Wednesday, January 28, 2015

life lesson from the check-out line

A while back, I was in line at Wal-Mart. I was in the express line, picking up something in between classes way back when I was working towards Medical Physics (or not so long ago...I guess it just seems like my many different educational paths should be more spread out than they are). There was an older gentleman in front of me, actually having a conversation with the cashier.

Having worked as a Wal-Mart cashier, I can tell you that someone carrying on a conversation with the cashier is a pretty rare occurrence.

I don't know what they were talking about; I was trying not to eavesdrop despite how much I like to people watch. I like to call it research for writing--it sounds a lot less creepy when I put it that way. Before he paid his bill, though, he turned to me. He told me that he had always lived a very fulfilling life, and he said that the reason for that was in his two hands. I could tell he was leading up to something, and I wasn't in a hurry so I bit: "What's the reason?"

"Hold your hands up like this," he said, putting both hands up in front of him. I did what he asked. There was nobody in line behind me, and I was curious. The cashier had a knowing look on her face, so I imagine she had gotten his life lesson in the past. She just smiled and watched as he went on.

His voice was slightly accented, though I couldn't place where he might have been from originally. He reached out with one life-worn hand and grabbed the tip of each finger, one at a time, assigning one word to each one:
If
   it
      is
         to
            be,
      it
         is
            up
               to
                  me.
"I say that every morning when I get up, as a reminder to myself," he said, then wished me and the cashier both a good day and went on his way.

His words have stuck with me, though I've tweaked the meaning a bit. I'm reminded of the picture we have in our living room:
Two hands, Adam reaching out to touch the hand of God while God reaches back. When I see that picture, I think of that man's words and the reason he said he had lived a fulfilling life. I see that my hands have to be active, reaching out. If I want something to happen, I need to take action to make it happen. Most importantly, though, I need to be reaching out to God. Because
if
   it
      is
         to
            be,
   it
      is
         up
            to
               Him.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

the right place at the right time...

Trust.

Can I tell you how scary that word is to me? It definitely wasn't my pick--kind of like when this blog started with the word faithful. As I've mentioned lots of times (and I apologize if I sound like a broken record), trust doesn't come easily to me. It means I have to rely on someone else...someone who isn't me.

That's hard to swallow.
I've always wanted to do things myself, a trait that started when I was little and hasn't stopped. I've wanted to earn things by my own merit, to accomplish things using my own hands and through my own power.

I listened to the last of a sermon series by Tony Evans the other day, and in it he was wrapping up Joseph's story. He pointed out that Joseph didn't have any qualifications or connections, and that lots of people would say that he ended up in the position to provide food for his brothers and their families because he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

People say that all the time, don't they? Good things happen to people who are in the right place at the right time. Brother Evans pointed something out though--how in the world did Joseph end up in the right place at the right time? To paraphrase him just a bit:
He wouldn't have been able to provide for his brothers if he hadn't been second in charge in Egypt.
Joseph wouldn't have been second in charge over all of Egypt if he hadn't interpreted the Pharoh's dream.
He wouldn't have interpreted Pharoh's dream if he hadn't met the cup bearer and baker.
He wouldn't have met them if he hadn't been thrown in the dungeon.
He wouldn't have been thrown in the dungeon if he hadn't been falsely accused by Potiphar's wife.
He wouldn't have been falsely accused if he hadn't been put in charge of Potiphar's household.
He wouldn't have been put in charge if Potiphar hadn't bought him.
He couldn't have been bought as a slave if he hadn't been sold to Egyptian slavers.
He wouldn't have been sold if his brothers hadn't thrown him into a pit.
He wouldn't have been thrown into a pit if his brothers hadn't been jealous of him.
His brothers wouldn't have been jealous if he hadn't been showing off the coat his dad gave him. 

Yes, Joseph was in the right place at the right time...because everything in his life had led him to that place. Even the things that others had meant for evil, God had worked out for Joseph's benefit and in order for His purpose to be carried out. Joseph was in the right place at the right time because God had orchestrated his life so that he would be there.

Right now, things are a bit stressful in my household. Nathan and I are both wrapping up grad school, but we have no idea where we are going when this summer rolls around. I've been more than a bit worried about it, even though I've been trying not to get too stressed out. When I was listening to the end of the story of Joseph's life, I was reminded of something: when I got the job teaching at Lead Hill, it was through nothing I did. I didn't even know there was a job opening there. I hadn't applied; I got a call one day asking if I would be interested in coming in for an interview.

I say that to say this: when I look back at my life, it's full of times when I couldn't control what was happening and thought things were spinning out of control. Through all of it, though, even the times that others meant for evil, I can see how God worked in the middle of it to bring about His purpose. If He has done that time and time again (without my help, I have to admit), what's to keep Him from doing it now?

Trust.
It's a hard, beautiful thing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015...a year of trust

Welcome to 2015!

I know I'm a little bit late...sorry about that. In fact, I haven't posted anything since the middle of November--so I guess I'll say sorry for that, too, because two months is a long time to go without writing anything on here.

There's a good reason for about a month of my silence, because my parents brought us home for Christmas so I was away from the computer. Here's a glimpse of what my time there was like:

I would like to say that that's my only reason for not writing lately. The thing is, there's this little matter of promising to be honest, faithful, and transparent when I write here.

So I have to admit--I haven't written because I feel like I've lost my voice. For so long, writing has been the one thing I've been able to do without fail. No matter what chaos or confusion was swimming around in my mind, I could pick up a pen and get everything out. Even though it didn't change anything, just being able to put my thoughts into words somehow made things better. No matter what I was facing (and there's been quite a mess of stuff), I could write about it and make some sense of things. Lately, though, that hasn't been the case.

Am I alone in this? Do you ever feel disconnected from the things that have always made you who you are? No matter what else I have ever faced--teaching, physics, teenage angst, moves, grad school, being a wife and mom--writing has always been part of the very fabric of who I am. In fact, it has often been what held everything else together. It's hard when you feel like you're coming apart at the seams and have lost your needle and thread.

I'm reminded of Proverbs 3:5&6, verses that are probably familiar:
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will direct your paths."

Maybe I'm looking for the wrong needle and thread. Instead of looking to something to do on my own to try to pull myself back together, I need to trust.

Trust the One who holds me together, who doesn't need needle and thread to fix the seams because He's the One who knit me together in the first place.

Huh. Funny how that works--I didn't plan on taking part in the whole One Word thing this year, because I was at a loss for what word to choose. As I've found so many times, though, when I get out of the way God has a way of speaking to me, of letting me know what it is He's trying to get across to me. Apparently this year, He snuck a word in:
Trust.
What a perfect word for a year that promises to be full of changes and unknowns, a year of new beginnings and a move, the end of a chapter (grad school) and the start of a new one, and the next 6 months where so much has to happen in what is truthfully such a short time. It's not an easy word for me. I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record, but I don't like to rely on other people. I have a hard time with it, to be honest, because it means having to admit that I'm not in control. This year may prove difficult for that very reason.

You would think that I would be used to that by now. After all, there's been very little I've actually been in control of for the past decade. Sometimes I'm a bit slow on the uptake, I guess. At times, it takes a 2x4 for lessons to sink in. 

So this year, I'm going to try to trust.
Just now, when that word came into my head, I looked up "trust" in the back of my Bible and here's what I found:
"The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know Your name will trust in You,
for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You."
Psalm 9:9-10

So, here's to 2015...a year of trust. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

broken hallelujah

For those who really know me (or those who have been reading this blog for a while), this will come as no surprise:

I like to be in control of things, to know just how everything is going to work out. I like to have a plan.

If you ask my mom, she'll probably tell you that my mantra has always been, "I can do it myself."

I have always been an incredibly independent person. I can usually figure my way through a difficult situation, and I've always taken pride in that. I don't like to ask for help--I'm perfectly capable of working things out for myself, thank you.

Only, sometimes I'm not.

That's something that has taken me a long time to be able to admit (and something I'm still working on, to be honest). I've always tried to be strong, to stand on my own two feet and face whatever life throws at me. The thing is, that's not what God wants from me.

God doesn't want my strength,
because He has more than enough of His own.
What He wants is my brokenness,
my realization that I can't get through
this thing called life on my own,
my willingness to come to Him in humility
and tell Him that it is only His strength that matters.

I've been listening to a sermon series from Dr. Tony Evans called, Joseph: Detours to Destiny. Pop heard part of it and had Mom order it to send to me because it seemed like just what I needed to hear.

It's been wonderful. If your life is on a detour--you know, one of those times when you feel stuck in someplace that's keeping you off track from where you're supposed to be--I highly recommend you listen to it.

When I was listening to it today, Dr. Evans was talking about the fact that God doesn't need my help to get me to where He wants me to be. He doesn't need my connections or whatever I think I can do to hurry things along. My future is in His hands, and He is the one in control. He will lead me to my destiny, and He doesn't want to share the credit with me.

God doesn't need me to do it myself. In fact, He doesn't even want my help.

What He wants is for me to realize that my hands are empty. He wants me to let go of trying to control things, because when I'm holding onto the illusion of being in control, I can't hold onto Him.

He wants me, acknowledging that I am broken and weak, because it is only then that I will step out of the way and let those around me see His strength.

Friday, November 14, 2014

God is there, even in the storms

This life is hard--sometimes unbearably so.

Just yesterday, an amazing couple with a strong faith lost their son to a mysterious, aggressive illness. A sister lost her brother, her kids lost their uncle, some sweet friends lost their cousin, and a whole host of people lost a friend.

Life hits hard sometimes, hard enough to knock us flat. In those times, the times when we need God the most, it's incredibly hard to see Him.

It's like when the disciples were in the boat and a storm came up without warning. They were facing the wind and the waves, fighting desperately to keep the boat from sinking--struggling to just keep from drowning. All the while, Jesus was sleeping. (Matthew 8:23-27)

We cry out like David,
"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." (Psalm 69:1-3)

"I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered You, O God, and I groaned; I mused and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: 'Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?'" (Psalm 77:1-9)

Sometimes, God seems silent. He seems distant. Sometimes, when life is hardest, it's easy to wonder if He has abandoned us, if He really loves us.

In those times, though, He is still there. Just like Jesus was in the boat with His disciples while the storm raged, He is with us in the tempest.

He is quiet because He knows we need time to grieve, time to be sad and angry and hurt. So He simply wraps His arms around us and lets us cry.

He is there in the silence. He hears our cries and listens to our questions and feels our pain, and He hurts for us. We are told in John 11: 35, "Jesus wept" and in Isaiah 53:3 that He was "a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering."

Our God will never forsake us. He is there, even as the storms rage around us and the waters threaten to swallow us up.

He is there, always.

"The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

to those who have served...thank you.

Veterans Day.

Today is one of those days that are a bit hard for me. Today, we honor all those who have served. Today, we say thank you...

~to all those who have given of themselves for the sake of freedom.
~to all who give up their own precious time to serve and protect.
~to those who believe freedom is worth fighting for.
~to the strong.
~to the brave.
~to the courageous.
~to those who stand on the front lines to protect those they love--and those they've never met.
~to those who are scared, but who do the job anyways.
~to the faithful.
~to those who are tired, but know they'll rest when the job is done.
~to all those who choose to take a stand.
~to those who unselfishly take on an often thankless job.
~to the wounded, some with wounds that everyone notices and others with wounds the rest of us will never see.
~to the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marines.
 
We say thank you, but the words don't seem like enough to honor the sacrifices made by so many.

From the bottom of my heart, though, "I thank my God every time I remember you." (Philippians 1:3) You are in my thoughts and prayers today, and I hope that today you are reminded that, although we forget to tell you, we are beyond thankful that you stood for us.

For those who are currently serving, "be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
 




I Stand
~J. Michael Goins
  US Army 2 Lieutenant
   2nd Battalion, 
   12th Cavalry Regiment, 
   1st Cavalry Division
   KIA 15 August 2004
   Najaf, Iraq



I fail in this fight which embroils me;
I lack the strength to press on.
My spirit is crushed,
My mind full of doubts,
My body rebels,
Yet I stand.

Strength, welling not from within me,
Helps to resist this onslaught.
God lifts me up
From ashes and dust.
He is my Strength
So I stand.

Through the hail of fiery arrows,
Satan's temptations raining down,
God is my Armor,
God is my Shield,
God is my Foundation
And I Stand!

I can't win this battle alone,
But God doesn't require that.
He fights my battles;
He defeats my foes;
He asks just one thing,
That I stand!

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand!" Ephesians 6:13

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

looking for the good

I have a love-hate relationship with social media.

On one hand, I love that I'm able to keep in touch with--or, let's be honest here, act like a creepy stalker and look at all their pictures without actually ever being in contact with-- a bunch of people from my past who I would never know anything about otherwise.

I love getting to see baby pictures and wedding pictures and school pictures and albums of beautiful places I'll most likely never get to see in person.

I love reading status updates that show excitement for new jobs, new houses, and new loves.

I smile regularly when I get online, which is wonderful. I like to smile.

On the other hand, though, I hate social media. It becomes an easy place for people to post personal things they would never share with other people under other circumstances, things I would really rather not hear about--or worse yet, see pictures of!

I don't like the animosity that pours out of people online. For some reason, the internet is seen as an anonymous place. That in itself is funny, seeing as how our privacy online is almost non-existent. Besides that, though, people seem to think facebook is the perfect place to gripe about every. little. thing.

Social media has become a free for all where people feel they have "every right" to put down people they have never met while arguing about subjects they would never typically debate with total strangers.

Sometimes when I get online, it seems the whole world is made up of nothing more than
greed
anger
hatred
sexuality
laziness
immorality
blame
fear...

Every once in a while, though, something else shows up. Every once in a while I get to see true beauty in the form of
family
nature
love
God
baby smiles
courage
peace...


So I'm going to look for those things.
I'm going to try to focus on the people who show me that there is still love in the world, the  people who show me what it looks like to live like Jesus in a fallen, broken world.

~The women I know who fight courageously to live and stay unbelievably loving and joyful through surgeries, chemo, and radiation.

~The moms who sacrifice of themselves for their babies.

~The dads who take the time to show their kids how much they like just being their dad.

~The people who love despite being hurt.

~The people who stand for Truth even when it isn't popular.

~The people who take a moment to see the beauty in the world.

Maybe you would like to join me?