Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oh So Happy

Life has been . . . hmmm - Interesting would be the right word to describe our life over the last several months. Some details I have already shared on here and others are just too personal. But in the midst of it all, God has been there and has been gracious and oh so very faithful to His Word and to watch over us.

This weekend was one of the most enjoyable and peaceful I have had in many months. Saturday was our grandson Simon's first birthday. WOW. What an absolutely amazing blessing his birthday party was. I will post pictures later :). But beyond the cake, the gifts, and the pictures was the blessing of having Simon's other grandpa and grandma at our house for this event. I am so extremely grateful that God has blessed Simon with grandparents who love and adore that little boy, but are also followers of Jesus Christ. Most of Simon's aunts and uncles were here and his great-grandparents. If you know anything about our family, this is no small feat and nothing but a miracle!

As the birthday party was taking place our 20-year old deep freezer had died and our food was slowly thawing. Oddly enough, I wasn't freaking out with worry as everyone was gathered in the living room celebrating that little boy. And God was so sweet to me in all of it, because although the food was not frozen solid, it wasn't spoiled and thawed completely, so we were able to salvage all of it. After the party ended, we headed off to our local Lowe's (which I dearly love) and purchased a new freezer. Brought it home, plugged it in and then our old freezer had decided to give us its very last best effort by kicking on enough to get us through the night while the other freezer cooled in preparation. To truly appreciate this, you must know that it is only the peace of Jesus Christ that did not cause me to panic, worry and stress for those 24-hours until the food was transferred from the old to the new.

Words will never be able to describe my joy from being in church this morning. While we dearly love our church and the people there, the last few years have been difficult during transitions. The church has been in transition and honestly so have we. I don't know if the church has understood the transition it is in any more than I understand the transition God has had my husband and I in. But whatever the case may be, today was one of the sweetest moments I have had there in a very long time. I can't explain it, I just know that my heart overflowed with absolute joy as I left there today. Not just an emotional in-the-moment kind of joy, but a deep inside me joy. The kind that penetrates the depths of your soul. I left happy. A spirit-filled happy.

My husband is on the phone with a dear friend right now. I hear the faint voices through the door as they talk about what God is doing and sharing scriptures that God laid on their respective hearts. I can hear the dryer quietly running through the laundry room door, my vanilla wood-wick candle is lit and you can hear the faint sound of the wick burning. The Starbucks has been brewed and the coffee pot is full. It is dark out and the house is relatively quiet.

God has been so good to me. No matter how difficult things have been, God was good and faithful through it all. And that is enough to make me Oh So Happy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Will I Ever Learn?!

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9 NIV

This is the verse I am currently memorizing. In fact I just wrote it from memory. It's in my head, but clearly hasn't soaked all the way through.

Does God ever lay something on your heart that you don't quite understand and then you go seeking confirmation and direction and input from man? I tend to suffer from the "need-to-know-all-the-details-now" disease on a regular basis. But guess what - if God laid the word or thought in my heart then He is the only one with all the details. Not man.

I wholeheartedly believe that God can and does give others words of affirmation and confirmation to something He has stirred within us. It has happened for me personally and can be of great benefit when kept in proper perspective.

But sometimes God lays something on our hearts or in our thoughts that is from Him and will be fully revealed by Him alone. If I don't understand it, well maybe it is because "His thoughts are higher than my thoughts".

This happened to me in the last 24 hours. God laid something so heavily on my heart that I knew it was from Him. But it didn't make a bit of sense. As I searched the scriptures, I still wasn't finding clarity. Read the commentary - no flashing lights there either. No billboards with explanations on the way home. No angels appearing before me. Nothing.

So I started looking for answers from people I know. Got nothing there either. Do you think that maybe God was not just speaking to me, but teaching me a lesson as well about the verse I am memorizing?

God doesn't always make sense this side of heaven. That's why they call it faith! It didn't make sense that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead when Lazarus had been dead for several days. It doesn't make sense that Gideon would go into battle with only 300 men. The list could go on and on. God's ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

Sometimes He gives us a word or places something in our heart that makes absolutely no sense and then we are just to wait and seek Him for answers, clarity and direction.

So I find myself asking for forgiveness for not trusting him. My lack of faith, my reliance upon self and my lack of patience all played a part in my not trusting God to lead me in this.

I am praying that God will still speak to me in this and allow me to learn from my lesson. The scriptures tell us that if we ask for wisdom, we will receive it. But we must have faith.

Perhaps God is reminding me to "Be still and know that I am God", Psalm 46:10a. I need to trust Him more. Talk less, listen more. I am thankful that His thoughts and ways are higher than mine or any mans. I want and need to know that my God is so much more than I could ever imagine. He is more powerful than I understand and more gracious than I could ever fathom.

So I wait - after all He is worth waiting for.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fighting Back

I have managed to crawl off the couch, take a shower, eat two pieces of toast and stay upright. It's a good day. 24-hours ago my husband and I had each assumed our positions on either a couch or love seat and stayed there for the day. The flu bug had hit our house. I felt it coming on earlier that morning and so I took the proactive approach of making sure the bathrooms were well stocked with toilet paper and that there were extra liners for the trash cans. The 7-Up was in the fridge getting cold and we had enough medicine that neither of us should have to head out to the drugstore. I have vivid memories of how horrible this junk hit us just one year ago and I was not about to find myself unprepared this time. Thank God it wasn't half as bad as the last round.

While the flu is something that seems to be going around and hitting lots of people (like my daughter, son-in-law and grandson), our turn with it just seemed to come at a point that I wasn't spiritually or mentally prepared for it. When I am sick, my mind tends to have irrational thoughts and I worry more than usual and then I believe it adds to my feeling sick.

Earlier this week, I had already let all kinds of doubts and worries distract me. Our truck decided to just stop running. Thinking that it was just an old-dead battery, we headed to Wal-mart to get a new one. Praise God that my husband had saved the warranty/receipt from the last one and we were able to get a $30 credit toward the new one. However, that wasn't the only issue and so we had to have it towed to the garage to get fixed. Tow bills stink. But I am so thankful for the mechanics who were able to check it out and fix it for under $200 within about 24 hours from the time we had it towed there.

All of this came at a time when I felt like a blanket of doubt and worry were going to swallow me whole. If you ask me what I am worrying about or doubting, I don't even always have words for it. It is just a tactic that the enemy loves to use with me. Many times when I say what I am worried about out loud to my husband, it just sounds well . . .dumb. I worry about dumb stuff that I shouldn't worry about at all and have absolutely no basis for worrying about.

As I rolled over this morning to make a phone call to the doctor for another matter, I decided to first check one of the blogs I follow. I was having a small pity party about the fact that it seemed like either my husband or I have had something physically wrong for three months! We are healthy, we are active and this was clearly becoming a distraction in my spiritual life. Interestingly enough, her post was similar in nature to how I was feeling. A certain amount of sickness and other problems are to be expected in this life. But sometimes it is more than that. Sometimes it is a series of spiritual attacks.

So I decided to fight back on all levels today. I did the practical things like wash all the blankets that were now germ infested, took a shower, took some medicine, called the doctor, ate some toast and had something to drink to re-hydrate myself. I shut off the television. I turned on a praise and worship cd in the basement where we have our bible studies and another one in our bedroom. I grabbed my scripture memory cards and started to say them out loud.

Earlier this month my husband and I had made some intentional decisions about exercise, caring for our souls and bodies and committing to give beyond where we have in the past. We set out some specific goals for the year for scripture memory, scripture reading, and other ministry opportunities. I truly believe that those goals and decisions will allow us to redeem the time in our days that the enemy loves to steal from us. I also believe that it will strengthen us spiritually as individuals and as a couple.

Sicknesses, broken down vehicles and a host of other things tend to get me off track. So today I am fighting back on the earthly seen level and on the spiritual unseen level. I am not going to allow the enemy to steal my peace, my joy or my time with the Lord. I am trusting in the Lord to strengthen me and to protect me and my family. I will do my part in prayer, in bible reading, and other spiritual disciplines. I will be a good steward of all that the Lord has blessed us with. But ultimately, every breath I take, every dime I have, everything I possess, belongs to the Lord and came from Him. He knows my needs and He will meet them.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Thank you Jesus!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Someone Lied

The little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and way-too-curly hair was very much loved by her family. So love wasn't what was missing. Plenty of food, a warm house, close family, church camp and Sunday school. Seems that life was complete. But somewhere in life the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and way-too-curly hair always felt that she needed to live up to Someone's expectations and that somehow she never did.

Someone made the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and way-too-curly hair feel like she wasn't pretty enough or smart enough or popular enough. Someone seemed to follow the little girl around and no matter how good she did in school or how many friends she had - Someone told her that wasn't enough.

So the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and the way-too-curly hair decided that if Someone thought she should be more and do more and could live up to Someone's impossible expectations - well then, that is exactly what she would do! So little girl set off in life to please Someone.

Someone told her that if she acted a certain way the boys in school would like her. Someone lied. Someone told her that if she had more money and worked more hours that life would be perfect. Someone lied. Someone told her that looks, stuff and achievements determine your value in life. Someone lied.

Someone didn't bother to tell her that her true value and worth was determined by Jesus Christ. Someone should have. Someone always made her feel discontent. Someone should have pointed the way to true contentment in the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Someone didn't seem to be very interested in making sure that the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and the way-too-curly hair was secure in who she was because God made her that way. Someone felt that if Someone could just keep the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and the way-too-curly hair focused on Someone's unrealistic expectations, then she wouldn't have time to focus on The One and Only God who would set her free from the lies.

Someone seems to lie to lots of people - not just the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and the way-too-curly hair. So who do you listen to? Someone or The One?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Committing to Him

Today is January 1st. The day when many people will start their New Year's resolutions. Unless I am mistaken, it often seems that most people tend to make the same resolutions from year-to-year. Somehow in the middle of the year (or sooner), failing has become acceptable because January 1st will come around again and we get to start over.

I'm not one to make resolutions. This year I just want to finish something. Instead of starting a new bible study workbook, I'm going to work toward finishing one of the three I have started in previous years. Instead of starting over in Genesis in an effort to read through the Bible this year, I'm going to keep going right from where I left off last year and pray that I circle all the way through over the next 12 months. I truly just want to move forward and draw closer to God.

Paul tells us to keep on in the race. To press on and persevere. Don't quit. Although God's mercies are new and sufficient every single day, I don't think God wants us to keep going back to the starting block when we fall or get off track or get tired and just stop. Get up! If you can't get up, call out to God for help.

Just like people who make resolutions to eat healthier, exercise, etc., I need discipline in my life. Spiritual discipline. I become spiritual mush when fasting, prayer, bible study, memorization, worship, solitude and other disciplines are not a regular part of my life. Anxiety sits at the edge of my life waiting to take over when I am not grounded in the Word of God. I know this and I know that I can't rely on my own good intentions and actions to get me through.

In the last month God has also allowed a series of things to happen in our lives that have made me give up control (like I actually had it anyway!) and to rely on Him. In December I had great intentions of taking this blog in a new direction, but I confess I hadn't really prayed about it or sought God on His plan for it.

Then my husband became extremely busy at work and was working very long hours. The long and stressful hours started and his back went out. Our morning devotion/prayer time together was the first thing to go. There just wasn't time if he was going to get through the day. He wasn't sleeping, he was in pain and rest seemed more important than getting up early and spending 20 minutes in prayer together.

My husband's back gradually got better and within less than 24 hours a previous shoulder problem that I have suffered in the past came back. Preparing for Christmas and just sleeping through the night seemed to be huge mountains to overcome. Our morning prayer time still hadn't returned.

One trial after another then surfaced in our lives only days before Christmas. Trials which made me realize that perhaps this year our Christmas gifts would be under the tree in the store bags and that Christmas cookies would not be found in this house. I had to let go and refocus on what mattered and what was important. And I am thankful for God's timing in it all.

All this to say, that New Year's resolutions will come and go. Lord willing, our lives will be filled with joys and trials, with difficulties and blessings over the next twelve months. There will be days when I will wonder why I can't hear God speaking and days when I am overcome with the sheer joy of His presence in my life. Days of suffering and days of abundant blessing.

My desire is simply that each day of this year is one in which I draw closer to God. I want to seek Him more, spend more time together with Him, enjoy the practice of spiritual disciplines and seek to please Him. When my life is grounded in God and His Word, my life will change without a single resolution being made.

Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

May your year be filled with the presence of the Lord in every single day!

Grace to you,