Well, that was easy.

Have you ever noticed that when God is speaking a word or message to you that it appears everywhere? I have lost count of how many times the topics of being joyful and being thankful in all circumstances have appeared via scripture, church services, worship songs, posts on facebook… (and that is just in the last three weeks!) It fills me with awe to know God is at work in that way and also makes me feel like I am getting smacked in the head with a “duh” moment all at the same time. 

Well, that was easy. That is the discussion question I have chosen this week from Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study. I read that phrase over and over. Easy. Sometimes, the message is so loud and clear and well EASY to hear. The question for me is: do I really listen and then become obedient to live it? At the beginning of December, I “heard” my Savior say…”Get up at 6am and spend time with me…I died for you and you can’t do this for me?” Oh, did I mention that I am NOT a morning person? I have to get up by 6:30 for work and that is tough enough. That thirty minutes is precious to me. It is when I make the effort to hit the snooze button. Amazingly, the next two mornings, my girls (ages 2 and 6) were randomly and pleasantly “up” around 5:55am and then would go back to sleep. Then, the third morning, I woke up at 5:55am all on my own. I argued and fussed with God but He also began to speak words of DISCIPLINE and OBEDIENCE into my life. Consider the latest challenge of the reflection verse (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT) “ALWAYS be joyful. NEVER stop praying. Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Always.Never.All… this is hard. I am rarely ever joyful and I don’t thank God for bad circumstances until I am out of them and down a different path. As far as praying goes, I know I fall short there too but I have been praying for God’s guidance and strength throughout the day. I need it. I am so stressed and anxious. 

I find myself trying to keep my focus on Jesus…on how the Holy Spirit is convicting me…and the awesome promises of God Almighty. Philippians 4:6-7…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding , will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Psalms 30:5b…Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. These two verses have meant the world to me lately (I am NOT in control!) and make I Thessalonians 5:16-18 seem attainable. Nothing is impossible for God and it is His will for me to be found joyful always, praying without ceasing, and being thankful even when that is the last thing I feel like doing. Nothing can stand in His way because all circumstances are in His control.

When I reflect on His power, I have no choice but to trust Him. I have made some really bad decisions and super terrible mistakes but I know when I walk through those storms or allow God to carry me, I come out stronger in my faith. I have learned a lot of things the hard way but it reveals so much about God’s character and how patient He is with me. So, I take refuge in knowing that God is in all circumstances and as I am learning to LET.IT.GO. and Let God, I am remembering to always be joyful, keep on praying, and be thankful for all God gives me (allowing for “imperfect progress”). There is a reason for everything and He is the almighty God with the plan.

Hold on to Kindness

        Reading “Let. It Go.” by Karen Ehman has been a challenge of change for me (perhaps pinpointing areas of pride in my life). Everything I have been reading lately has to do with the fruits of the spirit and focuses on joy or kindness. For this blog, I am focusing on kindness. The question I am answering is: 4. Put your hands up! What is the one thing from these chapters you hope to hold on to for the future??

        I hope to hold onto kindness. In Chapter 6: Hovering Over the Home, Karen Ehman takes a closer look into the Proverbs 31 woman. “She opens her mouth in skillful and godly wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” Proverbs 31:26 In fact, Karen describes kindness as a tone of voice you’d use with a stranger. I am definitely falling short of being the Proverbs 31 woman. I do not practice kindness on a regular basis in my home and who would respond nicely back to a nagging, screaming wife/mother? So, you can probably imagine the tension in my home at times! I am ashamed to say that my family would probably have many other words to describe me…kindness, I bet, would not be on the list at all. I would even venture to say that I am not kind to others beyond my own four walls either (unless I had something to gain). I am a pretty selfish person and I want things to go my way. It is seemingly easier to be kind to a person who doesn’t create more work for me, who doesn’t leave dirty socks laying on the floor, who doesn’t let toys scattered all over the living room…oh the things that can get me mad…

        The tone of voice statement really got to me. I know that how I speak to my girls is very different if my pastor was in my home. Requests would be asked very nicely rather than barked out and mandatory. I would be patient and reserved. Hmm…that is food for thought isn’t it? Shouldn’t I reflect Jesus no matter what? I decided to test my “Jesus response” theory within the last few days…I have chosen to try and speak in a soft tone no matter how I feel inside. To exhibit patience instead of having immediate outcomes that boast that it is my way or the highway. I believe that my children responded so sweetly. There is more laughter…more thankfulness…more joy…I see little blessings more clearly. I have chosen to be kind to my husband and it seems that there is less anger. As I continued to read the chapter, another scripture popped out at me. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 Oh how this rings true! I hope that I will hold on to kindness long after I am finished with this Bible study. I hope that kindness will be shown to my family, to friends, and to strangers…even my enemies.

Coincidence or Plan?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

If I kept track of every good thing that happened during the day and listed the bad in another column, my bad would most likely outweigh the good. Then again, that may be of the past…you see, inside me is a tendency to focus on the negative…to be the very definition of pessimistic. I called it realism. I tend to play out every bad thing that could possibly happen so that I won’t be as disappointed if the outcome truly goes that way. This is a habit I am working on breaking. I learned a long time ago that there are no coincidences with God. Those mistakes I made yesterday…He will intricately weave them into my tapestry- each thread making me more whole. Take the following scenario:

Recently, my husband and I were not seeing eye to eye. I hate the way conflict makes me feel inside. Part of me wants to lash out but I stuff it down deep and then explode. This time, I just wasn’t talking. Things disappointed me and I got into a deep pit…I kept digging too. My husband didn’t help me either. He proclaimed that he didn’t care. I was hurt as usual and just ready to quit. When two Christian people who should know better(do know better) can’t get their act together and “never” actually put into action what is necessary for a good marriage…well I just became hopeless. I was wallowing. Did you hear those negative words? I listened to the lies my REAL enemy fed me. I found myself alone, praying, reading, reaching out to others for prayer. I didn’t get an answer right away. I slept on and off in a fitful, anxious state. In a text message, I made a claim to my husband that I was going to start with kindness because I do care.

When I woke up, I wrestled with my anxiety, fear, and a desire to just go back to bed. It was Sunday morning and I normally sing in the praise band at church but I really wasn’t feeling up to it. My spirit felt so raw. I read the daily scripture on the app of my phone but still felt like I couldn’t put two feet on the floor. I thumbed through the news feed on facebook…came across a posting that said, “Be anxious about nothing. But in everything by prayer and petition. With Thanksgiving.” I knew the quote was a scripture verse with some words missing…I felt this prodding to get out of bed and be true to my kindness claim. I spoke with my husband as if there was no conflict. I felt joy in my ability to trust God and not rely on my feelings to dictate how I should behave. The quote also encouraged me to sing praise to God…be thankful in all circumstances. The first song that we were singing in worship was “Your Love Never Fails”. The lyrics spoke to my heart: “I know I still make mistakes but you have new mercies for me everyday…your love never fails…you stay the same through the ages, your love never changes, there may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning.” Wow! God gave me a new day! What an answer to prayer.

In that moment, I knew I was placing my needs and expectations on my husband…honestly, the only one who can fulfill those needs is my Savior. Later that Sunday, Proverbs 31 Ministries (a true encouragement to me and my faith) posted the lyrics to the song and the You Tube video. Minutes ago, I read a blog from Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study dated Saturday, February 16, 2013. It began with the verse Philippians 4:6-7…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding , will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Praise the Lord for peace!

I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe these events were orchestrated by a God who loves me. I don’t believe in “signs” but I see confirmation of God’s faithfulness all around me. I believe that God works all things for our good. He has a plan for me. I see that conflict and trials of this life are opportunities to learn. I am learning about myself but most importantly, I am learning about God’s character. I find joy in how God communicates with me and gives me exactly what I need.

Prayer

Father God,
          I am so thankful that you are a forgiving and loving God. I am thankful that you directed my path toward learning more about you through the online Bible study. I am really struggling reading the book “Let.It.Go.” I am struggling with negative chatter about myself and about my husband…others too. Everytime I plan and do things my way, I fail. I just want to let you carry me because honestly, I don’t think I can dance at all anymore. Everything I do seems to get twisted and goes toward the negative instead of good. This is not what I desire anymore. Lord God, I am desiring you. Please help me to loosen my grip and see what you see in me and others. Help me to be an instrument used for blessing instead of tearing down. Touch me and heal this broken life. Help me to stop controlling what I have no business meddling with and to see that your purpose reigns. I already know you can take all my screw ups…every single mistake and turn it for good. I believe your word. I trust you. Please continue to point out what I can change. Thank you for being with me always.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

Hi! My name is _________ and I am a controller…

         Yes, I am a controller and I may even admit that I manipulate people or situations (if I can) to get what I want or get a certain outcome. I know that this isn’t healthy because I feel very stressed trying to manage everything. Should I mention that when things don’t go my way or as planned it gets me upset…well angry and bitter to be exact. I take all things personal. I also find myself surrounded by controllers. Well, I see some people in my life that way and LOOK OUT! We bump our heads rather than work together. Sometimes, I just can’t break the vicious cycle. I have not labeled myself to fit a certain category. I actually can see that a small part of me is each of the following: the soft-spoken saint, the enabler, the martyr, the people pleaser, and I even might yell or bark out the orders too!

         There is another dynamic at work in my life. I am a teacher. The message I hear daily is that where there is a classroom under control, there you find an effective teacher. I never have really thought about that until reading the first two chapters of this book. I have always felt that teaching comes naturally to me. I believe that I have a good rapport with my students and their families. I still spend my day making little people do what I expect: follow rules, do classwork, participate in the lesson, listen… The adult staff in my classroom do what I ask. I have expectations for the parents too such as, pick up your child on time! When a problem arises with any of these situations, there is someone higher than me that controls the policies and me! I am a professional controller. My eyes have been opened to the fact that perhaps that quality trickles into other aspects of my life: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend…and the list goes on. I am struggling with what this means for me.

        What do I want to get out of this Bible Study? My hope is that I will see how I am wired in a new light…may I see what God sees and use my strengths the way they are to be used. I hope to be challenged to change the things I need to in order to live a better life and have better relationships. I want to let God do His job and I want to do mine…I definitely need to discover how to discern what that looks like. I already know I don’t trust God the way I should and I don’t want my girls to learn this from me! I hope to leave a better legacy for them by being a good model of a Christian Woman who can LET.IT.GO.

 

Crossing the Line

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. John 8:6b-7

         When we say “You’re crossing the line,” it seems to have a negative connotation. It is as if you are doing or saying something that you shouldn’t be. If you take a closer look at the verses of John 8, you would notice that Jesus was not bound by any lines but followed a standard set by God.  I have seen a video representation of this Biblical scene. Humor me for a moment as I add my imagination. As I read the passage,  I see a group of men (various ages and stature) bringing a woman wrapped in a sheet. She was probably feeling trapped, angry that she fell for the Pharisees schemes, and she was caught. There was no denying that. She may have been feeling used because when the men holding her captive throw her at Jesus’ feet, it dawns on her that the real trap is for him. I would have felt embarrassed and anxious to be caught in sin. She didn’t know her fate but Jesus knew her heart. He wrote on the ground with his finger…

         The Bible doesn’t say what Jesus wrote. This is where I see Him drawing a line in the dirt. This line would separate the woman from her accusers. It would show that Jesus was on her side. Jesus answered the questions of the men. He was very matter of fact. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” After that, Jesus continued to write in the dirt. The woman must have been amazed as she watched each of the men turn and walk away. Not one stone was thrown. 

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has noone condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:10-11

         Once again, I envision this woman to be in some sort of shock over everything that has happened. She manages to speak to Jesus. Noone condemned her and there she stood in Jesus’ presence and called him… Lord. What a beautiful image. She learned that she had been pardoned and forgiven all in one moment. If it was a line that Jesus wrote in the dirt, I see the woman stepping over it and pondering Jesus’ words. In that instance, crossing the line wouldn’t be so bad. It would mean a new start for a sinner. 

         Jesus gave that new start to everyone who believes in Him.

Trusting the Lord

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

About two years ago, I heard a new way to make a New Year’s Resolution. I was listening to KLOVE Radio and they discussed choosing one word for the year…one word that you would ask God to change in you or reveal something to you over the course of the year.  This sounded wonderful to me…to have one word. I wanted it to be special and God given. I prayed for God to give me the word but nothing came. I doubted my ability to hear God’s voice because I could not remember when I had heard it.  I longed to hear God speak to me. I became discouraged when others on the radio announced their amazing words. I cried, “Father God, please show me my word.”

As I rocked my 9 month old baby in my arms in a dark room, I closed my eyes and there it was…emblazoned in bright light…TRUST.

Now, you probably think I jumped for joy and expressed gratitude for my word but I will admit that I was not thrilled. “Really God…that’s it…it isn’t as profound as the words you have given to others…it is so broad…what will I do with that word? What does it mean? Do I need to trust my husband more…myself…you, God?” My mind was running away with all these thoughts.

I truly didn’t understand what a wonderful word trust was to me. I have lived that word for two years now. Yes, it is still my word. I believe it will always be my word.

Trust is the foundation for everything God has been working together in my life. I found trust to be an umbrella that covers a myriad of other words. God walked me through important discoveries about trust in general (through scripture…trust is mentioned in the Bible so many times), forgiveness of those who hurt me in my past, as well as asking for their forgiveness of me. He is currently teaching me lessons about obedience, discipline, discernment, and grace. My faith is being stretched and I catch glimpses of God’s character as He reveals what He expects from me. What an amazing God!

Thank you Father for loving me and teaching me. Thank you for giving me Jesus who saved me. Thank you for covering me in your grace. I love you, Father, Spirit, Jesus!