Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Embracing Sovereignty


 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

Cluttered


 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

Press


 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

Pain In the Card Aisles


 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.

Pain.

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

A Coffee Drinking Israelite


"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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vulnerable


Our world doesn't like the word "vulnerable". To be vulnerable with an individual or a large group of people is considered to be a risk not worth taking, though on the flip side modern culture "finding yourself" trends make it appealing and necessary to be vulnerable with yourself , placing a great emphasis on deep, soul searching "self discovery".  I have affectionately labeled my generation the "self help" generation, due to the fact that I feel that we late 80's and 90's babies grew up in a world of "do it yourself" counseling in the form of books, T.V., radio shows and Internet blogs. Despite this information, being truly vulnerable in life is one of the hardest things to do. Why is this?

To be vulnerable is to be exposed. A young virgin girl is truly vulnerable on her wedding night, as she has never been naked in this manner in front of anyone before. Vulnerability is nakedness of self; a veil lifted to expose truth of substance and shed light on the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of us have gone our whole lives doing whatever we possibly can to not be vulnerable with anyone, thus creating an exterior of a "put together" image that doesn't ever blink with tears. There have been many wounded souls that have been vulnerable in a marriage or a committed relationship, only to find that the unveiling pushed their loved one away instead of drawing them closer.

I have always been an expressive person. (Shocker, I know. ) Ever since I was a little girl I have been able to articulate my thoughts and feelings with very little fear of what someone would think. However, as I prepare for marriage to the love of my life, I have found myself experiencing a new level of vulnerability with God. A place that I have not found myself in before and feelings that I've never experienced thus far.

With all vulnerability there is an element of trust. Trusting that the person that you are vulnerable with will not judge you, leave you or become cold to you. You trust that on some level they will understand and things won't change. When it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, we can always count on Him never leaving nor forsaking us in our vulnerability with Him, even when it means being angry at Him and questioning His existence! There will be those times where we will push away from God, refusing to bear our soul to the very one who made and knows the depth of our soul. But the truth is, there is nothing that God wants more than for us to be truly vulnerable with Him; to share every facet of our lives and to trust Him with our whole hearts.

The more I fall in love with Jeremy and the more I spend time in prayer about our upcoming marriage and all of the life changes that are in the near future, I have found myself struggling with this fear of losing Jeremy to an illness or accident. I have been thinking about those women who were engaged or newly married, and then the lives of their husbands were snuffed out in the blink of an eye. I can't fathom that kind of pain, but lately I've been trying to figure out where this fear is actually coming from.

I am learning on a very real level that the closer I become to Jeremy and the more vulnerable I am with him, the more it prompts me to draw closer to my heavenly Father. My love for Jeremy is something that I've never, ever experienced before. It is deep and powerful, and has quickly become a part of my existence in the way my sight has become imperative to my ability to function. Such a gift from the Lord needs to be cherished, nurtured and honored, but also not held too tightly, as Jeremy is not mine, but belongs to the Lord. It reminds me of how my mother's heart would ache when she would see one of us children going through something that she couldn't change. She realized that we don't belong to her, we belong to Christ. We are in His hands, and she is simply the instrument used by God on this earth.

What a gift. What a beautiful design. To be surrendered to Christ as a person is one thing, but to surrender your loved ones to Him is entirely another. As I prepare to have a husband and children, I am keenly aware that this lesson of deep love and vulnerability to Christ will take many shapes and forms. As scary as it is to entrust my loves to Christ, He calls us to so that we will further trust Him and allow Him to enable us to go deeper.

May God enable you to be vulnerable to Him in a way that will take you places you've never been before. May you never settle for a man or woman who doesn't prompt you to love Christ deeper and trust Him with your whole heart. May the deep love you feel and the healthy fear of loss point you to the One who holds you in the palm of His hand, which is located under the shadow of His wing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Trusting My Dreams to God


I miss them.

I miss the walkers, the pants with a high waist, the white Keds shoes and hearing their "old people advice" on a variety of life topics. The perfume that is too strong because their sense of smell is "not what it used to be" and the penciled on eyebrows because there just isn't much hair left to form real ones.

I miss the classic tunes of their day that would be sung over and over and over again in an effort to bring the past in to make the present comfortable and familiar for them. Seeing the tears trickle down the faces of the Veteran men when "God Bless America" would be sung and/or played. And dare I say it....but I miss calling Bingo. What I would give to say "B 10, under the letter B, number 10" again.

I miss the days where we would decorate sugar cookies for a holiday while we listened to music or talked about something like canning or how they used to bake cookies for church all the time.

Oh how I miss it.

But God knows that. He knows how much I miss investing in the lives of the elderly on a daily basis, planning their activities, encouraging their skills and encouraging their family members. He knows my heart for these people, because He knows me.  He created every facet of who I am, so of course He knows how much I yearn to love on these people.

The other day while I was eating my morning cereal, I saw a morning T.V. show host interview a woman who wrote a book about "reimagining" her life. The premise was that you could do and be whatever you want to be. To add to the authenticity of this concept they showed clips of people who did just that. One man worked with computers his whole life, and then decided to open up a pizza parlor. He "reimagined" himself, and "you can too".

Now, I'm all for the empowerment of doing something new and being positive that you can do and be whatever you set your mind to, but I couldn't get past one glaring flaw in this concept, and that is the word "You".

I am so grateful that as a Christian I get to experience a deep peace that comes with the truth that it is not about me. I get the privilege of finding my identity in my Savior which translates into a deep trust that He will use my strengths, talents and passion for His purposes and in His way. How exhausting it must be to constantly be working on "you", when in all actuality there is One who knows you better than you know yourself and will be able to accomplish much, much more because of this truth.

Right now I'm working with greeting cards. I am doing inventory, ringing up items at the cash register and color coordinating envelopes. I absolutely beam whenever I get to help an elderly man or woman find a card for their grandchild, and I love it even more when they want to visit and tell me about their lives. God is using me here, and He has not forgotten my dreams.

I dream of being able to write and motivationally speak for a living, working in my little home office while my babies take a nap. I dream of being able to have hours to volunteer in a memory care at a nursing home, leading them in hymns and old songs that will make them feel at ease and at home. I dream of traveling to places around the world, taking in new cultures and breathing in different air.

Psalm 37:4 says "Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." What I have come to understand is that the key to this verse is asking God to transform your desires into His desires for you.

Trust Him with your dreams sweet friend.  May you be reminded and know that the very One who made you is the very one who holds those dreams in a careful manner. May you have the strength and the flexibility to watch Him change things up a bit and give you something beautiful and brand new from His capable and creative hands.