Monday, January 31, 2011

A choice

Daily I have a choice. (Actually it's more of a moment by moment thing...)

I can look at what I don't have or at what I have.

I can look at what is lost or what is found.

I can look at what's missing or what is present.

I can lament what is lost or give thanks for what is given.

I'm going to to choose to give thanks. Now don't think that this is an easy thing. At the current moment I'm not feeling very thankful. I know in my head that I have ever so much to be thankful for. I know that without all God does I would have and be nothing. But the ache in my heart seems to cloud and muffle the truth in my head. So I choose to do what doesn't feel natural right now. I wouldn't even say that my thankful list is all that creative, all that deep, or all that wonderful. But I am going to choose to give thanks for these things and for this day.

Maybe that's part of what faith is all about. Knowing that what is seen is not really what is. Hmm... sounds like a verse doesn't it? Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

Today may you give thanks. Maybe it's thanks that is easy to give because the visual evidence is great. Maybe it's thanks by faith. Regardless, I hope you will give thanks.

Thankful this past week for:

43. A bath time in which Little Man's hair was washed and their were no tears

44. Hearing my boys playing in the basement

45. Having enough and more than enough and making decisions on how to share it

46. A like minded husband (in some areas)

47. Extra clothes to share

48. Reading MANY books to Little Man

49. A request for "mommy time"

50. A book that seems to express what I've felt and words of wisdom

51. A 20% off entire purchase including sales item coupon

52. Pajamas

53. Compliments from my husband (honey to the heart)

54. Colored noodles waiting to be turned into a project

55. God listening even when He feels far away

56. Homemade pizza

Friday, January 28, 2011


A page from my journal....

Why is waiting so difficult? Why is it that my heart rebels and races? Why do I feel so desperate to move on, to adjust, to reach the of this?

Look at the world you created, God. It's full of examples of the need to wait. A seed tucked in the dark earth. It's not what it will one day be. I wonder does it desire to know the future? Does it think it should be a strong seed, invincible to crack open? Does it think it should produce seeds just like it- one or two, and then go on to live a long happy life? What happens when dark circumstances close in? Or when the shell is cracked open and tender roots push out? And then what does it think when the seed is drawn on for nourishment and diminishes to the plant with leaves reaching sun and roots deep in earth? Or does it rest in knowing this is its purpose- the whole journey- and not think to question what God has ordained?

There is waiting in so many things. Time that ticks by so slowly is used by your mighty hand for what will day be visible. Help me to trust in the waiting. Help me to rest in you as I wait for what you will do. Help me to work and live in the waiting.

Do I need to have a vision of the future? Is it important? If it is important, I want the vision you give. Help me to yield my dreams to what you have planned. Because I know what you have planned is beyond what I can think or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

Since I wrote this in my journal, I've received a book I ordered on waiting. A Graceful Waiting by Jan Frank has thus far been an incredible read. Sometimes she shares from her own journal, and I feel like she's speaking thoughts I've also had. I know God's Word is our first place to look in all things, but I'm grateful that He also uses others in the body to share their experiences to cut into His Word and help us digest it all. I'll be sharing more about my reading!

Monday, January 24, 2011

1,000 Gifts begats 30 more

If you're familiar with "bloggerland", then I'm sure you've met Ann at A Holy Experience. If you haven't traveled to her site, please do so. You won't regret your journey.

For about a year now this woman's words have gripped and stirred me. A person that I've never met face to face or spoken with on the phone. I quietly read post after post and don't leave any comments, but yet feel that I feel a sisterhood with her through faith and loves of the heart. I'd never joined in her counting of 1,000 gifts, even though I'd heard the call. With the publication of her book the call grew louder, but still I resisted. I didn't that is until this new year, when I received an agenda notebook as a Christmas gift. A daily organizer with places to record my to-do list, my ideas for Little Man's schooling times, our meals for the week, and a space to list the gifts. I dedicated a block for counting the gifts. Even if they were never shared, I'd count.

And so I began when we returned from Christmas travels. The first full week was January 3rd. I began:

1. Good travels on our 9 hour trip

2. An ill husband who made the trip without really getting sick

And then January 4th came- A day that challenged this feeble attempt. With the show of blood and the questions of our baby's future, would I keep counting?

I did:

3. Little Man's sweet caring ways

4. God's truth that doesn't change despite our circumstances

and I counted some more:

5. We weren't away like we'd planned to be when we had to deal with this

6. The support of family and friends

7. Husband being off during this time and his sweet love

8. Our Little Dream slipping away while Little Man slept

9. Songs on a new CD to minister God's presence in a perfect way

10. Time out with a dear friend

I share this to say how great I am or how strong I am. I haven't even read Ann's book yet. It's still traveling the miles to my home and my hands. But I recognize the truth that praising God at all times is an act of obedience to a God who deserves that praise even when we question it, and that by counting the gifts we are changed. I want to encourage you to count your gifts. Mine don't sound like poetry as some people's lists do. Yes, they are simple. This past week they contained the gifts of chocolate pound cake and a friendly snowman in a neighbor's yard. But it's really not the gift we're pursuing is it, it's the Giver of the gifts.

I'm counting and have pursued Him by listing a paltry 30 gifts thus far. Will you pursue the Giver of all good things with me and start your own list?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Four Ways to Attend the Bride

Martha Lawley, author of Attending the Bride of Christ, suggests there are four primary things we should be about in preparing the church for her marriage to Christ.

1. Worship

2. Instruction

3. Fellowship

4. Evangelism

There’s really nothing earth shattering about these areas. We are to worship God. That can look like a bunch of different things, but at the heart it’s our response to God’s truth. Are you meeting regularly with other Christians, focusing your attention on God’s truth, and responding in your heart and in your day to day life to Him?

We are to be instructed. We’re to commit ourselves to meeting with our church family for instruction- from the pulpit, in the classroom, from each other. Yes, the Bible is our primary text, the Holy Spirit, our primary interpreter, but we need each other to learn. We should be studying throughout the week and meeting regularly to share and encourage. Are you part of a group in your local church that is committed to studying and learning God’s truth?

We are to fellowship in our local body. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re to have pot lucks ever week, but rather we are to share in life and walk together. It doesn’t mean attending formal gatherings, but investing in time with each other. We are to be real. We are to be trustworthy with other’s hearts. We are to share burdens and celebrate over victories and praises. This doesn’t just happen by gathering together once a week. We need to work together, play together, pray together, and walk together. Do people really know you and have fellowship with you? Are you investing in relationships in your church body?

We are to evangelize. Yes, that means everybody in our church body! Some of us are gifted with evangelism, but the command is given by God for all of us to share the Good News. Do you realize the Good News is what it’s all about? God has done something wonderful in your life. Share it! You may not think it’s all that exciting, but to many it’s the balm for their wounded hearts. Testify to what God has done. Give Him the glory. Speak of His works. You will be a light. As a body work to unified. Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. Our relationship with each other in the body speaks tremendously to the world. Are you sharing or saving things up for a later time? Share now! You never know when the groom may return.

It’s my hope that this series on the church has made you think and encouraged you in some way. Until He comes back for us, may we all be about serving the Bride!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Attending the Bride

In Jewish tradition the betrothal or time of was a very busy time for the bride. It was a time for following after holiness and for preparing for her future life with her husband. Besides spiritual preparation there were also physical garments to get ready and other things that would be needed in her household. This preparation was not a solitary one though. The entire community would join the bride in her preparations.

As believers we are also bridal attendants. We have a job to help the bride prepare for her wedding day. We see this in the parable Jesus gives in Matthew 25:1-13. We have work to do. But what is this work? Is it attending worship services when I feel like it or it’s convenient? Is it being involved in every single aspect of church life so that the church couldn’t really function without my being present (or so I believe)? What is the motivation for one attending the bride of Christ? What is the mission?

The work of the bridal attendants is to serve and care for the church so that she can complete her special call. She is called to be holy, set apart like her betrothed. She is called to hold forth the truth, the Word, to be a witness of who God is to a world that does not know Him. . She is called to love the lost world and share with them the message that Jesus has made a way for them to be in right relationship with God. She is called to train up believers so that they bear the image of Christ. She is called to love her beloved steadfastly and above all others and to remain pure for Him, not bowing her heart in idolatry.

Those are some pretty lofty endeavors. The exciting thing is that God has called you to have a role in completing this mission. What’s even better is that the mission’s success really doesn’t depend on my efforts. John 15 shows us that God wants to supply all we need to fulfill this mission. He wants to be the power source for all that we do. We are to live connected to Him, in awareness of Him, and in dependence on Him.

Take a few moments to think about these things and talk to God about them.

1. What is your attitude toward serving the church?

2. Why are you a part of a church? What is your mission?

3. What is your power source for fulfilling that mission?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Church and Happily Ever After

Last month I did a great study that really got me thinking about the church. Since writing is a great way to process what you learn, I'd like to invite you to share in my learning.

When we hear the word "church" we think many things. For me I at first picture the little white country church I grew up next to. Then the image shifts to the faces I see ever Sunday. Another shake of the word, and I think bigger and picture believers in all their array of cultures bowing before the king. So why a study on the church? Why is the church important? How is the church a body? Why am I talking about brides and weddings?

The church is called to be God’s witness to the world and to bring God glory here on earth. There is the global church made of all who believe that Jesus- died for their sins, -is alive, and -is coming for them one day! But the global church is made up of smaller groups of believers who gather locally to meet and carry out God’s mission in their neighboring areas.

Romans 12:5 reminds us that the church is made of many members, but is united as one. It’s truly an amazing plan. You and I are each gifted in individual and specific ways. None of has all we need to walk through this life on earth. It’s a given that we need God for every aspect of life, but God also created us to need the gifts other have, much like your body needs your legs, and your heart needs your lungs. You have a role in His church. God doesn’t need you, but instead has graciously included you in His work and wants to take you on a wild adventure with Him as He works in and through you.

The church is also compared to a bride several places in the Bible. In II Corinthians 11:2 Paul desires to present believers as a pure bride to her husband. He also uses the idea of a bride when he uses the relationship of Jesus and the church to teach husbands and wives how to treat each other in Ephesians 5. The imagery culminates in John’s vision in Revelation 19:6-9 when the wedding of the Lamb is joyfully celebrated. The Lamb, Jesus, is completing His marriage to His beloved, the church.

Talk about a love story! He’s betrothed to the church, specially picked for Him by his father. He offers her the bride cup at his last supper. He prays for her. He pays the bride price for her with is own blood. He leaves her a written agreement, His very living Word. And he goes to prepare a place for her in His father’s house. He promises that He will come again for her when the Father tells him it is time. And until then, during the waiting time she is to commit herself to holiness and prepare herself for her groom. One day the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace will ride to her again on a white horse, sweep her off her feet and carry her home to heaven. There the kingdom will be fulfilled and all will be well forever and ever. Now that may sound like a fairy tale, but it’s in God’s Word and so we know it’s not a made up fantasy.

So does that mean believer should just sit back and wait for her hero to return? Not really. Stick with me and we’ll see why our involvement in the church is such a big deal!

When God speaks...

This morning I came across these words in Psalm 103:1-5.

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I think I should camp out and study this Psalm. I'll probably post more about it after I work through the writings I've started on the church.

Don't worry, I'm not claiming it as a promise that God will give us everything we desire. But there's a LOT of encouragement in these words. There is much to praise God for. Much to turn my attention from myself. God gives such good things and wants to satisfy our desires with good things. He wants our best. He knows that when we're satisfied with his best we are strong. That's especially encouraging as I've been pretty weary the past few days.

Imagine how my heart danced later today when Ethan grudgingly went for a walk with me and we spotted two eagles soaring above us. Yes, I think I have some encouragement today from my Father.

Will you praise Him with me?

How beautiful….

During these past few weeks our local body of Christ has ministered to us in tremendous ways. They have recalled God’s works, pointed to His Word, and continued to walk beside us letting their love and presence be known. We are humbled and grateful.

Before Christmas God prompted me to pick up a study I had on my “one day I’d like to” list. “Attending the Bride of Christ” was a study I needed to get me back on track, to love the body and to lovingly serve her in preparation for our marriage to Christ. I didn’t realize that shortly after finishing the study, God would show me just how crucial being involved in a local church was or how beautiful His plan for the church is.

If you are not connected to a local church, I strongly urge you to pray for God’s guidance and to get connected and be committed. If you are attending a local body but you aren’t really involved, I encourage you to pray also for God’s leading and to investigate ways you can be committed. If you are questioning what difference it makes if you’re involved and feeling like you’re just there to be obedient, I pray that God will speak to you in the days ahead and help you search out the purpose of his church and your role in it.

Please join me in the next few days as I “digest” some of my learning and share with you what I’ve been learning about the church and my part in serving her.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sharing a Song or Two

It's always been music that has been able to slip deep into my soul and allow God to help heal the broken places. It's always been music that has created a special avenue for God's words and truth to abide in my mind. Have you found that to be at least somewhat true in your own life? Aren't there songs that just seem to bring God's throne a little closer to earth for you?

Well, as I faced the challenges in the last few days, it's been no surprise that music has been a key part in God's touching my heart. I'd like to share both some songs and some words in hope that they may encourage you or spur you on to find your own "theme music".

For those of you know me for a long time, you know my ongoing connection with Isaiah 40:31. This has been an important verse to my life since high school days. Not being a waiter by nature, God continually speaks to me on this subject. There have been many songs that have also spoken to me on the subject. A few months ago this song caught my attention and I began to hang on to it as I continued to wait for what I hoped would be a yes to my desire.

Ironically the song that I have really desired to hear more of took a while to come to my hands. I'd heard John Waller's "While I'm Waiting" and immediately was taken with the message found in the lyrics. Waiting is not about doing nothing. It's about worshipping and obeying as you wait for what God will show you next. I received the CD for Christmas, and it was this CD that I chose to listen to the night we miscarried.

As we know so often God does have not only just what we need, but more than what we need if we wait for him. There are several songs on the "While I'm Waiting" CD that have gripped me. One of them though seems like just the perfect song for this next bend in the road - a bend that requires faith.

So what songs are speaking to you right now? How grateful I am to God for the gift He's given us in music. God is good. Let's keeping walking by faith, shall we?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Greater Silence

I know it's been ages since I've posted here. Looking back at what I posted last, you can hear in the silence the waiting and maybe some of the fear. I've been fearful to share too much during those months, fearful that I'd already shown too much of my heart and not sure if I wanted that.

But as the journey has progressed, with new bends in the road, I've been challenged. How does God receive the glory He is due if we don't share our lives- the good, the bad, the hopes, the disappointments? If our story is really His story, then don't we need to let others read it and hear it? Being transparent like that is scary to me. I'm not sure why, but it is? Am I fearful of judgment or fearful that I'll fail some standard set by myself or others? But again, if it's all really about God, why should I fear? If I truly believe He's the one responsible for shaping me and molding me, isn't my job to respond to Him and be a part of His body.

So here I am to break the silence. My heart's prayer is that in breaking the silence, God does receive the glory due to Him.

The story begins with a desire. A desire that isn't bad, but one that if unchecked and not brought before him continually could take the wrong place in my life. Although we are blessed with one wonderful little boy, my husband and I both have dreams of another child being added to the family. After having a child fairly easily the first time around we were unprepared for the journey God has had us on. After months of trying and riding quite the emotional rollar coaster, we finally had wonderful news in August 2010. A little one would be joining us! We told a few dear ones, but even as the news was reaching those people, that little life would slip away. It was hard to understand at this point. There were wrestlings in my heart. Why the waiting? Was the desire wrong? What did it mean to have the desire met and then to have the baby taken away? I felt like I was revisting some of the same issues I faced when my Mom passed away? Could I trust God's plan for my life? Would it be painful? Was it really the best thing?

God is faithful. I know that. During an incredible women's retreat in October he reminded me of truths I knew, but had allowed to slip away a bit. I was challenged to look at things with nevertheless faith. Faith that looks at the circumstances and then looks at God's truth and says even though this is the circumbstance, nevertheless, this is what I know to be true about God. It was amazing how that whole retreat seemed to speak to my heart. What a joy to receive God's love and encouragment.

And what a greater joy when the following month we learned we were pregnant again. I had feared this one might slip away also, but as morning sickness took hold and we saw our first ultrasound immage, confidence built. Joy abounded. At last our desire was happening. I began to dream even more about July and the following months.

Christmas came and we neared the end of the first trimester. We shared our joyful news and savored the blessing with family and friends. The new year began and I began to wonder about what 2011 would bring? How would I deal with being a new mother again? What would ministry look like this year? What would God teach us? I'll admit there's always I small part of me wondering when the tough times will come, so I also pondered what trials might come. I'm always one for a theme, so I wondered about the word that might summarize the year and the verse I might hold on to.

I didn't have an answer to those questions on January 1st, but I know God would work and I'd just have to wait to find out. Well, I'm not here to announce I have a theme for the year or a verse, but I can definately say God is at work and giving me an opportunity to grow in His image and know Him more fullly.

On January 4th I started bleeding and the tears and fears came. I was still hopeful, but my heart also knew I God could be inviting me to follow Him down a path I wasn't sure I wanted to go on. The following day an ultrasound confirmed our fears. Our baby had died, there was no heartbeat. There was only a greater silence.

January 7th we miscarried. It's a process I don't really want to experience again. In the midst of our sorrow we do see God's hand of blessing. We had planned to be out of state this week, but not only didn't that happen, but that meant my husband had extended vacation time. Our son slept peacefully in the early part of the night while we dealt with the miscarriage at home. We have family away and a church family close by that love us, pray for us, and support us. Yes, God has provided greatly for this challenge.

And the days ahead will be challenging I know this. I fear I will later allow the questions and feelings to overtake the faith that I turn to so easily at this point in time. I fear what the year will hold, as I turn the pages on a calendar that was to hold special events. I fear what will happen if there is a next time. Yes, I am very human and very real. But I am grateful, so grateful that as much as I want to hold on to God at this time, He wants to hold on to me. So for tonight, I rest in that. I know He can be trusted above my own understanding. And so for now, my silence is broken by these words,

"Trust the Lord at all times, O people. Pour out your hearts to Him for God is our refuge." Psalm 62:8

My prayer tonight is that as I break my silence, you will be encouraged. That you will hold on to God's truth despite your circumstances. That you will share your story so that He is glorified. To God be all glory and honor.