Monday, December 29, 2014

Lessons Learned 2014

Zechariah 4:6
So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.

I crave expectations and goals, and I get a high when I can check one off the list.  Not too long ago, I completed four months of work to create a beautiful list and portfolio of projects in anticipation of a deadline.  The timeline should have allowed all projects to be wrapped up in a neat bow...but one thing after another stalled progress.  In spite of my greatest efforts I left one project dangling.  I simply could not make it happen no matter how hard I tried.  My expectation of praise for the volume accomplished was quickly replaced with the words, "I'm disappointed."  My spirit was crushed, but I had to hold my head high and know that even though my best was not sufficient, I had given my all. 

I left the meeting, sat down at my desk, and my eyes met with a scripture taped on the wall...Zechariah 4:6.
 
2014 has been the year of the release of control.  This is just one situation of many where God has put me in a position to realize the superwoman I crave to be can only be that way if it is in his will and through his spirit.  I've long struggled with the "I can fix it myself," attitude.  I've felt the conviction about this for quite sometime.

Walking the dog not too long ago, I looked at her tiny body.  While she was walking along beside me, she had the leash held firmly between her teeth.  Even when we are trying to let God lead, we still want some control.

Letting go of my control has meant learning to accept disappointments because sometimes they bring along better things.


Letting go of my control has meant taking life one day at a time while doctors play trial and error to fix a debilitating illness (with much success I might add).  It was not my strength but his that kept me rocking as a mom, working a full time job and keeping a 4.0 in grad school.  Looking back, I can't tell you how I made it through.

Letting go of my control is trying to guide a friend in setting her life on the right path, praying each day I am getting through, yet knowing in the end she makes her own choices.  The stories I could tell about how prayers for wisdom or the time to share it have amazingly yielded the right words or the right time to share them.

Letting go of my control is watching my daughter growing up and having to trust her to be the Godly young lady we raised her to be.

Letting go meant learning to say "no" to several things I wanted to do because God had other plans for me.

Letting go of my control is learning to have peace during the scariest week of my entire life, waiting on test results that should have had some pretty grim results.  Praise God for the miracle he gave!

Not by my might nor by my power, but by his spirit.  Letting go has shown me prayer is my greatest weapon we have in this world, and when I stop, take my hands off of the situation and let him work, the results are so much better that I could ever expect.

Father, I thank you for a year of lessons and the amazing outcomes.  Remind me when I grab hold of the leash that you are in control and to stop and listen instead of fighting to make things happen.  I pray 2015 will be filled with more delightful revelations of how your hand gives the perfect result.  Amen.


 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Missing the Feast

I am following through with a commitment I made last night.  God has been all over me about putting things in my life ahead of what he calls me to do.  This blog is one of them.  There have been so many times over the past few months that he has laid a message on my heart, and I would scribble down a passage thinking I would get back to writing it "when I have time."  I should have learned by now that is a beautiful four letter phrase that lives in a fairyland.  The point is, there are several scraps of paper, and several more draft posts that got started and haven't been finished.

Our ladies class on Wednesday night at church has hit home so many times.  Last night's lesson was from Luke 14.  It was the story of the great banquet.  Many guests were invited, and many gave excuses as to why the could not come.  One had bought a piece of land and needed to go see it.  One had bought oxen and needed to try them out.  One had gotten married.

The man ordered his servant to go into the streets of the city and to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.  He sent him out a second time until the house was filled.

Excuses.  Putting off the calling God places on our heart.  I'm guilty as charged.  How many times have I put the pen aside to do laundry, watch a TV show, or catch up on Facebook?  I've let canning tomatoes stop the progress of a blog, and the desire for a Sunday afternoon nap.

It's not just the blog.  There have been plenty of other things he has placed on my heart to take care of...like calling that friend who needs encouragement, taking a meal to the couple at church who have had health issues, spending time with him each morning to prepare myself to handle the warfare of the day.

My excuses are as petty as the ones here in this chapter.  As I sat listening last night, I jotted down this thought: 

Stop and do God's work when he calls us to do it.  Don't put it off for another time.  He calls us for such a time as this. 

God places the call on each of our hearts to do kingdom work.  When we have the "I'll do it later" philosophy, it seems to never get done.  The call is likely not often convenient, but we truly miss out when we let our priorities keep us from doing his.  I pray that I can be more sensitive to the call, and to make it a priority. 

Twenty minutes, fastest blog ever.  Now off to get ready for work.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

He Will Not Let Go

Deuteronomy 31:6  (NIV)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

I've started to have people asking when my next blog was going to come out.  I've always let God lead the timing.  My entries have been few and far between this year.  It's not because he hasn't been speaking, and thankfully it hasn't been because I haven't been listening. 

In April, I started a series of medications to control my constant dizziness and vertigo that left me feeling even worse than before.  While my heart has been filled with stories to share, my brain simply would not give me the words I needed to convey the deep love and protection sent from my heavenly father during this time.

There have been lots of days that just getting through the day was an accomplishment.  My 10 minute commute to work many mornings included listening to a song that brought much comfort, Laura Story's. "He Will Not Let Go."  One day this week in my quiet time, I went to the scripture she used as her inspiration for the song.  Its from the 31st chapter of Deuteronomy. 

In Deuteronomy 31, God tells Moses its time for him to turn over the reigns to Joshua, who would lead the people of Israel into the promised land.  While it is a book that contains a great promise of God, it is not a book that speaks of happy times. God knew there would be some large battles to face in order to receive the prize he had prepared for them.

Not once, but three times, does God give Joshua the words, "Be strong and courageous."  He warns Joshua of the hard times ahead.  The task of getting to the promised land would require courage and steadfastness.  It would require total dependence on the Lord for their deliverance from the people who already inhabited the land.

Take comfort in knowing we have a God that goes before us, AND with us through everything we face.  He will never leave us, nor forsake us.

Those days where it just seems like we can't face another thing, or take another step...we're not alone.  Here's Laura Story's lyrics and song.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Details, Psalm 139

Psalm 139

13For You shaped me, inside and out.
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
15 You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
As I took shape in secret,
carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.
16 You see all things;
You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it.
17 Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them!
How grand in scope! How many in number!
18 If I could count each one of them, they would be more than all the grains of sand on earth. Their number is inconceivable!
   

It's my birthday, another year to celebrate.  Every time I read Psalm 139 I marvel at the realization God had every detail of my life planned out, my book of life written, long before I ever made my entrance into this world. 

There have been some beautiful things to celebrate this year.  I finally realized my dream of going back to graduate school.  Shortly after that dream falling into place, God sent me the career position I had been praying to happen for three years.  At 41, I'm starting to see fruit in my life after finally saying yes and allowing God to lead my life instead of fighting to create the life I had planned for myself.  He has grown me in ways I would not have imagined possible.  I truly treasure his precious gifts.

This week I lost focus of the treasures.  The problem solver in me has been seeking for the answer to overcoming the vestibular migraine diagnosis (migraine associated vertigo) I received a couple of months ago.  I've been researching to learn as much as I can to fight the battle and regain my balance and hearing. In the process, I have run across many people who have fought the same battle for several years.  Many have had to retire on medical disability and are using walkers or canes to get around.  It hit home, hard, and after facing another attack earlier in the week I let it overwhelm me thinking about what the future might hold. 

Last night God placed on my heart Psalm 139 again, making sure I caught the message in verse 14:

14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.

I am his unique creation.  He has taken my life, every detail of it, and planned it with excellence.  His works are wonderful, and my heart knows this.  Every detail of my life includes the great things and the not so good things.  Regardless of what tomorrow holds, the details were handled with excellence, and I need not worry about it. 

My birthday message: 
Each day is a gift from God. They all contain 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds.  We are not promised a tomorrow.  Don't waste one precious minute of the time God has given you.  Live each day to the fullest, with no regrets, letting him lead the way.  Keep a grateful heart, and don't let your mind get side tracked by the world's idea of reality.

I thank God for the peace of knowing he's leading my way, walking beside me, and carrying me along on those days I don't do a good job of taking care of myself (or maybe I'm trying too hard to do things by myself).  If you don't have that peace, I would love to share it with you. 

Here's to more birthdays!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Are You A Good Listener?

A doctor's appointment I had earlier in the month rocked my world.  The hearing issues and vertigo I've experienced for the past few years and treated as inner ear were diagnosed as a rare form of migraines.  I don't have headaches, or at least not what you would think of as a migraine.  Instead it presents as vertigo, ringing in the ears, ear pressure and pain, and muffled hearing.  I am chronic at this point, meaning there are symptoms occurring at least 15 days out of every month.  Truthfully, I can't remember the last symptom free day I had.

My hearing, according to the 45 minutes of testing, is in the normal range for someone my age.  The problem is my brain simply isn't getting it.  I'm really struggling with that concept and how a medication that is supposed to calm an overactive area of my brain can help fix my muffled hearing...which really isn't muffled at all.

I am discouraged the treatment is trial and error, with a "goal of 50 percent improvement in three months."  The treatments so far have been as hard on me as the issues I've been facing, and my heart took a blow when I finally came to the realization I needed to put my masters on hold for the summer and hope things level out by August.  So this week, I've really been having to pray about my attitude. 

I am thankful my hearing is "normal" and it hopefully will return, and I am thankful for a doctor who could piece together the puzzle and make a diagnosis I had never even heard of.

In my quiet time, praying for my acceptance and patience, I've thought a lot about our "hearing".  There is a line in one of my favorite choir songs, "Thou O Lord," that says, "I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his Holy ear." 

When we call, its as if everything in the universe becomes still, and he clearly, distinctly, hears and comprehends each and every word we so much as think.

There are lots of times we "hear" something, but we don't really hear it.  The words go into our ears, and we don't let the brain, or our heart, comprehend.  I've thought about how many times I've half listened to the call on my heart from God.  My heart was perfectly capable of grasping the message, but I didn't let it.

We do the same with our children, our friends.  We miss the call from others seeking encouragement, the prime opportunity to present the gospel, the chance to just close our mouths and learn a lesson from someone else's experience.

As I pray for clearer hearing, its not just for my physical ears, its also for my heart.  I want to recognize the opportunities God places before me each and every day to live out the life he prepared for me.  I don't want to miss out on something he has planned because I didn't pay close enough attention.

Father, open my eyes and ears to the people and situations you place in my path.  Help me to recognize the opportunities you place before me each day, and to listen more closely to your will for my life.




Monday, March 31, 2014

God Margin

Every now and then, I get to substitute teach for our ladies at church.  In the end, God always gives me a lesson that is for me than it is for them.  Wednesday night I shared with them from Judges 7, the story of Gideon.  The Israelites were outnumbered 4 to 1 against the Midianites.  Judges 8 talks about how they looked innumerable, like a swarm of locusts. 

God promises Gideon he will hand over the Midianites to Israel.   He cuts Gideon's army from 32,000 to 10,000, telling Gideon that if he gives the Midianites over at this point, the Israelites might just think they had a hand in the win.  He cuts the army again from 10,000 down to 300.  Outnumbered 450:1 God tells Gideon they are now ready for battle.

We also talked about the space Priscilla Shirer refers to as "God Margin," the space between God's plan for our lives and what seems to be our resources to accomplish this plan.  God Margin is a very uncomfortable place for us.  We don't like God Margin, we like the feeling of knowing things we can do ourselves.

"When you are so out numbered, so unable to complete the impossible task, so in over your head you can’t see daylight if you tried, you are exactly where God wants you. He does not call us to do hard stuff, he calls us to do impossible stuff." -Priscilla Shirer

Think about this...when we limit the space God has to work in our lives, there isn't nearly as much he can do with us.  The larger the space, the greater miracles he can perform...and he does.  Space is not a sign of weakness, but a sign we have made room for God. 

We all have our 300...that battle that seems too big, to impossible to handle.  That's exactly where God wants us to be.  His power and his strength are limitless.  He takes care of our needs, often with things that are small and unexpected.

The Lord said to Gideon, "I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and hand the Midianites over to you."  Judges 7:7







Sunday, March 23, 2014

Turning Over the To Do List

Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (NLT)

It has a prominent place on my desk.  A little note pad labeled "To Do List."  I'm a list maker, and a list checker.  It gives me great satisfaction to cross something off at the top and make a new line for another project at the bottom.

One morning this week, a morning I was very tired and overwhelmed at the list before me, God gave me the verses above.  It was a great reminder he gives us strength in our times of need. 

Then Saturday evening, I found myself curled into a ball in a world spinning out of control from a pretty nasty vertigo attack.  Its not exactly how this girl likes for God to get her attention, but sometimes I think he has to put us face down before him so we stop long enough to realize what he wants to tell us.

Earlier in the week I had focused on how he gives strength and power to the weak and helpless. Last night as I had no choice but to be still, trust.  I started thinking about the progression of trust we go through: 
  1. I can do it myself.
  2.  Would you help me with this, if you can?
  3. Please help me with this.
  4. I can't do it without you.
  5. You make all things possible.
I had spent most of the week planning my list and working it in order to get everything done.  How often do we pretend to be invincible, and forget to ask for help, or better yet, are too proud to do so?  We simply can't accomplish everything we were destined to do in our lives in our own will.  We will be weary, and worn.  We will fall in exhaustion and fail.

Where do we find strength?  By TRUSTING God.  By realizing its in his power, and not ours, that we learn to soar.

This week I will pay more attention to the "To Do List," not because its longer, or more complicated, and not because I need to see progress.  This week, I will know each check mark is another task made possible not by my hand alone.




Sunday, March 2, 2014

Forgetting to Shout

I was concentrating on the microphone shaking in my hand.  Solo singing isn't in my comfort zone, especially since I'm never quite sure how things will sound in my world.  More than two years after ear surgery my ears still play tricks on me.  There was one thing I heard clearly this morning.  The message in the words I was singing. 

We will remember, we will remember, we will remember, the works of your hands.
We will stop, and give you praise for great is thy faithfulness.

As we walk through life's lonely valley, we will look back at all your have done.
And we will shout, our God is good, and he is the faithful one.

In that moment, I saw the hard times of my life before my eyes.  Once you get on the back side, its easy to rejoice in his goodness.  We say thank you, and move on.  Until the next trial...

How often is it in that moment, to look at the mountain we are facing, and cry in despair?  We often complain about our situation.  We fail to recognize the power of God in the moments where his provision for us is the greatest.

How could I not honor my father, in the times when he carried me through my valleys?  What if we, instead of hiding our head in shame, or vocalizing our displeasure, took the time to shout of God's goodness and faithfulness.  Don't you think it would have a significant impact on our attitude?

More importantly, think about how this single act would impact others.  What a witness we make when we can praise God in good times and hard times.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity to stand this morning and share in song, because there was a time it wasn't possible to do so.  I remember the gaping hole in my heart not being able to use my voice to worship.  It's through those dark days I learned to appreciate the beauty of music and the gift I had been given.  I'm even more thankful that through this opportunity he shared such a great reminder of his love for me, in every situation.

I still remember the day you saved me, the day I heard you call out my name.
You said you'd love me, and never leave me, and I've never been the same.


Lord, thank you for calling me to be your child.  Forgive me for the times when I forget your faithful provision for me.  Help me to remember to shout your praises in all situations.  Amen.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Laughter

How quickly time flies!  It seems like a few days ago I was posting my New Year's blog.  Today is the first day of February.  How did that happen?  Maybe its because I've had plenty to keep me busy at work.  Maybe its because grad school started back the week I had the nasty stomach bug and I have been playing catch up every since.  Maybe its because routine hasn't happened in our house since before Christmas, with the kids going to school only a couple of days each week due to the cold weather.  Regardless, its time that isn't coming back, and the only option is to move forward.

About two weeks ago, in the midst of the chaos, God started dealing with my heart about something.  This lesson didn't start with my Bible.  It started with a gentle whisper to my heart.  A fantastic day laughing with a car full of teen girls and playing Phase 10 with some adult friends made the whisper grow louder.  The first sermon spoken by a teenager just called to the ministry echoed the call.  Many little things have played a part in keeping the message on my mind. 

How easily it is to get wrapped up in the day to day operations of family, work and school.  For this type A, making sure the list is done always takes top priority.   When projects and tasks loom larger than life and I can't see past the finish, it really takes a toll on my spirit.  God fully convicted me about my serious attitude and the importance of...laughter.

This morning I took the time to dig for the truth. The message...the importance of laughter and having fun.

Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Laughter keeps us young, it makes us healthier.  Physicians and prophets agree.

Luke 19:40
But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"

The smile on our face, the joy we show in our lives...and even our laughter are ways to express the great things God has done in our lives.  Its worship, and its a witness. 

I've heard this verse before, but as I read it again this week, it tore deeply into my heart. When we walk around with the weight of the world showing on our shoulders, and we are not focusing on the more important wonderful things we have been given, we are committing a great sin.  When others see the joy we have because of Who we have, its a great testimony of God's greatness and mercy, especially when we have the ability to do in the midst of turmoil.  In this verse from Luke, Jesus tells us that if we don't testify to his greatness, the rocks will.

I remember the giggles of my little ones, and even today their laughter still melts my heart.  I can imagine our heavenly father sitting on his throne with his ear turned intently, a smile on his face, hearing the laugh of his children.  I'm sure his heart swells in that moment too.

God deserves our praise.  He deserves our laughter.  He deserves for us to walk around with a spirit of excitement, creating a consuming fire that draws others to want to be around us.  This is the attitude that will produce the witness we were called to be.

Father, forgive my tunnel vision that allows me to get wrapped up in trying to fix the problems in my world, rather than enjoy the blessings you have given me.  You are the fixer of problems and not I.  Help me to show my laughter, so others will see how remarkable you really are.






Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year's Resolutions-The Aftermath

1 Timothy 4:14-16
14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Saturday I took a road trip to meet my mom and claim my long lost children.  They've been with one set of grandparents or the other since school let out for Christmas break.  God has often used my driving time to talk to me, and today was no exception.  As I drove along he reminded me of the delights of the heart he had fulfilled for me this past year. 

He also quickly pointed out to me these desires were given for a purpose, and were meant to be used. 

We all set New Year's resolutions, and it seems its about this time every January when the reality of accomplishing a goal sets in.  Quite frankly, the delightful call to my heart that appeared so clearly with the verses on Saturday has already been fought with sucker punches to the gut and huge clouds of doubt and fear.  I've already had the "are you sure about this?" conversation with God this week.  He replied with the message I am sharing now.

So I direct you back to the verses above and some great advice from Paul, the writer of Timothy.  Accomplishing a goal, and accomplishing the call God places on your heart, isn't something that always comes easy. 

  • Don't neglect the gift that is in you.  God gave you a purpose and a plan.  He expects you to share your gift, not hide it away because you think it is too hard to put into action.
  • Practice is not something for just athletes and musicians.  Practice makes perfect, or in the words of a dear friend, practice also makes permanent.
  • Along with practice comes commitment.  We have to be diligent in keeping the goal in mind, and committing ourselves to carrying it out, no matter how hard the going gets.
  • Paying attention means keeping your eye on the prize.  It also means keeping check on your progress and making sure you are moving in the right direction.
  • Persevere:  The dictionary defines "persevere" as "To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement."  Paul tells us to persevere, for this is what will save us and our hearers. 
I've now placed these verses above both my desk at work, and my desk at home.  God has called me to a huge project this year.  It will be a great "delight of the heart" when its complete, but it will not be easy.  I'm holding to his promise that diligence and perseverance will create a magnificent work.

God has a plan for us.  He always equips us with the tools for the task, and he will bless our efforts.  Don't let post-resolution blues keep you from doing the good work God created for you to do.