Strength and Joy

It is very easy for me to talk long and loud about all the struggles we've been through in recent years. It is also easy for me to boast in the Lord, and what he has done to provide for us time and time again. I am still trying to understand, and though it is not something I will fully grasp in my time on this earth, that God has a purpose in the worst of times just as well as the best of times. I'd just assume skip the worst of times, wouldn't you? We gasp, we are stunned, we are rocked to our very core when something terribly unexpected happens. Why? Why now, God? We were just finding what we thought was our groove? We were just starting to get settled in, to get....comfortable. Ah, there it is. The realization, some glimpse of an understanding as to why God allows things to happen when they do. Do you know when God does His best work in us? When we are uncomfortable, completely broken and helpless, no state of being other than fully immersed in His presence and ready to listen. Be still, rest, listen. Focus, let go of every distraction--and this doesn't mean something bad, but even the good things in your life that could hinder our full and complete tuning in to what God has to say. Have we taken time to truly do that? We are a society and a community that thrives on being busy, always doing, never slowing down. Well, how about a change of pace? How about choosing to slow down? How about saying 'no' to a few things in your life and truly saying 'yes' to that one thing that God has called you to pour your heart into? If the juggling act of life has got you feeling as if you can't control what you are juggling anymore, there's a certain sign that you need to slow down. Do it for God, to truly be tuned in to what He has to say to you. Then, do it for yourself, your family, the people in your life who depend on you and are first priority in your life. I find my best time with God, to give Him my fullest attention, and to ultimately help me to release and rest is right before bed. As soon as the kids are in bed, and Ryan is into his late night tv show, I am headed to bed for my time with the Father. I am naturally a night owl and find my best time to give God is late in the evening. Early mornings have never been easy for me and will never be, so this is what works best for me. Everyone should find a time of the day that works best for them to truly focus and give God their best, and that looks different for each person. I have been considering in recent weeks when was the last time I found myself fully immersed, completely tuned in to God's presence? I have come to the realization this year, that I am struggling to trust God and my faith has been rocked harder than any other time in my life thus far. It is easy to trust when we can see it, touch it...but to trust in the unseen. That is a lifelong faith builder for every believer and the key I am finding is in how open our hearts are to fully trusting God. I know that my struggle with trusting God has so much to do with how I have ridden out the last two years of our life journey. It has left my heart severely bruised and broken, and I am finding that the healing process is taking longer than I'd expected. I suppose in a way, I can be compared to an onion. There are layers to my heart that I am slowly peeling back, letting it go as I am able to identify that part of my heart that has been hurt, and truly allowing God to heal it and restore me. I want to find joy again, I remember a time in my life when I could say I truly experienced joy and can say I lived it, but it seems a long time ago. There's a reason God has brought me this far, and I am finding out in this new year, as the layers are peeled back, that He intends for a great deal more healing, resting, restoring to take place in my life so that I can once again find joy and live it.

In case you are wondering, here is a real life update for Ryan and I. We are settling in to new jobs and our new home here in Springfield, Missouri. God has truly provided for this time, and it is evident by certain events that have taken place that we are certainly meant to be here. We are thankful to have good jobs, and a cozy apartment home. We are making slow and steady progress financially, rebuilding what was lost and uncertain for so long. We are beginning to look ahead to plans for a home purchase, but we are being patient, waiting on God's perfect timing. Part of that waiting, and after talking and praying, after meeting with a builder and the bank, we have decided it is best for us to continue to rent and move into a larger apartment this summer. We will revisit the bank in January 2014 to see what our options may be to purchase a home by the summer of that year. I cannot say enough how freeing it is and how right Dave Ramsey is, that choosing to live like nobody else so we can live like nobody else is right on! Living within your means or even below your means is very smart and can bring focus to your priorities very quickly. We have a new perspective on our lives, what we need versus what we want, and what we want to be free to do with our time by choosing to live practically rather than excessively. It is being thankful for what we have today, rather than being so consumed by what we have to have tomorrow. In this life, we are guaranteed to face some mountains, and it will be necessary to climb often until we are crawling on our knees to just keep moving. Well, here's some hope I found in my devotional last night and it has been on my mind today.

'Even if the fig tree does not blossom
and there are no grapes on the vines,
If the olive trees fail to give fruit
and the fields produce no food,
If the flocks die far from the fold
and there are no cattle in the stalls;
Then I will still rejoice in the Eternal!
I will rejoice in the God who saves me!
The Eternal Lord is my strength!
He has made my feet like the feet of a deer;
He allows me to walk on high places.' Habakkuk 3:17-19 (VOICE)

There are going to be times in our lives when it seems we make little or no progress, we have to learn to live with the bare minimum. But somehow we need to choose to have joy in the present-because God certainly will give us strength to walk that mountain! Join me in the journey, whatever your situation is, and let's find strength and joy in Him somehow. It will come, certainly it will come because we love Him and He loves us so.

A lesson in resting and trusting

I am finding in recent weeks, that my being-my heart, mind and soul-is in desperate and purposeful need of a lesson in rest and trust. Is it just me, or is it true for you that as life progresses we become more weary and skeptical? We could blame it on aging, but I'd rather choose to blame it on how each of us can manage the stress and demands that are placed upon us. After all, we can only take so much, and that is different for each person, before something's gotta give. We each have a story to to tell about how life has treated us thus far, and it is not healthy to dwell on the negative nor to glorify the postiives profusely. I stumbled on to some interesting and inspiring words today, from two sources and I was inspired, found myself kind of sighing and saying to myself, "Yeah. That's right on. I can identify with that." So, first up, a dear friend shared from Oswald Chambers' devotional today and I was stopped in my tracks by it. It identifies so well with my current state and how I need to adjust my perspective.

'Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and God puts us into “the shadow of His hand” until we learn to hear Him (Isaiah 49:2). “Whatever I tell you in the dark. . .”— pay attention when God puts you into darkness, and keep your mouth closed while you are there. Are you in the dark right now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? If so, then remain quiet. If you open your mouth in the dark, you will speak while in the wrong mood— darkness is the time to listen.

When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else once you are back in the light.

After every time of darkness, we should experience a mixture of delight and humiliation. If there is only delight, I question whether we have really heard God at all. We should experience delight for having heard God speak, but mostly humiliation for having taken so long to hear Him! Then we will exclaim, “How slow I have been to listen and understand what God has been telling me!” And yet God has been saying it for days and even weeks. But once you hear Him, He gives you the gift of humiliation, which brings a softness of heart— a gift that will always cause you to listen to God now.'
(Oswald Chambers, The Discipline of Hearing, February 14, 2012,

Second, a really bountiful article on about the importance of taking a rest on purpose.

'...I have to admit that I simply need to rest. I need to listen to my body when it tries to call a halt, and above all I need to remember that I am not so important in the scheme of things that I can't give up control (or the illusion of control) long enough to take time out. It's hard for me not to feel guilty when my energy isn't up to the tasks at hand. But I've found it is surprisingly easy to alter my plans, to reschedule a meeting, even—and here I do battle with my most basic instincts—to put off until tomorrow something I could do today. Today I would do it badly. Tomorrow, God willing, I'll be more rested and alert, and I'll be able to do it right.

I now understand that the old monk's wisdom was grounded in that of the Psalms he'd recited every day for more than 60 years. The Psalms remind us that whether we are full of energy or drained of it, we are in God's presence. Several Psalms imply that it's when we are asleep, and not so full of ourselves and the noise of our lives, that we are best able to hear God speak to us. In Psalm 16 we read, "I will bless you, Lord. You give me counsel, and even at night direct my heart." When I can truly accept being drained of energy, I see it not as an opportunity, because that implies too much control on my part, but as an opening. It's as if a window has opened, or a door, inviting me to listen. It is liminal (literally, "threshold") time, the fertile ground between waking and sleeping, between doing and being. It is when I am half awake, before my list-making brain takes over and pretends it's in charge, that my best ideas come. But on my off days, when I am stripped of energy and feel too stupid even to think, all I can do is pray

The author, Kathleen Norris, finished the article by quoting a prayer from the Common Book of Prayer that I have latched on to and will be posting on my bathroom mirror. Amazing, fresh air truth that I needed today.

"This is another day, O Lord.... If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly."

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I am thankful for the inspiration of these two amazing sources today and I am inspired to settle more deeply into this time of rest and restoration in my life. I hope it does the same for you.

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