Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February

I can honestly tell you that I've experienced more heartbreak, disappointment, and trauma in the past month than I have in a long time. But when I stop to reflect on this, my favorite month of the year, I would rather note all of the things that made this a truly great month.

I kicked off February and my birthday celebration with a trip to California. Everyone kept asking what I was going for. Me. I found a cheap flight, had wonderful friends who graciously let me be their guest, and I spent 5 days enjoying time away to shop, sight-see, and enjoy the beautiful weather and sights of Pasadena and LA.


For those of you bugging me about my recent weight loss, I ate like a pig in California! Mostly fresh foods but also indulging in gourmet cupcakes and splurging on my favorite, See's Candies. Truffles of course. It was a wonderful vacation. A time to think, process, pray, enjoy the outdoors, engage in conversation with a dear friend and mentor, and just relax.


I have had some new opportunities to be a weekly blogger for a Christian publication, freelancer copy writer for a web-based business, and consulting with another start-up publication. All opportunities I am truly blessed to be able to take part in. And they all wanted a picture of me. Really?! I want to write for the web - not post my picture! Well, I have a lot of photographer friends so I enlisted the talents of one to take a headshot. "It can be low-key," I told him. I should know better than to stifle the creativity of an artist. The day after it snowed we had a full blown photo shoot in some of Lynchburg's little known locations that turned into perfect picture backdrops, producing a fun experience and some new headshots of yours truly. I can honestly say, while I do NOT count myself as a model (I assure you, I have no ability to do a serious pose to save my life), it was a really fun experience and I think everyone should get to enjoy a photoshoot "just because." (Thank you Scott Hill Photography for your awesome work!)



I took advantage of a birthday gift and had a body polish massage. What is a body polish massage, you ask? Good question. It's a relaxation muscle massage with exfoliation and a full body scrub. WOW! I walked out like a silky smooth wet noodle! Why don't I do this more often?! This was definitely a treat! Topping off the beauty treatments, I had a pedicure and fiberglass nails, compliments of the fabulous Taylor'd Nails (check her out on Facebook) and spent 4 luxurious hours getting pampered and feeling like a new woman by my favorite stylist, Dorothy (Check out Fusion Salon!).

In the middle of all this, a new companion entered my life. He's black and white, furry all over, and his name is Bentley. A 2 year old Shih tzu who needed a new home and found his way into mine! He's perfectly trained, super low maintenance, but a great companion. He's not the labradoodle E keeps asking for (only so he can ride him) but Bentley is now a part of the family.

I spent an evening with some girlfriends wining and dining to celebrate several of us who had February birthdays. We started the night by painting pottery, which can be fun and stressful for someone with OCD tendencies. But I ended up with a purple speckled mug inscribed with my name and something I can enjoy my morning coffee in while remembering a day with friends. We ate at Isabella's and I'd never been there so it was a welcomed experience to try new cuisine and get to know friends better. Lots of laughs and a whole lot of good girlfriend fun and it was a wonderful evening!


Another ladies night out included a concert with Mandisa and Laura Story. Seriously, what a blessing! You can see the other blog about this. But part of the fun was also getting to know new people and hear their stories of God's faithfulness in their lives and share Godly girl time of worship. This is so refreshing for the soul!

We got our first snow of the winter on my actual birthday. Snowed in with 7" by the time it was over and a snowday the next day. It changed my birthday plans but taking E out in the snow and hearing his squeals of delight were well worth it!




It's leap year which means 29 days in February so 29 days of celebrating. I ended the month with an office lunch and a heartfelt and thoughtful gift from one of my closest friends (since we'd gotten snowed in and she couldn't give it to me until then). And, to hear about other noteable notes for the month of February, you can check out today's earlier blog. Truly a time of testing and learning. And as I've now turned another year older, I'm reflecting on all God's blessings in my life and striving to give Him all that I am for all of His glory.

What have I learned?

February is my favorite month. I have a running blog saved to document all the things I did over the past month-long birthday celebration. But February 2012 has probably also been one of the most tumultuous times in my life on a spiritual and emotional level.

What happened? I had to get to a place of absolute brokenness, complete desparation and desolation, to be 100% abandoned and alone, broken-hearted and crushed in spirit, so that I might soley and only look to God for healing. A life lesson I don't want to have to repeat!

As I close out this month and reflect on all that's happened - mostly internally - I am still reeling from the emotional roller coaster that has jolted me back and forth. I'm still trying to get my bearings and gain my balance, not quite sure if I'm ready to rise and walk. This purging process seems to have only just begun, especially when trying to peel back layers and layers of damage, scars and baggage.

God has had to take me through a process of stripping away every single piece of ME, forcing me to take a long, hard and painful look in the mirror and face myself, my own worst enemy.

My journey started many many years ago but when I packed my bags to head home from California at the first of this month, I left some serious baggage behind. I left behind the guilt I was bearing for hurting people and making wrong choices. I intentionally left the emotional heartache I was lugging around that left me feeling like less of a person. I said goodbye to the lies I had believed that I was unworthy, unlovely, and unloved. Oh how the enemy has used these to taunt and test me. Time after time he's slaughtered me with attacks and in my brokendown state, I was too weak to take on my opponent and too stubborn to let God fight him for me.

I've had to set boundaries in my life and in my relationships, taking another good long look at the fact that codependent themes run throughout my life. Most of these have lead to extremely unhealthy realities that have all contributed to more emotional baggage. (No, I'm not blaming anyone. I am accepting responsibility.) As I began to tear down walls that separated the closed-off places of my heart from realizing true exposure, but also real healing, I started to construct areas called "boundaries" to help me prioritize and regain emotional control.

There's a Hillsong praise chorus that I first heard in college called, "I will never be the same again." The verse says, of my life:

I will never be the same again
I can never return,
I've closed the door

When you go through this purging and healing process, you come to the understanding that - as painful as it can be - there are things that ultimately must be permanently removed. There are places you have forsaken that require attention so that FULL restoration can come. There are emotions that may never truly subside but they must be kept under lock and key so they don't overtake you.

One of the most painful lessons - especially for a control freak - is realizing you cannot make someone else's decisions for them. No matter how much that person and their choices influence you and your life, this forever impact is ultimately a result of the other person's choice. And try as you might, you cannot choose for them. I've been both the recipient and giver of this lesson.

Even as I understand my role in the relationships around me and how my choices have had their own impact on others, I also know I can't bear the full weight of the responsibility. These are some of the other bags I left behind. I can't undo the past. I can't change my choices. I can't redo my circumstances. I don't get a "do-over." But I do get one thing...  The opportunity to sit back, process and ask myself, "What have I learned?"

If I'm really honest, I will admit that I am still learning. And like I said, some lessons I don't want to repeat, but all lessons are shaping my life and who I am becoming. Oh yes, I will still make mistakes. I will still choose unwisely. I will still hurt others, or impact them by my choices. But each time I will take the lesson with its accompaniment of pain, heartache, discipline, or whatever else may come, and accept the "me" it's helping me become.

24:29

Happy Leap Day/Leap Year! It's February 29th and it only comes every 4 years.

Today my favorite radio station posed the question: If you were given a gift card of 24 hours to spend however you choose, no strings attached, what would you do?

It's a valid question. On this day, the 29th of February, with 366 days in this year, we've been given a "free day." It's a gift of 24 extra hours, which doesn't sound like a lot compared to the 8,760 hours in a year that we normally get. But it's a chance to stop and think: what are you going to do today with your "free" day?

If we're to make the most of each day we're given, then today is nothing different. The fact that you woke up and took a breath (or yawn) is proof positive that God has something for you to do. And on this extra day of the year, I'm challenging us all to ask ourselves "how can we spend this day differently?"

I realize it's in the middle of the week and many of our routines will progress as normal (as if they have no care or regard for the fact that today should be a day of celebration!), but as you go about your "normal" I challenge you to look for ways to do things out of the normal - more than just make the most of these 24 hours, but to truly seek how you can make an impact.

What will you do today that will last for eternity? You've got 24 hours on the 29th day of this month that only hits every 4 years. Make it count!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Curse God...

Hold on. Before I lose my audience, you should know me better than to think my feelings reflect the title of this post. I suppose I could have more appropriately entitled it "Why God?" or "Why me, God?" but that wouldn't have gotten your attention as much, now would it have?!

So today's post is in honor of a dear friend and someone I will always hold closely in my heart. And someone who has recently felt, based on certain circumstances being faced, as if God has turned His back. Searching for answers, looking for signs, not able to even face the day at times. And I've watched life taking a toll. There's a card inscribed with scriptures that I had already prepared yesterday to put in the mail to my friend. It kindof seems foolish that I'd be sending a bunch of verses to someone who, right now, doesn't even want to talk to God, let alone hear His word.

I am mindful that at any stretch of this journey, I could have reached the point where my own circumstances caused me to look toward the heavens, raise a clinched fist and demand answers. Or, quite the opposite, I could have refused to look up, turned my back, and tuned out any messages of hope and faith.

The truth is, I've been in places before where well-meaning Christians have said what felt like foolish things like "God has a better plan," or "All things work together for good." I know those verses too. I can quote them all day long. I can show you where God tells me He has a plan for my life; I can quote you on the promises that tell me I am His child and He won't give me more than I can bear. But in that moment - in the middle of this BIGGER-THAN-LIFE circumstance that is looming over me, the only thing I wanted to shout was "LEAVE ME ALONE!" (Or maybe "Save it for someone who doesn't know" or "I'm not there right now...") I am the kind of person who needs answers. I need to process. I need explanations. I require information. I need to figure things out. So when the world is literally falling apart - MY WORLD, not yours - I seek to understand what's happening.

As I watch my friend face what feels to be the world falling apart there's nothing I can do, say or share that will help. (And we all know how much I desire to help!)  It's not that my faith is stronger or that I know more verses. It's not that I can sing a prettier praise chorus or lift my hands higher in worship. It's not even that I'm not facing my own set of problems and that my life is "A-Okay." (Trust me, it's not.) 

But in this moment, for this person, I have but only one response.

Pray.

Another friend has said to me, "Carrie, when you can't do anything, you just need to pray. Give it to HIM. Every single time you're tempted to respond or "do" - don't. Just pray."

It's a high calling to do nothing (remember yesterday's post?). My prayers aren't holier. My words aren't loftier. My relationship with the Lord isn't closer. When dwelling in a pit of despair, I've found myself not even able to utter a word. I've called on others around me to intervene on my behalf. And even when I've not been able to look up or down - simply paralyzed by my own daunting circumstance - I've had to rely on others to lift me up to Him.

So, friend, today I am lifting you up. You can rest assured even if I don't know what to say or if there's truly nothing I can do, I will be covering you in prayer. This is part of the admonition to "bear with one another" and I want you to know I'm here. Even when you feel you can't turn to God - or you may spiritually and emotionally be unable in this state - I'm turning to Him on your behalf.

(I'm mindful of many needs right now. You are loved. You are prayed for. You are my friend.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Be Still

Daily I struggle. I have to use every amount of strength and prayer to battle the innate desire I have to act. I can't just sit idle. I don't seem to have a "neutral" mode. Whether it's a problem, project, conversation, or any number of scenarios, I possess the personality that wants to jump in, do, move, help, assist, lead, coordinate, respond, react.


There it is. Many of life's circumstances have provided conditioning that cause me to react and respond, many times when I should do nothing (or maybe shouldn't even be involved). The shaping and molding of this earthen vessel continually requires a chipping away of these things that muddle my vision, personality, and responses. But because this is also a part of who I am (I can't help it -it's in my DNA!) I recognize the constant struggle it can be. Without even so much as a warning it can creep in and take over. Gone is rational thinking. Calculated responses are thrown out the window. There's no such thing as think-before-you-act when this stronger-than-life call to action takes control.


In the last few weeks I have been put to the test. Moreso than usual. I've been challenged - not to do anything but to do nothing. There have been some MAJOR failures. A full blown mess has been certain to follow. And I sit back and ask myself "how did I get here?!" It's caused me to question my actions, behaviors, thoughts, words, responses, faith... There have been times I've replayed the situation only to sit staring at the screen of life screaming "don't do it! you'll end up in a mess!" It's too late. The damage has already been done. And now, knowingly, I can't change the outcome but am only left to deal with the aftermath.

In the last 48 hours the onslaught of my inner tug of war has been in full force. On one side of the rope were the emotional responses and memories of the past putting their full force into convincing me to act, react, respond and do. On the other side were the voices of reason and logic doing their best to shout overtop the feelings and overcome the fight of reality versus fantasy. I'm not going to lie - this internal struggle wreaks havoc. The battle is exhausting. One hint of an emotion can send me swinging to the side of reaction. One swift move toward logic can strive to bring me back to balance. The only good news is the violent back and forth of the pendulum seems to bring about immobilization, preventing me from any kind of response or reaction I might regret later.

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14

I have recited this verse over and over as my heartfelt prayer during the war of the last few days. Accepting His promise and knowing my place, He has shown me the truth in this scripture. Don't get me wrong - the reminder hasn't prevented my desire to move or respond. I've still had to fight the internal battle of wanting to do and react - I just haven't had to fight the battle around me. That, He assured me, is His. And that, He reminds me, is why I must be still.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Broken Hallelujah

It's been a full, busy, and BLESSED weekend! It's still February (for a few more days) and a few more celebrations were still planned. Back-to-back girls nights found me meeting new people, trying new things, making new friends, and celebrating LIFE. Why? Because before He planned creation, my Savior planned for me to have abundant life. Yes, even me. (You too, by the way!)

I don't use this blog to post my daily updates or give status reports of my whereabouts. But all of what I've shared is leading me to a point (let's hope).

Tonight I enjoyed hearing amazing testimonies and beautiful songs by Laura Story & Mandisa at Girls Night Live! Oh what a blessing! I don't need to reiterate how much music is a balm for me but what was shared through story and song simply stole my heart tonight.

I've often belted (and even blogged about) the lyrics to Mandisa's songs. "Just Cry" is mentioned in one of my most-read posts. "Stronger" was the song playing as I drove away from the charred remains of the burned down house even while the firefighters were still on the scene. "Good Morning" is something I love to blast on the way to work as I get ready to face a new day.

But tonight she shared from her heart, a broken and sometimes lonely heart, of her very real and personal struggles. She openly admitted that once she realized she could take off the mask and be REAL, she could allow the Lord to use her and BLESS her through the pain and tears of her testimony. This is why I share. This is why I blog. This is why I post. This is why I tweet. It's as much my testimony as it is my therapy!

What I know is that whatever you're facing, when you take off the mask and allow people to peer inside, support, pray, encourage and pour into your life, it can turn into a blessing for both of you. Part of the blessing for me was getting to know new people and hear their own journeys through trials and joys and be able to experience a night of worship where we could lift our voices and our hands and praise Him no matter what our circumstance.

And then she sang a song I'd never heard. If the lyrics of her other melodies have touched my heart, I simply wasn't prepared for how this one would speak to me.

When all that I can sing
Is a broken hallelujah
When my only offering
Is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration
Will rise up from these ruins
I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise
Is a broken hallelujah
 
There have certainly been times all I could sing was a song of shattered praise from a broken heart. I'm sure it's been true of you before, too. And if that's where you find yourself now, just know that out of those ruins a song can still rise. Praise Him!

I'm thankful for new opportunities. I'm grateful for friends. I'm in love with my Savior. I adore worship. I am committed to giving praise no matter how I feel. I am determined to have joy despite the circumstance.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Help Yourself

I found someone who shares my "dilemma" for drawing energy from others. We had an enlightening conversation  about our "struggle" to ensure we are not 1. Filling the Lord's place in our lives with other people and 2. Seeking approval or affirmation as a result of our service.

The lesson for me right now is allowing God to help Himself to my life - even to the point where I have no say so whatsoever. It sounds simple enough. Of course I want God to use me - but am I willing to let Him not use me? Contrary to what I may think I have to give and share, am I willing to be "shelved"? Do I have that much faith? Could I be so bold even now to trust Him and His plan?  If so, then I would be willing to let Him help Himself to me even if it means not using me.

Where I can jump ahead is thinking that some gift or talent or blessing that I have is my offering. I care too much about wanting to bless others that many times I miss the greater calling of being still in His presence, which is where I should be drawing my true strength and energy from. Am I willing to know and experience Him rather than worrying about what I can share with others?

When I freely help myself to all He has to offer, this becomes the outpouring of my life. Help Yourself, Lord.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Social Butterfly

I apologize in advance that this will not be an uplifting and inspirational blog, but rather my open forum to vent. It's my blog and I can do what I want.

Are you ready for this? I'm about to admit something to you. I like attention. Shocker, I know. Let me phrase it a different way - I enjoy people. I like being able to make people laugh. I like getting a reaction. I enjoy helping others. I get involved with people. Sometimes when and where I shouldn't. But I thrive on the energy I get from being with and sharing with people. Let me share...

In first grade one of my classmates forgot his lunch money and was in tears. I took it upon myself to take this student by the hand and march him promptly to the teacher where I asked what exactly we could do for him.

In 5th grade I got a note sent home from my choir teacher asking my mom what we were going to do with me, the "social butterfly." As much as I loved to sing, I loved to talk too and I simply couldn't keep from socializing during chorus practice.

In 7th grade I was painfully aware of my awkward "gangly" stage but that didn't stop me from standing up to the foot-taller bully who was cussing out a kid. This landed me slammed up against the lockers, but that "bully" turned into my friend by the time we were in high school.

In high school, I was a leader in the youth group so it shouldn't have surprised me when the youth pastor asked me to reach out to a girl who had visited and felt ignored. "Why is it my responsibility?" I asked. "Because if you befriend her, everyone else will accept her and since you didn't reach out to her the first time, this is what I want you to do," he responded. Smh. He was right.

Traveling with ministry teams in college I found I had two "gifts." First, I could walk into a church/youth group/new setting and immediately find myself in the center of a group. Second, I had the amazing ability to learn and remember names. While I enjoyed gathering the crowd and getting to know them and feeding off their energy, I was keenly aware of the awkward kid who stood in the back and refused to join the group. That kid was my mission. I took it upon myself to seek her or him out, learn their name, and get them to open up.

So you see, I do like attention. But not what some people are assuming is attention about me. Today I posted a video giving a scarf tutorial at the request of several friends who just wanted to know how to wear a scarf. That turned into requests for makeup and hair tips, too. Of course I will. But not because I want to see myself on video or think I'm the only one on the planet who knows how to wear a scarf or apply eyeshadow. No. Purely because I help. I fix. I serve. I do. (Lest we forget how this habit also lands me in trouble?!)

It's like I said. I thrive on being with others. I've been told I have a "magnetic" personality but I don't think I attract people, I think I am drawn to them.  I draw energy from people. And I recognize my calling is to encourage and inspire those around me.

While I usually try to stay pretty positive, I admit that I am frustrated. I've just about had it with the comments and assumptions about me, my blog, my profile, my tweets... If you don't like my Facebook profile, unfriend me. If my status updates concern you, remove them from your newsfeed. If you have a problem with my tweets, unfollow me. If the blog bothers you, unsubscribe.

As long as there's social media, I have a forum to share. It doesn't mean you have to read it or follow it. Just don't stifle this social butterfly from spreading her wings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sing With Me

One of the most marked moments of my "singing career" is a time that no one but me will remember. It was the Sunday after receiving word that a birthmother had chosen another family and I would not be the mother of her baby. In my heart of hearts I had believed that this child was going to be God's answer to my prayer. I can tell you I was nothing short of devastated. And I was to get up in front of hundreds of well-wishing church members and lead my congregation in worship.


How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Did I really believe it? I was asking them to sing of God's greatness with me as I stood there hoping to hide my broken heart.

And then we moved on to sing Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name


Oh truly, there was pain in my offering that day. I could barely belt out notes for fear the tears would flow too.

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, Blessed be your name


Would my heart choose to still bless the Lord, despite my answer to prayer being taken away? Would I still lift my hands in praise and worship my Sovereign God and trust that He saw me and my hurt, but even more, would I wait and trust His plan?

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

Do I find comfort in reading those words, or do I truly commit them to my circumstance? If I draw close to the Lord, He will draw close to me - and if I give Him my broken heart, He desires to comfort me. He seeks to save me when my spirit is so destroyed I can't go on.

I'm well aware of the position being "on stage" puts me in and that's one of the reasons I've been so candid recently with my own struggles or pain or circumstances. I am a sinner saved by grace. His child redeemed by His sacrifice. That Sunday I took my whole heart to God - it was broken and in pieces but I gave it to Him and with hands raised, I lifted my voice to Him and Him alone. I bring an offering of praise even when I can't find the words to utter in prayer. As much as I've learned I must lay my life on the altar, I've also learned I can give Him my pain and my broken heart. You can give Him yours, too.

I'm here to bring a song of praise today. To ask you to join with me as we sing of how great our God is - regardless of what we're feeling or facing.

I'm curious - what song has God used in your life? I'd love for you to share.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy Birthday

I wait for this all year. 364 "unbirthday's" build up to the anticipation of February 19.

It's just another day for most, but to me it's my favorite day of the year.


I don't know why or how I got into the ritual of having a legitimate birthday countdown. It usually starts as a teasing reminder sometime after the first of the year simply to say "it's coming." Then as soon as February hits, the celebration begins. I could certainly blame my mother who, to this day, continues to indulge me with attention and adorn me with my birthday tiara. I have become "known" for this. My celebrating, birthday crowns, and advent calendar. Of course, the bigger deal I've made about it, the more I've had to make a joke of myself. The truth is, I love birthdays in general. So it's important to me that other people enjoy and celebrate their birthday as much as I do.

Today has already been full of blessings. The worship team and many of my friends wore purple (my favorite color) in honor of my day. (Thanks for indulging me, everyone!) A birthday lunch with family and my special little boy, who's made sure to tell me over and over "Happy Birthday, mommy! Are you happy?" Yes, E, I'm happy. He watches my face as I answer, looking to see my expression. How could that not bring me joy?!
(Snowed in for my birthday! 4" by 7 p.m.)
And now here I sit, processing the day, my previous year, and praying about what God has ahead for me, and outside my window I'm watching the snow pour down. This is the first "real" snow we've had all winter - and on my birthday! It's covering the ground at this point. It's no wonder I love the snow; I was born in the middle of a blizzard.

I am reminded today that while the world really doesn't stop for me to be the birthday princess, God knew and planned each of my days long before the creation of the universe. Before I could ever breathe my first breath, He was thinking of me as He breathed His last. No, this isn't a pride-filled moment. It is the humbling realization that for another day, another year, God has put me here for this time because He has a purpose for me.

I've told you before I don't make new year's resolutions, but I do pray every year on my birthday for God to give me a verse or passage that I can claim for my next year of life. There are a few scriptures God gave me today. They may or may not mean anything to you, but I'm committing them to prayer over the next year of my life:

"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

I am praying for His voice to lead and guide me as I make decisions and move forward in ways that are life-changing. Last year proved this through a job change and even now it seems decisions are around every corner. Lord, show me the way to go.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." I Corinthians 13:13

I could write a mini-sermon right now. But suffice to say I'm praying to have faith in God and who He is, to have hope that I am His cild and He has a plan for me, and to have love - not just for those I care about but even my enemies. Love means to serve and give of myself to share His love with others.

"And give my son the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees..."1 Chronicles 29:19a

What better prayer to pray than for my son. Enough said.

This is for fun. So you can laugh along with me at all the birthday antics! I have to laugh at myself, too!

If you know me, you know how perfect this gift is! 4 double stuffed oreos almost every night around 10 p.m. My typical snack of choice, or rather my guilty pleasure. And these are BIRTHDAY CAKE oreos! SO FUN!!!

Soup & Salad at Olive Garden for birthday lunch...before we got snowed in!

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes. The hundreds of posts and comments and texts and calls. Literally. I am one blessed girl. Well, lady, or woman. Or whatever. (You're only as old as you feel, right?!) Regardless, it's been a great birthday and I look forward to a wonderful year.


You Are For Me

Friday, February 17, 2012

It Hurts!

You've seen the commercials for any number of prescriptions available to treat a very real and prevalent condition plaguing thousands. But I'm not talking about a diagnosable chemical imbalance or emotional disorder. I'm talking about the very real pain we are all capable of experiencing as a result of the circumstances we face. It is a real emotional response  - the literal physical aching I referenced yesterday.

 "Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again--my Savior and my God!" Psalm 43:5

It's real and it hurts.  


Many times in our well-meaning Christian circles we're lead to believe that with enough prayer and scripture reading, we should just be able to get over it. While it's true He is a healing balm to whatever we're facing, we have to remember it's a process and not just something we "get over."

There are the two extremes: if you're like me, you're quick to slap on a smile attempting to convince myself and everyone else that I will be "just fine." There are others who can't seem to stop the tears. They flow unceasingly with little hope for relief to ease the pain.

When I posted my ode to tears, it was with great reservation because I simply don't allow myself to cry. Despite this suppression of waterworks, it hasn't stopped my heart from feeling the very real pain of my circumstance. Allowing myself to truly feel the pain has come with its share of other physical symptoms. I know I'm not alone in this. Some of the stories I heard yesterday came with tales of those struggling with appetite changes, affects to sleeping patterns, and feeling as if the life has been sucked out of you.  (Don't get me wrong - I'm not accusing anyone of being an Eeore or Debbie Downer - but it certainly brings with it a looming darkness.)

The first step is very basic.

"Arise and eat." I Kings 19:5


Sometimes doing the very ordinary things can be daunting in our emotional depravity. But just as I am reminded to take one moment at a time, you have to continue with one basic task at a time. Find encouragement in the idea that if we "were not capable of depression, we would have no capacity for happiness and exaltation." (Chambers)



This is all "well and good" but you're still sad. You're still discouraged. And it still hurts. I know...

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

From feelings of sadness to true discouragement, you may find yourself in a state of depression. You're human. You feel. And sometimes it hurts. But you can find comfort in knowing He is with you even in the depths of despair. He knows every kind of pain because He's felt it firsthand. From sorrow to grief to physical anguish. Put your hope in a God who will not forsake you or your hurt!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

One at a Time

It's inevitable. Everyone faces pain. There are circumstances that cause us to grieve. There are situations that shake us to our core. There are things in life that bring about such raw emotions it causes a literal physical aching.

What I'm learning is the more I share about my own personal journey, the more people share with me about theirs. My circumstance isn't the same as yours, but I can guarantee we can relate on some levels. What God uses to teach me may not be the same lesson He needs you to learn. But the emotions we may experience as a result of our own individual testing bear something in common: we both know what it's like to feel completely and utterly reliant upon God.

Today alone I have had conversations with five different people related to their very individual and personal struggles. Not one of them was the same circumstance - but each of them are dealing with the pain of a broken heart. Not one had experienced the same kind of loss - but each of them are grieving. None of them are walking the same journey - but they all shared with me the process God is leading them through. From my vantage point, the tears and struggles each one shared allowed me to gain perspective on my own broken heart and grief-stricken situation.

This is unlike other posts because I'm actually going to share with you some real pieces of advice.

1. Feel. Allow yourself to feel the very real emotions you're experiencing. Pain. Heartache. Loss. Grief. Anger. Frustration. Depression. Hurt. Disappointment. Abandonment. Rejection. You may experience a laundry list of them - and in no particular order. They may fluctuate back and forth and one single instance or memory may trigger an unexpected flood. But allow yourself to feel!

2. Heal. If you resist the urge to supress emotions and determine not to stay camped there eteranlly, you'll begin to open yourself up to healing. God cannot enter the darkened, hardened corners of your heart...but He can enter into the opened, bleeding, wounded pieces, which is exactly where He begins to bring healing. Healing takes on a different time and form for each person - as individual as the pain you're experiencing. You may find solace in singing songs. You may find peace in scripture. You may need to be alone. You may surround yourself with people. What we so often want to do is speed up the process, which can never really bring healing. Rather, we must be willing to get to the place where nothing and no one can replace that which only God can do. And here is where we begin to heal.

3. Reveal. Whether you're the victim of someone else's poor choice, or you yourself have caused the mess you're in, you must now sit back and ask yourself, "What is it I'm supposed to learn?" What lesson does He want to teach you? What testimony can you now share? Whatever pain you've had to endure, whatever healing that's had to take place, it's producing something in you that wouldn't have come without this refining process. Your situation may need to be kept private, but the person God is creating you to be is meant to be shared. Out of the overflow of His love and grace at work in your life comes the outpouring of who He is to those around you.

Consider 2 Cor. 1:9: "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God..."

4. One. Moment. At. A. Time. That's right. Not even one day at a time. You've heard me say it before, the trouble with a living sacrifice is we keep getting up off the altar. In a moment, things can change. In a moment, feelings can overwhelm you. Thoughts can overtake you. So what I'm learning is to give Him each and every moment. This is sometimes an audible expression of my surrender. "Lord, take this....(pain, hurt, frustration, emotion, thought, person, situation, fill in the blank...)"

I love what Oswald says: "God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome." - Chambers, February 16

Truly. He gives life as we overcome! One small victory at a time. One emotion at a time. One circumstance at a time. One. At. A. Time.

I invite you to share your own testimonies. How are you dealing with the pain and healing?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Sister's Keeper

I have a little sister. Much to my chagrin, as the big sister I was constantly being told to bring my sister along, watch out for my sister, or make sure she's okay. With 4.5 years between us, I was none-too-thrilled about the tag along who usually stole the attention from my friends. As I began to "grow up," I took a more active stance in playing a mothering role in her life, to which she'd gripe "You're worse than mom!" She's all grown up and a wife and mom now, but she'll always be my little sister.

Today's post may feel like a contradiction to my ode to meddling from two days ago. But after some thought-provoking conversation with a friend that spurred us both on to healing and growth, and then a mess of a morning that resulted in my own frustration being taken out on an innocent loved one, I've got a new perspective to share about the role we play in other people's lives.

Consider the question Oswald asks, "Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people? For instance, if I allow any turning away from God in my private life, everyone around me suffers."

Conviction.

In my own human attempts, I will always miss the mark. I will meddle. I will fail. People will watch me and I may even cause them to stumble. If "Well done" is the ultimate expression I wait to hear from my Savior, the extreme opposite would have to be "you failed." Woe is me! If I draw my sufficiency from the Lord and walk being lead by the Spirit, the outpouring of my life can be a blessing and encouragement to those around me - a testimony of His love and mercy and grace.

But by contrast, I've seen the adverse affects of those who suffer around me when I am struggling to be spirit-filled and spirit-lead. Instead of making disciples with words sweetened by His grace, I can single-handedly be responsible for distancing someone away from God's goodness. It is a fine line to walk, and praise God I don't have to do it alone or in my own strength.

I want my sister to tag along with me, but not because I want to boss her around or meddle in her life or - heaven forbid - lead her astray. See, my parents sent my sister with me because they trusted me. And therefore, my sister trusted me. I've been given that same responsibility with my brothers and sisters in Christ - to see to it that the overflow of my life pours the love of God into the lives of others. With pride I accept the responsibility. With humility I admit my inability. With Jesus I seek to be your sister.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's here! It may be with anticipation that you greeted today. It may be with disgust that you wished it would just pass by. But LOVE it or not, it's Valentine's Day!

Please allow me to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. It may or may not be happy for you and it may or may not come with a reason to celebrate but if you'll give me just a few moments, I'd like to give you something you can claim for this day that celebrates a love we can all believe in.

People everywhere are buying cards, sending flowers, purchasing chocolates and other gifts, and making dinner reservations. The economy will certainly be injected with the mooshy-gooshy feelings that loved ones want to express to one another. And whether or not you're taking part in the buying and sending or receiving and acknowledging, this Valentine tribute is for EVERY ONE OF US.

I'm donning my red today. I've always been a "sucker" for any kind of holiday and celebration (ahem, 5 days and counting until my BIRTHDAY!!!). I'm not sure how the color red was dubbed as the anthem of love. I suppose my best guess is the red blood that flows through the beating heart that represents the center of a person and their affection for another. With that said, it takes me to our purpose for today.

Oh the blood of Jesus!
Oh the blood of Jesus!
Oh the blood of Jesus,
It washes white as snow.

People give to show their love. Today you need to know you are loved - so loved that He gave.

"For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

It is the ultimate expression of love. Whether you are sending and receiving your heartfelt expressions of love, or painfully reminded of your solitude, there is a love that covers each and every heart. Put it under the blood.

Does your heart belong to Jesus? I can't think of any better day to make this vow. I can't think of any better gift than that of eternal salvation. Today is about giving and receiving love. In perfect love, He gave His life so you could receive the gift of eternal life.  

Give Him your heart. Your pain. Your past. Your failure. Your hurt. Your disappointment. Your hopes. Your dreams. Your love.

If you don't hear the words from any person on this earth today, listen for the quiet whisper from your Savior speaking directly to your heart, "I love you." He spoke the words with His life, and ultimately His death. And now He sings them over you, His beloved.

"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zeph. 3:17

Happy Valentine's Day! May you know the fullness of HIS perfect love - that which never fails.


Monday, February 13, 2012

The Middle

You've heard me admit that I need to be needed. Somehow my innate desire to help others can be super imposed as meddling. Oh yes, absolutely infiltrating someone else's situation with what I believe is every ounce of "good intention" has found me in more than one mess that I had no business being in.
As any good "counselor" knows, advice is better left unsaid. Rather, a counselor's role is to ask the probing questions to let the individual uncover his or her own self discovery. So why I still find myself in the middle of situations I do not belong to...it's beyond me.

It doesn't take a master's degree to know that I should leave well enough alone. Let people figure it out on their own. I can't fix everyone else's situation, yet somehow it doesn't stop me from trying. I really cannot give you an answer "why" except the above admission to help. But when will I learn that my feeble human attempt to help untie the woes of another usually makes an even bigger knot?!

(It may be true that this kind of "trouble" always seems to find me...or I find it. It takes turns, I guess, but somehow lands in my lap.)

Maybe this blog will form a support group for "meddlers anonymous" because someone just shared with me her own struggle to find validity in helping others, only it usually results in the same kind of mess. This isn't true for every circumstance. Surely there are times where our good advice and prayers contribute to the friends we're trying so desperately to help. But catch what I said: advice and prayers.

It's one thing to share some words of wisdom, say a prayer for or with someone, offer continued encouragement and even a listening ear. It's quite another to roll up your sleeves and dig through the dirt pile in someone else's life. Don't get me wrong. There are friends I will take with me as priceless treasures because of the mud and muck they've endured with me. But dare I think for one second that I can play a more important role in someone's life than that of the Holy Spirit...shame on me!

I will probably always battle the urge to "help," which for me translates as "fixing." But being controlled and lead by the Spirit in my own life will surely help me understand my place - and it is NOT in the middle controlling someone else's circumstance!

This is me part 2

This is about to get real.

It's extremely important that each of you reading know something about me - whether you know me personally or know of me or we've never even met. I am a flawed and fallen human being.
Choices lead to consequences. Pain leads to reaction. Decision leads to direction, and sometimes misdirection. But what I need you to know is that I do not write this blog or stand up and sing or share my heart for the purpose of portraying that I am something I'm not. On the contrary, I share out of my honest-to-goodness real life experiences and, something that I've learned is an even stronger driving force, my truest, rawest emotions.

(If you aren't convinced of my own admission, maybe you should re-read a previous blog: This is Me.)

At this point in my life, I can honestly say that I've lived and experienced every extreme from blessings beyond belief to the tangled up web of life. At 23 I thought I knew it all and nearly a decade later, I realize I still know next to nothing. There are people in my life from 23 to 53 who know exactly what I'm talking about. We are all on this journey of life lessons that never cease, no matter how many years we add to the calendar. What I realize is that if we aren't growing and learning, then we aren't living.

When I titled the November blog "This is Me" I had no idea what kind of self-discovery I'd be on. I wrote that admission with full intentions of knowing exactly who it was that I was sharing. Several months later, and even more lessons gone by, I am here to tell you that I'm still trying to figure it out.

Here's my honest confession. I'm a control freak. I have an incessant need to fix, manage, coordinate, execute and orchestrate every detail. The problem really spills over when I try to do this for more than just myself. I need to be needed, so if you don't need or want me then I feel like I've failed. If I can't "fix it" or help, then I feel like I'm not doing my job. I find value in how I can serve and help others. You can throw accusations at me that I am not living what I'm writing. The truth is some days I do, some days I don't.

You've heard me say this before. I keep having to lay it down on the altar. I continually have to surrender. Round after round, I wrestle and struggle. Whatever insecurity, battle, sin or area of weakness you struggle with may be the same thing. You may find yourself confessing again. Laying it down again. Relinquishing again. Again. Once more. Another time. Whether you're returning to the exact same situation or encountering another instance of a replicated circumstance, the process is on "repeat."

Some of you are going to read this and scratch your head and think "what is going on?" Others are going to read this and be offended that, once again, I am sharing what you consider "too much." Still some may read this and appreciate the honesty in which I've given you the chance to peer inside my vulnerabilities and insecurities. You know what? Your response isn't what I was looking for. Rather, one of the all-important lessons I'm learning is that when I am truly honest about how I feel and what I'm going through, then I am able to let God come into the secret places of my heart and truly start the healing and growing process. It is continual!

I sing stronger and sweeter because of the grace and mercy I've come to know first-hand. The notes don't just swell from my voice, they resonate from my soul that has experienced His praise and glory. When I share of His love, it is from a heart that feels it to the very depth of my brokeness. When I rely upon a friend, it is because I've experienced true Companionship. What I tell you of my mistakes and flaws are the reality of His redeeming work in my life. The unconditional love I am telling you is worth the wait is the loving kindness of a Savior who knows and calls me by name.

I don't always make the right decision, but I will say with dying breath, His love is better than life itself. And despite whatever character flaw may be inherent to my being, I will strive to bring Him glory.

"O God, You are my God,
earnestly I seek You;
my soul thirsts for You,
my body longs for You,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld Your power and Your glory.
Because Your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify You.
I will praise You as long as I live,
and in Your name I will lift up my hands."

Psalm 63:1-4

Friday, February 10, 2012

I'm In Love

[Gentlmen: This one may not be for you! My tribute to the ladies.]

<3 Love is in the air. <3 Or at least so the stores tell us. The confectionate hearts and paper valentines have been on display since the day after Christmas so it's nearly unavoidable.Valentine's Day stirs a mixture of emotions depending on your status. Whether there's a special someone in your life you're planning to celebrate with, or you're boycotting the pagan holiday with its schemes to make fools spend money, the fact is the day is coming and inevitably some will celebrate and others may mourn.

"The story of your life is also the story of the long and passionate pursuit of your heart by the One who knows you best and loves you most." (Captivating)

I'm not asking the question if you have a valentine... I'm posing a much deeper question: are you in love? Who has your heart?

"Following hard after Jesus is the heart's natural response when it has been captured and has fallen deeply in love with Him." (Captivating)

Most of us have every good intention of wanting to follow hard after our Savior. But letting Him truly capture our hearts can be difficult when we have been wounded and scarred. If you've suffered heartbreak, there is a real fear at the thought of opening up your wounded heart. But to find healing, we must be willing to open our hearts and keep them open to the lover of our soul. He knows exactly how to romance you because He made you. He knows what makes your heart skip a beat because His hands formed your beating heart.

If we've tried to heal the wound or fill the void with anything other than His perfect love, then we bear the mark of His lesson in our lives.

"Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
I will wall her in so she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;

she will look for them but not find them."
Hosea 2:6-7

Why would He intentionally block our paths from finding the love we so desperately seek? Are we not created for love and pursuit, cherishing and romancing?

"In love, He has to block her attempts until, wounded and aching, she turns to Him and Him alone for rescue." (Captivating)

So He must get us absolutely broken to the point where nothing and NO ONE could possibly fill or heal. Because, typically, in our brokeness we choose not to deal with the pain. We shut that part of our heart, never to let anyone so much as know the depth of that wound and the buried desire. And that is exactly the place He seeks to tenderly heal.

"Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her."
Hosea 2:14

Remember, He knows you. He intimately seeks you and romances you on a deeply personal level. He knows what takes your breath away because He breathed life into you.

"Trust in Him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge."
Psalm 62:8

You can pour your heart out to Him because you can trust Him with your heart. He will take the broken, shattered pieces and hold them as He heals them. You are His treasure. Let Him have your heart...and He will respond with nothing but unconditional love for you, His beloved.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Freedom

We talked about the baggage we carry around with us, so it only seems fitting we now discuss the difference between baggage and bondage.

How many times are we bogged down by the weight of the load we bear? It takes on the form of guilt, shame, pain, burdens, worry...among other things. And not only does it prevent us from moving forward in the life and plan God has, it actually steals our joy and strips the grace which is our gift to claim. We are shackled by guilt, paralyzed by pain, a slave to circumstances.

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Galatian 5:1

Do we learn from life lessons? Do circumstances shape us? Do experiences teach us? Yes. All of the above. And the "baggage" we carry as a result certainly conditions our future responses, relationships and reactions. But we cannot live in bondage to our past. We are meant to grow and learn from these things, but we are never meant to be unmovable as a result of them. On the contrary, it's the very act of a shattered life molded back together that becomes a new creation. His plan is always to shape a willing vessel. He provides the healing ministry of restoration so that the outpouring may be a continual testimony of what He can redeem.

"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." 2 Cor. 1:4
 
He provides comfort, healing and peace. But He also provides freedom, better defined as exemption from external control, interference and regulation. When you're walking in the freedom He brings, nothing can interfere with your stride. Nothing can hold you down. Nothing can interfere with your progress forward. And out of your testimony a ministry is born.

"And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts." Psalm 119:45

As hard as it may be, lay it down, let it go, and let Him move and work so you can walk in freedom.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Safe

He will never let you go. Do you believe that? When everyone else has deserted you. When everything has been destroyed. When you've fallen so far and so hard. It's hard to fathom the same God who fashioned the vast expanse of the sky, formed the earth and breathed life into the dust from the ground, is the same God holding your very life in His hands.

 1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
      will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
   2 This I declare about the LORD:
   He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
      he is my God, and I trust him.
   3 For he will rescue you from every trap
      and protect you from deadly disease.
   4 He will cover you with his feathers.
      He will shelter you with his wings.
      His faithful promises are your armor and protection.


His very shadow is your resting place. You are protected under His wings. Rest in His safe embrace. And claim His faithful promises as your defense!

9 If you make the LORD your refuge,
      if you make the Most High your shelter,
   10 no evil will conquer you;
      no plague will come near your home.
   11 For he will order his angels
      to protect you wherever you go.
   12 They will hold you up with their hands
      so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.


Oh praise Him for His protection! Evil may come near you but it won't overcome you. His own army of angels will see to it that you don't suffer a scratch!

 14 The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me.
      I will protect those who trust in my name.
   15 When they call on me, I will answer;
      I will be with them in trouble.
      I will rescue and honor them.
   16 I will reward them with a long life
      and give them my salvation.”

Psalm 91

Trust in Him. Call to Him. He promises to answer and rescue. Even more, He wants to HONOR you. How? With His salvation, which doesn't just mean long life, it means eternal life.

He holds the universe and our every moment. Now let His arms hold you.

Arms that Hold the Universe

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Baggage

We all have baggage. Everyone has a story. There's a past to each of our lives. Some of it includes things we bury deeply, hoping to never uncover what it is we want left unclaimed. Wadded up rags that bear no resemblance of the originals they used to be. Some of it we display proudly, showing marks of courage, achievement or a valuable lesson learned. Carefully stowed making sure not to harm the priceless piece. But no matter how you pack it, the baggage you carry with you is in fact a part of you.

If you show up for your journey without any luggage, you're simply ill-prepared for your trip. So when you come to the table of life, you bring your bags loaded with life lessons, hard knocks, flaws and failures, and ultimate successes.

If you're traveling alone, you can expect to lug your bags around and struggle with all you've got packed. If you're traveling with a companion, you can expect they're going to have baggage too! So double up on the struggle because just like you, the other has packed a whole lot of life experiences and circumstances to carry along.

While we're in this figurative world, we're never really going to "arrive" at our destination. This is really all about the journey. And all along the way, we pick up tokens to continue to pack and take with us. Momentos, souvenirs, items to remember the journey by. Some we categorize in the prized possession manifest and pack gently and delicately to protect and preserve their value. Others we throw in the bag, never mindful of where they might land or what condition they may end up in.

There's an actual store in Alabama called "Unclaimed Baggage." (Yes, of course, this shopping queen has been there!) Thousands of items - everything you can possibly imagine taking on any kind of a trip and then some - fill a gigantic warehouse waiting for purchase. Notice I said purchase, not to be reclaimed. These are all items formerly belonging to unfortunate souls who've lost or never claimed their bags. For our purposes, this store is a haven of "stuff" collected that left a location belonging to one person and ended up on a journey only to become "lost." They don't make it back "home" with their original owners.

Wouldn't we love to drop off some of our own baggage along the way? Inevitably, what we leave behind, though, does in fact find its way to someone else. The thing is, you never know what kind of impact it may have. Some good, some not.

I've used this verse before in a blog, but it's too appropriate not to mention again:

"So they asked the LORD, "Where is he?" And the LORD replied, "He is hiding among the baggage."" 1 Samuel 10:22

The thing I can most assuredly say is that we can't run or hide from our baggage, so hiding among it is also out of the question. Yes, it's coming with you whether you like it or not. So it's time to face reality. You have baggage. And part of what you've learned and experienced and dealt with is helping prepare you for each and every new circumstance you face along the journey. So buckle up, hang on tight, and lug your bags. The journey will be worth it!

(Disclaimer: For those of you worried that there is no freedom from bondage, that wasn't the point of this blog. At least not today! :) )

On the Altar...Again



(This comes from Oswald Chambers' February 6 Devotional)

"I am already being poured out as a drink offering . . ."


—2 Timothy 4:6
 
Are you ready to be poured out as an offering? It is an act of your will, not your emotions.

(Oh, how many times do I let my emotions get wrapped up in things? I resolve in my "will" what I know to be and then those darn feelings start creeping in. They bring doubt, fear, frustration. And for me, they come with an incessant need to hold tightly to what little bit of control I may think I have on my situation.)

Tell God you are ready to be offered as a sacrifice for Him. Then accept the consequences as they come, without any complaints, in spite of what God may send your way. God sends you through a crisis in private, where no other person can help you. From the outside your life may appear to be the same, but the difference is taking place in your will.

(This can be said of me. As much as anyone close to me may have wanted to help me, I had to "walk through this" - me and God - and He had to deal with me until it broke my will and brought me to this point. What point is that? Well, it's the point where my will is in line with His and my emotions no longer take over and steer me off course.)

Once you have experienced the crisis in your will, you will take no thought of the cost when it begins to affect you externally.

(I have experienced that crisis in my will. It took a long time. Too long, probably. But I can honestly say I no longer have any thought of the cost. I know what "may" happen but I also know what life would be like if I don't follow His will and I'm willing to sacrifice everything else so that His will won't be sacrificed.)

If you don’t deal with God on the level of your will first, the result will be only to arouse sympathy for yourself.

(Ah yes. Self-pity. I've pitched my tent here. But no longer is this where I live. God has dealt with me on that one.)

"Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar" ( Psalm 118:27 ). You must be willing to be placed on the altar and go through the fire; willing to experience what the altar represents-burning, purification, and separation for only one purpose-the elimination of every desire and affection not grounded in or directed toward God.

(I admit. I've struggled with this the entire time. Being bogged down with what everyone else wants or thinks or says or believes. And even my own false assumptions or desires that weren't grounded in truth and faith and God's will. I've had to fully surrender this to allow HIS desires to become my own. And even now I am binding desires of my heart to the altar so that when he burns away the chaff, they can be replaced with what He wills for me.)

But you don’t eliminate it, God does.

(And here again, we see my flaw. I've tried to do it on my own. That's why it didn't work. I had to get to the point where He could move and work and have His way.)

You "bind the sacrifice . . . to the horns of the altar" and see to it that you don’t wallow in self-pity once the fire begins. After you have gone through the fire, there will be nothing that will be able to trouble or depress you. When another crisis arises, you will realize that things cannot touch you as they used to do.

(This is the hope and assurance I have for the future. That having walked through the fire and sacrificed whatever wasn't grounded in Him has now purified the process for what's to come...helping to also overcome whatever crisis might arise. Nothing will now  be able to trouble, depress or deter!)

What fire lies ahead in your life?

(Lord knows I've been through the fire before...but there are still blazes to come. This time, I'm praying I'm prepared to withstand the flames.)

Tell God you are ready to be poured out as an offering, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be.

(This is my prayer!)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Exactly Where We Should Be

I got a phone call last night. The pain was evident though I could barely decipher what was being said through the crying.

I received an email yesterday, the author dubbed it her "message" or sermon. My heart ached with her as I sensed her grief.

I read a blog today, someone I don't even know, and I can honestly tell you it brought me to tears. Uncontrollable tears at the thought of what this family is facing today.

Pain, hurt, heartache, disappointment - it's all around. Consider what Oswald says of the life of Paul: "The one passion of Paul's life was to proclaim the gospel of God. He welcomed heartbreak, disillusionment, and tribulation for only one reason - these things kept him unmovable in his devotion to the gospel of God."

Would Iwelcome heartache? Could I embrace pain? Dare I greet disappointment?

One of my favorite passages are the Lord's words in Isaiah 43:1b-3:

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israle, your Savior."

Are the waves crashing around you? Are the flames engulfing you? Are the waters about to consume you? Don't fear. You are His. He's called you by name. He won't let you go under. He won't let you be burned.

Verse 4 says you are precious and honored in His sight and because He loves you, He will give people for your life. He's already given His son to redeem you for eternity. And now He promises to not let your life be taken by the hands of someone else. There is someone who needs to know this.

No, He may not have provided the ram to replace your Isaac on the altar. No, He may not have prevented the heartache inflicted at the hands of someone else. No, He may not even have given healing to the innocent life who inevitably will die. But He is not going to let this trial be the death of you.

Did you hear me?! I know how hard this is to hear and understand. It's the difference between your heart and mind feeling and knowing things that seem to be inconflict with each other.

If you find yourself among the flames, overtaken by the waves, engulfed by the waters, in the midst of the trial, I am going to be so bold to say - this might be exactly where He needs you to be. At this point, all you can do is cling to Him, seek His redemption, and allow Him to move. Stay put. You're exactly where you should be. And He is right there with you.