Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Yesterday while driving up the mountains of North Carolina, surrounded by leaves adorned in their beautiful fall wardrobe, I found myself praying out loud. There is something about the mountains that makes me feel closer to God. I think it's a combination of the colors, the towering heights and the peacefulness that reminds me of how small I am and how big my God is.
As I was praying, I found myself saying something like this "God, I ask that you would make whatever you want out of this. That you would create a something out of my nothing."
When we ask for Gods will to be done in our lives, it will be Gods something. What a comfort when we don't know anything, not even the "next right thing"! However, in my humanity I tend to withhold from God what is needed to create His "something". For some reason I fight back and forth with giving the fear, pain, anxiety and general nerves to the one who holds my future in His hands.
Does this sound familiar?
I find myself trying over and over and over again to control and produce something, anything that will give me some level of comfort or make a lick of sense. Before I know it, I'm tired and have found myself in this semi-deep black hole that just gets deeper and blacker as I try to create something out of my nothing.
It is simply impossible.
A classic job interview question is "Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What are your goals?". I used to have an actual answer or at least some idea as to how to answer that question. Now I just laugh! Five years ago I would have never imagined that I would be married to a red headed southern man, living in North Carolina and surrounded by Baptists. When we give our nothing and our everything in a simultaneous manner to God, He creates His something.
Something that was always supposed to be exactly what it is.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Grasping the depth of Gods love for me is not a one time experience. It is an event that takes place in different ways and at different times, with each reach being completely unique for the season of life that I'm in.
When I was a child, I learned to grasp Gods fatherly love. I learned that He would never leave nor forsake me, and that when everything around me was unreliable and shattering into jagged pieces that would continue to cut into my security and wellbeing, He was there. There to comfort, heal and make things new.
When I was a single, unmarried woman I learned to grasp Gods friend type love. During those lonely hours when I wished I had a girlfriend to get a cup of coffee with, I learned to get a cup of coffee with God my Friend. He would always listen, as well as give insight if I would just be quiet long enough for Him to get in a word edge wise.
Now as a married woman, I am experiencing the ultimate depth of Gods love for me through my best friend. Every day I see and experience the love and faithfulness of my husband, but can't help but think that God loves me even more.
The greatest human love that we can experience on this earth has no comparison to the love of God the Father. Grasping for a better understanding of this concept has not been within my reach. Through each season of life my God has been love to me in the way that I needed it, because that is just like Him....loving me even more than anyone else in this world ever could.
He desires even more of you than what you have given Him. I often think that I have given Him everything, but in my brokenness I am reminded that so often I hang on to just even a tiny piece of something that belongs to Him. Have you been here friend? Can you relate?
May you have the courage to understand the depth of His love as being the greatest love you will ever experience, and may you understand even more the purpose that this love holds. His purpose, His will, His love.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
God is God, and I am not.
This is a statement that I have found myself saying over and over again in countless scenarios that have taken place in my life. There is such great comfort in the reality that I am a broken and sinful human being by default, and that the Maker of the Heavens is my perfect, heavenly Father. When I think of what a gift this is.... a flawed, unmolded piece of clay that has fallen off of the Potter's wheel time and time again with a giant "SPLAT!"... how can I ever question His ways, His timing, His plan?
As I sit here in my Tuesday morning insomnia, I feel a very strong urge of the Holy Spirit to convey this profound truth:
God is God and I am not.
With every turn we are bombarded with this idea of what we "should" have and what we "should" be feeling. We are told that debt is bad and more money is good. We inherently know with everything in us that pain is bad, though a person with leprosy would give anything to feel pain; to feel a warning that something bad is about to happen.
But that's just it friends. Bad things do happen without warning. Things that make us feel awful and cause us to lose sleep. But what is it that separates the good things in life from the bad?
If God is in all things....if we believe in our heart of hearts that He is sovereign and holds our lives in the palm of His hand.... why is there a distinction between good and bad, when God is in the good and bad and therefore, it is all Gods?
He created us to understand this distinction in our humanity. After all, who really wants to break an arm or lose a loved one to the disease of Dementia? Who wants to experience the death of a baby, the cancer that has invaded a spouse, or losing a job without any warning?
There are days where I wish that the amount of prayers I pray would move God to a result that I desire. These are not frivolous desires like being able to find my car keys or being able to lose weight without diet and exercise. No, these are deep seeded desires and cries to God for the Salvation of a family member, cures of the sick and healing for those who have been emotionally abused. It is in moments like these where I wished that if I prayed enough or even at all, that God would answer my prayer the way that I want it to be answered.
But what if God doesn't want a cure? What if the things that make us cry out to God are put in place and allowed for a deeper purpose than how I feel at that time?
If God is sovereign and I'm a sinner on her way to her eternal home, who am I to question His ways? All I can do is press deeper and deeper into my Jesus. All I can do is embrace His sovereignty and trust that through my pain, how I feel is a faded fact compared to this truth.
"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."- Isaiah 46:9-10
Monday, September 1, 2014
Clutter. It has the potential to be everywhere, while simultaneously driving us mentally insane. It starts with the mail from yesterday that got tossed on the dining room table in a moment of "I don't have the energy to face this right now", and throughout the weeks more and more things accumulate for different reasons.
Those who follow the "Zen" mentality will say that a physically cluttered environment equals a cluttered mind, of which I whole heartedly agree. Maybe that is why I feel like I can't tackle important things like written correspondence, writing, reading, etc., until the house is clean. Clutter can be a distraction on so many levels, but clutter can also stop us from reaching that space that is clean and clear and free of stress and limitations; a space that we are able to truly breathe and take in all of life as God intended it.
Many of you know that I am a personal care taker for a woman for one of my jobs. God literally brought her right to my place of work, in which He met my financial need and her need for assistance to make it through her life. Recently this lady has moved from a larger condo to a very small one bed room apartment, which has proven to be a very trying and emotional experience for her. I have assisted her in thinking things through to make decisions, physically lifting and moving boxes and being a general companion to shoulder life with two days a week.
Throughout the last six months it has been a never ending cycle of trips to and from her condo, emptying things into the sun room of her new apartment. Piles of "not sure what to do with this", " I can't bear to throw this away but I don't know why", and "I'm sure I will need this at some point" began to take up her entire apartment. But little by little, each box was emptied, trips to second hand stores were made and gradually she is beginning to let go.
Last week we made such significant improvement that she was now able to open the door to her porch that overlooks the mountains. The look on her face was happy and peaceful when she realized that she could now open up the door to the outside world.
As I watched her open the door, I couldn't help but feel the chill of the Holy Spirit in that room as He gently reminded me of how so many things can clutter my life, blocking the entrance of His presence. In a world that is telling us to "Go, go, go!", a world that is telling us that we haven't made enough of our time that day and to find purpose in our productivity, we have become cluttered, blocking off the very thing that we need to make it through this life.
Fear is often the factor that keeps us from being able to open the door. I am reminded of the TLC show "Hoarders", and how so many of those people developed the hoarding habit because their fear was so immense that they needed to be able to control something; they needed to be able to find solace in something physical.
Friends, it is the physical that clutters, serving as a barricade to the life giving source of Jesus Christ.
May you have the courage to ask God to show you your "clutter". May that realization prompt you to make way to stepping on that porch patio, drinking in the sunshine and breeze of His grace.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Every now and again God gives me a word or a phrase that flutters about in my head and heart until I am able to write it in actual words. This week that word has been "press".
Now, maybe it is because Jeremy and I recently received a Bodum French Press Coffee Maker as a wedding gift off of one of our registries, or maybe it is because I keep telling myself to "press onward and upward" like a dutiful soldier with a cathedral length veil, about to attend the war of the 3 weeks before her wedding and all that entails. Whatever the reason, I must surrender to the writer within in order to do something productive with this ear worm of a word.
Have you ever had French press coffee? For the coffee lover, it's really a treat. It takes extra time, as you have to grind the beans, heat the water and let it brew before you apply the pressure which produces liquid gold that is actually more of a bronze color. There is a distinctly better taste that the longer process produces than the instant gratification of a Keurig maker or a typical coffee maker. Pressure+time= something that is worth it.
And then there is the type of press that is involved in covering a whole 9x13 pan with one tube of biscuits. You have to pull the pieces apart and press them into every nook and cranny the best you can so that you can create an even crust. Sometimes you just have to press things as hard as you can to cover any gaps and holes. This can be time, sanity, patience or biscuit dough, just to name a few.
"Pressing forward" is what we all need to do in order to survive. Life comes at us with all kinds of blows, surprises and exhaustion that can make it hard to keep doing the "next right thing" that comes our way. The pressure can be so intense at times that the only thing we can imagine pressing is our head to a posture pedic pillow.
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not abandoned. Struck down, but not destroyed."- 2nd Corinthians 4:8-9
As a child of Christ, we will never be crushed, though sometimes it may feel that everything is crushed into a million pieces; your heart, your finances, your health, your relationships. Our eternal life in Christ ensures us that even if our bones are physically crushed, our soul can never be destroyed. There is no amount of earthly pressure that will crush us, and what is pressed down to near pieces produces French press coffee quality because of Gods goodness and grace.
So friends, press. Press forward, press down, and press into Jesus. Let Him use all the pressure it takes and trust Him in process.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Hallmark. Just seeing or hearing the word gives you visions of sunshine, rainbows and "feel good fuzzies". Very few people can walk into a Hallmark store and not display at least a half-grin. For decades the Hallmark enterprise has connected loved ones to each other through cards and meaningful trinkets, placing as many gold seals on the memories of millions of individuals as on the envelopes of their cards.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have had an intense passion and love for greeting cards. I can distinctly remember a wire ring paper notebook that had birthday cards glued to the pages. Reading and re-reading those cards reminded me of the people who loved me, sharing words of affirmation that my little- yet -big heart needed in order to survive and make sense of the world.
About 1 year ago, the Lord brought me to a part time job at a Hallmark store. He literally led me to it, as I was approached by my now boss in the check out lane of another store that I was working for at that time. It has been a true blessing to work around all those beautiful cards, but it is an even greater blessing to be instrumental in helping people find the right card to express themselves to the loved ones in their lives. Finding the right words has always been an interest and skill of mine, but little did I know how God would use that interest and skill to open my eyes to something that I would never expect to see in a Hallmark store.
Last week as I was combing the seasonal card aisle, I came across a visibly disgruntled woman. "Mam', are you finding everything okay?" I asked, hoping that I wouldn't receive the typical answer of "Oh, no thanks. I'm fine" when they clearly are not. "No...these cards. There are just too many "nice" things to say. Mother's Day is hard." was her response. Her response reminded me of the guest that I assisted during the Christmas rush who's mother is an alcoholic. We looked through so many of those cards to find something that would express that she loved her mother, but something that wouldn't lie to her. It was that experience that opened my eyes to the people reading those cards.
"Thank you for everything you've done", "because of you I have been able to accomplish my goals", "In you I find beauty and strength" and "you deserve this day" were just a few of the phrases that I helped the woman navigate through as we went through mushy card after mushy card. Not a single one was "right" until she stumbled across one that would "do" for that person.
Friends, everywhere we look there is pain. We may not be able to see, hear or experience it, but there is pain. There is that classic quote "be kind, for everyone is fighting their own battle"; and though this quote couldn't be any more true, I want to point out how quickly we lose sight of our opportunities to shine Gods love into the lives of people in pain. Furthermore, how often we miss out on this opportunity because we are wallowing or working through our own pain and frustrations.
As Christians, we cannot afford to become immune to the pain of others. We must feel their pain to the best of our ability, offering compassion and encouragement in a world that is only willing to offer criticism and judgment. We must ask God to help us see through their pain and get a glimpse of their heart. Our world will do anything that it can to mask painful life symptoms with marketed holidays, food, and "togetherness" with people that actually hurt them.
We are taught that having a mask is essential to survival, but as Christians we are called to take off the mask and look to the revealed face of Jesus Christ. May God enable you to see past the mask of a person and into their hearts. Experience their pain so that they will realize that they do not need to experience it alone.
Monday, March 17, 2014
"Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."-Deuteronomy 8:2-3.
As I recall the story of Gods deliverance of the Israelites, I am also reminded of a broken, humbled, and anxious little me who was sitting in a coffee shop in South Dakota on her laptop, hungry to hear Gods voice and find some truth and purpose in the place that my Heavenly Father felt fit to have me in. I found so much in common with the Israelites; walking, walking and still walking to the "land flowing with milk and honey", except that I determined that unlike the Israelites who knew that there was indeed a God descripted promised land at the end of their journey, I had no idea what my "promised land" looked like.
I did know that because I was Gods child, that whatever His promised land for me was would be good. I also knew that all I had to do was the "next right thing", even if there were more days of the week that I had no idea what that actually was, except for getting out of bed and driving to work. The promise that God had given to confused little me was solid: "You do not have to carry this weight alone Sarah." A promise that I had heard many, many times.
Childhood dreams changed and eventually vanished. Plans for use of my talents, education and passions morphed in ways that I never expected. People hurt me in places that I wasn't sure would heal, but Gods promise to deliver me from my own personal Egypt remained in tact.
Now here I am, sitting in the very first home that I will ever share with my soon-to-be husband, being prompted to reminisce on Gods faithfulness and deliverance as I face the burden of not enough money coming in for what is going out. Discouragement of getting behind and not having enough being replaced with the fact that God IS enough. He has brought me this far and brought me to my husband. He has provided housing, food, transportation and two jobs. He is GOOD and I am a humbled human in need of His grace.
Take another step my friend. Even though the journey is sometimes painful and the destination is unclear, cling to the fact that you BELONG to the One who is already there.