Monday, April 14, 2014

Hope

Hope.

Just a short word.  Only four little letters. 

Yet, one of the most impactful words we have.

Without it...

Life fades. The light goes out of our eyes. We walk in defeat.

With it...

Joy can overflow even in the hardest of situations. Sparkle. Faith. Growth.

WE NEED IT.

I have found myself REALLY drawn to this word in recent days.  Multiple situations have caused me to pull inward and truly look at where my focus is, what it is that I am needing to do or not do in my life right now, and to look at what it is that God is wanting me to learn (or RELEARN!). 

One big focus, a heaviness on our hearts, right now is keeping our hearts and eyes focused properly while we play the waiting game.  We continue to have no doubt that we ARE called to the foreign mission field as a family.  It continues to be confirmed in each of our hearts.  However, we are struggling with "what" that looks like.  Our vision and our expectation isn't exactly shaping up to what we pictured.  That's NOT a bad thing.  BUT....it is a hard thing.  We have had some doors close very securely at this point.  NOT closing to the point that we are giving up or think that we "heard" His call incorrectly.  We just may have focused on the wrong SPECIFICS. So as we pull back and wait to listen intently to what His plan is and WHERE HE is leading (and not just our own emotions and ideas)....we wait....and hope.

I'm not so good at waiting.  OK---perhaps that should be rewritten as....I stink at waiting. I'm a planner.  I'm a detail oriented person.  I am a patient person with people, but I'm not a patient person with details.  If that makes sense.

So as I wait, I'm learning to refocus.  Using the time to LISTEN and GROW.  Digging in deeper to His word.  Opening my ears and heart to hear more clearly.  Being more vulnerable and stepping out of the box more as I seek Him.

I'm also trying to take the "weight" of multiple situations (when it rains it pours!) and learning to put them at His feet and leaving them.  My husband will probably admit there has been a remarkable change in my personality over the last several months.  I react differently to stress than I have in a long time. I've loosened my grip on "controlling" so many things.  When things do go wrong (as they often do!), I don't have such a defeated attitude.

I like this switch. 

I like this journey of growth.

A great portion of it is coming from hope and trust.  Hope.

I cling to that word and the different things it means to my heart.

I have started doing a word study in scripture on Hope.  I've learned that it's used in the NIV version of scripture in 159 verses.  I'm using some tools I learned at a recent conference to attempt my first deep word study on my own----looking at the Greek and Hebrew words through LexiConc of Blue Letter Bible online.

Today, I keep coming back to a use of "hope" in Romans 4.  Abraham had HOPE.  He had no heirs because he had no children.  Sarah's womb was considered "dead". However, God had promised him that he would be the father of many nations and he had hope and trust in God's promises. Even at 100 years old (and Sarah in her 90s!).

I LOVE how the verses describe this hope.

Against ALL hope....
In hope BELIEVED...
Without weakening in his faith...
Yet he did not WAVER through UNBELIEF...
Was STRENGTHENED in his faith...
Gave glory to God...
Became fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised!

I don't know about you, but reading those words today in just a few tightly packed verses was POWERFUL to me this morning.

Just a few verses later at the beginning of chapter 5 are some more powerful words to cling to.

" Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know sufferings produces perseverance, perseverance, charter; and character, hope.  AND HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

I want the faith of Abraham.  I'll settle for just a small portion!  Despite the reality of what his eyes could see, he believed.  It says that he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, but did not waver through unbelief.

That's powerful hope.

We have hope that though "our" plans and details may change as to what direction/time table/specifics He has for our calling, He will provide. We have hope that as one door closes, another one opens that is exactly what He has planned. 

We have hope that though we face countless other situations designed to distract, defeat, and divide...that we will not waver in our faith.

Strengthened through the trials.  Hopeful during the waiting. Fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised.

Clinging to the verses of hope.  Learning more of it's use in scripture.  Growing in faith.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Speaking of Friendships

Different situations over the last days and weeks has had me thinking about friendships.  How valuable they are.  How friends can stretch us, carry us, change us, hurt us at times and even frustrate us. 

We may have friends that inspire us to be more than we think we are capable of being and cheer us along the way.  That inspiration is PRICELESS because they see our potential and aren't weighed down by our past disappointments.

We may have friends that we can find ourselves feeling like it's a one way street at different seasons.  When they need support, we drop everything.  We do all we can to offer encouragement.  Yet, because of their own pain, insecurities, etc.. when we need support it doesn't come as freely.  We can feel hurt.  Instead of walking away, we realize that these friends do love and care for us, they are just blinded by their own situations.  These friendships are vital because they teach us to not be selfish and to look outside of ourselves and see the needs of another person.  We do have to be careful to not enable or become codependent, but God can show us the appropriate line. These friends can still be our deepest and most meaningful friendships because when their pain ends they come back loyal because they know you didn't abandon them.  They know they were worth fighting for.

We may have friends that we treasured, but are no longer with us.  God called them home.  They may not be physically with us, but they definitely continue to make an impact on our hearts and lives.  I've been greatly thinking of one of these in my life this week as the date that she went home with her Heavenly Father rolled around on the calendar.

We may have friends that were there for us in some of our deepest, darkest times and carried us.  They saw us at our most vulnerable and didn't run away.  They went through the trenches with us.  We hold these friends close because we know they have given of themselves and accepted us without condition.  It can really be painful when we see these same friends go through their own battles because we want to pick them up and carry them, erase their situations...and it hurts when we can't...because they were crucial to us in our darkest moments. I know several of my friends fall into this category right now.  Storms are hitting them left and right and it can feel so helpless to not be able to rescue.  However, I can encourage them to not give up and to keep their focus on Him. It's what they did for me----either by their actions or by their emotional/ spiritual support.

We may have friends that we lost contact with for many years and then come back in our lives and we TREASURE it.  It may be a childhood friend or a mentor.  Either which way, they are a blessing to us.  These friends are capable of making time stand still or even feel like it has rewound a bit.

We may have friendships that didn't stand the test of time and the busyness of life.  They may not have remained as strong as we thought through life seasons, moves (we've moved 13 times so we  understand that one!), or struggles.  These are hard.  Some we can rekindle and others just won't rebuild.

We may have friends that we've only just met and are just starting to get to know.  Some we know may not be the deep, long-lasting ones...but others...we get a hint or a glimpse that God truly has brought them into our lives for a bigger purpose.

We can have friends that we've never met physically in person, but through social media/internet, etc..  they can bless our lives in countless ways.  One of my dearest friends I've never met personally, but I feel as if she's been around my entire life in person, side by side.  She knows my heart.  She encourages me like no other.  She inspires me.

We have friends that just make us laugh.  Over and over. Even when we don't want to laugh. 

We have friends that challenge us. We all need friends in our lives that can call us on sin, keep our feet on the ground, and tell us in love when we are full of baloney. These friends make sure you don't get up on a pedestal and if you do, they are the first to knock you off! They tell you when you are self-righteous, judgmental, off target or dancing too close to the flame and going to get burnt. We all need these friends.  They may sting, but they are some of the most valuable treasures.

We have friends that show us glimpses of Christ by their actions. They just have a presence about them that makes them incredible.  His joy shines through them.  They are the first to cheer you on and the first to pick you up.  These are the ones that cause you to be a better you because you want to have what they have. You feel like you've been in His presence just by being around them. 

We all need those friends that we know we could call in the middle of the night.  You know the ones that would bail you out of jail (not recommending you try this one out! LOL)!  The ones that would help you rob a bank----hypothetically speaking of course.  The kind of friend that would show up with a baseball bat if you called and said someone had hurt you or someone you love.  I have a few of these.  Truth is they scare me.  In a good way.  :) 

We all have and need those friends where words aren't necessary.  They just "get" you.

We all need those friends that will share a half gallon of ice cream with you or give you their last piece of chocolate.  Oh wait a minute....I'm not sure I have one of those! HAHA! 

Seriously----we need a variety of friends on this journey of life.  We need the easy ones and the ones that challenge us. We need the fun ones and the serious ones.  The ones that dream big dreams and those that live in the land of logic and reality.  We all need those that balance us. 

We all just need each other. 

Longing for Titus 2 Women

Time keeps ticking away.  No matter how much we want it to speed up. It stays the same.  No matter how much we want it to slow down.  It stays the same. 

The same steady tick.

It may SEEM faster.  Or it may drag by painfully slow.

Life is definitely lived in seasons.  We are constantly ending some seasons and starting new ones.  Though I constantly have little bitty ones in our house on a regular basis and get to enjoy those (and remember how frustrating and exhausting it is!), I am well beyond those days.  Every day is a reminder of how quickly time does move, even though it's ticking by at its steady same rate.  I remember wanting to slug those moms that told me to cherish every moment because it was fleeting.  I wanted to slug them because I was weary, bone tired, overwhelmed, and definitely NOT enjoying every minute.( I mean really:  who wants to truly embrace the terrible twos over and over on repeat.  Or the sleepless nights of a baby that refuses to sleep.  Or the baby that cries constantly for hours on end.  Or the baby that either wants to nurse around the clock or you want to nurse desperately but no matter what you try can't "grasp" that concept.  There's wonderful things in EVERY season and I LOVE children more than many...but....it's HARD some days!!!!)   Instead, I smiled politely.  Now, I am that mom reminding others to embrace it.  Because I've learned what those other moms meant and I also understand those younger moms wanting to slug me.  The day may be long, but the years are definitely short.

It has become a running joke in our home recently to "find" the things that are showing that we are aging.  We aren't old, but we definitely are well beyond our 20s.  We are very visible noticing that we are beginning to fit in more with the older generations.  To be honest, we love it.  Instead of lamenting not being "young" anymore, we are embracing the comfort that comes with growing older together.  Of having learned many things and still know there are many more things to learn. 

With that said, I'm finding myself longing...

Longing for Titus 2 women in my life.  Oh how I wish nearly every day that I could go back and revisit all of those conversations and teaching moments from the older ladies in my life when I was younger.  So many things I wish I could ask or learn from them.  The more "old fashioned" the advice, perhaps the more truthful it would have been.  So much could have been learned about Christ, caring for my husband and caring for my children from them.  I can picture so many of them right now and would love to just spend a few hours at the very least sitting down with them now! Just to sit down on the church pew and take notes from them!

Older women teaching younger women.  Younger women teaching those same things to the even younger, newly married women. 

I so think it's greatly missing in our lives in our day and age.

I'm finding myself in new seasons and needing older women to lead the way and guide me through these new stages.  I find it important to encourage moms of young children and new marriages. A student and a teacher.

The Titus 2 woman embodies so many characteristics that are harder to find every day.  How I long to be that type of woman and how I long to have them in my life teaching me.  (An excellent article on those characteristic can be found here at Bible Study Tools.  I'm currently studying through these attributes and am finding this an excellent tool of reference).

I need accountability.  I need spiritually strong women that speak truth in my life (even the painful truth that I'd prefer to clasp my hands over my ears and drown out!).  I'm finding it vital.  We so often have become afraid of letting people see our vulnerability and "need".  When in actuality, it's VITAL that we have these type of relationships.  It's how we grow.  It's how we thrive.  It's how we reach a new generation for Christ.  It's how we can strengthen our homes.  It's student and teacher mode.

A Little Windy?

When we first moved here, I thought I knew "wind".  After all, my parents aptly named their farm "Windy Hill Angus Farm".  I thought I knew wind because it was DEFINITELY windy.

Then we moved to Central IL. 

Wind takes on a new meaning.

The very FIRST valuable lesson we learned is that you do NOT open both doors on a vehicle at the same time.  If you opened both doors of the van, EVERYTHING inside comes blowing out as if it's been sucked out by a powerful vacuum. 

It's windy for sure.

Now that Spring is officially TRYING to make its appearance...the winds are picking up and the stormy season is soon to arrive. Some days it's impossible to walk standing up straight and it's quite a challenge to go anywhere in a skirt. :)  It was a BRUTAL winter, so though the Spring season is seldom calm, it's quite welcomed.

It's windy outside. 

And...

It's windy inside.
Storms are brewing.
The waves are crashing.

Many of us are finding that situations are stormy.  We are far from the calm.  Life is swirling.  Many are holding on to the ship railing for dear life because they just don't know which wave is going to crash at them next. Wondering when the wind is going to turn into a gale.  I feel it and I know from others sharing their hearts and struggles that it's a common feeling.

We may not can calm the storms around us, but we most definitely can change our responses.

We know the MASTER OF THE WIND and THE MAKER OF THE RAIN (You're welcome!---to those of you that LOVED that old, powerful song by the Gaithers and now have it stuck in your head! If you don't know it...you tube it...it's worth it!).

I think many of us forget that in the middle of the storm or ANTICIPATION of another storm, that we lose our focus.  We get our eyes on our situations, our uncertainties, or on the hurt we are experiencing and take our eyes off of Him.  It's so very easy to do. 

This morning I was thinking about the apostle Paul.  If anyone had cause to be focused on dire circumstances, he did. Constantly beaten. Constantly conspired against to be killed. Constantly in prison in chains.  Constantly being betrayed. 

He was IN STORMS---both literally and figuratively.

Yet, he didn't give up on his faith.  He didn't throw in the towel and walk away. 

He could have. 

Many believers would have understood and probably support him had he said "enough is enough".  His "enemies" would have celebrated. 

Yet...

He continued. 

He continuously brought others to the understanding of needing salvation.  He continuously encouraged.  He continuously healed in Jesus' powerful name. 

He let God's will be his will. 

Even though it hurt.
Even though it was going against common sense many times.

He kept his eyes on Christ and not on the storms.

Towards the end of Acts, when he was literally caught in an indescribable storm at sea, he stayed the course.  He still encouraged those around him.

"But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed" (27:22)

In verse 26 goes on to say that we MUST run aground on some island.

In other words, this is going to be a rough ride.  Forget smooth sailing.  We're going to be tossed about like we can't imagine. 

But...

You will not be lost.

Things may feel like they are literally falling apart every direction you turn.  You may be facing circumstances that make absolutely no sense.  You may feel like if just one more thing comes at you, even minor, that you WILL break. 

Even in those times....

God is still good.  He's still in the miracle business.  Our circumstances may not change and He may not "magically" make our journey easy....but....He's still for us. 

On that ship with Paul were 276 total passengers.  I imagine that EVERY single one of them had fear beyond words.  They had to be terrified.

Yet...

After the storm ended and they were shipwrecked they all reached land in safety.  I guarantee it was no little leisurely boat ride.  They hit shore clinging to any type of plank that would get them there.  Some swam to shore, but I doubt it was like swimming in a backyard pool. 

When they arrived, the islanders of Malta "showed unusual kindness". They welcomed them and took care of them.  Whether they were soldiers or prisoners, they were cared for.  Even the chief official of the island welcomed them into his home and "entertained hospitably".  They were eventually sent off with a ship and supplies.

Provision through the storm.  Provision after the storm. 

God doesn't leave us on our own when we face storms of life.  He is right there with us.  We have to keep our eyes on Him.  Even if the storms around us don't calm, our focus can stay with Him so that we CAN weather the storm.  We CAN make it to the shore, even if we are battered and terrified along the journey.

Even better...

Hopefully through some of the storms we can minister to others.  Paul was a constant encouragement to countless others.  Even after the shipwreck, he prayed for the chief official's father and healed him.  Others came to him for healing and they were cured. 

Paul---definitely stayed the course.  He definitely finished the race.

So much we can learn from him. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reaching...

It seems as if the theme of the week that keeps popping up in reading, worship songs, and just thoughts that keep popping in my head comes down to...

Reaching. 

I believe if we are all honest and transparent, we've gone through seasons of just not feeling like God is close.  As if He is just out of our grasp.  Out of our reach.  Maybe our prayers don't feel as if they get through the ceiling, much less to His ears.  Or maybe it's been just a hard season of life.  Loss of someone we hold dear either to death, broken relationships, etc...  It's been unreal the amount of heartache around those we hold dear lately with marriages crumbling, health scares, financial loss, dreams that seem to be out of reach, one obstacle after another, and even death. 

One thing is certain, it's been a tough season for MANY.  Lots of time we really don't have a clue the depth of heartache of people we see even on a daily basis.  Many are carrying burdens that we really had no clue the depth and weight---just by looking at their outward appearance.

Yet, God IS near. 

He REALLY is. 

Even when we are listening to our flesh or even the lies of Satan.

"He doesn't care."
"You're alone."
"You're not worth His time."
"He only blesses others."
"You can't be forgiven THIS time."

Oh, dear ones....

Those ARE lies.

Let me repeat...

Lies.

The truth is...

He's closer than we can imagine.

I'm still slowly working through Acts as part of my daily study spent directly in His word---not just the time I read devotionals, books by amazing Christian authors, inspiring Blogs. 

I found some powerful verses in chapter 17 that hadn't really "popped" out to me before.

"God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being."  v27-28

Though verse 28 is a popular one that I hear often, I'd not heard it combined with the previous one.  Together I think they make some very powerful, beautiful words. 

A necessary reminder that our hearts often need.

Seek Him. Reach out for Him. Find Him.
He is not far away. 
As a matter of fact, He's so close that our every breath is through Him.  He can't get much closer than that. 

His word doesn't say we MIGHT find Him. 

I *clasped* onto the word Breathe when we were going through Dad's illness and the months that followed.  At first it came from a reminder from a sweet friend that would send me a simple text to "breathe".  It carried the physical reminder and the emotional reminder of just take THIS minute and get through THIS one.  It was also a physical reminder to actually breathe.  During times of great tension, it's ease to lose focus and for me I do find myself holding my breathe.  It was also a reminder to focus on the necessary things.  The things that HAD to be done and the freedom to let the others go temporarily. 

As time went on and we found ourselves in the most emotional gut-wrenching places, my prayer and my focus became I needed to feel Him so close...as close as" His breath on my neck".  It became necessary in those moments that I could NOT function on my own.  I couldn't think through the next minute because the current minute was THAT HARD.  I needed Him more powerful than ever.  It was a necessity.  Through that time period and other times in life that have been difficult, He WAS that close. 

I can remember even praying that He was close enough to breathe for me, because when your heart is breaking and you are experiencing emotions that your brain doesn't even know how to process, it seems physically impossible to breathe. 

He showed up.  Over and over.

Even through times when I didn't think I could see Him.  Even through times of my life I've been angry, bitter, or wanted to throw in the towel.  Even through those seasons of deep depression (especially the seasons of post partum depression).  Even when it didn't feel as if I could reach to Him.

He was there.  He IS there. 

I loved reading these words in one of the explanations/thoughts I read on these verses. 

Imagine the God of the universe wanting YOU to reach out to Him---waiting in eager anticipation. Do you knows what's really remarkable? As you begin reaching toward God, you'll find you don't need to reach at all. He is not far. There's no stretch. Our loving God is as close as your next breath---your next prayer. Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)

Doesn't that make you want to just stop what you are doing and open the door?  Doesn't that make you want to stop fighting whatever your battle is and just reach out and rest in Him?  Doesn't that just make you want to just stretch out your arms toward heaven and surrender?

Oh, it does me. 

Just makes me want to lay it all down.  Give all of it to Him.  Give Him all of me.

Reaching. 

We don't have to reach far.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Wonder...

I wonder...

Why do so many of us still wear masks? Why is it that we still hide our struggles, fears, and anything that we feel make us less than perfect? What do we think we gain from that?

Why is it that when we need our greatest support systems  we shut down and block others out?

Why is it that we feel like we can hide our deepest emotions from God?  Don't we know that He already knows our every thought?  Don't we know that He can handle our EVERY emotion?  Even the darkest ones.  He's felt every single one Himself.

He knows what is to be betrayed.

He knows what it is to wish that He could take a different path, but still say "yes" to the will of His father.

He knows physical pain.

He knows suffering.

He knows.

He understands.

He loves and offers grace and mercy.

Why is it that we know these things to be true and yet...

We still hide.

We still answer "I'm fine!" when others ask how we are doing.
We still carry this attitude of I can handle it on my own.

When will we realize that when others offer to help us and we say "no" or "I'm fine", we quite possibly are robbing THEM of a blessing. God may be speaking to THEIR heart about reaching out and we can be stepping in the way of allowing them to be used by Him.

When will realize that many times when someone asks us how we are doing, they are sincerely asking. OR when they ask if there is a way they can help, they truly want to lift at least a small portion of our burden---even if it's just to let us know that we are not alone and have an advocate.

Today, through multiple situations, I realized that many of us battle these things.

Yet...

We need to realize....

We don't have to be as strong as we make ourselves seem.  Others truly want to share the burden. It's ok to not be perfect and let our walls down.  IT REALLY IS OK! It actually creates relationship when we become vulnerable.

We REALLY don't have to hide ourselves from God.  He's actually waiting for us to come to Him with how we TRULY feel....we don't have to "scrub" or "spit shine" ourselves first. We don't have to give Him the politically correct version of what we are feeling.  He just wants US and in our rawest form is perfectly acceptable.

It's ok to NOT have the answers to give a friend struggling.  We can just make sure they know we are here to LOVE them through the situations. If nothing else, PRAY for the situation.  Sincerely pray.  Not just say "I'm praying" and then not give it much more of a passing thought. 

We have this amazing support system as a body of believers. We should never walk a difficult path alone.  We should never allow another brother/sister in Christ walk alone either.

Heavy on my heart tonight to know that I'm guilty of both at different times. Walking alone by refusing to let others in and also of not reaching out to someone hurting or struggling.  Praying that God will continue to soften my heart in both regards and that I will learn to respond accordingly.

I wonder...

What a difference it would make in the world if we just started being real with each other.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Life Skills Lesson

Anyone that has been a parent for very many years has probably noticed that there inevitably comes a time that a lesson you've "taught" (or preached!) to your children comes around to visit you!  You then have to make a decision as to whether you follow what you preached and walk the walk or if you were just all talk.  Sometimes it's about habits.  Sometimes about faith.  Sometimes it's about sin.  Sometimes it's just....

Life lessons.

As adults we learned the invaluable lesson of the value of being debt free.  We learned the weight and chains that debt places on you.  So very painfully did we learn those lessons. 

So we changed how we did everything.  We started making the painful cuts.  We started saying the painful no.  We learned to live not only within our means, but below our means so that we could VERY SLOWLY inch towards freedom. 

Almost a year ago we reached that mark. It felt like it took a lifetime to get to that point and it practically did. There is no way to describe the feeling that comes from those broken chains.  We still have had to say no to many things and still live frugally in order to maintain that freedom.  We've slowly been able to build up an emergency fund and we are actively saving towards our dream of being in the foreign mission field. 

Then..

Life happens.

One thing after another breaks.  Some things we've just let go and done without.  Others have had no choice but to replace or repair.  It's life.

We have taught and taught our children to start their teen years and young adults years with in their means, whatever that level may be.  We didn't buy our daughter a car.  We did encourage her to work and save.  We encouraged patience and to proactively search for a car of her own in HER price range.  The importance and the value of a dollar saved.  She constantly said no to spending unnecessary money when out with friends or out shopping.  She is THE BARGAIN shopper.  She saved.  She worked.  Some days she worked at three different jobs.  And it paid off....the work, commitment, and patience....

A couple of weeks ago she bought her first car. In cash. Every dollar on her own.  She paid the taxes, title fee, and registration/license.  The title is in her name.  It belongs to her.  It's almost as old as she is, but it's HERS.  Free and clear.  She's learned something that is PRICELESS, especially in our society. 

 
 
Just four days prior to her finally finding HER "baby" (after refreshing Craigslist countless times a day for MONTHS!), Kevin's car quit.  Completely out of the blue.  NEVER had a single moment of trouble.  NO hint of any major repairs ahead.  My husband can fix nearly anything and we just figured this would be the case again.  It would be a hassle.  It had already been a "nightmare" day of him being stranded for three hours in the cold waiting for a tow truck ending in a nearly $200 fee. The next few days were spent praying and praying that it would be a simple fix.  Long story short: it wasn't. After nearly $1,000 in various attempts at repairs and towing, countless hours under the hood and many more prayers...it was over.  The junkyard became the home of what just days before was a working great vehicle.
 
Life happens that way.
 
Our fervant prayers for "easy" didn't turn out the way expected.
 
Yet, we still fully believe in God's goodness and His provision.  He didn't allow things to happen as easy as we wanted. He didn't allow things to be stress free. I had belief that all was going to work out even up to that last minute of the decision to junk it when the final answer came back that the needed repairs were significant and more costly than the value of the car. I had faith that the answer would be good.  Even the mechanic that we finally had to pay to dismantle the engine to find the problem didn't believe it would come back so significant.  But it did.
 
Once upon a time I would have been devastated.  Yes, we are in a place of hassle.  Yes, it's easier to not share a car when you have a family and littles that constantly need to be somewhere five minutes ago! Yes, it's hard to balance when your husband doesn't work in the same town we live. 
 
But we feel thankful.  We feel grateful that we can coordinate schedules and make it work.  We still have a reliable vehicle that gets the job done.  It does mean saying no to some plans.  It does mean learning patience.
 
AND....
 
It means we learn the same lessons we taught our daughter. 
 
Work. Save. Be patient.  Say no to countless things.
 
It would be easy to visit a dealership and buy a new car.  It would be easy to just go purchase a car a few years old.  On credit.  Putting is in debt.  Even for just a few years. 
 
BUT...
 
The lessons were too painful and we learned them well.  We can't put ourselves back under the yoke.
 
We will wait.  We will save.  We will learn to manage and be thankful for what we do have.
 
We will practice what we preached. 
 
We will someday have a car back in the driveway for Kevin, but for now he'll continue to drive my "Gidget".  (He just better take good care of her.  She may not look so good these days after several IL winters, but she's paid for and serving us well!).  
 
It would be easy to just go back on what we've been teaching and living and take the "easy" road.  However, we know that the easy road has great costs at times. 
 
Above all, we want our kids to see that we believe what we teach and that just because situations become difficult that we still walk the walk.  We also want them to see us walk in faith and belief that God will provide for our needs---in His time and His way.   

Monday, March 31, 2014

Faith-Filled or Faith-Less?

A recurring theme in life lately is teaching me that I have a problem.  I'm absolutely certain I'm not the only one.  It seems so rampant that we are finding it in nearly every book we are reading right now or recently completed (especially The Well and The Circle Maker...both highly, highly recommended!).  It seems like it's showing up everywhere we look. Perhaps it's because we need to get the message in our hearts. 

It's called the panic button.
It's called wanting the easy button. 
It's called going to the wells of our comfort instead of trusting in the Holy Spirit.

When something goes wrong or a decision needs to be made (or a million at once it seems!), it's so easy to just go to our own strength.  Immediately act in a knee jerk reaction that causes us to take the easy way.  Or to "force" things to work instead of patiently waiting for His response. Especially for those of us that are "fixers" by nature.  Or impatient. Or that thrive on being in control.  (Surely, I didn't describe myself in one or more...or all...of those descriptions!).

We tend to act FIRST in our strength. We tend to go to Him LAST----when we feel like there is no other option.  Or maybe I'm the only one willing to admit that!

We claim to walk in faith.  Yet, we tend to FIRST try things our way.

You know what?

For me, that's a recipe for disaster. I tend to make my own messes worse.  OR the problem does seem to work out, but in hind-sight I find that there would have been an easier answer had I just given God a chance to work it out through me, instead of through my own flawed power.  OR I lose an opportunity to have seen God at work, growing my faith or being a witness to someone else how to walk in faith.  OR I don't want to go through His way because His timing isn't necessarily the same or His path *seems* harder.  I desire instant satisfaction of the problem being fixed. We are driven in a society that has come to need and rely on the instant.  The easy button.  The now button.

God has been revealing to my heart that sometimes we need to be in the moments of uncertainty.  We need to be in the places that our dreams seem suddenly out of reach. We need to be in the middle of the storms. 

I don't like it.  I REALLY don't like it.

But....

It's necessary. 

Something I read last week has caused me to come back multiple times to read it again.  It's from a book by Wendy Blight that is going to be part of a Bible Study with Proverbs 31 Ministries beginning next week. 

She says:

Life is messy, and God knows that. One of the reasons He gave us the Bible is to equip us to live out our faith in the midst of our messy lives. Each new day can bring with it a myriad of issues and problems. And each one requires us to make a choice. We can choose to make "faith-FILLED" choices, or we can choose to make "faith-LESS" choices.  The faith-less choices tend to come easier for most of us.  They occur when we react quickly out of our emotions and basically "do what comes naturally". And more often than not, those choices have negative consequences that hurt not only us but also everyone with whom we come in contact.

Faith-filled choices are harder to make.  They occur when we react not out of our emotions but out of a Spirit-led heart and mind. And faith-filled choices have good consequences that bless not only us but also those around us.

Ouch!  Point taken.

I'm finding myself asking much more often, is this decision a faith-filled one (where I've sought God first and TRUSTING Him) or am I acting purely out of my own emotions and in my power and making faith-less ones?

Unfortunately, I don't like the answer I'd have to give much too often. 

Another question that keeps popping up that I'm asking myself (which will make another blog post for another day)--- is that a good intention or a God intention?  There is a difference.

Learning to surrender more fully to Him definitely causes you to start looking at intentions, how you make decisions, and where our faith TRULY lies (in Him or in ourselves!).  Unfortunately we don't necessarily like what we see when we CLOSELY look in the mirror. Fortunately, His grace is never ending and His power is made the strongest in our weaknesses. He didn't give us the easy button...but He did sacrificially  give us Himself!! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Hard Prayers

Life continues to be...well...messy.  Unpredictable.  Not exactly as *I* planned or working on *my* timetable.  Just basically best described as a rollercoaster.  Not specifically any major catastrophe, just lots of things going on at once (just like many of us are facing), it gets hard to balance. 

Though some days it somewhat feels like life is falling apart, in reality...in TRUE reality (God's reality)....life is actually falling into place. 

His place.
His order.
His timing.

It's a shaping process. A molding and chiseling.  Sometimes that shaping is easy and sometimes it's painful.  When we submit our lives to Him and specifically ask Him to shape us and put our feet on His path, we may quickly find that He answers that prayer....and it's not a comfortable one.  My heart has been encouraged to begin praying those hard prayers.  The ones that may require me to change.  To let go of things.  To surrender in areas.  To allow our dreams to be shaped into His.  Ones that reveal our own character flaws and our weaknesses.  Ones that end up revealing our failures.  Prayers that reveal where we wrongly place our faith. 

Yet those are the places we HAVE to be to grow in Him. We've all heard the caution:  "Be careful what you wish for!".  For so long, I've carried that over into my prayer life.  "Be careful what you pray for."

No longer.
No more.

I am praying those hard prayers. 

Lord change me.
Lord YOUR will.
Lord YOUR timing.
Lord YOUR direction.
Lord, reveal to me my hidden sin. 
Lord, show me my weaknesses so that YOUR strength can be made known.
Lord, less of me and more of you. 
Lord, teach me to trust YOU.

And He answers.

And....

it's so not an easy road.

But...

It's through these seasons that true growth happens.

Just going to have to put on my seatbelt and hold on tight to see where the journey with Him leads.  No better place to be.