The Hilarity of God

I had to throw my head back and laugh.  We have been in the bayou 10 months and the “promising” job that brought our family here was downsized.  For weeks, hubby has been applying, submitting resumes, and networking.  Multitudes of promising conversations and no offers.  Two offers finally did come through, one risky and out of his field, the other within his job description and back home in Virginia.  We were preparing to move to another home closer to his office.  Rent paid, boxes packed.  The offer that somehow made the most sense was in Virginia.  I knew God would provide.  He carried us here and blessed us beyond our imaginations.  We knew job offers would come, but we just wanted to make the right choice.  Why would God want us to return home if he had just brought us here?  Eventually, we wanted to come back.  Our family and loved ones were there.  We had just not envisioned our return would come so soon.

TRUVYThe great sage Truvy from Steel Magnolias (filmed in Natchitoches, LA – pronounced na-codish, you’re welcome) said it best, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”  In Genesis 18, Sarah laughed when God told her she would bear a son when she had spent her entire life grieving over her barrenness.  Pregnant at age 90. God is hilarious.  Sarah laughed.  I laughed when we decided to pack up and move back to Virginia.  I laughed when moving back would put us within 30-90 minutes of our family. I laughed because I fail miserably at being able to figure God out.  He is hilarious. Always keeping me guessing, I can see God chuckling to himself.  “Child, why do you waste so much energy trying to understand me?”  Nothing about this life is predictable, nor should it be.

Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is a time for everything…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  I wept prior to our move here.  I can’t sugarcoat that reality, but my sadness didn’t hold me back from finding laughter.  My mourning didn’t hold me back from dancing.  I laughed here in the bayou.  Celebrating life with bizarre parades and loading into the car with a crazy amount of loot.  Hot dogs and fireworks on Christmas Eve and swimming on Christmas Day.  Driving around Houston, late at night with a bunch of mamas in my minivan, laughing through my exhaustion, praying I didn’t wreck or get horribly lost.  Then nearly falling asleep over my pizza as the 90-year-old man at the table next to us had more energy than our whole table put together.

The most ironic part of it all, my current sadness is that I didn’t get enough time here. When I squeeze the necks of girlfriends, tears flow because God is so very good.  In my sadness, in my mourning, God sent me the most beautiful, hilarious women.  Women who understood my struggle, but never failed to surrender me to a fit of giggles.  Being in their presence was sure to lift my mood.  I would have never imagined the handfuls of friendships God would bring to me in less than a year.  How is that even possible?  I knew no one, yet will leave here feeling more loved and blessed than I ever have in my life, friends in church, friends in my neighborhood, friends at my children’s schools.

God wants us to laugh and dance!  We must move beyond our mourning and tears to see the blessings in our life that move us to pure joy.  Had I stayed in my depressed funk, these women and their smiles would have gone unnoticed.  My life has been forever changed by the joy they have brought into my life.

My tears will subside soon.  There are beautiful blessings to come, beyond the bayou.  I love my family and am elated to be so close to the friends I had left behind in Virginia.  I eagerly anticipate squeezing the necks of my loved ones I haven’t seen in a year.  I am already awaiting the laughter and dancing God will bring through the birth of a dear friend’s baby girl near my own birthday.  I eagerly anticipate stepping foot into my church and seeing the faces of those I have held so close to my heart while I have been away.

Don’t get stuck in your mourning and grief.  There will be dancing and laughter, don’t miss it.  God is hilarious, He really is, even beyond the bayou.

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In Pursuit of God’s Heart – Part 4: Be Still

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7

“Sit down”

“Calm down”

“Eat your dinner”

“Sit up”

“Legs down”

“Feet toward the floor”

Parenting feels like a broken record, repeating the same requests, yearning for the day where a family dinner can be completed with each child sitting upright and eating their food appropriately.  My two older girls quickly learned the rules of the dinner table. Fidgeting was short lived and family meals became a peaceful existence until the boy arrived.  Our boy came wired completely differently from his older sisters.  The girls sat and contently played with Play-doh or colored.  They knew how to be still, to complete a task. The boy has had to learn things differently.  Our family meals have become a time, for him at least, to see how many different positions he can sit in his chair.  On his stomach, on his back, turned around, occasionally feet are even in view. Adding a fourth child to the mix has made dinner time more entertaining, as she often follows her brother’s lead.

I could easily let meal time go believing, they will eat when they want and they will learn to sit eventually.  While being still is more challenging for some, I still believe, for our family, it is something that needs to be expected, modeled, and taught.  Money, time, and energy was spent preparing a (somewhat) healthy, nourishing meal.  Our children should be expected to eat the meal that is placed before them.  Consequences for not being still long enough to complete their dinner results in going to bed hungry and a heated over plate the next day.

I admit being still is challenging for me.  There is always so much to do, dishes to be washed and laundry to be folded.  If I am sitting, my mind is distracted, as I am watching TV, reading a blog, or skimming through social media.
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The latest fidget toy craze makes us believe that it is okay NOT to be still.  That we have to be doing things simultaneously.  I do not pretend to be a child psychologist, perhaps fidget toys are a benefit to some, however, encouraging the art of “has its benefits too, perhaps even more.

Psalm 37 was written in King David’s much later years.  Chronologically, it falls after the time he anointed his son Solomon as king and prior to his own death.  I feel as though the wisdom of this Psalm was written for Solomon’s benefit as well as our own.  King David gained wisdom by being still as well as faced hard consequences when he wasn’t. As a shepherd, David learned to be still in order to focus on his sheep.  The livelihood of his family depended on his ability to be calm, observant, and watchful in order to care for the flock. This position wasn’t given to him because he already possessed these characteristics,  but the task fell to him because he was the youngest of his brothers.  The lowliest task was given to the youngest child in the family.  Learning to be still was life or death for himself, his family, and his flock.  Once David became King, he inquired of the Lord on multiple occasions, waiting on God’s response before attacking an army or conquering more land. In 1 Samuel  25, David was preparing to take over Nabal’s land after being treated disrespectfully. His ability to yield, observe, and listen to Nabal’s wife Abigail prevented David from killing all of the men in the area.  God ended up dealing with Nabal later on, but many lives were saved due to David’s ability to just be still.

I am so thankful for David’s example to us simply because he experienced failure as much as he experienced success.  The times David failed to “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently” had severe consequences.  In 2 Samuel 11, David was unfocused, irrational, and forgot the art of stillness.  He saw a beautiful woman and hastily impregnated her despite her being married to one of his soldiers.  Upon finding out she was carrying his child, he had her husband killed.  Although David realized he had failed the Lord and repented heavily, God allowed David to face severe consequences through the death of his child and multiple offspring who were rapists, murderers, as well as one son who tried to kill his own father in order to gain the throne.  A little lapse of stillness and focus can cause a legacy of pain.

I want to consistently practice being still.  I want to teach our children to be still, be patient, and *gasp* BORED.  If our minds are constantly engaged, we will miss God’s voice and the beauty around us.  We will miss out on connecting with those around us who need to experience God’s love.  I challenge you to make it a daily habit of going somewhere quiet, if only for 5 minutes.  Take a deep breath, close your eyes and let your mind be still.  God is waiting for you in the stillness, there is so much he wants you to see.

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In Pursuit of God’s Heart-Part 3: Roll it all Away

“Commit your way to the Lord,  trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.         Psalm 37:5-6

To pursue a Heart of God, we have to TRUST in God’s provision and DELIGHT in God’s desiresbut we also have to COMMIT to God’s leading.  The last one is more challenging as it requires action to live out your willingness to be under God’s leadership and authority.

In Greek, commit actually means “to roll away” all of your negative thoughts and feelings to the Lord, like rolling away a stone or the ocean flowing away from the shore.  It makes me think of rolling a ball with my babies when they first learned to sit.  Sitting across from them on the floor and rolling the ball into their minute, yet chubby hands.  Most of the time, they couldn’t roll it back, but what a thrill it was for them to be able to take the ball from me, often to merely lift it to their mouths.  God wants the same for us.  He wants us to roll away all of the burdens of life to him.  The heartbreaking diagnosis, the unexpected lay off, the wayward child, God wants all of it. He isn’t planning on giving it back, so we shouldn’t try to retrieve any of it.  All of our concerns and worries about the future are for Him and Him alone to work out because he already has.  In the end, our lives will be a reflection of God to everyone around us.  We will “shine like the dawn”, as the sunlight breaks through the darkness of a new day.  The worries of this world can create such darkness that it can hinder any of His light and hope, trying to enter in.  Roll them away.

We are all weak.  God knows our greatest struggle will not be rolling our burdens away, but leaving them at His feet.  I can share with you, from experience, the act of not leaving the pain and grief with Him, is more arduous than the experience itself.  In Luke 24, after Jesus was crucified, then buried in a tomb, a stone was rolled in place to enclose the opening of the cave.  The next day, when the women came to the tomb, they found the stone had been “rolled away” and their Savior gone.  That stone would have been too heavy for anyone to move.  Our burdens are too heavy for us to do anything with them. They only function to block our way to the risen God.

In 1 Samuel 16, God tells Samuel to go find the next one he is to anoint to be king of Israel.  Saul was still on the throne. Samuel feared death if Saul discovered him anointing a new king.  Samuel asked God, “How can I go?”  God didn’t give him the whole plan, just the next thing.  God didn’t even tell Samuel who the next king was immediately. When we commit our way to God, we have to roll away our fear to be ready to do the next thing.  Our fear, worry, stress will hinder us from fully doing what God wants us to do in the next day, hour, or moment.  Cast off your fear and go to the next doctor’s appointment with hope.  Roll away your anxiety and make your resumé gleam with God’s promise of provision.  Leave your grief and continue to love and pray for that prodigal.

God’s way is not a way of darkness, but of light.  Paul was physically blinded by God’s light in Acts 9:3.  By rolling my burdens to Jesus and leaving them at his feet, is his blinding light shining in my life, giving others hope?  Because of His bright light in me, are others wanting to know God’s heart as I do?  It’s what God wants for each of His children.  For us to know His heart and live our lives reflecting His bright light.  With each trial and struggle, the more I have rolled away my burdens and clung to God, the closer I have been drawn to His heart.  There is no place I would rather be, but taken into God’s heart and bask in the glow of His light.

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In Pursuit of God’s Heart: Part 2 – What’s your heart condition?

In Part 1, we pursued the heart of God by trusting our shepherd and finding contentment in the pasture he has placed us.  Psalm 37:4 takes us to the next segment of wisdom.  It is one of the most over-used, yet misunderstood verses in the Bible.  The first part is often overlooked because we love to dwell on the second:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Our family recently adopted a 5-year-old boxer, Vega.  We delight in Vega, but not to the degree she delights in us.  There is nothing like watching a boxer greet you.  The lack of a tail does not diminish her excitement. Her entire rear end wiggles, almost doubling herself in half with glee.  In the morning, as each child comes down the steps, she greets them with that level of delight.  My hubby jokes that he would like to see us all joyfully greet him when he makes his return home like Vega does.

Vega delights in us because we love her, play with her, care for her, and she trusts us. She doesn’t have an overabundance of toys.  We don’t fill her belly with treats each day, although the children would like to.  We are her people, and that is all she needs.

In the same way, we should “Delight in the Lord” because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), and He sent His Son to die for us (John 3:16). He promises to always be with us (Matthew 28:20).  What more could we delight in than a Heavenly Father that loves us sacrificially and desires for us to spend eternity with Him?  That is truly delightful!

The second part of the verse is something people use like a lottery ticket.  Without delighting in the One who saved us, we like to think His job is to give us the desires of our hearts.  If we BELIEVE enough, TRUST enough, HOPE enough, we will prosper and be given all we desire.  This prosperity driven gospel, preached by many wealthy speakers is not truth.  The things I want or desire may not be in the best interest of myself or my family.  God is the only one who knows what is our best interest.

Jesus told us how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. Nowhere did Jesus pray for wealth and prosperity. In fact, he didn’t even have a home and was hated by many.  He didn’t live a desirable life.

In Acts, Paul, an extremely prosperous Jew strictly followed the law as an elite Pharisee. After persecuting followers of Jesus, God wrecked Paul and stripped him of his previous life. Paul’s conversion led him to a life of delighting in the Lord, losing all of the prosperity he had from his past. God didn’t give Paul the desires of his heart until God owned his heart. Then it didn’t matter, God’s desires became Paul’s desires.

Do we give Vega all the desires of her heart?  When she gets what she wants, it is often not good for her.  Frolicking around the neighborhood, unleashed, could lead to getting injured.  We are her owners and it is our job to let her know that she is loved and will always be cared for, but letting her do what she wants is not what is best for her.  Despite restricting her desires, she delights in us and is content in whatever we choose to share with her.

For a human, the desires of our hearts are fickle and not often in our best interest.  I would like to eat all of the ice cream in our freezer.  It has been a long day and ice cream is my favorite, but I’m trying to eat better, so that wouldn’t be good for me.  I would also like some new clothes and it’s been a while since I’ve had a pedicure, but we’re trying to be frugal right now and it wouldn’t be wise for me to spend the money.  Every day, my heart is tempted and I do not make the best choices for myself.  The bottom line is, God’s heart is way more reliable.  If He gave me the desires of my unreliable heart,  I would be unhealthy and bankrupt.

In Psalm 51, David asks God “Create in me a clean heart”.  David wanted a pure, fresh heart because his heart’s desire had just led him to adultery and murder.  He learned the hard way, that he could not trust his own heart.  David wanted God to own his heart so God’s desires would become his desires.

If King David, the man after God’s heart couldn’t trust his own heart, how can I?   I want God to OWN my heart.  I want God’s desires to fill my heart.  I want God to clean out everything else in my heart that is not of Him.  What’s the condition of your heart?  Does God own your heart?

Lord, I want to delight in and find my joy in you.   I ask that you take ownership of my heart.  God, create in me a fresh heart so that when you give me the desires of my heart, they will come from the new heart you have created within me.  

Amen

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In Pursuit of God’s Heart – Part 1: Are you a good sheep?

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The book of Psalms was mostly written by King David, a former shepherd.  He is known in the Bible as the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).   His writings reflect his observations of nature, something with which he was well acquainted as he spent time in the fields. David recognized God as his shepherd in Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing that I lack” (HSCB).  In pursuit of God’s heart, do I trust Him to be my Good Shepherd (John 10)?  More importantly, am I a good sheep?

The role of a shepherd is vital to the survival of the flock.  Margaret Feinberg, the author of Scouting the Divine, chronicles her time spent with a shepherdess in Oregon.  The shepherdess explained that “when a field becomes barren, sheep are unable to find safe new ground on their own; they need the careful guidance of their shepherd.”  In Psalm 37:3, sheep must trust their shepherd and be content in their pasture.  They are placed there for a reason.

To be honest, it has been a struggle for me to be content in my pasture.  I have written how I have seen God working in the midst of our new life in Louisiana, but everything hasn’t been “rainbows and unicorns”.  I miss the mountains from home, in Virginia.  I yearn for the familiarity of our church, schools, and community.  We moved from a county of 33,000 people to a parish of 112,000.  Here, roads, as well as stores, are congested. Frankly its just plain annoying.  Our house is…okay.  I left my “perfect for us” house in Virginia.  There are fantastic things about this house, but it came with plenty of quirks. One major factor is that many things just don’t work right, if at all, mainly the dishwasher.  A broken dishwasher with a family of 6 seems to be my plight in life, for those who know me well.

Our shepherd saw it fit to move us to a new pasture.  Apparently, ours was barren for us and as His sheep, we needed to be wise and trust our shepherd.  We have to obey and remain content in the pasture he has placed us.

The shepherdess in Feinberg’s book also said the chance of a flock surviving without its shepherd is zero.  She shared that sheep aren’t dumb, just defenseless.  I wouldn’t say our family’s lives would have been in danger had we remained in Virginia, but I do know how it feels to be out of God’s will.  If we are too busy dealing with our sin as a result of disobedience, we are leaving the door open for the enemy to attack, just as a flock would be threatened if they refused to follow their shepherd.

Trusting and obeying our Shepherd, as well as being content where He has put us, prepares our hearts for His leading. If we are too busy fighting the enemy as a result of our sin, we will miss God’s safe pasture within his heart.  There are blessings to be found in the pasture you are in!  There may be a time soon, where the shepherd sees fit to move you to another field.  He is the Good Shepherd, but are you being a good sheep, trusting and obeying where the shepherd leads, then finding contentment there?

We will soon be moving 30 minutes away.  Three moves in less than three years is a test of obedience (and patience).  My shepherd has proved faithful, and when He wants to lead me to a different field, I must trust Him.  I am thankful I chose to dwell here and enjoy this place.  I am also thankful we will not be so far away that I can still visit with the friends God added to our life since moving.  Encouraged, I look forward to our new pasture…with a working dishwasher.

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Whose are You?

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I always laugh when I see the phrase “I don’t feel like adulting today” or something similar. I have too many days like that.  Life has become over-complicated and I long for the days of being 5-years-old, sitting in my backyard making mud pies, while creating various imaginative scenarios.  The days of mud pie crafting are long gone, I often wish I could have a day where I could go back to the basics, without having to stress over caring for the little ones and all of the responsibilities of being a wife and mother.  I love my family, but I tend to overcomplicate things and stress over details that don’t really matter.

I do this in my spiritual life as well.  I have become enthralled with the life of St. Paul and how God wrecked him, to bring him back to the basics.  Draw him back to what really matters, back to God.  Paul was the elite of the elite in the religious world, knowing all there was to know about Jewish history and heritage, ensuring all others knew as well. He was so passionate about the laws of the Jewish faith, that violently persecuting those who spoke against those laws, or so he thought, became his mission.  Until, on a trip to round up more people who were a part of The Way (believers in Christ), God struck him blind and for the next few days.  God began stripping him of everything he had ever known and so fiercely believed in.  God broke him.  For three days, all Saul could do was to go back to the beginning, and cling to the only thing that remained, his Creator, God.

My oldest daughter shared with me about a friend that was hopeless.  She wanted to bring her a Bible and share scripture with her to help her find her hope there.  The friend’s struggles were far beyond any 12-year-old should have to bear, but my daughter wanted her to know the basics.  She wanted to let her know that she is loved and was created by a God who deeply cares for her.  She needed a basic foundation of God’s love for her.

Like Paul and that sweet 12-year-old girl, how often do I forget the basics, my spiritual foundation, whose I am?  Have I ever fully wrapped my brain around it?  I am a daughter of the King of the World (2 Corinthians 6:18), created in his image (Genesis 1:27), fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).  If I know these things in my head, have they gotten to my heart so that they reshape my thinking and my actions?  Do I live for others to see, whose I am?

The enemy loves to tell us who we are.  He can take over our thinking so quickly, making us believe we are not enough.  Not skinny enough, not happy enough, not holy enough…not enough.  My Heavenly Father only wants me to draw into Him so the enemy can stop telling me who I am NOT and God can tell me who I AM.

After all, he is the great I AM so He should know better than anyone.

Let’s all go back to the basics of remembering whose we are.  When life gets overwhelming, I have to come back to my foundation, God’s love for me.  Maybe it will make adulting a little bit easier.

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Acclimated…sort of

img_5882_pileofcrawfishSeven months should be plenty of time for a family to become acclimated to their new surroundings, right?  I don’t have to use my GPS nearly as much.  I have found my “go-to” grocery stores, shopping areas, and restaurants.  New routines and schedules are flowing, as well as diverse activities and events.  Band, BETA Club, church youth group, voice lessons, and soccer keep our schedule full, helping us settle more into our life here.

However, it’s funny how I keep getting reminded that I am really not a NATIVE Louisianan. The smell of boiled crawfish stimulates my gag reflex and sends my ten-year-old fleeing the grocery store. It’s crawfish season here.  All stores and restaurants are filled to the brim with the little crustaceans.  Understandably, it is also Lent, so everyone has to eat seafood since all other meats are taboo.  Whatever seasoning is used, my olfactory senses can.not. handle.it.

The weather is yet another adjustment that has yet to be made.  In southern Louisiana, it is either HOT or MILD…kind of like the food. Along with those two factors, it is WET.  I am reminded of this as I slosh across the soccer field in my flip flops.  Evaporation just doesn’t happen very quickly.  It is quite humorous to watch the soccer coaches try to maintain order in practice when the kids are jumping in the marshy grass.  Multiple umbrellas and towels are needed, as well as a trash bag for muddy shoes unless you want to spend your weekends vacuuming and shampooing the upholstery.

Along with the previous weather stipulations, I have learned never to trust the weather predictions.  There could be 0% chance of rain and an all-out thunderstorm could strike at any time, in the middle of soccer practice, naturally.  Basically, just plan for any type of weather and you should be just fine.

Our life in Louisiana has been an adventure and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, most of the time.  Surrendering my life to God means that He is in control of all of it, and I am just along for the ride.  Any time I attempt to regain control, I am an anxious basket case.  I am confident that God has placed us here.  If we should move elsewhere, I’m just along for the ride, taking each decision and moment as it comes.  All of this is just a reminder, that we are not to get too comfortable here.  For believers, we are reminded in 1 Peter 2:11, that we shouldn’t get too cozy here on earth since this isn’t our eternal home.  We are strangers, travelers, just passing through (Psalm 39:12).  God could keep us here permanently in Louisiana, or not.  Either way, I know where my real home is.  At least for me, I hope it will be 100% sunny, dry, mild, and without the smell of crawfish.

Calmed…within the Storm

The text immediately drove me to prayer.  Praying without ceasing was easy on this one because the news was without ceasing.  “God, they just can’t seem to catch a break.  God, please calm this storm! Isn’t enough, enough?”

I felt an urging to turn to my Bible and read in Matthew where Jesus calmed the raging storm and that had the disciples shaking in fear, begging for relief.  In Matthew 8:23-27 Jesus had been teaching and healing all day, he surely was exhausted.  To get a break from the crowds, he and his disciples climbed into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus fell asleep and a huge storm suddenly came upon the area.  The boat was being covered up by waves and Jesus continued to sleep.  The disciples started freaking out, waking up Jesus to rescue them.  Jesus spoke to the disciples about their weak faith and immediately calmed the storm.  I think that was pretty much a sanctified mic drop.

There were a few things I observed from the story.  First, the storm was SUDDEN.  In this area on the Sea of Galilee, sudden storms were pretty common.  Also, many of the disciples were fishermen, so they were used to being in a boat with a storm arising from nowhere. As a follower of Jesus, we are promised that we will have storms in our lives (John 16:33), so although storms may be difficult, we shouldn’t be surprised by them.  The disciples had been spending day after day, with Jesus, watching him perform miracle after miracle, and yet their fear was out of control during this storm.  We know God has taken care of us in the past, but another storm brings up all of the same fears, again and again.

Jesus was sleeping through all of it.  Y’all, the boat was rocking, the storm was loud, the waves were crashing, and he had to be getting a little wet, yet he didn’t wake up until the fear of the disciples awakened Him.  Oh, to have such peace in the midst of a storm, that we would not lose a minute’s rest on worry or fear.

After Jesus awakened, he rebuked the disciples, then rebuked the storm.  The disciples hadn’t grasped that their faith had everything to do with the authority of Jesus.  He was more concerned with their faith and them understanding that He was sovereign over the storm than actually calming the storm.  The disciples wanted the STORM TO BE CALM.  Jesus wanted to be their CALM IN THE MIDST OF STORM.

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I needed to change my prayer.

“Lord, calm us within the storm.  Help us be at peace as we ride out this storm with You.  The thunder may be loud.  The weather may be messy and the waves may be relentless, but fill us with your calm as we endure it with you.  You are LORD over the storm. Amen”

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Removed pt. 3

I expected our move would bring new experiences and a fresh start.  I was not anticipating new opportunities for me.  God placed specific people in my life who were “nudgers”. People who saw more potential in me than I saw in myself and felt no reservations in giving me little nudges toward what they felt God was calling me to.  I fully explained that God told me “no”.  That He took that ministry from me and I needed to yield.  Although they accepted my explanation, they didn’t stop urging and pressing that God may have different opportunities here.

One huge “nudge” came from someone for whom I have great admiration and respect.  A world-renowned Bible Study leader, writer, and speaker was going to be at the local Christian bookstore a few weeks after our move.  Beth Moore had just written her first Christian fiction novel, set in New Orleans, and was coming to have a book signing.  Upon meeting her, my tears flowed as I shared with her my journey and how I felt God telling me to wait.  She nudged and breathed great encouragement into me.  Beth urged me to keep studying, writing, and serving in small ways and one day, it will be evident that it is time for more.  Her words became embers of hope in my soul.

Another opportunity came for me to attend a Bible study at our church.  I had already been a part this study seven years prior and it happened to be my favorite, but I also looked forward to being a part of a study again. Not to mention, one of my loving “nudgers” wouldn’t leave me alone about joining the group. After attending the first session, yielding 50 participants, I immediately felt an urging that more leadership would be needed.  The women are divided into small groups for discussion, so I volunteered to lead one of the groups.  All I can say is that it felt so good to be “home”.  Leading a group of women in the study of the book of Esther fanned a small flame that had dimmed long ago.  It’s as if I felt God’s “nudging” that now was the time to begin moving forward in women’s ministry.

Yet another unexpected opportunity arose in the form of a conference specifically for young women pursuing a ministry of writing and speaking.  Beth Moore held a day-long conference called “LIT” for the sole purpose of encouraging and feeding the flame for the next generation of women.  “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?'” Jeremiah 23:29.  Two friends came along with me to experience twelve hours that would forever change our lives.  We worshiped, studied, and breathed in the inspiration of women who had paved the path ahead of us. We anticipated God moving in big ways for that conference and we waited for whatever that would be.  On our trip, each of us expressed a different burden that weighed on us. Completely unrelated to one another, but something that caused a heaviness in our spiritual journies.  Throughout the 12 hours, each of those burdens was spoken to, breaking us into tears, and lifting from our shoulders.  No one could have known what we needed to hear and be released from, except for God.  We left that weekend, breathing easier, with a new sense of calling. Within each of us was a flame that was strong and unwavering.

Redemption is defined as the removal of a possession in payment for a debt.  In order for God’s redemption to take place in our lives, removal is necessary.  Redemption requires removal.  I had given my life to God many years ago.  Surrendering my life to Him means that I have given Him control to do with my life as he pleases.  God wants to draw all of his children nearer to Himself and many times, he has to remove something that is hindering us moving closer.  Even if those things are good, they can become more important than solely focusing on our relationship with God and our family.

In order for God to redeem, He had to change my environment, removing things from my life that were not where He wanted me to be and taking me to a place where He could bring it all back, on His terms.  I am so thankful I learned to yield to God’s leading.  All that is now being redeemed is only because I allowed God to first remove it.

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I know now that I always need to return to my first ministry, my family.  It is only through waiting on God during that time, that I am able to move forward with the passion He has rekindled in me.  Removal was painful, bur redemption is healing and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.  Just as Jochebed must have experienced the gut-wrenching feeling of surrendering her son to that basket, God’s redemption and salvation of her people through her son, was that much sweeter.

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Removed pt2

img_4067I felt lost.  God had asked me to step back from everything I was passionate about.  I struggled to see how this fit in to my church and my life.  Saying “no” at every turn was so unlike me and yet, as I withdrew, my focus moved to my family.  My full term baby was born with underdeveloped lungs.  My husband needed a more devoted wife.  My children were growing with lightning speed.  My reluctant obedience became a blessing as God removed all of the extra things in my life to focus on what I had.  What remained was my original calling, to be a wife and mother.

For four years, they have been my sole focus and my soul focus.    My baby girl healed beautifully after a NICU stay.  Our family transitioned through job changes and moving twice.   My husband and I committed to building a stronger marriage. I am so thankful for the time I had to tend to their lives, helping them adjust to numerous changes.

Throughout that time, I waited for my passion for women’s ministry to die.  I felt that if my calling was temporary and God didn’t want me to pursue it, the yearning would just cease. That never happened.  I missed bonding with and teaching the women of my church desperately, but I knew my greater calling was with my family.

Our most recent transition to from Virginia to Louisiana was the true test of my path as a wife and mother.  Investing in my loved ones, keeping my attitude in check, and building a home in a new place brought me to my knees with the realization that “God’s got this”. All of this.  My four year hiatus was a preparation for our move and what I would encounter in the bayou.

In Exodus 2, Jochebed placed her baby in the basket with the full knowledge that “God’s got this”.  She knew God wouldn’t work until she let go.  He had greater things in store for what she so dearly loved and wanted to hold on to.  Jochebed had no idea the call God would place before her son.  I had no idea what God was going to do with this passion that I had abandoned, but still burned within me. It wasn’t until we moved to Louisiana that he began to give me glimpses of what was to come.

to be continued…

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