Thursday, November 28, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things...

Can I be honest about something right now? I'm an American girl, I'm proud of the freedoms we have, and I'm definitely grateful for the blessings we have being citizens of this country but the reality is that when I was living in Africa for the past five years... I really didn't miss a whole heck of a lot about the States but the things that I did miss are what this blog post is all about.

Spending time and laughing with my mom
Talking about life with my dad
Hugs from my brothers that seem to make everything better
Laughing with my crazy awesome fabulous grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins
Hanging out with friends who have known and loved me through the good, the bad, and the ugly

(I could add Green Chile in there but then I feel I would digress quickly...)

I praise God for things like Skype, e-mail, and facebook they definitely bring people closer and the 8,000 miles don't seem so far but there's just something about sitting at a table and crying with someone or having your brother randomly pick you up and throw you over his shoulder. I am genuinely and sincerely blessed beyond measure with the people and relationships He has placed in my life. The caliber of individuals He has allowed me to know is like He just wants to show off about how much He truly loves me.

During this stormy season, I do think of that classic Sound of Music song that Maria tells the kids to sing "I simply remember a few of my favorite things and then I don't bad...." It's the people in my life that are a few of my favorite things and when my world seems to be crumbling around me, it's those blessings of having the best friends and family a girl could ever ask for that bring me joy and show me God's grace.

I have heard that the real story about the first Thanksgiving involved the pilgrims thinking that life was so hard and that maybe it was time for them to just go back to England. Some thought they should pray and fast for guidance but then one guy stepped forward and told them how they had already prayed and fasted enough... they had fish in the streams and their crops were starting to grow. He felt it would be good to have a day of feasting and focus on what they were thankful for rather than what they didn't have.

That story is pretty much the perfect reminder for me today as it is an official day of Thanksgiving and although life isn't what I had hoped or planned, I still have so so much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Under the rapids

A few years ago I went rafting on the Nile. It was one of those times where I had some friends going and I just finally thought it was time for me to do something crazy and not play things so safe all of the time. So I psyched myself up, we loaded on the raft, and then we set out. On a rapid entitled "Silverback" the guide braced us saying that we just will need to get down and try to make it through the rapid and not even paddle because it was one of the most unpredictable rapids. As we hit the rapid, all of the sudden we saw the front of the raft go up and out I went. I went down to the bottom of the river and found that there are some pleasant sharp rocks. Before that, the guide had told us that if we got knocked out we should make ourselves into a ball and our life vest would make us bounce up... yeah...right.... I was at the bottom being bashed by the rocks and as it turns out breaking my foot and not knowing which way was up with my head hurting from lack of oxygen and really thinking that was it and then all of the sudden I was at the surface. Then a kayak came by and picked me up and I wrapped my legs around and hung on for dear life. I got back on the raft and praised God that I had actually survived the ordeal.

Well... I bring this up because yesterday that's really the illustration God kind of gave me to best describe what this time seems like. I feel like I'm caught under the rapids, that I'm being bashed up against rocks and really not knowing when or how I will make it through... But then I have to recognize I have on my life vest of His Word and the helmet of prayer (yes I know it's not identical to the full armor of God but work with me...). That rafting trip was probably the scariest experience of my life and really the only time I sincerely thought I could die. BUT GOD brought me back up to the surface and I know that's what He is able to do in this situation too. What is going on is by far the most difficult season I've ever been through but I praise Him for how His Word is able to bring me back up, that His voice is able to put breath in my lungs, and there will be a time when I will rise to the surface again. God is a God of awesome rescues, He's a God of hope, He's a God who is there when you don't know if you can make it through...He is a God who is faithful.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Wilderness

Beginning in the book of Exodus you read about the Israelites traveling through the wilderness. They begin it with God doing amazing things to have them released from Egypt and then you find that God made their path go in such a way where they HAD to stand at the shore of the Red Sea just when the Egyptian army was approaching. It looked impossible and yet God parted the sea and the people were able to walk through on dry ground. After dealing with the amazing miraculous sea parting, the Israelites continued to be in the wilderness following the pillar God used to guide them. No matter how many times God took care of them, protected them, and provided for them they continued to complain and doubt God’s care and goodness. Then as they approached the Promised Land and Moses sent in the twelve spies ten of them came back with a report of the giants and that the people would be destroyed if they tried to fight them. Joshua and Caleb however returned saying that with God, they could take them. It was because of their lack of faith they would have to wander for 40 years. But even during that prolonged time that was self-inflicted by their own lack of faith, God never let their clothes or sandals wear out or let them go hungry or thirsty. And that story is used throughout Scripture as an example of just how awesome God is even in times of wandering in the wilderness.

It’s been brought to my attention by several people that right now this is my wilderness season. God leads His people into the wilderness to test and refine them. You look throughout Scripture and this principle is there nearly from beginning to end. Genesis, when Abraham was called to leave everything and then even counting the season of waiting for Isaac to come, Joseph in prison, Moses’ 40 years before being called by God to deliver the Israelites, Ruth as she was working the fields, David hiding from Saul and even from his son Absolom, Elijah when he was called to go into hiding, and that’s just a sample of the Old Testament saints who went through seasons of pain, uncertainty and having to learn to trust and obey God. Then in the New Testament you see Paul being in Arabia, Peter in his time between the Resurrection and being reinstated, John on the Island of Patmos, and of course Jesus when He was led into the wilderness to be tempted. These “wilderness” times were so vital in making these people vessels God was able to use for His glory in amazing ways but they (except Jesus of course) had some rough edges that needed to be sanded down. That sanding or refining tends to only happen in the times where we are called to wait upon Him in times of uncertainty, discomfort, and yes sometimes pain.

I can’t lie and pretend by saying that my faith has not wavered during this past month as I’ve embarked on my journey, but God continues to prove His faithfulness in both little and big ways. He continues to show me His constant care and awareness of the fact how much pain I’m in. And yet still He whispers the same thing He’s said from the beginning that I simply need to wait and trust Him to work things out for His glory. I just pray that I don’t behave like the ten spies who lacked faith but that I would trust God in His leading as He continues with me as I wander following Him and having faith that He is bringing me into a place that will blow my mind.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

When your world gets rocked

Pain and suffering are basically inevitable in life... we all go through trials each one tailor made for us and almost like snowflakes, one person’s trial never seems to exactly match that of another person’s. That’s I think the danger we can fall into, we compare ourselves to others... we say, “she thinks she has problems” or “he has no idea what suffering is”. It does not matter if you are suffering from financial woes, health problems, a break up, or family issues heartache is heartache plain and simple and there’s no pill on this planet that can permanently take that pain away.

Without going into details, I’m dealing with my own earth-shattering trial right now. I praise God that I can confidently say that this is not punishment for my own sin but a breaking and pruning of the most extreme degree in order to bring me to my knees and draw me closer to Him. You sometimes see trials coming or they come slowly other times they hit you like a semi truck going 120 mph and you don’t know how you’re ever going to make it through. You can’t breathe you’re in so much pain and you feel lost not knowing what is next. But I can also praise God that He’s on the throne and that His Word is living. I cannot tell you how much God has used His Word to bring me comfort, correction, and guidance when I don’t know how to take my next step. If I hadn’t known my Bible like I do I don’t know how or if I would have survived this time... I’m not bragging, it’s by Him alone that I’ve had love for His Word, it hasn’t always been that way. This is where my encouragement comes... I don’t know what you’re dealing with. But He does. I don’t what to say, but He does. I don’t know how it will all work out, but He does. He calls His child in the midst of trials and storms to collapse in His arms, not to try to figure it out or manipulate it so your will be done above His. In the midst of trials (at least for me) His answer is simply “wait” as He whispers to me those two words “trust me”. It’s not easy to walk by faith when we can’t see, but that’s what we have to do. I used to think I understood what that meant until now. Trials and suffering are in the hands of a good God and even though it doesn’t seem “good” for you to be in the pain that you are, it doesn’t change the fact that He is infinitely loving, infinitely good, infinitely holy and infinitely powerful.

The book that I began reading through just days before this storm rolled in was the book of Job, God in His sovereignty had me in the perfect place at the perfect time. Job lost everything...EVERY THING. And yet he still trusted in God and then when his faith was waining, God spoke to him asking him where he was when the earth was made. When Job lost everything, still probably choking on his tears, he worshiped and asked “can we accept the good from God and not the bad”, and “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away but blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

Again it is through His Word He speaks the strongest, if you’re not in your Bible daily I encourage you and almost plead with you to start now. Even if you’re not suffering, read it, love it, believe it, and live it. Like Jesus said, if someone hears his words and puts them into practice they are like a house built on rock and the wind and rains hit but it is able to stand strong. He is my strength especially in my weakness and brokenness and I just pray that I don’t loose my grip even after this storm is over. He works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose even if you can’t see what that good could possibly be. He is good and His love does endure forever!


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