Friday, June 14, 2013

Listen... what? To the cars racing up the road, to the birds chirping outside my window, to the dog barking in the other room, or to the thoughts in my head that seem to be shouting?

Thoughts, they are loud and intrusive. They interrupt and overrun my life when I let them. My thoughts are destructive, because they're full of selfish desires, and the what-if's and could-have's of this life.

But God's thoughts, those thoughts are pure, they are convicting and they are holy. But honestly, sometimes I'd rather wallow in my thoughts rather than glean from His. I'd rather crawl through the mud of my own thoughts, trying to figure life out, instead of resting in His thoughts and the plans that are already in place.

Listening can be really easy when it's what I want, and listening can be one of the hardest things I will ever do when it's not. Because if I'm truly listening, then the next step is either obedience or disobedience; there's no half-way-happy place. It's one or the which will it be today?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Games We Play

"Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, 'No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight out battles.'"
1 Samuel 8:19-20 ~ The Israelites response to the Lord's warning about a king.

I was reading 1 Samuel this morning and this phrase caught my eye...that we also may be like all the nations...Why is being like everyone else so desirable? Why would we rather try and be like someone else than be who we really are and who Christ created us to be? Why do we choose to play the comparison game and let what we find steal our joy from who and where we are right now?

When are we ever to learn to live as Paul? As David?

"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." 
...and I love the last first in the Message as well...
"Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."
Philippians 4:11-13
"Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it"
Psalm 37:4-5

When will contentment come before whining? When will joy come before self-pity? When will delighting in the Lord come before delighting in circumstances? When will these verses describe my heart? When will I allow pretenses to give way? When will I let go of my desire to please everyone to a fault? When will I care more about what the Lord thinks than of those around me? When will I give up the picture of the "perfect life" and desire His LIFE instead? 

Because really, there is no life outside of His LIFE; outside of Christ and the sacrifice that He made on the cross; outside of His resurrection which is our gift of life. There is no life outside the one offered and freely given by my Savior. May I cling to that life, His LIFE, that is forever rather than this earthly life that will not last.

May the worries and fears of circumstances fade away, may the comparing and complaining turn to joy and gratitude when I look upon and live out His Light and Life in my life. May I find such peace as I give up on perfect and instead cling to Jesus.   

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Overflowing Blessings

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

When I look back at this week I am amazed to see such a contrast between the valley and the anointing. This week has felt long. I haven't worked at all and the days just seem to drag on and on when you're unable to get out of bed. And yet, this morning I have tears in my eyes as I look at all the blessings that have come from this week.

~ Matthew started his job at Wal-Mart ~ I had visits from Christine, Juanita & Shelley ~ Juanita and RoseMary stocked my fridge with amazing gluten free meals and snacks ~ we had a lovely evening of fellowship with Ted and Sharon last night ~ there are now lovely purple orchids on my dresser, another blessing from RoseMary ~

And there are more blessings to come as I look ahead...

~ Victoria, Joe, Daniel, Dustin and Luke are all coming over this evening ~ And I leave on Monday to go and stay with Amanda and Michael over the next couple of weeks to help in my recovery ~ 

And of course there have been more through phone calls, emails, blogs, books and #shereadstruth in 1 Peter this week. These blessings that often come from others that do not know the heart and physical struggles that are my everyday life, and each one breathes life and hope into this heart of mine.  

It is amazing as I look at the struggles that are overwhelmingly before Matthew and me. Satan is working hard for the desire to wallow in doubt to win out, and yet the Lord is victorious! We are in a spiritual battle with the Evil one who so desperately wants to distract and overwhelm so that all we can see is our insurmountable circumstances. But our God is bigger, He is greater, He is All-Powerful, He is Provider, He is the King of Kings, He is Comforter, and He is Abba. He is everything that we could ever need and more. Our focus has to move away from circumstances and onto our Heavenly Father.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love [Him], to those who are called according to His purpose." ~ Romans 8:28

Monday, June 3, 2013

Real Life {It All Starts With Thanksgiving}

"...and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. And they all ate and were satisfied..."
Matthew 15:36-37

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will if profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Matthew 16:24-26

Jesus' rode wasn't easy. He didn't have a "cake walk" during his years spent here on earth, and so why should we expect our lives to be any different? Or when we experience hard times, why does that make us wonder if God is really there? Christ came to this earth to suffer and then commanded us to "pick up our own cross and follow Him". I would say those words should make us expect the hard times, the times when we don't understand why, and the struggles that come our way.

And yet what is our attitude during those difficult times when we find ourselves face to face with uncertainty? When the spiritual decisions we feel the Lord is calling us to war against the practical and earthly mindset of our every daily lives? When stepping out in faith isn't a little thing, but something that looks impossible/stupid/insurmountable when we look at what lays before us through our human eyes rather than looking into the unknown and the uncertainty through the eyes of faith. I would have to say that my attitude isn't always the best. In reality, it pretty much stinks!

I am definitely the one to look at everything in a practical sense. "Well if we do this than that will happen, so therefore we can't do that. But if we do this than that might happen and that could be good or bad but I can't guarantee anything so we probably shouldn't do that either..." And I could go on and on. This is the reality of my brain. I want to have a detailed plan that ensures that everything is going to work out fine. I want to be responsible. I want to look put together on the outside even if I'm a hot mess on the inside. 

The Lord has been challenging me A LOT recently through the many uncertainties that He has brought into my life over the last several months. And yet through this time He has also brought people into my life to speak words of encouragement and conviction that He is using to mold my heart and my mind to be open to His leading no matter what that looks like. He has used friends and family here in Ingersoll as well as back in Charlotte. He has used women I have never met but who I feel are walking with me through this journey by their willingness to sharing their words through a computer screen or through the books piled on my nightstand...

Ann Voskamp ~
"That which I refuse to thank Christ for, I refuse to believe Christ can redeem."
"And I’ve felt Him say to me in the deepest part of my heart, the part I sometimes let get too covered up, “You are so much harder on yourself than I am.”

I am. I’m hard on myself. I get caught up in the comparison game and feel like everyone is loving better, living more purposefully, doing more significant things and, essentially, blooming so much better than me.

I give other people the benefit of the doubt, but I never give myself that same grace. And that’s what God has been whispering over me.


Emily P Freeman ~ Grace for the Good Girl

Sarah Young ~ Jesus Calling

Each of these individuals have touched my heart deeply. God has used their words to bring me to a breaking point where I acknowledge that I want to be in control, I want to do what's right (and what other people think is right), I care about what other's think and it can sometimes rule my decision making. All these hidden heart attitudes, and more, that the Lord is bringing to light so that He can draw me closer to Himself. He is convicting me of my lack of faith in my God and in my husband, because I am not willing to let go so that they together, as the head of our house and our life can lead me. I'm just too scared as to what that might look like, but I am learning to let go, because letting go is all that I have left...

So, this might cause you to wonder what uncertainties would bring me through all this heart struggling? Well Matthew has been looking for a job since November of 2012 and until last week was unable to find anything. Thankfully last week he was able to get a part time job at Wal-Mart which we are both so grateful for! During the time that he was looking for a job my health also began to decline. I had to start pulling out of commitments that I had made (like being a youth leader and attending small group through our church) and my life began to consist of going to work, trying to sleep as much as possible, and hoping to make it to church every Sunday (which didn't always happen). But over the last several weeks my health has taken a drastic dip downward so that I am now having to take time off of work to  allow my body the time it needs to heal.

During this time of healing and recovery we will be living on the part-time hours that Matthew will be working at Wal-Mart . This of course put my overactive, everything has to make sense, we need a plan, brain into a major freak out session! I cried, asked God why, I ranted, I threw up my hands in an overwhelming "I don't know anything" motion. And He has answered. Not my questions mind you, He has answered by reminding me Who He is. He has been patient through my freak out session (ok, lets be honest, there's been more than one!) and has shown up in a mighty way. He hasn't changed our circumstances, and He hasn't made anything more clear in human terms. But He has bombarded me with the Truth about Who He is, what He is capable of, and what He has brought me through in the past and what He has brought others through. 

He is faithful. I know this to be true. He is now giving me the opportunity to live out what I say that I believe. And it is my choice to take Him up on it. It is my choice to say, "Ok, You are God and I am not. You love me more than I could possibly imagine. And You, not me, You are in control." Now the question is, will I trust Him, really truly trust Him with every single "I don't know" detail that we are faced with?

Yes. I will trust Him. Though I will fail, though I will let myself get overwhelmed when I look at the reality of what He is asking us to do, I come back with a broken and battered heart and lay it all at His feet once again. And I will trust Him.