Friday, June 13, 2014

What a day!

I had particularly rough day today, and have spent the better part of it wondering how to reconcile how I've felt most of the day with what my devotional reading for the day said.  Before I talk about my part, let me share the reading.  I have been working my way through the book Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young.  When my husband was going through his trial, this book just seemed to be hitting the nail on the head every time he opened the book.  Since it was so helpful for him, I have determined to work through it myself.

I started it in an attempt to find out if God really does draw near to those who draw near to Him because, at the time, I was not feeling his Presence very much.  But, to be honest, I was not trying to draw close to Him either.  After all, since God can do anything, and He chose not to keep my husband out of prison, I was not feeling very ready to draw near to Him.  The only thing is:  if you shun the hand of The Comforter you are bound to feel miserable.  You must also be willing to accept the comfort He offers on His terms.  I was not.  But, choosing not to accept His comfort on His terms had left me comfortless and I was tired of being mad and anxious and worried and betrayed by the only Being that I had grown up believing would never let me down. 

Drawing near to God, by reading His Word and waiting for Him to reveal to me what I needed to see or hear for the day, without searching frantically for an answer to so many of my "whys" was the only way I was able to get to a point where I thought that I was going to make it through this ordeal.  Not until I began to read my Bible and pray as part of a lifestyle and not just a pill I would take when I was feeling poorly, did things seem to start turning around for me.

Well, I did as so many people do, or as I typically have done in the past:  once I was feeling better, I stopped being as diligent.  That has had its drawbacks.  We are coming close to another trial date and it seemed/seems things were/are looking up.  But, there were a few questions I had to ask our attorney.  After talking to him and getting my answers, I was left feeling less encouraged than I had been, and lower than I had in months.  Then, I woke up this morning to read this:

I am creating something new in you: a bubbling spring of Joy that spills over into others' lives.  Do not mistake this Joy for your own or try to take credit for it in any way.  Instead, watch in delight as My Spirit flows through you to bless others.  Let yourself become a reservoir of the Spirit's fruit.

Your part is to live close to Me, open to all that I am doing in you.  Don't try to control the stream of My Spirit through you.  Just keep focusing on Me as we walk through this day together.  Enjoy My Presence, which permeates you with Love, Joy, and Peace.

The scripture references for this particular passage were John 3:8 and Galatians 5:22

John 3:8 - The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Galatians 5:22 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Well, these verses are remarkably perky, too perky, in fact, for the way I was feeling today, and I did not want to read them.  Even less than that, I did not want to do anything they said.  You see, I know, for me, the best thing to do when I feel the way I felt today, is to do something for someone else, something that takes my mind off myself completely.  The only problem is:  that is usually the last thing I want to do, and is, therefore, the one thing that I almost REFUSE to do. 

"I am creating something new in you" - Really?!  What?  A hot mess?  This is certainly not a bubbling spring of Joy.  And I am spilling over into the lives of others, but it isn't Joy most of the time.  Today, I was having a hard time finding any joy at all.  I was impatient and irritable and mad at myself for having so many questions for the attorney.  The questions needed answers.  I needed to be educated.  And, inside, deep down, I know that God is still working.  But sometimes I just want to be unable to live in a bubble.  Sometimes I just want to "unhear" things I've asked to hear because it's too easy to let those things steal my Joy and take my focus off of Christ.  Or worse, it makes me doubt that He has my best interest at heart because things look so bleak that I wonder if He is going to let me down again. 

My part may be to live close to Him, open to all that He is doing in me, but that is certainly a lot easier when I feel good about what He is doing.  It is way easier when what He is doing lines up with how I want my life to go.  And when my life is not going the way I want it to, or obstacles have popped up that are obscuring my view, it is difficult to feel that He is walking me through the day. 

Don't get me wrong.  I do not believe that I have been left to my own devices.  There are far too many things in my life that offer me evidence to the contrary.  Why is it so hard to remember those things when times get tough?  Because I didn't keep reminding myself of them when times were good.  I am blessed.  I have been provided for, time and time and time again.  I ought to be thankful.  But it is so very hard to be thankful when I am allowing myself to be controlled by my feelings rather than by my reality.  It is hard to remember those blessings when I have not remained close to God while things were going good.  When I allow myself to slip back into old patterns of thinking that I can handle my life. I forget until something bad or uncomfortable happens that I am not really in control of my life. 

Years ago, when my husband and I were trying to get pregnant with our third child, things were not going as I had hoped.  With the first two children, I had gotten pregnant without really having to think about it or try.  We just decided and it happened.  With the third child, things did not go as quickly.  I prayed and prayed and felt like I had heard from God that we would have a third child, but always, every month for about 5 years, the answer was "wait."  Another cycle would come and I would be deflated and I would have to "recover" all over again.  One day, I was sitting at my quiet time, in the coffee shop I mentioned yesterday, and got very clear instructions on what I was supposed to do.  Furthermore, I was not to talk about those instructions or my quiet time with anyone that day.  There have not been very many times in my life when I feel like I can say "I heard from God" but that day was one of them.  It was not easy.  Many times that day, I would bring up my time at the coffee shop that morning, trying to bait people into asking me about my quiet time.  Nobody bit.  After about a week, I gave up trying to get someone to ask me about what had happened, and just got on with life.  Within about 2 months, I was pregnant.  Those were the most peaceful, least stressful two months of the entire 5 year waiting period. 

Then, as I hit my 4th month of pregnancy, I got to a point where, nearly every night, I would wake up around midnight and be awake until 2 am.  This continued until I gave birth.  There is nothing on television fit to watch during those hours, so I would read my Bible and pray over our unborn child.  That's when I came across the verse that has become my life verse:

Luke 1:45 - Blessed is she who has believed the Lord would do what He said.

I've tried to latch onto that verse since my husband's been away but, this time, the Lord has not confided anything to me.  There are many verses in the Bible about God working out His plan and about His securing justice for those falsely accused. Those are lovely.  Yet, my husband sits in jail.  I was believing for that justice before he went to jail and God did not deliver.  So, it is hard to keep up any kind of hope when he sits in jail now.  I do not mean to sound like I am the first to go through this.  I am not.  And I am thankful that he is not in jail in a country where Christians are persecuted.  But there is a big difference between understanding that this is God's will for our lives right now and being willing to walk with my head up in faith, accepting of it as good for our lives.  Especially when I know that the good that is guaranteed us is not a guarantee this side of Heaven. 

So, how does one get from understanding to accepting?  How does one get from a point of feeling like God let them down to knowing and walking in the faith that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord?  One thing I've learned for sure is that it does not happen sitting around feeling sorry for myself.  No amount of hiding myself away in my room, under the covers, hiding from the world has gotten me to that point.  The only time I've ever been able to walk in that faith is when I've accepted God's comfort on His terms and spent time with Him, in the Bible, every day, without trying to get something out of Him.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I'm back!

Hello everyone.  I am back.  I didn't realize that it had been over a year since I'd last written anything.  For those of you who've been wondering what has happened to me, I apologize. 

Over the past year, I have pouted.  Doubted my salvation.  Cried.  Whined.  Moped.  Recovered.  Worried.  And tried to figure out what I wanted to use this blog for. 

I am human, so naturally, I come with dirty laundry.  Some of it, I have aired here.  I have done so in hopes of being inspiring while, at the same time, looking for solace from people, rather than God, and for proof that, maybe, I can do something good while I feel so horrible.  I'd spent some time questioning those motives while taking a Facebook hiatus over the holidays, and then, just didn't think about the blog.

A couple of days ago, however, I was out with a couple of girlfriends and one of them, that I hadn't talked to in a while, asked me why I hadn't posted anything on my blog for a while.  I didn't know she even read it.  I told her, in a nutshell, basically what I had just typed, plus a few more details.  She said that even though she didn't know why I was posting, she had been encouraged by what I had posted. 

With that one statement, I made up my mind.  I had to start posting again.  However, I will be doing so with the right motives this time. 

I wish I could say that this was the first time this kind of thing has happened in my life.  The first time was when I decided I was going to revitalize the United States Postal Service, and get more "real" mail in my mailbox by starting to write letters again.  To be honest, it had more to do with getting mail than caring about the postal service, in case you couldn't guess. 

Anyway, I started sending out letters.  I would spend hours at my local coffee shop after I dropped the kids off at school, before I really started my day, writing to various folks.  Some I knew.  Some I wanted to know better.  Some just popped into my head randomly.  Sometimes, I had been thinking about them for days.  At first, I was using my coffee shop time as my "quiet time" to do some Bible study.  I love the atmosphere in a coffee shop.  It's like white noise for me and I can really concentrate.  Eventually, the letter writing became my quiet time.

One day, I was about to drop a particularly personal letter in the mail to a woman that I was not quite sure I knew well enough to write this kind of letter.  I mean, I knew enough about what I was writing about to encourage her, but I couldn't say that I knew her well enough to be the person to say those things.  As soon as I opened the mailbox, a steady stream of second thoughts washed over me and I was suddenly overcome with doubt about dropping the letter.  Before I could talk myself out of it, I let the letter go and decided to trust God.

The next Sunday that woman came up to me and told me that she got that letter on exactly the day she needed it.  She had been having a rather rough day and just needed some encouragement.  Then she went to the mailbox and saw my letter.  That was when I knew that, even though I may not have started my letter writing with the purest of motives, God had his own plans. 

The next time it happened:  a dear, dear friend of mine came home from the hospital to find one of my letters in her mailbox.  She and I had been exchanging letters for about a year.  She was always a very good letter writer and it was the highlight of my day to get her letters.  Well, it had been her turn to write me for a long time.  But, "for some reason" I just felt like I needed to write her and check on her. hindsight, I know that I could've called.  But that was not our thing.  We write.  Well, the day she got that letter, she was coming home from the hospital, as I said.  She had been at the hospital that particular day because her husband, who had been having heart troubles for years, had passed away.  I received an email from her that evening thanking me for my letter because it had come at just the right time.  Even thinking about that email brings me to tears.  That God would use me to brighten that horrid, dark spot in her life is humbling beyond belief. 

But it goes right along with the why behind this blog, and the why behind my letter writing.  When I started, it was all about me and what I could get out of it.  Attention.  Recognition.  A response.  Mail.  But what I have received that has blessed me in ways that I never dreamed are the stories I shared above. 

One thing I do know:  I have always really really wanted God to use me for something in His Kingdom.  I've always wanted to know that I make a difference in someone's life.  Of course, I'm a mom, so that means that there are people around me everyday that count on me.  But I wanted something BIG, you know.  Well, what I didn't realize is that BIG doesn't always look like what I think.  And what was BIG to those two women is that someone cared enough about them to drop a letter in the mail to them out of obedience to a still, small voice. And the provider of that still, small voice knew just when those letters needed to get into the mailbox on my end so that they would arrive at their mailboxes on the exact, right days when they would be needed.

To be fair, I have received a lot of letters.  And they have been wonderful letters.  Encouraging.  Helpful.  Hopeful.  But all of those letters put together pale in comparison to the "thank-you's" I received from the two women who got their letters just when they needed them. 

But what does that have to do with this blog?  For the most part, this has been entirely self-serving.  Is that wrong?  I don't know.  But what I do know is that there have been people reading, you have been reading, and some of you have told me that it has been encouraging.  Well, folks, I don't know that I really have anything to offer that is all that inspiring because, most days, I end up feeling like I'm just barely making it.  But, I've talked to many people who tell me they feel the same way most days as well.  So, if writing about my own struggles with "barely making it", can help anybody else to carry on who is just barely making it, then, maybe, this blog will have served their purpose.  At least, that is my prayer.

I promise you will not have to wait as long for my next post.

Be well & God Bless!