His Will, Way and Timing

I envisioned the path I wanted, so I toiled day and night to prepare it. I cleared out the brush, smoothed the gravel and started to put on my shoes.

I knew exactly what this path would bring, or so I conceded: love, long life, happiness, everything a girl could dream.

So I began my petition “Please Lord, oh bless this road I built. Let me have it. You see how perfect it is to be used for your will.” But He just kept telling me “Be still”.

The brush kept growing over. Soon barriers started popping up. “Lord what are you doing? Are You saying no to my request?” So, I’d clear it again, pray harder this time, keep working, never to rest.

Until the brush grew so tall, there was no way around it. My way was blocked with no recourse. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. So, I sat and mourned, questioned and screamed.

Then one day the brush shriveled up, the weeds crumbled to dirt and the path was clear. But now it looked like a brand new road – a tree lined path with a refreshing breeze. And this is what the Lord said to me:

“While you were toiling and spinning your wheels, I saw just what was in need. I saw the undergrowth that would be popping up on your way. I saw hazards and choking weeds. I allowed the brush to stop you, so I could finish my work and make this path the best it could be. Now go on my dear, we’ll journey from here on this path you’ve entrusted to me.”

Saying R’s

When I was young, I couldn’t say my R’s.  Everyone just thought it made me sound extra cute, or so they would say, so it didn’t seem to bother me.  Even though my brothers would taunt me “Jodi, Jodi, say Dr. Pepper!”  “Doctow Peppew”  And my parent’s friends thought it was so cute for me to repeat after them “Lizards have gizzards”.  “Lizzawds have gizzawds”, I would attempt.  One girl in my class, Tiffany, blurted out one day that she loved my accent.  “Now there’s an idea”, I thought, “I’ll just pretend like it’s an accent”.  But my friends standing around her laughed a little and cleared up her confusion that this was not some cool, rare accent.  I just couldn’t say my R’s.  Once I hit 3rd grade, my teachers started telling my mom she should probably do something about this.  So, on to speech lessons I went!

Speech lessons twice a week after school to learn to say my R’s felt like a daunting task, and I wondered if any amount of training would ever change the way I had spoken all my many years of life.  After several lessons, I discovered how to correctly pronounce the R… “purrrrrrple”.  “I said it!  I did it!  But, wait, that sure took a lot of learning and work just to be able to say the word 1 time”, I thought.  The outcome felt certain that I would have to think long and hard every time I said an R for the rest of my life!  But despite how it felt at the time, my teacher reassured me that after repeating the correct R many times, I would soon start to say it the right way without even thinking about it.  And, to my surprise, he was right.  Sure enough, the day came when I was saying every R correctly without any thought or effort.  That, to me, was amazing! 

Now when I face a change that feels like pushing 1,000 lbs. every laborious step and I wonder if the effort to change, whether it is adjusting to a loss or learning something new, I remember this lesson with my R’s.  I remember that with time and consistency, the load will lighten.  It won’t always be this heavy.  And one day before I know it, I’ll look and the weight will be gone.  I will have changed or grown past that struggle and I no longer have to think long and hard before saying each “R” or taking each step.  The same is true for each of us. 

Thank You, Lord, for growth, change and our ability to learn new things and new ways.  Thank You for promising to lighten the load as we cast our cares on You.         

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:18-19

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

Storm Chasers

I work in the insurance industry, specifically with property claims.  Hurricane season for an adjuster is like tax season for an accountant.  Depending on the number of storms and the severity, work can get extremely busy for months on end.  So more severe storms tends to mean overtime and much higher pay.  Therefore, could it be said that adjusters hope for catastrophes in order to benefit financially?  

Maybe a similar question forms when a follower of Jesus reaps the benefits of God’s grace while there is the storm of sin in their life.  Is that person intentionally following after sin knowing God’s grace will be there in abundance for as sin increases, so does His grace?

“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” Romans 5:20

I believe in both cases, the answer is no.  The nature of the world is just that, the nature of the world.  It brings storms and disasters.  Things aren’t always the way we think they should be.  They are not the way they should be in the weather, in our homes or in our heads and as long as we’re on this earth, they never will be.  God knows this which is why He gave us adjusters for storms and grace for our sin.  So while we may not ask for the storms or seek them, we know within them does rest His security, love and grace. 

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!  Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:15-18

Sustenance

Often times I just get tired of figuring out what I’m going to eat. I wish I could just eat one thing, be full for the rest of the day (if not week) and be done with it. But unfortunately, it’s never worked that way. I eat and feel satisfied just to get hungry again a few hours later and have to start the whole process over again.

Getting fed spiritually feels a lot like this. I wish I could just say a prayer in the morning and be inspired with enough “Holy Ghost” to get me through the rest of the day. After time with the Lord and a word from Him, I chew on it for several hours. I feel blessed and complete and strong. I’m given new revelation that speaks to my heart and feelings of his tender love to help and heal the hurts. But just when I think I have all of life figured out for the rest of time because of this time of refreshing, I start running on fumes. That’s when I realize I’ve come to the end of myself again and must seek Him again for His strength and filling.

I can’t control the way my body hungers for food after one time of eating any more than I can control the way my spirit longs for the Lord after a period of communion.

What a good way to remind us to stay close to Him and never think we have to go through life on our own. He designed us to need Him. We just have to remember to keep coming to the table.

“Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:3

Owies

Re-posting from a prior New Year’s…

Caleb (one of my 3 sons) dropped a wooden block on his pinky toe tonight. From experience, I know dropping anything on your pinky toe can be a painful experience. But, boy oh boy, did he throw out an over-reacting crazy cry drama display (yes, I believe that is the proper technical term) for all the world to hear. I put an ice pack on his toe, gave him lots of TLC and he eventually settled down. An hour or so later, he came back to me and said “Mom! My toe has been NOT hurting SO much that I forgot I had hurt it until I just felt it again and remembered.” I reassured him (as a toddler who has a hard time understanding that not every bruise and scrape is permanent) that the moments of absent pain are evidence that his “owie” is healing and soon enough the pain will be gone completely (until the next wooden block, playground slide or bike ride, of course).

In the midst of our conversation, I felt reminded that this applies to emotional pain as well. Often times, like my precious baby, we wonder if the pain we feel will ever go away and healing seems like an impossible task. Thankfully, we have a Heavenly Father just as interested in giving us an ice pack, wisdom and TLC as we are for our own children. And eventually the sting of pain subsides or maybe even shifts to a dull ache. And although total healing may take a long time and may not leave us the same as it found us, we should let these moments of “NOT feeling the pain SO much” remind us that healing is occurring. I wish everyone a wonderful New Year full of gratitude, strength, joy and healing.

“The Lord does not cause pain without allowing something new to be born” (Isaiah 66:9, paraphrased in 20 Lessons Learned by Debbie Stuart.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ( Psalm 147:3)

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 30:17)

The Gift Giver

It is such an enjoyable thing to buy gifts for those we love.  It’s a demonstration of the fact that we know them intimately enough to know what they would enjoy.  It shows them we think of them and consider the details of their personality and desires just to discover some little gem that will bless them. 

Well, I have a friend who lives out of town and every time a birthday or holiday rolls around, I can’t wait to think of what gift I will pick out for this person.  This past year, I picked out several items and couldn’t wait to deliver them.  However, our visits didn’t work out as planned, so I decided to hold onto them until they could be delivered in person.   Now with Christmas around the corner, I thought of a few more gift ideas.  So, I bought them and added them to the pile that is just waiting for the chance to be delivered.  In this process, I wondered “how large will this pile actually get if our visits keep getting delayed?!”

Then I pictured our Heavenly Father doing the same for us.  He picks out and collects gifts for us every chance He gets as a token of His love for us – gifts specific to us.  Gifts of grace, of strength, of breaking strongholds, gifts of revelation of Himself and gifts of intimate moments together.  And maybe we’re in a place for awhile where we’re not able to receive His gifts.  Maybe we are in a place of trial or sin, a place of mourning or tribulation.  And in that season, maybe the gift would be lost in the midst of our troubles.  So, He stores them up! He holds onto them and waits for the day we are ready to receive all the gifts He has planned for us.

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:7

“That is why God says, “When he went up to the highest place, he led captives into captivity and gave gifts to people.” Ephesians 4:8

Shaken

“Then the Philistines will be thrown into panic, for they counted on the power of Ethiopia and boasted of their allies in Egypt!  They will say, ‘If this can happen to Egypt, what chance do we have?  We were counting on Egypt to protect us from the king of Assyria.’”  Isaiah 20: 5-6

Is there something you have trusted in throughout your life that has boosted your confidence, given you a greater sense of security or maybe even shaped your identity? Maybe you come from a family of wealth, therefore you have never given much worry to where your next meal will come from. Maybe all of the women (or men) in your family have lived long healthy lives, living well into their 90s, so you have great confidence that you will follow in line. Maybe your parents have demonstrated commitment and endurance to their lifetime marriage and set the example for how you believe the story will also go for you. Maybe the church where your faith was born has a leader who has taught you countless truths and been the example of faith for which you look to and live by.

So what happens when that foundation cracks and the most reliable thing in your life crumbles? When the family you depended on makes a bad investment and files for bankruptcy; when you get a cancer diagnosis in your 40’s and your vision of a long life is suddenly threatened; when one of your parents commits adultery and the relationship you trusted more than any other ends. When your church leader is caught being dishonest and has to step down… what happens then?

Maybe we would echo the words of the Philistines in the scripture above and wonder, “If this can happen to Egypt (fill in the blank), what chance do we have?!” And suddenly we are met with the choice to either crumble in despair and hopelessness or rebuild our foundation.

God has a way of illustrating to us over and over again our faith and dependence should be on Him and Him alone.  Everything in this world is temporary, every person in this world is flawed.  If your trust lies in anything or anyone of this world, it is subject to disappointment. 

This is not to say we shouldn’t be grateful for the blessings of financial security, good health, successful relationships and amazing church leaders or walk in fear of their failure. (And check out how to still love people who’ve let us down HERE) But we should never place our confidence in these people, places or things above our confidence in the Lord. He is still who He says He is when we face loss and we can have the confidence in Him to say “I don’t like it, but I trust You. Show me according to Your Word and Spirit where to go from here.”

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Unfaithful

The Lord asked me, “What if I asked you to marry a cheating man?”

“When the LORD first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the LORD and worshiping other gods.” Hosea 1:2

So, I pondered the scenario. The quick reply is of course – “anything for you Lord, right?” But my instinctive answer is no.

Could I walk in daily forgiveness of a man who was continually and willfully unfaithful to me? Surely over time, no matter how much strength I mustered to forgive over and over, my love would reach its limit and I would give up. That seems to be the human limit of love.

But the Lord has shown us a different kind of love.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

He saw our unfaithfulness and chose to love us still. He saw our disobedience and chose to pave the road to forgiving us through the sacrifice of His own Son. Without forgiveness, love is hindered. So, He paid the highest price making His forgiveness complete and His love known.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

To accept His forgiveness and experience His love, all He asks of us is to believe that He has given us this gift of grace.

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:10-11

What an amazing demonstration of love this is! He has shown us how to love and in so doing, has now freed us to extend that same grace and love to others.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

Just This Day

Summer is here, let the classes and camps begin!  This year the summer activities we signed our boys up for all happen to fall on the same two weeks.  Coordinating all of the pick ups and drop offs has taken quite a bit of concentration and effort.  Band for one kid at 10:20, Basketball for another at 1, basketball for the other at 2:20, Ninja training at 4 and carpooling a group of kids to drama rehearsal at 5 and 10 pm, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

As I was preparing to let the boy’s dad know which pick ups and drop offs he could help with on Wednesday, my mind jumped to thinking about the details of Thursday.  That thought felt quite overwhelming as each day this week has it’s own specific minute details.  So, I decided we would just go over the details one day at a time.  Let us get through the details of Wednesday and help that run as smooth as possible before we start working out and discussing the details for Thursday.  Otherwise, our minds may explode. 

And it dawned on me that God probably has that same desire for us when giving direction. Each day has it’s own challenges, it’s own details, it’s own decisions to be made and acted on. Yet, when seeking direction from Him, we tend to want to know our entire future. “Can’t You just give us the entire picture now?!” I know for me, I rarely stop and ask for just the directions He has that one day. No, I want to know exactly what the directions will be for the next and the next and the next instead of trusting Him for the big picture and walking with Him one day at a time.

Lord, You know the details and needs of this day. You know the challenges and decisions we will face. You see down the road and know what direction You would have us take today. When we turn to the left or the right, let us hear You say “this is the way, now walk in it”.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  Matthew 6:34

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

Toothbrushes and Trusting

I got a new toothbrush. It’s a very good Power toothbrush with a pressure sensor, timer and 2 intensity settings. I can feel such a difference with my teeth using this one compared to a cheapy store bought standard toothbrush. But, there was a learning curve when I first started using it. I was so used to doing all of the “heavy lifting” with my old toothbrush, I found myself still asserting a lot of pressure. I was used to using my own force to scrub hard and get those teeth sparkly clean. But, with this new toothbrush, if you push too hard on it, it vibrates to warn you the pressure is too hard. So, I let up to not wear down the bristles and let the rotating toothbrush head do it’s work. The power behind the toothbrush does not need my added pressure. Angle the toothbrush right and glide it along all four quadrants and wah-lah, super clean teeth!

This process, of course, led me to think isn’t that like learning to trust in God? We get so used to working out of our own efforts and power, that when we are given God’s limitless and effective power, we still don’t know (or have to learn) how to let go and trust in the sufficiency of His power. If we continue trying to exert too much of our own pressure, it wears down our faith the same way it wears down the bristles on my toothbrush. Instead, we can hold on with a comfortable grip and trust in His design to love and care for His children. We can trust Him to get into the crevices that need cleaning and polish us until we are shining. And He does all of this as we put our trust in Him, His unmatched power, sufficiency and grace.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Being Mean

This morning on the way to school, my 4 year old said “sometimes Caleb (his 7 yr old brother) is mean to me. So sometimes will you be mean to him too?”  I laughed a little on the inside thinking “of course I won’t be mean to your brother because he was mean to you. He’s my son too.”

Then I wondered if that’s how it sounds to God when we wish He would “repay” the wrongs done to us. He hears us, gently smiles, understands why we feel that way but then reminds us that the person who hurt us is His child too.  And instead of “being mean to them”, He disciplines out of love and infinite wisdom, knowing exactly what each of us needs.  He provides mercy upon mercy just as He has done for me…. and for that, I am extremely grateful.

In the broken, In the silence
I sit and wait
Your hand is at work
I watch and pray
I give You the pieces
I trust what You say