"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 NIV

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Danger of Bold Prayers

Six months ago I meant every word I said to him. Arms spread wide on my living room floor, tears streaming down my cheeks, and more peace in my heart than I thought a lifetime could hold, I asked him to use me. Not in a small way. Not just to impact my family. Not only that day or month. I had a big vision and wanted to play a role in impacting the world. Any way you choose, I said. I am willing.

Six months ago I imagined how this yes to him would progress. I saw myself speaking truth, obeying each prompting, shining brightly so others would ask questions. My excitement over new clarity was evident. Worry was not even on the radar.

Yet, one month ago I was face down on my pillow, tears streaming down my cheeks, enduring more pain than I thought a body should have to face, and asking God big questions. "What good am I to you if I am in pain all the time?" "Why won't you heal my headaches?" "Was I wrong to trust you?" "Why does pain have to be a part of my story?" "What are you doing in all this?"

See, I had said yes, but I forgot to tell him he could use me any way except in a way that brought me or my family pain. There was no addendum. I didn't specify to make it easy, convenient, stress-free, or simple, although I probably silently hoped that would be the case.

When I opened wide my arms, I let go of control. I gave up the right to be upset about the way he chose to direct my steps. Am I happy that I hurt more days than I don't. Of course not. I didn't cease being human and wanting life to be comfortable.

But what if comfortable and easy are not what is going to shape me into the person he wants me to be? What if struggling produces perseverance and character and hope? What if my testimony reaches farther from a bedside than it does from an auditorium? I have no idea what all is taking place behind the scenes, who is learning what lesson, or how this will play out two or twenty years from now.

After all my questions that night, with tissues surrounding my pillow, I fell asleep with a heart full of peace. He has been beside me - within me - every minute of every hard and easy day. And really, I don't want to be in control of how this plays out. I don't have enough wisdom to orchestrate my life and make it as fruitful as possible.

My life is in his hands. I prayed a bold prayer and expected great results. Dangerous? Absolutely. I trust that the results will be greater than I could have ever imagined. Somehow this is weaving together for my good and his glory.

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:2b-4 NIV)

There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. (Philippians 1:29 MSG)

...all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. (Philippians 3:8-10 MSG)

God, I have no idea what you are doing right now in my life with this suffering, but I know that you are always in control. You never leave me and nothing is wasted. You are weaving together a much greater story than I could ever imagine. I am so glad I have been given a glimpse of the glorious ending. I do not regret my bold prayer. Help me to walk with you in that boldness each day. Amen.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Redeeming Everything

A normal August = sunshine, beach, prolific garden, evening bike rides, laughter, family time...

August 2014 = migraine, pain, doctor visits, unanswered questions, rebound headaches, medicine, hours in bed, no energy, frustration, ER bills, neglected husband and children, whispered prayers...

My worry of the month: Will this end? It's amazing how quickly I let hope slip away. I need to see the light at the end of this tunnel. Just like my husband promised long ago to have and to hold in sickness and in health, Jesus promised to stay close in good times and bad. When the pain gets so intense I cannot open my eyes, I need to remember I don't need my eyes to see Jesus. It's okay for rivers of prayer to roll down my cheeks.

"Just Cry" by Mandisa
Why you gotta act so strong
Go ahead and take off your brave face.
Why you telling me nothing's wrong
It's obvious you're not in a good place
Who's telling you to keep it all inside
And never let those feelings get past
The corner of your eye

You don't need to run
You don't need to speak
Baby take some time
Let those prayers roll down your cheek
It may be tomorrow you'll be past the sorry
But tonight it's alright
Just cry

I know you know your Sunday songs
A dozen verses by memory
Yeah, they're good but
Life is hard and days get long
You gotta know God can handle your honesty
So feel the things your feeling
Name your fears and doubts
Don't stuff your shame and sadness
Loneliness and anger
Let it out, let it out

Doesn't mean you don't trust him
Doesn't mean you don't believe
Doesn't mean you don't know
He's redeeming everything

On the day I wed my awesome husband (or as I saw him referred to on one of my kids' drawings, Invincible Daddy), his grandmother gave us a beautiful box full of hand-written scriptures. Most of them had dates on the back and phrases written as to why they were meaningful to her. This month I have been choosing one at random to meditate on each day. On some mornings, it's about all the reading I can handle. But it is enough. I want to share my ponderings over yesterday's verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

The One: So many vie for the spot at the top of my priority list. God is the one. He is jealous for me. He wants my whole heart and attention. When my eyes are fixed on the one, so much else in life either makes sense or fades into it's rightful place in the background. One of my favorite breath prayers recently: (Inhale) You are, (Exhale) I AM.

Who Calls: Because he calls, I can answer. I can hear him. He calls, continues to call, and will never stop calling. Webster defines call as: 1) to speak in a loud distinct voice so as to be heard from a distance 2) to make a brief visit 3) to request to come or be present.

You: Yes, he is calling others too, but he specifically calls me. He has words for me, words that speak directly to my heart and situation.

Is Faithful: Present tense. He is and continues to be faithful. He has a history of being trustworthy, giving constant support and love. What he promises, he will do. My full faith can be placed in him.

And He Will: He is capable, and certain to act. He responds to me personally. I can trust his active presence in my life.

Do It: He has done, continues to do, and will do more in the future. He is not detached. Whatever promise "It" is, I can rely on. In the verse just before this one, "It" refers to: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God of peace, I am glad you keep my whole spirit, soul and body blameless right now. My doubts, fears, and worry during this challenging time in my life will not be held against me. I know who I believe in and am persuaded that you are able to keep me in your arms until the day I see your face. Amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Meditating on Him

I was listening to a Podcast about God's power when a phrase caught my attention. My attention needed to be caught because I was unsuccessfully multitasking on the computer, distracted and not focused on any one thing entirely. Well, I was, until the pastor started talking about meditating.

May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. (Psalm 104:34)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Worry, he said, was meditating on the cares of this world. The only way to obtain inner peace is to meditate on the things of God.

...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

The only way I can successfully do this is by frequently taking my eyes off of my circumstances, taking my ears away from all the negative messages around me, and taking my feet to a place of solitude.

Be still, and know that I am God... (Isaiah 46:10a)

Continually turning my thoughts, my meditation, to Him is not easy in this society. Everything around me screams, "Do not be content with what you have! You need more stuff, but you don't need anyone's help!" What I need is a helmet and earplugs to drowned out all the messages that are contrary to His.

Be still.
Meditate on the things of God.
Remain in perfect peace.
Yes, yes, and yes.

Prince of peace, I turn to you. When the world tries to draw me away, I will continually meditate on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Thank you for catching my attention and reminding me of these truths. Amen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When You are Thrown in the Valley

A late night phone call that wakes you from peaceful slumber into a reality too scary for nightmares. Phrases spilling from the lips of a well-trained doctor that you refuse to believe you are hearing. A split second that sets into motion a chain reaction you so desperately wish you could undo. Words you never imagined coming from someone you trusted.

Shattered, confused, and defeated you trudge slowly on wondering what just happened. The illusion of invulnerability has vanished. The idea that because you are a believer, pain will be kept at bay from you and your family has been tested.

As believers, we all face a time in our lives when the events surrounding us collide with the hope of what we believed was supposed to happen. An accident, illness, sudden death, betrayal, or shattered dream leaves us shaken and searching for truth. We live in a world full of brokenness. The ramifications of sin touch more than just those who commit it.

The decision to trust the truth of God's word rather than the facts of our circumstances is hard to make in the depths of the valley. Perhaps that is why God gives us a glimpse as to what lies ahead. He tells us in the book of John, "I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” 16:33 MSG

You will continue to experience difficulties.

It's not a possibility or a probability, but a certainty. Instead of worrying about what may come, may I propose that we be prepared for it. Not by trying to control what is happening around us, but by strengthening our trust in the one who offers complete peace in the midst of the difficulties. He says we can be unshakable, assured, and deeply at peace. Choose ahead of time to lean towards trust when we are tempted to doubt his goodness.

For those in the valley of brokenness right now, choose to keep looking for hope. Read about God's unconditional love, cry out to him, and ask for his peace. Understand that most events in our lives on this side of the curtain will not make much sense. Because he declared, "I've conquered the world," we can believe it is all in his hands. Instead of asking why repeatedly, ask who will I become in the midst of this struggle, how will this draw others closer to you, and what do you want me to do next.

For those who have been on the mountaintop for awhile, be thankful but be realistic. A valley could be closer than you realize. Instead of fearing the future, link arms with the one who will help you walk through it. Only when we close our eyes for the last time in this world, will our troubles be completely eliminated. Praise God that we do not have to face each new day alone!

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:19 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV)

God of the mountain and of the valley, help me to trust completely in you regardless of my circumstances. You do not change. Your love is complete and enough to help me face each new day. Thank you for taking the mess of this world, and turning it into something beautiful. Amen.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This Thing Called Family

FAMILY (n): The group of individuals who live in my house, laugh and cry with and at me, and don't complain when I forget to apply makeup.

Some days I think this family thing couldn't be more ideal. I'll receive a peanut butter smelling neck hug from a princess pirate who wants to be close to her mom rather than in front of a screen. Or, I'll come home to find my boys have played "pick up the house for mom". Yes, it's actually happened. On those days, I think, I am so lucky to be going through this life with them.

Other days I'm glad I didn't know what I was getting into when this journey began. Because I might have changed my mind. Those are the days when I'll stand in the middle of the house I cleaned the day before, glance in a circle at the mess around me, and wonder if Dorothy and her red sparkly shoes had it all wrong. When the decibel level on arguments drowns out any semblance of peace, I want to slam the door and find a neighbor with a porch and rocking chair.

It's hard. It's wonderful. It's relentless. It's fulfilling. It's the life I have chosen, but not exactly as I had imagined. And that's okay, because I could not have anticipated how much joy could come from seeing pure delight in the faces of my children. I had no way of knowing how much my heart could hurt when another human being was in pain. The highs of my mountaintops have astonished me and the lows have almost taken me out, but I press on. Both experiences together shape who I am today.

It's impossible to know all that tomorrow holds. Honestly, I think it's much more of an adventure if the route isn't exactly outlined for all to see. I know who I want to travel with and our destination for all eternity. In each moment between now and then, I get to choose how I see this unit called my family.

I choose to see them as a gift from my creator, who lives in the only perfect triune family. I decide to trust that the circumstances I find myself in are not by accident, but are being used for his glory and my ultimate good: making me more like him. Will I be happy about everything that goes on inside our four walls? Goodness no. It's still not okay to paint smiley faces on bedroom walls and carpet with black shoe polish. But down the road (years down the road) I can laugh and tell a few great stories.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it" ... God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:27-31a NIV

Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 
2 Samuel 7:18b NIV

He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. Acts 10:2 NIV

Thank you, wise Father, for choosing these four individuals to help shape me into a more compassionate, patient, loving woman. I trust that you will give me what I need in moments when I think I have failed miserably. You redeem brokenness and honor prayers from the lips of souls set on living for you. Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

It is Finished

I picture him alone in the garden, head in his hands wrestling with his own humanity - Jesus, the King of Kings and Jesus, the Son of Man. Knowing what was to come and asking for strength, he poured out his heart to the only one who understood. His spirit, soul, and body in perfect agreement as he boldly declared, "Not my will, but yours be done."

Betrayed by a friend, mocked and beaten, then found guilty by those who prided themselves on the rules of religion. The angry mob shouted, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" Jesus stood tall and silent. The prophetic words echoed deeper truth than his accusers realized. Cover us! Cover our children!

It had been the plan all along.

Led to a hill and humiliated before all, he refused to draw upon his power to summon thousands of angels to save him. Instead, breathless and bloody, full of anguish but never losing hope, Jesus declares, "It is finished!" The culmination of the greatest rescue operation ever planned. Every ounce of love the creator of the universe had, poured out one crimson drop at a time. For me. For you.

"It is finished!" The last sacrifice was slain. The gap between holiness and sinfulness erased with one final heartbeat. The sky darkened and the earth trembled as tears of sorrow and joy flowed from Heaven.

What response could possibly do justice to the depth of this sacrifice?

Believe that it is finished. Trust and refuse to live in condemnation. Accept his forgiveness and love. Walk boldly in the freedom that was purchased for you. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords believes you are worth dying for.

(Luke 22:42, Matthew 27:25, John 19:13)

Monday, April 7, 2014

*THE Relationship

An argument to start to the day, an unexpected twist in the plan, a little behind in time, and I was tense. When I noticed my teeth were clenched it was too late. (Place hand over mouth here to keep the scream inside.)

I needed some chocolate. I needed to escape the chaos. I needed a friend to pour out my woes upon. All my options felt somehow hollow. I knew they would not really fill the empty place at the moment.  

I needed... Jesus. I needed to lean fully into the relationship that has never let me down, or left me alone. In my mind I was drowning in a sea of "why me, why today's" and his hand was reaching out to pull me up and out of the storm. Would I grab on or turn away to food, to fleeing, or to other relationships? Breathe, a little slower this time.

I accepted the hand and grasped the love offered to me every moment of every day. The argument still happened, plans were still changed, and we were still late, but I remembered what was truly important in that moment: a relationship of pure love and forgiveness. Then, and only then, could I go about my day at peace.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deut. 31:8 NIV) 

I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:6-8 NIV)

"There is always sufficient reason for despair, but there is never sufficient purpose." ~Robert Brault

Jesus, I can breathe easily in our relationship. You are always beside me whispering love. Help me learn how to overflow with the same love onto those around me. Amen.

*Originally Posted on 8/15/12

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In the Forgetful Forest

I read it in a Dora book (of all places), and I had to pause for a moment to reread the truth of what was written. My daughter begged me to keep going. I just stared. It said, "In the Forgetful Forest, you can forget all kinds of things. It's important to remember who you are, what you want, and where you're going."** The characters in this book were traveling through dangerous terrain which made them forget all kinds of things. To open the door which led them out, they had to recite who they were, what they wanted, and where they were going. To ensure they would not forget, they kept repeating these truths over and over.

Now, I have no idea if that writer is a believer, but what a picture of the world we are in now and the importance of claiming truth! Some days it is easy to be caught up in all that is going on in the physical world around me. Demands do not stop coming my way. Distractions beg for attention left and right. It would be easy for me to forget what is true, what is more real than what my senses tell me.

I have to fight to remember who I am, what I really want (what God wants), and where I am going someday. It takes time in the Bible, pouring over God's promises and basking in His love. I go to God in prayer and ask, "What do you want in this situation, in my life?" When situations around me look grim, relationships are hard, and evil seems to be winning, I claim the truth of how this story is going to end. Victory is sure! Love incarnate has already had the final say, and when our eyes are opened to a world more "real" than the one we live in now, we will say, "Yes, this is where I have been heading the whole time."

Who am I? I am sinner saved by grace, fully reconciled to God through his gift of Jesus. I am confident the Holy Spirit is inside of me, guiding me into all truth. I am a force for the Devil to reckon with.

What do I want? I want to radiate God's love to as many people as I can. I want to walk so closely with Jesus, that the peace I experience can not be explained any other way. I want his glory to shine as others follow behind me on this adventure toward eternity.

Where am I going? Step by step I am moving closer to the love of my life. One day I will see him face to face and hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Remember what the Lord your God did... Deut. 24:9a

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. 1 Chron. 16:12

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations. 1Chron 16:15

Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome... Neh. 4:14b

So, what is the danger in forgetting? What do I do if I have strayed from the straight and narrow?

They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them. Neh. 9:17*

Return to truth. Thank God for his forgiveness provided for you two thousand years ago. Then keep walking through this forgetful forest, repeating who you are, what you want, and where you are going.

Almighty God of love, may we never forget your truth. I pray you will help us to hold onto who we are in you, to be mindful of what you want for us, and to rest in the hope that this forest will one day pass away. What you have for us is a home so full of love we can not begin to comprehend. Amen.

* All scripture referenced from the NIV Bible
** "Dora in Wonderland" by Mary Tillworth

Monday, March 17, 2014

One Day Closer

The wonder of twenty-four
Always forward, flowing
Increments given to me
In amazement I see
One day closer to you

Eternity beckons
Glorious day without end
A secure home awaits
A glimpse of your face
One day closer to you

Tick follows tock
Comes back round again
My future is set
Far from finished yet
One day closer to you

Not only the days
Clarity shines through
My heart aligned above
More filled with your love
One day closer to you

One day nearer in time
One step closer in spirit
Every moment a choice
Today I hear your voice
One day closer to you

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Casting My Cares, Reeling in Peace

My whole family gathered around the table to celebrate my Father's birthday. His favorite cake was passed around as laughter rippled down the long table. Yet, one person could not be there: my Dad.

Honoring his memory that evening was my Mother's idea. She wished for each of the grandkids to share a happy time they remembered with him. Some were too young when he passed to know him, except through the eyes of others and pictures that hung on the wall. Many positive things were said. I am grateful for that focus.

See, my Father got many things wrong, but he got the most important thing right. He said yes to Jesus many years ago. I have no idea who I would be today if it were not for this decision he made. I do not agree with a lot of choices he made after that, but I choose not to let that be my focus. I am eternally thankful that he followed his heart and found the cross.

When I dwell on what is going wrong around me, my downturned eyes and heart make it difficult to praise my maker. Freedom comes when I turn to thankfulness, and joy quickly follows.

Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it. (Proverbs 11:27 NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

So, in memory of my Dad and his love of fishing, I commit to:
Cast all [my] anxiety on [Jesus] because he cares for [me]. (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)
And I will reel in joy, peace, and thankfulness.

Jesus, thank you for orchestrating the events of my life as you have. You have all wisdom and knowledge far beyond my understanding. Help me as I continue to give you my cares and receive your peace. Amen.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whiter Than Snow

Dirty snow banks lined our street. The plow had come through and thrown salt, dirt, and snow in heaps, leaving more than a few mailboxes hanging on for dear life. One of my least favorite parts about winter, I thought. Coupled with cloudy days on end and frigid temperatures, I had had enough.

Then a less than jolly weatherman broke the news: brace yourself for six more inches overnight. Great, just great. Now I know why someone planned a feel-good holiday smack dab in the middle of this dreary month.

When I glanced out the window the next morning, I was mesmerized. Piles of pure white fluffy snow graced every tree, every branch. Sun glistened diamonds sang a song from every corner of my yard. *"Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow. Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." 

The filth from the day before was gone. Everywhere I looked, I saw a fresh beginning. And I thought, What if I started every day in this way? What if I actually believed what the Bible says about his mercies being new every morning? What if I gave those around me the same grace? 

Can I start each day as it's own possibility, rather than hanging onto the mistakes of yesterday or trying to figure out tomorrow? Do I understand forgiveness enough to believe that a perfect man on a cross + crimson blood = a pure heart?

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." (Lamentations 3:19-24 NIV)

Jesus, your blood covers all of me. Somehow in that process, I come out clean. Thank you for a tangible reminder of your grace and love. Help me to extend that to those around me who need it most. Amen.

*"Whiter Than Snow," Hymn by James L. Nicholson

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Who He Says I Am

I am an expert at letting myself down. I have high standards which I routinely fall short of. Too often I listen to the lies that are whispered, most certainly, by the enemy of all things good. Then, I start to doubt who I am and what I am here for. Continuing down this train of thought, I arrive at worry and fear.

How do I turn the impending wreck around before it is too late? I return to truth. I fill my mind and heart with what the Word of God says about me. Here are some reminders I needed today.

I am:

  • designed by him
  • the crown of creation
  • very good
  • created in his image
  • loved
  • forgiven
  • promised eternal life
  • fully known
  • free to choose 
  • redeemed
  • never alone
  • a reflection of him
  • not hidden from him
  • encouraged to come to him boldly
  • a daughter of the king
  • a dwelling place for his Spirit

I can be at peace because of who he is and what he has done for me.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways. 

Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.

(Psalm 139:1-5 NIV)

Thank you, Lord,
for timely reminders
of truth, and wisdom
to turn from lies.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Answered but Unaware

I heard a story many years ago at a Hearts at Home conference. It planted a seed of truth so deep within me, I am sure the sprouts of hope are still coming up years later.

A woman was sick for many months, unable to take care of her family and home. Everything around her seemed to be falling apart. In the depths of her despair, she cried out to God for a miracle. A few days later, her infant son became sick, requiring expensive medicine. She did not understand how her family could handle this on top of the hardship they were already going through.

Slowly, both became stronger and life as they knew it returned to normal. Years later, a doctor discovered her son had a rare disease, which is most often fatal within the first year of life. Astonished that this boy was as healthy as he was without symptoms of the illness, the doctor wanted to understand why. He poured over the boy's medical records and found that the child had received the exact medication required for that rare disease "coincidentally" when he was ill before the age of one, when his mother had been praying for a miracle.

She did not know her prayers had been answered until many years later, and in a way she did not expect. God was indeed working all things for good in their lives, but her revelation was not immediate.

Fast forward to this week at my house. We woke up to discover our heater had broken during the night, and the air was hovering just below fifty degrees. Balmy for summer, but this January day had a wind chill advisory attached to it, with the weatherman advising all to stay indoors. I hate being cold. I've even told my husband my love language is heat. So, I was not happy. The news that the solution was a new furnace did not help.

Three quotes, three days, and many space heaters later (with a lighter savings account), we no longer have to sleep with nightcaps. And the repairman had discovered misaligned duct work and a crack in our old furnace, which was leaking small amounts of carbon monoxide gas into our basement. Coincidence? I think not.

Sometimes I am allowed to understand why seemingly bad things happen to me. Other times, the truth is hidden from view. Just because it is hidden, does not mean that a greater good is not occurring.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 NIV)

...I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Matthew 11:25 NIV)

Almighty Lord, I choose to trust you when things are hard. Help me believe you are good and are in control even when circumstances around me testify otherwise. Give me the joy that sprouts up from deeply rooted truth. Amen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Conflict is Not a Four Letter Word

Conflict is not a four letter word, nor should it be avoided at any cost.
I spoke this week with a group of young moms about worry. Struggle in our lives has a purpose in our hearts, I said. I could see it in their eyes even as the phrase was leaving my lips - I'm not so sure about this. Does that mean I have to like it?
I've been pondering the good that can come from a situation where I might be tempted to worry? Good? Yes, good. Trouble causes me to slow down and sometimes pull over on the road I call my life. I can be going along at a decent pace, thank you very much, and suddenly: conflict. My thoughts are redirected and I don't usually like it. But here's the thing - sometimes I need it.
Change comes out of conflict. I'm not a huge fan of that either, but how else is God going to get me to move sometimes, or see things in a new way, or (gasp) venture out of my comfort zone? Here is what I am feeling led to do right now: thank God for conflict.
I know, I know, it's crazy. But, it's something I have not tried before. Plus there's that whole part in the Bible about giving thanks at all times. It doesn't exactly leave an escape clause for except for when life is really, really hard. So...
  • Thank you, God, that I am out of ideas for what to do about my son's disobedience.
                It has brought me to my knees over and over again, and we are seeking help
                from others who have walked this path before us.
  • Thank you, God, that my husband and I disagree about some big issues.
                It has caused us to look deeper at the communication patters we have formed
                over the last decade. And I am learning to share my heart more openly.
  • Thank you, God, for misunderstandings between friends.
                It has allowed me to practice forgiveness and grace.

My list could cover several more pages. As I think about each struggle that I am dealing with right now, I can see some sliver that God could use for good in my life if I allow him to. Perhaps speeding through life at my pace is not what is best for me. Perhaps.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)

Lord, I know there is a reason for what I am going through. I do not need to know the exact purpose even though I would like to most times. I trust that you are in control. Thank you for giving me road bumps as I journey through life. They force me to look to and rely on you more. Amen.

Friday, January 3, 2014

No Resolutions, Just Permission to be Me

I had no intention of making resolutions when the calendar page flipped. Not that I have done many lists in previous years. This omission in particular, though, was purposeful. See, I am tired of expectations. Instead, I want to live in expectancy - and grace. More grace than I have given and received in the past.

I want to thaw, release my heart from the icy tomb of disappointment. Give myself permission to live life at a pace that allows my heart to grow. I want to be in the moments of the year, not just live through the moments of the year.

Goals can be wonderful tools, but what I need most is permission to fail. When I do not have to worry about disappointing others or failing at something, I am free to try. I am free to explore who exactly it is that God made me to be. And also, how I best connect with him: in the comfort of grace.

Does it sound too idealistic? Is it surprising that I do not care what others think? Or rather, I am doing my best to try not to care. This is my one and only life. Creativity seeps out of my pores more than oil. I do not intend to wash it away.

This year I hope to grow in wisdom and understanding. This year I plan on making time to be alone with God and my crazy thoughts. This time next year, I plan on saying, "Wow! What a crazy adventure we went on together!"

As the sun comes out and melts the snow, so too will the Son thaw my heart with his love and grace. I expect to feel the warmth of his love throughout the year. And if I acknowledge his hand in my successes for these twelve months labeled 2014, and enjoy him in the meantime, then I will have more joy than any fulfilled resolution could have given me.

I give myself permission to have hard days. I give myself permission to say the wrong words and react in ways that I do not understand. My Lord has already covered all my sin by his blood. He who created me as I am is not surprised by my blunders. "I can't believe she did that," will never cross his lips. What he does utter is, "I love you, my child. Return your gaze to me. Let's stroll through the hours of your days together."

Grace. Love. Free. These are the words I want resonating deep within.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33a NIV)
But whoever loves God is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:3 NIV)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen (me) with power through his Spirit in (my) inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in (my) heart through faith. And I pray that (I), being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that (I) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Amen.
(From Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)