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!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Joseph's Lullaby

Every Christmas there is always one song that stands out from the others and speaks to me.  Some years it's a new song.  Others it's one I've heard a thousand times before.  I know I'm a little slow on new things these days, but I recently figured out I could play songs from Pandora on my phone.  So on my drives here and there and everywhere I've been listening to Christmas music.  And one song that has played over and over is "Joseph's Lullaby" by MercyMe.  I've heard this song before, but for some reason, this year it has whispered to my heart.

There are many things you can take from the song.  How even with the burden of the road before Him, Jesus slept in perfect peace in that manger...and how we should be more concerned with sharing His love and resting in His love than in the hustle and bustle of the season.  How God came in human form because of a love we will never comprehend and sought us to love before we ever dreamed of loving Him.  How Christ was born with such a costly job to do.  But the thing that stands out most to me this year is Joseph and the depth of love it took for him to take Mary for his wife and to love Jesus as his own child.

Joseph's story is an amazing account of an honorable man who chose to follow God in spite of the ridicule, shame, embarrassment or pain he may have faced.  Joseph chose to do what few men back then (or even today) would have guts enough to do.  But it was his love for Mary, and ultimately for God, that persuaded him to obey.  What man would take a woman for his wife who was already with child?  A child that wasn't his.  We can look back now on the story and believe with faith that Mary was with child by the Holy Spirit.  However, I'm sure at the time Joseph was filled with questions and doubts.  Was the message from the angel something he could believe?  Was it all really true?  I can only imagine the thoughts that went through his head.  And even after the angel came and told him the truth of the miracle and after God saw them safely to Jerusalem and the baby was delivered...  I wonder if Joseph asked why in the world God would entrust him to raise His Son.

Joseph.  A simple carpenter.  He didn't have much.  He wasn't from a prominent family.  There was nothing to make him stand out from the crowd.  Yet, God chose him to raise the One who would take away the sin of the world.  What a daunting task!  And Joseph chose to obey.  He agreed to go ahead with the plan to take Mary as his wife.  And he agreed to raise a child that was not his own.  He took on Jesus as his own, loved him as his own, raised him as his own...knowing all along that this Child was special beyond belief.

I am amazed at Joseph's character and trust in God.  And I am so thankful he chose to follow the path God had for matter how scary or odd or difficult.  It is in his love for Mary and the baby that we truly see an awesome example of God's love for us.  The lengths that Joseph went to in order to care for Jesus and to provide a home for Him...  They are nothing in compare with the lengths that God went to (and continues to go to every day) to care for and provide for us.

And that is what Christmas is all about!   A love so deep and wide and far reaching that it came to a manger long ago in the form of a baby.  And a love that was modeled so beautifully in the love that Joseph had for that baby.  When I think of Joseph, I often think about how people take on the responsibility of sharing God's love with others at times when it may be difficult or scary or unpopular...whether it be adopting an orphan, taking in foster children, being a step parent, a grandparent raising grandchildren, working in a care giving field, providing a warm meal or warm coat for someone in need, providing gifts for a family in need at Christmas or just letting someone know they are loved...and how God can use each and every one of those stories as a testimony of His love and provision.

God chose Joseph all those years ago because He knew Joseph's heart was pure and was fixed on Him.  He didn't chose him because he was perfect or had it all together.  He chose him because He knew he would love Mary and His Son without condition.  He knew that when we looked back and read the story that we would see His love for us in Joseph's love for baby Jesus.  God came as a baby in a manger, prepared the way for salvation and gave a promise that He is always, always with us.  No gift could be greater.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

And the Days Were Accomplished...

Today marks the beginning of one of my favorite times of year...Christmas!  It's been a long struggle to get back to the feeling of joy during this season.  After losing my mom in 2008, Christmas lost a lot of its joy for me.  I had so many wonderful memories with my mom like putting up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, baking more goodies than we had table to put them on, going shopping and laughing over lunch and sharing Christmas morning with my dad, reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 before we opened gifts.  I so miss those moments with her, but I'm so glad I have those moments to look back on.  And I'm thankful that the joy is returning...

Life takes us through twists and turns.  Some exhilarating and wonderful.  Others...not so much.  But everything that comes into our life has a purpose.  Even those not so pleasant moments.  God uses them all to weave our lives into the tapestry He is creating.  And the way in which He weaves and the timing He has prepared are perfect...even when we can't see that with our earthly eyes.  And so it was with the birth of Jesus...

Luke 2:1-10
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

When we look back on the story of the birth of Christ, we see such a beautiful expression of love and compassion and God's provision.  However, Mary and Joseph didn't have the luxury of "looking back" and seeing God's weaving of the threads of the story.  They were smack in the middle of it.  Mary was nine months pregnant and about to pop when the decree went out that they had to travel to a far away city.  And the trip would take place with her riding on the back of a donkey.  Now, I've not yet had the privilege of carrying a child.  However, I can assure you that riding on a donkey for miles and miles while being in the latter stage of pregnancy could not have been fun.  But the struggle doesn't end there. You would think that God would have provided a nice, warm, soft place in which His Son would be from dust and dirt and the smell of animal poop.  But after the long ride...on the back of a donkey...nine months pregnant...Mary goes into labor.  I can only imagine poor Joseph frantically trying to find somewhere for his wife to give birth and finding the only place is in a barn with the animals.  

I wonder...  I wonder if Mary and Joseph questioned what God was doing.  Or if they questioned that they had really heard what the angel had said correctly.  Surely when Mary found out she was carrying God's Son she imagined that giving birth would have been a lot different from what it turned out to be (a common thought still today...that we think life will turn out a lot differently than it does).  I'm sure Joseph, when he accepted God's call to care for Mary and the baby, had no thought that he would be running around trying to find somewhere for them to stay.   But even in the midst of what probably seemed like chaos, God was in control of it all and was weaving the most beautiful story ever told.  

One of my favorite parts of these verses is Luke 2:6..."the days were accomplished that she should be delivered..."  The days were accomplished.  Now, I love to read verses from different translations of the Bible.  It helps with understanding that old English sometimes.  However, the way the King James Version says it here says it best to me.  It shows that God had His plan all along...that He had been working out each and every detail for the birth of His Son.  It wasn't happenstance.  It wasn't chance.  It wasn't some surprise or caught Him off guard.  The days were accomplished.  Jesus was born at just the time and in just the way God planned.  And the way He had planned makes the gift of Jesus accessible to us all...regardless of financial status, race, gender, social status.  He came to us in a lowly manger surrounded by hay and animals and dirt and whatever else is found in a barn full of animals.  There were no doctors or nurses.  No hospital.  No monitors.  No clean linens or sanitized medical equipment.  And yet, the miracle of Jesus' birth went off without a hitch.  

And God can do the same in our lives.  Sometimes in the middle of the madness, in the center of the chaos, we can lose our focus.  We can forget that the days are being accomplished...that God is weaving the tapestry of our lives.  And we can lose our joy.  But if God took so much care and preparation and planning down to the minute detail to bring us the form of a baby being born in a the middle of what seemed like chaos, how much more will He provide all we need.  And that should bring us joy unspeakable.   Even in the moments when we wonder what in the world is going on...He is there.  Working behind the scenes.  Moving things into place.  Changing our hearts.  Molding us to be more like Him.  And His plan is perfect!

So as this Christmas season begins, my prayer is that we will all be able to find joy...even in the midst of uncertainty.  The God who gave us the gift of His Son longs to give us the gift of His love each and every day.  We can trust that He knows what He is doing.  We can believe that when "the days are accomplished" He will work out His perfect will in our lives.  Just as Mary and Joseph trusted God for the impossible, may we find joy in trusting Him to do the same for us.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pursued, Loved and Confident in Him

So I've begun an online Bible Study for the book "A Confident Heart."  While I was excited and knew it would be a good thing for me, I never knew the impact it would have on me...and we are only in week one!

As I've written about often, I struggle with self-doubt, with being good enough, with insecurity about not being competent enough, pretty enough, thin enough.  The list goes on.  I've talked about all the ways I've tried to stop the cycle of these thoughts.  And I fail time and time again.  So I decided I needed to do this study and read this book.

I'm so thankful I did!  This week we are starting to read the book and discussing the first two chapters.  Over this past week, as I was doing my normal morning devotional, I read James 1:17.  I've read it thousands of times before, but this time I read it in a different translation...the VOICE.  I actually discovered this translation from a Facebook post by Mandisa (Christian artist...whose songs I've used in my previous posts).  Let me preface this by saying...there have been many times where I have felt (wrongly) that it has seemed like God has started to give me something I've prayed for only to snatch it back and say, "Just joking!"  I know that is not the case...but I've often felt that way.  Often times it's because I was pursuing something outside of His will or I was determined to have my way.  But every time I am faced with heartache or adversity, that thought crosses my mind.  But then I read this verse...  "Every good gift bestowed, every perfect gift received comes to us from above, courtesy of the Father of lights.  He is consistent.  He won't change His mind or play tricks in the shadows." Wow.  What a slap upside the head of that recurring thought that I have.  God isn't a God who teases us or entices us with what He doesn't intend for us to have.  And any thought I have that says otherwise isn't from's from the enemy.  An attempt to destroy my confidence in my God.  And in turn leads to doubt and the building up of walls to keep from being rejected or hurt...which in turn leads to isolation and loneliness.

Tonight, as I was reading Chapter 2 of our study, I came across this:  "What we need is someone who will pursue us and accept us even though we're flawed.  Yet most of us doubt anyone would ever stick with us if we let them get too close.  So we put up walls and hide our struggles, even from God, hoping we'll convince Him and everyone else that we're fine."  Again, wow.  That really hit home for me.  I long to be pursued and desired and spite of my flaws.  But often I find myself trying to be something I'm not or trying to live up to someone's expectation of what I should be...thinking that if I do that, then they will want me or want to be with me or will accept me.  I go so far as to building up those thick walls around myself by staying busy, always saying yes even when I shouldn't, never really letting people in, agreeing rather than sharing my opinion for fear of rejection...all in an attempt to hide myself.  I guess thinking I'm not worthy of being pursued or loved or accepted.  And I always tell others I'm doing just fine...even when I'm falling apart inside.  And in this attempt, the real me...the "Lori" God created me to be...gets pushed further and further down until there is little trace of me.  I survive by deflecting any attention from myself to others.  I do my best to make sure the focus is on others so that no one will see my flaws and, thus, reject me.  I'm wonder if the woman at the well felt that way.

The book talks about this woman.  She had been married five times and was living with a man that wasn't her husband.  She was rejected, alone, exhausted and, I'm sure, felt unworthy of love.  She comes to the well to draw water and meets Jesus.  I'm sure she was afraid of the rejection and judgment she so often received from others.  Just like a lot of us...we put on a good face and say we are ok and never let others in...afraid of rejection and judgment.  But Jesus meets her...and meets us...where we all are.  Without judgment.  And willing to accept us where we are.  We don't have to jump through hoops or perform a special trick to impress Him.  He just wants us to come as we are.

Now, I haven't been married five times and am not the talk of the town gossips (as far as I know)...but I have had my share of rejection and judgment.  To the point that it affects current relationships that I have.  I keep up that wall and stay guarded...trying to keep from getting hurt again or being rejected.  And that leads to doubts and questions and worry.  But that is not how God wants me, or you, to live.  He wants us to realize that we ARE loved.  In chapter 2 of the book, Renee says, "...we are valued and pursued by the one who knows us and loves us."  See, God knows me better than I know myself.  He sees right through the walls, the doubts, the insecurities.  And He loves me in spite of all of that.  And if the Creator of this universe loves me with a love that pursues me, what have I to fear?!  I can live in the confidence that if "God is for me, who can be against me..."

See God began a work in me (and in you) the day we were born.  He has a plan and purpose for each of us.  He longs for us to live fully in Him and to experience a joy and peace only He can give.  Philippians 1:6 (again from the VOICE) says, "I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you..."  He won't give up on us!  Ever!  Even when people give up on us or reject us or keep walking right on past us...when someone ignores the deeper need we have...God is right there.  He will never give up on us.  He will never reject us.  He will see the deeper need and work to bring healing and restoration to our lives.

I'm so thankful for that!  I'm so thankful that God isn't finished working on me and won't stop until the work is complete.  I have a long way to go.  But like the woman at the well, I am willing to come to Him, let Him bring healing to those deeply buried hurts and restore my life to the place He wants it to be.  I'm ready to live in confidence and trust the plans He has for me.  I'm ready to throw away the doubt and fear and insecurity and fully live in the joy of the moment.  I'm willing to trust that God pursues me, accepts me and loves me with an everlasting love.  And that even on hard days, I can live with a confident heart!  (And at almost's about time!)

P31 OBS Blog Hop

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My First Ever Online Bible Study

If you are a reader of my blog, you know very well that self doubt and worry are things I struggle with all the time.  It's like a broken record playing in my head...every day.  I seek to trust take His promises at face value...then life sends something my way that causes me to doubt.  It's never a huge always begins with a little trickle.  A little raindrop of the enemy whispering in my ear, "Are you sure about this?  Are you sure this peace you feel about this situation is really from God?  Or did you manufacture it?"  I waste so much energy combatting these lies...worried that the peace I feel may not be from God...that it may be the enemy trying to get me to believe a lie...that the good things that have recently come into my life aren't really from God.  I know, my mind is really messed up at times.  And I'm sick of it.  Sick of the cycle.  Sick of the broken record...

And I've realized...I can't change this alone.  Now, I've gotten better over the past several months.  God has been working on me...a LOT.  But I still struggle with this.  I struggle with being able to accept good things...struggle with accepting that He longs to bless me with the desires of my heart...struggle with doubt that this time will be different than before.  So when I heard about this online Bible study, I jumped on it!

I had ordered the book "A Confident Heart" awhile back.  And it's been sitting on my nightstand along with a few other books that I intend to read.  However, life is busy...I'm in grad school and starting my own private practice and also about to move to a new place.  So I tend to neglect reading...even though I know I need to read these books.

Then I saw this study and knew it was one of those special gifts from God.  A gift that He is giving to help me with my struggle.  So I am super excited to be a part of it.  I normally don't do stuff like this...I'm shy and somewhat introverted and shy away from "group" things.  But this is all part of building that confident heart!  So, here I am!

I'm very excited to meet others through this study and connect with women who share similar struggles and lives.  That's the cool thing about this Christian life we journey through...we are never alone.  And we lift each other up and encourage each other...cheer each other on...and we make it!  My prayer is that God will use this time together studying His word and this book as a catalyst for a major miracle in all our lives!  May we all be blessed with a confident heart!

P31 OBS Blog Hop

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Deep the Father's Love

I don't know about you, but I personally think I have the best dad in the world!  I'm sure that a lot of daughters feel that way.  But I'm also very aware that many daughters may not have had a good experience with their dad.  So I know I'm very fortunate.  And I'm thankful that I have had an earthly father who represents my heavenly Father so well.  But I'll get back to that...

I currently spend a lot of time on Highway 49 between Hattiesburg and Gulfport and all along US 90.  Hours upon hours within the span of a week.  I'm not complaining...I actually enjoy driving.  I can honestly say that I'm so thankful that I'll be moving to the coast in a couple of months and won't have to make so many trips, but there is a part of me that will miss those several-times-a-week drives.

My usual "M.O." is to put the headphones in, turn on my playlist in shuffle mode and take in the scenery.  This is also prime "me and God" time.  Some trips I sing at the top of my lungs to every song that plays through my headphones.  Some days I just listen.  Some days I don't turn any music on.  But each and every single time I'm in that car I talk with God.  Sometimes it may just be a word of thanks and praise for all He is doing.  Other times it may be my crying out to God asking for answers when I feel like I should just give up.  Sometimes I am overwhelmed and amazed at the beauty I see along the highway...this time of year is gorgeous...with the wildflowers displaying their hues of yellows and purples and the butterflies flitting around without a care in the world.  Yet other times it's almost like an actual conversation...actually it IS a conversation...with me sharing my thoughts and questions and God responding to me with His still small voice.  Those are my favorites.

It's in this "me and God" time that God is doing some of His deepest work in my heart.  He's done a lot of that this year...some of it has been rather painful, some of it has been full of joy.  But each and every instance is a thread in the masterpiece He is weaving in my life.  Last week, during one of my trips, the thought occurred to me:  Don't miss out on the answered prayers and little blessings along the way because you are so focused on the one prayer God hasn't answered yet.  Don't let the delay of one expectation dim the joy of a met expectation.  This epiphany hit me as I was making sure to pay special attention to the beauty around me.  I realized that, had I been focused on the fact that the light didn't turn fast enough or that I was running 5 minutes behind or whatever business issue I needed to deal with rather than focusing on the flowers and the butterflies and even the doe and her fawn running through a field that God so graciously created, I would have missed out on so much.  To some, the beauty of nature may not seem like a big deal.  But to me, to have the gift of sight and sound and smell to be able to fully experience all He has provided is a huge deal.  But how many times have I missed out on those simple joys because I was so focused on a problem I couldn't do anything about at that moment anyway?

So much of my life I have focused on those "big ticket items" so to speak.  The big prayer requests.  Those desires of my heart.  And I get frustrated or worried or worn out in pursuit of them.  How much of that energy that I've wasted on those things...things that God in His wisdom will bring about when He knows the time is right...things that He has an answer to if I will just let go of it and let Him handle it.  And in the meantime, I've missed out on the joy of a simple moment.  I've neglected to thank Him for the little prayers He answers each and every day.  Those seemingly insignificant things that I take for granted.  Just like I would have missed out on the wildflowers and the butterflies and the deer last week had I allowed my focus to be on the problems of the day rather than on the joy of the moment.

Earlier this week I was taking to my dad about life and things going on and things I hoped for and all that good stuff.  Let me preface this by saying that I am so thankful for the relationship and friendship I have with my dad.  I'm thankful that I have this time with him and that we've been able to develop the friendship that we have.  My dad is truly my friend.  He is also a man of few words (unless you really get to know him and then he talks a lot...but that is a story for another day).  So when he says something profound it tends to stick with me.  So as we were talking about those things and the hopes and dreams I have for my life, he told me that he hoped those things happened for me because I deserved it and deserved to be happy.  Of course, my normal self deprecating comment was that I didn't deserve that much.  But he pressed on and told me that I any good father would.  And as our heavenly Father does every day.

This morning during my drive, God brought that conversation with my dad to my mind and used it as a way to help me see that if my earthly father loves me that much and if he would be willing to do whatever it took to provide for me and if he thinks I deserve much more does my heavenly Father feel the same?!  It was a very humbling moment.  To think that the Creator of all the beauty I see around me loves me that much!  And the love of my earthly father, as vast as it is, is nothing compared to the love God has for me.  And since He loves me, He longs for me to come to Him and to rest in Him...for the seen and the unseen.  He longs for me to trust Him.  And He desires for me to be joyful and thankful in all of those seemingly small moments (many that I find out later were part of the "working out" of the bigger moments) rather than miss out on them because I am so focused on what I don't yet have.

I want to live in and breathe in each and every moment!  It's so hard to do.  And so many things clamor for our, friends, relationships, work, starting up your own business, school, life... It can seem like a daunting task.  But our Father longs to help us through each and every moment if we will simply rest in Him.  I am the world's worst at fretting and trying to work things out.  I'm a "fixer."  And I am exhausted.  I wear myself out worrying and trying to plan and trying to do things before it's the right time to do them.  I try to figure out the future and plan my life around how I want things to turn out.  And in the process, I wonder how many of those small moments of joy I have missed out on.

So I'm making it my focus...shifting my gaze toward my Father and resting in His arms.  He already knows the plan and how it all works why should I concern myself with things out of my control.  Especially when His best for me blows my mind time and time again.  Not to say that life doesn't get difficult or that there aren't reasons for concern.  But when that becomes my focus rather than keeping my eyes on Him, that is where the problems begin.  When I realize that He loves me more than I could ever comprehend and He wants the best for me...even if getting to the best takes time or means I have to walk through dark valleys to get there.  Even in the moments that are beyond my human comprehension...He is there.  Loving me.  Carrying me.  Guiding me.

I'm so thankful that God blessed me with an earthly father who represents His love and care to me.  I know how fortunate I am.  Because I know there are many who don't have that experience.  And to you I say, let God surround you with His love.  Let Him be the Father you so desperately want and need.  His promises are true.  Even when we doubt or wonder...He is always faithful.  His ways are not our ways but His ways are good and right and best.  And He loves us beyond measure.  "How deep the Father's love for vast beyond all measure."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Here Again...Where You Begin

Here again.  Here.  Why do I always come back to this place?  Time and time again.  To this place where I feel like I can't stand on my own.  The the place where it feels like the last thread in the rope is about to fray.  Back to the end.

I try.  Really, I do.  I do everything I can to keep from coming back to this place.  I pray.  I read my Bible.  I listen to uplifting songs.  I spend time alone.  I spend time with God.  I can feel when it's coming on.  And I've gotten a lot better at doing that.  And I'm getting even better at doing all the things I can to head it off.  Yet, I still end up here.  In this place of frustration and doubt and questioning and exhaustion.  A place where I question if God is really listening to my prayers?  A place to where I wonder if He has forgotten His promises to me.  

It may sound odd that I'm back to this place.  Especially right now.  On the outside, things look fantastic!  I've started a private practice with a friend.  I get to do a job I love every day.  I have been blessed with some wonderful people in my life.  God has provided all I've needed...even when I don't see how the money will last or how something is going to work out.  And I'm happy for the first time in a really long time.  Well, let me say I'm joyful.  Happy?  Depends on the day.  

Today has been a tough day.  And the rest of the week is looking a little cloudy.   See, I'm good at stuffing.  I stuff my feelings.  I stuff hurt.  I stuff anger.  I stuff.  I'm getting better, but I still have a long way to go.  I'm also a doer.  A "yes man," of sorts.  It's hard for me to say no.  Again, something I'm working on but haven't quite mastered.  When you combine those things, you find your way back to "here."  Exhausted.  Weary. Wondering if you are really capable and competent to do what you feel God is calling you to do.  Wondering if it will all be worth it.  And since I stuff and don't deal with things as they are happening, I can be prone to experiencing what we will call "the busting of the dam."  See, you can only stuff so long before it has to come out.  And mine usually comes out in one of two ways:  I get really upset over something that isn't such a big deal (getting way better at not doing this) or I fall into a puddle of tears on my couch (haven't quite mastered not doing this one yet).  Tonight was the puddle.  

My frustration comes when I realize that I cannot break this cycle.  I've tried.  Believe me, I have.  Like I said before, I pray and read my Bible and do what I can to prevent it from happening.  But let's face it...I'm human.  We all are.  And being human means that sometimes life just gets the best of us.  Even when things are going seemingly well.  And somehow I find comfort in knowing that I don't carry this struggle alone.

Earlier this week, a college friend of mine posted a blog about how sometimes life just falls apart.  (  Her family has been through some very trying times this year.  And all of this after stepping out in complete faith because of a call they feel God has placed on their lives.  She talked about hanging on by a thread but trusting God to weave something beautiful out of it.  And that is where the miracle occurs.

But, it's when we take those steps of faith, trusting God for what we cannot see or explain, that the enemy launches a full scale attack on our hearts and minds.  We finally muster the courage to push away from the shore only to be met with a storm of tsunami like proportions.  And wonder what in the world is going on.  If God rewards the faithful, why does He allow the storms to come?  If we are following the path He has led us to, why do we feel so alone or abandoned?  I can't answer those questions.  I don't know why God mixes the joys of life with the thorns.  I don't know why, when He calls us out in faith and we follow, sometimes it feels almost like a punishment.  

Some things we just aren't meant to understand.  And for someone like me who likes to know what is going on and likes to be in control of things, that is like asking the a dog to quack like a duck.  I want to  know.  I want to know when.  I want to know why.  I want to know how.  And I want God to tell me right now!  But I'm not God.  And for reasons only He can know, He chooses not to reveal to us all things.  So we get frustrated.  We get tired.  We try to do and do and do in our strength.  And we melt in a puddle of tears on the couch all alone.  

But I have found it is in those moments.  Moments when we have reached the end of ourself.  Moments when we cry out telling God we can't do it anymore.  Moments where we tell Him we just need to know right now.  It is in those moments. when we get to the end of our ropes, when we are hanging by that last fray of a thread...  That is where He begins.  

I can't explain it.  It makes no sense to this human mind.  But when I reach that point, where all I can do is cry out and lay it all before Him, that I see Him all the more clearly.  It's almost like he uses the tears to clear out the dust from our eyes so that we can see Him.  So that we can turn our focus completely to Him.  And that's the point, I guess.

I, like my friend, still don't understand.  I still have questions.  I still want answers yesterday.  There are things that I think I know that I find I have no idea about.  Then there are other things which seemed so cloudy before that I can see clearly now.  And I have to trust that God is faithful.  That He will never leave or forsake me.  That He does remember His promises to me.  That He does see me in my darkest moments.  I have to trust He is working all things out for my good.  Even when I can't see it.  I'm not meant to see it all right now.

So, even though on the outside things look smooth, on the inside I'm a jumbled mess.  I'm a frazzled, tired, anxious person who doesn't have a clue what I'm doing most days.  But God knows.  He knows that sometimes we have to come to the end of ourselves before He can begin a great work.  So He allows things and people and situations that may be trying or unpleasant or frustrating or just downright confusing in order to shift our focus.  Look at Job.  As much turmoil as he faced, he was still able to say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."  (Job 13:15)  

So here I am.  Again.  I don't know the purpose of all of this.  Only God knows that.  I don't know why I can't seem to learn this lesson.  But maybe that is the point.  Maybe God continues to allow these moments so that I don't ever reach a point where I feel I can do it on my own.  Where I feel I don't need Him.  May I never reach a place where I don't recognize my need for Him.  And so, like my friend wrote in her blog, I'll keep holding onto this thread and trusting Him for what's to come.  I'll reach my end and get out of the way so He can begin.  

Mandisa came out with a new album next week, and it is awesome!  Today, this song has been especially meaningful...and where I got the title for my post today.  I hope God will use it bless you as He has me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Do I Trust Him Even If...

"Knock with caution at the door.  They said, 'Beware of what you're praying for."  So I'll stand with my whole desire in the middle of this forest fire till I've nothing left to show, and new life begins to grow." - Burnin', Nichole Nordeman

"Not for the sake of a creed or a cause.  Not for a dream or a promise.  Simply because It is Jesus who calls, and if we believe, we'll obey." - For the Sake of the Call, Steven Curtis Chapman

Over the past few months, God has done some really amazing things in my life.  I've shared all of the wonderful opportunities and blessings on previous blogs.  But sometimes I get distracted by the blessings (and yes, that is possible) and lose my focus on the One who gave me those blessings.  And it is in those times that I begin to live with fear and doubt and questions.  

Throughout my life, I have seen the hand of God.  I have seen through both good and bad times that He has been there.  I've prayed many times for Him to increase my faith or give me patience or make me more like who He created me to be.  However, when He begins to do those things, I fight it.  I don't do this intentionally.  But when things start to get difficult, I get scared.  I wonder if I'm on the right path.  I wonder if this is really what God has led me to do.  I wonder if I've mis-read the signs and have just read into things.  But God didn't call us to a life of ease and comfort.  And sometimes questioning and struggle are part of the process.

A lot of people think that once you become a Christian or you dedicate yourself more fully to following God's plan for your life that things will just automatically fall into place and be easy.  But that's not the case.  If anything, making those decisions often means life becomes more difficult and struggles become more real.  When we choose to follow God, the enemy gets angry and tries everything he can to derail us.  For me, he always attacks my mind and my thoughts.  I've said it before in previous mind runs ninety to nothing 24/7.  And when I get overly exhausted or have too much going on that takes my focus off of God, I'm a prime target for those attacks.  I read into things way to much.  I over-analyze situations.  I doubt and question every decision I've made.  My imagination goes into over-drive.  It's something I've always struggled with, but I am slowly winning the battle.  

See, God didn't call us to a life in Him for our comfort.  He calls us to a life in Him so that we can serve Him by serving others, become holy and bring Him glory.  This is never an easy task.  And the process often brings pain and struggle and tears.  We are being refined like gold in a fire...and it hurts.  A lot.  Nichole Nordeman has a song called Burnin'.  I have grown to love this song over the past month.  It talks about how, when we truly seek to know Him more, seek to live according to His plans for our life and seek to deepen our faith, it causes a "burning" in our souls.  Jeremiah said, "Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire, Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not" (Jeremiah 20:9).  I myself have had those moments, especially here lately, where I have been overwhelmed to the point of tears.  I've had many quiet moments alone where I can so clearly feel God's presence near me.  I actually do have a "burning" in my soul.  However, this burning is meant to rid us of ourselves in order to make us new, into the person God is calling us to be.  It's a difficult that gold that has been refined in the fire.  And the closer we become to God, the more the enemy launches those attacks.  So at a time when I should be full of excitement, I have had moments where I'm not.  It's hard to admit that...especially when, on the outside looking in, everything seems to be "falling into place."  And I'm not saying that things aren't.  But I know that in the middle of all the good I've had some really dark moments that weren't so good.  But God has been there in each of those moments and reminds me that this journey is all about Him and not about my comfort.

See, even when things are going well, there are still issues to be resolved.  Issues of the heart.  Issues with finances.  Issues with my relationships...with God and with other people.  Issues with trust.  Issues with worry over the future.  Issues I've dealt with at some point off and on my whole life.  Issues we all deal with at some point.  But it's when those issues arise that we have a choice to make.  We can either wallow in the doubt, self-pity, shame, guilt, worry, whatever emotion is there.  Or we can bring the issue to God, lay ourself bare before Him and trust Him to do what is best.  It doesn't mean the fear or doubt or whatever goes away immediately.  At least not in my own life.  But I have found that in spite of whatever the issue is, I have a peace.  A peace to know that God will never leave me or forsake me.  A peace to know that no matter what the outcome is, He is there.  No matter what difficulty arises, He will provide.  I'm going to have days where I doubt.  I'm going to have days where I wonder how I'm going to pay a bill.  I'll have days where I wonder if I'm crazy for taking so big a risk.  I'll have days where I wonder if I should just give up.  But when I have one of those days, I'll bring it to the One who already has the answer and whose plans far exceed mine.  

We have to reach a point in our life where we realize that we are trusting in God for no other reason than He has called us.  Steven Curtis Chapman's song For the Sake of the Call says it best:  "Not for the sake of a creed or a cause.  Not for a dream or a promise.  Simply because It is Jesus who calls, and if we believe, we'll obey."  That's a hard place to get to sometimes.  At least for me.  I have dreams I am trusting Him for.  I claim promises that He gives.  I am the first to jump up and fight for a cause I believe in.  However, if I never get those dreams, if He chooses to delay fulfilling a promise, if the cause becomes worthless...will I still trust Him?  

It's a tough question.  It's easy to follow God when everything is going our way.  When the money is there, when relationships run smoothly, when the job promotion comes, when life is carefree.  But what happens when devastation hits?  A parent dies.  You lose a job.  The money appears to be running out with no relief in sight.  A relationship fails. I've faced each and every one of those situations at some point in my life.  And honestly, I can't always say I've chosen to still trust Him.  I have yelled and argued with HIm (it's ok...He can handle it).  I have doubted Him.  I have questioned Him.  I have begged and pleaded with Him.  Eventually, I always come back around and do trust Him.  But that's not enough.  My goal is to reach a point where I bypass all that middle stuff...the doubt, the questions, the arguing, the begging and pleading...and simply trust.  It's not like He hasn't proven Himself time and time again.  But it's a struggle...and one the enemy gloats over when I give in to it.  But my God is bigger than that.  And bigger than anything that comes my way.

So as I go through this week, my prayer is that I will trust God more fully.  That I will see the difficulty as my "testing by fire" and know that I will come out refined, stronger, better and more like the person He created me to be.  That I will choose to ignore the emotions and the attacks on my mind and choose to trust His promises.  That even if He delays in fulfilling His promises or holds off on granting the desires of my heart I will still trust Him.  That I will trust Him "simply because it is Jesus who calls" and not because of what He can do for me or give me.  That I will trust Him even in the quiet times, the dark times, the weary times.  And that He will stir the fire in my soul...even though it may bring momentary pain...because I know "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).  I have found that when I focus on Him rather than on the blessings He bestows, I do trust Him even if...

Burnin' by Nichole Nordeman (not my favorite video but the song is what is important)

For the Sake of the Call by Steven Curtis Chapman

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Timing Is Everything

For those of you who read my posts on Facebook lately, I apologize for all the (obnoxious) updating about my life I've been doing lately.  I know that I can go a little overboard when I get excited.  However, when God works in the ways He has been working, I can't help but get excited.  I have been so completely overwhelmed and humbled by every single moment of the past couple of months.  Things have happened that have been beyond my wildest dreams, but right in line with His.  And one thing I've learned is that timing is everything.  And His timing is perfect!

Nicole and I have had two meetings in the past week.  Meetings we were prepared for, but, as newbies to this private practice and business ownership thing, not completely sure of some things.  I will say that through this whole process neither of us has really been nervous or worried.  We've just had a peace and calm...knowing that this is what we are meant to do.  So last Friday we had a meeting with an amazing music school that truly "gets" what we do and would love to partner with us to offer Kindermusik classes.  They had a teacher that had been doing a first steps music program for the past year.  However, she has taken a full time job elsewhere and is leaving...which leaves a need for music classes for young children at the school.  Enter Nicole and I.  We went and did a cold call drop in a few weeks ago to introduce ourselves and explain what we were doing.  Long story short, we ended up scheduling a meeting with the owners.  The meeting went very well...beyond our expectations.  The owners are amazing people who not only love music and love teaching kids but also have a heart for kids with disabilities and understand their need to have opportunities to actively engage in music.  All involved believe that our partnership will be a good fit and will provide more music opportunities to more children in the area and fulfill a need for services.  So that was last Friday, and we are working on getting the details worked out.  We left that meeting on cloud 9 and feeling like we had been given a huge gift.

So this past Tuesday we had another meeting.  This one with a center that provides therapy for children with Autism and related developmental disabilities and their families.  We went into the meeting not sure what to expect but assuming we would have to do some educating on what music therapy is and how we can benefit their clients.  However, we were wrong.  When we got there, we noticed that several people started coming in...people we recognized from their website and being members of the Board of Directors.  So here we are, expecting to just meet with the director and have a little meeting...and we end up in a full blown meeting with board members!  Talk about overwhelmed!  The meeting was amazing!  Again, more people who get what music therapy is all about and are excited about what we can provide.  We went in the meeting expecting to make some contacts and set up another formal meeting once they had time to discuss it.  We came out with an offer for partnering with the clinic, a request to meet with their builder to discuss where we want our office and treatment rooms and an invitation to dinner tonight to meet with the full board and all the "important" people involved in the center!  This was HUGE!  It was all Nicole and I could do to get to the car in a dignified manner before breaking into a happy dance!  

And before either of these meetings, God has opened doors that have provided us studio space in Gulfport for music therapy services and Kindermusik classes and that have brought some wonderful, supportive people in our lives to help guide us through this process.  This stuff doesn't just happen!  Ever...  And there is nothing that I have done that made any of this happen...other than following God's leading to make a phone call or send an email.  But I have found that when I am obedient to do even those simple things, He will open the floodgates.

Nicole and I were talking on the ride back Tuesday about how timing is everything.  Had any one moment of the past six months been different in our lives, none of this would have happened!  Moments that were difficult.  Moments that brought tough decisions.  Moments that brought joy.  Moments that brought tears.  Each moment was a part of the bigger picture.  Every single moment...from people that I've met to decisions about when to quit a job to those phone calls and emails.  I truly believe God had a hand in each and every moment.

I often question God's timing.  I'm not a patient person by nature.  I've had people tell me I am...that I'm patient because I'll wait for things to work out in certain situations or because of the work that I do or whatever.  But I know me, and I am the farthest thing from least in my own mind.  I want what I want now.  I want my prayers to be answered immediately.  And if God doesn't answer them immediately, I want to know why and what is going to happen when.  But God doesn't work that way.  He takes His time, molding our lives in a way that brings Him glory.  And He has definitely taken His time in my life.  It used to frustrate me and depress me...why does He make me wait for things He knows I want so deeply?  Why won't He hurry up and give me the deepest desires of my heart?  Desires that I know have been placed there by Him.  But I forget...His promises are true, He is faithful and He can see what I can't.

Last night at church, we read several scriptures that spoke to these facts and that confirmed His timing is perfect.  Isaiah 55:8-9 says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways...As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Proverbs 16:9 says, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps."  Wow.  

See, I struggle with God a lot.  I question and doubt and wonder what is taking so long.  But then I have moments like the past few weeks and months, and I can see the answers. He longs to give us good things.  This doesn't mean life is always roses and butterflies and rainbows.  Sometimes the path to those good things is filled with struggle and pain.  I've seen that in my own life and in the lives of people that I love.  Life is still life, and it's not meant to be one big joy ride.  But I have seen how God has taken each and every moment of my 39 years to shape me and mold me into the woman He created me to be.  It's a work in progress...a hard work.  But God has never left me...even in the darkest moments when I thought He had, He never did.  There are things I've prayed for that He chose not to give me...and to this day, I don't understand why.  I may never understand this side of heaven.  But my faith allows me to trust Him and His faithfulness in spite of the things I don't understand.  And I have to remember that this life isn't's His.  

I am a planner.  I plan, and I plan, and I make plans for the plans.  I'm a little OCD and definitely Type A.  But life over the past few months has taught me to be more live life outside the fly freely in God's grace.  Proverbs 16:9 reminds me that my plans don't amount to much when God has something so much bigger in store.  And I'm so thankful for that!

See God doesn't want us to settle for less than His best for us.  I've heard that so often but never really understood it.  I could settle for less, but why would I when He has so much more!  I've seen in my own life how, If would have settled for certain things and situations...things that I knew were not the best for me and were not God's plan for me...I would have missed out on some pretty awesome blessings He did have in store for me.  Now, I understand that I have been very blessed to be in the position I am to do what I'm doing.  I get that not everyone has the opportunity to take this big of a risk.  However, God can work wonders right where you are if you will only let go of holding on to your plans and let Him work out His plans for your life.  I've shared this before on a previous blog, but I was told by someone who has encouraged me along this journey that sometimes it's not about our plans.  Isaiah 55:8-9 says as much.  His ways and thoughts and plans are so far beyond our wildest imagination!  One of the men we met with also made the comment that his father had told him that we have to "let go of the dock."  We have to let go of what we are holding onto...things that weigh us down or keep us back from the blessings God has in store for us.  I've spent most of my life hanging on.  Hanging on to fear and doubt.  Hanging on to comfort.  Hanging on to my thought of "what if this goes wrong or I get hurt."  Hanging on to my thoughts of how things should go.  Hanging on to negative thoughts and allowing the enemy to flood my mind with irrational thoughts.  It's time to let go...  To let go and allow God to do what only He can do.  To dismiss the thoughts that say things aren't possible and trust the One who can do the impossible.

As the past few months have proven in my life, timing is everything and God knows what He is doing.  Even when it is taking longer than I think it should.  Even when I feel I'm getting too old to see a dream come to fruition.  Even when I don't see how something could be humanly possible.  Even when I have no idea where the next paycheck is going to come from.  God is bigger than all of that!  His timing is perfect and in His plan, everything happens right on time.  Age is just a number...God is not bound by my age...He can still give me those desires of my heart I think I need to give up on because I'm too old for them.  Even when things are humanly impossible, God can do the impossible...and, I've found, delights in doing those things we can't do ourselves.  And God's provision is always there.  Maybe not in the way or amount I want, but in a way that provides for my needs.  It doesn't mean that He gives us everything we want.  But if we will learn to align our hearts with His and seek His will, He will make our paths straight, show us where to go and will provide for all we need to fulfill HIS dreams for our lives.

The things He has shown me throughout my life, and especially over the past six months, have blown me away.  I'm still so far from the woman I need to be and still have a lot of growing to do.  And I still have moments of doubt and failure and questions and just bad days.  But God is faithful through it all and is composing each and every moment into a beautiful melody.  

If you are in a dry place, a place of waiting, a place of questioning if He is working out His plan in your life...hang on!  I know it's me.  I've spent many nights crying out to Him and asking Him if He had forgotten me.  This world throws so many images at us of what is "normal" and where we should be by what stage in life.  Forget those things!  God's plan is way better than anything this world can offer!  Yes, I am still waiting on some of those deep desires, and I wonder almost daily what the hold up is.  But I've also realized that if God gave me everything all at once it would be too much for me to handle.  There are also things He may still need to work on before granting those desires...things in my life, things in someone else's life, things in the situation, whatever it may be.  And I have come to trust that it's in the quiet moments, those moments where it seems nothing is happening to move a situation forward, that He is doing some of His best work.  And He is working out things that are so far beyond my wildest dreams I can't even begin to comprehend it.  Because, let me tell you, when He started moving a couple of months ago, He moved!  And hasn't let up yet!  We can't see the full picture, but He can.  And He IS working out each and every His a way that will bring Him glory and us joy.  

So trust Him and know that His timing is perfect...

I couldn't find a video for this song, but I love the lyrics!  He definitely has exceeded my expectations!

"Never Loved You More" by Nichole Nordeman
Well, you could take a cup and fill it up
And just keep on filling til it all comes
spilling down the sides
That's what You do in my life

Or you could watch the sky at sunrise
And see the clouds turn shades I never
knew could make me want to cry
That's what You do in my life
Never mind moderation
You exceed my expectations

I have never loved You more
'Cause You have never loved me less
Than the day before, or the day before
I have never loved You more

Have you ever tried to count the stars way up past Mars?
It will blow your mind
Don't even try to think about infinity
But that's how You love me

Much more than I can contain
A balloon once tethered to the ground,
But could not stick around to stay
Free to fly away
Never mind moderation
You exceed my expectations

I have never loved You more
'Cause You have never loved me less
Than the day before, or the day before
I have never loved You more

I have never dared to dream
Beyond what I've already seen
The day before, or the day before
I have never loved You more

Exceedingly, abundantly more

I have never loved You more
'Cause You have never loved me less
Than the day before, or the day before
I have never loved You more

I have never dared to dream
beyond what I've already see
The day before, or the day before
I have never loved you more