Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Be Still...

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

This past week has been a very difficult one. Partly because of my human, fragile heart and partly because I felt so sure of God's leading in my life. But things didn't turn out like I thought they were going to. I have been asking God a lot of "why" and "I don't understand" questions. I also just felt so unsure because I feel that over the past few years, I have gotten much better at hearing and recognizing God's voice. Not as an audible sound, but often as a still small voice in my soul. And I never felt that I was walking outside of the steps He was leading me in. This just doesn't feel right.

But here I am. In a place that was unexpected. And then a couple of days ago, I heard His voice again. That same, small voice in my soul. "Be still and know that I am God." After that, I received a gift for Christmas. It was a new Bible and Bible cover. On the cover, was inscribed a verse. "Be still and know that I am God."

The next day I was changing the block calendar on my desk. I had been slacking in changing the date in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. As I changed the date, I noticed the verse printed above the numbers. "Be still and know that I am God."

Last night I was reading the Karen Kingsbury novel series that I have been reading for a while now. One of the characters, Katy Hart, was praying and God brought to her mind a verse. "Be still and know that I am God."

And then there was this morning. I read a question and answer article about a young man, probably just out of college who felt called to be a youth pastor. But nothing was opening up for him because he is unmarried and is also still young. He wrote in asking what he should do. That was not the part that intrigued me. It was the response of the person answering his question.

The writer talked about David as a shepherd boy. He said that while David was in the fields tending sheep, he was just like any other shepherd boy. One speck in the cosmos. It didn't seem that he was doing anything life changing or of ultra importance. But he was exactly where he was supposed to be. The writer stated, "Here's what is important to remember about this season: If God is who He says He is, then nothing about your life is random - nothing."

And then there was that phrase again about being still.

The article continued, "Being still and waiting might not be the favorites of present-day society, but they are still critical priorities in the Kingdom of God. This time in your life is fertile ground for God to shape Christ-like character, growing roots that have the strength to hold a tree and the fruit it bears. It may be the only way you could waste it is by wishing it away."

So, in the midst of the things I am feeling, no matter how difficult it is to muster the strength, I know I don't have to. Because my Strength is always there and He has a plan for me. So I will be still. No matter how hard that is sometimes. I will be still and know that You are God.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmahanakwanzika

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love to one another." John 13:35

"There's an exit at stage right and stage left. There are also two more exits at the back of the auditorium."

"I sure hope the kids holding candles behind me don't set my hair on fire."

"I wonder if I could leap this row in front of me."

These are the types of thoughts that go through my mind each year when I attend the annual Christmas Eve candlelight services. As I have gotten older, I admit I have gotten a little less neurotic, but I do still know precisely where the exits are located and where the teenage boys who like to put their fingers through the fire are seated.

Tonight I attended such an event. It was different than any other candlelight service I have attended, however as the entire sanctuary was dark except for a candle at the front podium where the pastor stood. It was that way throughout the whole service until the very end. During the final parts of the service, people from each section went forward and lit their candle and passed the flame on to those sitting around them. What resulted was a place filled with light. All from the flame of one light at the front of the building.

I recently finished a Bible study on the book of Esther by Beth Moore. In it she talks about how in the book of Esther, the name of God is not mentioned one time. However, the evidences and works of God are weaved throughout the entire tapestry of verses.

I was thinking about that recently. We live in a day when it is not "politically correct" to say "Merry Christmas" anymore. I've even heard rumors that people are starting to get away from even saying "Happy Holidays" because the word "holiday" refers to a "holy - day." When I go to work at my secular job, it is written into the HR policy that the topic of religion may not be discussed in the workplace.

So in a day of tolerance when everything must be gender neutral and non-offensive, how can we as Christians spread the love of God yet still comply with guidelines set in place on the job and elsewhere and be respectful to the rulers and authorities set in place around us?

"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another... by this all men know..."

Our actions speak far more loudly than our words. I may not be able to speak openly about Christ in my workplace, but my life and my actions can scream His Name. I am a hard worker. I strive to be fair and not show favortism. I don't talk about co-workers to other co-workers in a derogatory way. If I see something that needs to be done or a paper that got left on the floor, I pick it up rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

I Peter 2:12 says, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God..."

Perhaps one of the best compliments I have ever received was when a man stopped me near the office kitchen one day and asked me, "Jenny, you're a Christian, right? Like a born again Christian?" I had never talked about my salvation with him before. It made me feel so good that he just knew.

Just like that one candle that lit the front of the sanctuary during the Christmas Eve candlelight service tonight, one small light has the ability to light an entire world without ever even speaking a word. In a day when the Name of God is not allowed to be spoken in many places, the light of Christ can be weaved throughout the tapestry of everyplace our feet lay rest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Who Am I?

"You're being naughty!" my six year old scolded his younger brother as we were getting in the car this morning.

"Mommy, he just said I was naughty!" came the retort from my little rambunctous, red-headed three year old.

"Are you being naughty?" I asked in return.

"No, I'm a good boy," came the answer.

"Well, I think you are a good boy, too so don't listen to what your brother says about you."

That was how my day began. Not long after that conversation I got to work and started going through my emails. My office is now open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. That means that some employees have to work on Christmas Day. And guess who gets to make the decision of who works and who gets to spend the day with their family? That's right. That would be yours truely.

Actually it has gone pretty smoothly since the announcement was made that we would be open. At first, I was afraid I might need send out the notices and run before I received any offers to meet someone in a dark alley after work! Instead, I have actually been overwhelmed by some of the responses from people who have offered to work on Christmas Day in order to allow their co-workers the time off instead. It has turned out to be more heart warming than anything else.

In compensation for having to work the holidays, the company has offered the scheduled employees another day off in exchange. That's where I am right now in the process. Scheduling all of the comp days. In the past week or so I have made some decisions to try and help employees get the time off they wanted before I begin approving general time off for 2011 later this week.

Sometimes good intentions don't always go as planned and I have learned that it is impossible to please everyone. That was made clear as I read through the emails in my inbox this morning. At first I felt upset about one message in particular that had been sent to a supervisor and forwarded on to me with inaccurate information preceeding it. Thankfully I save everything and had the accurate original information. Misunderstandings are one thing and are certainly going to happen from time to time. But when I felt that my character was called into question, it ruffled my feathers a little bit and it sort of hurt my feelings.

"I'm not naughty. I'm a good girl," I thought. Or something to that effect anyway.

That's when I was reminded of the conversation between the boys in the car this morning. The world may say what they will about me, but I know who I am.

I am a child of God. John 1:12

I am a branch of the true vine, and a conduit of Christ's life. John 15: 1,5

I am a friend of Jesus. John 15:5

I have been justified and redeemed. Romans 3:24

I have been accepted by Christ. Romans 15:7

I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him. I Corinthians 6:17

I am no longer a slave, but a child and an heir. Galatians 4:7

I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Christ. Ephesians 1:7

Because of God's mercy and love, I have been made alive with Christ. Ephesians 2:4-5

Not that it doesn't still hurt when we have character attacks but if you are a child of God, then you can claim all of the promises above as well. For me, it helped to bring things back into perspective.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jesus Loves Me

"It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give me a drink.'" John 4: 6-7

Twice in the past 24 hours has God led me to the passage in John when Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink. How interesting because God speaks to me a lot through repetition. The first time I read this story was last night in my bed as I was doing some Bible study.

And then again at church this morning. I may have even snickered when he said to turn to John 4 because isn't that just like God. Last night I sat in my room asking God to speak Truth into my innermost being and to help me to see Him rather than an outcome or answers to my questions.

Reading this story reminded me how much God loves people and that His grace is sufficient for me.

The following notes are taken from an online commentary I like to read, www.enduringword.com.

It was about the sixth hour. This woman came to the well at an unusual hour and alone. Typically women came for water earlier in the day and in groups. Perhaps there was a sudden need or perhaps she was a social outcast.

[In the last couple of days, I was sort of feeling like this woman at the well... like a social outcast with a stigma of divorce placed over my head. Wondering what God's will is for my life.]

Jesus said to her. By tradition, a rabbi would not speak to a woman in public, even his own wife. It was also very unusual for a Jewish person of that time to ask a favor or accept a drink from a Samaritan's cup. Jesus' request genuinely surprised the woman.

How is it that you being a Jew, ask a drink from me. Immediately, the woman was impressed by the friendliness of Jesus. This was probably the first time she had ever heard a kind greeting from a Jewish man.

End of commentary.

What Jesus showed to the Samaritan woman at the well was a case of grace coupled with a dose of mercy. Tradition said that he should not be talking to a Samaritan woman. But God loves people and saw through her physical person and into her heart. Donald Joy says in his book Bonding: Relationships in the Image of God that "we are not likely to keep faith with the words of Jesus unless we study his actions and regard them as commentary on his words." I love that. Joy goes on to say that "Jesus reads hearts and treasures persons... he is amazingly able to focus on the universal value in every situation - the deeper principle behind the laws that have been invented to protect the value."

Jesus loves me. This I know. Lord, I pray that my heart would continue to be wholly devoted to You. I pray that You would give me courage to walk boldly into my destiny that You have already laid out for me. Thank You for your grace and mercy that you poured out for me on the Cross. Amen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Have Found Myself a Hiding Place

I have found myself a hiding place.
I have found myself a secret space.
In the shelter of Almighty's love.
In the safety of the Savior's arms.

I will run to the hiding place.
I will run to the hiding place.
Draw me ever closer
to look upon Your face.
I will run to the hiding place.

Though my fears may overwhelm me
and troubles may surround.
Though the wind dries up to take me.
My hiding place is already found.

I have found myself a hiding place.
I have found myself a secret space.
In the shelter of Almighty's love.
In the safety of the Savior's arms.

I sometimes have a hard time crying when I feel like I need to. Sure, I can watch the Hallmark channel and bawl my eyes out. Or I can thoroughly embarrass myself and my eyes will well up. But an appropriate time for crying? Nothing.

I remember a time when I knew I needed to have an all out sob session and the tears just wouldn't come. But what did come to my mind was the song I had heard in church... Hiding Place. I'm sure that it was God that brought the words to my mind as I sat in my chair, alone in my house.

I remember sitting with my legs curled up and my arms wrapped around them. I had my eyes closed and my head down and the words to that song just poured out of me. Not as a song but a prayer to God. Knowing that I was safe in His arms. My fears may overwhelm me, but my Hiding Place is already found. As I sat there singing the words to that song, it felt as though the arms around my body were not my own, but His. What an awesome feeling... to just be held when you feel in the depths of despair.

I was just sharing that story with a good friend tonight and I looked online to try and find the song because she had never heard it before. As soon as it started playing, I began to get choked up just remembering how much that song meant to me on that one day long ago. Whatever is happening, I am so thankful that I can always run to my Hiding Place and He will always be there to wrap His arms around me.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Do You Want to Get Well?

"When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'"

I was sitting around a table this week talking to some people and they began talking about a woman they all knew who passed away from cancer earlier this year. They talked about how they felt she knew she was sick a lot longer before she let on. But she never went to the doctor. Later on she did finally begin seeing a doctor and specialists but she chose doctors who did little to help her condition.

I did not know this woman personally and I sat and just sort of processed the information. They went on to talk about the fact that she had been in an abusive relationship and had chosen some unhealthy and self destructive ways of coping with that. During that time, her son was murdered and she was not there. She held an incredible amount of guilt over the fact that her son was lost during a time when she was unavailable to help him.

She put off going to the doctor for so long. And when she did go, she didn't see the right people. She continued to smoke, pouring more toxins into her body that would probably only serve to deteriorate her body more quickly. The others around the table pondered the possibility that she was afraid of the test results in seeing a doctor sooner. Or maybe she was living in denial.

As I was sitting at that table taking all of this in, I realized something. I'm not sure if this woman actually wanted to get well. I wondered if she felt like she didn't deserve to be well after what happened to her son and her not being there when it happened. I wondered if she had been abused herself growing up since she married an abuser. I wondered if she felt like somehow she deserved the treatment she received and let herself deteriorate. A natural sort of suicide.

I walk through life and see the same sorts of things all the time. I wonder why some people have the strength to get through difficult circumstances while others never reach out for help. This is especially true when I see people struggling in areas that I have already walked through and God has given victory. Everything inside of me wants to rescue them. But there is only so much I can do. Yes, I can tell my stories and what God has done. But I can't do it for them. They have to want to be well.

And on the flip side, I have to consciously remind myself that God is Savior. Not me. God wants to meet all of our needs. But he also wants us to ask. My pastor said something a couple of weeks ago that I saw so much truth in. He said that sometimes we remove God from the equation because VISA has met it instead. Or because I have tried to step in as savior and meet a need that wasn't my role to meet... and thus robbed God of His glory.

It's really about finding a balance. Sometimes God does want me to step in and do something. And sometimes I am in the way. I am praying for discernment to know the difference.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Starter List

"11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the evil schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6: 11-12

I was a criminology major in college. I don't remember the course of study in this one particular class, but one evening we had a guest speaker. He was a crime scene investigator... the real kind. He spoke to us about the signs he looked for in crime scenes that gave him clues to uncovering the mystery.

The one particular example he gave was from a homicide... complete with actual photos and everything. It was pretty gruesome. I had to close my eyes between every slide and slowly open them to determine if I actually wanted to look at what was coming up next. I will spare you the details! All except one, anyway.

The particular victim that he was showing had marks on the front side of her body rather than the back. He explained to the class that this was a major clue in the case as it meant that she knew and trusted the perpetrator. Had the marks been on the back of her body, it would have signified that she was afraid and that she turned to escape danger. The fact that the wounds were on her front side, told him that she knew and felt comfortable with the person who did this awful thing to her.

When you read about the different pieces of armor that we as Christians are to put on in our struggle against the powers of this dark world, they are mostly protecting the front of our bodies. What this tells me is that it would be easy to fall prey to the rulers and authorities of this dark world if we do not have on our armor. These forces in this dark world may disguise themselves as people and ideas that can be trusted.

A while back I had the idea that I was going to truly take my sword which is the Word of God and begin memorizing more scripture so that I would be prepared to fight off the fiery darts that will fly my way. What I wanted to do is to take index cards and write on them scripture that details God's promises. I wanted to post those index cards on my bedroom mirror so that everytime I wake up, I will see them.

It's been a while since I had that idea and tonight, I finally began my starter list. Here are the cards I have written out so far:

Proverbs 22:15 "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him." I wrote this one to remind me that we are all sinners and the heart is wicked. Because of the fall of man, our natural tendancies are foolishness. I want to remember that with my kids, especially when they have that heart breaking cry when they are being disciplined that makes me want to just snuggle them right up and say nevermind.

Mark 9:23 "Jesus said to him, 'If you can?' All things are possible to him who believes." I wrote this one to read when I feel like giving up.

Hebrews 10:30 "For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' and again, 'The Lord will judge His people.'" I want to read this one when life seems terribly unfair and when the wicked seem to go unpunished.

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." This one helps me to remember that though I am weak, it is God who strengthens me. Because of that, my faith can move mountains.

Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." I am a single mom. Need I say more?

I John 4:4 "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." I wrote this one to remind myself that I am first and foremost a child of God and that He lives within me, which is all the strength that I will ever need.

Philippians 4:19 "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ." This is the verse that reminded me to start my list. My pastor used it in his sermon this morning. It reminded me that God doesn't say maybe he will supply all my needs. It doesn't say he will supply some of my needs. It says He will supply all of my needs. God is a good provider.

So there it is. My starter list. I intend to add to it as time goes on.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The God of Comfort

"3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." II Corinthians 1: 3-5

When I read those verses, I realize that I have sort of come full circle. On December 5, 2007 my world shattered in an instant. That night, and the nights following, I laid in my bed unable to sleep. The first couple of nights I couldn't even cry. I just laid there... numb. I could think of nothing else but the pain I was experiencing. And just then I began to hear that still small voice singing in my ear... "My comfort, my shelter, tower of refuge and strength... let every breath, all that I have, never cease to worship You!"

Wow, even as I just typed the words to that song, I am feeling tears well up within me. But this time, they are not tears of sorrow. They are tears of gladness and joy for all that God has done. In those days, I met a Godly woman who had walked in shoes very similar to mine and who had been comforted by the Father of mercies decades before I was even born. God had been her comfort, her shelter, her tower of refuge and strength. And now she was ministering to other women like me in order to share that comfort that she had received so many years ago.

As I began to heal, God began to work through me to share that comfort with others. That was when I began to blog. I have loved writing ever since elementary school, I just hadn't done a lot of it in a long time. I feel like God has gifted me in this area. It's difficult for me to write that because I really fear becoming proud, sometimes to the point of not saying anything at all. This is an area where God has been working on me and one that I have been praying about... finding the balance. That's a whole different post in itself that I will write another day.

At the same time, I feel strongly that God does want to use me to comfort other women who are dealing with issues where God has brought beauty from my ashes. I feel like God has used some of my writing to do that. If only my spoken words were as eloquent. Perhaps that is my thorn in the flesh to keep me humble as I so want to be... or perhaps that is part of the process I am still walking through and someday the two will match up.

Last night I was praying and asking God to let my motives be pure and not self-seeking and proud. I was also doubting myself and whether I was puffing myself up by writing this blog and sharing it with others. Soon after that a friend posted on facebook that she was having a difficult time after the death of a loved one. She has also lost her mother within the past few years. Another friend commented and alluded to the verses above in II Corinthians. I didn't realize it at the time but thinking about it more today, I realized that this is what God was using me to do when I felt led to start writing and received positive responses. I blog for me. I share it with others because of the God of Comfort.

I didn't realize it until today at lunch as I was reading a book, as I often do on my lunch break. Right now I am reading through the Redemption series by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley. I'm just a little way into book two, Remember.

**SPOILER ALERT**

If you haven't read the first book and plan to, skip this part because it will give away an unexpected part of book one. In book one, Kari Baxter-Jacobs is thinking about starting a group for married couples to encourage them in their marriages. That dream is stripped away when she realizes that her professor husband, Tim is having an affair with a student and her marriage wasn't as strong as she thought it was. (I could relate with her character very much as I read). Shortly after this revelation, Kari realized she was pregnant.

Throughout the book, Tim eventually listens and responds to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and breaks it off with his mistress, Angela and returns to work things out with his wife. A few months into their reconciliation, Tim's girlfriend tries to get him back by faking her own pregnancy. When he goes to her apartment to leave a note that he does not want to speak with her and is trying to work things out with his wife, he is brutally murdered by a fellow student of Angela who has been stalking her.

I am barely into book two now, but I read a chapter today at lunch that made me realize how similar the character of Kari and I really are. I think we would be friends if she was a real person rather than a fictional character. She is thinking about how much she wanted to start a group to minister to couples back before her world shattered and wondering why God had planted that desire within her just as her marriage broke into shambles. Now she is realizing that it really was God who planted the desire in her to minister to others, it just wasn't in the same capacity that she initially imagined. She is realizing the words in the scripture of II Corinthians. God wants to use her to share the comfort that she has received with others.

**SPOILER OVER**

Thank you, Lord for answering my prayers in ways unexpected... an unrelated facebook post and a fictional book, both saying the same thing. Thank you that you have brought beauty from ashes and I pray for the ashes of other women also looking for comfort. Thank you that although the sufferings of Christ may abound in me, that my consolation also aboundeth by You.

END

PM Update:
I just got home from the ladies' Bible study at church and read a really cool paragraph by Beth Moore in the Esther Bible study that went along perfectly well with my thoughts written here earlier today. I did this Bible study about a year ago at my previous church and I hadn't had a chance to review the homework before our meeting tonight. I had forgotten all about this or what I had written in as my answer. Here is what she said:

"The humble believer may feel that dwelling on our high position in the kingdom could cultivate a boastful spirit but, actually, the outcome is more likely the reverse. Knowing where we are positioned in Christ quells our deeply imbedded psychological need for self-exhaltation."

And then the thought question: "Have you discovered this to be true? If so, how?"

My answer that I penned in a year ago: "Blogging."

Thank you for the encouragement that I needed on this very day, Lord.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Reason I Blog

"16 So he answered, 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' 17 And Elisha prayed and said, "Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." 2 Kings 6: 16-17

This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. The king of Syria was going to make war with Israel. He sent a large army with chariots and horses to surround the city where Elisha was. When Elisha's servant looked out and saw the armies coming right towards them... he freaked out!

The other day I was thinking again about God's goodness and His constant provision in my life. Specifically I was thinking about times after God has come through and taken care of my needs (spiritually, emotionally, physically) and then thinking back to when the ordeals began and worry creeped in.

I wished that I could just take Jenny-now and whisper back in time to Jenny-then that everything was going to be okay because Jenny-now can see the outcome and that everything turned out okay. Don't worry Jenny-then. God's got you covered. If only God had opened my eyes at the time so I could see... Delays wouldn't be so bad if we could see what was on the other side.

Sometimes that does happen, like in Elisha's case. But sometimes it does not and that's when faith comes in. God-now-then-forever has already promised Jenny-then that He is always in control and knows how to take perfect care of me and every circumstance that crosses my path.

When God opened the eyes of Elisha's servant, he still saw the Syrian army charging ahead at full speed. But he also saw God's chariots of fire all around him. Knowing what he knew after that had to have been a huge relief! Elisha prayed and God blinded the eyes of the Syrian army so that they could not see. The part that I think is hilarious is that Elisha walked right up to them and said to them, "This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me and I will take you to the man who you seek," and he led them to Samaria instead.

The thing is, that God's armies are always there whether we can see them during our circumstances or not. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us.

This is the reason I blog. I like to keep a journal of the things that God teaches me and the ways that He works in my life. It allows me to go back and remember. Reading how God has worked in my life in the past serves as a reminder that He is always there and will never leave me. Some days I really need that personal reminder. When I'm in the midst of life in the flesh, it is often times easy to lose track of this promise.

I just finished reading a book by Sally John and Gary Smalley called, "A Time to Gather." It's the second in a series that they have written. I really enjoyed the series. The only problem I had with the second book was at the end when they say we are supposed to "forgive and forget."

I don't want to forget. Many people quote Philippians 3:13 where it says, "...forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things that are ahead." I did just a short little search in the Bible on the word "forget" and of all the times that I noticed, "forgetting" had to do with sin and our sin nature. More times, the Bible says, "Do not forget..." speaking of the things of God. Forgive, yes. Forget, no.

Any suffering or trials in my life have been allowed by God. When suffering is present, so are his unseen armies. I can and have found much healing in life over different circumstances and as much as I would love to forget some things in the past, I don't ever want to forget how God has brought me through them. Every struggle is a part of who I am because every struggle ends in a victory, whether in this life or in eternity. There cannot be a victory without first being something to overcome. And thank God that He has already overcome the world!

And that is why I blog. The words in these blog entries are my own personal little reminders to me of God's faithfulness.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm Not Good As New

This is from Proverbs 31 Ministries written by Glynnis Whitwer. I thought it went along well with my last post.

"He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them." John 12:40 (NIV)

Years ago, I decided to save money and learn how to cut men's hair. With four males in my home, I figured electric clippers were a good investment. They were. After a few "oops" and "uh-ohs," I got the hang of it and have been cutting their hair ever since.

Recently, after finishing a trim, I dropped the clippers on the floor, knocking the blades from the holder. A quick examination revealed a very small piece of plastic had been chipped away. But the blades seemed to fit on fine, so I cleaned up the mess, brushed the clippers, and stored them in their box. Good as new, I thought.

Time for the next haircut arrived, and I retrieved the clippers from their box. I put the cape around my son's shoulders, snapped on the correct guide and proceeded to turn on the clippers. However, instead of hearing the normal electric purr, we heard a metallic grating. Apparently, that broken piece of plastic was actually important. Without it, the clippers didn't work right.

As I considered that incident, I realized many of us are like those clippers. At one time we have fallen emotionally. We've been hurt, betrayed, left out, overlooked. We carry scars from past relationships, jobs and bad choices. Most of us have been trained to pick ourselves back up and move on. We've been conditioned to put on a smile and pretend we aren't broken.

The problem is most things that are broken don't fix themselves, and they don't work right until they are.In the month between haircuts, that piece of plastic never jumped back on the clippers. Likewise, a leaking faucet doesn't j ust stop leaking one day. Buttons don't sew themselves back on. In every instance where something is broken, I've had to attend to it with care.

Sadly, I see many people walking around broken, pretending they are okay. Instead of acknowledging hurt and seeking healing from the One who can give it, they ignore it. Instead of seeking professional help when needed, they bury the pain, and hope it's deep enough to not bother them again.

But the pain never really heals. It always pops up. And it affects current relationships and commitments when it does.The truth is, none of us is as good as new. We are ALL broken in some way. We all have hurts we've buried and tried to move past. But that brokenness doesn't completely heal by itself.

Thankfully, there is good news if you feel broken.We serve a God who loves healing and wholeness. He knows it's painful to deal with past hurts. But He's willing to help. While we will never be "good as new" until heaven, we can be emotionally healed here on earth. Maybe we need to pick up our broken pieces, carry them in tender hands and present them to Jesus.It may not be easy, and it will probably take time. But emotional healing is possible. After all, the One who conquered death, can certainly mend our brokenness.

Dear Lord, only You really know the depths of my pain and desperation. I've tried to hide it, even from You at times, but I won't any longer. Today I openly admit my pain and hurt, and ask You to heal me. Please give me wisdom to know other steps I need to take. Thank You for what You are going to do in me and through me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Reality Project

"Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." Psalm 51: 6-7

Imagine it's a nice Saturday evening. I've invited you over to my house to eat dinner and maybe play some games. Before you arrive, I've spent much of the day cleaning in order to get the house in tip top shape. As the clock inches closer to our dinner date, I light a few candles so that the appetizing aromas of sugar cookies or carmel apples fill the air. Soft music is playing in the background. The kids have been bathed and their hair is nicely combed and parted. Their clothes look like something out of a Gap Kids catalog. And their manners are impecable. They always say "please" and "thank you."

My house is far from something in a museum or home magazine, but it does say "family." When you walk through the door, it looks something like this:

Of course in real life I would have turned the TV off before you arrived because we don't watch TV. We spend our days reciting poetry and discussing current events.

NOT!!

Let's get real. If you walked through my door right now, this is what you would really see:Toys on the floor. Unfolded laundry on the loveseat. And this is putting it pretty mildly, actually because the kids and I have been gone all day. So this is actually just only from about an hour of living. You should see the living room on a Saturday morning.

We try so hard to put forth such a picture perfect image. I issued a request to you, my friends, to send me photos of the room where you spend most of your time... and I asked you not to tiddy up before snapping the photo. Some of you were brave enough to actually do this! And most of photos of homes with toys on the floor, laundry on the couch, etc like mine came with a disclaimer of something like "this is so embarrasing."

Why are we so embarrassed? I'll tell you. Because I visit your house and it looks like the home magazine photo. Like me, you have spent the morning cleaning from floor to ceiling, you've lit the candles and turned on the nice music. It looks... perfect. Immediately I begin to feel envy and I imagine my own house, which looks nothing like your masterpiece. I just don't measure up. Little do I know that just hours earlier, our houses probably looked very similar.

It's not just our houses. It's the way we look. It's the way we dress. It's our lives. We think things like, "Wow, she is such a cool mom. I wish I had all those creative ideas of things to do with the kids." Or, "Their marriage seems so perfect. My spouse and I just got in an argument on the way over here."

Even though we are in the era of reality TV, we as human beings are afraid to be "real" with each other. Instead, we suffer in silence. We are afraid to admit to even our closest friends sometimes that we are struggling until it's too late. You hear the stories all the time.

I remember a few years ago, I saw on the news that the weatherman on the local news channel I used to watch every morning had committed suicide. I was shocked. I didn't know him personally but I was deeply saddened by the news. He always looked so happy and joked around with the morning anchors all the time. But inside, underneath that happy facade was a man who was deeply wounded.

Recently I've learned of couples who had been married for years, separating. Good Christian couples. Families you would look at and think, "Wow, they really have it all." But they were hurting and nobody knew. On Sunday morning they sat in front of you in the pew with smiles on their faces. Their children played little league with your children.

What I'm saying is, let's get real here. God does not desire a white picket fence and happy, smiling faces. He desires TRUTH in our innermost parts. Not the power of positive thinking. Truth. "Finally brothers, whatever is true...think on these things." (Philippians 4:8). The truth is, sometimes life hurts. We are guaranteed to have suffering in this world. If Jesus Christ himself didn't escape suffering on this earth, then we can expect it as well.

I would like to come visit you in your house looking very "real." It sure would make me feel better about my own lived-in house and would make me feel a lot more comfortable being real with you. I want to know that you struggle, too. I want to know that I am not alone. I want to know that I am not the only one who feels so out of control sometimes.

So I sent out this request for photos of your lived-in homes...as-is when you received the assignment. These are pictures of real life. The Reality Project.

(I don't know why this one is upside down).


Reality. There you have it. And for the record, the last photo is of a home that doesn't have children.

I'm not talking about living a life of negativity. Quite the opposite, actually. By being real with people, we afford them the opportunity to be real with us. In effect, relationships are strengthened. Lives are impacted. By opening up and sharing with someone, a great weight can be lifted. Satan's lies can be exposed. Struggles can be worked through. There is nothing more comforting than to hear someone say, "I understand. I've been there, too."

Don't have someone you feel you can be real with and confide in? Start asking God to send someone. Buy a notebook and start journaling your thoughts. Did you know that when you write (not typing on a keyboard) that the longer you write, the more things that are stored deep down inside of you (your innermost parts) come out? This is a great way to discover the hidden things and also a great way to have a very honest dialogue with God.

"Behold, thou desirest truth..."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It

"Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone." Proverbs 25:15

Yesterday it finally arrived. "It" was something that I had been waiting for since the summer of 2009. You see, a little over a year ago I signed some papers that I never thought I would be signing in my lifetime. It was an end... and also a beginning.

In the months that followed, I sent in some paperwork for "it" and waited not so patiently for its arrival. I waited only to find out that there were problems with the inital paperwork and what ensued was a year-long struggle. Through the course of that year I felt taken advantage of, lied to, ignored, and on some days defeated. There were days that I sometimes thought of just giving up on "it" and playing the doormat role that always seemed to come so naturally to me in the past.

Waiting for "it" was very frustrating. But in the midst of that frustration and waiting, something beautiful happened. I began to realize that I am not, in fact, a doormat. I had to stand up and fight this... not with fierce and fiery darts, but with a firm, yet gentle spirit. You see, God uses everything that comes across our paths to teach us and grow us into the one He has created us to be.

At the beginning of this, I didn't think I could do it. I felt like just a "girl." I'll never forget what a woman who I have gleaned so much wisdom from over the years said to me. She said, "Jenny, I see no girl. You are a college grad, manage two children alone, work full time, have a responsible job, and are a daughter of the KING. Please consider what I am saying and consider the reality that you are not a "girl"... you are a mature woman, growing every day... with grace, professional deportment and dignity." (Let me interject here that I am so thankful to have people in my life with the spiritual gift of exhortation)!

Yesterday when this gift arrived in the mail, it signified more than just a piece of paper and a cute new pair of jeans that I may buy this weekend. It represented a year of growth and iron that God had sewn into my soul. It represented a victory. Praise God that He doesn't leave us as He found us but uses everyday experiences, joys and trials, frustrations and triumphs to bring us into the fullness of who He created us to be.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Providence 801 - Update

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

Each Sunday morning at church, the pastor ends his morning prayer with The Lord's Prayer as we, the congregation, pray aloud as well.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.

Since Friday I have been focusing on today rather than worrying about the future. Has God given me what I need to get through today? Yes he has. I mentioned last week all of the mounting bills that keep landing in my mailbox and how I wasn't sure where the money was going to come from to pay them all but one thing I know is certain... God is a good provider.

So I just wanted to give a little update on how God has provided so far. On Saturday, I opened the mailbox and found an envelope from the department of unclaimed property. Back when I was in college I worked for a major department store in the evenings. Apparently when I left there, I didn't pick up one last check. That money has been sitting in the department of unclaimed property ever since.

Also, several months ago I purchased some more ram for my computer in hopes of speeding it up. I paid about $100 for two sticks. Soon after I installed it in my computer, the whole computer died and I was really bummed that I had just spent that money for nothing. A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to listing it on craigslist in hopes of at least recouping some of the money I had spent. The only thing is that it only fits the same model computer that I had so someone looking on craigslist for ram for their computer would have to have the same model. The listing sat there for a couple of weeks. Then on Friday, I finally got a response. I sold it yesterday.

This morning I checked my inbox and found another check that will be delivered today for some work I did recently. And that dependent care reimbursement that I mentioned kept getting declined for the past month... this morning it was approved.

These are all little things in and of themselves but they all add up to exactly what I need when I need it. God is really, really good.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Providence 701

"Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." Psalm 51:6

This is one of my favorite verses. It's been very fitting that this past week the Lord has reminded me of all the times He has provided for my every need. Even yesterday as I was listening the the Christian radio station on my way to work, they were having people call in to speak about ways in which God has provided for them or ways in which they have been able to be a blessing to others. It was very inspiring.

Today has been one of those days where I needed reminded of all of that. At first, I thought... "I really can't blog about this because I don't know the outcome yet. I don't have a story this time about how God has provided because it hasn't happened yet." But then... again on the radio... they read the verse of the day and it was from the Psalms at a time when David was crying out to God in his time of need. He was laying it all out there for God... the fear, the uncertainty, the insecurity.

David's prayers reminded me that God does not just desire my praise and thank you's. He desires truth in my inmost being. And the truth is, I was feeling worried and overwhelmed this morning. So I told God about it.

It was at this point when I heard a commercial on the radio... they are batting three for three this week!... I have no idea even what it was for. Maybe just a reminder. The speaker reminded me that it is at the end of the tree limb where the fruit is found.

This morning I was feeling at the end of my limb. Earlier this week, I discovered a $100 error in my checkbook... not to my advantage. Then my insurance premium came out... $25 more than usual. I found out they raised my rate due to a claim I submitted in December when my car was broken into. Last week I sent in a pre-payment to the surgeon who will perform my son's surgery next week. $656. My power bill was about $50 more than usual. My water bill was double. The reimbursement claim I submitted for my dependant care spending account was denied twice even though I submitted it exactly the same as I always do and have enough money in the account to cover it. My savings account is almost at rock bottom... my usual safety net. At this point, I tried to remind God that I am a single mom.

The last straw came this morning when I opened a bill from the children's hospital where my son had an xray done last week. $322. Yes, I am out at the end of the limb. I do not have a happy ending to post... yet.

Still, I wanted to post this. Not as a seperate title, but in continuation of the Providence series. One thing I know is true... God is a good provider. I sat back and thought about that and realized... I have enough money to make it through today. So far I have eaten a good breakfast and lunch, as have my kids. I have decided not to worry about tomorrow.

As I was driving to work, there was a giant snapper turtle crossing the road, causing a big traffic backup. He waddled his way across the busy road without a care in the world. He could have been run over multiple times. But he made it. I figured if God could take care of that snapper turtle, how much more will he take care of me!

Now I'm just waiting to see how "Providence 801" comes about. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Providence 601

"... your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:8

Providence 601

I was going to write about this yesterday but as I began writing, God brought to my mind another time when He provided for all of our needs... as He always does. So today I'm going to sort of pick up from where I left of yesterday and fast forward six years.

Yesterday I talked about how my son, Garren was diagnosed with DiGeorge Syndrome about six years ago after changing pediatricians and seeing new specialists. One common manifestation of the disorder is a submucous cleft palate. In Garren's case, the muscles of the soft palate are positioned differently than those with a normal soft palate. This has greatly effected his speech as he has been described as having a severe speech delay. Garren is a very bright little boy, so to have so much going on his his little head yet not be able to communicate effectively must be very frustrating. His teachers say that when they put him with other kids to play, he will initially try to communicate with them but when they can't understand him, he shuts down. It breaks this mama's heart.

When we moved back to FL in 2005, I was fortunate to find an online support group for parents with children who have been diagnosed with DiGeorge Syndrome. Most people, including doctors, know nothing or little about the syndrome so to find a group of parents who knew exactly what we were going through was another God-send. I have learned a lot from them.

This past February, I was able to attend a conference specifically on the 22q/DiGeorge Syndrome and meet many of these women who I had previously known only through the world of cyberspace. It was awesome to also get to see other children who were very much like Garren. Most of them were older and doing wonderfully and speaking wonderfully. We also met a little girl named Madison who is Garren's age who was very similar to Garren... she was tiny like him and her speech sounded a lot like his, except a little progressed because she had already had the first palate surgery. There was also another little girl there who had an augmentive communication device just like Garren. Suddenly, I was no longer alone in this world of DiGeorge.

This conference was amazing!! It literally changed our lives. I was able to be in touch with specialists and therapists who have worked with many DiGeorge kids before and had a vast array of knowledge in this area. That, in itself, is incredible. After this conference, I no longer felt so in the dark as I had up until that point.

The only thing is, we have to travel almost three hours every time Garren has an appointment there, now. Although I can't really complain because a lot of the parents travel to CHOP (Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania) for appointments so three hours to them, I'm sure is like a blink of the eye.

Next week we are going there for Garren's first palate surgery. After the surgery, he will be in the hospital for 1-2 days. However, we have to be there a day early for the pre-op appointment so I had planned on reserving a hotel for the night. I knew that would be about $100 or so. I was thankful it was just going to be for one night because money is pretty tight right now as I had to pay a chunk of the bill in advance.

About two weeks ago, a friend who I hadn't seen in a while and who attends my old church, stopped by and brought my sister and I (my sister is visiting for the summer) a french silk pie. Yum!! I thought she was just coming by to say hello and to see my sister while she was in town.

During the course of conversation, my friend told me that she and some ladies from church had recently started a new Bible study group that meets at her house. She said that during their last meeting, they decided that they wanted to take on mission where they could be a blessing to someone. She told me that they decided they wanted that person to be me. I was floored. I was not expecting that at all. I don't even go to that church anymore and I'm not a part of that Bible study. But they chose me.

As we continued talking that night, my friend asked me about Garren's upcoming surgery. Then she asked, "Where are you going to stay when you go over there?" I told her how we were going to have to rent a hotel room for one night and then we would be able to stay in the hospital. She responded, "Well, I have a condo over there. Do you want to stay there? Here are the keys!" I can't tell you how overwhelmed I was at this way that God provided... again.

Garren will have two more surgeries after this one most likely by year end and we will be able to stay at the condo when we go and also for follow-up visits, etc. I am thrilled! And not only that, guess what else they are going to do while we are gone? They are coming over to clean my entire house for me so that I won't have to worry about it when we're getting ready to go and I will be able to come home to a nice, clean house.

They are also going to babysit the boys one night so that I can have a night for me... something every mommy needs once in a while.

God is so so so so good. I hadn't even asked Him for this. But He knew what I needed, when I needed it. God is a good provider.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Providence 501

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13

Providence 501

Today I am going to back track a little bit. As I began writing about my son's upcoming surgery, I was reminded of another time previous when the Lord provided.

It was May 28, 2004 when my little boy entered the world with his chubby little cheeks like a chipmunk and a head full of dark hair. He was my first and the entire experience was almost surreal. He was born tiny, cute, and healthy.

After being moved to a post pardum room, I remember holding Garren in my arms. I noticed that his cry was very soft, although I didn't think anything of it. I had planned to nurse him and figured it wouldn't be too hard as millions of women had done it before without trouble. I had read all the books and taken the classes offered in the hospital and thought I knew what to expect.

When Garren was having a hard time latching on, the nurses tried to help me. I thought I wasn't doing it right and began to realize that this was going to be harder than I thought. But I still thought I would eventually get the hang of it.

When the nurse brought a pump into my room, I really didn't know what it was for. They told me they would be back later to teach me how to use it. I didn't want to use that thing and I worked like crazy on Garren's latch, still convinced that I wasn't doing it right.

I learned how to use the pump and two days later we went home. It had only been two days of trying to nurse but it was a long two days and I was getting very upset that I wasn't able to feed my baby. I tried all the different holding positions that they teach you in the books and classes along with everything else I had heard of (trying not to be too graphic here)!

He just couldn't latch on.

Eventually I called the hospital who put me in touch with some women from the La Leche League who help women who have trouble breastfeeding. They came out to help me and actually got Garren to latch on one time. But that was the only time.

I was so emotional and felt like a failure. At the same time, I was somewhat relieved because it was so hard. But then I would listen to women who said to give it six weeks and it would get better. I was giving up after two. In my mind, I had failed.

After that, I resigned myself to the pump, which I used every three hours for five and a half months. I had a friend from church who had a Medela (the Rolls Royce of pumps) so she gave me hers. God provides. It was a tough five and a half months but at the time, I felt like the only thing worse than not being able to feed my baby naturally would have been to use formula and I was adament about not going that route. In the end, I did end up supplementing with formula and then switching completely when he wasn't gaining enough weight and now have realized that as mother's we want to do what is best for our babies. And sometimes, for whatever reason, that turns out to be formula.

About the time that Garren was around three months, we took him into his pediatrician for his standard well baby checkup. I had also noticed that his eyes were crossing a lot and it was beginning to cause me some concern. The doctors there basically just dismissed it. During the same visit, when the doctor left the exam room, Garren started choking and foaming at the mouth and turning red. I freaked out!!! I frantically started trying to find the doctor because I didn't know what to do. After a couple of minutes a nurse came back and suctioned him out and everything was fine. They acted like it was no big deal that my infant was choking and I was freaking out. I didn't like that. They may have hundreds of patients, but I only have one child and I didn't know what to do.

It was after this visit that my mommy intuition told me that this was not how it should be at a pediatrician's office. It was an odd feeling because I was a brand new mom and I just expected that because there was an M.D. at the end of the name, that meant they knew way more than I did. But God knit this baby together in my womb so I believe that He has also given me the instincts to know how to care for him.

On the recommendation of a friend, we switched pediatricians and began to see Dr. Michael George. It was always easy for me to remember his name because I would think of George Michael! Wake me up before you go-go!!

Dr. George was a total God-send. When I told him of my concerns about the eye crossing, he agreed with me that it wasn't normal...even though the other doctor said not to worry about it. He also noticed that Garren was floppy and low on the growth chart. He sent him to neurology, opthomology, and genetics. After a lot of testing, Garren received his diagnosis of DiGeorge Syndrome.

I realized that I actually wasn't a failure when I wasn't able to breastfeed. Instead, I now knew that Garren had very low muscle tone which made him unable to latch on. I learned that DiGeorge babies also often have weak cries. I learned that all of my God-given mommy instincts were right on and that I should listen to them despite what anyone says.

I see Dr. George as Providence 501. He always treated me with respect and treated Garren as if he was his own son. If it wasn't for him, I'm not sure when/if the proper diagnosis would have been given. God introduced us to him at just the right time to learn early and get involved in early intervention services early and I truly believe it has made a great impact in Garren's life, and in mine.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Providence 401

I usually start my posts with a scripture verse. Today I have several that came together and spoke to me very powerfully at an uncertain time in my life:

"Behold I will put a fleece of wool on the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon the earth beside, then I shall know that thou wilt save Israel by my hand, as thou hast said." Judges 6:37

"I took up the wine and gave it to the king...so the king said to me, 'Why do you look sad, since you are not sick?'" Nehemiah 2:1-2

"And I said to him, if it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you would send me to Judah... that I may rebuild it... so it pleased him to send me." Nehemiah 2:5-6




Providence 401




Shortly after I returned to work at my church after maternity leave and the subsequent crashing down of life as I knew it, things were different. The consequent pain that followed such a painful trial was hard to escape as the boundaries between my personal and professional life had suddenly vanished.

It wasn't long after I returned, that I began to think about finding something new. I dragged my feet a lot. I really didn't want to leave because I loved my role there and I loved the people. I casually started searching different job listings in various locations. I even went on a few interviews.



One job in particular was for an office position in a local Christian school. I went into that interview with high hopes and the possibility of having the summers off to spend with my boys. Later that week, I found out that I did not get the position. I was very disappointed because I felt for sure that this was the job that I had been waiting for.



At that point, I wasn't sure what to do. I began to wonder if maybe I was supposed to step out and just quit my job at the church even without having another job lined up. I mentioned it to a few of my friends and they committed to pray for me. Still, I thought there was no way I could do that being a single parent and kept looking at the want ads.



During this time, I began studying the Bible a lot more. I really got into Bible study and realized what a passion I have for it. I also began visiting a different church not far from my house on Sunday mornings, while still attending services at my home church on Saturday nights.



I really just felt a sense of peace and safety at this new church. I began to feel more and more pull to leave where I was and I again wondered if God was leading me to take the first step of leaving my job without knowing what the second step was or how I would pay my bills or put food on the table.


I prayed hard the second time I began to feel this way. I wanted to make absolutely certain that this was from God and not something else. If it was from God, then He would make a way. If not, I would be out on the streets.



The timing of all of this is interesting. A few months before I began to think about leaving my job, I had finally moved back out of my parents house after having to move back in with them temporarily when my husband left and into a nice little single family home. When I was searching for a new home, I remember having a conversation with my mom. She asked me if I had a fleece. I didn't understand what she was talking about. We live in FL... we don't need fleece. She explained that when she was younger that to have a "fleece" meant to have sort of a sign... if A happened, then you knew that you were supposed to do B or that it was just meant to be. Not so much a lack of faith but just a visible direction of God's leading.



So I when I found a house that I really liked but was above what I could afford, I decided on a dollar amount that would be my fleece. I went back to the landlord and asked her if she would be able to come down on the rent. She wasn't sure she could because of the outstanding mortgage on the house. She said that she did have another house that she knew she could come down on. I saw that house but it just didn't seem right. So I just waited. A few days later, she called me. She didn't come down to my price. She went $25 lower and threw in lawncare. That was the confirmation I needed.



So here I was in my new place, out on my own again finally and what comes along but the thought of leaving my job. The thought of doing that would have been much easier had I still been living with my parents. But I was not. How could I do this?



That Saturday night I had a very vivid dream. I won't go into the details here, but I felt like the Lord was speaking to me and I began to feel more and more like this calling was from Him. It was at the front of my mind when I went to my new church that Sunday. The pastor was out of town and in his place was a guest speaker. He preached about Gideon. I knew about the Gideons who would come to our church when I was growing up and speak. I knew that the Gideons put Bibles in hotel rooms. But I had never actually read the story about Gideon in the Bible.



What I learned in Judges was that God told Gideon to go out and fight a huge and powerful army... and by the way, he could only take 300 men with him. Seemingly impossible situation... kind of like what I was praying about. Then the preacher began to tell the story about the fleece. I couldn't believe it. I had no idea that this story about the fleece was actually in the Bible! I immediately remembered when my mom told me about asking for a fleece.



He also told a story about Nathaniel Hawthorne. He told about how Hawthore was fired from his job as a surveyor where he had been working because he was not able to make a living at his true passion... writing. When he came home, he was nervous to tell his wife because they would no longer have the money to support themselves if he was out of work. What transpired, however, was that his wife had been secretly saving money in a small drawer for years in the event that he was ever able to leave his job and pursue his passion of writing. Because of this, he was able to begin writing again and went on to write The Scarlet Letter.



The sermon from that day had my mind spinning and also had me praying like crazy. That night I decided that I again would ask God for a fleece. At the same time, I felt like I was lacking faith by asking. And I had no idea what my fleece should be regarding this anyway. I went to bed feeling more and more confident that I really was supposed to leave my job but now I wasn't sure when or how.



I went to work that next morning. During this time, I had been involved in the current sermon series on Nehemiah and had been given the opportunity to write daily devotionals... something that I loved doing. That morning, I read one that I had written on Nehemiah chapter 2. Nehemiah was preparing to go into the king and ask him some big questions. I'm not sure if he knew what he was going to say, but He trusted God and knew that He would work out the details. When he went into see the king, he did not have to say anything. The king brought up the subject when he said, "Why do you look so sad when you are not sick?" This gave Nehemiah the opportunity to bring forth his proposition.



Later that day, my pastor/boss came into the office late in the afternoon. We used to meet every Monday afternoon just to catch up on ministry things and talk about the week. This particular day, he didn't start off talking about ministry. The first thing he said to me was, "Were you at church yesterday?" I realized that, just as the king had opened the door for conversation with Nehemiah, this was my fleece. I proceeded to tell him that I had gone to a different church that Sunday. I told him some of the things I was thinking and feeling. We had a nice long chat. Probably nicer for me than for him because he was very sad that I was considering leaving. I told him that I would let him know by the next day what my decision was.



On Tuesday morning, I woke up singing "This is the Day! This is the day that the Lord has made!" I had already written a letter of resignation and I felt and overwhelming sense of peace about my decision. I got to work early that day and I was incredibly nervous about what I was about to do. The first thing I did was go back to my pastor's office. I sat down with him and gave him my letter. I remember we both sat and cried. But I knew I was doing what I was supposed to do and I didn't look back.



I worked there for two more weeks after that. I decided that for a time I would use this opportunity to stay at home with my boys. I had been saving up some money and I knew things would be really tight but that we would be able to make it for a couple months.



In the meantime, I began searching harder for a job. During the last week I was at the church, I found a posting on monster.com for an administrative job at Allstate. I had a friend who worked for the company so I decided to apply. At this point, I had probably applied for 100 jobs. So when I didn't hear back from Allstate, I wasn't surprised and kept looking.



In the meantime, I absolutley LOVED being a stay at home mom. I also kept another little girl during the day, which helped to make ends meet financially. However, her mom had already lined up another daycare for her when I began keeping her that would start in about a month. I only had so much money saved up and without that extra coming in, I still wasn't sure how long I could stay above water.



It was about a month later when I got a call from an Allstate recruiter. I had actually forgotten that I had even applied for the job because I had applied for so many. They wanted to do a phone interview. I was very excited and very nervous. I was thankful for the previous job interviews I had been on in the recent past that helped prepare my interviewing skills. When the phone interview was over, I wasn't sure how it had gone because I was so nervous. They said I would know something in about a week.



A week had passed and I hadn't heard anything. I began to assume that I didn't get the job. I called to follow up and the recruiter called the direct office to see what the result was. She called me back and said they wanted me to come in for an interview. I was excited!! I spent a lot of time on google trying to figure out what kind of questions they might ask and writing down and practicing my answers.



In the end, before the interview I decided to give it to God. I prayed that just like Nehemiah, that the person interviewing me would find favor with me if this was the job I was supposed to have. When I walked inside and sat down with the director of the site, I felt immediately at ease. I decided that I was just going to be myself and I knew that my worth and value was not based upon what someone else thought of me. It was on who God created me to be.



I left that interview feeling confident. About a week later, they asked me for a third interview. I have never been on three interviews with the same company... ever. I figured that must be a good sign. Shortly after that third interview, they called and extended to me the job and the rest is history. It's a great place to work and I am enjoying myself and the providence that God has extended to me time after time after time.



Whew, that was a long post!! God is in every little detail of life so I didn't want to leave anything out!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Providence 301

"And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive." Matthew 21:22

When I was a kid, I used to love to watch the old re-runs of "I Dream of Jeannie." She had the coolest little setup inside her ornate genie bottle. I remember that she had these red, velvety couches with shiny, satin pillows all around. Whenever her master, Major Nelson wanted something, he just had to say "Jeannie!" and the pink smoke would start to flow out of the top of the genie bottle and Jeannie would appear when the smoke cleared away. And that Dr. Bellows... what a hoot! They were always keeping him off balance trying to keep Jeannie's true identity a secret. I have to admit, after the show was over, I would secretly practice my blinking skills to see if I could do the same thing as Jeannie!

I think sometimes, God is portrayed like a genie in a bottle. Prayer is not about getting whatever I want. In reality, the Lord already knows what we need and when we need it. As a result, God doesn't need us to pray in order to give to us. He wants to give to us as a Father wants to give to his children. Instead, asking in prayer is not so much about the result of what I want, instead it is about me giving myself to God... About my relationship with Him and about submitting myself to Him. C.S. Lewis said, "I pray...it doesn't change God. It changes me."

Providence 301

In the early spring of 2008 I was driving a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Even though it was a 12 year old vehicle, it had been a decent car up until that point. However, as soon as it hit a certain point, it seemed like there was just one thing after another going out on it and it was constantly in the shop. It was draining me not just financially, but also in the time it took to keep taking it in. I began thinking about the verses where God encourages us to ask Him for the things we need. Now, I didn't really need a nice new car. I could have kept driving that Jeep. But at the same time, I would have enjoyed something a little more spacious now that I had two carseats in the back as well as something in better condition that didn't need continuous repairs.

So one day, I began asking the Lord for a minivan... which is funny because before I had kids I swore that I would never ever ever drive a minivan. At this point, I was a newly single mom and could not really afford to go out and buy a minivan so I decided to pray for one instead. I figured that if this was something that God wanted to bless me with, then He would also bring it to pass and put it on someone else's heart to give away their minivan.

After I began praying this, I did not start looking at minivans. I did not try to find cheap deals. I did not do anything other than ask the Lord and then wait. I'm not sure how long the wait ended up being... maybe 6 months or so.

One day in the summer of 2008, my mom called me and told me that my grandparents were thinking of buying a new minivan, as they do every few years or so. The one they were currently driving was a 2004 Chrystler Town and Country Touring Edition which was the top of the line model. She told me that my grandpa had wondered if I would be interested in taking their "old" one off their hands. Um... yes please!

I ended up taking to my grandpa about it and he ended up selling me that minivan for about $7,000 under the listing value of it. It was an amazing gift. Because he sold it to me so cheaply, I was able to afford the low monthly payment on it.

I was amazed that God actually answered that prayer, which I had somewhat considered silly given things like world hunger and childhood cancer. But at the same time, I knew that if God wanted to give me a minivan, He would give me a minivan. It wasn't really about the minivan. It was about faith.

In the end, God answered my prayer. Even in that, I would have been satisfied with a minivan without any bells and whistles... just something that wasn't going to break down all the time. This is what the Lord decided to give me instead: Automatic doors (very nice when you have your hands full of kids and all their gear), Stow n Go seating/storage, buttons on the steering wheel to change the radio rather than having to look away when driving the change it, computer w/ all sorts of settings, and I'm sure tons of other extras that this non-mechanically inclined woman knows nothing about.

Yay God... isn't He the greatest?!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Providence 201

"The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up." I Samuel 2:6

I'm not sure if I've ever read that verse before the way I read it today. God is certainly a God of 180s. He brings death... but he also makes alive. He brings down to the grave... but he also raises up.

In my studies, I have seen countless times when the Lord has turned the circumstances around back on the heads of the unrighteous. Most recently, in my study of the book of Esther. Haman had prepared the gallows to hang Mordecai the Jew on, however in the end, it was the evil Haman who hanged there instead.

But I hadn't thought about the opposite also being true for the righteous. What Satan plans for evil, God uses for His ultimate glory to those who love Him.

Providence 201

There is a song by Casting Crowns called "Slow Fade" that talks about how people don't crumble in a day. It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray. While this was certainly true of my reality two and half years ago, the bottom dropped out of my marriage in one day.

On Monday, I knew that something had to change and there were things that I would no longer tolerate. I went to spend the night at my parent's house with my 3 year old and 5 week old baby.

On Tuesday, I was still at my parent's house but I was hoping my stay there would only be about a week and that it would have been a wake up call for change. Although my husband pleaded for me to come home, I knew that nothing was going to be different so I held my ground, probably for the first time in my life. That day I sent an email to Pastor John who is a part of Focus on the Family in an entity dedicated to pastors and their families asking if he had any recommendations for Christian counselors in my area. I had decided that even if I had to go alone, I needed help for me to know how to deal with this.

On Wednesday morning around 10am, I made an appointment to see Dr. Marilyn Van Wingerden at Family Life Today because she took my insurance. At 11am, I got a call from my husband that he was coming over and needed to talk to me. My heart was racing because I knew it was something bad. And that reality came true when he arrived and had no choice but to tell me that what I had been suspecting all along was actually true. I felt like instantly my world had crumbled. Not only did I realize I would be at my parent's house a lot longer than I had anticipated, but the situation was even more real as it was also payday. As I drove to the church to pick up our paychecks, I knew it was the last one that he would receive and I would now be trying to raise my two sons on my one paycheck if I could even continue working there at all after what had happened.

The reality of my suffering being in front of the public eye was bittersweet. I stayed home from church for two weeks because I wasn't ready to face it yet. Even the first week I returned, I sat in the back row hoping to go unnoticed. However, that didn't happen. Instead, people were actually lined up to hug me and love me and give me gifts. I really did feel so loved and was so thankful to have such great support.

Had this happened just two years earlier, I would have been living in VA as a stay at home mom bringing in no income at all. I had a few friends but life there was much different and my support system was not nearly as strong as it was here in FL. This very well could have happened in VA. But it didn't. God knew this was a fire I was going to have to go through but I think He also waited until I had such a strong support system in place first. I am so grateful.

God's hand of providence didn't stop there. This all happened in early December, just before Christmas. A couple of weeks later, I ran into my friend, Jackie at Subway (or should I say that God gave us each a craving for a Cold Cut Combo on the same day at the same time). We were friends back in the 90s when we were in the youth group together but we hadn't seen each other in a few years. We sat down together and had lunch and caught up on each other's lives. About a week later she called me. She told me that the year before, she and her family had decided to not buy Christmas gifts for each other anymore and instead they were going to choose a different family each year and give to them instead. She told me the family they had chosen the previous year they sent to Disney for the whole weekend. She told me that this year, they had chosen to help the boys and me. I was absolutely overwhelmed with their generosity. She said, "So if you guys would like to go to Disney for a weekend, or if you would rather have something else, just go ahead and make up a list. We would really love to help."

I just couldn't believe it. Aside from this, I also started receiving free diapers through another ministry that our church supported. And I was able to apply for WIC and I received free formula for Evan as well as a few other groceries. God's providence during this time was absolutely incredible. I could have never put together all the pieces. But the God who brings down to the grave, also raises up.

Now, I was still very very devestated during this time and the emotional pain was tremendous. It was going to be a long road and one that I am still on even though I am much further down the road two and a half years later. But God is good. He knows just what I need and just when I need it.

And in case you're wondering what Jackie and her family gave us that Christmas??? I had made up a list of some "little" things we might like. When she called she said they wanted to get us everything on our list!! She gave us a big wooden swingset for the backyard with swings, a big slide and a little lookout fort at the top. She gave us a little cottage playhouse for the back yard. She gave us a great big box of diapers. And she gave me a $100 gift card to Target to get something for myself since everything on my list had been for the boys. It almost brings me to tears again today thinking of what an awesome God I serve and what a great thing that my friend did for my family during such a dark time in our lives. It wasn't just the physical gifts. It was also the friendship and knowing that I wasn't alone.

God is good, my friend. God is good.