Empty net..Worn heart..God can handle it all!

Determined? Yes. Discouraged? Yes. Seeking? With all my heart and soul. Hopeful? When my anxiety doesn't overwhelm me. Human? Yes, entirely. Which means I am far from perfect, I am certainly going to fail a lot in this life. Supernatural? Yes, Christ in me! Which means I have a choice daily to start by recognizing how incapable I am but how capable the Spirit is that lives within me. I am currently reading Max Lucado's, "Next Door Savior" and I just hit a great chapter entitled "Discouraged People". The scripture reference is Luke 5:1-11. I read the familiar story of Jesus telling Peter to cast his nets again. This was after a bad day of fishing, we are talking 0 fish. So, you can imagine how worn out he is, ready for a hot bath, dinner and straight to bed. It is one of those days that I can only identify with as one that leaves you feeling empty. I don't have a thing left to give and I don't see the point of even making an effort. I have found over the last year or so that there is a serious and sometimes very tangible battle going on between the mind and the heart, the natural and the supernatural. How do we prepare for this battle? By staying in relationship with our God, by digging deeply into the Word, by calling upon our sisters and brothers in Christ when we are at our lowest. It is hard to ask for help isn't it? I don't like to ask for help and I don't like admitting I can't handle something. So let's go a bit deeper: What happens when it seems God is not enough? I have been there and I am certain if you have not experienced it yet, you will. I believe God allows us to hit this low to ensure we have completely emptied ourselves of well, ourselves. To find at the bottom of it all, that we can look up and see Jesus. He is there. When you are sitting in the dark, wondering how am I going to go to sleep tonight with so much weighing on my heart and mind...sink into the realization that God wants to take it and bear it for us. Like any method or tool we adopt through a therapy process whether it is for your marriage, for dealing with a condition like OCD or Bipolar Disorder, for an addiction, whatever your battle may be--we have to choose to practice and use the tools we've been given every single day. When we use those tools in partnership with our supernatural tools--prayer/scripture/time with God, we can overcome. It is no different than eating a healthy diet and adopting an exercise routine to keep our physical bodies healthy and in balance. Somehow we have to find this balance for our lives on a natural and a supernatural level, and when we do we can experience peace and relief. Thank goodness Peter's day didn't end with an empty net. He did what Jesus asked him to do, cast his net and oh, what an amazing thing happened!
I encourage you today to know you are loved and prayed for, God is bigger than what you are facing today and He will help you. There is nothing He can't handle.

Yes! There is a purpose even for this!

If you are going to do something, do it with purpose. Every moment we endure in this life, good and bad, happy and sad, has purpose and we have a choice what to do. We can dwell on what it could have been, or we can evaluate it for what it was worth and move on. God allows life to happen very purposefully, and nothing happens by accident. When he hands us something to deal with, whether we expect it or not—and most of the time we are surprised!—we are immediately thrust into his spotlight, you could say. He is allowing it to see how we will act upon it. He is allowing it so we have the opportunity to behave in a way that says, “Lord, I believe in You and Your purpose for my life! I will walk this out by faith and trust You have use for even a moment such as this!” or, we will do the complete opposite and turn from God, curse Him and wallow in bitterness and regret for the rest of our lives. I think it is safe to say that most of us have faced a few things in our lives that we would have rather not, had we been given the choice. The difference between how the world handles it and how we handle it, that is what sets us apart. I have been studying a number of familiar characters in the Bible over the course of the past several days. Paul, my goodness what he did and how God transformed him—the struggles he endured and to boldly state that we should endure it with great joy! Job—could it have been any worse? The loss, the suffering, the grief he endured and how God brought him through it. Daniel—can you imagine being thrown into a den of lions, and surviving it? The faith, the trust He had in God to take care of him and to see how God miraculously delivered him. And today—Jonah. Called by God to go, and he ran the other way. He had no interest in doing what God called Him to. I am not sure any one of us in our lifetime could claim to know what it is like to have been ingested by a large fish and vomited out, and go through all that he did to finally understand God would take care of him, God had a mighty plan for his life beyond anything he could have imagined for himself. At some point, each one of these men and all of us must come to the realization that regardless of how we feel about it, we must push through the most difficult times in our lives because God has allowed it for our good, to help us grow and change, to mold us more into who intends for us to be, and ultimately it is necessary, required before we are truly ready for what He has for us to do next. The painful truth we must face in what seems like unending struggle, we must realize brokenness is a necessity on the path to righteousness. We will never be completely righteous, worthy until we stand before Him one day and tells us we’ve done good, we’ve done what He called us to do in this life. We must make this our life goal, to work toward righteousness daily, to work toward being more whole and complete, the creature God intended for us to be. We are called to be set apart, and to live a life in this manner:

“Be joyful always; pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I am learning as I walk through life that God’s will for me is not something I will completely understand or grasp in a few years and that is it for the rest of my life. God’s will is continuously evolving for me and He only will reveal to me what is necessary for this season right now. The seasons to come will be revealed as He sees I am ready, as He sees the time is right. I must let go of my need to be in control and trust God to do what only He does best. As much as I’d love to be at the wheel and drive, that is a place that only God is intended to fill. He is the driver, I am the passenger. I must trust Him to know where I need to go, and not hound him like an impatient child on a family road trip, “Are we there yet?!” Somehow I will choose daily to be content in the passenger’s seat, and trust the Driver more because after all He’s done for me….He deserves it.

Fear and faith: It's a heck of a journey!

I realize today more than any other day I am so blessed. I don't know if it comes with age and a variety of life experiences, but at the wonderful age of 40 I find myself enjoying more moments of solitude with my God to fully appreciate what He has given me. To say the last year and a half has been hell on earth in some ways is the only way to describe it. Now I realize that is probably being overly dramatic, and I am certain there are people experiencing far greater struggles than me but for me I have to say it has been the most difficult and painful portion of my life journey so far.

This leg of my journey started when I was 8 months pregnant and had to spend the day comforting my husband after he came home to tell me he had been asked to resign from his job as worship pastor at our church here in Brazil, Indiana. Fast forward about a month later, and I remember the day we brought Chloe home, sobbing uncontrollably, I had so many questions racing through my heart and mind. Most of it was the result of my sheer anger and disappointment in how God had allowed the situation to unfold. God called us here to experience this? Really? What was He thinking? How in the world are we supposed to handle any of this? What do we do now? Where will we go from here, when what we thought was so certain is now such an uncertainty? As the days and weeks passed, and we watched doors open and close for Ryan, it became very clear that what we wanted and what we were expecting was not what God had in mind. At some point I went into survival mode I guess, because I was amazed how I was able to cope on such an edge. You know that edge? The point where you are so ready to curse God for what has happened, and yet something pulls you back? It is difficult to describe how that feels, to be in such a place of deep despair and at the same time experience this very odd sense of clarity. Like waves in the ocean, Ryan and I went in and out of periods of time when one of us was really getting what God was doing, while the other was practically shutting down--mentally and spiritually. How many of us can say we are completely aware of every single moment our spouses spend with God? We can't. So we hope and pray the few moments we do spend together in prayer and His Word, and the chance moments we glimpse each other in some form of quiet time--even if it is 10 minutes in the bathroom with the door locked so the kids will stay out--that God is getting through. Hoping and praying neither one of us has become hardened toward God, blaming Him for what has happened.

So, how have we processed it all so far? How have we managed to make our way through the days, the weeks of waiting, praying, hoping, exploring, anticipating, agonizing, thrilling, working, working, working....? We still are. There is no definitive answer at this point and there is no end to it in sight. We have found in this portion of the journey that whether it makes sense to us or not, whether we can see it, hear it, touch it is irrelevant and not a requirement for defining our faith. God is not dead, He is very much alive and yes, He is right beside us, He is sitting with us while we are wallowing in a heap on the floor, crying out to Him, "Why God! Why now? Why us? What is the point of any of this?" He hears us, He cries with us, He knows us to our very core. And yet, there is no audible answer. Just His amazing peace, strength and comfort when we have completely emptied ourselves and we are right where He wants us to be. Raw, weak, exhausted, exasperated and more aware of our inability and vulnerability...that is the point when His work in us can truly begin.

I have been reflecting in my quiet time the last few days on His peace and His presence. I have developed in the last month an almost tangible sense of trust in God unlike any other time in my life before. I point to two things in my time that have made that happen: reading this wonderful book "Learning to Breathe" by Alison Wright and God's word to me in the Bible. I was reminded time and time again in my devotionals that fear and anxiety can squirm into my life at the earliest, tiniest sign of weakness. That is why I must bathe myself daily, throughout my day in His presence and in His word. The love God has for us dispels fear and anxiety, eliminates that chance it may have of overcoming us. The moment we realize God's love, and invite Him to envelop us, wash us, and ask Him to take it from us--the fear, anxiety, doubt--the weight of it can be so unbearable! That moment, that is when we can know for sure we know Him, we know His perfect love and we know for certain that He is perfecting that love deeply in us. (1 John 4:18) Alison Wright's book couldn't have come at a better time. Mom had it in her personal library and I asked with great eagerness to borrow it. I am so glad I did because I haven't been able to put it down. I have taken my time reading it, not wanting it to end really. The things she experienced, learned, the amazing journey her life has taken and what she lived through. I can't imagine surviving what she did and being able to tell about it. I am getting close to the end of the book, and what I read last night struck me as I have wrestled and reflected on this tug of war between fear and faith. She states, "There's no end to the process of getting your life back--eventually you have to come down from the mountain....the real success is surviving the descent." Fear and anxiety can be paralyzing, but when faith kicks in we realize we can fight it, we can move on and we can be better because of it.

Today was an amazing day for me. I had a really, really great opportunity present itself and the experience went so well. I came away from it feeling it to be one of the best experiences I have had in my life that I can recall. I went in to it with an attitude of trust in God and thankfulness in my heart. I found myself telling two very dear friends tonight that I honestly don't care if it works out. I am just so thankful for the experience itself. Is that what we should be aiming for in our lives? Is that the point? To finally be so completely surrendered to God, so focused on Him and the truth that He really does intend only good for me in all situations--to be able to say I am residing in peace? I think so. I hope to find myself in this place more often as I continue on the journey God has placed before me.

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...