A Crisis of Faith

Faith.

God has so many things to say about this five letter word. Faith may be a small word, but the practice of it can be a huge factor to living an abundant life in Jesus.

In my life, faith can be seen in two extremes.

The first is BIG and EXTRAORDINARY.

There have been times in my life where I have had faith that I’m sure could have moved mountains. I claimed all of God’s promises and was NEVER going to doubt his plans.

Usually, these moments happened when life was good. I had no reason not to trust Him. I was on the Mountaintop, faith was easy to grasp.

The second can be described by the phrase, “A Crisis of Faith.”

It is characterized by lots of doubt, confusion, and fear. All feelings that should not be associated with faith.

I picture this kind of faith in my mind like a squirrel in the middle of a road turning back and forth trying to decide if he should continue on across or turn back.

That’s how my faith has been lately.

Squirrelly.

A couple of months ago, I felt so sure and secure in God.

He was moving mountains and making a way where there was no way. He was doing what gospel music songs are made of. I was on the spiritual high of His love, grace, and provision. I had placed all my faith and trust in what He could do, and He DELIVERED.

Then, I got comfortable in my faith.

I stopped talking to Him, hardly ever read my Bible and worship? Worship was scarce.

Now, It wasn’t like I made a distinct choice to stop talking to Him every morning, or reading His word or worshipping His name…

I just got…busy.

Oh, busyness you wolf in sheep clothing. The devil sure knows how to wield you.

All the good God had given in my job and the kids going back to school came with a mountain of busyness. Homework, meals, baths, laundry, cleaning and a host of other things were piling up on me quicker than I could handle them. Something had to give.

Suddenly those 30 extra minutes in the morning were spent in coveted slumber rather than in His presence. He became less and less important in my daily routine. I pushed Him aside and it wasn’t long before I began to feel it.

The crisis of faith.

I have had many of these in the last couple of years. You think I would learn, but I have always been hard headed. No “easy, learn from others mistakes kinda girl,” or even my own mistakes?! Nope, I’m a “maybe it will be different this time” kind of learner. Maybe I can handle only speaking to him here and there…

Here I was again, in the middle of the road, trying to decide which way I would choose to run.  Would I run to big and extraordinary faith or would I retreat to the small faith hoping God would move, but feeling like He could care less…

road2

Well. I got hit by the car.

Oh man, have you ever done that? Saw a squirrel running back and forth, all the while you’re screaming, “oh no, little guy, keep going! Choose a side! I’m going to hit you!” You are slowing down but there are cars behind you, you can’t screech to a halt or there will be a pile-up?! Oh, what do you do?! You flinch and hope he made it over…then…

Then you hit him.

It is AWFUL. I hate hitting animals, especially when they could have just kept running and made it.

Well, I am the squirrel in this lovely word picture. I got hit.

Hard.

Like, rolling under the front tires and then the back tires, then by every car that was following.

Nothing outlandish or awful happened, but I had allowed myself to start seeing everything through my sin-scarred eyes and not the heavenly eyes of my Father.

Suddenly everything bad that happened was “Why would you let this happen God?” and “How could you do this to me?”

I fell into familiar sins and didn’t really feel all that bad about it either.

Dangerous, dangerous ground.

I found myself wondering if God cared about me. Circumstances would arise that would hurt me and I began to wonder if He even wanted to help me.  I would sit down to talk to Him but would feel like He wasn’t there.

Have you ever felt like that? Like He is far away and you can’t feel His presence?

I can guarantee you it is not Him, IT IS YOU. Sin, bitterness, self, pride, something is in the way.

All of these were in my way.

Then I got to the place, laying in that street, mangled by all the cars (I’m not giving up on the squirrel analogy – hang with it) that I realized if I had just stayed with the Lord I wouldn’t be in this mess. If I hadn’t tried to run to self-fulfillment and what I thought would ease the pain of life’s hurts I would not be roadkill right now.

I was going to tell you I peeled myself up and ran to Him, but that would be such a lie.

He ran to me and picked up my broken and bruised body. He knew my heart was shattered and I wanted His presence back in my life.

I confessed all my sin, pride, bitterness and anger.

He forgave it all and embraced me.

My crisis of faith had dissipated into a seed of faith about the size of a mustard seed.

Thankfully He said that is all I needed to begin the journey back to big and outlandish.

God is such a good, loving Father.

He is Sure.

Not slack concerning His promises.

He took my heart, so forlorn and broken, and began to mend it. He didn’t scorn and throw “I told you so’s” in my face. He let me exercise my free will and when it had taken me to my end, He embraced my pleas for forgiveness. He met them with grace and mercy.

Where are you today? Have you let busyness or circumstances get in your way?

Maybe something happened that diminished and scattered your faith. Now it is so small, it is almost undetectable. You are caught in the middle of the road, unsure of which way to run.

Run to Jesus. He is waiting with open arms. He will make all things right.

Not easy. Not comfortable. Not trouble free.

But He will fill the scariness of life’s ups and downs with peace, calm, security, and most importantly Himself.

Choose to trust Him today. Choose the big outlandish faith over the crisis of faith. What He can do when you trust Him with your whole heart is unmeasurable.

– Your squished, scarred but mended friend.

 

 

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The Winds of Change

Change is a unique aspect of life. It can be positive, negative, hopeful, fearful, life-giving or life draining. Change is one of life’s toss-ups, depending on how you look at it.

I have been going through so many changes lately. It is why I haven’t written in two months. To be honest, I’ve felt dumbstruck as to how to write about the changes I have been experiencing because it can be dangerous for a people pleaser like myself.

What will people think?

What will they say?

I arrived at the conclusion that no matter what people say or think, God and I are all that matters. I have grown so much closer to Him through these changes, and He is doing amazing things in our lives. THAT is what matters. HIS voice, HIS thoughts and HIS plans. Everything else melts away in comparison.

So here goes nothing.

My husband, Joshua, and I have been asking the Lord for specific direction in our lives for a while now. We have been in full-time ministry for 10 years, but we sensed God was blowing the winds of change in our direction.

If you have read my blog post Hang on, you know what Joshua and I have faced for the last three years. Walking through deep hurt like that is one of the most courageous things someone can do, but it does take a toll. What made it harder was trying to walk through it while working in full-time Christian service.

Ministry demands constant giving of yourself, and when you are deeply broken you start asking the question, “what part is left to give?”

How can you pour from a broken cup?

It is nearly impossible.

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We asked the Lord to lay out His plan for us and to make it obvious. We wanted to KNOW it was Him and not our own selfish desire. We basically pulled a Gideon and laid out the fleece. We needed a sign.

My faith was weak. How could God be leading us away from full-time ministry? It felt contradictory.

Then the Lord spoke His word into my heart – “Amanda…My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”

Ok God, do Your will here. My hands, heart, and mind are open to whatever You want.

Joshua and I prayed that prayer so intensely one night. We wanted Him to move so badly. We just wanted to be where He wanted us to be. We laid it out and left it in His hands.

The fleece was soaked on a dry ground the next morning.

I woke up to a text from my dad about a job. A friend of ours had woken up with me on his mind concerning a job in his office that had been left unfilled for two weeks now.

God was on the move.

I went for the interview two days later. The same day Joshua got a call for a job that his good friend, Joey, would leave open when he moved to Michigan. God was working long before we knew it when He called our best friends to move months before. He was working in their lives while also making provision for ours.

God is amazing. His plans are so intricate and detailed.

By the end of that week, we both had full-time jobs, and our kids were enrolled in the school they had gone to the previous year. Their school was thrilled to have them back and were willing to work with us to make it happen.

Needless to say, my mind was BLOWN.

I know God is able and can do way beyond what I can think or imagine, but when he pulls jobs out of thin air and makes a way where there was no way, I can’t help but be left with my jaw on the floor.

In one week, He had supplied us a way for healing while being able to provide for our family. He moved everything into place, and we just followed the path He made. When I stop and think about it, I still find myself in shock sometimes.

This also meant we would have to leave the ministry we were serving in. It was a tough call. We loved those people and felt God was using us there, but we knew in our hearts that this was the road He wanted us to walk. We resigned and gave a two-week notice. I don’t think anyone had any clue it was coming. Joshua and I had gotten good at mask wearing, the art of putting that strong face forward while broken and hurting inside.

It was almost impossible to serve effectively while dealing with so much hurt. Not only were we wanting to heal from the pain Joshua faced as a child, but ministry had compounded the hurt too. It requires a special kind of grit and tenacity to be in ministerial work. You need a soft heart that gives selflessly, but that is also encased in heavy armor, able to withstand the arrows of hurt that fly your way.

Our armor is heavily damaged, and our hearts exposed for too long. We need a time of rest, recovery, and rebuild.

God was gracious to give us that.

A Sabbath.

A time of rest.

My hope is that you can understand, but regardless I know without a shadow of a doubt this is the path God has laid for us. He has shown His hand in miraculous ways, and it has been AWESOME. I am choosing to not let the thoughts of what people will think mess with the greatness of what God has done.

When I let people’s voices drown out the Lord’s voice, I am on dangerous ground. I am choosing today to hear His still small voice whisper above the crowd, “Trust me with all your heart Amanda, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge me, and I will make your paths straight.”

I don’t know where you live, but in North Carolina, this weekend has been extremely windy. I mean like “hold your clothes on” kind of windy. The local weather stations were even reporting wind warnings because winds had reached up to 50mph, resulting in power outages and trees down in our area.

Wind can be tricky.

It can produce energy by spinning a field full of windmills, and yet it can devastate thousands of people when it yields a hurricane.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “the winds of change are blowing?”

Let me tell you, I have felt them blowing through my life like the 50 mph winds that my physical body has endured this weekend. Today, I stood outside and let the wind whirl around me. I don’t think I have ever stopped and allowed the weather to affect me like that.

It was beautiful. I mean my hair wasn’t beautiful afterward, but standing in the midst of God’s creation and allowing it to literally move me was life-changing.

Winds of change can be as energy producing or as devastating as the forceful winds of nature, but if you can stand still and let Him literally move everything for you, it will make all the difference. It may take you three years to finally give it to Him and see it physically played out, but I have no doubt that He is moving in the midst of the winds of change, no matter how many jobs, houses, churches, or paths it takes you to.

Stand still and let His winds of change engulf you.

It will be out of this world.

wind

Hold your Tongue.

If I asked you, “What comes to mind when you think of my name?”

What would it stir up?

       Amanda Rager

Was it positive or negative? True or false?

Lately, the Lord has been convicting my heart about my tongue and judgments.

I have been reading through James, and I knew I was approaching the chapter about “taming the tongue.” I was so tempted to skip over it and never look back, but I knew God would convict my heart. So, I braved the chapter.

That was fun…said no one. Ever.

It’s chapter 3 if you wanted to know or if you wanted to avoid it…

I had already felt God moving in my heart about my tongue before reading James 3, and I didn’t want to face it.

I am going to be honest with you. It is a real struggle for me.

Let me tell you why.

I am very insecure, and I have been hurt a lot. Like many of us, I have been the target of cutting words. Kids can be ignorant, teens can be self-absorbed, and adults can be cruel. For whatever reason, I have always felt very different and very unwanted. This was something that I wrestled with constantly. Just ask my mom. She was my constant. She was the one who told me I was beautiful just the way I was, or that people were just speaking from their hurt. It probably had nothing to do with me. She was great, a balm to the hurt, but people’s words still cut deep.

My coping mechanism for being treated this way was to talk about the people that hurt me to the couple of friends I had and to poke at their weaknesses. What started as a way to deal with bullying as a kid/teen morphed into a bad habit as an adult. I wanted to feel better about myself or justify how people were treating me, and I did that with my words.

Does this justify my sin? No.

Does it help you to understand why it’s a struggle for me? Maybe.

Are you judging me right now for my brutal honesty? I hope not…;)

I want to be brave enough to face my sin with vulnerability. In hopes that someone reading this will know they are not alone in whatever they are facing or struggling with. That maybe, in my mess, they can see theirs and have the strength to face it too. This is tough to overcome. For real.

So, I googled the functions of a tongue. It took me on a weird youtube journey. Tongues are interesting and gross all at the same time. I saw too many of them.

Don’t do it y’all.

The tongue weighs about 2.5 ounces. Think about that in regards to your body weight. My tongue is a very small part of my body but a very BIG part of my life. To live without a tongue is to live without taste, talking, singing, and with a great difficulty in digesting food. Trust me. I read WebMD extensively. 😉

16-Home-Remedies-To-Get-Rid-Of-Blisters-On-The-Tongue

The Lord calls the tongue a “small member” and likens it to a great ship’s rudder, the bit in a horse’s mouth, and a small fire that can overtake a great forest. The tongue can be vital and dangerous all at the same time.

Whoa buddy, do I know it.

Recently I was talking to my counselor, and I made a definitive statement about someone. She looked at me with her blue eyes that pierce into my soul and asked, “So, are you their judge?” Um….ouch.

No…no I am not.

Her point in saying that to me was that I have no idea what that person is going through and what has led them to this point. She was absolutely right. I only know what I see, and that is NOT enough to make that kind of snap judgment.

It was hard to hear.

It got me thinking about all the things I have heard about myself from others growing up. Most of them were quick judgments by people who never took the time to know me or what I was going through.

And here I was doing the EXACT. SAME. THING.

GUILTY.

The next day in my devotions, I came to Chapter 3 of James. Oh Lord, You have such a way of working those things out. It was perfect timing. My counselor had tilled the ground of my heart, so God’s word was ready to be planted.

James 3: 7-12 –All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

God can not do any kind of work through my mouth when it shoots “deadly poison.” My mouth shouldn’t bless the Lord and then curse those He made in his likeness, whether they have hurt me or not. Whether they deserve it or not. Whether I am feeling bad about myself or not.

Gulp.

I asked you at the beginning of this blog what came to mind when you thought of my name. I did this for two reasons.

One, to see if you have negative thoughts associated with me and to ask yourself why? I may never cross your mind, but if I do, what thoughts are connected with my name? and why? Is it true because you experienced it with me? Or is it gossip? I did this with various names and I realized what I thought of were things I have heard other people say. Most of which, I have no idea if it is true or not! That is terrible!

Two, I wanted to know if it was my words that came to mind. I hope it was not the bitterness of my words, but if it was, I am sorry. I ask for your forgiveness if you have heard me say anything negative about anyone. I ask for your help. If you hear it happen again, stop me. Tell me what my counselor did. You are not their judge. You have no idea of their struggle or what they have been through. You do not know what has brought them to where they are or to what they did.

GIVE GRACE, AMANDA.

Let’s give grace today to those around us. Even if you hear that they are talking about you. Even if they treat you terribly. It would be so easy to degrade them with your words or to even listen to others say negative things- I know! But what would it look like if we stopped the cycle of hurt and gossip and offered grace into the hurt?  It would definitely halt the pattern of slander. I believe God would be glorified, and He would take care of the injustice you feel.

He says so in Romans…

Romans 12:17-21 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let’s trust what God says today. I’m right here with you. Offer it to Him to handle. He PROMISES He will, and you can trust God on his promises. He always keeps them.

It is going to be HARD. I am scared.

My mind is screaming, “NO! I HAVE to defend myself when wrong is spoken of me. People HAVE to KNOW those things aren’t true. I have to say what bad I can about that person so that I can look better.”

But my heart whispers back, “God has it. He knows the truth. He is ALL that matters. He will right the wrongs. He will bring truth to lies. Vengeance is HIS. Not mine.”

Speak Life. Offer Grace. Be kind.

Let’s brave this storm together.

Let’s hold our tongues. We will be better for it. God will be honored in it.

Let’s do this thing.

A Word.

A couple of years ago I read a book by Debbie Macomber entitled One Perfect Word. It is about choosing a word to intentionally focus on for a whole year of your life. Debbie Macomber wrote about how this practice changed her and how the Lord worked greatly through it in her life.  In her book, she shared fourteen words that each represent the seasons of a particular year in her life.

This book came to me through a dear friend. She had spoken about how it had made an impact on her at a Bible study I was attending. She shared that her word for the new year would be “Joy.”

I was intrigued. I love this kind of stuff. It sounded poetic and I wanted in. I asked to borrow the book and I read it quickly and chose my word even quicker.

Little did I know that would be the year of undoing.

My word was Hope.

It had been one of Debbie’s words, and I wasn’t feeling that original at the time. It sounded good enough. I wanted to share with my friend a word that I had chosen after reading the book, and “hope” just sounded good, you know?

Everyone likes to have hope…right?

Hope – to cherish a desire with anticipation to want something to happen or be true.

Oh the irony.

I would choose that word and forget it almost as instantly as I had decided on it. All “hope” I possessed flew right out the door with my dreams of how our life, marriage, jobs, home, and ministry would grow.

I lost all hope that year. It would take me years to find it again.

…ANYWAY…

This concept flew back into my brain recently, the idea of choosing a word for the new year. A word that I would intentionally seek out, pursue and study. I determined I wanted to do it. But I would take some time to decide on it. None of this “fly by the seat of my pants and chose some word I hadn’t thought a minute about” business.

It was tough.

A word that I would want to define my whole year.

One that I could cling to and claim.

A word that I would seek out and ask God for in my life.

And one night as I was lying awake, unable to sleep, I caught a glimpse of the sign that hangs above our bed. I sat up and looked at it for a long while.

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I had picked up this sign months ago when we had moved in with my parents. I asked Joshua if I could pick up some things to make the room more “home like.” He gave the go ahead, and I charged Hobby Lobby with debit card in hand.  This would be the only thing I picked up though. I looked at all sorts of signs and pictures but this one just felt right.

And now I know why.

My word for this year is Brave.

Brave – ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

In all honesty, I have a REAL struggle with being brave. I actually run to being afraid and discouraged when faced with the choice to be strong or courageous.

I obsess and cower when confronted with hard situations.

Just ask my husband.

He knows the depths that my worry and fear can take me to.

But this year, I am going to focus on the word Brave and try to practice it as well. To stand at the ready to endure danger or pain. To show courage and strength in the face of fear and discouragement.

I know I can do this because of the second part of Joshua 1:9, “…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

I don’t know what this year holds. It could be a banner year or one that breaks me down for rebuilding. God only knows, but I feel a rumbling within my soul that He wants me to rise strong and courageous no matter the outcome because He is with me.

I can’t have room for the words fear or worry.

Be BRAVE Amanda. God resides here with you.

Just in the week that this word has been circling around in my brain, God has brought many books to my attention that focus on being brave, and I plan to read these books this year.

Then Joshua and I were walking though TJ Maxx when we saw a sign that said, “You make me brave.” We purchased it right away and gave it to someone that has made being brave easier with their kindness and support.

This year I want the thread of bravery to run through all I do. I want God to do a work in me that allows Himself to be seen because I am not afraid to stand for Him, no matter the cost. Also, I want to breed bravery in others. More often than not, when someone is willing to be brave, stand up, and walk forward, others are more willing to do so as well.

One author that I have been reading after is Brene Brown. I may not agree with everything she writes, but I have learned SO much from her. Her book Daring Greatly is one of the reasons I believe so deeply in vulnerability and authenticity. Vulnerability is the birthplace of so many things we crave in this life : joy, courage, empathy, creativity, hope, accountability.

In her book Daring Greatly she shares a quote by Teddy Roosevelt that has stuck with me and that I want to share with you.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Oh, I want to be known as the person who is daring greatly in the arena; moving forward with a brave heart because I have a force within me that no evil can stand against. He has me in His hand and is with me every step of the way, “wherever I go.” No matter if I fail or succeed He is proud of me because I “dared greatly” for him, and His opinion is ALL that matters. I refuse to stand outside the arena and be the one who smirks under my breathe about others who are trying. That person doesn’t win anything. They are miserable. I am done. with. that.

I want my face to be marred with the dust, sweat, and blood of bravery and courage as a child of God fighting and standing for right. I want to be known as someone who speaks truth with courage and tenacity even when its frightening and lonely. Even if I fail, I will know I failed while giving my all, daring greatly for God. I will fix my eyes on Him.

I challenge you to pick a word for this New Year. One that you can look for, study, search out, and even turn around and give to others. And please share with me! I would love to know what word you choose!

Happy New Year! My prayer remains that God will do a great work in each of us for His glory!

Amanda

“Not Yet?”

My son Judah is four years old. He is a treasure to my heart, and a constant adventure. Even this picture is a tribute to the fact. He was supposed to stand next to me and throw the leaves in the air while the picture was being taken. The idea was to be photographed together laughing and having a fun fall moment while leaves floated down around us. But in usual Judah fashion, when we said “go” he ran forward yelling and throwing the leaves…and we did it about 4 times. Not according to plan, Juju. 🙂

juju.jpgPhoto Creds: April Teceno Photography

Judah is the type of child who wakes up asking questions. I am convinced it is his favorite thing. A usual morning consists of the same three questions asked about, hmmm, 50 times.  Here they are:

Can I have a snack?

When can I watch TV or play Mario?

What are we doing next?

Deep down he knows the answer to each of these questions. We LITERALLY follow the same schedule every day. But he HAS to ask the questions. I think its because he needs to hear the answers said aloud, so nothing is left to wonder in his little mind.

Usually I give him the same answer over and over again, each time becoming increasingly frustrated. “No Judah.” Not now Judah.” “After your nap Judah.” “Nothing Judah!”

And almost every time he answers back with those big brown eyes staring straight at me, “Not yet?”

“Not yet, Momma?”

He needs to know these things WILL be coming. It’s just not yet…but soon.

Well, last week this scene was unfolding like it usually does. I was vacuuming his room and he was 27 questions deep into the morning when he asked about something again. I answered, “No Judah.” To which he replied, “Not yet?” God stopped me dead in my tracks. I froze in realization that I am Judah.

My mind began to flood with everything that I constantly ask the Lord for. Day after day. My prayers are filled with requests. Mostly for myself, if I am being honest.

And lately His answers have been “No.” And my heart will inevitably whisper, “Not yet. Not yet. Right Lord?” I have to know that these things I am praying for will come. That one day it will be here, He is just making me wait for right timing. Just like I do to Judah.

But what if that is not the case?

What if the answer is No.

Forever.

What will I do then?

It was in that moment when I was vacuuming and heard Judah’s sweet voice say those two small words that God filleted open my heart and threw a realization on me that stopped me dead in my tracks. I looked up, stopped vacuuming and caught my reflection in a mirror in his room.

“God, is this what I am doing?”

I turned off the vacuum, went into my room and collapsed into my desk chair.

I was shaken.

It was one of those moments that felt like God struck right to the center of me. He peeled back a piece I wasn’t willing to let be touched. In the words of a four year old.

Some of the best things that have happened to me are because He has told me an affirmative, “No.” Why is it that I just now am realizing that I am fighting Him on it?

I know that I know God loves me and wants the best for me. He has told me over and over again in His word. That I am loved and treasured. That He WANTS to bless my life.

He just never said when or how.

I have treasured and held close to my heart verses like Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 37:4, Romans 8:28.

But recently I read 1 Peter 1:6-7 :

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

and James 1:2-4 :

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

My face was ripped clean off.

As I read these passages I was reminded of something my counselor asks me whenever I bring her situations that I am struggling through and asking God to relieve. She just asks these two simple questions EVERY TIME.

“What might God be doing in this trial?” “What might He be teaching you?”

UUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH.

Who wants to hear that? Who wants to think about that?

I just want this awfulness to GO AWAY.

I want people to treat me with kindness!

I want sin to let go of me!

I want hurts to be healed!

Wrongs to be righted!

I want life to be easier than this!

I don’t want to be stuck here, in all of this!

But what about James 1? What about rejoicing when I face trials of various kinds?

He says it will produce steadfastness.

Steadfastness – being immovable, unable to be shaken, deeply rooted.

I really believe that God is trying to produce steadfastness in me. Because before all of this I was very movable, easily shaken, and blown by every wind.

Through each circumstances He has rooted me down deeper and deeper to Himself. And He has done this through giving most of my requests an affirmative “no.”

It was like through those two small words from Judah that my eyes were opened to what He was doing for me.

He is securing me to Himself. He is making my heart, joy, peace, comfort, strength more dependent upon Him instead of my circumstances. He knew what I needed for that to happen.

I needed everything I found comfort in, security in, to be ripped away. So that I could find everything I truly needed in Him.

Here are some examples in my life where this has happened so very clearly.

I found comfort and peace in relying on Joshua, my husband, for every answer. He is the leader of our home and I thought that meant he had to make every decision and I was supposed to just follow in line. God began undoing everything that we had built on Joshua’s shoulders and we learned that we had to lean on each other and God to be able to even limp through this trial. It brought so much authenticity into our marriage. We were able to see each other for exactly who we were. Not this “perfect” persona we had built for the “perfect” marriage.

I have rest and contentment when I am in my own home surrounded by the things that we have built for ourselves in the last ten years. God hasn’t let me live in my own home for 3 years now. I have lived in a camper, a college dorm, and my parents house. This has given me a renewed sense of thankfulness for everything I am given, big or small. And a realization that we need much much less to be truly happy in this life.

I really appreciate feeling in control of my life. Being in control of my feelings, not allowing anyone to see the slightest misstep. Not allowing anyone to hurt me because I haven’t allowed anyone too far in. That blew up in my face when I was going through such a deep hurt that I didn’t know up from down. I lost all control and had to allow myself to be vulnerable and open with people. It has been one of the most hurtful seasons of life, but oh, the treasures He has allowed me to behold in people. To be truly seen, embraced, and loved anyway? It has changed my life forever.

You have to know that in these three instances I asked for Joshua to be healed quickly, for Him to give us a home of our own again, and for me to pull it together. His answers would be and still are, no, no, and no.  And until that moment in Judah’s room I kept whispering back, “not yet…? Not yet, Lord? Soon though?” But the answers may keep being no. I am choosing to look for the lessons and promises in the No’s.

So far they have been life changing and always for my good. God knows the bigger picture. I will try to trust Him in every no and try not to answer back with questions.

Today I will rest in Him.

Because He is doing a great work of steadfastness in my life. Linking my every happiness to Himself.

And really, what in this life could compare to what He has to offer?

James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

 

 

89 Roses and 2 Apologies.

I was recently given 89 roses. They were magnificent.

89 rosesAnd heavy! Whew!

My husband, Joshua, gave them to me.

Now, I could tell you they were given to me because he just had me on his mind one day. I could smile big and flaunt to everyone. But that would be such a disgrace to what they mean to me. To be honest, I think a couple of years ago if anyone had found out about my gift, I would have said just that. It was just an extremely thoughtful present.

But they are so much more that that. They are redeeming and grace filled.

The day before I received my gift of 89 roses, Joshua and I had an argument. One of those big bad ones you have sometimes in marriage.

Oh, you don’t? Ok. Just us then. 😉

We had both been going through a lot personally and had placed expectations on each other in the midst of it. And when they weren’t being met we both imploded. I wanted him to be more open and honest about everything and he just wanted me to understand that he struggles with that as someone who has been through deep hurt and to leave it there.

We were pretty hurtful to each other and made accusations that were far from truth. And then we walked away from one another for a whole night and day.

The silence was deafening.

Then he came home with 89 roses.

We talked for what seemed like forever. We were open and honest about everything we were hurting about. Most of it had nothing to do with each other, it was just manifesting itself in our relationship. We said hard truths and offered each other grace and understanding. We asked for forgiveness and gave it freely to one another.

God was all over it.

Because, trust me, our reckonings don’t usually go like that… 😉

This journey God has placed us on has taught us so much about our marriage. We have learned that we have to deliberately choose to be open and honest with each other, no matter what. We are partners and are in this together. Forever. If we just go off assumptions and half truths we will end up in a mess (erm…like this one). We need all the information. All the time. I need to know where he is hurting, and he needs to know where I am. I need to know where he is feeling weak. He needs to know the same about me. The list could go on and on.

When things are left unsaid, you have to start filling in blanks on your own, and I was never good at guessing games. Especially for a man’s mind. And a man trying to fill in a woman’s unsaid thoughts?! It only creates distance and confusion.

In a marriage relationship, vulnerability and authenticity are vital. It took so long for us to understand and start grasping that. And we still struggle. Being totally vulnerable with someone is one of this life’s hardest climbs.

But it has the best views.

Being vulnerable and open, I mean truly open, can breed a connection like you will never understand unless you have done it.

It is groundbreaking. Especially for a marriage.

Now back to my story. After we had talked, I was looking at the roses and I asked Joshua, “exactly how many roses are here…?” He said, ” I bought 90, but gave one to Cadence (our daughter), so you have 89 roses there.” I was floored! “Joshua, where did you get 90 roses?” His answer stilled my heart.

“Well, I had to buy all they had.”

My husband, hurting and not understanding at all where I was, went and bought a store out of their roses.

For me.

My heart was overwhelmed.

It is in moments like that I can really see a portrait of who God is. That despite all the hurt I had inflicted on him, he wanted me to know I was loved and cherished.

We have been through so much in the last three years, and I can remember some days being so lost and hurt, wondering if we would ever make it through. But then moments like this one happen, and God brings so much beauty into the hurting. As I stood, admiring this vast bouquet of flowers I just saw grace and redemption all over them.

God is redeeming our story for His glory. And offering grace into every hurt.

A rose is such a classic unique flower.

It has a long stem filled with sharp thorns that lead to a beautiful case of soft petals. And those petals hold one of my favorite smells. But if a rose is not handled with care and purpose, it can hurt you.

Marriage can be the same way.

Beautiful, with a sweet smelling savor. But if not handled with care, can become hurtful and hard to maneuver . We let the thorns of hurt, misunderstanding, miscommunication, pride, fear, and silence take away the beauty of the bloom.

Choose honesty and openness today in your relationships. Choose hard conversations over the “I’m fine” response. Say I’m sorry and genuinely mean it. Try to really forgive and give grace, if you can, because so much grace is given from the Lord to your life. Verbalize your expectations. That way, together you can decide if they are reasonable for each other.

Each of these moments will be like cutting off a thorn.

And thornless roses are so much more enjoyable…don’t you think?🌹

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hang On.”

There are two words that perfectly describe the state of my life for the past three years.

“Hang on.” 

Have you ever seen the 1996 movie Twister?

twister2

The two leading actors in this film are Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. The premise is this storm chasing couple is trying to further understand the inner workings of Tornados. The storyline and acting is sub par at most but for a 90’s film it really has great effects in the storm scenes. I haven’t watched this film in years, but there is one scene that is burned in my mind.

It is at the end of the movie. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt find themselves face to face with one of the biggest tornados they have encountered and it is coming right for them. They take off running on foot from this humongous storm that is threatening their lives. What they have been chasing for so many years is now chasing them. They get pretty far on foot, but eventually reach a point where running is no longer an option. They dodge into this small building and are looking for anything that will anchor them from being taken by this storm. All they find is leather straps and a metal pipe.

Nail biting seconds pass as they maneuver and secure themselves.

Bill Paxton hunkers down next to Helen Hunt and says, “Hang on.”

Then it happens.

The tornado reaches them. First it obliterates the building they have sought cover in. Then it lifts them up, feet flying above their heads, held only to the ground by leather straps hooked around a metal pipe. They are terrified. But then all of a sudden, the music shifts and what once was a place of terror and uncertainty gives way to beautiful madness. They are both looking into the eye of the storm and it is glorious. This is what they have been chasing and researching for years and now they are beholding it in a way no one else has before.

You see them physically change from terrified to awestruck.

I see Joshua and myself in the face of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt.

For years we had been “chasing” the Lord in ministry. We loved it and it was our life. Until God graciously began undoing us. One day we turned around and were met by an enormous storm. The biggest we had ever encountered.

Joshua had suffered an unimaginable trauma as a child. Sexual abuse is one of the worst possible things a child can endure. Innocence exposed to too much, too soon. He concealed it for 21 years and it had become a raging storm that had chased him into a small place where he couldn’t breathe.

So we tried to run.

We wanted relief. An instant fix. A building that would keep us safe, that the storm could not reach us in. A way to stop the storm ourselves. We tried so many things to stop that storm from ravaging our life. But in the end we found ourselves tied by leather straps to a metal pipe. Holding on for dear life as the storm roared above us. But it was in this place that God began to do the real work in our lives.

I look back on the time before all this came to the surface and I can remember Joshua I asking God to really make Himself known to us and to use us however He wanted to. But I have to tell you, I had no idea it would take us down a road of such brokenness, loneliness, undoing, grace, faith, redoing, and opportunities greater than we could have imagined.

We felt so alone during this time. Especially Joshua. Personal topics like this are so hard to talk about. And no one wants to really hear about these hidden places. It’s too raw. But there are so many hurting in the dark. Scared to really tell anyone what they have endured. How could anyone understand? Would they treat me different? Would they blame me? What would they think? Would they look at me differently?

Would you believe that before Joshua told me about his abuse, I had NEVER talked to anyone who had endured childhood sexual abuse. Now, after Joshua had the unimaginable strength to speak his truth and to take the risk of being really seen. I have talked with and met too many to count.

Too many to count. What a contrast to before.

There are so many people hurting in this area, and I had no idea.

I was down in a storm cellar somewhere, totally ignorant to the real storms people were and are facing.

I wish I could tell you now, three years later, that we are at the end of the movie in our lives. Where the storm has dissipated and the dark clouds give way to a new sky. But we are still right in the midst of it – feet flying above our heads, holding tight to that metal pipe.

BUT we aren’t terrified anymore. We have moved into the moment when we look up into the storm and are amazed.

We are watching His beautiful plan unfold in the midst of a storm I never saw coming that has completely changed Joshua and I. This storm that was meant for destruction and devastation became one of the most beautiful gifts.

God has allowed us to see what HE can do with a life shattered and brought back together by Himself. HE has given such peace that passes all understanding to Joshua. And HE has allowed new opportunities of ministry to come forth and start redeeming what the devil meant for evil.

Here is the truth. The Lord may never allow the storm to fully dissipate. It may always be raging above us or swirling near us until the day we step into eternity.

GULP.

But I am so unbelievably grateful He has given us the opportunity to see His hand so clearly working right in the midst of the storm.

And you know, as much as I see ourselves in the faces of the actors of this film, I see God in every other part. He is in the tornado, undoing all that we have built on our own, graciously passing over each thing and leveling it so HE can rebuild. I see His provision and sovereignty in the building, sheltering us from the debris long enough to become secured. I see his mercy and grace in the leather straps and metal pipe that anchor us from being taken by the storm that threatens our lives. And I see his majesty and power in the actors faces as they behold the beauty of the storm.

What is God trying to undo in your life today? What gracious prodding is He giving for you to tell your story and to really be seen. Taking a step in faith and taking the risk to be fully seen and known can be one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. It could go either way. People may embrace you and love on you or they may not be able to take in that kind of vulnerability. We have experienced both sides. But I will tell you, it is one amazing thing to behold God working through circumstances you never thought He could use.

I am so grateful for the thought of “Hanging on.” It means that there is nothing left I can do but to hang on or rely on a God who is strong enough to take me through the storm.

There is something so out of this world about holding this kind of hurt out to God and saying, “Here. This belongs to you, and I am willing and ready for You to use it however you see fit.”

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 : But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of usWe are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

I don’t know what your storm is today, but “Hang on.” And when you can, look to the Lord in the midst of it. He is our Savior, Shelter, Strength, Protector, rock, comforter, defender, peace, deliverer, God, and friend. I can almost guarantee you will be awestruck by the beauty He can create with anything you allow Him to use.