he ended up rescuing us…

Five months ago we rescued a dog. And we assumed {since we are the humans} that we were doing him a favor. Turns out we were wrong. He’s actually rescued us. This lovable dog has been the saving grace for our family as we come out of a tough season in our lives. {I guess God brings us angels in the most unique packages.} Here’s how it all came about…
LJ
A few years ago we stepped out into the unknown, following doors that were so blatantly open it seemed ignoring them was just…dumb. Looking back I think the doors were as obvious as they were because we would need the reminders that it was God who laid out the path for us and not ourselves. But even then, the reminders didn’t always help. Sometimes knowing God has put you into a cocoon doesn’t making becoming a butterfly any easier.

Ironically, while packing books away a few week ago, I came across a bible-study book about Job. I thought it strange because I didn’t remember ever seeing it before and yet somehow I had packed and unpacked it three times without noticing it. And what was so weird was when I opened the book, on the inside front page was the date we received it, and a plane ticket stub from the initial first step of our journey. I started to chuckle when I realized maybe God had given us a tiny sign, right before-hand, that we were about to enter a season of testing. Which made me wonder if we would have still stepped into the process knowing what was about to occur. {Something tells me we might have hesitated. <cough> #payattentiontogiftsfrompeople #theymightbeaclue}

Now, over the last few years, I did read through the book of Job three times, looking desperately for some answer as to why God allowed him to go through a period of hell for seemingly little reason at all. But no definitive answer appeared. Or rather, nothing suited what I wanted to hear. What I did find though was a God who does things for His own sovereign purpose that always works out for our good. Eventually.

Needless to say, I didn’t pack the book away with all the others. I laid it out in order to read it. Slowly. As in, paragraph by paragraph. Sometimes even sentence by sentence. Because it’s intense. And deep. And sometimes a bit too much to take in. Which is okay. Because healing and recovery takes time. You don’t emerge from surgery ready to run five miles. {Unless, of course, you’re the Terminator.} It can take weeks and months before you’re ready for normal life again.

It’s no different when you experience spiritual surgery. When you go under God’s ‘knife’ and He begins to remove things not of Him, it isn’t easy. Probably because as He’s removing our issues, we so desperately try to cling to them for the security and familiarity they’ve offered us. We’re used to living with them and functioning that way, and when God’s process results in change, it can be unsettling.

Plus, change effects not only us, but everyone around us as well because others are used to who we’ve been, and our change forces a decision in their own lives. Even when they haven’t asked for it. {Which doesn’t always sit so well.} They have to decide whether they are going to change with us or not. {It’s usually the not that hurts the most.} And what I mean by ‘change with us’ is: Are they going to allow us the space to become who God is making us, or are they going to fight His process simply because they don’t understand it? Word of advice? Don’t stop God’s work in you just to make others happy. That’s not how God works. Jesus stepped into the religious structure of His day and split it down the middle: You’re either with Me or against Me. Make a decision. Change, or remain the same. Live life abundantly, or live empty. Your choice.

So what does any of that have to do with the dog we rescued? Well, as I sit here this morning watching him play all over the yard, I realized God brought him into our lives to help heal our hearts from our recent time of trial. I thought we were being so kind in providing LJ a home when, really, he has brought us so much more in the process.
Time heals all wounds...
LJ has a story, but we will probably never hear it. We’ll simply see it reflected in his eyes every once in a while. Those eyes that, at times, still have a bit of unsureness in them. Even when he’s curled up right next to us enjoying our attention. Because the memories of whatever happened to him before he came to us are still there. When we travel, he panics when he is outside of the car. He goes ‘potty’ faster than usual because he is desperate to get back in the car. We can only figure it’s because he was dropped off somewhere. Maybe. We just don’t know. But he remembers what happened.

And I totally get that feeling.

Pieces of our last few years are still reflected in my eyes occasionally almost every day. I experience frequent moments of panic when I don’t know exactly what is coming up next. I don’t like not being able to see around-the-bend. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever feel truly whole again. And while my head tells me we will, my eyes still look wary.

When we first decided to adopt LJ, I read that animals who are initially rescued may have spots where their fur has come off due to stress, and that it takes time and TLC for them to fill back in.

And I totally get that feeling.

Just like LJ, though we are being restored more and more each day, the scars are still visible and sensitive. I have places in me that are going to require time and TLC for them to grow back. Places where the stress of God’s process has left a few marks. Sort of like Jacob walking with a limp. And every so often, over the last few years, I’ve looked around with the same desperate eyes that LJ first had, wishing someone would see and ‘rescue’ me. But sometimes I was passed by simply because healing requires…time. And not everyone is willing to part with theirs. Even when it could save a life.

And, honestly, I totally get that feeling as well.

Because when I first heard about LJ, I wished I hadn’t readily agreed to take him. We had lost our dog the previous year due to sickness, and I still wasn’t ready to open myself up to a new dog. The last few years had been rough, and I didn’t want my heart to be broken again if this one didn’t work out. After all, we were in an apartment…and he was a labrador. Initially he was only 50 lbs due to being abandoned but eventually he was going to be bigger. Much bigger. And he was going to need food and medicine and maybe even some training. And… On and on my mental list went. Fears piled up and I kicked myself for agreeing to adopt this huge, desperate, emaciated-looking, loving dog.

But I did it anyways. I allowed our family to commit to him our time, our efforts, and our love.

And now at a healthier weight of 75 lbs {told ya he’d get bigger}, he’s running and playing and happy as a lark. {Although he can’t figure out why I’m typing this instead of throwing the stick again. ‘C’mon, mom, that’s so boring!’} Each night he sits at our feet, and might occasionally lick you if you get too close. Also we discovered he was completely trained by whomever had owned him previously {only God, right?}, and we’ve not had any problems. He walks through the house during the night checking on everybody, making sure all is safe, and barks if he hears something strange. Which is not a bad thing…{unless, of course, you were completely sound asleep and then suffered a slight heart palpitation as the sound of a massive bark ripped you suddenly out of said sleep.}

Thing was, rescuing him simply required time. Time I didn’t think I was ready to part with. But I did it anyways, and now LJ is bringing healing to us. As I see the rough times fading in his eyes, I feel it fading from mine. As I see his security grow with us, I feel my security growing even more with God. As LJ’s stress spots are filling in, mine are as well.

LJ knows he’s loved, and has a home.
I know God sees me, and has everything in control.

LJ is learning we aren’t going to abandon him.
And I’m reminded God won’t as well. Even when it feels that way.

LJ has a story that we may never know.
I also have one that might not be told.

And that’s okay. What we’ve experienced may only be shared over occasional coffee moments on an individual basis. Which is probably better. Because some pieces of our journey might not be meant for everyone. So I will leave it to God to open the doors our story needs to walk through and close the ones it doesn’t.

And as for how we picked LJ’s name, we originally thought we would get two dogs and name them after our favorite NCIS character, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs {as so stated by Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo}. Our idea was that one dog would be Leroy, the other Jethro. Leroy meant ‘king’ and Jethro meant ‘more than enough, abundance’. And while both were great concepts, in the end, LJ just fit better. It wasn’t too heavy; it was just right. Dignified, yet playful. Unique. Just like LJ is. Even with his slowly-filling-in stress spots, and every-once-in-a-while sad eyes. We’ll take him with both of those because…he came with a story. As do we. It’s made him the great dog he is now, as our story is making us who we are.

So if you get the opportunity to rescue someone or something, go for it. Yeah, it may cost you some sleep. Maybe some schedule re-arrangement. Possibly even some investments you didn’t budget for. But it’s worth it, ya know. Both for you and one you’re rescuing. They need you, and, believe it or not, you need them. Their story will change you, and yours will change them.

Besides, I think it’s a bit of a God-thing, rescuing and all.

And now I need to go feed this now-75 lb mass of fur. ;)

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…as {or in the same amount of}

Lately I’ve been reading I Corinthians 13 piece-by-piece. As you may know, it’s the ‘love’ chapter, so I decided to take each item and chew on it thoroughly throughout the day, examining where it could be applied. Today’s piece was, “…it endures everything [without weakening].”

Well…alrighty then.

Endures everything. Without weakening. {Is that really even possible?}

The Road of Forgiveness and Healing...While on that thought, forgiveness popped into my mind. {Surely not a coincidence.} Letting go of what has been done to you, and releasing it in order to allow no room for payback or retribution. {No matter how much you wish for it.} Because forgiveness releases everything, right?

Which is what we want when it’s walking toward us. But what about when it’s required from us?

I thought of The Lord’s Prayer, and one word stood out.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven [left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against] our debtors.” {Amplified Bible, Matt. 6:12}

As.

The definition said, “to the same amount of”.

Which reminded me of something you see often in action films. The ‘exchange’ that occurs when both sides have something or someone the other side wants. So they walk toward the middle ground in order to conduct the trade-off. Tension on either side. Eyes glancing furtively about. Fingers sitting ready on the trigger, waiting for any sign of trouble. And all is not calm until the exchange is over and each party satisfied.

Now back to our thought. We have ‘love enduring everything without weakening’, and forgiveness coming our way as {or in the same amount of} the forgiveness we are sending out.

You hurt me; I hurt you back, right? Wrong.

In God’s Kingdom: You hurt me, and I can do nothing to change that.

Except that, He offers an exchange. One that invites me to let go of my desire for retribution for the peace and freedom only He can give as He forgives me. Because I am only forgiven in the same amount I am willing to forgive. He will only release me from my punishment as I release the other person from theirs.

Crazy thing is, they probably do deserve punishment.

But then again, don’t I?

Yet Jesus still died on the cross. For both you, me, and them.

So what about it? Does your love endure everything that comes your way without weakening? Or does it waiver according to the circumstances? Are you open to the life-giving exchange of receiving God’s forgiveness as you forgive them?

It’s worth it, ya know. Carrying around all that resentment and retribution only drains the life out of you. Sad when you think about it really. The weight you refuse to release only destroys you.

So why not decide today to exchange the chains of hurt you’re clinging to for the freedom He wants you to walk in right now?

As.

{Image courtesy of Flickr}
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give healing a chance…

Joshua 5:8...’they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.’

Ever been in a place where it seemed as though nothing was moving, changing, or really improving yet? This scripture made me think, maybe God has cut away something unnecessary from you and now you are in the healing part of the process. You can’t claim your Promise Land until ‘Egypt’ has been removed from you, so how about resting instead of resisting? Wouldn’t you do the same if you were in the hospital, rest and recuperate? Spiritually there is no difference.

Trust God to take care of you while you are healing. Because right after this verse, the Israelites were able to eat of the produce from the land of Canaan for the first time and never had to eat manna again.

Maybe you’re in pain at the moment, and don’t feel so great. But look around you. You may find there’s some ‘produce’ from your Promise just waiting to be enjoyed. You’ve made it. You’re in Canaan. Now, let yourself heal and restore…because you’re gonna need that energy for the road up ahead.

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it’s in your mind…NOT your circumstances

I went to post a little thought on my Facebook page. Then I got a bit anointed. :) So I figured I’d jump over here and lock it into place for future reference…

Our mind is the ONE place where faith fights the hardest to win.

“We canNOT walk in the Spirit and be led by emotions. Emotions will not go away, but we can learn to manage them. Emotions urge us toward haste. What we all need to do is develop the capacity to back away and view our situation from GOD’S perspective. We need to be able to make decisions based on what we KNOW rather than on what we feel. Emotions are our greatest enemy.” {Managing Your Emotions, Joyce Meyer, emphasis mine}

Just yesterday my emotions took a roller-coaster ride for a while all day. Ironically, my situation hadn’t changed one bit, but in my mind my thoughts raced from peace to panic.

You catch what I just realized?

My thoughts went crazy even though my situation had not changed one teeny-tiny bit. The same situation I woke up in was the very same situation I went to bed in. And while I started out feeling peace, I ended by feeling weary. And yet nothing had changed.

So this morning when I read what Joyce Meyers said, the truth dawned on me – the battle yesterday was in my mind, not in my circumstances. Paul said in Philippians 4:11, ‘I have learned to be content’. ‘Learned’ means it was something that didn’t come naturally to him. It required intentional and focused effort and hard work.

As for today, my situation – again – may not change, but I’m going to be more conscious of the battle being fought in my mind and direct my thoughts toward hope in God. {Because, Lord knows, my thoughts sure won’t go there on their own!}

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are STEADFAST, because they trust in you.” {Isaiah 26:3}

Another translation: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are FIXED on you!”

Notice the key words in those different versions? Steadfast and fixed. That means – they don’t waver, budge, or change. They are solid, firm, and locked-in no matter what happens around you.

How about your thoughts and emotions today? Can you say they are fixed and steadfast on God? Or are you allowing them to lead you around the ring like a horse on a bridle? Either YOU are in charge of your thoughts and emotions or your thoughts and emotions are in charge of you. Like it or not.

And the crazy part is: The one who gets to make that decision is you. You can either follow God and be going crazy in your mind -OR- you can follow Him in peace and rest no matter how wicked the storm gets. The battle is in your mind; NOT in your circumstances.

Because with just ONE word God can bring instant peace to whatever is going on in your life. But maybe – just maybe – He’s just trying to train your mind {much like a muscle during a workout} to where it should be: steadfast and fixed on Him….at ALL times. Not just in the good, but also in what looks to be bad.

So today’s mission: Grab your thoughts and emotions by the collar and order them to ‘get behind you’. {Besides, isn’t that where the enemy is supposed to be anyway…? Hello.} “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” {Matthew 16:23}

It’s not just a matter of ‘positive thinking’ but rather of controlled, purposeful thinking. As the robot in AstroBoy said, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking…I’m definitely thinking.”

Oh, yes. You certainly are. However…

Who’s running your world today? Your emotions and thoughts…or God?

Because it can’t be both at the same time.

{Image courtesy of Flickr}
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freedom isn’t cheap…

Connection

Connection ~ Father and SonAs an introvert, I think I have a love/hate relationship with that word. Connection. On any given day, I would probably prefer a book to another human. And it’s not so much that I don’t really like people {per se}, but rather I prefer information over emotion.

Emotion fluctuates; information is steady. And I like steady.

I can’t change how someone else feels; I have to adjust to it. But with information, it just is. And that makes me more comfortable.

However.

Life involves both information and people. Which means, emotions are part of the package. And while I’ve learned that I cannot change another person, I have realized that I can decide what my reaction will be.

Typically, if you hurt me, I won’t trust you anymore. {Makes sense, right?} Problem is, when I bring God into the mix, He instructs me to ‘turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love those who spitefully use me’.

{Well…that sucks.}

And here’s why it sucks. In the very moment when I least feel like forgiving, that’s exactly what I should be doing. When I’ve been deeply wounded {on top of all the other wounds}, I don’t want to let go of my reasons-for-retribution. Honestly, I want others to hurt, too.

But why? What false belief makes me think that if they are also hurting that I will feel any better?

Because it never works out that way. Honestly, I don’t feel better when someone else feels pain. In fact, my hurt simply continues to hurt. And then it’s like, instead of it just  being me in the ditch, now there are two people in it. What’s the point of that?

Forgiveness

I’ve experienced what it can do, and what they say is true, forgives does release you. It sets you free from the pain. {Which doesn’t make much sense, but…whatever.} When I let go of what happened, releasing the need to see retribution, the pain begins to fade. And maybe I can still remember what occurred, but – over a period of time – after having truly forgiven the event and/or person, the ‘sting’ is no longer there. Not even in the memory.

.freedom.And at that point you find yourself truly…free.

From the pain.
From the incident.
From what they said.
From what they did.
From how it unfolded.

Free

What a lovely word. But it doesn’t come cheap.

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘free’? For me, I imagine a sun-soaked field of tall, willowy grass where I am spinning with laughter, arms spread wide, with no cares in the world.

But real freedom is more like…I’m still in the situation, but it no longer affects me.

Their words don’t wound anymore.
Their actions don’t cripple.
Their rejection doesn’t reach me.

I’m free…even if they haven’t changed.

So, connection. Is it really worth the effort? Is it worth the pain it sometimes usually brings? Do you find yourself not consciously pursuing it because, frankly, you’ve seen ‘enough’?

Yeah…I know. I get it.

But when God created us, He had ‘community’ in mind. With all its ups and downs.

While reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, I found some interesting stuff on boundaries:

“Setting boundaries and holding people accountable is a lot more work than shaming and blaming. But it’s also more effective. When we shame and blame, it moves the focus from the original behavior in question to our own behavior. Additionally, if we don’t follow through with appropriate consequences, people learn to dismiss our requests – even when they sound like threats or ultimatums. We can confront someone about their behavior…without berating them or putting them down. The key is to separate people from their behaviors – to address what they’re doing, not who they are.”

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice. It’s also impossible to practice compassion from a place of resentment.”

She went on to talk about a subject I’ve faced personally:

“Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is…we are both. Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help.”

She ends with, “The Wholehearted journey is not the path of least resistance. It’s a path of consciousness and choice. And, to be honest, it’s a little counterculture.”

She’s not kidding. ‘Counterculture’ is a mild way of putting it.

Whether we like it or not, we humans are wired for connection, but sometimes it’s that very connection that so often wounds us deeper than we feel is okay. So then what?

God says…Forgive. Let it go. Your freedom is worth the cost.

Besides, who really wants to live in pain? Not me, that’s for sure. And I can guess, probably not you either.

{Image courtesy of Flickr}
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God walks the wire WITH us but not FOR us..

Today is the one-month anniversary of our moving to Nashville, and I have to say, I am falling in love with this city! It’s as beautiful as western Maryland/Virginia, and has just the right mix of southern charm. It has been a slight adjustment from living on the east coast but not as much as I expected.

I’ve also been reading another blog lately concerning their upcoming move to Bangkok after having lived in North Carolina for many years, and their story reads familiar – feeling the call to follow wherever God is leading. With all the ups and downs.

The ‘ups’ being: You know you’re following God, and the peace that accompanies that knowledge can’t be measured. Also there’s an excitement in wondering what God will place in your path next. He loves variety, doesn’t He?  I think He sorta enjoys ‘mixing it up’.

The ‘downs’ consists mainly of: Fear. After I typed that, I sat waiting for the next powerful word to pop into my head but really….fear is at the core of every other ‘down’ you experience when walking by faith.

Skywire Live_0004‘What will tomorrow hold?’ {Not sure. But since we’re not there yet, who cares, right? Umm.}
‘What if…?’ {Yeah, well…what if?}
‘But I thought God said…’ {No, stand firm on only what He said, not just what you assumed, or hoped, or expected.}
‘I didn’t think it would look like…this.’ {Yeah. I know.}

Those are the moments that threaten to drag you under. And not to compare our situation with that of the death-defying event of the SkyWire-across-the-Grand-Canyon stunt, but if I remember correctly, Nik Wallenda hopped onto that steel cable excited to begin his next dream. But the resulting tears and emotions that flooded him afterwards was the after-effects of the non-stop effort required of him during those next twenty-two minutes. Once Nik realized that the winds and optical illusions were tougher than he had hoped for, enjoying-the-view turned into a twenty-two minute quest for survival.

And isn’t that what following God sometimes always feels like?

You didn’t expect that much…wind/dust/tension/hurt.
The ‘wire’ you’re walking on is scarier than anticipated.
That job took an unexpected turn.
Everything feels like an optical illusion.
Where did that sickness come from?
The part you thought would be enjoyable is now just…something to endure or survive.

As I watched Nik Wallenda’s SkyWalk {after it aired live}, I still found myself freaking out. When he started praying and taking dominion over the wind, the cable, and about everything else…I was praying too! {Even though I knew he had already made it safely across.} And I related to what he was experiencing. Kind of. Because when you are smack dab in the middle of an ‘oh-no!’ situation or circumstance, you don’t care what you sound like or what you say. All you can think of is, ‘Help-me-God…NOW!’
Skywire Live_0005
But what I appreciated most was his father’s continual coaching, no matter if it aggravated Nik or not. If he snapped at his dad, his dad didn’t take it personal. He understood. The stress Nik was feeling had to be released somehow, and it had nothing to do with him coaching his son. All his dad cared about was Nik completing the task and making it safely to the other side.

Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father?

He coaches us…even when we’re slapping at His hand in frustration and despair.
He speaks softly…even when we wish He would just ‘leave us alone’.
He warns us of upcoming situations…even though we think we’ve endured enough.
He responds to whatever we need…yet encourages us to finish.

Because He knows our growth depends on it.

And while God may not walk the wire FOR us, He always walks it WITH us.

He calms the winds…but doesn’t stop them completely.
He steadies the wire…but doesn’t make it easier.
He surrounds us with peace…only when we are focused entirely on Him.

Whatever the situation, God’s at the other end, waiting with open arms to congratulate us. He lifts us up, binds the wounds, wipes the dust from our eyes, and smiles knowing we’re now equipped for what He has next.

The Grand Canyon walk stretched Nik Wallenda. Now he’s ready for a new challenge.

I bet that makes God’s heart swell with joy because He will get another chance to show Himself even stronger to Nik…the next time.

And you are no different.

Whether you’ve stepped past the point of no return and can see straight down to what could happen if you don’t make it…
OR…
Maybe you’re smack dab in the middle and it feels like it’ll never end…
OR…
You’ve almost made it and the end is in sight…

Either way, God’s got you, and you’re gonna be fine.

Stay focused.
Be calm.
Remain still. {Unless, of course, you’re really walking a wire. Then by all means, continue to move. ;) }

God will never let you fall.

{Image courtesy of Flickr}
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where He leads, still I will follow…

Nope, I didn’t disappear. Life has just been a bit busy for the past few weeks. We moved from Maryland to Tennessee, and finally I’ve had a chance to sit still long enough to post. Several asked why we were moving especially since we loved the east coast so much. A top reason?…family. We simply wanted to be closer. The other reason?…well, it all goes back to the original one that started this whole process.

Our faith journey.
Journey
I started one a long time ago when I loaded my car and headed out of Texas. No one was with me but God, and He and I have come quite a long ways. I’ve hit some ups and some serious downs, but don’t regret one moment. {Well, maybe one or two. ;) I am human after all.}

So when my husband {after 13 years of marriage} began to feel the ‘tug’ to step out and follow the faith journey he felt he was being called to take…me and the kids simply joined right in. We stepped away from everything our kids had ever known, and moved to the east coast. I want to say we loved every minute of it, but I must admit, ‘faith’ journeys are never really all easy. Because the whole point of the faith journey is to step away from everything you didn’t realize you were leaning on…to follow Him.

That children’s song says it all…

“I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back.

“Though none go with me, still I will follow…”

And on the song goes. Although I think they should add another verse, ‘When everything falls apart, still I will follow.’ Because it usually does. {Fall apart, that is.} And the reason I think it does is, we don’t realize how much we lean on things other than Him until He strips them away. We grasp at our schedules, routines, securities, careers, homes, material things, and identities as though they were everything of who we are made up of.

When they aren’t really.

But we don’t know that until they are removed. Sometimes all at once. Or sometimes a piece at a time.

Until all we are left with is…Him.

Which is exactly how He wants it. {Although it takes us a bit to catch up with His plan sometimes, doesn’t it?}

So…cue the move to Tennessee. We began to feel that {now recognizable} ‘tug’, and wondered where the next step would lead us to. We ‘wondered’ because when you’re on a faith journey, you don’t always know for sure if the next step you are heading towards is exactly where you should be…until you get there. I mean, once you are a few years into your journey, you become acclimated to depending only on Him, but you still sometimes wonder if you somehow made a big mistake way back at the beginning somehow. {Or are we the only ones who still wonder sometimes?} You see your growth and how much God has become the center of who you are, but it continues to feel so out of step with where others are around you. {Not meaning that no one else is following Him. Just that in our Western culture, we rely heavily on what are considered ‘smart moves’…which don’t always include faith journeys.}

I will say though that all of the changes which have occurred in our family’s life over these last three years have made us better. They weren’t easy lessons, but we wouldn’t undo who we are now for anything. {However, neither do we want to re-do the lessons. ;) No, sirree.}

So the last step we felt in this process included…family. Why? Not sure. But He knows. And that’s all that matters, isn’t it? Moses, Daniel, David, Esther…they all followed this invisible God who led them to incredible places. So we have simply chosen to do the same.

But it didn’t come without a cost.

When Maryland switched from the windshield to our rearview mirror, our hearts hurt. We made friends and connections there that lodged deep into our hearts. Which is a good thing. And I hope somehow we became a part of other’s hearts there also.

But He called. And it was time to go.

So we went.

And now we are here. In Tennessee. How does it feel? Different. New. Peaceful. {Isn’t that how His will usually ends up feeling?} Will it be our final stop? Not sure of that either. But it’s what is in front of us now, and if anything changes, I’m sure God will let us know.

We have taught our kids what it feels and looks like to follow God, and now our oldest son wants to attend a church that tears down and sets up each Sunday. Which makes us smile. Because the ‘journey’ has now become a part of who he is, and he no longer needs comfortable in order to attend church. He loves serving others and mobile church is how he likes to serve. Which overflows my heart.

Because isn’t that what faith and God is all about?…pouring out from who we are in order to point others to Him.

And who knows what this leg of our journey will bring to us. I’m excited to find out.

{Image courtesy of Flickr}
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the pressure has a purpose…

Last night we watched ‘Life of Pi’, and so I found it ironic that this was my morning’s devotional.

“We were under great pressure,…so that we despaired even of life…But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” {2 Corinthians 1:8-9}

“Pressed beyond measure; yes, pressed to great length;
Pressure Gauge Pressed so intensely, beyond my own strength;
 Pressed in my body and pressed in my soul,
 Pressed in my mind till the dark surges roll.
 Pressure from foes, and pressure from dear friends.
 Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.

“Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
 Pressed in loving His staff and His rod.
 Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;
 Pressed into faith for impossible things.
 Pressed into living my life for the Lord,
 Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured.” {Streams in the Desert}

Does this poem describe your life right now?

You realize, don’t you, that you cannot walk with others down a path of difficulty until you have walked your own? You can’t lift another’s heart until your heart has been lifted. You can’t know how they feel until you’ve felt it yourself.  And you can’t understand until you know.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” {Psalm 46:10}

There may be pressure all around at this moment, but…hold on. You will emerge from this trial fully capable of the work set before you.

{Image courtesy of Flickr}
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Ask. Believe. Don’t budge.

My mind was on a lot of things this morning, but as I began to pray and read my scriptures/devotionals, these thoughts started pouring in. So I grabbed my computer to share.

“Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” {Luke 18:1}

“The failure to persevere is the most common problem in prayer and intercession. We begin to pray for something, raising our petitions for a day, a week, or even a month, but then if we have not received a definite answer, we quickly give up and stop praying for it altogether. This is a mistake with deadly consequences and is simply a trap where we begin many times but never see them completed. It leads to ruin in every area of life. People who get into the habit of starting without ever finishing form the habit of failure. And those who begin praying about something without ever praying it through to a successful conclusion form the same habit in prayer. Giving up is admitting failure and defeat. Defeat then leads to discouragement and doubt in the power of prayer, and that is fatal to the success of a person’s prayer life. Pray until what you pray for has been accomplished OR until you have complete assurance in your heart that it will be.” {Streams in the Desert}

Don't Give Up!“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” {James 1:6}

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” {Hebrews 10:23}

I recently read this comment on city-data.com concerning a question about what makes someone double-minded. “Well in my understanding one has to read vv. 6-8 to get the context of the question you are asking. It is that of a person who will not trust God, he is as unstable as a wave. He is not asking in faith. There is doubt. {Look up Eph. 4:14}. He is double-minded because he trusts God but yet does not trust completely. His heart is not simply given up to God. James 4:8 goes along with this verse. God is always ready to accept those who truly come Him. The double-minded are those Christians divided in their heart’s love between God and the world. The person is bouncing back and forth like in Eph. 4:14 it says toss to and fro. He is not trusting completely!” {Thanks, Cyber Munchkin!}

This was my God’s Calling devotional. “The oarsman, trusting in Me, does not lean on his oars and drift with the tide, trusting to the current. Nay, more often – once I have shown the way – it is against the tide you must direct all your effort. And even when difficulties come, it is by your effort that they will be surmounted. My fishermen-disciples did not find the fishes ready on the shore in their nets. I take man’s effort and bless that. I need man’s effort – he needs My blessing.”

I also subscribe to Kimberly Jones-Pothier on Facebook mainly because with all the ‘junk’ FB hands out daily, her God-inspired words are a refreshing piece of light in the dark. This was today’s post. “Lord, help us learn to hang onto You when our world is rocked with dramatic change. Empower us to trust You and not to panic and fight for control. Help us to stop confusing a change in our circumstances as a change in our security status. You are our security. You are the one sure thing. When everything around us shakes, You are unshakable. Nothing has the effect on us to expose false gods in our world like a sudden change in our circumstances. Help us to see them and surrender them instantaneously. Use change to provoke what needs to be changed in us, Lord, increase our appreciation for the only one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Amen!!”

Wow. Powerful statement – ‘nothing has the effect on us to expose false gods in our world like a sudden change in our circumstances.’ Think you don’t lean on your career, your routines, your 5-year life plans, your health, your status?…watch what happens when they are pulled away.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” {2 Timothy 3:16}

Speaking of ‘training’, check out today’s Jesus Calling. {Is it just me or are you sensing a theme here?} “If you learn to trust Me – really trust Me – with your whole being, then nothing can separate you from My peace. Everything you endure can be put to good use by allowing it to train you in trusting Me. This is how you foil the works of evil, growing in grace through the adversity that was meant to harm you. Joseph was a prime example of this divine reversal, declaring to his brothers: ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ Do not fear what this day, or any day, may bring your way. Concentrate on trusting Me and on doing what needs to be done. Relax in My sovereignty, remembering that I go before you, as well as with you, into each day. Fear no evil, for I can bring good out of every situation you will ever encounter.” {Some emphasis mine}

When is God going to let me know something? Don’t know.
When is this storm going to calm down. Don’t know.
When is life going to become easy? …ummm, probably never. {Sorry.}

God gives peace in the storm.
God gives strength for the journey.
God equips us to follow His path.

So what does a successful journey require? An unwavering belief that God is in control always, that He knows right where you are, and that He will finish the work He has begun in you even though it looks as though He’s hiking in the Alps right now.

Does everything look uncertain right now? Believe Him anyways.
Do you feel turned around and confused? Don’t budge.

You do understand what training is like, right? It takes you from not knowing something to very much knowing it. It breaks downs muscles and rebuilds them stronger. It gets rid of old ways that don’t line up with God’s way of thinking, and puts new ones in their place.

But it ain’t easy. However, it’s always worth it.

So…
Stop worrying.
Stop going back-and-forth.
Stop freaking out.

Because God can’t work with doubt and unbelief. It’s His kryptonite. Once He gives you the course of action, continue to follow it until He says otherwise. Just ask Daniel about the lion’s den. He can tell you all about walking into ‘rough waters’ and God using it for His glory. Your situation is no different.

Ask. Believe. Don’t budge. Got it?

{Now where’s my chocolate… ;) }

{Image courtesy of Flickr}
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in the end, every detour fits…

I just started reading In the Meantime: The Practice of Proactive Waiting by Rob Brendle, and I came across an incredible point that I wanted to share.

“Many of us desire to be done with the pettiness of whatever we’re doing now so that God can start using us in powerful ways. This mind-set seems noble at first, but the insidious underbelly of pride ends up poisoning and immobilizing us. It’s pride because – by despising whatever we’re doing now, by considering it beneath us – too often we are rejecting the very process God has designed to prepare us for taking the next steps in our calling.

“If you are walking with God and surrendering your life to his service, whatever you are doing right now is useful to Him. Maybe He planned it, and maybe He didn’t. Either way, He can work with it to make you a person after His own heart. Maybe you’re in the middle of God’s perfect will, and maybe you’re at the tail end of a horrendously unproductive detour. No matter, He can cause even the biggest detour to work together for your good and for the good of His kingdom. God is the one who thought of the calling you so vigilantly guard, and He is more than capable of accomplishing it through the circumstances of your life right now.” {In the Meantime/some emphasis mine}

13 Sep - Dangerous Curves Ahead (355:365) T-10!A few chapters back he explained this further…

“David the king was a product of David the teenage shepherd, David the courier, David the court musician, David the armor bearer, David the unlikely hero, and David the fugitive.”

This thought may not strike a chord with you as it did me, but as I look back over my life, I am tempted to beat myself up over past choices I made that appeared to have been aimless. I see people who decided what they were going to be when they were about 4 months old {know anyone like that}, and it makes me feel like at times my life-path has been scattered and somewhat unfocused.

However, at 41 years old, I honestly wouldn’t change much. Granted, there may be a few things I would have either completed or avoided, but, in the long run, what I’ve gone through and the decisions I’ve made have formed who I am and where I am right now.

Which makes me incredibly thankful for all of it.

The good. The bad.
The focused. The aimless.
The obvious. The not-so-sure.

Everything has contributed to this point in my life.

It’s formed me.
It’s guided me.
It’s prepared me.
It’s strengthened me.
It’s toughened me up.
It’s equipped me.

And just like David in the Bible, who I am now is a product of every role I’ve played, every choice I’ve made, and every turn I’ve taken on life’s path.

Has it been easy? Not always.
Do I regret anything? A few things.
Do I wish I had done it all differently? I don’t really think so.

Life is full of mistakes and successes. Failures and achievements. Ups and downs. And if I can’t be okay with walking through what may appear to be an uncertain time right now, then I’m not going to be in the right frame of mind when a smoother curve in the path of life shows up later. Because quite possibly what I don’t understand today will make complete sense…tomorrow.

So for this day…I choose to accept. To trust. To believe. To know that He is God. He’s got me tucked safely away in His process, and He will complete the work He has started.

‘And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.’ {Philippians 1:6}

Trust Him, my friend. The roles and curves of life’s path may seem confusing and pointless right now, but in the end they will all add up to what He has prepared you for. And something tells me it will make perfect sense then.

{Image courtesy of Flickr}
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