Seasons

If you know me personally, you know that I am in a season of transition. I have been for years. I often forget that. We sold our home April of 2017. We have been living in temporary housing since then. Nothing about this season is glamours. Nothing about this season is comfortable. And nothing about this season is about me.

I’m asked the daunting question daily;

“So when are YOU moving?”

If you asked me this question in this season, don’t fret. I know its purely out of concern for me and my children to be reunited with our husband/dad. It’s a beautiful concern that definitely reminds me I am not on a stranded island- alone. However, from the beginning of this season (somewhere in 2014-15) I prayed that I would trust and give God the glory. So am I walking in trust? Am I giving Him the glory He deserves?

I want to highlight some areas that I’ve learned in this season.  

1.) I cannot partially surrender. Does that even exist?
2.) I am not designed to do anything alone beyond bathroom walls.
3.) I cannot serve both man and the Father.
4.) I can seek to walk hand and hand with the One who carries me BUT DOING IT IN PERFECTION leaves me abandoning The Hand holding me.

I am not sure if the last one made sense to you. It does to me. And without many words (lets be honest-if you see tons of words on a screen, are you often tempted to scroll or skim?)
I WANT TO DO “ALL THE THINGS” I am called and asked to do. That doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to me. It makes me feel accomplished, strong, and committed. Those aren’t so terrible, right?

Accomplishment has been my god. Commitment has been my god. My own strength has been my god. Leaving me to do “all the things” on my own.

 

EVERY. TIME. That combo (I’ll call it the treacherous trifecta) leaves me anxious and weary. Quick tempered and drained.

AND I LAID IT DOWN. (I don’t recall a specific moment. I do have many moments of repenting. And then repenting some more) And I asked to be reminded of why we are doing what we are doing. I didn’t get a response regarding what we are doing. I got a picture of hands. Stinking hands.

Then, it hit me. Just grab His hand. He will continue to lead me step by step. In His time. Not to miss all of the opportunities in the waiting. He provides them daily. Moment by moment.

So, I still can’t answer the question. My response will still be the big eyes, shoulder shrug.
But my heart is rejoicing that He is using this season to refine me. To tune my heart.  To identify what needs pruned (John 15) and to strengthen my foundation.

Don’t miss what He is doing while you’re gazing further ahead.

Emmanuel. With us. Not ahead of us.

I will worship here.

 

“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”
-Psalm 61:2

 

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Who am I that I should go?

Why isn’t it about merit? Why couldn’t it be based off of what I have done? Why can’t I rest in good behavior? I haven’t broken the law. My husband and kids seem to be pleased with my efforts in and outside of the home.

Statistics around the USA specify that more than 80% of Americans claim “Christianity” when asked if they have faith. Why does that number seem alarming to me?

“Do not come closer,” He said “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is on holy ground.” Then He continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 2:5&6

This gives us insight on a specific God. So if the question went from “What faith do you claim?” to “Which god do you serve?” Would you know the answer to that question? Would that seem offensive? Personal? For myself, before I met Jesus, I would answer along with the other 80% of fellow Americans. But when I first encountered Jesus, I would have answered, unsure. The gospel I heard–the Truth of Jesus Christ, collided with every ounce of my American soul. Just being honest.

Frankly, my stomach gets in knots when I hear phrases like “If you just depend on Jesus, your life will prosper.” “If you just believe the power of the Resurrection, your faith will take you anywhere you want to go” Now, hear me out, those two statements surrounded by solid theology can be in GOOD context. But, more often than not, it’s a false gospel and Paul warns the church to put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.  (Ephesians 6:10-20) And whatever isn’t of God, well….. the enemy. Pretty clear.

So 21 years of my life, I wandered. Just being tossed by the waves of the sea. BUT, God, pursued and met me.

“When the Lord saw that he (Moses) had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am,” Moses answered. “Do not come closer,” He said “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is on holy ground.” Then He continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 2:4-6

The burning bush is a story you probably have heard before whether you are in church culture or not. Maybe its a story from VBS days when your grandma made you go. When I first, (and maybe 12 times after) read about the burning bush it seems like a fable. Like, for real, this is a joke? (I’m just being honest) There is no way, bushes can talk. But, over a course of reading the Scriptures in context…I see consistency. Donkeys talking, Red Sea parting, angels talking, and broken people being led by God. Fable. Fable. Fable. BOOM. Broken people being led by God? That didn’t seem like a fairy tale. That just simply seemed to good to be true.

Now, because God softened my heart, I can tell you, The Creator of all can do what He wants. Doesn’t seem far-fetched. Bushes burning YET not consumed by fire? Control under the authority of the Creator. Donkeys speaking? Well, they too, are under the authority of their Creator. The Red Sea parting? It’s Creator has authority. God is in control of His creation. His people. His things.

“therefore, GO! I (God) am sending you to Pharoah so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. BUT MOSES asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 2:11

That is what I–too want to know. Who am I, that You, my Lord, chose me? It’s not based on my merit. Not what I have done. NOR, what I haven’t done. (I think that’s more appropriate for our culture) It’s not based on my theology. My gifts. Myself.

“He (God) answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the One who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship Me at this mountain” Exodus 2:12

The Word NEVER makes it about ME. Never has. Never will. It’s ALWAYS about the “I AM” The ONE True God. I heard and responded to this evidence (throughout a period of time) and seeking to walk out this side of the kingdom under the instruction to….

“therefore, GO!” 

 

Fighting alone no more….

Do you feel like me when I say from a young age….. “strap up your boots girl, get up and go.”? For almost every scenario in my life, I have felt “empowered” to take charge of almost every situation. Often, it’s brought upon myself. (I would be safe to say, almost every time.) It caused a lot of resentment towards others, created a small situation to become a mountain that I had to climb, and drained every part of me.
Womanhood. Empowering. Beautiful.
Scratching my head.

I don’t feel empowered. I feel stinking drained. DRAINED. And who/what do I have to blame? I would have spewed out a list on you. A long list. (Anyone else feeling me?) I recall getting so much “praise” for being a strong-willed, independent girl-woman. Never once did that remark ruffle my feathers. I had so much pride, in fact that I didn’t appear weak, I valued all of those remarks. What also came with independence? (in MY case)
Rejection of discipline.

Here comes the punch…. (that I needed)  Pastor John has refered to it as “The Jesus Slap”

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” Proverbs 9:10

Early in my walk, I had a really hard time digesting words like submission, (I am not even talking about submission in marriage) repentance, forgiveness, and authority. I guess any “good Samaritan” can get those concepts. If you have good morals, sure, assumed. As my walk is growing by the grace of Jesus AND the community He has chosen to place me in I have gained maturity and wisdom in all of the “issue matters” I initially had to start with. I haven’t “gotten it” completely. But I am gaining more and more understanding of what Solomon penned in Proverbs.

Fear. Not run and hide fear. But I think of how my husband loves my children well. And in his discipline (sure they may try to hide) but they come to him, eventually ready to receive what he has to say. It’s motivated by love. My concept of God (my Father) HAS TO be corrected (culturally) and familiarized by reading His attributes BOTH in the OLD and NEW Testaments.

Shattering the image of “independence” and replacing it with “dependant upon grace” has shifted my mindset of how to have relationships with others. Creates humility to know when I am wrong. (and even if I don’t think I am wrong) He hasn’t asked me to “change” my personality but because He is such a good Teacher/Father/Friend, He has taken who I am, and is making me more like Him. (Thank the Lord for that!)

My old thoughts constantly wage war against what I now know to be true and I catch myself “strapping on my boots” and taking on the task of…..everything.

Praise Him for His mercies everyday. Until I seek Him face to face.

“Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s loving-kindness indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul. “Therefore I have hope in Him” Lamentations 3:19-24

 

*I chose a picture of Milly because I am praying over her as she is MUCH LIKE ME!* HA!

Carved god

Since the beginning of December, I started reading through Deuteronomy. (which essentially means “These are the words…”) A few years back, I heard Beth Moore say this is “THE COMMENTARY of ALL COMMENTARIES.” If you are “church cultured” you know what this means. If not, this isn’t really something I want to focus on… so lets proceed. Also, don’t skip the scripture reference. (I wouldn’t know anything about that 🙂 )

“Hear, Israel: You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. 2  The people are strong and tall-Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” 3  But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you. 4  After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5  It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.6  Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. ” Deuteronomy 9:1-6  NIV

So, in much paraphrasing so I can keep it in context and brief
1.) Israel is God’s chosen people
2.) They are entering a land where people worship other gods
3.) He is a devouring fire and will destroy and subdue before His people
4.) Annihilate….yep. synonyms.. carry off, decimate, eliminate, eradicate, wipe out
5.) The Lord didn’t drive out those folks because of how great His people was, it was on the account of wickedness and to accomplish His promise He has made to His people years and years before

Okay, so deep breath. When we focus on feel good messages about God and being His, (which is NOT WRONG) but then leave out the above passage, we miss the Character of who He is. Oh yeah, also, we have Jesus. (He’s always been there but that’s another discussion) BUT THIS TEXT IS SUPER IMPORTANT. And it brings attention to…

False worship of gods.

We read through the Old Testament and there is so many examples of false worship. A few examples…include but are not limited to (keep in mind, I am paraphrasing)
1.) graven images (see Psalms 78:58/Psalms 97:7/Deuteronomy 4:16)
2.) golden calf (see Exodus 32)
3.) incorporating God and the culture they were saturated in (2 Kings 17:33) (cough..cough…USA…cough…cough) <- MAYBE THIS IS ANOTHER BLOG. HA!

This year, my “New Year’s Resolution” is to seek to know the One TRUE God. Not that I haven’t the last 7 years. BUT, the awareness of reading the God of the Bible and the god of who we think He is, is a lot like 2 Kings. A lot of our own concepts and grids can alter who He is. We function a lot on our feelings don’t we? Just look at the culture and access. It is NATURAL that, that happens. BUT WE HAVE TO pursue the “renewal of our minds” (Romans 12:2) It takes pursuit and discipline. But we can’t do either of those if we don’t love the One who we pursue.

In the Old Testament we read and think “Are they crazy? Did they just not see God part the Red Sea?” (the Israelites wandering/complaining just after He took them out of slavery and into freedom. see Exodus 14:15-31-the next few chapters..which turns into many of the books) But I can list a number of “carved idols” in my life that He needs me to see and break me. And the list goes on without me knowing them. (yet, anyway)

Christians: The Bible is GOD speaking to us. Let’s stop using it as a moral compass. The world doesn’t understand because they don’t know who He is. Let’s stop using our good behavior (alone) to draw people to Jesus (our righteousness didn’t give us anything. We only have Jesus) And check our hearts to see WHERE (Because I guarantee there IS) we have golden calves and graven images. And, if we properly worship Him and Him alone, wouldn’t others see and be drawn?

May God be our portion. (Psalm 73:26)

Grace and Peace

Time.

Time is a mystery.
2017, this space and time in history for me has been a year of sorrow, joy, and preparation. Those words DO intertwine. Beautifully. (see Ecclesiastes 3:11) Yet, as this year comes to a close, many of my thoughts and feelings remain like an open wound.

I havent spoke about my grandfathers sudden death in June. While I am still processing it, I hope I can articulate rightfully what the Lord has taught me in this season.

June 22, 2017
A call to repentance.
“Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, and He will heal us; He has wounded us, and He will bind up our wounds. He will revive us after two days, and on the third day He will raise us up so we can live in His presence. Let us strive to know the Lord. His appearance is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land.” Hosea 6:1-3

I was at my “quiet” spot. My favorite spot in the whole house. Sitting on the beautiful pew my sweet husband just bought for me weeks ago. As I read through this chapter of Scripture, it was pouring down with rain. When I came to that verse “He will come to us like the rain” I sat in that for the rest of my “quiet” time. Praying and asking Him what does this mean? I felt like in that moment He used what was in front of me (my view of rain falling in our front yard) and I got a picture of myself standing in the rain holding an umbrella to obviously keep from getting soaked and uncomfortable. And in that, I felt as if He was asking ME to remove the umbrella. LET THE RAIN FALL. 
The picture seemed so clear but the meaning was a little foggy.
This was probably before 7 am.
Around 2:30 or 3pm is when my dad called me. I was napping with the kids but when I saw I missed a call from him I knew something was wrong. He doesn’t call me while he works.

I found out my grandpa was in pretty bad shape at the hospital. Didn’t get any details but knew it was urgent that we needed to go.

The outcome was his time was up.

But, what an incredible Father I have to prepare my heart for what was to come hours later. Not that He was my genie and gave me answers of WHY grandpa’s time was up. But, in the moment that would totally make me feel light years away from God, I felt for the first time, PEACE that passes all understanding. (see Philippians 4:7)  The rain fell. I didn’t want to shelter under an umbrella and I wasn’t uncomfortable. I was free. Free from the fear of death. I can tell you what I wasn’t free from… heartbreak. Sadness. Grief. In many forms. Even anger.

And 6 months have gone by and I still don’t have the answer why. And I am grieving other losses.

But this I know, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “Whether our faithfulness takes us to the ends of the earth or leaves us right where we are, remember what He’s really after: us.

He will come to us like the rain.

And EVERYTHING is made beautiful in its time.

Shift your heart focus to who He is. Not why.

Grace and Peace

Sinners Reconciled

Classic Christmas hymn “Hark! The Herald Angles Sing” has probably hit every home or car in America. Songs recall memory and time. Most of us would have this specific song on a playlist somewhere. Some version. Classic or modern. However you prefer to hear it, has significance.

About 5 seasons deep in my walk with Christ, for the first time, I “heard”

God and Sinners, Reconciled. 

That’s another known concept. Another basic truth. But such a disconnected phrase unless the heart is fertile and ready for harvest.

“Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” -2 Corinthians 5:18-&19

What is “all these things”? Since the reference above is towards the end of  the chapter, I recall from the beginning Paul refers to our bodies as tents. Because God gives us His Spirit, our “tents” no longer belong to us. Our own efforts. Our own dreams. Our own lives. No longer ours. Then from there, Paul tells us it is better to be absent from the body and HOME with the Lord. Do I often feel that as true? Continuing on saying He died for us so that we may no longer live for ourselves but for Him.

“Now if anyone is IN Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” -2 Corinthians 5;17

If you are in the “church culture” that is almost as repetitive as John 3:16. BOTH are significant, beautiful truths. BUT, we can lose foundational sight on what they mean.

Back to reconciliation.
Exchange. It is an exchange. (*digesting that one*)
Simple concept right?

Well, I personally have made this concept so difficult that I have created these expectations OF myself (I would consider unconsciously..) that I have to do these “things”. I would just summarize that list to save you time down to “better choices/behavior” (<its a theme)
I have to reconcile. Sure, I have to play a role in this exchange. But, it cannot primarily be me. And I am confident in saying I AM RECONCILED before I DID ANYTHING to even have that signed, stamped, delivered. The scripture didn’t say “Now we reconciled ourselves to God.” It says “Now, all of these things are FROM GOD who reconciled us to Himself…”

Who are we to think we are powerful enough or wise enough to have that choosing? This is not suggesting that I can just sit and “feel” the Lord to work in my life. But all of my efforts and striving take a clear message, and distort it and send it in a bazillion directions. I end up forming my own idea and characteristics of who He is. Our ancestors did it in the wilderness with silly golden calves. (See Exodus 32) But this same silly concept I create and worship,  I have to lay down over and over again.

This Christmas season, I am super thankful for reconciliation through a Baby. That was His first sacrifice. We think of the cross and the meaning. Laying in the manger was the first sacrifice of Jesus’ ministry.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, GLORY TO THE NEWBORN KING!

 

 

Freely.

Here. And I don’t mean in the context of this “word press” space. “I will worship You (God) Here” means in the context of where I am at in this journey I have been gifted to have. Often, that reference isn’t backed up by action unfortunately in my life.

After screaming at my kids, calling my husband more times than I would like to confess, (who I should note has been working O.T. to provide for us) frantically wiping pink eye from my eye and my 4-year-old, washing my hands until they crack and bleed, (to prevent spreading…that obviously didn’t work) I enter the shower. Crying. Having a pity party over my awful circumstances. Oh, and how I am mad that I prepared a ham for a party that I was unable to attend because of the sickness that infiltrated my home because I failed at disinfecting. Can I paint a clearer picture? Probably.  Because I only have about thirty more minutes until I have to surrender my time back to my offspring. (nap time)

I felt God in my heart speak “My grace is enough”. (see 2 Corinthians 2:9) and in my mind I went from pity-party Stephanie to feeling guilty for every act I committed that day. Then, a downward spiral of thoughts like…

1.) You are not a praiseworthy wife/mother (see Proverbs 31..*eyerolls*)
2.) Your husband deserves better
3.) You obviously have a mental illness (I am NOT downplaying that)
4.) You are consumed with yourself

Those thoughts are just to name a few I can put into words. What I felt in that moment cannot be described. I can easily name it “scumbag”

Hold that thought.

“Your grace is enough, more than I need. At Your Word, I will believe. I wait for You. Draw me near again. Let Your Spirit make me new. I will fall at Your feet and I will worship You here.” -Hillsong, This is Our God

The song goes on to singing about how Jesus is both Servant and King.

I want DESPERATELY to react like Jesus calls me to. I guess some may think that is “gold star” behavior. Perfection. (that is a whole other entry) I am not looking to be “behavior fixed” I am looking to desire to serve despite how I feel or how my circumstances may look. Now obviously, if I had a heart to serve (which I do when I feel like it, those around me tend to get the “better” me)

His grace is sufficient. More than enough. After I got over myself for the second time, I felt like He spoke to me and said what I desire, I can start NOW. In the middle of my frazzled mess, it wasnt to late to wash my face, rise, and start over. I didn’t have to wait until I “felt”  better. I was able to see His grace IN my mess and seek servanthood in the character of who He is.

This isnt deeply spiritual. This is pretty basic foundations that I have to revisit over and over again. But, every step, is beautifully broken and redeemed by the One who calls me by name.

He is enough.