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!

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