Friday, February 28, 2014

I am affected

(Photo by Tara Gourley)
I am overwhelmed as I write this. That's probably because, right now, it's still Wednesday. Oh, sweet Wednesday. This blog has never seen so many beautiful readers. Plus, I got a chance to bless and be blessed by the woman who has been my hero since I first picked up her book. Needless to say, it was a big day for me. Anyway, despite my brain being in a blissfully frazzled state, I have a blog post to write. Right? Right.
I have been tuning in to what affects me lately. My habits, my hobbies, my relationships, the things I do when I think I've earned a break, what plays when I plug in my headphones, etc. I've been thinking a lot about my future, and I have all these crazy big dreams, that quite honestly, I don't deserve. And so, this is how I'm looking at things now: If I expect a fabulous husband who is devoted to God, disciplined, respectful, a good listener, etc., then I should be willing to fight to become a woman who deserves such a man. If I hope for darling children who call me "Mama," and run to me with their every problem, and love me to bits, then I must begin now by being "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." (James 1:19) If I think I may end up serving in some foreign country as an ambassador for Christ, then not only must I start by being an ambassador for Him right here and now, but I must truly consider what I will and won't need on such a journey. What things do I cling to that are thoroughly unnecessary? It's a humbling thought.
So I examine, with such things in my mind, all these aspects of my life.
I look at my vanity. Am I truly looking for a man who fell for my well put-together outfits and my makeup covered face? He would eventually end up having to see me in my pajamas and a messy bun, face red from exertion ... I want someone who loves me even then. Thus, moving that train of thought further down the track, I must become less appearance-focused. It has always taken more effort {I'm ashamed to admit} for me to love people who don't meet my standard of beauty or style. I'm asking the Lord to purge this from me, because it's ugly, to be blatant. Moving on ... I don't want my babies to remember their Mama as someone who got up two hours early so she would look perfect before church {guilty}. I want them to remember me getting up two hours early so I could be with Jesus, and maybe sometimes getting so distracted by Him, that I rush into church five minutes late, looking like a mess. I want them to have a Mama who cares about what truly matters. So I'm trying to be that person now. Maybe it'll be a habit by the time I hold a wee one of my own. Then there's missions. Seriously, Lydia. How many makeup brushes and perfect outfits would you be able to take? And who would care? Chances are, all that room would be usurped by shampoo and conditioner bottles, sunscreen, body wash, lotion, etc. ... I cannot deny that I will probably always want to smell nice. But I doubt I always will smell nice, because there are things that I want more.
I look at my iPod. Will my husband appreciate my love for mindless apps? I certainly hope not. I want to use technology to make me more efficient and aware, not more distracted and lazy. Will my kids laugh as I dance over finally beating that Candy Crush level, or will they see me crying over the worship song I'm listening to as I clean the bathroom? Something tells me that were I among the starving children in Africa, I wouldn't care about a single one of my apps. Should that really change, just because I can't see them from here? I know they're there. That should affect me.
I look at what I do with my free time. Will my man admire the way I multitask - checking Pinterest while I wait for the commercials to end so I can get back to watching Castle? Or will he see me reciting memory verses as I clean? I do not want my children to think that free time is earned, and thus it is acceptable to waste it. I want them to see me making use of every moment. And something tells me that missionaries don't try to just cure boredom in their spare moments.
I look at how I respond to minor disasters. I turn into this freaked out ball of stress and I scream at every surprise that follows. It ain't pretty. I don't want a fella who finds that attractive. He'll be searching for someone who keeps a level head in tough situations. I want to be that girl. I want to be the mama that spills something and then laughs at herself so hard that she cries. Not the one that growls at them in frustration when they make a mess ... like I growl at my brother now. (Is it obvious to anyone else yet that I need some fixing?) I do not represent Christ well if I do not trust Him in even the small problems of my life. People don't look a person who is constantly worried and think, "I want what they have." No ma'am.
I look at how I structure my day. Punctuality is not a bad thing ... but is it the most important thing? Will being two minutes early to everything really make me a better wife? I want a guy who falls for me when he sees me doing something incredibly ridiculous; not caring how much time is passing. I want to be the Mama that spontaneously sets up a blanket fort, makes s'mores, and watches Disney while snuggling her babies. I want to be the girl who starts tickle fights with African little ones.
This is the kind of life I'm looking for. This is the kind of woman I want to become. But I can't just wish my way into my ideal of a great person. It takes prayer. It takes a fight. And so, all that to say, I'm praying and fighting.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dear Ann {Coffee for Your Heart}

This week's prompt from Holley Gerth is "Who inspires you?" Simple enough, but I didn't just want to say some names and leave it at that. I chose one who has profoundly impacted my life, and I wrote her a letter. She may never see this post, but I am posting it anyway. 

(image via Google)
           Dear Ann,
You may or may not remember me. I don't know if I want you to or not. I emailed you as a girl a little younger, and a lot less secure. I emailed you in tears, and you replied in love. But at that point, you had already inspired me.
I pulled your book off my mother's shelf, on a happy and altogether forgettable day ... I didn't journal that day, so that's all I know. I had stopped journaling when life stopped sounding prettier on paper. And I'd long forgotten why it was worth the fight. The pages of that book witnessed a journey ... one that still blows my mind. We left the church I called home; a place that I had so deeply based my identity and my life on, that I wound up losing track of who I was, and this thing called a life that is worth it. I became convinced that there was nothing good left. And as I felt this, and I read your pages, there was a conflict. "Life is beautiful ... but mine is not." It made sense in my head at the time. It didn't make sense in my brother's. I made excuses to him. I was going to wait until I finished the book to start counting gifts, naturally. He told me that was ridiculous. Well, I wanted to have a nice book to put them in, first. He threw a composition book at me, told me I could keep it, and handed me a pencil. Why not start now? To tell the truth, I didn't want to start then, because I believed that there was nothing left to be thankful for; nothing that mattered anyway. But he's never been the type to listen to me, and he told me to start writing. No excuses, no questions asked. It rings in my head now, looking back, what you once said: "There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. The first gift I wrote down? I wrote "Nutella," in all caps. No lie.
Thank the Lord, I'm stubborn ... I didn't stop there, and I haven't stopped since. I broke 2100 recently. My heart broke a long time before that point. As I ended each night by naming three things that were beautiful in my day, I reopened my diary, due to another dear woman's influence. But I refused to write anything sad. What came out of that was a long section of wishy-washy words about a life that was so great ... some pages filled even as I cried. This was madness.
Then I read two words. Just two. I'd never seen them hyphenated into loveliness together before. Ugly-beautiful. Could it really be that simple? I cried often during this journey, but here, here is where I think I may have cried the most. If I believed God was good, why couldn't I believe that He was able to bring beauty from what I deemed ugly? If I thanked Him for only the obviously and easily good things in my life, I simultaneously was denying that He was powerful enough to give beauty to every circumstance. I hadn't even thanked Him for my new church ... the church that I didn't call "mine" or "ours" until we had attended for over a year. I called it by its name, and I doubted that good could come of it. I mercilessly compared it to what I had known, and I refused to accept it for what it is and was. I was so utterly blind  to God's work in that place; in those people. The songs that made me roll my eyes then, now make those eyes flood with tears. In keeping my pain from God, I had kept His healing from me. In the same way, when I had refrained from thanking Him, it was the same as cursing Him. I didn't believe He was that good. Surely He couldn't bring joy out of this. Not when I clutched it to my chest in a fisted hand! I needed to give thanks to receive the gifts. I needed to give Him my pain, in order to receive His healing. Oh, to live with hands wide open.
So here I am, over a year and a half later. That composition book is nigh half-full. I proudly call that church my own. I cry when I'm hurting, and I write. I smile when I'm happy, and I write. And as I read over those words with retrospect, I see the beauty that God has fashioned out of both.
You inspire me, Ann Voskamp {without even a fanciful "e"}. God used you in my life to do beautiful, extraordinary things. And I honestly cannot thank Him enough.
Your book inspired me to live gratefully, and fully, right where I am.
You were there for me, through your blog,when I felt like no one else was. You inspired me, through that, to start this, my baby blog, and one day, should this little bird ever take wing, you can watch it fly, knowing you were used to help it grow its wings.
Your photos inspire me to see the wonder in the everyday.
Your heart inspires me ... it reminds me of His.
You, Ann, are far from ordinary, and dare I say, a true gift.
If we do not meet in this place called earth, I'll have a hug saved for you in our heav'nly home. Pinky promise.
As always,

Friday, February 21, 2014

My "Plan"

(Photo by Tara Gourley)
Graduation looms, ever nearer. I have about thirty days left of this whole "school" thing, and mid-May will find me awkwardly standing in front of my loved ones and giving a speech. No doubt, my hands will be shaking. Ferociously. It seems like everyone else has a plan (with a few exceptions to this). They are getting ready for college, applying for internships, and most already have jobs, even if it is just working at McDonald's to make ends meet. Or because their parents made them. I'm not sure. It confused me, and I didn't ask. Anyway .... I don't have a job, unless you count babysitting once a week (if it isn't cancelled). And I don't have a plan, unless you count desperately seeking God and begging Him to pretty please show me what to do.
It's hard when you honestly don't know. Right now, I'm doing the "one step at a time" thing. Today, that means that I wake up. I get into the Word. I exercise, because just because I don't have a clean bill of health, doesn't mean I can't strive to have a healthy body. For that same reason, I eat, and I take my ridiculous vitamins. I try to look nice, because who knows what the day will bring? Those were the little steps. Now for the bigger ones. I do my schoolwork, because education matters to me. I attempt to learn to sew, which is basically a battle to overcome my fear of the sewing machine. I write my final research paper. I invest in relationships. My sister tries to teach me to cook. Learning, striving, living, loving. When you do that, I don't think you can stray too far  off course, but to remain on His course, I must be constantly returning to the Lover of my soul. 
So this is it, then. My plan. No matter where I end up a year, two years, ten years from now, I just want to be close to Him. I could be furthering my education; learning every scrap that I can. I may end up a writer, or teaching little ones. Those little ones could be calling me "Mama." I could travel the world, or maybe just one city ... journal in hand; I could be a tourist. Or maybe a different kind of journey awaits me. Will I call a patch of red dirt under an unrelenting foreign sun "home"? Will missions make a firm and final claim on my heart? I could end up reaching people in any way, shape, or form ... but as long as I'm reaching for Him ... it will be beautiful. 
Still ... I get the inevitable questions: "What are you going to do with your life?" "Don't you have plans?" "Why aren't you going to college?" Most days, it takes most, if not all of my willpower to not run away from the person who poses such a question, screaming my head off about injustice or something of the like. I don't handle pressure well. So I blurt out the options I have thought of; the things that sound actually possible, and between those, I mutter my hopelessly extravagant dreams, and I pray those aren't the ones they notice. I must be true to myself, but, if there's a time when it seems like being true to myself and being true to my Maker are two very very different things, I must choose Him. Always. Every day. Even if it seems like the path He leads me on goes against my every inclination; forces me to face all my biggest fears. His way, not mine. Ever, only, always.
Martin Luther King, Jr. ... he said it so eloquently:
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"
This is what I want. A life lived with such abandon and submission to my Creator, that even if my daily duty is as seemingly insignificant as street sweeping, others will see the worth in my work, and know Who it is that I work for.

Monday, February 17, 2014

06. I Need Thee Every Hour -- Healing

(Photo by Anna Hart)

"I need Thee every hour, Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee
O bless me now my Savior--I come to Thee."
I struggle to focus as I write this. The television flashes at me, silent. The cat vies for my attention. Text come in. Everything is trying to pry me away from this, and I let it ... because I am sorely tempted to just forgo this question altogether. I'll just out with it.
6) Can God heal me? (via you-know-who)
This question. I've been dreading answering it since I first read it. It makes me uncomfortable. These things always do; the things you know, but you struggle to believe. It is easy to say, "I believe that God can heal," but it is so much harder to say, "I believe He can heal me."
I cannot go an hour without Him - every second, I need His help just to get through. Slowly, I am learning to trust Him with the little things, but what is that, if not training for me to trust Him in the big things, the life-changing things ... everything?
Believing that He can heal my body seems a lot less radical than believing He can give me eternal life in heaven. And yet I believe one and not the other. The truth is this, I have a hard time believing that I am worth miraculous healing. I think, so-and-so deserves it more, "she's in so much pain, and she has such faith!" I wonder if much glory be gained for Him through me no longer having headaches, joint pain, stomachaches, anxiety attacks, insomnia, etc. Why not give sight to the blind?
No glory can be given to God if I am not putting my faith and trust in Him. I am in need of a full healing. I am broken. I am crushed in areas that He intended to be whole. I struggle to trust. I stress. I worry. I lose control. I constantly need Him to mend what is broken in me; to heal me. I need the peace that only He can offer, and so, I come to Him in surrender.
"I need Thee every hour, Stay Thou near by;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee every hour, In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, Or life is in vain."
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8) If I am coming to Him, then He in turn is coming to me. The temptation to doubt has no place in His presence. I long to be near enough to Him to touch; to cling. Because I need Him desperately. I need His help in times of joy, to keep my focus and affection where it belongs, and I need Him in the pain, to help me not to give up. So yes, I believe that God can heal me. He is completely powerful, and there is nothing too big or too small for Him to handle. But will He? If I can give Him more glory in my life in health than I can in sickness, I believe He will heal me. But, honestly, He is doing such crazy good things through the pain. I would rather live near to Him in this trial than to live healthily, but separate from Him. May I always choose what is better. May I always choose Him.
"I need Thee every hour, Teach me Thy will,
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill."
          ^^^^ Just that. I have nothing more to add.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Cozy Kinda Post

This is a new experience for me, this whole idea of waiting until the day before something should be posted to begin to press the lettered keys. I have no prompt, no series, no idea of what I am supposed to be writing.
Help me, Jesus.
I haven't left my house this week since church on Sunday. Would you believe this is only a little bit abnormal for me? I usually get out of the house an average of four-ish times a week. I've had a lot of time to think, and to learn, and one of the things I've thought and learned is that my people are pretty great. My family, my friends, my acquaintances ... they rock. I celebrated another birthday this Tuesday, and for some reason, everyone went out of their way to make me feel special. The row of cards I received rivals the Great Wall of China {I exaggerate}. The texts people sent me turned me into a gooey emotional ball. I heard the Birthday song about 4932903 times. People called. E-cards and emails were opened. Presents were received .... Love was felt. And I didn't even have to travel a single mile to feel it. I've honestly never had so many people make an effort to make my day ... and succeed, no less! These people are my teachers daily.
I have learned that it is worthwhile to take over a portion of someone's workload. Few things beat the look of relief on a person's face when they discover that the pile of dishes has magically vanished.
I have learned that nearly nothing is better than a video of your 15+ favorite kids sing-screaming Happy Birthday to you.
I've learned that my profound addiction to oatmeal raisin cookies is a beautiful thing, and should be encouraged, not neglected. {Plus, they don't give me headaches. Win.}
I have learned that "a person cannot receive even one thing, unless it is given him from heaven." (John 3:27) Another of my memory verses ... causing me to stop in wonder and gratitude for all these people, these gifts, that morning sky ... "Every good and perfect gift is from above." (James 1:17) I can't get over how God saw fit to shower me with such goodness.
I have learned that I am a fan of body butter, City Harbor, and Revlon Colorstay eye shadow, among other things.
I have learned that I don't like snow. Old lesson. Still applies. I'd like it to fall for five minutes a day every winter, just so I could get the wonder of watching it, without the evil side effects. You know?
I've learned to sew. Well, a little. I finished my second project. Baby steps.
I've learned that I could talk to the people that I love all day long, and never grow tired of it.
I have learned so many other things, but something tells me you're bored. I'm sorry. It's freeing to sit here and just be for a little while. I know this isn't my normal post style, but it's comfortable, and on a day like this, that's what I'm going with. Don't worry, the focused-on-one-topic Lydia will return shortly. But not today. Today, I am wearing my bright yellow apron just because I made it, it's pretty, and I can. Today, I will relax.
Consider yourself loved.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I Promise {Coffee for Your Heart}

(via Holley Gerth)
(Photo by Tara Gourley)
This week's prompt from Holley Gerth is, "No matter what happens, you're going to be okay because ..." Celebrating with this sweet woman as her new book has just hit the stores. Pick up You're Going to Be Okay asap - you won't regret it, I promise. 
These words are honestly what I need to hear on those days when the tears just won't stop falling. "You're going to be okay" is adequate in itself, but when someone dares remind me that there are certain things I can always depend on and cling to? This is what my heart needs. But darlin', I'm not speaking to my heart today ... I'm talking to yours.
Hear you me:
No matter what happens, you're going to be okay because ... He has promised. Think about that for a decade, please. The word "promise" is not one He takes lightly, and neither should you. To paraphrase the good old dictionary definition, a promise is the declaration or assurance that something will be done, or something will happen. Now do not breeze this over. Our world has taken those words, "declaration" and "assurance" and stomped all over them. When you hear of a promise nowadays, chances are, you hear of it simply because it was broken. Take a second, girl, and remember that God never breaks His promises. Not a one. I know it's hard to imagine that, but it's so true.
No matter what happens, you're going to be okay because He is with you. "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) If you feel like you're all alone, He is with you. If the pressures of this world seem to rip you apart, He is with you. If no one understands you, He is with you. He is the One we can depend on. "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." (Psalm 118:8) "The Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6) Who on this earth could make such promises?
You're going to be okay because He is in control. Nothing in this world is too big for Him to handle; there is nothing that can faze His perfect plan. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) "Take heart, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) "'For I know the plans I have for you', says the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) When your plans fall through, He is in control. When your dreams are crushed, He is in control. When all hope seems lost, He is in control. No matter what.
He loves you. Take hold of this promise. Write it on your hand. You cannot dare to forget it. I know, for I've tried. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16, emphasis mine) This is love, people. Crazy, radical love. When you have a love like this, what can stop you? What can harm you? The worst thing this world has to threaten us with is death, and that simply takes us into our Savior's loving arms even faster. When you just can't get through the day, He loves you. When the night seems so long, He loves you. When the voices in your head and in your life try to drown you with  negativity, He loves you.
He cares about you. Even about the little things that worry you, but somehow seem insignificant. They matter to Him. You matter to Him. This world can do nothing to you that He doesn't know of and care about. "Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you." (1 Peter 5:7) "You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book." (Psalm 56:8) Your God doesn't just know when you cry, He collects those tears. He writes down every single tear you cry in His book. Do you need any further evidence that you matter to God? I have been convinced of this. When it seems like life can just never get better, He cares about you. When you cry yourself to sleep at night, He cares about you. When you just feel broken and you're not sure why, He cares about you.
Did I reference enough Scriptures in this post? It may seem like a lot, but it was intentional, I promise. (See what I did there?) These are the verses that I cling to when life gets tough. These are what keeps me sane when everything is going wrong. And now, I'm passing them on to you. I gave each reference for a reason: so you can find them. Grab your Bible, flip to each passage that resonated with that beautiful soul of yours, and mark your territory on that passage. Claim these promises. Underline them in ink. Trace them with your fingers. Mark them with Post-It Notes. Sign your name next to them, and tell the Lord that this is what you want. This is your inheritance. Breathe in His truth like it's just that: air. Then exhale it into the lives of others.
You're going to be okay.

Monday, February 10, 2014

05. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus -- Not Alone

(Photo by Tara Gourley)

"O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior,
And a life more abundant and free!"
As I write these words, I am alone at a table in a loud cafe. It is a cross between feeling lonely and over-crowded. I think it is the perfect atmosphere for this particular study.
5) Am I alone? (you know the tale)
It is easy to feel like I am. But feelings are often deceiving. To be specific, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) After a statement like that, how can we possibly stand to trust our feelings? Are we so easily deceived? I would dare say it is so. In a tight situation, most of us would trust our feelings more than our head knowledge. It is why we have so many irrational fears, I would think. We know perfectly well that a little daddy-long-leg can't harm us, but when one runs across our path, we lose hold on reality and (some of us; not all) scream in fear or shock. In the same way, when we are by ourselves in a room, or on our own in a crowd, we get overwhelmed by our emotions, and we fail to think rationally. We become so artificially isolated that we are convinced it is real. We begin to be troubled, and it wearies us, until the world around us feels so terribly, incurably dark. So what do we do? As I've found is often the case, the answer lies within the lyrics to this hymn. No place is to dark for God to shine through. Light has more power than darkness, no matter how oppressive it may seem. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5) That verse. Ever since I memorized it, I can't get it out of my head. That makes sense, but it also kind of blows my mind.
Moving on.
"Through death into life everlasting
He passed and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion--
For more than conquerors we are!
His word shall not fail us -- He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well,
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!"
Those words: He promised. I can't get over them. It would be self-destructive to even try to do so! He promised. He promised us eternal life. He promised us freedom from sin. He promised not to fail us. He promised, and that is all the assurance we should need! And He is with us always, so we are never ever alone!
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."

What more do we need? Honestly!
What a promise!

(P.S. This is the last post I will publish at my current age -- what will He do next?!)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Words and Waiting

(Photo by Tara Gourley)
I am learning something that I find rather difficult to put to action. Obviously, if it was easy, I'd have been doing it by now, my ordinary ignorance aside. Here's the thing: I am a planner. I make lists in the morning, describing every minute thing I plan to do in that day, and if I do something that's not on the list, that's right, I write it down and check it off. It's a pride thing. I also like to have about 5 posts for this blog saved as drafts, "just in case." In case I run out of time to write a post next Monday. In case I completely run out of inspiration. In case I get into one of my emotional funks, and I want something powerful to post instead. Basically, I had them there because I didn't believe that God would always provide the time and inspiration ... because I didn't believe He could use me in any shape I was in, to bring Himself glory. My fail-safe kept me safe all right ... from a chance to see Him do something crazy. Sure, I believe that He can use the words that I type and save at whatever time I choose; He has already shown that He can. But imagine this. What if I was completely trusting Him for every word I typed? What if I dared write through my most heart-breaking seasons, inviting Him to bring beauty from my pain? What if I had enough faith to believe that even words typed at 3:00a.m., after a particularly busy and stressful day, wiping weary from my eyes ... could be used for His glory?
I'm not saying that I've been miraculously changed into a person who always finishes things last minute. Far from it! I am writing this on a Monday, intending to post it four days from now. You know why I'm writing this now? Because I have the words, and I feel like they're from God, and meant to be shared. What I'm saying is that no longer will I be forcing myself to write anything. If I have no words to share on my regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, then no words will be shared. If I don't have a hymn study to share on Monday, I won't. And if I have one, but am given something else that seems more timely, then so be it.
A friend texted me this the other day: "God gives you your words. If He gives you a few, say a few. If He gives you none, then be silent. If He gives you many, then take out a pen and write them down."
This is what I plan to do.
I am counting on Him to know best, and to work it all out for my good (Romans 8:28). His ways are above mine (Isaiah 55:9). And I'm trusting that His timing is better than mine as well. I would much rather be late in my mind, and on time in His, than to write out whatever happens to be on my mind in vain ambition. It matters not whether I am posting 7 posts a week, 3 posts a week, or no posts at all ... so long as He is glorified. Nothing else matters.
I am waiting on Him.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Be Encouraged {Coffee for Your Heart}

(Photo by Anna Hart)

This week’s writing prompt from Holley Gerth is: “What are the encouraging words you want to hear when you’re having a hard day?” I have been so blessed by my circle of friends. Their words often surpass anything I could think up. It is hard for me to think of the prompt as it is written, so forgive me if I adapt on it. I’m going to give the encouraging words I want my closest friends to hear on their hard days. And the Lord, being awesome as He is, often speaks into my heart, as I strive to speak into theirs. So it’s similar, right? Anyhoo …
Just stop. Drop everything, girl. I know, I know, it seems like the world never slows down. Just let it spin for a little while without you. Sit down. Kneel. If you keep running when you’re feeling like this, you will break. I know. I’ve done it. Remember when you helped me pick up the pieces? I know you’re trying to be strong enough; to just get through one. more. day. but none of us is truly strong enough to face this world. We cannot bear the weight of it. But He can, oh my sweet, He so can. I know you feel so weary; so tired of this constant living, so here’s the thing: He can carry the weight of the world on His shoulders … and still hold you in the palm of His hand. He promises to never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). Nothing can take you out of His hand (John 10:28).Rest in those promises; those truths. I’m telling you, rest! The more you strive and struggle, the more you will ache; the more this day will threaten to overcome you. Take heart! He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Do you hear me? He. has. overcome. You don’t have to. Quit striving, and collapse into His waiting arms. Let me tell you something. If you think you’re alone, you’re wrong. You couldn’t be farther from it. If you think you aren’t loved, you are severely mistaken. Really, hon, you are so wrong. Do you need reminded that God sent His Son to die a brutal death for you? He was so incredibly smitten with you, that He couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, couldn’t stand the idea of you loving someone other than Him … so He did everything He could to win your heart back. And on top of that, us humans think you’re pretty fantastic, too. Never doubt that you are of value. Do not dare forget that you are worth it. You are a freaking princess, and don’t you forget it. I’m not saying this so you can give yourself a mental pep talk. You don’t need that. You could shout at the mirror all day with, “Pull yourself together! You’re loved, so act like it! What are you, ungrateful?” For heaven’s sake, don’t do that. Remember what I started with: “Just stop.” Breathe in. Breathe out. God knows that you forget. You are overpowered by feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, weakness, frustration, and you just can’t cope … He understands. You don’t need a pep talk … honestly, you need a hug. How I would love to be the one who gave you that hug, but there are these things called distance and computer screens, and it just wouldn’t work. What you need is a God hug. It sounds silly, I know, but it happens. That flood of peace in the midst of a trial? That was one. That crazy majestic sunrise after a sleepless night? His doing. I know this isn’t the correct theological term, but you have to admit, it’s a beautiful thought. The God of the universe, doing little, powerful things to give you comfort and make you feel loved. Rest in His arms, darlin’. His grace is enough. You are loved. So much. And don’t forget that for a second.

Monday, February 3, 2014

04. Jesus Paid It All -- Blessed

“I hear the Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small 
Child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all.’”
As I sang these words softly, I was feeling a weakness of a sort that I wouldn’t normally think to pair with this hymn. I was upset, emotional, and downright grumpy. The only reason I found myself with time enough to have this study was because something I had been looking forward to for weeks hadn’t happened, due to health complications of someone I hold dear. I felt very much a child of weakness, and so, to sit down with a huff, and open the hymnal to these words … simply put, God had my attention. ‘Weakness’ and ‘fear,’ these words have been coming up everywhere I turn, and each time they do I am told, in more or less words, that God is enough. Because, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear,” (1 John 4:18) “God is love,” (1 John 4:8) and “[His] power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) And in this hymn He says I must simply watch, pray, and find my all in all in Him. Because He is all I need. Really, when you have a perfect, infinite, all-powerful, loving {and so much more} God, what more could you ever need? What more could you want?
“We are all half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, we are like ignorant children who want to continue to make mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  -C.S. Lewis
The truth of this convicts me to the core. Why do we settle for anything less than Him, when He has offered Himself to us so freely? This, I cannot comprehend. We rush through time spent with Him, because we’re so anxious to get to our activities, and these we shut Him out from! We have this Great God, and we hold things back from Him, saying, “No, this is mine,” when He has not even withheld the life of His very Son from us! And He didn’t even leave it at that, though it would have been enough.
3) How does God bless me? (She strikes again)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ … In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us … making known to us the mystery of his will … In him we have obtained an inheritance … In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” - Ephesians 1:3-14 (excerpts)
And it doesn’t end there. His blessings go on and on; His mercies never end, and are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)
“For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim - 
I will wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb. 
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe 
Sin had left a crimson stain - He washed it white as snow.”
You and I have done nothing to deserve this, and yet still, He gave His own Son, His own blood … He held nothing back from us, because He loved us so radically. How can we spend a moment not in utter awe of this blessed truth?
“And when before the throne, I stand in Him complete, 
‘Jesus died my soul to save,’ my lips shall still repeat.”