Friday, August 5, 2016

Mountains Will Be Thrown Into the Sea

What if?  An age old question we all ask from time to time.  I've been asking it a lot lately.  Especially this week.  I've known that my faith has grown through this journey I've been on these past few months.  I've seen God work in ways I never dreamed possible.  I've learned to see and hear Him in the simplest of things each day.  I've had people all over the country praying and agreeing with me for healing.  But this week, He's been stirring my heart.  In a way unlike ever before.  It's exciting and hopeful.  But it also scares me to death.   What if He is taking me to higher place, increasing my faith even more than I can even fathom?  The word "miracle" is even floating around in my head and heart.  And even as I type this, I have tears of hope welling up in my eyes.  Which has happened a lot this week!

Yesterday Marlee and Nana came over to visit for awhile.  And we had such an interesting conversation about the things of God and trust and how we have to learn to hear and see Him every day.  Marlee brought up something that happened after I was first diagnosed.  My dad and my best friends were here, and there had just been a rainstorm.  All of sudden the rain stopped, and Marlee told us to go look outside.  And when we went outside, there was the clearest double rainbow!

I broke down in tears.  I was unable to contain my emotions in that moment.  It was the first in a number of ways that God has spoken peace to my heart over the past few months.  It was like God was reminding me of His promises.  And I had a peace I was going to be ok and this cancer wasn't going to kill me.  And in the months since, God has confirmed over and over to me through a variety of ways that He has some work for me still to do here on this earth.

And this morning my cousin, Elaine, posted something to my Facebook wall that reminded me I was in good company.  The Bible is full of stories of people who God used despite the gravest of circumstances to do His work.  To lead His people.  To speak peace or healing or whatever was needed.  In 2 Kings 20 we find the story of Hezekiah.  If you look back in Chapters 18 and 19, you see that Hezekiah was the King of Judah.  He was a good man.  The Bible tells us he did what was right in the  eyes of the Lord, he trusted in the Lord, he admitted when he was wrong, he cried out before the Lord in his distress, he sought God in prayer, and he saw God deliver His people.  He was a faithful servant of God.  However, he became ill.  He came before God and made his case.  He reminded God (not that God needs reminding...this is more to remind us of where God has been faithful before and that He will be faithful again) that he had served Him faithfully and wept bitterly.  After this prayer, God spoke to Isaiah and told him to go tell Hezekiah that He had heard his prayer and seen his tears.  (What a sweet gift from our Father!  In the middle of Hezekiah's deep despair, God pauses to tell him He hears and sees Him.)  He then tells him that he will add 15 years to his life.  And He healed him.  

Isaiah 38 also tells the story of Hezekiah's illness but includes a writing that he wrote during his illness and healing.  In this writing we see the depth of Hezekiah's pain and despair.  And as I read it, I see some familiar phrases and thoughts that I've voiced to God myself on many occasions.  And I see some phrases and thoughts I hope I will be voicing in the coming days.  Verses 16 - 20 say, "You restored me to health and let me live.  Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.  In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.  For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down into the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.  The living, the living - they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.  The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD."  This passage kind of breaks down into two parts for I've already come to know and one I hope to come to know very soon.

In the past months, I've come to be able to say that it has been for my benefit that I have cancer.  Now, I know that sounds totally counterintuitive to human thinking.  Thankful for cancer?!  Yep!  I'm not saying that I like it.  But I'm learning to be thankful.  My faith has grown.  I've met people I never would have met.  I have a boldness I've never had for sharing Jesus.  I could go on and on, but that's a post for another day...

But here's the cool and exciting part that also has me scared to death.  In a good way.  The first verse in this passage... "You restored me to health and let me live."  And that is where my question "what if" and that word "miracle" come in to play.  I trust God.  Make no mistake about that.  I've seen Him do things only He can do. I've experienced Him in a way I never dreamed.  I've tolerated chemo way better than the doctors said I WAY better.  Like not normal.  I've seen the cancer on my tongue all but disappear after just 3 rounds of chemo.  I've had "Gizmo" on my neck that baffles the doctors and nurses who apparently have not seen anything like it before.  (Yes, I named my wound on my neck...I'm fun like that!)  I'm believing that it is God's way of allowing the cancer cells to leave my body.  And all of that has been miraculous on its own.  But what if I dare to believe like never before?  Has all of that been baby steps leading up to a bigger miracle? 

My dad posted a verse on Facebook earlier this week that I shared and that keeps coming back to my mind.  Matthew 21:21-22 says, "Jesus replied, 'Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."  Throw a mountain into a sea?!  Well, if Jesus said it can be done, it can be done.  See, I view my cancer as my mountain.  And as I've thought of that verse this week, I pause and pray that God will take this mountain and cast it into the sea.  And I know He is able!  I can see all the ways He has been chipping away at this mountain in the past few months.  Could it be He is preparing it to be cast into the depths of the sea?  I hope so.  I believe so.  Even though it makes no human sense.  Even though it makes no medical sense.  I have had a feeling the past few days that God is working more than every before.  And that He is going to be working up until the moment I enter that PET scan tube Monday morning.  And I'm expecting to see great things.  I want to say I'm expecting a miracle...but that scares me.  And that is my doubt.  But Jesus said that I had to have faith and not doubt.  So my prayer has become like the man who asked Jesus to heal his son.  In Mark 9:23-24 Jesus tells the man that everything is possible to the one who believes.  And the man responds in an interesting way.  He says "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  What?  How can he say I believe and then ask for Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief?  The same way I say I believe He can do the miracle but that I'm scared to believe.  So my prayer is for Him to help my take away all doubt so that I can believe without doubting.  Our Father is so loving.  He knows how frail and weak we are.  And He offers faith and strength where ours falters.  

I've been listening to the new album Love Remains by Hillary Scott and the Scott Family.  If you have not gotten it, go get it!  It is written out of a personal pain Hillary experienced.  And the songs minister to me in my pain.  Anyway... There is a song on the album called "Still."  The song talks about how God is already parting waters and MOVING MOUNTAINS for me...all He asks of me is to be still.  And I realize that the moving of the mountain has nothing do with my ability to move it.  It will move because HE moves it.  My job is to trust, believe and not doubt.  Father, I believe; help my unbelief! 

So that brings me back to what if.  What if God works a miracle Monday morning that leaves us all speechless?  What if I dare to believe?  He can do it.  I know He can.  I know He has a plan for me beyond cancer.  I know it's not time for me to go Home to Heaven.  He has spoken that to my heart from the beginning.  I've already seen Him building a ministry for me to do for years to come.  And I've seen Him work miracles before!  Before I was born, my Mema was diagnosed with cancer on her nose.  However, she believed He could move the mountain.  Her church family anointed her with oil and prayed for her and she was healed.  No trace of cancer.  And God blessed her with many more years before she passed away from breast cancer.  My own mother was a walking miracle!  She lived a lot longer than humanly and medically possible with all of her health issues.  But she believed God could move the mountain.  And now it's my turn.  I believe God can move this mountain!  Now, I also know that His purpose and ways are higher than mine.  And He may choose to heal me using more treatment and surgery.  Maybe He will continue to chip away at the mountain piece by piece rather than all at once.  And that doesn't make it any less miraculous!  No matter the method of the healing, it is still a miracle.  

But I'm going to be brave and believe and trust like never before that He is going to move my mountain into the depths of the sea Monday... What if?  I'm choosing to be still... And believe.  And to say with Hezekiah, "You restored me to health and let me live.  Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.  In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.  For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down into the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.  The living, the living - they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.  The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD."

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Healer of Body and Soul

"I see shattered, You see whole
I see broken, You see beautiful
And You're helping me to believe
That You're restoring me piece by piece.

What was dead, now lives again
My heart's beating, beating inside my chest
Oh, I'm coming alive with joy and destiny
'Cause You're restoring me piece by piece

There's nothing too dirty
That You can't make worthy
You wash me in Mercy
I am clean

Washed in the blood of Your sacrifice
Your blood flowed red and made me white
My dirty rags are purified
I am clean."

These lyrics are from one of my newest favorite songs, "Clean," by Natalie Grant.  I had heard bits of it before.  But a couple of weeks ago, as I was sitting in the car while Daddy ran in to pick up my medicines at the drug store, it came on.  And I was able to listen to it completely.  Wow!  What a powerful song.  I have had the chorus singing over and over in my head.  I've listened to it, I'm sure, no less than 100 times since that day.  And I'm hoping to sing it in church when I'm able to share my testimony...which will hopefully be soon.  Which would be wonderful!  I haven't been able to sing due to my tongue in months.  Months!!! That has been so very difficult because I love to sing.  But I'm thankful because when something you love is taken away, you develop a new found appreciation for it.  And now I cherish that ability more than every before.  But I digress...that is not the focus of this post.

As I've been reflecting on these lyrics over the past couple of weeks, God has spoken to my heart and shown me how, for me, this song has a dual meaning and purpose.  First of all it so aptly applies to my cancer battle.  The verses..."I see shattered, You see whole.  I see broken, You see beautiful.  What was dead, now lives again.  My heart's beating inside my chest.  Oh, I'm coming alive with joy and destiny.  You're restoring me piece by piece."  All of this describes how I have felt on this journey.  I see a body that is so broken.  So shattered.  So covered with scars and tubes and ports.  I have lost my hair, my skin is flaking off, and while I'm loving the weight loss, I've not enjoyed the loss of muscle and muscle tone which leaves my skin hanging.  I don't see whole and beautiful when I look in the mirror.  But God sees what I could be and what He intends for me to be.  And what I will be when I'm healed.  And I can see the dead coming to life.  I am full of joy and destiny.  And He IS restoring my body piece by piece.  I can see a tongue that was almost covered with cancer and folded over now almost looking normal.  In fact, I just took my first actual bite of food without having to pinch it off first!  I see tumors in my neck shrinking and going away.  Isaiah 53: 5 says, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."  The filthiness of this cancer in my body and the poison of the chemo that is killing the good along with bad...He will purify.  He will wash my body clean of the cancer cells and of the chemo meds after they have done their job.  He will heal the wounds from the tubes and ports.  And hopefully He will keep me from needing surgery.  But if not, He will heal me from that, too.  Nothing is too dirty or hard for him.  He is restoring me and making me clean and healthy.

But there is a second, and more important, part to the meaning of these lyrics.  And that is that God is healing the cancer of my soul.  And of your soul.  See, our lives become cancerous with sin.  I could list a bunch, but I won't  You know the areas with which you struggle.  I know my difficult areas.  What may be easy for me to avoid may be your Achilles' heel.  What you can pass without a second glance, I can't help but be consumed by.  Our bodies, even if they are healthy physically, are eaten up with the cancer of sin.  Even if you think you live a "good life"...which let's get one leads a good life.  The Bible says in Romans 3:10-12, "As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."  So no matter how many times we sit in church or give to the poor or share love with others, we are still as filthy rags before Him.  Those acts are good!  And we should do those and so much more.  But we are born with a desire to do evil.  It's the great human experience...good vs. evil.  And it is a lifelong struggle to do what is right in His sight.  But no matter how much we try, we can never do the right thing 100% of the time.  But God...

But God... this has become one of my favorite phrases from the Bible in the past year.  I've got a whole other post about my "But God" moments through this...I started on it a month ago, but haven't gotten very far.  But it will come soon.  Anyway... I digress.  (Chemo brain...the struggle is real!)  See, we can bring before God every filthy dirty rag.  All our sin.  And there is nothing in ourselves to do anything about that.  But God!  God can.  And did.  Through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, we CAN be made clean.  No matter what you bring to Him to make clean, He can and will do it.  We simply have to be willing to humble ourselves and bring it to Him.  Unashamed.  And He will meet us with grace and mercy and clean us.  Yes, there are times He disciplines us.  My parents definitely did their share of disciplining me growing up.  But discipline is always with the purpose of correction and growing us into the person He desires us to be.  It can be hard and difficult to bear.  I sure didn't like those spankings when I was younger.  But I'm thankful my parents did it!  It has made me into the responsible woman I am today.  It has enabled me to think of others before myself and to serve God.  However, something God never comes at us with is shame and condemnation.  Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  See?  He never looks on you with condemnation.  No matter how ugly the sin.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He cleanses us from head to toe, inside and out with His blood.  So that means that when God looks at us, He sees He's perfect holy Son.  That precious blood makes the ugly cancer of our souls clean and whole.  We have been washed in the blood of His sacrifice.  And there's no cleaner feeling than knowing you have been washed in that blood and can have no fear to stand before God one day.

Jesus is the Healer of both body and soul.  I know God is healing me of this nasty cancer.  I can see evidence of it daily.  And I know He is constantly healing my soul of the ugly cancer of sin.  I can see evidence of that daily, too.  And if I get to the point that I don't see evidence of it and others stop seeing evidence of it, I need to get away and alone with Him and ask Him to show me where I need to confess sin and draw close to Him.

I'm so thankful that He is restoring me piece by piece.  Sometimes that process is so very slow!  But God knows the best timing and way to heal us.  So I'll trust Him for the details.  And I'll allow Him to wash me clean both inside and out, body and soul!

I'm almost done with chemo for the day and "get" to go home on my pump for the week.  I'm already started to feel tired and weak.  But that means it's working!  Please pray for me this week to be able to keep the nausea to a minimum and to be able to eat a little something each day.  And for me not to have severe bowel issues like I usually do at the end of chemo week...sorry, but just keeping it real!  God is even concerned with our bowels!  It's Biblical!  Lamentations 1:20 says, " Behold, O Lord; for I am in distress:  my bowels are troubled;"  Just keeping it real!  But seriously, I do covet your prayers and know they are working!  The progress I'm seeing is more than what chemo can do.  What a might God we serve!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Just Traveling Through

I've seen a quote several times recently that says, "It is both a blessing and a curse to feel things so very deeply."  And, yes, it is.  I've always been considered to be "emotional", "sensitive", "moody"... whatever word you'd like to call it.  It's something I've struggled with most of my life.  There are times that I just can't seem to keep my emotions and my feelings in check.  And for a long time, I tried to change that.  I tried to keep myself in line.  Never let them see me cry.  Keep your thoughts to yourself.  However, when you are a person who feels things so very deeply, you can't keep them stuffed inside for very long.  And eventually, every time I try to, they come out one way or another...usually in a not so very positive way.  

But as I'm getting older, I'm learning to embrace the emotional, sensitive, moody person God has created me to be.  It's because of my sensitive, emotional side that I work in the field I do.  It's what has fueled my passion and desire to help others.  I've often been told over the course of my life that I'm "too nice"...whatever that means. (I personally think the world needs more "nice".) And I have often been a doormat for others to walk all over because I don't like confrontation and often keep quiet.  There is a fine balance between being giving and caring while not allowing yourself to become passive.  But even in finding that balance, it is still both a blessing and a curse to feel so deeply.

My life has gone through drastic changes in the past year.  I've seen some of my lowest lows and some of my highest highs.  I've learned which friendships have been true and tested in the fire and those that were just a passing chapter in my life.  I've found the work I'm meant to do after years of struggling to feel "at home" with my career.  I've suffered loss.  I've seen devastation hit my own family in such a horrifying way that has made me question everything I've known.  I've seen joy in the faces of the individuals I work with every day over something as simple as a song.  And I've seen ignorance and prejudice in the hearts of those who would speak against those same individuals having an opportunity at greater independence.  I feel like Paul when he said he knew what it was to have plenty and to go without, to be hungry and to be full...I'm still working on the "being content in all things" part, though.  

Life is full of so much.  And sometimes, it gets to be too much for someone like me who feels everything so very deeply.  Now, I'm not saying I'm some special person.  I'm a nobody and I'm not special outside of God's grace.  But the heart God gave me that is so full of emotion and feeling exhausts me sometimes.  And in those moments when I feel I'm about to break under the weight of it all, if I'll quiet myself and listen, I can sense God's presence so very close.  And He reminds me that He is there and that sometimes it's okay to just collapse in His arms and let it all go.  

Casting Crowns has a song called "Just Be Held."  The first time I heard this song, tears just streamed down my face.  To think that the God of this universe cares enough to just hold me when I'm at my breaking point...that is an amazing thing.  Sometimes, in the midst of the chaos life can bring, we simply need to sit and let Him hold us.  It's so hard for me to do.  I often feel guilty if I'm not doing something all the time.  And just as God is there to hold us in those moments, He also calls us to bear one another's burdens.  But for me, it feels like I'm the burden if I let someone else take care of me for awhile.  It's how I'm wired.  I'm a "doer", a "Martha".  And because of that, I often reach a point where I break.  I don't like to admit that.  So I hide it.  I'm awesome at crying in the shower where no one can hear.  I'm great at faking a smile.  I'm a pro at withdrawing from everyone else.  And I'm sure I'm not alone.  There are a lot of us out there.  But what are we so afraid of?  Why is it so hard to let someone else in to help bear our burdens?

I don't have an answer for that.  But in the midst of this struggle we call life, in the midst of the hurt and the pain and the laughter and the joy, I'm reminded that we are not home yet.  Sometimes I think that God allows us to feel things as deeply as He does to remind us that we are just passing through.  We were not made for this world.  Philippians 1:22-24 (MSG) says, "As long as I'm alive in this body, there is good work for me to do.  If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I'd choose.  Hard choice!  The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful.  Some days I can think of nothing better.  But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it's better for me to stick it out here."  There are days that the thought of going on to heaven sounds so much better than living here on this earth.  Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying I want to go today!  I'm ready to go whenever God calls me home, but I still have a lot of living I want to do here, too.  There are still things I want to experience.  But there are days when the weight of all that's wrong in this world get to me.  Days when I feel the pain and struggle along with my family and friends.  Days when I don't see how it will get better.  And on those days, I can totally relate to this verse.  But I know God's not done with me yet...

I know I still have a purpose here.  He still has work for me to do.  Work that I couldn't do if I didn't feel things so very deeply, if I wasn't sensitive to His leading...  We all NEED each other to get through this life.  God made life relational for a reason.  He didn't mean for us to walk this life alone.  But I often retreat rather than seek relationship out.  But it can be so powerful when we do.  Just yesterday I was talking with my cousin (who is more like my sister) about some struggles in her life.  She's in a similar position as I have been before.  I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:4 that says we are able to comfort others in similar situations in the same way we have been comforted ourselves.  She had been on my mind all week, so I sent her a text.  She replied saying that she really needed to hear that at that particular moment.  And thus opened the floodgates of conversation where God was able to use me to minister to her in her moment of need.  And there have been many times when she's called or text me in my time of need.  When we talked on the phone yesterday, I told her that I had thought about how neither of us have our moms anymore and how that makes life so difficult sometimes.  But in that commonality of being motherless at these times in our lives when we so desperately want and need a mother, we find comfort in our relationship and shared experiences.

And so it comes full circle.  Yes, I can be emotional. I can be moody.  I do feel things to my core.  And there are days that it can get to be too much.  But then I remember that God put me here for a purpose and part of that purpose to bear the burdens of those around me.  And yes, it's going to be difficult.  And yes, there will be tears...both of joy and sorrow.  There will be struggles...that lead to both blessing and loss.  But when we learn to view all these things in the light of glory, we realize we are just traveling through...  So we need to make the most of the time God blesses us with here on this earth.  We need to realize that it's ok to feel things deeply.  We all need to feel more deeply, love more deeply, take more risks, cry a little more, laugh a lot more, bear each others' burdens with joy and keep pressing on towards the prize (Philippians 3:14). 

And we need to just keep on traveling through...

"Wayfaring Stranger" by Andy Griffith

"Just Be Held" by Casting Crowns

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Trusting Through the Darkness

It's been awhile since I last wrote a post.  It's not that there hasn't been anything God has laid on my heart to write about.  It's just that the last couple of months have been some of the toughest I have had to face in a long while.  And these verses have spoken to me in those dark moments:

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."  Proverbs 16:9

"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."  Jeremy 29:11

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done..."  Genesis 50:20

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."  Psalm 37:4

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."  Hebrews 10:23

"The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still."  Exodus 14:14

"Be still and know that I am God..."  Psalm 46:10

In my previous post, I talked about dancing between trust and fear.  And when I wrote that post, things were a little shaky, but I had no idea the testing my faith was about to undergo.

Back in November of 2013 I took a huge leap of faith, trusting that I was following God's leading, and moved to the coast to continue to pursue private practice.  I have had some amazing experiences during that journey and some that have scared me to death.  I won't go into detail about all of the goings on of the past six months, but now, on this side of things, I can see God's hand so intricately weaving the path for me.  Things have turned out a lot differently than I had planned or thought they would.  There have been some very dark times that pushed me to the limits of my faith - spiritually, financially, emotionally, mentally.  Times that my faith has wavered.  Times that took me into fierce spiritual warfare.  Times that took their toll.  Times that the enemy tried to use to knock me off the path God has for me.  But greater is He that in me than he that is in the world!  And I'm beginning to see that it has all been part of His plan for me and that things are coming together in my life in a way I never could have imagined and that are way better than anything I could have planned on my own.

This week I've had a lot of time to sit and reflect and think about my life and the course God has laid out.  And I have been amazed to finally have the eyes to see how the pieces are all fitting.  I still don't see the full picture and never will this side of heaven.  But I can see how God has been using each and every circumstance of the past 15 years to get me where I am today...where I believe He has meant for me to be all along this journey.  But I've had to trust through the darkness....

Corrie Ten Boom has an amazing quote that says, "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit still and trust the engineer."  There have been times that I wanted to jump off the train.  Times that, if I'm being honest, I didn't trust God to take care of me.  I said it out loud and I wanted to believe it.  But there have been times when I wondered if I mattered that much to Him.  Of course, the answer to that is a resounding yes!  He sent His only Son to die for me...YES, I matter that much to Him.  But, as I've spoken of before, the enemy knows my weak spot is my mind, and he launches an attack when things get dark.  But God never wavers.  He is ALWAYS faithful...even when to my human eyes it doesn't seem like He is.

Trusting through the darkness.  Trusting that I'll make my rent payment when I barely have anything left in my bank account.  Trusting that I will be able to find a full-time job that will allow me to have a steady paycheck rather than the uncertainty of private practice.  Trusting that someone will be for me on those dark, dark days.  Trusting that what the enemy has tried to use for evil God can restore and use for good.  And you know what?  He has!  He has been faithful...because He can't be any other way.  So I have to trust Him through the darkness...

I knew when I started this journey almost a year ago that I would be pushed to the limits of my faith.  I knew it was going to be hard.  I knew that I was going to have to trust God in a way I'd never had to trust Him before.  But I had no idea how far I would be pushed.  I've had days where I just wanted to pack up and move back home.  I've had days where I questioned if I had misunderstood what God was leading me to do and had made a huge mistake.  I've had days where I questioned why God wold lead me to a place of failure and desolation.  But as I've been reflecting on all of this lately, I can see that it HAS all been part of His plan for my life.  And He has provided and will continue to provide for my needs.  Thanks to the giving spirit of my dad who allows God to use him in a special way, I did make my rent payment.  (And God will provide a way to pay him back.)  As for the job?  Yep.  God worked in a way I couldn't even imagine.  I remember driving to teach a class on a Wednesday morning, broken to the point of giving up.  And I was listening to some Christian music...trying to praise God even though I didn't understand.  And I finally just turned the radio off and asked God to show me that He was listening, to move that very day.  Not that He always answers that request...there have been plenty of times He hasn't.  But this time, I believe it was already His plan to do something that day...He just wanted me to ask from an honest heart.  The Bible tells us that Jesus told His disciples that they have not because they asked not.  And just maybe, He wanted me to ask from a place of brokenness and trust.  Anyway...later that day, after a few phone calls and a referral, I had an interview for a job that I hopefully will be starting in the next week or two...which will have me right back in the middle of working with people with intellectual disabilities.  And I have been blessed with a wonderful person who is there for me on those dark, dark days and has helped to strengthen my faith, encouraging me to keep trusting when I wanted to give up.  We have become a kind of sanctuary and place of calm and peace for each other...something I've never had with anyone else before.  And God is moving in both of our lives, unfolding a beautiful plan.

God DOES work everything for our good...even the dark moments.  There is way too much to write about in detail would take a book!  But I can see how my work experiences at two previous jobs have been preparing me for this possible new job.  I can see how it wasn't a mistake to move down here and work in private practice.  God used that to allow me to finish up my internship hours and complete my Master's degree...something that would have been nearly impossible with a full-time job.  He has led me to be part of an amazing church family who encourages me and prays for me and is an example of what God intended church to be...which is refreshing after some of the churches I have been to.  He has also brought a couple of amazing people into my life that have made my life so much more joyful and full and have helped me survive the tough moments.  I can even see, although it's taken me six years, how God has used the loss of my mother to move me where He wants me to be.  I would give anything to have her here.  But I also know that if she were still here, I probably never would have moved away from home.  I'm not saying that that would be a bad thing necessarily.  But I don't believe I would be fulfilling God's plan for my life by staying there.  And He has used that to show me how even our darkest times are being worked for our good.  And I have the assurance of seeing her again one day.  I can see how God has used every single experience to work out His will for my life.

Trusting through the darkness isn't easy.  It's some of the hardest times I think we can go through as believers.  But it is also necessary.  Part of the Christian walk is being tested and tried so that we can come forth as gold.  What good is faith if it is never tested?  I can have faith all day long that a chair will hold me up if I sit in it.  But if I never sit in it to test it, I never fully exercise my faith in it.  The same can be said for us.  I've witnessed people who have professed that they trust God, and they do, as long as things are going well....there's money in the bank, they have a job, everyone is healthy, they get everything they want.  But as soon as the money's gone or the job goes away or the diagnosis comes, they turn their back on God.  I'll admit, I've been there myself.  I've doubted and questioned when I didn't get the answer to prayer that I wanted.  But these past few months have taught me that it's not about what I want.  It's not about me.  It's about what He wants for me and about what will bring Him glory.  And one thing I believe He wants for His children is for us to develop our faith.  And that means the tests will come.  In fact, the Bible is full of stories of His children who faced famine, death, calamities, persecution, and much, much more.  Hebrews 11 is a great synopsis of those stories.  And I'm thankful that God made provision for those stories to be written down and shared so we know that we are not alone in our struggles.

While I hope that things will be easier for awhile, I know that no matter what comes, He is faithful and there is a purpose behind everything He asks us to face or that He allows to come into our lives.  While I have no desire to relive the darkness the past months have brought, I can honestly say that I am thankful for every moment.  Because without each and every trial and testing of my faith, I wouldn't be where I am this moment.  My faith has been strengthened.  I have come to have a deeper understanding of my Christian walk and what it means to die to self and live for Christ.  I have been able to experience a deeper walk with my heavenly Father.  I've learned how to worship and praise Him even when I don't understand what is going on around me.  And I have proven that He is faithful each and every time.  He may not provide or answer exactly when I think He should.  In fact, I'm still waiting on a few answers.  But I know that He will fight every battle for me.  I know that He will provide each and every need.  I know that He will bless my faithfulness to Him.  I know that He loves me more than I could ever fathom.  I don't have all the answers, and I sure know I have a long way to go. I'm just a "wayfaring stranger" trying to figure it out.  But I know without a doubt that if I keep trusting Him through the darkness He will lead me safely through this journey and on to my eternal home.

And of course, it wouldn't be my post if I didn't include music!

He Is With Us...this song is upbeat but has some amazing lyrics...lyrics that have helped me see through the darkness.

How He Loves...I have just sat and listened to this over and over and let my Father sing over me in those dark moments.  Oh how He loves us!

Bless the Lord...this has become my song of praise.  It pops in my head all the time.  And it has been happening...where on days this song is on my heart, those are the days God blows my mind with His provision.   "Let me be singing when the evening comes..."

Oceans...this song has been special to me during this time, too.  "You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail....lead me where my trust is without borders."  And oh, how He has!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dancing Between Trust and Fear

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile now, but as my life usually goes, my intentions of doing things are often stronger than the actual doing of said things.  But I'm learning that God has a time for everything and can even use my procrastination to accomplish His will.  I've also come to realize that delays aren't Him ignoring us or withholding some blessing from us.  Many times I've found that the delay is the result of Him working out some detail or working on our hearts to get us to the place where we can fully receive His blessing.  It's all in our perspective and in our choice to freak out and worry (which is my usual route) or to trust Him completely even when we can't see the road ahead.

Since moving to the coast, I have encountered a lot of foggy mornings.  Some days it can be annoying and a little scary to drive in when you can't see 5 feet in front of you.  But some days I actually enjoy driving in it.  I've always viewed fog as a kind of representation of God's presence in our lives.  Just as the fog surrounds us on all sides, so does God.  His love presses in, covers us, overwhelms us.  And just as I have different reactions to driving in the fog depending on my mood that day, I have the same two reactions to life...especially when I can't see the next step.

One morning a few weeks ago, as I was driving along the coastline, the fog was thick.  But not so thick that I couldn't see a little ways out into the water.  And it made me think of Peter.  I think Peter and I could have been BFFs back in the day.  Or either bitter enemies...depending on how our similarities played out.  Like Peter, I can overreact to situations.  I can be all gung-ho about something one minute and then too paralyzed by fear to take a leap of faith the next.  I am opinionated.  And I long to be close to Jesus.  And that is where we find Peter in the story of Matthew 14.  The disciples had just experienced the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and were now in their boat, out on the sea, being tossed about by a storm.  Jesus had gone off to pray by himself.  After He finishes His prayer time, He decides to join the disciples on the boat.  Of course, being God in human form, He takes the quickest route and walks right out on the water.  The disciples think He is a ghost at first, but He identifies Himself and tells them to be still and that they have nothing to fear.  Here's the part where I completely identify with Peter...

Now, Peter and the others had just witnessed an amazing miracle!  Who feeds 5,000 people out of a few fish and some bread?!  So Peter had just experienced the impossible.  And just like Peter, I have also seen God do the impossible in my life and my situations.  But just like Peter, I also go from the mountaintop of trust to the pit of doubt in about five seconds flat.  Peter tells Jesus that if it is really Him to command him to walk on the water towards Him. So Jesus does, and Peter steps out in faith, trusting he won't sink.  However, at some point he feels the wind of the storm, takes his eyes of Jesus and begins to sink.  He cries out to Jesus to help him, and, as He always does, Jesus grabs him, pulls him up and they climb in the boat together.  The VOICE translation tells this story in such a beautiful way:

Matthew 14:  28-33 (VOICE)
"Peter:  Lord, if it is really You, then command me to meet You on the water.  Jesus:  Indeed, come.  Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water and began walking toward Jesus.  But when he remembered how strong the wind was, his courage caught in his throat and he began to sink.  Peter:  Master, save me!  Immediately Jesus reached for Peter and caught him.  Jesus:  O you of little faith.  Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?  Then Jesus and Peter climbed in the boat together, and the wind became still.  And the disciples worshipped Him."  

Wow.  It's in verses like these that I find one of the main reasons God left His word for us (aside from leading us to Christ) is as a reminder that we are not alone and that we aren't the first to fail.  Like I said, Peter and I have a lot in common...

As I've written about several times, this past year in my life has been unlike any other.  It has been exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.  It has tested my faith unlike anything before.  And it has caused me to grow spiritually in ways I never knew I could.  And it has HURT.  Growth is a painful process.  But it is necessary.  We have to face the pain in order to grow and move forward.  But we can't do it alone.  During this year, I have had so many moments where I have doubted and "dance(d) back and forth between following (Jesus) and heeding fear."  I've been so excited to see what God is doing and have stepped out in faith only to take my eyes off Him, focus on the seemingly impossible situation and started to sink in the stormy sea.  It has been a constant struggle...but one that I feel I'm making progress in...until the devil places doubt in my mind again...and the cycle starts again.

But like Peter, when I sense the doubt creeping in, I cry out to Jesus for help.  In this passage Jesus helped Peter immediately.  Does He always help immediately?  To our human minds, no.  There have been times I've prayed for resolution to a situation or for clarity or for some other need and God has answered almost immediately.  There have been other times when it has taken months or even years to see an answer.  But one thing that has been consistent...even if I don't see an answer right away, I have a peace that passes human understanding that He is with me.  Just as Jesus climbed in the boat with Peter, He climbs into my situation with me and calms me until the answer comes.  Sometimes I still take my eyes off Him and start to sink.  But every single time He is there.  Every.  Single.  Time.  He never condemns me for my doubt or fear.  He never chastises me for questioning Him.  He just provides a deep abiding peace until the storm passes.  This doesn't mean every day is easy or that trusting Him makes all your problems go away.  Quite the contrary...If you look at Peter's life, he still had many trials and tribulations to face after this moment on the water with Jesus.  In fact, he ended up giving his life for the cause of Christ.  

I've come to find that as soon as I make the choice to trust God in spite of what I see around me the devil is right there with another barrage of doubt and fear.  And he always will be until I reach heaven.  But I'm learning that I have a choice.  I can either give in to those lies and sink.  Or I can trust that God is working out His best for me and that He will provide...on time.  

Another person I identify with from the group of disciples is in "Doubting Thomas."  He refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead unless he touched the nail prints in His hands.  I can't blame him...I know myself well enough to admit that I would be the same way.  So many times I've heard people ridicule or blame Thomas for doubting.  But I choose to believe that God can use even our doubts to draw us closer to him.  A friend posted this article today on Facebook, and I completely identified with it.  One part of it that really spoke to me was this:  "The beauty of this is Thomas had an encounter with Jesus none of the other disciples did. He is the only one who touched the wounds of Jesus, because he had the faith to doubt. Nowhere does Jesus condemn doubt; rather he meets people right where they are in it."  God works through our doubt and fear and worry, meets us where we are and chooses to love and redeem us and restore to us what the enemy has stolen.  (Job 42:10)

A major weapon that I have recently found that works wonders against the attacks of doubt and worry and fear is worship and praise.  I've always heard this, but I never put it into practice until recently.  Now, when I feel those doubts and fears rising up in me, I will read Bible verses that I have highlighted that deal with this very thing.  I will listen to some worship songs that focus on God and His love for me.  I will take a few moments to just spend some time alone with God.  I have found in the past few months that when I do these things, my focus returns to Him.  And I can't worry or fear or doubt when I'm standing face to face with the One who has it all under control.  See, when we take time to truly worship Him, we realize that He is greater than any problem or issue we face.  No, it doesn't resolve the situation at hand, and there still may be difficult work we have to do or things we have to face to see a resolution.  But when we see Him for who He truly is we find the courage to forge ahead and keep walking in faith.  We learn to hear His voice above all the noise and chaos of the world.  And I'm finally learning to trust that still, small voice that speaks to my heart.  Because I've seen those things He has spoken to my heart come to fruition...not in my time or my way, but in His time and His way.  

I still don't have all the answers.  And I still anticipate I'll face more difficult days.  But I do know the "One whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day."  (2 Timothy 1:12)  

So the next time the "fog" of life obstructs your view or the next time you take  a step of faith only to find yourself sinking in the waves or the next time you request proof of His faithfulness, look up to Him.  Turn your eyes and your heart to the One who holds you in His hands.  And stop dancing back and forth between trusting Him and giving in to fear.  He is faithful.  He will provide.  He will always love you.  He is always there.  And He will always catch you.  

And as always, I have to include a couple of songs that speak to my heart and turn my focus back to God.

Beautiful Redemption (Joy Williams)

Hallelujah (Bethany Dillon)

Walk by Faith (Jeremy Camp)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Don't Forget to Celebrate

I love moments when I can just let go of all the stress and the things clouding my mind and just revel in the joy of the moment.  When I truly allow myself to do that, I am completely humbled by how much the God of this universe loves me and cares about every detail of my life.  Those moments don't come that often, sad to say.  Usually because I choose to focus on things out of my control or allow myself to worry.  But this past week, I had one of those moments.  

I love living by the beach.  The water is so peaceful and calming and just has this affect on you that nothing else does.  And I am so fortunate to get to see that every day.  I was telling a friend of mine this past week that every time I drive Hwy 90 I feel like I'm on vacation and keep wondering when it will be time to go back home.  I told her I hope I never lose that feeling.  So as I was driving to a meeting Friday, the water was so still and peaceful and I just became overwhelmed with gratitude and peace.

As I've posted many times before, I struggle with doubt and worry and fear.  It's been a lifelong struggle.  One that I've spent a lot of time and prayer working on this past year.  As I've also shared, my life has taken a dramatic turn this past year.  And to top it all off, I turned 40.  It's been a year full of excitement, new relationships, scary moments, leaps of faith, fear, doubt, joy...every emotion possible.  It's also been a year where I declared war on this constant struggle.  And I've made some steps forward in that battle.  Not to say I'm anywhere close to where I need or want to be.  But my faith has grown in a way I never thought possible.  There have been times God has allowed me to be pushed to my limit.  Then there have been times when His hand of favor has definitely been on me.  

But so often I focus on my mistakes and my failures.  I allow doubt to creep in and allow myself to entertain thoughts that I know are lies...rather than trusting the truth that God is speaking to my heart.  I get overly upset over things that aren't that big of a deal because my perception is wrong.  I get angry.  I can be passive aggressive.  I fail miserably at being the woman I know God is growing me to be.  And so often I focus on those things rather than seeing what God is doing through the struggle.  And so often I forget to celebrate the matter how small.  But if the joy of the Lord is to be my strength, I have to allow joy to reign in my heart.

So back to that drive to the meeting.  As I drove along, listening to my eclectic mix of music on my phone, this feeling of overwhelming peace and gratitude just overtook me.  And I realized that I had (with God's help) mastered a victory over my struggle.  My usual cycle is to have an expectation, that expectation isn't met, I get upset and choose to see things from my perception rather than God's, I react (usually in a not so great way), and then I feel bad for my reaction and beat myself up.  But this week was different.  This week I chose to see things from God's perception.  I chose to trust that if the God of the universe cared enough about a bird to make sure it was fed, how much more does He care for me and the details of my life and the desires of my heart.  And I chose not to get upset and react in a negative way but rather to trust God's sovereignty.   Of course, that only lasted a couple of days and then I was back in my usual cycle.  But, in that moment, there was a victory.

Sometimes, I think we can get so caught up in beating ourselves up for our failures and mistakes.  And yes, it is important to learn from them.  But in the midst of doing that we miss those little victories that we should be celebrating.  And I think that celebrating those rare times when we "get it right" may be part of the key to winning the overall battle with our struggles.  Because when we celebrate those moments, we are actually worshiping and honoring God and the work He is doing in our lives.   And that is what helps us overcome the struggle.  And another curious thing happens.  Instead of my getting all puffed up and boastful about my victory, I become a little more humbled and a lot more aware of just what God is doing in my life.  

And that is when the peace comes in.  Once I allowed myself to celebrate that one tiny step forward rather than focusing on the two huge steps backward, I opened my heart up to joy unspeakable.  And I was overcome with that gratitude and peace.  

This past year has been a whirlwind.  But as I was reflecting on all the God has done, I realized just how blessed I am.  I may not know the details of how it is all going to work out, but I can trust in the One who does.  And I am truly blessed.  Beyond measure!  I get to do a job I absolutely love every single day.  Yes, it's hard and not every day is great.  But when I see a child with Autism who refused to participate in a session two weeks ago come to a session this past week and actually participate and smile and enjoy makes my heart glad.  I get to live in a gorgeous place.  I have gotten to meet some wonderful people who have changed my life for the better.  I have been able to release a long suffering hurt that has kept me from opening my heart and have been able to move forward from that after years and years of struggle with it.  I've even lost 25 pounds.  

And for the first time I believe in my entire life, I finally feel "at home."  I finally feel that I fit in and I'm where I'm supposed to be.  I believe that He has blessed me with people in my life who encourage me to be better.  I believe I'm doing what God put me here to do. And I believe that I'm finally becoming the woman He has longed for me to become all my life.  And I'm so grateful.  And humbled that He would love me that much.  Not every day is all roses and chocolate.  There are some very hard days.  But those days serve to remind me that, though I have finally found where I belong here on this earth, I am not truly Home yet.  This life isn't the be all and end all.  There is so much more in store...more than I could dare to dream!  

So I'm hopeful.  I'm hopeful that God will continue to grow me.  I'm hopeful that I will continue to see more of these small victories over my struggles and less failures.  And I hope that I will not forget to celebrate the good that God is doing in my life.  My prayer is that you will have the same hope.  May your week be full of joy and reasons to celebrate!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Story

I apologize in advance for the length this post will probably end up being.  Not that I know how to be short winded normally, but I had several hours in a car by myself to think about this one.  I hope you will take the time to read the full post, though...even if you have to break it into chunks.  There are music videos...if that helps break it up for you!  :)  But I feel like this is an important thing for us all to realize...just how important and connected we all are in the Story God is writing...

So this is Christmas.  And I turned 40 last week.  And the year is coming to a close.  As I'm sure may be normal with a lot of people when they hit a "milestone" birthday, I've done a lot of thinking this week.  Thinking about my life, the things I've accomplished, the dreams I still have yet to reach, what I truly want for my life... I've had quite a bit of time in the car alone this week.  I usually try to reflect back over the year, and this year I want to do the same.  But this year has been a doozy!  In a good way... 

As anyone who knows me knows, I was very excited to be turning 40!  I even had an aunt say she'd never seen someone so excited about it.  But that's me...I'm definitely my own individual.  And it's taken me all 40 of those years to accept that and be ok with it.  My life is not at all what I thought it would be at 40.  If you would have talked to the 25 year old me, I can assure you I would not have told you I would be single with no children living on the coast, finishing a Master's degree and starting a private practice.  Not in a million years.  But here I am...exactly in that place.  During one of my drives this week, I was thinking back on all of the blessings in my life.  No, I'm not where I thought I'd be at 40, but where I am is so much better and, more importantly, it's where God wants me to be.  And I realized just how blessed I am. 

Now, I'm not shy about how much I struggle with doubt and worry and my Type A personality.  It is a daily struggle.  But over this past year, God has been doing a major work on me...especially in those areas.  He's been trying to teach me to enjoy the moment I'm in rather than worry about what the outcome is going to be a month down the road.  And I'm getting there.  Slowly.  I tend to complain or get upset if things aren't going exactly as I have some crazy expectation that they should.  And that has caused me, sorry to say, to miss out on some really wonderful moments.  This past week, as I was about to get caught up in another "this situation isn't happening according to my expectations and I don't know what to do about it but if I do something I might mess up something good" moments, God stopped me.  And He began to remind me of all the blessings I have in my life and how HE gave those blessings to me...without any input or help from me.  And that if He has done that all my life, then He will continue to do it.  And I realized just how overflowing my cup is.  This past year I have seen God move in ways I never imagined.  He has and continues to open doors for my business partner/friend and I with our private practice.  He has seen me through almost 3 years of grad school.  He has paved the way for me to move to a beautiful place across from the beach.  He has brought some wonderful people into my life this year who have challenged me, encouraged me, pushed me when I wanted to give up, helped to strengthen my relationship with God and who have changed my life for the better just by being a part of it.  And as I've been reflecting on these blessings this weekend, God has begun to, yet again, change me and continue to mold me into the woman He desires me to be.  And bless His heart...He has his work cut out.  I like to joke and say I'm like one of his "problem children."  But He never seems to mind...

As I drove home for Christmas Saturday, I listened to a lot of I usually do.  There were several that spoke to me.  "I Can Just Be Me" by Laura Story reminds me that I can be comfortable being the person God created me to be and allow God to be what only He can be.  "The Miracle of the Moment" by Steven Curtis Chapman compelled me to work more this next year on enjoying to moment rather than missing out on wonderful things because I'm so worried about the future.  But after listening to a wide variety of songs, I felt led to listen to The Story album in entirety. I discovered this gem a couple of years ago.  There was a simulcast of the live concert event, and it left me weeping.  The Story is a musical telling of the Bible and of the stories of the lives of some of the most well known people from Bible times.  As I drove and listened (and sang along) to these songs, I saw how each of their stories touched on a part of my story.  And how each of their stories could be any one of our stories.  How God has woven our lives to be so interconnected with others.  We need relationship.  Not only with God but with other people.  We need that connection.  We need to know we are not alone.  And as I listened to the words and the stories, I felt that connection to those people of long ago.  To that cloud of witnesses that is in Heaven cheering me on.  And I realized that God writes each of our stories in a way that showcases His love and provision for us.  And I became so thankful for the stories of the Bible and of the reminders that I am not the first to fail.  That those who have gone before me have shared in the same struggles and the same failures and the same heartaches.  And, somehow, that can make a person feel less alone and give us the courage to keep going.  

So I wanted to share my favorite moments of The Story and what each of the individual stories speaks to me.  And I hope that in reading this, you will find a connection to at least one of these people and will see how important your story is to the overall Master Story God is writing.

I Am (Creation) - God is, always has been and always will be.  Why in the world should I ever worry about anything when the Creator of it all has chosen to love me and save me and chases me passionately?  He is in control and has it all in HIs hands.

Good (Adam & Eve) - "Can't imagine how you could see all of me and say it's good...You still love us more than we believed You could."  I am in awe at how much God loves me.  Even though I fail time and time again, even though I doubt when He distinctly tells me to trust...He loves me more than I could ever imagine.  And I think about Adam and Eve and the shame they felt and how God still went to the depths to show them His love.  I can relate to them so much because I feel like I fail all the time.  I don't measure up.  I give in to the devil's lies...I entertain thoughts of illogical thoughts, unworthiness, doubt.  Just like Eve, I question what I know to be true.  Yet, God still sees good in me.  What an amazing gift!

Who But You (Abraham & Sarah) - "Who but You would ever choose to dream Your dreams in me?  Tell me, who but You would dare me to believe what I can't see? So call me crazy, call me a fool.  You alone can do the things you promised to.  You are Yawheh, I'm just a man...counting tiny grains of sand, placing every promise in Your hand."  Oh, how I relate to Abraham and Sarah!  That 25 year old me?  Totally thought I would have had at least 4 kids by now.  But God had other plans.  And at 40, I'm ok with that.  There are days I would really like a child of my own.  There are others, I'd be completely ok with being a stepmom and not having any of my own.  Honestly, I have a peace about whatever God has in mind for me concerning a child.  He knows what is best.  And I'm reminded that I get to work with children every single week, and God has been able to use me to touch lives that I might not have been able to touch had I had children of my own.  But this promise goes beyond having babies.  This is a promise of God to fulfill His EVERY promise to us!  To do things only He can work out the impossible in our lives.  And a reminder that I can trust Him to do what He has promised He will do...that if He calls me to do something that seems crazy or impossible or illogical, He will ALWAYS provide the means to make it happen.  Why God would choose to use me I will never understand...but I'm so thankful He has!

Bend (Joseph) - "And what was meant to harm, can't harm you in the end...stepped out on a limb I thought would break but Love said it will only bend."  Joseph is our reminder that God can take the things others meant to use for harm in our lives and turn it into something beyond our imagination!  We are not what we come from.  We are not our mistakes.  We are created and redeemed by a loving God who can take whatever we have faced and turn it into good.  I've seen this in my own experience from my early 30's that damaged my ability to trust, that has affected my ability to have a "normal" relationship, that has been part of the reason I struggle with doubt so much...but God has redeemed that time.  And in just the past few months, has begun to truly heal me from those scars...and to show me how He can use it for good.  That experience cannot define me if I don't let it.  God defines me.  And He longs to do the same for you!

It Must Be You (Moses) - "I'd like to see what you see, why you think I'm qualified...if there's anything good in me...and if there's any part of this shaking heart to see this journey must be You."  I think Moses and I could be BFFs.  Seriously!  I see so much of myself in him.  Here God was calling Him to lead His people out of bondage and he questioned and doubted and asked God 12,000 times if He was sure he was the right one for the job.  I do the same thing.  Every. Single. Day.  I can see what God has called me to, and I question if I'm capable.  Moses stuttered...but God spoke for Him when the time came for him to speak.  God doesn't call us to do something because we are qualified to do it.  There are plenty who are more qualified than me to do what I do.  Trust me.  I know this.  But God is looking for those who have a heart willing to serve, willing to take a back seat, willing to reach out to the unwanted and unloved and to do what others tell us we can't.  And like Moses, if we will trust Him (even if it takes several questions on our part and a lot of patience on God's part), He will part the waters of the sea and make a way where there is no way.  How amazing is that?!  The good in us isn't us at all.  It's God. And when we (especially me!) realize that, fear falls to the wayside, doubt disappears and trust emerges...and the impossible becomes possible!

Bring Us Home (Joshua) - "Bring us home, lead us to the highest wall.  Every single stone will fall.  We have never walked alone."  Talk about impossible.  God told Joshua He was going to crumble the walls of Jericho by a simple trumpet sound.  God tells us every day He is going to crumble the walls we face...yet we doubt.  At least I do.  I love how this song is asking God to lead us to the highest wall... Oh, if we would only have that kind of ask God to show us just how powerful He is.  And Joshua did...he trusted God to do what only God could do.  He didn't try to make another plan.  He didn't come up with a back up in case God's plan failed.  He didn't try 10 other ways first.  This is a lesson I'd do well to learn.  I can do nothing in my own strength.  I can't make anyone do anything I want them to do.  I can't manipulate a situation to have the outcome I desire.  But God can and will do what is best in our lives.  And He is waiting for us to just step back and let Him move...He longs to knock down our Jericho walls and bring us freedom.

I'm With You (Ruth & Naomi) - "You do your best to build a higher wall.  To keep love safe from any wrecking ball.  But when the dust has cleared we will see the house that Love rebuilds guarding beauty that lives here still.  You and me, me and you, where you go I'll go to, I'm with you.  Till your heart finds a home I won't let you feel alone.  I'm with you." This is a story of the importance of human connection and relationship.  The friendship between Ruth and Naomi is one we all hope to have.  To have people around us who are there though the good and bad. Who promise they won't leave us alone.  I am so blessed to have a few of these people in my life...and I've seen that quality in friendships is way more important than quantity.  And in their story we see how God takes devastation and loss and restores beauty to them more than they could have ever dreamed.  And He longs to do the same in our lives.  I can already see in my own life how He is taking the broken pieces and rebuilding them into something beautiful...something I can't see fully yet.  But I trust that He is going to do more than I ever dreamed He would!

Your Heart (David) - "At the end of the day I want to hear people say that my heart looks like Your heart."  I think David and I would have also been good friends.  His story reflects so many of our own.  There were days he couldn't have been any higher on that mountain top.  But then there were others he plummeted to depths.  He killed Goliath to save God's people yet killed Uriah to fulfill his own lust for Bathsheba.  He soothed Saul with his music yet ran for his life out of fear and hid in caves.  The extremes of David's life are much like my own.  And I would guess much like yours.  I have days where I couldn't feel closer to God and I have no worry about anything...even the unknown.  Then 2 days later I'm praying and crying and asking God how things are going to get better.  I speak love and affirmation with the same tongue with which I speak anger and bitterness.  Yet, in all of David's ups and down, God called Him "a man after My own heart." (Acts 13:22)  See, no matter how our life ebbs and flows, God's love remains constant.  It's not based on our performance.  It's based on His character.  And we would do well to do the have a heart that is like His.  That should be our ultimate goal.

No Compromise (Daniel) - "My knees bow only to One Name.  My lips have One King to proclaim.  No compromise."  In today's society, Christians get a bad rap.  Some of it we bring on ourselves, I will admit.  We can be too judgmental and seek to "fix" people rather than love them.  However, we also get hit on all sides by the world who think it's ok to speak their version of the truth, demanding we "accept" them while they tell us to that we don't have a right to share our truth.  And more times than not (at least I know I have been guilty of this), we compromise and don't stand up for the Truth.  Oh to have the courage of Daniel...who in spite of being thrown in a lion's den, trusted God to use it to show He was truly God.  I can't say that if I were threatened with being eaten by a lion that I would have been as bold as Daniel...and that makes me feel ashamed of myself.  The story of Daniel shows us that, if we won't compromise, God can use a scary situation to make Himself known.  I wonder how many times I've been a stumbling block because of fear.  I need to learn from Daniel to be bold in my faith and to trust God to use that boldness to show His truth.

Born For This (Esther) - "Long before your heart could run the risk, you were born for this."  Esther was one tough woman.  To speak up back in a time when women were to remain silent.  But she chose to obey God and took a risk that could have cost her her life.  But here is the thing...just as all before her, she chose to trust God knowing that He would provide a way.  How many times do I miss out on something because I'm too afraid to try, too afraid to speak up, too afraid to ask...when I should be trusting God.  I'm one of those people who always plays out a "worst case scenario" in my head.  But I shouldn't. And it's something God is working on changing in me.  There is something to be said for positivity and optimism.  When God is working on our behalf, no matter the outcome, we know we are secure in His hands.  If He placed us here to do something, He will help us to do it.  And we have assurance that His plans far exceed our own.  So here is to Esther and the lesson we can learn from God for those hard things, those impossible things, those scary things.  He just might blow your mind with what He will do!

Broken Praise (Job) - "Who am I to make demands of the God of Abraham?  And who are You that You would chose to answer me with mercy new?  You are the One who filled my cup.  And You are the One who let it spill.  So blessed be Your Holy Name if You never fill it up again.  If this is where my story ends just give me one more breath to say Hallelujah!" Oh the lessons we can learn from the story of Job!  I could write 10 posts on that alone.  But the main thing I want to focus on today was that Job trusted God through it all.  He lost his family, his home, his wealth, almost his life.  Yet in it all, Job never cursed God.  He trusted that God was sovereign and had a plan for his life...even if he didn't understand.  Even though his "righteous" friends tried to get him to repent of sins he hadn't committed or told him they knew "just how he felt" (my personal favorite...I roll my eyes when someone tells me this).  And that serves as a lesson to love people through tough times rather than try to fix them or figure it out.  But Job trusted God still.  And God honored that trust and restored to Job twice what he had lost.  In the midst of pain, I know I question if God is even there.  But I know He is, and I know that one day He will restore what has been taken away...whether it be here or in Heaven.  And I have to offer my praise to Him regardless of if He gives or takes away.  It's something that doesn't make sense to our human minds.  But to the heart surrendered to God, it is a trust in the One who is writing our story and knows the end we can't yet see.  A trust that He is working out something wonderful that will bring Him glory.  And we can say, with Job, Hallelujah!

Be Born In Me (Mary) - "Everything inside me cries for order...I am not brave.  I'll never be.   The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy.  I'm just a girl.  Nothing more.  But I am willing.  I am Yours."  I so love the story of Mary.  And I love this song.  I cannot imagine what it was like for Mary.  It can be hard for us to imagine in this day and age when pregnancy outside of marriage is so common.  But back in Mary's day, women were stoned for much less.  Yet she trusted God.  Trusted that Joseph would love her still.  Trusted that God would see her through a safe pregnancy and delivery.  Trusted that God had chosen her to carry the Savior of the world.  She wasn't anything spectacular by the world's standards.  But she was willing to be used of God to be part of a miraculous impossibility.  And we can be willing to do the same.  God longs to use us each and every day to accomplish small miracles in the lives of others.  For Jesus to be born in us every day in order to reach the world with His love.  Mary chose to trust God in the midst of fear and, in so doing, was part of the greatest story ever told!

When Love Sees You (Jesus) - "Tell me your story, show me your wounds...hand me the pieces broken and bruised.  And I'll show you what Love sees when Love sees you.  I see your tomorrows, nothing left to chance.  I see My Father's fingerprints....I see your story...You the struggle, you see the shame.  I see the reason I came."  Of course the main character of the main story and in all our individual stories is Jesus.  He alone is what makes life worth living.  We see all our flaws and mistakes and struggle.  But He sees the masterpiece God is working out in our lives.  He leaves nothing to chance!  What a promise!  The One who came as a baby in a manger, who died to bring us Home...He knows every part of our story and He knows the outcome.  Even when we don't see it or understand, nothing is left to chance.  That gives me peace.  He loved us so much he was willing to leave the joys of heaven to come to this fallen earth and live as we lived.  How great His love for us!

How Love Wins (Thief) - "This is how Love wins every single time climbing high upon the tree where someone else should die.  This is how Love heals the deepest part of you, letting Himself bleed into the middle of your wounds.  This is what Love says, standing at the door, you don't have to be who you've been before.  Silenced by HIs voice, death can't speak again.  This is how Love wins."  What a promise!  The thief on the cross knew he was supposed to be there.  He knew he deserved death.  But he took a chance and asked the Man hanging beside him for a miracle that only He could give.  And in that moment, Love won.  Jesus' death on the cross brought us new life.  We don't have to be the person we were before.  We don't have to live with the hurts of this life.  We don't have to fear death.  The joy that the promise of His love brings!  Because of His promise to the thief that he would be with Him in paradise that day, we have the promise of seeing our loved ones again.  Love wins.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Alive (Mary Magdalene) - "The Author of all history. The Answer to all mysteries.  The Lamb of God who rolled away the stone in front of every grave.  Alive!  Alive!  Look what mercy's overcome.  Death has lost and Love has won."  Mary Magdalene was a woman  who had her life transformed by the power of Christ.  And she was the one who discovered the empty tomb.  Her story is an example of what God can do in our lives when we allow Him to heal us, cleanse us and save us.  And how God can bring about some pretty awesome things for us to be a part of.  Her story (and ours) shows us that no one is too far gone for God to love.  He is alive!  He is the answer of every mystery and can move any obstacle in our way...and He will to get to us and surround us with His love.

Empty (Disciples) - "But there's an empty cross, there's an empty tomb."  Each of the disciples had a story of their own to tell.  But they also have one to tell collectively.  One that I'm sure is one we all share at some point.  Here they had been devastated.  They had chosen to follow Jesus, had trusted all His promises, had seen His miracles.  And now they were huddled in a room all together, questioning, doubting, wondering if everything they had believed was really true.  I've found myself in this same place many times.  I've seen God's hand in my life.  I've seen Him work out the impossible.  I've seen Him answer my prayers.  But then difficulty arises or doubt creeps in and I wonder if He really is listening.  But we have the assurance that He is.  The empty tomb is proof that the story isn't over.  It's proof that God still works miracles and still pursues His children passionately.  We serve a risen Lord!

Move In Me (Paul) - "I'm knocking on doors.  You're holding the keys.  Maybe they'll open, maybe they're not for me.  I'm setting the sails. You'll ready the seas.  But I won't make a move till You move in me."  I can't wait to meet Paul in heaven.  I think we could spend many years chatting.  Here is a man who weathered storms, famine, beatings, and more struggle than I could ever comprehend.  He was outspoken.  He was determined.  He didn't make a move without first consulting God.  This past year has been a lesson in this for me.  Paul's story is a compilation of short stories of God's provision time after time after time.  I've seen this in my own life...especially this last year.  I've taken some big steps of faith that have made no sense logically...but God has been in each and every decision.  He is the One who opens doors.  He is the One who works out each detail.  And just as He provided for Paul, He will provide for us.  If we seek His will in each and every decision we make, big or small, He will answer and He will guide us along the path He has for us.   

The Great Day (Second Coming) - "Held between our joy and disbelief...when we fail to find the words, Holy, Holy we will cry."  The culmination of your story, my story, all our stories will be found when Jesus comes to take us home.  For those who have accepted Him as their Lord and Savior, we will be ushered into a home that we could never imagine in our wildest dreams.  If He were to tell us what awaits us, we wouldn't believe Him.  I have no idea what heaven holds for us, but I know I have family I can't wait to see again.  I have the assurance that I get to see and hug my Momma again...and after 5 1/2 years so far, it won't be a moment too soon.  I know that I will get to meet all those whose stories have served as inspiration for me...all those that I have written about in this post.  But most importantly, I know I will finally meet and get to thank in person (though I could never thank Him enough) the One who gave His life so that I might live.  I'll get to meet the One who has put up with all the ebbs and flows of my life and the One who is writing every word of my story.  While there is a lot more I hope He allows me to experience in this life (I wouldn't mind living to be 100), I can't wait to see what He has in store for those who love Him!

I hope my feeble attempt with words doesn't cloud the miracles of these stories of the Bible.  I know this has been a long post, but I wanted to share how all of our stories are connected and are being woven together to create the beautiful masterpiece God is writing.  I pray that this Christmas God will show you His love in a new way and you will come to discover your part in the Story.  And that you will find joy in each and every moment you are blessed to live!  Merry Christmas!