Monday, December 23, 2013

Where Are You Looking? Part 1

As we prepare to close out 2013 it seems that the Lord has been revisiting a theme that He introduced to me this spring. This photo was taken on the last day of April and I had this to say about it on Facebook: 

"I have Dara-Grace to thank for this beautiful picture. We got our school work out of the way early today and went for a hike. Because it's getting pretty warm out there, she paused to sit and rest on some steps about midway up. As I approached her, I noticed her sitting there with a very pensive face. Just as I reached her she said, "You know, Mom, it's very pretty right here." I took a second to turn and take in the view that had captivated her. Yep, she was right - I found it quite pretty as well. I'm not in the habit of looking at the view behind me as I struggle up stairs. I guess I've been missing out."

I had been struck at the time by the thought that perhaps looking at the things behind me might be beneficial. I've discovered that I am a very goal-oriented and determined person. If I am in the midst of a struggle I tend to surge forward toward whatever end I have in sight for myself. I would have missed this beautiful sight had I not paused to take the time to experience it. Hmmm... What might I be missing on a spiritual level by not taking some time to look back over the "trail" I've covered thus far in my life? 

My friends know that I have no problem whatsoever tapping into or sharing my feelings. However, the particulars of what the Lord began speaking to me last spring proved to be elusive. It is only after many months that I feel remotely capable of putting any of it into words. As I thought about what I would say, I began to see that I would need to do something I've never done on my blog: break a post into two parts. Too many details would need to be left out in the interest of keeping it at a manageable reading size. My detail-loving self could not let that happen! Having said that, I'll continue with the story.

After the aforementioned hiking incident I walked along with the Lord for weeks allowing myself to really take a look back. One of the first things He brought to my attention was the way I have been negatively shaped by my father's leaving. It all started innocently enough with a song on the car radio while picking up my son from work. The opening lines of New Man by All Things New caught my attention in a way that startled me:

I can remember when he left
It's still pounding in my chest
The pain I felt when he said goodbye

As soon as I heard it, I was transported thirty-five years back in time. I remembered my mom urging me to go tell my dad goodbye and "make sure you tell him you love him." This was nothing new to me. He had always been in and out of our home and I was used to goodbyes. This was different, though. Mom went on to explain that, this time, Dad was leaving and not coming back. 

My mind drifted to that day. I was five, maybe six, years old. I remember the scene as if it happened yesterday. Walking into the bedroom, I came upon my father standing before an opened suitcase that rested on the end of the bed. Hair dryer in hand, he wound the cord around it in a very precise way. Looking back, I wonder if it was easier for him to concentrate on that act of wrapping the cord than face the daughter he was leaving behind. Did he feel sorry in that moment? I dutifully gave him an awkward hug and told him I loved him. He placed his hairdryer in the suitcase and that was that. For whatever reason, this particular memory has always stuck with me.

I don't remember how soon the revelation came after initially sensing the Lord speaking to me about looking back, but a thought occurred to me soon thereafter that blew me out of the water. You see, I realized that all of these years later I do not own a hair dryer. I haven't had one in my home for over twenty years. More than two decades of brushing out my long hair and going places with it wet. I knew that on a subconscious level I was probably protecting myself from the pain of that devastating memory. It made perfect sense and I couldn't believe that I had never made the connection. 

Fast forward several months and our area was experiencing a cold spell. I got up and showered before going to volunteer for the Metro Parks. I would be sitting outside for two and a half hours signing Fall Hiking Spree forms... in the cold... with wet hair. I was gonna freeze and I wasn't relishing the thought of it. For the first time I really began to feel grumbly about the whole thing. I realized that I had been going out in the cold with my wet hair for all of my adult life... and that I wasn't content to do that anymore. I had this to say to a friend: 

"I decided that I think it stinks that that incident should still be affecting me at age 41. The too tight skin split and I stepped out more fully formed and free from something that bound me."

I resolved right then and there that it was going to stop. I would buy a hair dryer and finally face what I had been avoiding for way too long. At the time of this writing, the hair dryer has been purchased just in time for some wintry weather that arrived today. I am grateful that there will be no more feeling like my head is stuck frozen in a block of ice when I leave the house! 

Father. I bow before You pausing to let that word sink in... Father. I am Your daughter and I am humbled to be called Yours. Thank You for always wanting the very best for me and for the way that You redeem. You are good! You've fearfully and wonderfully made me, Lord. Who but You can know how this mind of mine works? It amazes me that there is so much in there that I am not even aware of - stuff that I carry with me each day and that has a bearing on how I do life. Protect me, Lord, against the evil that the enemy would seek to level against me. Cause long-standing strongholds to crumble and fall. Give me wisdom to walk with You in freedom. Help me to see what things I must next tackle head on in my way to being who You made me to be. Grant me eyes to see and ears to hear that I may bring much glory to You. In the strong and beautiful name of Jesus I pray, Amen. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Return to Me

My daughter snapped this picture for me on the drive home from a special overnight trip that we Harrison ladies enjoyed last year. We had gone to an inn that we adore and had invited a good number of people to join us. We were overjoyed when a few actually decided to take us up on our offer. In the end, though, all had to cancel for one reason or another. Bummer! To make matters worse, we were greeted with very wintery weather for the drive down and our pre-paid Visa card would not work once we arrived. While a great time was had by each of us, that unwelcome guest, Stress, seemed determined to accompany us on that trip. Thankfully, we didn't pay him much mind.

The drive home provided some truly beautiful sights, but this is the one that we chose to capture. I wanted to share it for two reasons, the first of which is that darkness was moving in. The sun was dropping toward the horizon and a storm was on the way.

This week kicks off the holiday season and, for many, it will not usher in happiness. To them, it feels a whole lot as if there is a dimmer switch on every aspect of their lives. Since things have a way of feeling magnified for those who are hurting, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year can be nightmarish. Financial pressures abound, loved ones are missing, families have unresolved squabbles, and Pain decides to not only visit, but unpack its bags and stay a while. Darkness spreads, storm clouds threaten, and some find themselves fervently wishing that they could hit the fast forward button.

I know as well as anyone what it feels like when Darkness elbows its way in on me. Though intensely personal, I can't shake the feeling that sharing about one such time period in my own life may help someone feel a bit less alone in their pain. Having said that, let the story begin...

Last week I received a few e-mails about participating in a Scripture exchange. I was to write down the first verse that popped into my mind and mail it to the person with the number one next to their name. I was then supposed to move the number two person into the number one position and forward the request to twenty of my friends. It was to be a go-to verse that had been a source of strength to me during a challenging time.

Oh, I had such a verse, but I just could not follow through on the forwarding part. Over the years, my motto has largely become, "If it causes stress, eliminate it!" I wasn't about to invite the stress that would accompany my participation. However, I did want to share my verse (and the story that accompanies it) with someone. Consequently, I decided to send it on to the four names that were listed in my e-mails and leave it at that. I guess I kind of made up my own stress-free rules.

Here is what I shared with them:

Sorry guys, but I'm gonna sit this out due to not wanting to send on to 20 people.

For the record, the first verse that popped into my head was the first part of Psalm 4:7 in the NKJV: "You have put gladness in my heart..."
God gave it to me during a very depressed time in my life when I turned my back on Him. Did not open my Bible, pray, or say "amen" to any prayer John prayed over me every morning in a panic. Did not sing at church and cried through nearly every sermon. In the midst of my initial clumsy attempts to come back to Him, He brought this verse to my attention. I was anything but glad at the time. Nothing could have been further from the truth. But I knew I had heard it from Him and so clung to that Word as if my life depended on it, repeating it over and over (sometimes screaming it or sobbing it) when the darkness hounded me. He is faithful. Bit by bit, those seven words did help dispel those things that would torment. It's hard to give words to the depth of it, but hopefully you get the gist.

And this brings us to the second reason I wanted to use this picture. I look at it and remember that special time. The things that were so very stressful then seem so much less now. I remember all of the wonderful moments and want to make another visit to the place where they occurred. I want to return.

I failed to share the details of my coming back to the Lord with the ladies I sent the above e-mail, but I'll do that here. It was probably a decade or so ago and the weight of life circumstances had become unbearable. I was in a true crisis of faith. Everything I had believed up to then all of a sudden seemed like a big fat lie. I was propelled to a place of extreme anger and bitterness towards the Lord and my situation. Finally, I decided that I'd had enough. Enough! If this was what being His carried with it - what it would cost me... well, then the price was just too much to pay. Unforgiveness wormed its way deep into my heart and I suddenly understood David's Psalms about sleepless nights and feeling God's hand weighing heavily on me. There would be no relief for quite some time.

After months of this, I unwillingly found myself in a ladies Bible study. It was one of those where the sincerity of many of the participants might be questioned because material goods were involved. Women were able to use vouchers to buy diapers or other necessities after first attending the Bible study. As is often the case, many of the women would endure the study to get something free at its completion. So there I sat in my rebellion wishing to be somewhere else. I, who once had a thriving relationship with the Lord, was nothing more than an empty shell. I don't know if the leader sensed that she needed to depart from that day's material or what, but she decided to open the floor and allow women to share a verse that God had meaningfully used in their lives.

The room was pretty silent. It was fairly safe to assume that few of the women took much time to read their Bibles in order to hear what God had for them. And there sat me at the end of a three-month long period where I had refused to give Him any chance to speak to me. Three entire months without opening my Bible! Three entire months of stubbornly refusing to allow God to penetrate my heart during worship. Three entire months of being unmoved by any desperate prayer offered on my behalf. Three entire months of vengeful thinking. Three entire months of darkness like I'd never known before.

It became apparent in the lengthening silence that somebody was going to have to share something. I searched the recesses of my mind for something, anything, that I could offer just to end the awkward silence. Timidly, the woman next to me spoke up: "I'm not so good with verses as far as knowing exactly what's in the Bible and I can't remember a specific verse from any particular time in my life. But there have been times when I needed God's help for a decision that I had to make and I opened the Bible to some random spot and placed my finger somewhere on the page without looking. I can't explain it, but it has always worked! The verse has always gone along with whatever it was that I needed help with."

Because my heart was in such a hardened state, I felt contempt towards this simple woman rising in me. I did not have time for such nonsense! I allowed the enemy to egg my thought processes on concerning the utter stupidity of this woman's reasoning. As my mind continued to rail against her she went on to share what her random finger pointing had produced at that precise moment: "Return to me, and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty." You can be assured that I was stopped dead in my tracks.

I knew it was for me. I couldn't have been more sure if He had been sitting right there beside me speaking directly to me. Suddenly the floodgates were opened and three months of pent up anger and frustration came spilling forth in a flood of tears. It was something! I shared with the ladies and so began the slow and painful climb up and out of the depths.

It was just after this life-changing occurrence in my life that I needed something specifically from God to endure. You see, none of my circumstances had changed when I walked out of Bible study that afternoon. On the contrary, I was left with knowing that the God of the universe had spoken to me and that He was expecting me to do something with it. Which meant that I needed to find a way to survive each day until the day arrived when it would begin to feel a little less like survival and more like normal life. And so He had given me the Scripture, "You have put gladness in my heart..." What a love gift it was from His heart to mine.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it!

Father, thank You that we are not alone when darkness envelops us. Because You are light and in You there is no darkness at all, we who know You can be assured that we will never be in total darkness. Let the light of Your presence flood us, Lord! How glad I am that You ever so graciously speak to us in our times of need, drawing us closer to Your heart. Where would I, or any of us, be without You? How grateful I am to be Your dearly loved daughter. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Holding On

 Last weekend ushered in beautiful weather. Since some of the guys in our household were behind in the Fall Hiking Spree, we took the opportunity to tuck two more trails under our belts. While driving along, this leaf hit our antenna in such a way that its curled edge enabled it to cling in place. Amused, I watched other leaves swirling here and there while this one stayed put.

I was fascinated with this simple scene! I've shared what a whirling mess my life has felt the last several months. Watching this leaf, I knew well that feeling of being blown to and fro. And I definitely could relate to that feeling of holding on for dear life.

A slight smile spread across my face as I sensed God's voice. "Take a picture. I'm about to show you something here." Sliding the iPod from my purse, I noticed that I didn't have much time to capture the shot. I spied a stop sign nearby and realized what was about to happen. Without the driving wind supporting the leaf, I knew that it would slide down the antenna... and fall away. Oh.

Wow! Isn't that so like life? Overwhelmed, we are tossed here and there. Choices are made for us that we just don't have much control over. It gets rough... and we tend to cling to God during these times. Speaking for myself, I often wonder how desperately I would hold on to Him without the winds of adversity battering me. How easily might I fall away?

Lord, I stand amazed at your wisdom. You know just what I need. Though I grow weary from the tossing, I acknowledge that it is the very thing that has kept me fastened to You. You are good and anything that draws me nearer to You cannot ultimately be looked at as bad. Help me to recognize this more readily. Strengthen me to joyfully cooperate with whatever it is You're doing in me and through me. I don't want to fall away! Thank You for keeping me close to You. May my soul cling to You always. In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Life in a Puddle

This picture ended up being a highlight from my 41st birthday celebration. The girls and I took off and spent that early July day tackling a ten-mile extreme hike. After leaving our first three miles behind us we came upon this shallow mud puddle brimming with tadpoles right on our trail. We nearly walked by without noticing, but I was fortunate enough to glance down just in time to discover them. What a sight! We delighted in them, happily sharing the picture with others later that night.
I've thought of those tadpoles many times in the past four months. Like it or not, there is much for me to hear from the Lord from this picture. You see, the more I thought of these tadpoles the more I realized that they could very well be doomed. After the initial wonder of finding them in such an unusual place had worn off, it occurred to me that a stretch of warm days could very well dry up their watery home. What would become of them then?
It seemed pretty obvious to me that this was far from being an ideal habitat for them. Amphibians lay their eggs in vernal pools all of the time, but this mud puddle hardly seemed to qualify as one. I've seen substantial vernal pools during Metro Parks programs, and this puddle is nowhere near the same. Looking back, I cannot remember if that stretch of mud-puddle-drying, hot temperature days ever arrived. Or if they had, if the tadpoles had already fully developed and moved on beforehand. What I do know is that they were deposited in this place through no fault of their own when their mother laid her eggs there. Even though danger may have been lurking just days away they were doing what they were made to do: swimming around, eating, and developing. They were doing life the same way they would have had they gotten their start in a more favorable place.
How I can relate! The waters of my life sure seem pretty muddy these days. Things can start looking a bit grim whenever I forget that I'm not supposed to "worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:54). During times of weakness I glance around and it seems to me that the scorching winds of adversity sure seem to be shrinking this mud puddle that I've been placed in. And what would become of me then? 
These past few months and weeks have been really tough. I've shared with some that this summer was particularly brutal. Overwhelming circumstances and bouts with illness kept me in bed for a few months. During those days I got up to do what I had to do, but always with a return to bed as quick as possible. I did enjoy a respite from time to time, but those moments were always short-lived. I stayed in the Word and put on my prayer warrior cap once again. And I just kept doing the next thing. Swimming around in my little mud puddle if you will.
If I don't get in my head too much, the mud puddle really isn't that bad. The tadpoles need water to survive and the puddle fits that bill just fine. Sure, it may be evaporating away minute by minute, but it gets the job done for a time... hopefully the time the tadpoles need to fully develop. And there is the advantage of not having any fish swimming around snatching them up for a meal.
So what of my little mud puddle? Several things come to mind when I think on this. My puddle feels a little messy right now. It also seems a precarious place to dwell at times. It requires me to focus on today - on this day when I do have just enough water to survive. I can be thankful even though my mud puddle is nothing like the thriving ponds that some of my friends have been deposited in. God knows what He is doing! Acts 17:26 reminds me that "He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." How very comforting! He has not haphazardly placed me here. I can trust that He has positioned me here and will use it to prepare me for the next place He has for me.
I can sometimes zero in on a certain piece of the puzzle and totally miss the bigger picture that is forming. In this instance, I have come to realize that the enemy has effectively used my fear of what might happen to blind me to what is happening and what will happen. If I am like one of those tadpoles, I need to realize that they don't stay tadpoles forever! They swim and eat and grow legs. Eventually they drop their little tails and move on when they reach maturity. And that's what I'm doing, too.
It doesn't matter that I'm in a mud puddle. The important thing is that I do those things that this stage of life calls for. I can swim through my days caring for my family, homeschooling, and loving others. I can stay in the Word and grow my spiritual legs. One blessed day I will have done all the growing that accompanies this stage and I will drop my tail, leaving behind that thing which I no longer have need of. I will walk out of this puddle and move on to the next place that God has for me. And you can bet that I'll be giving Him all of the praise as I go on my way. What a thing to look forward to.
Precious Father, it's so good to hear from You again! Soften my heart and sharpen my ears that I may hear You more and more. Thank You for the reminder that this stage in my life is temporary. I was in need of a bit of reassurance and You provided it in a way that You knew would enable me to "get it." You are so good to me! As I swim about my days in this place that You presently have me, I ask that You help me focus on the here and now, doing all of those things that today requires of me. Unlike the tadpoles, I can be sure that this puddle You have me in will not dry up until it has fulfulled everything You want it to. You are growing me here and I'm most grateful. I love You. 


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Who Am I?

I had one of those, "Wait a minute!!!" moments while spending some time in Acts this morning. I was reading through Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin in chapter seven. I hesitated just a bit when I got to his description of Moses in verse 22: "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action."  I specifically zeroed in on the part about him being powerful in speech. What? Wasn't this the guy who told God in Exodus, "I have never been eloquent... I am slow of speech and tongue"? What gives?

Pausing to give it some extra thought, I reminded myself that all Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and can be counted on as being true. If the writer of Acts said that Moses was powerful in speech then he was. Simple as that. The explanation, then, must be that Moses simply did not see himself as God did.

Maybe he did not have much self-confidence. He did tell God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" That question doesn't exactly smack of confidence. Or maybe the confidence he did have had been tied up in the privileged life he used to live. Did he falter when his dwelling switched from a palace in Egypt to a tent in Midian? Is my own confidence (or lack of) connected to my material station in life? This is certainly something to consider.

Another possibility for Moses' distorted view of himself is that he simply had not learned to fully trust God. When he asked God, "Who am I...?", the Lord had assured him that He'd be with him. He had given him a step by step commentary of what to expect, and had even given him miraculous signs to perform. Thinking on this, it is pretty amazing how much the Lord was working with Moses here! He had a plan for Moses and fully intended to help him fulfill it. Yet Moses still hung back. Why was it so hard for him to trust God and do what He wanted him to do? Why is it so hard for me ?

I included the above picture with this post to illustrate the point I'd like to make. The birds in some of our local Metro Parks allow us to hand-feed them. Well, some of them do - but not the cardinals. There have been reports of a few people successfully feeding them by hand, but it is not usually the case. The day that this picture was taken was particularly blustery. We stood for many chilly minutes waiting on this beautiful cardinal to eat from my daughter's hand. He really thought about it! He hopped closer and closer, eyeing the food in her hand that would fill his belly. How we wished he would come! In the end, though, he was not trusting enough to come any nearer.

I feel like it can be the same with me and the Lord! He is before me with an outstretched hand full of the good He has for me, and I am afraid to come too near Him. I know He has things for me that will nourish my spirit, yet I stubbornly cling to my feelings of fear and unworthiness. How sad.

Father, You are good. Forgive me for the times when I fear the route that your goodness will take to work in my life. Help me to trust You more and more, joyfully accepting whatever comes from your hand. Feed me, Lord! Draw me closer and closer to Yourself, that I might walk intimately with You in an unafraid manner. Free me from everything that puts distance between you and me, that I may worship You. Help me to see myself the way that You do - as Your chosen and dearly loved daughter. I love You. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bitter Provision

I took this celebratory picture to commemorate nearing the bottom of my last bowl of mixed Italian greens. Since a friend's garden had yielded way more than she could use, she had brought me two gallon-size baggies of them. Her family had been doing their best to make their way through them, but were not enjoying them as thoroughly as they may have hoped. I listened as she showed me which ones were which and what she had discovered about the taste of each. I joyfully accepted her gift, rejoicing in God's provision of fresh veggies for my family.

Soon thereafter I grabbed a few handfuls, washed the leaves, finely chopped them, and used them to garnish a chowder I had made for dinner. The first bite, reminiscent of dandelion greens, made me feel as though it might take me a while to use up the remainder. Boy were they bitter! Stubborn enough to keep up the fight, I determinedly ate my way through those two bags of greens over a period of about a week and a half.

I shared in my last post about my fear of God providing for me. There was no doubt in my mind that He had provided these ultra-healthy greens and I was going to eat them. But why did they have to taste so bitter??? Isn't the same thing true about so much of what is good for us in this life?

As I chomped one or two big salads each day, I pondered other things that my loving Father has provided along the way that have seemed so bitter to me. A broken childhood home. A sometimes difficult marriage. Financial insecurity. (Earthly) father hunger. Special needs parenting. Loneliness. I could not argue that, while not pleasant, these things were truly good for me in the long run. Each and every circumstance has had a way of reminding me of my need for Him and of drawing me closer to Him. I feel more and more these days that He is trying to drive home the fact that I am just not Home yet. I am never going to find the things that I long for here on earth.

I have previously mentioned that I am particularly fascinated by the way that the book of Jonah speaks of God's provision. He provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, a vine to shield him from the sun, a worm to cause the vine to wither, and a scorching east wind to cause him to feel faint. I am struck by God's wisdom in sending each thing in order to get His point across to Jonah. How skillfully He uses that which makes us uncomfortable! Our spiritual states are infinitely more important to our Lord than our comfort.

And so I press on, realizing all the while that each bitter instance of provision is part of God's plan for my life. He knows me through and through and will handily use earthly cares to work on my heart. He will sometimes provide a bit of comforting shade along the way, but will not hesitate to take it away at the exact moment that it is needed. Not only will He, at times, take away things that are comforting to me, He may then send something along the lines of the scorching wind to turn up the heat and really make me uncomfortable. It will often be during these very times that I will draw closer to the heart of God. None of us really look forward to these instances, but they are a necessary part of our sanctification.

Precious Father, You are good and Your love endures forever. Your ways are not like our ways for Yours are far superior! Thank You for giving us Jonah's story in Your Holy Word. How often I, like Jonah, want to do my own thing. I am tempted to be happy when You provide things that add to my comfort, but want to have a pity party when You send the things that are meant to teach me and drive me into Your arms. Forgive me once again for being so slow to cooperate with You in this way. Thank You for grace.

Your dearly loved daughter.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Familiar Place

It feels a bit strange to have a picture of crayons at the top of this post rather than something from the natural world like usual. But the name of this blog is Speak 2 Me, and the Lord definitely spoke to me where these crayons were concerned. So a crayon picture it is!
I had been doing a cleaning/de-cluttering project and decided to clean out our crayon bucket on a whim. I dumped out the container with a sense of purpose. This time I would only keep crayons that were totally intact. I began sorting. Unbroken crayons with at least some point went back into the bucket, and all the others went into a giant pile. The above picture is just a portion of the several hundred that I culled that day.
I loved how tidy the remaining crayons looked in their now roomy container. I let out a contented sigh and prepared to throw the others away... but a funny thing happened. I found my hands hovering in the air above the crayons in a sort of paralyzed way. All of a sudden I was thinking of how many different ways I could use these broken crayons: creating pictures by painting with the melted crayons, making candles, decorating t-shirts, coloring backgrounds of pictures by laying them on their sides, melting them into mega crayons, etc... In that moment, I decided to wait to throw them away until later.
I can hardly believe it, but I walked around that pile of crayons for the better part of four or five hours. Each time I paused to pitch them, I became deeply distressed and just could not bring myself to do it. I got online and read articles about how many crayons end up in landfills and I battled with the thought that a responsible person would not just waste all of those crayons. There must be something I could do besides throwing them away!
Yet the thought of keeping them filled me with dread. I'd still be swimming in clutter and they'd zap my mental energy. Every time we attempted to use the crayons we'd have to pick our way through the mangled ones just to get to a reliable one. I'd have more to clean up. Still, I reasoned that I could scoop up the "bad" crayons and store them in a baggie until I was ready to use them for some creative pursuit. But I'd then have to store them somewhere! And for how long? I thought of how they could be there for years longer and how I'd likely condemn myself each time I looked at them, realizing how I still had not done anything with them yet. No, I did not need that.
After going through this entire mental process, I purposed to just throw them away. I snatched the trash can, grabbed a handful of crayons... and stopped again, conflicted. Unbelievably, my heart hammered away in my chest and I felt the effects of anxiety. Finally there was that still, small voice cluing me in that something bigger was actually going on
Don't you realize why you're struggling so to throw them away? It's really not about the crayons at all. You are afraid that you will not have what you need. It all boils down to you not believing that I will provide. And maybe, just maybe, you think that this is all you deserve to have.
Well, He really had me there! Somewhere along the way I have begun to mistake the Lord's chosen method of providing for me for something that it isn't. In my heart, I think that I have believed that I must be lacking... or else things would surely be different, right? It seems silly, I know, but I struggle not to equate stability with the Lord's favor. I look around and see others who don't seem to have a care in the world and I wonder if they are doing something very right to be so "blessed." I will myself to be content and remind myself that there are entire people groups who have so much less than me - and it doesn't necessarily mean that God is against them.
When the crayon incident occurred, I was very shaken. I kept chiding myself about how ridiculous I was behaving. Really, like the God of the universe was not capable of providing more crayons for my family should we ever desperately need them. Had He not provided much more on so many occasions? Just think of it!!! If I had such a hard time where something as minor as the crayons were concerned, how was I ever to trust Him in the bigger things?
I have found myself on a very slippery slope for the past few months. No matter the time spent sitting at the Lord's feet, I have lost ground in the area of believing His love for me. Circumstances have a way of clouding your vision and ushering in confusion. What seemed so clear just yesterday doesn't appear quite the same in today's light. This whole walking by faith not by sight thing can be tough! Life's waters rise and I am weary.
So far I have been able to outpace the clutches of that monster, Legalism, though he repeatedly tries to snare me. Maybe God will love you more if you eat the right foods... listen to the right music... serve more... die more to self... think the right thoughts... and on and on. I daily go to war against the thoughts that try to wiggle their way into my heart in order to take up residence and become beliefs that wrap around my ankles causing me to stumble during my race. It is exhausting! I'd say nearly impossible, but it's a good thing that all things are possible with my God.
Lord, thank You for being the Lifter of my head when I feel weary. Thank You for always pursuing me with Your unfailing love, though I am slow to accept it at times. Thank You for Your protection and provision. You are so gracious and generous to me! Thank You that I can never do anything to make You love me more or less. You are unchanging, the same yesterday, today, and forever. 
I am blessed by Your gentle reminder (once again) that I am not fully trusting You to take care of me. I'm so sorry to be walking down this same road yet again! Forgive me. Help me as I fight the urge to do this or that in a subconscious effort to make myself more lovable to You. Please gift me with the ability to truly rejoice with those who rejoice without slipping into analyzing why You are blessing them while choosing a more difficult path for me. I am Yours to do with as You please. In the beautiful name of Jesus I pray, amen. 



Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Blessing?

This was the year that I finally touched base with a friend who is always looking for eager mulberry pickers to take advantage of all that her four trees have to offer. The berries ripen in late spring and provide a feast for the birds. Long gone are the days when an army of neighborhood kids would come with pails to collect their bounty. They've all grown or moved away, and the birds can only gobble up so much. Which means that thousands upon thousands of berries simply go to waste.

I arrived at her home with a few mixing bowls and a small step ladder. I was woefully underprepared! I really don't know what I was thinking. Maybe I was expecting that the "trees" would be more like bushes. You know, like "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush..." In reality, they were huge - much larger than our ladder could reach. The berries seemed limitless - much more than our bowls could contain. In what seemed like no time at all, our bowls were filled and a few sandwich baggies were produced for us to use. I could not believe how much fruit she had right there in her yard for the taking. I imagined all of the ways she could put the mulberries to use and kept telling her what a blessing her trees were. Yet, even as I said this, I thought of how that just did not seem to be the case for her.

I had been ecstatic to have the pleasure of picking all of that free food. What a joy for my fingers to seek out and pluck the plump berries with the birds looking on and expressing their displeasure with us concerning our thievery! My friend, on the other hand, had mulberries all over her driveway and yard. We squished berries with each step and she shared how they had twice replaced their carpeting when their children were young. We literally had a good inch and a half of berries on the bottoms of our shoes as we walked around gathering. The sheer volume of berries was overwhelming and the thought of how many of them just fall to the ground and rot each year was a bit depressing. I could see how the berries might not seem like much of a blessing to her.

Isn't it the same with so many things in life? What is great to one may seem terrible to another. As I pondered this I began to take this whole concept a bit deeper. I thought of instances in my life that have proved to be a blessing to others, but didn't at all feel that way to me. One of the greatest examples that comes to mind is the blessing that others receive by watching us cling to God through special needs parenting.

It's been almost four years since I sat in that doctor's office and began to absorb his callous words about my youngest child. I had asked what all of this would mean. What kind of quality of life would he have? Would he live independently down the road or should we prepare ourselves for institutionalization? His response? "Well, if I had a crystal ball to gaze into the future I could tell you what things will be like for your son. But since I don't, I can't." So many hopes and dreams died in an instant right then and there.

Life had not been easy up to that point, but I had clung to the hope that blessing was just around the corner. I knew that God would be faithful to us if we'd only follow hard after Him. We'd been leading a life that felt a bit nomadic with us moving around every few years. There was no steady, fulfilling, or well-compensating job to hold us. We seemed to be lacking in relationships - always feeling a bit out of place and awkward. No Sunday dinner with family or big birthday/anniversary celebrations. With no student loans, credit card debt, or mortgage to pay off, I began to think that God might send us into the mission field! It made perfect sense to me. I smile now to think of how I lived each day fully expecting my husband to announce that he was answering God's call to pack up our family and go to __________. I couldn't wait to discover what God's great plan was for us.

Sitting in that office, everything that I had fought so hard to make sense of just kind of slipped through my fingers. No, the explanation that I had come up with was not going to be the case. We were back to square one. We would not just pick up one day and move to some distant land to which God was calling us to serve Him. No, He was calling us to stay... at home... with no answers... with even more stresses than we had to begin with... trusting Him throughout... remaining faithful to Him... and inviting others to watch us navigate the sometimes murky waters of parenting our little guy... fully depending on His power and grace all the while.

And so I live each day on the mission field to which He has called me here at home. Always pushed beyond what I can handle, and always with an audience. God shapes me with a faithfulness that is so far beyond my comprehension. He means good for me and I can trust that He is moving all things toward that end. My only job is to love Him and follow His leading. He will take care of the rest.

I bow before You, precious Father, and look to You for rest. I humbly ask that You be my everything. When I begin to wonder if this journey that I am on is a result of my sin or if You are showing Your displeasure with me through it, help me to feel and believe Your love. When I remember the friend who warned me against having a fifth child, telling me that "Children can be blessings, but not all children are blessings from God," help me to see my son for the blessing that he is. Lord, I recall how adamant I was with her in my insistence that all children are blessings. I pray that Your grace will chase away the doubt when I wonder if I shouldn't have listened to her and fear that I am only getting what I deserve. I need You, Lord. Every day. Every hour. Continue to use our precious boy to bless others and point to You. Let others see You in me as I do this thing that You have entrusted me with. Thank You for the joys and thank You for the hardships, for You are found in both. I love you more deeply with each passing day and look forward to the time when I will finally be home with You. In the beautiful name of Jesus I pray, amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Firing

I am actively praying about what I sense the Lord is speaking to me these days. I'll do my best to explain, but the things of the heart can be a slippery thing to grasp at times. How much harder to attempt to translate those things into words for others!

In the weeks leading up to Easter, I became aware that our church would soon be starting a series on forgiveness. I felt a little something stir in me upon hearing that little tidbit. I wondered, "Are you getting ready to do a work in me, Lord? I could not shake the feeling that He did, indeed, have something in mind for me.

But first Easter. Before getting to the forgiveness series, there was the matter of Easter.  Now, worshiping on holidays can be an iffy proposition for me due to the crowds and my anxiety levels. I have realized little victory in this area no matter how much I tell myself that it is about the honor, glory, and praise due God and NOT my physical and/or emotional comfort. The night before Easter I had already made up my mind: I would be staying home while the family went off without me to worship our great God in what I expected to be overwhelming throngs of people. I tossed and turned my way through the night and, is often the case, decided to offer a bit of resistance to the enemy after thinking it through in the morning. As it turned out, I would be joining others who love Him to celebrate the fact that Christ rose from the grave, conquering sin and death.

What a time of worship! I was so glad I had come. Our passage of Scripture came from the book of John, the eleventh chapter: the death and resurrection of Lazarus. Yes, I was very familiar with this story. The crush of people was not nearly as bad as I had feared, and I felt myself begin to relax ever so slightly. I sat, absorbed in the sermon all the way up to the point where Jesus commanded that the stone be taken away from the tomb. Martha, as practical as ever, said, "But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Okay, I knew this, but why did my heart do a little flip flop when I heard it this particular time? Where are you going with this, Lord?

It was unmistakable. He had something for me in those few words. I tuned out the rest of the sermon and meditated on Martha's words: " this time there is a bad odor." To keep it all in context, I rewound the words of the passage in my mind. Jesus was standing at the tomb of Lazarus, fully intending that he would not be dead much longer... and Martha, having no idea, could only think of how removing that stone would bring a terrible smell. I began to see what He was telling me as a vivid image of Him standing in front of my heart popped into my mind.

My heart. That place where remnants of dead things lay buried, the result of living in a fallen world. My heart, protectively healed over without the benefit of removing the shrapnel that had ripped into it. My heart... the place strewn with dreams that had died along the way. Oh!!! I could envision Him gently saying, "Take away the stone" while I stood there, horrified, thinking, "But, Lord! It's gonna stink!!! This is going to be so unpleasant. There is so much YUCK in there!" Yet I could sense Him telling me, "It is time, Daughter. It's time to for resurrection in your heart. It's time to clean house."

And that brings us to the picture at the start of this blog entry. A few days after Easter, I heard from the Metro Parks that they were closing down Springfield Bog for a prescribed burn of the prairie. The day of the burn arrived and we nearly went to that park to hike before remembering that it was closed. We hiked someplace else, but I found that thoughts about the burn kept tugging at my mind. For whatever reason I felt a need to beat a path to that park as soon as possible. Which is what I did!

I would be in the area the very next day and I was determined to see it for myself. I grabbed my daughter and we headed out. The sight that greeted us was to be expected, but still felt rather shocking. It was pretty leveled... and black. As we walked along, we noticed a comforting campfire-like smell. Every so often I stopped and let my eyes sweep across the charred nothingness that had once been an thriving prairie.

It felt so desolate. So dead. But I kept reminding myself that looks can be deceiving. I knew that the Metro Parks would not have ordered this burn unless it would be beneficial in the long run. I thought about naturally occurring fires in nature. Though devastating, I seemed to remember hearing that they were a great thing. Weren't there varieties of flowers that could not grow unless touched by fire? I thought of how the Lord sometimes lovingly puts us through the fire... how we can trust Him to always do those things that will bring about the desired result in us... and how He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us.

I got busy researching when I got home and was not disappointed. The pieces began falling into place with a surprising quickness. I suddenly understood what moving the stone that seals off my heart would bring about... what it would mean if I allowed the Lord to take His refining fire to those dead places.

Just to name a few things, I learned that fires kill back the invasive plants before they have a chance to take over. The products of the burn fall to the ground, sink back into the soil, and provide the nutrients that are needed for future growth. Amazingly, some seeds need hot temperatures to germinate. I also learned that the Metro Parks perfectly times their burns so that regrowth will occur before nesting birds return to make the prairie their home.  

I can so see the Lord doing all of these things in me, the one He loves. He knows exactly when it is time to move on to the next phase of what He has in store for me. He has plans for me, but he must first ready the soil of my heart. He has shown me that it is time for a firing to take place. Might it get unpleasant for me at times? Sure! But in His loving kindness, He has provided just the words I needed to give me courage for what lies ahead.

He knows that it is time to cleanse my heart of all of the things that have stubbornly stuck around. He knows the danger of allowing them to remain too long: that I will be hindered in accomplishing those things He has for me. I've desperately tried to beat back the things that should have been taken care of long ago. I am realizing, though, that sometimes you just have to get drastic about removal.

I love this picture! Is it just me, or can you also see the promise? The total destruction of  prairie is seen on one side of the path. On the other side, the promise of things to come - the reminder of how densely it will grow back. He is faithful! He can see what we cannot.

Lord, I am excited about where You are leading me. I lift up the remainder of the forgiveness series to You. I humbly ask that You give our pastors just the right words to minister to us, your people. I pray for an outpouring of Your Holy Spirit upon our congregation, that strongholds will crumble and fall as your people cry out to You and give You access to dark places in their hearts. Shine your light, Lord, and lovingly administer healing wherever it is needed. I pray that many will let go of things that have bound them for years and experience the freedom that can be found in You. Thank You for the attentiveness that I know You will show each of us as we do the hard stuff. You will never leave us or forsake us. Remind us to come to You, allowing You to carry our burdens when they feel heavy. Lord, our time here is short and we need to be about your work. We are not capable of doing that unless You purge our hearts of every thing that is not of You. Do it, Lord! And we'll give all praises to your great name. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Promise of Protection

I love the unique way that the Lord comforts me in my times of need! We came across this neat heart pattern on one of our hikes last week. At the time, I had whispered, "I love You, too, Lord!" I considered it to be one of the many love gifts He seems to delight in sending my way. I hadn't any idea then, but He had more in mind where this gift was concerned. A depth to it that I did not at first suspect.

You see, I got a call from a friend last weekend who also has a special needs child. From time to time we like to pause in our busy lives and see what's going on with one another, laughing and crying about some of the things we deal with. And so we caught up again. These conversations, while a blessing, can also get my mind wandering where it has no business going: the future. Inevitably, I begin thinking about what life will be like for my son if the Lord doesn't come back for us before my husband and I become aged or pass away. Will someone with unrestrained evil take advantage of him?

I needed something to quell my quaking heart before leaving for worship the next morning. Soaking in the Psalms was just the thing! In doing so, the Lord let me know exactly what His plan was for my son. He is so good. Towards the very end of my reading, my eyes came to rest on Psalm 116:6 - "The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me." Of course! How could I have doubted? I thought of my sweet boy and his precious, simple heart.  And then I let the reality of that sink in: the LORD protects those who are like my Levi. These types of things do not escape His attention. I knew this was God's Word for me. Additionally, the preceding verse says, "The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion." Yes, He is all of those things. He loves my son more than I do. What beautiful promises for this mama. Praise God!

Thank You, Lord, that You speak to me so faithfully through your Word and through everything You have made. You know just when the worries of this life strangle and choke. You know the very moment I need reassurance from You. How blessed I am that You know what I need before the need ever arises!

In a world where so many are looking for meaning in anything but You, O Lord, I praise You for making me Your very own. I am grateful that You have caused me to seek hard after You. It is true that You can be found by those who look for You. May I always see You everywhere I look.

I once again place my precious Levi boy into your loving and capable hands. I once again trust You with His future. Thank You for the many promises in your Word. Help me to always see them and cling to them. In the strong name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Living Small

These days find us giggling whenever we find our darling kitty stuffing herself into her basket. When Charlotte first came to us, Dara-Grace made her a magic scarf-lined bed in this very basket. It was soft and roomy... and convenient for my animal-loving daughter to tote around with her wherever she went. During the training stages where we had to teach her what was acceptable or unacceptable, Charlotte would always run to the safety and comfort of her basket when she had gotten herself into a pickle.

Watching her grow, we have often lamented how sad it would be when the time came that she could no longer fit into her beloved basket. As she increased in size, we found it necessary to remove the fuzzy lining that took up so much precious space inside the basket. Surprisingly, Charlotte continued to return over and over again even minus the comfy padding.

Last month Dara-Grace made a new kitty bed by lining a box with a fleece throw. We were happy to discover that Charlotte didn't at all seem to mind the replacement. And so the basket was tucked away and forgotten until we came upon it during some recent cleaning projects. Seeing her basket sitting on the floor, Charlotte immediately hopped in. Or she at least tried to! She had grown and the once spacious basket could now barely contain her. I thought she'd abandon it and return to her new bed, but she didn't.

For two days now I have incredulously watched this cat squash herself into this tight place. Each time I think that she will not be able to fit, but she has somehow managed to do so. I wanted to snap this photo of her piled in her basket today to document what I think is one of the last days she'll be able to fit in there. I am amazed that she continues to go back to the cramped and bumpy conditions of her basket when she has plenty of room and plush bedding inside her new box. Afterall, she was liking the new bed just fine until she spied her old one once again. Why does it still seem so attractive to her when it is plain to all of us that she no longer fits?

Why would she do that? It doesn't make sense. And then it came to me: Why would you do that, Tamra? Because that's exactly what you do. Didn't you just read in the first chapter of your book study that some people intentionally make their lives small as a response to pain? That they can fearfully refuse to move on to what God has for them in life and choose, instead, to occupy a cramped but familiar place? So it might not be the most comfortable of places, but at least you know what you're dealing with... right? Haven't you been making your life small to give others less chance to hurt you? Haven't you looked for every excuse to avoid fellowship? This is not what I have for you. Trust me to lead you to the place that I have for you. I will not leave you on your own - I will be with you! It saddens me to see how you cling to what you deem "good enough" when I have so much more for you. Can't you see that you have outgrown your current surroundings? Can't you feel the roughness of this place that you have grown so comfortable with?

Ahhhh... I hear You, Lord. I hear You. Help me to trust You more. And let Psalm 18:19 be true in my life: "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me." In the beautiful name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Monday, February 4, 2013


While I love to keep my posts nature-related, an object of modern technology is what is prompting me to write this morning. I encountered this car shortly after merging onto the expressway on our way to church yesterday morning. While other cars zoomed by, this one stood out to me because it was moving at a steady, reasonable pace. Since the speedometer does not work on our car (and neither does the GPS that used to tell us how fast we were going), I decided that I could plant myself behind this car and follow it all the way down the highway. There is always a little fear that I will be unknowingly going too fast and get pulled over by the police. This, in my estimation, was a great safeguard.

Now don't get ahead of yourself and think about how I must have gotten pulled over by the police anyhow. Though that would make for an interesting blog post, that thankfully did not happen to me. It was quite simple actually. Driving along with my eyes on the car in front of me, just as I was coming to the end of my ten-mile jaunt, a thought came to me. With exit in sight, I began to feel dread wash over me. "What if," I thought, "that car doesn't have a speedometer either?" The phrase, "The blind leading the blind," popped into my head. And just now as I write this I think, "Didn't I used to pray that the Lord Himself would be my Speedometer, regulating my speed?"

Just think of it! Here I had thought I was being so wise. Yet, I was foolishly placing an inordinate amount of trust in something that really didn't make sense at all. And I'd thought I had it all covered! Isn't that how it always goes?

To be honest, I was quite stunned by this occurrence. How could this have happened to me, the one who doesn't even accept a sermon without making sure that it lines up with the Word of God? I am so careful! My plan had made such perfect sense to me, yet it was still not good enough in the end. Now I am wondering if I am doing this very same thing in other areas of my life. How else am I smugly thinking that I have all of the bases covered?

Lord, I still don't quite know what to do with this. I think that I must be falling short in this same way in other places. Open my eyes to really see where I am relying on myself rather than depending on You. Forgive me for all of the times that I've done this. Soften my heart to what You are doing in me through this experience. Help me to embrace the revelations that will deliver blows to my pride, no matter how jarring it may seem. I feel that You are not being quite as gentle in the way that You are speaking to me and sanctifying me these days. This is good! Thank You for that which You have entrusted me. Help me to make Your heart smile as I navigate these waters, fully trusting in You. In the strong and beautiful name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Monday, January 28, 2013

When I Can't See

What a blessing to share the story behind this picture with my little Olympian girls last night! Many of you are already familiar with how I reacted to this harrowing experience, but the Lord has given me even more to share as He's uncovered some things in my heart. Perhaps you will be able to do what I asked my precious Olympians to do when they went to bed last night: offer up a prayer of thanksgiving. In their case, it was because He had protected their leader. However, for the rest of us, I'd suggest that we thank Him for how He grows us through the situations that we'd never bring upon ourselves.

This snowy drive was one of the worst of my life. In actuality, this picture can't begin to capture how little visibility we had at times. There were three or four excruciating moments when there was nothing to be glimpsed except swirling whiteness. It was at these times that my mind would run away from me. What if someone stops in front of us? Where, exactly, are we in the lane? What if we're too far to the left and hit a car? What if we're too far to the right and plunge off the bridge? What if we begin spinning? What will I do? What of our children at home? How can I make this stop????

I discovered something about myself during that trip. During the times when I fought the urge to roll down my window to escape or open my door and fling myself from the car. I learned that my desire to avoid the unknown and the pain that it may bring is a much bigger problem than I first supposed. Not surprisingly, I am realizing that it is connected to one of my biggest adversaries: Fear.

Of course, the fear that gripped me during this particular drive was not out of the ordinary. I am used to such things, as much as I aim to fight against them. What surprised me was the intense feelings that urged me to flee the situation. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced. Not wanting the teachable moment to stop with the safe ending of that fateful road trip, the Lord has used a situation at my church to further reveal some things to me.

The situation at my church. Just writing it makes me want to cry. And I feel like such a baby because of that! Nonetheless, I have been struggling with the "shedding off" of some of our attenders to another location that will be taking place in the fall. It shouldn't be such a big deal, but it has left me grieving deeply. Mostly for reasons that are just plain selfish.

I had been at our church for about a year and a half when the first news began trickling out. Unfortunately, I had just gotten to the point where I was actually getting to know people. I was feeling a bit less like a misfit and a bit more like I belonged. It takes me a very long time to let my guard down and now some of the very people I had let in would be leaving with what seemed like a piece of my heart. So painful!

To make matters worse, we had just gone through this at our old church when it had opened another campus. It had felt like all of our best people had gone, leaving holes that were never entirely filled. All of a sudden, our Body just seemed so... incomplete. There are always intentions to stay in touch, but I've found that it rarely happens. At least, that has been our experience.

And so, I have been bracing myself for the departures that will be happening. Wondering who will go. Hoping against hope that certain dear ones would not be leaving. Vacillating between feeling guilty about how I am handling it and wanting to joyfully send these people off to do a great work for the Lord... between sorrow and excitement... between hope for the future and despair that it will never feel so right again.

Such a tug of war began taking place in my mind and heart! I became so distressed and distracted that I actually pulled out of the church parking lot without one of my children not very long ago. I'd seen one of the families I hoped would be staying, which had caused my mind to become all jumbled. Alas, I learned last night that they will, in fact, be leaving. We laughed and cried a bit together, and I sent an e-mail after getting home to say how sorry I felt for getting emotional. The gracious and timely response I received reminded me all over again why I loved this family so much. And buried somewhere in the body of the return e-mail was something that made a lightbulb go off in my head.

I am guessing that the Holy Spirit gave her insight and nudged her to share about some instances in her own life. These words, in particular, seemed to make the scales fall from my eyes: "...there have been times when I have wanted to play it safe and not reach out and connect because of the fear of getting my heart broken. But I have learned that when I can love others with the deep love that God has loved me and can share in their lives, even if it is for a short time, my life is so much richer because of it." 

And there it was. The fear of getting my heart broken. That would explain my difficulty in warming up to people. Hadn't most of the people I'd loved been taken from me? I have come to realize that for a while now I have been using my supposed introverted tendencies to get me off the hook. As a child, my mom offered a, "She's shy," to anyone who attempted to engage me in conversation while I peered out from behind her legs. At forty years of age it seems like I've been behaving like a child hiding behind her mother's legs.  I've been taking the easy way out, and God doesn't call me to easy. He certainly didn't take the easy route Himself. And so it all comes back to what He's been telling me for the past three years: He wants me to be courageous! To live and love courageously without fear of the pain that I feel is inevitable.

I see it so clearly now - why these goodbyes are so hard for me. After carefully surrounding myself with the select few that I deem "safe" - it means that I will have to take those chances all over again. I will have to give up what I know and can see for the unknown and for what I cannot see. Each and every new person comes with the potential to "get" me or not. There is always the possibilty of rejection. Some will appear to be so outstanding in my estimation that I will have to fight against comparing myself. Some will rub me the wrong way. But just maybe (and this is by far worse) some will take up residence in my heart... only to leave when God calls them away. And that will bring the discomfort, the pain, that I have become so adept at avoiding.

God is once again challenging me to love courageously. He is showing me my need to lay myself - my wants, my fears - at His feet, to be used of Him for His purposes. He is asking me to love Him enough to trust Him with the plan He has for me even though I cannot see where He is taking me. There will be holes when these dear friends leave, but I can now see how He lovingly provided me an example in them. How good He is! He has reminded me how this family loved my family in very tangible ways and made us feel so very special. And now He is calling me to love others in the same way... without fear of acceptance or rejection... or the possible removal of them from my life. And it has to be wholeheartedly - nothing less.

I praise You, Lord, and lift up my heart to You. I tell You yet again that I trust You with my future and the plans You have for me. I accept Your great love for me. I say, "Yes," to the good plans that You have for me. The plans that will make me more like You and accomplish Your will here. I know that I am not home yet, but I sometimes try to build my own little Heaven here on earth. Forgive me for that. You never meant for Your child to live a life of comfort here - that will come when I am with You. Thank You for reminding me of that. Help me to live and love courageously for You. Bless our friends who are leaving with Your peace. Show Yourself mighty in their lives! Fill their hearts with Your love and meet whatever needs they may have. Lead them to the very people that You wish them to love on just like You did for us.

Your dearly loved daughter

Monday, January 21, 2013

Flowing Down

I sit here, eyes feasting on the beauty of this picture, remembering God's faithfulness in pursuing me and making me His. How thankful I am that He is not just content to bring me to salvation. He loves me (Me!) enough to transform me bit by sometimes painful bit. How patient He is with me!

You may be wondering how in the world I can get to those thoughts just from looking at this picture. I'm guessing that you know me enough to expect the explanation to follow. And you are right in thinking that!

I recently had the privilege of sharing a bit of my testimony at an Emmaus gathering. In order to help everyone better understand what makes me tick, I shared two incidents that have largely shaped my ability to receive love. The first being my father leaving and the second being my husband's admission in the early years of our marriage that "I just don't love you the way a man is supposed to love his wife." My father never told me that he didn't love me, but his actions spoke louder than his words to me. In my husband's case, unfortunately, the words have a way of playing over and over in your mind, never really leaving you. If my dad didn't love me enough to stay and my husband had enough guts to say what my dad hadn't, then I didn't seem to have a very good track record as far as being worthy of love. Throw in my other life experiences and a girl can start to believe that even God Himself wouldn't be interested in loving her.

So that's where I subconsciously lived for a very long time even after I came to faith in Christ. If I am honest, I have to admit that I still struggle with this on a daily basis. This feeling that I am something to be tossed aside. That hardships are proof of God's displeasure with me. That I am somehow missing something and will never get "IT," whatever that it may be. That I will inevitably be rejected by those that I allow to get close to me. . .

I shared on Saturday night that I have always known that God loved me in my head. Somehow, though, I could never really believe it in my heart. The people in my life had told me otherwise. It has taken many years for me to see that my heavenly Father and Husband are not like my earthly ones.

A friend approached me after my testimony and wanted to share a thought about believing God's love in your head, but not in your heart. It was really quite beautiful. Before I tell you what he said, though, I want you to take a second and refer back to the picture at the top of this page. Now think about that rushing water as I quote him... "It's a good thing that water always flows down. You've got the Living Water that flows down from your head and right into your heart." Let that sink in for a moment.

In my case, His mighty rushing waters flowed down from my head and brought a stirring up and cleansing of those stagnant places in my heart. He knows that without circulation, the healing will not come. I am not a health professional, but I know that in the cases of frostbite and foot binding, that the circulation, though necessary, is extremely painful. It brings life and healing which leads to believing. Really believing. Whenever I see a waterfall from now on I will think of Christ, the Living Water, and how He flowed down from my head and into my heart. What a blessing!

Will I sometimes be tempted to forget that? Probably. But there's hope for me because my God never gives up on me. He isn't finished with me. He will be faithful to complete that which He's begun in me.

Lord, I know that whenever You reveal something to me the enemy works hard to snatch it from me.  Strengthen me to resist the attacks when they come. Cause me to cling to You, remembering your goodness. When doubts begin to overwhelm my resolve to believe You, flood my heart with Your Living Water. Stir up those ugly things that have sunk to the deepest recesses of my heart and move them out. Glorify Yourself through my life. In the strong name of Jesus I pray, Amen.