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.