This moment caught my eye today. It represents eight months of waiting.
Bruce’s layoff was part of a company downsizing in May. Since then, he’s been working so hard building NEED POINT, Inc. while looking for work. He’s also been resting.
After 34 years of working tirelessly. Working three jobs as a teenager. Joining the Air Force at 18 so he could pay for his college education while serving his country. Working day shift, mid-shift and night shift until he couldn’t see straight.
For 25 years he’s never taken his role as leader and husband carelessly. It’s always been his first priority.
We’ve seen companies come and go. We’ve experienced promotions, layoffs and a relocation.
He’s traveled to work by car, bike, plane, bus, carpool, trolley, taxi and on foot. He’s gone to work healthy and sick. He’s worked when there were celebrations and when there was sadness.
He received calls when I went into labor and when his dad passed away while he was at work.
He’s always put family first, which meant passing up promotions, travel opportunities and jobs themselves if it would be a determent to our family.
He is brilliantly genius. The best in his field. Technology courses his veins and there is no one better.
So these eight months have been a blessing and a burden. He has felt discouraged, down-trodden and depressed. A man of his talent and energy, and humility, can start believing the lies about who he is after this long.
Recently, when we turned the page of a new year, I had a moment. It was a gut-wrenching moment of realizing we were dragging the dreaded unemployment into a new year. The weight was crushing.
But then, something happened. God flipped a switch in my heart. I watched Bruce as he slept and prayed, “Lord, if you are not going to change his circumstance, change his perspective on it. Change my perspective on it.”
From that day forward, everything changed. We have found peace in the waiting. We know that God is working around the clock to bring everything together in His way, His time, for His glory.
We know for certain there is purpose in the waiting.
As my husband hammers out countless resumes, holds numerous phone and video interviews, and reaches out to every contact we know – all while still working on our non-profit – there is a new perspective which gives us the strength, peace and joy to meet each day while we wait.
We are living Isaiah 40:28-31 –
“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
So when I saw Bruce resting on the couch as our city is shut down with winter weather, I smiled as I looked at living, breathing Scripture. God is giving him a much needed, long overdue, season of rest both as a respite from decades without a break and to rejuvenate him for the days to come.
I thank God for this gift, as the hope for our future blooms a new bud in my heart. It is well with my soul. ❤
New Year’s day seemed like the perfect time to take a hike. You know, fitness resolutions, take-more-time-to-experience life resolutions, all that jazz.
My husband and I went to a familiar park, but we decided to take a trail we’ve never blazed. This was an impromptu date, but we weren’t alone.
Just a short ways in, step-by-step, God began speaking encouragement over this new year. Receive it, friend.
Sometimes the path is uncomplicated and clearly marked.
Sometimes it’s not.
If I brought you to it, I’ll get you through it, under it or over it.
I never promised the path would be easy. Keep walking even if you get dirty, really dirty.
When the journey is effortless, remember me. It is my gift to you.
Ask me when you don’t know which way to go. I will tell you.
It’s possible I will bless either decision. I can do that. Include me.
When you don’t know what’s around the corner, trust me and keep walking. I am with you.
When life goes sideways, I’m still right here, walking with you. I haven’t left you.
If the path seems exhaustively uphill, ask for my strength. I will give it to you. Just keep climbing.
Sometimes I have a different plan than yours. Trust me. I know the best path for you.
I am with you. Sojourners are also on the path. You are not alone.
Leave your mark on the path…for my glory.
I put people in your path for a reason. Some go before you to help blaze the trail…
…others come behind you to follow it.
Don’t be too proud to accept help.
You don’t always have to forge your own way.
Follow my narrow path regardless of how narrow it gets.
Sometimes you have to take a running leap of faith to stay on the path.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place, my path will lead you through it.
Look for my beauty along the path. It’s there to encourage you.
In every season, follow me.
Follow my path, but be smart about it. You don’t have to be the hero. I already am.
A friend to walk with is a blessing from me.
My children are rooted in me.
The wind cannot blow over they who are grounded in me.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
…”Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you…” Deuteronomy 1:29-30
Every morning, the same feeling of dread washes over me. I have to pass a house that has a terrifying German Shepherd stalking its backyard. I am a huge animal lover, but we’re talking about a giant, beastly creature with long white teeth and incessant barking that reverberates in my chest. He lives behind a 6-foot privacy fence, but that doesn’t stop him from intimidating all who walk by.
Every time I pass his property, he jumps up and down barking with his head, full of snarling teeth, bobbing, running back and forth along the fence. I feel one day he may jump just high enough to clear the fence and come after me.
Each time I approach the house, I feel my blood pressure rise. Even if I’m talking on the phone or jamming to my favorite tunes, in the back of my mind I am hoping this isn’t the day he jumps the fence; hoping the fence gate is shut – and locked. Hoping this won’t be the day…as I read the “Beware of dog” sign posted nearby.
Recently, I turned the street corner with my dog and was distracted by something that had caught my eye. I looked forward and staring back at me was this beast – standing in the middle of the road, staring me down. With four legs braced, neck stretched forward and head bent low, his eyes locked onto mine.
I froze in my step and lost my breath.
There was nowhere to go. I know better than to run the other way. I’m not into playing chase, me being the fetching toy. I was stuck in the middle of this lonely road, just my dog, this beast, and me.
I had to walk past it. I puffed up my posture and squared my jaw. Holding my head high, with palms sweating, I prayed – hard. As my dog and I got closer it didn’t budge, not an inch. Visions flashed in my mind of this beast attacking my dog who is no match for him; visions of me getting tangled up in her leash and being caught in the middle of the two dogs; visions of it coming straight for me, and this dog stands as tall as me (easy) on his hind legs. I felt faint.
Walking slowly toward it, I prayed more and more and more.
Just as I approached it, the dog’s owner appeared from his garage. Nervous relief swept over me, and I felt a cold chill run down my spine as I passed by this beast. He called the dog inside and it reluctantly followed, but it never took its eyes off of me. I don’t think I drew a breath until I hit the next block.
Life is like this sometimes. We’re just doing our daily thing and wham! out of nowhere stands our Goliath. Like my fear of the beast getting loose, our worst nightmare comes true before our very eyes. A bad medical report, the pink slip of unemployment, a spouse packs up and leaves, a prodigal child disappears, death of family and friends, physical and psychological threats to us, our family, our country and there we are standing alone, staring at Goliath. It’s real. You can see it, hear it, and feel its presence.
Running the other way doesn’t make Goliath any less real. We must approach it.
What changed for me in that moment was the beast’s owner making himself visible. Instantly, he was the one in control of the situation because he controls the beast.
As a believer, we are not left to fend for ourselves in this big, scary world. We have God who fights for us, Jesus who intercedes for us, and the Holy Spirit who encourages and comforts us. We are never alone.
Bad things happen to everyone, but nothing happens without it passing through the Father’s hands first whether we understand it in this lifetime or eternity. If we live, may we live for the sake of Christ’s salvation. If we suffer, may it not be in vain, but be a testimony to others that God alone is enough and Jesus is worth it. After all, He believes we are worth the suffering He endured. If we die, may it not be for nothing, but somehow God will get the glory through it so others would come to know Him as their one true God.
Believers don’t get a pass on the bad stuff. We endure illness, unemployment, broken hearts, loss, and betrayal. We suffer, get angry, wrestle with forgiveness, feel lost, get frustrated, and question the future. But, God is right there, every step, talking us down from our ledges. He is our sanity in this insane world. Christ is hope. Courage. Joy. The Holy Spirit is right there to remind us of times that God was faithful to us, even when we were unfaithful to Him.
What’s your Goliath today? If you’re staring it down by yourself, ask God to come to you through the saving grace of Christ. Let Him go before you. Whether or not He calls off the dogs, you will not be alone.
No matter how big our Goliaths are, God is bigger. He is stronger and His strength in us is enough to stare down our giants.
God is always fighting for us. Sometimes He battles our giants for us. Other times He calls us onto the battlefield with Him where we overcome – not only our giants – but our own fears and weaknesses as well. And that, friend, is a double victory.
With God, we can look past the Goliath standing in front of us and focus on our hope in Christ.
<<CLICK HERE for this blog’s Tunes page for a great song to see hope, not Goliath, in life’s scariest moments.>>
Say something, I’m giving up on you.
The first words of this song pierce my heart. This extended rendition, a remix by WorshipMob of the original song by Ian Axel (A great Big World), is a beautiful exchange between God and person.
I cannot give up on God because we cannot be separated, but lately I find myself praying, crying, pleading with Him to, SAY SOMETHING!!
Like a frightened child, I need reassurance that He’s right here with me. I need to feel the touch of His hand, the warmth of His presence. I need Him to sit with me in the silence. Speak to me when I lose my words. Cry with me. Bear this pain with me. Remind me He will never leave me. Remind me that He understands, He’s been there.
I need Him to hold me.
This is a season of life when I sit empty and tired. Despair whispers into my ear that hope lost and fear has won.
What I thought I understood about this world we live in has been turned upside down. The table I sit at, my life, has been flipped over and things that used to sit neatly stacked on my table lie scattered all over the floor. I don’t know how to begin to pick them up, and if I did, where I would put them. I sit silently and stare at it all. It’s all I have the energy to do and dare not assume I know anything about any of it.
So I sit in silence. No long prayers. No long speeches. No ideas or answers. No fight left in me. I sit and wait for the Father to come to me.
Like a child who has tried her hardest to color a beautiful picture, only to stop and look at it with all its mistakes, she drops her crayons and looks away from the picture. Folding her arms, she bows her head and cries in frustration.
This music video brings to the surface a conversation hidden deep in my heart. So thankful for those who had the creative insight to produce the real, raw exchange between God and us.
Click here for the music video. May it reach you today.
DYM’s blog posted the lyrics:
(Original Lyrics/Cry To God)
Say something, I’m giving up on you
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on youAnd I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at allAnd I will stumble and fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawlSay something, I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on youAnd I will swallow my pride
You’re the one that I love
And I’m saying goodbyeSay something, I’m giving up on you
And I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
And anywhere I would’ve followed you (Oh-oh-oh-oh)
Say something, I’m giving up on youSay something, I’m giving up on you
While preparing to travel abroad for mission work this summer, one day I felt particularly daring and prayed a prayer I will never forget…
Lord, I don’t want to be comfortable or safe, I just want to be equipped.
Since then, I have eaten those words a hundred times.
Oh I was sincere alright. So sincere that God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, heard me and accepted the challenge. I had no idea what I had done.
You see, this prayer didn’t stop with mission work. He has carried it over into every facet of my life! While millions of Christians around the globe spend their quiet time in the mornings reading Scripture, meditating on his Word, writing prayer lists, reading thought-provoking devotions, writing thought-provoking devotions, sitting in reverent silence, worshiping in song, snuggled up in their comfy chair or nestled on the subway or somewhere in between, my quiet time was anything but quiet.
My mind was about to explode. With my heart beating out of my chest in stress and distress, I could no more sit quietly than I could have sang a worship song. So much angst swelled up in me that the taste of bitter adrenaline filled my mouth as sweat poured down the back of my neck. I had a morning chat with God and it went something like this (all caps intended) –
WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!?!? EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. THIS HAPPENS YOU DISAPPEAR! WHY AM I LEFT TO DEFEND, AND FEND FOR, MYSELF?
AREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE MY GOOD FATHER? I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE! BOTH OF MY FATHERS QUIT AND WALKED OUT ON ME DECADES AGO! I THOUGHT YOU HAD MY BACK!
WHERE ARE YOU? WHY DON’T YOU MOVE. ACT. SAY SOMETHING WHEN THIS HAPPENS!!! WHY AM I LEFT ALONE IN THIS!
(With shoulders tight and nostrils flared…)
I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE! EVERY TIME THIS HAPPENS, YOU JUST STAND BY SILENTLY! I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE! WHERE ARE YOU!
That was my prayer time. I was fuming mad at God and was screaming so loud in my head I can’t believe people nearby couldn’t hear me. My jaw was clenched shut and gave me a headache. I ended my prayer time madder than when it began.
Later, all that stress and anxiety and anger welled up again when the situation returned. This time, I didn’t have the fight in me.
Through hot, salty tears I prayed with head hung low in despair – with a broken, bruised and bleeding heart –
Why God? Why are you letting this happen over and over? I’m not strong enough to handle this.
His response, You wanted to be equipped, not comfortable or safe.
Well yeah, but come on!
Didn’t you want to be equipped? Isn’t this what you prayed for?
Yeah, but why do I have to do it alone?
You’re not alone.
I don’t have the strength.
Yes you do. Philippians 4:13. It’s Christ’s strength in you.
But where are you in those dreadful moments? I don’t hear you. See you. Nothing. I call to you, but I get silence.
I’m not silent. I’m just not working in the ways you want me to. You asked to be equipped. What you want is for me to fix the problem when frankly it may be you who I am concentrating my work on in the moment..to equip and all.
Then God reminded me of how far we’ve come together. Things that used to break me don’t anymore. What used to send me to tears doesn’t anymore.
My emotional stamina, if you will, has been greatly strengthened one giant-slaying victory at a time.
This time it was about spiritual stamina.
When the enemy is foaming at the mouth, spewing lies and taunting me. When he plays dirty and takes no prisoners. When he knows exactly which buttons to push and which weaknesses to press his heel into and knows precisely which tangible mediums to work through, how do I respond?
Do I fold into a lump on the floor and give up? Do I give in? Do I run away?
This time. This day was different. Where before I responded in those ways, this time I closed my eyes and recalled Scripture. All that came out was something like, God is good all the time. He knows. He sees. He saves. He is Truth and is who I am going to listen to.
I may not have fought back with tangible means, but I picked up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and fought back with all
my his might.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The battle was gruesome. Raw. Emotionally bloody. The enemy took aim at me and released the hounds of fear, incompetence, failure and discouragement. I am here to say he was defeated.
Exhausted, I tend my wounds and ask God to heal those that need the touch of the Master Surgeon. But I am in tact. Stronger. And I am finally starting to get it.
God heard my original prayer forsaking comfort and safety in his name, if only I would be equipped for his work. I have learned this prayer is not for the faint of heart, of which I have been countless times.
He is answering me through tough training. Brutal battles. Yet he is also giving me eyes to see exactly where he was in those moments. He makes sure to point out his hand in the fight, just to reassure me that I am not alone.
I can’t deny his works. He is right. He is there in every moment. Every. Single. Moment.
I am learning what I thought I already knew – God will not only get the victory, but he wants me to share in it so I am strengthened by him and through him and because of him.
With that strength he is equipping, yet it is anything but comfortable or safe.
I do not have a green thumb whatsoever, but wish I did.
Every spring, my husband and children give me a potted Easter lily. In the beginning, I enjoyed them until they died from a lack of water (my bad) in the foil-lined plastic pot with a large ribbon tied around it. One year, thinking I had nothing to lose, I planted the lily. Five years later, I continue to plant my special gifts with fingers crossed.
Nearby, I wanted to spruce up a small corner of our yard so I planted Calalilies. Truly, if anything is going to live on our property it must be pretty much self-sufficient, drought-proof and frost-proof.
About this time every year, I am AMAZED when these little beauties pop up and show off their gorgeous colors and form.
As I stood and stared at them today, I had a thought.
Is this what it’s like, God? Is this what happens when we put just a little work into our hearts? It’s like You take our effort and multiple it beyond measure! When I forgive someone. Ask for forgiveness. Help someone. Seek You. Decide one more time not to quit the race. Love the unlovely. Bite my tongue. Give it all over to You. Ask for wisdom. Worship You.
Salvation is not earned by works. God doesn’t love me more or less depending on my actions and words. His grace is steady. Faithful. Unwavering.
But, like with the prodigal son who decided to return home, and his father saw him far off and ran to him and prepared a banquet (Luke 15:11-31). The widow’s son collected jars for the oil that kept flowing and flowing (2 Kings 4:1-7). Moses took the first step out of Egypt (Exodus 12:31-42). Abraham packed up and moved to a place he’d never been (Genesis 12:1-9). Mary believed the angel who told her the good news of great joy about the baby inside her virgin womb (Luke 1:26-38). Peter followed Jesus even after Peter admitted his own inadequacy (Luke 5:1-11).
Just like the plants I planted in the ground, so God sees His children trying to follow Him. Our hearts, like my garden, are rich to receive Him. After all, they were made to be His temple.
A little effort in an area on our part and God runs with it to produce something beyond our wildest dreams. Our effort is our obedience.
Looking at these flowers every year, I am encouraged and challenged to keep pursuing God. To continue letting Him perform heart surgery on me, if you will, in the areas that have grown dry and hard. When I let Him til the soil, pull the weeds and cut back the overgrowth of sin, He has space to grow something beautiful that I could never imagine.
I write this today with a garden in bloom in my heart. Is my life perfect? Absolutely not. However, buds and blooms burst forth in shapes and fragrances I never knew it could by way of healed forgiveness, unexplained peace, raptured joy, and rest knowing God truly is love and is sovereign.
Some of these blooms have taken years to take root. They’ve taken A LOT of surrendering while God tilled and tilled and tilled the weeds and rocks out of my heart. It’s taken me holding my breath while He pours from heaven the grace and mercy I’ve needed for certain buds drink in to thrive.
I’ve learned, and continue to learn, that God really is trustworthy (2 Samuel 7:28). He really does work all things good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He really is looking over the world to see who He can encourage (2 Chronicles 16:9). He truly doesn’t forget us or our pain (Psalm 34:18). He is faithful when I’m not (Psalm 89:7-8). Loving when I can’t (Romans 5:8). Strong when I am weak (Psalm 18:2). He is good all the time – even in the midst of baddest bad (Psalm 86:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Just like the blooms that take me by surprise each year, so does the gardening that God continues to do in my heart. Although I’ve left the lilies to fend for themselves, God has never – will never – leave me or you (Deuteronomy 31:6).
So what’s the point of all this gardening He does in our hearts?
We will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:3) in colors and fragrances and forms we have yet to imagine. When people look at our lives they will see the hand of the loving Gardener who makes us beautiful.
Monday morning greets me with mixed emotions. I woke up today feeling very frustrated. I have been consistently diligent in putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) and working with all the logic that’s in my crazy brain to get things ready for an upcoming mission trip. On paper everything looks good. But, read in between the lines and there are struggles and doubts and frustrations that eat away at my thoughts.
I am grateful for the Proverbs 31 Ministry’s devotions that appear in my inbox every day. Today, it’s like Lysa Terkeurst read my heart. Her words speak more clearly than mine as I sit here tired and sick. Here is an excerpt from her devotion, “When God’s Assignments Feel Almost Impossible”
* * * * * * * * * *
I pulled into my driveway and stared at this gathering place my people call “home.” And my heart whispered …
Lord, am I doing all of this right?
This life You’ve entrusted to me, these people You’ve entrusted to me, this calling You’ve entrusted to me … I desperately want to get it right. To live without painful regret gnawing deep within. To know that I gave it my very best. To please You. Love them. Smile more than frowning. Laugh more than I complain. See the beauty tucked within all these sacred moments of just being together and remember to whisper, Thank You.
Thank You for all of it. The whole package deal of good and bad and highs and lows. For all that mixed together sets about a process of making me. The me that needs the tough stuff to mature me. The sad moments to soften me. The thrilling moments to invigorate me. The poignant moments to endear me. The complicated moments to challenge me. The quiet moments to unrush me.
I need it all.
But sometimes, in the midst of all the moments that are making me into the woman You created me to be, I get awfully tired and discouraged.
And I find myself sitting in my driveway wondering. Staring at the culmination of thousands of decisions I’ve made that have brought me here. To this home. This family. This life. I made my decisions and then my decisions made me.
I’m thankful, yes. So very thankful. But I need You to whisper reassurance into my heart that You’re with me. That You see me. And that You are pleased with me. I just need to know, Lord, am I doing this right?
Jesus instructed us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” (Mark 16:15). That seems an impossible task for someone who sits in her driveway and feels fragile and wonders all the things I sometimes wonder.
* * * * * * * * * *
Fragile indeed. I told Bruce the other day that I wrestle with opposite dichotomies warring within:
* Continue to pursue short-term global and local missions as long as God allows and I am physically able.
* Sell it all and move to a distant land to serve full-time.
* Move to a tropical island and forget everything (just kidding, sort of!).
I feel like a nomad. When I am home doing the suburban housewife and mom thing, my heart is restless even though serving my family sometimes takes everything in me! When I am serving abroad, I reach a tipping point where I need normalcy and a sense of home. When I serve locally, I feel I am not doing enough. It makes my heart spin.
Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my favorite people. She is the mother-in-law of one of my dearest friends and she turns 80 this month. I just love talking with her! Her mind is sharp as a tack and conversations with her are thought-provoking and always entertaining.
She’s been through some major unexpected illnesses lately that have left her fragile, frail and in spinal therapy. Her already tiny frame of less than 5 feet is now curled over and even thinner than she was before. She asked me all kinds of questions about our mission trip as she has always had a keen interest in them. Once we talked through the logistics of the trip, she turned the conversation to why we go.
She asked questions that she really wanted sincere answers to. Questions like – You feel this is right for your family? And you enjoy this? Do the kids enjoy it? What do they get out of if? How long do you think you will continue to do these mission trips?
I answered each question with a thoughtful answer: For now, this is what God has called our family to. Everyone has a purpose, and we believe this is ours. Yes, we enjoy it very much. It’s the hardest, most demanding thing we’ve ever done (besides parenting) and it’s worth every drop of blood, sweat and tear. The kids love it! Mission trips are great to strip away the entitlement and materialism that our society imposes and encourages. Although our children don’t have overt problems with these anyway, still if we live in a society long enough its way of thinking creeps into our thoughts as being normal. These missions remind them that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that’s a good and necessary truth to know. More importantly, it’s training them to share the Gospel whenever, wherever God leads. We will go as long as the Lord allows and we are physically able.
To every answer she smiled, nodded her head and replied, Okay. Alright. However, she paused at my last answer about being physically able. As we stood in the kitchen, she asked if I wanted a piece of cake and I said yes. She carefully, slowly, struggled to cut and serve it to me, but I knew I needed to let her do it. It was a beautiful moment. I felt God whisper, She needs to do this. Let her. As she worked on the slice of cake, she said, You know, one day you have your health and then the next day you don’t. It’s taken away without warning. I never thought I would go through what I’ve been through, and getting back to where I was is a great struggle. Do what you can while you can do it. Enjoy life. Go on these mission trips. Do it all before you no longer can. Wise words which brought a tear to my eye as I bent over to hear her talk above the white noise in the crowded room of her grandson’s graduation party.
I’ve told Bruce this before. We were walking through Wal-Mart one day and I said, You know, it would only take one car accident. One illness. One life change that could keep one of us from ever being able to go on mission again. Life is fragile. Health is fragile although no one wants to admit it out loud. It’s partially this thought that makes me second guess if I really am doing what God purposed for me in Psalm 139:16 –
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
This is where Lysa Terkeurst and I share the same wonderings and ponderings. Are we getting it right?
Do I feel restless here because we are supposed to be there? Do I miss home there because we are supposed to be here? It’s maddening, really.
Life is so so short. As proactive and intentional as I have been about preserving my body specifically for ministry with all of the surgeries, procedures and physical therapy I’ve had since 2008, I can’t figure out how to stop time. It marches on and takes no prisoners. At the end of my life, whether that be in a year or 40+, I yearn for no regrets – not that I checked off everything on my bucket list, but that I checked off everything on God’s bucket for me. I desperately want to please Him even when human nature screams otherwise. I am starving for Isaiah 30:21 to be read over my life –
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.‘
My job is to reject my idols and images and run with passion in the direction He leads (v 22). This is much easier said than done. But, when I think about my dear friend who is struggling just to once again stand erect after her physical struggles, I hear a clock ticking in my head and heart. So I write openly on a blog what I’ve been praying in my heart, in a thousand different ways for a long time, that which Psalm 139:23-24 sums up best –
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 lead me in the way everlasting.
Lead on, God. I will follow You all the way home no matter where the journey takes me to get there.
There are times when everything seems to harmoniously fit together and every piece, every part, is functioning the way it should. It’s beautiful. Then there are times when I look at life as if it were an unassembled bike with foreign instructions and extra parts left over after hours of attempting to make it look like a bike.
I sit and look at life, with all of its unnamed parts and half-understood instructions and wonder where I went wrong. Did I go wrong? Do I have it right? Are there simply extra parts? I thought I followed every step as directed. I sit on the floor discouraged. Unsuccessful. With a mechanical thing that in no way resembles a bike.
It’s just been that way lately. Unrelenting. Exhausting. For every effort, there is a difficulty. Two steps back. An inhale of optimism is sucker-punched from stronger forces and a nauseated exhale releases in defeat.
Trying to do what I believe with my whole heart God wants me to do.
But the more I try, the less anything makes sense.
Seriously. Just as we broach the next step with faith and hope, we are blindsided and are left speechless and stunned. Numb. Our compass spinning in circles.
We trust the plan God has for our lives. From parenting to global missions to other ministries, we are pedaling pedaling pedaling on a half-made bike. We are tired.
We are working so very hard to stay on the course lit by the reflection of God’s glory shining, showing us the way. Remembering to suit up in the armor of God. Remembering to love. Be gracious. Be merciful. At the same time I feel so incredibly vulnerable. Raw.
The more I rely on God to help me in the ministries I am involved in, the more I feel alone. I know I’m not, but it’s a feeling nonetheless.
To keep on truckin’ in easier said by one who has the wind on their back and strong momentum on their bike. It feels lately as though I am riding my bike, half-assembled, straight up a mountain into the wind, with no relief for endless miles. Gears slipping and grinding the harder I try.
So how does one respond when mile after mile is gained merely inch by inch? When every thrust of the pedal is nearly impossible? When, try as I might, there is no visible evidence that anything I am doing is gaining any ground. What then?
I want to get off the bike. I want to throw the bike over the mountain and start walking…downhill. I want to give up. But, this isn’t about what I want. As a Christ follower, I am compelled to surrender my preferences and lean into He who gave me the bike.
I am learning like never before that ministry is tough. Really tough. It is a battlefield and the enemy takes no prisoners. Alone as it feels, just keep pedaling. What I know is that nothing can separate me from God’s love. Not the mountain. The wind. Exhaustion. Discouragement. Or the bike.
Once I rode my bike in our hilly neighborhood uphill, and nearly having a heart attack, I refused to get off of it out of sheer pride for those possibly peering through their windows at me.
Today, it is ANYTHING but pride keeping me on this bike – this season of difficult ministry. What holds my feet to the pedals is an insatiable burden God gave me for those I serve. An obligation to finish what He asked me to start. Driving love and passion for what drives His love and passion. And ironically, humility keeps me pushing against logic that says quit. Knowing I can’t do this on my own, I find rest in His refuge. Contentment to endure because of His faithfulness – not mine. Strength in the name of Jesus.
I don’t know how long it will take to ride this bike all the way up the mountain, but I place my hope in faith that the view from the top will be breathtakingly spectacular…and every bit worth it.
* This post has been reblogged from our family mission blog.*
We need a place to work out the very real emotions and thoughts of a regular family trying to be obedient to God in global missions. We are fearful. Selfish. Weak.
The hope is that by fleshing out the “us” in us, we will be empty vessels that can authentically be the hands and feet of Christ to whomever He puts in our path and wherever that path leads us. We deeply desire to shed the sin that so easily trips us up.
Hebrews 12:1-2, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
It takes work to surrender – at least for me. I am stubborn. Opinionated. Obstinate. I don’t always learn things the first time and learn most lessons the hard way. I can easily become consumed by fear and worry, and am 100% guilty of going directly to the worst-case-scenario in my thoughts. My weaknesses can yell louder than my strengths, and I have been known to become paralyzed with fear. I have preferences, idiosyncrasies, and annoyances. I am ADD and OCD – each to different extents. I know exactly what pushes my buttons, as well as what pushes my sanity right off the cliff. I know what makes me cringe, nauseates me, and incites private anxiety. God knows these things about me, too.
The thought that He’d want to use me anyway is astounding!
Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
When we acknowledge our weaknesses, the enemy cannot hang them over our heads, threatening to tell our secrets. Beth Moore said it best, “I tell on myself before the enemy has a chance to.”
Truth is, none of us are worthy in our own right to bear the name of Christ. Our lips are wicked. Isaiah knew this well…
Isaiah 6:1-5, In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips,and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Anyone who knows they have been saved by Jesus’ sacrifice knows we are not worthy to do His bidding. Still, He calls us to go and makes disciples of all nations. Wow.
Once I got it, really got it, that God first loved me (before I even knew His name), pursued me in the name of love, and Jesus saved me from my sins by counting the cost for me, my only response can be to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).
What does that look like?
Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength can be summed up in one sentence: To worship Him in every way all the time. Something I fall dreadfully short in. Never has this been a more sobering, humbling process than once our family surrendered to His call to global missions.
Romans 12:1, Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Is anything less than my everything acceptable? No. Christ gave everything to save me. I want to give Him everything in return. It’s just this annoying thing called: carnal nature, sinful nature, walking in the flesh, human nature, or whatever you want to name it that gets in the way.
There’s an old saying – The only problem with a living sacrifice, is that a living sacrifice can crawl off of the altar and run away.
I am left with one option. Deliberately. Knowingly. Sacrificially, give my time, talents and treasures over and over and over and over to Him again and again and again. My selfish hands keep stealing these back, but my heart, in love with the One who loves me, willingly surrenders them because being close to God is worth far more than anything this life could offer.
Jesus said in John 15:13, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. We often think about the idea of giving our lives for people, or Jesus giving His life for us, but I am drawn to this verse that speaks of giving my life for my friend, Jesus (James 2:23). Paul said it this way in 2 Timothy…
2 Timothy 4:6, For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.
There is way more about the Old Testament that I don’t understand than what I do understand, but I love how Paul’s word picture of being poured out like a drink offering parallels the memorial and peace offerings (burnt, fellowship and grain offerings) that drink offerings typically accompanied in the Old Testament. A memorial offering was a reminder of our sin. A peace offering was a reminder that because of this offering we are able to have close communion with God, and that we can have peace with God (possible today through the blood Jesus shed for our sins as the final drink offering required for redemption – Luke 22:20; John 19:32-34).
So on this altar we call life, we lay ourselves down as living sacrifices being poured out in memory of our sins and comforted with divine peace that they are forgiven. We do this out of our love for Him, yes, but moreover because of His love for us.
1 John 4:19, We love because he first loved us.
Turning our focus away from our own weaknesses and preferences and toward God who so loves this world, we are raptured in His love and suddenly the costs we are asked to count for Christ seem indescribably insignificant.
Luke 9:23-24, And (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
His love for each of us makes it possible to pick up our cross daily and follow Him – even when the world stands and stares and shakes their head in nonsensical bewilderment.
Philippians 3:12-14, Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
We all have weaknesses. What a beautiful reminder that we press on toward the prize of Jesus… despite ourselves.
When we take our eyes off of ourselves, whatever the distractions may be, and gaze upward at the love, grace and mercy God has for us, this becomes the only thing we see. Everything that holds us to this life disappears and we find God’s strength in our weakness.
Hum the melody with me (or better yet, sing it old school with the piano – click here) to the classic hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. It is especially interesting to note that Helen Howarth Lemmel, who composed the music for these lyrics in 1922, was blind. To God be the glory.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu’rors we are!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.