Less of me, more of Him

Yesterday was not such a great day. Well, let me clarify--this month has been a doozy in terms of my physical health. Keeping up with a new baby, and the stress of our situation on top of life in general for our family is taking its toll and I guess my body could only take so much. Early May, about the time I took Chloe for her checkup, I developed a nasty sinus infection. Antibiotic and a couple weeks later, I was some better but then I developed allergy/pink eye. This week I am once again facing illness as I woke Monday morning with drainage and sore throat, fluid in my ears and all over body aches. So, now I am finishing my eye drops this week and taking another antibiotic to knock out this stuff I've got. The joys of being sick-yuck! So May's not been so good to me. I am hoping by this weekend with Ry's birthday coming that I'll be much better. While I've been trying to rest up in my state of illness, I've been reading more of Louie Giglio's book "I am not but I know I AM", and last night was perfect. I must back track to a moment yesterday that started this interesting day. The mail came and Ryan got a letter from the prison stating he was not eligible for the position he interviewed for. So, okay we said. Okay God, this is an answer but perhaps not the answer we'd expected. He's got something else in mind for Ryan, that is a certainty. Later that night, Ryan was checking email when he found that he'd received an email from a church he'd applied to. He was informed that he made the second round of candidates for their worship position. This is one of two churches who have made contact with him in the last couple weeks for additional information. Last night as I was sitting in bed reading Giglio's book I couldn't help but feel this is it, this is the moment when the path begins to take a new direction. His purpose is beginning to unfold. These events are answers, answers that tell us God is truly at work and the path is taking shape for us. I have been knocked about for months now with waves of emotion, waves of extreme emotion and then extreme peace. I know God is in control, that has never been a question when it comes down to it. I readily admit that I don't like the waiting, the wondering, the how is this exactly going to work out for us part of the experience. I was once again jolted into focus when I read this last night:

'Waiting on God ascribes to God the glory of being all to us.'

I had to re-examine how I have behaved in this 'waiting'. I can say that there have been many moments in which God has not received glory, I have not allowed Him to be my all. So, how do I sustain, simmer in this 'waiting', this restful state? By starting with the idea that I am so incredibly small, and it is all about being less of me so that He can be more. I need to step out of the way, humbly acknowledge the power, the purpose that God holds and let Him do a good work in my life. How easy it is to think in that moment of peace and prosperity, I am doing so good, I have got this under control and I can run with it. We presume too much, and we become way too confident in our own shoes. I believe God wants us to be confident in our Christ walk, but that confidence should be in Him, the power of the Holy Spirit in us--it has nothing whatsoever to do with me.
So what is He up to? It is the question at the forefront of our minds right now. We don't know, we don't have those specific answers but we do know that He is working, yes He is.
Thank you Lord, for Your purpose, Your plan for my life and for Ryan's. We will continue to have hope, to trust in You.

God's perfect plan

I know His ways are not my ways. He is God, I am not. He is I AM, I am I AM NOT. I know, it takes a minute to get that phrase, thank you Louie Giglio. I am still working on his book and David Crowder's. I love how both of these guys are getting into my head, saying it just like I need to hear it.

I get it now more than ever, isn't it interesting how God uses suffering to help us really get it and get Him? I still haven't completely wrapped my brain around it, it is a work in progress. How easy is it for us to get cocky in our faith, lazy in our Christ walk when things are going well? The truth is, Ryan and I have been experiencing so many trials over the past several years. It began with our move back to Nashville to help start a church plant. Little did we know the direction our Christ walk would go from there. I believe it was the beginning of an amazing work God has been doing in Ryan and I. I can't get this thought out of my head that was in my devotional today. Here it is:
'We must never presume to know God's specific plan without asking for specific directions. Just because He said "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19), doesn't mean we can presume on His method or His timing; "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).'

Specific. He has a specific plan. God will do it, He will accomplish it in us, through us and for the benefit of the Kingdom. So what happens and how do we handle it when something happens to put a halt on that? What if what we interpret as a halt in His plan is a purposeful and specific part of that plan after all? I don't get it completely yet but I am starting to catch a glimpse of it.

I know I am imperfect, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life in the name of good intention, but I realize on the other side of it God has a use for me even in my imperfect state. It is in that place of vulnerability, transparency and humility that God says, "Okay, I've got you right where I want you. Where you need to be to know the joy of my purpose." I am finding it, the joy. Everything else has been wrung out of me like a washcloth, and I am so thirsty, so ready to absorb everything He has for me. Are you there yet? Come on, give it up, give in, and let Him do a work in you.
I don't know how to begin. I am exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually and this incredible song came on the radio this week and it has stuck with me for days. Laura Story, a gifted and amazing artist, sings "Blessings". Oh my goodness, this song was written just for me. The second verse gets me because the words, well, it is just what I am experiencing.

'We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe'

Yes, I get it God, I am weak, I cannot do a thing in this life on my own without your blessing, your purpose and your will oozing forth from it--if it is not of You, it is not to be. I get that You are here, that You haven't gone anywhere, You are not moved, shaken or surprised in any way by any of this. But I am. I don't like it, I didn't want it, and I am still having waves of doubt, wondering why and how and when. And all this I am bringing to You, God, because I know deep down I don't have to understand You completely. I just need to trust You completely. How does that work? I am at the end of myself, spent, completely worn out and yet when it is entirely possible that I could turn against You---I need You! How do people get through this without You? How do they go on? I realize now more than ever that it is completely normal to experience what I am experiencing, that the point of faith is not to have it immeasurably all the time; I need to be tested, torn, beaten up, dropped flat on my butt to realize just how desperately I need God.

I know, as Laura sings in the chorus, that through the tears, the anguish, the sleepless nights somehow my God is going to come through and my faith will not be the same. It is certain to be stronger on the other side of this. That I cannot doubt, because as much as I'd like a reason to stay mad, bitter, fed up--His promises are unfailing, His mercies are new every single day of my life. I know that simply by my ability to get out of bed and take the first steps toward having a day of possibility.

I am not

I've been reading this great book for awhile now by Louie Giglio about recognizing that in terms of the big picture, I am not and God truly is I AM. He is the One true God, who is in complete control of this life and I cannot do any of this on my own with the kind of success that can only come in the pursuit of righteousness. Daily I need to be more like Christ, I strive toward the goal He has set before me but I know, I know that until I am standing before Him I won't know it fully. I can do all these things in my life for good, but it doesn't amount to a thing unless my heart is pure and my greatest desire is to simply trust and obey Him with my life. It is so easy, even for a Christian and all we claim to be, to get cocky, arrogant, prideful in our walk. So why is it so surprising and so painful when something happens to knock us flat on our backs? It is in those moments we have the opportunity to immediately evaluate the heart and its true intentions. I love this scripture:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
Phillipians 2:5-11

To be completely immersed in who Christ is, what my purpose is in this life I must realize I am not, and He is the Great I Am. I love this quote from Louie:
"Attempting to orchestrate the world around us, even for a day, leaves us stressed and spent."

How much time do we spend working feverishly for what we think is God's purposes for our lives? And how much time to we waste trying to figure it all out before He is ready for us to do it? I am guilty of this, most of my life. I pride myself on being a planner, seeing ahead and mapping out in my mind what is the best course to take. When it comes down to it, how often do we go to the Father first? Before we even begin to envision the path ahead, do we consult Him first? I have had more than one moment in my life when I have approached a situation thinking after a lot of studying, praying, and deep contemplation that I know just the solution. It turned out I was wrong, and God had something better in mind that I hadn't even considered. I have come to this place more than once in my life, where I realize I don't have the mind of Christ and I am not in the place I need to be mentally and spiritually. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is able, He can make the mountain move if it needs to move. I just need to trust Him to move it, and stop worrying about what I can do to help. God has the plan and I just need to trust Him with it. He knows best, I do not and nobody else does either. I need to ask Him once again to take my brokenness and heal it, fill the empty places and use me for His glory. He is good, and He will do His good in me.
I was listening to Natalie Grant on the way to work this morning, and these inspiring words rang through me with such power and strength:
'I will bring praise, I will bring praise,
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice, I will declare
God is my victory and He is here.'

I need this right now. Ryan and I are working through this season daily, but the disappointment of our current situation can be taxing physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, etc. It is hard to be living a season of life that is not where we want to be. We know we'd love to be in full time ministry, but that has not presented itself yet. Today my devotional was about worship in every aspect of our lives. Not just when we gather on Sunday, but in every moment of every day of life. Good or bad, boring or exciting, confusing or clear, painful or not--we are called to worship! Moments like this morning on the way to work, talking with God, singing praise to him along with Natalie, I find it a peaceful, easy resting place. He is here, and He is carrying me through the worst of this so I can stand on the faith He has given me. I know I need to trust and be patient, but God, it is so hard when what we desire so badly is not happening! Stupid humanity. It is so easy to be overcome by worry, fear, doubt when life seems to be standing still. I know the Holy Spirit has calmed me today and will do it again, because I am a child of God and He loves me so deeply. He wants so much for me, for Ryan, for our family and I know He will not fail us or leave us in a place of disappointment. I am trying daily to keep my focus on His purpose, whatever that is, so that my heart and mind remain expectant of what He is going to do.

He is at work, yes, He is!

It can be said that as life wears us down, our beliefs can become warped. As a Christ follower, I should face life standing firmly upon the Word of God and strong in my faith. I can trust God knowing that the Holy Spirit is within me, growing me, improving my knowledge of all things eternal and ultimately guiding me to a place of greater wisdom and strength. I am at a point in my faith walk and after taking some pretty serious punches from life, I am worn out. But...I am also very, very hungry. Hungry for knowledge, of His Word, of any resource I can get my hands on to push me forward. I am not one to give up, to give in when knocked about. I want to move forward, I must and so I do. I know I am tired, I know I feel as if I can't take one more thing, but somehow I manage to push forward. What is it that keeps me going? When all else seems to fail, what is it? It is Him. I know the Great I Am, the Lord Almighty who is seated on His throne and will not fail me! I know I can make it through each day because I have made the choice to look at life from a faith view and not a world view. The world is saying to me, "Just give up. Settle. Know that you can't do any better, this is it." God is saying to me, "Don't give up! Expect something more, something so incredible that when I give it to you you'll be so amazed and surprised! There is more! Hang on!" Now, reality is that most days I go through this in my mind and my reaction is to say, "Nope. I don't feel like it. I know I should move forward, but I'd rather sink into my bed and give up." I am not sure where it comes from, perhaps it is part of how I was raised, or someone came along and mentored me to believe it, or I just developed the mindset on my own--all in all, it is a combination of many things in my life that has resulted in this person. This woman, daughter, sister, wife, mother whom God has intended to use for a great purpose. I know He has it for me, I have seen it in the events of life that have occurred so far. Somehow the best is yet to come. Deep down, in the very depths of my soul I hear Him saying it to me.
Proverbs 2:3-5 If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Ryan and I were looking online at ministry openings last night and in the process I found myself considering, reflecting on what an incredibly gifted and passionate man he is. What makes me both heartbroken and highly expectant at the same time is the realization that nobody has really tapped in to that yet. A lot of people we know and have been blessed to minister with have gotten a taste, a sample of what is in him. What makes me sit on the edge of my seat in great expectation at this moment in our lives more than ever is the fact that something is about to come along for him and as soon as it does, he is going to blow the doors wide open with what he can do. So, in my own way I want to make this blog entry a focus on my awesome husband, Ryan. It may be Mother's Day this weekend, but I am choosing to put the focus on him. When we met, I knew early on this was the man God had for me. He has a passion, a kindness, a love for the Lord and for the gifts he's been given that is admirable and inspiring to me. I have not met anyone who is as true to his calling as Ryan. The road of life has thrown some curve balls his way, and despite some of our struggles he has managed to roll with it in one way or another. Sure there have been many times I have had to kick him into gear, slap some reality in to him but he has not lost sight of what his calling is, what is most important and who he is in Christ. I have wanted so much more for him than what he has been given over the years, and in light of it all a lot of people would not have stood through it like he has. Over the past months since he was let go from his job, it has been a painful process. Life is certain to hand us a lot of disappointment, and for most of us our hearts and minds can only take so much before it starts to chip away at us, tear us down. I know we are in that place right now, so it is at that point when we are humbled, broken and at our weakest--we are truly ready for God to do a work in us. For a couple of weeks now I have had an underlying feeling of high expectation and tangible anticipation. I believe God is already at work on Ryan's behalf. I still don't understand the waiting, and I wish something would happen right now but underneath that is the Holy Spirit calming me and reassuring me that He is in control and He is going to move when the timing is right. I may not be able to understand or comprehend what God is up to, but I can rest in the assurance that He is still there, on His throne, doing what He does best. I can sit confidently in His peace when I choose each and every day to trust and obey Him. I may not want to, I may not feel like it and I would more easily fall into the depths of worry and anxiety, but somehow I have to choose it. It is only because I can't handle it on my own. None of us can. When I am at the end of myself, He is there and He is able to take care of me. Thank you Lord, thank you for Ryan. Thank you for the love we have, for the blessing you have given us in four beautiful and incredible children and an amazing circle of family and friends to love us, encourage us, support us, pray us through the most difficult times. This is what I treasure.
Physical illness and stress are not good combinations. This week has been particularly trying for me and Ryan as he has applied for every job opening he can find in this area and nothing is opening up. Currently the job he is working is not consistent hours and very little pay. That adds up to a great struggle for us to pay our bills every month. Despite the reality of our current situation and our conditions, somehow we know God has a plan and will provide. I have for weeks been blogging very openly and honestly about our struggles. Perhaps I need to put a warning on my entries to those who would dare read it because it has come to my attention that somehow I could be jeopardizing Ryan's chances at a new job. Let me say this now: if you can't read this blog as simply my way of working through what we are experiencing, then don't read it. This is an outlet for me, that is all. I can only hope that sharing my heart as we walk through this difficult season will help others to see that ministry work is no bed of roses sometimes. This is a journey, and by sharing it I know I will get to the other side and be stronger and better for the journey ahead. If I have offended anyone by what I have written, please know it is not my intention. I am so incredibly appreciative to so many people, dear friends and family who have stood beside us throughout this season. We could not get through it without your love, your support, your prayers and encouragement. God has provided abundantly and for that I am so grateful and so humbled. I am standing on the promise He made in Jeremiah 29:11 today, that He has a plan for me and it is for good, it is to prosper me and not harm me. I know He is working and I know He has a plan. I am a ridiculously weak and incompetent human being who will probably screw up a whole lot more than I will get it right. Thank goodness for His mercy, His forgiveness and His grace. He is good, even in the worst of times, I know He is good to me.

Powerful and Effective

James 5:16 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.

I have heard it, I have said it, and I have believed it all my life: prayer is powerful and effective! We are God's children, and He wants to hear from us. He wants to hear us say we believe He can heal, He will restore, He will provide exactly what we need and want. In my devotional today I was struck by the author's transparency. He admitted that in his prayers for his dying sister he asked for comfort and peace, and ease from the pain; he didn't ask for healing. Some time later he was able to pray for her healing. How many of us can say we believe it, but we ourselves don't pray it? It is easy when life gets hard and seems to be rolling forward and all you can do is hang on by the tips of your fingernails, to find yourself wondering, "Will God really do it?" Our prayers tend to reflect the current state of our faith I think. As Ryan and I have been walking through this season, it is true to say that I have found myself praying out of my lack of faith. Disappointment, anger and heart break cut us down and some days when we have so little left in us, our prayers can become habit, tired, almost empty. I can recall some really dark moments in my prayer life recently when I have heard myself saying the same words, but they lack meaning and belief. I can sense within my soul that I long to believe it, but my words come out from a place of weariness. As I have poured over the Word and other companion resources, I find my well is still dry. It is perhaps just the feeling I need to push me forward in my Christ walk. My faith has need to grow, and for reasons only God truly knows He is requiring of me to continue to push forward, stretch, reach for the answers. I know the point will come when I have moved so far and He will have something for me. I am not there yet, but I have found my pace and I need to push on to what is ahead. I am out of breath, sides aching, but within my depths I can feel that burn, that desire for something more. I see how far I've come, but look...it isn't much further and I can say I pushed on to the next level.

Faith

God, You are my God! I can't get enough of You! I've worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts. Psalm 63

I was so proud, so moved by my daughter today. Seeing spiritual maturity in my child is moving. It reminds me when I am perhaps at my lowest, that there really is a God. I am certain that He timed that moment just for me today. The youth choir sang a beautiful song about faith today, and as I watched and listened to my daughter and her sweet friends sing such precious words of encouragement I found my spiritual state lifted. Another week gone by, and another rejection for a ministry job for Ryan has left us at or very near the bottom. Emotions running high, questions flooding through our hearts and minds, and we find ourselves simply saying, "Okay, we're done." We find ourselves at a place in which somehow, some way we feel like God's gonna have to move the mountain to us cause we can't muster the strength to go a step further. Weary, broken, spent....how many other words to describe it? I read a bit more of David Crowder's "Praise Habit" this afternoon and found some of his words to be particularly striking. Here's what grabbed me:

'It seems a vicious and familiar trend of God to lead His own into wildernesses. Usually we look around and see nothing but sand while anger rises inside. We think we should be anywhere but the middle of heat and dust.
We always assume that the desert is not where we belong. Perhaps it was too subtle, but if we would have paid attention we might have felt His hand with delicate softness take ours, and our fingers slowly interlock, and then the gentle pull away from the green grass and the mountain springs.'

As difficult as our circumstances may be, it is evident that God intended for this to happen. We didn't just land here because of a chance roll of the dice. He has purposed us for this moment just as much as He purposed us for every moment that occurred before. Our faith is intended to be tested, stretched, challenged to result in stronger, wiser and greater faith on the other side. Life is going to hand us many challenges and the green grass, the glorious mountain tops will be so much more than we could ever ask for. God wants us to get to the bottom of ourselves to truly know how desperately we need Him, and to hear Him speak His plan over our lives when we are truly ready. I have no doubt He has a purpose and a plan for me and Ryan, and I believe He is going to begin revealing it to us very soon. I hope and pray we both continue to cling to His presence, His Word and His love for us.

my Ebenezer...

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