Remember This?

Lifting the door to our storage unit, I looked at Wagner and the amount of boxes that we had to open and peek through to find that one thing that was important for a project we were working on or that other thing that helped us get on with daily life. It was a hassle to pick up boxes and move them to new spots, but we ushered forward knowing that the need was greater than the perceived hurdle.

We would open quite a few wrong boxes before we finally would hit that jack pot of a box that contained what we needed. This back-bending, tape ripping, box cutting process led us to some boxes that held precious memories like our wedding album, cards and notes that we packed from people wishing us well and some decorative pieces from our old place.

At certain boxes Wagner and I would linger just a little bit longer to somewhat relive the moments represented by the contents inside. We would ask each other, “Remember this?” Which would lead both he and I to share stories that brought us to tears from laughing so hard or bring to mind a collection of times when friends came over and we celebrated some event or just hung out with family around our table.

Through pictures, memorabilia, invitations, cards, videos, and trinkets we can recall to memory some of our most treasured past times. As Wagner and I shuffled through some of those boxes, my heart exploded with such joy and love for the people who have influenced my life and his life and continue to do so with such great faithfulness.

And oddly, but not oddly enough, in my Bible reading, the book of Isaiah is the one I currently am studying through and this idea of remembering is a constant theme of the chapters. However, I find that it isn’t a concept so easily mastered. In fact, I often find myself in the practice of forgetting who I am and what my state is and not remembering who He is and what He has done. So I look back at Scripture, because I need to remember this. Apparently, so did the Israelites. Isaiah 46:8-13 says this:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”

 

Isaiah’s writing is mainly directed toward the Israelite’s and how the nation would be redeemed by God from its varying oppressors. Chapter 46, however, deals with Isaiah calling out the destruction of idols that so many nations, including the Israelites, bowed themselves down to and offered sacrifices to as an act of worship, as a pledge of their allegiance and hope.

It is no secret that the Israelites were just plain stubborn and generally followed the status quo rather than obeying what was commanded. History alone proves it. But yet here we are at another chapter that is dedicated to patiently stating that only the one true God is deserving of worship. It isn’t that the Lord hadn’t already “proved” it, it’s because Israel kept forgetting who God is and what He had already done. It is only through the one true God that a glorious purpose could be carried out through such a rebellious, transgressive people. But this passage has less to do with the Israelites and more to do with the faithfulness and unfailing promises that God has displayed and continues to bring to pass and fulfill.

This passage was so easy for me to look at and mock because of the ridiculousness of their worship. I mean, golden gods. Come on. But it isn’t so ridiculous when I look at my own life and see what I pledge my allegiance to. Like all the things that I prioritize above praying and reading my Bible? That is why I need to recall and remember that He is the only true God. That is why Isaiah states over and over again to remember this. It isn’t just a kind suggestion. It is a warning. It is a safe guard. Remember this and stand firm, He is God and there is no other. In a world full of leniency and lack of reality, this is by no means a time to take lightly your soul. Care for it. Just as you care for your body so your soul should be properly fed on a never-ending remembrance of His glory, His promises, His goodness.

I am thankful for God’s Word. Plain and simple. I am thankful that He showers His character across each page as He displays His righteousness, holiness, grace, power, majesty, might, justice, and love. I don’t have to question His patience. I can’t argue His care. Because there is none like him. There is no other god like Him. He speaks and dust raises to life. He purposed that salvation would be brought to the world through His Son and He brought it to pass. He is the beginning and the end.

Remember this. Recall it to your mind. Remember and listen to Him.

Sometimes it’s the simplest things in life that bring about some of the greatest life lessons. For me it only took a couple of cardboard boxes, tape, and a storage unit, to show me how easy it can be to remember something if I have it continually before my eyes and consistently search for it.

 

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Right Where You Want Me

Since my last post a lot has occurred. Wagner and I recently transitioned from the rolling hills and gigantic mountains of Pennsylvania to the flatlands of Kansas. To say that the ride was smooth is not at all accurate, however; we are here and we are adjusting to the new climate, the new neighbors, and new jobs.

The Lord has provided for us in SO many ways. The job Wagner received in Kansas is only one of the many blessings that has been given to us.

On June 15, Wagner and I packed up our belongings and our cat as we began an 18 hour trek toward Kansas. Our truck had already headed out and the last things on our “list” were our pain-filled and heart-breaking goodbyes. My eyes even at this moment start to brim with tears as I think of the students I hugged, friends that became family in such a short time, and my actual family who waved us off as we drove out of the driveway.

Since the move, I have experienced several different emotions. It ranges from excitement for a new adventure, joy for the gift of the job God gave Wagner, and peace that this is where the Lord wanted Wagner and I. But on the flip side there has been grief for the normalcy and comfortability that was found in Pennsylvania.

Partly, I haven’t wanted to post about the move because I didn’t want to admit that I struggled largely with distrust and doubt. But we all have our seasons and spaces where we need the gentle nudge or reminder that He is never the inconsistent one and that change is sometimes the necessary pruning of things that prohibited us from growing.

The days have not been easy. I have experienced loneliness on a deeper level. The unfamiliarity of the roads have caused a couple of meltdowns. The lack of having a church that we can consistently attend is discouraging. The amount of coffee I have consumed has doubled. Okay, maybe tripled. Our stuff resides in several disheveled cardboard boxes at a local storage unit. I have cried enough in these last few weeks for the next few years.

To say the least, it hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine. In fact, the weather here in Kansas seems to fluctuate and change within 5 minutes which hasn’t provided any consistency either. All in all, the move right now can be graded a 5 out of 10.

However, slowly, I have been learning that the Lord has me right where He wants me. Change is always difficult whether it is ranked as a minor or major difficulty, you can decide. In my reading, I saw a quote by John Piper that seemed ridiculously simple, yet struck exactly where I was at. And it encouraged me to look at this move differently.

“God sees all things perfectly, even when we can’t. Our personal feelings don’t dictate what is actually true.”

God sees all things perfectly. Which is comforting because I don’t. I have no idea what tomorrow holds. I don’t know what the next few hours hold. I don’t know what people God has planned for me to meet. I don’t know what church He has for both Wagner and I to attend and plug into. So whether I feel like nothing is going right or if everything is going right, it doesn’t matter because He does know all those things. He has orchestrated them all and displaying His glory is what matters most.

My surroundings have changed. Grocery store locations and names are diverse. My schedule has diverted from being overly populated with duties and responsibilities to transforming into a blank space that is open to exploring this beautiful new city and learning more about what is, for now, and unfamiliar community.

The tears still come, especially when I am reminded of home where a lot of my life was built. It is okay to acknowledge that the move was difficult and in some ways I still grieve over it, but He has me right where He wants me. And I have to acknowledge that as well and live accordingly. He has given me a new city to share His light.

So, for those who read this blog, I pray that if you are in the same situation you find encouragement that our God is faithful and it doesn’t fluctuate based on our personal feelings in fact, this is more of a charge for both you and I to remember God’s steadfast love and to be even more diligent to guard ourselves against falsehood that is produced from our own hearts.

This blog post is also shared to offer up my own personal plea for prayer on behalf of both Wagner and I. I ask for prayer that Wagner and I would find a church that we can faithfully attend and serve alongside. I ask for prayer concerning the job environments and the people we interact with that we would share the light of Christ with our every action and deed so that we may live a manner of life that is worthy of Him. I ask for prayer that no matter what feelings come, we always cling to truth which is unfading and not due to change.

Blessings.

 

 

 

Out of the Ashes

Spring is here in Pennsylvania, not only because the date on the calendar has passed, but the weather has increasingly warmed up to the idea of letting go of winter’s cold grip. In celebration, my husband and I talked about roasting some s’mores in our own little hand-made, bricked-in fire pit.

Earlier this week, my husband and I sat with two of our friends watching the wood crackle and sputter in response to the flames licking its bark. We were ready to begin the ceremonious snapping of graham crackers in half, layering them with chocolate and squashing a jumbo marshmallow in between the two to produce the ultimate s’more.

I watched as each of us pursued different methods to build our s’mores. I broke the cracker first and layered the chocolate next and concluded by squashing in my oozing marshmallow. My husband broke his piece of chocolate off the bar first and proceeded with the cracker. While one of our best friends decidedly reached for a marshmallow to start his process of creating the perfect “golden halo.”

It seems ridiculous to think that making s’mores causes me to think about life and how we all desire to get to the end product, to move forward or on, to have that job well-done, to be finished, to enjoy what’s been done. But I realized that it isn’t so much ridiculous as it was necessary. It was a simple joy that cultivated a huge lesson.

Hours before this momentous occasion, I had completely lost it. It was 70 degrees outside and I was sitting on the porch with my husband blubbering because we had found out that the company he had been looking forward to getting a job offer from emailed that afternoon informing him that they hired someone else.

Disappointments happen. I get that. But for the last five months, concerning the job search, each week seemed to hold one more nugget of disappointment. We pray each night for a job. Whether that prayer is uttered together or separately, each of us has been taking time to seek, ask, and knock as the Lord has commanded (Matthew 7:7-8).

As I cried in my husband’s arms last night, I started to feel hope breaking. It felt like the prayers weren’t enough. It felt like He wasn’t listening. It felt like I was going to be crushed under the weight of this disappointment. Not remembering that His thoughts are certainly not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

So after successfully forming a wet circle on the sleeve of his shirt, I wiped my eyes and resolved that I was done praying for his job because I was tired of the hope that each call from potential employers brought. While simultaneously in my mind rehearsing, you know who God is and who He says He is. This is season is but for a moment when looking forward to eternity.

But was I thinking about it being a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1)? No. Was I seeking to ponder the truth that discipline is painful, but produces righteousness for those who are trained by it (Hebrews 12:11)? Nope. I was thinking about the longevity of the testing that I was going through. I was aware of my weariness and fading strength, but that didn’t stop me from calling it quits.

And that is when our s’mores night happened.

Right before I headed to the store to grab the essentials, I sat down and looked at my Bible. My flesh and spirit were at war with one another. The flesh reviled the Word, cast off by the pride that said it wasn’t worth the time or the struggle, but the Spirit kept coaxing that it would bring life, it would bring refreshment to my wearied soul, it would remind me that I am in the hands of an Almighty Father.

I thank the Lord the Spirit squashed the temptations of the flesh.

I flipped to the book of Psalm which has many times these last five months been the only words that seemed fitting to read and offer to the Lord in prayer. As I started thumbing through the various chapters in the Psalms I came across section 143 and stopped. The title captured what I so desperately felt. My Soul Thirsts for You. The first five words of the chapter instantaneously brought tears to my eyes. “Hear my prayer, O Lord.”

That has been the cry of my heart for months. With each call from employers and the “no’s” that seemingly continued to follow, it was as if my begging for the Lord to hear my prayer was left unanswered and disregarded. All I wanted was the Lord to hear my prayer.

David, the author of this particular Psalm, continues with several phrases throughout the chapter that reflected all of my thoughts and feelings:

“Give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!”

“Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails!”

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love; for in you I trust.”

“Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”

What started to appear as I read was the idea that I was praying for Him to hear, but not for willingness to trust that in His faithfulness and righteousness He would answer me according to what His will had for me, for us.

And I came face to face with the overwhelming shame that I was disregarding Him and His power to bring about whatever would give Him the most glory, which as His child I am commanded to commit my life to (I Corinthians 10:31). And at the present time, according to His precious promise, He is working out all things for my good, which must and will result ultimately for His glory (Romans 8:28).

Fast forward and we are back sitting at the camp fire and as I prep my first s’more I recall Psalm 143. Carefully holding my stick pierced through an innocent marshmallow, I watched the fire flicker across the wood as ash started to form. I began to understand that discipline, the tested genuineness of our faith, often comes through the act of a “holy fire” consuming the most unholy parts of us to refine us to a place where it results in the praise and glory of God (I Peter 1:7).

Instead of dreading the fire, instead of wishing for the period of trial to end, instead of clinging to the feelings closely tied to the disappointments in my heart I must humbly plea that God would make known to me the way I should go, and that requires me to continue lifting up my soul even when the answer at times is painful or seems to go unanswered. It is me surrendering and being willing to trust that His words prove true every single time despite the circumstances that surround me.

As one author put it, “No man knows how he will behave in any severe trial until its over. We are wholly dependent on God for constancy of mind.” 

So while we wait, as the fire melts the wood into ashes of what I thought were the necessary parts of me, I hold fast to what is good. I cling to the steadfast love of the Lord when the situation doesn’t seem to make sense. I endure through the trials praying to be wholly dependent on God for constancy of mind. Because He who calls me is faithful to complete and do all that He has planned for me according to His good pleasure.

So the lesson I found in s’more making didn’t actually seem all that ridiculous after all. Rather from the ashes, a new life was born.

 

 

When Being the Bigger Person Means You Might be the Hurting Person

I was sitting in a chair printed with a tasteful, lattice pattern when the title of this post came to mind. Part of me wanted to deny that I was hurting, but on the other hand the release of such words sounded freeing. Recently, I was encouraged to be the “bigger person” as I was dealing with a painful relationship. And as I sat in that bright orange, lattice patterned chair, swiveling back and forth, the rhythmic motion seemed to give clarity to what being the “bigger person” entails or rather what it looks like.

It is no secret that human beings have this incredible power to encourage, support and uplift people while simultaneously others decidedly rip, gnash, and tear at the very fabric of who we are. It is confusing how both encouragement and cursing come often from the same tongue.  In the book of James, his pen curves out words that describe and uncover why there seems to be this conundrum beyond the fact that this whole world sins. In James 3:8 he records that, “no human being can tame the human tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” And I believe that is why in Scripture we are constantly commanded to watch what we say because one day we will be accounted for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36-37).

But what happens when you are on the receiving end of the careless words spoken or thoughtless actions done by another person? Why is the first little antidote chimed by other people is to be the “bigger person?” How do you attain the position of being the bigger person without simultaneously at times being “the hurting person” or the “wanting to get back at you” person?” What is the definition tied to being the “bigger person?

Part of me wants to say that I don’t care or that it is totally possible to not be hurt as long as you do this or that but I would be lying. Every case bears its own marks. Sometimes you CAN walk away unscathed, but other times the pain associated with being the bigger person is suffocating.

When you are the “bigger person”, sometimes this means you are going to be the hurting person. 

And you can handle that statement a couple different ways. My main instinct is to stuff the emotions that readily rise to the surface which results in a calloused bitterness or a point where all my emotions could bubble over. However, others may handle it through the lanes of addiction, confrontation, gossiping about it with others or alienating themselves from the situations.

But I propose that God’s definition of being the “bigger person” entails a complete demolition of what comes naturally to us.

If I can share anything worthy to grace this space or type anything worth your time as you read, it is that one thing remains resolute as I walk as a sojourner here on earth. It is Jesus Christ. He is my Savior, Friend, and Father. He is able to sympathize with my greatest sufferings, hurt, pain, and grief. He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). He understands the burdens of my heart (Matthew 11:28-29). Because He, himself, has walked through the gravest of sufferings. He has endured through the highest amount of immense pain and shame (Isaiah 53:2-5). And went through it without opening his mouth out of anger, without storming off and giving the silent treatment, without decidedly making plans to get back.

Being the bigger person should mirror the example of Jesus. And if He wasn’t able to avoid the hurt and pain associated with that status, then the assumption is that neither will you or I.

So when we are in this position, we as the “bigger person” should reflect what Scripture commands of us. Be slow to speak, slow to anger, and be quick to hear (James 1:19).  Charles Spurgeon expounds on this passage, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” A recent post pointed out that as Christians, as believers, we are to bear our injuries with joy, patience, love, and gentleness. Because we are to be imitators of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 11:1).

Being the “bigger person” has translated into being the “example of Jesus person.” It is okay to voice my doubts and fears to Him because He listens. It isn’t to say I always feel like that but a confidence that He IS there. Thankfully His Word proves true every single time (Proverbs 30:5). Thankfully His character is what remains faithful.  And sometimes when you are the bigger person you will be the hurting person, but thankfully the Word of God plainly states that He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). Thankfully He heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds (Psalm 147:3).

In the name of Jesus, I am able to be the “bigger person” because He is who gives me the strength. In the name of Jesus, I am able to be the “bigger person” because He is my example. So while the wounds heal, take notice that we will be renewed in strength, run without growing weary, and walking and not fainting.

He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

He is Abundance

Last week, I stood in a small office dressed in dark denim jeans and a nice blouse wrapped in a cozy sweater. To my left, my husband also stood, dressed in his own jeans and fancy button-down shirt, resolute next to me. In front of us stood our interviewer, who could change both of our lives both negatively and positively. In a calm, authoritative voice she asked us to raise our right hand and give an oath.


The months leading up to this moment have been nerve-racking. For nine months my husband, a handsome Brazilian man, has been undergoing a process to become a green-card holder. By definition this simply means he holds a permit that allows him as a foreign national to live and work permanently in the US.

Last June we compiled our papers that detailed our lives from the time we were born to our present situation, which equaled about 4.5 lbs. of paper, and sent it to the U.S. government to be looked over and processed.

For these last nine months the term “waiting” has taken on a whole new level. After sending all of our information in, confident that everything was printed, checked, re-checked, and polished, a week later I came home to a thick, manila envelope that bore the mark of both my name and my husbands. I felt like someone had just sucker-punched me. I went inside to open the package before my husband got home. Running my finger over the lip of the seal, I ripped it open to find all of our papers inside with a perfectly red, inked REJECTION stamp on the first page. Tears began to gather as I tried to figure out why, why in the world we were denied. The explanation was highlighted in a bright yellow hue. One of the forms we had submitted had been updated and all we needed to do was re-do the form and send it back in. This was our catapult into a new journey full of waves consisting of fear, elation, apprehension, and excitement.

Each month required something different, whether that be a trip to Philadelphia or a receiving a letter in the mail extending to us a glimmer of hope for a light at the end of this seemingly never-ending tunnel.


The week leading up to the green card interview, I was challenged to dwell on Scripture that would alleviate the anxiety or worry that would build as the day approached. Fingering through several passages of Scripture, I landed on Psalm 66. Verses 10-12 were the salve for my wounded and worn heart.

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

The phrase “you have brought us out to a place of abundance” was a drink of water for this parched soul. Wagner and I were tried, tested, and in many ways crushed the last nine months. This trek, required by the government, had caused many tears to be shed and prayers to be lifted. Yet He had always brought us out to a place of abundance. Whether through the people who held our hands and offered up pleas to the Lord to be gracious or the people who came alongside with the Kleenex and offered hugs. He loves us. Oh how He loves. This love has never failed and it never gives up and it certainly never runs out. It is constantly given through His people and His Word.

We have learned so much about God and His love toward us, but also the humble, obedient posture necessary to follow and trust Him. Holding fast to what is good, we did not cling to what is fleeting. It was the only way we could enter through our interviewer’s door.

No matter what happened that day we knew that He would bring us out to a place of abundance with or without a green card.


Snapshots cross my mind as I recall our meeting. I remember the interviewer’s tasteful, emerald shirt and the thimble guarding her right thumb as she shuffled through our papers. I relive the instance that I looked at Wagner and without sharing a single word knew that this was the moment we had prepared for. It was the time that we kept stating to ourselves that if God is for us who can be against us. He is greater, He is stronger and He is higher than any other.

The interview was far from a lovely encounter. In fact, we left utterly doubting every answer we gave, but fastened to the hope that our papers, our process was blessed. We trusted we would be brought to a place of abundance.

And we were.

God is good. God is faithful. God tested us. We were tried. We were tested. We were crushed. We were assailed by the schemes of man. We went through the fire that threatened to scorch our faith. We went through the waters that split wide so we could walk right through them. We lifted our eyes. He brought us to a place of abundance. But it wasn’t the green card that signified that abundance.

It was God, Himself. He was the abundance. He was the place that we would always be abundant. He was the never-changing element. He was our solid rock. He was our shield, our buckler even when we were shaken by the processes required by men. He was abundant in love to calm the fears of our hearts. He was abundant in comfort through the tears shed. He was abundant in grace and patience for the moments we doubted His goodness and power. He was abundant in strength to renew our weary bodies.

Wagner obtained his green card by the grace of God. We cannot cease to give thanks and praise to His name for this gift.

But what I continue to remember, what I continue to rehearse in my mind, is Psalm 66:10-12. No matter the occasion, no matter the situation, God will bring me to a place of abundance because He is the abundance. He is abundant in love, patience, justice, goodness, mercy, grace, strength and so much more. It doesn’t run out.

Believer, He is abundance. Reach out your hand and be lavished in love.

Deuteronomy 31:8

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

 

 

 

 

 

Yearning for Home

Car accidents and lost jobs stain the end of my 2017 story. Until you are in the midst of the fire, you have no idea what you are capable of or what doubts and questions you will have. It is where the rubber meets the road.

The last two months have been filled with a lot of silence and silence can be such a beautiful thing especially being a teacher, but when it pertains to communicating with God, however; it isn’t so beautiful. The silence becomes agonizing.  Repeatedly in my devotions the command to be still was being reiterated both about its definition but also for its necessity. Be still is not what I want to read when I am going through a trial (Psalm 46:10). It is quite the opposite. I want to read Scripture that points to the Almighty hand of God reaching out to cease the anxiety, the worry, the struggle I am experiencing.  I want to run to His arms that promise to be strength as my husband and I adjust to a new normal. I want the Scriptures that tell me everything is going to be okay. I want peace that surpasses my understanding because nothing I tell myself eases the questions or the fear.

In the silence, after many tears, after many questions, I was still. I was still for a long time. Not just one day, but several. Waiting and praying for the answers to come, for the peace to flood, and the circumstances to change. But they didn’t. But my heart did.

Suffering and pain are riddled and entangled into every stitch that produces the fabric of our life. Sin does that. I am thankful that through Christ’s sacrifice that our sin is eradicated and covered by His blood completely, but knowing that the battle of its presence still remains until He returns.  It doesn’t eliminate the natural reactions to severe testing. The last two months have been filled with words drowned in desperate cries, “Help my unbelief”, “Tell me that you will make a way out of this”, “Why are you letting this happen?” Is it true that one day I will go home to the place that promises no tears, no pain, and no suffering? Is this momentary affliction worth it in the end? Honestly taking deeps breathes that ended in wondering if this season would crush me. If He is God of the hills and valleys? Why do I feel so alone?

I started to see a pattern develop as I was shouting these statements out to the Lord. My first thoughts resorted to doubt instead of clinging to grace which has promised to be sufficient for me in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  It was in the silence that I was able to concentrate on what truly was going on in my heart. My theology of God was being influenced by my circumstances. I cut the ties of our communication with my unbelief. I cut the communion between Him and I because of fear and distrust. Instead of casting my cares upon him, I harbored it as if I could change the situation. I wasn’t alone, but what I allowed to take first priority in my heart shouted above His voice.

Recently, I was comforted by the words found in an excerpt written by Charles Spurgeon. “Doubt not His grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that He loveth thee as much in the seasons of trouble as in the seasons of happiness.” In every season, He loves me. In every season, He remains good. In every season, He is there.  And one day, I will go home to the place He has promised for His children.

For now, my season hasn’t changed. I still tremble to get behind the wheel of the car and we continue to navigate the waters of a one-person income. I don’t know about tomorrow. Honestly, I don’t know about my next 5 seconds here on this earth. But I know that He cares for me and wants me to live a life that is pleasing to Him by being obedient to what He commands me to do. If that is to trust Him, do it. If it means to seek Him, do it. If it means to serve and cling to Him, do it. If it means to be still, do it. 

In the midst of these last couple trials, I have longed to go home to Jesus. But not for the means of just escaping, but wanting the promise to be fulfilled that one day I will stand before Him, my just, loving, and kind King, knowing that it was by His sacrifice that I am able to come home. It was by His calling my heart to repentance that I am able to come home. I am able to stand in His embrace as He welcomes me home. Oh, how my feet ache to walk the streets of gold with Jesus Christ. How my heart yearns for the time when trials and suffering will be seen not as the prison cells they feel like, but for the self-revealing, character building times they shaped me to be as a follower of my Most High King and future heir of heaven (2 Corinthians 4:17).

But until that time comes, I pray to not doubt His grace because of my trials and circumstances but to believe (and pray for help in my unbelief), that He loves me no matter what season I find myself in and wants me to be obedient no matter even if it means in the stillness, trials, or utter happiness.

Let your kingdom come, Lord. Let your will be done. Yahweh, I cannot wait until the yearning is over and I am home. Let us all pray to be the hands and feet that spread the light of the Gospel in the dark until that time comes.

“What If _____?”

What if ____? You fill in the blank. After all, you know your “what if’s” better than anyone else.

You know what I mean.

What if you stay single forever? Can you hear the myriad of the cats meow? The label of forever alone?

What if you can’t get pregnant? Every time you look at a blushing new mother all you are filled with is bitterness, pain and disdain.

What if the bills can’t be paid? The shed across the street looks promising.

What if the cancer spreads? There is so much that you wanted to do, so much you wanted to say, but didn’t. Why did this happen to your family?

What if your friends leave when you graduate from high school or college? Drinking coffee by yourself is such a bore.

What if the career you worked hard for suddenly comes to an end? Every paper, every class has spiraled down in the drain of failure.

What if your anxiety and depression never goes away? Each day is a fight to know how you will climb out of the emotional, physical and maybe even spiritual darkness. You put the face mask back on and stuff the pain down. No one will ever understand.

I could take all night stating each scenario we pair with the “What if…?” question. But I want to ask that same question with a little twist, a dash of vision, maybe even a sprinkle of hope.

A few days ago, I stood in my classroom thinking about the new school year and not just the school work, but the kids, the parents, my schedule. My stress levels started to reach higher and higher as I thought about all I had to do. What if I couldn’t get this or that done on time? What if my lesson plans were totally not up to par?

That nagging question. What if? How many times has this destroyed dreams and opportunities? How many more times will we let it continue to rip and pull at the seams of today? When, newsflash, the moment we live in, the breath that we just took isn’t guaranteed to us for one more second.

I’ve noticed that my “what if’s” are generally laced in fear. Fear of what I can’t control.

I want to put emphasis on CAN’T in hopes that you understand the gravity of how fear disfigures our great, good, gracious and VERY in-control God.

All my valiant efforts to protect everyone and everything I love are but worthless rags. Yes, the rags that you see tattered, ripped and slightly molded over in the trash can, kind of worthless rags. Ya feel me? Ever try controlling things?

In my journal, the recent entry you will find is entitled “What Do I Fear.” Psh. What do I fear. EVERYTHING. Okay, not completely true, but the pages bleed with fears that truly warp my ability to see anything good. For example, let’s just be completely transparent. I fear losing the people I love most. I have experienced times of great depression and anxiety about family members not arriving home safely or receiving a health report that is less than stellar. I can concoct the best recipe for a mental disaster once I start dwelling on anything that can or could go wrong.

I fear being seen as a failure. I can sit on these thoughts like “I don’t do anything important”, “doesn’t he or she see what I am doing?”, “why is it that every time I try something I just don’t succeed?” for weeks. This fear cripples my ability to see the moments when I am able to thrive or use my talents for God, to help people, to learn from mistakes that build a stronger character.

I have to admit that sometimes it is easier to latch onto fear and just the ride wave, embracing the place I know quite well: defeat. And you want to know what is even more devastating then my own weakness? The fact that Satan applauds that fear. Because that fear takes my gaze away from a good, gracious, loving God that has PROMISED me safety, refuge under his wings (Psalm 46), and that nothing can pluck me out of His hand (John 10:28).

How do you defeat the “what if’s”? Can you eliminate the “what if’s”? I can’t promise that you are one prayer away from complete freedom. You could be. But it is a battleground you stand on and you choose the weapons you with which to fight the fear. Ephesians 6 describes the complete armor given to you by Christ. Remember that verse 10 is the reason you can fight with the armor. Because “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” isn’t a good pick-me-up, it’s the structural backing to making that armor strong, powerful, indestructible.

The struggle is real. But you aren’t alone. I understand the grip of fear, the hold that it has on my mind and God gets that, so I turn to His truth.

(2 Corinthians 10:5) “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

My knowledge of God is compromised when I let my fear control what I can’t control. I have to go to the throne of grace with that fear and let Jesus redeem me as only He can. I must take captive every thought that sets itself up against what I know to be true about God. God is good. God is true. God is faithful. The “what if’s” need to be changed to “what is” and how I can live fully, presently, thankfully in the time and space I have been given.

Make a commitment today to leave your “what if’s” at the foot of the cross. Leave them there and each day ask God to help you live in “what is” and walk trusting that He has you always.

Thriving In The “Unknown” Seasons

The unknown seasons of life tend to resemble a tall tower. At times, you are ordered to climb with no equipment, no plan, no light to guide, to help or conquer the task ahead. This season rips at your confidence, it tears at the seam of your dreams and it brings to light some of your greatest fears.

It is a scary, unnerving road that so many of us find ourselves not willing to admit we are traveling. We engage in the “play it cool” game when the very lungs in our bodies are screaming inside that this can’t be. After all, you had it all mapped out. Or maybe not. I am not sure.

I had a plan. Sometimes I chuckle when I see those typed words. Raise your hand if you have ever heard someone say that line. Yeah, I have two hands and two feet raised. Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic, but I can’t count on my fingers and my toes how many times the phrase “I had a plan” has been met with a series of shaking shoulders brought on by laughter and heads nodding in hearty agreement.

But let’s face it. We all have a plan. Sometimes they are vocalized and other times they are deeply knit into the fabric of our soul. Some are organized to a T with years and dates, others tend to take the sloppier route.

I had a plan when I was younger that I would fulfill my grandma’s dream to be a nurse. I was on a fast track to pursuing this career at a ripe age of thirteen until I had my blood work taken. Heck no. If I didn’t like people sticking a needle in me, I certainly didn’t want to cause a panic attack for someone else.

I had a plan that I was going to play basketball in college because in high school those were some of the best moments of my life. Here comes my shoulder shake. But instead of the cause being laughter, it was initiated by deep sadness. I tore my tendon during my high school basketball years, and with the increase in intensity that a college game often requires, I tore it to a point that left me with two decisions–surgery or to stop playing basketball. Is the outcome painfully obvious? My heart was crushed. My plan fleeting with the doctor’s verdict.

I had a plan that one day I would marry a tall, handsome, dark-haired man that loves Jesus with all of his heart. Could I throw in the fact that on my “want” list I also included an accent? I pictured a marriage that was full of life and love. The framework of my future relationship was built by Christian romance novels, delightfully heart-warming romantic comedies and sprinkled with a lot of Jesus. In that world, there was no room for conflict or unknowns.

Ha. What I would tell my 18-year-old self now that I am married to my tall, handsome, dark-haired husband who does love Jesus with all his heart? But I didn’t get a perfect husband and neither am I a perfect wife. Have we disagreed? Well, we like to be known as the “silent treatmenters.” So the answer is yes. Have we experienced temptation and trial? Let’s just say Kleenex, one day I could really use a lifetime warranty of lotion-filled tissues. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I did get the accent. Praise the Lord. It is the little things.

My heart has really been settling on this one verse for quite a while. It comforts me when tears are falling down my face. It enters my overwhelming feelings of loneliness with a whisper of assurance that with God I am not alone.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

This verse is found in Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) and I love how the contrast of man and the Lord are presented here. It doesn’t specifically point to a particular plan which gives the wise saying, as it comes to plans, a range of flexibility.

However, there is no flex room when it comes to how differently the man and the Lord are portrayed. Notice the two verbs here. Plans and establishes. Wonderful words. Properly placed words.

The heart is deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). What does that mean? We are EASILY deceived and swayed by our thoughts and ideas and, for the sake of my writing this post, our plans. Earlier in that chapter of Proverbs, verses 1-3 talk about plans as well. Each verse takes a synonym of the word plan. In the ESV version, I see the words ways and work. These words are not concrete. They are versatile and subject to change based on experience, feelings, reactions. All relating to that of an inconsistent human heart, an unpredictable world.

But the next phrase of that verse literally brings stability. Gracious stability.

The Lord establishes man’s steps.

In verses 1-3 of that same chapter, we see that the answer of the tongue is from the Lord, the Lord weighs our spirit, nature, of what we desire. When we commit our work to the Lord, our plans will be established (I must note here that when it says ‘committing our work to the Lord’ it means those that are deeply rooted in the knowledge that our lives as believers are to glorify the name of Christ in EVERYTHING we do (I Corinthians 10:31)).

The verbs in these verses establish and weigh, creating a solid footing for the shaky ground of our unknowns. Even when we make plans, the Lord is implementing His perfect step for us. Let us not be mistaken that we need to throw our hands in the air and grab the potato chips while we lounge and let God work. No. It is a call to trust the One who created the world. The WORLD, people. He has you in the palm of His hand. No one can pluck you out of it.

In the unknown spaces, the Lord is forming our steps. Even in the unknown places, we have plans. We don’t want to stay in this season long so you and I plan to head out as soon as possible.

My challenge is to thrive in that time. Unknowns are scary. There is no doubting that. But I decide if I will be encompassed by the weight of my fears or I can I thrive in that time by choosing truth knowing no matter what He HAS a plan, He HAS a purpose.

If you are in the season of an unknown, know that you are not alone. Be willing to be moved, pushed, challenged. It is hard. In the moments of intense sorrow, these are not the most encouraging words, but I will tell you that each time you make the choice to choose truth you are stronger. Not because mentally you handled the situation. No. It is because you have a Savior that KNOWS you and is constantly establishing your steps. He is constantly fighting for you.

Believer, let me challenge you with one final word.

Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,

when he delights in his way;

though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,

for the Lord upholds his hand.

He’s got you.

Expectations: The Unexpected Killers

Recently, my friend and I were driving home from a speaking event. During the drive, we would throw out different subjects and talk about life serving as teachers/professors, how I was growing and changing with married life, or how our walks with God were progressing and being challenged. Ya know, girl talk.

At one point in the conversation, I shared a story where I got upset with my husband and how it aggravated me that no matter how many times I told him to shut his dresser drawer, he STILL wouldn’t do it. It could drive a person nutso! With animated hands I relayed my woes to her. After depleting my energy from rapid arm movements and constant grumbling, my friend lovingly and gently asked, “What was your expectation?”

I was taken back and confused by her comment. I didn’t realize that my aggravation was rooted in an expectation. Honestly, I just didn’t appreciate the way I would knock my knee on the open drawer every morning. I had a reason to be upset. Well, not entirely.

Over the course of this last week her question caused deeper soul searching. I was on a quest to understand how often my expectations, good or bad, consciously or subconsciously, have become unexpected killers. Why do I give expectations power to control my emotions? What fueled my thoughts? How often did I mistake feeling for fact?

Let’s Talk

Have you ever had a day where nothing goes right? Someone burnt the coffee, you missed a deadline or you just plum forgot an appointment for your kids that you scheduled three months ago. We have all had those days and many times those “expectations” of sipping a nice dark roast brew, meeting a deadline, or watching the ding of your appointment reminder flash across the screen aren’t at all bad.

Yep. We all love those days.

But I noticed that I process and determine the outlines of how my day is going to go. So when my goals and expectations aren’t met they ripple effect to cause a wave of aggravation or reactions to someone or something that normally wouldn’t bother you. For example, if my day is filled with its various stressors from school and failure to wash dishes or have clean laundry, the last thing I want to see is that open dresser drawer. It is a stupid, miniscule pet peeve that escalates to a series of angry mutters and unkind thoughts toward my husband.

Because I live in a world that is corrupt and evil, I am commanded to make the best use of my time including my expectations (Ephesians 5:17). Scripture commands me to look carefully at how I walk and encourages me to try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10,16). My attitude toward the whole dresser drawer fiasco isn’t pleasing to the Lord. Not even close. It had everything to do with how I was feeling. Which if I can provide you any words of wisdom it would be this: “Feelings ARE NOT facts.”

Giving Life…

Now go back to how your day started. Coffee is burnt; okay, irritating, I get that, but a life changer? No. You missed a deadline; did you use your time wisely? Appointments are forgotten frequently; it isn’t the end of the world. Then you come home and your husband left his dresser drawer open again. Your response; exploding anger, zero patience, and no tolerance. You are done with mistakes and forgetfulness; it is all failed expectations.

I understand that we have duties, roles, and responsibilities to honor and uphold. My role as a teacher, wife, friend, sister, daughter cannot be neglected or ignored. But when my my list of duties packs my day everything “that must be done” it leaves no margin time for other people, emergencies, or (dare I say it) God.

There is no room for errors, mistakes, forgetfulness by me or anyone else. What a standard to set for yourself and others. Expectations can obliterate an opportunity to show grace, humbleness, and kindness. Unless they are rooted in something that is firm and steadfast, which isn’t me and you, you will always fall prey to your expectations.

The dresser drawer doesn’t matter. In all reality it is just a stupid wooden drawer. But it is so easy to be angry instead of venting the frustrations of the day to my husband than to talk them out. It is a natural response of mine to grow silent and unresponsive rather than taking my grievances to the Lord in prayer.

Don’t say you are fine if you aren’t. If it’s not the dresser drawer, then what is it? What has throughout the day caused you to let your frustration out on a box?

Applications

How do expectations not become unexpected killers, but rather life-givers, joy-givers?

Glad you asked. Three things come to mind when I think of examining my expectations. JOY. Jesus, Others, You.

Jesus is the founder, author, and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).  I am sinful and my wants, flesh desires are warped to make me number one (Jeremiah 17:9). Any thing that makes me look good and feel good is what I demand. Hence, the putrid fabrication of my expectations. They are rooted deeply into a heart that is horribly ravaged by pride and chemically altered by what I think I need (1 John 2:16). It is ONLY by the grace of Jesus that I am able to, in light of His giving me new life through His death and resurrection, turn away from self and seek after desires and wants that are purified and founded on what Jesus wants.

Others, this is a tough one. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind, and mind (Matthew 22:37-39). However, in the very next two verses Jesus tells them that the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). If my expectations are centered around Christ’s commands, it counteracts my natural inclination to love myself more than others. For instance, pushing in the dresser drawer rather than spitefully giving my husband the silent treatment.

I can still have my expectations, but my attitude needs to be open to changes and hiccups in the day. I respond better when I remember who I am living for (Galatians 2:20). It releases me to open my time for others, to be compassionate when they make mistakes, to be willing to admit that the day just didn’t go as planned.

You. Please tell me that you noticed that, you, are last. It isn’t to indicate that you have no importance or feelings or standards. But it isn’t all about you. It is about the advancement of God’s kingdom. People say that you may be the only Bible people ever read. The attitude that you display when your expectations aren’t met reveal what you truly value first. Is it Jesus or you?

Breathe. Don’t bottle it up. Be honest. Pray and ask for God’s hands to remove the expectations that will hinder you from pleasing him and from destroying relationships with people. Or you may need to simply evaluate what you expectations you aren’t communicating but expecting people to follow.

It all started with a story about how my husband never closes his dresser drawer, but I didn’t imagine how one innocent question from my friend would cause my thoughts to fire off into this scatterbrained mess. I hope you know you aren’t alone in this fight, but that God is there always to take your burden, to listen to your cries, and to show you His ways.

Christian: What is your “Word” standard?

My heart is burdened.

After reading this article, http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2017/april/whos-in-charge-of-christian-blogosphere.html, a weighted feeling dropped on my chest.

I’ve been scribbling my thoughts and ideas for three years now. The time passes quickly and the way my fingers and brain develop thoughts continue to grow and form.

Recently, this article popped up on my Facebook newsfeed and I couldn’t help but be pulled by the title. The whole construct of the post was to point out the drastic misuse and misguidance of poorly handled words and topics especially in the Christian hemisphere but also specifically pointing towards the words of women. I clicked the post anxious to see what it had to say and I was glad I did.

The first piece of Scripture that came to mind as I read the author’s words were the warnings found in Matthew 12 where it talks about us giving account for every word we speak. I am not inclined to think that refers to simply verbal communication, but that of our nonverbal and written communication.

As a fellow scribe, I felt that the temperature of the writer’s tone elevate at a particular paragraph. The inflection of the voice carried a plea, a call, a bit of frustration, and started to brim with irritation. It is wordy, but bear with me. The New Testament presupposes that church authority, hierarchy, and discipline exist to protect orthodoxy and orthopraxy. This responsibility does not cease in this age of the Internet. Orthodox church institutions that value scriptural and historical faithfulness have a responsibility to provide clear guidance to Christian readers and listeners who are seeking to discern which voices to heed in the din of cyber-spirituality.”

My first reaction to writer’s words was fear. Fear that I hadn’t obeyed and interpreted Scripture as I ought to. Did I dig deep enough? Did I try to understand before sharing my jumbled thoughts? Did I value the historical faithfulness? Was my emotion outweighing truth?

The snare the blogosphere, the Christian blogosphere, encounters is that we take the word of those sharing their woes, their opinion, their beliefs as if it were the Bible. This is not true of everyone, but as I read the article I felt a flare of shame of how I had mishandled the truth of God’s word in an act to either gain an audience or to be a people-pleaser. It is wrong.

I have also swung to the other side where I have read powerful stories and real-life struggles that, in a twisted way, I have elevated them to a position of high standing in my christian walk.

The motivational posts, the personal writings are all easier to understand than cracking open the Bible to Isaiah and trying to weed through the imagery of destruction, grace, mercy, and wrath of God. I relate to people I can see. I understand the time period that they live in because I share joint ownership in it.  I can relate to the emotional turmoil a couple goes through financially, families going through a loss of a member, or just having a bad week. Their words cultivate a relational response and with ease I grasp their sayings as my lifeline, they are the examples of how I can get through life. But they aren’t the Bible.

In simple words, the writer of this article is effectively, in my opinion, communicating that the  same standard of protection of God’s truth in the church and by its leaders should be guarded and challenged by the writers who have generated and cultivated a platform to share God’s truth.

Our foundation for writing and speaking is to be founded not on feeling but on truth. We are warned throughout many writings in Scripture to WATCH OUT for fools who allow their mouths to run to their ruin, and their lips to ensnare to their soul (Proverbs 18:7). Don’t trust that every Scripture reference used is handled correctly or interpreted accurately. Watch out for the painted verses on cups that are only made to make you “feel better” or help you “go through another day”.

Don’t BE the fool that lazily expresses thoughts and ideas that are just complimented with God’s Word. Be diligent. Accurately express the truth in verbal, nonverbal, and written communication. Let the responsibility of handling the word of truth be your standard. Let the responsibility to share the Word accurately weigh heavy on your heart.

2 Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

The last thing I want to leave you with is a quote I have found particularly helpful in writing.  J.C. Ryle wrote:

“It is an extremely difficult thing to write simple, clear, perspicuous, and forcible English…. To use very long words, to seem very learned…..is easy work. But to write what will strike and stick, to speak or write that at once pleases and is understood, and becomes assimilated with a hearer’s mind and a thing never forgotten–that we may depend upon it, it is a very difficult thing and a very rare attainment.”

God’s word is difficult at times to understand, but it has stood the test of time. It is a heart-breaker and a life-transformer. Be wise. Find out Scripture’s meaning, study the words that were God-breathed and written by the hands of inspired men.

I hope the article wrings your heart as much as it did mine. The blinders are off. Let’s get to work.