Sunday, November 4, 2012

One year later

Tomorrow is my birthday and I always tend to get introspective this time of year. I generally spend some moments around this day reflecting on the past year and thinking about the upcoming year. I've always felt it was healthy to look at areas of growth, places of weakness, and seeking out where God is bringing not only me but also my family.
     Well, this year has been quite a year. If you've tracked with this blog at all or if you "do life" with my family, you know that I started it at the end of last November after being convicted that the fears in my life were getting in the way of my relationship with Christ and my ability to fully trust in my God. I had no idea that God would use this time of strengthening for what would end of being the hardest year of my life.
     1 month later (almost to the day), a vicious tornado struck our property. We moved through Christmas in a bit of a blur, pulling together what we hoped was a fulfiling holiday for our children.
     Several weeks later, I found a large lump in my breast while getting ready for work one day. I made note of it and called my doctor that day for a slightly overdue yearly checkup and tried not to dwell on the possibilities. My doctor believed it to be a benign cyst but wanted to be conservative and sent me to a surgeon. From there, after being reassured that it was likely nothing of concern, I insisted on a biopsy. Several days later, Jeremy and I were waiting in an exam room for my followup. I never really gave in to much thought that I had anything to fear. However, as the waiting time grew longer, I began to worry. My doctor came in, clearly nervous, and said the words I never thought I would hear. "It's cancer". We went into autopilot, received the information, drove home, and started making some phone calls to family and a small circle of friends. We told our boys 2 days later.
     The next several months would be a roller coaster of emotions for us. I had surgery and the doctor confirmed that it was, indeed, a very aggressive form of breast cancer, somewhat unusual for my age, level of healthfulness, and lack of family history. My next course of treatment was determined to be several months of chemotherapy followed by 30 days of daily radiation, and 5 years of adjuvent therapy (medication). Within this time, Jeremy also lost his job of 7 years and it became a reality that we could potentially look at losing our home.
     So, here I sit, almost a full year after starting this blog. We are in a different home, managing with one semi-reliable car.  My sweet husband is desperately seeking God to figure out how he can be obedient to Him and I am feeling a little bit stronger every day. Where does that leave us? We definitely feel like we have been through a bit of a war. If you've known me for very long, I may have moments when I seem a little quieter than I was a year ago. I am definitely feeling the effects of the year, physically and emotionally. I am processing much these days-seeking God and wanting to walk with Him in everything.
     Our story definitely does not have a fairy tale ending. But, I will tell you this. God has been faithful. That may not make sense to some of you, especially if you are reading this and don't know my God well. But He has. He has provided us everything we have needed , exactly when we needed it. Not a moment before, but just in time. He has provided love to us in so many forms. He comforted  me in some dark moments when faced with thoughts of  huge unknowns, including dealing with my own mortality. He brought His people around us from the very first moment. People that said that we could be real with them. That we could cry, yell, and struggle in front of them.People that literally encircled us in praying arms and hands multiple times and wept with us. People that surrounded us in love in very physical ways from months of meals to pressing money in our hands. People that we can laugh and cry with, depending on the day. We are simultaneusly humbled and uplifted by so many of you.
     I have tears in my eyes as I reflect on the last year. Not tears of despair and loss, mind you. Tears of thankfulness. Tears of joy. Tears that remind me that I am alive and that I am loved by my Father.

I sought the Lord and He answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered in shame.

Psalm 34:4-5

Love and blessings,
Laura

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My portion and my cup

Lord, you are my portion and my cup. You hold my future.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance. I will praise the Lord who counsels me-even at night my conscience instructs me. I keep the Lord in mind always, because He is at my right hand. I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely. For You will not abandon me to Sheol; You will not allow Your Faithful One to see decay.You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in your right hand are eternal pleasures.
Psalm 16:5-11

Ok, so I know it's been a while but God's been doing a lot of work on my heart and the heart of my little family.
     This passage has pulled hard on my soul this week and I have been reminded again that scripture is alive, powerful, and active. Our worship pastor, Stephen, read this at our Wednesday night service and I felt the familiar welling up of tears that I have experienced so many times as I sense God working. Circumstances have been uncertain for some time now in many aspects of my family's life yet we have never lost hope. We are learning to be entirely dependent on God this year in every single way imaginable. We had 2 choices. We could either become bitter and angry or rely on our Lord 100%. There was no in between. We chose to rely on Him. This is not to say that we haven't had more shaky moments that I care to count or that we have always felt certain as to our path. It does mean, however, that we always were sheltered by the Rock.
     God is our portion. He is our cup. He fills our every need. He holds our future. When we are moving through life one moment and are shaken upside down the next, He holds our every moment. The boundary lines that he places for us are seen by many as forbidding and condemning. However, I see them as fences in a yard that protect me from so many beasts in the forest. He is not holding us back. Rather, He is guarding our bodies, hearts, and souls from more than we will ever realize. I have a beautiful inheritance and a reminder that, although our lives consume us here on earth, it is but a blink of an eye compared to the inheritance God has for us in eternity. I have decided to praise the Lord even when my future feels unknown. The Lord is in my thoughts and guides even my smallest moments.I will not be shaken. I will not be shaken. (my favorite part). When I rest in Him, my body, whether sick or healthy, rests securely. He will never abandon me to Sheol, the pit. I will never be allowed to fall apart. He reveals what I need to do step by step; revealing only enough to move forward and walk in faith. When I walk in all of these ways, I have more than enough joy. Wow. What a message of hope and love.
     When I read and meditate on that passage, how can I be overwhelmed when life is not what I planned?
 When reflecting on the last 6 months, it would be easy to become bitter and frustrated. A cancer diagnosis, Jeremy's job loss, and a move. However, I choose to look at how God showed up day after day. He provided a step ahead of our needs. He provided a teaching job that only He knew I needed, countless people that have loved us through the hardest season of our life, and very physical ways of meeting our daily needs. Rather than being overcome with the losses of the last year, I choose to be overcome by the presence of my God.

*update on my health-I completed chemotherapy back at the end of May and began radiation after a week at the beach that was so generously offered to my family. My radiation was 30 treatments and I went daily for 6 weeks. I met some wonderful people through that time and came to be thankful for a team that truly cared about my whole self and my family. I completed radiation therapy on July 31st and began preplanning for a new teaching job on August 1st. My school year has been terrific and I am feeling great. I have all of my 6 month rechecks this month (MRI, mammogram, oncologist and surgeon) and continue to move towards completely renewed health and energy. Love and thankfulness to so many of you that have fulfilled emotional and physical needs for me and my family. Love, Laura
    

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Praising God BEFORE He answers our prayers?


He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:3

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Praise itself is an act of faith. When we are able to praise God before we see the answers to our prayers, we're saying, Lord I trust you to work this out, according to your purpose. I'm going to thank you now for what you are going to do.
   I read a lot of books, especially in the summer when there are not so many things grasping for my attention. I was reading a Christian fiction book called "Stand by Me" and this was a sermon being preached in one of tonight's chapters and it spoke to me. (Isn't it amazing how God can use all sorts of things to get our attention?)  I love thinking about praise being an act of faith. We can all stand in church and sing but are we truly praising Him in our lives? Are we telling Him through that worship that we trust Him even when there seems to be chaos surrounding us? When we are able to put our trust in God by actively praising Him, we gain a new perspective. Usually the new perspective that God gives me is that it isn't all about me (gasp!). 
   And you know what else I've learned? The world is watching. They are waiting to see if a child of God can truly praise Him when feeling afraid. So, it's a balancing act. The balance of praising God in the quiet moments and being a outward testimony to his grace. This can actually lead others to trust in God when they are faced with a challenge. It's not, however, about being perfect.  Nobody expects that. There are so many times that I pray that God can use me despite myself. That others can see past the "Laura" to the God in me. Praising God when we don't have all the answers (or any of the answers)? Super hard to do. It can even feel impossible. But I am slowly learning to trust that God is bigger than the uncertainties in my life. I promise you, this lesson is becoming a life-changer for me and my family. 

Psalm 40:3 in the Message says, "He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God." Psalm 56:3-4 says, "When I get really afraid I come to you in trust. I'm proud to praise God; fearless now, I trust in God. What can mere mortals do?"

So, tonight I say, "Thank you, Lord for what you are going to do. Thank you for my new God-songs you have given me. I am proud for the chance to praise you. I trust in you. I love you. Thank you for my flawed worship because even then you see me as your righteous child. Oh, Lord, I want to be able to say, I am fearless now." 

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Way in the Wilderness

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:18-19

     How many of us fear that our past decisions will impair our ability to serve God or block God's willingness to show us favor? We fear that our mistakes are bigger than anyone else's or that God will continue to hold us back even after we've asked for forgiveness. Isn't that exactly where the enemy wants us? He will watch us sin, gloat over our mess, and then convince us that we are not worthy to serve God or worth His blessings on our lives. That is a win-win for the enemy. He can't have a believer's heart but he sure can whisper lies of insufficiency and unworthiness to us.
     How do you and I avoid the cycle of sin and self-condemnation? Sometimes my desire is to look to others for acceptance to compensate for my disconnect from God. It will always backfire, however, because another person can never fulfill the sometimes un-named desire for connection with God. Have you ever felt, even as a child of God, that longing for more? The longing for connection? When I feel that sense I know that I have stepped away from God and have moved towards other sources of connections. For example, when I am struggling with a decision I tend to talk to my husband or pick up the phone and talk to a friend and then I start praying and looking for guidance in the bible. I have done that so many times without even thinking about the fact that I am working in the wrong order. First should come prayer and seeking answers in the bible and then looking to Godly counsel.
     What am I getting at? When I am feeling a cycle of the "I'm not good enoughs" hitting, I typically tend to seek others who will make me feel better. Then, when that doesn't work, I go to God in prayer. My desire is to discipline myself to go to God first for acceptance and guidance. When I learn to seek Him first, I will never again cycle through the self-condemnation. If the enemy can get us to condemn ourselves, then his job is done!
     What is your fear right now? You may feel like you are in a wilderness without a GPS. I know that is where we are right now. My lack of understanding can be frustrating. I don't know why God leads us through the wilderness but I do know that He doesn't send us out to the wilderness with a backpack and well wishes. He walks that wasteland with us. All I can do is put my hope in God and rely on His promises. He will make a path and He will provide the stream. Now, I may feel lost and thirsty before He gives me provisions but He will not fail me.
     Rely on His promises: He has redeemed you and will call you by name. You may pass through the waters but you will not drown. You may walk through the fires but you will not be burned. (Isaiah 43:1). He loves you (John 3:16).  Seek Him first and He will provide for you (Matthew 6:33). You are never condemned or defined for the past or present (Romans 8:1). He will work all things for your good if you love him and are called for His purpose (Romans 8:28).
     Life isn't easy sometimes but we can rely on the One who knows that better than anyone.

Thank you, Lord, for always accepting us. Thank you that you love us, correct us, and guide us but never condemn us. Thank you for wanting us. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting is the hardest part

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
We wait on the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:18-22

So, for those of you who have read my blog periodically over the 9 months or so, the "Year of No Fear" has been in full drive, no? We've laughed with several of you about the timing of the blog and the   course of events (yes, you have to just laugh sometimes). Several of you have noted that since I felt compelled to write this blog, we've had a tornado strike, a cancer diagnosis, and a job loss. But through the irony of the timing, I have to say that God knew (of course) what we would be faced with and I fully believe that He used that time prior of extra prayer and studying His word to prepare me for the coming months. I have spent time reading some of my posts prior to my diagnosis in February and am enthralled by the words that God gave me through those months to be used in my own life. He gave me those words to show His faithfulness and love to me.

It's been some time since I have posted-living between the reality of our situation right now and learning to wholly trust in God has been a struggle. (You can read more about it in an earlier posting http://ayearofnofear.blogspot.com/2012/02/day-40.html. )God and I have had many many discussions about the hurdles my family has been facing for the last few months. I have cycled between fear, sadness, and had moments of situational anger (mostly about my hair loss-vanity at its finest!). But you know what? We haven't struggled alone. Many of you have cried with us, prayed with us, laughed with us, and have gone through the emotions with us. Through all of this, we have not battled isolation or loneliness and I am thankful for that.

I was sent this passage from a precious friend of mine yesterday morning as we were facing a scary doctor's appointment that held the potential for news of an intensified and prolonged treatment plan. As I read this prior to the appointment, one of the parts of this that jumped out at me was the "waiting on the Lord" part. Oh, that is the hard part. I hate to wait. You can ask my extremely patient husband how anxious I become when waiting. Saying that, I feel like this season we are in has been one long "wait on the Lord". We've waited for test results, treatment, recovery from treatment, job interviews, feedback from job interviews, and the list goes on and on. I am learning, however, that God does things in His time for our good. He has given us hope over these last 5 months and he has shielded us from so much. I have had moments of feeling overwhelmed and sad but I can honestly tell you that I have been able to rejoice and praise Him as well. This season has purified my worship and brought me to Him. He understands loss better than anyone and can absorb my sadness, anger, and despair. I no longer struggle with telling God my frustrations and true feelings. He knows them anyway and it strengthens my relationship with him when I am honest about my feelings.

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue walking through the rest of my treatment and Jeremy's job search. We know God's unfailing love is with us and our hope is in Him.
In the meantime, we are spending the summer together while I work hard to grow a head of hair :)


Saturday, April 14, 2012

I trust in your word

"I trust in your word."
Psalm 119:42

The strength of our faith is in direct proportion to our level of belief that God will do exactly what He has promised. Faith has nothing to do with feelings, impressions, outward appearances, nor the probabability or improbability of an event. If we try to couple these things with faith, we are no longer resting on the Word of God, because faith is not dependent on them. Faith rests on the pure Word of God alone. And when we take Him at His Word, our hearts are at peace.
(Streams in the Desert)


     I am sitting in my sunroom looking at the gorgeous day outside and thinking about Jeremy and the kids at the park. Since it is the weekend following my treatment, it is difficult for me to do anything for the next several days. God has me listening to Him today, though, and for that I am thankful. My children are at peace and giggly today and I am so thrilled that life is "normal" for them right now (even though it is not anywhere near normal for Jeremy and I!).
    
     I read this passage this morning and it resonated deeply with me. I am struggling today with our storms of Jeremy's job loss, and my cancer diagnosis and course of treatment. I am desperate to see God's purpose in these situations. I spent some time sitting in a "pit" of our losses earlier today and began dwelling on the "Why's". Oh, how much easier is it to examine feelings and appearances than it is to explore God's promises for our lives. Right now I feel like God is calling us to transparency and testimony (not easy when one is feeling whiney!). And if this is the sole purpose of our trial, then that is worth it. I pray that God gives us the strength to carry out His plan with joy, faith, and perseverence.
    
    I look forward to one day looking back and seeing the path that God illuminated for us step by step. At the same time, I don't want to miss what God has for us in the present.The graciousness and kindness of the people around us, the strengthening of our marriage and family, and the reminder of God's love for our family surrounds us right now. Thank you for all of your prayers and support. Thank you for so many of you who have loved us so well through our season.

In this way, we will bear a worthy testimony to the world and thereby strengthen the lives of others. (Mueller)

I trust in your word.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Blogger! :)

  It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it.  We felt like we had been sent to death row, that it was all over for us.  As it turned out it was the best thing that could have happened .  Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get us out of it, we were forced to trust in God totally- not a bad idea since he is the God who raises the dead!  And he did it, rescued us from certain doom.  And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.  You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation- I dont want you in the dark about that either.  I can see your face even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverence of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.

2 Corinthians 1.8-11 The Message

I recently asked my wife if she would allow me to be a guest blogger from time to time as God places something on my heart.  Although, I must admit that before Laura took up the practice I had no idea what a blog was. (insert laughter from wife)  I have found through my wife that it is a wonderful tool to communicate God's plan and mercy for our lives.  The past week has been another tough one for our family.  After seven years on my job I was given notice that my position would be eleminated at the end of the month.  As I heard the news my heart sank.  I thought, "why us?" and "why now?"  As I prayed and studied the scripture I came to the conclusion of why not now and why not us.  I was reminded that in our weakest moments God makes us strong.

As we move through this journey it is becoming more and more obvious we are unable to do anything without God.  As a father and husband I have spent the last few years looking at how far "I" had come and how much "I" had accomplished through my hard work.  I am so very aware at this moment that it is God that is in control and it is God who will bring us through these hardships so that He may be glorified.  We ask that you continue to pray dear friends for our family.  In the end we will all be able to share in the blessings that God promises to deliver again and again.

Jeremy

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When fearful can be a good thing

I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and my soul knows very well.
Psalm 139:14

     I have referenced the word fear just a "few" times over the last few months but wanted to look at the word from a different angle. I began thinking about this verse last night and woke up thinking about it again. I know what it means to fear but do I know what it means to be fearfully made? In a little bit of digging, I found that in the original Hebrew, the word 'fearfully' means: with great reverence and heartfelt interest and respect.
     In other words, we are not just thrown together at the last minute whim of God or our parents. God contemplated our very existence and created us with purpose and intent. This is quite a reminder in a busy world in which we can feel a bit lost sometimes. Yes, God is bigger than the universe, bigger than what we can comprehend. However, He took time before our creation to thoughtfully design and make you and me specifically.
     As we walk through difficult seasons and through seasons of rest, we can always know that God made us as a "marvelous work".

Love and blessings.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

When Jesus cries with us

Jesus wept.
John 11:35

     Shortest verse in God's word but quite possibly one of the most powerful. I was reminded while sitting in my sweet church this morning that not only does Christ hurt for us but He hurts with us. This week will be the start of a painful season for my family and I. Definitely the toughest time that we've had thus far. How do I know that we are not alone in this time? Jesus wept. How do I know that Christ loves us? Jesus wept and He has sent His people to be His body that can weep with us as well.
     I am beginning my rounds of chemotherapy this week that will work to eradicate any possible remaining cancer cells in my body for the next 12 weeks. After that, I will have 6 1/2 weeks of daily radiation and begin the process of recovery. God has sent His extraordinary peace to me and my family in these past few weeks. Have I struggled? Yes. I have had some dark moments but God has given me such a peace. The strength that you may hear or see when you are with me is not about me. It is God Himself, stepping into my life to carry me through.
     Let's talk about fear. Oh baby, do I have fears. But you know what? Several years ago, I watched a dear friend walk through the most traumatic and heartbreaking time of loss in her life. I found myself fearing isolation in a time of crisis. During her difficult time, I witnessed an amazing coming together of God's people with the sole purpose of holding up their friends with whom they had intimately shared life. Shortly thereafter, Jeremy and I prayed for a community of people that would surround us in our valley of life. I have seen the answer to that prayer come together over the past few years and culminate at the moment of my diagnosis last month. Absolutely amazing and completely humbling how God prepares us for battle and when the battle begins, you turn around and hundreds of people are standing with you, loving you and fighting with you.
     So, the fears are there but the fears also serve as a reminder that I am not in control. As long as I remind myself that God is sovereign, then I can rest. I can rest in the fact that He is weeping with us in this valley. God is God and God is still good.
Love and blessings.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Confidence in Christ when I am without my own

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
Hebrews 3:14

      I told myself that as soon as I picked back up on my blog again, that it wouldn't be solely about this thing I am walking through. So, I thought I would pause the writing for a while until I could think of a new subject. Guess what? I failed. For now, this is where I am. Although, I don't want this cancer to wholly define me and my entire life right now, I'm not sure how to process things spiritually without addressing the biggest issues at hand. So this is where I am-for today anyway. Jeremy regularly asks me the big question "How are you doing today?" That question has a much bigger meaning right now. A "Fine, honey. You?" will not suffice. The other day my answer was exactly this: "I am doing okay but every once in a while the cold fingers of fear creep up on me and I get terrified." That's quite an answer, huh? Be aware if you ask me that question, you might get a very real answer.
     There are a variety of fears on the table with this cancer. You could probably list them with me, especially if you have watched someone walk through it
     So, here are some of the fears that I am giving to God these days (subject to change without notice)  :)
  • that my closest friends and family will get completely worn out with me-I can tell you the correct response to this and what I would tell a friend who was walking through this but it is still a fear. I know that people love us and many will walk the long road with us but I still don't want people to avoid me because life is tough for us right now.
  • that I will be defined by this cancer-pretty soon I am fairly positive that I will "look sick" and this is a tough one for me. Call it vanity, pride, whatever. But the fact is, there will be no avoiding the fact visually that I am going through treatment within a couple of weeks. I want God to define me, not a disease of a fallen world.
  • that I will feel isolated-ok, I am just going to put it out there. Isolation makes me sad and lonely and sad Laura is no fun at all. So, to all of our friends that we "do life with", do not give us our space. We want you in our space. Capeche? Capeche. ;)
  • that my sickness will take joy away from my little family- oh, this is a tough one. I am a power-through-it type of person and this thing may not allow me to do that some days. I don't want my kids to see life changed because mom is sick. I have to let this one go because life will change in many ways, at least temporarily, and they will be fine. But, what momma wouldn't struggle with this?
  • that I won't allow myself to be transparent to others-I know God has given me a strength through this but I have had many many tough moments these last few weeks. It is one thing to have those tough moments with my husband but I worry about having those tough moments in front of others. I'm afraid that if I am a wreck, people will think I am not depending on God enough or that my faith isn't strong enough.
     Well, I've got some things to give to God, no? Just like life in general, I am on a journey with this. I know that this situation did not surprise God. I know that He has been preparing me for this for some time now. And I know that He loves me. I am thankful that through this life-changing diagnosis, that I have not doubted His love or presence. The verse I posted reminds me that He never changes even when life drastically does. He has promises that do not shift with our circumstances. He gives us people that we can share life with in Christ that can encourage, bolster, and love us.
     Thank you for walking through this with us, whatever form that is in. If you are simply reading this and saying a prayer for me and my family, thank you. If you have mailed me a card, cooked a meal, called me, emailed me, sent me a bible verse, or just checked in on us, thank you. Thank you for loving us through this. I can't promise you these blog postings these next couple of months will be fun but I can promise you that I will be transparent (and hopefully I won't wear you out)  ;)

Friday, February 17, 2012

The post I never thought I would have to write

Many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the LORD'S purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21


Deep breath...here we go. The post I've been dreading. I was told this week that I have breast cancer. It was a complete shock (as I am sure it generally would be for most people). My family and I are doing a lot of praying and processing and will know more details in the coming weeks. This verse is one that I have never read before and it speaks volumes to me right now. I have many plans for my life and not a single one of them included getting cancer at 34 years old. All I know is that this is what God is allowing in my life right now. Do I like it ? Not a bit. It's really terrible to watch your husband and 9 year old cry together while trying to work through finding God's peace. But it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. I hate the thought of sickness, recovery, treatment, and whatever else I will have to walk through. But it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. All of these verses that I have been searching through these last few months will be my comfort. I serve a God of peace and of faithfulness. I serve a God who is weeping with my family this week. I serve a God who knows the feeling of heartache. I will praise him in this midnight hour of my life out of love and obedience. I will praise Him because He is my Redeemer and Healer. I will praise Him because he has called me by name.  I will not fear.


"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."
Love and blessings.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Joyful (but not necessarily happy)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent of praiseworthy-think about such things. 
Philippians 4:8

Whew, life can be exhausting. Just the moment when you think that it is going smoothly, watch out. A curve ball may be headed your way. In thinking about fear and worry over these last several months, I've begun to wonder how much time and energy I have spent worrying about things over which I have no control. And while I have excused these times away as saying that it is a part of my personality to worry and dwell, I have learned recently that I may have actually been disobeying a command of God's all this time. In Philippians, we are directed and commanded to rejoice and to never be anxious (chapter 3, verse 4-7). How is this possible? How can we be commanded to be joyful? Don't be confused. This is not the same as being commanded to be happy all the time. Instead, it is God's directive for our life to find joy and contentment in him. Let's face it, the world is a messy place and there is sometimes easier to focus on what can go wrong rather than turning our eyes to Christ and looking to him for guidance. That is why I love this verse. What am I spending my moments dwelling and meditating on? All of the things that can go wrong or on the sovereignty of Christ? The worst case scenarios or God's protection of me and my family?

Paul tells us to dwell on the things that often go against our "human nature", or sinful nature. Our tendency, especially when faced with loss or stress, is to focus on the "Why me's?" and our lack of understanding. This list of things to focus on almost seems impossible in this world. The only way I know to do this is to stay in His word for us. By immersing myself in God's word, bathing every day in prayer, and surrounding myself with other believers, I am ready to face a world filled with uncertainties and people who need to see the certainty of Christ through me. The reward? The peace of God. Peace that exceeds a healthy checking account, job stability, and potential loss. Peace that goes beyond our understanding. Peace that is the calm in the middle of a raging storm through our lives. Peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Peace.

Lord, compel me to think of noble, pure, right, lovely, and admirable things. Wake me in the morning with a desire for you and your word. Thank you, Lord, that even my worst case scenario is surrounded by your love and grace for me and my family.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

No, son. God is not a puppy snatcher.

Find rest , O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:5-8

There is so much in this world that is uncertain and unknown. When our sense of hope and joy rely on these things, then we are bound to be disappointed, heartbroken. But, when God alone is our hope, our rock, and our refuge, there is never hopelessness. Never. He can never let us down. True, we live in a fallen and sinful world where sickness, sin, and heartache reign. But God is not the source of these things. Where there is sickness, God provides hope. Where there is sin, God provides redemption. Where there is heartache, God provides restoration. He is the exact opposite of all that is in this world. Yet, He gets blamed for so much. We've all blamed God at some point in the midst of a difficult situation. We feel as though God should have (and could have) reached his hand down and stopped the devastation.

I'll never forget when our first dog died. Our oldest son was 3 or 4 at the time. We were explaining that Bethany had gotten sick and died and had gone to "heaven" (don't read too much into the theology here of pets in heaven-he was little). At this point, he started to weep bitterly. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that it wasn't fair that God would go around snatching up the puppies of little boys just so He could have it in heaven. "Does he just reach down his big 'ol hand and take puppies, Mom?" Oy. Now we were in deep. We had to explain that no, God is not mean and he does not go around taking puppies of little boys. After a 15 minute theological discussion (on a preschool level) about God's relationship with us, he was satisfied. Whew.

Isn't that sometimes our view of God? That He has the tendency to stick his hand out from heaven and stir things up on earth? Maybe he could have prevented a tragedy or kept a person from sinning. Fortunately, God has given every person the ability to make choices, including the choice to love and follow Him. Unfortunately, that choice does not exclude us from heartache on this earth.

However, when I live this psalm out in my life, I am not easily swayed by the circumstances of my life. When God is my joy and my strength, I can stand no matter what happens on this earth. Will we hurt? Most certainly. But given the chance, God wants to restore and heal every hurt. When I pour out those hurts, fears, frustrations, and feelings of helplessness to Him, he can reach his hand down to my heart and restore it to His fullness.

God will give us rest. God will give us hope. And He will give us peace. All we have to do is rely on Him and Him alone. Then, we will not be shaken.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Certain of the unseen

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

At first glance, this doesn't appear to be about fear. But you and I know better by now, right? :) What is unseen is often what gives us the greatest sense of fear and anxiety. There are many situations that, if we could see them clearly from all angles, then we could understand them. However, God doesn't work that way. If He gave us the reason and outcome for every situation that presented itself in our lives, where would be the room for faith? Faith allows us to hand it to God without needing all the details or the reasons why. Faith allows us to lean on God when we feel unsure of what we are walking through. Faith gives us strength. I've heard it said so many times that "God will never give us more than we can handle." I don't believe this is true. God often allows us to walk through something He knows is beyond what we can handle on our own. When we can't handle it on our own anymore, then we turn to Him. It is in those moments that we see our desperate need for Christ.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seeing the wind

(keep in mind, this is immediately following the feeding of the 5,000 with the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish)

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water.
"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "Why did you doubt?"

Matthew 14:25-32

This is a story I have been familiar with for many years In fact, I'll bet you anything that I've seen this story played out on a flannel board in my younger days. Truth? I think in my heart I always judged Peter for being doubtful and for lacking the faith that I thought he should have. However, these days, I think there are times when I relate unnervingly well with Peter. Here is what I notice. First, take note that they have just been a part of the miraculous dividing of the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes to feed 5000 (plus women and children!). Jesus removed them from the crowds while he dismissed the crowds and went to pray. Next, the immediate reaction of all of them was one of fear (assuming the figure was a ghost and not Jesus). Next is the point where I have taken a new perspective on this story. Peter is the only one who has enough faith to even yell out to Jesus when he identifies himself. Not only does he call out but he also takes the dive (literally) and steps out of the boat to walk to Jesus. I would have loved to see the other disciples faces at this moment. Did they try to stop him or were they so paralyzed in fear that they watched with wide eyes? Did they wish that they were the ones to step out or were they glad that Peter did instead? Either way, there was strength in those steps out of the boat.

Peter walks on the water towards Jesus, with his eyes on his messiah. But when he saw the wind he began to sink. Oh, how many times have we had our eyes on Christ, focused, spending time in His word, and then we see the wind and begin to sink? The wind can be a job loss, a diagnosis, family strife, or any kind of loss. For just that split second we take our eyes off of Jesus and see the wind and we immediately sink. We cry out to our Lord just as Peter did, "Lord, save me!". What does our messiah do? Does he leave us there to learn a lesson about faith and courage? Immediately Jesus. Immediately Jesus reaches out his hand, catches us, and strengthens our faith. Immediately Jesus.

Perhaps I've been too hard on Peter because I have clearly been here more times than I would care to admit. How do we keep our eyes on Jesus and ignore the wind? That is what this year is about for me. Learning to ignore the wind and look out to Jesus, all the while knowing that when I do fail, immediately Jesus reaches out his hand to me and rescues me.

May we all keep our eyes on the messiah and ignore the winds that howl around us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An invitation to be tested?

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious
thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in
me,
and led me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Oh, what an invitation is this. The freedom to invite God to test me, know my anxieties, and purge out any offenses sounds a bit daunting. But the payout is huge: being led in the way of the everlasting, the way of Christ. God already knows our hearts and He already sees every anxious thought. But, I think before we can grow and be released from our strongholds, whatever they may be, God wants an invitation to step in and work. He will never force His way in our hearts and our lives. If I forced someone to share their life with me, under threats and intimidation, how genuine would the relationship be? Yes, I might know some things about that person, but it would be a relationship based on fear and misuse of power. God wants all of me but He wants me to want to give it freely, without condition or obligation. How willing am I to put my heart and my anxious thoughts under God's microscope? Am I willing to be tested by God? What if I knew that going through all of that would make my heavenly relationship more intimate and my earthly relationships more fulfilling and purposeful?

We all want to fully grasp the peace of Christ. He offers it to every single one of us. We just have to be willing to move ourselves out of the way to get to the place of surrender. It's not easy but the more time I spend with God, reading His word and talking things out with Him, the closer I get to Him. The closer I get to Him, the more I am able to get perspective on His purpose and calling for my life. The more clearly I focus on His purpose and calling on my life, the less I fear. The opposite is also true. The less time I spend with God, the further I move away from Him. The further I move away from him, the fuzzier my perspective becomes. When my perspective and calling become unclear, I lose purpose and begin to fear. Interesting, no?

I have gone through seasons in the past in which I committed to praying scriptures as my prayers. I think this one may be mine for a while. I don't know what God has for me day to day but I know he has a hope and a future for me. The verse that follows Jeremiah 29:11 that I referenced several days ago says this:
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.

I love it! Perhaps that will be tomorrow' "No Fear" verse...
Love and blessings!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The stronghold of 'people pleasing'

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

How many of us have a fear of not being "enough"? Enough for our spouse, children, extended families, employers, church, and friends. You name a situation or relationship and we can come up with a way that we can convince ourselves that we insufficient. Why do we do this to ourselves? As women, I think that we are the worst offenders in this area. (If you are a mom, we've coined it as "mom guilt"). I think it is the way many of us are wired by God-created to be relational, which often can turn into people-pleasing. No so many years ago, I had convinced myself, the people-pleaser, that it was a good thing. On a positive side, I tend to be a peace maker (please don't be mad at me or anyone else!!!) and on the negative side I tended to be a feelings stuffer (if I tell you how I really feel then you really won't like me!!!).

 As I was working through a bible study several years ago, the term "people-pleaser" was amongst a list of traits to circle regarding your relationships with others. I circled it quickly and proceeded down the list. As I read further, I was slightly taken back (ok, maybe a little offended) that people-pleasing was being considered a stronghold. What? As in, it was placed in the same categories as jealousy, anger, worrying, and pride. I'll admit that it took me a while to submit to the fact that the drive to please people was a stronghold that could interfere with my relationship with Christ. Ultimately, my strive has to be to please Christ and Christ alone. If I am walking in this obedience, then all else becomes a side note. Does this mean relationships are insignificant and we ignore life's obligations and the hurting people around us? Absolutely not. It does mean, however, that when I focus on pleasing my God, then the actions overflow to those around me. I don't have to try so hard to be what everyone wants me to be. If I am His and if I am what my Abba Father wants me to be, then I can live Him out to others. In addition, my fulfillment and feelings of self-worth won't be reliant on other people. I will be completely satisfied in Him and Him alone. I will always be "enough" and He will never let me down-always "enough" for me. His grace will be sufficient for me and His power will be made perfect whenever I am weak.

"My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Psalm 73:26

In the same way that Paul talks in Philippians about striving towards the prize, this is my marathon to run. I desire to find my worth and my "enough" in Christ alone and to know that He is my "enough". To remind myself that God is my portion and the strength of my heart.
Oh, Lord, may I learn quickly.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The peace that is standing right in front of us

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

(Jesus appears to the disciples) While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you".
Luke 24:36

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said "Peace be with you!"
John 20:19

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!"
John 20:26

Take a look at these verses and think about the commonalities amongst them. I highlighted the spoken words in red to be clear as to who was speaking. The common denominator is, of course, the words of Jesus. In my own life, as I follow Christ, I feel as though I try to attain peace throughout difficult seasons. I strive towards peace as though it is a trophy only for the best, most sanctified of Christians. There are days when it can be a full time job! I am learning through my studies over the last several months that this is not a quest to eliminate fear in my life. It is actually a choice to accept the peace that God offers. As a believer, I have full access to God. "For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit" (Ephesians 2:18) The sacrifice of the death of my Jesus allows complete access to God. I can talk to Him anytime I want and, here's the best part...He listens! Even when I feel like God is being silent, I have the heart and head knowledge that the scriptures tell me that He hears my every prayer. **Reading Ephesians 2:11-22 can bring more clarity to the reconciling of us to God through the cross.**

Where does this fit in with my "quest for peace?" Here is the reality. Take a look again at the verses above. All four of them have the physical presence of Jesus in the scene both prior to his crucifixion and directly following his resurrection. When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he wasn't telling them to go and find his peace. He was offering it to them on the spot. The peace he was offering was his very presence, standing in front of them. We are given that same peace through the Holy Spirit, our Counselor. John 16 tells us that Jesus talks to the disciples regarding his death and the sending of the Holy Spirit : "It is for your own good that I am going away. Unless I go away,the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." (vs 7). So, when we are followers of Christ and have a relationship with Jesus, we too have his physical presence with us. His presence is in the form of the Holy Spirit that is given to us when we turn our lives to him. Do we have to seek out peace? No. It is standing with us, saying 'Peace be with you!' His peace is with us. Every day. Every moment. No need to wear ourselves out seeking peace. Knowing that the resurrected savior is standing in front of me, telling me to feel the scars in his hands, how can I fear? 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A different view of prospering

'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'
Jeremiah 29:11

This is probably one of the more recognizable verses in the bible-one that believers go to when feeling alone or when life seems to be a series of closed doors. This verse comforted me in teenage and young adult years when my life was before me like an open highway. Adventures, changes...who knew what would happen around the next bend? I had the assurance that my unknowns were not unknown to my God. A career choice? God's wants to prosper me. Dateless nights in high school? God has a plan for my future. Hurt feelings? God offers hope.

13 years after graduating college (sheesh-I am feeling old...) this verse speaks to me in a slightly different way. I'm a little more tired, I've lived through some amazing times and some tremendous hurts, and I have a slightly different world view through the lenses of some experience. God has carried my family through some big things and he has truly worked them together for our good. Sick newborn? God has plans for his future and ours'. Sacrificing for me to be a stay at home mom? God has plans to prosper our family.  Husband laid off after transitioning to being a single-income family? God has a hope for us and plans not to harm us. Such a humbling list of God's timeline over the last few years and are some of the more vibrant threads in our testimony as a Christ-following family.

All of this to say that it is amazing how the word of God is truly alive and breathing and meets our current needs. This verse spoke to me in my teenage years and early 20's differently than it speaks to me in my mid (early?) 30's. :) Previously, it opened my world to big experience and now it brings my world into a manageable place of peace and security. I do have a distinct feeling, however, that God is working to break open my quiet sense of comfort and security. I believe that we are ready to be stretched and this verse will carry us through any uncertainty that may come. This verse will breathe new peace into my life throughout these times.

God's plans for us go through stages of change and times of stability. May I never become complacent in the quiet times and may I never fear God-ordained change.

Love and Blessings.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jumping without a safety net

You dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

1 John 4:4-6

I've not written in a week or so. I set out on this blog with the intention of writing every day and I hope to get back to that. On the same hand, I don't want to force what God is leading me to. So for now, as God leads me to a a scripture I will write.
I was reading 1 John 4 this evening, prompted by a text from my precious friend (thanks, MacKenzie!) and came across this passage regarding the lies that we often believe and how to weed through them. As I read this verse, it struck me that so often those that don't know God have a difficult time understanding a believer's drive to honor God. It is so much easier to speak "from the viewpoint of the world" as this says. People around us find that a bit easier to swallow. But it is always such a balancing act of showing God's love with our lives and words but also not coming across as legalistic or exclusive.
In regards to living without fear, how do we define this stronghold? I can clearly see through these verses that it is a spirit of falsehood, designed to hold us back from God's best intentions for my life. Think about what fear and uncertainty has held you back from in your life. It is very difficult to step out on faith when your safety net can't be seen. It might seem crazy to the world to do something in faith when it doesn't make sense on paper. However, this "viewpoint of the world" doesn't take into account the God who is our safety net. People who don't know Him can't see His protection. I want my family to make decisions based, not on the viewpoint of the world or perceptions of others, but rather on the faith and knowledge that when we are being obedient to God's plans for us, He will be our security and He will hide us in the cleft of His rock. I don't want to live our lives safely, without risks, when that means we can ultimately be missing out on God's best for us.
As our family earnestly seeks God's best for our lives so that we can ultimately honor Him, I want us to live in a way that loves others and shows the spirit of confidence that can only come from God. He has already overcome and He is greater than he that is in the world. May my fear and uncertainty be overshadowed by the confidence of being in God's story.
Perfect love drives out fear...The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

Lord, I give you this year. I know you have a purpose in my studies on fear and I see the way it is intertwining with your plan for our family. Guide us with confidence and the assurance of the One who has already overcome.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What? I don't have to convince God to love me???

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2

I spent many years worrying about disappointing people-parents, friends, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone influential in my life. This was not something imposed by these people, but rather self-imposed. Naturally, I transferred this feeling to my spiritual life. Meaning, I was desperate to avoid disappointing my God. This played out in my life in some positive ways and some less than positive ways. On the positive side of things, I was compelled to follow rules and guidelines set before me. I was (and am) a perpetual rule-follower. :) However, I often followed spiritual and life guidelines set before me in an effort to gain favor from God, although I didn't recognize that at the time. As a result, it placed me in a performance-based relationship at times. I have been a believer since I was a young child but it took me until my adult years to more fully understand the nature of God's love for me. In fact, when we had our children, I began to understand that nothing they can do wrong can cause me to love them any less and no matter how wonderful they are, they can't make me love them more. I just love them to a full capacity. That is how my God loves me and loves you. He just loves us.
This assurance gives me peace and and my faith gives me ready access into this grace. This peace in the assurance that Jesus gave when he died for all of the sins he knew you and  I would commit in my lifetime. The take away? I don't have to fear falling out of favor with God. Instead, I am compelled to please my God out of love for Him. And, when I mess up, my sins are covered through my blood of my Jesus who loved me before he even knew me. Peace, peace, and peace. I rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Love me! Approve of me!

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O LORD.

Psalm 139:1-4

Ok, we're going to get real here. I'm going to tell you my second biggest fear (my hands are sweaty even thinking about it). My second biggest fear is a person's perception of me. Lame, right? You thought it might be something dramatic. Now, you are wondering what the biggest one is. We'll hit it another day. :) Anyway, I worry about a person's perception of me. It will be the thing that I agonize and worry over.  Why? Maybe it's a drive to appear as though I've got things under control. Sometimes, however, it just falls apart. There are times that I cannot control someone's perception. That is where I struggle. Maybe it's my tendency towards people-pleasing that God is working with me on. Perhaps I need to rely more on God to form my identity instead of my identity being formed by relationships with others. God is growing me on this and the growth pains began this week with some timely 'opportunities' to help me grow. :)

I came across this verse is Psalms and I wonder why I am sometimes more concerned about a person's perception of me rather than God's perception of me. Why do we seek the approval of people when our God is our ultimate Redeemer and Friend? Oh, my friend, how I have struggled with this all week. God wants all of us-the good and the bad. He wants my service and my insecurities. He wants my obedience and my shortcomings. He wants my successes and my failures. It is so much easier to offer God my good sides only and to think I am hiding my struggles. I am learning to offer myself to Him entirely. He made me. He knows where I fall short and He can use my transparency to help others. <even as I type this I have the urge to highlight and delete because what will you think of me when you are done reading this?>

It all comes down to complete reliance and surrender. If we had it all together, then we would rely only on ourselves without a need to surrender to anyone. This verse reminds me that God's got every situation that I encounter but more importantly, He's got me. He knows me. He loves me even when I fail. Check out the lyrics to this song that just came to my mind as I was writing and take a listen here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOY0mjjmx8Y&feature=player_embedded

Oh Lord You've searched me
You know my way
Even when I fail You
I know You love me

Your holy presence
Surrounding me
In every season
I know You love me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was shed for me
There's no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Your glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?

You go before me
You shield my way
Your hand upholds me
I know You love me

You tore the veil
You made a way
When You said that it is done

And when the earth fades
Falls from my eyes
And You stand before me
I know You love me
I know You love me
(At the Cross, Hillsong)
What a beautiful picture of God's love for me. Why do I worry? When my heart is obedient, God is pleased. He already overcame the grave, He can certainly handle my fears. This song is my prayer of love and surrender. 
I know you love me, Lord. You go before me. You shield my way. Your hand upholds me. I know You love me.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Joy, peace, and the accuser

For the kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

...For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night.
Revelation 12:10

At first glance, this might seem like a random assortment of verses but there is a powerful connection between the three of them. In the first verse, we are told that the Holy Spirit can offer us righteousness, peace, and joy. Righteousness doesn't mean we are perfect but when we are covered by the sacrifice of Jesus, God sees us as righteous children. Peace and joy most definitely go together. In my life, when I am feeling a lack of peace and surrender to God, there is a serious deficit of joy. It's a really miserable feeling! The next verse tells us that God's hope gives us joy and peace.  It appears again. The connection between joy and peace is becoming more clear.
Next, we look at a picture of the enemy. In the last verse, did you catch what Satan is called? The accuser. He accuses people, causing unrest, anxiety, and fear. What does he accuse you of? I have heard accusations of insufficiency and unacceptance in my life. We all have our own, though. Some people's accusations may be from their past mistakes that are so difficult to release (even though God has already released them if you've surrendered them). Perhaps it is the accusation of failure or inadequacy. The enemy will do what he can to keep us away from serving God and loving others as we are called to do.

Beth Moore says, "So closely are peace and joy linked that Satan will most certainly steal our joy if he can undermine our peace. Striving, churning, tossing, turning, bitter, burning, never learning..." (Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit).
Satan's desire is to take away our peace, joy, and hope and he is an expert at his job. Because if he can accomplish this in our lives, he completely immobilizes us into being ineffective, miserable, joyless people. We all have our times (or seasons) of this. I had a day like this today. My fears of insufficiency and unacceptance were whispered (seemed like a yell to me, though!) in my ear. Today I struggled with a lack of peace. Only when I stepped back and realized tonight through reading these verses did it occur to me that the best way for Satan to render me ineffective at my calling is to freeze me in fear. Today I failed in my fear test. But, the important thing is to learn from it, repent from my lack of faith in my God who desires only the best for me, and move forward in joy, hope, and peace. Maybe you can learn from my failure and respond to your accuser with the strength, hope, and security in God.

I will not fear. His promise is true. My God will come through always. Always.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We are not defined by previous generations

'So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant.; do not be dismayed, Israel,' declares the Lord. 'I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security and no one will make him afraid. I am with you and will save you', declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 30:10-11

God brought me to this passage this evening in my search for the next verse. As soon as I read this one, I just knew that this was what God had for us tonight. Something that has long been on my heart is the issue of generational sin. Both my husband and I deal with this, although in differing degrees. He has long struggled (since childhood) with not being defined by his verabally and physically destructive father, who was defined by his father, and so on and so on. I have struggled with not being defined by a sense of loss and brokenness in my family that occurred in my adulthood. It has taken both of us many years of prayer to work through these painful situations but there are times when it is still felt.

So, the big questions: Where do we go from here? What do we do with all of our hurts and rejection, especially ones that have a generational stronghold? I feel like God is reassuring Jacob, telling him that despite all of his and Israel's past fears, insecurities, and hurts, he can have peace and security once again. We are not forever held in bondage by the hurts that happened before we were born and consequently throughout our lives. So many families are hurting and they perhaps haven't realized the power that these sins have had in their family in generations past and present. However, as believers in Christ, we can allow God to keep future generations from hurting like perhaps we have. My husband and I are determined, not that our children will never experience hurt (it is inevitable at some point in this fallen world), but that they will not sustain the same generational hurts that we have absorbed.

We are a new creation in Christ and God makes all things new. May we not be held within the fears and insecurities that the past can heap on us. Remember, we are adopted sons and daughters of Christ. He chose you to be his child. Rest in that and fear not.

Love and blessings.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mountains, waves, and a quaking earth

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalm 46:1-3

Well, that it quite a visual. Stop for a moment and read the passage word by word and picture the scene in your mind. We have all, at some point, felt overwhelmed. The best thing the enemy can do when we are in a time of trouble is to add fear into the situation. Fear is crippling and paralyzing and when we are entrenched in fear, we cannot move forward. The enemy stands next to our ear and whispers our biggest insecurities. And I am sure that I can't be the only one that believes those lies about myself too often. The lie that is whispered in my ear is one of unacceptance and failure. It is the thing that, in my past, has delayed my obedience to what I knew God was calling me to do.

Perfect example: Years ago, I was impressed by God to get a women's bible study off the ground. I had been looking for one in the area that I could go to (I was a stay at home mom the time). I had been attending one that was 45 minutes away but in the midst of my second pregnancy, I was having some complications and was told that I needed to stick close to home (and my bed) for a while. So, all of a sudden I felt like an island. I was new to the area, lonely, and really knew no one. God began working on my heart to begin and facilitate a bible study. It was all ready to go. I had a location, a start date, and a Beth Moore study all picked out and even workbooks purchased. It was probably August at this point.

It was about this time that the enemy began whispering the lies in my ear. I began to feel insufficient, inadequate, and unprepared. Who was I to facilitate a bible study? No one was going to show up and if they did, they would realize that I had no idea what I was doing! Well, the enemy won for about 3 or 4 months. I delayed, delayed, and delayed some more. Finally, I was able to understand that I was actually being disobedient in what God had asked me to do. We had our first meeting and 7 or 8 women all showed up, none of whom knew each other. These women became my dearest friends. We ended up meeting consistently for 4 years! Many of the ladies that were in the first group came to every bible study for all 4 years. We were also blessed to have many precious women join us as we went along the journey.

The enemy knew my greatest fears of rejection and unacceptance and he was determined to stop the good work that God had in store for our group. Was I perfect? Not even close. Did I have all the answers? Nope! Did I mistakes? Too many to count. But so many times, we would discuss things over coffee and breakfast that I just knew were ordained by God. I knew at the time that this was a rich and meaningful time in my life.

My point is this. Had I listened to my fears, as perfectly valid as they felt at the time, not only would I have been not fully obedient to God, but I would have missed out on some of the best moments of those 4 years. We may feel like everything in us is resisting what we know God has for us. But, He is our refuge when things crumble. Many times He places people in our lives that can represent refuge and strength for us as well. When you feel like your world is crumbling, seek God first and foremost. But, next, find a group of people that can hold you up when the mountains are quaking and the earth gives way. Let us not become frozen in our fear, whether we are struggling with obeying God or in the midst of crisis.

Blessings for you and your family as we move into a new year.