Wednesday, March 14, 2012

To Pray

“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Luke 11:5-9 When I was in the eighth grade, I decided to try out for the high school play, since they were allowing the eighth grade students an opportunity to audition alongside the high school students. My audition went well, and I decided all I could do was pray for God to allow me to have the part. I was an immature Believer and I didn’t yet understand praying within God’s will. So, my immaturity aside, I did understand that I should be persistent in my request. The staircase became a measure of my earnest plea as I knelt on every step to plead with the Lord about the part for which I auditioned. Growing weary during my second trip up the stairs, I thought the Lord would surely somehow honor my efforts and that I could somehow “get Him” to give in to my request. I did indeed get the part, but it obviously wasn’t due to my physical efforts or the whole staircase ritual. I agree that persistency in prayer is good, but persistency for persistency’s sake implies that we are trying to pry something good from God’s unwilling hand. Jesus’ disciples had asked Him to teach them to pray. Our Lord obliges and recites what we know as “The Lord’s prayer”. Notice that they asked to be taught to pray. Jesus went on to teach them about the loving Heavenly Father that hears their prayers by teaching them first what He is not. God the Father is not the friend that will be disturbed in the middle of the night by your requests…only giving you what you desire so that you will leave Him alone. He is not lazy and unwilling to give unless it is convenient. He does not have His hand closed tight around good things expecting us to wrench them from Him. No, Jesus teaches the disciples and us that the key to praying is knowing our Heavenly Father loves His children dearly, and He desires all that is good for them. Our requests may be offered up boldly, according to His will, and with the right heart when we pray in the knowledge that He “… is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” We are taught to pray as we learn more about who our Father is and draw close to the One who spared not His own Son, for our sake.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Provision (Coloring Pages of Yesteryear pt2)

The children and I hung out at a local park while I chatted on the phone with my Dad, who lives on the opposite coast. I joked with him that I was picking out a spot for us to live, and I suddenly felt so badly for people who had found themselves in similar situations but worse. My husband had a job, and we were experiencing a technical difficulty with a house we were trying to buy. I saw the need to count my blessings because there were so many who had things so much worse than we could imagine. I felt refreshed after talking with my Dad and surprised myself by how confident and light hearted I sounded to my own ears. All that singing on the way had certainly lifted my spirits and put things in perspective! I was reminded also of all the friends and church family we had locally that would be more than willing to help us. Things were not as bad as they felt, but still, it was a seriously humbling situation.

Help was offered to us, but it involved "camping-out" in the house illegally (in my opinion) until technicalities worked out (don't ya love Fannie Mae foreclosures?), since we were already paying for the insurance. This option was offered to us by two different "people in the know", and it sure was tempting, given our circumstances. I was reminded of how the Lord doesn't ever ask us to compromise or twist things to justify our actions. The fact is, He had every bit of power to make sure we had keys in our hand, we had prayed and prayed that we would get keys on time so we didn't end up in this very situation,yet He didn't allow that to happen. Tempting as it was, it just wasn't right, there was a reason He did not let us get the keys.

A little more than a few hours later, Brian was able to get off work and he gave us the wonderful and almost unbelievable news that we had actually earned two free nights at the Holiday Inn Express from our frequent stays at those hotels during our cross country move! I was praising the Lord and regretting my doubts, but He wasn't done!

When the six of us dragged our exhausted (from relief) bodies to checked in, there was limited space and the room they asked us to check into smelled like the football locker room I once had the privilege (???) to decorate as a cheerleader...that's enough to make one want to quit the squad right there...WHEW!! The manager had told us there was another room available at check in if we found this one not able to fit our needs, so Brian didn't feel to bad about inquiring about a possibly *less stinky* room.

When we walked in to what we were later told was the manager's quarters, my eyes just filled with tears! It was bigger than the little place we had been renting that summer! It was just gorgeous and so beyond what I would have imagined. I knew immediately why we didn't get the keys, and why "camping out" illegally was not in God's plan. He had something so much better planned than sleeping on the floor in an empty house. We had an amazing weekend with the children swimming in the pool by day and a comfy bed to sleep in at night. Our realtor put us up for a third free night and since every other room was booked, we got to spend yet another free night in that beautiful room to include a beautiful floral arrangement from our realtor who was so apologetic about the whole thing, though it was not her fault. What an amazing God we serve!

Our trials are only for a season, even if that season means the remainder of our lives here, it is but for a season and His grace is sufficient and the trial is always an opportunity to trust Him more. He WANTS good things for us, and we must believe that with all our hearts.

"May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."Eph 3:18-21

Friday, January 27, 2012

Coloring Pages of Yesteryear

"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." Acts 16:25

I had heard the account of Paul and Silas many a time in Sunday-School, as a young child. In my childish mind, I equated the desire to sing with their conditions probably not being all that bad. I might have hummed merrily along with the teacher as I colored the lesson page, being careful to stay in the lines, and making the robes they wore colorful and bright. I probably even added a happy little mouse or two, just like the story in my mind.

As I grew in years, I read the Bible on my own, maturity caused me to think on the miserable conditions they must have been in, and I then knew that being laid with stripes meant beatings. I don't even want to venture a guess at what my childish mind thought being “laid with stripes” meant. Though maturing, physically and spiritually, I still didn't think too much on the significance of Paul and Silas’ choice to sing praises to God so loudly that the prisoners heard. It was a choice to respond to their conditions with prayer and song, one that impacted those around them.

This past summer, an unforeseen and unavoidable circumstance placed us in a situation to make a choice about how we would respond to our trial, considering our precious “cloud of witnesses”, our children:

After a long summer of making a military move and thereby traveling with our four children from Virginia to California, my husband and I had finally been told we would receive keys to the house we were in the process of purchasing. We merrily moved out of the tiny one bedroom, office, and one bathroom cute little furnished Casita that the six of us had squeezed into for the summer. I scrubbed and cleaned and excitedly packed our van and SUV to near overflow. As we handed the landlord our keys, Brian received a surprising call. I breathlessly waited until he hung up, and he then told me that there were some issues that still were not worked out at escrow. It was Friday and we would not be getting keys, and no one could seem to give a straight answer as to when or if we would move into this house that we had so bathed in prayer. Looking back, we are still quite confused, but not as to God’s plan. We had invested quite a bit into this house, and having our money tied up left us in an extremely tight financial position.

After a tearful goodbye, Brian had to leave for work. The kids and I sat in the "packed to ridiculousness" van, literally homeless. Money was too tight to stay in a hotel, and as they came, I quickly hid hot tears behind my sunglasses. I pulled out of the driveway pleading silently with the Lord to show us what to do. The kids were silent and my heart hurt as I saw their worried looks in the rear-view mirror. I wouldn't say that peace instantaneously filled my heart, at this time. No, truth be told, I really felt like pounding my head on the steering wheel just for distraction, but I was able to have a moment of clarity to see the importance of how I would choose to respond, for the children's sake, at least. I could testify to God's supreme ability to meet our needs or I could fail them by giving into the real tantrum I wanted to throw because things didn't go according to my carefully laid plan.

The old story of Paul and Silas came to my mind. I thought of how they sat in their bonds waiting on the Lord to see them through. They made a purposed choice to pray and sing praises to the Lord, and the Bible makes a point to say that their praises reached the prisoners ears. The children couldn't see my tears of fear and disappointment, but they could hear me as I prayed out loud for the Lord's help and they joined me in song as we drove to a park where we would spend our day: "He's able, He's able, I know He's able, I know my Lord is able to carry me through!". Though my tears still flowed, a new confidence in the words took hold of my heart as we sang. I also found that I couldn't worry and sing at the same time, praise God!

Carry us through He did, in a marvelous way, but that's another story, for another time! We can’t choose our trials, but we can choose how we will respond to them. Blessings, my friends!

Old Souls

I know many an old soul
equipped to bear a load
they're filled with wisdom
long before they're age old
their young sparkling eyes-
not a worry yet engraved
bear some quiet truths untold
for fear of old ones cold
some shut their ears
and scorn them away
e'en young David's youth
a reproach to his anointed place
God will use the young
He will use the small
the unexpected
scorned broken used-
we should wipe the envy from our eyes
unstop our pride blocked ears
and consider for the sake of truth
the wisdom of the young old soul

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WANTED: Weed -Eater

I found this draft from 2 years ago in my posts...amazing how it is still convicting even today!

Okay, after some big 'ole bumps and heart searching, here are just some of the weeds as a result of failure in one major commandment

1. Worry
2. Bite off more than I can chew
3. Love fiercely but not always so unconditionally
4. Perfectionist in denial
5. Give until I'm empty and then point the finger when I "burn out"
6. Lack of contentment
7. Allow the expectations of others to rule and overwhelm me
8. Desperately want to be a good friend, but due to #s 2,3,4,5,6 and 7 I end up withdrawing altogether for a season until I recover from my failures....the list goes WAY on too ;)

I, in my own desire to circumvent SIMPLE TRUTH, end up complicating it all, the answer is really a lack of faithfulness to that MOST important commandment of all which is Duet.6:5, "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." Not that this is suddenly the magic key that unlocks the answer to all of life's questions, nor does it save me from all heartache and pain, but it IS the key to having the peace, strength and discernment needed when faced with the trials especially those in which I have no answer or understanding as to why. It is *the* filter through which every single other decision, relationship, task, truth should be pushed through. It is not a something to be laid out and must continually used. So often, my beautiful garden of fellowship with my Lord has been laid aside while I was "busy" about the what I thought was the Lord's work...Math 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

We have a God who equips and sustains us to His honor and glory...not to our own or anyone elses. Oh Lord SAVE me from my own expectations and undertakings that are apart from Yours.

The only thing to do from here is to allow the fields of sin, (in my case, whether it be pursuing knowledge for knowledge sake or ministering to others before my own family or seeking man's approval over Gods') to die out as I labor in that FIRST field, busy about the FIRST things.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Basking in His Grace

Streams of sunshine poured into my eyes today, forcing me to close them, and I smiled as my face bathed in its warmth. Even with my eyes shut tight for protection from the pure brilliance, there was no darkness to be found, only light. I didn't feel the need to think on the cold gloomy days of last week in order to enjoy basking in the glory of today, nor did I run to find some seemingly suited gloomy corner in order to observe the beauty from afar...fearful of taking more than my fair share. No, I joyfully soaked it up, breathed it in, and allowed myself to be surrounded and filled with the pleasure of its abundance. That, my friends, is how we should humbly and joyfully bask in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus' perfect gift of salvation and grace.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A Whole New Year!

It's 2011, that's a whole new year ahead of me, but what I really want to concentrate on is the fact that it's not just a new year, or a new season, month, week, day...but I have RIGHT NOW. I can take "right now", any time I want and start afresh. The key to successful living, for me, is understanding that, by God's grace, I can immediately move on from failures that happened just moments ago or a day ago etc. Yes, there are consequences from neglect and/or failure, but our heavenly Father doesn't just throw us to the scrap yard because we are too flawed. He gives us grace to bear consequences and wisdom to live triumphantly. We don't have to scrap a whole day because we overslept or woke up in a crummy mood, didn't read our Bibles first thing... The moment we realize we are living in failure, we can stop and pray; then, with the Lord's help, we can determine the best way to MOVE FORWARD successfully, from our setback or failure. I'm looking forward to TODAY!
Phl 1:6 "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ:"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

We Sorrow Not As Others...

Brian's Dad was able to spend Christmas with us this year, and I am so glad he did. I tried to redirect my thoughts every time my eyes and mind wandered to the empty space on the couch next to him. Brian, his dad, and I quietly wrapped gifts Christmas Eve, and my throat kept going dry as I watched him lovingly wrap the gifts he picked out for the children...I eventually thought I would choke if I had to watch anymore. I asked Brian to put the radio on to help us along...the cheerier the music in the background, the more it was obvious that someone was missing. Then there were the meals..each meal I prepared, there was the empty spot where she would have been bustling along next to me to get food prepared, how my heart ached. I had successfully put off dealing with much of the grief since she passed away early this summer, because, well, things have been hard, and very busy with Brian's schedule and homeschool. Then came Christmas break, and there was no escaping. Each night after the day's events came to a close, there was no getting away from my thoughts, my memories...reality.

I thought back to the day I got the call, Tuesday, June 1st. We had just moved into base housing and I was trying to finish up the school year- (the girls were attending our church's school since Brian had been deployed) and unpack the house with Brian gone on trips for training and work. Brian's parents had flown out and spent time with us in April and we moved soon after that since the owners of the house we were renting would be returning early. The move was only a couple of miles away, but a move is, well, a move.

Now, I am not one to believe that the Lord uses signs and wonders,like He did during Biblical times-not that He can't or won't, we are just in a different time. So, without getting too off track or putting too much emphasis, as it is probably coincidence, I will say this, the Lord will use what He will and in this case,certain circumstances prompted us to pray more than we would have without being prompted. We were petitioning the Lord for help that we didn't even know we would need, isn't God GOOD? I don't pretend to understand, I just do it.

So, here it is, call me crazy, but when we moved, it was onto the street, New Orleans Way. I immediately didn't like it and huffed around about why we had to live on a street name after a place I have no plans on visiting because of all the awful things it brings to mind. I told Brian as such and he proceeded to tell me how odd it was that he would be taking a trip to New Orleans, for work...though he had never had to before. I was sick and rebuked myself sharply for the knee-jerk superstitious thought: "it's a sign". I did tell Brian that I really felt to pray about this trip like never before, except for his deployment, and I shared that I was worried for him. I thought perhaps my worry stemmed from knowing he would be surrounded by filth which could cause a stumble in thoughts or be a temptation to the eyes. So, I pushed and asked if the trip was absolutely necessary, because I didn't feel peace about him going. There was no way out of it, so we just prayed over the trip. I was still uneasy and fervently praying, even as he left, that the Lord would protect him.

We sent my beloved off to New Orleans, and couple days later, he called...unable to get the words out that his mother had passed away. I was shocked to disbelief and immediately crumpled to the floor wishing I could be with Brian in his sorrow. I told the children that their Grandmom, whom they had just seen a couple months before, went to heaven, and there we sat, amidst boxes and chaos from the move, crying and praying that the Lord would help Daddy and Pop-pop and bear the loss. The much needed prayers we had been lifting up, I believe, were prompted and blessed because of how everything worked together so we could get through a very trying time. I'll just briefly mention how the LORD helped me though the anemia I was dealing with at the time, there is no explanation but the Lord's provision. I was so very weak and He showed Himself very strong in my need. Psa 63:1 "O God, thou [art] my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;"

The call came Tuesday; the children and I attended Wednesday night Bible study the following evening. The love and support from our church family was overwhelming. God is so good to put people in place so that we don't have to bear our grief alone. The offers to help were so loving and I felt lifted and strengthened, though my heart was aching to be with my husband. We weren't sure how things would work out to get him home and to his parent's house to be with his dad. The Lord had plans.

Brian was originally going to fly out alone from New Orleans to meet his Dad,but when my parents offered to keep the kids for us, and front money for plane tickets, Brian said he really wanted me to be with him. There were to be no services held at all for her memorial, but Brian insisted on seeing her and saying goodbye. She had put in her will that she wanted to be cremated and that was that. I remembered when she had called to discuss her will with me...Brian was deployed to Iraq at the time, and though I told her that I did not like it or agree or want to think about her dying...I would respect her wishes. Looking back I wish I had convinced her otherwise, but the burden at the time of Brian's deployment loomed in my thoughts and the last thing I wanted to talk about was death. Funerals and memorials are for the living..and I now know how necessary it is to have that as part of the grieving process. I had no idea we would be facing the loss of her only a year or so after we had that conversation...she was only in her 50s.

Plane tickets were secured with the help of my sister and my dad, I had to focus on how to be a support to Brian and comfort the children. I was still dealing with the house not being unpacked, so I pleaded for strength and help from the Lord and tried to put all else aside to focus myself with packing our things for the immediate trip so that when Brian was able to fly back to Virginia, we would be ready to make the 10 hour drive to Ohio and fly out to Arizona the same day. I had never left my children with anyone before,for a weekend...but I knew I needed to be there for my was going to be hard, and I had my fear of flying to face (and distract), but God is bigger than all this. He was there and supplied our every need, every step of the way. I look back amazed at His provision.

We arrived in Ohio, got the kids settled in about a half hour and then my dad drove us to the Columbus airport. Brian and I were truly as one person through it all, the Lord knitting our hearts in support of one another. We flew, enjoying a rest after the long drive and prepared to meet Brian's Grandmother and Dad who would meet us in Las Vegas. I know we were exhausted, but we were so raw with emotion, we didn't notice...even when there was still a 3 hour drive to Lake Havasu ahead of us upon arrival. We embraced Brian's dad, rather than trying to put anything into words. Words, there are no words for such times as this.

I couldn't talk for almost the whole trip to the house...I didn't know what to say and neither did anyone else, it seemed. Brian and I silently held hands in the back seat and looked at the starry desert was so big and a comfort to remind me again of God's greatness and my smallness. We stopped to get a bite to eat and my tears finally decided to course down my face as I ate...but I was numb.
The more I wiped, the more they flooded out.

We had been traveling for almost 19 hours straight by car and plane, when we pulled up to the house where we had shared many fond memories. Oh, how my heart ached for my children just then, since they had always been with us when we would visit. It had been 4 years since we had been to their house due to our being stationed overseas for 3 years and then Brian's deployment when we had gotten back. Did I mention how difficult military life is...esp the part about always having to say goodbye?

We entered the house and their little Westie dog, Daisy, quickly rushed up to greet us. I sucked in my breath to control tears as I looked around the house...not wanting to see. I saw her jacket and purse were still on the counter, as if she had just stepped out of the room for a minute. Pictures everywhere seemed to jump out at me, her face with the children and was more than I could bear. I could almost hear the giggles and splashing out back where the pool was..more memories of wonderful times. I finally allowed myself to look over at the recliner where just days earlier her husband had found her...already with Jesus. A single red rose rested on her chair. Hurrying on to the guest bedroom I couldn't contain my sorrow. The room was still all decorated, just as it had always been for the girls...she had been so excited to show us. The children's toys, still in the closet, stared emptily back at me and also seemed to sorrow. Even now, I can barely think about it without tears and the sick feeling of loss.

Weary, Brian and I laid in the bed that night and just cried...there were many things unsaid but understood. Our hearts ached over the questions and "what-ifs" that just could not be voiced...closets of pain that could now never be opened. At least we had each-other and the Lord holding us both through the night so that we slept peacefully...tears stopped still on our cheeks til morning.

We woke to the news that Brian's Grandmother had gotten the wrong bag at the airport
and we would have to make a 6 hour roundtrip voyage to remedy the situation. None of us complained...the drive seemed to provide comfort to us..and we were together. There was some discussion as to whether we would *see* her or not, since there was not to be any service or memorial and no viewing service arranged. It was decided that they would arrange Brian's mom in a small room where we could see her one last time. The sooner the better, were my thoughts...face the grief head on. I can't remember if we saw her upon returning from the airport or the next day, but we all braced and readied ourselves. I brought along an old hymnal...because singing is comforting when your heart can't find the words. Brian asked if I would sing "In The Sweet By and By". We arrived at the funeral home and the kind attendant led us to a room that barely fit us all...and there she lay. She was on a gurney covered in a quilt, but I could still see a hospital gown peeking out at the top...she was not "made up" like you typically see them during a funeral, but very much looked asleep...the lamps helped disguise the blue tinge to her face, but it was traumatizing to see her that way. I started to block it all as reality when Brian suddenly fell upon her chest sobbing and crying "why" her, not the Lord. There we all were, faced with the very raw "real-ness" of life and my whole being shook inside trying to hold on as I saw my husband crumbling before me...his Grandmother lovingly stroking her daughters hair and talking of her love for her... Brian eventually turned to me and asked if I could sing the song we decided on...I wondered how I could utter anything, but suddenly a great peace and strength lifted my voice and carried it out of my mouth "There's a land that is fairer than day...and by faith we can see it afar, for the Father waits over the way, to prepare us a dwelling place there..". And the ugliness of this world faded away as we turned our thoughts to where she was now residing, she was no longer in sorrow...and we no longer sorrowed as the world, but were in prayer lifted to thoughts of the truth. The truth that she had asked the Lord Jesus to save her and though we would be facing the sorrow of was only temporary. I don't know how long we lingered at the side of the one who I had known since I was 16...who had taken pictures of Brian and I together before prom, who sat and cheered with me for Brian during his highschool wrestling matches. She was there to watch us say our vows in marriage and then had been present in the delivery room for each child's birth (except Ayden's because he arrived early while in Japan). I allowed my thoughts to animate her face into her beautiful smile and recalled how she had looked into the face of each of my children and called them by the nicknames she made up for each of them. I remembered the joy when the children would climb onto her lap and she'd smother them with kisses. I thought of the late night card games we'd play, how she'd help the kids splash me in the pool...our trips together...I let it all play out in that room. We had a celebration of memories...and then we all kissed her goodbye.

I left there changed. Proper perspective about what matters and what doesn't, had been reinstated. I left determined to LOVE more and to LIVE actively in each moment. I knew it all had to count, these moments, this life, and it all had to be for His Glory if it was to be anything at all. There is no emptiness like the the one you feel when you know you could have done more...and the opportunity is gone. There is no going back. I hold on longer, listen more, talk less...lift up that which matters most and tear down facades that lead to ruin.

I didn't think I would be able to write this and share it with you, but now that I have, it is like I have had a burden lifted. God is bigger than any hurt, sorrow, pain, loss that this world has and He can comfort when no one else can understand. We spent the next couple of days going through and sorting her things...tears flowed throughout as we huddled over the "mother's" journal I had given pass down to the children. Her thoughts and memories my children can know her. The burden and grief of it all would have been too much if it hadn't been for the truth that this life is but a vapor and that we are just passing through. Heaven is our home when we know Christ. We bagged up her clothing...and there it sat, and I thought of how this life is so fleeting. I thought of all the petty things we worry over, and how the end of all those things is nothing...leaves no mark. I thought of how no one can prepare you for all that is contained in what we refer to as -grief, it is something you must rely on the Lord to get you through. And He more than just gets you through it, He abounds in His pouring out of grace, and peace comes just when you think it never will. So much more...but no words to say it.

Brian left for the airport with his dad a few hours ago...and there is a temporary emptiness that we feel, because we know we will see him again. We spent this Christmas, remembering Christ and making new memories, loving one another, laughing, reflecting...thinking ahead to when we will all be reunited with our Lord. There are always bright roads ahead when you know the Lord, because there is always hope. So, we sorrow not, as others...

1 Thess 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.