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

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)