Monday, October 20, 2014

Get a Life!

Hi, my name is Alicia, and I am a stay at home mom.

Motherhood is a wonderful thing.  It's the single most productive, beautiful, life-changing thing I've ever done.  If you're a mother, you understand those times when you just stare at your child in awe.  In awe of so many things unexplainable - their beauty, their innocence, their ability to make your heart feel like it's going to burst at any given moment.  In fact, I'm watching my youngest eat cereal right now in her Cinderella dress and I don't think it could get any cuter than this.  Only a mother could appreciate a four year old chomping ungracefully on Kix while milk dribbles down her chin.  Ridiculously simple moments like this leave you feeling like your cup overflows.  

Then there are moments like last night.  It was a Sunday night, which are the worst.  You know Monday's right around the corner, and you're totally unprepared for it.  Where did the weekend go?  Oh wait - I'm a mom.  Looking ahead to another week of cleaning, cooking, teaching, and planning knocks that cup that was overflowing just seconds ago right over, spilling it's contents completely and leaving you running on empty.  Great, another mess to clean up. 

And so that is the pothole I tripped into last night.  I had gone to bed early, but awoke a little past midnight and was wide awake.  I sent messages to my sister and my mom, looking for someone to chat with.  Sis was out shopping, Mom was on her way back home from a birthday party with family.  That's when the pity train pulled up.  I haven't been shopping in over a year.  I haven't seen family in almost two.  As I compared my mundane schedule to their busy ones, those four pathetic words started swirling through my mind - I have no life.  On that note, I turned my computer off and went back to bed.

This morning something woke me up extra early.  I sat down with my coffee and Bible, and pulled out one of the Bible studies my mom had recently sent me.  I chose the one on John.  I need to get to know Jesus again.  I started reading.

John 1: "In the beginning was the Word...(v. 4) In Him was life..."  

I kept reading...

John 14:6: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life."

Life.  Life.  LIFE!  My Jesus had heard me.  In the dark - in that lonely place where I felt stuck in this never ending cycle of daily routines, when I felt like I had no life - He heard me.  He had heard, and He was responding, "I AM life."

Can we be honest and say that sometimes as mothers it feels like we have no life anymore?  And it's no wonder!  What do we say all the time?  "My children are my life!!"  The reality is that if we are searching for our identity in motherhood, we will ultimately burn out and find ourselves empty.  As worthy a calling as it is, motherhood will not fulfill us anymore than marriage did.  As much as God did not create you for the sole purpose of being your husband's wife, He did not create you for the sole purpose of mothering your children. 

It goes beyond motherhood.  No title in the world will fulfill you - "Father", "Boss", "Pastor", "Friend", "Teacher", "Doctor", "President".  Your schedule could be overflowing with purposeful events, and still not be fulfilled.  You could be the "life of the party" and have no...life

If you are looking around at your life and feel like everything you do is futile and you "have no life", look up to the One who is life.  Look to Him for your fulfillment and for your identity.  Take time for yourself to be filled by Jesus, and let Him breathe His new life into your tired heart.

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)







Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Waiting for April: Or Not

This is the conclusion of a three part entry.  If you haven't read the first two parts of this, please click here for Part 1: The Hope and here for Part 2: The Loss.

Seven years later, I still mourn the loss of April.  Even after seven years and two beautiful daughters, when I think about April something deep within the pit of me aches in a way that I'll never be able to explain.  Seven years later, and I still question God.  I don't believe I'll ever have closure here on earth, not until I meet my child in heaven and finally get to hold her for the first time.  I dream of that day.  I dream of April.  But I'm not waiting for April anymore.   

This sensation isn't limited to miscarriage or loss of life, either.  How many of us have "April"s that we're waiting for?  A dream, a hope, a promise, a comeuppance that we believe is headed our way?  We invest so much of our time and our thoughts, consumed in a fantasy of what it's going to be like.  How much better life will be when it happens!

But what does waiting even mean - putting things on hold?  What are we putting on hold?  Life?

We live in tomorrow, resting all of our faith and joy on this one hope.  We'd be better at this, if only we had that.  We'll finally be able to do this, once we have that. 

What's that? You want to meet and catch up?  Nope, sorry, I don't have time to meet and chat about today, I've got to get things ready for tomorrow! 

Before we know it, today has been wasted, and the only thing we have to show for it are plans - lists we've composed to prepare for the future, a vast assortment of great ideas we've pinned on Pinterest but we're hardly ever ready to actually attempt, and just another day full of trudging through to get to tomorrow.  (*Note:  I am a HUGE fan of Pinterest, by the way, and I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with it.  It is a more than helpful tool I use for homeschooling, and I have found a plethora of ideas that are great if used.  Key words: if used.)

There's a popular meme that circulates through Facebook quite often, in several different forms.



First let me say that I totally get the "hallway" feeling, and I've definitely felt it in my personal life.  Also compared to a "waiting room", I felt it with every negative pregnancy test I took in the six months following our loss.  Shoot, I feel it now as we get ready to transition from living here in Greece to finding out where we'll end up next.

What bothers me is that I've never been in a hallway that I wanted to live in.  I mean, most of the hallways in these memes don't even have chairs to sit down and rest!


 ...And some look like they're straight out of a horror movie! (You know the ones where they always run into the stairwell?  Seriously, who thinks that's a good idea?  If you're going up, you'd better be really good at climbing stairs because personally, I'd be slowing down after two stories.  If you're going down, I've tripped over less than that, and I wasn't running for my life!)

The very definition of a hallway is a passageway or route to get to somewhere else.  While I appreciate the message of praising God in the midst of any situation, I'm not so sure God wants us living in hallways, simply en route to another destination.  I hope I don't lose you here, but what is so wrong with the here and now that we don't even consider it a "room" in itself?  God is here and now, am I wrong?  What is in the future that we are grasping at, striving for? 

I know what you're thinking:  "But doesn't Paul say that he 'strains towards what lies ahead'?"  Yes, he does.  Paul is saying not to become complacent, but complacency is not what I'm selling here.

What I'm talking about it grasping at tomorrow for the sake of escaping today.  Where do we think we are headed that is better than the here and now, and why will it be better?  Were we promised tomorrow?  And if tomorrow doesn't come, does that mean we died in the "hallway"?  Did God really plan for us to die en route to another room?

Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying.  I think it is wise to be prepared and to know where you are going, and I think it's a God given emotion to feel excited about the future (especially pregnancy!), but when we set our hearts and our joy into the fulfillment of those plans I believe we've elevated them beyond mere "planning" and ventured dangerously close to idolizing some ideal that we are reaching for. 

When we discard today as merely a "hallway", instead of taking the opportunity to look around us and see what a rich and lavish life we have already been given (non materialistically), then it begs to question what more, exactly, do we think we deserve?  And why do we think that?  And if it's taken away does it shake our faith?  And why?  If it's taken away, is Jesus still Jesus?  Is God still the Alpha and Omega, the One who was there at the beginning, and the One who knows the end, who stands with His hand outstretched, asking us to follow Him along a path that He's set, even if He turns us in the opposite direction of our dream destination?

As of this moment in life, I desire to have more children.  After three years, that still hasn't happened.  It might happen one day.  Maybe next year, maybe in 5 years.  Guess what?  Right now, I have two beautiful daughters who fill my home with laughter.  Right now, I have a husband who I love more with each passing day.  But most importantly, right now and for the rest of eternity, I have a God who loves me, wants the best of the best for me, and has it all in His hands.  

Aren't you tired of waiting for things to happen?  Aren't you tired of abandoning your joy to a dream that may or may not come to fruition?  What if we placed those dreams in God's hands, and abandoned ourselves to Him instead?  What if we threw off the cares of tomorrow, and chased after Him today?

What if your April never comes? 

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith..." (Hebrews 12:2)

Waiting for April: The Loss

Click here to read Part 1, "The Hope".


Seven years ago, I shared the experience of losing April in my post here, but the story didn't end there.  My words may have ended very uplifting and full of faith that day, but my spirit definitely faltered.  For the next several months after the miscarriage, I became obsessed with getting pregnant again.  I'd like to believe that I wasn't trying to replace the baby we'd lost, but to be honest, I do think I was trying to replace something.  I was trying to replace that piece of me that had been ripped away so abruptly.

I'll never forget the dream I had while under anesthesia for the D&C (the procedure to remove the baby).  I could feel the suctioning, and in my dream it very literally translated to having my baby pulled from my arms.  I tried holding on with all my strength, but she was sucked away by a force that was beyond me.  I then held on to Danny, but he too started to be pulled away from me by the same force.  I clung with all my might until we were just grasping at fingertips.  I woke up from the anesthesia at that point, sobbing my heart out.  

I'm going to be very transparent and vulnerable with you now.  From the moment Danny and I became serious, and as we realized that we had something long lasting, I had a fear.  Like a pot of water set to boil, it started fizzing almost unnoticeable, and then quickly began bubbling over time.  To understand my fear, you kind of have to know some of my history.

Just seven months before Danny and I started talking, I had returned from my trip to China.  I was on the biggest spiritual high I've ever experienced to this day - my "mountaintop experience".  I was convinced I had a great future in missions, even having a teammate tell me that I was perfect for work in Asia.  I didn't see how having a family would fit in with this plan, and so I prepared my heart to sacrifice those desires in order to serve God abroad.  My heart was in China.  I even wrote a song about it, saying "Mei Guo, (America), if I come home, what do you have for my heart?  I found a true love in Zhong Guo (China)".  

Two months later, suffering from extreme depression, I dropped out of school.  Five months after returning home, I received the first message from my future husband.  After seven months of failure, it seemed unlikely that I would suddenly find love, but I enjoyed talking to him and he made me laugh.  It was refreshing to talk with someone who hadn't witnessed my failures, and when we spoke I even forgot about them altogether.     

As we grew closer, and more serious, that fear started bubbling.  It was a fear that I had somehow cheated God's plans.  I had failed, and was supposed to be in a season of punishment, right?  Yet somehow, I was sitting in the boat with my net in the water, and somehow I had caught a blessing.  Surely someone else's must've ended up in mine by mistake.  I started looking around, waiting for someone to start yelling out "hey!!  That's not yours!  You have to throw it back!"  I almost did, too.

In August, while in Florida, we visited Danny's church one Saturday afternoon.  I met his pastor, and the youth pastor, both whom he was very close to.  I also met a very sweet girl, not much younger than we were.  I walked around the church grounds while he talked with them, all the while feeling guilty.  I sat down on a bench and my mind raced as I prayed.  Was I stealing Danny from this awesome church home, a source of spiritual support that he needed as a man?  That girl seemed to really like Danny, was I stealing her future husband?  On our way back to his cousin's house, Danny was talking and laughing excitedly while I was quiet.  

"I think you should stay here," I blurted out.  Danny laughed.  "I'm serious," I continued, and tried to explain my reasoning which, frankly, I didn't even understand.  I was still talking when we pulled into the drive, trying to verbally work out my concerns.  Danny would have none of it, however, and told me that he absolutely refused to stay.  He had found me, and wasn't letting go.  All at once, I breathed a sigh of relief while simultaneously feeling like I had ducked God's plans again.  Little did I know but when I had been sitting on that bench, wondering if I should throw Danny back, he was speaking with his pastor about proposing to me the next morning.  

After the miscarriage, I began to fear that my "cheating" had caught up to me and God was beginning to remove these blessings that weren't really meant for me.  Like my dream during the procedure, I feared that the next to go would be Danny.  

I began to doubt God.  I didn't trust that God wanted something good for me.  He had taken away my baby, right?  If He wanted good for me, why would He do that?  Obviously, the plans I had and the dreams I had were better than God's plan.  My plans didn't include pain.  They didn't include loss.

I don't think this experience is unique to me.  Every loss that we experience is a reminder of how completely powerless we are.  Whether it be loss of a child or a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a promotion promised us, loss of a dream that you had invested so much time into, it reminds us that ultimately we are not in control.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Held"
by Natalie Grant

Two months is too little
they let him go, they had no sudden healing
To think that providence would take a child from his mother while she prays,
is appalling

Who told us we'd be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We're asking why this happens to us who have died to live, it's unfair

This is what it means to be held, 
how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
and you survive
This is what it means to be loved,
and to know that the promise was when everything fell
we'd be held.

This hand is bitterness,
we want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow

If hope is born of suffering, 
if this is only the beginning,
can we not wait for one hour,
watching for our Savior?

This is what it means to be held,
how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
and you survive
This is what it means to be loved,
and to know that the promise was when everything fell
we'd be held.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Click here to read the conclusion of Waiting for April.  

Waiting for April: The Hope

This post has been on my heart for awhile now, and I have so much to say on this topic.  I figured I should probably put it to words finally, especially since we are quickly approaching the 7th anniversary of the day we lost our baby (whom we refer to as April simply because she was due in April).  Please click on the link at the bottom to continue reading through the second (and third) parts.

Over a year ago, I wrote a song about the experience of finding out we were pregnant for the first time, then losing the precious baby we had already fallen in love with.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Waiting for April"

It was early September,
young love, young dreams, young plans running wild
Found out, with a smile on my face,
new hope of a new life growing inside
So I sat there, waiting for April.

Well, it was the first time I had something to lose (and I lost it)
And I know that seasons change, we all have to let go (at sometime)
But God You know, it was the hardest letting go
to let go of April

You know and I know this life is temporary,
but only God knows how many Januarys,
seasons, come and go over and over again
they say time heals, but God when will the pain end?
These winter deaths can chill you to the bone
but just hold on, 'cause someday we'll all go home.

On that day, when I meet Jesus face to face
I'd like to think He'll say
would you like to meet your baby?
and my April will come running to me...

But until then, I'll be dreaming of April.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


September of 2007 was such a joyful month for Danny and I.  We were planning and preparing for our wedding in October, eager to start our life together.  Life was extremely simple back then in our tiny one bedroom apartment, and full of so many dreams and possibilities.  Of course there were the typical frustrations that come with a new relationship.  Learning each others habits (the good, the bad, and the ugly), paired with the very meager income that we earned from contracting jobs, we definitely faced the unique challenges that come with that season of life.  Still, it didn't stop us from being young and silly.  We had water fights in the kitchen, spaghetti picnics on the living room floor, ate lunch everyday at work together, and spent a lot of time laughing.  When we found out we were pregnant, it was absolutely the happiest moment of my life.  Telling Danny was also one of the more ridiculous moments of my life.

Danny was out walking our puppy, so I decided to run in and test while he was out.  I honestly expected it to be negative, but as usual that voice of the childlike dreamer in the back of my mind was grinning giddily and hoping otherwise.  When I saw those two pink lines immediately pop up, I jumped up and down, stifling my screams of excitement in case Danny walked back in.  Then I scrambled, trying to quickly think of a cute and witty way to tell him the news.  He was going to be a Daddy!  

I'd seen those fun announcements where the woman has "Baby on Board" written on her tummy, so I went with that.  As I ran around the apartment searching for something to write with, I imagined how it would go down:

Danny returns from walking the dog.  With a strictly serious face, I casually mention that something is on my stomach, and can he please look at it to see if it looks normal.  Concerned, he agrees, and I smoothly lift my shirt to reveal the message.  A choir of angels start singing as Danny's face lights up with joy and joyously twirls me around as we both laugh, overcome with excitement.  

 Now where was a stinkin' marker when you needed one?  I was running out of time, and the only thing I could find was a green magic marker, so I flipped the cap off, wrote the message, put my shirt back down, and jumped on the bed just as I heard Danny walking through the door.  I must've been sitting there with an idiotic smile on my face, (I couldn't stop smiling as hard as I tried), because Danny stopped in the doorway, raised an eyebrow and said "you're pregnant, aren't you?".  My smile faded and my mouth dropped, "How did you know?!"  His eyes widened when he realized that he was right, and sheepishly I started to tell him how the news was supposed to be delivered as I lifted up my shirt to show him the message.  Upon seeing my stomach he recoiled in horror, pointing as he said "What is wrong with your stomach?!"  I ran to look in the mirror and broke out laughing when I saw what Danny probably believed was an early symptom of pregnancy:  the green magic marker had smeared, revealing not a message, but a huge swirl of hazy green tint surrounding my belly button. 

The next several weeks were a haze of wedding planning and dreaming of our future baby.  I was consumed with the pregnancy, constantly daydreaming about our baby.  Was it a girl or a boy?  What would we name him/her?  Would he/she look more like Danny, or me?  The excitement was overwhelming.  You can read just a hint of it in old blogs posted here.  Here's something I wrote when I was about 11 weeks pregnant:

"There's just so much to be thankful for, and every time I look at Danny, and every time my hand brushes my tummy, I still look up and think "wha??? all this for me?" 

I was the luckiest girl in the world.  The hope that I had for the future was blindingly bright.  After feeling like a loner for much of my life, I was now being showered with a family of my own.  It seemed too good to be true that God was blessing me, and I could not wait to meet our baby in April.  

Click here to read Part 2: The Loss


Friday, September 19, 2014

Silly Christian, crying is for unbelievers! (Part 2)

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."  (Psalm 42:5)

OH how many times I've sung this!!!  How many times have I cried and then when I'm done, wondered what in the world I was crying for?  As if I had no hope, no God who was mighty to save?
 I mean, if I think it's ridiculous once I've regained my composure, how does GOD feel about it?

I have a very strong feeling that God is NOT okay with us resorting to tears and complaining at every little setback.

The Israelites did their fair share of complaining against God.  Even after seeing God's signs in Egypt, including the parting of the Red Sea, they complained as soon as they became thirsty. (THIRSTY!  They just watched God turn water into blood, flood the land with frogs and flies and all kinds of plagues, bring down a pillar of fire from heaven, split the sea for them to walk across, and the minute they get thirsty they start crying that they're going to die?!  Because, well of course God can split the seas, but giving us some water to drink, now that's a different story!)  Time after time, God provided, and time after time they complained once they became thirsty and hungry again, as if they had totally forgotten that not only was God totally capable of providing, but He desired to.  And while God was merciful, allowing for a bit of a learning curve,  He would not tolerate it forever.  There came a point when their complaining cost them everything.

Sometimes, in reading about the Israelites, I want to jump through the page and shake them all.  "You have seen with your own eyes the power of God!!!  You are SO close to the Promised Land!!!  You're RIGHT THERE!  Just GO IN!"  The Israelites had reached the Promised Land, but when they heard of the giants in the land, they doubted again.  They reduced God's power to be insufficient next to the people who lived in the land.  The same people who had witnessed God's power in Egypt now believed that He had not enough foresight to see this obstacle, and that He'd made a promise He couldn't keep.  They begged to turn back to the shackles in Egypt rather than believe God's promise.  For that, they wandered in the desert until the complainers died off, and their children inherited the promise. 


The funny thing is, as much as I want to shake the Israelites, I'm just like them.  So many people, including myself, have asked the question "if God is God, why doesn't He just show Himself?  Why doesn't He come down, and fix our problem with a miracle?" (Where's my pillar of fire?) Well, we see how well that worked with the Israelites.  I can tell you a lot of miraculous and unexplainable things have happened in my life.  It may not be fire from heaven or parted seas, but it has been obvious on several occasions that God has stepped in to sustain me.  And yet, when the next setback comes, despite ALL that He's done, I almost unfailingly question God.  I may as well be crying as if I was an unbeliever and I had no hope.

We all have setbacks, and we will continue to have them until we go home to be with Jesus.  But if you are living, and if you are breathing, then God has sustained you.  I cannot count the many times that I've felt like the world was crashing down, only to survive the situation and totally forget about it.  In the moment, it seems monstrous and insurmountable, but looking back it's like holding a polaroid picture up next to an album full of your life story -  it is completely miniscule.

I'm still in this swamp, but with God's direction, I'm finding my way out.  I want to live in the reality of how big God is.  When I'm met with a difficult situation, I want to immediately remember how God has never once left me on my own.  I want to make it to my promised land.

"Who among the gods is like You, O Lord?  Who is like You - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?...In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed.  In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling."  (Exodus 15:11-13) 

If you missed it, read Part 1 of this post here! 

Silly Christian, crying is for unbelievers! (Part1)

I've had enough.  I am totally and inexplicably fed up.  For eight years now, I have been wandering in this swamp called "defeat".  At times, I stepped out of the muck, and even made some ground walking away from it, but always returned whenever the obstacle proved to discourage me more than my desire to leave encouraged me.

Can I be transparent and admit to something?  After awhile, the muck even started to feel soothing.  It became soothing to waltz slowly through the junk that weighed down my life.  It became typical to shut down, and almost zombie-like, return to the place of self-pity, self-loathing, and self-everything.  Obstacle coming further on up the road?  No problem, I'll just go ahead and head back now.

That is, until the most recent string of obstacles hit.  At first, a few arrows split the air and pierced me in a few different places.  I was already heading over to my place of wallowing despair when the last one hit.  The initial shock and sting of the situation, as usual, brought confusion and the typical "where are You, God?" questions.  But as the tears started to blur my vision, and the songs of "why me" began to play, it was as if God Himself stood up and cried "ENOUGH!".  It was as if He stretched out His hand and froze time, and while I sat there crying, (and now frozen), He grabbed me out of the muck, set my feet on solid ground, and wiped my tears away.  And when I blinked, I was standing, and the most beautiful song of praise filled the air.

There are only so many times you can resort to tears.  Don't get me wrong, tears can be wonderful.  They can show the overwhelming emotion of happiness when the love of your life proposes, or when you hold your child for the first time.  They can flow from the natural pain of losing someone you love, and they can also pour from a heart that's deep in worship, overflowing in awe of God.  In the right moments, tears can be very cathartic.  Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything, and it includes weeping and mourning.  However, God did not create us to be ruled by our emotions.

In Joshua 7, the Israelites suffer a small setback at the hands of their enemies.  Joshua tears his clothes, and falls on his face before God, staying there until the evening.  He cries to God, and starts his own string of "why" questions (that sound hauntingly familiar).  "Why, God, did you bring us this far to leave us?  Why couldn't we just stay back on the other side, why did we ever believe that we could have more?  We're ruined now, no good can come from this.  How could You possibly turn this into good for Your glory?"

The thing I find probably the most interesting, is that it seems like Joshua is doing a very holy thing here.  He's on his face before the ark of the Lord, crying to God.  That's what we're supposed to do, right?  God's not having any of it, though, because then He says, "STAND UP!  What are you doing down on your face?"  Seems kind of cold, right?  I think it's just the opposite.

When I read God's response, I get the feeling that He's thinking "What are you talking about?  Who told you the fight was over?  Who told you the battle was lost?  GET UP and take care of what needs to be done!"  God desires for us to win the battle.  He's not into wasting time moping and being downcast.  He knows what a field day the enemy has when we're on our face wallowing in despair.  Sure, there are times to lay face down, humbly before God.  Those are the times when we are overwhelmed by awareness of the goodness and power of God, humbled by His grace.  But during those moments when we are so consumed by our situation, we need to be looking up in order to see where our help comes from, instead of burying our face in the sand. 

I wonder if Joshua felt a little foolish.  Here he was making a big spectacle over it that even the elders got involved, ripped their clothes, and covered themselves in ashes.

I feel like as Christians we've learned to make a big ceremony over setbacks.  In a weird way, it seems as though some Christians parade around, wearing their "trials and tribulations" like badges, and the more you have, the more faithful a servant you are.  This may sound a little cold hearted, but when the Bible talks about "trials and tribulations", flat tires and speeding tickets just aren't the first things that come to mind.  It's become a joke to talk about "first world problems", but the reason why people laugh is because it's a sad, sad truth.  I guarantee you we all have been to that place where we find ourselves falling on our face before God because our week was just full of these "attacks by the enemy".  Alarm clock didn't go off, late for work, no parking spaces up front, spilled coffee on your favorite blouse, car was towed because you parked in a no parking zone, got a flat tire on the way home, burnt dinner, bounced a check...are these things REALLY testing our faith?  The "arrows" we're suffering daily don't really have to puncture very deep to get us to flinch, do they?  Meanwhile, there are Christians in other parts of the world being jailed and executed for believing in Jesus.  There are Christians in hiding, starving and fighting for their lives and religious freedom. 

I'm not saying that our problems are nonexistent or that we shouldn't cry out to God over them.  I've had plenty of situations that have dropped me to my knees.  Our battles are our battles, and when you're trying to figure out how you're going to pay the bills sometimes it feels like the world is just crashing down around you.  There are so many people with broken hearts, people weighed down by depression, and people who are sick and hurting.  We each have legitimate scars and suffering and I am no one to minimize that.

 What I'm saying is that when we drop to our knees in prayer, we should be quick to acknowledge God's omnipotence and authority over even these little earthly things, and not allow the enemy to paralyze us in despair.

One of the most emotionally painful things a woman can go through is barrenness.  I love to read about Hannah.  She was beyond broken in spirit, she was crushed.  She fell before The Lord in prayer, sobbing and pouring her heart out to God.  After Eli blessed her, though, she got up, dried her eyes, and moved on.  The Bible says her "face was no longer downcast." (1 Samuel 1:18).

 If we truly saw our situations in light of God's glory, in light of ETERNITY, I think we'd be quicker to truly believe Him when He says "for I know the plans I have for you...not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11).  How many of us know that verse, quote it, yet don't rest in the truth of it?

If we truly saw our situations in light of God's glory, I think we'd be like Hannah, quick to cast off the robes of mourning and move on with our day, confident that God had heard our cry.   We'd be quicker to recognize our situations for what they are - temporary setbacks that have nothing against the One who holds all things in His hands.  After all, are we not worth so much more to Him than the birds and flowers of the field? (Matt. 6:28)

Read Part 2

 



Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring is Here (Part 2)

The snow has melted, and the earth lies cold and bare.  Birds hop excitedly on the newly thawed earth, and their melody, a new song, is carried through the breeze.  The bravest stems slowly venture through the leaves on the ground, and met with the warmth of the sun, begin to open their leaves.  The trees begin to form buds, and the whole earth awakens from it's long slumber.  The death of winter is forgotten, and all things are made new.


Spring is here.



The transition between winter and spring is a moment of awakening.  Rubbing your eyes, you sit up and survey your surroundings.  As the blurry world comes into focus, you are painfully aware of how different the scenery has become.  You see the life that has died, and briefly panic at what's been lost.  You wonder if things will ever be the same, and curse yourself for not being able to stop the winter from coming.   As the sun shines down, though, revealing the colors of spring, it also brings new clarity to what has happened.

There have been times when I would look back at the person I was before my season of depression and feel a sense of loss.  I had even gotten into the habit of telling my husband "if you could only see me then, I was such a better person".  But as this new season of spring begins to lighten my heart, and new buds begin to blossom in me, I see that it wasn't the best of me that died in that season.  It wasn't the joy, and it wasn't the peace that died.  Nor the patience, nor the kindness.  It couldn't be any of these things that died, because these were not fruits of myself, born of seeds that I planted in my own life.   These are fruits that have an endless supply from the outpouring of God's Spirit. 

Neither was it my salvation that died.  As the tree remains grounded with it's roots running deep, untouched by the winter, so my foundation built on Christ alone continues to stands firm.

As I start to take inventory of my mind and spirit, I realize that all that has been lost is any hope that I had in myself.  Any ability I had to feed my own spirit, any confidence in myself and in my accomplishments, has died and fluttered to the ground like leaves that feed a tree.  All that remained in the dead of winter, all that I had to stand on was my foundation in Christ, and His word stored in my heart.

And I realize this is what God intended winter to do.  To kill the facade.

In the very first stages of Spring, new life slowly emerges in us, and we step cautiously just in case winter decides to return.  The longer we are exposed to the warmth of the sun, however, the more comfortable we become.  As we forget the darkness, we begin to freely bloom and blossom in the light.  One morning we wake up, and the entire Earth is covered in green, brushed with flowers of  brilliant colors. 

As we begin to notice how beautiful we have become, adorned in fruits of the Spirit, we can quickly become arrogant.  We start to believe that somehow it was our own cultivation that created this life.  We fool ourselves into thinking that the sweet fragrance of the Holy Spirit is actually emanating from within ourselves.  We assure ourselves that we are not being prideful, saying things like "I am confident in who I am in Christ", and "I am wonderfully and beautifully made".  Peeking into the neighbor's garden, uncultivated and covered in weeds and dead brush, we turn our noses up and secretly commend ourselves for being stronger than that, strong enough to survive the winter.  On the outside, we give God the credit, but deep on the inside we start to believe in our own strength.  We hardly notice as the thorns of pride and the weeds of self-assurance start to entangle themselves in our lives. 

Winter becomes a distant memory, and we start to forget how desperately we cried in the darkness, when the freezing cold paralyzed us.  We forget the Name that we so humbly pleaded for when we awoke in a devastated garden.  We forget the Gardener who answered our call and rushed over to pull the weeds and clear the brush, the Sun who fed and nourished our starving hearts, and the Water who satisfied our dry and thirsty lips. 

Without winter, we would have no reason to rejoice in the spring.  But without the Gardener, spring only brings a garden suffocating in the remnants of death devastation from winter.  As we mature, we begin to recognize the piercing of thorns and the suffocation of weeds, and we call the Gardener to pull them immediately.  Eventually, springtime becomes longer, and winter seldom comes.   

Winter is necessary, but Springtime is beautiful

New leaves are beginning to open up in me, and everyday I find a newly formed bud, waiting to blossom.  I breathe in deeply the sweet, familiar fragrance of the Holy Spirit, and I could stand in the warmth of the sun for days.  I am being made new for the seasons to come.  I am not the same person I was before, but I am walking closer to the same God who was, and is, and is to come. 





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