Thursday, February 25, 2016

life hurts...

And love hurts.

Sometimes, it can only be described as excruciating. When life knocks you flat on your face, it's easy to start wondering if you should just stay there in the dust. Because quite honestly, it hurts too much to stand back up.

Today, my hometown is rocked by the devastating loss of a little boy. It's one of those losses that doesn't make any sense, one that leaves us with nothing more than questions without answers. When you're part of a small town, everyone feels the pain of a loss. Everyone's world is rocked.

I'm struggling with what to write, because it's in times like this that words simply aren't enough. They feel like empty platitudes, no more helpful or lasting than smoke in cold air. In times like this, you don't want to hear that life will go on, or that God works in mysterious ways, or that He has plans, or that time heals all wounds.

When your heart has been shattered, those things don't matter much.

In those times, despite what we're so often told, I think it's okay to cry out to God with those questions we can't answer. It's okay to be mad at Him--He understands our grief and He can take it. He can handle us kicking and screaming and crying and questioning, because He is our Father. And lest we forget, He knows what it means to lose a Son.

We can cry out, "My eyes are strained as I look for what You've promised, saying, 'When will You come to comfort me?'" ~Psalm 119:82

His answer?

Just like He always has, our Father says, "I will satisfy those who are weary, and I will refresh every soul in the grips of sorrow." ~Jeremiah 31:25

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

your heart's desire

People may be right in their own eyes,
but the LORD examines their heart.
~Proverbs 21:2

Sometimes, that verse isn't a comfort. Sometimes, it's a reminder that we can't be fake because God knows when we're just going through the motions instead of giving our whole heart. Sometimes, knowing that God is seeing your heart is an uncomfortable feeling.

At first glance, that's all this verse is saying--that God knows our intentions.

Like so many verses, though, if you read it again you might get a different meaning. Let's pull another verse into the mix:

Delight yourself in the LORD
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
~Psalm 37:4

Maybe there's more to that verse from Proverbs than meets the eye. Maybe, when you link it with the verse from Psalm, it takes on a more comforting meaning.

God knows your heart, which means that He knows you better than anyone else in all of creation--even including yourself. If He examines your heart, He knows what your heart truly desires.

People talk all the time about following the desires of your heart, because those are the desires God gave you. The thing is, in our humanness, we often fall short of knowing what those desires truly are. We can chase after dreams that we think are God's plan for our life, plans that seem grand and amazing.

Your plans are all well and good, but His plans are what will ensure your heart's desire. Trust Him, trust His plan, and let Him guide your steps.

He knows your heart.
 

Friday, February 19, 2016

do you have a 5-year plan?

If I step back and take a look at the majority of struggles in my life, they all seem to have a common cause: I want to be in control of my life.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy spontaneity. I'm all for taking a trip at the drop of a hat; I rarely order the same thing off a menu twice; I'll try just about any adventure you can dream up. But being spontaneous from time to time doesn't change the fact that I've had a 5-year plan from the time I was 5 years old. I always want to know all the answers. I didn't want to start Kindergarten at Green Forest because we had just moved from Bentonville and I didn't know my new address--I didn't know the answers.

Wanting to know the answers isn't a bad trait in and of itself. After all, that is what led to my studies in physics. It's also what pushed me to dive deeper into my faith, to know what was underneath all the "Sunday School Answers."

But the thing is, I want all the answers--and in advance, thank-you-very-much.  I want to know exactly what's in store, because I want to be able to make--and stick to--my 5, 10, even 20 year plan.

The trouble is, that's not how life works (much to my vexation, to be honest). We don't always get to know all the answers. We don't get to see what's down the road. Often, we don't even really know what road we're on. If you're anything like me, when you don't know where the road is leading you start asking questions. You start thinking that maybe God isn't leading you...
that maybe He's not paying attention to you...
that your plan is better than His.

I've been having some of those thoughts lately. I've been unsure of the road I'm on, because it isn't where I pictured myself. I have big dreams, and they all seem to be fading before they even have a chance to shine. I have my plans, and they just don't seem to be working out.

Twice today, though, I was given these verses:

People go about making their plans, but the Eternal has the final word.
Even when you think you have good intentions, He knows your real motives.
Whatever you do, do it as service to Him, and He will guarantee your success.
~Proverbs 16:1-3 VOICE

And just in case it didn't sink in from those first few verses, it goes on to say,

Better to have little and stand for what is right
than to become rich by doing what is wrong.
People do their best making plans for their lives,
but the Eternal guides each step.
~verses 8&9

I get so hung up on wanting to know what's next, wanting to see the road clearly mapped out before me. I forget that sometimes, I simply don't get to know what's coming next. I can make all the plans I want, but God is the One who determines the road I'm on. I don't need to see what's up ahead; I don't even need to see my next step. Instead, I just need to focus on making the most of where He has me now and what I can do for Him right where I am. I need to focus on the stand I am making for Him, and I need to make sure that everything I am doing now is for His purpose.

When I'm supposed to take the next step, He'll let me know.

For more on following God when you can't see the path,
check out my devotional on Amazon or CreateSpace

Saturday, February 13, 2016

a love letter...

Hey you--yes, you.
My child.

I know you think that I've forgotten you, turned My back. You feel like you're being crushed by everything that's weighing you down right now. You're afraid that you're going to crack under the pressure, and since people know you're My child, you're afraid that if you break you'll give Me a bad name.

But you know what? That's not possible. That's right, I'm telling you that you've got it all wrong.

photo by Sarah
First of all, My name can never be changed--not by you, not by anyone. No matter how many times you mess up--and yes, you're going to mess up--you can't do anything to change who I AM. Remember, I told Moses Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh-- I AM WHO I AM.

My child, you are infinitely important to me, but you can never change who I AM.

Second, who told you there was something wrong with being broken? There is beauty in being broken. After all, it was My Son's brokenness that gave you life. It is only by being broken that you realize your own weakness--and that is when you see that My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Last, and I really want you to hear Me on this, I will never leave you. I've made you that promise, and I never go back on My word. I love you with a love you can't understand, a love that is so great that it's part of the very fabric of who I AM. 

You are cradled in the palm of my hand. I AM right there with you, lessening your burden even though you don't realize it.

My precious child, have you ever stopped to think that maybe the reason you haven't been seeing me is because you're squeezing your eyes shut, trying desperately to block out the storm around you?

Beautiful, broken one, let Me tell you something again: I AM with you, and I AM mighty to save. I will take great delight in you, I will quiet you with My love, and I will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17  

You are loved, because I love you.
You are cherished above all My creation.
You are needed in this world, because I created it with a void just the size of you.

I love you deeply, and I always will--no matter how you mess up.
~Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

just be held

I heard a new song yesterday (well, I don't know how "new" it really is, but it was new to me). I've always been a music person--it seems like there is a song to go with everything that happens in life. There was a song line that stood out to me when my brother was killed, songs that seemed to describe every crush I had when I was a teenager, songs that make me think of my kids, the song Nathan played for me that first had me falling in love with him...and everything in between.

You know what's pretty amazing?
God knows how our minds work.

He knows how much songs mean to me, so from time to time I fully believe that He speaks to me through them.

Take the song I heard yesterday. I looked up the lyrics and copied and pasted them onto facebook, but I didn't really have time to read them then. Yesterday, I have to admit, was a bit rough (which might be an understatement), and I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed. As I've said, I'm a much better writer than I am a speaker, so when I needed to talk to God I did it through writing. I've found I can focus more on God and what I need to say to Him when I write. I don't slip into those prayers that sound something like, "Dear God, I'm really struggling with everything that's going on right now. I'm overwhelmed, and dealing with so much...and I still need to make dinner tonight. What do I have in the fridge right now that we would all eat? I really need to go to the grocery store. I should make a list this time. Last time I got too many things that didn't really go together..."

Please tell me I'm not the only one who prays like that sometimes.

Anyways--back to the song (I guess I get sidetracked when I write, too).
This morning, I woke up about 20 minutes before the alarm was set to go off. I got up, still frustrated over the night before. For some reason, it occurred to me that I had time to copy those lyrics into my notebook, so that's what I did. Here's what I copied down:
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on.
And when you're tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There's freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go.

*So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on, and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.*

If your eyes are on the storm
You'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You'll know I always have and always will.
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you'll understand
I'm painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands.       ~from "Just Be Held" by Casting Crowns

That's not quite the whole song, but you guys--how amazing is that?
I know I'm stubborn. I know I try so hard to hang on to control of my life, even though I've seen over and over again just how that works out for me.

So this morning, after my written prayer last night asking God where He was and why I'm so overwhelmed with everything right now, He gave me His words through a Casting Crowns song.
photo from http://adamsartgallery.com/art-from-ashes/


When I look around and see ashes, I have to remember that He is using those ashes to paint a beautiful picture. I just have to wait to see how it unfolds.