Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I'm Nobody

I was driving home from Bible study last night, arguing with God in my head about how insufficient I feel for some of the things He’s laid on my heart to do when I was reminded of a situation that occurred a few years ago. As a former student in the gifted program in school and the parent of a gifted student I was asked to serve on the advisory committee for the gifted program. At our first meeting, all of the committee members introduced themselves, and it happened that I was among the last to introduce myself. After hearing introductions from teachers, school board members and others involved in education, what came out of my mouth was “My name is Jeannie, and I’m nobody”. 

Among all those people that had education in education, I felt like a no one. In actuality, because I had a different viewpoint and way of thinking as a former gifted student and parent of a gifted student, I was able to provide an alternative viewpoint to those on the other side of the equation. I wasn’t a nobody. I was an important somebody, just in a different way.

How often do we feel that way in other areas of our life? We look around us and see people that are more successful, make more money, are more patient, more loving, more educated… Whatever area it is we feel we lack in, it’s easy to spot someone that doesn’t and wish that we were them. It’s easy to ask God why He didn’t give us this gift or that gift and overlook the abundance of gifts that He has bestowed upon us. It’s easy to label ourselves a nobody and ignore the masterpiece that our loving Father made of us.

We look at the canvas of our lives and see areas that need retouching, or splotches of paint that don’t make sense. We look at God’s work of art in progress, and fail to see the beauty He’s creating. I used to love watching Bob Ross paint. One of the things I heard him say over and over was that there were no mistakes in painting. Only happy accidents. If he dripped paint on the canvas, he’d turn it into a tree, or a bird or something that in the end looked as if he had planned for it to be there all along. 

God, our master painter, makes no mistakes or accidents. What looks like paint that fell off of a too full brush, be it divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job or any of a number of things that we think shouldn’t have happened, is in actuality just the beginning of a new part of His masterpiece.
We are a living canvas, and God is at work in us and around us, bringing beauty to life. If we look too long at the paint splotch and fail to see what He’s creating, we lose out on so much peace and joy in life. Yes, life is hard. You will not ever hear me say it’s peachy and life serving Christ is never painful. But our God is the master at taking those moments that seem wrong, and turning them into a beauty beyond what we could ever imagine. Even when the canvas fights back, He lovingly takes His brush and recreates the design He had in mind for us. So, when you feel as if He made a mistake, stop looking at the splotch, and instead look for what He’s going to make out of it.

Don’t be afraid to dream big. And if you feel He’s laid on your heart to do something you feel ill-equipped for, remember that whatever He calls you to, He will equip you for. In my flesh, I look at my desire to be a marriage and family counselor (that I wholeheartedly believe comes straight from God) and wonder who would want advice and encouragement from a divorced woman. A woman that couldn’t help her own marriage survive. I look at my desire to write a book that can help encourage people. Me… an author? Who am I that anyone would buy my book? But then I think of Moses. A man who felt inadequate for the job God called him to. He offered up excuse after excuse, but when it came down to it, he was able to do what God commanded, because God Himself was with him and gave him what was necessary to fulfill his calling. He will do the same with me. He’ll do the same with you. Dream those Godly dreams and then watch as God fulfills them in your life. But never forget where the power came from, and praise His name continually!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Serenaded by the Savior

I heard a song recently that really spoke to me in a way I’m sure the song was never intended. Although country music in and of itself speaks to a multitude of different situations you find yourself in, listening to this song I heard the wooing of my Heavenly Father.

There'll be days your heart don't wanna beat
You pray more than you breathe
And you just wanna fall to pieces
And nights, those 2 AM calls
Where dreams become walls
And you just need a break
Break on me

Shatter like glass
Come apart in my hands
Take as long as it takes, girl
Break on me
Put your head on my chest
Let me help you forget
When your heart needs to break
Just break on me

There'll be times when someone you know
Becomes someone you knew
But you'd do anything to change it
And words you wanna take back
But you know you can't
When the page just won't turn
And it still hurts
Break on me

Oh, when you need somebody
When you need somebody right now
You're where I'll be
Break on me

Maybe as you read those lyrics you thought that it sounded more like Keith Urban than God, and I suppose if I weren’t in the place I’m in, where I truly feel shattered like glass, maybe I would too. But combine the need to find a safe place to break, and knowing that the arms of my Father is the best place to do it, you have a recipe for being serenaded by the Savior.

So what does He do with those pieces? The pieces of you that feel so shattered you can’t imagine ever being the person you once were. The pieces that cut you every time you try to piece yourself back together. The pieces that you know have been lost and can’t be replaced. He picks them up, piece by piece. He doesn’t arrange them into the shape that they once were. Instead, He rearranges them into His own image.

And the gaps between the pieces of who we used to be and the pieces that are becoming more like Him? Those are the places His light shines through. Those are the places that let other people know you’re more than just a listening ear. You’re a fellow battered warrior that has been pieced back together by the One that created you. The One who knows what the finished product will look like. See, although He created us, we weren’t created a finished product. We’re steadily being made and remade in His image. We will not reach the stage of completion until we join Him in Heaven, but daily He is working on us to create a masterpiece.

The places we find ourselves that we never wanted to be in? That’s the fire that melts us down to make us more malleable. When you want nothing more than to get out of the heat, just remember the beauty that can be made from the process. And the times that we shatter? He catches the pieces and forms us into a new creation. So, when you need to break, break on Him.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Broken Girl

The tears spill from her eyes and slide down her cheek.
She tries so hard to pray but can't find the words to speak.
She's trusting in You, but doesn't see how you'll make a way,
And if she could hear you, here's what I think you would say.

I made you to fulfill a very specific purpose for me.
That plan you created for yourself? Just let it be.
What I have for you is beyond all you hope and dream.
Don't get tripped up by the small stuff. It's not what it seems.

Trust in me, know that I love you more than you can understand,
And no matter how hard the journey, cling tightly to my hand,
I promise to bring beauty from the ashes of your life,
I'm always here, even when the pain cuts deeper than a knife.

You mean so much more to me than you can comprehend,
And with the price of my son's life, your heart I will mend.
Though this life hurts and you feel yourself grow weak,
Just know that I'm here for you, you just have to seek.

You will find me when you seek with your whole heart,
And the only way you'll do that is if it all falls apart.
Come to me my weary child, rest in my embrace,
And allow me to shower you with my amazing gift of grace.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Word

In following many different bloggers, and just reading Christian writings across the internet in general, I was introduced to “the word”. One word that a person would focus on throughout the year, and allow God to speak to them through. Words like compassion, trust, grace, less, follow, etc. The word served as an inspiration and a reminder to them of whatever particular concept they chose to focus on.

A couple of weeks into the year, I decided I needed a word of my own. I needed a concept to focus on, an aspect of relationship with God that I wanted to delve deeper into. There were many to choose from, such as faith, love, hope, vision, patience or redemption. The possibilities seemed infinite, so I sought the advice of God. I asked Him for a word that I could focus on this year and grow through.

As I tossed words around in my head, rejecting each one, my word came to me. It wasn’t through an audible voice, but yet I heard it clear as day. “Wait” It wasn’t the word I was expecting, although if you asked me what I was expecting I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Yet, it’s very much the perfect word.  But, why wouldn’t it be? My Father gave it to me.

Closely tied into the concept of waiting is trust and patience. Both of these are areas that I truly struggle in. While I say that I trust God when He says He is in control and that He works all things out for my benefit, my actions don’t always back that up. While I can appreciate the big picture in terms of Him working everything out, that gets lost in the pain of the day to day. Thus begins the problem with patience. When it doesn’t seem He is moving things in the direction I feel they should be going, at the speed it should be going, I tend to take things into my own hands.

I don’t even have to tell you how disastrous that is, because you likely shook your head while reading that. You already know. And I’ve done it time and again. So God is teaching me to wait. While waiting seems like a passive action, it’s not designed to be done by itself. It follows giving something to God. A problem, a desire, a question… Seek His will in prayer, seek His direction in prayer, seek Him… but then wait. It might take minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or even years. But wait on Him to act, to fix what’s broken, to heal what’s hurting, to show what’s missing… Whatever it is He needs you to wait on.

I’ve always loved acrostics, because they can often give a deeper meaning to a word. For instance, JOY – Jesus, Others, Yourself – that is the path to joy. So I began pondering what wait could be broken down into, and this is what I came up with.

Watch (look at or observe attentively, typically over a period of time)
Implicitly (without qualification: absolutely)
Trust (firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something)

It denotes a watchfulness, because you know God will move in the situation. And it requires trust. Implicit trust that He knows what He is doing, He knows what is best for you, and He knows what will bring about the desired result of becoming more like Jesus every day. Because life isn’t always smiles and rainbows. We don’t become more like the Man of Sorrows by sailing through life without a care in the world. We become more like Christ when we walk through our deepest valleys fully dependent upon God and not ourselves.

I will fail. I will still allow the here and now to overshadow the big picture. But, every day as I focus on the word “wait” and allow God to speak to me, I will get a little better, a little stronger, a little more trusting and a little more patient.

The day that I heard my word from God, I was in the bathroom washing my hands and looked up into the mirror to realize that I was wearing a shirt with two eagles on it. “But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31. I love moments like that! And I love that He loves me with an everlasting love that will never faint or grow weary.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Love Letter to my Father

I look at the amazing masterpiece that you have created and marvel at how you brought so much beauty out of the wreckage of my life. There were times I absolutely could not see your hand in my life no matter how hard I looked. I felt abandoned, rejected, alone... But I never was. You were at work behind the scenes the whole time. Through the hard times, you carried me. Even though I couldn't feel you, you were there every single moment.

Looking back now I can see you so clearly. The simple words from caring family and friends. The hugs from people at church. The time off work when I desperately needed it. The connections made with strangers going through the same things I was going through. You orchestrated it all. You promised you would never leave or forsake me. How ashamed I am that I ever questioned your presence, yet I know you understand intimately. You are a man acquainted with sorrow, and it's in the most sorrowful moments of our life that we can experience the amazing comfort only you can provide.

I was recently challenged to think about what my dreams are for myself. I want to be a source of your comfort for others. I want to help people who feel like they have no where to turn. I want them to experience the hope that comes from knowing you care. I want them to see that people have survived the very things that they think they can't possibly survive. I want to show them that they can thrive, not just survive. I want to point them to you, Father.

Maybe it's through a Facebook message, or this blog, or even writing a book. Maybe one day it's speaking to thousands of women on stage. However big or small, I want to honor you and share you with the suffering women that you bring my way. Dream for me, Father, because I dream too small. Help me see every opportunity that you send my way. Help me not to overlook the small things or fear the big things. After all, you are with me, and will equip me to do what you've called me to do. <3

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Unanswered Prayers

Do you ever look back in life and echo Garth Brook's sentiment "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers"? I think we have all had at least one experience where we are able to look back on a request we made and rejoice that God did not choose to answer in the manner that we sought at the time. Unfortunately, more often than not we don't have that luxury and I think it's our tendency to question why He didn't do as we asked.

If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we view Him as a Genie that exists to grant our wishes. We think to ourselves that we've lived up to our end of the bargain by trying to live right and pray, and we expect Him to reward our efforts by answering our prayers just as we pray them. I'm being very transparent here when I say that I have felt this way at times.

When my marriage began falling apart, my first instinct was to run even harder after God and really soak Him in. As I grew closer to Him and made Him a larger part of my life, I began to expect Him to work things out in my life. When things not only grew worse in my marriage, but my children began struggling with self harm and suicidal thoughts and actions, I began to question. I could not understand what God was doing, and I couldn't understand why prayer and fasting weren't bringing me the results I wanted.

Initially, I felt very much abandoned by God.  I felt as if He were ignoring my prayers. And I’ve learned that many other women can relate to that feeling at some point in their lives. That is when the truth contained in a quote I read recently by Tim Keller really needs to be taken to heart. “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows”. We know in our hearts that God is good, and that He wants the best for us. But we get so caught up in the immediate, in the little picture. We lack the ability to see into the future and see how things turn out. But if we could... we would ask for very different things than what we ask for now.

Over time, with continued prayer, therapy and medication, my girls began to heal. As a result of what they have been through, they have a heart to help those that are in similar situations. They can relate to struggling peers in a way that someone who has never suffered could. After much prayer, I also realized that my marriage was over and that it was time for me to move on. As a result of what I have been through, I can encourage women that are victims of adultery, women that have been abandoned and rejected by the one that pledged to love them most, moms that have watched their children struggle with depression and self harm, and women that have begged God to die so they could escape the pain. Do I understand why God didn't make us able to relate without having to suffer ourselves? No. But I know that He redeems our pain when we use our story to help other people. And it's not just our story. It's His story as well. The story of how He carried us through a time that we were incapable of getting ourselves through. The story of how He was there for every tear that was cried.

There are so many people out there going through the same struggles, but we're not real with each other. We paint on a smile and pretend that everything is dandy. I've had so many people share with me that they have had some of the same struggles that I've had or that my children have had. We need more of that transparency. Do not let Satan shame you into silence. It's in speaking out and seeking help that healing begins. I don't know where I would be without the prayers of my family, friends and church family. Was it easy to admit that I needed help? No. And honestly there were very few that knew just how much help I needed until I began to heal and shared just how bad things had gotten. The support that I received made me wish I had been much more transparent and open during the deepest parts of the struggle. Reaching out is hard. I know!! But the benefits are worth the discomfort.

So let me encourage you with this. If you could see the same plan God sees, your prayers would be very different. Paul, a man that was imprisoned on more than one occasion for sharing the gospel penned the following words. "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel." Philippians 1:12. Perhaps God is working in you to create a story that will help someone struggling in this painful world. Perhaps He is creating in you a testimony that not only inspires others, but points them right to the Great Physician, the only one that can truly heal our aching hearts. Whatever He is asking you to go through, He will also carry you through. And ultimately, if we ourselves could see as God sees, we'd say "Thank you". Even the very worst things that we suffer can be redeemed and given purpose.

Trust in what you know, and what God tells us in His Word. God is good. Even when life isn't. I struggled. I cried, begged and pleaded for things to be different. And they are. Not in the way I expected them to be, but in ways that are so much better. Let God dream for you. Let Him mold you into the person He designed you to be. The process may be painful, but the finished product is worth it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Speak Life

If someone walked up to you and called you a pathetic loser what would your reaction be? For some the reaction would include a punch in the face. Some of us would be able to ignore them and walk away shaking our head at their audacity. Some would internalize the words and contemplate if there was any truth to them, but most likely conclude the person making the statement was just a jerk.

How often do we tell ourselves things we would not tolerate or even believe from another person? Why is it that we find it acceptable to tear ourselves down, but we wouldn’t let someone else do it to us? How often do we label ourselves negatively? Words like fat, ugly, failure, worthless, stupid, etc. The list goes on and on with the garbage that we allow to fill our minds about ourselves. I am just as guilty as you are. We are speaking death to our spirit instead of speaking life.

Why is it so much easier to talk down to ourselves? It’s because speaking life requires intentionality. It requires knowing who we are in Christ, and how He views us. The only way to be able to do this is if we fill ourselves with the Word of God. He gave us this amazing love letter so we would know just how loved we are, but if we don’t read it and soak it in, we’ll never know the love He has for us. 

Easter will be upon us soon, and with that comes horrific mental images of the crucifixion. I have not yet been able to make myself watch “The Passion of the Christ” because of those images. In the crucifixion scenes I have watched in various movies, I flinch at every lash of the whip and the sound of the nails being hit that pierced His hands and feet. I want to close my eyes and hide from the reality of what Jesus endured because of sin, including MY sin. But the most amazing thing is His motive. Hebrews 12:2 tells us the he endured the cross “for the joy that lay before Him”. What was that joy? Redeeming fallen man; erasing our sin debt by nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). That is love beyond words. 

Loved, redeemed, forgiven, cherished, favored... This, my friend, is what we are; who we are. Not the ugly names that we have for ourselves. Internalize the truth of the Gospel, and the reality of His love and affection for us. It’s life changing!

Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. Zephaniah 3:17

Casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. 1 John 3:1a