’d think after nearly 5 years, the truth would have sunken in by now. But my eyes opened wide this week to new knowledge of myself, a perspective I’ve long yet unknowingly carried deep. Watching my children run strong and bubble over with laughter, it struck me as never before.

Eliana and Evan are growing up.
They’re alive!
And I’m.
Completely.
Shocked.

In an instant fear and wonderment collided as my children’s growth hit me afresh. As if scales had fallen from my eyes, I saw my children as the little man and young lady they’ve become and the babies they will never be again. Sounds odd, I know. But in awe I watched them converse like little adults, laugh at each other’s jokes and console their sibling’s occasional boo-boos. They’re growing up.

They’re still here.

Loss lingers long past its welcome, tucking itself down deep to rear its worrisome head when you’d least expect. Startling defenses, it stalls progress and silences hopes at their onset. Like the rolling tide, you may jump over the first big wave but if you don’t continue forward, the aftertide will quickly follow. You’ll still get wet. You’ll still feel its pull.

Loss leaves you changed. No matter if its death or disease or disappointment, loss is loss is loss. By His grace and faithfulness, God has bound broken heartstrings, cradled my woes and shone hope into darkened places of my soul. But I realized stark this week that the tides had continued to roll deep within long past its initial breakers. I never fully believed these days would come and had braced my inner depths for the assumed “worst” to follow.

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I fear it
Prone to leave the God I love
Take my heart, Lord
Take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

As the tide of truth rolled in, realization reduced me to confession. Confession of walls built within from loss that in turn had inflicted loss – they had held me captive from fully enjoying each gift of today, from fully committing to daily now of my children, from dreaming of days to come.

Loss has marked me. Its tide will ebb and flow until my breath fails and pulse stills. BUT. Truth understood renders choice. Every fearful impulse, every braced breath, carries on its back the choice to succumb OR to offer it full to the only One with grace enough to make it through. Loss acknowledged can breed gratitude and faith-filled trust in the One who bore our griefs, who carried our sorrows to Calvary. Its a journey. A most humbling journey. But one worth traveling. As we offer our fears into trustworthy Hands with honest confession and resolve to see through grateful eyes, hope sinks down deep. Amidst the turbulent tides of this worrisome world, we can cling to our Anchor, firm and secure. Sure as the rising dawn, the hope found alone in Jesus will always hold fast and true.

My children grow before my eyes. I breathe deep in gratitude, trusting their tomorrows to the One who has renewed my hope today.

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Thank You, Jesus, for all You’ve redeemed. Thank You for loving every wounded place, for pursuing every fear-built wall with love strong enough to breech boulders. Thank You for grace to see beauty in ashen spaces, for joy in mourning’s place, for patience while we learn to trust You. Thank You for redeeming what You allow. Thank You for all my children. You have taught me much through them with lessons more in store. I am grateful.

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Filed under Eliana, Evan, Faith, God, Isaac, Motherhood, Struggles, Thoughts

Blindsided

20140626-232500.jpgLife can jolt you sometimes. Jolt you so hard from your bearings that the world around seems spinning and you can barely catch your breath.

Perhaps its a diagnosis. A phone call. A freak accident. An unexpected complication. A conversation. A change of someone’s heart. A death.

Sometimes your journey from mountain high to valley low feels more like being blindsided with mactruck force that sends you tumbling with ferocious speed to the depths below. When the wind gets unalterablly knocked from you, when well-laid plans become nothing more than memories, when your life’s trajectory shifts forever by circumstances beyond your control, what do you do? How do you cope? How do you even breathe?

There is pain. There is heartache. At times even despair. My path has shifted unchangably multiple times throughout my life by things beyond my control. Family changes. Job changes. Deaths and diagnoses. Hopes dashed and dreams deferred. I’ve seen such shifts occur in the lives of loved ones and those known at a distance. The struggle is real! Questions, cries, tears when they can’t be held back any longer. What do we do with this?!

Breathe.

Cry with honesty and reverence to the God who is WITH YOU moment by moment of this awful, painful, terrifying mess you never asked for and prayed would never happen.

Breathe.

Beloved, even now – in the confusion, in the fear, in the pain – He holds you with love in His eyes and unfailing strength in His tender grip with desires for your good saturating His heart. God is the ultimate Author and sole Redeemer of things allowed through His sovreign hand. He is writing your story to stretch far wider and richer than anything you could have dreamed, drawing you to lean fully on Him because after all, He is the only One with strength enough to carry us through. He bestows significance on our stories.

Breathe.

I’ve seen God turn mourning into joy.
I’ve seen Him bring beauty, hope and blessing from barrenness.
I’ve seen God knit together the fractured, the demolished, the destitute into creations more beautiful and strong than anything they could have been if they had remained whole.
I’ve seen Him take diagnoses cloaked with despair and make them stories of strength and impact, taking small life plans and stretching one’s touch round the globe.
I’ve seen His love resurrect dead hearts.
I’ve seen His grace make formidable the weak.
I’ve seen His faithfulness mend the unmendable.
I’ve seen God breathe new life where all hope was lost.
I’ve seen Him turn blindsiding tragedies into awe-inspiring victories, tragectories, powerful testimonies.

Over and again since the beginning of time, God has been finding the lost things, the broken things, the dead things with a fervent, seeking love that names them precious, significant, His.

I know because I’ve not merely observed; I have tasted and seen firsthand that the Lord in fact is good.

Hang on, weary one. You are not forsaken. You are not forgotten. You are being held this very moment by the One who holds all things together. Breathe. Cry. And trust what is True: He who began a GOOD work in you WILL BE FAITHFUL to complete it.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:14

“As for you, you meant evil against me but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:20

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, ” It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3

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In The Midst

Its everywhere.  With each new bend comes another story of loss and heartache, of the agonizing question “why?!”  Like the ocean’s tide so comes tragedy these days. In waves upon waves, thrashing their pain on the helpless shore.  A mother’s arms empty as she walks behind a tiny hearse.  A grandparent gone too soon from sudden cancer.  Wars waged.  Jobs lost.  Lives lost.  So many lives lost.  Whether by lack of breath or lack of hope, death’s dirge plays all around.  We are the walking wounded. We are the walking dead.

“What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?” (L. Story)

These days of overwhelming darkness shows the radiant light of Jesus all the more.  How desperately we need Him!  How our broken world needs Him!!  Nothing has assured me more of the hopeless state of our planet and the true hope, the ONLY hope, that can be found: Christ and Christ alone.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Come quickly, Lord!  Bring pain to its final end!  Oh for that day when mothers no longer grieve with empty arms, when bodies remain unravaged by disease.  When peace finally comes: true and eternal.  Rest assured of His coming!  The Prince of Peace, the King above every king, the Redeemer.  The Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.  Jesus.

But what till then?  Until that glorious day comes when He returns for His own…oh beloved reader…do you know Him??  Jesus.  The Son of Heaven brought low in earthly form who lived a perfect life and died an undeserved death so that WE, born imperfect, slaves of sin and bound to die a deserved death, could have LIFE!  Not just in eternity before the holy and righteous Creator God but now!  In the midst of all the pain, the injustice, the sorrow.  Jesus Christ and Him alone has bought our peace for now!  Sorrow comes as surely as the tide rolls in but we can mourn as those WITH HOPE!  I speak as one who has walked death’s valley, met sorrow upon sorrow, and in EVERY instance have found Him faithful with comforting strength as sure as the dawn.

Though these may seem like hopeless times…
Though darkness creeps in…
Though the inexplicable occurs and we are simply left with asking “why”…

Because of Jesus, we need not be hopeless.  We need not be alone.

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:4-5

Do you know Him?

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Well Worn

ImageThey fray quickly now.  Within weeks deep denim hues begin to fade towards white.  This quick progression from new to used marks every pair of jeans I own, a pattern which began four years ago when I found myself knees-to-floor daily.

In a world of lofty ambition and heads held high, nothing has brought me low like motherhood.

Diapers.  Tummy time.  Playtime.  Wiping away spills.  Diapers.  Desperately looking for that other shoe.  Cleaning up toys.  Bath time.  Diapers.  Cleaning yet another mess.  Diapers!  I’ve spent much of the past four years on my knees and have the holey jeans to prove it.  Truth be told, this has frustrated me far more than it ought.  Couldn’t just one pair of jeans not look nearly spent?!  Vain, I know.

This simmering continued until last week.  As I put on a relatively new pair of jeans, I noticed the knee wear was much less than normal and smiled in delight.  But then an unexpected sadness set in.  I’m not on my knees as often.  The floorbound days are quickly fading with my children’s growth.  Less crawling on the floor.  Fewer spills to clean.  Nearly diaper-free with everyone now playing upright.  Our home will soon be baby-free forever.  How did this happen so quickly?!  The unending days of toddlerhood seem like a wisp now as I’m beginning to feel a mother’s pangs at her child’s increasing independence.

My grieved gaze looked upon the dark denim covering my knees.  Suddenly all the fraying jeans of the past four years no longer brought frustration.  Rather than carrying the marks of a weary mother, they bore weight like an honor badge, bestowed by grace and held in high esteem.  Oh the privilege of faded knees from hours spent earthbound with the most precious gifts given this side of heaven.  Forgive me, Lord, for not seeing their significance sooner.  Please open my eyes, soften my heart to delight always the wear and tears of this life You’ve entrusted to me.  Thank You for making my knees well worn.

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Withered

I’m currently going through You Belong To The Bridegroom (seriously cannot recommend this study highly enough!  Get it!!).  This week finds me in Mark 3:1-6, a passage familiar which packed a new-found punch.  In college, I traveled to India for two weeks and while there, one of my travel companions, Cara Powers George, shared an impactful message on this passage.  Today’s time in these six verses brought her words to memory as the Lord spoke fresh revelations to my heart.

The passage tells of a man with a withered hand who has a life-changing encounter with Jesus.  We know not why the man’s hand was withered.  Was it a birth defect?  A horrible accident?  The result of intentional harm?  No matter the source of his impairment, this man carried a physical reminder of weakness, inability and shame.  Every.  Day.  But rather than hiding in life’s shadows, we find him in the synagogue, the place of worship and teaching of Scriptures.  He had come to the place of religion but that day, he met the Source of Salvation.

Jesus called the man to Himself.  “Get up and come forward!”  One of disability, I wonder if the man blushed at the attention, slowly rising from the back of the room and walked timidly to the center of the synagogue.  Did he hide his hand beneath his cloak?  How often we too hide in our shame, embarrassed of the marks we carry of life’s afflictions and poor decisions.  Even in churches, we come knowing we ought be there or hoping answers will be found, yet put on a happy face, hiding the disfigurements we all carry behind smiles and cliches.

As he reached the Savior, this man heard the words, “Stretch out your hand.”  Expose your withered hand, your inability, your source of pain.  The very hand that had defined and limited the man was precisely what Jesus desired.  Bring it out from hiding into the light.  What struck me most in this passage was not just the Lord’s desire for the disfigured, but how He chose to heal him.  Verse 5 tells us that the man stretch out his hand (comma) and it was restored.  Notice the order!  The hand was restored after he exposed it to Jesus.  The man’s willingness to stretch out his hand, to trust Jesus with his greatest shame, brought forth His healing.  The Lord honored the man’s trust and obedience in restoring his hand.  How often He calls me to bring my withered parts to Him with healing in mind, yet I remain impaired by my own pride to keep it hidden.

I love how Jesus called the broken to Himself.  He was surrounded by Pharisees in this moment.  Men of discipline, knowledge and religious perfection.  Yet it was the man of withered hand, standing in the back shadows, that drew the Lord’s attention and affection.  Jesus did not ask the cause of this man’s brokenness.  In fact, He already knew it all.  But the cause was not of concern to the Lord.  Only that he would come forward and trust the messy result into His keeping.

We all have withered places: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.  We all carry scarred results of past decisions and harmful afflictions.  But try as we might, we cannot mend ourselves.  Jesus calls us all to get up out of our shame and hiding, to come forward into His presence and to stretch out our disfigurements to Him.  Jesus loves us.  He longs for us.  And it is in our vulnerable trusting that His healing takes place.

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When Hope Seems Lost

This week overflowed with struggle and heartache.  Friends in pain, a terminal baby boy born and lost, a life-saving transplant seeming just out of reach, a new diagnosis plaguing one who has suffered much already, a beloved teenage boy’s life ending suddenly.  My heart has been heavy for people I love whose anguish I cannot ease.

Then yesterday happened.

Everything in me aches for Newtown, Connecticut.  My mind still can’t grasp the devastation the families of Sandy Hook are experiencing.  20 CHILDREN murdered.  Tears flood my eyes every time I think about it.  While our family celebrated Eliana’s first Christmas musical performance at school and laughed at Evan’s entertaining antics, other families were being recklessly shattered.  I know the pain of loosing a child, seeing their end near over a long period of time.  I cannot begin to fathom the agony of having your child’s life stolen so violently, so senselessly, so brutally!  Final words left unspoken, last goodbyes and I love yous never exchanged.  Why?!  Picking up Eliana from school became a luxury yesterday.  Hearing breath fill Evan’s lungs as he slept on my shoulder – a freshly appreciated gift.  My mind cannot contain the evil in this world, my heart overwhelmed by the pain it causes.

As thoughts raged and fear loomed closer, the words of a cherished song began to play gently in my mind.  Throughout the night and into this morning, Holding Us has grown louder in my ears as the Lord reassured my aching heart.  Written by my friend Josh Via during a season of great trial and uncertainty, its words hit home like never before.  I hope every person in Newtown…in our country…can hear this song.  Written out of suffering and based completely in Truth that never fails, it is a melody of hope for hopeless times.  May its truth still your restless heart today, drawing your gaze from fear to faith in God who holds us.

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Perspective

Lately, I have been troubled.  Troubled with worries, inadequacies, looming fears and a burdened heart for my precious friend in the fight of her life.  Focused on the awful things I cannot control, the fretting became consuming.

Last night, our worship team at Journey Church rehearsed for this Sunday’s services.  My mind continued to wander as we ran through songs, dwelling on pain Tricia is walking through each day without knowing what the Lord’s intended outcome may be for her life.  I want so badly to take this awful struggle from her, to ease every pain afflicting her weary body, to make all things right.  Unfocused and heavy-hearted, it was honestly difficult to engage in rehearsal.

The Lord’s timing is so perfect.  In the midst of my struggle, we began to practice a simple song that shook me in the best possible way.  You Are Good written by Kari Jobe.  Simple lyrics containing profound truth.

Your kindness leads me to repentance. 
Your goodness draws me to Your side. 
Your mercy calls me to be like You. 
Your favor is my delight.
Every day I’ll awaken my praise and pour out a song from my heart.
You are good, You are good, You are good.  Your mercy is forever.
Your kindness is forever, Your goodness is forever, Your mercy is forever, Lord.
 

I had been so focused on the broken, changing elements of surrounding circumstances that I had forgotten the constant, steadfast, ever-present goodness of God.  In the midst of failing health and daunting fears, the Lord is good!  In the face of the frightening unknown, the Lord is good!  He is always good!  It is who He is!  As the Psalmist sang over and again in Psalm 136, the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

The facts of any circumstance will never negate the enduring goodness of the Lord nor His love towards us.  Though I am still immensely concerned for my friend and desperately praying for a divine miracle worked on her behalf, my perspective has shifted back to remembering that no matter what, she is loved by Almighty God and treasured in His heart. (Deuteronomy 31.8; Isaiah 43.1-4)  Though the cause of some worries have not changed, I am different facing them by having the proper perspective that God reigns sovereignly above them all. (Isaiah 55.8-9)

Never underestimate the importance of proper perspective.  It can mean the difference between hope and despair.  In Jesus Christ, we ALWAYS have hope.

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Caught Between

Life seems to be a journey caught between two realities: the facts of our circumstances and the Truth of God’s character.  With every situation, we are faced with the choice of which reality we will choose to cling to.  The facts surrounding our existence may not all ways be easy nor quickly change for the better, but our perspective within those seasons will determine how we walk the path ahead.  It is a lesson I continue to learn over and over and over again.  Praise be to God who never tires in loving instruction, who’s faithfulness knows no bounds.

When caught between the facts and the Truth, we must always cling to the hope of Jesus and the Truth of His Word.  Here are a few examples:

If it seems impossible to choose the correct perspective: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days…”  Deuteronomy 31.19-20a

A child is sick or disabled, whether in utero or after birth:  “For You formed my inward parts; You womb me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”  Psalm 139.13-17

Someone is maligning you for doing the right thing or you’re gripped by fear of the journey ahead: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  The Lord is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Plans go awry and hope seems lost: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'”  Jeremiah 29.11

You can’t make sense of what God is doing: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'”  Isaiah 55.8-9

You’re under attack and everything in you wants to fight back: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12.19-21

You’ve messed up so bad that you don’t know how you’ll make it right:  “…All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…But God demonstrates His own love towards us, tin that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3.23; 5.8; 8.1

We all get caught between the facts and the Truth.  Choose the Truth for it will surely set you free.  (John 8.31-32)

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Parenthood

No experience has made me more aware of my sinful human frailty and desperate need for a Redeemer than parenthood.  It frazzles me quicker than I’d like to admit, stretching my patience and compassion.  This is NOT a reflection on my children.  After all, they are only 1 and 3 years old!  Every struggle they face is an opportunity to learn and my responsibility to lead them in the way they should go.  Wasn’t I in their place but a few short decades ago?!  Parenthood ought be cherished as it is a gift not given to all.  It is an unmerited blessing and a privilege.  But oh, how it shows the weaknesses in myself!

When raising small children, ample opportunities abound to grow impatient, to respond out of frustration, to frazzle and fray.  Whether giving an answer for the umpteenth time or teaching a life lesson again, perspective can shift in a nanosecond off of the big picture of their developing lives to how inconvenienced I am by the whole thing.  To respond in anger gives momentary satisfaction and long-lasting regret.  I have given in to my frustrations far more often than I’d like to admit and had to ask my children’s forgiveness more than I ever dreamed necessary.  *sigh*

Yesterday was one such day.  Certainly not a mom-of-the-year worthy day…at all!  Once the kids were finally napping, I lay in bed – exhausted and reeling in regret over my responses to them.  “Come on, Patience!  You’re 30!  You’re the PARENT!  You set the example!  Good grief.  How do you expect them to learn and feel loved if you act like that?!”  The shame fell thick on my heart.

Hours later, the Lord worked through story time with the kids to speak His love and grace over my heart.  We read The Good Shepherd chapter out of The Jesus Storybook Bible and though the words were about David, it felt like the Lord was speaking straight to me.

“David was a shepherd, but when God looked at him, He saw a king.  He had a heart like God’s heart – full of love.  Now, that didn’t mean he was perfect, because he did some terrible things – he even murdered a man.  No, David made a big mess of his life.  But God can take even the biggest mess and make it work in His plan.  ‘I need a new heart, Lord,’ David prayed, ‘because mine is full of sin.  Make me clean inside.’  God heard David’s prayer.  He forgave David…”

In reading those words, the Lord spoke gently.  “Yes, you do terrible things some times.  But I can redeem those things.  You’re not perfect but I AM.  Come to me with your mess.  I love you.”  Later that same day, I was reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Once again, the Lord spoke from heavens high to my fallen, weary heart as I read Ann’s words:

“The parent must always self-parent first, self-preach before child-teach, because who can bring peace unless they’ve held their own peace?  Christ incarnated in the parent is the only hope of incarnating Christ in the child….Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love?  That Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way?  Why else get angry?  Isn’t it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me into the full life I really want?  Give THANKS to keep your gaze on heaven.”

In all this, I felt overwhelmed by God’s goodness.  After all, He is my Heavenly Father.  How often I act the part of child, tantrumed and defiant and selfish.  Yet never once has He responded in anger towards me.  Never once has He failed to show love and grace, even on my most deplorable days.  When I honor Him, His grace remains.  When I go against all He has ever taught me, His grace remains.  When conviction fills my heart and I run to Him, never once has He held His arms crossed, still too mad from my behavior to reconcile.  No.  His arms are ALWAYS open wide for the wayward child to come.  His love is ALWAYS lavishing, even when we least deserve it.  God, the ever-faithful, ever-patient, ever-enduring Father.

Parenthood.  It stretches, it tests, it can refine.  When my little ones act out, may I focus not on their indiscretions towards my inconvenienced heart, but on the One who never grows impatient with me.  May I remember His grace that is ever extended and show the same to my children.  In the moments of meltdowns, may my mind remember the many I’ve been forgiven of by my Heavenly Father and show the same kindness to Eliana and Evan.  May I be grateful for their very lives, that I even have kids to love and train.  Lord, keep me grateful and mindful of Your great love towards me.  On my own, I will surely fail as a parent.  May I rest in Him and simply pass along to my sweet ones that which He has poured out on me.

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The Snare Of Comparison

Comparison.  A tug and a trap.  The older I get, the more I realize how dangerous comparison to other people can be.  Amidst the craziness of life, I find myself easily tempted to hold up my experiences and surroundings with others.  And as my pastor, Jimmy Carroll, wisely says, we often compare up.  When my kids are misbehaving, my thoughts quickly go to the many friends I have whose kids seemed well-behaved.  When my house is disheveled, I remember their orderly homes.  When my walk with the Lord feels dry, I’m quickly reminded of those who seem to be intimate with Him always.  When I see someone’s strength, it often makes me ponder my weaknesses.  Compare becomes despair.

In those moments, what I fail to remember is their kids also have meltdown days.  No child is perfectly behaved all the time.  When I’m frustrated by a weakness, I neglect to recall my strengths.  When I become consumed with the gifting of another, I’m wasting opportunities to use and strengthen the giftings He has given me.  When their clean home comes to mind, I don’t remember that it was clean because company was coming over or the other times when my own has been orderly.  When I feel discouraged that my walk isn’t at the level of so-and-so’s walk, I’m not considering the dry seasons they too have experienced nor the trials that grew their walk with the Lord.

Comparison can be a shoddy lens.  While it is wise to observe characteristics and habits in those we admire to better strengthen ourselves, we must remember that we are ALL uniquely made by a loving Creator.  He gives us all a beautiful life inheritance, giftings and a future.  (Psalm 16.6, Jeremiah 29.11).  When consumed with what we lack or struggle in, we are restrained from living fully the life He has perfectly crafted for us individually and end up being poor stewards of what has already been entrusted to us.  I have wasted years resenting the successes of others in areas I desired for myself.  How kind the Lord has been to show me this error.  It was His loving design to lead me down the path I’m on.  He has given me gifts and talents for good were I to actually develop them rather than waste my energies coveting the giftings of others.  (1 Corinthians 12.7-26, 1 Timothy 1.6-7)  As I was recently reminded in Radically Obedient, “We miss the joy and freedom of radical obedience, of becoming all that God has designed us to be, when we try to be like someone else.”  The LORD defines His plans us.

So if you find yourself scoping the circumstances of others and coming up short, take heart.  Be mindful of what you are comparing yourself to and the incomplete picture it may be.  Remember that we are ALL a work in progress.  We ALL have been entrusted with amazing gifts, talents, and blessings.  Focus on what He has given you and celebrate His gifts to others.  With a heart of gratitude and humility, we can avoid the snares of comparison and live out fuller lives.  All to the glory of God.

 

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Bloom

Its tempting.  That persistent pull during stressful moments and amidst the chaos of motherhood.  When it seems you’re treading water just to make it through the day, yearning for bedtime to finally come for a brief respite from life’s ever-rushing flow.  It whispers in the mundane as I fold yet another load of laundry and look at the messy room that was clean just moments before.

“I can’t wait for this season to be over.”

I have found myself wrestling with this tug to look more towards tomorrow than enjoy whatever is held in today.  Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely ADORE my children!  I’m beyond grateful that I’m able to stay home to raise them in these small years.  What a blessing to have a home to keep and a full fridge of food to prepare.  All gifts.  All luxuries.  All able to wear me out more than I’d like to admit.  Motherhood has proven thus far the most refining role I’ve held yet.  Sacrifice.  Selflessness.  Patience.  So much patience.  ‘Tis not a glamorous job but oh so worthwhile.

As I’ve wrestled with this pull during today’s struggles to be more eager for tomorrow’s elusive ease, the Lord continues to bring this passage to mind.  Oh how I need it!

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for me, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3.23-24)

Whatever you do.  Whatever.  Whether folding laundry for the millionth time or cleaning another dirty diaper or putting down the book that you’d really like the chance to read to give your child a needed hug, do it ALL for the glory of God.  When tomorrow’s dreams feel like they lay on the back burner in order to accomplish the needs of today, work at today’s tasks as unto the Lord.  Rather than hoping this season will quickly pass because of my own shortcomings and impatience, I ought embrace the gift of today that He has given me.  After all, the whole of life is a sum of todays.  If I spend it all looking towards the tomorrows rather than embracing the now, I will have squandered it all.

Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  In other words, bloom where you are planted.  That is my hope, my prayer, the lesson I continue to struggle in learning.  When the tugging comes to wish away the present struggles for tomorrow, may I remember that it is the Lord Jesus whom I serve.  May I work at all before me as working unto Him, knowing if this is the season He has for me, then it is for a good purpose and I can trust Him in it.  After all, today is but a wisp, here for a moment and then gone forever.  May I be found faithful in His sight.  May I bloom where I’ve been planted.

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In Response Of Wrongdoing

We’ve all experienced it.  We’ve observed its wreckage from afar and felt its sting first hand.  Wrong done in the name of right.  Intentional harm from trusted hands.   It bruises at the onset and rattles our being long after.  Wounding sin.

Today found me wrestling unexpected thoughts of past experiences.  Thoughts of harsh words spoken, lies told, accusations thrown, trust broken.  While enjoying some java during the kids’ naps, this sudden flood began and with it, a wave of anger.  It quickly grew from a steady simmer to a roaring boil.   My heart raced with righteous anger against the utter nastiness of sin and its devastating effects, both in my life and the lives of loved ones.  We all have been wronged at one time or another.  And we all have done wrong to someone else.  We are, after all, innately sinful.  Nevertheless, this morning’s awareness of these offenses, some of which may never be rectified, left me frantic with frustration and nearly tachycardic in wanting justice served.

“In your anger, do not sin.”

But it’s wrong!  It mocks Your Name!  It harms undeserving people!  It’s not right!  Why do You allow such things to happen?!

“In your anger, do not sin.”

I know, Lord, I know.  But I’m so angry!  Emotions raged as memories raced.  Some wounds fresh along with old scars resurfacing, reminding me of whence they came.  Where was this coming from?  And what in the world was I to do with it?!

“In your anger, do not sin.”

Over and again, the Lord whispered Ephesians 4:26 to my heart.  In the midst of feeling the weight of others’ sins against me, I did not want to respond in like kind.  I would be no better than those who caused the original harm.  It would not leave me better off.  It would bring NO honor to the Lord.  None.  But what to do…

I had no answers but knew I needed to go to Scripture to find them.  Anything apart from that would simply be based in opinion and emotion.   A trusted friend immediately came to mind.  Ever since I first met Beverly Carroll, she has always spoken Biblical truth into my life, ever pointing me to Christ in times of wrestling.   Today was no exception.  I shared with her my consuming struggle, asking what passages had guided her when she faced wrongdoing.

James 1:19,20   2 Corinthians 10:5   Ephesians 4:25-27, 29-32

Beverly immediately pointed to passages that deal with such ugliness, mostly our response to them.  As I scoured these verses, the Lord began calming my turmoil.  The words turned my attention off of the wrongs done and onto the One who came to redeem all things.  Slowly, my mind went from being consumed with the sins of others to dwelling on the One who forgave MY sins.  What Beverly shared next diffused the fury burning within me, shifting my focus from the wrongs to the Redeemer.  As I could not say it better myself, here is what she wrote:

Matthew 5:23,24 instructs us to be reconciled, regardless.  That means that we cannot indulge negativity or bitterness even when they are warranted and justified.  Forgiveness is vital, required, even when the offenders don’t deserve it.  God requires it.  It is an act of obedience that can become our offering to the King.  They may not deserve it.  They simply benefit from our unwavering desire to please God.  It cannot be done on our own.  It is a supernatural gift, to “be not overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  2 Peter 1:3,4 assures us that we have everything we need, in Christ, to live the lives He expects us to live.  We are promised that that we don’t have to do it ourselves.  We partake of the divine nature that is already in us.  We don’t have to muster up love or forgiveness.  We don’t have to remove our own bitterness.  We simply partake of everything that is available to us in Christ.  We help ourselves to His very nature thus enabling us to escape the very corruption you reference.  I think, regarding these types of struggles, that victory is a daily laying down, much like surrender.  It’s certainly not a once-for-all victory.  But it does drive you to Christ repeatedly, and that fact, alone, helps us to count it all joy.  It’s just one more example of the fact that God redeems what He allows.”  Wow.

So what to do in response of wrongdoing?  Forgive.  Speak truth in love.  Overcome evil with good.  Not because it is deserved but because as our act of surrendered worship to God.  Because while we were in the midst of our sin, Christ died for us.  Because it reminds us yet again of our need for the Savior.

We all have been wronged.  We all have wronged someone else.  We all must run to Jesus in the midst of the mess.  Only there can true healing, true forgiveness, true peace be found.  To Him and Him alone be the glory for it.

Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.  Do not be wise in your own estimation.  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”   

(Romans 12:9-21)

 

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So Here’s The Thing…

Thirteen months.  It has been thirteen months since my last blog post.  Thirteen months since I let a day pass without writing…then two..then a week…then 2012 is halfway over and not a single thing has been written!  THIRTEEN MONTHS!

Truth be told, I set out to be perfect.  I wanted to write a post every day, each week, all year long.  I have several amazing girlfriends with far more children and responsibilities than I who are able to wax poetic daily.  They don’t simply write posts; they inspire, they encourage, they are consistent.

I love to write.  Since I was a young girl, words have gripped me in inexplainable ways.  I will choose a book over a movie anytime.  Something about putting thoughts to paper has always brought great joy and focus to my heart.  I don’t claim to be a brilliant writer by any means.  Writing is simply the venue the Lord has given me to sort my own thoughts and analyze my life experiences.  When faced with a blank page and words begin flowing, all the madness of life seems to fade and for a brief while, the scrambled things come into focus.  Many times, the Lord has brought words and passages to mind in the midst of writing that He would use to work in me later on.  So much of my writing during Isaac’s life was words He would give in the midst of writing sessions to later use in ministering to my weary heart.  Its nothing that I have earned nor take credit for.  Its just the way He has wired me.

So here’s the thing:  As I said, I want to be perfect.  Not to impress or gain attention but to accomplish every goal I set.  Since I was young, I’ve had an innate desire to get it right every time, all the time.  To set a goal and fully achieve it.  Type A, anyone?!  So when I set out to be a consistent blogger, I was gung-ho.  Posts were flowing, lessons being learned and in need of sharing if for not other reason than to record His workings for myself.  But then it happened.  A day would go by, then a few.  Writers block would creep in and suddenly I was faced with inconsistency.  My pride bruised from imperfection.  One would logically think, “Just pick up where you left off and keep on writing.”  But no.  It turned into anxiety, embarrassment.  I couldn’t just write any post.  It must be epic!  Profound.  Worth the loss of days.  As each day passed, my self-inflicted pressure continued to rise.  Thirteen months later…

This is but one of countless examples in my life that has caused me to face my frailty head on.  How often I strive for perfection, to have everything all together, all the time, on my own.  Were I truly honest, it is a struggle that has impacted my walk with the Lord.  I fail and my natural response is embarrassment, discouragement, inaction.  At its core, isn’t that the human experience?  In the Garden, Eve desired to be like God by eating the fruit, to become perfect.  Yet once she sinned, rather than running to the arms of the One who loved her most, she hid in shame.  We seek to be complete and self-fulfilling all on our own, as if we will impress God with our “grandeur”.  Yet every ability, every gifting, every good and perfect thing to be found in us ultimately comes by His generous hands.

It may seem like a silly issue, inconsistent writing, but it has been a simple lesson on a greater issue for me.  The Lord desires my communion with Him, not perfection of my own accord.  After all, I will NEVER be perfect.  ‘Tis the human condition: broken and in need of a Redeemer.  So whether it be a large life issue or simply a blip in the blogosphere, He is teaching me to move ahead.  Lay down the discouragement and press onward, further knowing my desperate need of Him and His gracious delight in me.

So here’s the thing:  I won’t be perfectly consistent in writing.  I will set goals and sometimes fail in achieving them.  Writers block may come and go.  But when the words do come again, rather than being silent out of my shame of inconsistency, I will simply pick up my pen and scribe again.  After all, anything of merit in my words comes from Him.  I simply want to be faithful in expressing what He has given.

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You Are Faithful

Another couple of dear friends have been hit by loss.  My heart aches for them, as well as the others we know who have recently been affected by the frailty of this fallen world.  I don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand the why.  In the midst of it all, a simple song continues to play over and again in my mind.  Its an old, Australian song but the Truth contained within remains as powerful as ever.  When all around aches with confusion, His faithfulness remains.

You Are Faithful by Hillsong

Lord of all the earth
how You care for me
You have made me
You will save and carry me always

You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful
Your joy is my strength

Lord, You are my God
I rely on You
I put my hope in things not seen
Your promises all true

Always You’re with me
Your hand will lift me
My trust is in Your hands

You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful
Your joy is my strength

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Filed under Faith, Friends, Patience, Struggles, Thoughts, Worship