Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wrapping Around Him

     It had been a tear-filled couple of days by the time Christmas 2011 arrived. As I had done the previous year, I decided to get out of the house and hike at a beloved park. I bundled up, grabbed my daughter, and headed out for some sunshine to help combat my blues. What a contrast this hike was to last year's hike on the same day. While snow was in abundance before, there was not a speck to be seen a year later. Walking on, I didn't miss the snow one bit. How I was enjoying the crisp air! Relaxation swept over me as my senses hungrily took in all that was to be had. We weren't too far into the hike when I came to the above picture. I could hear Him whispering to me, Look at how the tree has wrapped itself around the rock. Am I not your Rock? Will you wrap yourself around Me in the same way?

I filed His words in my head somewhere, reluctant to answer Him right away. The truth of the matter is that I felt as if I were already doing my best to trust Him in the midst of surviving some curveballs that had recently come my way. How I missed my mom and wished that this time of the year would not be a marker of her passing! Two separate phone conversations with family members had stirred up fear and sadness in my heart. The car keys were lost. The cold water wasn't working in the bathroom. The refrigerator was leaking and needed either fixed or replaced. There was the leaky faucet in the basement laundry room, necessitating the strategic placement of buckets to catch four different drips. A gift card had been misplaced with a sizable amount of money on it just in time for us to purchase items for Dmitri's first ever mission trip within the week.

His voice stayed with me that day, yet I still did not feel like answering. Instead, I stubbornly continued on in my sadness. I woke up the next day prepared to drag myself through the remainder of 2011, and disovered my command for that week in my Scripture memorization program: "Rejoice!" Really??? I was feeling pretty grumbly and not wanting to cooperate with whatever the Lord was up to with me. In spite of a bad attitude on my part, I rolled up my sleeves and got serious about memorizing that week's Scripture.

The next day I went into the basement and discovered a totally thawed out basket of food sitting on the floor. John had taken inventory of what we had to eat and had forgotten to put everything back into the freezer. Into the trash it all went and fear knocked on my heart again. I felt panicked as I thought, "Wait a minute, Lord! That's the food You provided for us when we needed it. Just like that it is gone and I am left having to put my faith into action. Do I really believe that You will take care of me or not?" Yes, I believed that He would take care of me, but I sure wasn't liking the way He was going about it! I remembered His question about whether or not I would wrap myself around Him, but I still didn't want to think about it just then. The best I could do was listen to songs that reminded me of who He is.

The next morning found us discovering that we had forgotten to turn the refrigerator back on after cleaning it. Many things were a mushy mess and went right into the trash can. How could this be happening again?!!! Hadn't I just shared with everyone on Facebook how He had met our needs? What, was I now supposed to go back and tell everyone, "Yeah, that thing about God taking care of my family? Well, you can just disregard that."? We would still have just enough food to eek by, but I could feel even the smallest bit of security I had left slipping away. I was not feeling particularly cheerful as I threw the last two meat items in the oven to use before they went bad. I thought about the Israelites and how they looked to the Lord on a daily basis to meet their needs. Again, the command to rejoice came to me and again the thought of wrapping myself around Him came to me. "Okay, Lord, okay," I relented.

So just how is this wrapping myself around Him supposed to look anyhow? I purposed to lock myself away in my bedroom with the Lord and not come out for an hour. I opened the blinds to let some natural light in and spread my materials out on the bed: Bible, three devotions, pad of paper, journal, pen, pencil, highlighters. I started by singing the prayer to the Holy Spirit and moved on with my devotions. A myriad of household noises made their way up to me, making it difficult for me to concentrate. No matter, I was gonna stick this out! Little by little, the noises became less distracting until I ceased to notice them at all. I sang choruses that He brought to mind. I doodled my memory verses in code, adding splashes of color to help me remember them. I prayed. I dug deeper into verses when He caused them to jump out at me. Oh, it was a glorious time, but the hour seemed to be up way too soon. I was left knowing that God wants me to trust Him enough to praise Him when things are not going well for me.The times that I don't feel my best and when I feel the most fearful. No circumstance that I face can ever change the fact that He is God and worthy of my praise. I could sit and write for months and months about His majesty as revealed in nature or His tenderness in transforming this heart of mine into one that beats for Him.

One of the greatest things He blessed me with during my time of wrapping around Him was new eyes to see Psalm 89:15, which says, "Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your Presence, O LORD!"  Hmmm... I just had to look up the definition of acclaim. Acclaim means to praise enthusiastically and often publicly; applaud. As I grow in my faith walk, this business of acclaiming Him is something that I have gotten better and better at. And, praise God, there is a promise of blessing for me when I do it. Just like the verse says, it is something that is learned. It is giving the Lord credit where credit is due, even if it means humbling myself to share my failings. I'm guessing that having a heart that rejoices in doing that has a lot to do with my ability to walk in the light of His Presence. And I really want that!

Lord, You are entirely faithful! You have cared for me in every way, always drawing me nearer to Your heart. Thank You for the precious promise that You will bless me when I acclaim You. Help me to always proclaim who You are and what You are doing in my life. Forgive me for allowing earthly concerns to harden my heart, causing me to stop up my ears to what You would say to me - the very things that would bring me relief. How thankful I am that You never give up on me! I am Yours, Lord, use me as You will. Only please soften my heart to accept (with joy) whatever ways You choose to work in me and through me for Your glory. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

God's Love Gift

     This time of year always finds me in a reflective state of mind. During the month of December I especially focus on keeping my mind stayed on my beautiful Lord. There are many things to tug on me: that balance between doing too much or too little, the sadness that accompanies memories of my mom passing away at this time, the stories recounting man's depravity and our need for a Savior....
I have made it my practice to consciously look for God's love gift to me each day. In my neediness I find it necessary to remind myself that I am dearly loved and that He likes to lavish me with good gifts. Most of the year I keep them hidden in my heart, but I let my guard down enough to share them with friends during the month of December when so much of the world is focusing on Christmas gifts. Believe it or not, I can be a very private person, which means that sharing can be hard for me. I can never quite shake the feeling, though, that the Lord likes to use me to show other people how He loves and that we don't have to have it all together. So I obey Him in sharing my successes, failures, fears, embarrassments... and always His goodness.

     The picture I am sharing is one of  His love gifts to me. I had been walking with the kids down our street to the neighborhood VBS with a million things on my mind. I was feeling the stress of hoping to make VBS happen for our special needs son.... wondering how he would do even with me by his side the entire time.... wondering if they would show him Christ's love at this church. I was thinking about my husband being out of work, my oldest son getting ready to start college, and about where we would live since the court had ordered our divorcing landlords to sell the home we lived in. I was thinking about what I needed to do to pull everything together for a new homeschool year. On top of those things, there was that constant underlying uneasiness about all of the robberies that were taking place on our block... so much so that we didn't even like to leave the house. We felt like prisoners, yet we were blessed to have a place to live... who knew where we would be going and how long before we would need to go? There are probably tons of things that I am forgetting these months later, but I've tried to give you a snapshot in that moment of time concerning where I was in my head as we made our way down the street.

     My daughter's voice broke into my thoughts in such a way that made me shake myself back to the here and now. "Look!," she was saying. "Look at that!" I briefly paused to investigate what she was so excited about, fully expecting to give the Go-To response that we moms use way too much: "Uh huh... that's nice." My eyes tracked the place that she was pointing to in the sky, and fell on this gorgeous heart-shaped cloud. Stopped me dead in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes. I get it, Lord, I get it. You love me. You will take care of me. You KNOW. You are with me. It's gonna be okay. What a beautiful gift for me at the exact moment that I needed it.

     As we wrap up 2011, I realize that I cannot even number the gifts He's blessed me with. In all honesty, I wouldn't have chosen many of the gifts that He lavished on me. :o) He knows so much better what I need than I do, though. I find myself in an incredibly sweet place of utter dependence. I am amazed at all He's done in my life... the way He blesses when I obey... how He patiently reminds me of His love for me... the work that He continues to do in me.

     Speaking of the work that He continues to do in me... recently, I've been shocked by another of His love gifts to me: I am becoming a hugger. Yes, you read that correctly... a hugger. Unbelievable, isn't it? The truly great part about that is His revelation as to why it's such a love gift: it shows that His loving is winning me over. Praise God! Hugging is such an intimate thing requiring one to allow others to be close to them. A person with fear and trust issues, such as myself, often times wants to run in the opposite direction when it is time to get to hugging. I don't know how it happened, but I've been noticing that I hug more often than not now... and it makes me happy! He has shown me how it is His love spilling out of me to others. The more I have filled my heart with His Word and the things of Him, the more love I have had for others. And the more I fill my heart with the things of Him, the more I am able to trust Him... and trust Him enough to love others like He tells me to. Sometimes it means giving a listening ear, while other times it means humbly sharing my weaknesses. Sometimes that even means giving a big hug! It has been an amazing transformation and I give Him all of the glory for it

     Lord, thank You for loving me as You do. In your lovingkindness, You have given me abundant reasons to put my trust in You more fully. You never cease to bless me when I obey You, just like You tell me You will do in Your Word. I love that You are my shield (offering protection to one who oftentimes feels unsafe) and my very great reward. You say that You will reward those who diligently seek You, and I now see that, ultimately, the reward is the finding of You. What a blessing! I love You, Lord. Thanks for loving me, too.

Your dearly loved daughter, Tamra.